The Stranglers left hanging around again as final UK tour is rearranged for second time

This will be the last time: The Stranglers’ bass player JJ Burnel and guitarist Baz Warne will play Leeds next February on their Final UK Tour

THE Stranglers are putting back their Final Full UK Tour for a second time, moving their April 26 gig at Leeds O2 Academy to February 12 next year.

In a statement from the veteran punk-era alumni, they say: “We are, once again, incredibly saddened to confirm that we have had no alternative but to reschedule the planned 2021 spring tour.

“This decision has not been taken lightly, especially as the tour has already been moved back, but the ongoing issues surrounding the Covid pandemic are continuing to play havoc with live music.

“Due to the uncertainty around the tightening of lockdown regulations in the UK and the rollout of the vaccinations over the coming months, it was decided that the tour should be postponed until early 2022.”

The statement continues: “It has been an immense challenge to move the tour again but ultimately we are determined to make it happen as planned from the outset.

The poster for The Final Full UK Tour 2022 by The Stranglers, taking in Leeds O2 Academy on February 12 and Sheffield City Hall on February 24 next year

“After almost a year of inactivity on the road, the band are all chomping at the bit to get back to playing live but our safety, as well as that of the crew and fans, is of paramount importance.”

The Leeds concert already had been rearranged from November 12 2020, and tickets remain valid for the new date after the second delay.

“We hope you understand that we have been left with no other choice and, believe us, we share your disappointment,” say the band, led by bassist and lead vocalist JJ Burnel. “Look forward to seeing you all on the road next year.”

The Final UK Tour 2022 will be In Memory of Dave: long-serving keyboard player Dave Greenfield, who died on May 3 last year, aged 71.

The Stranglers are promising an extensive, full-production tour on “the last time they play together in this format” on a 24-date itinerary, performing songs spanning their 45-year catalogue of 23 British top 40 singles and 17 top 40 albums. “Fans can expect to hear all the classics and get the full rock’n’roll experience for one final time,” they say.

Tour support will come from Ruts DC. Ticket information can be found at: https://academymusicgroup.com/o2academyleeds/events/1300610/stranglers-tickets

Let’s just hope Something Better Change soon on the Coronavirus front to ensure the final tour will finally go ahead.

Lawless Americana act The Felice Brothers to play Pocklington Arts Centre on June 23

The Felice Brothers: two brothers, Ian and James Felice, and two friends, Will Lawrence and Jesske Hume

THE Felice Brothers’ postponed June 2020 gig at Pocklington Arts Centre is now in the 2021 diary for June 23.

Ian and James Felice, who grew up in the Hudson valley of upstate New York, are self-taught musicians, inspired as much by Hart Crane and Whitman as by Woody Guthrie and Chuck Berry.

They began in 2006 by playing subway platforms and sidewalks in New York City and have since released nine albums of original, lawless Americana, country and folk rock songs.

In 2017, they served as the backing band for Conor Oberst’s album, Salutations. Two years later came Undress, an album whose stand-out songs were trailered by Ian Felice in a solo show at The Winning Post, York, in October 2018.

Undress, their first studio release in three years, will be prominent in their Pocklington set list, when Ian and James will be accompanied by drummer Will Lawrence and bassist Jesske Hume.

Tickets are on sale at £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Pocklington Arts Centre updates concert diary as pandemic enforces more changes

Jesse Malin: February 2 gig put back to December 7 at Pocklington Arts Centre

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is re-scheduling concerts aplenty in response to the relentless grip of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Irish chanteuse Mary Coughlan’s April 23 show is being moved to October 19; the Women In Rock tribute show, from May 21 to October 29; New York singer-songwriter Jesse Malin, from February 2 to December 7, and Welsh singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, from February 12 to December 2. Tickets remain valid for the rearranged dates.

A new date is yet to be arranged for the postponed February 23 gig by The Delines, Willy Vlautin’s country soul band from Portland, Oregon.

York Theatre Royal takes Youth Theatre online for new term of interactive sessions

Harvey Harrison, aged eight, taking part in a York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre online session at home in York

YORK Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre is back in action…online, complete with scavenger hunts and kitchen discos.

The St Leonard’s Place building remains closed under Lockdown 3 strictures, ruling out the usual face-to-face sessions there, but here comes Zoom to lift any feelings of doom and gloom for participants in one of the North’s largest youth theatres.

Youth Theatre membership takes in 150 children and young people from across York and the surrounding areas, divided into ten age groups spanning five to 19, with each group working towards developing skills and experience in a variety of theatre disciplines.

Five groups for the older members began in November but had to be moved online after the first session in response to the second lockdown.

“These proved really successful,” says Julian Ollive, head of creative engagement.  “Face-to-face contact with our young people, being in the same space, working collaboratively and creatively, is really what we’re about and what we value. Unfortunately, this new lockdown has thwarted our ability to go live but we’re going ahead with running our classes online again.”

Julian continues: “In a time of great uncertainty, we believe it’s important to begin the process of coming back to a ‘normal’, which, for us, is working directly with children and young people in our community.

Martha and Wilf in an age five to eight group session on Zoom with practitioner Fiona Baistow, assistant Fiona and mentor Katherine

“Although we would have loved to welcome back our members face to face, we’re  excited by the creative challenges and opportunities that working online will bring.”

Youth Theatre director Kate Veysey says: “Offering youth theatre online gives us new opportunities to connect with the young people in different ways. We feel this is even more important at a time when they have additional pressures on them.

“The chance to connect, to work with their friends and make new ones, and be creative together, is fantastic.

“It’s been really wonderful welcoming back our young people to youth theatre, as well as some new members. In our first week back, we’ve had scavenger hunts, kitchen discos and props and costumes from everyone’s homes. It’s a joy to work together. 

“Our practitioners are relishing the challenge of making our online delivery as exciting and vibrant as our live sessions have been in the past until we can safely offer these again.”

The 14 to 19 age group is rehearsing the play Tuesday for NT Connections, a digital festival that brings together groups from around the country, this year remotely. In light of the festival going online, rehearsals are applying options within this format, such as breakout rooms to work on separate scenes, using props and making sound effects from home sources to support the text.

York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre’s 14 to 19 company working on the play Tuesday for the NT Connections festival

Among those joining in the new 2021 sessions from home in York is eight-year-old Harvey Harrison, pictured above, whose mother Hayley says: “Harvey has been a member of Youth Theatre for just over two years and in that time the activity has brought him a huge amount of pleasure.

“It’s been a fantastic creative outlet for a child who is often, socially anyway, quite reserved and he has developed a new-found bravery and sense of poise. The physical thrill he gets from the performance opportunities is perfectly complemented by his quiet and growing confidence.”

In part inspired by the impact of taking the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime to community venues last month, the Theatre Royal is planning to move the Youth Theatre further out into the community once restrictions allow.

Friargate Meeting House and New Earswick Folk Hall will then host groups throughout the week, as well as the Youth Theatre continuing to work in spaces at the Theatre Royal.

“We’re excited by the prospect of continuing the reach into our community, so positively felt and received through the Travelling Pantomime,” said Julian.

Visit yorktheatreroyal.co.uk for more information on joining York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre and applying online for a Y card, the new youth membership scheme. The card costs £5 and provides notifications when spaces in the youth theatre become available, invitations to games sessions and tasters, discounted membership rates on tickets, events and much more.

Go to: https://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/be-part-of-it/children-and-young-people/youth-theatre/ or email youththeatre@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

 

New dates and new artists and makers for York Open Studios 2021 in the summertime

YORK Open Studios 2021 will be moving from spring to summer after a re-think over the prevailing Lockdown 3 guidelines with no end in place yet.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Britain’s longest-running open studios, York’s artists were keen to go ahead with the event this year, especially after a barren year in 2020, when doors had to stay shut in Lockdown 1.

Consequently, the organisers are switching the two weekends from April 17/18 and 24/25 to July 10/11 and July 17/18, when more than 140 artists and makers will show and sell their work within their homes and workspaces in an opportunity for art lovers and the curious to “enjoy fresh air, meet artists and view and buy unique arts and crafts from York’s very best artisans”.

“Our artists are more than happy to commit to the change and are very supportive of the reason behind our decision, so it’s all systems go for July,” says ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel, one of the York Open Studios organisers

Visitors will be welcomed by artists who will adhere to Government guidelines, keeping themselves and visitors Covid-safe throughout. 

Many artists picked to participate last year remain on the list for 2021, complemented by new artists and makers, selected by an external panel of art professionals, to give regular visitors a chance to enjoy new work as well as meet their favourite creative talents.

Fresh additions for 2021 are:  Rosebay, painting;  Emma Crockatt, painting; Katie Greenbrown and Peter Roman, multi-media; Elena Skoreyko Wagner, illustration; Leesa Rayton Design Plus, jewellery; Carrie Lyall, printmaking; Kevin McNulty, printmaking; Pennie Lordan, painting; Lincoln Lightfoot, digital prints; Amy Stubbs, textiles; Tabitha Grove, painting; Michelle Galloway, painting, and Reg Walker, sculpture.

“Heavily influenced by ridiculous B-movie concepts from the ’50s and ’60s, I question what might be in store for 2021,” says York Open Studios debutant Lincoln Lightfoot

So too are: Jilly Lovett, textiles; Elliot Harrison, illustration; Caroline Utterson, textiles; Nicola Lee, drawing; Rebecca Mason, textiles; Sarah Cawthray, ceramics; Laura Masheder, jewellery; Sarah Cornwell, ceramics; Silva Rerum, jewellery; Henry Steele, ceramics; Mick Leach, painting; Pietro Sanna, ceramics; Charlotte Dawson, ceramics; Caroline Lewis, collage, and Lucie Wake, painting.

Further debutants are: Pamela Thorby, ceramics; Mark Druery, drawing; Nathan Combes, photography; Kate Akrill, ceramics; Lisa Lundqvist, mixed media; Nick Kobyluch, drawing; Lucy McElroy, painting; Liz O’Connell, glass; Fiona Lane, painting; Ealish Wilson, textiles; Amy Butcher, textiles; Joanna Lisowiec, illustration; Dee Thwaite, painting; Judith Glover, ceramics, and Here Be Monsteras (Kayti Peschke), ceramics.  

The York Open Studios team are delighted with the line-up and the commitment to move to July. Sculptural ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel, one of the event founders, says: “We are grabbing the 2021 York Open Studios with both hands and channelling the optimism and enthusiasm from all our artists to ensure this year’s 20th show is one of the best.

“Rust takes us back to when the Ouse teemed with working barges, you knew your place or else – and jazz was the devil itself,” says Katie Greenbrown of her York Open Studios debut multi-media piece with Peter Roman, screening at the Arts Barge on July 10 and 11 at 10.30am, 1pm and 3pm

“Our decision to move from April to July this year gives us the opportunity for the stricter current Covid guidelines to relax and, with July giving us better weather, we believe the public will have more confidence when visiting artists’ studios. 

“Our artists are more than happy to commit to the change and are very supportive of the reason behind our decision, so it’s all systems go for July.”

