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Polar Bear and Penguin review: A warm tale of melting ice

Theatre: Audience treated to a celebration of difference and the power of friendship

Polar Bear & Penguin written and performed by John Currivan and Paul Curley. Image: The Ark

Polar Bear and Penguin

The Ark

The world is warming up, the ice is melting and two creatures from either side of the globe find themselves sliding together. There is a climate crisis undertone to this new offering for young audiences from Paul Curley and John Currivan, but for the most part the writer-performers eschew environmental messaging for a celebration of difference and the power of friendship.

Polar Bear (a cuddly Currivan) and Penguin (a suave Curley) are characterised by opposition. One is big, one is small. One is furry, one is slick. One has paws, one has flippers. One gobbles up all it sees, the other saves some for later. When they meet at the site of a cracking iceberg, Polar Bear, in fact, contemplates eating his new antarctic buddy, but Penguin persuades him that working together to ensure their survival is a better idea.

Set designer Ger Clancy brings shape and variety to the icy landscape that is Polar Bear and Penguin’s home while costuming from Ciara Fleming is suggestively inspired, using texture and colour that chimes with the creatures’ characters as well as their species. Denis Clohessey’s original musical composition stretches the soundscape to include a catchy musical number, which director Ian Cameron exploits with a simple dance routine. Sarah Jane Shiels’ suggestive lighting design provides transitional moments and temporal movement over the performance’s 50-minute running time. There is some animation too, from Gareth Gowran, projected on the cloudless sky of a scrim.

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Curley and Currivan offer a few simple moments of invited interaction – which on the day of review, included the anthemic He’s Behind You! – but Polar Bear and Penguin is a much more gentle alternative to the stimulating sensory experience of the pantomime and a winner for younger and more sensitive audiences.


Runs at the Ark until December 18th

Sara Keating

Sara Keating

Sara Keating, a contributor to The Irish Times, is an arts and features writer