This has been a long story indeed. I don’t know when I first came up with the idea for this show. Years ago. I was looking at a library shelf of out-sized books and started imagining the books as different characters unexpectedly thrust together.
We made the show last year after a series of work-in-progress showings at BAC, Little Angel, The Junction (Cambridge) and a retreat on a farm. It was a heady brew of ideas in the loose form of a family show with songs. We toured it to theatres and festivals and a library. Some people loved it. Some were confused. One, memorably, described the experience of watching it as like being “run over by a juggernaut.” I took that as high praise. But proud as I was of all our work on the old BOOKSTORY, arguably it wasn’t a story at all. More an ingenious splicing-together of a great many ideas and extended metaphors about books and mortality with (naturally) some funny songs along the way.
It was certainly something interesting enough to attract more bookings and Arts Council support to take the show into libraries and theatres. But by the time we’d got all that together, the original (fabulous) cast and designer had largely disbanded and headed towards other projects. Possibly I had driven them slightly mad. And it was apparent that – for all its strengths – there were basic flaws with the show that I needed to address.
Enter Michael Fowkes, a brilliant artist and puppet-maker who I’d worked with before (he designed The Night Before Christmas which I directed for Little Angel in 2013). I more or less begged Michael to help me re-make the show for the upcoming libraries tour. He hemmed and hawed. Then he pointed out, with painful succinctness, all of the above-mentioned flaws and said he would agree to work on it if these could be properly looked at and he could have real input re-shaping the story. I agreed, knowing that (in reality) any wholesale attempt to look at the show afresh would inevitably lead to a complete re-write.
Thus began the most painful artistic experience I have ever undergone (first world problems, for sure). Over some months, with the help of Michael’s lovely fresh ideas, we gradually dismembered and laid to rest the old show and sketched out a new one grown from the old. A phoenix from the ashes. I wrote new songs and a new script and we found two wonderful new cast members, Steve Tiplady and Andrea Sadler, a superb Technical Stage Manager (Luis Alvarez) and a gloriously affable Tour Producer, George Warren.
This crack team has been putting together the new BOOKSTORY over the last few months. It’s very exciting. Try and see it if you get the chance.
We’ve just started our tour and the initial signs (from Barking and Dagenham) are promising. Entirely 5-star feedback ratings and enthusiastic comments: “Brilliant” “Superb” “Fantastic” and my personal favourite:
“We enjoyed it too much”
Ben Glasstone 1st October 2016