LEWIS Carroll's story of The Hunting Of The Snark is setting sail for the Grand Opera House, York, in a funny, joyful, fast-paced family musical that docks in York this weekeend.

Friday's 1.30pm and 4.30pm performances have been scratched, but don't miss the boat if you still want to see the show: Saturday's 11am and 2pm shows are going ahead.

That day, the impossible voyage of an improbable crew to hunt an imaginary creature will be brought magically to life in a musical comedy adventure for four to 94 year olds.

On tour after a West End run, the 70-minute show taps into the imaginative world of Alice In Wonderland creator Lewis Carroll in a new, highly original, ultra-modern adaptation inspired by his much-loved classic poem, featuring five high-energy actors, life-like puppets, fantastical characters and lashings of daft humour.

Written for the stage by Annabel Wigoder, with musical direction by Tom Recknell and lyrics by Gareth Cooper, this production by Reading company Alice House is directed by Gemma Colclough.

"We addressed 'Snark' as a family show and the key is to make everyone laugh," says Gemma. "Generally humour is the unifying theme, particularly when taking a slapstick, non-patronising route."

In Carroll's tale, a riotous ragtag gang of bold adventurers – the Boy, the Banker, the Butcher, the Baker, the Bellman and the knitting Beaver – sets off on a quest to catch the mythical Snark. On the journey, they encounter the Jub Jub bird, the sly Bandersnatch and the dastardly Boojum, but can a Snark be caught with soap? Will the Beaver escape the hungry Butcher’s clutches? Will the Baker remember his name? Does anyone know what a Snark actually looks like?

"What we've done with 'Snark, as Lewis Carroll's original story makes no sense at all, is put in the story of the father and son, who are estranged. The father's a pompous banker, so we have a bit of a dig at the financial world, while the son, who we've brought into the story, is a happy-go-lucky child aged eight or nine, and their story is a universal one.

"I like to say we've taken inspiration from Lewis Carroll's poem, rather than doing a literal translation. We've had to make sure that while the story is funny and silly, it's also more rounded, with a moral core and a storyline that makes complete sense and character arcs that work."

York Press:

"Really it's a metaphor for the hunt for happiness," says director Gemma Colclough, making sense of Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem The Hunting Of The Snark

The boy will be played by 23-year-old actress Jordan Leigh-Harris. "I spotted her in a London showcase at the Arts Theatre when she was training at the University of Cumbria," Gemma recalls. "She was studying drama but happened to be a big old musical buff anyway."

The Banker character, incidentally, was inspired by someone rather closer to home. "He's sort of based on my father, who's as camp as a row of tents and totally embraces 1970s' English comedy, and I'm pretty sure he'd embrace that description too!" says Gemma.

The show has undergone gone "four or five iterations" to reach the present version, which is now touring after a run at the Vaudeville Theatre in Covent Garden in July and August. "Having started off in a small tent at Latitude Festival with four people watching, this is now the version that we're happy to show everyone and I just hope that people like it," says Gemma.

"We have five actors playing around ten characters; there's a big old Beaver, who knits on stage, and we have a huge Jub Jub bird, who's essentially like an eight-foot ostrich but with amazing colours. The designs by Justin Nardella are fabulous; he's the associate designer on Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, and for us he's created Snark Island as a psychedelic world of madness full of flowers and plants, in contrast to grey, drab London, where it's all smoky, dark, industrial grime."

Gemma has worked previously with writer Annabel Wigoder on plays with adult themes. "I liked the idea of hiring a writer who writes visceral, sweary theatre about drug abuse, challenging people's perceptions of society, and thinking how fun it would be to have her write something psychedelic and colourful for children where you can lose yourself for an hour," she says.

Growing up as an only child with in a small village in the Derbyshire Dales, Gemma was an avid reader, particularly enjoying The Hunting Of The Snark, her favourite childhood story, which she recalls finding printed at the back of her copy of Alice In Wonderland.

"I had a very, very vivid imagination, always making up stories, and that hasn't left me as an adult," she says. "That sense of play, being silly and doing things that aren't quite rooted in reality is still important in your adult years, where you can be a highly functioning adult but still have room for a little madness too."

Summing up the abiding appeal of Carroll's poem, Gemma concludes: "Really it's a metaphor for the hunt for happiness and what you should do is enjoy the journey towards finding that happiness."

The Hunting Of The Snark, Grand Opera House, York, September 30, 11am and 2pm; suitable for age four upwards. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york