The Birmingham Stage Company of my adaptation of
Philippa Pearce’s TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN has opened at the Old Rep,
Birmingham for a Christmas season, before setting off on
tour. Directed by Neal Foster, the production has had its
first review – an excellent one – in The Stage.
David Wood’s award-winning adaptation is a
so simple and yet so multi-layered. It is just the vehicle for
Birmingham Stage Company and the Old Rep stage, where the lighting, the
sheer power of the imagination and the quality of mime create an
enchanted garden on a very basic set.
performed by an accomplished band of actor-musicians, who juggle roles
with dexterity. Jak Poore’s evocative score underpins everything,
creating mystery, tension and atmosphere in a story that engages the
mind as well as the senses. What is time? What are the rules? Can two
people share the same pair of ice skates in two different times?
David Tute is a thoroughly credible and
Tom, very much of the period, and Caitlin Thorburn gives an appealing
and intelligent performance as Hattie, the Victorian charity child
despised by her imperious aunt. She is played with presence and command
by the rich-voiced Helen Ryan. With barely a prop to hand, the cast
conjure up everything from a flock of geese to a wayward dog to a
skating party in the Great Freeze. This is high quality live theatre
and is very respectful of its young audience, who are entranced.
The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham,
November 14-January 25, then touring until April 26
Author: Philippa Pearce (adapted by David
Director: Neal Foster
Producer: Birmingham Stage Company
David Tute, Caitlin Thorburn, Kate Adams,
Alice Bullard, Ifan Gwilym-Jones, Tom Jude, Helen Ryan, Joe Stuckey, Ed
Running time: 1hr 50min
TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN will be visiting the following theatres in 2014.
Rep Birmingham - November 13 2013-January 25 2014
Enchanting children's classic more than a
match for a PlayStation
MY super-cool nine-year-old godson had
already had an action packed day before we set off to The Old Rep in
Birmingham to see Tom's Midnight Garden, writes Steve Zacharanda.
He had killed a legion of zombies, driven
Ferrari and scored the winning goal in the World Cup, all before
As I coaxed him away from his beloved
PlayStation I did worry a retelling of Philippa Pearce's 1958
children's classic might not capture his attention.
However, The Old Rep is a magical theatre
and the little man's imagination was soon working overtime as I
explained the place had not changed since its first Edwardian audience
took their seats in 1913.
After a few minutes into Birmingham Stage
Company's adaptation we both were transfixed by the story of a boy sent
to his relative's house to escape his brother's measles only to
discover time travel.
played by David Tute, bounded around the stage which had been decked
out like an old Victorian house complete with a stern elderly widow.
The plot rattled along nicely with the
schoolboy discovering he could go back in time when the grandfather
clock in the hallway chimes thirteen times.
He finds a secret garden from the past
he meets a lonely schoolgirl Hatty, played by Caitlin Thorburn, and
they start to have the kind of adventures that dreams, and nightmares
are made of.
The action switched from the past to the
present with a great cast of characters which include a god-fearing
gardener, a scarily strict matriach and her three sons.
But the enchanting beauty of the storyline
and its touching conclusion was the real star of the show and my
godson's joy showed it can even rival the magic of these new fangled
In the Spring of 2014 I am planning to do some
performances of DAVID WOOD'S STORYTIME, having played it at the Rose
Theatre, Kingston for Christmas 2010.
This revised version had a successful outing at
the Brentwood Theatre, and features my solo version of my play/book/tv
series THE GINGERBREAD MAN, plus THE PORRIDGE PINCHER and FUNNY BUNNY'S
MAGIC SHOW. Magic and music is included within the performance, which
is ideal for everyone from the age of about 3 or 4.
Dates already announced are Watermill Theatre,
Newbury – March 8th, Arts Centre, Bridport – 11th April and the Marine
Theatre, Lyme Regis – 13th April. Hopefully more will follow!
BOOKS ARE FUN!
the Hampstead & Highgate Literary Festival on 15th September at
I will be talking to parents and children about
how to enthuse children to love books ... please click here for more details.
12th October I will be telling the story of THE GINGERBREAD MAN, with
magic and music, as part of the Wimbledon Bookfest.
Children will be invited to decorate gingerbread
men in a workshop after the performance. Click here for more details.
DAVID WOOD’S BRENTWOOD STORYTELLING
of THE GINGERBREAD storytelling and other stories will be at Brentwood
theatre at 11.30 am on 2nd November.
TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN,
my adaptation of Philippa Pearce’s classic novel, will be at Birmingham
Old Rep from 12 November 2013 to 27 January 2014. The
production will then tour.
THE BFG will be
in two productions. Dundee Rep present my Roald Dahl
adaptation from 28 November to 31 December. Trinity Arts,
Tunbridge Wells’ production opens on 12 December and runs
till 1 January.
My own production of THE TIGER
WHO CAME TO TEA, adapted from Judith Kerr’s classic
book, plays at the Arts Depot, North Finchley from 3 December
to 5 January.
There are two productions of THE
GINGERBREAD MAN. At the Lakeside, Colchester
from 21 – 29 December and at the Blake Hay Theatre, Weston-super-Mare
from 14 – 18 December.
THE WITCHES, my
adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel, will be the Christmas production at
Chichester Festival Theatre, featuring the splendid Chichester Youth
Theatre. It runs from 7 December until 4 January.
