David Walliams’s picturebook The First Hippo on the Moon – a tale of two competitive hippos engaged in a space race – has been adapted for the stage by Les Petits Theatre Company. Artistic Director Oliver Lansley talked to us about the show’s current national tour, working with David Walliams, and his favourite kind of children’s theatre…
Oliver, thanks so much for talking to Children’s Theatre Reviews. You co-run Les Petits Theatre Company – can you tell us about the company and your role?
My name is Oliver Lansley and I’m artistic director Les Enfants Terribles and Les Petits Theatre Company which is our sister company set up exclusively to produce children’s theatre.
Your adaptation of the David Walliams’ picturebook The First Hippo on the Moon is currently touring the UK. What can audiences expect from the show?
Madness! It’s full of David Williams’s trademark silliness; we have puppets, music, action, a singing gorilla, and a space race – its brilliant fun.
Why did you want to adapt this book?
We admired David Walliams’ children’s books as they have a sense of mischief and irreverence that we share. This particular book seemed great fun as it was full of great characters and lots of opportunities for fun and action.
Can you describe the process of bringing the book from page to stage? Was David Walliams very involved?
He was very supportive in letting us do our thing. It’s a very slim picturebook so a lot was required to turn it into a full length stage show, but we did our best to keep as true to the book as we could. Visually it’s very close and all the key moments are the same- along with a few surprises!
You’ve also adapted the Captain Flinn picturebooks by Giles Andrae and Russell Ayto. Are there any other authors or illustrators you would like to work with? Do you have any dream collaborations?
We’re very lucky to have worked with some wonderful people. In terms of children’s books I think we could have a lot of fun with something like Where The Wild Things Are.
Why did you decide to start a children’s theatre company? And have you noticed any significant differences between creating theatre for children and theatre for adults?
We originally started when James Seager, who co-runs the company, had kids. I think he was frustrated at seeing children’s shows which didn’t seem to have the same care put into them as adult shows. So we decided to set up a sister company which would take the same approach to children’s theatre as we do with everything else.
The difference with kids is they won’t appreciate things being clever, or meta, or moral – they just want it to be good and engaging. There’s nothing to hide behind which is scary but an exciting challenge too.
Which other children’s theatre companies or artists do you admire?
I personally am always a fan of the more avant-garde ones, whether it’s comedians or clowns or visual artists. I think anything that is made for kids but can be enjoyed by anyone is a success.
What are you working on next?
We currently have our immersive children’s show – Adventures in Wonderland – running at the Waterloo Vaults which is a huge, bonkers and brilliant piece. That runs till September, then Captain Flinn And the Pirate Dinosaurs 2 will be returning next year.
The First Hippo on the Moon tours until August 2017, for further details please see: www.firsthippolive.com