Five years ago Leeds company tutti frutti first staged York playwright Mike Kenny’s re-spinning of Aesop’s wintery old yarn in new patterns and shades, as favoured by the contestants in the annual jumper-knitting competition that opens and closes this one-act show for three-year-olds and upwards.
Designer Hannah Sibai has cloaked the Studio stage in white, from the floor to the tree branches; from the lit-up miniature village houses at the front to the snow-peaked mountains that form the backdrop.
Colour comes from the suffusion of old-fashioned/Scandi-noir knitted clothing, scarves and hats worn by actor-musicians Alex Wingfield, Florence Russell and Guido Garcia Lueches, who add extra woolly headgear when playing unruly, hip-hop dancing sheep.
The play’s title carries a moralising tone, but Kenny prefers to encourage children to take on responsibility in a story set over three winters in a bleak sheep-farming community.
Grandad (Garcia Lueches) now lacks the energy to guard the family’s flock from wolves high up in the mountains, and hands over the duty to his young grandson Silas (Wingfield) who quickly tires of the sheep’s stubborn streak and decides to end his solitary job by lying that a wolf is in his midst.
He does so again the next winter, but each time his Mum (Russell) and Grandad caution him that “no-one trusts a liar, even when they’re telling the truth”.
Director Wendy Harris plays to Kenny’s storytelling strengths, bolstered by Dom Sales’s deeply daft folk songs in an enchanting, amusing and ever so slightly scary show.
The curmudgeonly but highly humorous sheep, with their bleating dialogue and teenage demeanour, go down particularly well, providing the most fun for audience and cast.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf is at York Theatre Royal until October 12.