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Chat with Mr Rockefeller

Jonathan Rockefeller is the writer, director and creator of 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', coming to the Rose Theatre. Muddy caught up to, er, chew things over

Jonathan Rockefeller is the writer, director, and the creator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, which comes to the Rose Theatre from May 31 -3 June. The show has travelled the world, amassing many awards along the way. Muddy caught up to, er, chew things over

When and how did you first get involved with The Very Hungry Caterpillar?

In 2012 I had a crazy idea that these wonderful, simple picture books that the entire world grew up on (132 million copies sold) would make a great visual show. And so I sat down with my sketchbook and began. Getting Eric Carle on board is a whole other story…

How did you and the creative team approach translating Eric Carle’s iconic illustrations into the 3D world of theatre?

It was a challenge to translate these books into the 3D world of theatre because all of Eric Carle’s iconic illustrations are flat and seen from one angle, so we had to imagine what it was like to see the same object from ALL angles. The second challenge we had was each animal needed to move seamlessly as it would in the real world. The colours were the third challenge to get exactly right to – bringing his painted tissue paper collage to life on a large scale. But it took a lot of trial and error and revising scale and building patterns, and adapting our techniques – using industrial fabrics from construction sites instead of paper, and broomsticks as paintbrushes.

Have you met Eric Carle, and has he seen the show?

It was a long journey to bring the show to the stage, and took the collaborative work of my team and Eric’s team to ensure everything was perfect when compared to Eric illustrations. Eric has been so complimentary throughout the journey – he’s so witty and charming. Eric wasn’t able to see the show’s debut in Australia, but he came to the New York premiere with all his family and friends. Aside from the excited children sitting around the group, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Although everyone had been part of the journey, finally seeing Eric’s life work have a life of its own was moving for everyone. It was truly special.

Do you have a favourite story in the show?

Aside from our ‘little green friend’ (which is the big climax in the end) I like the story ‘I Am an Artist’. It’s a story about an artist painting animals in unusual colours like a yellow cow, and a pink rabbit – and then he is surprised when his artistic creations interact with him and the audience.
Do you have a favourite puppet in the show?

It’s hard to pick a favourite – there are so many to like! Lions, polka-dotted donkeys… the caterpillar! Actually, I think my favourite puppet in the show is the lionfish from the story Mister Seahorse that is the second story we tell in this show. He has a bonkers expression on his face but fantastic long fins that are quite mesmerizing.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a great first introduction to theatre for young children. Why do you think this is?

Eric Carle’s work has delighted young readers for generations. For so many children it is almost a right of passage to be introduced to reading from this book – and it is the perfect introduction to the theatre with 75 incredible puppets coming to life in front of their eyes!

Why should families come and see the show?

I asked a four-year coming out of the show why people should come and see it. He told me “It was the best-est most amazing, incredible show he had ever seen in his entire life, and I can not wait to see it again”. Coming from a four year old that’s the highest possible praise and why we do this show.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar is at the Rose Theatre, Kingston from Wed 31 May – Sun 4 Jun. Tickets cost £12.50, but if you book for three family shows (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Scarecrows’ Wedding only), tickets are £10 per show, valid for weekday performances.

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