The premiere production of The Last Polar Bears, the environmental adventure story from award-winning writer and illustrator, Harry Horse, marks our first foray into carbon light theatre and our first tour to primary schools.
The Last Polar Bears tells the story of an old man and his dog – Roo – on a quest to the North Pole to see the polar bears before all the ice melts.
The Company is undertaking the four week tour on bicycles, visiting primary schools in Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, the Borders, East Lothian and Edinburgh.
The play is performed in the natural light of school halls using puppetry and live music. The cast and crew are cycling the three hundred mile round trip to venues, on custom-built bikes for the duration of the tour. The bicycles are made from reclaimed materials by Glasgow’s Bike Station and funded by Mackie’s of Scotland. The cast will carry all costumes, set, props and personal belongings on their bikes throughout the tour. There will be no support vehicles. The bespoke vinyl bike bags, created by another Scottish company, Trakke, are made from recycled National Theatre of Scotland banners.
The National Theatre of Scotland is delighted to have Mackie’s on board for the tour. Mackie’s is a carbon neutral Company as well as being celebrated makers of ice cream, Roo’s favourite food. Mackie’s will also be providing a free fact book about Polar Bears to all Primary School children attending the show as well as providing free ice cream vouchers and online offers.
The performers have been preparing themselves physically for the tour and are undergoing rigorous fitness training on exercise bikes in the rehearsal room with longer weekly bike rides on roads, to build stamina. They have been learning about bike maintenance, communication while cycling in groups and road safety.
The Last Polar Bears Director, Joe Douglas says: “I have no idea, really, what the challenges will be in touring a show like this. After reading a lot of books about our changing climate, I just wanted to find a way of making theatre that really engaged with Mother Nature in Scotland, rather than just driving over her in a car. The Last Polar Bears – at its heart – is about a seemingly impossible quest and having the strength to carry on. Like the Grandfather in the story who sets off to the North Pole, I’m a bit scared – I don’t even really know if it’s possible but I feel like it’s important to try. And hopefully I’ll have really good calves by the end too.”
The role of Grandfather is being played by leading Scottish actor, Tam Dean Burn, Roo by theatre maker and puppeteer Ross McKay and all other parts by popular TV and stage actress Joyce Falconer.
Joining the cast and director on tour, is On-the-Road-Producer and Bike Captain, Colin Clark. Colin will be documenting the journey using an on-bike camera and, with the help of GPS, audiences will be able to monitor The Last Polar Bears daily progress online.
On tour, the play is followed by a workshop for pupils; exploring the production, issues of climate change and cycling. As part of the production’s legacy towards climate change and to safeguard the future of polar bears, we will adopt 17 Svalbard Polar Bears with the World Wildlife Fund to give to each of the primary schools on the tour.