THE 2020 York Early Music Festival, Britain’s biggest event in its field, is off.
“Following current government advice on the Covid-19 pandemic, the National Centre for Early Music has made the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 festival, due to take place this July,” says administrative director Dr Delma Tomlin.
“Regretfully, we have finally had to take this decision for the safety of our artists and audiences. This is hugely disappointing for everyone involved, and indeed the hospitality industry in York.
“The festival, started in 1977, is the UK’s largest festival of its kind and is firmly established within the cultural calendar. I would like to thank our wonderful patrons, friends, funders and supporters who have helped us at this difficult time. Many have donated and we are hugely appreciative of everyone’s kindness.”
The 2020 festival was to have run from July 3 to 11 with a theme of “the Method & Madness of musical styles, from the wild excesses of the Italian Renaissance, through the soothing virtuosity of Bach, to the towering genius of Beethoven”.
Among the artists would have been York’s international countertenor Iestyn Davies, performing Bach: Countertenor Arias with Scottish instrumentalists the Dunedin Consort; The Sixteen, singing The Call Of Rome at York Minster, directed by Harry Christophers, and Barokksolistene, from Norway, with their vivacious festival opener, Alehouse.
Lined up to take part too were Rose Consort of Viols; Voces Suaves; Prisma; Profeti della Quinta; L’Apothéose; Hubert Hazebroucq & Julien Martin and The Society of Strange & Ancient Instruments, launching their Trumpet Marine project.
Further concerts in the festival diary were by the University Baroque Ensemble; harpsichordist Steven Devine and Consone Quartet. Festival stalwart Peter Seymour would have directed a performance of Handel’s opera Orlando, with Carolyn Sampson, Helen Charlston and Matthew Brook among the soloists.
Delma has confirmed the 2021 festival will run from Friday, July 9 to Saturday, July 17. “Guest artists scheduled to join us next summer include The Tallis Scholars, The Sixteen, Brecon Baroque, led by violinist Rachel Podger, and gamba specialist Paolo Pandolfo,” she says. Further highlights will include the 2021 York Early Music International Young Artists Competition.
Meanwhile, the National Centre for Early Music, in Walmgate, York, will continue to share concerts from its archive on Facebook and online in its 20th anniversary year. Next up, on May 30 at 1pm, will be one of the last concerts by the European Union Baroque Orchestra, recorded in March 2017.
On June 13 comes the chance to enjoy music by past winners of the York Early Music International Young Artists Competition, a double bill of Fieri Consort from 2017 and last year’s winners, L’Apothéose.
YORK Mystery Plays Supporters Trust is seeking a director for its second production of A Nativity for York, planned for December 2020.
The launch follows the trust’s decision to keep the York Mystery Plays’ tradition alive by staging an annual nativity play.
The YMPST organisation has issued a briefing notice, asking potential candidates to apply before midnight on Saturday, May 30, sending initial ideas for the play on one side of A4 plus a CV.
In keeping with the existing performance traditions, the mission is to look at medieval nativity plays as a source for the production.
An information pack is available and applicants are asked to send emails to the YMPST chair at email@example.com. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to interview, probably via video link, on Tuesday, June 16.
Chair Linda Terry says: “Last year we achieved our aim to make the production both visible and accessible. We were delighted that A Nativity for York at the Spurriergate Centre appealed to so many in the community, to both residents and visitors to the city.
“The trust believes that we can build on the success of 2019 with another innovative production as part of the city of York’s Christmas festival.”
As demonstrated by last December’s debut, directed by Philip Parr, the objective is to keep alive the skills, support and enthusiasm generated through the many productions of the York Mystery Plays over the years.
The trust has confirmed that the Spurriergate Centre, in Spurriergate, will host the 2020 performances, starting in mid-December.
“In the event that this cannot take place because of the pandemic restrictions, all initial work will be rolled over to 2021 or an alternative medium for performance will be considered,” says Linda.
TEDDY Thompson, the English singer and songwriter long resident in New York City, will play Pocklington Arts Centre on January 22 2021.
He will be showcasing his sixth solo studio album, Heartbreaker Please, set for release on May 29 on Thirty Tigers, a launch put back from its original April 24 pitch.
Teddy, 44-year-old son of folk luminaries Richard and Linda Thompson, will be supported by another artiste with a folk-roots heritage: Roseanne Reid, eldest daughter of The Proclaimers’ Craig Reid.
