A wintry fairytale

Mike Kenny at St Marys Abbey, Museum Gardens, York. 'Picture by Gerard Binks.
Mike Kenny at St Marys Abbey, Museum Gardens, York. 'Picture by Gerard Binks.

Once again the Christmas attraction at the Crucible for younger children is being provided by touring company tutti frutti with a new version of Aesop’s much loved story, The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

By leading children’s playwright Mike Kenny, who wrote last year’s show Rapunzel, the new wintry tale tells the story about a boy, unable to find delight in what is around him and instead seeks adventure, excitement and the thrill of the unknown!

It is perfomed by a gifted ensemble of actor musicians who play the delightful characters, funny sheep and perhaps a scary wolf or two…

York-based Kenny is one of England’s most prolific playwrights, specialising in young people’s theatre. He is the recipient of numerous awards, was included in the Independent on Sunday’s list of Top Ten Living UK Playwrights and his plays are performed regularly throughout the the world. His works include the Olivier award winning The Railway Children and most recently the critically acclaimed Blood + Chocolate.

He has long been associated with tutti frutti and he and artistic director Wendy Harris worked together on his first play for an early years audience, The Lost Child, at the Crucible back in 1990. “We have been talking ever since and tutti frutti commissioned the play Jack from me and have since done Visiting Grandad and Rapunzel. We are both interested in fairy tales and their dark hidden depths,” he explains.

“I’m often a bit uncomfortable with Aesop’s Fables, because of their easy moral messages, and I don’t tend to have much truck with that,” he continues. “They can be a bit finger wagging. ‘Nobody trusts a liar, even when they’re telling the truth’ is fair enough, I suppose, but a play needs surprises.

“In our early discussions about the story, we all admitted that we all told a fair few fibs from time to time. Wendy and I began to think about our Boy, and wondered if there wasn’t a bit of wolf in him. He certainly wasn’t a sheep. So this is a boy, living in a small community but wanting to stretch his wings a bit - sorry about the mixed animal metaphor. In the end, he actually faces the wolf down and he couldn’t do that unless he had a bit of something about him.”

Writing for young audiences has its challenges. “My experience of children is that they are completely unimpressed by who you are and what you have done. If they are bored, they are bored, and they don’t think it’s their fault if they can’t understand (as many adults often seem to) they think it’s your fault for wasting their precious time. Keeping their attention is not easy. I just love the challenge. I often think that engaging in explaining the big issues of life, death and living to a young audience is incredibly useful. Most of my plays are as much a journey of discovery for me as they are for the audience.

There are day-time performances of The Boy Who Cried Wolf in the Crucible Studio from next Wednesday to January 4. In the new year the co-production with York Theatre Royal will go to Hong Kong and Singapore.