Former Capitol general manager back in Horsham with Dear Zoo

Michael Gattrell Dear Zoo
Michael Gattrell Dear Zoo

Former Capitol general manager Michael Gattrell is the director as Dear Zoo Live! plays the Horsham venue on Friday and Saturday, November 8 and 9 on the show’s fourth tour.

The third tour was sadly curtailed in the spring, but the company is back in business this autumn.

Producer Chris Davis explains: “We had to cut it short in the spring because our lorry was stolen. We had everything in there, the whole play, the set, the costumes, all the animals.

“It happened in Peterborough, and that’s it. We are never going back to Peterborough,” Chris laughs. “Peterborough has been struck off!”

As Chris says, you can understand perhaps why they wanted the van – even though it had Dear Zoo plastered all over it: “But what on earth were they going to do with a lion, a camel, a frog, a monkey, an elephant, a puppy, a giraffe….

“We lost everything, except the actors. And it was a very specific thing to take. The animals are all huge. The elephant is elephant sized.

“I put it out on social media at the time. I said that the contents were worthless to anyone but us. I said ‘Keep the truck, but give us back the contents.’”

Sadly there was no response: “We had to cancel the tour at that point. We lost about 14 theatres, and the cast were made redundant. We had to. We couldn’t pay them for 14 weeks.

“We had to cut the tour short and rebuild the set and rebuild the animals and then cast it again.

“They were all offered their jobs back, but only one was able to come back. All the others were unavailable.

“But we are touring again now, and it is exactly the same show.”

And proving equally successful.

Rod Campbell’s best-selling lift the flap book has delighted generations of young readers since it was first published in 1982. It has sold more than eight million copies worldwide.

The idea is that the stage version will delight all those who have read the book (both young and old) as it unfolds with child-engaging puppets, music and lots of audience interaction.

“What we try to do is really replicate the book on the stage. It is such a well-known book. It is 35 or 36 years old, and millions of copies have been sold.

“And for millions of children, Dear Zoo has been a seminal moment, those flaps, the simplicity of the story… so many people have a huge love for the book. Children come in clutching copies of the book that were probably their parents’ copies.

“And we try to replicate it, the costumes, the design, the story following the book. And the children know before the next animal comes on what the next animal is going to be. They shout out ‘It’s a camel’ or whatever, and it is fantastic. And the book is so old now that we have got parents coming along who loved it and are pleased to see it.”

It is the book’s first time on stage: “The writer Rod was very cautious about a stage show and took quite a lot of reassuring about how we were going to do it.”

The play is for children aged two years and upwards. Running time: 55 minutes. No interval.

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