‘I hope you like my story - I wrote it for you just to show I could. It’s about the old tractor and it’s about Joey and it’s about me.’
Daniel Buckroyd, adapter and director of Farm Boy, explains why he decided to adapt this novel for the stage:
“My first brush with Michael Morpurgo was a few years ago now, when a teacher at a school in Hampshire (I was running the Education team at the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton at the time) pointed me towards The Butterfly Lion – a wonderful book by the former Children’s Laureate that tells the story of the relationship between a boy and a lion, spanning three generations, two continents and taking-in the First World War. I was hooked and we produced a successful touring theatre version the following season – re-touring it in the Midlands when I relocated to Nottingham to run New Perspectives Theatre Company, playing to a mix of kids and adults, who really responded to the very grown-up themes in the piece – like what’s happened with War Horse in the West End. Like all the best children’s fiction, it spoke to parents and grandparents as much as children.
Then I had kids and Michael’s work became an integral part of my home life – and at some point (can’t remember exactly when) I came across Farm Boy – a sequel to War Horse, although I actually read it first. I guess my theatre-maker interest was sparked initially because New Perspectives serves the rural communities of the East Midlands, and I’m always on the look out for stories that speak to that community. But also because there is something attention-grabbing about the iconic central idea of a horse vs. tractor contest – the march of progress vs traditional values – something that we’re all caught up in our daily lives but which I think has been particularly keenly felt in the countryside in the last 100 years. I quickly discovered that it also recounts a special relationship between a grandfather and a grandson – so often a missed opportunity for 21st century children - and talks about the way that telling stories can play an important part in handing on family histories, hanging on to one’s roots – particularly when those roots also connect to the land.
Plus, and this was perhaps the deciding factor, it became clear to me that if we were going to consider adapting Farm Boy for the stage, then we’d need a full size 1920s tractor on stage next to the two characters – in fact I’d go as far as to say that the tractor IS the third character – and I couldn’t resist the idea of us touring a full-size tractor!”
New Perspectives Theatre Company bring Farm Boy to the Assembly Rooms, George St (venue 3), 5-30 August.
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