Why Once The Musical is a not Once but twice in a lifetime opportunity for Daniel Healy and Emma Lucia

Emma Lucia’s Girl and Daniel Healy’s Guy performing Falling Slowly in Once The Musical. Pictures: Mark Senior

DANIEL Healy and Emma Lucia are playing the lead roles together in Once The Musical not once, but twice.

They first did so in the regional premiere in Autumn 2018 at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, and Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch.

Now, that production’s director and musical director, the regular team of Peter Rowe and Ben Goddard, have reunited the duo for the first British tour that opened this month (January) and will play the Grand Opera House, York, from February 3 to 8.

First a cult, micro-budget Irish film written and directed by John Carney in 2007, then a Broadway, West End and Dublin show, Once The Musical tells the uplifting yet yearning story of the hopes and dreams of two lost souls, a jilted Dublin street busker and a more positive Czech musician, who unexpectedly fall in love across five short days in the Southern Irish capital city.

“I’ve managed to fool a few people with my Irish accent, thinking I really must be from Dublin,” says Scotsman Daniel Healy:

The touring cast of 16 will be led by Scotsman Healy as Guy and Lucia, from Durham, as Girl, whose chemistry was apparent immediately when press and media were invited to meet the company three weeks into rehearsal at Toynbee Hall in London’s East End: a question-and-answer session introduced with rousing renditions of Irish pub and ceilidh songs and the show’s opening scene.

This peaked with Healy and Lucia’s performance of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s Oscar-winning signature song Falling Slowly, with all the actor-musician cast playing their part around them, “leaning into the story” in the pub setting.

Daniel’s relationship with Once goes back to “a long time ago”. “My first run-in with the show was when I was doing a show in LA [Los Angeles] called Backbeat and I had an audition for the Broadway version of Once but couldn’t do it because of various reasons,” he recalls.

“But then I understudied the lead and played one of the main characters, Eamon [the music studio manager where Guy and Girl record their album] in the London production, when I understudied Ronan Keating.”

Daniel Healy’s Guy, Emma Lucia’s Girl and Samuel Martin’s Bank Manager in Once The Musical

Daniel is a singer-songwriter in his own right, and friendship with the Boyzone singer turned into a co-writing partnership that elicited Keating’s single Breathe. “After he heard one of my songs, Ronan said, ‘I’d really like to write with you’, so I ended up writing six songs with him and touring with him in his band,” he says.

Emma saw Daniel in Once in the London production. “I was still at Mountview drama school, and doing Beautiful, the Carole King musical, on tour at the time [making her professional debut as Marilyn and understudying the lead role],” she says.

“Then I heard there was going to be a production of Once in Ipswich, and I know the musical director, Ben Goddard, from doing a couple of classes led by him at Mountview.

“You’d do all the songs you’d thought of doing for auditions and he’d give you tips and advice.”

Emma landed the role of Girl after two auditions, and it was only then that she met Daniel for the first time for rehearsals.

” I’ve always loved theatre,” says Emma Lucia. “My dad used to do a lot of am-dram and I knew it was something in my life I always wanted to do”

“Peter and Ben auditioned us separately and they must have felt we would have chemistry once we were put together,” she says. The partnership worked a treat – “we get on really well” – and there was immediate talk of a tour.

“But we needed a producer,” says Emma. “I didn’t think it was going to happen, so it was a quite a surprise when it did, but we’re so pleased,” says Daniel.

“The producers have given Peter and Ben complete control as they loved the show as it was in Ipswich.”

Hearing Emma’s Czech accent on stage in the rehearsal room and then her North Eastern one in the interview reveals how much work she put into preparing for the role. “I’d only met one person from the Czech Republic in my life, and briefly at that, so I contacted the Czech Embassy and they put me in touch with two Czech girls who were here for six months and loved the show!” she says.

It’s not like I’m playing Titus Andronicus, but I do empathise more with the human struggle than the musical one,” says Daniel Healy

“So, we met for a cup of coffee and talked about the show, and I recorded their voices and asked any questions that I felt I needed answering.”

Likewise, Daniel’s Dublin accent sounds spot on. “I think, without being big-headed, I’ve got an ear for accents,” he says. “I’d ask Irish friends too, and it’s all about not being afraid to ask.

“Though being Scottish doesn’t make it easier to learn because, when accents are close to each other, like these two, they’re actually more difficult to separate…but I’ve managed to fool a few people with my Irish accent, thinking I really must be from Dublin!”

Daniel and Emma’s instrumental skills are as important to their roles as their singing and acting. “My dad’s a guitarist, and I did musical theatre from the age of five, and TV dramas and films too, and I’ve now got a parallel career as a singer-songwriter,” says Daniel.

Emma Lucia as Girl in Once The Musical, playing the Grand Opera House, York, in early February

“I could never call myself a busker, but I have busked in the past, but I sympathise more with Guy’s struggle with not having the courage to follow through with his dreams when you hope you can make it as a singer-songwriter.

“It’s not like I’m playing Titus Andronicus, but I do empathise more with the human struggle than the musical one.”

Emma’s path to Once began with an itch to dance from the age of three. “I just couldn’t stand still,” she recalls. “Then I picked up on playing the piano [the instrument she plays in Once] at five years old.