THE THEATRICALITY OF ROALD DAHL
Following the arrival in the West End of the big
musicals MATILDA and CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, whatsonstage
asked me to write about Dahl as a suitable author for stage
adaptation. Here is the link to my article
originally published on the whatsonstage website.
QUOTE ... UNQUOTE
My friend from Oxford student days, Nigel Rees,
kindly invited me to take part in two QUOTE ... UNQUOTE programmes, to
be broadcast on Radio 4 on August 19th and September 9th, with repeats
of each programme on the following Saturday.
It was great fun, although I displayed
considerable ignorance in several areas ... however, Nigel was kind
enough to include several questions that coincided with things I have
done over the years, such as writing the screenplay of SWALLOWS AND
AMAZONS and writing my own version of THE GINGERBREAD MAN.
My eminent co-panellists were Matt Barbet, Jenni
Murray and Katharine Whitehorn, all of whom proved delightful to meet
and work with.
MISTER TOM HONOURED!
Very happy indeed that
GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM, my adaptation of Michelle Magorian’s classic
novel has won an Olivier Award for BEST ENTERTAINMENT AND
Thanks to everybody who made this possible –
Michelle, for allowing me to adapt her book, Jonathan Church and
Chichester Festival Theatre for commissioning the play, Edward Snape
and Fiery Angel and the Children’s Touring Partnership, with help from
the Arts Council, for touring it and putting it into the West End, and
ATG for helping ensure that the seat price for the matinees could be
low enough for school parties to come.
Enormous thanks, too, to the acting company, led
by Oliver Ford Davies and all the boys who have played William and
Zach. Last but by no means least, thanks to the production
team – Angus Jackson, the sensitive and brilliant director, Robert
Innes Hopkins, the imaginative designer, Tim Mitchell (lighting) and
Gregory Clarke (sound). Also Matthew Scott for his
atmospheric music and Toby Olié, who created the brilliant puppet
Sammy, the Collie dog.
The play has now toured twice and played in the
West End at the Phoenix Theatre. Hopefully it will return!
After the Olivier Award ceremony at the Royal
Opera House, Covent Garden, Angus Jackson, the director, and I heard
that some of the boys who played William and Zach in the play were
outside, having watched the Awards on the big screen in Covent
Garden. We went down to see them. This was recorded
by the father of one of the boys. Watch the video to see
Spot’s Birthday Party
has opened its national tour.
Here is the first review, which is extremely
Much looking forward
to directing my adaptation of Eric Hill’s SPOT’S BIRTHDAY PARTY, which
will be touring until June 2013 for PW Productions.
First commissioned by Oxford Playhouse in 2000,
the play won an award in America, and has since been seen in a
shortened version in Washington DC. Now SPOT, the irrepressible puppy,
returns, with his friends Helen the Hippo, Steve the Monkey and Tom the
Crocodile. Sam and Sally, Spot’s mum and dad are at the party too, as
well as Marco the Rabbit, the children’s entertainer, who runs the
I was privileged to be allowed to create Marco, a
brand new character, especially for the play. Children are encouraged
to dress up for the party and bring a home-made card for Spot. The
audience join in the games.
My original team – Paul Knight (musical
supervisor), Jack Murphy (movement) and Will Hargreaves (designer) are
back on board, and we have found a very talented young cast.
TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA played a pre-Christmas season at Norwich
Playhouse, followed by a Christmas season at the Curve Studio,
Leicester. We were delighted to receive a 5-star review on the whatsonstage website.
MISTER TOM GOES UP WEST!
It has been very exciting watching the build-up to
GOODNIGHT MISTER’S TOM’s first West End season. Oliver Ford
Davies has returned in the title role he has made his own.
And many of the original Chichester/tour cast are back too.
Six new clever young actors rotate in the roles of William and Zach.
Most of the reviews have been very
enthusiastic. 4 stars seems to be the norm. Here
are some of them.
The season continues at the Phoenix Theatre until
January 26th. Then the production goes on tour, visiting
Manchester, Sunderland, Milton Keynes, Brighton, York, Woking,
Cheltenham, Aylesbury, Glasgow, Birmingham.
PEACH A GIANT SUCCESS
At the Old Rep, Birmingham, my adaptation of Roald
Dahl’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH has settled in for a long run, before
going on tour nationwide. Directed in highly imaginative
style by Nikolai Foster, this Birmingham Stage Company production was
awarded a 5 star review in the Birmingham Post.
Richard Taylor and I are thrilled that our
musical adaptation of L P Hartley’s novel THE GO-BETWEEN has won the
Best musical Production category of the Theatre UK Awards 2012.
Co-produced by West Yorkshire Playhouse, Derby Live and Theatre Royal,
Northampton and brilliantly directed by Roger Haines, THE GO-BETWEEN is
my first grown-up show for thirty-five years! Thanks to the three
theatres and to the production and creative teams and the wonderful
It will play for 9 weeks, before setting off on
another UK tour.
The brilliant Oliver Ford Davies returns to play
Mister Tom. The production is once again directed by Angus Jackson, the
Associate Director at Chichester Festival Theatre.
