In the frenzied world of Fresher’s Fest it must be difficult to put on anything that isn’t under-rehearsed or under-cooked. Who are these ‘freshers’? And what are they doing in our theatre? Paddington Bear, an adaptation of Michael Bond’s short story, shows just how beneficial bringing in ‘fresh meat’ can be. Be prepared for a huge amount of nostalgia, charm, and of course, marmalade.
Paddington Bear is found, lost and lonely, in the railway station that soon becomes his namesake. The Brown family adopts him and takes him home resulting in much mischief. The audience is invited to play along with an endearing Paddington, played by Tymora Freeman-Stanett, and watch as the family grows to love him. The set design, by Molly O’Cathain, is a quaint masterpiece. As soon as you enter the room you feel the cosiness of a comfortable living room with velvet headboards and worn sofas. Once the pace is set, following a rather clunky opening scene, the show takes off into a world of silliness. There are strong performances all round from a well-chosen and enthusiastic cast. Tilly Taylor and Madison Porter are enchanting in their roles as Judy and Jonathan Brown, and Will Johnson and Molly Manister’s depiction of Mr. and Mrs. Brown were equally peppy. The stand out part for me was certainly that of Mrs. Bird, played by Austin Kottkamp. Although I am not a fan of drag purely for the sake of comedy, Kottkamp carried his role like a sassy Vanessa Feltz; with a flick of his heels and a sarcastic comment here and there, he was hilarious to watch.
Paddington Bear is certainly worth a watch, and fulfilled its job whole-heartedly as a forty-minute break from College. The production doesn’t take itself seriously. It is light-hearted and fun, with some truly laugh out loud moments. The directors, Martha Fitzgerald and Brian Donnelly, transport us into a playful world full of fun and adventure, where the whole audience feels like part of the joke. The ‘disappearing’ act of Mrs. Gruber, played by Nessa Fitzgerald, certainly cannot go unmentioned (as I laughed for a full three minutes) and really defined a piece that is whimsical, delightful, and looked like a lot of fun to be part of. I’m sure I’m not the only who is looking forward to seeing these new faces in more productions.