Beccy, who will be showing her work at South Cottage Workshop, Shipton Road, adds: “Artists and makers bring a diverse range of skills to the weekends, producing bespoke ceramics, furniture, glass, jewellery, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, textiles, wood carving and multi-media.

“There’s something for everyone and every pocket.  The artists also love to showcase their work within their surroundings and really value the interaction, whether you’re a buyer or a burgeoning artist. It’s a fabulous way too to enjoy York and view extraordinary work. York Open Studios is a date worth saving.”

The Gesualdo Six vocal consort to take up March residency in York for Early Music Day

At sixes and sevens: The Gesualdo Six…and director Owain Park (third from left, back row)

THE Gesualdo Six will lead the National Centre for Early Music’s celebrations for Early Music Day 2021 on March 21 by embarking on an online whistle-stop musical tour of York.

The Cambridge vocal consort’s concert will be a streamed at 3pm as part of a day when musical organisations throughout Europe will come together for a joyful programme of events to mark JS Bach’s birthday. 

During its residency – an alternative G6 summit – The Gesualdo Six will spend almost a week in York performing in a variety of locations on a musical trek around the city that will be filmed and shared in March.

The film is designed to celebrate the beauty of this historic city and its musical influences, showcasing many of York’s venues that have been unable to open their doors since last March. 

Directed by Owain Park, The Gesualdo Six brings together some of Britain’s finest young consort singers: countertenors Guy James and Andrew Leslie Cooper; tenors Josh Cooter and Joseph Wicks; baritone Michael Craddock and bass Sam Mitchell.

Formed in March 2014 for a performance of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, the ensemble gave more than 150 performances at major festivals in the UK and abroad in its first five years.

The Gesualdo Six has been awarded the Choir of the Year prize at the Classical Music Digital Awards and its album Fading was awarded Vocal Recording of the Year by Limelight.

National Centre for Early Music director Delma Tomlin: Planning the programme for Early Music Day

Looking forward to the March residency, NCEM director Delma Tomlin says: “We are delighted to welcome our good friends The Gesualdo Six, who will be spending time in York, taking advantage of some of the atmospheric acoustics within the city walls and performing a concert, a very special treat for Early Music Day.

“The concert will be shared with our friends and colleagues in Europe and beyond, as we join together for this wonderful annual celebration.”

Against the backdrop of the Brexit severance from Europe, Delma says: “I’d also like to say a special thank-you to REMA, the Early Music Network in Europe, for their hard work helping to make sure the celebrations continue.”

She adds: “Other delights in store in March include performances by many artists who have supported us over this difficult year, recording behind closed doors at St Margaret’s Church [the NCEM’s home in Walmgate, York]. You might not be able to be with us in person, but we hope you can still join us for a feast of fabulous music.” 

Director Owain Park welcomes the chance for The Gesualdo Six to undertake a residency in York. “After a challenging year, it has been a delight to put our minds to this incredibly exciting project,” he says.

“We have long admired the work of the NCEM in York and so it has been an immense privilege to curate a musical journey that weaves through the city’s historic venues. Chiming with the NCEM’s spring celebrations, we aim to highlight the extraordinary power of collaboration and unity in a world where the seeds of division are increasingly sown.”

Delma concludes: “Venues for the filming in York will be confirmed very soon. Please check our website, ncem.co.uk, and social media platforms for regular updates and more details of this year’s programme of Early Music Day celebrations. 

“The NCEM has put in place many changes to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the artists, audience and staff. All performances and filming will take place following current Government Covid-19 guidelines.” 

Come Hell or, in this case, high water, Velma Celli and Jess Steel WILL play streamed gig

Jess Steel and Ian Stroughair (aka Velma Celli) will defy a flooded house to perform their streamed gig in York

NOT even a flooded house will stop York drag diva divine Velma Celli and sensational singing hairdresser Jess Steel from recording their latest streamed gig.

“Streamed”…what an ironic word that is right now, as Velma’s creator, musical actor and international cabaret star Ian Stroughair, and “work bubble” Jess survey the “carnage” in Ian’s riverside pad by the Ouse.

Exit Storm Christoph, re-enter the defiant duo, who will follow up last Friday’s double bill with the second instalment of An Evening With Velma & Jess, put back from today (22/1/2021) to tomorrow, with the recording having had to be delayed.

Tickets are on sale at https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/an-evening-with-velma-and-live-stream-tickets/10829655 until 5pm tomorrow, when the link to watch the show will arrive moments later. Please note, the recording will remain available for viewing for 48 hours.

The show must go on for Velma Celli, even when the floodwater calls for wellies

Looking forward to still making a splash this weekend, Ian/Velma wades through Charles Hutchinson’s snappy questions.

How are you coping in the flood, Ian? What’s the latest state of play?

“It’s been a long, semi-sleepless couple of days. Fortunately, it hasn’t increased overnight but the kitchen is flooded and I cannot leave by either door. The back door is up to five feet in water and the front is inaccessible. It’s windows and wellies at the moment.”

Without giving the precise location, where is your riparian abode?

“I am right by Ouse Bridge. So, pretty much at the worse possible area but I have food and gin, so I’m gooooood!”

In which room will you now record the streamed gig?

“I think we may be OK to stick to the living room. If not, the four-poster master suite will be perfect!” 

Will you adjust the setlist to take in songs about rain and flooding?

“Ha ha! Of course! Titanic meets Babs meets Abba.” [Water-loo?, editor ponders].

Have you ever had to cancel a gig (other than for killjoy Covid) and, if so, what was the best reason for a gig not going ahead?

“It’s never fun to cancel. I did once get stuck in Oz longer than expected and had to cancel a London date.”

Can you say anything at this stage of your plan to play gigs in York restaurants?

“Not too much yet! We are sorting the finer details. As soon as York goes into a tier where we can eat in restaurants, I’ll be shouting it from the rooftops.” 

York Open Studios 2021 is ON…but now doors will open in July, rather than April

GLASTONBURY Festival is off for the second bummer of a non-summer as killjoy Covid strikes again, but closer to home, one event has been rescued.

The 20th anniversary celebrations of York Open Studios are moving from spring to the summertime.

“Due to Coronavirus, to keep everyone safe and make sure the show goes on, we are delaying York Open Studios from 17/18th and 24/25th April to 10th/11th and 17th/18th July,” say the organisers.

Kate Rusby releases vinyl version of lockdown covers album Hand Me Down

The vinyl front ‘ere: Kate Rusby shows off the cover and orange discs for Hand Me Down

BARNSLEY folk nightingale Kate Rusby is to release her 2020 lockdown covers album, Hand Me Down, on vinyl tomorrow (22/1/2021) on her Pure Records label.

“Ooooooh it looks so beautiful,” says Kate on Instagram. “Gatefold, 180g double translucent orange discs. Very pretty! Sooo excited.”

Available in a limited edition at https://purerecords.net/collections/kate-rusby-vinyls, Hand Me Down had its roots in Kate’s rendition of Oasis’s Don’t Go Away on Jo Whiley’s BBC Radio 2 show.

That wistful ballad later featured on her 2019 studio album, Philosophers, Poets And Kings, and became a concert favourite, whereupon a return visit to Whiley’s studio elicited a mournful reading of The Cure’s Friday I’m In Love, now one of the stand-outs on Hand Me Down.

Kate and her guitar and banjo-playing producer-husband, Damien O’Kane, set about completing an album of covers in Lockdown 1, recorded in their Penistone home studio. “As a folk singer, it’s what I do: reinterpret existing songs,” says Rusby. “The only difference is that usually the songs are much older.”

Some were chosen from childhood or teenage memories (The Kinks’ Days, but from Kirsty MacColl’s sublime version; Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours), two much-covered songs you might have predicted, rather more than Maybe Tomorrow (The Littlest Hobo theme song) or The Show, from family friend Willy Russell’s musical Connie.

The artwork for Kate Rusby’s live Christmas album, Happy Holly Day

Covering a song is as much about what you uncover as you cover, prime examples here being Coldplay’s Everglow, Lyle Lovett’s If I Had A Boat and in particular “role model to her children” Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, newly revelling in O’Kane’s swing-time banjo.

Nothing evokes lockdown more than the opening Manic Monday, Prince’s song for Kate’s teen favourites The Bangles, slowed and turned to acoustic melancholia for not-so-manic days of longing at home, away from the city buzz. Add South Yorkshire vowels, and who can resist.

The album closes with a ray of perennial summer sunshine, Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, as Hand Me Down becomes balm for fretful, fearful pandemic days. “I’ve always had overwhelming urges to cheer people up at times of sadness,” says Kate. “I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, but it’s always been part of my genetic make-up.”

A second winter release from Pure Records is Happy Holly Day, a live CD recording of Kate’s online Christmas concert of South Yorkshire pub carols and winter songs, streamed from Cast, Doncaster, on December 12.

That night, Kate’s folk band assembled for the first time since the March lockdown, joined by her “Brass Boys”, spread across a socially distanced stage shared with the Ruby, the fairy-lit reindeer.

As always with Kate Rusby At Christmas concerts, the two sets were followed by an encore in fancy dress, Kate in a halo and angel wings, recovered from her attic from the 2017 album cover photo-shoot for Angels And Men, as she sang Sweet Bells and Yorkshire Merry Christmas alongside Damien in Virgin Mary mode.

Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel to play Grand Opera House in February 2022

Tommy Emmanuel: Fingerstyle guitarist with Certified Guitar Player status

AUSTRALIAN guitarist Tommy Emmanuel will play the Grand Opera House, York, on March 6 2022.

This will be the only Yorkshire show of next year’s 12-date tour from February 25 to March 13 with special guest Jerry Douglas, the Ohio dobro master.

Emmanuel, 65, who last played British shows on the Transatlantic Sessions Tour, has performed in public from the age of six, when he first toured regional Australia with his family band.

By 30, he was a rock’n’roll lead guitarist, playing European stadiums. At 44, he became one of only five musicians to be named a Certified Guitar Player by his idol, Chet Atkins. His concerts take him from Nashville to Sydney, London to York next February.

Twice nominated for a GrammyAward, Emmanuel has received two ARIA Awards from the Australian Recording Industry Association and repeated honours in the Guitar Player magazine readers’ poll. In 2017, he was the cover story for the August edition.

Emmanuel is a fingerstyle guitarist, frequently threading three different parts simultaneously into his material as he operates as a one-man band who handles melody, supporting chords and bass all at once.

He never plays the same show twice, improvising big chunks of every gig. In doing so, he “leaves himself open to technical imperfections, although they provide some of the humanity to an other-worldly talent”.

Tickets are on sale at atgtickets.com/venues/grand-opera-house-york/

Emily Stubbs and Lesley Birch to exhibit Muted Worlds pots and paintings in online Pyramid Gallery show from tomorrow

Between Rock And A Hard Place, mixed media, by Lesley Birch

EMILY Stubbs and Lesley Birch are teaming up for Muted Worlds, a lockdown exhibition launched tomorrow by Pyramid Gallery, York.

