As an iconic children’s story hops onto the capital’s stage, we sit down with show producer David Hutchinson to chat about the challenges of adapting a classic from page to stage
When it was published in 1995, Sam McBratney’s children’s book Guess How Much I Love You became a beloved classic for little ones and their parents all around the world.
Detailing the adventures of two bunnies – Little and Big Nutbrown Hare to be precise – the touching tale told the story of how just much the fluffy creatures loved one another (hint: it’s a lot).
And now, the book has been turned into an all-singing, all-dancing stage production for tiny tots that combines music, theatre and education.
We sat down for a chat with the show’s producer David Hutchinson to talk the children’s theatre and the how to bring a book to life on stage.
From Roald Dahl to David Walliams, we’ve seen a huge rise in children’s books being adapted into theatrical and screen productions. What is it that makes them particularly magical on stage?
It’s wonderful how many children’s books are making it to the stage, and how receptive the authors are to their work being reimagined for a live theatrical experience.
What I loved about Guess How Much I Love You were the core values of the piece – the importance of caring for those around you, the environment around you, the feelings and fun around you.
It’s also all about discovery – especially in our production – where we chart the seasons, and the evolution of life.
The original story is so dear to the hearts of many – how have you retained its magic? Have you found any challenges in producing it for the stage?
It was a real challenge and responsibility that we all felt. Taking the characters and words from a worldwide bestseller book onto the stage, and getting the balance between a new, exciting theatrical life that lovers of the book will find a ‘new’ journey [while] keeping true to the core themes, elements and narrative was crucial.
What we haven’t done is ‘invented’ loads of new characters, or new scenes. Instead we’ve focused on what makes storytelling on stage unique and what the book can’t do, such as live puppetry, singing, games and physical theatre.
Educational content is obviously a huge part of the show – how do you maintain the balance between entertainment and education and keep it engaging?
I remember spending endless hours in school studying books and stories, which sometimes took the fun out of it, and then I’d go and see them in the theatre, and it was magical.
We’ve got an advantage in theatre of enhancing our audiences whilst also covering the educational ground – and it’s really important for us that our audiences come out of the experience having both learning something, and enjoyed the experience of learning.
Do you think early arts exposure is important for young children?
I think early arts exposure is crucial. Asides from engaging youngsters who may take away and learn more from a practical live experience, it’s also important in growing youngsters awareness of people, public speaking, expressing yourself and the joy of storytelling.
We have a responsibility to introduce the wonderful world of theatre to the young generations, and make the theatre feel like a home for them too – to enjoy art, discuss, debate and express – and the huge rise in theatrical and screen adaptations is building our next generation of theatre goers and makers.
Guess How Much I Love You will be live on stage on 5th May at Abu Dhabi Theatre from 5pm. For tickets, click here.