Just before Christmas it was my pleasure to make the trip to China to see the opening performances of my play THE SEE-SAW TREE presented by the China National Theatre for children, in their splendid theatre in Beijing, near The Forbidden City.
The play was beautifully directed by Adam Stafford, who has for many years acted and been the Assistant Director/Director of my plays. The Chinese cast did a terrific cast, acting in an unfamiliar style. The Chinese producers had been adamant that they wanted a British-style production, and all their creative and technical team worked hard in this direction.
Here are some photos from the production and from my trip, plus a video of an interview we did for a Chinese English-speaking tv channel. Also a video of the concluding moments of the play, in which the audience vote on whether or not to save the tree. It is rewarding to hear them shouting out that they do not want Mr Jay’s children’s playground! They would rather save the tree.
I am extremely flattered to have been nominated for the prestigious Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest award for children’s and young adult literature. This year 246 candidates from 64 countries have been nominated for the Award. I feel very privileged to be amongst the 24 United Kingdom nominees, who include many eminent writers and illustrators, some of whom I have been delighted to work with, including Michael Foreman, Michelle Magorian, Michael Morpurgo and Jan Pienkowski. Other major figures on the list are Allan Ahlberg, David Almond, Malorie Blackman, Shirley Hughes and Quentin Blake.
It would be fair to ask why I have been included in this list of luminaries. Dr Marta Minier of University of South Wales, who arranged my nomination, believes that a children’s playwright deserves to be considered, as well as writers and illustrators. I am very grateful to her for her interest. The Award winner will be announced later in 2019.
A NEW TIGER TRAILER
My adaptation of Judith Kerr's classic picture book, THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, is entering its 11th year in 2019. To celebrate, a new trailer has been released, which is on the show's website and social media. To see it, click this link: The Tiger Who Came to Tea Trailer
There was a happy event at Oxford Playhouse on October 27th. The Story Museum, of which I am a Trustee, organised a party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Judith Kerr’s classic picture book, THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA. My adaptation was playing in the theatre, so the cast could join in the fun. Here they are, with Judith, receiving the celebratory cake.
IF…. at FilmBath Festival
Following a screening of Lindsay Anderson’s IF…. as part of the film festival in Bath, I will be doing a Q&A. November 7th is the date and 6.00 pm the time. Chapel Arts Cinema. Here is a link to event info. https://filmbath.org.uk/schedule/if
PARTY AT THE PICCADILLY
On August 28th I was delighted to host a party at the Piccadilly Theatre, where my adaptation of THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA is playing. The party was to celebrate my fifty years of productions in London theatres, and to thank many of the people who have been so significant in helping me over the last five decades. I was delighted that John Hole, who commissioned my very first children’s play for the Swan Theatre, Worcester in 1967, was able to be there, as well as producers, actors, agents, publishers etc. etc., to whom I am truly grateful.
Here are some photos from the event.
Current TIGER company; Abbey Norman, Tom O'Connell, Stephanie Summers
During the party I was interviewed by Giverny Masso of The Stage. Here is the article she subsequently wrote: Click to view article
MISTER TOM A HIT AT SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE!
Congratulations to the British Theatre Academy on their production of my adaptation of Michelle Magorian’s classic novel GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM, which has been enthusiastically received at the Southwark Playhouse. Here is an ecstatic review! GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM - SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE, LONDON
2018 is the 50th anniversary of the film and special cinema screenings have been scheduled in celebration. Each event features a Q&A session with me and I will also be signing copies of my book. Here's a list of what's coming up. I hope you can come along to one!
These screenings and Q&A sessions have been very enjoyable. At Wimbledon Film Club, we had a cinema virtually full and some very interesting questions.
Q&A session at Wimbledon Film Club.
The screening at the Cambridge Film Festival on October 28th was very well attended, I’m delighted to say. And I sold quite a lot of books! Here is a photo taken by my friend from Oxford days, Adele Geras, who sent out a tweet following the event.
David Wood at Arts Picturehouse Cambridge.
At the Cambridge Film Festival we had a particularly good Q&A. And I sold quite a few books! Here is a photo, taken at the event by Jean-Luc Benazet.
David Wood at the Cambridge Film Festival.
THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA has opened successfully at the Piccadilly Theatre. This year my adaptation of Judith Kerr’s classic picture book celebrates its 10th anniversary. It is also the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book. Here is a link to a video featuring members of the audience and their reactions to the production... http://www.tigerstealive.com/video/
FIFTY YEARS ON
Here is an article I wrote for ENCORE Magazine, following the ceremony at which I was presented with the JM Barrie Award 2017. The article
reflects on my fifty years of writing plays for children, the attitudes now and then towards children’s theatre, and my concerns about the
education system’s dismissive attitude towards the arts.
In 1967, thanks to John Hole, then the Artistic Director of the Swan Theatre, Worcester, I wrote my first play for children. THE TINDERBOX, adapted from Hans Andersen, didn’t set the world on fire, but thankfully it didn’t put off John from commissioning another play for the following Christmas, and the result was THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT WENT TO SEE… This one got a great reaction, and, following its debut in London the following year, ended up being produced by most of the reps. Cameron Mackintosh and I co-produced it on tour, Samuel French published it, and its success convinced me that children’s theatre was what I wanted to focus on.
David Wood and Cameron Mackintosh
Fifty years on, and about seventy-five plays later, it was a real treat to be presented with the JM Barrie Award 2017. It was particularly special because I helped to create this lifetime achievement award back in 2004, to celebrate the centenary of the opening performance of PETER PAN. Action for Children’s Arts, with great generosity, saw fit to honour my efforts in a joyful event at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Several colleagues kindly came and said lovely things, including Cameron himself - now Sir Cameron -, Judith Kerr, whose book THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA I adapted and still direct, Philip Pullman, whose book CLOCKWORK I adapted as an opera, Peter Duncan, who played the title roles in my musical THE GINGERBREAD MAN and in my adaptation of Dahl’s FANTASTIC MR FOX, and Anthony Pedley, the actor who created the role of the BIG FRIENDLY GIANT in my production/adaptation.
David Wood and Judith Kerr
This warm and nostalgic event made me think about how far theatre for children has come since I started fifty years ago. More product than ever for small-scale, middle-scale and even large-scale theatres. More theatres and theatre directors making work for children an integral part of their programming. More practitioners – actors, writers, directors, designers, composers – viewing children’s theatre as a career rather than as a step on the ladder. More acceptance within our profession that work for children is important, both in terms of entertaining and inspiring children today, and in helping create the adult audience of the future.
There are still problems, of course. Theatre critics and arts editors still don’t give enough attention or space to the work. Not enough training establishments give students information or experience in the field. Funding is still a headache for most children’s theatre companies. The general public and schools are too conservative in their choice of shows to be seen, so big, commercial titles still hold sway.
Most worrying of all is the government’s apparent determination to sideline arts subjects in schools. In primary schools teachers are under pressure to improve test results in reading, writing and maths, so art, music and drama rarely get a look in. ‘Creative subjects being squeezed, schools tell BBC’ was the headline of a recent article by the BBC’s Education Editor. Things are no better in secondary schools. Rufus Norris, the director of the National Theatre, wrote recently in the Guardian, ‘Since 2010 there has been a 28% drop in the number of children taking creative GCSEs, with a corresponding drop in the number of specialist arts teachers being trained. Hardly surprising when the Ebacc, a government school performance measure focusing on a core set of academic subjects studied for GCSE, does not include a single creative discipline. Add the funding squeeze into the mix, and the result is that the practice and study of drama, design, music and art are rapidly disappearing from the curriculum. The pipeline of talent into the industry is being cut off by the government’s misguided sidelining of creativity in education.’
Rufus Norris, like many of us, would like to see the Ebacc policy reversed. He also points out the irony that the private schools have a much more enlightened attitude to the arts and their value.
My mission, since the late sixties, has been to enable parties of primary school children to come to the theatre. We know that many of them would never come if it were left to their parents. Teachers are indispensable in being able to offer all children a ‘suck it and see’ experience of live theatre. Yet the primary school party market is dwindling, partly because of the cost (not just the ticket, but also the coach) and partly because teachers feel the time would be better spent preparing for the wretched tests.
Another irony is that there is a growing market for theatre for under-fives, but the majority of the young children coming to see shows like my adaptation of THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, are from the more privileged middle class, whose parents believe in the benefits of such an experience.
We are at risk of theatre for children and young people becoming, along with other opportunities to experience and take part in creative activities, unfairly elitist. We cannot, we must not, allow the positive developments in the sector we have witnessed over the last fifty years to be cancelled out by a blinkered and philistine education system.
The two sharply contrasting sides of my so-called career manage to combine on Wednesday, May 30th, at Storyhouse, Chester.
Then, in the evening, there is a screening of Lindsay Anderson's film IF...., celebrating its 50th anniversary. After the film, I will take part in a Q&A session, remembering the very special weeks I spent as an actor working on the film. Afterwards I will be given the opportunity to sign copies of my book, FILMING IF.... https://www.storyhouse.com/event/if
I'm looking forward to my day in Chester, a fascinating city, much enhanced by Storyhouse, this very special new venue. I don't think I have been to Chester since my play THE GINGERBREAD MAN was the Christmas show at the Gatehouse Theatre many moons ago!
I'm looking forward to seeing two new productions of my adaptation of Michelle Magorian's GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM. The talented young actors of the British Theatre Academy are performing the play at Southwark Playhouse from July 25th – August 25th 2018.
Delighted that my adaptation of Judith Kerr’s classic picture book THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA is returning to the West End, opening at the Piccadilly Theatre on June 28th. This West End run is part of a double celebration – Judith’s book celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and the production of my play celebrates its 10th anniversary.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Lindsay Anderson’s iconic film IF...., in which I was lucky enough to play one of the rebel schoolboys, alongside Malcolm McDowell and Richard Warwick, I have written a short memoir, which is to be published on April 28th. Click here to see the book cover.
Am delighted to have been invited to several screenings of the film, to do Q&A sessions and, hopefully, sign books! Here is the current list ...
Charles Cinema, London
Sunday 29 April
Thursday 24 May
Film Festival (Odeon cinema)
Friday 25 May
Wednesday 30 May
The Cinema Museum, Kennington
Thursday 16 August
Myers Studio, Playhouse Theatre (Epsom Community Cinema Club)
Tuesday 11 September
screening with dedicated lunch (London venue tbc)
If you are interested in this film or indeed the making of any film this book is a must read. It gives a great insight into the making of If.... from the
casting to the opening and beyond. A lovely memoir revealing some of the films secrets, a great tribute ALL involved.
A fascinating insight into a classic British film. Definitely worth a read!
I really enjoyed reading this background on the filming of If.... and I made the conscious decision to read it before actually watching the film. Up
until recently, this cult phenomenon had somehow evaded my radar. I have to say that now I have some added excitement for viewing it and it
will no longer sit waiting in my queue. Actor (in the film) Wood, provides some really interesting insight into the production and the creatives
The book is well written and and beautifully supported with still shots and sample script pages (including the infamous 'dummy script') peppered
throughout the book. It is a gift that David Wood took the time to provide fans and film historians with this edition, marking the 50th anniversary
of the film's release.
BOOK SALES ON AMAZON
For many years I have sold copies of my published books on Amazon. Recently my account was suspended, because EU regulations have changed, it seems. For a few weeks my books were not available on Amazon, but now I’m glad to say normal service has resumed. So copies of MOLE’S BEDTIME STORY, FUNNY BUNNY’S MAGIC SHOW, SILLY SPIDER and all the others are available.
JM BARRIE AWARD 2017
It was an honour and a very great pleasure to be awarded the JM Barrie Award 2017. This is a kind of lifetime achievement award, presented annually by Action for Children’s Arts, the charity of which I was Chair for nearly 20 years.
The Award has a special significance for me, because I was instrumental in creating it, back in 2004, the centenary of the first performance of JM Barrie’s PETER PAN. ACA organised the celebrations at the Duke of York’s Theatre, and then made the first Award to the great children’s writer Dick King-Smith.
Since then, children’s arts luminaries including Michael Morpurgo, Judith Kerr, Roger McGough and Shirley Hughes have been recipients. I was surprised to join the list. The news came a short time after I had announced my resignation from the Chair. The presentation, which was beautifully organised by Vicky Ireland, the Acting Chair, and her team, took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre. I was immensely flattered that amongst the guests saying lovely things were Sir Cameron Mackintosh, with whom I produced my children’s plays years ago, Maureen Lipman, who played Meg in my adaptation of MEG AND MOG, and Philip Pullman, whose book CLOCKWORK I adapted into an opera, with Steven McNeff’s exciting music. And the amazing Judith Kerr came and spoke too, and together on stage we listened to six of my Whirligig Theatre actors singing the song I wrote for THE SELFISH SHELLFISH called WHEN WILL WE LEARN? It was all rather moving and uplifting – for me, anyway! Many thanks to everybody involved.
The splendid Mercury Theatre, Colchester has announced a summer production of my play BABE, THE SHEEP-PIG, adapted from Dick King-Smith’s book, THE SHEEP-PIG. After I directed the original production of this play for Whirligig Theatre, Dick King-Smith became a dear friend. He was a wonderful human being and a brilliant children’s writer. I’m so pleased that the play is getting another airing, following the successful Christmas season 2016/17 at Polka Theatre. Incidentally, this production is scheduled to tour Australia later this year.
2018 sees the 50th anniversary of Lindsay Anderson’s iconic film IF...., in which I was fortunate enough to co-star with Malcolm McDowell and Richard Warwick. As part of the celebrations, I have written a memoir called FILMING IF...., to be published by The Book Guild on April 28th. In it I share my memories of being on the set and working with Lindsay Anderson, a hugely talented director. The book has a Foreword by Malcolm McDowell and an Afterword by film writer George Perry, who has written a superb appreciation of Lindsay and his work.
Curzon Soho, in Shaftesbury Avenue, are screening the film on Sunday, April 29th at 3.00 pm. I have been invited to introduce the film and to take part in a Q&A afterwards, plus a book signing. Please follow the link for more details: Curzon Soho
GEORGE ON TOUR
Delighted that Curve, Leicester, produced a successful Christmas run of my adaptation of Roald Dahl’s GEORGE’S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE, faithfully directed by Julia Thomas and now embarking on a tour. The show received splendid reviews, including The Stage (5 stars), below.
For tour dates please follow this link: Tour Dates
Photograph by Manuel Harlan
A new publication called CHI HIGH, CHICHESTER FESTIVAL THEATRE AND ME is now available. It is published by the Chichester Local History Society in association with the University of Chichester. This is particularly pleasing, because I was at school in Chichester, and my association with the Chichester Festival Theatre has continued for fifty years.
The idea of the book came when I was fortunate enough to receive an Olivier Award for my adaptation of Michelle Magorian's GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM. As I went up on stage with Angus Jackson, the director, to receive the Award, I realised that it was almost fifty years to the day since I had first trod the boards at Chichester Festival Theatre, as an extra in SAINT JOAN, starring Joan Plowright, who was, fifty years later, sitting in the audience of the Olivier Awards, named, of course, after her husband Lord Olivier. I then realised that I had worked at Chichester as an extra, a professional actor, a playwright and director. And it remains my favourite theatre!
The book is available from Chichester Festival Theatre and other outlets in Chichester. It costs a mere £3.00 plus postage, from Alan Green, who nobly and skilfully edited the book. Contact him at 'firstname.lastname@example.org'.
Recently I heard that an episode of CROWN COURT, the Granada series, was available on YouTube – the episode from 1974 called ‘Do Your Worst’ was a very enjoyable acting experience, alongside my friends Maureen Lipman and William Dexter. Also in the cast was Ronald Lewis, with whom I appeared in a Yorkshire television play called TOYS, playing opposite Janina Faye, who was married to the aforesaid William Dexter. Watching CROWN COURT again reminded me how effective this series was. Here is the link: CROWN COURT on YouTube.
MORE 50th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS
Another event has been announced to celebrate my 50th year writing plays for children. In 1967 I adapted Hans Christian Andersen's THE TINDER BOX for the Swan Theatre, Worcester, and have since written about 75 more plays for children. Wimbledon Bookfest have kindly invited me to be In Conversation with Roman Stefanski and Vicky Ireland. This will be on Thursday 12th October at 5.00 pm.
Roman is Associate Director of Polka Theatre. He has directed several of my plays there. Vicky Ireland is Vice-Chair of Action for Children's Arts, the charity of which I was Chair for many years. She is a children's playwright/director, who was a very successful Artistic Director of Polka Theatre. Click here for more details.
TALE OF A TABLE
In the late 1950s I was a teenager doing magic shows. I bought a special magic table on which to put my props. It came from Max Andrews, who ran a company called Vampire Magic in Soho's Brewer Street. Nearly fifty years later I decided it should have a new home, and have sold it to a Max Andrews enthusiast and collector.
Here are two photos. The first shows me aged about 16 posing in performing mode! The second picture shows me with the table in July 2017, the day its new owner came to collect it! Happy memories!
CHIPS' COMIC RECOGNISED!!!
Delighted that CHIPS' COMIC, the children's television series I co-created for Channel 4 in 1983/84 has been written about, with great understanding and appreciation, by Ben Ricketts in his print book THE CURIOSITIES OF BRITISH CHILDREN'S TV.
For details of how to buy Ben's book on Amazon, click on this link. Click here
HERE'S TO LEEDS CHILDREN'S THEATRE!!
Since 1984 the excellent Leeds Children's Theatre have been regularly producing my plays. The next one is, I see, is GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM. In a recent e-mail from Karen Waddicor, the Chair of the organisation, she says some very kind things about my work in this, my 50th anniversary year, I'm particularly touched by her comments.
I'd like to offer you our congratulations on your 50th Anniversary. At the risk of sounding gushing, I'm sure I'm not alone in believing that Children's Theatre in the UK, and no doubt across the world, owes you a great debt of gratitude. You have provided such a huge body of work for us to produce, and enabled us to introduce theatre and performance to thousands of children and young people locally here in Leeds. Many of our members tread the boards for the first time in one of your plays, and some have of course gone onto direct the same plays themselves. Thank you.
