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Round the Twist: Australian children’s TV show to become stage musical

·3-min read

Round the Twist, the beloved Australian children’s television show from the 1990s, is set to become a live-action stage musical.

Based on books written by Paul Jennings, Round the Twist told a series of stories about the Twist family – a single father, Tony, and his three children – who leave the city to live in a lighthouse. First airing in 1990, the show has been remembered fondly by the generation that grew up with it for its gross-out humour, bizarre storylines and beloved characters.

The stage adaptation will be based largely upon the TV series, which Jennings himself adapted for the screen with the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, with the premise of the show based on his own experience as a single father living with his children “on the edge of a wild sea cliff”.

Related: Round the Twist revisited: 'It redefined what a children's program should be'

Jennings said on Tuesday that the writer-composer behind the stage adaptation, Paul Hodge, had taken “the original stories and scripts and combined them with some wonderful new ideas.”

Hodge told Guardian Australia he first conceived the idea of writing a musical based on the show when his mother complained about the “pong” while changing his nephew’s nappy, reminding him of an episode in which the character of Bronson, the youngest Twist child, saved up the stink of his feet for six months, eventually deploying it as a weapon at school while shouting the phrase, “Up the pong!”

“Personally, I identified with Bronson the most – I was the youngest child and most similar in age to him when I was watching the show,” Hodge said.

“I loved the show as a kid. I think the great thing about it is that you can identify with different Twist kids or Tony, their Dad, and it was made in that way so that everyone could see themselves in it. One thing that makes Paul Jennings fantastic is that he remembers not only the good parts of being a kid but also when it’s lonely and scared and embarrassing.”

Garry Quinn from RGM Productions is set to produce the musical, with Simon Phillips (Muriel’s Wedding, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Shakespeare in Love) taking the reins as director.

The forthcoming stage adaptation has been greenlit for development and production thanks to funding from the federal government’s multimillion-dollar Covid recovery scheme, the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) fund.

Scenes from Round the Twist were included in Guardian Australia’s 2020 poll of the most unforgettable moments in Australian television, with critic Clem Bastow describing the show as “hilarious, scary, heartfelt, uniquely Australian and decried more than once as being too rude for TV”.

Hodge remained tight-lipped about whether the famous scene that Guardian readers voted to No 19 in that poll – in which Bronson, again, “wins a pissing contest” thanks to the help of a water spirit – will make an appearance in the musical version, but said the famous theme song was “definitely in there and plays a key part in the show”.

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