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ARCHIVE News for 2010

News Item GRTMG20 - December 2010

GREAT REVIEWS FOR TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN AT KESWICK

The Theatre by the Lake in Keswick presented, for Christmas, an extremely well-received production of my adaptation of Philippa Pearce's TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN.  Here are some photos and reviews

Show Photo

 

Tom’s Midnight Garden - The Stage 29th November 2010

Published Monday 29 November 2010 at 12:18 by Anne Hopper

Should you watch this David Woods dramatisation without having read Philippa Pearce’s 1958 story, you will want to find a copy to read as soon as possible. Artistic director Ian Forrest’s absorbing production works its magic within a splendid setting by designer Martin Johns, which moves as much, if not more than, the actors. A stroke of genius gives us three members of the cast doubling as musicians, playing on stage live, thus ensuring the frequent movement of the setting becomes silent and magical. Congratulations to Nick Dutton, Liam Gerrard and Daniel Wexler.

Pamela Buchner, Peter Rylands, Dominic Brewer, Maria Gough and Nick Dutton in Tom's Midnight Garden at Theatre by the Lake, Keswick Photo: Keith Pattison

Adults Dominic Brewer and Hayley Doherty play children Tom and Hatty with great conviction and absolute sincerity, ensuring we are drawn into Tom’s imaginative world from the outset. Pamela Buchner, Peter Rylands and Maria Gough each play several roles unobtrusively and convincingly. Particularly moving was Brewer’s final scene as the boy Tom.

Artifice, glitz and glamour have no place in this Christmas production. It may be set in the fifties, but children today will recognise the lows of isolation and anxiety and the highs of great happiness that childhood can bring. Wonderful.

Show Photo

Whatsonstage - 1st December 2010

Tom's Midnight Garden (Keswick)
Venue: The Theatre By The Lake
Where: Keswick
Date Reviewed: 1 December 2010
WOS Rating: starstarstarstar
Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews

Tom’s Midnight Garden, adapted by David Wood from the much-loved story by Philippa Pearce, is the story of how Tom, sent away from his family in the 1950s to avoid the measles, is rescued from boredom and isolation by the striking of a magical clock in the night.

When the clock strikes, Tom travels back in time to the late-Victorian era, where nobody can see him and he can play outside all he likes. One day he meets a girl called Hatty, who can see him, and from then on Tom goes back to different points in Hatty’s life each night, forwards and backwards through her childhood and early adulthood, not noticing that she is a different age each time he sees her. 

For any classic, channelling the ‘feel’ of the original is vital, and director Ian Forrest, designer Martin Johns, and composer/arranger Richard Atkinson triumph here. The music, played by cast members Liam Gerrard, Nick Dutton and Daniel Wexler, is nicely atmospheric, and the whole cast switch roles with gusto (at several points becoming parts of the clock).

Maria Gough and Peter Rylands provide a nicely-observed double act as the slightly comic couple looking after Tom in the 1950s and simple Victorian sweethearts working in the big house in whose garden Tom and Hetty play. Dominic Brewer as Tom and Hayley Doherty as Hatty make an engaging pair, vividly conveying the highs and lows of being a child, even whilst growing up before our eyes. The play’s final encounter between Tom and Hatty – now played with a knowing twinkle by Pamela Buchner – is direct and heart-warming.

Good though the performances are, the real star quality of the production lies in its marvellous integration of music, design and action, switching fluidly between Tom’s different realities, even managing to show just what it feels like to be rushing down a long secret passage through a hedge.

A classic tale of the magic in and of childhood, for young, old and everyone in between, perfect for this time of year, brought beautifully to life by a talented team.

Show Photo

 

News Item GDVD - December 2010

Guess - DVDGUESS - THE DVD IS HERE!

Very happy to announce that a DVD of the recent stage production of GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU has been released.

It is available for a modest £10 from www.bigfinish.com.

Hopefully the show will be revived before too long.

News Item GAFGB - November 2010

GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE - THE PLAY PUBLISHED

George's Marvellous Medicine - The Play

The splendid Birmingham Stage production of my adaptation of Roald Dahl's GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE has finished its long and warmly received tour.  The Christmas season at the Bloomsbury Theatre was particularly successful. 
 