“Here’s the thing, you don’t love me anymore,” sings the frank Thompson on his new album. “I can tell you’ve got one foot out the door.”
From the off, Heartbreaker Please wrestles with the breakdown of love with wistful levity and devastating honesty. The songs are drawn from the demise of a real-life relationship, set against the backdrop of New York City, the place Thompson has called home for the better part of two decades, having left London for the USA at 18 and settled in the Big Apple five years later.
“I took a summer vacation that never ended,” he says. “In retrospect, I was trying to reinvent myself. It was easier to leave it all behind, go somewhere new and declare myself an artist. And you can actually re-invent yourself in America; step off the plane, say ‘my name is Teddy Thompson, I’m a musician’.”
Six albums have arrived since 2000, spanning rock and country, pop and folk. “Who do I sound like? I think I sound like myself,” Thompson says. “There’s a strong element of British folky in me, it’s in the blood, and I heard the wonderful music of my parents around me as a young child.
“Then there was the 1950s’ American pop and country that I fell in love with, plus the ’80s’ pop music that was in the charts at the time.”
From a young age, Sam Cooke, Hank Williams, Chuck Berry and The Everly Brothers made up the bulk of Thompson’s listening, along with select contemporary tunes heard on Top Of The Pops: A-ha, Culture Club and Wham.
“As a teenager, I couldn’t talk to my friends about Fifties’ rock’n’roll. I wasn’t cool enough to be that different. I’d say Crowded House was the first contemporary band I really found that I liked, that was socially acceptable,” he says.
“Today? I like to think my taste in music is catholic, I listen to whatever catches my ear, I don’t care about genre. There’s only two types of music, good and bad.”
On Heartbreaker Please,Thompson incorporates elements of Sixties’ doo-wop on Record Player and Eighties’ synth sounds on the epic No Idea, but his first musical love always will be rock’n’roll, country and pop.
“I’m completely enamoured with the three-minute pop song,” he says. “Maybe it’s conditioning if you hear enough of it, but the brevity of those songs, I always thought that was ideal. Trim the fat.
“Those songs are from a time when the song itself was important and would live on. If it was great, people would cover it. So, I still think that way, write a great song first. I try to be succinct and witty, but also cut to the heart in a matter of two or three minutes. I may never write a song as good as Chuck Berry’s Maybelline or The Everly Brothers’ Cathy’s Clown, but those are the touchstones for me.”
In a departure for Thompson, at the [broken] heart of Heartbreaker Please are references to someone else doing the heart-breaking. “I’m usually the one who does that!” he says. “A defence mechanism, of course, but all of a sudden I was the one on the back foot. I was the ‘plus 1’, and I admit, I didn’t deal with it very well. But also, don’t date actors.”
The relationship ended just as Thompson was finishing writing the songs that would become Heartbreaker Please. “I tend to write sad songs, slow songs. It’s what comes naturally,” he says.
“So I tried to make an effort here to set some of the misery to a nice beat! Let the listener bop their heads while they weep.”
After releasing his self-titled debut in 2000, Thompson went on tour as part of Roseanne Cash’s band. Since then he has collaborated with good friends Martha and Rufus Wainwright and contributed to numerous tribute projects, most notably two songs for the Leonard Cohen covers’ collection, I’m Your Man, and two to the Nick Drake retrospective, Way To Blue, too.
Thompson has produced albums for Americana singer-songwriters Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne, Dori Freeman and his mother, Linda Thompson. Last year, he added Roseanne Reid’s debut, Trails, to that list: an album that featured a duet with Steve Earle, by the way.
Teddy’s father, Richard Thompson, was to have played the closing concert at this summer’s Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington, on July 15 but the event was de-railed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Negotiations are under way with all the acts, Thompson included, to take part in the 2021 festival.
Tickets for Teddy Thompson’s 8pm gig are on sale at £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
CASTLE Howard is postponing this summer’s live music weekend until 2021.
Running from August 21 to 23, the 2020 bill would have comprised the al fresco Proms Spectacular with Welsh tenor Wynne Evans, Café Mambo Live and Queen Symphonic.
“The summer spectacular weekend was set to draw audiences from all over the country to enjoy a varied programme of music, from Land Of Hope And Glory to Ibiza chill to Bohemian Rhapsody,” today’s official statement says. “Now the whole weekend will be picked up and placed on the equivalent weekend next August.”
