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ARCHIVE News for 2013

'TOM' opens in Birmingham.Gingerbread Line

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.


The Stage

David Wood’s award-winning adaptation is a joy, 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.

CastIt’s 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 likeable 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.

Production information

The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham, November 14-January 25, then touring until April 26

Author: Philippa Pearce (adapted by David Wood)
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 Thorpe
Running time: 1hr 50min
TOM’S MIDNIGHT GARDEN will be visiting the following theatres in 2014.

Run sheet

Old 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 a Ferrari and scored the winning goal in the World Cup, all before lunchtime.

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.

Tom, 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 where 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 computers.


Lyceum Sheffield - February 4- 8 2014
Alhambra Bradford - February 11-15 2014
Marlowe Canterbury - February 18-22 2014
New Cardiff - February 25-March 1 2014
Rose Kingston-upon-Thames - March 4- 8 2014
Derby Theatre Derby - March 11-15 2014
Lighthouse Poole - March 18-22 2014
Civic Darlington - March 25-29 2014
Hackney Empire London - April 1- 5 2014
Theatre Royal Nottingham - April 8-12 2014
Belgrade Coventry - April 15-19 2014
Arts Cambridge - April 22-26 2014



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!Gingerbread Line

At the Hampstead & Highgate Literary Festival on 15th September at 11.30 am.

I will be talking to parents and children about how to enthuse children to love books ... please click here for more details.


On  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.


Performances of THE GINGERBREAD storytelling and other stories will be at Brentwood theatre at 11.30 am on 2nd November. 

Click here for more details.

CHRISTMAS PRODUCTIONS 2013/14Gingerbread Line

Here are some forthcoming Christmas seasons ...

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 seen 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.

Hungry TigerMy 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.

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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.

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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.

Quote Unquote - My eminent co-panellists were Matt Barbet, Jenni Murray and Katharine Whitehorn, all of whom proved delightful to meet and work with

My eminent co-panellists were Matt Barbet, Jenni Murray and Katharine Whitehorn, all of whom proved delightful to meet and work with.

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Gingerbread LineGingerbread LineVery happy indeed that GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM, my adaptation of Michelle Magorian’s classic novel has won an Olivier Award for BEST ENTERTAINMENT AND FAMILY. 

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 their excitement!

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Gingerbread LineSpot’s Birthday Party has opened its national tour. 

Here is the first review, which is extremely encouraging!  -

"If you judge a children’s show by a totally enthralled three-year-old who only gets up out of her seat to take part in the audience interaction, then Spot’s Birthday party rates very highly indeed!" read more>>>

It's Spot's Birthday, it's party time -- and you're invited! Musical fun for everyone!


'Relaxed' theatre for autistic children

12 April 2013 BBC NEWS

Special "relaxed performances" of children's theatre shows, adapted for children on the autistic spectrum, are being put on in several playhouses across the UK.

Subdued lighting, quieter sound and a chill-out area outside the auditorium are just some of the changes making the performances easier for the children to handle.

Colin Paterson reports.

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Gingerbread Line5 STAR JAMES TOURS THE UK!

Birmingham Stage Company’s much-praised production of my adaptation of Roald Dahl’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH is now on tour. 

Full details of all the theatres to be visited are on the Birmingham Stage Company’s website. 

Directed by Nikolai Foster, with music by Grant Olding, the production played a long Christmas season at the Old Rep Birmingham. 

Here is the Birmingham Mail 5 Star review -


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Here is the 5 star What's On Stage review

"James and the Giant Peach tells the story of how poor James loses his parents in a tragic rhinoceros accident and goes to live with his vile Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge. And how, with a touch of magic, he escapes in a giant peach aided and abetted by giant talking insects." read more>>>



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Gingerbread LineMuch 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 party.

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.

For further details see

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TigerTHE 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. 

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The Porridge PincherMISTER 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.

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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.

A full tour date list can be found at www.birmingham stage com. 

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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 cast.

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The Porridge PincherReally pleased that my adaptation of Michelle Magorian's classic novel, GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM, is coming into the West End for a Christmas season at the Phoenix Theatre, opening on November 22nd.

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!

Book tickets at the Phoenix theatre website....

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The Porridge PincherMy 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 original work.

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.

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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.

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James and The Giant PeachForthcoming 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.
Another 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 Bloomsbury Theatre.


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 offerings.

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 with squeakers.

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 him.

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.

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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.

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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!

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Scary MaryFor 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.
To visit Richard Fowler’s website, go to

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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.
The Lyric season will follow another UK tour, which opens in Birmingham on April 2nd.  Full details on the official website –

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The Forest ChildSome 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.
 The Forest Child
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.