Pots & Paintings will begin as a digital show from the York artists’ studios before moving to the Stonegate gallery once Lockdown 3 strictures are eased.

“We’re delighted to have been invited by Pyramid Gallery owner Terry Brett once again to create another Pots & Paintings show for 2021,” say exhibition curators Emily and Lesley.

A pot by Emily Stubbs for Muted Worlds, her joint exhibition with Lesley Birch

“This time we shall be online and it’s a more muted edge – winter is here and with it, Covid, and another lockdown – so we feel the need for simplicity. We have collaborated to produce monochrome pieces inspired by the winter season.”

Terry says: “Expect exciting expressive mark-making, beautiful soft greys, earths, charcoals and sage greens with occasional pops of colour in winter landscape and abstract pieces with the forms and lines of the natural world.” 

Emily works from Pica Studios, in Grape Lane, where she creates contemporary ceramic vessels that explore the relationship between colour, form and texture.

Lesley Birch at work in her York studio

Fascinated by the juxtaposition of contrasting elements in her work, Emily makes conversations between vessels by placing them together or in groups.

Constantly sketching, drawing and collaging to experiment with line, colour, texture and mark making, Emily translates this process into clay, building up layers of ceramic slips, glazes and stains.

“Stepping away from my usual brightly coloured glazes, Muted Worlds has allowed me to really focus and concentrate on creating rich layers of mark making,” she says.

Flood, mixed media monotype, by Lesley Birch

“Bold brush strokes, blocks of monochrome and areas of scraffito, inspired by the wintery walks around York through lockdown, feature in a new collection of vessels created alongside and inspired by Lesley’s paintings.”

Scottish-born painter and printmaker Lesley interprets feelings and emotions connected to time and place in her works. Calligraphic scribbles and expressive, sweeping brush marks flow on paper and canvas, straddling the boundary between abstraction and figuration.

“The fact that certain combinations of colours, certain marks and movements can convey an atmosphere, that is the joy of painting for me: that exciting moment when materiality and emotion meet,” she says.

“Muted Worlds has allowed me to really focus and concentrate on creating rich layers of mark making,” says Emily Stubbs

The Pots & Paintings go on sale from tomorrow and purchases will be delivered by courier or by the artist if the buyer is in York. Anyone needing further information can contact Terry on 07805 029254.

Looking ahead, Emily will be taking part in the 2021 York Open Studios, showing her ceramics at 51 Balmoral Terrace, York, on April 17, 18, 24 and 25, from 10am to 5pm.

Exhibiting there too will be textiles artist Amy Stubbs, making her Open Studios debut after relocating to York.

A ceramic for Muted Worlds by Emily Stubbs

Aladdin slain! Great Yorkshire Pantomime’s Easter run is called off but “tentomime” will go ahead on Knavesmire at Christmas

How the Great Yorkshire Pantomime tented palace will look on Knavesmire, when Aladdin is staged in December

THE Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime is off, but York’s first ever “tentomime” in a Knavesmire big top will go ahead in the Christmas season instead.

Producer James Cundall and writer-director Chris Moreno made the decision to call off Aladdin’s March 19 to April 11 run at a meeting to “discuss our options” this morning.

Afterwards, Moreno said: “Sadly, we are going to have to postpone the show until Christmas. The way the Government is, with the pandemic lockdown, and the way things are looking for the next few months, I just don’t think we can get there in time to go ahead.  We can’t take it close to the wire and then be forced to cancel it at the last minute.”

Moreno would have needed a return to Tier 2 regulations in York for socially distanced rehearsals to be able to take place in March, followed by the performance run.  

“If there were any certainty, it would be different, but that’s not the case, and so I’ve also had to cancel Sleeping Beauty And The Socially Distanced Witch, which I was writing and directing for the Grimsby Auditorium for an April run.”

Billed as “a dream come true”, Aladdin would have played in a luxurious heated tented palace to an audience capacity of 976 in tiered, cushioned seating.

The 36 performances of Cundall and Moreno’s “tentomime” would have been socially distanced and compliant with Covid-19 guidance, presented by a cast of 21, including nine principals, and a band on a 50-metre stage with a Far East palace façade, projected scenery and magical special effects.

Moreno has confirmed the Great Yorkshire Pantomime production this winter will still be Aladdin at the same York Racecourse location, with the promise of “a beautiful love story, a high-flying magic carpet, a wish-granting nutty genie, the very evil Abanazar and a magic lamp full of spectacular family entertainment”.

“It will run for at least five weeks,” he said. “Dates have been discussed and are now booked in and will be confirmed this week, and we’ll have tickets back on sale within the next two weeks.

“Hopefully, there’ll be an even bigger cast and it’ll be an even bigger venture at Christmas when it’s a much bigger competing world for pantomime shows, so that’s why we’re looking at doing an even bigger show.”

Steve Wickenden: Popular dame in four Three Bears Productions’ pantos at the Grand Opera House, York, from 2016. Will he be in Great Yorkshire Pantomime’s “starry cast” for Aladdin? Wait and see! Picture: David Harrison

Casting will be announced later.  “But it will definitely be a starry cast,” asserted Moreno. Likewise, the capacity may increase, subject to Government Covid strictures in place at the time. “We’ll be reviewing that as the year progresses, but the vaccination roll-out appears to be going well, and if we’re in a position to increase the capacity, we would look to do that,” he said.

Moreno has form for such a “tenterprise”. “I did a pantomime at, would you believe, the O2 at Greenwich, with Lily Savage as Widow Twankey in Aladdin, A Wish Come True,” he recalled. “That was in 2012 in a purpose-built tent in the grounds, when we had 1,900 in there, in the days when you didn’t have to socially distance.

“It was the same sort of tent that we’re planning to use in York: a ‘pavilion palace’ that’s totally different from a circus tent.”

Hence the capacity may yet rise above 1,000. What is certain, however: “It’ll be a big stage to fill, as it’s 50 metres wide, and we’re thinking that instead of a single flying carpet, we should have two for a  battle between Aladdin on one and Abanazar on the other,” said Moreno.

Both producer and director are vastly experienced in staging theatre and musical theatre productions. Cundall was the Welburn impresario behind the award-winning but ultimately ill-fated, loss-making Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, mounted in a pop-up Elizabethan theatre on the Castle car park in York in 2018 and 2019 (as well as at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, in the second summer).

He was awarded an MBE for services to the entertainment industry in the 2019 New Year Honours list, but by October that year, his principal company, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, went into administration after the smaller-than-expected audiences for the second season of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre shows, especially at Blenheim Palace.

Moreno has produced, directed and written more than 120 pantomimes. He once owned and ran the Grand Opera House, in York, where later Three Bears Productions, the production company he co-produces with Stuart Wade and Russ Spencer, presented four pantomimes from 2016.

Moreno was the director and writer for Aladdin in 2016-2017, Beauty And The Beast in 2017-2018, Cinderella in 2018-2019 and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs in 2019-2020.

The confirmation of Aladdin’s winter run means York will have three professional pantomimes going head to head: the Great Yorkshire Pantomime at Knavesmire; Qdos Pantomimes presenting Dame Berwick Kaler’s comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House, from December 11 to January 9 2022, and York Theatre Royal and Evolution Productions staging Cinderella from December 3 to January 2 2022.

Sunday is Fun Day all day online for bored Travelling Pantomime comic Josh Benson

Josh Benson: Ready to entertain you online all day on Sunday

JOSH Benson, “Just Joshing” comic star of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime, is bored in Lockdown 3.

“Anyone up for Josh Day?” asks the York magician, actor, children’s entertainer, music hall act and Corntroller of Entertainment at York Maze, on his Facebook feed.

The online day in question is “Funday Sunday”, January 24.  “Several different lil’ shows/workshops/general front room daftness, throughout the day and into the evening on Facebook Live,” he promises. “Various content/times TBC. I’m open to suggestions…!”

To make those suggestions for his full day of virtual live shows, contact Josh via facebook.com/JoshBensonEntertainer

Joshing around: Josh Benson in the comic’s role in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime in December. Picture: Ant Robling

Midge Ure & Band Electronica to recall early Eighties’ synth days on Voice & Visions Tour

“It is especially exciting to delve back in time and revitalise two standout albums from my career,” says Midge Ure, ahead of next year’s Voices & Visions tour

MIDGE Ure & Band Electronica will open next year’s Voice & Visions Tour at the Grand Opera House, York, on February 22.

Scotsman Ure, 67, will be marking 40 years since the release of Ultravox’s Rage In Eden and Quartet albums in September 1981 and October 1982 respectively.

Ure & Band Electronica last played the Opera House on October 20 2019 on The 1980 Tour, when Ultravox’s 1980 album, Vienna, was performed in its entirety for the first time in four decades, complemented by highlights from Visage’s debut album, as Ure recalled the year when he co-wrote, recorded and produced the two future-sounding records.

Such was the “overwhelming response” to that retro excursion, Ure will reprise the nostalgia trip for 2022’s Voice & Visions Tour.

In the wake of the global success of Vienna, Ultravox headed back into the studio to record their second album with Ure as frontman, Rage In Eden, a top five entry in Autumn 1981, replete with the singles The Thin Wall and The Voice.

Midge Ure: Three Yorkshire dates on his Voice & Visions tour in 2022

Quartet, their third studio set with Ure, arrived in quick succession with production by The Beatles’ producer, George Martin, no less. It became their third top ten album, boosted by four top 20 singles, Reap The Wild Wind, Hymn, Visions In Blue and We Came To Dance.

Voice & Visions will recall the era of Eighties’ electronics, experimentation and synthesisers in a show that will combine both albums’ highlights with landmark songs from Ure’s back catalogue. 

Looking forward to his 2022 travels, Ure says: “I can’t begin to tell you how great it will feel to be back out touring and it is especially exciting to delve back in time and revitalise two standout albums from my career, Rage In Eden and Quartet. This is the logical and emotional follow-up to The 1980 Tour.”

Next year’s tour itinerary also will take in Hull Bonus Arena on February 24 and Sheffield City Hall on March 22. Tickets will go on general sale on Friday (22/1/2021): York, at atgtickets.com/york; Hull, bonusarenahull.com; Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.

Ure & Band Electronica will be completing a hattrick of gigs at the Opera House after first appearing there in November 2017, headlining a 1980s’ triple bill with The Christians and Altered Images.

York “tentomime” on tenterhooks as Great Yorkshire Pantomime team meet tomorrow

How the Great Yorkshire Pantomime tented palace would look on Knavesmire, York

GREAT Yorkshire Pantomime producer James Cundall and director Chris Moreno will meet tomorrow morning to “discuss our options” for the Easter holiday run, in light of the ongoing Lockdown 3 restrictions.

Billed as “a dream come true”, Aladdin is booked into a luxurious heated tented palace – a giant big top on Knavesmire – from March 19 to April 11 with an audience capacity of 976 in tiered, cushioned seating, divided into pods of three, four, five or six seats, with a minimum purchase of two tickets.

