Dealing with big questions; Theatre director Tony Graham talks to CATHERINE VONLEDEBUR about new children's play Only A Day now at the Belgrade Theatre.
ONLY A Day is like "a contemporary Beatrix Potter story adapted by Adrian Mitchell", says award-winning theatre director Tony Graham. This home-produced new stage play for children aged seven and over is being performed for the first time in the UK at Coventry's Belgrade Theatre.
Written by German children's author and illustrator Martin Baltscheit, it follows a day in the life of a beautiful mayfly and the friends she meets along the way.
Tony, a creative associate at the Belgrade, first came across the play while working in the US in 2012.
He said: "I was moderating a new playwriting festival in Washington, New Vision New Voices. There were eight new plays, mainly American, and Only A Day.
"The writer, Martin Baltscheit, is a quirky character. He's a children's illustrator - a multi-talented guy.
"Only A Day stood out for me. Watching the audiences, they really got it. Good plays for children are good plays for all of us.
"This play deals with very big questions - life and death. It's very light in tone but very deep in context. The play has many different levels and all these things drew me in.
"It seemed to work so beautifully. It's like a contemporary Beatrix Potter story adapted by Adrian Mitchell. There's much more than meets the eye. Our job is not to teach but to entertain and to fill people with delight."
Tony stepped down as artistic director and chief executive of Unicorn Theatre, London - the UK's top theatre for young people - after 14 years in 2011 to pursue an independent directing career.
He is delighted with his "very talented" cast of four: children's TV star Dominique Jackson, who played emo teenager Lauren Valentine in soap Hollyoaks and Becky in the hit children's TV series, Becky and Barnaby Bear, Lowri Amies, Andrew Ashford and Jacob James Beswick.
Tony said: "Dominique was practically born on stage - she was in Annie at the Victoria Palace as a child.
"Dominique stood out at the auditions. She has a lovely honesty and seemed perfect for our newly-born Mayfly.
"Lowri is a very talented violinist and talented actor. Andrew is the oldest member of the cast. He is a latecomer to acting as he was a maths teacher who retrained.
"Jacob is an extremely talented actor who has worked with some very strong directors."
Music has been composed by Martin Ward, who wrote the music for Will Tuckett's popular production of The Wind In The Willows.
Tony's work for children and young people includes his productions of The Tempest, Red Red Shoes, Adrian Mitchell's Jemima Puddle-Duck and her Friends and Clockwork, an opera based on Philip Pullman's novella.
His 2003 production of Phillippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden, which was adapted for the stage by acclaimed children's dramatist David Wood, won the 2003 TMA Award for Best Show for Children and Young People.
Tony's own adaptation and direction of Michael Morpurgo's Billy the Kid won Time Out's Family Show of the Year in 2007 and in 2013 he directed Michael Rosen in the jazz and poetry show Centrally Heated Knickers.
? Only A Day runs at the Belgrade Theatre until Saturday, February 21. School tickets are PS6. Tickets start at PS7.50. Ring the box office on 024 7655 3055 or go to ww.belgrade.co.uk
Dominique Jackson |as Mayfly with Andrew Ashford as Boar and James Beswick as Fox
Actor/musician Lowri Amies in Only a Day