Samuel French have now published an acting edition of the play, which is my 7th Roald Dahl adaptation.  I feel very privileged to have been allowed to adapt so many.
 
The others - THE BFG, THE WITCHES, THE TWITS, FANTASTIC MR FOX, JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH and DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD are all published by Samuel French, from whom copies are available.

www.samuelfrench-london.co.uk

 

News Item GAFGB - November 2010

LOCHNAGAR DOWNLOAD

THE OLD MAN OF LOCHNAGARDelighted to tell you all that the Original Cast Recording of THE OLD MAN OF LOCHNAGAR is available again.  It can be downloaded from the website of First Night Records - www.firstnightrecords.com.
 

THE OLD MAN OF LOCHNAGARSome years ago - although it seems like only yesterday! - Whirligig Theatre toured my adaptation of THE OLD MAN OF LOCHNAGAR, the book by HRH The Prince of Wales.  The musical play opened at His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen at a time when the Royal Family were holidaying at Balmoral.  Unfortunately none of them came to see the play!  But it was well received, and ended its tour with a West End season at the Albery Theatre (now called the Noel Coward Theatre). 

THE OLD MAN OF LOCHNAGARThe Old Man was played by Iain Lauchlan, well known then as a presenter of Playschool and other television programmes.  Since then he has achieved tremendous success as the creator of TWEENIES.

 
The stage production was filmed for Channel 4, but, sadly, never released on video.  The cassette version, featuring narration by Iain Lauchlan plus all the songs from the show, was released by First Night Records.
 
In the SIGHTS AND SOUNDS section of the website, there is an excerpt from the show.  Now the cast album is available again!

 

News Item TFS10 - August 2010

STORYTIME IN KINGSTON

Christmas 2010 saw me performing in my own Christmas entertainment, at the splendid Rose Theatre, Kingston.  This was, I think, my first Christmas season since playing Wishee Washee to Amanda Barrie's Aladdin at the Palace Theatre, Watford in 1967!
 
Thank you, Stephen Unwin and Jerry Gunn at the Rose for giving me the opportunity to do 15 performances of DAVID WOOD'S STORYTIME, featuring THE GINGERBREAD MAN and other stories.  It is really an extension of what I have been doing in schools for the last 25 years, and it was great fun doing it in a theatre setting
.
 
Here is the publicity material ...


News Item AA24 - August 2010

Funny BunnyAVAILABLE AGAIN!

For the best part of a year, my novelty books, created with Richard Fowler, FUNNY BUNNY'S MAGIC SHOW and MOLE'S BEDTIME STORY have been unavailable.

Mole's Bedtime StoryNow, I'm delighted to say, they are back in stock and can be obtained via this website or through Amazon.

Both books are regularly seen on repeats of programmes including TWEENIES, and have been very popular as a result.

 

Also, when I go into schools, these are the two books that the children most often ask for! Really pleased they are back!


News Item APBC13 - February 2010
Updated Septeber 2010

BIG CAT 'CINDERELLA' PUBLISHED!

CoverA few years ago I wrote a play in rhyme for an educational series in Australia. The title was JACK AND THE BAKED BEANSTALK, and it used ideas from my full-length play JACK AND THE GIANT.

Back in the UK, the publisher Collins acquired JACK AND THE BAKED BEANSTALK for their Big Cat series of books, which are mainly sold into schools, to help with reading and literacy.

Big Cat's editor, Sarah Loader, kindly asked me to contribute another play to the series, and I suggested CINDERELLA.

The text is actually based on an earlier version I wrote for the POP-UP THEATRE: CINDERELLA, published years ago by Kingfisher, and subsequently discontinued.

The return of this text is very pleasing.  I hope it will be read and played out by many children in primary schools.

Collins produce a regular newsletter called Primary News. For the Spring Term 2010 edition I was asked to write an article about drama in the classroom.

Collins have kindly given me permission to have it on the website. Here it is - and if you are interested to learn more about Collins Big Cat series, click on to their website.

