Bampot Theatre have brought the best-selling picture book Penguinpig, by author Stuart Spendlow and illustrator Amy Bradley, to the stage for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Using puppets and a simple yet cleverly designed set it is aimed at three to eight year olds and takes online safety to it’s simplest form.

Sophie reads about an exciting creature called a Penguinpig on the internet. It’s magical, fun and is designed to lure her into a false sense of security. With her parents distracted as they are ‘very busy’, she sets off on her own to look for Penguinpig, only to find it is not what it seemed.

Using the internet is normal for our children, they won’t be trekking to the library to look up information in encyclopaedias . I like to think my boys can use their common sense and are reasonably savvy to the pitfalls of the internet. However, I know I’m deluding myself if I think they won’t be drawn into something else by looking at adverts or spotting more interesting links in the search results.

Although schools do now cover internet safety, the message does need to be reiterated to keep coming home loud and clear. Our family laptop in the the kitchen is needed more and more by my older two boys,aged eight and nine, to research homework and put together PowerPoints. Inevitably this takes place while I’m busy making dinner or helping our youngest, age six, with reading homework. Yes, we have the children’s security settings set up through our internet provider, however you just never know what can get through.

Penguinpig uses a bear to illustrate  the darker side of the internet. There’s a great line where Sophie has trudged to the zoo looking for the Pengunpig only to finally come across the red door she has been encouraged to go through on the internet:

‘There was no sign of a Penguinpig, not a single one in there. But there was something really big! A hungry grizzly bear!’

It is a gentle and clear way of helping children to understand the dangers of the world wide web. Although my nine-year-old enjoyed the show he felt he was too old for it and I agreed. It’s definitely pitched perfectly for the under eights.

The cast effortlessly switch between the puppets and their voices making the transitions seamless. Their skill enabled the children in the audience to be drawn in absorbed by the story.

The show is a gentle reminder to parents as well. We can become distracted when are children use our phones, tablets or iPads and the show reiterates that we need to monitor our children’s online activity. Stuart Spendlow advises  ‘Once children know you’ll be monitoring them, they’ll start to make slightly more informed decisions – they’ll think twice before sending that message or visiting that site.’

The show itself, is a lovely production and will enable any parent to begin or revisit a conversation about devices and online activity with their children. It’s gentle approach is perfectly pitched to the three to eight year old age group. It will leave you with an opportunity to discuss the show with your children and chat more about the internet at home.

Penguinpig is at the Assembly Roxy at 10:45 from 3-19 August. No show Friday 10th August.

P.S. We were kindly gifted tickets for the purpose of this review but all thoughts, words and opinions are our own.

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