Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo, performs and writes to keep young

Author Julia Donaldson (second row, left) has roped in her husband Malcolm Donaldson (in red jacket) and her sister Mary Moore (far right) for the show. With them is actor James Huntington.
Author Julia Donaldson (second row, left) has roped in her husband Malcolm Donaldson (in red jacket) and her sister Mary Moore (far right) for the show. With them is actor James Huntington.PHOTO: KIDSFEST

Julia Donaldson will be performing in a musical which combines five of her picture book stories

English writer Julia Donaldson's stories for children have been the highlight of many stage productions here in recent years, including the award-winning The Gruffalo and its sequel, The Gruffalo's Child.

Next month, the author herself will be the star on stage - she will be performing in Gruffalos, Ladybirds And Other Beasts, a stage show that will run in Singapore from Jan 19 to 22.

The musical combines five of her picture book stories: The Gruffalo, her popular tale about a plucky mouse that meets the titular fantastical beast it had created; barnyard story What The Ladybird Heard; Jack And The Flumflum Tree, about a boy who goes on an adventure to look for the cure for his grandmother's "moozles"; Zog, a tale about a clumsy, eager- to-please dragon; and A Squash And A Squeeze, a tale where a woman learns to appreciate her small house.

Donaldson, 68, who used to be a busker around the world and went on to perform on children's television shows, says she enjoys both writing and performing her stories, which are "good foils to each other".

"Writing is obviously quite a solitary thing - it is more of me and my imagination - whereas performing is great because you meet and interact with people. So it's a lovely blend, really," she tells The Straits Times in a telephone interview.


  • WHERE: Victoria Theatre, 9 Empress Place

  • WHEN: Jan 19 and 20: 3 and 6pm; Jan 21 and 22: 11am and 4pm

  • ADMISSION: $42, $52 and $62; 10 per cent off tickets to two KidsFest shows or 15 per cent off tickets to three shows. Tickets from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555)

  • INFO: Recommended for children aged four and above. Go to www.kidsfest.com.sg

She has equally talented family members. Her sister Mary Moore, 66, and husband Malcolm Donaldson, 67, will appear alongside her and two other actors in the 55-minute show here.

This is not the first time the Glasgow-based writer is involving her family in her shows.

Her past collaborators have included her six-year-old granddaughter and even her 80-year-old aunt.

"Anyone who is lucky or unlucky enough to be in my family tends to get roped into my shows. It's a little bit like the von Trapp family," says Donaldson, referring to the musical family in The Sound Of Music (1965).

Her husband, a retired children's health specialist, plays the guitar in the show and also takes on roles such as the fox from The Gruffalo and Zog the dragon.

"His fox is quite legendary. He has all the best parts, it's not fair," says Donaldson, who has two sons - 29-year-old Jerry, a social worker, and lecturer Alastair, 35.

Her own multiple roles in the show include the ladybird from What The Ladybird Heard, a dragon teacher in Zog and the mouse in The Gruffalo.

Gruffalos, Ladybirds And Other Beasts is part of children's theatre festival, KidsFest. Organised by ABA Productions, the festival runs from Jan 11 to Feb 12.

The festival also includes stage shows of her other classic titles - an unlikely friendship in The Snail And The Whale; Stick Man, who encounters adventures as he tries to return to his "family tree"; as well as The Gruffalo.

Donaldson will not be appearing in these shows.

She says she has always loved performing.

As a child, she wrote shows and choreographed ballets for herself and her sister Mary to perform for their family.

She later went on to busk around the world with her husband Malcolm, then a friend. That journey led her to a career writing songs and performing on children's television programmes.

One of those songs, A Squash And A Squeeze, became her first children's book in 1993.

She has written more than 200 books, with more to come from her head.

"I don't think I'd get tired of performing. I've got so many books now and so many different stories I can perform. I kind of imagine that I'd just go on writing and performing, while my health allows it," she says.

In fact, it is her books, the invitations to perform and the performances that keep her "young and energetic".

"If I didn't have those, I might be settling down into a more staid retirement. I'm very grateful for the books," she adds.

Her many fans around the world are grateful too.

She recalls coming to Singapore about 10 years ago during a "world tour" with her husband while he was on a sabbatical from work.

During that trip, she visited bookstore Kinokuniya and received a "really long poem" from a bookseller she had met.

"It was about 58 verses long and was about every book I had ever written. It was very touching."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2016, with the headline 'Gruffalo's author to star in stage show'. Print Edition | Subscribe