AFTER exploring Alzheimer's Disease in their 2014 production of Monday's Child, Leeds children's theatre company Tutti Frutti are touring WiLd!, a new Evan Placey play that unravels the story of a boy with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

WiLd! visits the York Theatre Royal Studio from Wednesday to Saturday, in the week after Tutti Frutti and the Theatre Royal have been playing host to the Little Feet Festival of Children's Theatre.

Supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award and aimed at children aged eight and upwards, WiLd! premiered at The Carriageworks in Leeds from April 30 and will be on British and Irish roads until July 9, including various dates for the 2016 Yorkshire Festival.

Actor Rhys Warrington and musician Molly Lopresti take to the stage to present the story of Billy, a fragile, misunderstood boy who lives within his wild imagination as he navigates his real and his imagined world, underpinned by emotions, behaviours and perceptions in relation to ADHD.

Director Wendy Harris says WiLd! is “one of the most thrilling projects Tutti Frutti has embarked on for some time". "This play tell a really important, but uplifting story that is supported by research in the area of ADHD in children," she adds. "We're also delighted to be making this play for children aged eight plus, a development from our usual age band of three to seven years."

Rhys, 23, came through three rounds of "very physical auditions for a very physical role" in which he narrates the story and enacts all the roles, from the perspective of Billy, the ten year old with ADHD. "At the beginning, we open with a teacher talking to Billy, but it's Billy saying it, and I then go on to play all his family," says Rhys.

York Press:

Rhys Warrington: "It was important to get children's views of ADHD"

Rhys's love of performing started at a "really young age" and he later studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now renamed the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. "My mother used to read me all the Harry Potter stories and we would do all the accents and I loved all that storytelling before the films came out," he says.

The stage would be his calling. "I did a play in the West End when I was just 20 at the Vaudeville Theatre, where I played Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations and Paula Wilcox was Miss Havisham," he recalls.

Rhys has greatly enjoyed working on WiLd! "I think Evan and Wendy have really captured the essence of Billy, so that makes it easier to play him," he says. "I also did my own research where, for me, it was important to get children's views of ADHD, such as talking about how boredom could be physically painful."

Just as Brendan Murray's play Monday's Child used scientific research about memory, so WiLd! is informed by biomedical science and interrogates the use of medication and behavioural intervention. The Wellcome Trust funding has enabled Tutti Frutti’s creative team to work in partnership with Professor David Daley of CANDAL (the Centre for ADHD and Neurodevelopmental Disorders across the Lifespan) at the University of Nottingham's Institute of Mental Health.

"In June, Evan and I met with children and adults in the ADHD support group with Professor Daley," says Wendy. "We had one session with them where they were all there and they all had very different stories to tell, and I found it a moving experience.

"What struck me most was that when it's anything to do with mental health, rather than something tangible, something physical, people just think of it as bad behaviour, when it's not."

Plenty of people have asked Wendy in advance of seeing the play, "What's the message?". "But as with all Tutti Frutti shows, I'm not interested in pushing home a message, but I am interested in telling meaningful stories, helping people to be more empathetic, maybe to understand themselves, maybe to ask questions. What matters to me is raising awareness and raising questions," she says.

"Billy is a sad and misunderstood boy but he's also funny and intelligent and we should celebrate that, and I guess it's that thing of embracing differences, so it's a hopeful piece. It's not doom and gloom, and it's always important that our work is hopeful but very moving at times too."

Tutti Frutti present WiLd! at The Studio, York Theatre Royal, June 15 to 18; performances at 11am and 1.30pm on Wednesday and Saturday; 1.30pm and 7pm, Friday; no show on Thursday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at Suitable for age eight upwards.