BRIAN CANT – CHILDREN'S TV ICON ...
So sad to hear the news that dear Brian Cant has left us. Love and thoughts to Cherry, his wonderfully caring wife and all his family.
Brian was without question the most loved children's television personality of his day. One of the original presenters of PLAY SCHOOL, he later went on to be the star of PLAY AWAY, the programme on which I was proud to be a semi-regular for several years. We had such fun on those programmes. Brian and Toni Arthur were the two mainstays joined by semi-regulars like myself including Julie Stevens, Chloe Ashcroft, Tony Robinson, Nick Wilton and others, plus guests like Jeremy Irons, Anita Dobson and Floella Benjamin. Plus the wonderful music made by Jonathan Cohen with Spike Heatley on bass and Alan Rushton on drums.
Very happy memories. Brian taught me so much about working on television, playing to camera and thinking of one child not millions! But I could never get anywhere near his wondrous ability to be so relaxed and so warm and so talented ...
Goodbye, dear Brian. You will be much missed.
Here is a photo from PLAY AWAY. Left to right, Toni Arthur, David wood, Brian Cant and Chloe Ashcroft.
JUDITH KERR VISITS HER TIGER!
The company of THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, my adaptation of Judith Kerr's classic picture book, were delighted to welcome the celebrated author/illustrator to see the touring production at Richmond Theatre. After the show, we all enjoyed a company meal attended by Judith.
Clockwise from the front, Nick Brooke (Producer), David Wood (Adaptor/Director), Molly Waters (Sophie), Stephanie Summers (Mummy), Sarah Horton (Understudy/Wardrobe), Philip Noel (Producer), Niall Rooney (Understudy/ASM), Steve Mackie (Company Manager), Alan Atkins (Daddy/Tiger), Judith Kerr.
TIME & LEISURE PROMOTES TIGER AND YOURS TRULY
Here is a nice article, written by Steph Siegle, in TIME & LEISURE magazine.
I was very sorry not to be able to see the Minack's production of my adaptation of Michelle Magorian's GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM. The trailer, available below, looks excellent. And their Sammy the dog puppet looks brilliant.
Recently I found these reminders of THE GO-BETWEEN season at the Apollo in London's West End. For those who saw the production, they provide a nice reminder of the show. For those that didn't see it, they give a flavour of the musical adaptation I wrote with Richard Taylor, based on LP Hartley's novel. Michael Crawford starred, and the delightful Gemma Sutton played Marian.
On March 21st, at Seven Stories in Newcastle, I talked about 'The Theatricality of Dahl'. Then Sarah Lawrance interviewed me about my Dahl adaptations, and also aspects of my archive, which is looked after by Seven Stories.
Tom O'Connell is presenting the Polka Theatre production of my adaptation of Dick King-Smith's BABE, THE SHEEP-PIG on tour. The opening performances at West Yorkshire Playhouse were enthusiastically received. Michael Fentiman, the director, and the extremely talented ensemble are doing a great job.
In 1989 Walker Books published my story SIDNEY THE MONSTER, with extraordinary illustrations by Clive Scruton. It had a strange history, in that Walker Books had commissioned me to write a story, but I failed to deliver. Very kindly, Sebastian Walker (with whom I had acted at Oxford University) gave me another chance to come up with the goods. That night I woke at about 3.00 am with a line in my head – 'There was once a monster called Sidney ...'. Quite where the line came from, I don't know. My father-in-law was called Sidney, and he was a bit of a monster sometimes ... but I don't think this was the spark. Anyway, I got up and wrote the story incredibly quickly on the kitchen table. Then I wrote it out in 'best', not even bothering to type it up. Then I set off on an early-morning train and pushed the story through Walker's letterbox long before anybody arrived at the office. At midday the same day the phone rang. My story had been accepted for publication! This must surely hold the record for the shortest time taken for a book to be written from conception through to acceptance – no more than 9 hours or so!
The book won the Nottinghamshire Children's Book of the Year Award.
Recently I found a wonderful blog about the book. Click to read the blogger's lovely comments!
Delighted to report that my adaptation of Dick King-Smith's BABE, THE SHEEP-PIG has opened successfully at Polka Theatre, Wimbledon for the Christmas season, before setting off on a long UK tour produced by Tom O'Connell Productions. Here is the first review:
Babe, the Sheep-Pig
A play by David Wood. Based on the book by Dick King-Smith.
A Polka Theatre, Tom O'Connell Productions and Limelight co-production.
society/company: Polka Theatre (professional productions) (directory)
performance date: 03 Dec 2016
venue: Polka Theatre, Wimbledon
reviewer/s: Susan Elkin (Sardines review)
Wiggling woolly bottoms, energetic folksy music, much baa-ing and a fabulously scary Lion King-style larger-than-life dog puppet spirits us away to Dick King-Smith's retro country farm. There, a piglet, won in a competition and mothered by the farm's resident sheepdog, turns out to have an unlikely talent for sheep herding. It's a story well known to, and much loved by, at least two generations and David Wood's play version, which dates from 1997 has been revived many times and does it real justice.
Polka present it as an eight hander with lots of imaginative choreography and tight ensemble work under the imaginative direction of Michael Fentiman. In the past I've seen Babe played by a child or young actor dressed as a pig. Here he's an engaging piglet puppet managed and voiced by an ensemble member who alternates between this and evocative violin playing – often dancing at the same time.
Fine puppetry is one of this show's (many) great strengths. Directed by Mathew Forbes, puppets include a nice group of stripey brown ducks, and extra sheep as well as Babe himself and that sheep-worrying dog who kills an elderly sheep while the others huddle in impotent fear. This is real life in the country. Although there's a lot of charm it is also a truthful piece. Babe, for example, is destined to be fattened for bacon until his unusual qualities emerge.
It's a noticeably well-paced show. At times it pulses with energy. Other moments are quiet. The first half ends on a powerful cliff hanger and the scenes leading to the sheepdog trials – which of course Babe wins against all odds and expectation – give a satisfying structure to the second half. The length at 1 hour 45 minutes (with an interval) is spot on for the target audience too and that's surprisingly unusual. Many shows are too long.
I was accompanied by a seven-year-old and a four-year-old. By the end the four-year-old was literally hopping up and down with gleeful excitement. Her brother, a fairly seasoned theatregoer for his age, deemed it "the best show I've seen." I don't think the producers could ask for more.
I have suddenly realised that next year, 2017, sees the 50th anniversary of the production of my very first play for children. It doesn't seem possible that five decades have passed since I wrote THE TINDER BOX, based on Hans Andersen, for the Swan Theatre, Worcester, where I was in rep as an actor. John Hole invited me to write the Christmas play and, without realising it, effectively changed my life! Seventy-five plus children's plays later, I am eternally grateful to John for giving me the chance to create something especially for children. Although I don't think THE TINDER BOX was very good, it nevertheless led to him inviting me to write the next six Christmas plays for the Swan, including THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT WENT TO SEE..., which was subsequently seen in virtually every repertory theatre in the country.
Will we do anything to celebrate the 50th anniversary? I must think about that!
Meanwhile, 2017 also sees the 20th anniversary of the publication of my book, THEATRE FOR CHILDREN: GUIDE TO WRITING, ADAPTING, DIRECTING AND ACTING (Faber). Again, the years seem to have flown by since Janet Grant persuaded me to try to analyse what I do! I'm glad to say that it has become a standard text book in both the UK and the United States. I was particularly pleased, the other day, to find some very recent Customer Reviews of the book on Amazon.
On May 25th, 2016, a buyer wrote - 'The most inspiring book I own. Buy it if you have any interest in Children's Theatre.'
Catherine said on October 29th, 2016 - 'Interesting read, even if you are not a playwright. But, if you are, is full of essential tips.'
Three years ago, Alex May commented 'This is simply a must-read for anyone creating theatre for young people. I have already recommended this to so many people! It is a really simple and engaging read, which is unusual for guides like these. I would honestly say that, from my experience, there is not a better guide for creating theatre for young people.'
ACA JM BARRIE AWARD 2016 GOES TO MICHAEL MORPURGO!!!
On November 10th I was privileged to host the 2016 Action for Children's Arts JM Barrie Awards in the BBC Radio Theatre. The theatre was full to see celebrated children's author Michael Morpurgo receive the main prize, the JM Barrie Award itself. Linda McClelland MBE won the Outstanding Contribution Award for her work with children in art galleries in Scotland, and ACA Members' Awards went to Julian Butler, Nick Graham, Tom Jelley, Annemarie MacDonald and Miaomiao Yu.
As Chair of Action for Children's Arts, I was thrilled to welcome several previous winners of the JM Barrie Award – Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Judith Kerr OBE, Lynne Reid Banks, Lyndie Wright and Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE. We were also thrilled to welcome the current Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell.
Here are some pictures
MY TALK/Q&A ABOUT ROALD DAHL
Occasionally I am asked to give a talk about Roald Dahl, his stories and my adaptations. I call the talk THE UTTERLY INVENTIVE WORLD OF ROALD DAHL.