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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.
Recently I 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.

Dinosaurs and all that RubbishIn the DINOSAURS 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 CONVENTION fame. 

Save The HumanIn the SAVE 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.

The Sea Saw TreeThe aforementioned Simon Nicol also sings THE SEE-SAW TREE from the play of the same name.
 The Selfish Shellfish


This became, for a time, the anthem of Friends of the Earth.

The Owl And The Pussy CatFrom THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN ... comes the song TILL TODAY BECOMES TOMORROW.
The Ideal Gnome ExpeditionAnd, 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.

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We all need stories
To hear'em and see'em

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.
 David Wood and children performing poem 0005 Credit Ed Nix Oxford Mail,Times - Marc West, copyright The Story Museum for the first two and Ed Nix, Oxford Mail/Times for the others
Click here to see the BBC news coverage of this event!

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Musical Talk

In 2011, Nick Hutson asked if he could interview me for his website, which is dedicated to musical theatre and the people who create is. You can hear my interview with him on this link.

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The BFG 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 -

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

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Anthony PedleyIt 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 -

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George's Marvelous medicineMy adaptation of Roald Dahl's GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE was toured throughout 2010 by Birmingham Stage Company in a delightful production by Phil Clark. 

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 Manchester.

George and Gran

George Mixing

George and Gran

More details on the Birmingham Stage Company website -

George's Marvelous Medicine

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The Magic FingerTHUMBS UP FOR

The world premiere of my new adaptation of Roald Dahl's THE MAGIC FINGER will take place in Washington, DC, produced by Imagination Stage.

The Magic FingerIn 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.

James and the Giant Peach

James and the Giant PeachOrphaned 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.


The Magic Finger

James and the Giant PeachLucy 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 mischief!

One day, when visiting her friend William Gregg on his family's farm, Lucy discovers the Gregg family enjoys hunting ducks.

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?


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Since we 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 -
After Christmas, the production goes to Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai.  More details on the official TIGER website -

L-R Jenanne Redman as Mummy, Abbey Norman as Sophie and Alan Atkins as the Tiger.

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 Theatre)
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 delight.

WhatsOnStage Review

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 2011

The Tiger who Came to Tea at the Vaudeville Theatre, WC2

Donald Hutera
July 12 2011 12:01AM

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 (£12.50-£15.50).

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

The Tiger Who Came to Tea

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 different languages.
And now it’s reaching even more children and families as a delightful piece of 55-minute theatre for children aged 3 and over.

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.


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BBC Breakfast invited me to talk about the show and its West End summer season. Click to see the interview.

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Click play to listen to an interview with me on BBC Radio London's Gaby Roslin and Paul Ross Breakfast Show

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Another interview about The Tiger Who Came To Tea, this time on BBC Radio London's Saturday Breakfast. Click play to listen to me, some of the cast and some songs from the show.

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THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA was featured on ITV's DAYBREAK on the 18th July. Click here to watch

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The Go-Between

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.

The Go-between

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, Northampton.

The Go-between

Roger Haines has directed a stunning production, with a great cast.  Here are some of the local and national reviews;

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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, Ted.

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.

The Observer, Sunday 16 October 2011

The Go-Between – review
Derby theatre, Derby

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.

Read THE TIMES review
Read THE OBSERVER review
Read Public Review Page review page 1, page 2


Here is some rehearsal footage in a trailer of the production.

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 Richards.

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The Go Between

An interview about THE GO-BETWEEN

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 dray horse.

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 household.

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 approved.

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On June 7th, 2011 I was privileged to give a talk at Cumberland Lodge, the admirable institution in Windsor Great Park. 

Cumberland Lodge

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 newsletter.  Here it is ....


5 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.


Whatsonstage review

Shaun’s Big Show – (tour – Stevenage) – 19th February 2011

Venue: Gordon Craig Theatre
Where: Stevenage
Date Reviewed: 19 February 2011
WOS Rating: starstarstarstarstar

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 popular music.

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 Williamson). Ruby Mills, Marianne Phillips and Michael John bleat in support. The three very naughty pigs are Sarah Saxby, Ryan 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 Anne Morley-Priestman


Here are links to three more reviews
Guide 2 Bristol
Seat Choice Reviews

The Weston Mercury




ShaunJust before the opening of SHAUN'S BIG SHOW (SHAUN THE SHEEP) I was asked to answer questions on 'Writing for Young Audiences' by whatsonstage, the theatre website.

You can read it here.






OLDER NEWS 2011>>>

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