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We caught up with author Giles Andreae who has written many children’s bestsellers including Rumble in the Jungle, Commotion in the Ocean and our Made at Curve family production this Christmas, Giraffes Can’t Dance.
What inspired you to write Giraffes Can’t Dance?
When I first met my wife, she took me to stay with a friend of hers who lived in Kenya. They had all sorts of wildlife at the bottom of their garden and, the first evening I arrived, we went down to find a group of giraffes lazily munching at some acacia trees. Being wild, they began to move away when we approached. Suddenly, they broke into a gallop and I was astonished at the grace with which they moved. Their limbs were so long that it almost looked as though they were running in slow motion. It was absolutely beautiful. I suppose I had thought that with limbs that gangly, their movements wouldn’t be anything like so coordinated and elegant. That night, I started thinking about how perhaps we can all do things that people don’t necessarily expect us to be able to – we just have to find our own music that frees us to dance in our own unique way.
Of all the jungle creatures, why did you choose a Giraffe as the story’s main character?
Often, when I write a story, I will pick an animal whose physical attributes are key to the message that I want to get across. This has never been truer than in Giraffes Can’t Dance but, in this case, it really happened before my own eyes!
Why do you think this message is important for children? Do you think they need this message now more than ever?
There is so much competition thrust on children from an ever earlier age. It often takes time, when you’re little, to find out what really makes you tick. I do think it’s important to know that you don’t need to be the same as everybody else, and that being different can be a cause for celebration – now more than ever.
Have you always loved reading? What were your favourite books as a child?
I was lucky in that my parents read to me a lot from when I was very young. My favourite stories were Dr Seuss’s fables – in particular The Sneetches, The Lorax and Yertle the Turtle. I was aware that they had very strong social messages behind them, but they were also wonderfully anarchic and displayed such a love and playfulness of language.
What do you enjoy about creating books for children?
I love that a story can take you absolutely anywhere – the only limit is your imagination. Often, when I begin a book, I have no idea how it will end. It’s a very exciting process. Collaboration with the illustrator is also a real joy. It’s a privilege to be able to work with such talented and creative people, who bring so much more to a book than is just there in the text.
The book’s pages are colourful and vibrant thanks to Guy Parker-Rees’s illustrations; how do you feel about seeing this production come to life on stage?
I find it thrilling, exciting… and just a bit nerve-wracking! I love the way that a creative discipline such as theatre can take your own work in a new direction and bring it to life in a way that makes it fresh to you – and to the audience as well.
Can you dance? What’s your go-to move?
I LOVE dancing, but it’s “dad moves” only for me. The more embarrassing these are for my children, the better!
Giraffes Can’t Dance is a Made at Curve, Rose Theatre Kingston and Simon Friend Entertainment co-production in association with Hachette Children’s Group and Coolabi Group.