JOANNA Brown should have been attending her graduation ceremony from Rose Bruford College on September 12, but she had a prior commitment in York.

Joanna, 23, was deep into rehearsals for her professional theatre debut in Tutti Frutti Productions and York Theatre Royal's premiere of Princess And The Pea, having completed her actor-musicianship course in Sidcup.

Those skills come in handy for York playwright Mike Kenny's new adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's tale of a Prince's search for a real Princess among a plethora of putative princesses.

"I come from Ipswich, where the Wolsey Theatre does a rock'n'roll pantomime every Christmas, so I'm very familar with actor-musician's theatre," says Joanna.

"I auditioned for Tutti Frutti while still at college; we'd just finished our last season at The Bargehouse at the Oxo Tower Wharf , where we did an all-new writing season, performing a new version of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall Of The House Of Usher as an actor-musician piece.

"Just a week after that finished, I got this role, in a week when I was writing dissertations – all needs must! – to finish my third year. I got the call on the Friday morning, so I went to the college summer ball knowing I had my first professional job."

From today, actress, soprano singer, clarinettist and piano player Joanna will be playing the Queen – "she's my gal," she says – and a couple of princess, Princess Holly Goggins and Princess Saffron, plus the Evil Stepmother, as well as the role of one of three museum curators who narrate the story.

"I get to play the clarinet in this show and I've been learning the accordion for it. As a pianist, it's not too difficult to play as it's chordal based with all the keys on the right-hand side, but it's still something to get my head around," she says. "And I'll also be singing beautiful music by Oliver Birch; I feel really privileged to be working with him."

One of the joys of doing a premiere is the freshness of it all. "It's wonderful because you get to create characters and you get to meet the writer," says Joanna. "It's fantastic to have Mike [Kenny] there as you really feel part of the creative process. That's an amazing experience to have."

Tutti Frutti Productions and York Theatre Royal present The Princess And The Pea, York Theatre Royal, today until October 4, then on tour and at Sheffield Crucible Theatre. York box office: 01904 623568 or at