ARCHIVE News for 2011
THE GO-AHEAD FOR THE GO-BETWEEN
Rehearsals for THE GO-BETWEEN started on August 8th. I'm delighted that this project is going ahead. Since 2002 the composer Richard Taylor and I have been working on this musical adaptation of LP Hartley's classic novel. It is my first 'grown-up' piece of theatre for many years.
3 theatres have joined forces to present THE GO-BETWEEN. West Yorkshire Playhouse, Derby Theatre and Theatre Royal Northampton have agreed to mount the show, following the successful showcase of Act 1 at the Trafalgar Studios in 2009. Thanks are due too, to Wendy and Andy Barnes of Perfect Pitch, who made this showcase possible.
Roger Haines, who has been involved from the very start, is directing again. For exact dates and times, please visit
The first night is on September 14th. All fingers are crossed!
RETURN OF THE TIGER!
Very pleased to be directing once again my adaptation of Judith Kerr's classic picture book for children, THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA.
Rehearsals began in late March, and the tour opened at the Arena, St Albans on Thursday, April 7th 2011. For a full list of dates and venues, please visit the website - www.thetigerwhocametotealive.com
Excited to report that THE TIGER WHO CAME TO TEA will be coming into the West End at last! We begin an 8 week season at the Vaudeville Theatre on July 6th. Daytime performances throughout the summer holidays.
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.
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
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.
The Sunday Telegraph
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 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.
News Item GMT11 - February 2011
GREAT REVIEWS FOR MISTER TOM!
The tour of my adaptation of Michelle Magorian's classic novel, GOODNIGHT MISTER TOM, sadly came to an end at the New Theatre, Cardiff in May. Delighted that it has been so well received all over the country.
Here is an article in The Independent... On the 30th anniversary of its publication, the popular wartime tale Goodnight Mister Tom is to hit the stage. Arifa Akbar celebrates the rebirth of a children's classic.
The production, directed by Angus Jackson and starring Oliver Ford Davies received universally enthusiastic reviews in the local and national press, three of which are reproduced below.
Libby Purves THE TIMES
February 7 2011 12:01AM
Michelle Magorian’s 1981 novel stands high among re-imaginings of the Blitz, for although pitched at children and about the evacuee experience, it admits something more troubling: that amid the obvious dangers of war there can still be parental cruelty, madness, bigotry. The boy William arrives in Dorset bruised, illiterate and unused to kindness. He is billeted — with that astonishing wartime insouciance — on a curmudgeonly widower, Mister Tom. Both flourish.
Recalled to London by his cold, Bible-bashing mother (her insanity is revealed with unnerving gradualness), he is found by Mr Tom after an air raid, tied up and nursing a dead baby. Even his recovery back in Dorset is scarred by the death of his best schoolfriend. I relate that much as a caveat to parents unaware how tough the book is. Yet most children suffer secret fears and fantasies of loss, and most will rise, with William, to a cathartic sense of survival.
David Wood’s adaptation, directed by Angus Jackson for the Children’s Touring Partnership, is both free and faithful. The sunny first act stays just this side of sentimentality: a 1940s’ Dorset poster, a great puppet dog, a weedy vicar and tweedy ladies (the chain-smoking GP sets the period). Comedy and informal song keep it moving. As to the darker second half, one sequence neatly encapsulates Wood’s simplicity, sincerity and emotional reach. The boy says “I love you” for the first time — cut to Churchill’s voice growling about fighting on the beaches — back to William rapt in concentration, painting. Children dance by, singing a rude song about Hitler; then in stalk adults and officials threatening to take William into care. Story, contrast, tension, emotion: all are there.
Oliver Ford Davies gives Tom great humanity and the children (alternating teams of underage performers) are fine: especially Zach, the show-off friend whose am-dram ambitions are well used in Wood’s staging. Georgina Sutton gives a lovely Grenfellesque performance as Miss Thorne. And Robert Innes Hopkins’s design is stunning. The simple platform of village, station or hospital is raised like a giant drawbridge, with a thunderous grinding sound, to show that beneath comforting normality can lie a filthy, crazy, dangerous slum home.
It ends as children’s theatre should: adults audibly snivelling and children breathlessly attentive. Here’s a suggestion: ever since the role of Children’s Laureate was created the title has gone to novelists, a poet and the illustrator Quentin Blake. It should now go to a playwright, to acknowledge that theatre too has a vital role. David Wood has been making quality children’s plays for 43 years. Here with my nomination.
Paul Taylor - THE INDEPENDENT
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
A kindly curmudgeon wins the heart
This stage adaptation of Michelle Magorian's moving 1981 novel for children, Goodnight Mister Tom has everything that tugs the heart strings and stimulates the tear ducts. But it is also splendidly faithful to the book's remarkable depiction of the darkness of death and mental illness, bullying, bigotry and parental cruelty. And in Angus Jackson's production it has moments of enchanting comedy courtesy of the alternating teams of very appealing child performers.