Many thanks to Sarah Loader for adding this title to her catalogue, where it joins my earlier play JACK AND THE BAKED BEANSTALK.

CINDERELLA is one of the stories I will feature in DAVID WOOD'S STORYTIME at the Rose Theatre this Christmas.

The book features splendidly quirky illustrations by Shahab Shamshirsaz.


News Item TFS10 - August 2010

A TASTE OF DAHL

A Taste of DahlSome years ago, while playing the BFG in the West End production, actor Anthony Pedley told me he wanted to put together a one man show.  The result, a year or so later, was A TASTE OF DAHL, in which Tony 'is' Roald Dahl, using his own written words to illustrate and illuminate his thoughts about children's fiction.  The show has become extremely popular in schools all over the country. 

A Taste of DahlClick here to find out more.

 
I was delighted to direct Tony in A TASTE OF DAHL, and now, we are pleased to announce, there will be another one-man production by Tony, and again directed by me.  This time it will be for younger children, and will be a storytelling version of THE BFG, the title role of which Tony has, over the last 20 years, truly made his own.  More details in due course.

 


News Item GOPG - June 2010

Georges Marvelous MedicineGuess How Much I Love You Photographs

We have opened GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU! It has been a delight to adapt and direct. Here are some photos. Abbey Norman is Little Brown Hare, Paul Sockett is Big Nutbrown Hare and Lucy is played by Emily Altneu.

Guess Production Photographs

It has been a great pleasure working on the stage adaptation of Sam McBratney's classic picture book GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU.

Georges Marvelous MedicineThe book, beautifully illustrated by Anita Jeram, has been a huge success for Walker Books, and now, thanks to Sally Humphreys Productions, we have translated the story from page to stage.

Sally approached me with the idea last year, and things have moved on at a fair pace. Sam McBratney and Walker Books, to my delight - and relief -, approved the script.

My regular team Susie Caulcutt (designer), Emma Clayton (movement and choreography) and Peter Pontzen (musical arrangements and supervision) all worked with me, and the production was a pleasure to direct.

Georges Marvelous MedicineFollowing the successful opening at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, the play is on tour until October 2010.  Aimed at small children, the play runs 55 minutes with no interval.

Visit the website here... See the trailer here...

The production was given a splendid launch by producer Sally Humphreys, to a large guestlist of local children, celebrities, friends and the cast of the play. Here are some photos of the event.

Launch Photographs

Click here to read the West Sussex County Times review.

Here is an article written about the launch of GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU in 2010.  Helena Rampley wrote it for TheatreFix, which is the Blog attached the Society of London Theatre.

David Wood has been writing and adapting children's books for the stage for over 40 years, so what is it about him that has enabled such a long and successful career in the theatre? I caught up with David Wood OBE during rehearsals of his adaptation of Sam McBratney's book Guess How Much I Love You to find out.

David Wood

Friendly, playful and bespectacled, it is easy to see why Wood makes an engaging storyteller. The sheer volume of work he has generated is incredible, having created over 60 children's plays (including The Meg And Mog show, The Gingerbread Man and Tom's Midnight Garden), directed many of them in production, while touring The David Wood Magic And Music Show, a travelling children's entertainment show, for over 20 years.

So why has his imaginative talent stayed predominantly within the world of children's theatre? "Adults are the most boring audience in the world because they'll just sit there and clap at the end even if they've hated it". Children's stories may be simple, but telling them in the right way is deceptively challenging. As Wood explains, "A lot of people think 'oh, it's just for kids, it's easy', much less difficult than Shakespeare or musicals or something like that, but it's actually very very difficult".

An audience of children has fewer allegiances than an audience of adults, and will use any excuse to escape if they're not enjoying themselves. "I've said often, and I mean it, that the last forty years of my life had been dedicated to stopping children going to the lavatory. That is really true because they have no fear to manners when they're very small, and there's no reason why they should."

