York Theatre Royal’s Community Drive scheme revs up for Quality Street return

York Theatre Royal’s Community Drive leaflet

YORK Theatre Royal’s Community Drive scheme is back on the road.

Under the scheme, older people – a group that can be at risk of isolation – can enjoy a trip to the theatre, and as many as 100 people will receive tickets and transport to matinee performances of Northern Broadsides’ play Quality Street in June.

Maisie Pearson, the Theatre Royal’s development and communications assistant, said: “A meaningful activity like attending a show can help people overcome isolation and reconnect with their community, something which is particularly important for our older audiences.”

The first Community Drive during Driving Miss Daisy last June brought 51 older people from York to the Theatre Royal. Otherwise unable to visit the theatre, they had a memorable afternoon, talking to staff about past visits to the St Leonard’s Place theatre, enjoying the show and taking away a programme as a memento of their visit.

The Theatre Royal worked with a taxi company to transport Community Drive participants to and from the theatre and also partnered with Age UK York to bring a group from their Thursday Club. For some, this was the first time in years they had returned to the theatre. 

Maurey Richards and Paula Wilcox in Driving Miss Daisy at York Theatre Royal last June. Picture: Sam Taylor

A Thursday Club member said: “It’s a really lovely thing to be able to come to the theatre and feel part of something… the community of the theatre. It’s so kind to have something done for older people – to be remembered.”

For Quality Street, the Theatre Royal is working with charities that support older people to offer tickets and transport to see Laurie Sansom’s production of J M Barrie’s play at 1.30pm on June 11 or 2.30pm on June 13.

Tickets and transport can be requested as part of a community group, such as a charity, care provider or day centre. To book tickets and discuss any transportation needs, charity/group organisers or individuals should call Maisie Pearson on 01904 550148 or email maisie.pearson@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

“We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us by donating to York Theatre Royal,” said Maisie. “Thank you for enabling us to offer invaluable opportunities like the Community Drive.”

How Albee’s entertaining, disturbing, modern Greek tragedy The Goat could divide families

Family portrait: Bryan Bounds as Martin Gray, Will Fealy as his son Billy and Susannah Baines as his wife Stevie in Pick Me Up Theatre’s The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?

YORK company Pick Me Up Theatre are staging next week’s northern UK premiere of Edward Albee’s emotional, if controversial, rollercoaster of an American play, The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?.

New York architect Martin Gray has it all as he turns 50: fame, fortune, a happy marriage to Stevie, and a wonderful, gay teenage son, Billy, but he is hiding a BIG secret. Everything changes when he admits to his best friend, Ross, that he is having an affair with…a goat.

The Goat caused a stir but nevertheless was a hit with audiences when it opened on Broadway in 2002, winning the Tony Award for Best Play 40 years after Albee took home the same prize for Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? 

Playing at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41Monkgate, York, from February 25 to 29, The Goat switches between comedy and full-blown tragedy as Stevie, Billy and Ross struggle to deal with Martin’s revelation.

“The play is about love and loss, the limits of our tolerance and who, indeed, we really are,” explained Virginia-born playwright Albee, who died in September 2016. “All I ask of an audience is that they leave their prejudices in the cloakroom … and later — at home — imagine themselves as being in the predicament the play examines and coming up with useful, if not necessarily comfortable, responses.”

Bryan Bounds, left, Mick Liversidge and Will Fealy in rehearsal for The Goat

Directed by Mark Hird and produced and designed by Robert Readman, Pick Me Up’s production casts American actor and tutor Bryan Bounds as Martin; Susannah Baines as Stevie; Mick Liversidge as Ross and Will Fealy, a student at CAPA College, the creative and performing arts college in Wakefield, as Billy.

Bryan Bounds, who runs the American School of Acting at Westcliffe Hall, off Cold Bath Road, in Harrogate, suggested The Goat to Mark, having first met him when his son Frankie played Pugsley in Pick Me Up’s production of The Addams Family at the Grand Opera House, York, in October 2015.