The reaction to the tour last year was really
positive, so it is really rewarding to see the play get a West End
transfer. We will be the first show at the Phoenix Theatre after 20
years of BLOOD BROTHERS!
third effort for Big Cat, the brilliant HarperCollins series of reading
books, is published in September 2012. I have written a rhyming version
of GOLDILOCKS and called it THE PORRIDGE PINCHER.
I much admire this series, because they produce
real children's books, aimed at helping children to learn to read,
rather than the occasionally bland and colourless titles my own
children used to be given.
These have proper illustrations accompanying
interesting, lively versions of traditional stories, as well as new
Thank you to the two Sarahs at Big Cat for
inviting me to contribute another title to the series, following
CINDERELLA and JACK AND THE BAKED BEANSTALK.
The splendid company, Illyria, performs at open
air venues all over the UK. Last year their production of my
adaptation of Roald Dahl’s FANTASTIC MR FOX was great fun.
The year before they did my JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH adaptation.
This year, they are touring my adaptation of
Dahl’s THE TWITS, which has been extremely well received.
Here is a wonderful photo of Mrs Twit being lifted skywards by
balloons! The tour continues throughout the summer of
2012. For more information look at the Illyria website.
CHRISTMAS QUARTET, 2012
Forthcoming productions of
my plays include Christmas seasons in Birmingham, Cambridge, Norwich,
Leicester and London.
Birmingham Stage Company present a brand new
production of my adaptation of Roald Dahl’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH,
directed by Nikolai Foster, whose brilliant production of the musical
ANNIE I saw in Leeds earlier this year. JAMES opens at the
Old Rep, Birmingham on November 14th. The Birmingham season
will be followed by a tour throughout 2013.
of my Dahl adaptations, GEORGE’S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE, will be presented
by Birmingham Stage Company at the Corn Exchange, Cambridge, directed
by Phil Clark. The production opens on December 13th and runs
until January 3rd, 2013.
THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, my adaptation of
Judith Kerr’s classic picture book, will be at the Norwich Playhouse,
opening during the week beginning November 26th. Then it will
play the Studio at
Leicester Curve from December 11th – January 5th. This is the
Olivier Award-nominated production, presented by Nick Brooke Ltd and
Kenny Wax Ltd.
In London, Birmingham Stage Company will present
a new production of my adaptation of Philippa Pearce’s classic novel,
TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN. It opened on December 12th at the
FOUR STARS FOR TOM’S
Delighted that the Birmingham Stage Company
production of TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN, directed by Neal Foster, has
opened at the Bloomsbury Theatre. Libby Purves has given it a
lovely review in The Times. Click here to see it.
For Christmas 2013, the play will be at Birmingham Old Rep, followed by
a long tour.
Hansel and Gretel
Tom’s Midnight Garden
If a child sees theatre only once a year, as many do, what’s best?
Brash, shiny, commercial panto, hybrid posh-panto, or a real play? It’s
a tricky question. Setting aside the big pantos, here are two different
The National Theatre opts for a tasteful
fairytale. The writer Lucy Kirkwood and the director Katie Mitchell
gave us a cracking Beauty and the Beast last
time, elegantly framed in picture-book Victoriana with Justin Salinger
as a camp MC. The team reunite for Hansel and Gretel,
Salinger now accompanied by Amit Shah framing the story as the Brothers
Grimm. They open with a drawn out double act as they roam the forest
with butterfly nets to catch stories and feed them into a
“confabulator” machine. They then fall into it (that’s quite funny) and
end up inside the story with Dylan Kennedy and Ruby Bentall as the
rather bland children. There is an intermittent panto edge to it,
noticing the audience then forgetting them, Kate Duchêne camping up the
witch like a she-Dame, John-Paul Gandy on a nice one-man-band keyboard
But with shuffling, cutout storybook scenery,
there’s something oddly muted about it: lame rhymes, unimpressive songs
aiming more for Ben Britten than bangin’ tunes. The paper puppet
animals are sweet, especially Stuart the Bat, who briefly plays the
euphonium, and the Russian-hatted Rostislav, a talking oven, is fun.
But the moment that really got the children laughing was the henpecked
father’s plea to the wicked stepmother: “You’re their mother now! Stop
trying to kill them”.
If you want real theatre, though, try the
Birmingham Stage Company’s marvellous version of Tom’s
Midnight Garden. Philippa Pearce’s classic story has a
lonely boy creeping out as the clock strikes 13, haunted by a garden
and a girl-child from the past. David Wood, the adaptor, had a tricky
task, but beautifully renders its questing ideas of time and memory,
and a boy’s realisation that old people are just bygone children like
I sat amid 360 pupils from ages 7 to 11, bussed
up from an enlightened Essex primary school, and breathed in their
attentive wonder. They didn’t need joshing, shouting or nudgey
funny-uncle jokes to be held by the story: the lighting and subtle
projection transformed and made transparent a simple set of curves and
arches by Jacqueline Trousdale. Neal Foster, the director, uses live
musicians on cello, flute and guitar, and the movement is clever enough
to convince the CGI generation that a boy walks
through walls and hands go through a ghost. David Tute is a gruff
boyish Tom, Caitlin Thorburn a touching childlike Hattie.
TIGER MISSES OUT ON AN OLIVIER –
BY A WHISKER?!
