Friday, 27 November 2015

INTERVIEW - Steven Webb - I Want My Hat Back, National Theatre's Temporary Theatre

Steven Webb as Rabbit in I Want My Hat Back. Credit Richard Davenport

FROM the age of about four Steven Webb knew he wanted to be on stage.
And he was true to his dream, taking the lead role in Oliver! At the London Palladium when he was 10. Since then he’s appeared on stage in a variety of roles including The History Boys, and has appeared in the BBC series The Magician’s House and in ITV’s Bad Girls.
His latest role however is a bit unusual, for he plays a rabbit in an adaptation of Jon Klassen's classic children's book I Want My Hat Back.
The show is being staged at the Temporary Theatre - formerly the Shed - the National's red box structure on its forecourt.
It has been adapted by Steven’s friends Joel Horwood with music by Arthur Darvill and he says he’s loving every moment.
“When I first read it I realised how funny it was,” he says. “The original book is only about eight or nine pages long so it’s quite short but it’s such a lovely story.
“When Joel mentioned he wanted to do an adaptation and for me to be in it I had no hesitation in saying yes."
The story is about a bear who loves his red hat but one morning he wakes up and realises the hat has gone missing.
So he goes on a journey into the forest to find it and visits lots of the animals along the way to ask if they've seen it.
“The animals he meets give him different responses but it's when he gets to the rabbit that it gets interesting, because the rabbit is actually wearing the hat," says Steven.
“I tell him that I don’t know where the hat is, even though I know full well it’s on my head. What happens next and how the bear reacts, well you will have to come and see the show!
“We’ve had to stretch it a bit and we’ve added music and songs but we’ve tried to remain true to the story - although there is a better ending for the rabbit!” he adds warmly.
The show is designed for those aged three and up and was devised by the company over a period of a few months, something Steven says was “a wonderful experience”.
“It’s been such a fun and lovely time doing rehearsals and actually getting the show together,” he says. “It was very much like a workshop every day as we all went in and helped create ideas for the show so it feels like an ensemble effort."
And he says he’s enjoying being a rabbit, something he’s not done before.
“I’ve done a lot of panto in the past so used to doing shows for younger audiences but never played a rabbit before,” he laughs. “However it is really good fun.
“The costume and set designers have come up with some brilliant ways to show the animals. For example the fox has a lovely moustache and I’ve got some fantastic ears - as well as developed a hop.
“We’ve also used various items you’d find in any home to create props – pot plants have become the forest – it’s been a lot of fun.
“So far the reaction from our mostly young audience has been great so we are having a fantastic time."
So does the bear get his hat back I ask?
"You'll have to come and find out," says Steven.

I Want My Hat Back is on at the National's Temporary Theatre until January 2. Tickets from £10. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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