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STAGE ADAPTATION THE SECRET GARDEN Platform, Glasgow, Fri 7 & Sat 8 Feb; Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 11 & Wed 12 Feb, and touring

It’s over 100 years since Frances Hodgson Burnett’s heroine first found the key to a magical secret garden. During that time, the tale of young orphan Mary Lennox has been turned into a film, TV programme and several theatre shows. And now, Burnett’s novel has been lovingly relocated to rural Scotland, in a new adaptation by Scottish theatremaker, Rosalind Sydney. A fan of the of the book since childhood, Sydney was keen

to highlight the relevancy of Mary’s situation in today’s world. Whereas Burnett’s Mary was born into an affluent British family in India, then sent back to Yorkshire after her parents die, Sydney’s character has more in common with asylum seekers fleeing their homeland. ‘It’s not set in the early 1900s anymore, and now Mary is escaping a war-torn city,’ she explains. ‘We see her make this perilous journey at the start to go and live with her uncle in Scotland.’ In the original, Mary is deemed a ‘difficult child’, largely because her parents show no interest in her. In this new version, the reason for Mary’s behaviour is crystal clear. ‘She’s traumatised after having this terrifying experience,’ says Sydney. ‘So the story is about finding family and home, and allowing yourself to make a connection with nature and all the living things around you.’

Once she enters the secret garden, Mary’s life begins to

change, and it’s that sense of excitement that Sydney is keen to capture. ‘It’s such a great story and one I’ve been really attached to since I was a kid. And I think it’s still really exciting for an audience today with secret doors, keys that you don’t know where they lead to, and animals you have to follow who tell you a secret. There’s so much magic and mystery, but the story is also really relevant.’ (Kelly Apter)

STAGE ADAPTATION ZOG King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 12–Sat 15 Feb

When you’ve written almost 200 books, you take inspiration where you can find it. And in the case of Zog, Julia Donaldson’s tale of an accident-prone dragon at school, it came from a couple of sources. ‘Zog was quite unusual, in that the initial idea didn’t come from me,’ recalls Donaldson. ‘My editor said “it would be lovely to have a story about a dragon”, so I started thinking, and the name Madame Dragon came into my head. And then I thought, “what could Madame do, who could she be?” I came up with various ideas and a schoolteacher was one of them, so I took it from there.’

The resulting picturebook, currently touring the UK in a stage adaptation by Freckle Productions, still needed a bit of work on the Princess Pearl character. For that, Donaldson turned to somebody closer to home. ‘My husband Malcolm is a doctor and he also had some input. I knew Zog would keep meeting the Princess, and originally I was going to have them sit together and toast marshmallows. But Malcolm said “that’s a bit soppy, couldn’t it be something with a bit more oomph?” So then I came up with the doctor angle.’ Zog, like Donaldson’s other books, proved to be a big hit and she hopes stage adaptations of her works have a similar impact. ‘It’s the same thing a book gives you: while you’re reading or watching you believe in a different reality. And if it’s a good show, parents love to see that their children, even very young ones, can be transfixed by it.’ (Kelly Apter)

74 THE LIST 1 Feb–31 Mar 2020


Kids love a good old icky story or nauseating image, don’t they? Well, their appetite for the grotesque will be sated by two appearances from Jay Foreman at the Glasgow Comedy Festival as he brings us a series of ‘disgusting songs’. But does he know where the line is for him not to cross? ‘One of the most fun things about performing for kids is that it’s impossible to out-gross them,’ confirms Foreman who has been doing musical comedy for both big people and smaller ones since around 2005. ‘There’s a lot of audience interaction in my show, so when they shout out suggestions I learn a lot about how horribly disgusting kids’ minds are. I think it’s more accurate to say that my show is too disgusting for grown-ups.’ Once dubbed as ‘Victoria Wood for the Spotify generation’, Foreman’s

repertoire of tummy-upsetting tunes includes ‘Caterpillar Sick’, ‘I Fell into a Sewer’ and ‘A Man Covered in Jam’. So what makes his own flesh crawl? ‘My sister once came up with the most gruesome thought I’d ever heard of: a sofa upholstered in living human skin, which sweats and scabs and flakes and stinks and all the other things human skin does. Naturally I decided it should be turned into a song, and I’m pleased to say “Skin Sofa” always goes down an absolute treat in the show. At least it does with the kids, they laugh their heads off, but I’ve seen grown-ups properly wincing during that song, which I think means I’m doing my job right.’ (Brian Donaldson)