Probably best known for her role as Susan in Aunty Donna, the only things Michelle Brasier’s show Average Bear has in common with the much loved trio’s show is a high energy and a fast pace that doesn’t waste a second.
Brasier’s hour show is masterfully crafted, effortlessly moving through moments of downright silliness to the utmost profound. This is immediately introduced in the show’s opening, as we’re greeted by Brasier bouncing between the cabaret seating, wearing a pair of bear ears, to the song Mr. Brightside playing on loop, supported by her on stage musician and partner Tim. To mark the switch between herself and Average the bear (the character that book ends the show), Brasier takes off her shorts, because as everyone knows, famous bears don’t wear trousers.
More a one person play than a stand up hour, Brasier’s show is a musical of her life, with Broadway style ballads that delve into and celebrate the rollercoaster of bliss and grief that she’s experienced, all set alongside Average the bear, who lives in both fear of hibernation but hope of spring coming. Brasier’s stage persona is reminiscent of the theatrical optimism of Jess Robinson, and her alter ego Average has a playfulness similar to that of Demi Lardner.
In true bildungsroman form, we are taken through Brasier’s past step by step, mostly through the medium of song, starting with her safe and perfect upbringing in rural Wagga Wagga – so comfortable that it has her wishing for the drama she sees in films, spurring her to hurl herself at a post box and take boys to the ‘fingering shed’ at her high school. (‘Fingering shed at Cringle High’ becomes a chant that Brasier encourages the crowd to sing along to for multiple choruses).
All too quickly, Brasier’s wishes are granted, starting off in the form of third degree burns from a heater malfunction and a possum attack to the face, through to experiencing the grief of familial loss, and the terror of being given almost certain odds of becoming ill herself. However hard hitting the topics, Brasier makes sure never to bring the audience down. We are made to feel energised and positive throughout.
Like Average the bear, Brasier insists and ensures us that hope and grief are not mutually exclusive, focusing only on the positives; the bliss of memories; the humour and lightness found in dark moments. Brasier leaves us with the imperative that we must laugh, move and sing rather than cry. This is a powerful message, which is proven by the standing ovation that Average Bear receives on opening night.
You can catch Average Bear for one week only, Monday-Saturday, 6th-11th March, at Soho Theatre. For tickets, click here!