Young audiences and their families will this Christmas be transported in the Crucible Studio to Silversands to see the mermaid who sang in the deep blue bay.
This year’s show in the Crucible Studio is the Singing Mermaid based on the story by Julia Donaldson illustrated by Sheffield-based Lydia Monks.
It’s the story of a mermaid who is tempted away from her peaceful home at Silversands to join a travelling circus but find herself trapped by the wicked circus master Sam Sly.
Although she wasn’t directly involved in the co-production between Little Angel puppet theatre in London and Northampton Royal and Derngate the illustrator is pleased with its look. “The puppets do look like the pictures so that people going to see it will recognise characters from the books immediately,”she says. “They kept the look of the books for the whole show. So it was lovely to see the characters brought to life.
“It opened last Christmas in Northampton which is my home town, and played in the summer in London, and now it’s come to the Crucible so it seems to be following me around. It’s nice to have it coming home. “
On the theatrical adaptation of another Julie Donaldson story she illustrated, What the Ladybird Heard Lydia Monks was involved in the whole design “With Little Angel Theatre they do it all themselves but it looks beautiful. It really is stunning. I am really pleased with it, it’s a magical little show.”
The Singing Mermaid is one of 11 books on which Lydia Monks has collaborated with Julia Donaldson although writer and illustrator work separately.
“With the Singing Mermaid Julia did ask me what kind of book I would like to do next and one of my girls loved mermaids at the time so I suggested that,” says the illustrator. “The same with the unicorn one. So sometimes I will come up with the theme and she will go off and do it. You never know what’s coming next though.”
Her daughters are now aged 11 and 13 and not so handy for ideas, she laments. Isn’t she tempted to write for their age group?
“It doesn’t work like that,” she laughs. “We don’t progress as they grow up. And grown up books don’t have pictures in them. Funnily enough, though, I am working on a new book which will be slightly older readers. It’s actually based on the tree issue in Sheffield .
“It’s about the history of a street tree and what happens on the street where it lives. It’s ambiguous as to who’s telling the story. They think it’s a person but it’s not.
“It won’t be out for a couple of years but it’s not an issue that will go away and it’s happening everywhere, not just Sheffield.”
It’s hard fitting it into the schedule. I am just re-writing it at the moment. It is with Macmillans who publish all my books and we’ve just had an editing session and we decided to make it slightly longer. I have done all the roughs for the pictures, it’s just waiting for a slot.”
Monks says she tends to alternate between illustrating one of her own stories and one of Julia Donaldson’s. “I haven’t worked with anyone else for a bit because she tends to keep me quite busy. She’s quite prolific, she produces a good handful of books each year with different illustrators.
“Right now I am working on my own books, I am just completing the fourth in the Too-Whit Too-Whoo series. I just wish mine sold as much as Julia’s. People say to me, ‘oh you’ve started writing your own stories’ and I say I’ve been doing that since the very beginning.”
The Singing Mermaid runs in the Studio Theatre until December 30.