“I’ve always loved theatre. My dad used to do a lot of am-dram [amateur dramatics] and I knew it was something in my life I always wanted to do.”

Exuding an air of positivity, she feels a strong connection with her role as Girl. “She sees it as her mission to help other people, and I empathise with that as I love to do that myself,” says Emma.

Once The Musical runs at Grand Opera House, York, from February 3 to 8. Box office: 0844 871 3024, at atgtickets.com/York or in person from the Cumberland Street theatre.

The Red Barn Murder case is re-opened as Maria Marten tells her side of story at SJT

Elizabeth Crarer in rehearsal for the lead role in The Ballad Of Maria Marten. All pictures: Giorgis Media

GOODBYE Polstead, say hello to The Ballad Of Maria Marten, the new name for Beth Flintoff’s captivating drama that first toured in 2018.

Directed by Hal Chambers in tandem with Ivan Cutting, an all-female cast will embark on a spring tour next month, starting off at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre before touring to Ipswich and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

Elizabeth Crarer returns to the title role for this re-telling of a real-life Suffolk murder mystery in Summer 1827.

In a red barn, Maria Marten awaits her lover. A year later, her body is found under the floor of the barn in a grain sack, barely identifiable, and the manhunt begins.

Suzanne Ahmet and Emma Denly during rehearsals

Maria’s story sent shock waves throughout the country. The Red Barn Murder, as it became known, was national news, inspiring writers and filmmakers down the ages.

Here was the sort of gruesome tale that had all the hallmarks of a classic crime drama: a missing body, a country location, a disreputable squire and a village stuck in its age-old traditions.

However, amid all the hysteria, Maria’s own story becomes lost – until now. Chambers and Flintoff’s spine-tingling re-telling rediscovers her tale, bringing it back to vivid, urgent life.

Joining Crarer’s Maria in the cast will be Suzanne Ahmet, who SJT audiences may remember from her appearances there with Northern Broadsides in Hard Times and They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!, together with Emma Denly, Jessica Dives, Sarah Goddard, and Susanna Jennings.

Cast members Jessica Dives and Sarah Goddard

Flintoff, a freelance playwright and theatre director from Hampshire, says: “As soon as I was approached to write the story of Maria Marten, I was intrigued. I hadn’t heard about her murder but was fascinated to hear about not just the story itself, but how it has been told to us.

“From the moment of the trial, the focus was on the murderer, not Maria. No-one seemed to be looking carefully at the intricacies of her life, beyond the basics. So, I wanted to tell the story entirely from her point of view.

“We are often presented with stories of women as ‘victims’, rather than as interesting, complicated people who had hopes and dreams, friends and lives of their own.”

Suzanne Ahmet and Elizabeth Crarer rehearsing The Ballas Of Maria Marten

The 2020 production is produced by Eastern Angles Theatre Company and Matthew Linley Creative Projects, in association with the SJT. Producer Matthew Linley says: “This thrilling true-life tale is as joyful as it is murderous. I’m delighted to be working with Eastern Angles and the Stephen Joseph Theatre to bring Polstead back to life as The Ballad of Maria Marten.”

Eastern Angles specialise in combining heritage with theatre to make regional stories and hidden histories come to life on stage.

The Ballad Of Maria Martenwill run in the Round at the SJT from February 11 to 15 at 7.30pm nightly, plus matinees at 1.30pm on February 13 and 2.30pm on February 15.

Tickets, priced from £10, are on sale on 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Ayckbourn’s 84th play will be a satire on family, relationships, politics and the state of the nation at Scarborough’s SJT

Alan Ayckbourn: 84th full-length play Truth Will Out will be premiered this summer at the SJT. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

THE truth is out. Alan Ayckbourn’s 84th full-length play will be premiered at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, this summer.

Truth Will Out, Ayckbourn’s up-to-the-minute satire on family, relationships, politics and the state of the nation, will run on various dates in the SJT programme between August 20 and October 3.

Written and directed by the former SJT artistic director, it follows hot on the heels of Ayckbourn’s 80th birthday play, Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present, in 2019.

“Everyone has secrets,” entices the new play’s synopsis. “Certainly, former shop steward George, his right-wing MP daughter Janet, investigative journalist Peggy, and senior civil servant Sefton, do.

“And all it’s going to take is one tech-savvy teenager with a mind of his own and time on his hands to bring their worlds tumbling down – and maybe everyone else’s along with them. A storm is brewing…”

Jemma Churchill and Naomi Petersen in Alan Ayckbourn’s 80th birthday play, Birthdays Past, Birthdays Present, at the SJT in September 2019. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

As is customary in the SJT summer season, Ayckbourn also will direct an Ayckbourn revival, this time his 20th play, the very dark Just Between Ourselves, premiered at the Library Theatre, Scarborough, on January 28 1976, followed by its London premiere at the Queen’s Theatre on April 20 1977.

Ayckbourn calls it one of his “winter” plays, written in the winter months, like Ten Times Table and Joking Apart, wherein he attributed their darkness to being penned at this time of year.

Booked into the SJT diary for performances on various dates from June 18 to October 3, Just Between Ourselves dissects man’s inadvertent inhumanity to woman.