The North Yorkshire country house management team and event partners LPH Concerts have taken the decision after “much deliberation and careful consideration of the advice from the British government around the Coronavirus pandemic” and its prohibitive social-distancing measures.
The Hon Nicholas Howard, of Castle Howard, near York, says: “It is incredibly disappointing to have to cancel any events, particularly outdoor concerts for which people plan ahead for many months, but it is absolutely the right thing to do in current circumstances – the safety of our visitors and staff is paramount.
“The artists due to perform share our disappointment but have all agreed to come back next summer to delight the Yorkshire audiences at Castle Howard’s natural amphitheatre. Something to look forward to, if a little further into the future.”
LPH Concerts say: “While lockdown measures are being slowly lifted across the UK, it is with sadness that we are announcing these postponements. In the background, we have been studying guidance and taking advice from the industry safety professionals.
“As independent event producers, we have a passion for the music and events we produce, however the most important factor is you, our loyal customers. Many of you over the years have become friends and supporters and as such your safety and enjoyment of our events is our priority.
“We also have a loyal, hardworking team and suppliers to safeguard too and therefore we have made the difficult decision to postpone until 2021.
“The good news is that the artistes, Castle Howard and our suppliers are fully behind us and…we’ll be back with a heightened spring in our production for you all to enjoy. Stay safe and we hope we will see you before too long.”
All ticket holders will be receiving an email shortly from their point of purchase with further information.
Castle Howard and its grounds remain closed to the public, with the team closely following government advice so that it can reopen promptly with appropriate safety measures in place once lockdown is lifted.
“We’re expecting the gardens and grounds to be first to open, as exploring the outdoors and getting lots of fresh air appears to be very much in line with recommendations for safe things to do,” says Nicholas Howard.
“We’ll continue to monitor when and how we might be able to re-open the house in due course. In the meantime, our farm shop continues to provide locals with fresh fruit, vegetables and butchery staples, while the garden centre has now also re-opened with social-distancing measures in place, so those staying at home can give their green spaces a bit of a boost.
“We would like to thank you all for your patience and support during these difficult times.”
For more information on the farm shop and garden centre, or to keep up to date with the latest Castle Howard news, stay alert at castlehoward.co.uk.
WELCOME to From Stardust To Stardust, a new Instagram gallery by artist Jane Poulton for Scarborough Museums Trust’s innovative series of digital commissions.
Poulton’s seven photographic and text-based images “consider how personal objects can bring to mind moments of deep emotion from our own private histories”.
One photographic artwork will be released each day on the social media platform @scarboroughmuseums for seven days from Tuesday, May 26. The gallery subsequently will be available on the website scarboroughmuseumstrust.com.
The trust wants From Stardust To Stardust to be accessible to everyone, so the gallery will include image descriptions and audio files for those who might find them helpful.
Poulton says: “During exploratory work for this project, I used cherished objects of my own to suggest similarities between museum collections and objects we hold dear ourselves.
“For example, a gryphaea fossil I found on my local beach gave me – the moment I held it in my hand – a flash of insight into the theory that every living thing on our planet comes from, and returns to, stardust. That brought me great comfort.”
“From stardust to stardust” was the phrase Poulton used to describe that experience. “It’s now the title for this project, which reflects on moments of personal uncertainty, fear or loss – my own and other people’s – through small objects that recall those times,” she says.
“Though charms or mementos such as these have no measurable influence on the course of events, their power lies in what, or who, they represent.”
From Stardust To Stardust forms part of a series of digital commissions from Scarborough Museums Trust in response to the Corona crisis. The trust has asked Poulton, Kirsty Harris, Lucy Carruthers, Estabrak, Wanja Kimani, Jade Montserrat and Feral Practice to create digital artworks to be released online across social media platforms over the next four months.
Originally trained in textiles, Poulton is a visual artist and writer who creates “socially engaged participatory projects that create a long-term impact and lasting legacy”. She has worked on many projects with members of the public, not least distinctly identified groups, particularly within community learning settings, where she aims to build confidence and give a voice to those whose views otherwise might not be heard.
YORK Heroes artist Sue Clayton is participating in the nationwide #portraitsfornhsheroes initiative.
