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The cast of The 91-Storey Treehouse, 2019. Image: Clare Hawley

My love letter to
Andy Griffiths

Actor Sam Welsh on how the nutty author helped him discover creativity and a treehouse

Miriam Rizvi, Sam Welsh

Have you ever plugged the shower with a face washer to see how far you can fill the cubicle with water? Or have you ever chucked the ultimate sickie (by faking your own death) to get out of going to school? Or spun so fast on the clothesline that you were launched into outer space? Andy Griffiths, the bestselling children’s author, has.

Andy has been getting Aussie kids hooked on reading for years with his books Just Tricking, Just Annoying and The Day My Bum Went Psycho. Now, he has kids hooked on the Treehouse series. It looks like it’ll never stop going, beginning at level thirteen (The 13-Storey Treehouse), now at over one hundred (The 104-Storey Treehouse)—and even growing into a stage production. Actor Sam Welsh plays Andy himself, and pens a letter to the author that he has long admired, his muse and now, someone he calls his friend.

Dear Andy,

The power of imagination is a wonderful gift. Lately, I’ve found myself totally immersed in a world of imagination. As I sit here and write this letter to you, I reflect on how you’ve helped me shape my imagination from a young boy and to a young man without even knowing it. Through your wonderful stories and fanciful narratives, you haven’t just entertained me but an entire generation.

My first memory of you and your work dates back many years ago as a small kid growing up in Port Macquarie. I never much enjoyed reading or literature. I could never sit still long enough to read a book entirely. But, the one thing that I did have was imagination, and a big one at that. I remember my older brother at home reading a particular book with the most peculiar name: The Day My Bum Went Psycho. I was hooked. I remember every time I picked it up, I had a giggle to myself. A book about bums, with a big bum on the front cover—only Andy Griffiths could get away with that. As I dove into this book, I was just scraping at the surface of the world that I was about to discover.

I loved your writing, and the humour you poured into every story you created, from the Just! series, to the Bum books. Brilliantly paired with Terry Denton’s incredible illustrations, I was entirely engrossed from page to page. But most importantly, as a young boy, I’d finally found a vessel to immerse my crazy and wild imagination into, and given total freedom to do so because the story encouraged it. It made reading fun, especially for someone who generally shied away from it. You took storytelling and writing and broke all the rules.

Freya Pragt and Sam Welsh in The 78-Storey Treehouse, 2018. Image: Anna Kucera

Now, many years later, you’ve created a whole new world for a new generation of young minds with the Treehouse series. You’ve taken your brilliant imagination and reached new heights (pun intended), opening up a whole new whimsical world that doesn’t just entertain today’s kids, but the parents too, who not too long ago were reading your books and enjoying your wonderful work.

Recently, I’ve been given the opportunity to take these stories and lift them off the page to the stage, not once but twice. It’s been several years since I enjoyed your work, and now it’s come full circle. Playing ‘Andy’ has been a wonderful experience, not only because of the creative freedom I’ve been given to explore artistically, but portraying a character which has now almost reached rockstar status among not just Australian kids, but the world. After touring these shows nationally, it’s unbelievable to see how your work has touched so many young minds around the country. You’ve found the perfect formula and it’s very hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of Andy Griffiths.  

Your writing breaks the boundaries of storytelling. Your narrative has no parameters. Your uniqueness and your individuality shines in your work. As a result, you give permission for young minds to bend the rules of imagination which, in turn, fuels creativity. You’ve become such an iconic figure in Australian writing and you’ve helped pave the way for what can be achieved in children’s literature.  

Thank you for allowing me to enjoy reading. Thank you for the laughs.  

Sam

Sam plays Andy himself in The 91-Storey Treehouse, showing in the Playhouse until Sunday 20 January 2019. Get tickets.

'Jill' (Freya Pragt) and 'Andy' (Sam Welsh) with the real Jill and Andy Griffiths


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