The 36 performances of Cundall and Moreno’s “tentomime” will be socially distanced and compliant with Covid-19 guidance, presented by a cast of 21, including nine principals, and a band on a 50-metre stage with a Far East palace façade, projected scenery and magical special effects.

The Great Yorkshire Pantomime production of Aladdin promises “a beautiful love story, a high-flying magic carpet, a wish-granting nutty genie, the very evil Abanazar and a magic lamp full of spectacular family entertainment”.

The imposition of the open-ended Lockdown 3, however, leaves question marks over whether Aladdin can go ahead, given that no date has been set by the Government for the easing of strictures, with only speculation that it could be “some time in March”.

It would need a return to Tier 2 regulations in York for socially distanced rehearsals to be able to take place, followed by the performance run. Hence tomorrow’s exploratory meeting for Cundall and Moreno to consider where the panto-land lies.

Both producer and director are vastly experienced in staging theatre and musical theatre productions. Cundall was the Welburn impresario behind the award-winning but ultimately ill-fated, loss-making Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, mounted in a pop-up Elizabethan theatre on the Castle car park in York in 2018 and 2019 (as well as at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, in the second summer).

He was awarded an MBE for services to the entertainment industry in the 2019 New Year Honours list, but by October that year, his principal company, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, went into administration after the smaller-than-expected audiences for the second season of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre shows, especially at Blenheim Palace.

Creditors, among them the Royal National Theatre, claimed unpaid debts of more than £5 million pounds from companies run by Cundall globally, including in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore, where he produced such shows as Cats, The Phantom Of The Opera, Matilda and War Horse.

Moreno has produced, directed and written more than 120 pantomimes. He once owned and ran the Grand Opera House, in York, where later Three Bears Productions, the production company he co-produces with Stuart Wade and Russ Spencer, presented four pantomimes from 2016.

Moreno was the director and writer for Aladdin in 2016-2017, Beauty And The Beast in 2017-2018, Cinderella in 2018-2019 and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs in 2019-2020.

There had first been talk around York last autumn of a “tentomime” show to be staged at Knavesmire in December, but the Great Yorkshire Pantomime then settled on Easter, with the “stellar cast” yet to be announced .

Moreno has form for such an enterprise. “I did a pantomime at, would you believe, the O2 at Greenwich, with Lily Savage as Widow Twankey in Aladdin, A Wish Come True,” he recalls. “That was in 2012 in a purpose-built tent in the grounds, when we had 1,900 in there, in the days when you didn’t have to socially distance.

“It was the same sort of tent that we’re planning to use in York: a ‘pavilion palace’ that’s totally different from a circus tent. It’s going to very exciting with the capacity of 976!”

Speaking to CharlesHutchPress on December 11, before York’s change of Tier status and subsequently the third lockdown, Moreno was in buoyant mood. “We can’t go on for the rest of our lives waiting for things to happen,” he said at the time, when he was also working on Sleeping Beauty And The Socially Distanced Witch, a show on a much smaller scale written and directed by Chris for the Grimsby Auditorium for a run from April 6 to 14.

“Aladdin is going to be different from anything I’ve done before, because, we’ll have to adhere to Covid-safety rules with all the safeguards in place, but it will be as near to a 100 per cent typical pantomime as possible,” Moreno revealed.

“Even with 21 performers on stage, it’ll be a big stage to fill, as it’s 50 metres wide, and we’re thinking that instead of a single flying carpet, we should have two for a  battle between Aladdin on one and Abanazar on the other.”

Whether such magic can take to the tent air this spring, watch this space for an update tomorrow.

No joke for Ross Noble as Humournoid show in York has to be delayed…again

Noble nobbled: Pandemic has forced Ross Noble to rearrange his Humournoid show at the Grand Opera House, York, for a second time

SURREALIST comedian Ross Noble is moving his January 21 2021 gig at the Grand Opera House, York, to January 29 2022.

In his Humournoid show, Noble, 44, asks: “What happens when pure comedy takes human form? What happens when a creature is created and bred to do stand-up?”

“Nobody knows because that isn’t a thing,” says the off-the-cuff Newcastle humorist. What is a thing, he argues, is Ross Noble doing a show. “You can come and see it. This is it,” he urges.

Later this year, Noble’s Humournoid tour is booked into Leeds Town Hall for October 26, rearranged from May 31 2020. Tickets for his 8pm York gig are on sale at atgtickets.com/venues/grand-opera-house-york/; for Leeds, at leedstownhall.co.uk.

Noble, who last visited the Grand Opera House on his El Hablador travels in October 2018, first announced Humournoid, his 17th nationwide tour, would play York on April 30 2020. Here’s hoping for third time lucky.

Velma Celli and Jess Steel bubble up for York lockdown streamed concert tonight

A midwinter night’s stream: The poster for An Evening With Velma & Jess tonight

AFTER last Friday’s Large & Lit In Lockdown Again solo show online, York drag diva Velma Celli forms a bubble double bill with powerhouse singing hairdresser Jess Steel tonight.

Together they will be presenting An Evening With Velma & Jess, streamed from the riverside abode of Ian Stroughair, the musical actor inside the fabulous international cabaret creation.

Jess, leading light of Big Ian Donaghy’s fundraising A Night To Remember shows at York Barbican, runs the Rock The Barnet salon in Boroughbridge Road, where her clientele can listen to their favourite vinyl on a classic record player while having their hair styled or enjoying a beauty treatment.

Tonight’s 8pm show is the second in a new series of hour-long Velma Celli streamed gigs in lockdown. “It’s the day of the show, ya’ll,” says Velma on Facebook. “So much work and love has gone into this, so if you fancy some lockdown fun, please tune in and support Jess and I.

“Tickets come off sale at 5pm and you have 48 hours to watch it just in case ya busy, Barbra’s.” To book, go to: http://bit.ly/2XxMqrG.

Here Ian/Velma answers Charles Hutchinson’s rapid-fire questions ahead of showtime.

How did last week’s show go? What were the highlights?

“It was SO much fun and camp. I loved singing all new songs and just having a laugh… with myself!”

Having moved from Bishopthorpe to a riverside house, how did the new location work out?

“Lovely! I am living in my friend’s dreamy townhouse at the moment. Posh!” 

What will you be singing tonight?

“OOOOOO, Cilla, Disney, ’60s, ’70s, ‘80s, ‘90s. It’s a real mixed bag this time.”

What will Jess be singing?

“Dolly. Gaga. Amy.” 

How come you can perform together in lockdown?

“I am in Jess’s bubble. Yes!”

How would you sum up Jess in five words?

“Talent. Kind. Hilarious. Generous. Fabulous.”

How did you celebrate your birthday yesterday in lockdown?

“With snacks. Facetime. Gin.”

What’s the best birthday present you have ever received?

“Another year to have a go at being better.”

York musicians Eboracum Baroque go virtual for Fairest Isle concert on January 23

Eboracum Baroque: Streamed concert on January 23 with Henry Purcell’s music to the fore

EBORACUM Baroque will return to the online platform on January 23 with Fairest Isle: Music from the 17th and 18th century England.

The 7pm streamed concert was recorded in October at King’s Ely, a school in Cambridgeshire, when the York ensemble was able to film with no Coronavirus lockdown in place.

Performing that autumn day were Elen Lloyd Roberts, soprano; Miriam Monaghan, recorder; Chris Parsons, trumpet; Miri Nohl, cello, and Laurence Lyndon Jones, harpsichord.

Founder Chris Parsons says: “We’re determined to keep going and provide support to young freelance musicians in these challenging times. We’re also very keen to continue to offer exciting new digital content for our audiences who we wish we could perform to in person.”

Looking forward to the January 23 stream, Chris says: “We’ll take the online audience back to 17th and 18th century England, featuring some of the great composers of the day, particularly Henry Purcell, who was held in such high regard at the time.

“The programme includes some of Purcell’s big hits from the London stage, productions that had never been seen in England until now – it must have been pretty amazing!

“Purcell’s stage works of the 1690s were huge spectacles with elaborate Italian stagecraft, and we’ve picked music from The Fairy Queen, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the patriotic King Arthur.”

What else? “Music and musicians from Europe flooded London at this time and Italianate music was very much in vogue,” says Chris. “So we’ll feature a virtuosic recorder concerto by Sammartini, who made his name in 18th century London, and a Vivaldi sonata, alongside British composers, including John Blow and an overture featuring the trumpet by William Croft.” 

Summing up that period of music-making, Chris says: “One of Ely’s famous sons, Oliver Cromwell, played a major part in shutting the theatres and not allowing concerts earlier on in the 17th century, so it was an amazing melting pot of music-making in London when Charles II returned to the throne, and for composers like Purcell an amazing place and time to be writing such brilliant music.”’

Taking concerts online amid the strictures of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a fruitful new avenue for Parsons and his fellow musicians. “Our virtual winter season was a success, when we streamed A Baroque Christmas, recorded at Wimpole Church and Wimpole Hall in our second home of Cambridge, on December 12.

“We feel incredibly lucky to have filmed the Fairest Isle concert back in October while we were able to be together, and we have some virtual projects in the pipeline for 2021.

“These include a 17th century pub concert – with beer tasting from a local brewer – coming up in February, which we hope will be an exciting online experience for our audience too.

“We’ll be embracing technology again for that one, recording parts individually and then sticking them all together. All being well, we also hope to film a concert in York in March but it’s hard to plan for the future.”

The Fairest Isle concert will be premiered on youtube.com/eboracumbaroque and at facebook.com/eboracumbaroque. “We’re very keen to make our concerts accessible to all, so whether you are new to baroque music or a regular watcher of early music, we hope there is something for everyone,” says Chris.

“We introduce each piece with a background of the composer and the history of the piece to set the scene.

“So, on January 23, we invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy this varied and energetic programme from the comfort of your own home.”

The programme for Fairest Isle: Music from the 17th and 18th century England:

Hark The Echoing Air from The Fairy Queen,  Henry Purcell (1659 -1695); 

Recorder Concerto in F Major, Sammartini (1700 – 1775); 

I Allegro, II Siciliano, III Allegro Assai; 

Sweeter Than Roses from Pausanias, The Betrayer Of His Country, Henry Purcell; Overture from With Noise Of Cannon, William Croft (1678 – 1727); 

I Moderato, II Allegro, III Adagio, IV Allegro; 

Music For A While from Oedipus, Henry Purcell;

Cello Sonata in Bb Major, Antonio Vivaldi;

I Largo, II Allegro, III Largo, IV Allegro; 

Lovely Selina from The Princess Of Cleve, John Blow (1649 – 1708); 

Two movements from The Division Flute, Anon; 

I, Readings Ground, II, A Division On A Ground; 

Fairest Isle from King Arthur, Henry Purcell.

Did you know?

EBORACUM Baroque is an ensemble of young professional singers and instrumentalists, formed in 2012 by Chris Parsons at the University of York and the Royal College of Music, London.

Jake Attree’s new York works to go online in Messum’s virtual show from February 3

Red Roofs, York, From The Bar Walls, oil on panel, by Jake Attree

LOCKDOWN 3 may have a multitude of restrictive minuses, but it means you will not miss York-born artist Jake Attree’s new exhibition.