Her subject is Rachel Beal, a “vibrant, young, positive” nurse in charge of a Covid-19 ward in Rotherham, who Sue has never met but was struck by one photograph of her in particular.
“The initiative was created in early April by Tom Croft, an Oxford artist who was on the 2018 Sky Portrait Artist series,” says Sue, from Wigginton, York.
“The idea was to celebrate our NHS heroes in portraits, to which he invited artists to participate. On our social media sites we posted a green canvas to say ‘I’m offering a free portrait to the first NHS key worker to contact me’, and the finished portrait is then posted to the ‘model’ as a thank-you.”
Sue’s offer received an immediate response. “I was delighted that within two minutes I had a request from a chap who wanted me to paint his wife, who’s a nurse in charge of a Covid-19 ward in Rotherham,” she recalls.
“The photos sent over showed Rachel as a vibrant, young, positive nurse. One image particularly drew my attention: her smile beaming as she held her hands up in a heart shape.”
Sue felt a spontaneous bond. “The first thing that struck me about Rachel was…this is the gal I would want by my bedside in ICU. She appeared to have a cheerful glint in her eyes and a smile to give hope.
“I felt a connection as two Yorkshire lasses whose glass is always half full. I also loved the composition, a wonderful triangulation. Finally, I loved her nose ring and tattoos set against a crisp uniform with the traditional silver filigree belt clasp.”
Sue’s response was to produce an expressive portrait, joyous even. “Perhaps strange considering these strange, sad times, when many fantastic portraits have been created showing masked nurses, fatigue and sadness etched in their eyes – really poignant and emotional to the viewer.
“But, conversely, I wanted to show a time that has also shown the strength of human kindness and that hope still shines through, and here was a girl from Rotherham to prove it!
“My main focus obviously would be Rachel but I wanted her to be surrounded by free, bright, colourful brushstrokes symbolising her energy, vitality and hope.”
By necessity, Sue’s working practice differed from her York Heroes portraits of pantomime dame Berwick Kaler; motivational speaker, charity fundraiser, author and Huge frontman Ian Donaghy; “unsung hero” Andrew Fair, stalwart Sainbury’s trolley attendant at Monks Cross; York Against Cancer co-founder Steve Leveson; Nuzzlets animal charity driving force Mary Chapman and the late police constable Suzanne Asquith, who was awarded the Gold award for Inspiration at the North Yorkshire Police Annual Awards.
Unlike the 2018 series, there were to be no sittings this time, no voice, no chance to see facial expressions in motion “I worked solely from my response to Rachel’s photo without knowing anything about her, but the story that she sent me after seeing the painting assured me that I had captured her character,” says Sue.
“I painted purely from instinct, which was an interesting challenge for me and a new one. Usually, I will have met and chatted to a sitter and as a norm I find this important.
“I can build up a ‘feeling’ about someone, even down to what colour I feel portrays them. I will watch for quirks, their gestures, how someone talks: are they animated and excitable or quiet and reserved?
“These things I have in my mind and pre-form how I paint someone. In the case of a posthumous portrait, the loved one commissioning it will tell me about a person, what they were like, and it’s sometimes their response and feeling to their loved ones that come through when I paint.”
For Rachel’s portrait, Sue decided to “just go with the flow and see how it developed”. “For instance, as I began the portrait, the background was plain aqua colour but, as I progressed, I knew vibrant colours needed to be there to suggest Rachel,” she says.
“She felt to me to be a buzzy, vital character. The bold, spark-like brushstrokes seem to come of their own accord, creating a dazzled aura and perhaps subconsciously giving a nod to the rainbow we’ve come to symbolise our NHS at this time.”
On receiving her portrait, Rachel sent a message to Sue to say: “This is so lovely! Thank you so much! It’s more than amazing!
“I’m a wife, mum and a nurse. I love Disney and creating a colourful, happy, healthy, fair world. I am passionate about helping people feel comfortable and empowered about their care and love working with patients to help them manage and maintain their overall health and well-being.”
Rachel said she was a firm believer in always having hope: “During these terrifying, unprecedented times, I find hope in the smallest of human gestures, which gives me the strength to keep smiling and caring and sharing positivity.
“I believe we will have our Victory over Covid and that our Victory will be beautiful! The NHS is something I cherish, I give my heart and soul to it. As staff we are family and I am extremely proud to be a part of that.”
