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Adapting Room for the stage - Emma Donoghue

Even while I was writing Room as a novel, I always had a feeling that it would work on stage, because the premise is so inherently theatrical, it’s almost a metaphor for theatre: two people in a room conjuring up a world of play, imagination and intimacy out of the most everyday materials. Not that the adaptation process was easy, but it always felt as if we were on the right path: as if retelling Jack and Ma’s story on stage made obvious sense as an enterprise.

Funnily enough, the startling international success of Lenny Abrahamson’s film of Room helped me write the play, because I felt freed from any need to be naturalistic in every detail about the kidnap situation or the aftermath of escape. I thought the film had pushed the story as far towards naturalism as it could go, and for the theatre production, by contrast, we should go back to what readers had responded to so strongly in the novel – Jack’s buoyant, world-creating voice – and also let ourselves use more overtly theatrical devices such as puppetry.

Two unexpected pleasures, for me, that came out of our development process: the interplay between Big and Little Jack (a pragmatic device, but also, it turns out, a really rich way of showing what big minds live in little bodies), and the overwhelming emotional impact of Cora and Kathryn’s songs.

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