Forty-four new works should have been going on display at David Messum Fine Art, in Bury Street, St James’s, London. Instead, the show is moving to a virtual platform online at messums.com from February 3 to 26, bringing art “from our home to yours”.

This will be accompanied by a £15 fully illustrated catalogue with a foreword by author, art critic and curator David Boyd Haycock; a short film with commentary from David Messum as he explores and discusses the paintings, and a virtual gallery that allows “visitors” to experience the complete exhibition.

Landscape By Water (The Red Hill), oil pastel, by Jake Attree

“Picture fuses with place, and place with picture, in a cyclical relationship that serves to produce something entirely new and very personal,” says Boyd Haycock of Attree’s new works.

On show online will be a combination of Attree’s monumental depictions of the streets of York, verging on abstraction, and a group of oil pastels inspired by the Flemish Old Master Pieter Brueghel.

“Many of the works have advanced upon stylistic developments that were seen in Attree’s earlier exhibitions with Messum’s,” says Katie Newman, Messum’s managing director at The Studio, Lord’s Wood, Marlow Common, Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

Jake Attree sketching in his home city of York

“The small blocks of colour that characterised many of the works from the Ancient City series exhibited in 2013 have moved in an ever-increasing abstract direction, hovering at times on the cusp of complete abstraction.” 

Attree, 71, was born and grew up in Grange Garth, in York, where his first art teacher was John Langton, another northern painter fascinated by how light falls on buildings and landscapes.

“York is a majestic city with a long, extraordinary history – from the Roman metropolitan centre to the Viking port of Jorvik, to the great medieval walls and Minster. Here is layer upon layer of history and those seams of history are like the layers in Attree’s drawings and, in particular, his paintings,” says Katie.

FaCade 2, York, oil on panel, by Jake Attree

“Thus, recent works such as the Red Roofs, York From The Bar Walls series are both a vision of York and a vision of history, a place that is at once both ancient and modern, here and everywhere.” 

Drawing is the way that the deeply thoughtful Attree explains the world to himself wordlessly. “So I do it all the time,” he says, outlining how the foundation of his work is predicated on careful and endless observation.

He sees this need to draw as lying deep within our being. “We have been drawing – or something very like it – since the time of the cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira,” says Jake, pointing to human art works that date back almost 40,000 years.

Triptych Of Trees, oil on board, by Jake Attree

“Drawing, like all truly creative activity, is not an entertainment or pastime, but rather something fundamental to our psychic health as a species.”

Hence Attree not only draws, but he does so daily, working out of a long, narrow studio at Dean Clough, Halifax. “I do believe that it is not until we have drawn something that we have truly looked at it. This is what artists realise, and it is amazing to think that drawing was once ‘out of fashion’ in art schools,” says Jake, who studied at York College of Art, Liverpool Art College from 18, and then the Royal Academy of Arts in London in his 20s.

He lives in Saltaire, in West Yorkshire, but returns regularly to his home city, where he makes initial sketches in the open air before transforming them into paintings thick with oil paints.

“York has always been emotionally very important to me,” he says, as his latest works will testify online from February 3.

The Hunters In The Snow after Brueghel, oil pastel, by Jake Attree

More Things To Do indoors in and around York in Stay Home Lockdown 3. List No 24, courtesy of The Press, York

A Long night: Josie Long will be performing for the Your Place Comedy live-stream from her living room on January 24

AS LOCKDOWN 3 urges everyone to “stay home”, Charles Hutchinson takes that advice in selecting entertainment for the dark days and nights ahead.

Somewhere over the pandemic horizon, he highlights a couple of shows in the diary for the autumn.

Ahir Shah: Joining Josie Long in a remote double bill for Your Place Comedy

Live-stream lockdown humour from living room to living room: Josie Long and Ahir Shah, Your Place Comedy, January 24

LOCKDOWN 3 has brought another round of Your Place Comedy home entertainment. “As before, we’ll be broadcasting from comedians’ living rooms, kitchens and attics or, as was the case with Lucy Beaumont, her homemade pub,” says virtual comedy club organiser Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer.

The format remains the same: two headline comedians, some stand-up and some chat, all juggled by regular compere Tim FitzHigham. First up will be Josie Long and Ahir Shah on January 24; line-ups are yet to be confirmed for February 28 and March 28.

The live-stream shows will be free to watch but with donations keenly encouraged at yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

Pea’s home; green: Story Craft Theatre storyteller Cassie Vallance looks forward to next week’s Crafty Tales session

Interactive stories for children: Story Craft Theatre’s Crafty Tales

CASSIE Vallance and Janet Bruce cannot hold their Crafty Tales sessions in person during Lockdown 3 but will continue to deliver sessions “directly to you via the power of Zoom”.

“Each 50-minute session is packed full of crafting, storytelling and educational fun with lots of activities to keep your little folk’s imagination alight,” says Cassie. “There are still a few spaces left for next week’s 10am sessions based around Julia Donaldson’s The Runaway Pea on January 20, 22 and 23.”

Coming up on January 27, 29 and 30 will be Elaine Wickson’s Super Stan. For more details and to book, go to storycrafttheatre.co.uk.

Parasols aplenty: A scene from the National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company production of The Pirates Of Penzance at the 2019 International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, now available online. Picture: Jane Stokes

Operetta on screen: International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, G&S Opera TV On-Line Streaming Service

WHEN the Coronavirus pandemic put paid to the 2020 International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival at Harrogate Royal Hall, the festival launched its online streaming subscription service at gsoperatv.

“New content is being continually added,” says festival stalwart Bernard Lockett. “It features the very best of more than 26 years of the National Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, along with top amateur productions performed at our festival, G&S films and fascinating documentaries and interviews, and is the only place to experience so many outstanding Savoy operas.”

The subscription rates for general viewers is £9.99 per month or £99 annuallyThe 2021 festival is in the diary for August 8 to 22 in Harrogate, preceded by Buxton Opera House the week before.

Chelsey Gillard: Stephen Joseph Theatre associate director, hosting online script-reading sessions

Play for the day appraisal: Online script-reading sessions, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from January 20

RUNNING online on Wednesdays from 11.30am to 1.30pm for five weeks, the fun sessions will dive into five classic comedies: Aristophanes’s Lysistrata on January 20; Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, January 27; Moliere’s Tartuffe, February 3; Sheridan’s The Rivals, February 10, and Feydeau’s A Flea In Her Ear, February 17.

Participants will read sections of the plays aloud and work with SJT associate director Chelsey Gillard to consider their themes, stories, writing styles and historical context in a relaxed discussion. Session bookings can be made at sjt.uk.com.

Clowning around: Jon Marshall’s Ringmaster with Steve Collison’s Clown in Magic Carpet Theatre’s Magic Circus

Online children’s show of the month: Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Carpet, Pocklington Arts Centre YouTube channel

HULL company Magic Carpet Theatre filmed their fun family-friendly show, Magic Carpet, behind closed doors at Pocklington Arts Centre last October. By public demand, its free streaming run is being extended to January 21 at: youtu.be/CNrUixTMWdQ.

Performed by director Jon Marshall and Steve Collison with magical illusions, comedy, circus skills and puppets, it tells the humorous tale of what happens to the ringmaster’s extravaganza plans after the artistes and elephants fail to arrive and everything has to be left in the calamitous hands of the clowns. Disaster!

His master’s voices: Alan Ayckbourn recorded his audio version of Haunting Julia at home. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Online ghost play of the season: Alan Ayckbourn’s Haunting Julia, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

ALAN Ayckbourn’s 2020 audio version of his ghost play Haunting Julia is being given an afterlife. Originally available at sjt.uk.com/event/1078/haunting_julia until January 5, the winter chiller now will be online until January 31.

Revisiting his 1994 play, Ayckbourn’s audio recording features the voice of the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s 81-year-old director emeritus. Or, rather, the three voices of Ayckbourn, who plays all three parts.

Rufus Wainwright: Songs inspired by middle age, married life, fatherhood, friends, loss, London and Laurel Canyon

Baroque’n’roll gig of the autumn: Rufus Wainwright, York Barbican, October 13

LAUREL Canyon singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright’s October 27 2020 tour date at York Barbican has moved to October 13 2021. Tickets remain valid for the rearranged date with his new band.

Last July, Wainwright, 47, released his ninth studio album, Unfollow The Rules, his first since 2012. “I consider it my first fully mature album; it is like a bookend to the beginning of my career,” says Rufus, whose fearless, mischievous songs were inspired by middle age, married life, fatherhood, friends, loss, London and Laurel Canyon.

Taking the mic: Omid Djalili looks forward to letting the Good Times roll again

Ready for a laugh: Omid Djalili, The Good Times Tour, Grand Opera House, York, November 10

OMID Djalili cannot wait to be back where he belongs, on stage, after experimenting with a Zoom gig where he was muted by no fewer than 639 people and a drive-in gig when he witnessed one audience member leave his car, attach a hose pipe to his exhaust and feed it through the window.

The British-Iranian stand-up’s 2021 excursions could not have a more positive title: The Good Times Tour. Let’s hope he is right, although who can predict if his shows at Harrogate Theatre on May 6 and Hull City Hall on May 26 will be given the go-ahead.

In his diary too are: Platform Festival, The Old Station, Pocklington, July 22, and Masham Town Hall, September 18 and 19. Oh, and Leeds Town Hall on October 28 in faraway 2022.

New partnership to mount Easter open-air production of The York Passion in April

New partnership: York Festival Trust, York Minster and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust to present The York Passion at Easter

YORK’S new theatre partnership is seeking a director for The York Passion, an outdoor staging planned for Easter Saturday and Monday.

For the first time, York Festival Trust, York Minster and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust are working together to present an Easter production, performed on two or possibly three static pageant waggons on the hard standing in front of the Minster School, opposite York Minster.

Three performances per day will be staged on April 2 and 4; tickets will be sold for a nominal charge to ensure appropriate Covid-secure distancing arrangements are applied.

The director will be required to create a single play – no more than 70 minutes straight through – from the pageants in the original York Mystery Plays.

The director’s vision must embrace elements from the Crucifixion, the Death of Christ and the Resurrection, possibly starting with the Road to Calvary and ending with the Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene.

Tom Straszewski, artistic director of the 2018 York Mystery Plays’ waggon production and 2022 Lincoln Mystery Plays, has produced a working script that can be adapted to meet the director’s requirements, including cutting and modernising the original text.

Cast and crew will be drawn from open auditions from the York community: a tradition of the York Mystery Plays since mediaeval times. Auditions and rehearsals will be conducted virtually, in accordance with Government Coronavirus measures.

Tom Straszewski: Working script that can be adapted to meet the director’s requirements

Linda Terry, chair of York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, says: “Despite the current dark times, we felt that it was right to look forward and create an opportunity for people to participate in, and enjoy, a theatrical production that fulfilled our aim of keeping York’s Medieval Mystery Play heritage alive in a format that could be enjoyed safely.

