Is there anything more magical than watching the characters from children’s literature come to life? The stupendously wealthy Hercules Waldorf-Franklin III and bright-spark Sheila are two very determined hippos on a fantastically problematic luna mission. David Walliams’ number one selling book The First Hippo On The Moon has been adapted to the stage by award-winning theatre company Les Petits. After a triumphant world premiere in Eastbourne they’ve added a further ten tour dates and come to Worthing’s Connaught Theatre mid-February.
The book has sold over nine-million copies in the UK alone and translated in 45 different languages. As a father of one and an avid reader, Walliams believes there is no better time to be in the industry. “There are so many great writers for children right now. My personal favourites right now are JK Rowling, Julia Donaldson, Dame Jacqueline Wilson and Michael Morpurgo. When I was a young child I loved Richard Scarry and Dr Seuss.”
Since his debut, Walliams has captivated literary fans from all over the world. He won the Children’s Award in the inaugural People’s Book Prize for Mr Stink, 2010 and the Red House Children’s Book Award for Gangsta Granny the subsequent year. Incidentally, both books were adapted into television films in association with the BBC, with The First Hippo On The Moon being the first to make it to theatres. Walliams said, “I love seeing adaptations of my books, and really enjoy the changes. I come from writing for television which is very collaborative and have always liked working with other people.”
A particularly successful collaboration was with acclaimed illustrator Tony Ross, well-known for his drawings in the Horrid Henry series. Since 2010, Ross has featured in all of Walliams books. The First Hippo On The Moon is very visual so you can imagine the stage production is very striking and colourful. The man in charge is Artistic Director Oliver Lansley of Les Petits, sister company to Les Enfants Terribles – alongside chief puppeteers Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell they make a hell of a power team.
Walliams says he “jumped at the chance” to work with this talented bunch. “I have loved their work for many years. I love great children’s theatre shows, so am very excited to see this one…The book is full of humour and I know that they are the perfect choice of theatre company to bring that out as there shows are so irreverent and funny.” Les Petits are hot off the production line following considerable success with Captain Flinn And The Pirate Dinosaurs and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.
The energetic cast, featuring Dominic Allen, Alice Bounce, Caroline Bowman, Owen Jenkins and Rosie Nicholls, really bring the characters to life. Suited up in fuzzy, full-length costumes with puppet-laden limbs, the sartorial choices are perfect for flamboyant dancing along to their musical numbers. With the show only 60-minutes long, it will keep the audience, ages 3 upwards, absolutely spellbound throughout but it’s not just for the little ones.
When comedy juggernaut David Walliams is involved you’re guaranteed a good tickling of that funny bone. His flair for funny and whacky imagination has led him to being likened to his hero Roald Dahl. The First Hippo On The Moon is a brilliant example of this comparison – by taking something humdrum and contorting it into something deliciously extraordinary has proven to be a winning formula for children’s stories. Walliams insists, “The best shows for children work for the grown-ups too, and I am sure this one will.”