Helen’s new writing task was never going to be a hard act to swallow

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SWALLOWS & Amazons is arguably ideal inspiration for kids this Easter holiday – not least as it encourages them to get outdoors.

“I certainly think it’s a good reminder of what children can gain from being given the freedom to go out and play and to have outdoor adventures and play imaginative games,” says Helen Edmundson, whose job it was to create the script.

Helen Edmundson'Author and playwright'''photograph�Richard Olivier 2007

Helen Edmundson'Author and playwright'''photograph�Richard Olivier 2007

“It’s a good reminder children can actually be resourceful and that if we perhaps give them a little more freedom and trust them more then 99 times out 100 they’re going to be fine.”

Not that every child has the same open space environment to play as Arthur Ransome’s youngsters.

“Reading from the mother’s point of view, I remember thinking ‘Oh my giddy aunt’ is she seriously going to let these children go off on their own like that,” she admits.

“So I was quite careful in the script that the mother had taken the decision seriously, that they were checking in with her every day, there were safety guards in place, it wasn’t just a completely fantastical notion of letting children be free with no safeguards or thought.”

Working on the script, Helen, one of four children, says she found herself craving a simpler time where people actually spoke rather than emailed.

“Absolutely. I wish there weren’t computers. I don’t think what we’ve gained by them is worth what we’ve lost.

“It does make me sad that children’s social lives are so centred around technology and Facebook and mobile phones.

“When I write adaptations, maybe they’re slightly rosy coloured images of what it was like, but the fact is that people did discuss ideas and wouldn’t just put the TV on at the end of the day.

“There seemed to be time for people to relate to one another and discover things. Now it all feels like there’s no time.

“It’s all very instant fixes of this, that or the other. It does make me feel nostalgic because I don’t suppose I ever knew anything different.”

Director Tom Morris seems to have shared her thinking – and that of cast members – in putting his imaginative show together, a fitting revival of a much-loved story.

“I don’t think many children these days read it.

“There’s a whole generation who read it when they were young and it was their favourite book and hugely popular.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be an instantly popular title with children but we felt there was enough back-up there from grown-ups, parents and grandparents, people who did remember it.

“It was an old fashioned story to some extent but when I read it I responded to several things; the relationships between the children are so beautifully drawn, so honest and well observed.

“Those relationships are the same between groups of children now even if they are expressed in a different way or they are playing in a different situation.

“Those things – sibling rivalry and pecking orders, people who are a bit more daring than other people – all those things still hold true.

“The notion of children using their imagination and being free to use it is still completely relevant and very important.

“We’ve used the period setting and nostalgia when it’s useful to give a bit of charm or comedy, but we’ve also cut through it a lot and tried to give it a slightly more edgy and up-to-date feel.”