It was exciting and rewarding that my
adaptation/production of THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA, adapted from Judith
Kerr’s classic picture book, was nominated for an Olivier award in the
Best Entertainment and Family Show category. Sadly we were
defeated by Derren Brown, whose work I have always much
admired. Interestingly, Scott Penrose, magic advisor, worked
on both productions!
Team Tiger, currently touring the UK again, and
on their way to another West End season, opening at the Lyric Theatre,
Shaftesbury Avenue on July 2nd, were disappointed yet
undaunted! We are proud that this was the first time that a
show aimed at the under-5’s had ever been nominated for an
Olivier. And we all had a great time at the awards ceremony,
which took place at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Thank you, Oliviers for recognising the value and importance to our
industry of productions specially created for very young children.
ACES HIGH UNCUT!
Back in 1976 I was in the Jack Gold film ACES
HIGH, released the following year. It reunited me with
Malcolm McDowell 7 years after we had been in Lindsay Anderson’s IF....
The film is set in the First World War, and is
loosely based on RC Sheriff’s celebrated play, JOURNEY’S END.
Much praise was given to the filming of the dog fights, in which the
young Royal Flying Corps pilots (I was one of them!) took on their
German counterparts. They were very skilfully filmed in the
skies above Booker Airfield.
Unfortunately, the film is often shown on
television during the day time, and my big scene (!) is usually cut,
because it features my aircraft being hit and bursting into
flame. My face blackens as the fire takes over, and then I
manage to climb out of the cockpit, on fire (a stunt man did this bit,
thank heaven) and jump. Then I float, limbs akimbo, through
the sky until my body lands heavily on the ground ...
Whenever people tell me they have seen the film,
I always ask if they remember my dramatic death scene, and they very
rarely do, because the final scenes of the film were so savagely cut in
the name of good taste for the daytime viewer.
I was delighted to find the whole, complete
sequence on YouTube. Here is a link, should you be interested!
NOW AVAILABLE – SCARY MARY
For many years the pop-in-the-slot books I have
created with illustrator/paper engineer Richard Fowler have proved
popular, especially MOLE’S BEDTIME STORY, MOLE’S SUMMER STORY and FUNNY
BUNNY’S MAGIC SHOW, which appears regularly on TWEENIES, sparking a
rush of sales on Amazon!
Richard and I have come up with a new title in
the same format. Called SCARY MARY, it features a young
hippo, who enjoys scaring various members of her family, but finally
gets her comeuppance! It involves slots as well as
flaps. 'SCARY MARY is now available, either on Amazon or via
this website – see MY BOOKS.
My adaptation of Judith Kerr’s THE TIGER WHO
CAME TO TEA is coming back to the West End for a summer season, opening
on July 4th 2012. This follows its successful West End debut
last summer, at the Vaudeville Theatre. This time the venue
is the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.
Some years ago I wrote the libretto for an opera
based on the book THE FOREST CHILD by Richard Edwards. Welsh
National Opera worked in several schools, involving children in the
production, alongside professional singers and musicians. The
excellent music was composed by Derek Clark, and I had great hopes that
the opera would be published and would receive more performances by
schools and youth groups. Sadly, this didn’t happen.
But I have always felt the story of THE FOREST
CHILD was worth persevering with. So I’m delighted that I
have reworked it – as a play this time. It is written for 30
children, and is suitable for production in the school hall.
Performances of the play will take place during 2012. The
play is part of a splendid scheme called PLAYHOUSE, administered by
several UK theatres, in York, Plymouth and Dundee, as well as Polka
Theatre in Wimbledon. They commission several plays for
children to perform, then arrange for teachers to be mentored in the
craft of producing a school play. I’m very pleased to be
taking part in this worthwhile venture.
SOME NEW SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Over the last couple of years we have tried to
feature ‘sights and sounds’ from my musical plays for children, in a
special section of the website.
remembered several 45 rpm records that we made several years ago,
usually featuring songs from the shows we toured with Whirligig
Theatre. The records were sold as souvenirs of the
show. Peter Pontzen, my long-time musical collaborator
extraordinaire, has kindly managed to transfer these recordings to a
digital format, so we have been able to add them to SIGHTS AND SOUNDS.
AND ALL THAT RUBBISH section, you will find the song THE
EARTH BELONGS TO EVERYONE, with music composed by Peter, and
the solo lyric performed by the legendary Simon Nicol, of FAIRPORT
THE HUMAN section, there are two songs. First, the
title song, with solo vocal from the splendid Jenny Galloway, who
created the role of Becky Bear in the production. Also, there
is ROCK ‘N’ ROAR, sung by The Pride – a rock
group made up of lions!
The lead vocal and groovy harmonica performance
are those of David Burrows, an actor who appeared in many of my plays,
and who, since, has been seen in many West End musicals.
aforementioned Simon Nicol also sings THE
SEE-SAW TREE from the play of the same name.
finally, the song USE YOUR EYES AND EARS features
in the CHISH
‘N’ FIPS/THE IDEAL GNOME EXPEDITION. This road
safety song consists of a very short, easy-to-learn chorus. I
tried to think of a way of expanding it, and, for the record only,
created an elderly lollypop man, sung by myself!
My thanks to all the various children’s choirs
who took part on these recordings, and to Peter Pontzen and to Chris
Walker, who arranged and produced the tracks.
We all need stories
To hear'em and see'em
SO PLEASE HELP US BUILD THE STORY MUSEUM!