Dennis thinks he is a master at DIY and a perfect husband. In reality, he is neither of those things. When he decides to sell his car, Neil turns up as a potential buyer, wanting it for his wife Pam’s birthday.

The two couples become unlikely friends, aided and abetted by Dennis’s meddling live-in mother, Marjorie. A collision course is inevitable in “the one with the car”, set in a garage and a garden over four successive birthdays.

Northern Broadsides head from Halifax to Scarborough with Quality Street in May

SJT artistic director Paul Robinson will direct The Ladykillers, Graham Linehan’s spin on the 1955 Ealing comedy motion picture screenplay by William Rose, by special arrangement with StudioCanal and Fiery Angel, London.

This in-house production, playing on various dates between July 9 and August 15, will re-tell the story of the sweetest of sweet little old ladies, alone at home but for a parrot with a mystery illness. Both of them are at the mercy of a ruthless gang of criminal misfits, who will stop at nothing to achieve what they want. Surely there can only be one possible outcome?

Linehan’s writing credits include Father Ted, Black Books, The IT Crowd, Count Arthur Strong and Motherland. Now comes The Ladykillers, to be directed by Robinson with the stylish madcap humour that he brought to The 39 Steps in 2018.

Meanwhile, the SJT has confirmed South Yorkshireman Nick Lane will write the winter show for The Round for the fifth year in a row after his off-the-wall Christmas adaptations of Pinocchio, A Christmas Carol, Alice In Wonderland and Treasure Island.

Lane’s idiosyncratic take on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of The Snow Queen will be directed by Robinson, with music and lyrics once more by Simon Slater, for a run from December 3 to 30. 

Katie Arnstein in Sexy Lamp: playing the SJT on May 26

The SJT’s own productions will be complemented by a busy season of visiting shows, such as The Canary And The Crow on May 7 and 8, Middle Child’s grime and hip hop-inspired gig theatre show about the journey of a working-class black child accepted into a prestigious grammar school.

In Where There’s Muck There’s Bras, on May 7, North Yorkshire stand-up poet Kate Fox offers a comical and thought-provoking insight into “the real Northern Powerhouse: Northern Women – the sung and the unsung”.

On May 9, Roald Dahl And The Imagination Seekers presents a thrilling story told through performance, games and creative play that explores such extraordinary Dahl tales as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, The BFG and The Twits.

Quality Street, new artistic director Laurie Sansom’s directorial debut for Halifax company Northern Broadsides, will be on tour at the SJT from May 12 to 16. This Broadsides production is a rare revival of Peter Pan author JM Barrie’s delicious farce, a play so well known in its day that it gave its name to the ever-popular British chocolates, made in Halifax since 1936.

Key date for Alistair McGowan: piano and comedy on May 21 at SJT

Alistair McGowan: The Piano Show on May 21 combines the satirical Evesham comedian’s impressionist skills with his new-found prowess on the piano.

In It’s Miss Hope Springs, on May 23, self-confessed “blonde bombsite” Ty Jeffries plays the piano and sings mind-bogglingly catchy numbers from her all-original self-penned repertoire.

Scarborough’s Elvis tribute act, Tony Skingle, presents ElvisThe ’68 Comeback on May 24. Two nights later, Sexy Lamp asks: “Have you ever been treated like an inanimate object?” in Katie Arnstein’s show that combines comedy, original songs and storytelling to “shed a bright light on how ridiculous the industry can be and why Katie is refusing to stay in the dark”.

Sexy Lamp is pitched “somewhere between the comedy of Victoria Wood, the comfort of going for a drink with your best mate, and the high drama of Hamlet (although it is nothing like Hamlet”.

Hope springs eternal : It’s Miss Hope Springs plays SJT on May 23

Anglo-Japanese theatre company A Thousand Cranes visit Scarborough with The Great Race! on May 29 and 30. This thrilling story of how the Eastern Zodiac calendar was created is billed as “the perfect show for children in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics”.

Forged Line Dance Company’s Treasure, on June 3, will be a fearless and physical dance performance that explores “our innate human fascination with our seas and coastlines”.

In Chores on June 20, two brothers must hurry to clean their room before their mum comes back. What could possibly go wrong in a circus-comedy for the whole family, all the way from Australia?

Great Yorkshire Fringe favourites Morgan & West serve up Unbelievable Science on September 19, when they combine captivating chemistry, phenomenal physics and bonkers biology in a fun-for-all-the-family science extravaganza.

Mischievous magical science double act Morgan & West in Unbelievable Science on September 19

Tickets for all shows are priced from £10 and will go on general sale from Friday, March 13, preceded by priority booking for the theatre’s membership scheme, The Circle, from March 6, on 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Strictly’s Giovanni Pernice says This Is Me in York Barbican summer dance show

This is him: Giovanni Pernice in This Is Me

STRICTLY Come Dancing star Giovanni Pernice will lead his cast of professional dancers in This Is Me at York Barbican on June 11.

For his fourth year of touring, the 29-year-old Sicilian will be joined by leading lady Giulia Dotta, a professional dancer on Dancing With The Stars Ireland, who performed with Pernice on his first two solo tours and has appeared around the country in shows such as Rip It Up and Here Come the Boys.

