REGULAR partners York Theatre Royal and Leeds children's theatre company Tutti Frutti are teaming up once more for the opening production of the autumn and winter season in the Theatre Royal Studio.
Tutti Frutti director Wendy Harris will be directing York playwright Mike Kenny's fantastical adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's tale of The Princess And The Pea from September 18 to October 4. Expect a funny, original, beautiful retelling of the familiar story, set on a wintry, stormy night when everything changes, as the east wind blows through the castle of secrets.
"It's not for the faint-hearted, fake Princesses or for those who have trouble sleeping at night, but it is for everyone aged over three," says Wendy.
In a second co-production with another regular partner, the Theatre Royal teams up with actress Elizabeth Mansfield and playwright Steve Trafford's company Ensemble for Trafford's new comedy, The Restoration Of Nell Gwyn, featuring songs by Henry Purcell, from October 9 to 25.
Full of bawdy wit, this premiere transports the Studio audience into the wanton world of the English Restoration, where King Charles II lies ill and his royal whore, the actress Nell Gwyn, once the brightest star of the Restoration theatre, rages against her fate.
Mistress Gwyn and her maid Margery, played by Elizabeth Mansfield and Angela Curran respectively, will lead you on a merry dance, filled with their laughter, their tears, and Nell's enchanting songs of the Baroque, in a rollicking romp that ends with a sting in its tail.
Theatre Royal artistic director Damian Cruden is delighted to be directing the premiere. "We've done two plays with Ensemble previously, and it's very interesting this time because we didn't commission this one but I was invited to direct it as part of the creative team," he says.
"It's nice to have a different beginning point, when the piece was more formed than a 'normal' commission would be, so I can be reflective and responsive to what Steve's seeing through his eyes, rather than having to shape it. This way it becomes a more comfortably collaborative piece."
Assessing the play, Damian says: "It's a challenging piece; very funny, very bawdy, as it should be with Nell Gwyn, and it has a touch of the ridiculous about it too, with King Charles II on his deathbed and Nell Gwyn desperate to get in to see him, so she has to dress as a man."
The Restoration Of Nell Gwyn also affords the opportunity to throw royalty into the spotlight.
"We still go through spells of royalty being popular and then less so," says Damian.
"Every ten years, we have a discussion about the future of the monarchy and its role. At the heart of the English character is the dilemma that while there is the notion that having the monarchy is a great thing, there's also the belief that we're all born equal, and that rankles with the notion of what it is to be English, where every man's home is his castle and we're all kings."
So speaks Scottish Damian.
In a third collaboration, the Theatre Royal will team up with the Company of Angels for Jacek Laskowski's translation of Ingmar Villqist Helver's Night from October 30 to November 8.
Directed by Hal Chambers, this "gut-wrenching" play charts the relationship between Carla and her young charge, Helver, who is fascinated by Fascism, not by the ideology but the by the movement's bravura.
"Company Of Angels took part in our Theatre Cafe showcase of European theatre, and this was the play that we selected from that for the autumn," says Damian.
"It's a fabulous piece and sits really well in the canon of what we're doing this season. It may be only a two-hander but it's a big play and it's a European play too, which gives it a different perspective."
For tickets, phone 01904 623568 or book online at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk