The award-winning Tom Gates hits the stage in Brighton

Tom Gates on stage
Tom Gates on stage

The award-winning Tom Gates series of books come to the stage of Theatre Royal Brighton for the very first time as part of a year-long UK tour – a very special date for their Brighton-based creator Liz Pichon.

The tour has been on the road since February, and she’s happy to admit: yes, she has been taking selfies in front of the tour posters in Brighton.

It’s the latest chapter in a story of remarkable success for Tom Gates who now features in a brand-new story exclusively for the stage (Theatre Royal Brighton, Wednesday to Saturday, October 2-5).

During the Brighton week, the 17th book in the series – the book of the show – will be published. So far, more than 5 million copies of Tom Gates books have been sold in the UK and abroad, and the series has been translated into 43 languages.

For author and illustrator Liz, it has been an astonishing journey: “It started as a picture book, but it then morphed. My main remit was to write the kinds of things that I used to love as a child and that I could illustrate. I was really keen to use the drawings. I have never written stories that long before. I had only ever done picture books. But I wanted to include all the doodles and all the fun stuff – basically to write the kind of book I would enjoy.

“There is not much technology. I just wanted to have things that I remembered as a child. As soon as you put technology in, it just dates so quickly – and people will be saying ‘Computers don’t look like that!’ I wanted it to be about the kinds of things that children in all countries will talk about and have the same experiences about, things where they are able to put themselves into that same position, where childhood hasn’t changed.

“I had a style of drawing that I created for the character, and I think children have loved them because they have found them easy to copy. When I first started doing events in schools, I used to get nervous because I had never done much drawing live before, but the children would be coming along with their own drawings which was lovely.”

The stage adaptation came about through an approach from Neal Foster who runs The Birmingham Stage Company, a company which has had major successes with Roald Dahl adaptations and more recently with David Walliams stage versions.

“Neal was very adamant that his idea was that we would write something new that would take all the elements of Tom’s character and try to think of something new rather than translating one of the books. We worked out the plotline and the storyline together, and I did a huge drawing map for him. He went off and wrote the first half and gave it to me. I added some things and ended up writing the second half. It has all happened in a really collaborative way and I have worked with some fantastic people.”

The show follows Tom as he tries to keep out of trouble while things go increasingly wrong at home and school. It features favourite characters from the stories including Tom’s best friends Derek and Norman and their band Dogzombies. It’s not easy to impress Amy Porter, and moany Marcus Meldew is doing his best to disrupt things while their teacher Mr Fullerman keeps his beady eye on them all. Things aren’t made easier when his grandparents – The Fossils – announce a big surprise...

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