The Ugly Duckling

York Theatre Royal and Tutti Frutti

Ilkley Literature Festival

ANY parent of a three-year-old will tell you it's impossible to get them to sit still for five minutes, let alone 55.

Well, that's exactly what happened as our daughter sat cross-legged, front row, in awe at the wondrous story unfolding in front of her eyes with the Tutti Frutti production of The Ugly Duckling.

What's more, she wasn't alone, as most of the other children packed into All Saints' Primary School in Ilkley – and their parents, too – were equally enchanted by this glorious adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s well-known tale of identity, belonging and the appreciation of inner beauty.

From the pen of Emma Reeves, the three-strong cast of actor-musicians – Danny Childs, Daniel Naddafy and Maeve Leahy – bring the tale to life through story-telling, drama, song, puppetry and physical theatre, with great energy and immense artistry.

Irish actress Maeve Leahy is the warm-hearted, maternal Mother Duck, nurturing one giant egg among her array of new-born ducklings, played chirpily by Nick Ash's puppets. Having the voice of an angel also helps!

Daniel Naddafy's Fluffy was playing it for laughs, as he did with such aplomb in the fellow guises of a wily cat and cockney swan, talking the London patois of modern day while strutting around the stage like an ageing rock star.

Daniel Naddafy displayed superb physicality throughout in the title role, his innocent charm and naive, fresh-faced outlook on life earning instant – and highly deserved – rapport from the audience, young and old alike.

Incredibly simple, yet symbolic stage design from Catherine Chapman further enhanced the endearing atmosphere of the set, ensuring the journey to the discovery of self and our place in life was all the more enriching.

Tutti Frutti have really hatched a winner here.

Richard Parker