MIKE Kenny’s Christmas starts at Easter.
For that’s when the man behind some of the most magical children’s shows around gets cracking on his next festive treat.
Olivier-award winning Mike is one of the country’s most prolific playwrights but he is especially known for his skill in creating exciting theatre for young people.
His new look at the classic story of Beauty And The Beast opens at the Lawrence Batley Theatre on Thursday (December 13). It’s a co-production between the LBT and East Midlands based Engine House theatre company.
“I did it originally as a village hall show for a company in Oxfordshire,” he said.
“For a family show in a village hall, you have to do something that will work for everybody.”
Now Mike is delighted to have been able to rework the show for a new audience in Huddersfield.
“It has an earlier life but it’s been transformed into a different piece. It’s going to be great.”
“Engine House director Matt Aston made me get it out of the drawer. He said we will get together with composer Julian Butler, which we did.
“Julian is a genius. He’s turned the show into a musical, building songs into it that are just right.
“He’s a musician and he has a way with words that makes me spit!”
Not that Mike is any slouch himself. Not content with Beauty And The Beast in Huddersfield, his new version of Sleeping Beauty opens in the Courtyard Theatre at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds tonight (December 7) and runs until January 19.
It’s a fresh and fun retelling of a fairytale classic and marks Mike’s seventh collaboration for the Playhouse with director Gail McIntyre.
So here’s a writer with two major shows on for Christmas within a few miles of each other – and he’s busy working on new productions for next summer.
“I do Christmas around Easter. At the moment I’m working on a piece for York Theatre Royal for next summer which is about King Arthur. I haven’t found the thread for it yet, but I will.”
Mike is no stranger to offering a fresh take on classic tales from British literature. He’s introduced new generations to stories such as The Railway Children, Peter Pan and Wind In The Willows. And Mike will always find a way of making the stories fresh and relevant.
“I like tackling things that I don’t have answers for. I’m keen on addressing things like death, or friendship or loss.
And when you think about it, Beauty has a few of those issues to contend with. Love, loyalty, looking good and being able to see what is in front of you are all themes that this classic tale has to share.
But Mike tells it in a fun, down-to-earth way so that even young children can find all those big questions approachable.
“You also have to give them a good time. It’s the difference between fast food and a proper meal. A proper meal should be well cooked and enjoyable.”
Mike is a great advocate of theatre being exciting and entertaining as well us making us think about ourselves and about the world we live in.
“I object to going to something that’s hard work. People shouldn’t make theatre hard work but sometime it is.”
Working with Matt Alston and the team from Engine House has not been hard though. Anything but.
“I’ve been very lucky to be on board on this occasion. It’s great to be working with energetic and talented young people who are quite inspiring to be with.”
Though he has won national acclaim with his work, when it comes to home, that’s very much Yorkshire for Mike.
“I’m from Oswestry on the Welsh borders. My mum grew up in the same area and I couldn’t go out without everyone knowing who I was.
There were as many chapels as pubs in the area he grew up in, but not the richness of theatre life that his world is now all about.
“It was probably ideal preparation for what I do now but I probably didn’t think so then. I couldn’t believe that the world was doing this amazing stuff.”
“All that side of the family still live in the area. When I visit they say what have you been doing then, Mike?
“I find that quite refreshing and I really enjoy that in a way. I was the one who had the wandering bug.”
That bug brought Mike north to Yorkshire.
“I came to the old Playhouse in Leeds in 1978. And that was it.”
So what will he and his family be doing this Christmas?
“We’re going to The Hobbit at Christmas and I’ll be doing the rounds of my own shows.
“And though I don’t do panto, I’ve always gone to see them and we’ll be off to York to see Berwick Kaler’s panto. It’s sublime.”
Mike’s own beauty of a show runs at the LBT until December 30. Box office is on 01484 430528.