BWW Interviews: Children's Laureate Michael Rosen

Outgoing Children's Laureate and esteemed children's author and poet talks to us as his fantastic book "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" illustrated by Helen Oxenbury prepares to go into the Duchess Theatre, West End this summer followed by a national tour.

You have a real understanding of the excitement of being a child where do you think that comes from?
I think it comes from having very good memories of when I was young, my parents used to read to me and take me to theatre, on outings and so on. Because they are very good memories I can re-imagine them very easily, they just come to mind and I can remember the feelings I had with no trouble.

This will be the first experience of going to the theatre for some of the children in the audience, what was your first trip to the theatre like?
A very early experience I can remember was being taken to Theatre Royal in Stratford where Joan Littlewood used to work, she is was the woman who did "Oh What a Lovely War" but in the 1950s she would do Christmas shows for children and I remember going to see "Treasure Island" and a show called the "Big Rock Candy Mountain" that she did with the American folk song collector Adam Lowmax. I can remember going to see those and I'm pretty sure they're some of the first theatre shows I went to as a kid.

And do you have a favourite show yourself?
Ohh, there are plenty of Shakespeare plays that I would always be happy to go and see so long as we could get a babysitter. Most of Shakespeare I'd be happy to see any time.

Where did you get the idea for "Bear Hunt" come from?
That originally was either a song that the brownies used to sing or an American summer camp song, one or the other, nobody is quite sure which. A bit of it is quite like a folk song, somewhat like "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" I adapted it to make it work for a book and changed things round a bit and added a few things.

How do you think it commutes to the stage?
Well I've only seen one version of this production, I saw it a couple of years ago in Bristol and I thought that it was absolutely wonderful. They did it as five people getting a bit lost and not quite knowing what they were doing but they used quite a bit of mime and play acting. It was very funny particularly for the very young children, they absolutely adored it.

Where you involved in the creative process of the production?
Not at all, it all came from them and it was wonderful. I remember laughing out loud and thinking they really got it absolutely dead perfect, it was great.

Because you've been so prominent in encouraging children to read are you hoping that the show will encourage kids to go back and read the book and pick up other books?
Well I think theatre is an experience in itself but of course the exciting thing about theatre is that it leads off in many directions. But one of the directions it does lead is to encourage people to read because most theatre is made up of words, not all but most, and the putting them together in a story form helps children in particular to think about story and of course one of the great places to go for story is books.

You end your term as the Children's Laureate later this year, what's next?
Carrying on, doing what I always do. If I look at my diary I'm just as busy at the end of it as it was before. If I look at the week after the Laureateship I can see I'm already very busy, with filming and school visits.

And finally, are there going to be any more Theatre Projects based on your books?
I don't think there is anything on the cards at this very moment; there have been one or two in the past year or so. Of course "Bear Hunt" and also a version of my poems that a company in Exeter did.


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