When I meet him backstage at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, Wood is in the thick of directing a rehearsal for Guess How Much I Love You. His rehearsal style is as ebullient as he is, and he can't help joining in with the cleverly integrated song and dance elements of the show. The set abounds in colour, as the three performers abound in energy, and the costumes for Little Nut Brown Hare and Big Nut Brown Hare are likely to endear any adults in the audience, let alone the age 3+ children it's aimed at. Multi-coloured puppets and props represent animals, rivers and rainbows, and are in turn humorous, educational and eccentric.

Given the perceived changes in children's attitude towards entertainment, it's impressive that Wood is still able to captivate those with such purportedly short attention spans for almost an hour. Some changes within their reaction are noticeable. "Some of the plays I wrote years ago I would have said then would have been suitable for say 7, 8, 9 [year olds]. Now, the same plays would probably be suitable for 5, 6, 7 [year olds], simply because children's life experience has been greater".

Despite this, a child is still a child at heart: "If you bring children into the theatre for the first time, no matter how many video games, computer games, graphic imagery and everything they get used to so quickly, in spite of all of that, you put a shadow puppet up on a screen and they'll gasp."

The process of adapting seems, superficially at least, to involve a different kind of working procedure. Wood was commissioned for several years to write an original play each Christmas by a theatre in Worcester: "There's part of me that would like to think that they were my best work, because they were original ideas, and were written as plays."

However, the creative injection needed for both disciplines is sizeable. In Guess How Much I Love You, Wood has combined four short books into one piece, and created an entirely new narrator and facilitator in the character of Lucy. For largely practical purposes, adaptation has become his central realm, as "the necessity for well-known titles is almost frighteningly compulsory".

Wood has an affinity for Roald Dahl, and has been extremely successful in his adaptations of his books. Their appeal even extends to adult audiences. "You'll very often get adults coming on their own – that amazes me – partly because the books are that old now, but also simply because Roald Dahl has a sort of cross-over appeal. He died when I was adapting the first [of his books I did] – hopefully not because I was adapting it! I never got his reaction".

Putting a living author's work on to the stage is a cautious business, and a certain amount of tolerance has to occur on both sides of the bargain. "When you translate something into a different medium, you have to accept and they have to accept that a play is a different animal from a book". Adapting some stories, though, has been easier than others, particularly those with a "strong through line" and the placing of the interval and cliff-hangers is also crucial.

Wood doesn't mince his words about the techniques involved: "You can't spend time with sub-plots, or go down cul-de-sacs that you have to turn round and come back out again. I'm not saying that many children's books do that, because I love children's books. They don't spend ten pages telling you the sun came out; they've go to get on with it. It's the same with a play – you can't dawdle".

Wood's plays thrive on audience participation and Guess How Much I Love You is particularly interactive. Although children are willing to participate in a much more genuine way than adults, he doesn't believe they think it's real. "They know there are people up there telling them a story. Just in the same way when people go and see a Chekhov play and they come out saying 'ooh, I was in Russia!', they weren't in Russia at all…You know where you are, but there is something about what they're doing that is particularly special which does draw you in".

Guess How Much I Love You incorporates a colour guessing game, in which the children are encouraged to shout out objects they can identify of particular colours. In rehearsal, this is very structured but, like many other elements which rely heavily on reaction, Wood finds in performance that "you're on a knife edge, because the audience can take over".

The ability to conquer this unknown element is what enables the popularity of Wood's drama to endure. Guess How Much I Love You runs at the Rose Theatre in Kingston from 19-23 May before touring nationally.

Helena Rampley TheatreFix Guest Editor


News Item GHTR08 - March 2010

GEORGE HITS THE ROAD

Georges Marvelous MedicineMy seventh Roald Dahl adaptation GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE has had a record-breaking Christmas season at the Old Rep, Birmingham.

The Birmingham Stage Company production extended the run to 14 weeks, which, apparently, is the longest Christmas season in the country. Directed by Phil Clark and designed by Jacqueline Trousdale, the production now embarks on a very long tour, reaching all parts of the UK, before arriving at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London for a 2010/11 Christmas season.

The production received a 5 star review by the Birmingham Mail. Also, The Stage gave it a great review. For tour details and a trailer, please visit the Birmingham Stage Company website. The Sunderland Echo has also reviewed this production.

