Syndicated Interview with Writer and Director Tom Saunders and the Cast of Princess and The Frog at Hull Truck Theatre

12 Dec 2023 | In The Media

We are excited to welcome families, schools and young audiences to Hull Truck Theatre for a festively froggy family adventure of Princess and The Frog, on stage in the Godber Studio from Wednesday 13th – Sunday 31st December.

Lily isn’t your average Princess. She’s a tree climbing, Dr Martens wearing, football loving Princess. As the night of the Castle’s annual Christmas ball arrives, she’s expected to brush her hair, keep herself clean, pop on a posh frock and most importantly… keep out of trouble! As she tries to amuse herself in the Castle grounds, she befriends an unsuspecting frog. But there’s more to this frog than meets the eye, and Lily is about to witness a true Christmas miracle unfold right before her very eyes.

We caught up with the writer and director Tom Saunders (previous directing credits include: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jack, Mum & The Beanstalk), to find out why he thinks it’s important for children to experience live theatre from a young age and what audiences can expect from this festive adventure. Cast members Petra Joan Athene (Princess Lily) and Jason Connor (Frog) also welcomed us into rehearsals to share with us their experience of creating this warm, funny and joyful story.

Why should audiences and especially young children be excited about seeing Princess and The Frog this December?

Tom: We’re hoping to offer a fun production full of magic, dance and song. As well as having a lovely experience, I hope children leave the theatre copying the dance moves and singing the songs.

Tom, when writing the characters of Princess and the Frog, what did you want them to represent?

Tom: When adapting an existing fable into a play I aways think ‘why does this matter in 2023?’ So, I have tried to shape the characters and story in way that is meaningful to children and families at this moment in time. On this occasion we’re focusing on friendship and how exciting it can be to have friends that are different to you. Our Princess, Lily, hasn’t had a friend before and always assumed that her friends would do everything she wanted, but good friendship is about compromise.

Jason and Petra, what makes your characters relatable and are there any similarities between your character and yourselves?

Jason: I think Frog captures the excitement of childhood. Frog is wide eyed and full of wonder about the world around him. He’s experiencing the best parts of human life unfold for the first time, one after another and he couldn’t be happier about it. I love Frogs’ willingness to do anything to cheer up a friend and how he doesn’t care about the expectations set by the human world.

Petra: Princess Lily is a fiercely energetic ball of joy who loves nothing more than playing, getting up to mischief and having a giggle which are all the wonderful elements of being a child. I see myself in Lily in that I enjoy being silly and giggle more than I should, I can’t wait to play her and for all the kids to see their own silliness.

What makes this version of the classic children’s story that we all know and love, different from any other version?

There are so many different versions of this story so I imagine every audience member will bring a different set of expectations into the theatre when they attend. There is one approach to this story where it could be themed around the theme of ‘shallowness’ in the princess. I was keen to avoid this because I didn’t want to make the princess into an unlikeable character or use the accusation of being ‘shallow’ to pressure her in to kissing the frog.

In our version, the princess is lonely, bored, and frustrated because other children aren’t allowed in the castle, so she has no one to play with, which is why she is so excited by the arrival of the frog. Conversely, in some versions the frog turns out to be a prince who has been cursed by a witch, but in our version, he is just a normal frog who loves being a frog. In fact, being turned in to a human is a scary experience for him.

How has it been using puppets in this production?

Jason: The use of the puppet in this story really enhances the wondrous transformation the frog embarks on from just an ordinary garden frog to an animated froggy friend that introduces lily to a world of fun and friendship. The difficulties I’ve found have been with making sure the frog is always alive and portraying the journey of thought he goes through. 

If you could choose any famous tale and adapt it to modern day, what would you choose?

Petra: I would love to adapt a version of Little Red Riding Hood as I would love to take a comedic spin on little Red facing the twists and turns of a modern world. I see a lot of my curious nature in her and could enjoy exploring different challenges she could face in a modern-day setting.

Jason: I’d love to see a modern twist on Rumpelstiltskin as I like the message behind the tale about always telling the truth and facing up to the consequences of actions. I think creating a comedic version of Rumpelstiltskin from the Grimms tale would be a lot of fun. 

Why do you think children should experience the magic of theatre from a young age and why is it important?

Tom: I love that theatre creates a magical experience in which we can learn about how to live life in a safe and an enjoyable way and acknowledge that life can sometimes be difficult. I hope that children and their families leave the theatre with some new language to talk about feelings/ideas such as loneliness, boredom and friendship.

Slightly more pragmatically, I do just think theatre is great. Watching live theatre is enjoyable, fun and thought-provoking and that’s a good enough reason to do it.

What can we all learn the most from Princess and The Frog this Christmas?

Petra: I think this show has a joyful message, taking audiences on a wonderful journey of navigating friendship as a child.

Jason: That friendship can come from the most unexpected places.

Tom: To love and like people for who they are, rather than who you want them to be.

Tickets for Princess and The Frog are now on-sale and available to buy online and via Hull Truck Theatre’s Box Office. Recommended age guidance is 3+ and all performances have a relaxed attitude to noise and movement in the theatre space. BSL performances are also scheduled. For more information, please visit:

Princess and The FROG

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