The great thing about having made a lot of shows is that I am no longer afraid of making mistakes during rehearsals. Unless we try out loads of different ideas and get things wrong, we'll never come up with material that excites us. Being brave is a necessary part of the process and it is often only when we have failed a hundred times that the answer emerges quite by surprise. Making mistakes is probably the most important part of the process. One of my favourite quotes is Beckett's 'Ever tried? Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.' Sally Cookson, Director
For me one of the best things about collaborating with others in the creative process is the potential for the work is expanded. With more minds working creatively on something, ideas you couldn't see or maybe never would of have had, get to mix and give you something new. This collaborative conception of ideas gives you a work that is beyond the reach of one mind to envisage. In saying that it means I can focus on the choreography without being too distracted and concerned by other areas of the process. That's the beauty of working in a team where you trust the creativity of your colleagues. Wilkie Branson, Choreographer
It's very strange, but I find the more shows I make the harder it gets! You'd think it would be the other way around! Turning a successful book into a piece of dance theatre is challenging because you know there will be a lot of people with certain expectations and strong ideas of what they would like to see on stage. But when you are adapting a book for stage you are changing it from one form into another - and in order to make it work on stage some things have to be altered. Sally Cookson, Director
I got the book a couple of years ago, and was blown away by the illustration and epic-ness of it all. It is very filmic in its approach to telling a very little story and, for me, there are big themes running through the book; noise versus silence, city versus nature, dark versus light and calm versus confusion.
Benji Bower, Composer
Varmints draws on the contrasts between two worlds; the natural pristine wild, and the dirty sprawling metropolis. Identifying the starting points for these two worlds and how these environments are embodied by the people that inhabit them is the beginning for me. On the surface we have the playful lightness of the creatures living in the wild juxtaposed by the laborious toil of the oppressed masses who build and work in the city. These are two clear points from where we can begin to explore the language of the story and this world, what is going to be interesting is where these opposites, like in the book, meet and transform. Wilkie Branson, Choreographer
On the surface the story appears to tell of a pastoral world in need of protection, and of the determination of 'Someone' who ensures its regeneration. The beauty of the book is that it can be interpreted in so many different ways. For me, the importance of sustaining and encouraging imagination and creativity is a big part of what the book is about, but I don't want to impose one single interpretation on our audience. In the same way that Helen Ward and Marc Craste leave the story open, I'd like to ensure that our audience feel free to interpret the story as they wish. Sally Cookson, Director
A few years ago, before I was approached to direct Varmints, my friend and collaborator Benji Bower showed me a book he'd bought and fallen in love with - Varmints. My first impression was, what a beautiful, strange little nugget of gold. As we start adapting it for the stage, finding a playful, imaginative theatricality will be essential to our version. We'll not be attempting to interpret the book literally, rather we're using its essence to inspire and ignite our own version. Sally Cookson, Director
In the rehearsal room I like to devise - try out various ideas and collaborate with the people in the room so that the piece emerges organically. I'm lucky to have a first class creative team and cast to collaborate with. I'll be working especially closely with Wilkie who is choreographing and performing in the piece. Together with our fantastic collaborators and dancers we will work together closely to make the show. Sally Cookson, Director
When did you last have the 'seed' of a good idea? What was it and what did you do to make it happen? Did you design something, invent a game or a gadget? What would you need to work with to make it happen?
Think about a space that is important to you and you alone – when you go to it, how does it make you feel? Why does it make you feel like that?
If you were to make a hideout using objects that you have found what would you make it out of and why? What things would you use? Where would you get them?
Where might you go for your own peace and quiet? Listen to the sound tracks - close your eyes. What do you think of whilst listening to them? Where does your imagination take you? What does it sound like?
What do you think of the movements you have seen? How do they make you feel? What kind of mood do they portray or show? How can you tell what the character is feeling?
Why end on The Beginning? What happens next for our character? What happens next for the production and your journey?
Hello Explorers,

welcome to Discover Varmints. Come and join this creative adventure inspired by the touring dance show and children's book, Varmints. Scroll down to find your way, look for your missions, click on the icons to reveal behind-the-scenes facts, and upload your own creative ideas. If you get lost use the menu to take you back.

Go whichever way you like... it's your journey, have fun!