An interview with the writer of The Ugly Duckling


The Herd are Supported Artists at Hull Truck Theatre who make original shows about the world young people live in today.

Treating children under 7 and their families to something truly festive, the team have reimagined a Hans Christian Andersen classic into a fun and vibrant Christmas show. In this interview with writer Sam Caseley, we find out what The Ugly Duckling: Christmas Special is all about.


Hi, Sam. So tell us, why did you choose this tale in particular?

The Ugly Duckling is such a well-known story and there's lots of ways it can be read. The reading we were interested in was the idea that when you're young, life is pretty bad – you're ugly, and when you grow up everything is brilliant, you become a glorious swan.

That stands against what we believe as a company – being young should be valued as much as growing up, it's not a rehearsal for adulthood, so we wanted to explore the story from that angle.


How are you bringing it to life for Truck audiences and giving it a Herd style?

Well, like all of our work, it's an original show – it’s inspired by The Ugly Duckling, not a retelling of it. We've put the experience of childhood right at the centre, which all our work does in some way. The show is set at a School for Cygnets, where they’re preparing for their swan displays in which they have to show the pond how well they can act like swans. We've got an original score and songs, plus it's very funny!


Tell us a little about the characters and actors.

Phoebe Vigor plays Sidney, a cygnet, and the 'ugly duckling' of our story. Sidney has a great imagination and is brilliant at playing games, but she's not very good at her Swan Work.

Sophie Mercell plays Spruce, a cygnet who can't wait to be a swan. She works very hard on being like a powerful and graceful swan.

Sophie Clay plays Coach Spring, a swan who is teaching the cygnets how to act like swans. She wants the best for her pupils but gets frustrated when they aren't getting things quite right.

We know that adults and children alike will love what we’ve done with the characters, it’s all a lot of fun and perfect for the festive season.


The Herd focuses on educating as well as entertaining. What will children learn?

It's a show about not rushing to grow up, about living in the present and enjoying today. We hope this is as relevant for parents as it is for children, especially at this time of year!


What's been your favourite part of the rehearsal process?

The actors and the creative team visited Greenway Academy to speak to and observe some of their children in Foundation stage and Year 1, which was fascinating and fun.

We also visited NAPA on Anlaby Road to observe some of their dance classes, which was incredibly enlightening. It was brilliant to see how seriously the young people took their dance.


So how about you, Sam? What will you be doing this Christmas and what are you looking forward to the most?

It's my first Christmas in Hull so I can't wait to explore it in its festive glory! I'm going to walk on the marina, visit some of the cosy Old Town pubs, see a few Christmas shows and hopefully play some board games.


And finally, what's next for The Herd in 2019?

Our show SLIME returns to Hull Truck Theatre during February half term and will then travel further afield in the summer. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with new developments.


You can catch The Ugly Duckling: Christmas Special at Hull Truck Theatre until Saturday 5 January. Tickets are £10 and concessions £8. For tickets, contact the box office on 01482 323638 or book online.

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