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Review: Ugly Duckling at York Theatre Royal

As the mother of three young children, I’ll take parenting advice where I can get it: from the woman serving me at M&S who has a great tip on getting little ones to sleep earlier to the chef at the café down the road with brilliant ideas for encouraging kids to eat more adventurously. What I didn’t bank on was getting parenting ideas from a duck. That’s mother duck from Tutti Frutti Productions’ Ugly Duckling, to be precise.
This charming show for children aged 3 and over – which runs at York Theatre Royal’s Studio until mid-October – is perfect family entertainment for little ones. Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale is brought to life – and bang up-to-date – with a warm, witty script that includes puppetry, music and back-flips but doesn’t lose the essence of the original story. At its heart, this is a story of family, of belonging, of sibling jealousy and of being okay with being yourself.
From the moment that Ugly – as his unkind older brother names him – hatches from his shell, he’s up against it. Ugly is big, grey and can’t even quack properly – no wonder he doesn’t fit in with his fluffy yellow siblings. Wise mother duck – the kind of gentle, unflappable parent we’d all like to be – tries to reassure him that it’s not how he looks but what he does that matters. Unfortunately, Ugly’s siblings disagree and conspire to lose him forever in a game of hide-and-seek. It’s then that he meets a crew of crazy animals (top marks to the fabulous cast for lightning-quick costume changes) that each tries to teach him how to be more like them. We won’t give away the ending, but the show comes to a beautiful conclusion that sees Ugly accepting who he is and eventually spreading his wings.
This was our two year old’s first theatre trip, so we really wanted it to be a positive experience (we’re working towards the day we can take all three children to the pantomime together!). We suspected we’d be in safe hands with Tutti Frutti and we were right. Our little one loved it, especially ‘the funny bits’. We couldn’t have asked for a more captivating or appealing show to begin a lifetime in the stalls. Catch it before it flies.

Ugly Duckling runs at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 14th October, 11am, 1.30pm and 6pm (selected days) – Running time 1 hour – Tickets from £12 – Book tickets through the York Theatre Royal website

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