Children’s author and illustrator Liz Pichon on bringing Tom Gates Live to the UAE

Find out what kids can expect from shows in Abu Dhabi and Dubai

Children’s author and illustrator Liz Pichon on bringing Tom Gates Live to the UAE

Fans of Tom Gates will be thrilled to hear that a stage performance featuring the schoolboy doodler and his gang is coming to the UAE.

There will be a total of five shows taking place in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

We catch up with the creative mastermind behind one of modern day children's literature’s biggest protagonists, Liz Pichon, to find out what kids can expect from the cool production and how it feels to have created a fictional celebrity.

Tom Gates has become quite the literary celebrity. How does that feel?
It feels great. I'm thrilled that children have really taken to Tom. When kids come to my events, they often tell me Tom is just like them – especially if they have grumpy teenage brother or sister.

Is Tom based on anyone?
Tom is mostly based on me. I was very like him when I was a kid, enthusiastic but easily distracted. Some things in the books are taken from real life and some I make up. I'm always on the lookout for ideas.

Do you prefer the illustrating or writing part of the process better?
The two go together for me. I often do a drawing that sparks an idea for a plot. But I love using the different fonts and using the space on the pages to help to tell the story as well.

What advice would child Liz give to adult Liz?
Don't leave it so long to start writing stories. And look after your teeth a lot better.

And now Tom and his friends are coming to life on stage in the UAE. How does that feel?
I'm really excited to see how the audiences react to the play. The cast and crew are fantastic and it's been so much fun to be a part of bringing the books to life in a different form.

How involved were you in the process… Things like casting and direction?
I was very involved. I co-wrote the script with the director Neal Foster and worked on the plot. I sat in on casting and did lots of the drawings for the set. The set was designed by Jackie Trousdale – who did the most amazing job. It's a real feast for the eyes and so clever.

My husband Mark Flannery wrote all the music too. We'd already written some songs together and some of them made it into the play. They are very catchy and will get into your head (in a good way) if you come and see the play.

So you created a whole new story for the play… How different was writing a script to writing a book?
I loved the challenge of thinking of scenes that would look spectacular on the stage. Not all the main characters made it into the play due to numbers – so that was different from writing a book. I really enjoyed writing lots of dialogue too. Then listening to the actors saying those lines and bringing them to life was amazing.

Do actor Tom and actors Tom’s buddies reflect how you see them in your head?
The cast have all done such a brilliant job of bringing them to life. The energy and pace the play goes at - that feels like the books too.

What are you most excited about in terms of bringing the show to the UAE?
I'm really looking forward to seeing how the children react to the play. I know we all love it – so I hope they do too.

What’s next for Tom and the gang?
There's a Tom Gates music book and Tom Gates app that helps kids to learn how to play some of the songs from the play – that's out now. So that was exciting. I'm writing a new book that will be out in June 2020 too, so never a dull moment.
Tom Gates Live is coming to the UAE, with ticket prices starting from Dhs130. Thu Jan 30, 6pm; Fri Jan 31, 11am & 4pm and Sat Feb 1, 2pm and 5pm, The Theatre at Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. From Dhs52.50. Thu Jan 23, 7.30pm. Children's Theatre, Abu Dhabi, www.artforall.ae (04 304 2340).

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