Delivering high quality children’s theatre

tutti frutti was founded in 1991 as a dance company called Axis Dance by Stephen Long, lecturer at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. Niladri took over as Artistic Director and continued the very physical style of devised work and changed the name to tutti frutti with a focus on work for children aged 3-7 years. We have continued to deliver high quality touring shows and built an excellent reputation for inventive, creative productions for children aged 3+ and their families.

In 2000 we became a resident company at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and produced middle scale family Christmas shows; Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Firebird, and Cinderella, in addition to our small scale national touring.

Wendy Harris took over the helm as Artistic Director in 2005 and relocated the company to Hillcrest Primary School in Chapeltown Leeds where we resided for 5 years and created the delightful My Place installation with and for the children and parents of the school. With the arrival of Wendy came the commencement of a long term co-producing partnership with York Theatre Royal, something that continues today, and a shift to commissioning writers for each production rather than devising work. The first year saw the co-production The Girl Who Lost Her Smile adapted by Andrea Earl, and Mike Kenny’s Jack with two new productions being made annually thereafter.

We originally received limited core funding from Arts Council England (ACE) and for many years were awarded ACE Grants for the Arts funding to support the making and touring of each production. In 2012 we received an increase in core funding from the Arts Council and became a National Portfolio Organisation. Furthermore, in 2014 we obtained charitable status. We are grateful for further funding on a project basis from numerous trust and foundations most notably the John Ellermen Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

In 2011 we moved to Shine in Harehills, Leeds where we currently reside.

2012 saw the development of a new collaboration with York Theatre Royal with the launch of the Little Feet Festival of Children’s Theatre. This biennial festival programmes work from across the UK suitable for children aged 0–12 and sees the theatre transformed into a magical child-friendly space. In 2018 the Little Feet Festival went for a walk and we simultaneously ran the festival at the Carriageworks in Leeds and at York Theatre Royal. We are currently working on the 5th edition of the festival for June 2020.

In 2011 and 2013 we ran First Words, a creative nurturing project aimed at developing new playwrights for children’s theatre. The project gave 12 writers, at various stages in their careers, the opportunity to participate in an intensive week-long series of workshops with directors, choreographers, composers, designers and puppeteers to support them in developing their writing for children’s audiences.

Alongside creating adaptations of well-known stories, in 2014 we developed some new collaborations that embedded scientific or academic research as a key element of the productions development.  This started with a new play; Monday’s Child by Brendan Murray, working with a neuroscientist and a psychologist from Sussex University, and the Alzheimer’s Society, to explore memory and Alzheimer’s. It was named as one of the top ten shows to see in 2014 by The Guardian (the only play for children on the list).

In 2016 we teamed up with the Centre for ADHD and Neurodevelopmental Disorders across the Lifespan (CANDAL) based at Nottingham University.  We used current research on ADHD, particularly in reference to symptoms and the impact of treatment options, to create the play Wild! by Evan Placey, to great critical acclaim.

A new play in 2018, Keepy Uppy by Evan Placey, was produced working with Dr Andrea Utley and her team from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Leeds specialising in Motor Control, Motor Development and Exercise Psychology.  The show explored the impact and benefits to development, both physically and psychologically of children engaging with sport, in this case football.

In 2019 we produced Yellow is  the Colour of Sunshine by Brendan Murray working  with Professor David Cotterill, Head of Child Psychiatry at University of Leeds . A BSL (British Sign Language) integrated show for both deaf and hearing audiences about emotional literacy and feelings.

In 2013 we developed our touring internationally taking several shows to KidsFest in Hong Kong and Singapore. We performed Rapunzel at the Assitej World Congress in Warsaw in 2014. We were juror selected to perform at IPAY (International Performing Arts Youth) in Madison, Wisconsin in January 2017 where we took our show Wild!, and were also selected for the Assitej World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa. We began work with US agents Holden & Arts Associates in June 2017 and in February 2019 we embarked on a tour of the US taking our popular show Underneath a Magical Moon on an 8 week tour covering 7 states from Las Vegas to New York. Underneath a Magical Moon performs in Hong Kong in February 2020 and our second US tour of the Boy Who Cried Wolf will take place in spring 2021.

We have remounted some of our popular autumn shows specifically for Christmas runs, frequently having two shows running concurrently. In 2013 we restaged Rapunzel and in 2014 The Boy Who Cried Wolf both at the Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield , then Underneath a Magical Moon at Jackson’s Lane, London in 2017 and Ugly Duckling at the ARC in Stockton on Tees in 2018.

We currently perform to around 35,000 children giving over 250 performances per year.

‘Leeds-based tutti frutti has a reputation as one of the most inspired ensembles specialising in work for very young children’ – The Guardian