YORK playwright Mike Kenny is not only returning to York Theatre Royal but to Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen too as Tutti Frutti’s new touring production opens in the Studio today.

“I worked on Snow Queen once before, a very long time ago, but this is a new version for Tutti Frutti,” says Mike. “The last time must be at least a dozen years ago, maybe more, as one of my first plays for the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

“This time we started from scratch, as I’d got to the point where I thought,’I don’t have anything new to say about Snow Queen’, but when I came back to it, I realised there’s so much to it.

“Hans Christian Andersen was probably the first proper genius storyteller for children; he virtually invented children’s literature single-handedly. It’s 200 years since he was writing but we still tell The Ugly Duckling, The Princess And The Pea and The Emperor’s New Clothes. They have entered the culture.

“I think he’s an extraordinary writer and an amazing character (who Martin McDonagh has just written a new play about, called A Very Very Very Dark Matter).”

York Press:

Playwright Mike Kenny

Leeds company Tutti Frutti and York Theatre Royal are teaming up again to tell Andersen’s story of Kai and Gerda, who have been friends for as long as they could remember, in this account growing up in tower-block poverty. One day, in a whirl of magic and deception, Kai is pulled under the spell of the powerful Snow Queen, who is all ice and coldness. As Gerda sets out to save her friend and return life to normal, her winter journey will revolve around loyalty, loss and love and the dangers of the unknown.

“I’ve worked with Tutti Frutti on a lot of plays over the years but maybe nothing quite this epic,” says Mike. “At the heart of the story is a friendship. There’s something very moving about the boy who is so hurt that he closes off his feelings, and the girl who sets out to find him and, through sheer force of will, melts that frozen heart. They both grow in the process.”

Why had he been reluctant initially to revisit Snow Queen? “The reason I was hesitant to come back to it was because last time I’d made up my mind about it, and what it was about was two ordinary kids going through adolescence and meeting each other again on the other side,” says Mike.

“In this new version, well, I won’t give it away, but something happens to Kai, so his heart freezes and he can’t see anything positive, so he becomes separated from his emotions and ends up in the Snow Queen’s palace, where there are no feelings, and he’s trying to stay that way forever, which is the task the Snow Queen. It’s that thing of boys dealing with difficulties by denying them, freezing them out.

“Whereas, on Gerda’s journey, she goes off into the flower garden, meets the Robber Girl and only finally does she set off north to find Kai. This was written 100 years before Sigmund Freud: how perceptive Andersen was about human psychology!”

Tutti Frutti’s Snow Queen runs in the York Theatre Royal Studio from today until October 13, then goes on tour. York box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk