REVIEW: Tutti Frutti’s The Princess And The Pea as Theatre Royal Studio reopens

Hannah Victoria’s Princess and the pea in Tutti Frutti’s The Princess And The Pea

The Princess And The Pea, Tutti Frutti, York Theatre Royal Studio, 6pm this evening, then on tour. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

SINCE Covid’s cloak turned theatres dark, York Theatre Royal’s dormant Studio could have been added to York playwright Mike Kenny’s Museum of Forgotten Things.

Thankfully, after being used for storage and rehearsals, the Studio has been re-awakened for performances anew, albeit with a capacity reduced from 100 to 71. Out goes seating to the sides; in comes a head-on stage configuration.

A masked-up CharlesHutchPress took up a front-row seat at a morning performance full of excited Badger Hill Primary School children. How lovely to be part of such an occasion full of happy, enchanted faces.

This show is a revival of Leeds children’s theatre company Tutti Frutti’s colour-suffused, playful staging of Mike Kenny’s updated adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story, set in a place where what you see is not what it seems: the aforementioned Museum of Forgotten Things.

Sophia Hatfield in The Princess And The Pea at York Theatre Royal Studio

 In his trademark way of bringing fresh perspectives to familiar stories, he refracts Andersen’s tale of The Princess And The Pea through the status of princesses today, against a backdrop that has moved on again even from the 2014 premiere, in our world of celebrity royals, social-media influencers, selfies and preening Love Island and Kardashian saturation coverage.

“Princesses seem to be back with us as a cultural phenomenon,” Kenny writes in his programme note. “The assumption is generally that a ‘real’ princess is very sensitive and high maintenance. If you read Andersen’s original, you can’t quite tell if he’s supporting or actually taking the mickey out of this attitude”.

Kenny creates a framework where three narrator-curators at the museum, a mother, son and their trainee, delve into the mystery of how a little green pea ended up there in a magical hour of storytelling, songs and silliness.

Bossy-boots Mother (Sophia Hatfield) becomes Queen; layabout Son (Mckenzie Alexander) transforms into the Prince and eager Trainee (Hannah Victoria) will emerge as the Princess of the title.

The “other” princesses in The Princess And The Pea, as sent up by Hannah Victoria, Sophia Hatfield and Mckenzie Alexander

All three raid the museum drawers to play “every type of princess you could imagine” in a send-up of 21st century reality TV types (and maybe even York hen parties) as the spoilt, work-shy, silver-spoon-in-his-mouth Prince is instructed by the Queen to conduct his search for the “real Princess” he should marry.

Kenny’s play follows the Prince’s passage from birth, his privileged, demand-everything, spend-spend-spend progress to this point being denoted by numbered props, whether in a suitcase lining, on an umbrella or inside a hat that also turns into a cake-mixing bowl.

Devotees of Peter Greenaway’s cult 1988 film Drowning By Numbers will recall a similar numerical conceit reaping dividends.

Anyway, back to the storyline. Kenny notes how Andersen reveals nothing about the Princess, beyond her taking the “pea test” to prove she is a real princess, and he duly gives her a story about “what it means to be ‘real’”, rather than a Disney-glossy  princess.

On song: a musical number for Sophia Hatfield, Hannah Victoria and Mckenzie Alexander

Rather than pretty dresses, tantrums and tiaras, Victoria’s Princess has worked in a kitchen, is blown in by the winds and is left standing in the rain until the wastrel Prince – with all staff laid off – has to answer the door himself.

Kenny, very much the people’s playwright, revels in keeping it real, not royal, with delightful mischief in his storytelling as he mirrors Andersen and the Shrek films in his irreverence towards royalty.

He has fun at the expense of Alexander’s callow Prince for being devoid of social graces and practical know-how, but tellingly he rewards him for toughening up when needs must, and likewise he sends up the Queen’s blinkered, old-school ways and haughty airs for being out of date.

