Quill and Quire

Book culture

« Back to

Stage adaption of I Want My Hat Back coming to London’s National Theatre


Jon Klassen‘s much-lauded 2011 picture book debut, I Want My Hat Back, is getting the stage adaptation treatment, thanks to the National Theatre in London. The book, which tells the story of a bear who travels through the woods asking a series of animals if they’ve seen his missing hat, has been described as a modern classic, loved by adults and children alike.

The adaption has some big names associated with it. Award-winning playwright Joel Horwood, a rising star in British theatre over the past decade, is penning the book and lyrics, while actor and musician Arthur Darvill, best known for television roles in Broadchurch and Doctor Who, and his Broadway and West End turns as the lead in the musical Once, is creating the music.

Reached at his home in Los Angeles, Klassen said his involvement with the production has been fairly limited, other than creating the show’s poster image.

“I purposely didn’t weigh in too much in terms of the adaptation, because you have different ideas, and, also, they’re pros at it,” says Klassen.

However, based on conversations with the show’s creators, he’s confident his story is in good hands.

“The concept of the book was that it was like a really badly done play. It’s a really awkwardly paced, badly acted thing,” says Klassen. “And not to say that [they] are going to put on a bad play, but that was the tone of it was like, these guys don’t really know how to act and everything is overly pronounced, and I think that [Horwood and Darvill] are getting that.”

Matinees of the show will run Nov. 12, 2015–Jan. 2, 2016, at the temporary theatre at the National Theatre’s main site on the South Bank.

Klassen is hard at work on a third Hat book, but hopes to be able to see the production in London, a home he thinks is very fitting.

“I think that it’s no coincidence that the Brits took it up. They kind of get this dryer stuff and don’t mind putting it in front of kids,” says Klassen. “There’s a sensibility there where they have the patience to draw out a joke and just look at the audience for five minutes before they can land it. It’s going to be a lot of fun, I think.”