“I saw the original Broadway production in 2003 at The Booth Theatre with Sally Field and Bill Irwin leading the cast,” he recalls. “Like a lot of people, I was stunned, and afterwards I sat cogitating with an old chap, and we both said, ‘yes, it’s entirely possible that you could fall in love with goats’, but actually this play is nothing to do with goats.

“Albee’s work is all about using theatre to elevate the consciousness of the audience. He says, ‘never leave the audience the same way you found them’. This play really stays with you and you start to think more about intolerance. But the less the audience know before going, the better for having an impact on them.”

Bryan had been sitting on suggesting The Goat to Pick Me Up, “but then I saw Susannah [Baines] in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies and thought she’d be perfect for Stevie because you need a very strong actor for that role,” he says.

“It will make you change how you think about everything, all in 90 minutes,” says Bryan Bounds, left, of Edward Albee’s play

“I asked Mark if he would like to direct it, and once he said ‘yes’, he suggested Mick Liversidge to play Ross, and I suggested Will Fealy for Billy. Will lives in Ossett and has been one of my students; he’s very talented and he’s off to the Leeds Conservatoire after he finishes at CAPA College.”

It was not a straightforward decision that Mark would direct The Goat. “When Bryan asked me, initially I sent a holding message saying I’d just agreed to direct Monster Makers, though I’m a reluctant director as acting is my passion,” he recalls.

“But then I read Albee’s play and thought, ‘oh my god, I have to do this’. I could see what Bryan could see in it.”

Playing Martin’s wife Stevie will be a “totally different direction” for Susannah. “I’m usually a bit more jazz hands; I rarely do straight plays; The Pitmen Painters in 2015 was the last one,” she says.

“Then I read the play without reading anything about it, and the impact of its fallout is quite extraordinary and scary for all four of them. You start with this happy, rich successful family who seem to have it all, but one bombshell changes it all.”

Mick Liversidge, back left, Bryan Bounds, Susannah Baines and Will Fealy: Mark Hird’s cast for The Goat

Susannah adds: “I wouldn’t have done this play if Mark wasn’t directing it, because he does everything with such care, such detailed research, and then works so collaboratively in the rehearsal room.”

Bryan has enjoyed the rehearsal process with Mark. “The first time we met up, he sat us down and we spent an hour just talking about the characters; who they are; what do they each want? That’s the luxury of how he works. Detail,” he says.

“I just believe we’re there to tell Albee’s story, and with Mark’s huge amount of research, we will tell this huge emotive story, not just do a play. I love the idea that it’s not all set in stone, so it will be different every night because the audience’s responses will change every night.”

Mark says: “The audience don’t need to see the research. It’s the result that counts. At first, audiences would swear they’re watching a situation comedy that’s very funny, but as the play goes on, what they’re watching is a situation tragedy.

“Albee gave the printed edition of the play a subtitle: Notes Towards A Definition Of Tragedy, but there’s not just a flow from comedy to tragedy with the consequences of a tragic flaw leading to a fall from a great height.

“Instead, there’ll be one line that has you in fits of laughter and then suddenly you choke on that laugh because of the line that comes next. It’s so well constructed and that’s what Albee is so good at.”

Mick Liversidge’s Ross confronts Bryan Bounds’ Martin in rehearsal for The Goat

Mark adds: “When you’re faced with moral ambiguities in a play, as with Greek tragedies, it makes you think about yourself and about society around you, and that’s what makes Albee’s play a modern version of a Greek tragedy.”

Bryan rejoins: “Albee wrote the play because he wanted audiences to conceive the inconceivable. Originally it was going to be about a man falling in love with another man, but then he thought, ‘No, I need to polarise people’s response to it’.

“I have the feeling it will be the most disturbing play people will ever have seen at 41 Monkgate.”

Albee once said, “if you think this play is about bestiality, you’re either an idiot or a Republican”. Mark says: “He also said, it’s no more about bestiality than it’s about flower arranging’ and both are in the play!”

Why should you see The Goat? “It’s a play that will make you laugh, shock you, and maybe even make you cry,” says Susannah. “It’s the most outrageously funny tragedy you could ever see, and above all it will make you think.”

