Art Books

Room on the Broom flies into the West End and we interviewed the artistic director to find out more.

Tall Stories theatre company has brought the Olivier Award-nominated adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s classic picture book, directed by Olivia Jacobs, into the West End this summer to enchant everyone aged 3 and upwards. We caught up with Artistic Director and founder, Toby Mitchell to ask a few questions about him, the company and the show.

Acclaimed theatre company Tall Stories is renowned for its joyful, fun-filled productions for family audiences that have toured all over the world. The company’s adaptations of the best-selling picture books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler have included productions of ‘The Gruffalo’, ‘The Smeds and The Smoos’, ‘The Snail and the Whale’ and ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’.

“Tall Stories has produced 31 shows in our 25 years of existence including five adaptations of much- loved books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, alongside many smaller scale shows. We first brought ‘Room on the Broom’ to the stage in 2008 and since then it’s toured nationally and beyond – including France, Germany, the US, Australia and the Far East.

We were delighted that the show was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2013 – and this return to the Lyric Theatre marks the fourth West End run for the show. We’re particularly excited about bringing some magical spells, catchy songs and lots of laughter to family audiences this summer, following the uncertainty of the last couple of years – and we can’t wait to see all those smiling faces.”

Toby Mitchell, Tall Stories’ artistic director and co-founder, said.

Q: Tall Stories is all about bringing stories to life – what are your childhood favourites and why? 

A: My favourite childhood books were Alice in Wonderland (for the adventure), Winnie the Pooh (for the warmth) and Professor Branestawm (for the pure silliness).

Q: What are some of the joys of working in children’s theatre? (or ‘family theatre’)

A: Hearing children and their grown-ups laugh at the right moments, join in at the right moments – and be quiet at the right moments. They’re the best audience.

And what about the challenges? 

A: The challenge is making sure you keep people’s attention – both children and grown-ups. You can’t let the children get bored – and you’ve got to keep the grown-ups off their phones…

What does the future hold for Tall Stories – any big plans we should know of? 

Lots – all currently top secret! Also, a year ago, we moved into a new office and studio on the Holloway Road in north London – so we’re planning lots of work with the local community, alongside our shows.

Q: What would your top tips be for parents wanting to take their kids to the theatre for the first time? 

Choose the right show for your children – and enjoy it! 

With enchanting puppetry, sing-a-long songs and hilarious fun, Room on the Broom is an ideal summer family treat and a magical introduction to theatre for young children. The new cast includes Jessica Manu (‘Where the Bugaboo Lives’, Little Angel Theatre; ‘Cinderella’, Lyric Hammersmith) who makes her West End debut as Witch. Hannah Miller (‘The Snail and the Whale’, West End/ Sydney Opera House/ UK Tour; ‘Roots’, Wilton’s Music Hall) will play Cat, Peter Steele (‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, Southwark Playhouse) returns to ‘Room on the Broom’ to play Dog and Frog having understudied the roles on the last UK tour, and Jake Waring (‘Brassed Off’ and ‘Cinderella’, Derby Theatre; ‘Madame Butterfly’, English National Opera/Blind Summit) will play Bird and Dragon.

The company is completed by Jayant Singh (‘Swell’, Lion and Unicorn Theatre) as understudy. Jump on board the broom with the witch and her cat in this fun-filled magical musical adaptation running at Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue from 21 July to 4 September.

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