Although Sue does not envisage meeting Rachel once circumstances allow, she says: “A lovely connection has been made with both her and Greg, Rachel’s husband, via social media. I think the ‘call and response’ nature of the initiative is great.”
NHS Heroes is a term often heard since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, hospital staff putting their life at risk for the good of others, even drawing comparison with the young soldiers sent into the trenches in the First World War. “We as a nation will be forever indebted to our NHS workers,” says Sue.
“I will be forever saddened and shocked that we asked them to go into a situation without adequate protection and that as a result people have died, saving others. How many other professions would find this acceptable, to know this and still go to work potentially risking their lives?”
First York Heroes, now NHS Heroes, what makes a hero for Sue? “Interesting question. I remember when I approached one of the ‘York Heroes’ to ask to create their portrait, they took some persuading.
“They did not consider themselves a hero, although all the nominations that came for them begged to differ!” she says.
“One of my final emails to persuade them was to just copy the definition of ‘hero’: ‘a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities’.”
Adapting to life in lockdown, Sue is “grateful to be home, safe with my two children, in acknowledgement that many are unable to be so”. “I’m missing my partner terribly as, due to vulnerable health in both our households, we have to be cautious,” she says.
“From an art point of view, the urge to paint left me temporarily, which frightened me. However, home decorating began instead and my creativity was encouraged this way, from ripping up the stairs carpet and painting the stairs in rainbow colours to remember this period, through to painting a cupboard with a Chinese heron/crane.
“There’s no real reason for the choice of a Chinese heron/crane, I just thought it might add interest to the cupboard, and as usual I went off piste and used black Sharpie pen to scribble in blossom…I liked the effect though!
“I’ve been through a real ‘make do and mend’ episode at home, revamping without cost: the fireplace has been made over too, using mountcard off-cuts and shed paint…as you do!”
The NHS portrait project gave Sue the jump start she needed to paint again. “I tend to paint in the early hours now as the house is peaceful and as a mum I’m off duty!” she says.
This week Sue has conducted her first art workshop via the Zoom video app. “It worked OK thankfully: such a huge relief to know I can deliver art sessions and still have some connection with people. I’ve so missed it,” she says.
“I’ll start two new weekly sessions in June, one purely portraits and the other, Clayton’s Art Club. If it’s good enough for Grayson Perry, it’ll do for me.”
While on the subject of Grayson’s Arts Club, Sue has played her part in Perry’s Monday night series in lockdown on Channel 4.
“My portrait of Sainsbury’s trolley attendant Andrew Fair appeared on the first episode. It was an absolute shock to me, but a bittersweet moment too, as I missed the original showing due to shocking news that a friend was unconscious and on life support fighting Covid,” she says.
“I had been making calls to friends to update them on the sad news and had taken a bath to just ‘be’ and reflect as the news had shocked me so. But my phone kept pinging and a friend phoned to say ‘Sue…I’ve just seen you on TV!’.
“So, the first time it was aired, I was in the bath, but I’m delighted to say my friend recovered and is now home…so it will always be a poignant moment for me.”
Grayson’s Art Club had asked for submissions of art for the show, accompanied by a video clip “telling him who you were and why you were submitting your painting”. “The first week was ‘portraits’ and I knew straightaway I should send in the image of Andrew, one of the York Heroes,” says Sue.
“As he works at Sainsbury’s, I felt it was an important nod to other key workers during this time but also because I love Andrew; he is such an amazingly, cheerful soul who loves his job. Getting to know him through the project was a happy time.
“He had just turned 60 and he’s now shielding with his mother and I know he would be so proud to see his portrait on TV.
“It was one of my most joyful moments painting Andrew. The delight and pride he had at being painted was so touching. He’s a prolific letter writer and has written to The Queen, Prince William and the chief exec of Sainsbury’s, to name but a few, to tell them he was selected as a Hero of York. He’s a very sweet, endearing man.”
Sue is delighted by the impact of Grayson’s Art Club. “I think Grayson’s show will introduce many to creating, both its power and how stimulating it can be. It’s also a positive, uplifting show,” she says.
“I’ve loved seeing other artists appear too, both celebrity and world-renowned artists. So great to see Maggi Hambling on there, I love her. The exhibition at the end will be interesting too, a testament to this time…a time capsule, a snapshot of creations.