The poster for This Is Me, Giovanni Pernice’s new touring show

In the company too will be Oksana and Jonathan Platero. Oksana is a former Strictly professional, reaching the quarter-final with Judge Rinder in 2016. Her husband, Jonathan, is a world salsa champion and they both dance on the Latin version of So You Think You Can Dance? on American television.

The line-up of dancers from around the world also will include Larisa Untila, Valerio La Pietra and Domenico Palmisano.

This Is Me is directed and choreographed by dance power-couple Trent Whiddon and Gordon Grandosek Whiddon. This duo has performed in such shows as Burn The Floor and on screen in Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing With The Stars, as well as creating the musical Le Hotel. 

Giovanni Pernice on stage, leading his company of dancers

Pernice’s new show will pay homage to the music and dances that have inspired a career that has taken him from competition dancer to Strictly regular on BBC One.

Last summer, Strictly trio Pernice, Aljaž Škorjanec and Gorka Marquez played Harrogate Convention Centre on June 25 and Hull Venue on July 17 on their 38-date Here Come The Boys tour.

Tickets for This Is Me’s 7.30pm performance are on sale on 0203 356 5441, at yorkbarbican.co.uk or in person from the Barbican box office.

Leeds Playhouse marks Holocaust Memorial Day with David Greig’s ghetto play Dr Korczak’s Example

Robert Pickavance as Dr Janusz Korcza in rehearsals for Dr Korczak’s Example. All pictures: Zoe Martin

LEEDS Playhouse regular Robert Pickavance, Gemma Barnett and newcomer Danny Sykes will star in Dr Korczak’s Example, the first 2020 production in the new Bramall Rock Void.

Artistic director James Brining directs David Greig’s powerful and moving play in a Leeds premiere timed to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.

Set in the shadows of the Warsaw Jewish ghetto in 1942, Dr Korczak’s Example examines life in an orphanage where escapism is key to survival, and where the children’s shared sense of community is the only barrier against the wave of hatred approaching their haven of solidarity.

Director James Brining at work in the Leeds Playhouse rehearsal rooms

Greig’s play highlights the work of Polish educator and children’s author Dr Janusz Korczak, who championed the voices of young people and whose influence led to the creation of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

Director James Brining says: “Dr Janusz Korczak was an incredible individual whose beliefs and teachings helped to redefine how we think about the way we bring up our own children and the part we have to play within society to achieve that.

“I commissioned the play and first directed it in 2001. It’s such a powerful, moving and timely story and I’m so looking forward to returning to it in the new Bramall Rock Void and particularly to working with Hebden Bridge designer Rose Revitt, winner of the Linbury Prize for theatre design.”

Gemma Barnett rehearsing her role as Stephanie in Dr Korczak’s Example

The Bramall Rock Void forms part of the £15.8 million redevelopment of Leeds Playhouse, completed last autumn. “What we have already discovered about our new theatre is that its raw intimacy can create a powerful environment for powerful stories and Rose’s vision for Dr Korczak’s Example does just that,” says James. ”I’m  honoured to be directing this [play] again with such a brilliant company.”

Brining commissioned Greig to write the play 20 years ago when he was running TAG, a children’s theatre company in Glasgow, Scotland. Now looking forward to introducing it to a new audience in his home city of Leeds, he says:“I’ve done quite a few things more than once, but I never intended to go back to this piece again.

“I was really happy with the original production. Then, a year or so ago, I came across a statistic that showed quite a high number of people – maybe 18 to 20 per cent – thought the Nazi holocaust was exaggerated, with a slightly smaller number saying it was completely fabricated. I was really struck and shocked by that because when I grew up it was a very present thing.”

Leeds actor Robert Pickavance during rehearsals for Dr Korczak’s Example

Brining continues: “On a very personal level, revisiting the play has made me ask if I’m the same person I was 20 years ago. Having children has changed the way I see the play and, perhaps, explains why I was so moved when I read it again. I’m not saying that having children gives you more of a profound understanding, but it does give you a different perspective. And I’m just older, so I can now align myself quite strongly with Korczak.

“I think that’s the measure of a really great piece of theatre: it speaks to you differently according to who you are and where you are. Having children, being older, the world being a slightly different place, even having more distance from 1942, all of these things affect the way you engage with it. But as I’ve watched rehearsals, I’ve been really moved. The power of the play is still very potent.”

The role of Dr Janusz Korczak will be played by Leeds actor Robert Pickavance, who starred as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol and Sava in David Greig’s Europe as part of the Leeds Playhouse Ensemble during its Pop-Up Season.

Newcomer Danny Sykes rehearsing his role as Adzio

He will be joined by Gemma Barnett, fresh from starring as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Shakespeare In The Squares, as well as Rory in A Hundred Words For Snow at Trafalgar Studios and Lola in Lola at The Vaults, both in London.

Danny Sykes will make his first professional stage appearance after graduating with a BA in Acting from Arts Ed in 2019.

This Playhouse production is supported by the Linbury Prize for Stage Design, funded by the Linbury Trust. This biennial prize, the most important of its kind in Britain, brings together the best early career designers with professional theatre, dance and opera companies.

Joining Brining and Revitt in the creative team are lighting designer Jane Lalljee, sound designer and composer David Shrubsole, movement designerRachel Wise.

