A TOUR celebrating 50 years of one of the most beloved children’s books will come to a close in Warrington on Sunday.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show wriggles on to the Parr Hall stage for the last two performances at 12.30pm and 3pm.

Actor-puppeteer Ben Thornton said: “We’ve found it fascinating because it’s the 50th anniversary of the book and we’ve had parents come to the show who read it when they were a child. It has really passed down from generation to generation.

“It doesn’t grow old and it’s popular wherever we go up and down the country. On stage the puppets match the picture book so the children empathise with it straight away and they know exactly what’s coming. They know the lines better than us sometimes.

“I first had it read to me when I was two. I’m 30 now so that’s 28-odd years ago so to be doing the presenting and puppetry in the show now is pretty special.”

The 45-minute show also features three other Eric Carle stories including Brown Bear, Brown Bear, 10 Little Rubber Ducks and The Very Lonely Firefly.

Three puppeteers, two stage managers and a technical assistant will bring the show to life using 75 handcrafted rod and hand puppets which range in size from a tiny duck to a 8ft-long bear that is controlled by two people.

Ben added: “There is a lot to do and backstage is like a well-oiled machine with people handing us props and puppets from different sides.

“The bear from the first story is about 8ft long. That is literally like seeing a bear on stage because it moves as a bear would. That’s quite a spectacle.

Winsford Guardian:

“But other puppets are very small like the ducks in the 10 Little Rubber Ducks story which are very easy to manipulate while others take a lot of time and rehearsal to work out the exact movements.

“We have to study the animals to a certain extent. A bear will walk differently to a horse for example. You have to work out the best way of moving these huge puppets.

“On the other hand some of them are quite light and one of the main challenges is to create the weight behind it and make it look like there’s a 15 stone bear coming on the stage.”

Actor Ben got into puppeteering as a way of carving a niche for himself in the industry.

He said: “I’ve worked a lot as a puppeteer on CBeebies shows that tour such as In The Night Garden which we took to places like The O2 and Manchester Arena which was great.

“And then I did Sarah and Duck last year which is another CBeebies show. But I also work as an actor. I do panto and bits on TV when I can fit it in. I’m just lucky to do it full time.”

Young children are among the toughest audiences as they simply won’t sit still if they are not entertained – but families have been spellbound by The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show if the reaction on social media is anything to go by.

Ben, whose own childhood favourite was Bodger and Badger, added: “The butterfly coming out at the end is the pinnacle of the show and almost takes up the whole stage.

“So it’s great when you see social media about the show and see the looks on kids’ faces.

“They’re so used it on the pages and the puppet makers and our director have done so well to keep it close to the book.

“Our scenery too is made to look like pages that have been ripped from a book.

“Children just believe it’s real.

“They can’t see us as puppeteers standing next to an animal making it work – they just believe that animal is on that stage. That’s what’s lovely. The innocence of childhood.”

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is at the Parr Hall on Sunday at 12.30pm and 3pm. For tickets visit pyramidparrhall.com or call 442345.