National Theatre At Home to screen Jane Eyre on YouTube for free from Thursday

The National Theatre’s Jane Eyre: on the NT’s YouTube channel

THE National Theatre’s celebrated production of Jane Eyre will be shown on the NT’s YouTube channel for free on Thursday at 7pm.

This will be the second in the two-month series of National Theatre At Home screenings that was launched with One Man, Two Guvnors last Thursday, since when more than two million people have watched Hull playwright Richard Bean’s comic romp.

Cookson’s re-imagining of Charlotte Brontë’s inspiring Yorkshire story of trailblazing Jane was first staged by Bristol Old Vic in 2015 and transferred to the National in the same year with a revival in 2017.

In May that year, the National Theatre’s touring production visited the Grand Opera House, York, for a week’s run, winning the “Stage Production of the Year in York Made outside York” award in the annual Hutch Awards in The Press, York.

Cookson’s bold, innovative and dynamic production uncovers one woman’s fight for freedom and fulfilment on her own terms. From her beginnings as a destitute orphan, spirited Jane Eyre faces life’s obstacles head on, surviving poverty, injustice and the discovery of bitter betrayal before taking the ultimate decision to follow her heart.

During this unprecedented time of the enforced shutdown of theatres, cinemas and schools in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, National Theatre At Home is providing access to content online to serve audiences in their homes.

Audiences around the world can stream NT Live productions for free via YouTube every Thursday at 7pm BST and each one will then be available on demand for seven days.

Coming next after Jane Eyre will be Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island from April 16 and Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, starring Tamsin Greig as Malvolio, from April 23. Further titles will be announced.

Alongside the streamed productions, National Theatre At Home will feature accompanying interactive content, such as question-and-answer sessions with cast and creative teams and post-stream talks. Further details of this programme will follow.

National Theatre Live turned ten on June 25 last year: the date of the first such broadcast in 2009, namely Phédre, starring Helen Mirren. Over those ten years, more than 80 theatre productions have been shown in 3,500 venues worldwide, reaching an overall audience of more than ten million.

NT Live now screens in 2,500 venues across 65 countries. Recent broadcasts include Cyrano de Bergerac with James McAvoy; Noel Coward’s Present Laughter with Andrew Scott; Fleabag with Phoebe Waller-Bridge; Arthur Miller’s All My Sons with Sally Field and Bill Pullman; All About Eve with Gillian Anderson and Lily James; Shakespeare’s Antony And Cleopatra with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo; Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with David Morrissey and Ben Whishaw and Tennessee Williams’s Cat On A Hot Tin Roof with Sienna Miller.

Here is Charles Hutchinson’s review of the National Theatre’s Jane Eyre when it played the Grand Opera House, York, in May 2017, published in The Press, York. Please note, the cast differed from the one to be seen in the National Theatre Live performance on YouTube from Thursday.

Nadia Clifford as Jane Eyre in the National Theatre’s touring production of Jane Eyre at the Grand Opera House, York, in May 2017

YOU will not see a better theatre show in York this year, and you won’t have seen a better theatre show in York since The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.

For those who want their National Theatre to be for everyone, and not only for London, then the Grand Opera House is doing a fine job of bringing the NT north, thanks to the pulling power of the GOH’s owners, the Ambassador Theatre Group.

Your reviewer cannot urge you enough to see Sally Cookson’s remarkable interpretation of Charlotte Bronte’s no less remarkable novel. Yes, some of the ticket prices are on a Premier League scale, but this is Premier League theatre. What’s more, Jane Eyre is a Yorkshire story, back on home turf after Cookson’s premiere at the Bristol Old Vic and subsequent transfer to the South Bank.

Rather than being adapted for the stage with a plodding narrator, this is a devised production of vivid, vital imagination. Michael Vale’s set is rough hewn, gutted to the minimum, with wooden flooring and walkways, a proliferation of ladders, a sofa, and yet it evokes everything of Bronte’s harsh world.

Cookson’s cast is multi role-playing, aside from Nadia Clifford’s Jane Eyre, who never once leaves the stage in three hours (interval aside), changing costumes in full view with the assistance of fellow cast members.

The story hurtles along so fast, the ensemble company runs on the spot between scenes to the accompaniment of thunderous drums, and they even take a mock piddle at one point in the rush to crack on: one of the comic elements to counter the grimness up north.

Energy, energy, energy! And that applies not only to Clifford’s feisty, fiery Jane Eyre, whose accent may curve towards her native North West, but that in no way lessens her performance.