“With the country now in its third lockdown, it is unclear what public health measures will be in place during the rehearsal phase and indeed it is quite possible that we may have to cancel or postpone the production, but any such decision will be taken jointly by the partnership and the director.”

For the Easter production, The Passion Trust – a charity focused on performances of Passion plays, including community events, around Britain – has provided funding specifically for live screening a performance to be uploaded subsequently to YouTube.

Roger Lee, York Festival Trust’s chair, highlights the new partnership’s extensive experience: “All three partners have mounted productions of the York Mystery Plays over the past five to 30 years,” he says.

“With the exception of York Minster, the organisations are not exclusively Christian, but the Festival Trust has directed community groups in producing sections of the cycle on waggons every four years since 2002, but this will be the first time the Crucifixion and Resurrection pageants are staged together as a single play.”

Applicants for the director’s role should provide a CV and a proposal for their vision for the open-air production on one side of A4 by midnight on January 30 2021.

A special director information pack is available. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for discussion by Zoom. Applications and enquiries should be emailed to: linda.terry@ympst.co.uk

Stephen Joseph Theatre to host online script-reading sessions on Wednesdays

Chelsey Gillard: Stephen Joseph Theatre associate director

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, is to run a series of online script-reading sessions from January 20.

“We do these regularly, with a different theme each time,” says press officer Jeannie Swales. “They have a devoted following and usually sell out really quickly.”

Running on Wednesdays from 11.30am to 1.30pm for five weeks, the fun sessions will dive into five classic comedies: Aristophanes’s Lysistrata on January 20; William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, January 27; Moliere’s Tartuffe, February 3; Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals, February 10, and Georges Feydeau’s A Flea In Her Ear, February 17.

The sessions will look at how comedic theatre can pack a political punch, offer blistering satire and deliver a good night out. 

Participants will read sections of the plays aloud and work with Carne Trust associate director Chelsey Gillard to consider their themes, stories, writing styles and historical context in a relaxed discussion.

Digital copies of the plays will be provided. Participants will be given a Zoom link to join the online session each week once they have made a booking at sjt.uk.com.

Next Door But One launch Yorkshire Trios project for writers, actors and directors UPDATED 13/1/2021

The trios for Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios gather for a Zoom session

YORK community arts collective Next Door But One are undertaking their most ambitious project, against the tide of the pandemic.

Building Back Creative People And Places is aimed at providing commissions and mentoring to 15 artists who have struggled to engage in their creative practice during the pandemic.

Under the new programme, Yorkshire Trios is connecting five writers, five directors and five actors to create five ten-minute solo performances, planned initially for staging at the Gillygate pub, in Gillygate, on January 15 and 16 until Lockdown 3 was imposed.

“The trios have been formed and are writing and rehearsing on Zoom, but we’ll now be postponing the performances until we can do Covid-safe shows after lockdown,” says Next Door But One (NDB1) artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle.

“We did consider moving them online, but there was a real want from the full team to keep something that was live theatre in the calendar.”

Taking part are Mandy Newby, Joe Feeney, Dan Norman, Nicki Davy, Rachel Price, Becky Lennon, Lydia Crosland, Libby Pearson, Emily Chattle, Jenna Drury, Christie Barnes, Fiona Baistow, Anna Johnston, Miles Kinsley and Nicolette Hobson.

“We’ll be offering them professional development and mentoring throughout 2021 to build their skills and retain their much-needed talent within the performing arts industry,” says Matt. “We want to make sure there are no losses to that cultural talent pool, which is so important to York.”

Next Door But One’s call-out for writers, actors and directors to take part in the Yorkshire Trios project

For their first project, themed around Moments Yet To Happen, the trios are bringing together stories of “laughter, strength, dreams and everything in between that 2020 may have been lacking”. 

“From the hearts of Yorkshire creatives, told in the heart of the city and into yours, Yorkshire Trios is here to remind you of the talent and stories that our community holds,” says Matt.

“The trios have worked on the new pieces for a week and we had an informal sharing on Zoom on Sunday, which, after the first full week of the new lockdown, was a really celebratory moment. All the trios were really grateful to have had a creative project to work on during this tricky time once again.

“In order to support our 15 new creatives, we have flipped our plan on its head so that we will now be running an intensive period of online professional development workshops, to keep the team connected and creative until restrictions ease, and we can pick the performances back up.

“We thought this was an important move as the fatigue and disappointment that is being felt by those in theatre due to a third lockdown is important to address.”

When the Yorkshire Trios performances can go ahead, they will “showcase writers of different genres, directors with different styles and actors with many different voices, but all with a Yorkshire heart”.

“There are so many reasons why Yorkshire Trios is important to us,” says creative producer El Stannage. “We know first-hand how difficult it has been to maintain a career in the performing arts through lockdown, especially for those who face any other socio-economic barrier.

Next Door But One artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle

“That’s why we want to provide an opportunity to create theatre, to invest in those careers with NDB1’s mentoring and professional development offers for 2021 and also to promote a sense of belonging, that many freelancers say they lack, by joining our growing ensemble.”

Buoyed by a grant from the York Small Charities Fund, administered by the Two Ridings Community Foundation, the company can cover core costs affected adversely by the pandemic.

“This means we have the vital opportunity to redevelop our strategy in partnership with those we work with and can look at the future sustainability of the company,” says Matt.

“What’s more, a substantial grant awarded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England is enabling us to deliver the new artistic programme of projects that provide opportunities for different communities as well as for local artists.” 

Reflecting on Next Door But One’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the arts since last March, Matt says: “When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, like many theatre companies, we adapted our projects and delivery to keep the communities we worked with connected to creativity.

“During lockdown, we were able to secure funding from Arts Council England, the National Lottery Community Fund, Two Ridings Community Foundation and Comic Relief Community Fund to migrate five of our projects and productions online.”

In doing so, Next Door But One could provide paid employment for ten performing arts professionals and engage with 500 audience members and participants digitally.

Meet the Yorkshire Trios: from top left, Mandy Newby, Joe Feeney, Dan Norman, Nicki Davy, Rachel Price, Becky Lennon, Lydia Crosland, Libby Pearson, Emily Chattle, Jenna Drury, Christie Barnes, Fiona Baistow, Anna Johnston, Miles Kinsley and Nicolette Hobson

“No matter what current rhetoric exists around the importance of the arts, we know first-hand how vital it is to the identity of many of us, especially within the Covid climate” says Matt. 

“Our work since March has kept some of the most vulnerable members of our community connected both to one another and to meaningful activity when isolation and anxiety were on the increase.”

Matt points to Next Door But One helping people to navigate their emotions; giving others something enjoyable to anticipate; providing resources to groups and services who have really felt the struggle, and providing financial support to professionals in one of the hardest hit industries.

“I could not be prouder of what we have achieved as a team,” he says. “A big thank-you also goes to the funders and partners who have believed and invested in us during this difficult time.”

Looking ahead, the rest of Next Door But One’s 2021 programme will be made up of further developments of The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, working with children with learning disabilities in tandem with the Snappy Trust; a Forum Theatre series made with adults with learning disabilities; Playback Theatre training for adults with mental health problems, and a new production of Operation Hummingbird for York’s Dead Good Festival, run in partnership with St Leonard’s Hospice.

“Our ethos is that everything we do is rooted in something that is beyond theatre, where our impact goes beyond putting on a play and walking away,” says Matt. “We go into communities and leave something behind, where they learn new skills or feel connected with something they didn’t know existed before.

“That is the only way small theatre companies can survive, by having connections beyond the theatre world, whether with social care, children’s services, bereavement services or mental health.”

Rather than the philosophy of ‘If we build it, they will come’, Matt says: “It has to be the other way round. If we want to communicate with the community, we have to take theatre to people, rather than waving a flag in the air and saying ‘you must come to us’.

“If anything can make an environment around which people address their needs, then theatre can create that,” says Matt Harper-Hardcastle

“We’re not tricking people into going to the theatre, but what we do feels natural, like running the workshops for the Camphill Village Trust (a charity that supports adults with learning disabilities, autism and mental health challenges), where we work through situations they may face in their lives.

“That’s always been my passion: not to put on end-on theatre shows but to think, ‘how can we use theatre to find whatever people need to find, whether for entertainment or the expression of their own story’.”

Setting up Next Door But One in 2012 was Matt’s way of making a grassroots connection with the community. “Some people don’t see theatre as a fundamental thing they need, so it’s important to think about how we package what we do, for example working on workshop that demonstrate people’s needs,” he says.

“It’s a case of meeting them where they are and then you can take them on a journey to doing more regular-style theatre workshops.”

Theatre is supportive, suggests Matt.  “As a gay, disabled man, I’ve been lucky that I’ve had a very inclusive experience in theatre. If anything can make an environment around which people address their needs, then theatre can create that,” he says. “That’s why a lot of our projects just start with meeting people, rather than taking a project to them.”

Next Door But One do not have a high profile, but Matt can live with that. “The perception of theatre is playing in big buildings, but not many people know about us because our work is not done in a highly visible domain,” he says. “We’ll be in back rooms in halls, or rooms meant for therapy, or portable cabins.

“We’re like the elves in The Elves And The Shoemaker, just getting on with it in small groups, but that’s our passion. It’s not known about because what gets airtime is the big show at the big place, but that’s why we’ve managed to keep working through each lockdown, because our work is rooted in so many communities, so we can hold people together.

“Because we’re community driven, we can do something for them and they can do something for us, whereas the big theatres, without that community benefit, are not seen as important at this time to get us through the global pandemic.

“By contrast, we know what our communities are already facing in this situation, knowing about what vulnerabilities they have that will be exacerbated at this time. We can show we’re a really important part of their life by staying relevant to the people we work with under the Arts Council’s Let’s Create scheme.”

More information on Yorkshire Trios can be found at: https://www.nextdoorbutone.co.uk/Yorkshire-Trios.php

The Snow Queen’s deep freeze stretches to the end of January for SJT film streaming

Polly Lister as the “silly Sorceress” in Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen, the SJT production available for streaming throughout January. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

LOCKDOWN 3 is enforcing a Stay Home policy that consigns theatres to hibernation through the winter chill and maybe beyond.

Until whenever, the arts must be a remote prospect for entertainment, and where better to start than the film version of the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s five-star Christmas show, The Snow Queen.

A sell-out success in the Covid-secure, socially distanced Round auditorium last month, Nick Lane’s one-woman show for Polly Lister lost only its last day (December 31) to Scarborough’s move to Tier 3 status.

If you missed the live performances or want to re-live Lane’s magical, mischievous, moving show, The Snow Queen is available to rent until midnight on January 31. Tickets cost £12 at sjt.uk.com/SJTathome and allow online access for a week.

Lane, audacious inventor of winter wonderlands at the SJT since 2016, had been writing a five-hander version in the manner of past hits Pinocchio, A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol and Alice In Wonderland.

“Nick, could you change it to a one-hander,” asked SJT artistic director Paul Robinson, his regular partner in “sublime not-pantomime” shows for the child in all of us. Yes, he said.

