Calling all Theatre Peckham alumni & current students; we’re launching a photo project to connect all previous bear-winners from any one of our fantastic shows over the past 15 years.
Are you bear-winner? Please send us a picture with your bear via email to firstname.lastname@example.org
THE STORY OF THEATRE PECKHAM’S BEARS
In November 2000 children were rehearsing for the big Christmas show – that millennium year it was “The Tale of Giant Big Bloke.”
At the same time we were running a touring show for under-fives, based on the rhyme “Miss Polly Had a Dolly”. The large and lovely doll who played the Dolly in the show had a toy of her own – a very small Teddy bear. This Doll and her Bear often sat beside me as we rehearsed for “Big Bloke” – and interest in these toys grew among many members of the child cast. Desire became strong – all the children wanted to own the little Bear.
The children asked questions:- “What can he do?” “What is his name?” “Can I have him?”
“He can do quite a lot.” I replied. “He can move his arms and legs – look.” A leg went up in a high kick – “and his arms do this” – Bear’s right arm swung up in a good imitation of a Heil Hitler salute.
“His name is Dennis.” I said. There was silence. “And no you can’t have him. You can’t have him because there is one Bear and around thirty five children in this cast. You can’t ALL have him.”
Disappointment. Then a voice chirped up.
“Why is that bear called Dennis?”
“Dennis’s name”, I replied smoothly, (I had just made it up) “-comes from the front of the rubbish trucks that pick up our bins. You know those bin lorries. They have Dennis written right across their fronts.”
“This Dennis is an actor, like you. He knows a good performance from a rubbish one. And when he sees some lazy person give a bad performance he puts his paw up like this (Bear saluted) and shouts “RUBBISH”.” Children fell about with laughter,-and indignation, and bewilderment.
When I had quelled the outcry we went on with the rehearsal. More than once Dennis joined in. His paw swung high and a shout of “RUBBISH!” went up. The rehearsal was hilarious.
Before we all went home, at the end of rehearsal time, I sat the whole cast down – silently!
“Dennis is going to be given away on the last performance of this show. “ I announced.
”He will be given to the girl or boy about whose performance, and behaviour, Dennis has never, ever, had to put his paw up and shout “RUBBISH”.
Every public show since then has seen Dennis, and the sons and daughters of Dennis, awarded to the children who have worked, behaved, and performed to the highest standard in every cast.
When the girl bear was introduced (- one for a boy, one for a girl,) some bright spark (I think it was one of the Turney girls) suggested that the Boy Bear should be called Oscar, and the Girl Bear Emmy. They have been called this ever since.