Wendy Harris has been the Artistic Director of imaginative, story-based theatre company tutti frutti since 2005. Here, she talks about latest play WiLd!, touring this spring and summer.
Tell us about WiLd!
We have teamed up with Writers Guild award-winning writer Evan Placey, and CANDAL at Nottingham University, to create a fantastic one person show that unravels the story of a wayward yet fragile and misunderstood boy who lives within his untamed imagination. It’s a brilliant, clever, cheeky new play celebrating all things ‘wild’ with a fabulous sound track, live music and fresh moves. We think we’ve created a production for naughty misunderstood boys and girls, their teachers and families up and down the land.
The show’s protagonist has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Why did you want to create a show about this condition?
tutti frutti are interested in creating productions that help children see the world with fresh eyes, to inspire them and to tell stories which are meaningful and to which they can relate. Our central character has the condition ADHD and we see the story from his point of view. The play deals with lots of things – family relationships, friendships and school life. Through the character telling the story we learn how it feels to be different. This is something all children can relate to. Statistically 1 in 20 children are diagnosed with ADHD in the UK, so that is roughly one child in every classroom.
What was the creative process like? How much research went into the development of the production?
We have had several meetings with Professor David Daley from CANDAL Nottingham University (science partner) and he has joined us at creative R&D sessions and will join us in rehearsals. We have met with adults and children from ADHD support groups in Nottingham. We have also researched through recommended resources on the internet and support websites. There is a point where we leave the research behind and create the play, but the play is underpinned and informed by the research we have done.
With any illness or condition, it can be difficult to understand the symptoms and their impact if you aren’t the one suffering. How does WiLd! show audiences what having ADHD is like?
It is a one man show, supported by a live musician. The main character Billy is a 10 year old boy – he has ADHD. We go through his experiences with him and learn about what is happening in his life and about his obsession with his bee hive. The writer Evan has stepped into Billy’s shoes and it’s his voice we hear on stage. He is both funny and quirky and we develop real empathy for his situation. Through learning about Billy we gain insight into his condition and its treatments.
A lot of controversy surrounds ADHD, with some critics going so far as to suggest that it’s a useless label for naughty kids, or that it just doesn’t exist. Where does WiLd! fit into this ongoing conversation? What do you want audiences to take away from the show?
I want the audience to enjoy a really good piece of theatre that tells the story of a vulnerable boy whose family is breaking up and who is struggling at school. I would like them to enjoy the story, to both laugh with, and feel empathy for, the central character. I also want them to develop their awareness about ADHD and the range of approaches to treatments, and then it is up to them to decide what they think about it. We will supply additional online resource and information for audiences. Our role is to tell stories, to raise questions and for our audiences to think about the story and to make up their own minds about the characters and their circumstances.
Follow tutti frutti @tuttifruttiprod