YELLOW Is The Colour Of Sunshine radiates warmth at the York Theatre Royal Studio from Wednesday to Saturday on its world premiere tour.

Written by Brendan Murray in a commission for Leeds children’s theatre company Tutti Frutti, the charming, playful story revolves around Yoshi and Hani, a little boy and a little girl, who are as different as chalk and cheese: one big, one small; one noisy, one quiet.

Side by side, they play by the blue sea, run through the green fields and dance in the yellow sunshine, but one day the sky turns grey and everything starts to change. Will the sun ever come out again?

Murray’s story unfolds underneath an ever-changing multicoloured sky as Yoshi and Hana make friends, learn about feelings and work out – with a little help from some dancing magpies – how to communicate what’s in their hearts.

This vibrant play for children aged three and above is performed by a cast of three: Connor Bryson, a graduate from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s inaugural class of BA Performance in British Sign Language, Phoebe Stapleton and movement director, dancer and performer Holly Irving.

Their performance combines spoken word, sign language and movement, played out against Kate Bunce’s Japanese-inspired design, complemented by original music by Christella Litris.

“New writing is one of the vital aspects of our work as a theatre company for young people,” says Tutti Frutti’s artistic director, Wendy Harris.

“For Yellow Is The Colour Of Sunshine, we wanted to create a piece for theatre’s youngest audiences and their families and carers that explores emotions and the importance of identifying and understanding feelings. As with all our work, we’re doing this in a positive, fun and creative way to make a memorable shared experience.

“This includes working with a deaf performer, in addition to a dancer and spoken-word performer, to really open up communication through a production that speaks in many languages to make a vibrant and magical show.”

Murray has written three previous plays for Tutti Frutti: The Hare And The Tortoise, Monday’s Child and When We Lived In Uncle’s Hat. “We started talking about this commission three years ago and initially we discussed the idea of doing a play about childhood anxiety and depression, but then it broadened out into the idea of emotions and emotional literacy,” says Wendy.

This led to the play being created in consultation with David Cottrell, professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Leeds University. In his capacity as scientific advisor, Cottrell has played a role in developing the play’s themes of encouraging emotional literacy in young people.

“He defines emotional literacy as the ability to recognise and identify emotions, to manage and feel in control of feelings and recognise emotions in others, and then be able to express what you are feeling,” says Brendan.

“What happens with children is that their emotions are as big as ours when we’re adults but they get overwhelmed by their feelings, so they have tantrums. Everything is new when you’re that age; you don’t have the perspective that time brings. So when you drop an ice cream, it’s the end of the world – though that’s like adults with relationships!”

For research, Tutti Frutti held workshops with five year olds and six year olds at Leeds schools, looking at emotions. In addition, 25 parents of young children were interviewed about the primary emotions shown by their children and how the children dealt with them.

“The research showed that even in the same family, children had different ways of processing their emotions,” says Brendan.

“In the end, we defined five primary emotions experienced by young children: happiness or sadness; fear; loneliness; anger and jealousy.

“So I came up with the simplest of stories that takes the children on a journey through their emotions.”

l Tutti Frutti in Yellow Is The Colour Of Sunshine, York Theatre Royal Studio, June 19 to 22, 11am and 1.30pm, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday; 1.30pm, 6pm, Friday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at Suitable for age three upwards.

Charles Hutchinson