Christmas is nearly here folks! And there are plenty of festive theatre shows for all the family to enjoy across Greater Manchester throughout the season. One which has caught the eye of Manchester pop culture blog The Journalix ( this year is the stage adaptation of Mr Popper’s Penguins.
They caught up with Emma Earle (Director of the show and Co-Artistic Director of Pins and Needles Productions) ahead of it’s run at Waterside Arts Centre, Sale.
How did you acquire the licensing for the much-loved book?
Pins and Needles approached Kenny Wax Family Entertainment with the idea to do a stage adaptation of the book by Richard and Florence Atwater. KWFE then acquired the rights.
Have you referred back to the original 1938 book or is this closer to Hollywood movie?
Our adaptation is very much based on the original book, rather than the movie. Upon reading the book, we felt the story lent itself brilliantly to being re-imagined on the stage. The book is a children’s classic in America, but less well established over here. We saw an opportunity to bring Mr and Mrs Popper and their comical struggles to manage their beloved penguins, to children over here.
How big was the challenge bringing these penguins to life up on stage?
We worked with Nick Barnes who designed and made the puppets to ensure that Mr and Mrs Popper feel over run by penguins. It’s a logistical and choreographic feat!
At Pins & Needles you talk about creating “imaginative ways of telling stories to challenge expectations and ignite younger audiences’ senses”
Theatricality and magic is really important to us so we’ve used all sorts of different techniques over the years – shadow puppetry, using miniatures, illusions, object manipulation, Foley, stylised movement and dance, 2D illustrations, animation, hand held lighting, audience participation… all sorts. Anything that gets audiences’ imaginations fired up!
Do you have your eyes on any other book adaptations or family movies that you feel can be brought to the stage?
Yes, but sadly nothing that we can announce just yet! New projects will be announced in the new year so watch this space!
You have a number of shows running at the moment, what should we see next?
Our show ‘Oi Frog and Friends!’ (adapted from the bestselling books by Kes Gray and Jim Field) is at the Lyric Theatre in the West End over Christmas, and touring throughout 2020. Or our beloved ‘Father Christmas’ and ‘The Bear’, both of which have played at Waterside, are at Lyric Hammersmith, Warwick Arts Centre, Norden Arts and touring.
What does the future hold for the production?
We would love to see our penguins tour the UK in future. They’ve spent a lot of time in the USA charming people, and we’d like them to do the same here.
What does the future hold for Pins & Needles?
We have four exciting new projects in development – for a range of ages – and will be announcing in early 2020. So watch this space!
Mr Popper’s Penguins opens to the public on 27 November and runs until 31 December. Schools performances are also available – for a full breakdown see:
The show is recommended for children aged between 3 and 11.
Cookies and milk packs are also available to pre-order along with your tickets for just an extra £2.50 each for all shows.
Children (and adults too!) are invited to come in their PJs and bring a favourite bedtime teddy to the 6pm Slumber Shows to make their theatre experience a real bedtime treat!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here