Bryan concludes: “It will make you change how you think about everything, all in 90 minutes.”

Mark has the last word. “It will make you think about your relationships; how you treat your family, as Albee portrays relationships in a way that has a real impact on audiences.

“If you like theatre that’s entertaining and sends you home changed and thinking about some big themes, this is one of those nights for you.”   

The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, runs at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41Monkgate, York, from February 25 to 29, 7.30pm nightly. Box office: 01904 623568 or at pickmeuptheatre.com. Please note: this play contains adult themes and strong language; suggested minimum age of 15.

Right Hand Theatre celebrate blind 18th century Yorkshire scientist in No Horizon

Adam Martyn in rehearsal for his role as Nicholas Saunderson in No Horizon

RIGHT Hand Theatre’s No Horizon, a musical about a Yorkshire science and maths genius, is on the horizon at York Theatre Royal.

Staged at 7.30pm on April 9 and 2.30pm and 7.30pm on April 11 – there will be no performance on Good Friday – the show is inspired by the life 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”.

Now, the musical has been adapted for a 2020 northern tour by Right Hand Theatre, a company passionate about diversity and inclusivity within theatre. The cast has a 50/50 male/female balance, delivering the show in a gender-blind way with a female Isaac Newton, for example. Both the director and lead actor are visually impaired.

The role of Saunderson is played by the partially sighted Adam Martyn, from Doncaster, who trained at Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA). The female lead role of Abigail goes to Yorkshire born-and-bred, Rose Bruford College-trained Larissa Teale.

The cast is completed by 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.

The musical will be staged with a fresh look by 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 is funded by Arts Council England and Foyle Foundation, co-commissioned by Cast, Doncaster and The Civic, Barnsley, and supported by Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind.

Tickets are on sale on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk; April 9’s performance will be audio described, a Q&A will follow that night’s show.

BalletBoyz go Deluxe for spring show of new works at Grand Opera House

Deluxe dancers: Ballet Boyz on tour with a new show in the spring

BALLETBOYZ are celebrating their 20th anniversary with a spring tour of Deluxe, visiting the Grand Opera House, York, on April 28.

This new show fuses beautiful dance with original music, including collaborations from “some of the world’s most inventive and thought-provoking choreographers and composers”, in a co-production with Sadler’s Wells. 

Shanghai dancer and choreographer Xie Xin, artistic director of Xiexin Dance Theatre, will make her British debut choreographing a new piece set to an original electronic score by Jiang Shaofeng.

Punchdrunk associate director Maxine Doyle will present work to live jazz music by composer Cassie Kinoshi, of the Mercury Prize-nominated SEED Ensemble.

BalletBoyz artistic directors Michael Nunn and William Trevitt say: “Deluxe is going to be a night of entertaining and thought-provoking theatre that’s been 20 years in the making. The beauty of our job has always been about finding and pursuing extraordinary talent and sharing that with as many people as we can. It’s that simple.”

Over the past 20 years. BalletBoyz have made 38 pieces of new work for the stage, won 13 international awards and collaborated with 25 choreographers, Christopher Wheeldon, Akram Khan, Kristen McNally, Matthew Bourne and Liv Lorent among them.

In the BalletBoyz line-up will be Joseph Barton, Benjamin Knapper, Harry Price, Liam Riddick, Matthew Sandiford, Will Thompson and apprentice Dan Baines.

Looking ahead, in the autumn BalletBoyz will undertake a new digital project in the wake of their award-winning dance films Young Men and Romeo And Juliet.

Tickets for April 28’s 7.30pm show are on sale at £13 upwards on 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Potter Gerry Grant has just taken his most bizarre commission…and it’s a smash hit

Gerry Grant making one of the pots for smashing at Fangfoss Pottery

IT sounds potty, but Fangfoss potter Gerry Grant is making pots expressly to be broken.

“I’ve just landed my most unusual job yet,” he says. “I’ve been commissioned by York company Pick Me Up Theatre to make some props for next week’s production of The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?.

“What’s so unusual about this request is that they’ve asked me to make a selection of very large pots that will be smashed to pieces on the stage.”

