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Julia Donaldson’s lost bear finds the perfect home on the stage

puppet boy and bear

Our favourite puppet alchemists, Little Angel Theatre bring Julia Donaldson’s best-selling book about a lost, school teddy to life in a beautiful, musical exploration of loss, mistakes and friendship.

As we wait for the show to start, our children excitedly spot the lifeless bear, sitting on the shelf of Laura McEwan's seemingly simple, but brilliantly versatile magician’s hat of a set, from which ships, classrooms, libraries, fish shops and whole villages will explode into life.

The energetic and engaging cast of two (Lottie Johnson and Calum Bruce) bounce onto the stage and take the audience (recommended ages 3-8) on an adventure, giving a deeper story to the book’s character Matt; an impossibly lifelike and cute puppet who has just started at a new school and doesn’t know anybody.

children's theatre

Via clever projections - using Rebecca Cobb’s illustrations - we meet Matt’s classmates and he discovers it's his turn to take the class teddy home for the weekend. 

There’s a wonderfully creative flurry of props and puppetry to show the fun Matt has with his new teddy friend, ice skating, having picnics and painting. And our children giggle at the skit between a puppet mouse and street cat, which Matt stops to stroke and then forgets the Everywhere Bear, who is promptly washed down a drain and explodes in a jet of blue fabric into the sea.

The sea scene is cleverly recreated with lighting and a sheet of sheer blue fabric, beneath which we see the bear bobbing about and finally being caught in a net, when the set is transformed into the fishing ship which hauls him up.

drag performer

Pleasingly, Rebecca Cobb’s fish shop illustrations are forensically recreated for the daft, tongue-twisting, pun-filled song Mrs Bishop (Calum Bruce) sings to proudly introduce us to her fish shop. She discovers the pungent Everywhere Bear among the cod and plaice, so dumps him at a tip.

The songs are a mix of Donaldson’s original rhyming story, set to music, along with new pieces by Julian Butler, which share Donaldson's love of word play and lyrical storytelling with strong and engaging messages for children.

All of the puppets are faithful to Cobb’s illustrations, including the seagull, which soars across the stage and snatches the fishy bear from the tip. A long trunk opens to reveal an illuminated, village nightscape which the seagull flies over, with matching projections behind and a bedroom window which opens to reveal a forlorn Matt, wondering where the Everywhere Bear is.

The Everywhere Bear

Realising the pungent bear is not a fish, the seagull drops him into a flower basket, where he’s discovered by a jolly and pleasingly eccentric librarian. who Butler gives increasingly daft lines, which end in words that rhyme with "bear", much to the delight of children, laughing as they guess what the next word will be.

Finally, Class A takes a school trip to the library, where the relieved Matt is reunited with the Everywhere Bear and they take him back to school.

Childrens’ eyes widen in the final scene, when the Everywhere Bear magically spring to life without any visible puppeteers to sing his solo, looking back on his adventure and highlighting the message which runs throughout the story, that nothing loved is ever really lost.

Little Angel Theatre is a magical, North London gem. As we leave, children press their noses against the window of its puppet workshop, where marionettes of dragons, witches, owls and mermaids dangle in the windows and their team busily work on new creatures to be brought to life on the stage next door.

The Everywhere Bear. Little Angel Theatre, 14 Dagmar Passage, London N1 2DN. Until 14 April. Tickets £14 adult / £12 child.

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