Iconic Children’s Book Comes To Life on Stage

Molly McLaughlin

“Our roof leaks. Drip! Drip! Drip!”

These words will be familiar to the many parents and children who have read ‘There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake!’ since its original publication over 35 years ago.

Now the beloved children’s book has been adapted into a live musical called ‘There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake! A Big New Musical Adventure!’, coming to Canberra Theatre Centre on 11 June.

Author of the ‘Hippo’ series Hazel Edwards recently attended the new production with her four-year-old grandson, and was excited to see the story brought to life.

However, it was her then four-year old son who provided the original idea for the hippopotamus when he heard workmen on their roof fixing a leak many years ago.


“As many of the best stories come about, it happened when something went wrong,” Hazel laughs.

“My son said ‘That’s the hippopotamus up there with his cake!’ The hippo in a sense represents all four year olds who have imaginary friends that provide reassurance in a situation that a child might be a little bit apprehensive about.”

According to Hazel, her grandson was equally enthralled by the stage production, which involves the children using their imaginations and is packed with music, colour and action.

“The production is really well paced so there is always something happening,” Hazel explains.

“The hippo doesn’t speak – it’s very large and very pink and it moves beautifully, and children project on to the character whatever they want. I think that’s what happened with the book too.”

Through live performances and its translation into multiple languages, the ‘Hippo’ stories have taken on a life of their own: Hazel has even had to answer Hippo’s fan mail, which is often particularly poignant.


“The hippo is asked things like ‘I haven’t got a friend, will you come and sit on my roof?’” she says.

“So I don’t feel it’s my book, I feel it’s the book of the reader. There were about 800 people in the audience at the performance the other day, and at one point one of the actors said something like ‘What does the hippo eat?’ and all the children roared out ‘Cake!’”

Hazel is an advocate for the importance of families coming together through reading and storytelling in any way they are able to. While she has had a successful career writing for adults, she says her work as a children’s author is more enjoyable and often more important.

“My grandson thinks all books in the world are written by Grandma,” Hazel laughs.

“But really, he has been privileged in that he regards books as a normal part of life. Adults sharing stories with children is so important because that use of the imagination will help children be our future problem solvers.”

the essentials

What: There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake! A Big New Musical Adventure!
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
When: 10am on Saturday, 11 June
How much: Tickets from $24.90 or $88 for a family of 4

Find out more about There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake! here and find free resources here.

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Molly McLaughlin

Molly McLaughlin is new to Canberra and is attempting to prove to her friends that the capital city can be cool. This mostly involves frequently going out for brunch and then posting about it on social media, along with trekking up hills and around art galleries. She is half way through her uni degree but spends most of her time reading, writing and planning her next adventure. More about the Author

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