These pots are made for breaking: Gerry Grant with the pottery that Pick Me Up Theatre’s cast will pick up to smash at next week’s performances

Presented by Pick Me Up at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, from February 25 to 29, Edward Albee’s American play centres around Martin Gray, a successful, middle-aged architect who has just turned 50 and leads an ostensibly ideal life with his loving wife, Stevie, and gay teenage son, Billy.

However, when he confides to his best friend that he also is in love with a goat named Sylvia, he sets in motion events that will destroy his family and leave his life in tatters.

Albee’s domestic drama ponders the limits of an ostensibly liberal society, showing a family in crisis to challenge audience members to question their own moral judgment of social taboos.

The Goat cast members Bryan Bounds, Will Fealy and Susannah Baines

Director Mark Hird says: “The pottery plates, vases and bowls are an integral part of the show. They represent wealth, prosperity and order in a seemingly perfect household.

“They are expensive works of art collected by world-famous architect Martin Gray to furnish the living room of the family’s New York home – and they’re smashed when Stevie confronts Martin after discovering his affair with Sylvia, the goat.”

Gerry has run Fangfoss Pottery for 43 years with wife Lyn Grant at The Old School, Fangfoss, near York, and never before has he received such a destructive commission.

“The pots have been specially made and fired to break easily,” says potter Gerry Grant. “I do hope they perform the task well”

“I’ve tried for more than 40 years to produce pots that are sturdy and not easily broken. Now I’ve been asked to do the opposite! The pots have been specially made and fired to break easily. I do hope they perform the task well.”

The Goat caused controversy but was a big hit – much like the pottery breaking – with Broadway audiences when it opened in 2002. So much so, it won the Tony Award for best play, 40 years after writer Albee won the same prize for Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.

Next week marks its York premiere, when Gerry will witness his pots being broken on the 41 Monkgate stage. “I’m looking forward to seeing the play,” he says. “I’m sure it will be a smashing production”.

Tickets for the 7.30pm performances are on sale at pickmeuptheatre.com and on 01904 623568.

REVIEW: The Ballad Of Maria Marten, SJT, Scarborough *****

Playwright Beth Flintoff

REVIEW: The Ballad Of Maria Marten, Eastern Angles/Matthew Linley Creative Projects, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, today at 7.30pm. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com

INCREASINGLY, touring theatre needs the support of partners to sustain companies. Productions as extraordinary, brilliant and powerful as this one are the vindication for encouraging more such partnerships.

Scarborough’s SJT has the “in association” role in The Ballad Of Maria Marten, and any company would be delighted to play in The Round, the 360-degree theatre experience that adds so much to each Alan Ayckbourn premiere every Scarborough summer season. Eastern Angles thrive.

Elizabeth Crarer emerges from the side as the lights are still up, cutting across the hum of audience chatter. She is holding a decayed, fraying umbrella, her clothes are worn and masculine; blood and bruises are on her face.. We take all this in slowly and are instantly riveted.

We learn she is Maria Marten, the besmirched murder victim at the heart of Beth Flintoff’s play about the notorious Red Barn Murder. The defence case of the murderer, disreputable squire, William Corder, has oft been told, but not Maria’s.

How do you solve a problem like Maria’s void? By telling her story, and more particularly her back story from childhood, and as we all know there are two sides to every story, but not always in the courtrooms of a male-dominated society, such as the one that ruled Polstead in rural Suffolk in the summer of 1827, where a woman’s sole goal was to marry.

Elizabeth Crarer in rehearsal for The Ballad Of Maria Marten. Picture: Giorgis Media

The rest of Hal Chambers’ cast – Suzanne Ahmet, Emma Denly, Jessica Dives, Sarah Goddard and Susanna Jennings – descend from the auditorium stairways, one by one, all female (although two will go on to play men), and the ensemble nature of Flintoff’s storytelling is quickly established.