Photos by Ian Tilton

 

George's Marvellous Medicine

Fizztickling, whizzpopping adaptation of one of Roald Dahl's funniest stories

George’s Marvellous Medicine, now showing at the Playhouse, is yet another triumph for David Wood. Wood has adapted many of Roald Dahl’s books, all with great success – but I was not sure that this latest offering would be as good as the previous ones because out of all of Dahl’s stories for children, George’s Marvellous Medicine is probably the flimsiest.

George lives on a farm with his hard-working parents and his maternal grandmother who is nothing short of a hag. She makes everyone’s life miserable with her constant fault-finding and demanding ways. She takes daily medication which, as George points out, clearly isn’t working – she isn’t getting any nicer – so he decides to make her some himself.

The home brew makes grandma grow so tall and large that she shoots through the roof. It has the same effect on the farm animals and George’s father is delighted; he sees it as a solution to all farmers’ problems and wants to mass produce and market it. Batch two has the reverse effect, Grandma shrinks to the size of a grain of sand – then disappears altogether. That’s it, end of story – somehow it works brilliantly in the book, but my concern was how that could be turned into ninety minutes of entertaining theatre.

I need not have worried, Wood had it covered. First, he inserted a handful of fantasy scenes (not in the original work) where George imagined a different grandma, then, with a stroke of pantoesque genius; he turned the tale into an exercise in audience participation. From the very start, George included the children; he recruited them as his friends and asked for their approval for each ingredient before adding it to the eponymous brew. Amazingly, when it was time to produce the second lot, it was the children in the audience who remembered all the ingredients and they called them out to George.

The set design and props also deserve a special mention. The family home is a cross-section of a farm house, so we were able to see George mixing his potion in every room. The fake farm animals themselves are delightful, cute piglets, chickens that are trundled across the stage at regular intervals and a giant bull that occasionally pokes its head on to the stage.

Theatre is never a cheap night out and for a holiday treat for the family there is a lot of competition in the cinema at the moment, but where film will always be available on DVD in a few months’ time, live theatre won't! If you have the chance, go and see George’s Marvellous Medicine; it is well worth it.

Judith Davies, 11/08/10

 

Review]

 

Hull & East Riding Newspaper

REVIEW: 'Enthralling' triumph for George's Marvellous Medicine at Hull New Theatre

Unless you are a grumpy grandma, you'll love this week's Hull New Theatre show.

Birmingham Theatre Company's version of the Roald Dahl tale George's Marvellous Medicine, is an excellent production that had us hooked from the minute we took our seats to the sound of farmyard noises.

Our hero, schoolboy George, is spending his half-term holiday reading his favourite book about a boy wizard (yes, they did exist before Harry Potter) when life on the family farm is rudely interrupted by the arrival of grumpy grandma.

George's mum (Alison Fitzjohn, with an amazingly infectious laugh) just gets on with her chores and his dad (Thomas Woodman) has a grumble but disappears off to do his work, leaving George (Clark Devlin) to cope with the demands of his monstrous gran (Erika Poole), who needs regular doses of medication.

Left in charge of gran, cleaning the house and mucking out the chickens, George instead sets about creating a very nasty brew to give to grandma. Drawing in the audience, he asks whether he should include every nasty ingredient, which ranges from lavatory cleaner to lipstick, to things he finds in the kitchen cupboard and his dad's garden shed (including paint). Of course, every time the answer, yelled by hundreds of excited children, is a very loud 'Yes!'.

Grandma doesn't become less grumpy but she does grow very tall – to about 12ft – and her head is through the rafters when mum and dad return home. Dad is more excited by the sight of an enormous chicken George has also managed to create. When he asks his son to make some more medicine so he can have a farm full of enormous, very valuable animals, that's when the fun really starts.

Never have I seen so many children so enthralled; never has the "Don't Try This at Home" warning – issued at the end of this wonderful show – been more necessary.

Review: Sue Mason

 

 

REVIEWS

THE TIMES
By Sam Marlowe

There's an emphatic warning, both in the programme and at the end of the Birmingham Stage Company's performance, against attempting to re-create young George's magical potion at home. Let's hope that enthusiastic audiences aged 4 and over absorb those words of caution - otherwise there could be some very poorly grannies, not just in the Midlands but up and down the country when Phil Clark's production embarks on its lengthy tour.

