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Dear Zoo live on Stage in Yorkshire: Watch Rod Campbell’s children’s book in Wakefield, Bridlington, Rotherham and Harrogate

Rod Campbell’s best-selling classic lift-the- flap book Dear Zoo, has been brought to life in a new stage production which is coming to Yorkshire.

Dear Zoo live on stage!  will be coming to theatres in Bridlington, Rotherham, Harrogate and Wakefield this year. So Yorkshire Families will get to make the most of the classic children’s book live on stage.

As we’re so excited for the show (we’ll be heading to Theatre Royal Wakefield to see it), we wanted to share this rare interview with Dear Zoo Author Rod Campbell…. 

Rod Campbell

“I wrote to the zoo

to send me a pet.

They sent me an …”

And so begins Rod Campbell’s famous book, Dear Zoo.

However, it is my solemn duty to inform you that we were almost living in a world without Dear Zoo! Rod Campbell’s immensely successful children’s book, which has sold an eye-watering eight million copies in twenty different languages, nearly failed to see the light of day.

If that had happened, we would also have been deprived of the very exciting prospect of the first ever stage show of Dear Zoo. The bestselling book has been adapted by Rod into a play, entitled Dear Zoo Live on Stage, which is touring the country this spring – more of which anon.

dear zoo by rod campbell book cover

When we meet at his publishers, Macmillan Children’s Books, Rod, who is as charming and as likeable as his most famous book, takes up the story. “When I was younger, I tried to make it as a painter.

“I had no money. I lived in friends’ attics, and moved ten times in eight years. I made ends meet by doing painting and decorating. It was like La Boheme.”

For the decade before the book’s publication in 1982, Rod did a very passable impersonation of a starving artist. Determined to make it as a painter, he had no thought of being a children’s author.

dear zoo by rod campbell book

“Then someone whose sister worked at a children’s publishing house saw some of my drawings. I was introduced to them and asked to illustrate some simple books for the under fives. This act of kindness started me on a career in children’s books – serendipity, one could say.”

Rod recalls that, at the time, “One voice in my head was saying, ‘But you’re an artist with a capital A. You can’t possibly do that.’ But another voice in my head was saying, ‘Why not? It looks like great fun.’ The second voice prevailed, thank goodness.”

Thank goodness, indeed. Soon afterwards, the publishers Blackie expressed an interest in his work, and the rest is children’s-book history.

dear zoo by rod campbell book

The delightful story of Dear Zoo – in which a child writes to the zoo asking to be sent a pet – has become a publishing phenomenon and celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2017 with a unique partnership with London Zoo.

Now, having established himself as one of the best-loved and most successful children’s authors in the UK, at the age of 72 Rod is entering a brave new world.

Produced by Norwell Lapley Productions and directed by Michael Gattrell, Dear Zoo Live on Stage will appeal particularly to children aged between 2 and 6 years.

Realised through wonderfully child-engaging puppets, original music and lots of audience interaction, it will immediately attract families and children who are already fans of the book. But it will also act as a splendid introduction to those discovering the story for the first time.

The show which toured successfully in 2018 will be touring the country once again in 2019 tis spring, opening on Sunday 3 February at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn. The tour features more than 72 scheduled dates around the UK, with more to come. Full details are available at http://www.dearzooandfriends.com/dear-zoo-live

Dear Zoo Live on Stage will bring the timeless magic of the book to life in an unforgettable way. Children – and of course their parents – will be able to experience the wonder of…

Dear Zoo live for the first time.

Rod has found the process of writing a play quite an eye-opener. He admits that the job of transferring his story to the stage was, at times, challenging.

But the author emerged from the process with a tremendous sense of pleasure at having mastered an entirely new skill. Rod declares that, “It’s been a wonderful experience.

“I have really enjoyed solving problems, and it’s been a great delight to learn something new. I’ve learned a whole new language, including phrases as simple as ‘upstage’ and ‘downstage’. When I wrote, ‘exit stage left’, a frisson ran down my spine!”

Above all, in creating the play, Rod was anxious to remain as faithful as possible to the essence of his widely adored book. To that end, Dear Zoo Live on Stage elicits the same excitement as the book.

The author explains that, “The stage show will play on the thrill of opening the crates.”

“Children up to the age of six love the animals and they also love the guesswork – ‘What’s in the box?’”

It is that curiosity, Rod believes, which has ensured that the book has remained so popular. “Children have a great curiosity about what’s behind the flap. They love to open the flaps again and again.

