Writer: Michael Morpurgo
Vocalists: Voices at The Door
Reviewer: Richard Hall
On the first day of spring, it felt entirely appropriate to listen to former Children’s Laureate, Michael Morpurgo, narrate his own charming story about a young girl’s adventures in the Devon countryside. The Quays Theatre was full of young children and their families desperate to be in the presence of the author of such modern-day literary classics as The Butterfly Lion, War Horse and Private Peaceful.
Morpurgo wrote the short story, Where My Wellies Take Me, based on the childhood experiences of his wife, Claire, who as a little girl visited Devon during her school holidays. Renamed, Pippa, in Morpurgo’s story, the girl sets out on a May Day ramble to explore the woods and fields near where her Aunt Peggy lives. As she takes in the sounds and the sights of the countryside she meets a wonderful collection of animals and local characters including Farmer Yelland, his dog Twelve, (so-called because he is the farmer’s twelfth dog), Samson the bull and finally but not least, Captain, the friendly, farting, farm horse!
Billed as a fundraising concert for Morpurgo’s beloved charity, Farms For City Children, the reading of Where My Wellies Take Me, was accompanied by traditional folk songs sung by the acapella group, Voices at The Door and poems about the countryside written by among others, Seamus Heaney, Christina Rossetti, Rudyard Kipling, Grace Nicholls and A.E. Houseman.
Due to the illness of his wife and the actress Natalie Walter, who was due to read in the part of Pippa, Morpurgo, wearing his customary red coat stood in at the last-minute to read both the story and the poems. In the circumstance,s he did a splendid job. It is clear from the energy and enthusiasm that Morpurgo put into his reading that he enjoys a natural love of his native Devon countryside and reading for his young fans.
At just over an hour the event did feel quite short, especially as many the of folk songs and poems included in the concert were perhaps not ideally suited for a young audience and, although there was an opportunity to meet Morpurgo afterwards, I am sure that many of his fans would have preferred to have heard more about him and his work. It was, however, a genuine privilege to see this giant of children’s literature take on the mantle of performer and raconteur and in doing so raise money for a worthwhile cause.
Reviewed on 20 March 2016 | Image: Contributed