Shaun the Sheep goes solo in Shaun's Big Show
Children's author David Wood on board to help the transition from screen to stage
There’s no higher accolade for a character, then to get your own spin-off. Cheers led to Frasier, Friends to Joey, and Family Guy gave birth to The Cleveland Show. But who would have thought, when A Close Shave premiered in 1995, that a skinny legged sheep would eventually eclipse both its lead characters.
From the moment Shaun the Sheep first ate his way through Wallace and Gromit’s kitchen, he became a national treasure. Launched in 2007, the TV show dedicated to Shaun and his farmyard friends (and enemies) has gone on to win two Emmy Awards and a BAFTA, airing in over 70 countries worldwide. Largely because, like most things created by Aardman Animations, it’s clever, funny, taps into the modern zeitgeist and appeals to all ages.
So when it came to creating a live stage version of the show, keeping that integrity intact was paramount. ‘It wasn’t just a case of Aardman granting us the licence and walking away,’ says Ed O’Driscoll, producer of Shaun’s Big Show, ‘they’ve been involved in script development, costumes, scenery – everything.’ O’Driscoll also made the smart move of bringing renowned children’s writer David Wood onboard, who found an inspired way to tackle the fact that nobody in Shaun the Sheep, animal or human, actually talks.
‘It’s the animation equivalent of a silent movie,’ says O’Driscoll. ‘So we needed to find a common language to convey the story and all the emotions. And one of the things David came up with was dance, so it’s all fully choreographed with pigs tap dancing to 'Singing in the Rain' and the flock of sheep dancing Swan Lake. The kids watching it have been absolutely mesmerised.’
Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 6–Sat 9 Apr.