Writer: Brendan Murray
Director: Wendy Harris
Designer: Kate Bunce
Composer: Christella Litras
Movement: Holly Irving
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
Leeds-based company tutti frutti always manages to combine a playful style with serious intent in its widely-toured productions for young children – in this case, from as young as three years old. It’s surprising to find that, in a colourful, apparently simple production full of music and dance, a Scientific Advisor figures prominently in the credits, but David Cottrell is a Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and his role is to advise on the development of children’s emotional literacy.
The play is essentially about the ability to feel and understand the emotions of friendship. Playing happily in the sun is great, but friendship must also survive the squabbles that arise through selfishness and the times when the sun goes in and the storms start. Also, friendship is about inclusivity: in Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine one character (Hani) communicates mainly through speech, one character (Yoshi) through mime and sign language, while the third member of the cast uses dance and movement to influence and deepen the children’s friendship.
Hani is playing happily with her friends, the magpies, when Yoshi appears as if by magic. They communicate with each other although he cannot speak and soon they are best friends playing together. An argument over a kite (he teases her with not letting her play with it) breaks up their friendship, just as dark clouds break up the sunny day. Of course, with the assistance of the magpies, Hani and Yoshi learn what friendship is and the sun comes out. The old nursery rhyme about magpies (“One for sorrow, two for joy”) recurs throughout Brendan Murray’s sparse script – and two for joy it is at the end.
Wendy Harris’ direction integrates design, music and movement with apparently casual precision. Both design and music have more than a hint of a Japanese influence about them. Kate Bunce’s set consists of a box for magical appearances, a half-moon shape for balancing on and a tent to skulk in, all in front of a bright blue sky and brilliant yellow sun (both of which change throughout the play). Christella Litras’ music plays throughout, often beautifully atmospheric, sometimes precisely punctuating words and actions.
Phoebe Stapleton (Hani) and Connor Bryson (Yoshi) are both adept at expressing emotion through facial expression and movement and Holly Irving flutters and floats her way through the key roles of Magpie and Kite. It’s an hour’s jolly fun for all, but also emotionally enabling for its very young target audience.
Touring nationwide | Image: Contributed