All the ingredients are outstanding: Flintoff’s prescient and engrossing writing; Luke Potter’s enveloping score; the cast’s compelling performing and beautiful singing, so individual yet collective; Zoe Spurr’s superb lighting; Verity Quinn’s minimalist set design, with the cast briskly moving whatever needs moving from scene to scene. In particular, Rebecca Randall’s movement direction is so key to the drama, using The Round to its maximum.

The title, changed from the original and too plain Polstead when this play premiered in 2018, is apt. The piece does indeed have the character of a ballad, being more of a folk play, even a Mummer’s Play, than the melodrama that usually prevails in Red Barn Murder re-tellings.

We know from the start that Maria is dead, and so The Ballad Of Maria Marten is a resurrection of sorts, like in Mummer’s Plays and in the depiction of fellow murder victim Sharon Tate in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood last year. Note, too, how Maria now has her name in the title.

Rather than a manhunt detective story, piecing together the evidence from Maria’s body being found a year after she went missing, Flintoff fills the stage with the intricacies of her life story, with humour and darkness, joys and sadness, hopes and dashed dreams, in equal measure, the childhood shaping the adulthood that follows.

“I didn’t want her to be a victim any more. Maria emerged as intelligent,
brave and wryly funny,” said Flintoff beforehand. “How are we going to let women speak for themselves when there is so much history of being ignored?”

By writing such a ground-breaking play in changing times certainly helps. Maria is indeed no longer a victim, and Flintoff’s sense of optimism for the future is the closing emotion of a ballad play that truly sings.

Charles Hutchinson

Food for thought as bite-sized theatre is on the menu in a Taste Of SLAP at York Theatre Royal

Messy Eaters: on the menu at Taste Of SLAP at York Theatre Royal

TWO reasons lie behind the title of Taste Of SLAP, the “alternative Valentine’s Day treat” at York Theatre Royal tomorrow.

Organised by SLAP founders and co-directors Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin, the last SLAP festival in 2019 ran for four days. This one, by contrast, is more concentrated: one day and evening’s tasty assortment of pay-what-you-can theatre and performance in different locations in the Theatre Royal.

Bite sized, in other words, and bite is apposite for the second reason. Taste Of SLAP’s day of cabaret, theatre, dinner dating, tea drinking, canape art and more besides takes the theme of food. Even a participating company carries the name of Teastain Theatre.

“After last year’s festival, the idea was to have a year off and then do the festival every two years,” says Lydia. “But that’s not the case now, as we believe it’s better to have a presence each year, so we’re doing a day of events at various locations, ending with the return of the DryHump Queer Cabaret.”

Sophie says: “The idea is to have a taster menu of everything you would have in a four-day SLAP festival. Everything has the theme of food, what with it being held the day after Valentine’s Day and coinciding with the musical Oliver! [Food Glorious Food et al] in the main house!”

Levantes Dance Theatre’s Canape Art

Lydia rejoins: “It’s always a dream to have something for everyone at our SLAP events but I really believe we have this time: some that are family friendly and some that are very definitely not.”

Should you be wondering what the acronym SLAP stands for, the answer is Social Live Art Performance. “As a company our aim is to create a fun and supportive environment for audiences to experience live performance,” says Lydia.

“It is part of the SLAP ethos that everyone that comes to SLAP is treated equally in the belief that everyone has the right to experience art, no matter their background.”

Sophie adds: “SLAP are passionate about supporting local talent, as well as bringing international artists to the city. This year, we’ve collaborated with Drama Soc at the University of York to commission a brand new play, the quirky, rhyming Messy Eaters, written by student Aisling Lally that will be performed by York company Teastain Theatre.

“It’s directed by Jesse Roberts, who is a past artistic director of the Theatre Royal’s TakeOverFestival, and I reckon that Aisling, who’s an English Literature student, is definitely the next big thing.

“We’re also programming York St John University graduate Siara Illing Ahmed with her work I Am Mixed, where she’ll be feeding you food from her British, Pakistani and Irish background, telling the story of her life through food and discussing her heritage as an empowered woman.

Binaural Dinner Date: finding the “perfect date”

“We also have York puppeteer Freddie Does Puppets – Freddie Hayes – presenting her new show in her Mrs Potatohead costume as part of the cabaret event Dry Hump, with Fred serving Buckfast as everyone arrives.”