The next presentation will be at Curve, Leicester in advance of their Christmas production and tour of my adaptation of THE TWITS. The talk is at 4.30 pm on 18th November. Here is a link to the Curve website with more information.
On October 15th the twenty week season of THE GO-BETWEEN at the Apollo Theatre in London's West End came to an end. It took fifteen years for Richard Taylor, the composer, and I to achieve a West End production, thanks to Greene Light Stage (Joe Smith and Becky Barber) and Bill Kenwright. Huge thanks to the wonderful company and creative team and crew. Here is a picture of our star, Michael Crawford, surrounded by the six boys in the show (three teams of two playing Leo and Marcus). What a tremendous job they all did. THE GO-BETWEEN will be published by Samuel French Ltd. Hopefully the show has a future, having had this splendid start!
THE DAHL CENTENARY!
There has been a lot of activity this year connected with Roald Dahl's centenary. Several productions of my adaptations of his books are taking place and described elsewhere in LATEST NEWS.
Samuel French, who publish my Dahl adaptations, recently had a Dahl window at their shop in Fitzroy Street, London. Here is a photo, showing copies of most of my Dahl adaptations on display.
WHAT'S ON FOR AUTUMN/CHRISTMAS 2016/17
Several of my adaptations will be playing all round the UK. Here are some dates. For full details click on the theatre websites.
GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE, presented by Birmingham Stage Company, directed by Phil Clark. GEORGE will be opening at the Theatre Royal Nottingham on the 19th October. Touring dates are Cardiff, Guildford, Reading, Bromley, Manchester, Birmingham and Brecon.
The Press Night of the musical I co-wrote with Richard Taylor, based on THE GO-BETWEEN by LP Hartley was an exciting event, culminating in a standing ovation for Michael Crawford and the acting company. It has been a thrill to watch the production in rehearsal, having waited fifteen years to get this far! When the show won the Best Musical Production in the UK Theatre Awards 2012 we hoped very much that the West End might follow. And it has! With the legendary Michael Crawford singing beautifully and acting sensitively, never leaving the stage throughout the show! Thanks to Roger Haines for a wonderful production.
THE GO-BETWEEN trailer
Here are some reviews and other bits of information that may be of interest.
My adaptation of Roald Dahls THE MAGIC FINGER, first seen in the United States, is to be seen for the first time in Australia, where it will be produced by the Pymble Players from November 24th 2017 to December 2nd 2017. It seems a long way away, both time and place! But the time will probably go very quickly, even if the distance from the UK doesnt change!
The UK premiere of THE MAGIC FINGER takes place at South Hill Park, Bracknell from 26th - 30th October 2016. Distance no problem with this production. I certainly aim to go!
THE GO-BETWEEN IS PREVIEWING ...
Previews have started at the Apollo Theatre for THE GO-BETWEEN, the musical I co-adapted with Richard Taylor, the composer, from the classic novel by LP Hartley. Press night is on June 7th. Here is a photo of a front-of-house advertising board being put in place.
CHRISTMAS BABE AND TWITS!
Very happy to announce that Polka Theatre, the childrens theatre in Wimbledon, will be presenting a Christmas production of my adaptation of BABE, THE SHEEP-PIG, from the classic book by Dick King-Smith. By the sound of it, there will be a splendid mix of actors and puppets recreating the heart-warming story of the young pig who wants to be a sheep-dog. The book, of course, inspired the film BABE.
BABE, THE SHEEP-PIG plays from 25th November 2016 - 5th February 2017
A new production of my adaptation of Roald Dahls THE TWITS will play at Curve, Leicester for Christmas, as well as touring. It will come to the Rose Theatre, Kingston, who are co-producing. Max Webster is the talented director. He did a splendid production of my adaptation of Roald Dahls JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH at West Yorkshire Playhouse a couple of Christmases ago. Im much looking forward to seeing his interpretation of my play.
THE TWITS plays from 10th December 2016 - 15th January 2017.
THE POLKA JAMES GETS UNDERWAY
Here are two first morning read-through pictures of the cast of JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, my adaptation of Roald Dahls book, opening later in the month at Polka Theatre, directed by Roman Stefanski. Good luck everybody! Enjoy rehearsals!
THE GO-BETWEEN GETS UNDER WAY
Rehearsals for THE GO-BETWEEN have begun. Here are some photos of the first day of the rehearsal meet and greet. Very exciting to see the cast all together in one place for the first time, and to hear them sing! And Mr Crawford was in great form too.
My adaptation of Judith Kerrs THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA is returning to China by popular request! The production will open in Shanghai on April 29th, 2016 and play until 2nd May, before transferring to Beijing.
On their way home, the company will also play Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. More details on
Having left the Duke of Yorks Theatre in London, my adaptation of Michelle Magorians classic novel, GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM, is on the road. Angus Jacksons production has had a great reaction once again. Here are a couple of the latest reviews ...
David Woods stage adaptation of Michelle Magorians classic childrens book is by now a firm family favourite. Rightly so, for when its well done - as it certainly is here - its a truly engrossing piece of theatre, deeply moving and beautifully played.
The story is set at the beginning of the Second World War, and revolves around Tom Oakley, an elderly curmudgeon living in the heart of the English countryside who is reluctantly persuaded to take in William Beech, a withdrawn and shy young evacuee from London. The growing friendship between the reclusive Oakley and his young charge is pivotal to the book and forms the shows emotional anchor, so casting here is crucial.
Three boys alternate the role of William - Alex Taylor-McDowall appeared when I saw it, and he brings real poignancy and quiet confidence to the role of a young boy who gradually blossoms with kindness. David Troughton is nothing less than superb as the grumpy, obstreperous Oakley; with the exception of John Thaw (who turned in a magnificent on-screen performance) other f From Essential Surrey
There wasnt a dry eye left in the house at the end of this moving and enjoyable adaptation of Michelle Magorians wartime novel, myself included! My heartstrings were well and truly pulled following the story of evacuee William Beech (Alex Taylor-McDowall), sent to live with the irascible Mister Tom,(David Troughton) and his faithful dog, Sammy (puppeteer Elisa De Grey). From the moment William appears in his doorway, head bowed and shoulders slumped, our sympathies are stirred, especially with bruises on his legs and his surprise at being told to sleep in the bed, instead of under it. His vulnerability and unorthodox religious upbringing by his mother baffle Tom at first, and it was heartwarming to watch the mismatched pair slowly care for each other. The cracking chemistry between the two was funny and touching, and Troughton was splendid as the gruff man with a painful past who discovers a reason to love again.
So William joins the welcoming Dorset community who show him the love and care of which he has been deprived. His exuberant friend Zac (Oliver Loades) drew many of the laughs, and was a joy to watch! It was most fascinating however, to watch Hawkins transform William from a frightened child, into a happy boy who experiences birthday parties and picnics for the first time.
The economical stagecraft brilliantly depicted the cosy countryside, with a jolly backdrop, then seamlessly shifted to grey, grim sets like Williams home. This horrifying scene with his mother finally reveals the cruelty he suffers, drawing shocked gasps. Melle Stewart (also playing Mrs Hartridge) was excellent as the tyrannical bully, and the subsequent events were too heartbreaking to watch. But the bittersweet ending left a tear in my eye, as I reflected that war can destroy many things but the power of love.
For the third time, Roman Stefanskis production of my adaptation of Roald Dahls JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH will be playing at Polka Theatre, Wimbledon, from Friday May 27th - Sunday 14th August 2016.
This is one of several productions and other entertainments organised to celebrate Roald Dahls centenary year. Im delighted that Romans production, which will, Im sure, be a delightful as the original one in 2004/5.
The new organisation, Save Childhood Movement, aims to protect and promote the rights and freedoms of early childhood. I was asked to contribute something in support of this initiative. Click here to find the short video I made
Several years after the first production of the musical adaptation of LP Hartleys THE GO-BETWEEN first appeared at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Derby Theatre and Theatre Royal, Northampton, Im delighted to spread the news that the show I created with composer Richard Taylor is coming to the West Ends Apollo Theatre in May, starring the legendary Michael Crawford.
Roger Haines returns to direct the production once again, having led us to win the Best Musical Award in the 2012 UK Theatre Awards. The splendid organisation, Perfect Pitch, helped us develop the musical in its early stages.
Here are links to more information about the show -
When the West End run of GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM finishes at the Duke of Yorks Theatre on February 20th, the company will be setting off on tour. Click on the link to find the tour dates, with subsequent links to each theatre for performance times, dates etc.
Delighted to say that the archive of Whirligig Theatre, the childrens touring theatre company I ran with John Gould for 25 years, is now described on the online catalogue of the Theatre Museum at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The archive contains material relating to all the productions we mounted from 1978 (the pilot project) through to 2004, including our London seasons at Sadlers Wells.
Seven Stories is the brilliant organisation dedicated to childrens literature. They look after my archive of my plays and childrens books, complete with all the notes and letters and drafts that I have collected and hoarded for more than fifty years.