Dr Korczak’s Example runs at Bramall Rock Void, Leeds Playhouse, January 25 to February 15. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or at leedsplayhouse.org.uk.

Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company to stage York premiere of Made In Dagenham

Standing up against a huge corporation: Jennie Wogan as Rita O’Grady in Made In Dagenham. All pictures: Simon Charles

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company will present the York premiere of Made In Dagenham from February 5 to 8 to raise funds for the community theatre in Haxby Road, York.

Directed by Kayleigh Oliver, this will be the third such musical production after Mel Brooks’s The Producers in 2018 and Cole Porter and Bella and Samuel Spewack’s Kiss Me, Kate in 2019.

David Arnold, Richard Thomas and Hull playwright Richard Bean’s Made In Dagenham is inspired by the remarkable true story of a group of women, working in Ford’s Dagenham car plant, that stood tall against a huge corporation and won the fight for equal pay, a battle still raging all over the world.

Jenny Jones as Sandra in Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s Made In Dagenham

Rita O’Grady, a working wife and mother, has her life changed forever when the girls in Ford’s stitching room are told their pay is to be dropped to an “unskilled” grade. It falls to Rita to lead her friends in the fight against Ford and the corruption of the union.

Along the way in their inspiring journey, they learn the value of friendship, solidarity and the importance of fighting for what’s right, as told in a funny, touching and timeless musical that remains as relevant today as ever.

Jennie Wogan, latterly seen in Scrooge, King Lear and Kiss Me, Kate, takes the role of Rita, joined by talent from the York amateur theatre scene, such as Helen Singhateh, from Little Shop Of Horrorsand the UK/European tour of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change!, as Beryl; Nick Sephton, from Patience and Pirates Of Penzance, as Eddie O’Grady, and Martyn Hunter, from Brassed Off and Calendar Girls, as Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Jennie Wogan in rehearsal for her lead role as Rita O;Grady

Malton actor, singer and now producer Scott Garnham starred in the original West End production. “It’s a great show and I’m delighted that someone is presenting it in York, where I started my career,” he says.

“The York premiere really is an event,” says lead actress Jennie Wogan. “It’s a story about love, family and doing what’s right, all told with humour, honesty and some wonderfully written songs.”

Oliver is joined in the production team by assistant director Alex Schofield, producer Tom Diar Davey=Rogerson, musical director Tim Selman, choreographer Lorna Newby and costume designer Karen Brunyee.

Tickets for the 7.30pm evening performances and 2.30pm Saturday matinee are on sale on 01904 501935, at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk or in person from the JoRo box office. Please note, Made In Dagenham features some very strong language and may be unsuitable for children.

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s poster for next month’s Made In Dagenham

Cast List
Rita O’Grady – Jennie Wogan
Beryl – Helen Singhateh
Sandra – Jennifer Jones
Clare – Izzy Betts
Cass – Riffat Rizvi
Rachel/Club Singer  – Clare Meadley
MC – Hannah Ainscough
Connie Riley – Rosy Rowley
Lisa Hopkins – Karen Brunyee
Barbara Castle – Kayleigh Oliver
Sharon O’Grady – Ella Meadley

Helen Singhateh as Beryl in Made In Dagenham

Eddie O’Grady – Nick Sephton
Graham O’Grady – Ben Wood
Sid/Stan – Tom Diar Davey-Rogerson
Bill/Stan – Cam O’Byrne
Monty – Richard Goodall
Barry – Joe Hesketh
Mr Hopkins – Mark Simmonds
Chubby Chuff – Ben Huntley
Tooley – Chris Gibson
Mr Hubble – Nick Jackson
Mr Macer – Gary Bateson
Wilson’s Aide 1 – Alastair Bush

Wilson’s Aide 2 – Cam O’Byrne
Wilson’s Aide 3 – Ben Huntley
Harold Wilson – Martyn Hunter
Mr Buckton – Gary Bateson
Buddy Cortina – Ben Huntley

Chris Gibson as Tooley in rehearsal for Made In Dagenham

Ensemble
Ruth Chapman
Hannah Ainscough
Ashley Ginter
Pamela Bradley
Leon Evangeliou
Lorna Newby
Abigail Atkinson
Michelle Atkinson
Jane Woolgar
Lucy Plimmer

Production team

Kayleigh Oliver – director

Alex Schofield – assistant director

Tom Diar Davey-Rogerson – producer

Hannah Ainscough – tech manager

Tim Selman – musical director

Lorna Newby – choreography

Karen Brunyee – costume

Ben Huntley – publicity

Hit Irish musical Once is on its way to the Grand Opera House in February

Daniel Healy, left, as Guy, Emma Lucia, as Girl, and Samuel Martin, as the Bank Manager, in Once The Musical, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, next month. Pictures: Mark Senior

ONCE seen, never forgotten, but you won’t have seen Once like this before, except in…Ipswich or Hornchurch.

First a cult, micro-budget Irish film written and directed by John Carney in 2007, then a Broadway, West End and Dublin show, Once The Musical embarks on its first British tour in January, playing the Grand Opera House, in York, from February 3 to 8.

