Kids Week Interview: Jacqueline Wilson

Published April 17, 2008

Jacqueline Wilson, the Children’s Laureate, and the author of some of the most loved children’s books ever, is currently enjoying the brand new experience of seeing an adaptation of one her stories play to a West End audience. Midnight, which is currently being staged at the Peacock theatre, is also one of the shows taking part in Kids Week 2005. Tom Bowtell caught up with Jacqueline to talk about life as a children’s author and her love of theatre.

Are you a fan of Kids Week?

“Of course! I was thinking how I would have loved it as a child if I’d had the chance to take part in Kids Week. As a child we weren’t very posh and the only time I can remember going to the theatre when I was a child was when I went to the Kingston Empire and saw Babes In The Wood. It had such an impact on me, I just thought it was the most magical, magical evening ever. And that stuck in my mind and turned me on to theatre…”

How does it feel to have a show on at the Peacock Theatre during Kids Week?

“It’s so magical, to say that I’ll have a play on in the West End – but it’s not my play, it has been wonderfully adapted by Vicky Ireland and Watershed are putting it on at the Peacock theatre. It’s got a brilliant cast and it features the most amazing, beautiful, gothic puppets.”

How involved were you with the production process for the show?

“I was very fortunate because I’ve worked with Vicky Ireland before [on shows including Bad Girls and Double Act] and I know that I’m in safe hands. Generally I get to go to the first read through and see who she’s cast, then I always go to one rehearsal, at least, but then I go away and leave them to it. The first night is just brilliant because I see how much work has been done during that time and it’s magical: I get all the fun of it without the hard work or the worry! Vicky is always very true to the book, which makes all authors love her, but she brings out all sorts pf lovely theatrical things, different ideas of how you can do things, that work a treat, so nobody could be luckier!”

How important do you think it is that we entice children into the theatre?

“We’ve always had a lovely theatrical tradition in Britain, and it’s very important, I think, to hook children in, show them how wonderful it is so that they can become theatregoers in the future.”

Can you tell us a little more about how you go about writing your books?

“I always start off with something that is going to appeal to me. When I’m writing the story first of all I think about things that are going to interest me. But when I come to rewrite it, I start to think about my audience and what they would like. But you’ve got be passionately involved, there’s no use thinking that ‘this would be a good commercial story’ or whatever, you’ve got to care about what you’re doing, and want to write it even if it wasn’t going to get published.”

Do you think that children’s books should be didactic or have morals?

“I think you really find that children pick up on quite subtle messages. I don’t think you have to wag your finger at children any more, I think it’s much more sophisticated to capture them into a story and try, for example, to show them how it might feel to be a child being bullied by others, make them understand, and not just tell them not to do it.”

Jacqueline Wilson’s Midnight, adapted for stage by Vicky Ireland, is playing at the Peacock Theatre until August 27.