In 2015, Seven Stories employed a young Spanish intern, Paula Pintos, who spent a considerable amount of time ploughing through all my stuff! Im glad to say that she seemed to enjoy the task, and wrote about it in a splendid blog, the link to which is below.
Paula, who has an enviable mastery of the English language, sent me the following e-mail, once she had returned to Spain:
Hello, Mr Wood!
Its that Paula Pintos who has been working with your archive at Seven Stories. I just wanted to tell you that I had a brilliant time immersing myself in your work. It was absolutely delightful and it was so hard to pick which angles in your career I wanted to highlight for the blog, to do you and your archive justice. I am happier than happiest that you liked the blog post enough to share it on your site! I only blushed under the desk for five seconds, before the excitement won and I decided to celebrate it by decorating a couple of the gingerbread men that the lovely people from Seven Stories Collection Departament gave me as a goodbye gift. (I kept babbling about how funny and interesting the material was, I guess!)
Early in December I enjoyed being interview by Miriam Gillinson for Exeunt Magazine. We talked about childrens theatre in general, plus THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA and GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM in particular. Miriam asked interesting and intelligent questions, which I tried to answer to the best of my ability and experience!
So pleased that my adaptation of Michelle Magorians classic novel, GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM, had successfully returned to the West End. When the production, directed by Angus Jackson, received a Olivier Award in 2013, I hoped very much that it might signal the return of a show which means a great deal to me. Now, with David Troughton movingly playing the title role, the show has settled in at the Duke of Yorks Theatre, thanks to Fiery Angel, the Childrens Touring Partnership and ATG.
It is particularly appropriate that the play should be at the Duke of Yorks. Included within the story are short excerpts from PETER PAN and TOAD OF TOAD HALL. In 1904 the very first production of PETER PAN took place in this very theatre. And for many years David Convilles annual Christmas production of AA Milnes adaptation of Kenneth Grahames book THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, played on this very stage!
There have been several reviews in newspapers and on websites, all of them extremely positive.
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, sixty playwrights were asked to contribute a play lasting no more than sixty seconds. These were then recorded by professional members of the acting company, and put online, introduced by Sir Alan Ayckbourn, who ran the theatre for many years.
Click here to the link to Sixty by Sixty. My play is in the Library section. It is called SPEAKING VOLUMES ...
Nikolai Fosters production of my adaptation of Roald Dahls THE WITCHES is exciting audiences at Curve Leicester. A very clever company including several actors/musicians, tell the spooky tale with relish, energy and humour.
The Curve, Leicester production of THE WITCHES, my Roald Dahl adaptation, has been extremely well received. It is now touring for several weeks.
It was a pleasure and an honour to be on the panel talking about the BBC tv institution that was JACKANORY. Along with producer Jeremy Swan, actors Hannah Gordon and Bernard Holley, illustrator Paul Birkbeck and (on film the wonderful Bernard Cribbins) I was able to reminisce about my first appearance in 1969, reading OVER SEA, UNDER STONE by Susan Cooper, my second appearance a year later telling stories from the ballet, and my exciting JACKANORY 3,000, ten-episode storytelling of THE HOBBIT, with Cribbins, Jan Francis and Maurice Denham.
We were expertly interviewed by writer/presenter Matt Brown, and the event was put together with care and skill by Edward Pugh, who worked on many BBC programmes (I first met him on PLAY AWAY, when he was an assistant floor manager, and later was delighted to be in the cast of his first job as programme director of a JACKANORY PLAYHOUSE) and later became Head of Childrens at Granada TV. It was great to see familiar faces from way back when smiling in the audience! Below are two photos I discovered on Twitter. Apologies for not crediting the photographer! In one photo I am seen demonstrating my pop-in-the-slot book FUNNY BUNNYS MAGIC SHOW - everyone graciously joined in the rhymes, and provided vocal audience participation, the one ingredient that tvs JACKANORY could never have!
THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA
whatsonstage reviewer Jane Kemp really has understood exactly what we are trying to do in THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA. Here is her review.
Theres nowhere to hide with an audience of under-fives. They either like your play and join in wholeheartedly, or theyre bored and start squirming about and crying.
Thankfully the enduring appeal of The Tiger Who Came to Tea makes this a delightful show that could scarcely fail to entertain any child, whether they already know the story or not. The adaptation by director David Wood determinedly keeps faith with the combination of homely charm and surreal events that have made Judith Kerrs 1968 picture book so loved by generations of children.
And its clear from the audiences eager prompts that many of them are very familiar indeed with the tale of the greedy Tiger, who politely but resolutely eats the entire contents of Sophies tea table, kitchen cupboards and fridge, and even drinks Daddys beer and all the water in the taps.
Capturing the feline charm of this visitor is Benjamin Wells, (who does duty as Daddy too). Capering gracefully inside his tiger costume, he conveys the gentlemanly elegance of a courtier, while maintaining an undercurrent of danger, after all, this tiger does seem to be extremely hungry.
Sophie, complete with her famous harlequin-patterned tights and smock dress, is played by Abbey Norman with huge energy and enthusiasm, while Jenanne Redman is a safe and reassuring presence as Mummy.
David Woods music and lyrics are deceptively simple but very appealing. Its perhaps a little ambitious to expect such a young audience to tackle singing a three-part round about sausages and chips, but they all have a go, and the title song was being warbled in the loos afterwards, which is always a good sign.
The design and costumes are an absolute triumph for Susie Caulcutt. Ultimately this show stands or falls by the quality of its hero, and the fluffy fur, adorable face and perky tail of this majestic Tigers costume have true child appeal. When a book is as well known as this one, no one wants too many departures from the familiar, and recreating the gentle warmth of Kerrs original illustrations has been achieved by Caulcutt with sensitivity and imagination.
Lighting designer Tony Simpson also excels during the night-time scenes, capturing the shimmering city streets as Sophie, Mummy and Daddy set off for the thrilling outing in the dark to have their dinner in a cafe.
The show has been touring successfully since 2008, and Wood credits Kerr for her helpful input into creating the original production.
Seeing your favourite characters jump out of the pages of a book and onto the stage is a magical experience, and this is a Tiger who really has earned his stripes.
Some lovely reviews have come in for THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, my adaptation/direction of Judith Kerrs classic book. Here are some links, including one to a television excerpt recorded by LONDON LIVE.
That wonderful institution SEVEN STORIES, based in Newcastle, is ten years old this year! It has been a huge success promoting and celebrating childrens books with exhibitions, activities, educational work, a great bookshop and its collections. It was the first organisation to take seriously the archives of childrens writers and illustrators, and now has a remarkable array of fascinating material. A splendid book has been published, DRAWN FROM THE ARCHIVE, by Sarah Lawrance, to mark the anniversary.
My own archive is lodged with Seven Stories, and it is warming to know that all my hand-written manuscripts, drafts, notes on the backs of envelopes and early efforts are safe in the hands of experts.
Available on Amazon, MOLES BEDTIME STORY, the book I created with Richard Fowler, is currently selling lots of copies, as Christmas presents I imagine.
Here is a lovely message from a satisfied customer!
Have received my new copy of Moles Bedtime Story. This book was, and is, my daughters all time favourite bedtime story - and shes now 20! Im delighted that I can continue to share this magic with friends grandchildren as my daughter wouldnt allow her copy to be used by anyone else. Thank you for your lovely compliments slip.
FUNNY BUNNYS MAGIC SHOW is also selling well!
BOLTON BFG REVIEW
Delighted that Sarah Esdailes production of my adaptation of Roald Dahls THE BFG has had a lovely review in The Stage.
Roald Dahls fictional gentle giant famously finds getting his tongue round human words "a twitch-ticking problem." Director Sarah Esdaile and her production team,... READ MORE
CHICHESTER FESTIVAL THEATRE INTERVIEW
I was very pleased to be asked to record some memories of my association with Chichester Festival Theatre since before it was built back in the 60s until the production of GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM a few years ago. In that time I have worked at Chichester as an extra, a playwright, an actor and a director. The Festival Theatre has instigated a brilliant project called PASS IT ON, which is assembling an archive and an oral history. More details below.
Pass It On started in January 2013 and is a three year project to capture, explore and share the history of Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT) and its incredible Post War 60s building. We have been collecting peoples memories of CFT and putting together a public archive of the theatres work as well as an online archive exhibiting some the great items and stories that have made CFT what it is today.
To find out more visit: www.passiton.cft.org.uk
The 11th JM Barrie Awards took place on November 5th and proved to be an enjoyable and inspirational afternoon, during which Sir Ken Robinson was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Childrens Arts Award, Dame Jacqueline Wilson was presented with the JM Barrie Award 2015, and Members Awards were presented to Carolyn Mairi L. Forsyth, Sahana Gero, Daniel Jamieson, Mike Kenny and Charles Way.
250 people attended the event, which I was privileged to host as Chair of ACA. Vicky Ireland, Vice-Chair, joined me in the presentation duties, along with ACA Patrons Peter Duncan and Baroness Floella Benjamin. Speakers included the current Childrens Laureate, Chris Riddell, his predecessor, Malorie Blackman OBE and many of Dame Jacqueline Wilsons associates and colleagues, paying tribute to the extraordinary contribution she had made to childrens literature.
