Hollie McNish interview

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Hollie McNish is a full-time writer and the voice in our new production of Peter and the Wolf

She has published three poetry collections, Papers, Cherry Pie and Plum, and a poetic memoir on politics and parenthood, Nobody Told Me, for which she won the Ted Hughes Award. 

We sat down with Hollie during her recording session for Peter and the Wolf to discuss her spirit animal and how she came to be a part of the production.

How did the idea of you providing narration for the Peter and the Wolf ballet come about?

Ruth Brill, the choreographer, asked me after hearing some of my online readings. To my amazement, she thought my voice would fit well with her adaptation of this brilliant ballet - an adaptation I think seems very exciting after getting a sneak at some of the scenes!

Was Peter and the Wolf something you were already familiar with, perhaps as a child? What do you think of the piece and its manifestation as a ballet?

I was familiar with it but I’ve only heard it as a story. I’d never heard it with the music, which I realise is strange as that is the whole point of the story! My daughter knew it though as they’d just done it in school. So I’m as excited as anything to see it all on stage with the orchestra and dancers.

As a poet, you perform your work live regularly, is there an affinity in style between your own work and how you will narrate Peter and the Wolf

I think, probably, the way that I tend to read this - or, the way I’ve been practicing at home - seems to have morphed into a cross between how I read my poems and how I read my daughter bedtime stories!

Which animal would you be and why?

I would like to say I’d be the bird, but maybe I’m more like the duck! On a night out, I’d like to have a bit of cat too!  

Have you ever collaborated with a ballet company before? Or recorded a narration for any other project before?

No, never. And I never thought it would be something I’d be asked to do. I’ve been asked to do voice-overs before, for things like a football advert, or a World Wildlife Fund Campaign, but not ballet, no. My family laughed when they heard. - my accent is - in my opinion - awful compared to their lovely Scottish accents, so I’m always making jokes to them when I get asked to do voice overs.

How do you feel about joining the ranks of David Attenborough, David Tennant, Sophia Loren and Patrick Stewart, who have all narrated Peter and the Wolf before?

Ha! Well, jeez, not sure what to say there, just pretty cool to claim something in common with them! David Bowie too, I liked his version a lot.

Are you excited to see the ballet?

Very - so excited that I am getting a new dress to wear to it! Not sure if people still dress up for these things as I’ve been to the ballet about twice in my life, but I’m dressing up smart. I’m really excited to bring friends and to see how the kids respond to it too. I’m also pretty nervous about what people’s reactions will be like to my voice - I don’t think it’s a normal ballet voice, if that exists!