Telling the uplifting yet yearning story of the hopes and dreams of two lost souls, a Dublin street busker and a Czech musician, who unexpectedly fall in love, Once is being directed by Peter Rowe with musical supervision by his regular cohort Ben Goddard.

The cast will be led by Scotsman Daniel Healy as Guy and Emma Lucia, from Durham, as Girl, reprising their roles from 2018’s premiere at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, and Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch.

The company invited press and media to meet them three weeks into rehearsal at Toynbee Hall in London’s East End: a question-and-answer session introduced with rousing performances of Irish ceilidh songs and the show’s opening scene, leading to Healy and Lucia’s performance of the Oscar-winning signature song Falling Slowly, with all the actor-musicians playing their part around them, “leaning into the story” in the pub setting.

“This production is very different to the West End,” says Ben. “We very much started, as we would do with any story, any musical, by taking it off the page and then basically trying to get as many people as possible into the story we present on stage.”

Peter says: “What’s particular about this production is that everyone on stage is telling the story and that gives it a real charge. We have skilled actor-musicians trying to re-create the acoustic sound of Irish pub songs, and rather than trying to make it a bigger razzmatazz production, we want to draw people in.”

Emma Lucia as Girl in Once The Musical

This reflects the song-writing of Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová that frames Irish playwright and screenwriter Enda Walsh’s story of the Guy and the Girl’s relationship across five short Dublin days.

“Glen is a singer-songwriter who writes thoughtful songs from the heart, and so our production is an extension of that,” says Ben. “That’s the difference from other musicals: the music really does the job for you.”

Peter says: “You can feel that the band are impressed by this man, his voice and his music, and they become part of the flowering of his songs.”

He and Ben have worked regularly in the actor-musician world of theatrical performance. “That’s pretty much what we done with all the work we’ve done together, but putting the band together for this show has been very challenging, bringing together the right collection of people,” says Ben.

“Not just how they each play, but how they play together and work together, so that we have a combination of people to make the story work.”

Peter concurs: “Seeing an ensemble of 16 with all that skill, swapping instruments, will be a pleasure for the audience.” Ben rejoins: “I think we’ve found a combination where the levels of performance are pretty much at a peak, which is hard to find, with everyone showing their powers of musicianship and their acting chops.”

Peter’s research took him to Dublin for the “terrible task” – said with his tongue in his cheek – of visiting as many pubs as possible, combining the pleasures of an Irish pint with taking photographs of the pub interiors and the musicians playing there, and now bringing that atmosphere to the stage.

“It’s an unrequited love story, the most painful of all love stories, and that’s why Once really gets to people,” says director Peter Rowe of Guy’s plight in the Irish musical

At its heart, Once is a love story. “But it’s also an unrequited love story, the most painful of all love stories, and that’s why Once really gets to people,” says Peter.

“It’s the lives that you don’t live that you think about: if only you had turned left rather than right, and everyone recognises that story in the songs. And these are not musical theatre songs where people get to the point where they can’t say anything more without bursting into song.

“Here it’s a different convention. The songs in Once stand alone; they’re mostly solo songs or duets that are being sung in the street or Billy’s music store, so they have a naturalistic place in the story.”

Ben adds: “The story in Once came from an already written collection of songs, and with those songs being strong, a very strong story followed. At the start, the Guy seems quite repressed when he talks to the Girl, but then all the passion he felt in his failed relationship comes pouring out in his songs.”

Working in tandem with their regular choreographer, Fran Jaynes, Peter and Ben have made a point of changing the way musicians were used in past productions of Once The Musical. “When we saw it in London, they were on stage, to the left and to the right, watching what was going on, but, for me, they never really felt part of it,” says Ben. “But we’ve been involved in actor-musician work for a long time, and we’ve found it really potent to take their involvement further.”

Peter adds: “We could see the show’s potential as an actor-musician piece, and we just felt we could do more with it, making the most of the ensemble.”

In what way? “Using everybody on stage at all times, it’s like a European troupe of actors, where they all tell the story,” says Ben.

“But we also spent a long time trying to get the right chemistry in the whole cast, though the two leads, Daniel and Emma, had to come first.”

Once The Musical runs at Grand Opera House, York, from February 3 to 8 2020. Box office: 0844 871 3024, at atgtickets.com/York or in person from the Cumberland Street theatre.

Night Of The Living Dead has a horror remix for modern times at Leeds Playhouse

Night Of The Living Dead – Remix in rehearsal at Leeds Playhouse. All pictures: Ed Waring


INNOVATIVE Leeds company Imitating The Dog are linking up with Leeds Playhouse for a unique shot-for-shot stage re-creation of George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie movie Night Of The Living Dead™ “for today’s theatre audiences”. 

Directed by Imitating The Dog’s co-artistic directors Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks, Night Of The Living DeadTM Remix will run in the Courtyard Theatre from January 24 to February 15 before a British tour. 

In 1968, Night Of The Living Dead started out as a low-budget, independent, politically charged horror movie, telling the story of seven strangers taking refuge from flesh-eating ghouls in an isolated farmhouse. As the night draws in, their situation becomes desperate, hope turns to despair and the picket-fence American dream is smashed apart.

Fifty years on, seven performers enter the Courtyard 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, using whatever they can lay their hands on?