Susan Elkin, who has recently been championing theatre for children in her Stage columns, wrote a very complimentary and comprehensive article about me and my work in the October 15th edition of The Stage. Here is the link...
I was delighted to receive the message below from my friend Michele Brandenburger, who has just directed the Australian premiere of my adaptation of Roald Dahls GEORGES MARVELLOUS MEDICINE. It played in Sydney at the King Street Theatre for 15 sold out performances. Congratulations Michele, and thank you!
"Thought I would let you know that our entire run has been sold out with people clamouring for tickets.
Your adaptation works a treat on stage, and the young audiences are loving it, while all the adults in the house get as involved as the kids in all the stirring and blowing etc
Thank you for sharing your magic with the world. You have such a special gift which I for one am so delighted that I stumbled upon, all those years ago, when I first directed `The Owl and the Pussycat went to See... which got me totally hooked on your work.
Take care and best wishes
Seven Stories, the splendid institution in Newcastle, otherwise known as The Centre for the Childrens Book, kindly acquired a major part of my writing for children archive, and have been diligently cataloguing and preserving all my manuscripts and notes for posterity. Now Paula Pintos, a work placement student from Spain, has written a delightful article all about working on the archive. She has kindly allowed me to put it on my website.
Recently I found on YouTube the Irish television recording of ROCK NATIVITY, the musical I co-wrote with Tony Hatch back in the 70s. RTE made the programme, featuring their splendid concert orchestra. In the cast were Colm Wilkinson, later to become a star in LES MISERABLES, and Johnny Logan, who, I think, holds the record for performing/writing the most Eurovision Song Contest winners! Although the production is somewhat unimaginative, the musical content, in my view, stands up rather well! Until I found this on YouTube, I had never actually seen the production on television, although I was watching the recording in Cork Opera House.
CHRISTMAS PRODUCTIONS, 2015/16
There are several productions of my plays scheduled for Christmas seasons. Here are some ...
THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, based on Judith Kerr's classic picture book. Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. 25 November 2015 � 10 January 2016.
The production also visits Hong Kong 27 � 29 November 2015 and tours to the following theatres in 2016
Nuffield Theatre, Southampton
Hall for Cornwall, Truro
Wyvern Theatre, Swindon
Corn Exchange, Newbury
Lowry Studio, Salford
Rose Theatre, Kingston
Everyman Theatre, Liverpool
GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM RETURNS!
Absolutely delighted that my adaptation of Michelle Magorians classic novel, GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM is returning to the West End for a ten week season, opening on December 11th at the Duke of Yorks Theatre.
In 2013, Angus Jacksons production, presented by Fiery Angel, ATG and the Childrens Touring Partnership won the Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family. Now its coming back, featuring the splendid David Troughton as Mister Tom.
It was enjoyable meeting old friends and making new friends at the Annual UK Theatre AGM/lunch at Kings Place. Mags Patten, communication director of the Arts Council made a positive speech, assuring us that ACE were fighting hard our corner, arguing for public money for the arts in the next spending review. Lets hope ACE succeeds in achieving, if not an increase, at least a standstill grant
I was pleased to hear her say, we have to remind our politicians that we make a massive impact on hearts as well as minds. We should explain to them how every child deserves the chance to take part in the arts � and lets use powerful human stories and images to bring alive that impact of the arts on our souls and wellbeing.
SAD TO HEAR...
....that Cilla has left us. She was part of most peoples lives whether as pop princess or queen of Saturday night popular tv. My own happy memory of her is playing her boyfriend in her sitcom series CILLAS WORLD OF COMEDY in 1976. Also in the cast , playing her father, was the lovely actor Leslie Sands, with whom I had acted in AFTER HAGGERTY for the Royal Shakespeare Company. I remember her being kind and professional, and never more than a few feet away from Bobby, her husband and manager. We recorded the show in the ATV Studios at Elstree, with a live audience. On the day, there was a technicians strike, which meant we couldnt do the show. But there was no time to notify the audience and stop them coming. Cilla immediately decided they mustnt be disappointed. She called the cast together and asked to know our party pieces. That night the audience were treated to Cilla hosting a cabaret, in which Leslie did a comedy monologue, I performed a magic trick, and Cilla sang, unaccompanied, with feeling, I CAN SING A RAINBOW. To be honest, I think the audience enjoyed it as much, if not more than they would have enjoyed the sitcom episode!
Also sad to hear that the brilliant theatre director Robin Phillips has died. He had many successes in the UK, including ABELARD AND ELOISE, but arguably did his best work in Canada, where he ran the Stratford, Ontario theatre. Our paths rarely crossed except way back in 1958, when we both took part in a residential young peoples week-long drama course in West Sussex. For me, aged 14, this week was a revelation and confirmed my belief that the theatre was my wished-for future career. Robin was the star of the course. He was 18 and on his way to the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. We acted together in a Kabuki play, a stylised, physical Japanese theatre form. Robin was very impressive indeed, and clearly destined for great things as an actor. This came true, but his directing career will probably be remembered even more.
BFG IN DC
The award-winning Imagination Stage production of my adaptation of Roald Dahls THE BFG has successfully transferred to the National Theatre in Washington. Here is the first review.
My production/adaptation of THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA is going to be seen in China in September/October, in Beijing and Shanghai. This is the first time one of my productions has toured to China.
Later the production will be back in the West End for a Christmas season at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, opening on November 25th.
Sorry to hear that ...
The brilliant ventriloquist Keith Harris has died. My children and millions of others grew up with Orville and Cuddles. Keith and Orville recorded two of my songs OLD FATHER TIME and IF WISHES WERE HORSES. They also sang OLD FATHER TIME on their television show. Here are links to the two tracks from their album.
It was a great pleasure to return to the Swan Theatre, Worcester on March 17th, 2015, for the 50th anniversary celebrations. Chris Jaeger, who runs Worcester Live, who run both the Swan and Huntingdon Hall, put on a very enjoyable and amusing evening of performances by the various local companies, both professional and amateur, who regularly perform at the Swan.
It was a happy yet sobering thought that I first trod the boards of the Swan nearly fifty years ago! I was in the second production to visit the theatre. It was an Oxford University revue on its way to the Edinburgh Festival, directed by and starring Michael Palin, with Diana Quick, Robert Hewison, Mick Sadler and myself. Two years later, in 1967, John Hole, who had been appointed as Artistic Director of a brand new repertory company, invited me to be one of two actor/directors. The other was Sam Walters, later to run the Orange Tree Theatre for Richmond for many years. For me, at 22, this was an unbelievable opportunity. I directed the very first play of the Worcester Repertory Company (THE KNACK by Ann Jellicoe) and acted in the second (NEXT TIME ILL SING TO YOU by James Saunders). There followed several other enjoyable productions. John Hole also asked me to run childrens theatre on Saturday mornings, which led to him inviting me to write the Christmas production, 1967. This was THE TINDER BOX, based on the Hans Andersen story. It was my first childrens play and, in many ways, changed my life. The following year I co-wrote THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT WENT TO SEE..., and was hooked from there on! Childrens theatre became a major part of my life.
Im delighted to say I will be going back to the Swan to perform DAVID WOODS STORYTIME � THE GINGERBREAD MAN, on August 29th 2015.
TYA US One World Conference in Chicago
Thank you, TYA US, for inviting me to lead two sessions at this excellent conference, much of which took place in the splendid new Theatre Department building at De Paul University. I met up with old and new American childrens theatre practioner colleagues, many of whom have created productions of my plays, including my Dahl adaptations and BABE, THE SHEEP-PIG.
My sessions � The Business and Craft of Adaptation and Theatre for the under-fives � a growing market were well-attended, and I also saw some good performances and heard some interesting talks.
Samuel French in New York asked me to write an article for their magazine.
Delighted to announce that my adaptation of Judith Kerrs THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA will be playing a season at the Edinburgh Festival, 2015. Full details at Tiger Tour Dates.
This production will be running at the same time as the current tour, which continues until the end of August.
At some venues TIGER is sharing with PETER PAN GOES WRONG produced by Kenny Wax, co-producer of TIGER. At Glasgow Theatre Royal, for the benefit of the press, a tea party was organised featuring a delightful young Sophie enjoying tea with Captain Hook and the Tiger.
Enjoyed The Stage New Year Party!
Met up with Bob Carlton, creator of RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET
TIGER ON TOUR
Following its very successful run at Birmingham Town Hall, my production/adaptation of THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, adapted from Judith Kerrs classic picture book, is now on tour. The first date was Radlett Centre. Here is a lovely e-mail we received from a local nursery school ...
"Please pass on our thanks to the amazing team who produced and performed The Tiger Who Came to Tea today in Radlett. We brought our whole nursery school to the performance and every single one of them was in awe during the show and absolutely buzzing when they saw their parents and told them about it.
We do a theatre trip each year as a school and this was by far the best production we have seen for this age range. As adults we loved the fact the story was kept so true to the book and this made it more engaging as we had done some preparation with the children beforehand. Thank you so much to all involved we will certainly be looking out for any more tours next year!"
