Adapting Twirlywoos for the stage

Over the last decade there has been something of a revolution in the world of children’s theatre, with some of the biggest titles and best-loved characters from across children’s TV and literature being transformed into theatrical productions. For young audiences, this means an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of their favourite TV characters, whilst also experiencing the magic of live theatre at an early age. But how do you go about translating the colourful, magical and fantastical worlds of children’s TV shows to the physical world of theatre? 

For Zoe Bourn this is a full-time job, and for the last 15 years she has been turning some of the world’s biggest children’s brands into theatrical productions for young audiences. Her passion for creating magical, memorable and unique live experiences has led her to working on world-famous titles including Thomas and Friends and Fireman Sam.

Now Zoe has turned her talents to Twirlywoos, about a group of mischievous bird-like creatures whose adventures have become a smash hit on Cbeebies since 2015. Whilst the TV show utilizes stop-motion animation, the stage production will feature inventive handcrafted puppets that will bring the show’s colourful characters to life. 

Twirlywoos has enjoyed phenomenal success on TV. What do you think makes it so popular?

“I think its success is largely due to the playful nature of the characters. The humour appeals to everyone and really helps to make it universally accessible.”

What can audiences expect from Twirlywoos Live?

“We have purposely stayed close to the TV format so our little audience members will feel safe and familiar with what they’re seeing. But they can expect a very different experience as we invite them into the action and bring the Twirlywoos magic to life all around them.”

Do you have a favourite Twirlywoos character and why?

“I actually love Peekaboo! It’s such an easy character for children of this age group to relate to and offers a really lovely interlude from the chaos the Twirlywoos create. And I love the fact that no one else ever sees or interacts with it and yet you never feel sorry for it - that’s a powerful character!” 

What are the challenges of transporting Twirlywoos into the 3D world of theatre?

“There have been many! Due to the nature of the show we have needed to have lots of research and development sessions in order to figure out how best to translate it. One of the main challenges is how to present the real world scenes as the characters are very small and we have to ensure they are seen from every seat in the auditoriums. The team who look after the TV show have worked really closely with our production team to give us the flexibility we needed on the scale of our puppets without them appearing any differently.”

You have adapted other much-loved children’s titles for the stage. How do you go about writing new stories for these well-known characters? 

“It’s important to immerse yourself in the TV episodes and to respect the rules and structure that their writers have invented wherever possible. Shows of this calibre have a whole science behind them and I think if you can balance the inclusion of this with the golden rules of live theatre then you have a winning formula. Children are also sticklers for detail. They will be the first ones to tell you if you’ve got it wrong!” 

Why do you think it’s important that children experience theatre at a young age?

“Giving young children the opportunity to experience live theatre opens them up to a new dimension of experience and can inspire their own creativity. The earlier we can do this and the more regularly the better - especially in the UK where our education system doesn’t always recognise the importance and value of the arts to our growth and wellbeing.” 

Twirlywoos comes to The Dukes on the 8th - 9th April 2023. For more information and tickets visit twirlywoos web page.