Founded as a dance company in 1991 by Stephen Long, lecturer at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, we were initially known as Axis Dance. In 1992 Niladri took over as Artistic Director, continuing our very physical style of devised work but instead focussing on children aged 3-7 years. He renamed the company Tutti Frutti.
We have continued to deliver high quality touring shows ever since and built an excellent reputation for inventive, creative productions for children aged 3+ and their families.
‘Tutti Frutti are brilliant at showing the triumph in the everyday’ – The Guardian
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 productions.
In 2005 Wendy Harris took the helm as Artistic Director and moved us to Hillcrest Primary School in Chapeltown, Leeds, and began a long term co-producing partnership with York Theatre Royal. Our work also shifted from devised work to commissioning – hiring writers for each production. The first year of this collaboration saw the co-production The Girl Who Lost Her Smile adapted by Andrea Earl, and also Mike Kenny’s Jack.
In 2012 we became a National Portfolio Organisation and obtained charitable status in 2014. Now based at Hope House, Leeds we tour a new adaptation nationally in the autumn and internationally in the spring.
Our new plays
In 2014 we produced Monday’s Child by Brendan Murray, working with a neuroscientist and a psychologist from Sussex University as well as the Alzheimer’s Society, to explore memory and dementia. 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.
In 2018 we produced Keepy Uppy by Evan Placey with Dr Andrea Utley and her team from the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Leeds, who specialise 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. It was a British Sign Language (BSL) integrated show for both D/deaf and hearing audiences about emotional literacy and feelings.
In 2023 we joined forces with fellow theatre company, One Tenth Human, to create The Lightbulb Princess. An electrifying show that taught children about electricity and what Christmas is all about.
In 2014 we produced a fantastical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea and in 2016 we produced a re-imaged Peter Pan tale called Underneath a Magical Moon by Mike Kenny. It went on to become our most programmed piece of work. In 2018 we produced a frosty adaptation of The Snow Queen for autumn and Christmas that year.
During 2020/21 we adapted our whole programme of work. We focused on being responsive and proactive in the new Covid-19 environment, looking after the core team, striving to provide employment for diverse freelancers and finding new and safe ways to reach our audiences.
In 2021 we created a series of 23 digital stories, filmed and edited at home, funded by Leeds Libraries and a range of trust funds, and created our first audio play, Sweet Dreams. Themed around the wonders and benefits of sleep, it was accompanied by three podcasts and an interactive game.
The development of our international tours began in 2013, which saw us 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. Our third US tour will take place in spring 2024.
Do you want to help introduce more children to the magic of theatre? Donate to Tutti Frutti today.