Pleased to announce that the much-praised London Contemporary Theatre will be touring a new production of my adaptation of Roald Dahls DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD from March 2015. The company will be visiting middle-scale and smaller venues, who might usually not be offered a Dahl tour.
Enjoyed Lotte Wakeham’s production of my adaptation of DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD, presented by London Contemporary Theatre.
Happy to meet the cast and Lotte after the performance at the Paul Robeson Theatre, Hounslow.
26, 27, 28 - Paul Robeson Theatre, Hounslow.
30, 31 - Charter Theatre, Preston.
1, 2, 3 - Norwich Playhouse.
7 - The Roses, Tewkesbury.
8, 9 - The Castle, Wellingborough.
10 - The Place, Bedford.
11 - Farnham Maltings.
14 - Lighthouse, Poole.
15, 16, 17, 18, 19 - South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell.
20th - 26th - OFF
27, 28 - Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock.
1 - Playhouse, Whitley Bay.
2 - Carriageworks, Leeds.
4, 5 - Victoria Theatre, Halifax.
7, 8, 9 - The Egg, Bath Theatre Royal.
10, 11 - Chipping Norton Theatre.
13 - Pommegranate Theatre, Chesterfield.
14, 15, 16 - The Beck Theatre, Hayes.
18, 19 - Brewhouse, Taunton.
20, 21 - Theatre Royal, St Helens.
22 - Plowright Theatre, Scunthorpe.
24, 25 - White Rock, Hastings.
26, 27, 28 - Wyvern Theatre, Swindon.
Sales of the pop-in-the-slot books I co-created with Richard Fowler have been steady over the years.
MOLE'S BEDTIME STORY
FUNNY BUNNY'S MAGIC SHOW
MOLE'S SUMMER STORY
MOLES BEDTIME STORY, MOLES SUMMER STORY, FUNNY BUNNYS MAGIC SHOW, SCARY MARY and SILLY SPIDER are all available via my website, but also on Amazon.
Here are some of the nice comments we have been receiving recently from Amazon customers ...
I received this as a gift as this was one of my favorite books as a child (now 17). I was extremely happy as I remember being upset when the mole was ripped and lost after years of use. I was glad to find that the author was kind enough to enclose a signed note with the book as such a lovely gesture. I dont usually leave feedback but this meant so much that I wanted to share my appreciation.
Thank you for the prompt despatch of this book. It is a replacement to keep for when I have grandchildren! The old, very used book was beyond repair. It was one of my childrens favourite bedtime books (and particularly one of mine, which is why I now have a replacement!) Thank you for entertaining my four children endlessly with these well loved mole books!
What a lovely story I was slightly apprehensive about buying this book as Id bought it for my class who love books, however on occasion they can become very enthusiastic and things do break. However they love mole and so far hes still in one piece!! Looking forward to reading more about Moles adventures
Fantastic books that I would recommend for any child. Have previously ordered a book from this seller - comes direct from the author who always writes a personal message inside the package. Nice personal touch. Wish he would write more books like this as my daughter absolutely loves them
THE REVIEWS ARE IN
The productions for Christmas 2015/15 have now opened! Here are some press comments ...
THE BFG Birmingham Rep �
Enchanting and absorbing ... a thrilling introduction to theatre for any child
A family treat that will leave the children beaming
Entertaining ... charming and striking
THE BFG � Lyceum, Edinburgh -
Swish, sparkling take on Roald Dahl, with strong puppetry and plenty of subversion
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH � Waterside Arts Centre, Sale
Children sat upright and wide eyed
this weird and wonderful production makes it almost believable through a childs eyes.
Chair of the charity Action for Children’s
Arts, I was delighted to host the annual JM Barrie Awards, presented to
who have made a significant contribution to children’s arts.
award this year was won by the legendary actor and storyteller Bernard
OBE. During the presentation he was reunited with fellow
stars of the
film THE RAILWAY CHILDREN. Northern Ballet received an
Contribution Award for their series of SHORT BALLETS FOR SMALL
Wayne Sleep OBE presented this award. Several of our members
winners of the Members’ Awards – children’s arts practitioners all over
country who, without much prestige, make a great contribution, often
year’s Awards took place in the splendid
Radio Theatre at Broadcasting House, hosted by the BBC. We
that the Director General spoke passionately about children’s arts, as
of our Patrons, Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE
Entertainment are putting together a
series for CBBC, with the working title of CINEMANIACS. This is
about the movies, for children.
I was delighted to record a contribution about
the film adaptation of SWALLOWS & AMAZONS, for which I wrote
over 40 years ago! It has just been re-released as a DVD and
Blue-ray. Sophie Neville, who played Titty in the film, was
is a photo of us.
CHRISTMAS DAHLS, TIGER AND NUTCRACKER!
There are several Christmas season productions of
my plays coming up, including several of my Roald Dahl adaptations
AND THE GIANT PEACH
will be at Dundee Rep (25th November 2014 – 7th January 2015) www.dundeerep.co.uk
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH will also be
at West Yorkshire Playhouse (5th December 2014 – 24th January 2015) www.wyp.org.uk
THE GIANT PEACH will also be at the Waterside Arts Centre,
Sale, Cheshire from 12 December 2014 – 3rd January 2015. This
Watershed Productions presenting the Polka Theatre production.
THE BFG is also at the Lyceum Theatre,
Edinburgh (28th November 2014 – 3rd January 2015) www.lyceum.org.uk
GEORGE’S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE is at the
Exeter (9th December 2014 – 4th January 2015). This is the
Birmingham Stage Company production that has been so successful on tour
and in London. www.exeternorthcott.co.uk
Over the years people have asked if there are recordings available of
some of my shows, particularly the songs. Commercial recordings have
been made from time to time, but in the days of vinyl and cassettes!
First Night Records, who produce so many original cast albums of West
End musicals, released two recordings of my shows back in the 80s and
90s. THE OLD MAN OF LOCHNAGAR, my adaptation of HRH The Prince of
Wales’ book and CHISH ‘N’ FIPS, the tv series based on my play THE
IDEAL GNOME EXPEDITION.
Not long ago I realised that these two albums were now available only
as a download from i-Tunes. This led me to wonder whether some of my
other recordings might also be made available in this way.
John Craig of First Night Records kindly suggested that these
recordings could be released via First Night Records, straight on to
So it is with pleasure that I announce that songs from MEG AND MOG SHOW
(featuring Maureen Lipman and Julia McKenzie and the original Unicorn
Theatre cast), THE GINGERBREAD MAN (narrated by Bernard Cribbins and
featuring the original Old Vic cast), THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT WENT TO
SEE... (featuring Harry Secombe, Roy Castle, Hattie Jacques,
Christopher Biggins and yours truly!) and THE DAVID WOOD SONGBOOK, in
which I indulge myself by singing a dozen of my own songs, accompanied
by the Allfarthing School choir – all are now available on iTunes.
I suggest that interested parties should go via the First Night Records
website, which has all sorts of other interesting recordings listed
adaptation of Judith Kerr’s classic picture book, THE TIGER WHO CAME TO
TEA, will be off to Australia for Christmas, followed by seasons in
Hong Kong and Singapore. Delighted that the current company performing
the show at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, are all making the
year the Society of London Theatre organises Kids Week, a splendid
initiative whereby if an adult buys a ticket for a West End show, they
can take a child free, and a second child at half price. Thousands of
tickets are sold this way, giving children a chance to see a West End
show. Not only shows specially mounted for children, like my own THE
TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, but also major musicals and plays take part, so
children of all ages are catered for.
This year the launch took place in the splendid surroundings of
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Children and parents saw excerpts from
shows, joined in activities and heard famous children’s authors
interviewed. Here are some pictures from the event.
Joey, the famous War Horse poses with, from left
to right, Danyah Miller, the storyteller of I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS,Terry
Deary, the creator of HORRIBLE HISTORIES, yours truly and Dame
Jacqueline Wilson, celebrated children’s author, whose stories include
HETTY FEATHER, currently in the West End.
I had an
enjoyable time giving a storytelling session to some of the guests.
I was delighted
that Judith Kerr, creator of the classic THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA,
which I adapted for the stage, and which is currently at the Lyric
Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, joined me on stage to be interviewed.
THE CALIFORNIAN BFG
MainStreet Theatre Company in Rancho Cucamonga, California, who
presented my adaptation of Roald Dahl’s THE MAGIC FINGER, have just
done a very
well received production of my adaptation of Dahl’s THE BFG.
BFG(The Big Friendly Giant), based
on the book by Roald Dahl, adapted for the stage by David Wood,
and directed by Kathryn Chase Bryer and Eric J. Van Wyk. Before you
read on, let me just say this: I review shows quite often, but this is
one of the best productions I have seen in a long time! Why? Read on.
BFG (James Konicek) and Sophie (Megan Graves). Photo by Margot Schulman.
J. Van Wyk is one busy man– not only does he co-direct this production,
but he is also the set, puppets, and projection designer! As most of
the plot takes place at nighttime, the set has an overall soothing
effect– what looks like bright stars framing the stage turn out to be
lit-up “dream jars” upon closer inspection, and a projection screen set
into an archway shows different settings throughout the show, either
inside the cave of a giant or flying across the London skyline.
