The Gruffalo Live on Stage

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The Glasshouse and CDP Theatre presents The Gruffalo, Live on Stage! Kyle Kaczmarczyk is The Gruffalo a big, shaggy beast with a fearsome roar – the type of beast we all think lives only in our imaginations! Join a talented cast as their adventure evolves in the deep, dark woods. Children will love this tale, based on the famous book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler…

Hi Kyle. Why did you become an actor?

I was born in Perth. My dad was a retail manager, and we moved around quite a lot – so when I was about 10 or 11, we moved to South Australia. Adelaide is where I call home now; that’s where I went to acting school, at AC Arts (Adelaide College of the Arts).

There was never anything else I was really interested in apart from acting. In primary school I always liked being the centre of attention and in was in school plays, and I thought if I could make a career out of it – why not!

You’ve worked in quite a few productions on stage, and in short films as well. Is The Gruffalo your first children’s production?

No, actually! I did a show with CDP Theatre Productions before called Billionaire Boy, based on the wonderful book by David Walliams. Back even further than that, after I graduated in Adelaide we developed a show for kids with hearing disabilities, called Enough Said, where I needed to learn all the monologues in sign language, as well as speaking them. We took this on tour over the Adelaide Fringe Festival at the time – so that was my first foray into children’s theatre.

You’re about to go on tour with The Gruafflo now … How much have you enjoyed working on the production?

It’s been so incredible! Everybody in the show is such a joy to work with and because we’re doing it for the kids, there’s such a real sense of joy that comes from them too! It makes the whole thing much more enjoyable.

I love CDP as a company too, because they really look after their performers and their productions, and The Gruffalo is one of their biggest properties. 

The people I worked with last year on tour with The Gruffalo are pretty much returning, except for one – Hayden Baum, who’s doing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – so we have a wonderful new actor this year called Skyler Ellis, who’s come in to fill Hayden’s very big shoes. He’s doing incredibly!

We’ve had one week of rehearsals last week, which was pretty full on and very hot and sweaty, but we’re all just loving it! This was to get me and Shannen Sarstedt (who plays the mouse) back into the swing of things and to bring Skyler on board.

I was looking at the costumes … I don’t know how you do it!

(Laughs) It’s pretty insane! It was much worse this time around than it was last year, because we were rehearsing in the winter then … but it’s so muggy here in Sydney at the moment!

Were you familiar with the story of The Gruffalo before you acted in the production?

Only briefly. I think I had it read to me once when I was in primary school, but I honestly don’t remember it. I remember seeing in those Book Club catalogues that used to come around at school more than once, because it’s always been such a popular book. It was released 20 years ago, but it’s still going strong – which is phenomenal!

I had to remind myself of the story, so I went out and bought the book before I auditioned (and I bought The Gruffalo’s Child as well) and I read it from cover to cover three or four times. I can recite the whole thing off by heart now!

How similar is the stage production to the book?

Pretty similar. We follow all the main points of the book and the words from the actual story are in the show, so we can make it clear to the kids where we are in the book – but there’s a script that revolves around that too, to give you more of a full stage show story.

When parents take their kids to see a stage show, they’re obviously looking for a few things! They want their children to be entertained, but there are often morals or lessons to be learned from children’s stories. Have you given any thought to what kids can learn from The Gruffalo?

The one thing I take away most from the story is to keep your wits about you. The mouse comes up against three predators with ulterior motives – they all want to eat the poor little mouse – but she has a sense of caution about her and also confidence when it comes to approaching each new predator. 

Even after she meets The Gruffalo – whom she thought she’d made up, but turns out to be a real character in the end (aaggghhh!) she still has to outwit him too. She’s a very intelligent little mouse. It’s important to have some fun, but keep your wits about you as well!

Of course, you’re both The Gruffalo and the Narrator in the production. Just how scary is The Gruffalo?

Awww … he’s not so scary! He’s a big softie! I will admit that the very first time we hear The Gruffalo, he can be a little bit scary, because he has a pretty mean roar. And when we see him, it’s pretty daunting, because he’s a really big guy! Some of the little kids may find him a bit scary to start with, but as the story goes on, you realise he’s just a big softie and he has a heart as well and can get scared too – just like all of us.

And that brings us to another important message as well – it’s OK to be scared! 

Thanks Kyle.
Interview: Jo Robinson.

Photo (hero): 2017 Australian cast; photo by Heidrun Lohr.

THE PLUG

See The Gruffalo at the Glasshouse on 22nd March at 4:30pm.
Tickets: adult $35; under 18 $25; family (2 adults, 2 children $98).
Visit glasshouse.org.au or call the Box Office on 6581 8888 for details.

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