Friday, 22 February 2019

Children’s story has a touch of animal magic

Children’s story has a touch of animal magic

TO many people, David Baddiel is known for his award-winning work as a comedian and presenter including Newman and Baddiel, Fantasy Football, Baddiel & Skinner Unplanned and his platinum number one single Three Lions.

But in recent years, the comedian has also become known as an award-winning author and the brightest new star of children’s books. Since making his debut with The Parent Agency in 2015, his children’s novels have gone on to sell over a million copies.

One such novel is AniMalcolm, a runaway bestseller that tells the story of Malcolm, a boy who doesn’t like animals — which is a problem because his family are wild about them. Their house is full of pets of all shapes and sizes.

What the house is not full of is stuff Malcolm likes. Such as the laptop he wanted for his birthday.

The only bright spot on the horizon is the year six school trip, which Malcolm never thought his parents would pay for. And yet there he is, on the bus, heading to... oh no. A farm.

But then, over the next few days, Malcolm changes. He learns a lot about animals. More, in many ways, than he would like.

He learns what it’s really like to be an animal. A whole series of animals, in fact. Will he end up the same as before? Because, as he is learning, sometimes the hardest thing to become is... yourself.

AniMalcolm has now been adapted for the stage as a gloriously funny musical from the award-winning Story Pocket Theatre.

Following the show’s smash-hit debut at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, it is coming to the Wycombe Swan on Sunday, February 17, as part of a major UK tour that also visits the Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot on Wednesday, February 20.

AniMalcolm was my third book for children, and I think it’s my funniest” says David. “Animals are loveable, cute, sweet, friendly, and nice to cuddle, but they are also, always, funny.”

The sheer quantity of animal memes now swirling around the internet is testament to how entertaining we find our furry companions, but why exactly do we find them so funny?

“They are what we in comedy call deadpan,” says David. “Meaning their faces never really change. So in almost any situation you put an animal in, they always just look like ‘Okay, this is happening’. Which if they’re falling off a sofa, or running into a plate glass window, or eating a pair of sunglasses, is definitely the funniest face to make.”

A self-confessed animal-lover, David has long been interested in our curious relationship with our pets. “I myself have four cats and a guinea pig. I wrote AniMalcolm partly because I’ve never lived without animals and I’m often struck by how wonderful it is that pets just happily accept living with you in your house, even though they haven’t paid rent, or had an interview to become your lodger.

“But then I wondered what it would be like if you didn’t immediately feel drawn to animals, or find them cute or funny — what a strange thing that would be. So I created Malcolm, who just doesn’t get animals, but lives in a house full of them. And the story took off from there.”

AniMalcolm’s tour of UK theatres starts in Bridgewater, Somerset, on Saturday, February 16, and runs until the end of April.

“It has been such a thrill to see it brought to life on stage — and as a musical!” says David. “Story Pocket have done a wonderful job with this adaptation, and it will be a real treat seeing Malcolm adventuring around the UK with his menagerie of animals in tow.”

AniMalcolm is playing at the Wycombe Swan at 2pm and 5pm on Sunday, February 17, and at the Cornerstone Arts Centre at 2.30pm and 6pm on Wednesday, February 20. For a full list of tour dates, visit www.storypockettheatre.co.uk

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