Grandpa’s Great Escape, by David Walliams, has already had an astonishing life. It has been both a number one best-selling book and a hugely popular TV film.

Now, it is being transferred to the live arena in a spectacular new show that is coming to Manchester as 2020 gets underway.

David cannot contain his excitement about the show. “Grandpa’s Great Escape Live is an incredible new development for the book,” he said. “We’re not just turning it into a live show, but into a spectacular live arena show for all the family.

“Being in arenas means we can have a life-size Spitfire, a tank, the London landscape and a dramatic escape from the Imperial War Museum.”

He adds that, “I’m delighted to be involved with this arena tour of Grandpa’s Great Escape Live, working with fantastic people like the director Sean Foley and Kevin Cecil, who’s written the script. I couldn’t be more excited about it!”

David has become one of the most successful children’s authors of all time and his books have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide.

Grandpa’s Great Escape is his eighth book and was published in 2015 and has sold more than two million copies worldwide.

‎This story centres on Grandpa, played in the show by Nigel Planer from The Young Ones.

‎Many years ago, he was a Second World War flying ace. But when he is dispatched to the grim old folk’s home Twilight Towers – run by the villainous Matron Swine - Grandpa and his grandson Jack have to plan an audacious escape. But unbeknownst to them, the evil Matron is on their tail.

Grandpa’s Great Escape Live was a Christmas hit on BBC1 last year but promises to be even more spectacular in a live setting.

David said: “‎I wanted this to be really spectacular.

“Some of my stories are more intimate than others, but this felt like a big spectacular. ‎It’s great because we can really go to town with all of those elements and this story demands that scale. If people have already read the book, you have to give them something that is different and bigger and better.”

David, 48, continues that the bewitching nature of theatre helps the production.

“In the book, the plane drives through London before taking off,” he said. “For budgetary reasons, we couldn’t do that in the TV version. But on stage, where you can suspend disbelief, you can bring to life all those dramatic parts of the book. It’s all thanks to the magic of theatre.

“There’s a real sense of magic in the theatre, and I love that. I really like the creative ways theatre people solve problems.

“Look at the way they bring the animals to life on stage in The Lion King. You know they’re not real because you can see people operating the puppets, but it doesn’t take away any of the magic.”

‎David, who has starred in such hit TV shows as Little Britain, Come Fly with Me, Big School and Walliams & Friend, added: “It’s the same with the puppets in the play of War Horse. ‎Audiences buy into that, even though they know they’re not real.

“Funnily enough, a‎ lot of people find the play of War Horse more moving than the film, even though the film uses a real horse. It is hard to explain, but the magic of theatre suspends us all in the moment.”

David is happy that the show is perfectly suited to the festive season.

“It’s a real cross-generational story,” he said. “ It is about the special relationship between a grandson and a grandfather. It’s a story that can be shared across the generations.”

Like The Simpsons or Toy Story, Grandpa’s Great Escape Live is a tale that will resonate with different age groups. David, whose grandfathers were both in the War, said: “Things aimed at children usually work just as well for adults. As a parent, you often choose to take your children to things that you want to see, too.

“I am trying to write in a very aspirational way. When I was a kid, the comedy shows I wanted to see were the ones I wasn’t allowed to watch which were on later at night. I really want this to work for grown-ups as well as kids.”

‎Grandpa’s Great Escape Live is undoubtedly a very rich story, mixing comedy with tragedy.

“The book is a good balance between adventure, humour and emotion,” said David. “There is a very serious part of it in that Grandpa is losing his memory and thinks he’s back in the Second World War. A lot of people are affected by that issue of dementia.

“I also had the idea of old people escaping from a home and making it like The Great Escape, which is comic. I was trying to balance out those elements.

“At first, I was worried that they couldn’t coexist, but actually the comedy informs the tragedy. The fact that Grandpa thinks he’s trying to escape from a POW camp rather than an old people’s home makes it natural that it would be a Second World War-style escape.”

It is absolutely the case that‎ comedy and tragedy live side by side in real life. “People laugh in the most extraordinary circumstances, “ David observes.

David, who has been inspired by the war films he loved as a boy, wraps up ‎by underscoring what he hopes audiences will take away from Grandpa’s Great Escape Live. “I hope it will reinvigorate people’s interest in the Second World War and remind them of the special connection between grandparents and grandchildren.

“So many ‎of my childhood memories are of being with my grandparents because they were so out of the ordinary. I did things with them that I never did with my parents.”

Grandpa's Great Escape Live, Manchester Arena, Wednesday, January 1. Details from