Paul Robinson: Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director, who directed Polly Lister in Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

“Polly, could you do it as a solo show,” Robinson asked Polly Lister, so memorably “hyper, needy, overbearing, but funny and vulnerable” as Mari Hoff in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice and “sporty and no-nonsense” as lesbian Di in Di And Viv And Rose in the SJT’s 2017 summer season.

“Yes,” said Polly, who now would be playing multitudinous characters – a Goth raven poet and a grumpy Brummie reindeer among them – rather than merely the icy blast of the Snow Queen.

On board once more too were SJT artistic associate Simon Slater, Scarborough-born composer, lyricist and sound designer; video and lighting wizard Paul Steer; movement and puppetry director Gemma Fairlie and Helen Coyston, the designer for A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol, who decided everything should go with a swing in The Snow Queen.

Nick recalls the Covid-enforced change of tack from a cast of five to a solo show. “I got the call from Paul, when I’d done two drafts of the five-hander, full bells and whistles,” he says.

“He’d already cut it to a cast of four. ‘No problem at all’, I said, but then he said, ‘I’ve had a re-think, we’re going to make it a one-woman show’.

“And while he was explaining his reasoning, having first thought he was joking, I thought, ‘I’ve done two or three one-man shows before; this can work’. But having now done a two-hander Snow Queen at Hull Truck and started on the five-hander for the SJT and now written this solo show version, I don’t want to do another Snow Queen for ten years!”

“You know the story of The Snow Queen. It’s bonkers,” says playwright Nick Lane

Nick revelled in his new task. “You know the story of The Snow Queen: it’s bonkers!” he says. “In order to make it a one-woman show, give it a strong narrative and make it locally relevant, I followed a plot that wasn’t in the play originally, as you don’t just adapt a five-hander into a one-hander, as that would be really lazy.

“It’s ended up being my furthest removed play from the source material. That’s not to say it doesn’t follow Hans Christian Andersen’s story beats, but one of the things about The Snow Queen story is that she’s not in it apart from the beginning and the end, and there’s no explanation about why she did what she did and why she isn’t in the story more, so I’ve found a way to do that.

“At Hull Truck, the two-hander show was all about following the narrative beat and being silly, whereas this version does follow the narrative path but it does meander too.”

A child’s imagination was the key to Nick’s structure. “What a child enjoys is storytelling, which is the first avenue that opens up in a child, but it has to be more imaginative to fill the stage when it’s only one performer,” he says. “It has to be high energy and it must keep pushing the narrative to make the show work.”

Nick recalled meeting up with Polly Lister in 2017 after a Theatre Mill performance of his play Frankenstein Revelations at the York Medical Society premises in Stonegate. “She was with Richard Keightley, who was playing Victor Frankenstein, and we all went to the pub down the street, when she told me she was working on a one-woman play, more serious than mine, about having been a wife.”

Polly says: “Yes, I have form with solo shows. I wrote that one in 2017 for The Dukes theatre in Lancaster. It was called I Was A Wife and was autobiographical – I was a wife but then got ‘sacked’ from that role. By the time I wrote it, I was getting divorced: I got told the locks had been changed.

Viktoria Kay and Zach Lee in Nick Lane’s Frankenstein Revelations, presented at York Medical Society by Theatre Mill in February and March 2017. Picture: Tom Jackson

“It was set in a dressing room and it interrogated my idea of roles, being cast in different roles, with the different characters I’d played taking on the roles in the play.”

Polly, from Didsbury, Manchester, was familiar with Nick’s work. “I’ve been a fan from seeing two of his Christmas shows at Scarborough and that three-hander version of Frankenstein with all his lightness of touch, but a darkness too,” she says.

“So, I’ve wanted to work with him for ages and I was thrilled to be given the chance with The Snow Queen. I love every word of his script!”

A script that takes in not only the Snow Queen and Kai and Gerda from the Hans Christian Andersen story, but the aforementioned Brummie reindeer, the poetic raven and the Snow Queen’s sister, a “silly Sorceress” with Steampunk glasses, in a transformative journey to “the Other Scarborough” that can end only in glory or grief.

“I was allowed to be involved in the show’s creation, workshopping the play with Nick, looking to bring the characters alive, seeing which ones landed and which ones would need to grow,” says Polly.

“Nick never goes for the obvious, and I love the way he creates moods. You will feel sympathy for a character, but he doesn’t spoon-feed you, so nothing is overdone and there’s real pathos.”

In the bleak midwinter: Polly Lister as the Snow Queen in the SJT’s The Snow Queen. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Once Paul Robinson had made his “brave, cavalier but sensible” decision to go with a solo show, Polly knew she would relish performing in The Round. “I’m familiar with that stage design from the New Vic and the Theatre by the Lake at Keswick, and it’s my favourite way to perform,” she says.

“It feels much more intimate; you are all going on the journey together, and as a performer every angle is on show. You have to live it, breathe it and embody it.

“The ethos goes that once you’ve performed in the round, you’ll never want to perform again in an end-on theatre. The ‘Round’ sets you free.”

One revelation came as a surprise. “Every bit of why I love what I do is because I love being part of a team, so I really don’t like being the centre of attention this much!” says Polly, whose stage career runs to 24 years.

“Having it all rest on me, I’ve not enjoyed previously. On your own on stage, it’s harder work, whereas I love that thrill of uncertainty of sharing a stage, where I know I’m one of those people who knows I can help someone fix it when something goes wrong, bridging the broken dam.

“I feel much freer when I can be the saviour for someone else, but, for The Snow Queen, I just have to save myself.”

You would never sense any such loneliness of the socially distanced actor in Polly’s performance, maybe because she moves so fast between so many characters.

Explosive impact: Polly Lister’s Brummie reindeer in The Snow Queen. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Polly had a couple of major roles lined up for 2020, in Theresa Hawkins’s adaptation of Angela Carter’s The Company Of Wolves at the New Vic Theatre and Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors at the Bolton Octagon. “Hopefully, they’ve just been postponed,” she says.

“Once we got over the ‘fear’, I went into a bubble with my parents and started painting, doing a lot of shelves and making wine racks in my flat in Didsbury. I did some little videos of what I’d been doing, and it was really nice to do some work on my flat, with it becoming a nest for the first time.”

2020 still elicited artistic output from Polly, such as an audiobook of The Snow Queen for Hello Out There Productions and playing Beatrice in a Zoom production of Much Ado About Nothing.

“We are the kings and queens of creation, and it’s just in our nature to be creative, whatever the circumstances” says Polly.

Those pandemic circumstances led to the SJT’s one-woman version of The Snow Queen, and you have until January 31 to enjoy actor Lister, director Robinson and writer Lane’s outstanding creativity in the home quiet of Lockdown 3.

Lister act: Polly Lister’s “silly Sorceress”, armed with her Flying Monkey Powder…and the magic dust of Nick Lane’s script for The Snow Queen. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Out go Peter Pan and panto play, in comes Luke Adamson, digital stream filmmaker

Luke in the mirror: Luke Adamson as Fanny Wood in his film Five Minutes With Fanny

NORTH Yorkshire actor Luke Adamson is responding to theatre’s lockdown mothballing by setting up a subscription streaming service for his work.

“As the theatres are closed, I’m taking my creativity online to try and earn a living by creating Luke Adamson TV, featuring all-new content written and created by myself.

“In December alone, I’ve created three short films and live-streamed my panto play, Oh No It Isn’t!, and there’ll be at least two new films coming in January.”

Subscriptions to Luke’s streaming service start from only £5 per month and you can sign up at https://www.patreon.com/lukeadamson.

Luke had been playing Tootles in OVO and Maltings Theatre’s Peter Pan – the play, not the pantomime – at the Alban Arena, St Albans, when Hertfordshire’s move into Tier 3 status put paid to that show on December 19 after eight out of 38 performances.

A London production of the award-winning Oh No It Isn’t! had to be called off too. “It was going to have a short run at The Library Theatre in Crystal Palace, a new venue that my friend Joe [co-producer Joseph Lindoe] and I have instigated at the Upper Norwood Library Hub,” says Luke.

“We were supposed to launch the venue in March last year but… well, you know, we’re hopeful to get a full theatre programme up and running there as soon as Covid allows.

“But with the Oh No It Isn’t! run cut off by Covid, we worked our little Christmas socks off to live-stream the piece to YouTube instead.”

Luke Adamson as Tootles, fourth from left, in Peter Pan at the Alban Arena, St Albans, curtailed by Covid Tier 3 restrictions after eight performances in December. Picture copyright: Elliott Franks

Luke’s prior commitment to playing Tootles in St Albans had necessitated employing John Gregor and Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare’s Robbie Capaldi – Luke’s co-star in performances at York Theatre Royal Studio in April 2019 – for the Crystal Palace show.

“I directed the live-stream performance, which we shot there using the library’s live-streaming capability and some equipment hired in at great personal expense,” he says.

Based in London since his drama-school days at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wandsworth, Selby-born Luke had returned north to play villainous David Leonard’s daft sidekick Useless Eustace in York Theatre Royal’s Jack And The Beanstalk in 2017/2018: a performance that brought him a Great British Pantomime Award nomination no less.

Earlier, he had first appeared in Dame Berwick Kaler’s Theatre Royal pantomimes as a bairn during his Selby childhood, as well as in amateur pantos in Thorpe Willoughby.

Luke drew on those panto experiences, on stage and backstage, to write Oh No It Isn’t!, his humorous and moving account of “the best of [Ugly] sisters on stage but the worst of friends off it”.

“The play is set at the final performance of Cinderella in a moth-eaten regional theatre, where backstage tensions threaten to boil over on stage,” he says. “Will the egotism, one-upmanship and sexual politics remain confined to the dressing room?

“Will the ugly sisters keep the professional professional and the personal personal?
Will we ever find out what happened during Babes In The Wood?”

Oh No It Isn’t! explores the highs and lows of life in the theatre. “Using real anecdotes and stories, it’s an impassioned yet tender love letter to the world of performance,” says Luke.

Slapstick: Luke Adamson, standing, and Robbie Capaldi as the two warring Ugly Sisters in Adamson’s play Oh No It Isn’t at York Theatre Royal Studio in April 201

“It’s something that had been in my head for a while: writing a play set on and off stage, with the dynamic of the calm, graceful swan on stage and the feet paddling frantically off stage to keep everything afloat.

“I wanted to show the effect of the trials and tribulations that go into creating a show. Within three weeks, I wrote it, we rehearsed it and put it on stage, and we ended up getting five-star reviews.”

Oh No It Isn’t! is complemented by three shorter films so far: Five Minutes With Fanny (in reality 15 minutes!); Thoughts From Waterloo Bridge (15 minutes) and Radio Lifebuoy FM (30 minutes).

“I did them pretty much single-handedly,” says Luke. “Having done a diploma in media production at Selby College, I had all the required technical abilities. I’ve been writing scripts since 2010 and acting since, well, forever! So, it was just a case of putting it all together.