The cast as a whole is magnificent, be it Tim Delap’s troubled Rochester, Evelyn Miller’s triptych of Bessie, Blanche Ingram and St John; Paul Mundell’s austere Mr Brocklehurst and tail-wagging Pilot the dog; Lynda Rooke’s chalk and cheese Mrs Reed and Mrs Fairfax or surely-too-good-to-be-an understudy Francesca Tomlinson’s five-hand of roles.

There is so much more that makes Cookson’s production so startling, movingly brilliant: the sound design of Dominic Bilkey, the inexhaustible movement direction of Dan Canham; the beautiful, haunting compositions of Benji Bower for the on-stage band of David Ridley, Alex Heane and Matthew Churcher, who join in ensemble scenes too and never take their gaze off the action.

Last, but very definitely not least, is Melanie Marshall, the diva voice of Bertha Mason, a one-woman Greek chorus whose versions of Mad About The Boy and Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy will linger like Jane Eyre in the memory.

May 2017

Pocklington Arts Centre crowdfunding appeal passes halfway mark

“During this period, it is critical that we continue to support our staff, artists and creative partners,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre’s crowdfunding appeal has raised more than half its target already.

Launched in the immediate aftermath of the Market Place venue closing its doors to the public on March 17, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the crowdfunding page has accrued donations of £3,060 towards the £5,000 goal.

What’s more, Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) has received £2,000 in ticket refund donations from customers for cancelled events.

Now PAC has thanked everyone for their support in helping the venue ride out the tempest and come back stronger than ever, with the hope of a good majority of shows being re-scheduled for the autumn and winter.

Director Janet Farmer said: “With the health and safety of our staff, visitors, artists and volunteers being of the utmost importance to us, Pocklington Arts Centre has temporarily closed its doors to the public while we weather this storm.

“During this period, it is critical that we continue to support our staff, artists and creative partners. We are working closely with our peers across the region, and indeed the country, and are determined that PAC will emerge from this challenge stronger and more vibrant than ever.”

Janet continued: “The crowdfunding appeal will play an important part in this re-emergence, so we want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has donated so far. Your support is greatly appreciated and we look forward to seeing you all again when we re-open.”
To make a donation, visit:

Slung Low theatre company to launch street art gallery on Leeds lamp posts

The Slung Low team outside The Holbeck Slung Low in Leeds

LEEDS theatre company Slung Low are to open a new art gallery with a difference this month.

Based in Holbeck, South Leeds, the company will be setting up the LS11 Art Gallery to showcase the best paintings, drawings and photographs created and chosen by the people of Holbeck and Beeston.

However, instead of displaying the images on gallery walls, they will be placed on lamp posts for all to see.   

Slung Low have asked people from the two Leeds areas to email their image to the theatre company. Slung Low will then arrange to come around and take a copy of it and then print the images on special plastic board for display on lamp posts around Holbeck and Beeston.

Artistic director Alan Lane says: “Our instinct at Slung Low is always to be useful and kind. For the last few weeks that has primarily been about delivering food-bank parcels and helping people get their prescription.

“We know that a hungry soul will find it hard to be creative, to find joy, so the first part of our response has to be making sure that people have their basic material needs met: and we will continue that work until this is all over.

“But as theatre makers we also understand the importance of storytelling and that there are different ways to be useful.”

Alan continues: “LS11 Art Gallery is us telling the story that this area – like all parts of this nation – is full of creativity; that in every house are people who are brilliant, creative and capable of profound beauty. We need to make sure we keep telling that story in these challenging times. 

“We’re going to open an art gallery on the lamp posts of LS11 and the people who live here will make what we exhibit. Let’s cheer ourselves up a bit.”

Founded in 2000, Slung Low specialises in making epic productions in non-theatre spaces, often with large community performance companies at their heart. 

The company has relocated to The Holbeck in South Leeds, the oldest working men’s club in Britain.

There, they run the bar as a traditional members’ bar and the rest of the building as an open development space for artists and a place where Slung Low invite other companies to present their work that otherwise might not be seen in Leeds. All work presented at The Holbeck is Pay What You Decide. 

In Autumn 2018, Slung Low launched a cultural community college based in Holbeck; a place where adults come to learn new cultural skills, from stargazing to South Indian cooking, from carpentry to singing in a choir. All workshops, supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, are provided on a Pay What You Decide basis.  

Slung Low are now volunteer guardians of the city wards of Beeston and Holbeck, taking referrals from the Leeds City Council Covid-19 helpline (0113 378 1877).

In turn, with help from the staff of other arts organisations in Leeds, including Opera North, they are delivering food and medicine to the vulnerable, elderly and those in isolation. 

