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Donaldson Classic Goes from Page to Stage and Celebrates the Magic of Books

Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s deliciously meta book about the magic of reading has moved from page to stage, thanks to our favourite puppet alchemists, Little Angel Theatre.

Adaptors Barb Jungr and Samantha Lane (who also directs) have reunited for the show, fresh from their Olivier-nominated collaboration on Donaldson and Scheffler’s other hit book, The Smartest Giant in Town. And it was a real page-turner, which kept our children enthralled for its one hour duration.

The Donaldson bedtime favourite encompasses 11 books, but it’s a brief read, so Jungr and Lane introduce sister (Freya Stephenson) and mother (Georgie Samuels) characters and weave in a parallel story about Charlie (Pierre Hanson-Johnson) being a bookworm, while his sister finds reading dull.

We follow the trio as they dive through books, magazines and encyclopaedias, transforming household objects into the new worlds they discover on each page, until she finally agrees that books are an excellent spot to shelter a nose.

Seasoned readers of Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book will know that children delight in poring over the first illustration of the story, which depicts Charlie’s living room and is full of clues about the tales to come. Before the show starts, our children excitedly do the same thing on a real-life scale, excitedly pointing out the King’s crown on the coffee cup; the flying saucer lamp and the pirate’s parrot on the chair of Charlie’s lounge.

The breathless romp through Charlie’s bookcase is filled with music, dance and wonderfully creative puppet magic, which bring the books to life in a very literal way. Books are transformed into giant, fire breathing dragons, leaping frogs, a flock of baaing sheep, birds and even a library-eating crocodile, which stretches across the stage with a belly-full of books.

Afterwards, children are invited to have a photo in the famous, parrot-emblazoned chair at the theatre’s garden area.

The show aims to encourage little readers to explore books through play. Charlie and his family recreate the worlds in their books with household items - ironing boards become planks for pirates to walk and tables transform into record-breaking birthday cakes. Inspired by this, our children insist on acting out their favourite books when we return home.

The puppet-filled musical is supported by a programme of play-based workshops to inspire little readers, encourage reluctant readers and give families and teachers the tools to find creative routes into stories.

The production runs at Little Angel Studios until 4 February, when it goes on a UK tour of 50 venues.

Little Angel Studios, Sebbon St, London N1 2EH. Running time: 1 hour. 18 November - 4 February. Adult tickets £16. Child tickets £14 (1-17) All tickets £8 Thurs and Friday at 4.45pm

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