Lighting Designer Jason Arnold uses cool purples and blues, and the
hues are beautifully coupled with Sound Designer Christopher Baines’
tinkling chimes. Be careful not to let the relaxed setting lull you to
sleep before the show, or you’ll miss the puppets!
in a production ofThe
an actor plays the giant whilst a marionette is used to portray Sophie,
but Van Wyk decided to flip this notion, and the payoff is, well…GIANT.
The puppets are truly masterful pieces. Larger than life (it can take
up to four puppeteers at a time to controlonepuppet),
the puppets also manage to have a delicate and fragile air about them,
looking to be mainly made out of airy fabrics and gauze. They are a
real sight to be seen, and watching the puppeteers work together to
manipulate their movements is downright fascinating! Stagehands in
black jumpsuits are also kept busy throughout the show, maneuvering a
wide variety of props (fabrics, plastic cups,themselves,
the list goes on…) to lend fantastic and creative effects.
the middle of the night, and Sophie (Megan Graves) is tossing and
turning at the lonesome orphanage where she sleeps. When she is
startled by the BFG (James Konicek) standing outside her window, and
downright shocked when the giant lifts her up and whisks her away to
his home in Giant Country. Since Sophie has seen him, he reasons, she
now has to stay with him lest she spread the secret of giants and he
ends up caged in a zoo! Luckily for Sophie, the BFG is afriendlygiant,
and she soon finds herself happily at home with her new friend,
gathering pleasant dreams together to bring to children, which is the
BFG’s life mission. However, other giants are not like the BFG…they
Matthew Schleigh, Matthew McGee, and Jon Hudson Odom make up a
bloodthirsty trio as Fleshlumpeater, Bonecruncher, and Gizzardgulper.
When a plot to snack on Sophie’s fellow orphans is discovered, it is up
to Sophie and the BFG to stop them! This is an important task, and they
will need some powerful help, so who else to turn to but…the Queen of
the plot sounds a little fantastical, it’s because itis.
The plot is silly in the best possible way, and the performances are
delivered with such hilarity that I probably missed a good portion of
the show because I was laughing so hard! Keep your eye out for a
riotous scene devoted to “whizzpopping” (I’ll not spoil the surprise,
so let’s just say it’s rip-roaring fun!) Susan Lynskey does a dynamic
job with her role as The Queen of England; with a pinched face and
squinted eyes, she pokes some good-natured fun at the real-life Queen,
from mimicking her famous cupped wave to walking around with a barking
mop that she refers to as “Camilla.”
nod goes to Costume Designer Jeffrey Stolz here as well; with her short
curly coif, oversized glasses, and fur-lined robe, Lynskeyisthe
Queen! Megan Graves is delightfully cheerful and funny as Sophie, and
as far as James Konicek goes in his performance as the BFG, well, I’m
not sure how he does it! Not only does he do the majority of the
puppeteering for the BFG (if you look closely, you can see his face
hovering somewhere around the BFG’s waistline), but his detailed vocal
performance gives great life to this character. Truly, the whole
ensemble here shines in their performances. I particularly enjoyed
Maboud Ebrahimzadeh’s scene-stealing turn as the Queen of Sweden , and
Austin Sargent scored huge laughs from a variety of smaller roles that
he pumped full of personality.
will this unlikely team be able to help save the children of Britain?
Or will they find themselves in one giant mess?
Sophie (L-Megan Graves) and the Queen of England (R-Susan Lynskey).
Photo by Margot Schulman.
I come across a show this hilarious, clever, and vivacious, I wish our
rating scale went higher than a five because I’d give it a 10! In fact,
I am considering carving out some time to go and see it again!
Imagination Stage’s production ofThe
an absolute Must-See– don’t miss it!
THE MAGIC FINGER – WEST COAST PREMIERE!
In May 2014 I was
delighted to go to California to see the second US production of my
adaptation of Roald Dahl’s THE MAGIC FINGER. It took place at the
splendid Lewis Family Playhouse, Rancho Cucamonga, presented by the
MainStreet Theatre Company, produced by my good friend Murry Hepner and
splendidly directed by my new friend Abigail Deser! Following the world
premiere by Imagination Stage in Washington DC, I had made a few
amendments, one of which was to make the play a one-act instead of a
two-act. This was, I think, helpful. The play now runs at about 55
mins, which seems to work very well.
French have offered to publish the play, so I hope there will be more
performances, both professional and amateur, in due course. My thanks
to both Imagination Stage and MainStreet Theatre Company for giving the
play such a strong start in the United States!
Watch an interview with David about The Magic Finger
1998, Richard Fowler and I introduced
SILLY SPIDER. He starred in the novelty book of the same name.
Published by Random House, it featured the pop-in-the-slot novelty
previously seen in MOLE’S BEDTIME STORY and FUNNY BUNNY’S MAGIC SHOW.
Now, after receiving a number of requests, I’m delighted to say that
SILLY SPIDER is available again, via Amazon or via this website. Look
in MY BOOKS for more details.
enjoyable book that has given us
endless fun. Work your way from front to back cover while your child
giggles helplessly and then reverse the process and work your way back!
This book is a great book that can keep a wide age range captivated.
Babies like to watch and love the element of surprise when Silly Spider
pops out. The toddler enjoys posting Silly Spider through the slots and
turning the page to see where he's gone. Great fun for mum and dad or
older siblings to join in! Ten out of ten.’
simple but very good book for
toddlers. My daughter absolutely loves it as did her friends at
nursery. Following the spider from page to page, the child is always
delighted to find the spider under the soap or in the toilet. It never
ceases to delight.’
OPEN-AIR DAHL – THE BEST MEDICINE!
Illyria, the splendid open-air touring company,
are presenting their third production of my Dahl adaptations. This time
GEORGE’S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE is touring round to beautiful locations
country-wide. Many performances are given at National Trust
Pictures from a recent production.
For more information, dates and times of
performance, please visit the
Goodnight Mister Tom Published!
Samuel French Ltd. have published the script of
adaptation of Michelle Magorian’s award-winning novel GOODNIGHT MISTER
TOM. Copies are now available of the play which, following its opening
at Chichester and two tours, played at the Phoenix Theatre in the West
End and won the Best Entertainment and Family Olivier Award 2014.
The amateur rights are still not released, because there is a strong
possibility that the West End production will be returning quite soon.
Watch the trailer
Read the review by Libby Purves from The Times Here
THE TIGER ROARS BACK INTO
THE WEST END!
It has been a real pleasure once again to direct
my adaptation of Judith Kerr’s classic picture book, THE TIGER WHO CAME
TO TEA, and to bring it once more into the West End. We are back at the
Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue from July 2nd – September 7th 2014.
It seems much less than six years ago that we
first put on TIGER, which
has since toured extensively and been nominated for an Olivier Award in
2012. My regular team have, I’m delighted to say, returned. Susie
Caulcutt (designer), Emma Clayton (assistant director/choreographer),
Peter Pontzen (musical supervisor), Scott Penrose (magic supervisor),
Tony Simpson (lighting designer) and Andy Shaw (sound designer) have
been on the show from day one and all seem to enjoy it as much as I
Here are some recent articles and two television reports about the
Here is a lovely
review from Official London Theatre.
Tiger Who Came To Tea
Stanbury, first published
it all about?
doubt any of the tiny Tiger experts, whose parents were testing them on
the storyline as they waited in anticipation for the matinee
performance to begin, would be able to give you a more detailed
synopsis of Judith Kerr’s much-loved tale. In less specialist terms,
it’s the story of a tea-loving, cake-eating tiger whose insatiable
appetite eats Sophie’s family out of house and home. He consumes
everything they laid out for afternoon tea, the dinner cooking on the
stove, the entire contents of their larder and fridge, and all the
water in the taps.
do they tell the story?
are some wonderfully theatrical elements in David Wood’s acclaimed
adaptation that give Kerr’s classic story something extra special.
There are songs about yummy yummy sausages and scrummy scrummy chips
that you and your children will be singing all the way home, as well as
sprinklings of magic that make plates of food disappear before your
did the kids like best?
shy to show off their mathematical ability, the little ones at this
particular performance took great pleasure in joining Sophie and her
mum in counting to the correct time on the kitchen clock. In some cases
they even got a little over enthusiastic and started wishing the day
Wood takes a picture book adored by multiple generations and creates a
play that not only lives up to the original story but creates a magical
theatrical experience that everyone will enjoy even more.
my little one like it?
sign of a good children’s show is undoubtedly the look of complete
mesmerisation on the faces of its young audience; the sign of an
Olivier Award nominated children’s show that keeps coming back to the
capital is getting the same response from the adults. You expect a few
“wows” and “oooohs” from the little ones, but it isn’t often during a
kids’ production that you hear so many questions and exclamations –
“How do they do that?”, “That’s so clever!” – from the parents.
you can wait until August to see this corker of a show, book your
tickets through Kids Week, our annual promotion that offers a free
child’s ticket with every full-price adult ticket purchased.