The Princess and the Pea (York Theatre Royal)

tutti frutti and Mike Kenny’s latest fairy tale adaptation typically manages to feel both contemporary and truthful to the original

Following on from the beautiful and poignant Monday’s Child, tutti frutti’s latest production returns to the world of classic fairy tales with this adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea.

(R-L): Danielle Bird, Oliver Mawdsley & Joanna Brown in tutti frutti's The Princess and the Pea
(R-L): Danielle Bird, Oliver Mawdsley & Joanna Brown in tutti frutti's The Princess and the Pea
© Brian Slater Photography

In Mike Kenny‘s version, a down-on-her heels Queen (Joanna Brown) is looking for a Princess to marry her errant son and hopefully save her family.

One stormy night a bedraggled girl (Danielle Bird) is blown up to the palace doors, purporting to be a princess. The feckless Prince (Oliver Mawdsley) is instantly smitten but the Queen needs convincing; how can she be sure this girl is a real princess? There’s only one way to find out – she must endure the "pea test".

This is an altogether different beast from the delicate and poetic Monday’s Child. Kenny’s lean script is funny and raucous. Wendy Harris‘ direction is boisterous and cheeky, and the three actors bound around every inch of Catherine Chapman‘s evocative set with compelling energy; engaging and interacting with the audience, both young and old, from the get-go.

Music and song always play an important part in tutti frutti shows and in The Princess and the Pea the songs are really pushed to the forefront, and rightly so. Ollie Birch‘s numerous compositions are smart and textured, and add more humour to the already jovial tone.

If there is one criticism, the final pay-off to the story is dealt with a little hastily in comparison with the rest of the performance and I wonder if a little clarity might be lost on the youngest audience members.

Ultimately though, this is another well-crafted and enormously enjoyable production from tutti frutti and, as with all of their shows, amid the fun there is a deeper point to take away, in this instance it’s the question of what it means to be "real".

The Princess and the Pea continues at York Theatre Royal until 4 October 2014 and then tours extensively. For full tour details visit