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Lost and Found

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

Will Brenton, after Oliver Jeffers

Factory International

Aviva Studios, Manchester

December 14, 2023-January 6, 2024: 1 hr 5 mins


Factory International's Lost and Found. cr David Levene
Boy and penguin, from Factory International's Lost and Found at Aviva Studios, Manchester. All pics: David Levene


Lost and Found is highly successful at engaging and pleasing the audience it’s aimed at. Our critic (aged five) declared it “double thumbs up” and said his favourite bits were when the boy and the penguin were sailing around the iceberg looking for each other, and when they got together and hugged. So job done, director Will Brenton.

It’s a story about friendship and realising what’s best to do when someone else is feeling lonely, and it all begins in magical style when a boy discovers a lost penguin on his doorstep. They set off in a boat to the South Pole, because that’s where penguins come from.

Factory International is seeking a family following with this show – for the first time, in my memory – now it has the glorious new Aviva Studios venue to work with, and little expense has been spared in creating a production of its own this Christmas, based on the award-winning children’s book by Oliver Jeffers. The book's beautifully direct and simple illustrations are faithfully translated to the stage in the set, props and huge animated video backdrop (design by Jean Chan), and half the pleasure for the grown-ups will be in seeing how they’ve done that.

It's probably a good idea, if you’ve never read the book, to do it before you go. The story is told through a team of six puppeteers, as well as the central two characters (the boy and the penguin) who are full-size actors – most of the time – and the puppeteers become musicians, dancers and singers, too.

Once you get to Aviva Studios, there are free extras: you could find a chance to make your own mini puppet characters at a crafts table and tell the story yourself in a puppet theatre, and there’s a handout puzzle booklet for the slightly older kids, as well as a lavish programme book for adults.

The one-hour show is the joint creation of Will Brenton, musician Gruff Rhys (of Super Furry Animals fame, whose tunes are pretty bland, but who’s worrying about that?) and the puppetry team, captained by Olly Taylor (whose main skills are not so much in putting song lyrics over as making their creatures come to life).

The music takes a while to kick in, while the beginning of the show, and a number of points in the story later, show us puppet seagulls flying around, making a noise and sometimes getting up to no good, as seagulls will. (That’s not actually in the book and seems to be there as padding – and perhaps the team should realise that for the very young the things can be scary, close-up).

There’s some audience participation, when the kids answer an invitation to go up on stage to help build the boat or push it out to sea – and one “he’s behind you!” moment, though I didn’t hear it shouted out.

So we’re not in panto-land, and in some ways it’s a serious story with a moral to it and none the worse for that – just like the book.

It’s not the first time there’s been a stage version, and you can find one on film, too; but this scores high for faithfulness to the original’s intent.


More info and tickets here



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