After a couple of years as an understudy, Michael Jean-Marain is stepping up – and on tour with the stage version of Michael Rosen’s award-winning book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt (Worthing’s Connaught Theatre, Saturday and Sunday, July 15 and 16).
For the audience, it’s a chance to join an intrepid family of adventurers and their musical dog on their quest to find a bear.
"We started rehearsals back in November last year and opened at the end of November in Norwich," Michael says. "We run until September. I have been working with the producers for a couple of years, primarily as an understudy. This is one of my first roles actually playing a part. Some people are very fortunate and go straight into great jobs and great parts. But this is great."
And it eases Michael into the business nicely after a nasty knee injury left him out of action for five or six months: "I had a significant injury in my first year after graduating. I tore a ligament in my knee. I couldn’t walk. It was quite bad. But I am feeling my way in."
The understudying was a good experience: "It is all about preparation really. You have to make sure that you are ready to go on. That’s part of the challenge of it. You have to be ready to go on at any moment if you have to. Sometimes there are scheduled shows that you have to do, but otherwise you just have to be ready.
"But actually, when I was understudying on (the Jacqueline Wilson show) Hettie in the West End, I had two weeks on the stage. One of the gentlemen in the cast got pushed off his bicycle and damaged his shoulder. Obviously, you hope to go on, but not for such a dramatic reason."
All of which has been great preparation for Bear Hunt: "I love it. You get to have a lot of fun with the people you are on stage with, but it is also quite a free and silly show in some ways. One of the best things about Bear Hunt is that the children can transfer all the ideas back home. The grass is green ribbons attached to a stick. The river is buckets of water."
And the point is: it has to be fun and visually strong.
"It’s very difficult to keep children’s attention span for long, for 55 minutes solid. But we have got wonderful elegant music. The pace is very gentle and it is all great fun and we have got instruments.
"I am playing the boy. He goes out with his sister, the boy and the girl and the dog and their dad, going out on a bear hunt. I am the first to jump into the river. But the girl is the first to jump into the mud. The boy is very adventurous, but at the same time they work together as a family and always encourage each other."
Tickets are available from the Worthing Theatres box office on 01903 206206 and online at worthingtheatres.co.uk
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