Adapted by David Wood, the acclaimed children's dramatist, from Roald Dahl's 1981 book, this is the story of a boy who decides to enliven his grumpy grandmother's visit by doctoring her medicine in the most stomach-turning fashion. As she sits squawking irascibly in her armchair, while George's hard-pressed parents are busy running the family farm, he mixes a brew that even by Dahl's exuberant standards of grotesquerie is utterly revolting. Shampoo, shoe polish, flea powder, engine oil - in it all goes, while Clark Devlin's mischievous George speculates with relish as to what will happen when Grandma (Erika Poole) takes a sip. "Will she go pop? Will she explode? Will she go flying up the road?" he muses, giggling.

The results of his scheme are even more outlandish: Grandma levitates, bursts into flame and grows into a giant, head and shoulders shooting through the farm roof. It's a pickle - but Dad quickly realises that if he can use George's concoction on his animals and transform the struggling farm's fortunes, it might just turn out to be liquid gold.

Clark's staging, designed by Jacqueline Trousdale, with puppetry by Roman Stefanski, enters into the quirky, fantasy world of the story with aplomb and an enormous sense of glee. In the higgledy-piggledy farmhouse, Mum (Alison Fitzjohn) can be glimpsed milking a cow through the rear of the colourful kitchen; a chicken that sups the medicine swells to a monstrous size; and Grandma's miraculously stretching legs and torso are achieved with wonderfully witty simplicity.

Devlin delivers Dahl's pungent, rhyme-laden language with infectious delight and there is a refreshingly non-PC, off-the-wall, subversive aspect to his revenge on Poole's witchy granny. Nasty, naughty fun.

More reviews

Here is another great review in the Cambridge News ...

REVIEWS - Cambridge News

George's Marvellous Medicine

George’s Marvellous Medicine, Cambridge Arts Theatre, until Saturday.

 
Jennifer Shelton is drawn into the magical world of Roald Dahl - along with a particularly excitable audience.

George's Marvellous Medicine
George's Marvellous Medicine
As evenings at the theatre go, you’ll be hard-pushed to find anything more entertaining than a night in the company of George Kranky and his eccentric farmer family.
 
Giant rampaging chickens, a good dose of lavatorial humour and a hilariously grumpy grandma - what’s not to love? 
 
For those new to Roald Dahl’s tale, George’s Marvellous Medicine follows the outrageous exploits of a young boy whose attempts to cure his grandmother of her terrible temper leads to all sorts of hilarious happenings.
 
Brought to us by the Birmingham Stage Company, this theatrical adaptation does a fantastic job of bringing the action to life and drawing the eager audience into George’s magical, mischievous world.
 
There are several delightful moments when, inviting the audience to help him mix his magic potion, George is heckled by enthusiastic cries of: “You forgot the boot polish!”.
 
And later, the anticipation of waiting for Grandma to drink her first dose proves too much for one theatre-goer, who gasps loudly: “Go on, drink it!”, for all to hear.
 
While the children – and I think I can vouch for the adults too – are clearly enjoying the show, the actors too take to their roles with great relish, helping to create the atmosphere of unbridled silliness and fun which makes this evening so successful.
 
For a dose of fabulous family fun, George’s Marvellous Medicine is just what the doctor ordered!

Read the review here...

 

 

The tour of GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE continues to gather great reviews. Here is the latest - five stars from WHATSONSTAGE. Am delighted for Jason O'Brien, the understudy, whose performance as George is praised. Jason was one of the students who very successfully augmented the professional and children's cast of my production of FANTASTIC MR FOX at Regents Park Open Air Theatre a couple of years ago. The tour continues through 2010 and plays a Christmas season at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London.

