FOUR timeless stories from the enchanted imagination of Eric Carle will be told by a magical menagerie of 75 puppets in The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show at the Grand Opera House, York, from Wednesday to Saturday.

The 60-minute show premiered in Australia in 2015 before opening in New York in January 2016 at the Acorn Theatre, where it broke box-office records, and it is now on a British tour after a West End run with its faithful stage adaptation of a quartet of Carle's tales: The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Carle’s books have captivated generations of readers with their hand-painted illustrations and distinctively simple stories, introducing millions of children to a bigger, brighter world and to their first experience of reading itself. His best-known work, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has nibbled its way into the hearts of millions of children worldwide, after being translated into 62 languages en route to selling 43 million copies and becoming one of the top ten best-selling children’s books of all time.

Since its first publication in 1969, Carle has illustrated more than 70 books, most of which he also wrote, and more than 132 million copies have sold globally.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show has been adapted for the stage by director Jonathan Rockefeller, whose production requires four master puppeteers, Andrew Cullimore, Sarah Hamilton, Katie Haygarth and Adam Ryan, to weave their way through Carle’s stories. Between them, they have performed previously in Charlie And Lola, In The Night Garden Live and The Smurfs Live world tour.

"Eric Carle has created a deceptively simple, yet sophisticated introduction to reading through the magic of his iconic collage illustrations and memorable stories," says Rockefeller. "I still have my original copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and to this day can’t help but be enthralled by the stylish and captivating art in Eric’s work.

“For many in the audience, this show will undoubtedly be their very first time at the theatre, so we have been very conscientious to ensure that we have been absolutely faithful to their favourite characters. Our goal is to take the audience on a truly memorable journey, bringing these stories to life through the magic of puppetry, movement and stagecraft. We have a menagerie of larger-than-life puppets, bursting with vibrant colour: it’s astonishing to compare the original illustrations to the puppets and see how exact they are."

York Press:

Author Eric Carle

Just A Quickie with...director Jonathan Rockefeller

How did you first become involved with The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, Jonathan?

"In 2012 I had a crazy idea that these wonderful, simple picture books that the entire world grew up on – 132 million copies sold – would make a great visual show, and so I sat down with my sketchbook and began. Getting Eric Carle on board is a whole other story…!"

How did you and the creative team approach transferring Eric Carle’s illustrations into the 3D world of theatre?

"It was a challenge to translate these books into the world of theatre because all of Eric Carle’s iconic illustrations are flat and seen from one angle, so we had to imagine what it was like to see the same object from all angles.

"The second challenge we had was each animal needed to move seamlessly as it would in the real world. The colours were the third challenge to get exactly right, bringing Eric's painted tissue-paper collage to life on a large scale.

"But it took a lot of trial and error and revising scale and building patterns and adapting our techniques, using industrial fabrics from construction sites instead of paper, and broomsticks as paintbrushes."

Have you met Eric Carle, and has he seen the show?

"It was a long journey to bring the show to the stage and took the collaborative work of my team and Eric’s team to ensure everything was perfect when compared to Eric's illustrations.

"Eric has been so complimentary throughout the journey; he’s so witty and charming. Eric wasn’t able to see the show’s debut in Australia, but he came to the New York premiere with all his family and friends. Aside from the excited children sitting around the group, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. Although everyone had been part of the journey, finally seeing Eric’s life work have a life of its own was moving for everyone. It was truly special."

Do you have a favourite story in the show?

"Aside from our ‘little green friend’ – which is the big climax in the end – I like the story The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse. It’s a story about an artist painting animals in unusual colours, like a yellow cow and a pink rabbit, and then he is surprised when his artistic creations interact with him and the audience."

Do you have a favourite puppet in the show?

"It’s hard to pick a favourite; there are so many to like! Lions, polka-dotted donkeys… the caterpillar! Actually, I think my favourite is the lionfish from Mister Seahorse; he has a bonkers expression on his face but fantastic long fins that are quite mesmerising."

Why is The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show such a great introduction to theatre for young children?

"Eric Carle’s work has delighted young readers for generations. For so many children, it's almost a rite of passage to be introduced to reading from this book – and it's the perfect introduction to the theatre with 75 incredible puppets coming to life in front of their eyes."

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show will be performed at the Grand Opera House, York, at 4.30pm on Wednesday; 11am and 1.30pm, Thursday; 1.30pm and 4.30pm, Friday; 11am and 2pm, Saturday. Tickets are on sale at £15.25 and £17.25 at or on 0844 871 3024.