This is one verse of a poem I wrote to perform
with local children at the fund-raising launch of The Story Museum in
Oxford, which took place on January 11th in the presence of HRH Prince
Edward. I am a Trustee and Acting Chair of The Story Museum,
and feel very privileged to be part of this exciting venture, which now
has a wonderful building in the centre of Oxford, and just
needs a few million pounds to equip it, before it becomes a
focal point for stories, with exhibition spaces, storytellings, events
galore, all in celebration of the importance of story in all our lives.
Click here to see the BBC news coverage of this
In 2011, Nick Hutson asked if he could interview
me for his website www.musicaltalk.co.uk, which is
dedicated to musical theatre and the people who create is. You can hear
my interview with him on this link.
News Item TBFG040211
BFGs FOR CHRISTMAS
Happy to report that there are two productions
of my adaptation of Roald Dahl's THE BFG this Christmas. Hard
to believe it is nearly 20 years ago since I wrote the play ...
THE BFG is at the Derby Theatre from 29th November
- 14th January 2012. Here is the link to the Derby Theatre
website - www.derbytheatre.co.uk.
At the Duke's Playhouse, Lancaster THE BFG will
open on 25th November and run until 7th January. For more
details go to the Duke's website www.dukes-lancaster.org.
News Item TMD041211
MEANWHILE, THE ORIGINAL
BFG GOES TO SCHOOL!
It was a pleasure to direct actor Anthony Pedley
in his one-man storytelling version of Roald Dahl's THE BFG, which is
currently playing in schools to great acclaim. Twenty years
ago, Tony was the very first actor to play the BFG in my
adaptation. Since then he has played the role in many
theatres on tour, as well as in three West End theatres. He
has given nearly 2,000 performances in the play.
Now, in this one-man version of the story, he
will reach many thousands more children. For more
information, visit his website - www.anthonypedley.co.uk.
News Item TMD041211
DAHLS FROM BIRMINGHAM STAGE
My adaptation of Roald
Dahl's GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE was toured throughout 2010 by
Birmingham Stage Company in a delightful production by Phil
Very pleased to hear that this production is to be
revived in three venues only in early 2012. It plays the Old
Rep Birmingham, the Civic Theatre Chelmsford and the Opera House
The world premiere of my new adaptation of Roald
Dahl's THE MAGIC FINGER will take place in Washington, DC, produced by
In 2010, I had the pleasure of workshopping the
play with the company. Now they will produce the play in repertory with
my adaptation of JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH.
This will be my eighth Dahl adaptation. I feel
privileged to have been allowed to work on so many splendid stories,
and am very grateful to the Dahl Estate for their continued support and
confidence. Here is the information about both productions, as
displayed in the Imagination Stage season's brochure.
and the Giant Peach
Orphaned James Trotter is
sent to live with his two wicked aunts on a hillside by the sea.
Life with Aunts Sponge and Spiker-who make James
wait on them hand and foot-is lonely and sad . . . it's the pits.
James' luck begins to change when he is gifted a
mysterious bag of crocodile tongues believed to bring marvelous and
magical things. And do they ever!
One giant peach, five oversized (and talking!)
bugs, and many seagulls later, James and his new friends are off on an
exciting adventure across the Atlantic.
High over the ocean, destination unknown, this
unlikely crew sails to new and fantastical heights, proving that
courage and ingenuity can overcome all odds.
Lucy is an influential
8-year old with a passion for righting wrongs and a "magic" index
finger that doles out justice.
When Lucy sees something she thinks is unfair, she
points her magic finger at the problem, and it causes all sorts of
One day, when visiting her friend William Gregg on
his family's farm, Lucy discovers the Gregg family enjoys hunting
Horrified, she points her magic finger at the
family and oh, boy that little finger makes things topsy turvey!
Overnight the tables are turned. The Gregg family
is transformed into miniature people with duck wings while the members
of the hunted duck family become human sized and sprout arms.
The ducks are adjusting to TV, telephones, and
even the bathtub while the Greggs must nest in a tree and learn to
survive in the air. Can Lucy make things right?
News Item ROT041211
opened my adaptation of Judith Kerr's classic picture book THE TIGER
WHO CAME TO TEA in 2008, it has successfully toured the UK twice, and,
for nine weeks in the summer of 2011, played a great season at
the Vaudeville Theatre in London's West End.
Nick Brooke and Kenny Wax, the producers of
TIGER, are presenting a Christmas season of the play at the University
of Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, from 30th November - 31st
December. Full details on the theatre's website - www.warwickartscentre.co.uk.
Jenanne Redman as Mummy, Abbey Norman as Sophie and Alan Atkins as the
There are also plans for a new tour in
2012. And we are all hoping that THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA
will be back in the West End soon. Here are some of the very
encouraging reviews we received at the Vaudeville ...
Where the wild things are ...
The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Vaudeville
Verdict: Earns its stripes ****
By Patrick Marmion
The Tiger Who Came to Tea can be found
brunching in the West End for what’s left of our summer.
It’s a mid-morning snack aimed at
three-year-olds and over, but I reckon even smaller children can handle
the complexities of Judith Kerr’s 1968 classic about the unexpected
visitor who scoffs the entire contents of little Sophie’s kitchen.