George's Marvellous Medicine (tour – Chelmsford)
Venue: Civic Theatre
Where: Chelmsford
Date Reviewed: 14 April 2010 by WHATSONSTAGE
WOS Rating: starstarstarstarstar

Children are much better at memorising passages from favourite books than adults. Take the long, long list of concoctions which go to make up George’s marvellous medicine in the Roald Dahl book of the same name, cleverly adapted for the stage by David Wood. When it comes to making up a fresh batch in the second act of Phil Clark’s production for the Birmingham Stage Company, the audience knows exactly which peculiar additive is missing. No wonder there’s a “don’t try this at home” warning at the end of the show and in the souvenir programme.

The farmhouse set by Jacqueline Trousdale has just the right mixture of realism and distortion and the special effects and puppetry are very well handled. Farmyard noises greet the audience as it arrives and there’s an obbligato of squelches,  plops, cackles, grunts, bellows and snores as the action progresses; sound design is by Tom Lishman. Alison Fitzjohn and Tom Woodman are a thoroughly credible Mum and Dad and root the fantasy of George’s wish-fulfilment in down-to-earth reality with just a subtle hint of caricature to enliven it.

George was played by understudy [Jason O’brien] at the performance I saw. He makes him a gangly baseball-capped youth with all the frustrations inherent in being a sub-teenager on a busy working farm. Enter Grandma (his mother’s widowed parent), and she’s the relation from hell as far as having her as an uninvited house-guest is concerned. Erika Poole has great fun with her nastiness as she demands her own way, drinks all Dad’s gin, tries to take over the house (including turfing George out of his own room) and really deserves all that she gets. Which, of course, is plenty.

Puppet master Roman Stefanski peoples the farmyard (and on occasion the house itself0 with a wondrous array of animals. There’s a ferocious bull, a whole roost of chickens (including one enormous one, much to the audience’s delight), piglets, a cow and at least one yapping dog. Grandma’s vertical growth is particularly well handled with arm as well as leg extensions, collapsed to child-size at the end. Not perhaps a model of what country living is all about but, as far as theatre for children and their accompanying adults is concerned, an example of how to engage an audience’s attention and keep it right to the end of the show. And beyond.


- by Anne Morley-Priestman

See review here...

 

 


News Item JRP27- April 2010

COME TO THE CONFERENCE!

For several years I have been voicing my concern that in the UK children's theatre has long been considered a subject unworthy of academic study. This contrasts with attitudes in other parts of the world, including the United States, where several universities offer courses in theatre for children and young people.

David WoodI have been invited to talk and conduct workshops in many more American educational establishments than British ones. Maybe the tide is turning!

News has just come through that Rose Bruford College are offering an MA course in theatre for young audiences, organised in association with Unicorn Theatre. The first students will be admitted in September, 2010.

Furthermore, Karian Schuitema is organising an exciting-looking conference at the University of Westminster in London, called THEATRE FOR A YOUNG AUDIENCE.

The conference is...

'an initiative to focus on critical and theoretical appreciations of children's theatre: it aims to elevate the study of children's theatre to the level of other theatre studies, as well as bring together both academics and practitioners with an interest for research into theatre for the young.'

Karian has kindly invited me to speak at the conference, as a practitioner, of course. And there are some high-powered academics speaking too. Philip Taylor is coming from New York University. Cecily O'Neill will be there. And the splendid Professor Wolfgang Schneider from Germany, the President of ASSITEJ. Full details can be found on here. Why not register and come along?!


News Item TPAPA20 - April 2010

THE PLOTTERS ARE PLOTTING AGAIN!

The Plotters Of Cabbage Patch CornerA recent item in LATEST NEWS describes an excellent school production of my play THE PLOTTERS OF CABBAGE PATCH CORNER.

Now there is news of a professional production of the play, to be presented by the enterprising Brentwood Theatre for Christmas 2010/11.

This production will be exactly 40 years after the first production at the Swan Theatre, Worcester.

Plotters Banner

The cast included the young and already splendid Alison Steadman. A year later, the play was seen for the first time in London, at the Shaw Theatre, presented by the generous producer Eddie Kulukundis (who, the same year, produced THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT WENT TO SEE ... in the West End for the first time). Ladybird was played by the wonderful Julia McKenzie.

