The Everywhere Bear

Reviewed by Flossie Waite
A
Polka Theatre, Little Angel Theatre and Royal & Derngate, Northampton production
Playing at Polka Theatre
until 26th August 2018, at Little Angel Theatre 13th September – 11th November 2018, & Royal & Derngate, Northampton 29th November 2018 – 6th January 2019
For ages 3-6

The Everywhere Bear repeats a winning formula. Like 2015’s The Paper Dolls, it is a staging of a beloved Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb picturebook, adapted and directed by Peter Glanville, with music by Julian Butler, and co-produced, once again, by Polka Theatre and Little Angel Theatre who are joined this time by Royal & Derngate, Northampton.

Photo: Suzi Corker

In capturing the loneliness of moving schools and the difficulties of loss, The Everywhere Bear is as sensitive and tender as The Paper Dolls, with both shows sharing the same heartbeat: that nothing loved is ever really lost, whether that’s a kind granny or a teddy bear.

Every weekend, the Everywhere Bear goes home with one of the children from Class One, and every Monday, they recount what he got up to, whether that’s playing pirates with Li Wu, making dens with Daisy, or just spending time at Lily’s being lovely and lazy. But when it’s the new boy Matt’s turn to take him, the Everywhere Bear embarks on his greatest adventure yet. He falls unnoticed out of Matt’s bag and into a drain, only to be washed out to sea, almost sold in a fish shop, chucked in a skip, swooped up by a seagull and flown over the town, with Laura McEwan’s set constantly and cleverly transforming to take us along on the journey.

Photo: Suzi Corker

Based as it is on Donaldson’s rhyming, rhythmic text, the performance is almost entirely in song. Julian Butler’s wonderful tunes range from plaintive and wistful, to the bouncy, distracted walk of a little boy pretending to be everything from a Power Ranger to a ninja on his way to school. There is also a lyrically fabulous welcome from Mrs Bishop to her fish shop (reminiscent of, though far less menacing than, Mrs Lovett’s introduction to her famous pie shop in Sweeney Todd).

Photo: Suzi Corker

Characters who feature in only a couple of lines of the picturebook are expanded and developed to command hilarious, show-stealing scenes: Daniel Harlock as Mrs Bishop, and Amy Tweed as the rhyme-loving librarian, are particularly memorable.

Though you may be hoping to escape the heat in the Adventure Theatre’s cool auditorium, you won’t be able to help feeling warm and fuzzy inside. The Everywhere Bear is gentle, twinkly, and magical, and one of the best hours I’ve spent in the theatre this year.

Children’s Theatre Reviews exists to help plug the gap in criticism and writing about theatre for young audiences. It is run entirely voluntarily, and needs support to continue covering and supporting the sector. For more information and to help give children’s theatre the voice it deserves, please visit our Patreon page.

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