It’s nice to see properly resourced
entertainment for young children on stage, and it’s a good use of a
theatre which would otherwise be lying idle.
David Wood’s adaptation lays on sing-a-long
songs, performed with dancing participation that turns the theatre into
a tots’ Glastonbury.
The performance gets a bit manic, with Alan
Atkins’ Dad returning home from the office looking very sweaty having
spent the day since breakfast inside the fabulous tiger suit.
Even so, little ones are sure to squeal with
Dramatist David Wood has had some
practice turning much loved children's books into plays so it is no
surprise that he has produced a lively and faithful adaptation of
Judith Kerr's classic storybook The Tiger Who Came to Tea. more>>>
British Theatre Guide Review
A popular children's book adapted
by the man The Times dubbed our "national children's dramatist" sets
expectations high and this staging of The Tiger Who Came to Tea does
not disappoint. It is aimed at pre- and primary school children and at
just under an hour is beautifully matched to what they love. With
plenty of repetitions to get familiar with, some songs and actions to
join in and even a tiny spot of 'he's behind you' type interaction -
but it is very definitely a play with music (and a quite delightful
dance) and not a panto.more>>>
Official London Theatre Review
David Wood's latest adaptation for
children takes one of the best loved children's books of all time, The
Tiger Who Came To Tea, and faithfully replicates it on stage at the
Vaudeville theatre with a whole host of magic, music and mayhem.more>>>
THE TIMES 12th July
The Tiger who Came to Tea at
the Vaudeville Theatre, WC2
The West End is rarely short of
family-friendly shows. These are mainly big-scale musicals ranging from
long-running staples such as The Lion King to
recent hits including The Wizard of Oz and Shrek.
What is much less common is theatre tailored expressly to appeal to the
tastes and minds of children.
The producers Kenny Wax and Nick Brooke
have stepped into the breach, presenting since 2005 eight seasons of
work including The Gruffalo, Room on
the Broom and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
Those productions were based on popular picture books, enabling each to
enter the cultural marketplace with readymade brand recognition.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea continues a successful tradition. Written and illustrated by Judith
Kerr and published in 1968, the book is a both a bestseller and a bona
fide classic notable for its simple, sweet charm. The script, adapted
for the stage by the writer, director and composer David Wood, charts a
day in the life of Sophie, played by the pint-sized but adult Abbey
Norman, and her mother, Jenanne Redman.
After Sophie’s harried father leaves for
work there are visits from a milkman and a myopic postman. No big
surprises there, yet each incident is neatly and humorously done. A
good deal of this is down to the quick-change physical skills of Alan
Atkins, who plays all the male parts. He also bags the title role.
Encased in a wonderfully bright, stripy
orange costume with a full head mask and clawed paws, Atkins makes a
splendid feline. How this imposing but extremely gentlemanly wild cat
happens to land on Sophie’s doorstep is never explained. What matters
is his insatiable appetite. The tiger eats and drinks everything in
designer Susie Caulcutt’s cosy, clever kitchen setting, including
Daddy’s beer and the evening meal. What will the delighted Sophie and
her equally astonished mother do?
Perhaps The Tiger Who Came to Tea reinforces a pre-feminist notion of the nuclear family, with Daddy as
the breadwinner and Mummy as a stay-at-home domestic. And the issue of
the tiger’s manners is never addressed, especially within an economic
context (food is not cheap these days). But shoving such ironic and
grown-up reservations aside, this hour-long performance is an
invitingly jolly, consistently inventive treat at affordable prices
The songs are pleasant and, once you get
used to it, the cast’s broad, almost vaudevillian performing style
feels just right. As a fun piece of well-crafted commercial theatre
that taps into children’s imaginations, this Tiger is the cat’s meow.
Review from The Stage
Tea with a timeless tiger
By Susan Elkin on June 17, 2011 10:00 AM
When I’m not writing about performing arts, I am often to be found
somewhere in the media banging on about children’s books and how vital
they are to the development of whole civilised, thoughtful people. So
I’m always thrilled when the two things come together.
Judith Kerr’s delightful The
Tiger Who Came to Tea was first published in 1968. My kids
loved it and so did I. Only last week my younger son, who has recently
become a father, looked at the books I’d brought for the new baby and
said fondly: “And please can we have The Tiger Who Came to Tea soon as
well?” It’s a classic which works for every generation. It has sold
over four million copies worldwide and is translated in over 20
And now it’s reaching even more children and families as a delightful
piece of 55-minute theatre for children aged 3 and
The show, adapted with songs and lyrics by
David Wood, is coming to the end of a 24-date spring tour. On July 6,
it arrives in the West End at the Vaudeville Theatre for a nine-week
run ending September 4.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea is part of an
initiative championed by Nica Burns, who is determined that there
should be a regular, bi-annual run of theatre specifically for younger
children in the West End. This splendid policy seems to be well on its
way to becoming a reality. This summer’s 2011 production at The
Vaudeville Theatre marks the eighth West End family season since 2005,
including successful productions of The Gruffalo (based on the books by
Julia Donaldson who was last week announced as Children’s Laureate for
2010/12), Room on the Broom and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt - all
presented in Nimax Theatres.
