Horsham District Year of Culture 2019 exclusive interview with Julia Donaldson CBE

Julia Donaldson CBE, author of the worldwide phenomenon, The Gruffalo, is bringing her new show The Gruffalo, The Witch and The Warthog to the Capitol Theatre in Horsham this half term – Monday 28 October to Tuesday 29 October.
Described as ‘a truly uplifting hour’ during its sell out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the show is aimed at children aged 4-10 years.
The Horsham District Year of Culture team caught up with Julia to find out more about this magical children’s show:
Hello Julia, Your show, The Gruffalo, The Witch and the Warthog, is coming to the Capitol in Horsham this half term. What can audiences expect from the show? Is it you reading the books?
No, it’s much more dramatic than that! There are five actors (including myself) and we act out several stories and songs, with a lovely set and lots of puppets and props – even with some magic tricks.
How do you bring the characters to life?
I act the witch in Room on the Broom, with whom I have a lot of sympathy as – like her – I’m always dropping and losing things. I also act the wildebeest in The Ugly Five and the wily mouse in The Gruffalo. I’ve always enjoyed acting, and the books have been a good excuse to tread the boards.
Not many authors get up on stage to perform, do you enjoy it as much as writing your books?
Yes, I do, and it’s a very good contrast. Writing is essentially solitary, whereas with acting you’re relating to the audience and the other actors. I also do a signing afterwards, so get a chance to talk to children and their parents and carers.
Is it just you on stage, or are there other people joining you?
The other actors are my husband Malcolm, who plays the guitar and acts the wicked emperor in The Magic Paintbrush as well as the fox in The Gruffalo; my sister Mary, who is a wonderful Marabou Stork as well as being the Owl in The Gruffalo; and two younger professional actors.
What books and songs do you feature in the show?
The books are Room on the Broom, The Ugly Five, The Cook and the King (which is very funny), The Magic Paintbrush and The Gruffalo. And the songs are The Superworm Song and a more soulful song called The World Inside a Book which is a celebration of reading.
A little bird (or maybe a mouse) told us you love singing, are you singing on stage as part of the show?
Yes, I do like singing, and I hope the audience will too, as there’s an opportunity for them to join in The Superworm Song. (I also get some children on stage for this item, to act as various garden creatures.)
You’ve had such a successful career so far, what’s your stand out moment to date?
There are so many! But nothing can really beat winning the Smarties Prize for The Gruffalo 20 years ago. I was working in a school then, as a writer in residence, and when the children learnt I’d won the gold award in the picture-book category they solemnly presented me with a golden star.
2019 has been a very busy year for you – being made a CBE, The Gruffalo’s 20th anniversary and your new book The Smeds and Smoos has just been published. What’s next for 2020?
A visit down under is the first thing on the agenda. I’ll be going to Australia with Malcolm to take part in various book festivals, and am looking forward to tacking some holiday on to both ends.
Don’t miss the chance to enjoy The Gruffalo, The Witch and The Warthog, taking place at The Capitol on Monday 28 at 2pm and 5pm and on Tuesday 29 October at 11am and 2.30pm.
For tickets visit the Capitol website, or call 01403 750220.

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