“It’s interesting that as more cuts are made to the arts sectors, we are so lost without it. Where would we be now, in this period, without our music, the arts and museums’ online tours, the live theatre show streaming, movies, Netflix?”
Sue’s Downright Marvellous…At Large! exhibition at Pocklington Art Centre had to close early after the Coronavirus shutdown in March. “I was showing 12 new portraits in celebration of Down Syndrome, in part to mark my son James, who has Down Syndrome, turning 18 this year, this Friday in fact,” she says.
“I’m pleased to say that the exhibition will be shown at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford from November, then York Hospital in February 2021.”
Coming next is Sue’s Double Portraits project, placing two contrasting portraits next to each other. “It’s still in its very early stages but the first portrait has begun,” she says.
“They will all be large and at least a metre. I want to challenge the viewer. For example, a large, colourful, brash, full in-your-face portrait of a man with facial paralysis will be shown against a sombre painted, full nude study of a confident man comfortable in his own skin. Do we at first glance acknowledge that they are the same person?
“Or a man in his prime, top of his game, delivering lectures to hundreds, assured, knowledgeable, performing…set against a desperate, sad portrait image of a ‘black treacle’ time – his words – when depression hits him. A monochromatic study, possibly painted in tar.
“As usual, I have nowhere to show these yet, nor thought to try and find funding, but it’s something I need to do. The ignition has been lit!”
Did you know?
Two more York artists are taking part in the #portraitsfornhsheroes project: Lucie Wake and Karen Winship.
THERE will be no Yes show on May 29 at York Barbican after Covid-19 intervened, but, yes, The Album Series Tour has been rearranged.
All tickets remain valid for the new date, May 19 2021, when Yes will perform their 1974 album Relayer in its entirety, complemented by Yes prog-rock favourites.
Band member Alan White says: “Many things have changed in the world these past few months. My appreciation for the freedoms we’ve enjoyed in the past has grown, along with my gratitude for all the people caring for humanity throughout the world.
“I can’t wait to be on stage again in front of real audiences, playing Yes music. I’m hoping we can bring some joy and positivity back into our lives. Please take care and stay safe, we want to see our many fans and friends again in 2021.”
The tour line-up features White, on drums; Steve Howe, guitars; Geoff Downes, keyboards; Jon Davison, vocals; Billy Sherwood, bass guitar and backing vocals, and Jay Schellen, drums and percussion.
The Album Series Tour format comprises two sets with full production and a high-definition video wall. The first will focus on classic numbers from Yes’s extensive catalogue; the second will be devoted to Relayer, the band’s seventh studio album.
Relayer marked a “slight change in direction” as Patrick Moraz replaced Rick Wakeman on keyboards, bringing an avant-garde feel to the recordings, typified by the Gates Of Delirium, almost 22 minutes in length, with Moraz’s keyboards and Howe’s guitar to the fore in the battle scene. The battle gives way to the beautiful ballad Soon, a prayer for peace and hope.
Further highlights are Sound Chaser, a prog-rock-jazz fusion experiment heavily influenced by Moraz’s style, and To Be Over, a calm and gentle album closer, based on a Howe melody.
Released in late 1974 on Atlantic Records, Relayer reached number four in the UK album chart and number five in the US Billboard chart.
York Barbican will be the only Yorkshire venue on the nine-date 2021 British and European tour. Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Didn’t Yes play York Barbican in June 2018? Yes and no. It was not this Yes, but the brand of Yes that has to call itself Yes, Featuring Jon Anderson, Trevor Rabin, Rick Wakeman, not Yes.
WHEN the Coronavirus pandemic meant Truth Will Out would not be out this summer in Scarborough, Alan Ayckbourn responded by unlocking a new play in lockdown, Anno Domino.
And not only has he written it, but he is performing in the audio recording too, marking his return to acting, 58 years after his last appearance on a professional stage.
What’s more, the 81-year-old Olivier and Tony Award-winning playwright has teamed up with his wife, actress Heather Stoney, his co-star in that 1964 production, to record the new show, his 84th play.
The world premiere of Anno Domino will be available for free exclusively on the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s website, sjt.uk.com, from noon on Monday, May 25 to noon on June 25.
