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Bringing Julia Donaldson’s The Scarecrows’ Wedding to the stage in Lowestoft

PUBLISHED: 09:57 13 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:11 13 July 2017

Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks

Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks

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The books of Gruffalo creators Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler are much loved and the latest stage adaptation based on their work is a musical love story involving scarecrows. Director Eva Sampson and lyricist Darren Clark tells us more.

Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks

Having scored big hits with adaptations of Stick Man and Gruffalos, Ladybirds and Other Beasts, Scamp Theatre have a track record of turning the much-loved books of Julia Donaldson into much-loved successful stage shows.

The latest is The Scarecrows’ Wedding, based on the book by Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler, which they bring to Lowestoft Marina Theatre this week.

It is the story of scarecrows Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay who are in love and decide to get married, so Harry sets off to search for their wedding day essentials including a dress of feathers, a bunch of flowers and a necklace made from shells.

However, when the farmer notices he is missing a scarecrow, he replaces Harry with the devilishly smooth but dangerous Reginald Rake. Dashing, daring and ever so cool, can Reginald persuade Betty that he is the scarecrow for her?

It is a heart-warming adaptation stuffed up of Scamp Theatre’s inimitable wit. Director Eva Sampson and lyricist Darren Clark tell us more…

Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s The Scarecrows’ Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s The Scarecrows’ Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks

EVA SAMPSON

Tell us about The Scarecrows’ Wedding...

The show was once described as a “mini folk musical for families” and I think that’s pretty accurate. It’s full of fun, character, silliness and celebrates the epic love story of two very charming scarecrows, Harry and Betty!

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks

We’ve had a lot of fun bringing the book to life onstage and I think that comes across in the production – it’s one big celebration. So I’d love our audiences to laugh, sing-along and maybe even shed a tear! I think everybody (even secretly) enjoys a good love story!

How did the show come about?

Back in 2014, Scamp Theatre approached me about the project. At that point the book hadn’t even been released yet! Scamp have such a long and successful relationship with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler that there is a real trust in their work and I felt very honoured to have been asked. That December we entered into a phase of Research and Development at Watford Palace Theatre and it was during this period that Darren Clark (Composer) wrote most of the songs for the show and myself and James Button (Designer) were able to explore how we could bring the book to life on stage. The following summer we entered into rehearsals and since opening at Watford Palace in July 2015, I’m proud to say the show has gone from strength to strength!

How do you translate a popular picture book for the stage?

Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks

When adapting a picture book for the stage, especially one that is much-loved by children, there’s of course a pressure to really do it justice. I believe that there will be elements of the book - certain images that a child will want to see on stage and they will find pleasure in their recognition of them. These images are my starting point. It’s then about building on these images in an imaginative way, sometimes re-inventing them but always, at all times staying true to the story. For me, it’s really important that we create non-patronising, playful pieces of theatre, which encourage children to use their imaginations.

What has it been like working with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler?

It’s been a real honour. The popularity of the book is testament to the genius of Julia

Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and their ability to create loveable characters that audiences can really get behind. When Julia saw the show open at the Edinburgh Festival in 2015, it was of course a massive relief to hear that she enjoyed the show and enormously valuable to receive her feedback.

Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson�s The Scarecrows� Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks

DARREN CLARK

How did you get involved with The Scarecrows’ Wedding?

I had worked with the director Eva Sampson on a project a couple of years before and had a real blast...she and her theatrical partner T (Teresa Burns, writer extraordinaire and member of Scamp team) were really my sort of people. Fun, silly and deeply dedicated to making quality work which had real heart. I guess Eva liked my work because she asked me to be involved in the R&D and it went from there - I loved writing the songs for this show. I come from a folk music background so it was right up my street.

You have written the music and lyrics for several children’s show, including The Little Gardener. What is it that appeals to you about children’s shows in particular?

Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s The Scarecrows’ Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks Scamp Theatre's adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s The Scarecrows’ Wedding which is at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft. Picture: Helen Maybanks

I love writing for children’s shows! I’m essentially a massive man child. I love things that are silly, fun, scary and profound and that’s what I get to write when writing for children. The best thing about younger audiences is their imagination. They have not yet saddled themselves with the ridiculous adult notion that things have to be a certain way. They are far more accepting of magic than an adult audience. Don’t get me wrong, you also won’t find a less forgiving audience anywhere in the theatre. They won’t politely clap if they don’t like it. They’ll yawn and shout at mum and dad “This is BORING! Can we go?”

What do you hope the audience will take away from the production?

We worked really hard to bring out the heart that beats within The Scarecrows’ Wedding. The story of a lonely widowed farmer who misses his wife and relives their story through the love of these two scarecrows. I hope the audience take away a simple story of love, the challenges that two people face in a relationship. I hope the kids come away singing the songs and laughing at Reginald Rake and the antics of the scarecrows and the farmer. Mostly I hope that everyone will laugh, sing and maybe cry a little. I hope nobody drops their ice-cream.

• The Scarecrows’ Wedding, Marina Theatre, Lowestoft, July 13, 4.30pm/July 14, 10.30am and 1.30pm, £12.50 (£11.75 cons), £10.75 under-12s, 01502 533200, www.marinatheatre.co.uk

Review: Watch the heartwarming moment where a sad five-year-old is comforted by friends after saying her heart has “shrunk”

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