Further pleasures come from Kenny raiding the cupboard of familiar fairytale characters and now forgotten things, from Goldilocks’s porridge spoon to Cinderella’s glittering glass slippers.    

Playwright Mike Kenny: “Revels in keeping it real, not royal”

Harris’s cast of actor-musicians thrives on Kenny’s fast-moving sense of fun and games, constant scene and character changes and cheeky humour, allied to his storytelling prowess.

Alexander, a natural for the silly-billy daft lad in pantomime, instantly bonds with the audience with his wide-eyed playing and he loves the chance to be a princess too; Victoria makes for a grounded, streetwise Princess and Hatfield is both fun yet more serious as the older hand in the company.

They team up joyfully for Christella Litras’s compositions too, singing characterfully as well as contributing violin, accordion, saxophone and more to complement Litras’s keyboards.  

So much to enjoy here, topped off by Catherine Chapman’s designs, where the stage colours of blue and green, pink and orange, yellow and gold are matched by the actors’ attire. Look out for such clever details as cupboard drawers turning into suitcases – as well as the numbers popping up on myriad objects.

At the finale, the curators change the museum name from Forgotten to Remembered Things. Your reviewer loved this show in 2014; happy to report, it is now even better than first remembered.

More Things To Do in and around York, as Levelling up, peas and wickedness this way come. List No. 54, courtesy of The Press

Ben Moor and Joanna Neary: Mini-season of stand-up theatre and comedy at Theatre@41

MOOR, Moor, Moor and much more, more, more besides are on Charles Hutchinson’s list for the week ahead.

Surrealist stand-up theatre of the week, Ben Moor and Joanna Neary mini-season, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, today until Saturday

BEN Moor and Joanna Neary combine to deliver five offbeat comedy shows in three days in their Theatre@41 debut.

Moor contemplates performance, friendship and regret in his lecture about lectures, Pronoun Trouble, tonight at 8pm. Tomorrow, at 7.30pm, Neary’s multi-character sketch show with songs and impersonations, Wife On Earth, is followed by Moor’s Who Here’s Lost?, his dream-like tale of a road trip of the soul taken by two outsiders.

Saturday opens at 3pm with Joanna’s debut children’s puppet show, Stinky McFish And The World’s Worst Wish, and concludes at 7pm with the two-hander BookTalkBookTalkBook, a “silly author event parody show”. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Gunpowder Guy in Horrible Histories’ Barmy Britain. Picture: Frazer Ashford

Alternative history lesson of the week: Horrible Histories’ Barmy Britain, Grand Opera House, York, today at 1.30pm, 7pm; tomorrow, 10.30am and 7pm; Saturday, 3pm, 7pm; Sunday, 11am, 3pm

WHAT if a Viking moved in next door? Would you lose your heart or head to horrible Henry VIII? Can evil Elizabeth entertain England? Will Parliament survive Gunpowder Guy? Dare you stand and deliver to dastardly Dick Turpin?

Questions, questions, so many questions to answer, and here to answer them are the Horrible Histories team in Barmy Britain, a humorously horrible and eye-popping show trip to the past with Bogglevision 3D effects. Box office: atgtickets.com/york

Hannah Victoria in Tutti Frutti’s The Princess And The Pea at York Theatre Royal Studio

Reopening of the week: York Theatre Royal Studio for Tutti Frutti’s The Princess And The Pea, today to Tuesday; no show on Sunday

YORK Theatre Royal Studio reopens today with a capacity reduced from 100 to 71 and no longer any seating to the sides.

First up, Leeds children’s theatre company Tutti Frutti revive York playwright Mike Kenny’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story, set in a place where what you see is not what it seems: the Museum of Forgotten Things.

Three musical curators delve into the mystery of how a little green pea ended up there in an hour of humour, songs and a romp through every type of princess you could imagine. Box office and show times: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Artist Anita Bowerman and Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen at Dove Tree Art Gallery and Studio

Open Studios of the week: Anita Bowerman, Dove Tree Art Gallery and Studio, Back Granville Road, Harrogate, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm

HARROGATE paper-cut, watercolour and stainless steel artist Anita Bowerman opens her doors for refreshments and a browse around her new paintings of Yorkshire and Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen, prints and mugs. 

