Writer: Mike Kenny
Music: Director: Wendy Harris
Movement Director: T C Howard
Musical Director: Dominic Sales
Reviewer: Jim Gillespie
This is a story built on wool and all things woolly, from the sheep who bleat on the hillsides, to the clicking knitting needles of the townsfolk, to the elusive trophy for the best winter jumper.
Crocheted bunting bedecks the knitted yurt which serves as homely hut and tiring house for the company. If two are company then Leeds-based Tutti Frutti are a crowd whose three energetic young actors metamorphose freely from shepherds to sheep to prowling wolves with skill and subtlety.
The story takes Aesop’s fable as its basis and the importance of story-telling is constantly evoked. Story is life; life is story. Some of the characters have yet to discover their story; others have yet to reach the end of their story. The essential moral of the fable is constantly reinforced, not as heavy-handed admonition, but as chorus line to the woolly verses: “No-one trusts a liar, even when they are telling the truth.”
If all this sounds preachy and moralistic, it isn’t. It avoids contrivance or condescension and is primarily fun, vibrant and entertaining. There is enough silliness and humour to keep the very young audience engaged – particularly when the actors donned woolly hats to become sheep at pasture, but retained their bolshiness, refusing to comply with their hapless shepherd’s instructions.
The three actors bring the tale to life convincingly, and Thomas Edward-Bennett, playing the Grandfather, won the hearts of the audience without milking his comic opportunities. Music, both live and recorded is used skillfully to create atmosphere, and imbue energy, with all three performers ably contributing. The dance of celebration which marks the climax of the show is a giddying delight, which had everyone clapping along in true party spirit. Lighting is used with subtlety when required to change the tone. The set and staging are simple, but effective.
Like many of the best Christmas shows, the season is irrelevant. The fable is timeless, and needs no panto trimmings to get its message across. So there is only limited interaction by the performers with the audience, and it never gets to be a cliche or an embarrassment. Tutti Frutti and the Lyceum have kept things plain but knitted up a “purl” of a piece.
Runs until Saturday 4th January