Video: Behind the scenes of Swallows and Amazons

Swallows and Amazons, the new musical play with book by Helen Edmundson and songs by Neil Hannon, based on the book by Arthur Ransome, arrive at Norwich Theatre Royal this week. Here the creative team talk about the production. Plus: Cast interviews.


Were you aware of Swallows and Amazons before you started working on the production?

Richard Holt [John Walker] — I was aware of the books but I hadn't read any of them before. I just inherited the whole set from my grandparents, who actually live in Sheringham. I have other family from Norfolk too, including my auntie, uncle and cousins, so they will all be coming to watch me at Norwich Theatre Royal.

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Stewart Wright [Roger Walker] — I was certainly aware of the books and what the story meant, but I was much more interested in doing the sorts of things that the Swallows and Amazons would get up to rather than reading about it. I was never a big reader as a child.

What has it been like for you playing such a young character?

Akiya Henry (Titty Walker) – Well, one of the things that Tom Morris always spoke to us about in the rehearsal room was not to act how you think the child would act, but to play the truth of the essence of that child. Essentially we are adults playing how a child thinks or feels. I personally just become totally lost in the world of Titty's thoughts and imagination.

Stewart Wright - We started the first exploration of playing a child so long ago, that for me it's now just like playing any other part. I don't think of it as though I'm playing a child because I approach it in the same way as I would for any part. I just work out what's important to that character, how they think, feel and react.

Katie Moore [Susan Walker] — There's no imitation of children. No one is putting on little high pitched voices or skipping around. You just have to think of the spirit of the child, or what they are thinking in their head. I'm sure children are not aware of how young they really are, because I know when I was younger I always felt so much older than I actually was.


Tell us about the character you are playing?

Sophie Walker [Peggy Blackett] — We've been so lucky with the music and text we've been given as it's so much easier to access that feisty, wild, earthy childish character. The Amazons are not afraid to get dirty, rip their trousers or get mud in their hair and on their face, or even get cuts and bruises. I also believe it's important to have strong female characters in theatre to represent strong women today.

Are there any similarities in your character and your own personality as a child?

Celia Adams [Nancy Blackett] — I play Nancy who is not very nice. She is a bully, very domineering and predominantly strong. She is tough, fearsome and much too big for her boots. She practically bites the heads off everyone, so she's just awful really. I hope that's not what I was like.

Tell us about your experience on working on Swallows and Amazons.

Sophie Walker - I never stop. I'm always doing Something on stage for the whole 2.5 hours, so there's no time to stop and switch off. When we're not playing an Amazon we're playing a wind machine or rain machine or playing the piano. It's brilliant because you really have to work together as a company and consequently we've all built really strong bonds with each other.

Who do the audiences prefer: Swallows or Amazons?

Celia Adams — We often see lots of little boys saying they want to be an Amazon and then little girls with pretty dresses on who want to be a Swallow.

Sophie Walker — I just think it's so lovely to see these children leave the theatre with such a buzz about them. The fact that they are open to imagining that they were the characters themselves is great.