I haven’t yet seen this show but it’s on my
‘mustn’t miss’ list for this summer. I’ve seen many works adapted by David Wood — including Goodnight
Mr Tom, Shaun The Sheep, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Fantastic Mr
Fox, The Gingerbread Man, BFG, The Witches, Meg and Mog, Spot and Babe
the Sheep Pig — and his works have never failed to delight me and the
children in the audience.
And, for me, the real thrill of this sort of high quality, book-based
theatre is that, not only does it introduce live performance to very
young audiences, but that it takes them straight back to the magical,
affirming, vital world of books.
Since 2002 the composer Richard Taylor and I have
been working on the musical adaptation of LP Hartley's classic novel,
THE GO-BETWEEN. It is my first 'grown-up' piece of theatre
for many years.
Thanks to Perfect Pitch, who organised workshops
and a showcase, three theatres joined forces to present THE GO-BETWEEN
- West Yorkshire Playhouse, Derby Theatre and Theatre Royal,
Roger Haines has directed a stunning production,
with a great cast. Here are some of the local and national
THE GUARDIAN – 19th September
2011 The Go-Between – review
West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
Loss of innocence … The Go-Between.
The British musical just got more interesting with the arrival of
Richard Taylor and David Wood's exquisitely layered version of LP Hartley's novel about a young boy's
loss of innocence during a country-house summer in 1900. "The past is a
foreign country; they do things differently there," is the celebrated
opening line, and Taylor and Wood are doing things differently, too,
with this evocative study of betrayal, class and curses that almost
entirely eschews nostalgia and the Broadway musical model.
Such is the subtlety displayed in the
telling of the story of 12-year-old Leo that you get the sense Taylor
and Wood genuinely love this novel and are not just plundering it. Out
of his class and out of his depth while spending a summer with a school
chum, Marcus, he finds himself playing the messenger in the illicit
love affair between Marcus's older sister, Marian, and tenant farmer,
Set on Michael
Pavelka's atmospheric design, a teetering, crumbling room of
memories, the show's trump card is the intricate dialogue between past
and present (1950) – the young, wide-eyed Leo caught up in the
dangerous games of adults and learning to lie, and his older self,
emotionally crippled by the events of 50 years ago.
It's not the kind of score you come out humming, but it has moments of
aching beauty. It's also quite a leisurely affair. But its considerable
virtues include ambition, being wonderfully alert to the casual
entitlements and cruelties of grown-ups – particularly very privileged
ones – and a superb, fluid production from Roger
Haines. Only someone who had brutally cut all ties with their
own childhood selves could fail to appreciate this quietly passionate
show that wears its damaged heart on its sleeve.
James Staddon and William Pearson as the old
and young Leo in The Go-Between: 'packs a singular emotional punch'.
Photograph: Robert Day
The jewel-like precision of David Wood's adaptation is immediately
apparent: LP Hartley's oft-quoted opening line to his 1953 novel is
subtly but significantly altered. "The past is a foreign country; they
do things differently there" becomes: "The past is a foreign country;
you do things differently there!" This shift is instantly dramatic: the
ageing narrator in dull, sensible tweeds angrily addresses the elegant
Victorian ghosts conjured from the pages of his childhood diary. They,
in turn, accuse the narrator of trapping them in the vice of his memory
and demand release (for him as much as for themselves). The struggle to
reconcile past and present springs theatrically to musical life.
Michael Pavelka's design hauntingly evokes
the 1900 country house setting: a drawing room whose walls seem made
from the faded silver backing of ancient mirrors, whose skew-angled
doors open on to the promise of golden cornfields and wide,
river-running spaces. Here, the worn, seam-cheeked narrator (a harrowed
James Staddon) shadows the beautiful "angel" boy he once was (a shining
William Pearson), simultaneously witnessing and reliving the child's
transition from innocence to desolation via the experience of carrying
letters between illicit lovers.
The increasingly menacing atmosphere and
intricate emotional inter-relations are tellingly conveyed by Richard
Taylor's score for solo piano (played on stage by musical director
Jonathan Gill), voices and occasional bells. Impressionistic in its
time-folding arpeggios and trills, rich in its mood-enhancing chords
and otherworldly chimes, this music speakingly incorporates silence
into its texture, which is as shimmering and delicate as Tim Lutkin's
faded-sunshine lighting. Lyrics (by Wood and Taylor) are lucidly
delivered by a vocally and physically impressive cast who, under Roger
Haines's precise, choreographic direction, conjure vivid scenes – a
fall from a haystack, a village cricket match – through fluid, unshowy
movement. This multifaceted gem packs a singular emotional punch.
Here is some rehearsal footage in a trailer of the
To hear a song from the show, please click on the
green play button below. BUTTERFLY is sung by Nigel
Richards. He is not in the show, but we were
delighted that he chose to record the song on his critically acclaimed
CD, A SHINING TRUTH. For more details, Google Nigel
Northampton Chronicle and Echo
Saturday 5th November 2011-11-22
THE GO-BETWEEN review by Nick Spoors
Based on the revered novel by LP Hartley,
set in summer 1900 Norfolk, a firm fixture in the English literature
canon, the Go-Between musical already had a cultural colossus against
which to measure itself. Notwithstanding an almost equally lauded 1970
Harold Pinter film, all cricket whites and English stately homes, it
makes you wonder why on earth anyone thought there was room for yet
another adaptation. Yet David Wood and Richard Taylor smash
this one over the heads of the bowler and fielders and far, far over
the pavilion for one of the biggest musical sixes this reviewer has had
the pleasure of seeing.
