WHEN Vija Docherty read Michael Ende's children's novel Momo, she noted that its message - the need for people to make the most of their time - was also relevant to adults.
Like Ende's better-known work for young people, The Neverending Story, it uses fantasy to look at real world matters such as the power of stories, friendship, compassion and the value of the small things that help make life more pleasant and enjoyable.
The title character, Momo, is a girl who hardly speaks but has the ability to listen to people and then help them find answers to their problems.
It is Momo who helps save the people when sinister figures, the Grey Citizens, arrive in the town and persuade them to engage in time-saving: putting as much of their time as possible in a bank, with the promise of being able to retrieve it later, with interest.
Docherty, a founder of Newcastle theatre group Prospero Players, co-adapted Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's narrative poem Hiawatha for staging as a family show in 2010, followed by a solo adaptation of Australian poet C.J. Dennis's humorous fantasy The Glugs of Gosh in 2011.
She read Momo five years ago and kept it in mind as a potential school holiday show. When she began work on a theatrical version last year, she sought the views of young people with an interest in theatre on how it could be adapted for the stage.
Momo will have its premiere season at Broadmeadow's Hunter Theatre from April 17 to 20.
Another Hunter school holiday production, Valley Artists' The Golden Ass, is also an adaptation by a local writer of a classic children's story.
Craig Howe, a teacher who is relieving principal at Congewai Public School, near Ellalong, based the play on a Brothers Grimm fairy story, The Wishing Table, the Gold Ass and the Cudgel in the Sack.
It is a more light-hearted work than many of the Grimm stories, with three siblings - in this version, a farmer's daughters - each receiving one of the objects in the tale's title, but initially losing it to a greedy innkeeper.
The donkey spews out gold on command and when the innkeeper discovers this, while the daughter who has been given the animal is staying overnight, he substitutes another donkey for the magic one.
The Golden Ass is set for a season at Laguna Hall, south of Wollombi, from April 12 to 20.
The two productions have large casts of adult and young performers and include music, song and dance in their storytelling.
While The Neverending Story became a popular film in the 1980s, Momo has also been a worldwide hit since it was written in 1973, being translated from Ende's German text into many languages.
It has been made into two films, one in Germany and the other an Italian animated version.
And it became an opera, Momo and the Time Thieves, with the libretto written by Ende.
Vija Docherty said the story had many elements to capture the imaginations of those watching it.
The Grey Citizens, as their group name suggests, are colourless figures, but there is a lot of brightness to the tale's other characters.
When Momo discovers that the Grey Citizens intend to steal the townspeople's time, she enlists Professor Hora, an expert on time, and his pet tortoise, Cassiopeia, to help her fight the sinister visitors.
Cassiopeia can see 30 minutes into the future and communication can be made with her by writing on her shell.
A colourful costume has been designed for the actor playing Cassiopeia.
Momo also helps a townsman called Guido to help achieve his aim of being a storyteller. One scene has Guido describing the ruined amphitheatre she lives in as a fish bowl and as he tells the story, ever larger fish will appear in the background.
Vija Docherty, who is directing the production, said the staging amusingly made use of theatre conventions.
In the novel, for example, the Grey Citizens are continually smashing automobiles. In the play, they slide across the stage in office chairs which represent the cars.
Momo is recommended for children eight and over. It can be seen at the Hunter Theatre, off Cameron Street, Broadmeadow, in the grounds of Hunter School of the Performing Arts, on Wednesday April 17, at 7pm, Thursday April 18, at 3pm, and Friday and Saturday, April 19 and 20, at 3pm and 7pm. Tickets: $30, concession and groups $20. Bookings: 4952 3355; hspa.nsw.edu.au.
The Golden Ass, likewise, has bright and often funny characters and settings.
The three daughters of a farmer are in turn sent off into the world by their father when the greedy goat they have been minding and feeding on mountain pastures lyingly tells him that she has not been fed.
The goat and the golden ass will each have two children playing them, with other figures including a pompous mayor and council members, the innkeeper and the men who employ each of the sisters. Craig Howe directs his own script.
The Golden Ass plays at Laguna Hall, Great North Road, Laguna (south of Wollombi), on Friday April 12, at 7pm, with all other shows at 6pm: Saturday and Sunday, April 13 and 14, then nightly from Wednesday April 17, to Saturday April 20. Tickets: $15, children $10, family $40. Bookings: 49983419; email email@example.com.