Meeting the challenge of 1,076 edits in 95 minutes will be a heroic struggle. “Success will require wit, skill and ingenuity and is by no means guaranteed” for the cast of Laura Atherton; Morgan Bailey; Luke Bigg; William James Holstead; Morven Macbeth; Matt Prendergast and Adela Rajnović.  

“Success will require wit, skill and ingenuity and is by no means guaranteed” : the challenge facing Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse

Playing a key role too will be Quick and Brooks’s production team of Imitating The Dog’s projection and video designer Simon Wainwright; designer Laura Hopkins; lighting designer Andrew Crofts and composer James Hamilton.

George A. Romero’s 1968 film presented an apocalyptic vision of paranoia, the breakdown of community and the end of the American dream. In 2020’s stage production, digital theatre practitioners Imitating The Dog compose a love-song to the cult movie in a re-make and remix that “attempts to understand the past in order not to have to repeat it”. 

The new Leeds-stamped version is in turns humorous, terrifying, thrilling, thought-provoking and joyous. Above all, in the retelling, it becomes a searing parable for our own complex times.

Imitating The Dog’s Andrew Quick says: “Looking at the state of the world today, it seems so appropriate that we are going back to this seminal story, the original zombie movie. Rehearsals have been great fun so far and it’s amazing how scary and relevant Romero’s Sixties’ vision still seems.”

“A searing parable for our own complex times”: Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse’s co-production of Night Of The Living Dead – Remix

Playhouse artistic director James Brining enthuses:“We’re thrilled to be working with Imitating The Dog for this momentous project. They’re a fantastic local company who brilliantly fuse together technology with live action. I can’t wait for us to work with them to be able to breathe new life into this well-known classic that has been celebrated for many years.”

Russ Streiner, who produced and appeared as Johnny in Romero’s film, says: “Before Night Of The Living Dead™ became the classic film it is, it started as a collection of ideas and story points; story points that are timeless in their reflection of the human condition.

“The common link between [film production company] Image Ten long ago and Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse today is a genuine love of the productions we present to the public, and we’re  absolutely thrilled that they have teamed up to present their own authorised fresh and exciting retelling of the story that began over 50 years ago for us.

“This retelling goes back to the roots of where ‘Night’ started with experimental ideas and a new imagining of the story – this time coupled with the dynamic of live actors performing to a live audience.”

Tickets are on sale on 0113 213 7700 or at leedsplayhouse.org.uk.

The horror, the horror: Imitating The Dog in Heart Of Darkness in 2019

Did you know?

LEEDS company Imitating The Dog have been making ground-breaking work for theatres and other spaces for 20 years, fusing live performance with digital technology. Among their past productions are A Farewell To Arms, Hotel Methuselah and Heart Of Darkness, the latter two playing York Theatre Royal in 2010 and 2019 respectively.

PLAY ON! Amanda Whittington takes fight for women’s football to dramatic climax in Mikron Theatre’s summer tour

Earning their stripes: Mikron Theatre Company’s poster for this summer’s tour of Amanda Whittington’s Atalanta Forever

MIKRON Theatre Company kick off their 2020 tour of Amanda Whittington’s new women’s football play, Atalanta Forever, on April 18.

Waiting in the wings is the Marsden company’s York performance at Scarcroft Allotments on June 2 at 6pm.

From the writer of Ladies Day, Ladies Day Down Under and Mighty Atoms for Hull Truck Theatre and Bollywood Jane for the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Atalanta Forever tells the story of pioneering women footballers in 1920.

In post-war Britain, women’s football is big news. Across the country, all-girl teams are pulling huge crowds in fund-raising games for wounded soldiers.

Huddersfield amateurs Ethel and Annie take a shot at the big time. Teammates at Atalanta AFC, they are soon tackling new football skills, mastering the offside rule and kicking back at the doubters.

This summer’s audiences are invited to “come and cheer for Atalanta as our plucky underdogs learn how to play the game, take on the legendary teams of the era and find the toughest opponent of all is the Football Association”.

Whittington’s play is based on the true story of one of three women’s football teams in Huddersfield in post-war Britain. As told through the lives of two young women, Atalanta Ladies Football Club was formed in 1920 to “provide games for the women of Huddersfield, to foster a sporting spirit, and a love of honour among its members”.

During the Great War, several women’s football teams had sprung up around the country, usually based in factories or munitions works, and proved a great success in raising money for hospitals, war widows and so on. 

The popularity of the women’s game may be measured by the estimated 25,000 crowd that packed Hillsborough, Sheffield, for the Huddersfield team’s next game with the Dick, Kerr Ladies FC of Preston on May 4, when they lost 4-0 to their much more experienced opponents.

In the wider football world, the growing popularity of women’s football was now causing concern. The FA even saw it as taking support away from the men’s game and on December 5, 1921, they banned women’s teams from using FA affiliated grounds.

Before folding in 1924, the pioneering Huddersfield Atalanta Ladies FC had raised more than £2,000 for various charities.

“I still feel the injustice and the sense of shame for wanting to do something I wasn’t meant to,” says playwright Amanda Whittington, recalling her own experiences of playing football

Writer and co-lyricist Whittington says of her new play: “I was an 11-year-old footballer in the 1980s, the only girl who played in the boys’ village tournament, and I vividly remember being ‘advised’ to stop because it wasn’t appropriate. 

