Gruffalo creator Julia Donaldson talks Stick Man ahead of Warwick Arts Centre shows - The Solihull Observer
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19th Aug, 2022

Gruffalo creator Julia Donaldson talks Stick Man ahead of Warwick Arts Centre shows

STICK Man will be taking up residence at Warwick Arts Centre this Christmas.

‘Stick Man lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three…’ and the West End hit can be seen until December 31.

But the world outside the family tree is a dangerous place for Stick Man. A dog wants to play fetch with him, a swan builds a nest with him and he even ends up on a fire. How will Stick Man ever get back to the family tree?

Julia Donaldson’s children’s favourite is brought to life by Scamp Theatre, featuring three actors and a one man band in an award-winning production packed full of puppetry, songs, and live music.

Julia’s story began as a simple idea – that a stick is more than a stick. What sparked the book was an image created by Axel Scheffler who has illustrated many of Julia’s books including The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom and Stick Man. Unprompted by Julia, he drew the Gruffalo’s Child holding a stick doll in an image which formed the cover sleeve of that book.

Julia told The Observer: “The Gruffalo’s Child has a little stick doll and then that set me thinking about sticks and how they can become so many different things.

“I remembered how when my sons were little they would play with sticks and they would be everything.

“I thought about this for some time and how a stick can be mistaken by lots of different creatures for lots of different things. So it can become the mast of a sand castle, it can become a stick for a dog, it can become a bat for a bat and ball game.”

And so the story of Stick Man evolved. In the imaginations of both Julia and Axel the character and the tale developed into a fully illustrated narrative.

Julia admits that it took her a while to move from the original idea to the final story. She played around with a good many ideas before completing the writing.

“I did think about putting Stick Man in different houses like that of the Three Little Pigs but the more I thought about it the more complicated it got and I wasn’t sure about including all of those fairy tales,” she says. “I also thought about whether I wanted Stick Man to be a little more active and not so passive as lots of things happen to him rather than him making them happen.”

Julia did however quickly have an idea of how she wanted her story to conclude – with Santa Claus playing a pivotal role in the story.

“I tend to plan a book in my head and I can’t really start until I also have an end in my head,” she says. “I have an idea and then I need to really develop it. People think it’s enough to just have an idea in your head but you have to develop it through to an end.

“I knew from very early on that I wanted to get Stick Man back to his tree and I needed someone to do that. I liked the idea of him being dropped into the tree and the obvious person to do that was Santa Claus.

“And it also fitted with the idea of the book travelling through the seasons. The story reflects the changes in the seasons – it’s not just a Christmas story.”

Published in 2009, Stick Man quickly became a family favourite and Julia could also see its potential as a possible stage show. Keen on interacting with her readers, she was actually performing the story before the book was even published.

“I first did Stick Man at a book festival and we had the family tree as a stepladder covered with camouflage and the characters were puppets. So my sister and I were there with our hands filled with Stick Lady Love and the stick children three and we got to the bit where Santa drops Stick Man and my sister dropped him and I caught him and there was a real gasp from the audience. When we heard that gasp in just the right place we knew we had it right.”

But Julia was looking for something a bit more ambitious in terms of staging her work more professionally.

“Having seen how Scamp work and the way the children responded to their theatre, I was confident they would do something very imaginative. Scamp’s show is quite different from any of the things I had done. I knew they would be padding it out with more songs and music to make it into a full length show. Their theatre is very physical and they are very inventive with props so I knew they would do lots of interesting things with it.”

“I love the way that they get just the right level of audience participation – it keeps everyone involved.”

Visit www.warwickartscentre.co.uk for tickets and further details.

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