How to take part in the LS11 Art Gallery: 

IF you live in the Holbeck or Beeston areas of Leeds and want your drawing, painting or photograph to be featured, please take a picture of it.

Then send it to Slung Low by email at or by text on 07704 582137. Slung Low will then arrange to come around to take a copy of it for you.

Keep on Trucking as Hull theatre sets up activities aplenty for playing at home

Hull Truck Theatre: building closed, but the theatre invites you to be creative at home

CREATIVITY cannot be closed down, says Hull Truck Theatre, as it launches an At Home community hub from April 6.

Over the coming weeks, Hull Truck will run a programme of drama and creative activities to keep audiences and communities entertained and inspired during the Coronavirus lockdown.

This will involve a stream of “engaging and accessible content”, ranging from A Play A Day and Writing Workouts to 3 Minute Theatre, Educational Resource Packs and Screening past shows, all to be found on the new page  

The theatre’s statement says: “Hull Truck Theatre are passionate about the positive and transformative power of theatre and believe that having the opportunity to take part in creative activities is good for everyone’s wellbeing, outlook and self-esteem. 

“The team have prepared activities to help with home schooling; opportunities for all ages to learn and develop writing skills, and we’ll be streaming some of our past shows to be enjoyed from the comfort of your sofa. 

“Hull Truck Theatre hope that taking part in them will help participants to feel creative, connected and part of our online community hub.”  

Matthew Wilson and Nicola Stephenson in Jim Cartwright’s Two at Hull Truck Theatre

Here is a guide to the Hull Truck Theatre At Home programme:

 A Play A Day: Play-reading activity for all ages 

EVERY weekday from April 6 to 24 at 10am, a short play will be released, written by local playwrights. The plays were commissioned by Hull Truck for various projects over recent years; the theatre is delighted to share these with a wider audience now.  

Participants can read these plays on their own, out loud with the people in their household or with friends by phone or a video-conferencing platform. Each play will come with notes to help the reader, so, even if they have never read a play before, they can enjoy it as much as a theatre professional.  

First up will be Lydia Marchant’s 2009, written as part of a youth theatre project, Ten, and performed in March 2019 by 55 members of Hull Truck Theatre’s Young Company.

Ten celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Hull Truck moving to Ferensway and featured ten ten-minute plays, each based on a year in the decade 2009 to 2019.

The next four plays lined up were part of Ten too:  Ellen Brammar’s KidnappingNick; Lydia Marchant’s 2011; Josh Overton’s 2012 and Marchant’s 2013.

Writing Workout with Tom Saunders: Daily tasks for writers of all ages and abilities 

NEW writing is a core part of Hull Truck’s artistic programme, the theatre working with writers at any stage of their career and regularly staging or presenting world premieres, new adaptations and cutting-edge new writing from around the country.   

From April 6, associate director Tom Saunders will post a daily blog with a writing activity for people to complete at home. Writers of any age will be encouraged to complete the task, and, if they wish, can share footage of themselves reading their work on social media. 

“Even though our doors may be closed, we hope to continue inspiring people to enjoy the arts from their own home,” says Hull Truck Theatre artistic director Mark Babych

3 Minute Theatre

FOR those still needing their “fix of great theatre”, Hull Truck Theatre is asking some of its associate artists to record a short monologue from a play of their choice, to be shared across Hull Truck’s online channels.

Nicola Stephenson, from the cast of Jim Cartwright’s Two, Hull Truck’s 2020 co-production with Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, and writer-performer Hester Ullyart have shared their monologues already.

These can be found on the or the Hull Truck YouTube channel,  

Education Resource Packs

HULL Truck has made all its Education Resource Packs from past productions available for downloading online for use by teachers and home-schooling families.

For packs from Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Treasure Island, Oliver Twist, Peter Pan and Two, go to:

These packs include plot synopsis, character breakdown, information about authors and classroom activities to inspire teachers or home-schooling families.  

Hester Ulyart in Paragon Dreams at Hull Truck Theatre in April 2019. Picture: Sam Taylor

Screening past productions

HULL Truck is digging through its archives and is excited to share recordings of favourite shows over the years. 

First up will be a screening of Paragon Dreams from 2019, written and performed by Hull artist Hester Ullyart, directed by artistic director Mark Babych.

This tense thriller about a woman returning to Hull to face the ghosts of her past will be streamed on YouTube on Wednesday, April 8 at 7pm.  Watch Hull Truck Theatre’s social media channels via @hulltruck for the viewing link.

