Not Now Bernard

David McKee
Unicorn Theatre

Not Now Bernard Credit: Manuel Harlan
Rhys Rusbatch as Bernard Credit: Manuel Harlan
Rhys Rusbatch as the Monster Credit: Manuel Harlan

Aimed at the tots (from 2+), this is a delightfully simple entertainment for which the vocal audience of infants that I saw it with (and their mums) were full of enthusiasm.

Bernard is at home and bored, dad is busy fixing something with a hammer. “Not now, Bernard” he says. Mum is doing something in the kitchen. It’s the same. “Not now, Bernard” she says—even when he tells her there’s a monster in the garden!

That is about all the dialogue there is in this 40-minute show but, from the moment Rhys Rusbatch’s Bernard pokes his head through the sliding panels of James Button’s white walled, cartoon peopled set (and it was a young lad in the audience who called out “peek-a-boo”, not him), he is in a mental dialogue with the audience who are with him every minute.

There are panto-style “it’s behind you” moments when the monster turns up in the garden. The big toe talons on his feet may look scary at first but, when he emerges all frilly mauve and magenta, this is a monster whose horns aren’t really frightening, more a kind of imaginary friend, even though he’s eaten Bernard for his breakfast.

Rusbatch, with brief assistance from a stand-in and stage management help, does a splendid job, stealing across the stage, balancing on one leg, falling over and making his toes conduct a conversation. He wiggles his talking toes to say goodbye and I wouldn’t be surprised if half this audience have their shoes off trying to do the same when they get home.

Director Ellen McDougall and Rhys Rusbatch have turned David McKee’s picture book into a piece of theatre that’s been carefully matched to a very young audience who will certainly want to go to the theatre again after seeing this; it’s about them isn’t it!

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

Are you sure?