(Lyn Gardner’s article appeared in the Guardian, 7/3; David Wood’s work appears in One on One: Playing with a Purpose, Monologues for Ages 7-15–order copies on the left side of this Web site.)
David Wood is used to people asking him if he is jealous of the success of Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the West End. Before the arrival of those mega-musicals, Wood was the premier page-to-stage adapter of the novels of Roald Dahl, with seven under his belt including very successful versions of The Witches (which gave magic consultant Paul Kieve one of his early jobs long before Harry Potter), The BFG and James and the Giant Peach.
Long before Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin teamed up for Matilda, Wood had a stab at transferring the story of Dahl's super-intelligent poppet with kinetic powers to the stage with musical duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe of Betty Blue Eyes and Mary Poppins fame. It didn't work out, but Wood has no regrets. He hasn't even seen Matilda, although he did slip in to see Charlie, and wasn't entirely impressed by everything he saw. But jealous? He shakes his head.
"Of course not. I do what I do, and they are doing something completely different. I may be seen as very old-fashioned, but when I write or adapt I'm always thinking of the children. I don't think what the grownups might want. I don't see that as my job," says Wood, whose Olivier-nominated adaptation of Judith Kerr's classic picture book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, returns to the West End this week for another summer season. It's a show that really has been a roaring success. "Even now when I watch it, I have a silly grin on my face," Wood confesses. "It's got all the things children love in stories: animals, food and a touch of magic or the surreal." They are clearly the things that Wood also loves. He may have recently turned 70, but there's a still a touch of the overgrown schoolboy about him.