“Of course, they know what’s behind each one, but every time they approach it as though they don’t. For every child each time is like the first time. The payoff in the play is that inside each crate is an animal that speaks.”

“The other thing children adore about Dear Zoo”, Rod adds, is that, “After the first time, they know that the book is

completely safe. There is nothing in it that will bite them. So they can luxuriate in pretending to be scared by it.

“And of course, it ends with a puppy. That is the present at the end. You’ve gone through several unsuitable animals, and then you get to the perfect animal at the end. It’s a reward.”

Rod is hopeful that audiences will leave the theatre having had a very happy experience at Dear Zoo Live on Stage and that the show will bring many children into the theatre for the first time.

Even today, 35 years after it was first published, people still rush up to tell Rod how much Dear Zoo means to them. The author says, “I remember one parent telling me, ‘My 18-month-old daughter loves it. She walks around all the time with the book under her arm.’ Or they say, and this is the killer, ‘My child loves this book – and I loved it when I was a child, too.’ That sort of reaction is deeply touching and you’re forced to think that Dear Zoo is something that connects.”

I’ll say.

So I think we can safely conclude that at least 8 million of us remain very grateful that three and a half decades ago, Rod chose to write books for young children over his love of fine art.

Full details about the Dear Zoo Live on Stage tour are available at http://www.dearzooandfriends.com/dear-zoo-live.

Dear Zoo text extract © Rod Campbell, 1982

dear zoo by rod campbell book

“I’m absolutely delighted that Dear Zoo is being brought to life on stage for the very first time!” Rod Campbell, author and illustrator

  Dear Zoo live on stage!  will continue to delight audiences when it opens on 4 February at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn.    With 73 scheduled dates around the UK, full details are available at:   www.dearzooandfriends.com/dearzoo-live

Celebrating 35 years in 2017, Dear Zoo, published by Macmillan Children’s Books, the story of a child who writes to the zooasking them to send a pet, continues to delight each new generation of children as they lift the flaps in search of the perfect animal.

“The whole production was full of energy and cleverly pitched at its audience…”   Bury Free Times

Written by Rod Campbell, produced by Norwell Lapley Productions and directed by                                   Michael Gattrell, Dear Zoo live on stage! is suitable for children aged 2 – 6 years. Brought to life through child-engaging puppets, original music and lots of audience interaction, the show immediately appeals to families and children who already love the book and will serve as a wonderful introduction to those coming to the story for the first time.

Rod Campbell is the master of interactive storytelling and an expert in early learning for pre-schoolers. As a trusted household name, his books have stood the test of time and continue to be a staple addition to the family bookshelf and a popular choice for early years’ teachers. The creator of more than 200 books for children, Rod Campbell’s unique ability to be both fun and reassuring encourages children to discover and delight in the world around them.

 

Commenting on Dear Zoo live on stage! Rod Campbell said “I can hardly believe that Dear Zoo has celebrated its 35th anniversary and I really am enormously touched and delighted that successive generations of young children continue to love Dear Zoo – their obvious pleasure when interacting with it is so gratifying to see, and for me is the very greatest of compliments!”

                              www.dearzooandfriends.com

Date Venue Box Office/Website Time
Monday 4 February –

Wednesday  6 February

Shrewsbury,                  Theatre Severn

01743 281 281

www.theatresevern.co.uk/

1.30 /3.30
Thursday 7 February

Friday 8 February

New Brighton,

Floral Pavilion

0151 666 0000

https://www.floralpavilion.com/

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Saturday 9 February

Sunday 10 February

Ulverston,

Coronation Hall

01229 588 994

http://corohall.co.uk/

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Monday 11 February

Tuesday 12 February

Lancaster, Grand

01524 64695

https://lancastergrand.co.uk/

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Thursday 14 February

Friday 15 February

Wycombe Swan

01494 512000

wycombeswan.co.uk/Online/

1.30

10.30 /1.30

Saturday 16 February

Sunday 17 February

Portsmouth,

Theatre Royal

023 9264 9000

https://www.newtheatreroyal.com/

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Tuesday 19 February

Wednesday 20 February

Thursday 21 February

Southport,

The Atkinson

01704 533 333

www.theatkinson.co.uk

 

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

11.00

Friday 22 February

Saturday 23 February

Ipswich,

New Wolsey Theatre

01473 295900

https://www.wolseytheatre.co.uk/

 

