Bagpuss began delighting children in 1974 and, despite the fact that only 13 episodes were ever made, has held a soft spot in many hearts ever since. Each episode focused on young shop owner Emily, whose business venture dealt not in sales but in restoring lost objects to their owners with the help of Bagpuss and other shop-dwellers; a format echoed in Jon Lloyd’s new stage adaptation.
Soho Theatre’s Bagpuss will not neglect these other equally well-loved characters. Emily, the mice of the mouse organ, Gabriel the toad, Madeleine the rag doll and Professor Yaffle the wooden woodpecker will all tread the Soho Theatre boards throughout the Christmas holidays. Originally given life through stop-motion animation, the long-dormant characters will be enlivened through puppetry and song in a production aimed at children aged seven and under (and wistful adults).
Lovers of the original programme might react to news of a cross-genre adaptation with some trepidation, but the ever-popular saggy cloth cat rests in safe hands. Soho Theatre has played host to many adaptations of high-profile children’s books for its Christmas show, such as Stick Man by The Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson and That Pesky Rat by Lauren Child, author of the phenomenally successful Charlie and Lola series.
Bagpuss will be produced by the Birmingham Stage Company, resident at Birmingham’s Old Rep Theatre; a company that also has a successful track record when it comes to transforming children’s novels into family-friendly theatre. Previous productions include adaptations of Philip Pullman’s The Firework Maker’s Daughter and Roald Dahl’s George’s Marvellous Medicine, while its version of David Almond’s Skellig will make its US premiere at the New Victory Theatre in March 2011.
Bagpuss will play daily at Soho Theatre from 9 December 2010 to 9 January 2011.
- Lydia Onyett