When William Beach arrives as an evacuee in Dorset, even well-meaning locals reckon that he has drawn the short straw in being billeted on the curmudgeonly widower, Mister Tom. The boy is bruised, illiterate, baffled by kindness. The old man is gruff, wary of displays of emotion and semi-reclusive since the death in childbed of his wife and daughter 41 years before. They gradually form a bond. But William is summoned back to London by his abusive mother, only to be discovered by Mister Tom, after an air raid, locked in a closet and cradling the corpse of a baby girl.
Oliver Ford Davies traces Mister Tom's reawakened capacity for tenderness most touchingly. Bringing a simultaneous lump to the throat and a smile to the lips, there is a delightful puppet dog, manipulated by a puppeteer in one of those Hovis ad flat caps. I found especially upsetting the scene where this adorable canine was barred from entering the hospital room where Mister Tom was due to discuss William's future with the psychiatrists.
Comically contrasted with William's brooding quietness is his wonderful show-off friend Zach, the Peter Pan of middle-class infant precocity and with am-dram ambitions that would make Bottom appear quite a retiring backstage type. Village society is nicely etched in, too, with an Ealing-esque broad drollery. In our current world where you have to apologise in advance if "real smoking" is to happen on stage, a fag-puffing GP now looks as picturesquely dated a phenomenon as wearing woad.
There's a spectacular set by Robert Innes Hopkins. The platform of a country station, replete with evocative travel posters for Dorset will suddenly rear up like a huge drawbridge disclosing a grimy peeling slum home where the roost is ruled by a violently religious and emotionally vindictive mother. Goodnight Mister Tom may be aimed primarily at children but it has some of Dickens's power of fixing on our primal fears – as when it seems that insensitive medics may haul William away from the ideal, loving foster parent of happier fantasies. And it's not a story of untroubled redemption, either. Even when William is recovering back in Dorset, his progress is cruelly hindered by the death of his best friend (the utterly winning little show-off) in the London bombing – an event staged here in one great severing flash.
At the end, there isn't a dry eye in the house. This show is going to be a big success – and I wouldn't mind the Kleenex franchise.
Dominic Cavendish - THE TELEGRAPH
6:35PM GMT 07 Feb 2011
This adaptation of Michelle Magorian's most successful book for children works like a charm
A young boy stands before us. He is meek, downcast, achingly vulnerable. He carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. You can tell, just by looking at him, that this isn't your typical wartime evacuee. This lad flinches in the presence of adults, barely touches his food, and terrible bruises lurk under his rolled-up socks.
Marking its 30th anniversary this year, Goodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian's first and most successful book for children, takes an interesting, unexpected angle on a well-worn subject. Is the mother of the traumatised William Beech worse than the Luftwaffe? In a bleak central section, in which the slowly blossoming lad returns home from Dorset to Deptford, we're left in no doubt that the woman, unhinged and toxic with religious zeal, is a mortal danger to her brood.
This is an emotive story - with some surprisingly timely thoughts on the role of communities, the need for fathers and the menace of officialdom too - but it's a difficult one to render well on stage when you have a withdrawn juvenile finding sanctuary - and salvation - in the company of a taciturn and elderly widower. You can see why it has been attempted - twice - as a musical but David Wood's adaptation holds its nerve, runs with the central inarticulacy and awkwardness, albeit off-set by the lively contributions of other less damaged children, and allows the piece its simple, episodic (and sometimes trite) nature. It works like a charm.
Robert Innes Hopkins's appealing and ambitious design makes neat nods to the cheery advertisements of the period, and springs an eye-catching coup half-way in when grim Deptford rears its head. Angus Jackson, ably directing, is alternating three boy-actors as William, and on the opening night at Chichester, Jack Butcher gave an admirably assured turn as the stiffly bashful hero, managing the shifts of confidence and mood with aplomb without any hint of premature artfulness. Oliver Ford-Davies brings his customary hangdog, stooped warmth to the role of Mister Tom, his concentrated frown at once inscrutable and curiously legible in its attitude of pained inquiry. Almost upstaging the pair is a life-size puppet incarnation of the old recluse's black-and-white Collie Sammy, handled with delightfully expressive facility by Laura Cubitt.
The play will speak to children, without question - but it may well be adults, looking back at a long-ago England while catching reflections of their own younger, fearful selves, it moves the most. Recommended.
For more details, please visit the website www.goodnightmistertom.co.uk. The production also features on Facebook and Twitter.
News Item CG03 - February 2011
THE GINGERBREAD MAN has opened successfully at the Lewis Family Flayhouse in Rancho Cucamonga, California, produced by the Main Street Theatre Company.
My friend and colleague Mireya Hepner is the artistic director.
As a student in London in the late seventies, she worked front of house at the Old Vic when my play was performing a Christmas season, and very kindly made a mental note to produce it herself if she ever could!
Now the time has come!
Here are some pictures of the production, taken by Ed Krieger.
OLDER NEWS 2010>>>