Wood does things differently with foray into the adult world
He is better known for his plays for children, but David Wood has taken some bold steps with his latest offering. Nick Ahad reports.
BEHIND his huge glasses, there is something appropriately childlike about David Wood as he sits in a rehearsal room for his version of the LP Hartley novel The Go Between.
The playwright and author, who has more than 60 plays to his name, is in Leeds at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, where the world premiere of his new show will take place.
Although not entirely new territory for the 67-year-old, writing a play for adults is unusual as he has made his name, and a handsome living, writing shows for children. Not for nothing has he earned the mantle The National Children’s Dramatist.
He began his career at Oxford, acting alongside Michael Palin and Terry Jones. He continued to work in theatre when he left Oxford, initially as an actor and appeared in West End and regional theatre shows.
Spotting a gap in the market for quality theatre work for children, he penned his own play, to great acclaim and went on to write plays including The Gingerbread Man, Hijack over Hygenia and The See-Saw Tree. Early success established the playwright’s reputation and he went on to adapt several of Roald Dahl’s books, including The BFG, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches (which has been in the West End three times) and The Twits, as well as Tom’s Midnight Garden.
Today he is watching over proceedings as Roger Haines brings his latest script to life.
It is another adaptation, and the star of the show is a youngster, but this latest work is very much for adults.
The Go Between, which opens with the sentence: “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”, has previously been adapted, but that was for a film starring Jule Christie and Alan Bates and the adaptation was written by Harold Pinter.
Wood has done something a little different.
“It’s quite difficult to explain to people, because it’s not a musical and it’s not a straight play. We are describing it as a drama with music,” he says.
The cast in the rehearsal room are belting out sweeping, emotional songs as we sit in an adjoining room, watching through a window.
Wood is somewhat nervous about seeing the play come to life as it is normally immediately apparent if his script is working or not when it gets in front of an audience.
“The great thing about writing for children is that they tell you straight away if they don’t like something,” he says.
“Some writers might find that horrifying, but it concentrates the mind on getting it right. Adult audiences, even if they can’t stand something, will sit there patiently and clap at the end, children have no such concerns about theatre ettiquette.”
The story is the memory of Leo Colston, a man who stumbles across a trunk and is transported to his past when, as a child, he was the unwitting go-between in a love affair between two adults.
The idea for the show came from Richard Taylor, who composed the score and went to David with the idea.
Wood says the difficult part with taking a novel and transferring it to the stage lays in finding the spine of the story.
“Once you find that you know you can make it work. We have taken some liberties with the script and switched some of the sequence of events around, but I have done the thing that I think is important and stayed true to the heart of the story.
“The film is 40 years old now, so I don’t really expect people who are fans of the film to come along hoping for a faithful adaptation of it, but even if they have seen it, they will hopefully see that we are telling the story with respect.”
DAVID WOOD: “We have taken some liberties with the script, but I have done the thing I think is important and stayed true to the heart of the story.”
REHEARSAL: Richard Kent, left, Edward Cooke, William James Mercer, James Staddon and Gemma Page in The Go Between.