David makes a pong

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HE’S a millionaire comic, TV presenter and charity swimmer of the Thames and the Channel.

Not so the author.

Little Britain

Little Britain

“It lends itself very well to that,” he confirms. “In musicals the characters are forever articulating their emotions. Mr Stink is a book about relationships changing and people growing emotionally, so it’s very well suited to a musical treatment.

“Sometimes people feel things so strongly that saying the words is not enough – they have to break into song. That’s a great way of understanding musical productions.”

And with kids so enamoured with the pong-powered tales of Mr Stink, the shows in any form were likely to draw loyal young audiences.

“I put a child at the centre of the story, and I try to reflect what it is really like to be that age,” David says, defining the appeal.

David Walliams swimming the Thames

David Walliams swimming the Thames

“A lot of children’s books are about wish fulfilment - children as superheroes and spies - but I show children as powerless, as you are as a child.

“When you’re very young, you don’t get to choose many things – your house, say, or your school. You’re in that situation and there’s not a lot you can do about it.

“In this story the central character, Chloe, transforms her family through her friendship with a tramp. In that way, the most powerless person in her family becomes the most powerful.

“I’ve always been drawn to outsiders. A lot of the characters in Little Britain, for instance, were outsiders who triumph. People misread it and thought we were talking down to our characters, but actually we were showing that ultimately they’re winners.

“Someone like Andy [the apparently wheelchair bound man who runs rings around his able-bodied carer Lou] always wins. Comedy is also often about the outsider observing events. It is the traditional role of the outsider to question things.”

And there it leads to something of a message many parents would endorse, that of tolerance and understanding the homeless.

On top of that, Chloe is a girl who doesn’t like school much, doesn’t have a Nintendo DS an iPhone or many friends. But Mr Stink, the local tramp, is about the nly person who is nice to her – even though her mum is an aspiring MP with plans to clear the streets of homeless.

“I hope children learn to accept people who are different and learn that everyone has a story to tell. It’s quite a simple message – that we should not judge people by how they look or, in this case, smell.

“When you live in London, it’s very easy to see someone on the street and think, ‘Oh, there’s another homeless person’ and to forget everyone has a unique story to tell about why they’re there. Some people have been abused, others have run away from home. You can get desensitised because you see so many homeless people, and one way of dealing with it is just to walk on by.

“The book is ultimately about Chloe’s courage to stop and talk to this homeless person. I hope children will relate to that. In the end, Mr Stink encourages her to fulfil her dreams. It’s the story of a very unlikely friendship.”