Our verdict on The Everwhere Bear at the Royal and Derngate in Northampton

The Everywhere Bear. Picture: Suzi Corker Photgraphy
The Everywhere Bear. Picture: Suzi Corker Photgraphy

Any child who has been to nursery or primary school in recent years will instantly recognise The Everywhere Bear.

In some nurseries, bear is Freddy or Betty or Billy or Sammy but, whatever his name, the goal is the same: he must be sent home with a pupil and then brought back in a few days time, intact, and with photographic evidence of the adventures he has had.

The Everywhere Bear, which is currently showing in the Underground space at Northampton's Royal and Derngate, is about every primary pupil's worst nightmare - what happens if the bear gets lost.

The production, based on a story by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Rebecca Cobb, has been brought to the stage by Polka Theatre and Little Angel Theatre.

It is an incredibly sweet show, told with beautifully crafted puppets and two people on-stage who control their actions as well as singing and taking on some of the other roles.

The Everywhere Bear certainly has his adventures as he gets lost down a drain, ends up in the sea, is picked up by some fishermen and slowly makes his way to different locations, while schoolboy Matt (who was supposed to be looking after him) frets over his whereabouts.

The story is simply told, with played out scenes and some catchy songs. Eye-catching props are used as well as projected images to make it very clear what has happened in the story and where the bear has disappeared off to next.

There is a distinct environmental theme to the story which is enough to encourage young minds to think about what happens to rubbish when they throw it away, but it is subtly delivered and the theme does not dominate as it so easily could do.

I brought my two daughters (Eloise, aged four, and Grace, aged one) to this show, which is recommended for ages one and over.

I do think age one might be a little young as Grace lasted about five minutes in the theatre before she was taken out by her father.

The arrangement in the theatrical setting is cushions on the floor in a darkened room, with the show at the front in a traditional style. Hence, all Grace wanted to do was to crawl forwards onto the stage and she certainly would not have been able to follow the story.

Eloise, however, being a little older, could really relate to the school setting in the play and the experience of taking a bear home, which is then lost. She was captivated by the tale and absolutely loved the little puppets and songs.

This is a beautiful story, well-told, and I would recommend a visit as a Christmas treat for children - particularly if they are Julia Donaldson fans.

* The Everywhere Bear runs at the Royal and Derngate until Sunday, January 6. For more details, see www.royalandderngate.co.uk