David Walliams has admitted he was surprised by how “engaged” schoolchildren were by a play based on his Demon Dentist book as he worried many would be used to using “passive” technology.
he Britain’s Got Talent judge and author, 51, said he was “pleased” by the audience reaction when he attended Birmingham Stage Company’s touring adaptation in Manchester on Thursday.
He said those in the audience did “brilliantly” and that he had never heard a “noisier audience”.
The production, from the producers of Walliams’ Gangsta Granny and Billionaire Boy stage shows, is currently on tour and will arrive in the West End this Christmas.
Walliams, who is father to nine-year-old son Alfred, told the PA news agency: “It was an amazing reaction because I was watching it at 10.30 in the morning and I did think, ‘Who goes to the theatre at 10.30 in the morning?’ Schools! So it was full of kids. There were about 1,000 kids in there and their teachers.
“And what I was so pleased about was how engaged they were with the story, how much noise they were making. There were lots of laughs. Lots of ‘ahs’ and yucky things and shrieks at the slightly scary things.
“Because you worry that kids are just going to want to be on iPads and they’re not going to engage, they’re not going to know how to be an audience. Because when you’re on an iPad or watching the TV or whatever, it is pretty passive.
“But in the theatre you’ve got a job to do as an audience member. You have got to be part of it, you have got to listen, you have got to react and everything. And they did just brilliantly.
“So actually I don’t think I’ve ever heard a noisier audience than I did this morning – and I was not ready for it because I’ve been up since six o’clock this morning to get to Manchester to see the show. And I was like, ‘My goodness me, I never knew an audience could be so loud’.”
Demon Dentist begins with strange things happening in young Alfie’s town, where children are leaving their teeth for the tooth fairy and waking up to find horrible things under their pillows.
It is adapted and directed by Neal Foster and designed by Jackie Trousdale.
Little Britain star Walliams also issued a call to protect theatres amid the cost-of-living crisis but acknowledged things were difficult financially across many sectors.
He told PA: “The arts is one of the things that this country has always excelled at. Our art has gone around the world, whether it’s music, whether it’s visual art, movies and theatre. So to me, it’s something that is really important.
“But it’s a very difficult time for everybody, isn’t it? And so it’s quite hard to know exactly what the priorities are. But the problem is when you lose theatres, you lose libraries, you lose galleries, you lose whatever – you lose them forever and you tend not to get them back. And then people are out of the habit of going and they don’t come back.
“So I think it’s really important. It’s certainly important to me and I think these things, it’s hard to put a value on them because it’s not the same as like going to a hospital or something. But at the same time, it enriches your life in a way that you can’t fully explain.”