To engage on social media with these activities, tag @hulltruck for all platforms and use the relevant hashtags: #PlayADay, #WritingDaily, #3MinuteTheatre, #HTTEducation and #HTTStream.

Launching Hull Truck Theatre At Home, Mark Babych says: “In this time of uncertainty, it’s easy to feel alone. As a theatre family we are stronger together, with Hull Truck Theatre At Home we are hoping to reach out to our local communities – while still complying with Social Distancing.

“Even though our doors may be closed, we hope to continue inspiring people to enjoy the arts from their own home while also connecting with each other. Whether people are hosting their own online viewing parties or using video calls to go through the exercises together, we hope to start a conversation and help us all feel a lot better in these times. Stay well, stay safe and we look forward to welcoming you back soon.” 

Imitating The Dog shows go online for fortnightly streaming from tomorrow

Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse in the 2020 co-production of Night Of The Living Dead – Remix. Picture: Edward Waring

INNOVATIVE Leeds theatre company Imitating The Dog are responding to the Coronavirus restrictions by going online with a fortnightly streaming.

Their cutting-edge work from the past 20 years will be made available through their website,, kicking off tomorrow (April 3) with projection project Oh, The Night!.

Every fortnight on Fridays for the foreseeable future, Imitating The Dog will release the next in a selection from their theatre performances and sited work.

Look out, in particular, for 2020’s Night Of The Living Dead – Remix, a shot-for-shot stage re-creation of George A Romero’s cult 1968 zombie movie, made in co-production with Leeds Playhouse, streaming on April 17.

Further performances will include Arrivals And Departures, a strange and fantastical bedtime story, commissioned in 2017 by Hull: UK City of Culture to look at the East Yorkshire port’s legacy of migration, on May 1, and 6 Degrees Below The Horizon, a macabre and playful tale involving sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers, on May 15. Projection project Yorkshire Electric, on May 29, uses clips from the Yorkshire Film Archive.

Further productions will be announced through social media in the coming weeks. Each will remain on the website and can be viewed on a Pay-What-You-Like basis.

Imitating The Dog’s Yorkshire Electric at the Spa Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

The resulting income will go into a development fund to facilitate the company supporting freelance artists and practitioners to create new work.

Co-artistic director Simon Wainwright says: “With the end of our own Night Of The Living DeadRemix tour being cancelled and so, so many events and performances now postponed, we thought we’d make some of our past shows available for people to watch online.

“We’re in a lucky position to have some fantastic recordings of past work, mostly filmed by our friends Shot By Sodium. It’s obviously no substitute for the real thing but in these isolated days, and until we can get together in a room again, we hope these videos will provide joy, thinking and entertainment in equal measure.” 

Fusing live performance with digital technology, Imitating The Dog’s two decades of ground-breaking work for theatres and other spaces has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people at venues, outdoor festivals and events across the world.

Among other past productions are Hotel Methuselah, A Farewell To Arms and Heart Of Darkness, while their sited work has included light festivals.

For more information and to watch productions from April 3, go to

6 Degrees Below The Horizon: Imitating The Dog’s macabre and playful tale of sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers

 Here are the upcoming productions:

Friday, April 3: Oh, The Night!

ONE wintry night, a bedtime story is being told, but it’s late, time for the light to go off, time for the story to pause until tomorrow night.

However, one child starts to wonder… one child at first, but then another… and another. It might be bedtime and it might be late but without the end to the story how can they possibly sleep?

What’s happened to the characters? Where have they gone? Are they just stranded there, waiting for earth to turn its circle, so their story can carry on the next night?

The children decide to find out. They creep past the grown-ups, out of the house and to who knows where to find out what happens and how their story ends.

They find bears and foxes, monsters and ghouls, elves and wizards all stranded in the night, hiding or hunting, not knowing who to scare or where to run. All stuck in a place between.

Together, they go on a journey through the night, to the morning and to the safety of the light.

Performed in Hull, Oh, The Night! combined elements of bedtime stories gathered from around the north of Europe to create a new fable for 2018. The work was commissioned by Absolutely Cultured for Urban Legends: Northern Lights and featured a community chorus and soundtrack from Finnish composer Lau Nau.

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix: Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse match George A Romero’s film shot for shot

Friday, April 17: Night Of The Living Dead – Remix

IN 1968, Night Of the Living Dead started out as a low-budget independent horror movie by George A Romero, telling the story of seven strangers taking refuge from flesh-eating ghouls in an isolated farmhouse.

Fifty years on, seven performers enter the stage armed with cameras, a box of props and a rail of costumes. Can they recreate the ground-breaking film, shot-for-shot before our eyes and undertake the seemingly impossible?

