Emma Reeves is an acclaimed playwright and television writer. Her latest play, Snow Child, is touring with tutti frutti this Autumn.
Snow Child is about to begin touring. What is the play about?
A couple desperately want a child, but can’t have one. They build a child out of snow and she comes to life. In my version, the snow child is literally the spirit of the snow – she’s a daughter of nature, a wild, free creature – and yet, something draws her to this couple and she chooses to become their daughter. The three of them embark together on the journey of becoming a family; inevitably, they discover it’s not as easy as they’d hoped it would be. It’s about the challenges faced by both parents and children when a child is “different”. And after all, every child is “different” in his or her own way…
The play is inspired by Arthur Ransome’s adaptation of The Little Daughter of the Snow. How did you work with that text to create Snow Child? Was it a different process to the adaptations you have done previously?
It was different from the other stage adaptations I’ve done because they were based on novels, where the characters and their journeys are usually very clearly set out for you. Snow Child was based on a very old folk tale which exists in many different forms – which gives you the freedom to make different choices about the story. Folk tales tend to be rather sparse on details about character and motivation, so you have to work out your own logic for who the characters are, and why they do what they do. It’s much freer and more personal. I actually feel that this is a very personal story for me.
What has it been like working with tutti frutti? Do you have involvement beyond the scriptwriting stage?
It’s been great working for tutti frutti. We did an R and D session back in March, where I worked with the director, composer, designer and movement director as well as with a group of young children, exploring the ideas behind the Snow Child story and how it might work on stage. I’ve also been in rehearsals quite a few times, it’s wonderful to see the stories coming to life.
You also write for children’s television as well. What are the differences (if any!) between writing for the screen and the stage?
Writing for the stage is a lot more immediate, you get more involved with physically bringing the show to life and you can try things out with actors to see if they work or not. Also, although theatre budgets are much lower than TV budgets, you’re a lot less limited by cost – you can go anywhere and do anything using the power of the audience’s imagination. I love it!
When and why did you first begin writing for young people? What advice would you give anyone who was keen on a similar career?
Apart from an adaptation of Little Women, which was family friendly but not necessarily aimed specifically at young people, my first job as a writer for young people was an episode of CBBC’s The Story of Tracy Beaker, which I was offered because I’d sent a script I’d written to BBC Wales. I was lucky as the show happened to be looking for new writers at the time. I’d advise new writers to be persistent, keep writing, send your work to anyone who’s willing to read it and don’t give up.
What do you love about children’s theatre?
I love the imagination that goes into it – from the performers and creative team, but also from the audience. I can still remember some performances I saw as a young child, and I hope that for some of the audience, we can create a magical experience which will stay with them for years.