Do you remember having the amazing adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie read to you as a kid? Nicholas Hiatt plays Snugglepot in the fabulous stage adventure of May Gibb’s classic story, which drops into the Capitol Theatre, Tamworth, on August 12. The timeless magic of this classic Australian fairy tale will delight both children and their parents!
Hi Nicholas. You’ve had a variety of experience with both on stage and screen performances since you graduated from NIDA in 2013.What’s been the most rewarding aspect of playing May Gibbs’ character, Snugglepot, in the stage adaptation of her wonderful books?
One of the most rewarding aspects of this role has been the sheer joy of playing a character that stimulated my own imagination as a kid. I first had the book read to me in school back in Perth when I was eight years old, and here I am in this new production bringing it to life for another whole generation of children. That’s something pretty special. I’d like to think that eight year old me would be really excited.
Also, the response from children is incredible. Many are attending the theatre for the first time in their lives. They’re really the most honest and appreciative of audiences and as a performer, that can be really invigorating. It’s brought back a lot of my own cherished memories of going to the theatre as a child and reminded me of why I got into this career in the first place.
How would you describe your character?
Snugglepot is a gumnut who lives in the Australian bush on a high branch in a tree with his foster brother, Cuddlepie, who’s also his best friend. Snugglepot is definitely the bigger rascal of the two brothers. He’s courageous, adventurous, joyful and kind. He’s never afraid to jump in and try something new, although often it’s his impulsiveness that gets the brothers into trouble. He also loves to dance!
May Gibbs wrote several books based around her characters Snugglepot and Cuddlepie. Without giving too much away, tell us a bit about the story that unfolds in this stage adaptation …
This show follows the first book in the series. It all starts with Snugglepot deciding he desperately wants to see these incredible and mysterious things called “Humans”. He convinces a reluctant Cuddlepie to join him on an adventure through the Australian Bush and on the way, they team up with the outrageous Mr Lizard and get into a lot of trouble.
Many children (and adults) will be familiar with the “Big, Bad Banksia Man” character – the villain of May Gibbs’ stories. Will audiences get to see this villain in action … and just how scary is he?
The Banksia Man is the scariest, most terrifying character in the whole show! Well, almost … Mrs Snake is even scarier! Then again, maybe I just find them scary because I’m a grown up … Children are much braver.
The costumes in the show look gorgeous. Who was responsible for their creation?
Credit there goes to our costume designer, Matthew Aberline, who has worked in everything from opera to feature film. He told me a lot of his inspiration came from 1920s fashion. He has created a very grungy, tactile feel for all the costumes, grounded in a sense of elegance and nostalgia whilst still conjuring a sense of May Gibbs’ beautiful illustrations.
I should mention that apart from looking fantastic, they’re also practical. With the cast doing so much climbing and tumbling all over the stage during such a long tour, these costumes are built to last! My gumnut hat is very cute but after a three-show day, I sure am grateful for those kneepads.
The adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie have stood the test of time – they were originally published from around 1918. Why do you think these stories are still so popular today?
I think these stories are still popular because kids love the idea of magical creatures and fairies living in the garden, and May Gibbs managed to tap into that. All the fairy tales she grew up with were set in Europe and even a hundred years on, a lot of the stories Australians grow up with don’t necessarily take place in a world they recognise. But May Gibbs put that fantasy world into our own backyard.
It’s also a generational thing. My grandparents grew up with these books and read them to my mother before she introduced them to me. They’re the perfect books to read to very young children.
What age group do you feel would get the most enjoyment out of the show?
The show is pitched towards children aged 5 to 10, but we’ve had children even younger come along and really love it. But many parents and grandparents experienced these stories as children, so I think this show really connects to entire families.
It’s quite an extensive tour that’s planned for this production. How much are you looking forward to seeing so much of Australia?
Travelling more in Australia is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. A few years ago I returned home after nearly a year in Europe singing on a cruise ship and realised just how little of my own country I’d seen. I can’t think of a better way to do it than by touring a show based on such an iconic Australian book.
Interview by Jo Robinson.
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, in association with Money Baa Theatre Company, adapted by Eva Di Cesare, Sandra Eldridge and Tim McGarry from a series of books by May Gibbs by arrangement with the Northcott Society and Cerebral Palsy Alliance.
See Snugglepot and Cuddlepie on August 12 at 6pm.