Following a legendary novel, the reading of
which means snorting up nostalgia through the nostrils like
sepia-tinted narcotics, you have to create some ambience.
On Thursday night nostalgic atmosphere was
rising off every surface on the Royal stage like steam off a Norfolk
By turns eerie and euphoric, the actors
almost sang the tragic and romantic tale straight into the souls of the
audience, engendering the wistfulness and sadness of distant memory.
Middle-aged Leo Colston stumbles across a
diary which prompts him to reluctantly revisit buried recollections of
the summer spent at a school friend’s stately country home, where he is
transformed from outsider to hero and back again. Leo is the
unknowing, then unwilling go-between (or ‘postman’) forced out of
boyish loyalty to carry illicit love notes between simple farmer Ted
and Leo’s friend’s engaged sister, with whom he is also besotted.
This is a study of guilt and the agony and
ecstasy of human memory. Older Leo is implored to trawl
through painful memories by the ghostly figures of the Norfolk
The union between the past and present is
seamless throughout. Guy Amos (as the young
Just-William-esque Leo) soared like the Butterfly of one of the most
moving numbers in a score that rarely budged from poignant.
Both old and young Leos mimic each other in
spell-binding movement like shadows joined through time, and intertwine
in harmonies that add dimensions to the lyrics. James
Staddon, as middle-aged Leo, observed his 12-year-old younger self with
astonishing range of expression. I didn’t realise there were
more than a dozen subtly different ways to look wistful but Staddon,
also a fine singer, apparently has all of them in his armoury.
Indeed it is advisable to look to him to
interpret the scene; you will always think again about what is going on.
For ‘grown-ups work in strange ways’ is the
ghostly refrain that drifts through this haunting musical. But the
apparent childhood truism carries a tragic and sinister
meaning. The real heart of this apparent paen to romance is
the manipulation and corruption of a child and the ripples that reach
the present day.
Not only have Wood, Taylor and all the
singers successfully interpreted the message of The Go-Between, they
may even have managed to add to its legend.
One suspects Leslie Poles Hartley would have
News Item CG070611
On June 7th, 2011 I was privileged to give a talk
Lodge, the admirable institution in Windsor Great
The beautiful 17th-century house is home to an
educational charity and a unique conference centre, where discussions
take place, aimed at the betterment of society. Dr Alistair
Niven OBE, the Principal, kindly wrote a report of my talk in the
it is ....
stars for SHAUN!
Rehearsals for SHAUN'S BIG
SHOW, based on Aardman's wonderful SHAUN THE SHEEP animations, were
very enjoyable indeed.
Bill Deamer's wonderful
choreography was interpreted with great skill and speed by our eleven
brilliant dancers, and Susie Caulcutt's splendid set and costumes were
seen in all their glory as we prepared to open the show at the Gordon
Craig Theatre, Stevenage. The response has been tremendous. Here is our
first review. 5 stars from the whatsonstage website.
Shaun’s Big Show – (tour –
Stevenage) – 19th February 2011
On one side of me was a little girl of pre-school age. On the other was
a lad who looked as though he was just about to start secondary school.
Both had attendant adults. Both were completely enthralled by what was
happening on-stage, the girl standing up and gripping on to the back of
the seat in front of her, as though trying to involve herself even more
in the show. The boy's attention hardly faltered. The grown-ups in the
audience seemed to be equally enthralled.
This, of course, is Shaun’s Big
Show, correctly billed as a music and dance extravaganza for
all the family. It is based on a successful children’s television
series, but the stage version works in its own right, making plasticine
thoroughly plastic with brilliant choreography by Bill
Deamer and clever designs by Susie
Caulcutt. The adaptation is by David
Wood, who uses sounds to replace words; Simon
Townley has provided a musical accompaniment to the action
which references a bewildering succession of classical, traditional and
Deamer’s choreography matches this. The
precision-toed cast step nimbly from hornpipes to Irish dance, from
classical ballet to tap-dancing, taking in the occasional mazurka,
schottische, ice-dance contest and can-can number on the way. There’s
an eleven-strong cast to perform all this with Christopher
Unwin’s farmer emulating [Valentin le Déossé] in his agility. Scott
Matthews is Bitzer, the sheepdog trying to keep sheep. Pigs,
a ferocious bull (cue the toreador’s aria from Carmen)
and his human master in some sort of order.
The sheep are a neatly differentiated flock, from a clinically-obese
ewe who still manages the splits with aplomb – not that easy in a
thickly-padded costume – to our hero himself (Mark
Phillips and Michael
John bleat in support. The three very naughty pigs are Sarah
Campbell Birch and Benjamin
Ibbott; their disco sequence with the farmer’s purloined
gramophone is great fun. Michelle
Campbell and Robyn
Ford complete the cast.
Both the costumes themselves and the masks
are very good. I wondered if the cast would doff the headpieces at the
curtain-calls, but I think that retaining them kept the sense of magic
alive. What keeps the adults in the audience enthralled is, I suspect,
catching at the musical and choreographic hommages as they spark into and out of the action. There should, perhaps, be a
competition to see how many you can catch – no cheating allowed! Quite
frankly, if you’re looking for the ideal introduction to dance theatre
for very young children, this is it. - by