Access is at the heart of SLAP too, the organisers always using venues that have flat or ramped access from the street, elevators and accessible bathrooms. “We also believe income should not be a barrier to accessing performance and that’s why we’ve made all events as part of the festival either free or pay-what-you-can,” says Lydia.

“Being artist led, our main aims are to provide a supportive environment for artists to create new work. Our main aim for audiences is for them to experience new contemporary performance in an accessible and non-exclusionary way.

“A big part of the ethos is that art is for everyone and we want everyone to feel welcome during all of our events. We’ve worked very hard to ensure that SLAP provides a safe environment and is a great opportunity to experience live art for the first time.”

Sophie says: “Taste of SLAP involves eclectic performances from artists working all over the country and beyond. We’re really excited to have the opportunity to programme such a variety of celebrated artists, most of whom have never performed here in York.

“We continue to offer an alternative to the City of York’s cultural offering while also ensuring there’s something in the programme for everyone. From family-friendly performance, intimate experiences to conversations and cabaret.”

Siara Illing Ahmed in I Am Mixed

Taste Of SLAP performance menu for Saturday, February 15

Tea & Tolerance, Café, 3pm to 6pm; free.

A roaming tea trolley delivers piping hot topics, not tea, and dishes out dialogue rather than digestives, with a board game involving the topics being rolled up inside the tea pots to facilitate conversations.

This show by a Leeds company was inspired by the York Mosque inviting the English Defence League in for a cup of tea and a chat.

I Am Mixed, Keregan Room, 3pm and 5pm; booking required.

A ‘Cefil’, a mixture of Celtic Ceilidh and Indian Mafill, is presented by Siara Illing Ahmed in an intimate storytelling experience. This autobiographical performance details the experience of growing up “mixed race” in Bradford.

Levantes Dance Theatre’s Canape Art, Café, 4pm and 6pm; free.

Dressed to impress, Levantes Dance Theatre’s delightful duo serve up a glittery and unexpected twist on hors d’oeuvres, creating beautiful, unique edible tattoos on the hands, arms and faces with everyone they come across. Suitable for everyone from curious adults to inquisitive tots.

Tea & Tolerance: board games leading to conversations

Binaural Dinner Date, Café, 3pm, 5pm and 7.45pm. Booking required.

Co-ordinated by the Brazilian-London partnership of ZU-UK, this is a post-Valentine’s Day alternative chance to find romance as a voice in your ear – courtesy of headphones – guides you through the perfect date. Come with your own date, or we can find one for you.

Messy Eaters, Studio, 7pm, sold out.

Everyone’s making a mess. Newlyweds Charles and Mabel spend Christmas with the in-laws, God, and a deadly secret. Shirley and Kevin reach boiling point, while stressed student Emma gains a keen tea guest who forgets his table manners.

Meanwhile, Ryan just doesn’t understand how girlfriend Abby likes her eggs in the morning. With five interlinking short plays on the menu, Messy Eaters is jam packed with current, juicy chaos.

DryHump, De Grey Rooms, 8pm. Booking required.

A sumptuous feast of Queer Cabaret delights, with small plates of performance, porky party games and delicious dancing. Freddie Does Puppets, Rich Tea and Rocky Road and DJ Nik Nak all feature.

SLAP’s ticket policy: Taste Of Slap’s ticket brackets are £3, £6, £9 and £12. Choose the amount you would like to pay.

“We will never ask you to prove your financial situation; just pick the amount that feels best for you. If you would like to know more about any of the events, please email info@slapyork.co.uk,” say the organisers.

DryHump Queer Cabaret: the finale to Taste Of SLAP

Tickets are on sale at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk, on 01904 623568 or in person at the Theatre Royal box office.

Welcome to the new stage of Berwick Kaler pantomimes…but not everyone was welcome to ride again

New home: AJ Powell, Berwick Kaler, Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and Martin Barrass settle into the Grand Opera House auditorium. PIcture: David Harrison

THIS morning was the official launch for Berwick Kaler’s comeback pantomime, Dick Turpin Rides Again, as the resurrected York dame handed over the first tickets to queueing fans at his new home, the Grand Opera House.

