Maxwell Tyler brings Raymon Briggs’ polar bear to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: Maxwell Tyler
Name of Edinburgh show: The Bear
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard
Performance time: 12.00
Show length: 60 mins
Ticket price: £7 – £12

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I went to the university of York to study English, and during my time there performed improvised comedy at three Edinburgh Fringe festivals. Afterwards I trained at Drama Studio London and found myself at my fourth Edinburgh straight after graduating (this time it was Treasure Island). Since then I’ve played a recurring policeman on EastEnders, performed everywhere from Hong Kong to the National Theatre, immersive shows with Les Enfants Terribles and Secret Cinema, and many family shows including puppeteering in The Bear and co-writing the award-winning One Duck Down. My last Edinburgh Fringe was three years ago performing in The Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie, making this festival my sixth.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Based on Raymond Briggs’ book of the same name, The Bear is a simple but deeply heartwarming story of a young girl, Tilly, who is visited in the night by a polar bear. Tilly decides this wild polar bear is her new best friend, and together they get up to all sorts of playtime and mischief behind the backs of mummy and daddy.

It’s a really fun show packed full of songs and silliness, but more than that it’s incredibly beautiful. The music is gorgeous, the relationship between Tilly and the bear is very sweet, and the polar bear is a truly awesome puppet manipulated by mummy and daddy. The bear can dance, roar, and even gallop through the arctic.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
I’ve worked on the show since early 2017 originally as an understudy touring across the country, and then over Christmas I played Daddy at the Waterside Arts Centre in Manchester.

I can’t imagine this story ever not being relevant. It’s about the innocent love that a child has for a wild animal and the tenderness that they immediately feel towards it. But more than that it is a show about the enduring love within a family, be it the family of a young girl or a wild polar bear.

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
For performers – don’t stay out until 5am every night however tempting it seems. You will quickly become a zombie and your festival will feel like a total slog. And see as much shows as possible, Edinburgh can be the best place to meet other artists and be inspired.

For visitors – plan what you want to see so you’re not wandering around lost all day and can guarantee yourself a good show. But leave a window of time open to allow yourself to be persuaded into some free comedy or avant-garde dance piece – they often prove to be the highlights of the festival!

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
Recently in my show One Duck Down there was a moment, also caught on video, where I came onstage as a pirate carrying a large teddy bear. The teddy bear caught the side of the flat which proceeded to topple completely over behind my back. When I turned around and noticed I was very angry with the teddy bear.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
I’ve seen Mischief Theatre go from performing at small fringe venues in Edinburgh back at my first Fringe festival, to now being a West End and Broadway juggernaut. To achieve that based on coming up with one genuinely great and funny concept with the Goes Wrong shows is proof that a great idea done well can prevail.

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Not really. Your usual warm ups. I make a lot of buzzing noises.

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
Obviously Pins & Needles’ co-production of Flies with Les Enfants Terribles, as these two fine companies will no doubt create a fab show. But also I’m super keen to see The Pin’s new comedy show. They were the highlight of the festival when I was last here, they’re so funny and so darn clever.

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
I don’t think there’ll be a more beautiful family show at the festival, and there are never many dry eyes in the audience by the curtain call. And if you’ve ever wanted to see a polar bear come to life onstage (and who hasn’t) then this is the show for you.


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