“It’s a perfect chance for inspiration before the Christmas present-buying rush starts,” says Anita, who has been busy illustrating a new charity Christmas card for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance featuring the Yorkshire Shepherdess.

Rachel Croft: York singer-songwriter performing at Drawsome! day of activities at Spark:York as part of York Design Week on Saturday

York Design Week gig of the week: Drawsome!, Mollie Coddled Talk More Pavilion, Spark:York, Saturday, from 3pm

AS part of Drawsome’s day of workshops and an Indy Makers Market to complement MarkoLooks’ print swap exhibition of illustrators and printmakers, York’s Young Thugs Records are curating a free line-up of live music.

Taking part will be The Hazy Janes, Kell Chambers and Rachel Croft, singer, songwriter and illustrator to boot.

Breabach: First touring band to play Selby Town Hall in “far too long”. Picture: Paul Jennings

Welcome back of the week: Breabach, Selby Town Hall, Saturday, 8pm

GLASGOW folk luminaries Breabach will be the first touring band to play Selby Town Hall for almost 20 months this weekend.

“Leading lights of the Scottish roots music scene and five-time Scots Trad Music Award winners, they’re a really phenomenally talented band,” says Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer. “It’s an absolute thrill to have professional music back in the venue. It’s been far too long!” Box office: 01757 708449, at selbytownhall.co.uk or on the door from 7.30pm.

Levelling up in York: Jazz funksters Level 42 in the groove at York Barbican on Sunday night

Eighties’ celebration of the week: Level 42, York Barbican, Sunday, doors 7pm

ISLE of Wight jazz funksters Level 42 revive those rubbery bass favourites Lessons In Love, The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up), Something About You, Running In The Family et al at York Barbican.

Here are the facts: Mark King’s band released 14 studio, seven live and six compilation albums, sold out Wembley Arena for 21 nights and chalked up 30 million album sales worldwide. 

This From Eternity To Here tour gig has been rearranged from October 2020; original tickets remain valid. Box office for “limited availability”: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Writes of passage: Musician and now author Richard Thompson

Guitarist of the week:  Richard Thompson, York Barbican, Monday, doors 7pm

RICHARD Thompson plays York Barbican on the back of releasing Beeswing, his April autobiography subtitled Losing My Way And Finding My Voice 1967-1975.

An intimate memoir of musical exploration, personal history and social revelation, it charts his co-founding of folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention, survival of a car crash, formation of a duo with wife Linda and discovery of Sufism.

Move on from the back pages, here comes Richard Thompson OBE, aged 72, songwriter, singer and one of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 20 Guitarists of All Time. Katherine Priddy supports. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

That clinches it: Emma Scott’s Macbeth leaps into the arms of Nell Frampton’s The Lady in rehearsals for York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth. Picture: John Saunders

Something wicked this way comes…at last: York Shakespeare Project in Macbeth, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, October 26 to 30, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

THE curse of Macbeth combined with Lockdown 1’s imposition to put a stop to York Shakespeare Project’s Scottish Play one week before its March 2020 opening.

Rising like the ghost of Banquo, but sure to be better received, Leo Doulton’s resurrected production will run as the 37th play in the York charity’s mission to perform all Shakespeare’s known plays over 20 years.

Doulton casts Emma Scott’s Macbeth into a dystopian future, using a cyberpunk staging to bring to life this dark tale of ambition, murder and supernatural forces. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Ballet Black dancers Marie Astrid Mence, left, Isabela Coracy, Cira Robinson, Sayaka Ichikawa, Jose Alves, Ebony Thomas and Alexander Fadyiro in Mthuthuzeli’s The Waiting Game

Dance show of the week: Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 7.30pm

ARTISTIC director Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black return to York with a double bill full of lyrical contrasts and beautiful movement.

