Preview: The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show
- David Pollock
- 9 November 2016
Eric Carle's popular picture book eats your heart out on stage
'Growing up it always irritated me that children's theatre is considered second-rate compared to adult's, so I made a very conscience decision to bring a grand children's show to the stage,' says director Jonathan Rockefeller of his new stage adaptation of American illustrator Eric Carle's famed children's book The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
In many ways the book is a strange choice for the stage, given that the narrative is so slight; it tells simply of a caterpillar who gorges on food as it prepares for its butterfly transformation. Yet its popularity is inescapable. First published in 1969, the book has been translated into 62 languages and sold 41 million copies.
The problem is partly solved by Rockefeller using four of Carle's books in the production, but for the most part it's the scale that matters. Seventy five puppets are used during the show, including tiny fireflies which illuminate the stage and the climactic butterfly, with a wingspan of 12 feet.
Premiered in Australia in 2015, the show has been seen in America and apparently attracted the families of Chelsea Clinton, Emily Blunt and Neil Patrick Harris. 'It brings a healthy dose of nostalgia to the parents, and we've had our fair share of tears of joy,' says Rockefeller, 'but for the children, it will inspire them to read, paint and get creative.'
Perhaps most importantly, Carle himself was involved in the show's conception. 'We had many conversations,' says Rockefeller, 'and he and his team were closely involved in ensuring our puppets look like they literally walked off the page of an Eric Carle book. But the greatest joy was seeing his reaction when he watched the show – it was a very emotional response, with his life's work accumulating in front of him on the stage.'
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, King's Theatre, Glasgow, Sun 20–Mon 21 Nov.