Since the publication of the Story of Tracy Beaker in 1991, Kingston resident Jacqueline Wilson has become one of the most successful children’s authors in history.
More than 30 million books sold and just about every honour and award you can think of – including being made a Dame in 2008.
But fame and success has done little to change this humble former Children’s Laureate, who can often be seen shopping in Kingston, happily chatting to passers-by.
“It’s funny when you wander around Kingston and an adult says to you: ‘You came to my school when I was seven!’” says Wilson. “It’s delightful.”
So you can expect a few grown up fans to be in the audience with their own children when the stage adaptation of Wilson’s Hetty Feather makes its world premiere at the Rose Theatre on Saturday, April 5.
Wilson will be there too, and not just because the theatre is 10 minutes from her doorstep. “I’m absolutely thrilled about Hetty Feather,” says Wilson.
Actress Phoebe Thomas, left, could have been "knitted for the part" of Hetty Feather, according to author Jaqueline Wilson. Picture Helen Maybanks
“I knew it was going to be developed as a stage play for quite a while, and I knew it was going to be touring the country.
“But when it was decided it was going to open at the Rose Theatre I couldn’t be happier.
“I just have to toddle down the road for 10 minutes.”
Hetty Feather is the story of a fiery Victorian foundling, dumped by her mother at the Foundling Hospital, and her attempts to escape the cruel children’s home.
Emma Reeves, Jacqueline Wilson and Phoebe Thomas. Picture by Helen Maybanks
The book has been adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves, who also transformed Tracy Beaker into the hit TV show, and will star Phoebe Thomas as Hetty.
“Emma Reeves and I are old friends, she worked on the Tracey Beaker television show and I’ve very much enjoyed her other stage shows," says Wilson.
“I’ve also met Phoebe Thomas and I couldn’t be happier she’s playing Hetty. She’s a very spirited girl herself, with long, bright red hair.
“She could have been knitted for the part.
“I get a lot of young girls saying to me they’re my number one fan – well I’m going to be the number one fan of the Hetty Feather stage show.
“The cast will be looking out over the audience every night and going: ‘Oh no, there she is again.’”
Hetty Feather, Rose Theatre, High Street, Kingston Saturday, April 5 to Saturday April 19 £6-£24 Call 08444 821 556 or visit the website.