A new adaptation of the award-winning children’s book is coming to CFT from 27 February – 1 March. Told from a child’s perspective, balancing heart and humour, The Boy at the Back of the Class highlights the power of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense and reminds us that everyone needs a place to call home.
We heard from Nick Ahad, who has adapted this much-loved children’s story for the stage.
What’s the story about?
"Well, I've kept the story very much the same as Onjali's book. It's about a little boy called Ahmet who comes to England without his family, and he meets a group of friends who try to help him in any way they can. But really, the story is about friendship and the importance of friendship, and it's about kindness, and it's about hope."
Tell us more about Ahmet
"I think the best person to tell you about Ahmet is the narrator of the book, and that narrator calls him ‘the bravest little boy in the world’. Ahmet comes to England without his mum or his dad, and he has to try and find a place in the world, which makes him a very brave boy."
Do you have a favourite character or moment?
"I’d say in the wonderful book, my favourite moment is when... Well, it's the adventure, the big adventure that the gang go on. I think that's really super exciting, particularly with what happens in The Adventure. As far as the play version, there's a couple of moments that I love in the play. There's one that's completely different to the book, a new thing that I've added that the audience will experience just before the interval, that I think is really exciting. And the ending I find really moving. I always cry whenever I read the ending, I love it."
Why do you think this story will make a great theatre show?
"I think all the best theatre is about making people feel something that they wouldn't ordinarily feel or experience. I imagine a lot of the audience will never know what it's like to be a refugee, so I hope that people will understand what that might be like, and who knows? Maybe that will make people feel something different and have more kindness and more empathy than we currently have."
What do you hope audiences will get out of the play?
"I hope they'll have a great time. I hope they'll laugh. I hope they'll cry and be moved. But overall, more than that, I hope they leave feeling more hopeful about the world."
Can you describe the show in three words?
"I would say: it's surprisingly funny."
If you were leaving home and you had one thing to take in your rucksack, what would it be?
"As a writer, I think it would have to be one of my many, many notebooks. But if it wasn't something as obvious as that, I know what I'd take. I'd take my dog, Rainbow."