Spotlight On: The Making of A Pocketful of Stories, Playwright’s Perspective
5-minute read // Published by Young Peoples Theatre, August 2023
Written by: Claire Thomas, playwright of A Pocketful of Stories. Foreword by Chelsea Willis.
Pictured: Jensen Nicholson, who plays the author in A Pocketful of Stories.
Join us for a three part Blog series, from the playwright of A Pocketful of Stories, Claire Thomas as she takes us through the creation process of our upcoming production. Claire is a talented writer, and this is her debut production as a playwright. Claire is a Theatre School Coordinator and tutor at YPT, and very fittingly is continuing the William Ford tradition of writing stories for our students, with this 75th Anniversary production. A modern ‘Ford’ production if you will. This three – part series will give you a glimpse into the writing process and how these stories came to be.
Chapter One – The Childhood.
Like all authors whom write whimsical tales – our childhoods play a large part in how we write today. So, it’s probably best to start from the beginning! If you see ‘A Pocketful of Stories’, it will all make sense when you know what I am about to tell you.
I was one of those kids who was always described as ‘living in my own little world’ and who had far too much empathy for beetles and moths. One time, I fell into the pool at a relative’s house, fully clothed in my new Christmas outfit, because I was trying to save wriggling beetles from drowning. Another time during a backyard cricket match between my dad and brother, I was huddled behind a bench, fashioning a house from twigs and leaves for a ladybug I had found. Unfortunately, the bench did not protect me from the cricket ball that hit me square on the forehead – making a lovely lump as red as the ladybugs coat!
As with a lot of ‘creative’ children – I didn’t always do well at school, however, I loved Science where we learned about the parts of flowers, the water cycle, butterfly cocoons and tadpoles transforming into frogs. I adored creative writing in English classes, but also loved spelling, grammar, vocabulary and comprehension. Thanks to my dad, I have a great admiration for words – what they mean, how they are formed and how to link them together to create emotive phrases. I remember writing pages and pages in creative writing while the other students only wrote the required one-page tale!
Reading was a great joy for me, of course. The library was a magical place and books gifted on birthdays and Christmas were greatly cherished. In the 1980’s, parents didn’t buy you anything between these times, but I remember my mum always kept my bookshelf topped up with Little Golden Picture books and other affordable titles. I adored picture books about animals and nature, Roald Dahl, May Gibbs, Paul Jennings, Beatrix Potter, Robin Klein, The Muddle-Headed Wombat, Blinky Bill, Brambly Hedge, Paddington Bear and the fairy tales.
My own backyard is where my imagination could fully flourish. For a good ten years, we lived in New Lambton Heights. A house that felt a hundred years old and was probably quite grand and stately when it was first built. It had a fabulous yard and a glasshouse that became our cubby house. Samantha and Jaclyn from next door where bookish and creative like me, so the glass house became the hot spot for many a great game. We were usually orphans, evading dangers such as thunderstorms and evil orphanage directors. We collected ‘berries’ and made ‘pies’ and ‘cakes.’ We had magic powers and could transform into eagles and dolphins, we crossed the perilous river (driveway) and tiptoed through poisonous mazes (dandelions). Accompanying us were various dogs and cats – some our own, some visiting from neighbouring houses. When the rain sent us tumbling inside, we drew pictures, created radio shows, sang along to Don Spencer and Peter Coombe cassettes, mimicked the Major General in The Pirates of Penzance, played with Barbie dolls and board games.
As a family, we often visited the beach and had a caravan at Pacific Palms where we spent endless summers. I was (and still am) a water baby who couldn’t get enough of the crystal blue waters we are so lucky to have in Australia. I collected seashells, coloured rocks, gumnuts and pine cones. I explored the sand dunes where I chased white crabs and rolled down the slopes.
With the other caravan park kids, we were mermaids, the smoggies, paperbark forest explorers who invented their own language
(bloolums = lollies. Very important holiday word!)
As an itty-bitty 3-year-old at the caravan park, I went missing one evening while everyone was socialising around the barbeque. Teenagers and adults searched the park until someone discovered me in their caravan, sitting under the table reading books. Well … looking at the pictures at least!
‘Living in my own little world’ has certainly followed me into adulthood, but I must say, it comes in quite useful as a picture book author! I don’t have children of my own but am grateful that I’m still able to the view the world through the lens of my small self. I’m continuously fascinated by the little things – delicate spider webs, the swirls of a snail shell, brown skinks that scatter into the bushes. I hope it’s an attribute that stays with me forever!
Part 2 coming soon…
YPT’s production of A Pocketful of Stories opens on 25 August. This is a perfect production for little ones and great introduction to theatre. We look forward to sharing Claire’s stories with you all. To book tickets go to ypt.org.au/bookings