Joining him were villain David Leonard, stalwart stooge Martin Barrass, ageless principal girl Suzy Cooper and luverly Brummie A J Powell after their controversial exit and crosstown switch from the York Theatre Royal, signing on the dotted line for pantomime powerhouse producers Qdos Entertainment and the Cumberland Street theatre’s owners, the Ambassador Theatre Group.

Not joining them, however, was CharlesHutchPress, barred from the launch and the morning’s media interviews at the request of the Panto Five in a move from the Dominic Cummings rule book for Number 10 press briefings .

This has to stop.

It is time to re-build bridges, and Valentine’s Day would have been a good start, rather than continuing this Charles Hutchinson Derides Again contretemps .

REVIEW: York Light’s 60th anniversary Oliver! at York Theatre Royal

Food Glorious Food: the Young People’s Ensemble give it plenty in Oliver!. All pictures: Tom Arber

REVIEW: Oliver!, York Light Opera Company, York Theatre Royal, until February 22. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

DAME Berwick Kaler’s 41 years at York Theatre Royal have come to an end, but one company with an even longer run there is still rolling out the productions after 60 years.

York Light have chosen to mark another 60th anniversary by staging Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, first performed in the West End in 1960.

This latest revival of a perennial favourite utilises David Merrick and Donald Albert’s Broadway stage version, here directed and choreographed by Martyn Knight on an expansive set with walkways, bustling London streets, the drab workhouse, smart townhouse and the underworld of Fagin’s dingy den.

The show opens with a death outside the workhouse, and the dead woman being promptly stripped of her necklace by an older woman: welcome to dark Dickensian London.

Rory Mulvihill’s Fagin and Jonny Holbek’s Bill Sikes in York Light’s Oliver!

Once inside, Food Glorious Food bursts into life, the first of so many familiar Lionel Bart songs, choreography well drilled, the young people’s ensemble lapping up their first big moment (even if their bowls are empty already!).

The directorial polish in Hunter’s show is established immediately; likewise, the playing of John Atkin’s orchestra is rich and in turn warm and dramatic. These will be the cornerstones throughout in a show so heavy on songs, with bursts of dialogue in between that sometimes do not catch fire by comparison with the fantastic singing.

This review was of the first night, leaving time aplenty for the acting to raise to the level of the songs, but there really does need to be more drama, for example, from all the adults in Oliver and Dodger’s pickpocketing scene. Likewise, spoiler alert, Nancy’s death scene fails to shock, although Jonny Holbek elsewhere has the menace in voice and demeanour for Bill Sikes. Even his dog Bullseye looks scared of him.

Playing the nefarious Fagin for a second time, with a stoop, straggly hair and wispy beard, stalwart Rory Mulvihill has both the twinkle in his eye and the awareness of the fading of the light, characteristics he brings to the contrasting ensemble numbers You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two and Be Back Soon and the reflective, sombre solo Reviewing The Situation.

Jonathan Wells’s Mr Sowerberry and Annabel Van Griethuysen’s Mrs Sowerberry with Matthew Warry’s Oliver (alternating the role with Alex Edmondson)

Overall, the company could take a lead from Neil Wood’s Mr Bumble and Pascha Turnbull’s Widow Twankey in their hanky-panky I Shall Scream scene, full of humour, sauce and pleasing characterisation.

Alex Edmondson’s truculent Oliver and Jack Hambleton’s chipper Dodger bond well, especially in Consider Yourself; Jonathan Wells’s Mr Sowerberry and Annabel Van Griethuysen’s Mrs Sowerberry are in fine voice. Her singing is even better, creamier you might say, for the Milkmaid, when joined by Sarah Craggs’s Rose Seller, Helen Eckersall’s Strawberry Seller, Richard Bayton’s Knife Grinder and Edmondson’s Oliver for Who Will Buy?, always beautiful and deeply so here.

