Lifting one of the most popular animated TV programmes of all time from the small screen to the stage is no mean feat. When that programme takes place underwater, things get even tougher. Since it first aired in 1999, SpongeBob SquarePants has become a worldwide phenomenon, with both adults and kids regularly checking out the action in Bikini Bottom.
Now, the fictional Pacific Ocean town is heading to the theatre, with the first ever stage production, The Sponge Who Could Fly touring the UK. According to director, Alison Pollard, a few crucial elements were required to make the adaptation successful. ‘First of all we needed a good script,’ she says. ‘And the TV episode Nickelodeon chose was already really theatrical because it involves flying and has four musical numbers in it. Secondly we have the most fantastic young cast of actors who are completely committed to the whole SpongeBob thing.’
The programme’s sea sponge hero and his pals are so well-loved by their legion of fans, that depicting them on stage wasn’t taken lightly. On television, SpongeBob’s face is spread across the front of his yellow sponge – something even the most flexible of actors would find challenging. Instead, they found another solution.
‘The costume design was very important,’ says Pollard. ‘In particular the three main characters – SpongeBob, Squidward and Patrick – all of which are brilliantly done. The fact that SpongeBob’s head sticks out the top of the sponge, rather than being on the front, worried me a little bit at first – but within the first minute of seeing him, you get it. And the rest of the costume is so well designed that you don’t doubt what you’re looking at.’
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed 11–Sat 14 Mar