Plotters of Cabbage Patch Corner

The play won some very encouraging reviews, and returned to the same theatre for Christmas the following year. Because it is set in a garden, and the characters are mainly insects, the play is now often perceived as 'green'. I suppose it is, but I wasn't really, if I am honest, 'thinking green' at the time! I was just writing what I hoped would be an exciting story about insects in a garden!

The play is popular in Germany, where there are several professional productions each year. More details about the play in MY PLAYS.


News Item HCTJ14 - April 2010

HERE COMES THE JUDGE!   

 
Trinity Guildhall have announced an exciting competition.  Playwrights - first-timers and experienced - are invited to write a one-act play for children.  On top of a cash prize, there is the promise of publication and a production of the play.
 
The organisers have kindly asked me to be one of the team of judges.  It will be interesting to find out how many aspiring playwrights enter, and to read the plays.
 
Full details are can be found here
 
I have written a short article to help launch the competition.  This can be seen on The Guardian website or by clicking here. An application form can be downloaded here.


News Item MB08 - March 2010

MINNEAPOLIS BABE

 
BabeDelighted to hear that the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis, one of the most highly respected children's theatre companies in America, have announced that my adaptation of Dick King-Smith's book, BABE, THE SHEEP-PIG, will be in their 2011/2012 season.  The production opens on January 11th 2011 and runs to February 27th.
 
Hopefully I will be able to see the production.  The last time I saw the play in the United States was in Dallas, when Dallas Children's Theatre gave it a warm and endearing production.  The Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis put on my adaptation of Roald Dahl's THE BFG some years ago.
 
More information on their website.
 
 


News Item JRP27- April 2010

JAMES TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO POLKA!

For Christmas 2009/10 Polka Theatre in Wimbledon revived Roman Stefanski's delightful production of my adaptation of Roald Dahl's JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. It formed part of Polka's 30th birthday celebrations. 30 years! I can't quite believe that!

Richard Gill, who created Polka, invited me to be a member of the Board of Trustees a couple of years before the theatre opened. I well remember the excitement of the opening ceremony, attended by local dignitaries, most of whom, it has to be said, had shown little interest in the creation of the theatre until told that the Queen Mother was cutting the tape!

Triumphant that Polka is still shining as a beacon for quality work for young audiences. Having left the Board of Trustees a few years ago, I am proud to be a Patron of the company, and am naturally very pleased that my adaptation will be part of the theatre's important anniversary.

Revival of JAMES was very well received, I'm glad to say. May Polka continue to shine like a highly-polished star in the children's theatre firmament (I felt like waxing lyrical ...).

The Stage Review Time Out Review The Times Review

 


News Item TBP11 - February 2010

THE BATH PLOTTERS!

Monkton Combe School Bath production photographs, click to see more...Monkton Combe School in Bath put on an excellent production of THE PLOTTERS OF CABBAGE PATCH CORNER towards the end of last year, and I was really pleased to see it.

It was directed with great energy and skill by Chris Stafford, the headmaster, and the sets and costumes were of an extremely impressive standard.

It made my evening when, in the interval, somebody came up to me and congratulated me on writing such a topical play. I didn't have the heart to point out that in fact I wrote it 40 years ago! The ecological theme, it is true, feels 'green' now, although I was never thinking 'green' when I wrote it. I don't think anybody was back in 1970!

Click to see more pictures.


News Item JATW29- January 2010

JAMES AT THE WATERMILL

James and the Giant PeachThe Christmas, 2009/10 production at the delightful Watermill Theatre, Newbury, was my adaptation of Roald Dahl's JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, performed by clever actor/musicians and directed by Anna Linstrum. The production was very well received by audiences and press alike.

Visit the Watermill, Newbury website here ...

 


News Item TRAB29- January 2010

TWITS RULE AT BRENTWOOD

The Christmas 2009 production at Brentwood Theatre, in Essex, was my adaptation of Roald Dahl's THE TWITS. A lively young cast did a great job, and The Stage gave it an excellent review.

I much enjoyed my visit to Brentwood, even though just before Christmas, the area around the theatre was like an ice rink!

Visit the website here...

 

 

OLDER NEWS 2009>>>

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