Requiring 1,076 edits in 95 minutes, it is an heroic struggle. Success will demand wit, skill and ingenuity and is by no means guaranteed.

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix is an Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse co-production, presented by courtesy of Image Ten, Inc.

Friday, May 1: Arrivals And Departures

IMITATING The Dog’s work for Hull: UK City of Culture 2017 put a poetic spin on the history of arrivals in and departures from the city. The piece looked at the past of migration from a contemporary perspective, exploring the journeys that have gathered a population and moulded a landscape.

Using The Deep, in Hull, as both canvas and building blocks, Arrivals And Departures pulled together strands of the complex and universal issues of migration as a wider subject matter.

The work was created as part of the Made In Hull opening celebrations for Hull: UK City of Culture.

Imitating The Dog’s Arrivals And Departures for the Made In Hull opening to Hull: UK City of Culture at The Deep, Hull, in 2017

Friday, May 15: 6 Degrees Below The Horizon

THIS macabre and playful tale of sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers is a startling and visually stunning work, where the audience views the action through windows and moving frames. In doing so, they piece together a modern fable of failed dreams, lost love and the guilt of absent fatherhood.

Building on the successes of Hotel Methuselah and Kellerman, in 2012 the company created an immersive experience for audiences with a captivating fusion of cinema and theatre.

Part French film, part Edwardian vaudeville, and drawing on the works of Genet, Wedekind, and Brecht,6 Degrees Below The Horizon undertakes a delightful and twisted voyage into a shadowy world wherein there are no certainties.

Friday, May 29: Yorkshire Electric

YORKSHIRE Electric travels from the dales to the coast on board the footage of the Yorkshire Film Archive.

Using video mapping, intricate lighting and a soundtrack from the Leeds band Hope & Social, the show transformed the Spa Theatre, Scarborough, offering the audience the opportunity to wander through 100 years of Yorkshire lives and landscapes, from the farming hills to the holiday beaches and back again.

Bringing together Imitating The Dog and architectural lighting specialist Phil Supple, the piece offered the opportunity to enjoy rarely seen footage of a century of Yorkshire life in your own time.

Everyone is welcome at Velma Celli’s Drag Party as York cabaret queen streams show

Velma Celli: drag queen supreme on stream

YORK drag queen supreme Velma Cella is to appear in thousands of living rooms across the country – and around the world – in an uplifting live concert, streamed tomorrow evening.

Velma’s Drag Party will be on screen at 6.30pm as part of the Leave A Light On concert series promoted by Lambert Jackson and The Theatre Café, St Martin’s Lane, London, to provide financial support for the performers involved and entertainment for people in self-isolation.

“This is a tough time for many people, particularly those who regularly attend live concerts, shows and gigs who are missing the unedited nature of live performance,” says Ian Stroughair, the West End actor and singer behind Velma Celli’s spectacular make-up and even more spectacular singing.

“I’m incredibly proud to be taking part,” says Ian Stroughair, alias Velma Celli

“So, it’s fantastic that Lambert Jackson and The Theatre Café have produced such a superb series of concerts that can be watched live at home from some of the finest West End performers. I’m incredibly proud to be taking part.”

Velma Celli’s monthly show at The Basement, City Screen, York, is in abeyance during the Coronavirus lock-down, but devotees and first-timers alike tuning in tomorrow evening can expect “some belted classics and plenty of laughs along the way as we leave reality behind for an hour of camp fun”.

Leave The Light On pays homage to the theatre tradition of leaving a single light burning on the stage of an empty theatre,  supposedly to appease the ghosts who reside there.

Tickets for the live stream cost £7.50 and can be bought up to an hour before the broadcast.  Viewers will be sent a link via email that enables them to watch the performance live.  To buy, go to

All quiet in the library but Explore York encourages Libraries from Home online opportunities. Here’s what you can do…

York Explore Library and Archive, the York hub of Explore York in Museum Street, York

THIS is the time to explore Explore York online, providing the Libraries from Home service during the Coronavirus lockdown.

“If you are confused or overwhelmed by the huge amount of information on offer, Explore can help,” says executive assistant Gillian Holmes, encouraging visits to the website,, “where it is simple to find what you need”.

This encouragement comes after all Explore York library buildings, reading cafes and the City Archives were closed to the public from 12 noon on March 21, in response to Government strictures.

“We are making it easy for people to find information and advice, as well as inspiration, as we all deal with the Coronavirus crisis.”

The Explore website has assorted useful links to help people cope during the coming weeks. “Some sites have always been part of our online offer and some are brand new,” says Gillian.

