Wendy Harris has been the Artistic Director of imaginative, story-based theatre company tutti frutti since 2005. This Christmas, The Boy Who Cried Wolf is on at The Lawrence Batley Theatre from 12th-28th December.
What is it about Aesop’s fable of the boy who cried wolf that initially attracted you, and that you’ve seen attract audiences of young people?
We were looking to make a show that would work over the festive winter period and I liked the idea of a show set in a snowy landscape – this play is set over three winters. I was also interested in the character of a boy not ready to take on responsibility and perhaps looking for something else that was beyond his immediate surroundings. Our boy has a huge imagination and he learns about taking responsibility in the show. We didn’t want to push a moral point to our audience and we don’t really focus on moral from the original story.
This adaptation is written by Olivier award winner Mike Kenny – how do you work with a scriptwriter, and how do you work with the finished script?
We start with an idea that I present to Mike. Next we bring together all the artists who will work on the show and we explore ideas around the story for 2 days. Mike takes this all away and develops a script – which he and I continue to develop throughout rehearsals. It’s a collaborative creative process that continues throughout rehearsals with the whole team
You’ve worked with Mike on a number of productions – what is it about his writing that makes it so successful?
Mike understands our audience of children and families and that is always at the heart of the work he creates. He is able to tap into what children can identify with and what families will be delighted by. Add to that his unique skill with language and you have a magic combination
Tutti frutti is very supportive of writers creating work for young people. Lots of companies are creating devised or wordless pieces, why do you think that written scripts are so valuable?
I think there is some fantastic non-verbal and devised work for children to see in the UK. I enjoy working with writers because their work brings a poetry to the production – each word is carefully chosen. Also writers can add things to plays even with very few words because they understand the importance of structure and how to create drama.
tutti frutti is a well-known company touring productions for young audiences across the UK – how can other children’s theatre companies replicate your success?
I believe at tutti frutti we work very hard to ensure everyone who works for us shares our values, our aims for the highest quality work and are committed to our mission. Tutti frutti is only as good as all the people who work so hard to make it happen and the creative artists who contribute to the vision. We are very clear what we do and who we are trying to reach and this gives us a strong focus and determination to do the best job we can for our audiences
Why is it important to create theatre for young audiences?
We believe that all children regardless of their background are entitled to high quality cultural experiences. We know arts and culture enrich lives and children deserve this too. It also has huge benefits in terms of children’s development and how they see the world. Every child deserves magic and positivity in their lives – why wouldn’t we want to offer that to our children?
What are tutti frutti’s plans for 2015?
In 2015 we are touring our hugely successful production Rapunzel following this year’s visits to the Assitej World Congress of children’s theatre last year and performances in Hong Kong . In the autumn/ winter we are touring Snow Child a beautiful new play by acclaimed writer Emma Reeves who is best known for her recent stage success with Hetty Feather (West End) and the TV series Tracy Beaker and Dumping Ground. See more details on our website.
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