Barb Jungr is an internationally acclaimed jazz and cabaret vocalist. She has toured all over the world and enjoyed critical and popular success with recordings of her own work and unique interpretations of other artists’ songs. Her most recent album, The Men I Love: The New American Songbook, was released in March, garnering rave reviews from the national and music press.

As well as her solo singing career however Jungr works as a composer and lyricist for musical theatre. Her latest venture, The Fabulous Flutterbys, is running at the Little Angel in Islington until 4 July. The play, a puppet show for children between the ages of three and eleven, tells the story of two caterpillars and their quest to rescue their friend after his kidnap by a giant hand. It is directed by the Little Angel’s artistic director Peter Glanville.


What made you want to write a story about caterpillars?

There’s something so interesting about a biological imperative – you’ve got this biological imperative to eat and grow, but you don’t know why. Imagine if you were told at puberty that you were going to be 45 feet high and have appendages that you’ve never had, and you were going to have those overnight. How can that possibly happen? It’s such an amazing transformation scientifically; I just got completely carried away with the wonder of it.

What made you want to use puppetry in the show?

I was introduced to the Little Angel by Ralph Dartford, who was running the Millfield Theatre, Edmonton at the time. We’d worked together on a number of occasions. I didn’t really know anything about the Little Angel but as I stood outside the building I just thought, ‘ooh, I’m going to love this place’. And then I met Peter, who’s directing the show, and I thought he was brilliant. When they said they wanted to commission the piece I was thrilled.

How is it working with such an established puppetry team?

They’re just so lovely! It’s silly really because I’ve been all over the world and I’ve seen puppet shows – it’s not like I’m an ignoramus in terms of puppetry – but I guess what I didn’t know was how inventive and imaginative puppetry here in London was becoming. There’s something quite local about the Little Angel and it’s sort of hidden, like a little jewel.

I think there’s something about puppeteers and people who work with puppets; because everybody’s focus is on these little things that have been given life by everybody’s collaboration, there’s a very large degree of openness that’s exciting to be around.

Would you be interested in working with puppets again?

I said to them today, ‘you’re going to have a hard job getting rid of me, I’m going to be knocking on your door every 18 months’. We’re already talking about touring this piece next year.

The Fabulous Flutterbys has been marketed towards three to eleven year-olds; will adults be able to enjoy it too or is it strictly for kids?

When we did the workshop two years ago there was adults from Edmonton council, some mums and dads and then these tiny little ones. The kids loved it and the adults were laughing at things. I’ve not really thought much about whether I was going for one or the other, but if the characters are interesting and you care about them then hopefully anybody can watch it. We had a little boy in today who was quite young, and he wanted to say goodbye to all the various puppets. That’s dead exciting. I’m hoping that at the end of every show the kids will want to meet the caterpillars and the wise beetle and the motorbiking slugs.

What made you want to write for children in the first place?

It never feels like you’ve made those decisions consciously. My career looks like stepping stones across a river: you’ve got several choices and sometimes you have to go back and go another way, and suddenly you find that you’re over the river. I started to do pantos because Martin Sutherland, who’s now at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate, but was at Newbury then, said, ‘why don’t you write some songs for us?’ and so I started doing it because of that.

What do you enjoy about writing for the theatre?

There’s something really lovely about writing and hearing people speak it and it coming alive. I think theatre’s brilliant because it’s just magical. Simple as that.

And what’s next up for you in terms of the stage?

I’m writing a piece with Jonathan Cooper called Mabel Stark Tiger Tamer. Mabel Stark was a poor kid from the mountains in the American rural south at the turn of the 20th-century who decided she wanted to train tigers, which is kind of the craziest thing you could possibly do with your life. She was a remarkable woman. She had this drive to do an insane thing and did it. It’s not an obvious career path for anybody really, let alone her. Jonathan and I have fallen in love with her, so she’s looming, she’s knocking on the door. It’ll be happening at some point next year in Northampton.