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REVIEW: Wake Up (Solar Bear)

Updated: Feb 11

4 October 2023

Cumbernauld Theatre, Glasgow


Wake Up by Solar Bear Theatre Company 2023

Wake Up is a triple bill of visual theatre plays by three different directors. Performed back to back, the three independent pieces cleverly use the same set design and technical elements, but they could not be more different in terms of atmosphere and story.

All three plays are physical theatre, performed without words or the use of captions or sign language. Inclusive theatre company, Solar Bear, work with deaf and hearing actors to explore new ways of storytelling, and make a point of reaching out to those often excluded from the arts.

It's working! My theatre was full of happy, smiling people using sign language before the show.

TIES directed by Moira Anne McAuslan, Wake Up by Solar Bear Theatre. Photo credit: Peter Dibdin

TIES directed by Moira Anne McAuslan

Ties opens in complete silence. A funeral and a forgotten tie in an attic lead to an emotional story of a young couple caught up in World War II.

The lighting and imagery in this play are beautiful and cleverly lead us through the house, and then through the various landscapes of the war years. As soon as we are transported back in time an old record begins to play; this works well to add to the atmosphere and establish the time period.

Ties explores our ties to past generations whilst skilfully using a number of actual ties as props and set pieces. It's so well conceived and superbly played by Moira Anne McAuslan, Connor Bryson and Claire Wetherwall, that I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes at the end.

As my first experience of 'physical theatre' I am amazed at what can be conveyed to an audience without words or sign language. I particularly enjoyed the nod to Rosie the Riveter!

A delightful piece of theatre.

TIES directed by Moira Anne McAuslan, Wake Up by Solar Bear Theatre. Photo credit: Peter Dibdin

After a short blackout to rearrange the set (approx. 1-2 minutes), we move straight into the next play:

BLACKOUT directed by Craig McCulloch

Straight away this feels different. A living room and a sofa in a obviously modern setting, a man wakes to find a dead body next to him. What follows is a dark, twisted play as the man attempts to deal with his alarming situation.

Again, this is very well written and wonderfully performed. There is more physical theatre in this piece as the actors manipulate the 'dead body'. An empty jacket seems to weigh a ton and has invisible arms and legs... The empty suitcase suddenly becomes heavy and unwieldy once the 'body' is inside and so on. The audience do need to use their imaginations, but the actors and direction guide us well. It's an impressive display of visual comedy and storytelling.

Themes of alcohol, rage and the fear of the unknown are played out against the well designed set, and visual clues are left for the audience throughout the narrative. But by the end of this play the message is very clear. It's shocking and powerful, and I absolutely loved it.

I could see this story working well as an episode of TVs 'Inside Number 9'. There should be a rush to buy this script. A great accomplishment.

Blackout directed by Craig McCulloch, Wake Up by Solar Bear Theatre. Photo credit: Peter Dibdin

After a short, unscheduled break to fix an issue with the projector, the final play in the triple bill is presented:

TIME TO WAKE UP directed by Petre Dobre

An examination of climate change and its impact on our environment, 'Time to wake up' reminded me of Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' in the way that an unsuspecting man is plucked from the comfort of his home and led through past, present and future imagery. In this scenario, the scope is wider than in the Dickens classic as here we witness the immense beauty of nature and the unfortunate ongoing devastation human activity is having on our entire planet.

This play is visual heavy and does rely on a constant projection of images on stage. It's now clear why the volatile projector was so important! But what could have been the most powerful of the three plays fell a little flat for me. The actor performs in front of the screen for a solid 20 minutes, working his socks off using Visual Vernacular (a mime heavy theatre technique) to tell his story. The visuals are beautiful and the music rousing, but unfortunately I didn't comprehend all of what the actor was trying to portray on top of those. I accept full responsibility for that being my fault rather than that of the very talented actor / director.

I don't think I lost any of the overall message or intention though: the climate catastrophe is something that terrifies me daily, and I do wish more people would wake up to it. I particularly liked the premise here that the protagonist is someone who constantly ignores the warnings of climate catastrophe in favour of watching the football or a cowboy film on TV! I have been guilty of trying to ignore it myself, if only to keep my bubbling panic at bay for a few seconds.

I think this play would work well in schools or colleges with a discussion or Q&A after it. What more can we all do? How do we stop the polluters and save the rainforests? I don't know, but I genuinely wish I did.

Time to Wake Up directed by Petre Dobre, Wake Up by Solar Bear Theatre. Photo credit: Peter Dibdin

Petre Dobre says "This is the first time 3 Deaf Directors have simultaneously staged and toured work professionally in Scotland. That’s ground-breaking. I can’t wait to show the work to audiences and inspire future generations around the country. I’m also really passionate about my Climate Change message, “Making a Change” to audiences and hopefully all our futures."

All three plays presented here are thought-provoking and well designed. Wake Up is absolutely worthy of your time. It is a different night out at the theatre for sure, but an entertaining one.

Solar Bear theatre are yet another organisation funded and supported by the vitally important Creative Scotland. Please catch this group on tour if you can and continue to support local arts and artists.


📸 production photos: Peter Dibdin

Blackout directed by Craig McCulloch, Wake Up by Solar Bear Theatre. Photo credit: Peter Dibdin

Wake Up tour listings:

  • Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock - 29th September

  • Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock - 2nd October

  • The Studio at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh - 3rd October

  • Cumbernauld Theatre at Lanternhouse, Cumbernauld - 4th October

  • Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy - 6th October

  • The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen - 11th October

  • Eden Court, Inverness - 12th October

  • The Byre Theatre, St Andrews - 14th October


About Solar Bear

Solar Bear is a theatre company that does things differently.

Since 2002, they have put inclusion and collaboration at the heart of their mission, working with deaf and hearing actors, theatre makers, artists and young people. From establishing Deaf Youth Theatre in 2008, to playing a crucial role in establishing the BA Performance in BSL and English at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - the first degree course in the UK for deaf actors - Solar Bear has spent the last two decades reaching out to those often excluded from the arts in Scotland, while creating opportunities for groundbreaking theatre and digital projects led by deaf artists.


🌟 REVIEW: Wake Up (Solar Bear Theatre Company, Cumbernauld, October 2023)🌟

🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange. Whether I am invited or not has absolutely no impact on my reviews or star ratings.

📧 For media and review requests contact

💗 To see more pictures and watch my videos follow @Lisa_InTheTheatre on Instagram

Lisa in the theatre. Theatre reviewer. Theatre blog. Glasgow Theatre. Edinburgh Theatre. Scotland theatre.

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