Puppets, live music, audience interaction and a wonderfully inventive set all help to bring the story alive, but at the heart of it all is the love of a good yarn.
Tallest Tales is the story of a little girl who gets lost in a magical forest. She meets 'Leshies' (an old Slavic term for wood spirits) who involve her in their weird and wonderful tales to help her find her way. Northern Stage has a reputation for offering audiences original family entertainment at Christmas - a refreshing alternative to panto - and Susan describes the show this year as “exciting, funny and just a little bit scary”.
Writer Susan Mullholland has researched traditional Russian and European fairy tales that have been passed down through generations and across cultures. She talked to Professor Kim Reynolds at Newcastle University who specialises in children's literature, and discovered that some of the best loved fairy tales – for example Little Red Riding Hood - are actually rooted in reality, despite seeming fantastical.
Working with Susan are long-time collaborators Mark Calvert – Creative Associate at Northern Stage - who’s directing the show, designer Andy Stephenson and musician/composer Katie Doherty.
The cast are no strangers to Northern Stage either. Tom Walton was in The Borrowers at Northern Stage last Christmas, directed by Erica Whyman OBE - currently shortlisted for best children's show in the national UK Theatre Awards (the winner will be announced on 20 October).
Ruth Johnson, who plays the little girl, has starred in two hit Christmas shows at Northern Stage - The Prince and the Penguin and Shhh...A Christmas Story (also both written by Susan Mulholland and directed by Mark Calvert).
Alice Blundell and Michael Blair were both part of last year's NORTH cohort – the annual company set up by Northern Stage to support and develop talented young theatre makers in the region. NORTH toured their first show The Man Who Thought the Moon Would Fall Out of the Sky over the summer including the Edinburgh Fringe and Latitude Festival.
Award-winning North East musician Katie Doherty is composing original music for the show with songs for the audience to join in with. This year, some of it will be played live by the actors on stage - Michael plays guitar, Alice plays the fiddle and Tom plays a guitalele - a cross between a guitar and a ukulele.
Tallest Tales from the Furthest Forest opens at Northern Stage on 16 November and runs until 4 January 2014.