Ayckbourn had been due to direct the world premiere of Truth Will Out, from August 20 to October 3, alongside his revival of his 1976 garage-and-garden dark comedy of four birthdays, Just Between Ourselves, in an SJT summer season completed by artistic director Paul Robinson’s production of The Ladykillers.
However, after the SJT’s summer was scuppered by the Corona crisis, former radio producer Ayckbourn and Robinson hatched a plan to create a new play that Ayckbourn and Stoney could record and present online: “just mucking about in our sitting room,” as Ayckbourn put it.
Hey presto, Anno Domino, Ayckbourn’s audio account of the break-up of a long-established marriage and the domino effect that has on family and friends.
“The inspiration for Anno Domino came from the idea that all relationships ultimately, however resilient they appear to be, are built on sand!” says Ayckbourn. “And it only takes one couple to break up abruptly to take us all by surprise, then all of a sudden everyone is questioning their own unshakeable relationship.”
Anno Domino marks the first time Ayckbourn has both directed and starred in one of his own plays – and even done the sound effects too. Performed by Ayckbourn and Stoney, with a final mix by Paul Steer, it requires the duo to play four characters each, with an age range of 18 to mid-70s. This Stephen Joseph Theatre audio recording is the first occasion they have acted together since Ayckbourn’s stage exit left in William Gibson’s two-hander Two For The Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964.
Ayckbourn subsequently pursued a prolific, glittering writing and directing career, while Stoney continued to act, appearing in many Ayckbourn world premieres. Her last full season as an actress was at the SJT in 1985, when she appeared in the world premiere of Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind.
Robinson enthuses: “We can’t wait for our audiences to hear Anno Domino. We were all hugely disappointed to have to suspend our summer season. We were so looking forward to seeing the brilliant Just Between Ourselves – ‘the one with the car on stage’ – and the world premiere of Alan’s up-to-the-minute satire, Truth Will Out.
“Anno Domino is one of Alan’s ‘lighter’ plays, a hopeful and rather joyous piece, which will provide perfect entertainment in these troubled times. This is a hugely exciting and very contemporary response to the current situation and shows yet again how Alan has always moved with the times.”
The now mothballed Truth Will Out was written by Ayckbourn in late-2019 as a satire on family, relationships, politics and the state of the nation.
“Everyone has secrets,” says the tantalising synopsis in the SJT summer-season brochure. “Certainly, former shop steward George, his right-wing MP daughter Janet, investigative journalist Peggy, and senior civil servant Sefton, do.
“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.”
When that storm will now break cannot be forecast. Alan Ayckbourn’s Official Website states: “It is not known what the future holds for Truth Will Out…”, but the truth will out on its path forward in due course.
YOU can’t make a beeline to The Delines at Pocklington Arts Centre on July 28, but jot down February 23 2021 for the Covid-enforced rearranged date.
Willy Vlautin’s retro country-soul band, from Portland, Oregon, returned from a three-year hiatus last year, enjoying two weeks at number one in the UK Americana charts with The Imperial, a record picked as Rough Trade’s album of the month and Uncut’s Americana album of the month.
The long lull in recordings was a result of lead singer Amy Boone’s need for three years of treatment and rehab after both her legs were broken severely in a car accident in Austin, Texas.
The band vowed to “hang in there until the ship was ready to sail again”, their spirit sustained by knowing they had most of The Imperial’s material in the can already. Their sophomore record, the follow-up to June 2014 debut Colfax, surfaced eventually on January 11 2019 on Décor Records. A sold-out UK tour ensued that year.
The Delines are led by Vlautin, novelist and lead singer/songwriter for Richmond Fontaine, who disbanded in 2016, and Boone, co-founder with her sister Deborah Kelly of the Texan group Damnations.
In the line-up too are Freddy Trujillo, from Portland, on bass; Vlautin’s Richmond Fontaine cohort Sean Oldham on drums and multi-instrumentalist Cory Gray, rounding out the cinematic, late-night country-soul sound on keyboards and trumpet.
The band had been working on new material over the past months before the Coronavirus lockdown, those songs “set to be finished shortly” and sure to feature in next February’s gig.
That night’s support act will be Californian singer, songwriter and guitarist Jerry Joseph, who has just recorded his new album, The Beautiful Madness, with Drive-By Truckers, featuring Jason Isbell by the way, for August 21 release on Décor.
Ticket holders will be contacted by the PAC box office to offer them a transfer or refund. Tickets are on sale at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.