Will Tuckett blends classical ballet, poetry and music to explore ideas of home and belonging in Then Or Now; fellow Olivier Award-winning choreographer Mthuthuzeli November contemplates the purpose of life in The Waiting Game. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

From Limpsey Gate Lane, August, by Sue Slack

Exhibition of the week: Fylingdales Group of Artists, Blossom Street Gallery, Blossom Street, York, until November 30

TWELVE Fylingdales Group members are contributing 31 works to this exhibition of Yorkshire works, mainly of paintings in oils, acrylics, gouache and limonite.

Two pieces by Paul Blackwell are in pastel; Angie McCall has incorporated collage in her mixed-media work and printmaker Michael Atkin features too.

Also participating are David Allen, fellow Royal Society of Marine Artist member and past president David Howell, Kane Cunningham, John Freeman, Linda Lupton, Don Micklethwaite, Bruce Mulcahy, Sue Slack and Ann Thornhill.

York Theatre Royal Studio to reopen with Tutti Frutti, haunting Female Gothic and Nightwalkers tales and Polish soldier’s trials

York playwright Mike Kenny: Updated adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess And The Pea for Tutti Frutti in York Theatre Royal Studio

YORK Theatre Royal Studio will reopen this autumn after lockdown hibernation and temporary use for storage.

The capacity has been reduced from 100 to 71, a Covid-safety measure that means the theatre space will now be head-on only, with seating no longer on the sides.

First to bed into this configuration will be Leeds children’s theatre company Tutti Frutti with York playwright Mike Kenny’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Princess And The Pea from October 21 to 26.

Imagine a place where what you see is not what it seems, with forgotten stories and forgotten things, say Tutti Frutti. Imagine princesses who don’t know they are princesses and a prince who doesn’t want to be king. Imagine a real prince, discovering a real princess, and a story that ends happily ever after.

Inside the Museum of Forgotten Things, three musical curators tell the amazing tale of the museum’s artefacts, most notably the mystery of a little green pea and how it ended up there.

Tutti Frutti promise an hour of humour, memorable songs and a romp through every type of princess you could imagine, replete with costumes to match.

“The audience will meet a demanding queen, an array of wannabe princesses and our main characters, an unknown girl, who is blown into the palace by a gust of wind, and an indecisive prince under pressure to find his real princess,” says Mike. “Will he ever find a real princess or his happy-ever-after?”

This show was first made by Tutti Frutti and York Theatre Royal in 2014 for an extensive tour and Christmas run at the Sheffield Crucible before playing to sell-out audiences in Hong Kong and Singapore in January 2015.

“In the dark between life and death, a haunted woman tells strange and terrifying tales”: Rebecca Vaughan in Female Gothic

Now it returns in a new and updated adaptation by Kenny and the inventive Tutti Frutti in a funny, original, beautiful retelling suitable for children aged three upwards and their families. Evening performances will start at 6pm, complemented by Friday shows at 10am and 1pm, Saturday, 3pm, and Tuesday, 11am and 2pm.

Dyad Productions producer Rebecca Vaughan will perform her adaptation of Female Gothic, directed by Olivier Award winner Guy Masterson on October 28 and 29 at 7.45pm.

In the dark between life and death, a haunted woman tells strange and terrifying tales; eerie stories, dusty and forgotten. Until now. “It’s the Hallowe’en season, so come along and be thrilled by three lost gothic spine-tinglers from the great Victorian female writers,” says Rebecca, who has appeared in such Dyad shows as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography, Christmas Gothic, I, Elizabeth and Austen’s Women.

Summoning the magic of the contraries, storytellers Jan Blake & TUUP will present Nightwalkers on October 30 at 7.45pm: a night of “disturbing, comedic and poignant tales of ghosts, duppies, jumbies, loogaroos, soucouyants and other supernatural beings that haunt the Caribbean and the Americas”.

