CONKERS are thudding on car roofs, leaves are on the turn, and actors on the York Theatre Royal stage have taken to wearing wool.

Winter is on the way, but in Mike Kenny’s new play for three year olds and upwards, it is already here as he renews his partnership with Leeds company Tutti Frutti to re-spin Aesop’s old yarn in typically new patterns and colours, matched by the contestants in the annual jumper-knitting competition that opens and closes his show.

Director Wendy Harris’s actor-musicians, Mathew Hamper, Sally Ann Staunton and Thomas Edward-Bennett, are not only swathed in jumpers (and leggings in Sally’s case) but also pull on woolly hats to play bleating sheep, while poles are wrapped in wool and large blankets form the backdrop in Kelly Jago’s wintry stage design.

Kenny, playwright and father to boot, is never one for heavy moralising in his children’s shows. However, he does believe in encouraging children to take on responsibility, a theme that lies at the heart of his story set over three winters in a bleak sheep-farming village that would look the part in one of those Scandi-Noir dramas.

Grandfather (Edward-Bennett) is no longer sufficiently fleet of foot to guard the family sheep and look out for predatory wolves, high up in the mountains, and so he hands the duty to his grandson, the very reluctant Silas (Hamper).

Yet to turn ten and definitely not excited by the honour of keeping his village safe in the beautiful great outdoors, Silas is quickly bored, finding sheep’s stubborn behaviour irritating (whereas of course the audience finds them amusing).

The show title tells you what he does next, lying that a wolf is in his midst, and Kenny makes a point of mother and grandfather repeating the mantra that “no one trusts a liar, even when they’re telling the truth” after Silas does the same the following winter, eventually learning that he can’t pull the wool over their eyes.

Yet Kenny also has Silas saying that he is not a “bad boy but occasionally does bad things”; in other words, he just needs to grow up, take the aforementioned responsibility offered to him, and even find his inner wolf.

All this is packed into 45 minutes of storytelling theatre, complemented by Dominic Sales’s delightfully daft folk songs on accordion, guitar and fiddle in a show that young audiences will find enchanting, funny and ever so slightly scary when the cast plays wolves.

Kenny’s curmudgeonly sheep, constantly bumping into each other, are a particular hit and their bleating dialogue adds to the fun provided by a cast that knits together so well.

Hamper has the bored yet adventure-seeking boy off to an innocent-looking tee, backed up by Edward-Bennett’s sage grandfather and Staunton’s exasperated, ever-knitting mother. Don’t wrap up warm (unless you will be seeing the show in Sheffield at Christmas) but do appreciate all the wool that has gone into making Wendy Harris’s production such a visual joy.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Tutti Frutti/York Theatre Royal, York Theatre Royal Studio until October 12; then on tour, including Sheffield Crucible Studio, December 11 to January 4. Box office: York, 01904 623568; Sheffield, 0114 249 6000.