“We are also working with City of York Council and our many partners in York, so that our communities can join together and we continue to support their initiatives, just as we will when our buildings open again. 

“Organisations across the country are developing their online services in this challenging time. We are using our expertise to gather together the best offers and add them to the lists of sites we recommend.” 

Explore York will be developing online activities of its own, such as a Virtual Book Group. “We will be updating the website regularly as these new things come on stream and sharing on social media using #LibrariesFromHome,” says Gillian.

The York Explore building: Quiet in the library but still seeking to be busy online

What’s available online from Explore York:

Updates on how Explore is responding during the pandemic and updates about what’s new at 

Information and support during the Coronavirus crisis from official sources at 

5000 Ebooks and audio books for adults and children free to borrow from the online library at 

The chance to visit the new York Images site to explore the history of the city through photographs, illustrations, maps and archival documents at 

The opportunity to start your family tree using Ancestry and Find My Past. The library editions are both free to use from home at

Reliable information about everything can be found on the Online Reference pages at 

“Everything is free to access,” says Gillian. “All you need is a library card. You can get a card online and start using it immediately at” 

Curse of Macbeth strikes again as York Shakespeare Project postpones show

Hand-washing for our times: Amanda Dales as Lady Macbeth in York Shakespeare Project’s now postponed Macbeth. Picture: Amanda Dales

YORK Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth should have opened this evening, but the curse of “the Scottish play” has struck again.

Although Macbeth is play number 29 in Shakespeare’s chronology of 38 plays, YSP had held back the Bard’s tragedy big hitter until production number 36 of 37 as part of a grand finale to the 20-year project in 2020, with The Tempest as the final curtain this autumn.

Now, however, theatre’s harbinger of bad luck and its Weird Sisters have delivered double, double toil and trouble to YSP, whose March 30 to April 4 run at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, is mothballed until further notice under the Coronavirus shutdown.

Amanda Dales, left, as Lady Macbeth, and Emma Scott, as Macbeth, in rehearsal for York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth. Picture: John Saunders

“We were six rehearsals short of the finishing line,” says YSP’s Tony Froud, who was to have played Ross in Shakespeare’s dark tale of ambition, murder and supernatural forces. 

“The ideal solution would be to pick it up again with the same company of actors later in the year, but there could yet be complications.”

Come what may, Tony envisages the project still finishing with The Tempest, originally planned for this October, rather than Macbeth going on hold to form the closing chapter.

Emma Scott as Macbeth in Leo Doulton’s futuristic cyberpunk production of Macbeth. Picture: Amanda Dales

“I would be very surprised if we didn’t want to retain The Tempest as the finale. It being Shakespeare’s final play [that he wrote alone], it is entirely appropriate to round things off with The Tempest, inviting as many people as possible who have been involved over the 20 years to join us for the celebrations.”

The final production is likely to be accompanied by an exhibition charting YSP from 2001 formation to 2021 conclusion. “The York Explore library is expressing an interest in presenting it, ideally to coincide with The Tempest’s run.”

Where The Tempest may be staged is yet to be decided after the initial plan to work in tandem with York Theatre Royal this autumn fell by the wayside. “It’s now the case that we’re looking into the possibility of doing a touring production as our final show, culminating in a York run,” says Tony.

“We were six rehearsals short of the finishing line,” says Tony Froud, who was to have played Ross in this week’s run of York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth

Should Macbeth have gone ahead tonight, Leo Doulton’s production would have been set in a dystopian “cyberpunk” future and performed in a promenade style, with the action taking place on the move, around the audience, led by Emma Scott’s Macbeth. Two performances on Wednesday would expressly have been for schools’ audiences studying the play.

“Macbeth is a magnificent tragedy about the earthly struggle between the forces of order and chaos, and how the world becomes corrupted by Macbeth’s strange bargains,” says Doulton, who made his YSP directorial debut at the helm of last October’s stripped-back Antony And Cleopatra.

“Cyberpunk is an exciting genre for exploring, highlighting, and visualising those ideas for a modern audience. We no longer fear witches, but we are still scared of our society being shaped by powers with no concern for those below them.”

Leo Doulton: director of York Shakespeare Project’s production of Macbeth. Picture: Amanda Dales

Whenever we more than three shall meet again, let us look forward to Doulton’s show “capturing all the original’s epic drama in its poetry and production” with Emma Scott in the title role. In the meantime, now is the time to follow Lady Macbeth’s latter-day practice: constant hand washing, over and over again.

York Shakespeare Project’s cast for Macbeth

Macbeth: Emma Scott

Lady Macbeth: Amanda Dales

Banquo, Siward: Clive Lyons

Fleance, Donalbain, Son, Young Siward: Rhiannon Griffiths

Macduff: Harry Summers

Duncan, Lady Macduff, Menteith: Jim Paterson

Malcolm: Eleanor Frampton

Lennox: Nick Jones

Ross: Tony Froud

Angus: Sarah-Jane Strong

First Witch, First Murderer, Doctor: Joy Warner

Second Witch, Second Murderer, Gentlewoman: Alexandra Logan

Third Witch, Third Murderer, Caithness, Seyton: Chloe Payne.

The York Shakespeare Project cast in rehearsal for Macbeth. Picture: John Saunders


Director: Leo Doulton

Set designer: Charley Ipsen

Lighting designer: Neil Wood

Costume designer: Scarlett Wood

Sound designer: Jim Paterson.

Did you know?

WILLIAM Shakespeare’s play Macbeth is said to be cursed, so actors avoid saying its name when in the theatre. The euphemism “the Scottish Play” is used instead.

Should an actor utter the name “Macbeth” in a theatre before a performance, however, they are required to perform a ritual to remove the curse.

When the Grand Opera House reopened after a £4 million refurbishment on September 26 1989, the York theatre tempted fate by presenting Macbeth (in a Balinese version) as the first show, 33 years since the last professional stage performance there. Only two years later, the theatre closed again, staff arriving to find the doors locked.

No Horizon looks for a new horizon after tour postponed in Coronavirus shutdown

Adam Martyn: partially sighted actor playing the blind scientist Nicholas Saunderson in No Horizon, pictured in rehearsal

RIGHT Hand Theatre’s No Horizon, a musical celebrating a blind Yorkshire science and maths genius, is no longer on the horizon at York Theatre Royal. Exit stage left the April 9 and 11 performances under the Coronavirus shutdown.

However, the No Horizon team say: “Sadly, though we will be pausing our adventure for now, our No Horizon journey is far from over. When we are back – and we truly mean when, not if – we will be bigger and better than ever.

“This has been an amazing rehearsal process and although this [situation] is a hurdle, we will overcome this. Here’s to the future of the show and we are sure that the best is yet to come.”

No Horizon’s 2020 tour was to have opened at The Civic, Barnsley, on March 20. Now, the progress towards a new horizon can be followed at and on social media.

The musical tells the life story of Nicholas Saunderson, a blind scientist and mathematician from Thurlstone, West Riding, who overcame impossible odds to become a Cambridge professor and friend of royalty.

Often described as an 18th century Stephen Hawking, Saunderson was born on January 20 1682, losing his sight through smallpox when around a year old. This did not prevent him, however, from acquiring a knowledge of Latin and Greek and studying mathematics.

As a child, he learnt to read by tracing the engravings on tombstones around St John the Baptist Church in Penistone, near Barnsley, with his fingers.

No Horizon premiered at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe, going on to draw an enthusiastic response from BBC Radio 2 presenter Chris Evans, who called it a “Yorkshire Les Mis”.

Next month’s York Theatre Royal shows would have been part of a now stalled northern tour of a 2020 adaptation “with a fresh look” by Right Hand Theatre, a company passionate about diversity and inclusivity within theatre.

Consequently, the 2020 cast has a 50/50 male/female balance, with the credo of delivering the show in a gender-blind way with a female Isaac Newton, for example. Both the director and lead actor are visually impaired.

Leading the company in rehearsals, in the role of Saunderson, has been the partially sighted Adam Martyn, from Doncaster, who trained at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA).

Alongside him have been Yorkshire born-and-bred, Rose Bruford College-trained Larissa Teale in the female lead role of Abigail; Tom Vercnocke as Joshua Dunn; Louise Willoughby as Anne Saunderson; Matthew Bugg as John Saunderson; Ruarí Kelsey as Reverend Fox; Katie Donoghue and Olivia Smith as Company.

In the production team are director Andrew Loretto; vocal coach Sally Egan; movement directors Lucy Cullingford and Maria Clarke; costume designer Lydia Denno; costume maker Sophie Roberts; lighting designer David Phillips and tour musical director David Osmond.

No Horizon’s 2020 northern tour has been co-commissioned by Cast, Doncaster and The Civic, Barnsley and supported by Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, with funding from Arts Council England and Foyle Foundation.

York Theatre Royal box office will contact ticket holders for refunds.

Remember Alan Bennett’s The Habit Of Art at York Theatre Royal? Now it’s online

Matthew Kelly as York-born poet W H Auden when Alan Bennett’s The Habit Of Art was rehearsed and staged at York Theatre Royal in August and September 2018. Picture: James Findlay

YORK Theatre Royal’s 2018 co-production of Alan Bennett’s The Habit Of Art has been made available to stream by OriginalTheatre Online.

Directed by Philip Franks, a second British tour was due to start this month with Matthew Kelly and David Yelland reprising their roles of poet W H Auden and composer Benjamin Britten.

However, both the tour and a trip to New York for the Brits Off Broadway have been scrapped after the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

In turn, this has prompted The Original Theatre Company, the Theatre Royal’s co-producers, to release the production online.

Matthew Kelly as W H Auden and David Yelland as Benjamin Britten in The Habit Of Art, now available to stream through Original Theatre Online

Leeds playwright Bennett’s The Habit Of Art imagines a 1972 meeting between friends and collaborators Auden and Britten – their first in 30 years – where they mull over life, art, sexuality and death.

What drew Matthew Kelly to playing York-born Auden? “He has a razor-sharp wit and we have a very similar outlook about work which is the habit of art. I am the same,” he says.

“I have to keep working – I’m nearly 70 [his birthday falls on May 9] – not  because I need the money, but because the theory comes into play that the longer you hang on, the longer you will hang on. Otherwise you fall off the perch.”

The Habit Of Art requires Kelly to play an actor playing an actor playing a real-life person. If this sounds confusing, “No, it actually clarifies things,” says Kelly, clarifying things.

Philip Franks, director of The Habit Of Art, who also directed Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in The Tempest in York last summer

“It’s a very clever device because it means you can be funny about what you do, you can comment on it and you can explain stuff. You can come out of the play Caliban’s Day, which the actors are rehearsing, and then it’s a play about the fictional meeting of Auden and Britten. 

“What’s wonderful about Bennett’s play is, not only have you got the finest composer of our time and the finest poet of our time, but you also, in my opinion, have the greatest playwright of our time.” 

Kelly continues: “So, you’ve got all those words being sewn together by our greatest playwright, who’s kind, accessible, very erudite and talks about sex in a very earthy way.

“He also gives a voice to the unregarded, who don’t usually have a voice. Generally, the great people, the stars of our time, get the final word and the people who look after them, what are commonly called ‘the little people’, really don’t get any say at all. They are the forgotten heroes who nurtured these stars.”

“He’s terribly kind and encouraging, which I love,” says Matthew Kelly of The Habit Of Art playwright Alan Bennett

Former Stars In Their Eyes presenter Kelly completed a hattrick of Bennett roles with The Habit Of Art, having appeared as unconventional teacher Hector in The History Boys in 2013 and Czech author Franz Kafka in Kafka’s Dick, opposite his son Matthew Rixon, as a younger Kafka, at York Theatre Royal in March 2001.

“We were hoping Alan Bennett would come to York because he lives in Leeds and it’s only a hop and a skip away, but he didn’t come,” recalls Kelly.

“A couple of years later, I met him at Heathrow and he came up to me and apologised for not coming to the York production. He was terribly kind about it. “Years later, I did The History Boys in Sheffield, then Kafka’s Dick again in Bath. On both those shows he sent champagne and a Good Luck postcard.

“He always knows what’s going on and he’s terribly kind and encouraging, which I love. The great thing about Alan is he’s very supportive of all productions, although he doesn’t go and see them.”

Original Theatre Online is streaming a second touring production too: Ali Milles’s The Croft, starring Gwen Taylor and again directed by Franks. Both that show and The Habit Of Art can be streamed any time until June.

“We are thrilled to be able to share these brilliant shows digitally: our own theatre without walls,” says The Original Theatre Company director Alastair Whatley.

Alastair Whatley, artistic director of The Original Theatre Company, says: “We know how disappointing it has been to our audiences, cast, creatives and Original Theatre to have to close our shows. We are thrilled to be able to share these brilliant shows digitally: our own theatre without walls. 

“However, the Original Theatre Company operates with no Arts Council support and relies almost solely on the box-office takings. With our two productions of The Habit Of Art and The Croft both out on national tours, the immediate cancellations are financially devastating for us.

“But we are determined, wherever possible, to meet our financial commitments made to our actors, stage managers and suppliers, who are all dependent on us to survive the coming months.  

“Every penny we make through this online release will go to the people who helped make this show, who now find themselves in a hugely precarious financial position.”

Both plays are free to watch although The Original Theatre suggests a minimum donation of £2.50. 

For full streaming details, visit