Jan Blake, the queen of Afro-Caribbean storytelling, and TUUP – the acronym stands for The Unorthodox, Unprecedented Preacher – will explore the sorcery, shape-shifting and deep magic that has endured to sustain some and punish others through thunderous storytelling designed to raise the roof as well as neck hairs.

In Imagine If Theatre’s new production, My Old Man, on November 18 at 8pm, Michal Piwowarski’s whole world changes when his granddaughter Tasha finally moves out. The school dinner lady becomes his favourite person, a new neighbour moves onto the street and he has to face his biggest battle yet.

Imagine If Theatre allow people to “imagine if” within their own lives through their thought-provoking productions, creating theatre designed to be “inspiring, entertaining and unashamedly honest for intimate audiences”.

They make theatre shows based on the world around them, comprising real stories from real people, and in the case of the heartfelt and humorous My Old Man, that story revolves around the trials and tribulations of Michał, an old, blind Polish soldier.

Full details of the upcoming York Theatre Royal Studio season can be found at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Wish Upon A Frozen Star outdoor spectacle at Castle Howard frozen out by Covid

Cancelled: Wish Upon A Frozen Star at Castle Howard

WISH Upon A Frozen Star, this season’s illuminated Castle Howard Christmas event, has been cancelled “with great sadness”.

In response to the Government enforcing national Lockdown 2 from today until December 2, the senior team at the North Yorkshire country house has “spent a lot of time trying to find ways to make the light show event work”.

“However, the conclusion is that it is not logistically or financially viable to try to delay the get-in period and the opening of the event,” reads today’s official statement.

Wish Upon A Frozen Star would have combined a light-trail walk through the Walled Gardens, a performance of a 20-minute theatre piece by York playwright Mike Kenny, presented by Leeds children’s theatre company Tutti Frutti, and a light show projected onto the façade of the John Vanbrugh-designed late-17th century house by projection designer Ross Ashton’s company The Projection Studio, experts in delivering magical illuminated outdoor events.

When Wish Upon A Frozen Star was first announced, Ross said: “Castle Howard is a jewel of British architecture and a beautiful and inspiring place to work. I believe that this will be the largest projection mapping at any illuminated garden this year; the house alone will be covered with over eight million pixels.

“Creating the light trail and the projection in this year especially has been a challenge and we salute Castle Howard for having the vision to create something new.”

Billed as a “festive outdoor spectacle like no other”, the hour-long Christmas event would have run from November 27 to December 31, replacing the usual themed spectacular Christmas decoration tour through the house.

Playwright Mike Kenny

Castle Howard’s website says: “All bookers will be contacted by See Tickets to organise refunds and we thank you for your support and understand there will be many disappointed people.

“We are extremely disappointed ourselves not to be able to make this new magical event happen this year, but the safety of our staff, our visitors and the financial stability of the organisation have to take priority to ensure we can come back next year with another Christmas event that will once again surprise and delight our visitors.

“We’d like to say a huge thanks to our creative partners on these events, who have worked so hard alongside Castle Howard to explore every option during the past few months and particularly given the lockdown news we received at the weekend.”

What will Wish Upon A Frozen Star ticket holders now be missing? Picture the scene: Jack Frost has cast an icy spell, turning the Castle Howard Walled Gardens into a beautiful winter wonderland.

As twilight falls, you would journey through this enchanted world lit up by festive illuminations and immersive soundscapes. The only way to thaw the frosty spell and bring good cheer back in time for Christmas is to make a wish under Yorkshire’s starry skies and step out into a golden landscape of warmth, joy and wonder.

Your journey would climax with an epic story, projected as a light show by Sheffield-born Ross Ashton, who created the Northern Lights installation for York Minster in June 2018 and October 2019.

Working in tandem with audio artist and designer Karen Monid, whose layers of sounds enrich the sensory experience, he also has lit up the exterior of Buckingham Palace and Durham Cathedral and provided lighting extravaganzas for the 2012 London Olympics and the Edinburgh Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle.

