Vikki Stone: Bringing Tales to Life
Vikki Stone: Bringing Tales to Life
Vikki Stone on how stand-up comedy drove her to become a top writer and composer for children’s theatre shows…
Pictured: Vikki Stone photographed by David Reiss
It’s a busy festive season for writer, composer, comedian and musician Vikki Stone. The award-winning creative force is involved in three Christmas shows, including writing music and lyrics for a new version of Peter Pan at Kingston’s Rose Theatre and the script for Cinderella at the Lyric in Hammersmith.
She is passionate about bringing the power of theatre to young audiences. Vikki was the co-writer/adapter and musical supervisor of the hit show Hey Duggee, which won the 2023 Olivier award for Best Family Show. “For many of the audience this was their first experience of theatre. If you get it right, they will come back.”
It’s a tough ask when live shows have to compete against screen time, but they provide a much richer experience. “If the music, the set, the costumes, the trickery all work, it can be such a deeply sensory shared experience.”
She adds that with a children’s show, it’s important that everyone is brought along for the ride, and that the parents enjoy it as much as the kids. “Hey Duggee had nods to music genres that the parents would remember. There was even a toddler rave element, where the lights were sensational, and this really amused the parents.
Vikki Stone photographed by David Reiss
She is very much looking forward to the Christmas shows. She has worked with the Lyric before. “I was actually in their pantos and asked if I could write something. To my surprise, they said yes straight away.
For the Rose’s adaptation of Peter Pan, she has worked alongside the team on music and lyrics. “We start with an overture, which is unusual these days, but really gets the audience in the right mood for the show.”
When working on shows, Vikki feels it’s important to go back to the original source material. “With Peter Pan, we see that JM Barrie intended for Hook and Darling to be played by the same actor. In a child’s mind, they can be one and the same.” This duality is also the case with the Fairy Godmother and Evil Stepmother in Cinderella. “I referred to this old book on fairy stories called The Uses of Enchantment, which is quite insightful. These two characters represent both sides of mum, and most children will relate to seeing their parents as completely wonderful and magical one moment, then the next, so mean, they feel they can’t possibly be related!”
Vikki loves a panto, and says that a huge part of the appeal is their quirkiness. “I was working with a group of Americans and trying to explain panto to them and they looked at me as though I was insane. But it is a form of art that brings so many people into theatres. It has rules passed down such as when to boo, what to shout out. It is an oddity. But it will continue to evolve and appeal for years to come.”
The multi-skilled artist had a somewhat unusual route into where she is now, but it has equipped her well. She started out as a classical flute player in her teens, before moving into musical theatre. “I wanted to be the funny one but just wasn’t cast so I decided to write my own funny songs and I took them out on the cabaret circuit and then stand-up. It turned out I was quite good.
“But stand-up comedy 10 years ago was not a pleasant place for women. My male equivalents had more leeway, if you were a woman you had to be outstanding. It taught me to write songs so funny and lyrics so tight I wouldn’t get food thrown at me.”
She’s still in a fairly male-dominated field – and, she says, class-dominated. “It is changing though, particularly as the type of people who become artistic directors is changing.”
Next up for Vikki? “I’ve had five shows this year but you still have to keep hustling. You pitch, put together songs and hope people will like them enough to part with their treasured intellectual property. I’m currently trying to persuade the rights holders of a very popular classic children’s book and a 90s kids TV show!”