“I still feel the injustice and the sense of shame for wanting to do something I wasn’t meant to. 

“It brings joy to my heart to see football’s now the biggest team sport for girls in Britain.  I wanted to write about the battle the women’s game has fought to survive and prosper – and perhaps to tell the 11-year-old me she was right?”

Atalanta Forever is directed by Mikron artistic director Marianne McNamara, who is joined in the production team by composer and co-lyricist Kieran Buckeridge, musical director Rebekah Hughes and designer Celia Perkins. Casting will be announced in the coming months.

Explaining why Mikron chose to tackle the subject of the fight for women’s football, McNamara says: “Women’s football is making a comeback and not before time. We are thrilled to pay homage to the trailblazing Huddersfield women that paved the way against all odds.

“Just like the great game itself, this will be an action-packed play of two halves, full of live music, fun and laughter with no plans for extra time!”

Mikron’s 49th year of touring will open at the National Football Museum, Manchester, on April 18 and then travel nationally by road and canal on a vintage narrowboat until October 24.

Atalanta Forever will be touring alongside Poppy Hollman’s new play, A Dog’s Tale, a celebration of canines past and present that explores the enduring love between people and their dogs.

As ever, Mikron will be putting on their shows in “places that other theatre companies wouldn’t dream of”, whether a play about growing-your-own veg, presented in  allotments; one about bees performed next to hives; another about chips in a fish and chips restaurant, as well as plays about hostelling in YHA youth hostels and the RNLI at several lifeboat stations around the UK.

For more information and tour dates and locations for Atalanta Forever, go to mikron.org.uk/shows/atalanta-forever.

York Theatre Royal to co-produce world premiere of Alone In Berlin

Denis Otway, as Otto, Charlotte Emmerson, as Anna, and Joseph Marcell, as Inspector Escherich, in York Theatre Royal and Royal & Derngate Northampton’s Alone In Berlin. Picture: Geraint Lewis

REHEARSALS are under way for the York Theatre Royal and Royal & Derngate Northampton co-production of the world premiere of Alone In Berlin.

Charlotte Emmerson, Denis Conway and Joseph Marcell will lead an ensemble cast, directed by the Royal & Derngate artistic director, James Dacre, and rehearsed in Northampton, where the play will open next month before its York run from March 3 to 21.

Hans Fallada’s novel has been translated and adapted for the stage by Alistair Beaton. Furthermore, the premiere will feature illustrations 25 years in the making by graphic novelist Jason Lutes – from his book Berlin – who collaborates with designer Jonathan Fensom,video designerNina Dunn and lighting designer Charles Balfour. 

Cabaret singer Jessica Walker will perform original songs composed by Orlando Gough, complemented by composition and sound design by Donato Wharton.

Set in 1940, Alone In Berlin portrays life in wartime Berlin in a vividly theatrical study of how paranoia can warp a society gripped by the fear of the night-time knock on the door.

Based on true events, the storyline follows a quietly courageous couple who stand up to the brutal reality of the Nazi regime. Through the smallest of acts, they defy Hitler’s rule, facing the gravest of consequences. 

This timely story of the moral power of personal resistance tracks Otto and Anna as they negotiate the insidious effects of absolute power on every aspect of daily life. When they decide to make a stand in their unique way, the Gestapo launch a terrifying hunt for the perpetrators.

Otto and Anna find themselves players in a deadly game of cat and mouse with the forces of the state: a game that will eventually lead them down through ever-narrowing circles of totalitarian hell.

Described by Italian Jewish chemist, partisan, Holocaust survivor and writer Primo Levi as “the greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis”, Alone In Berlin re-entered the bestseller list three years ago – almost unheard of for a 20th century literary classic – as its themes began to resonate across the world once more.

Although regularly adapted for stage productions across Europe, this York and Northampton co-production, presented in association with the Oxford Playhouse, will be the first time Fallada’s masterpiece has been seen on a British stage.

Dacre’s cast will be led by Denis Conway and Charlotte Emmerson as Otto and Anna Quangel and Joseph Marcell as Inspector Escherich. Conway played opposite Poldark leading man Aidan Turner in Michael Grandage’s The Lieutenant Of Inishmore and is known for his extensive work at Dublin’s Gate Theatre and on screen in Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes The Barley, John Crowley’sBrooklyn and Oliver Stone’s Alexander.

Emmerson’s many credits include title roles in Marianne Elliot’s Therese Raquin (National Theatre) and Laurie Sansom’s The Duchess Of Malfi (Royal & Derngate) and leads in Chekhov’s major plays in productions directed by Peter Stein, Lucy Bailey and Trevor Nunn.

Best known for playing Geoffrey Butler, the butler, in the 1990s’  television series The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, British actor and comedian Marcell was last seen at Royal & Derngate in King John, while his numerous credits for Shakespeare’s Globe include the title role in King Lear.

York Theatre Royal and Royal & Derngate Northampton co-produced Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge last year, directed by Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster.

Tickets for the York run of Alone In Berlin are on sale on 01904 623568, at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or in person from the Theatre Royal box office.