Tutti Frutti and writer Mike Kenny had been working with the creative lighting and sound team to bring to life the characters to be discovered as you adventure through the light trail.

The Projection Studio’s design for Wish Upon A Frozen Star on the Castle Howard facade. Picture: The Projection Studio

On your journey though Jack Frost’s frozen kingdom you would meet the live action animals who have fallen foul of the icy spell and would need you to wish for Christmas and warmth to return to their world.

The animal characters would interact with audiences on the walk through the Walled Gardens, in a socially distanced way, both keeping the flow of visitors moving and telling magical and humorous stories along the way. Olivier Award-winning Kenny was writing the live-action material to be performed by a cast of five, directed by Tutti Frutti artistic director Wendy Harris, with costumes designed by Catherine Chapman.

For the light show event, timed ticketing, limited capacity and careful management of the socially distanced visitor flow of parties of up to six to the large South Front lawn would have been the Covid-safe measures.

Mike Kenny says: “It all started with the visual idea for the big lighting show and we came on board later when Abbi [Castle Howard head of marketing Abbigail Ollive], with her theatre background, suggested adding actors and a narrative.”

He came up with a story rooted in Christmas in the shadow of Covid. “Jack Frost has frozen the gardens, so there’ll be no Christmas and Father Christmas is being kept out. Only a battle between Father Christmas and Jack Frost can resolve this.”

The conundrum faced by Mike was the need to keep the drama as well as the audience on the move, “rather than being rooted to the spot or creating a log jam”. “In the gardens, the actors would not be in touch with each other, not close enough to communicate, so the stories wouldn’t have too much narrative because it wouldn’t matter if the audience members didn’t catch everything when they were constantly on the move,” he says.

Mike would have worked further on the script in situ, discovering what would and would not have been possible, but he had settled on the story featuring animals that would have been most affected by a frozen winter.

“I learnt that in that situation, animals either migrate, hibernate or store food,” he says. “We chose animals you would find in the Castle Howard gardens, without going the full Enid Blyton on it, and we gave them human personas connected with the house.

Northern Lights at York Minster. Picture: The Projection Studio

“The Robin had the character of a steward or butler, greeting audience members as they went into the gardens. The Squirrel was the gardener; the Hedgehog, the housekeeper; the Peacock, the Lady’s maid, with a Cinderella vibe to her, dressing in her mistress’s posh clothes, and the Rabbit, the scullery maid.”

Mike does not hide his disappointment at Wish Upon A Frozen Star not going ahead. “To have pulled something out of the hat for Christmas was great, and we were all really fired up for doing a show,” he says. “The whole Covid situation has sapped the energy of the creative industries, but this Christmas event would have looked amazing.

“The Castle Howard architecture has its own theatricality, which was such a gift for us. You can tell that someone with a sense of theatre had his hand in it [playwright turned architect John Vanbrugh]!”

No-go for Wish Upon A Frozen Star, but Castle Howard is continuing to plan for both Father Christmas in the House and the Courtyard Grotto from Friday, December 4.

“We have had to cancel Father Christmas performances in the House from November 28 to December 3 due to lockdown restrictions,” the Castle Howard statement reads. “See Tickets will be in touch with bookers to offer refunds on these performances or try to get you into a later show.

“It is our sincere hope that performances from December 4 will be allowed to continue. For people who booked Father Christmas tickets in conjunction with the light show, we will be contacting you directly to refund a proportion of your ticket. 

“If you would like to cancel your Father Christmas tickets – either Enchanted Audience with Father Christmas or the Storytime with Santa Grotto – because you cannot now come to the light show, then this is fine and you will be offered a refund. Please bear with us while we work through all bookers with our partners at See Tickets.”

Wish Upon A Frozen Star may have been frozen out by the ongoing Corona crisis, but Castle Howard’s website affirms the possibility of revisiting the collaboration: “We certainly hope, and intend, to continue the partnership with The Projection Studio, Tutti Frutti and our associated production teams on future events,” it says.