Emma Louise Dickinson’s Nancy gives Act Two opener Oom-Pah-Pah plenty of oomph, and although As Long As He Needs Me sits uncomfortably on modern ears with its seeming tolerance of domestic abuse, she gives that bruised ballad everything twice over.

Reviewing the present situation, the singing is strong, moving and fun when it should be, but, please sir, your reviewer wants some more from the non-singing scenes, and then he might be back soon.

Charles Hutchinson

Waiter, DJ, headphones, rules, games: could this be York’s perfect Valentine’s date?

Binaural Dinner Date: the alternative Valentine’s Day date, so alternative that the date will be on the day after Valentine’s Day

PAY attention hopeful singletons and curious couples seeking an alternative Valentine’s Day date with a difference.

York’s Taste of SLAP Saturday curators and directors Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin are bringing immersive and digital performance innovators ZU-UK to York Theatre Royal this weekend to set up the post-Valentine Binaural Dinner Date.

On the traditional sporting match day of the week, matches of a different kind will be taking place in the Theatre Royal café at 3pm, 5pm and 7.45pm, when ZU-UK will be asking “audiences to swipe right and join them for an experiential dating experience”.

“Come with your own date, or we can find one for you,” they say, emphasising that booking is required as soon as possible on 01904 623568, at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or in person at the Theatre Royal box office.

What will happen on Saturday? “Using binaural sound, participants will be guided by a voice in their ears to ask each other questions, offer answers, and consider the dos and don’ts of what we say, and what we would like to say, to each other on a date,” say ZU-UK, a company with its art and its heart in both London and Brazil.

“What are we really thinking when we meet for the first time? How much are we prepared to confess? And are the questions we ask each other the questions that will help us find love?” 

Binaural Dinner Date is “part interactive performance, part dating agency” for individuals looking for love, or existing couples who simply want a “very different” dating encounter

It will take place at nine tables simultaneously, where the aforementioned voice in the ear of every participant will steer them through a “perfect” date. Wearing headphones, two participants per table will be hosted by a waiter/facilitator/DJ, complemented by “interactively mixed binaural audio” with suggestions and comments on dating “rules”, as well as games pushing social expectations and “acceptable” table-talk topics. 

Jorge Lopes Ramos, ZU-UK’s co-artistic director, says: “ZU-UK’s artistic work has never shied away from engaging with urgent, problematic and at times depressing aspects of the contemporary human condition.

“This is a time to question mainstream narratives and to consider our role in shaping communities and relationships between strangers. Dating seemed like a contemporary human ritual worth exploring.”

Formerly known as Zecora Ura and Para Active, ZU-UK is an independent theatre and digital arts company based in East London and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, since 2001. Driven by an artistic partnership between Ramos and Persis Jadé Maravala, ZU-UK creates interactive experiences, using games, performance and technology, that can happen anywhere, whether on the phone, in the house, on a stage, in a shopping mall or a field. 

Binaural Dinner Date is the first instalment in ZU-UK’s ten-part series Decalogy of Loneliness. After ZU’s Hotel Medea in 2009 to 2012 and the interactive technology exhibition Humble Market in 2012 to 2014, they have been developing ten artworks as part of this project.

Since 2015, they have worked with Canadian research institute TAG (Technoculture, Arts and Games), using game-design to deepen ZU’s work with immersive, participatory and interactive performance. 

Over the next three years, ZU will develop the remaining parts of the Decalogy, focusing on the relationship between strangers in public and private spaces. The company also will  present two digital artworks using public phones, #RioFoneHackand How Mad Are You? , and a binaural prototype, Small Data Mining.

Suitable for age 16 plus, Binaural Dinner Date is part of SLAP organisers Lydia Cottrell and Sophie Unwin’s Taste Of SLAP, a day of food-themed shows under their Social Live Art Performance banner (although, if memory serves right, SLAP initially stood for Salacious Live Alternative Performance when the festival was first set up!).

Full details of Taste of SLAP can be found at slapyork.co.uk and a further preview will appear online at charleshutchpress.co.uk. Tickets for this weekend’s taster carry a “Pay What You Can” price tag.