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The Everywhere Bear review at Polka Theatre, London – ‘understated inventiveness’

Daniel Harlock and Amy Tweed in The Everywhere Bear at Polka Theatre, London. Photo: Suzi Corker

When it comes to children’s shows, it’s hard to go wrong with one based on a book by Julia Donaldson.

Only just out of press in 2017, The Everywhere Bear is a fanciful story of an unlikely hero – a school class toy bear, whose purpose it is to go on adventures with individual pupils at weekends. His greatest adventure, told on this occasion, is one that follows when the Everywhere Bear falls out of a little boy’s backpack on his way back to school one Monday morning.

Peter Glanville’s adaptation makes the best of Donaldson’s special brand of verse – a joyful and expert blend of the lyrical and the entertaining. The show is mostly held together by Julian Butler’s versatile music score, making this two-hander one of the most elaborate musicals outside the West End.

Performers Daniel Harlock and Amy Tweed rise to the challenge beautifully. There is puppetry in the show too, bringing Rebecca Cobb’s original illustrations to life, and some fabulous cross-dressing for extra effect. Glanville uses the whole set to a great effect, embedding discrete and helpful animations into its nooks and crannies to bring all of the 3-6 year olds on board with the storytelling. The show’s understated inventiveness never leaves the parents bored either.

The production’s only possible downside is that it is almost entirely risk-free. Being a story about how all stories have happy endings, it never offers warnings or asks questions about real life itself; but then maybe three-to-six year olds need escapism too.

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Cosy and classy family entertainment based on the book by Julia Donaldson with something for everyone