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Wednesday 13 March

Thursday 14 March

Stevenage,                         Gordon Craig Theatre

01438 363200

www.gordon-craig.co.uk/

1.30/3.30

11.00/2.00

Friday 15 March

Saturday 16 March

Gravesend,

Woodville Halls

0844 243 9480

https://woodville.thebigideaonline.co.uk/

1.30 /3.30                       11.00 /2.00
Sunday 17 March

Monday 18 March

Eastbourne, Devonshire Park Theatre

01323 412000

https://www.eastbournetheatres.co.uk/venue/devonshire-park-theatre

1.30 /3.30

11.00

Tuesday 19 March

Wednesday 20 March

Basildon,                    Towngate Theatre

01268 465465

http://www.towngatetheatre.co.uk/

 

1.30/3.30                       11.00 /2.00
Thursday 21 March

Friday 22 March

Saturday 23 March

Chipping Norton Theatre

01608 642350

http://www.chippingnortontheatre.com/

 

4.00

11.00 /2.00

11.00 /2.00

Tuesday 9 April

Wednesday 10 April

Bridlington Spa

 

01262 678258

https://www.bridspa.com/

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Thursday  11 April

Friday 12 April

Saturday 13 April

Sunday 14 April

Birmingham Hippodrome

0844 338 5000

https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com

 

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

11.00 /2.00

11.00 /2.00

Wednesday 17 April

Thursday 18 April

Harrogate Theatre

01423 502 116

www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk/

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Friday 19 April

Saturday 20 April

Sale, Waterside

 

0161 912 5616

http://watersideartscentre.co.uk/

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Sunday 21 April

Monday 22 April

Wakefield,                       Theatre Royal

01924 211 311

http://www.theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk/

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Tuesday 23 April

Wednesday 24 April

St  Albans,                             Alban Arena

01727 844 488

www.alban-arena.co.uk

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Thursday 25 April

Friday 26 April

Peterborough, Key Theatre

01733 207239

www.vivacity-peterborough.com/vivacity-venues/the-key-theatre

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Sunday 28 April

Monday 29 April

Bromsgrove, Artrix

01527 577330

www.artrix.co.uk

1.30 /3.30

11.00

Wednesday 1 May

Thursday 2 May

Folkestone,                   Leas Cliff Hall

01303 228600

www.atgtickets.com/venues/leas-cliff-hall

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Friday 3 May

Saturday 4 May

Winchester                   Theatre Royal

01962 840440

https://www.theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk

1.30/

11.00 /2.00

Sunday 5 May

Monday 6 May

Hastings,                  White Rock Theatre

01424 462288

https://whiterocktheatre.org.uk/Online/

2.00

10.30 /1.00

Tuesday 7 May

Wednesday 8 May

Harlow, Playhouse

01279 431945

http://www.harlowplayhouse.co.uk/

1.30 /3.30

11.00

Thursday 9 May

Friday 10 May

East Grinstead, Chequermead Theatre

01342 302000

www.chequermead.org.uk

2.00

10.30 /1.00

Wednesday 15 May

Thursday 16 May

Durham, Gala

0300 026 6600

https://www.galadurham.co.uk/

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Saturday 18 May

Sunday 19 May

Lincoln, Theatre Royal

01522 519999

www.newtheatreroyallincoln.co.uk

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Wednesday 22 May

Thursday 23 May

Maidstone, Hazlitt

https://www.parkwoodtheatres.co.uk/Hazlitt-Theatre

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Saturday 25 May

Sunday 26 May

Rotherham, Civic

01709 823621

www.rotherhamtheatres.co.uk

1.30 /3.30

11.00 /2.00

Tuesday 28 May

Wednesday 29 May

Wrexham

William Aston Hall

0844 249 1000

www.thewilliamastonhall.com

1.30 /3.30

11.00/2.00

Thursday 30 May

Friday 31 May

Darlington, Hippodrome

01325 405405

http://www.darlingtoncivic.co.uk/blog/blog

2.00

11.00 2.00

Saturday 1 June

Sunday 2 June

Leamington Spa, Royal Spa Centre

01926 334418

https://www.warwickdc.gov.uk/royalspacentre/site/index.php

1.30

11.00 /2.00

 

** DISCLAIMER: WE WILL RECEIVE A FAMILY PASS TO SEE THE SHOW AND HAVE AGREED TO RUN THIS PREVIEW IN ADVANCE.**

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