“I used my girlfriend’s Canon DSLR to shoot the video; a Zoom H1N recording device to record the audio, and edited it all together on Final Cut Pro. So far, I’ve shot most of them in or around my flat due to lockdown but did manage to shoot Thoughts From Waterloo Bridge on Waterloo Bridge one night before Christmas.”

Luke was able to call on assistance from friends. “Joe was my cameraman and security on Waterloo Bridge and I’ve used music written by my friend and actor Dan Bottomley,” he says. “I’ve also featured small performances from other friends, such as Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter [York musical double act Fladam] in Radio Lifebuoy FM.”


Five Minutes With Fanny introduces the unsuspecting world to Fanny Wood and her world of Wetherspoons, gender politics and Only Fans. “You discover how she came to be, in this adults-only piece inspired by stories from real Only Fans models,” says Luke, who plays Fanny.

“This 15-minute monologue inspired by Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads gives you a funny, sometimes dark peek into the life of a very unique person.”

Luke Adamson as high-flying city boy Lee in a still from his film Thoughts From Waterloo Bridge

In Thoughts From Waterloo Bridge, high-flying city boy Lee takes up his annual vigil on Waterloo Bridge on Christmas Eve, having escaped the office Christmas party.

“Overlooking the late-night lights of London, he ruminates on the emptiness of his success and wonders when it was that Christmas lost its sparkle,” says Luke.

Radio Lifebuoy FM charts how a local radio DJ’s Christmas goes from bad to worse after his wife kicks him out and he is forced to host the station’s amateur singer call-in competition, We’ve Got The X(Mas) Factor. Will he manage to keep it together until he is off air?

“Inspired by shock-jock Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio and featuring a host of my talented friends and a sprinkling of favourite festive songs, this is guaranteed to put a smile on your face,” promises Luke.

Explaining how he created his film characters and revealing whether they were based on people he knew, Luke says: “In a way they’re all versions of me, but with licence to be more outrageous, more hilarious, more dark than I would be as myself.

“Fanny, in Five Minutes With Fanny, is a character I’ve been developing for a while. I remember Paul O’Grady once saying he felt much more confident and brave as Lily Savage than he ever did as himself, and that stuck with me, so I was developing Fanny with the plan of taking her on the stand-up circuit but…well, you know.”

Luke continues: “The styles of the pieces vary and are inspired by people I’ve long admired: Victoria Wood, Alan Bennett, (Steve Coogan’s) Alan Partridge, Joe Orton and Harold Pinter.

“I suppose there may be aspects of other people. I’ve always been quite observant and perceptive and I love to poke fun at very human foibles, inspired I suppose by the comedies of Anton Chekhov.”

TV star: Luke Adamson has set up Luke Adamson TV as a way of diversifying his creativity

In one of the pandemic’s more contentious statements, Chancellor Rishi Sunak suggested those working in the arts should look at pursuing alternative careers, but are there ways to diversify within the profession? Like Luke making films, for example?

“I think most jobbing actors have a massively diverse set of skills already, so it isn’t a case of having to restart and diversifying, it’s more refocussing your energies,” he suggests.

“Whereas before I would be writing most days, skimming through the Spotlight Jobs board or Backstage looking for opportunities, I’m now focussing on things that were small-time earners for me in the past: showreel editing (and script/scene writing for them); graphic design (show posters, programmes, flyers, etc); and acting or directing tuition.

“I created Luke Adamson TV as I started creating video content in the first lockdown and people were enjoying it and I thought, ‘well, this is what I’m trained to do and I’ve spent all my life honing this craft; why don’t I try and earn from it while the theatres are closed?’

“So, I upped the production values: writing proper scripts; spending money on new equipment; no more ‘one-take, it’ll do’ improvised stuff. And if only ten people subscribe, that’s £50 a month and it goes towards my food bill at least.”

New year, same Covid stranglehold, how is Luke approaching 2021 after the draining year that has gone before? “Semi-full of gin, my eyes closed, my arms outstretched and my fingers crossed,” he says.

As for his hopes for the year ahead: “To avoid bankruptcy without having to leave the industry.” A sobering final thought indeed.

Luke Adamson: Actor, director, writer, theatre programmer and Academy of Live and Recorded Arts board member

Should you be wondering, “Who is Tootles”, Luke Adamson’s role in Peter Pan?

Tootles is the humblest of the Lost Boys!” says Luke. “Often described as Peter’s favourite, he’s the one that shoots Wendy with the arrow; defends her when she decides to leave Neverland and return home; becomes the boatswain when Peter takes over the Jolly Roger, and ultimately marries Wendy when they all go back to London and grow up. He’s the most important character, in my opinion.”

Vintage Sitwell photographs at Woodend donated to Scarborough Museums Trust

Andrew Clay, chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust, with archive material donated by William Sitwell in the Sitwell Library at Woodend, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew.

UNIQUE vintage photographs depicting Woodend, in its days as the private Scarborough summer home of the Sitwell literary family, have been donated to Scarborough Museums Trust by a descendant, journalist William Sitwell.

William is the grandson of writer Sacheverell Sitwell, who, together with brother Osbert and sister Edith, spent many summers at the house in The Crescent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The most famous of the three siblings, William’s great-aunt Edith, was born at Woodend in 1887. William writes for The Daily Telegraph, among other publications, and is a judge on BBC1’s MasterChef.

The Sitwell conservatory at Woodend, Scarborough, in the late 19th or early 20th century. Copyright: Scarborough Museums Trust

When clearing out family belongings, he came across photos that show Woodend, now a creative industries centre, in its heyday as a family home, with a spacious entrance hall, busy living rooms and a palm-filled glasshouse.

William Sitwell says: “I’ve visited Scarborough on many occasions and have always relished a trip to Woodend, now a creative hub run by a collection of talented people my ancestors would be proud of.

“But it’s always strange walking around a museum and wondering what it must have been like as a home, with the presence of my eccentric forebears. When I came across these old photographs, the settings looked familiar and then I realised they were of Woodend, fully furnished and looking very Victorian.

The Sitwell conservatory today, now the Woodend Gallery. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

“I knew at once that they should be sent to Andrew Clay [chief executive of Scarborough Museums Trust], who would cherish them and share them with visitors. They bring a wonderful insight to a lost era.”

Clay says: “The vintage photographs of Woodend are delightful. We have often wondered what these rooms looked like when the Sitwell family lived here and now we have a tantalising glimpse of Woodend in that era.

“It is fascinating to see the beautiful furnishings that once adorned these spaces. They conjure up a long-lost age of elegance and remind us today how sophisticated life on The Crescent really was. We are very grateful to William Sitwell for making this gift and we look forward to keeping in touch.”

Scarborough Museums Trust’s venues – Scarborough Art Gallery, the Rotunda Museum and the Woodend Gallery – are closed during Lockdown 3, but the trust hopes to be able to put the photographs on public display as soon as possible.

Another room at Woodend, from the Sitwell archive material donated to Scarborough Museums Trust by William Sitwell

Bean there, done that! What we learned from Nik Briggs’s debut York Stage panto

“I’ve been blown away by the response we’ve had to our panto,” says York Stage artistic director Nik Briggs. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

IN the original 2020 vision of York’s pantomime season, Dame Berwick Kaler made his comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again in his newly adopted home of the Grand Opera House.

York Theatre Royal had a ball with Cinderella, bedding in a new partnership with Evolution Productions, and the Rowntree Players filled the Joseph Rowntree Theatre with community spirit as ever.

Then, however, the pandemic, rather than pantomime, became the P word on all lips, tearing up the script for the winter ahead. Dick Turpin never left the stable; the Theatre Royal took to the road with the Travelling Pantomime; Rowntree Players made plans for 2021 instead.

Along came a newcomer, however, in the form of York Stage’s inaugural pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, full of beans, routines, slapstick and musical theatre songs at the Covid-secure Theatre @41 Monkgate, under the direction of debutant writer Nik Briggs.

The post-Christmas impediment of Tier 3 status for York curtailed the panto fun and games on December 30, rather than the planned finale of January 3, but Nik can look back on a job well done with reduced-capacity, socially distanced full houses for the majority of shows since opening on December 11.

Losing his head: Nik Briggs emerging from the costume for the front end of Daisy the cow in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. At the back end is socially distanced stage manager Lisa Cameron. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

“I’ve been blown away by the response we’ve had to our panto,” he says. “The respect I have for the art form and the recognition of how panto inspires so many children every year meant it wasn’t an option for me not to have a panto with real scale and spectacle over Christmas in York.

“It’s something I’ve hopefully brought into my own productions across the years. The respect I have for the art form and the recognition of how panto inspires so many children every year meant it wasn’t an option for me not to have a panto with real scale and spectacle over Christmas in York.”

Reflecting on penning his first panto script, Nik says: “It was certainly nerve wracking putting my own script out, having never penned a show before! Especially in York, following in the footsteps of Berwick [Kaler], who I respect greatly.

“Between lockdowns, I went over for a coffee with him, talked through my ideas and came away with the confidence to put pen to paper. He was so encouraging. I’ve had so many great responses to the script, which is a big compliment.”

Described by Nik as “musical theatre with pantomime braces on” and by choreographer Gary Lloyd as a “pansical”, York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk was distinctive from past pantos in York.

Alex Weatherhill as Dame Nanna Trott in Jack And The Beanstalk: part of Nik Briggs’s cast of “super-talented actors, singers and dancers”. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

“The triple-threat West End cast were probably the show’s biggest surprise to a York audience. Having all eight performers be at the top of their game, being super-talented actors, singers and dancers,” says Nik.

“I always knew my panto would be very much a musical fairy-tale, which would feature all the elements of panto that are traditional included into the mix. I cast it knowing I’d need brilliant performers who could bring the skills that the show’s structure demanded. You’ll not see songs like the ones we had in a panto any time soon again, not only in York but across the country.”

 In picking his cast of May Tether’s Jill Gallop, Jordan Fox’s Jack Trott, Ian Stroughair’s villainous Fleshius Creepius, Livvy Evans’s Fairy Mary, Alex Weartherhill’s Dane Nanna Trott and an ensemble of dance captains Danielle Mullan, Emily Taylor and Matthew Ives, Nik was seeking “three things”.

“Firstly, talent: the triple-threat capability of every cast member. Secondly, strong links to the city and region, and, finally, they had to be lovely people who would be fun to work with,” he says.

“A lot of the cast I’d worked with before and all of them I’d work with again. We brought together eight actors who became a panto family in less than six weeks! They worked tirelessly to create our sensational show and were a nothing short of a beautiful, talented, naturally diverse collection of Yorkshire talent.”

West End choreographer Gary Lloyd in rehearsal for York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Nik was adamant his panto should have a Yorkshire flavour, not least May Tether revelling in using her Goole accent in a show for the first time. “Being a Geordie import to York, having lived here for over ten years, one thing that has always blown me away about the city is the amount of talent that stems from here,” he says.

“It’s a no-brainer, therefore, that I would use talent from the area primarily! Especially at Christmas, and with what’s going on at the moment, it was always important that this was a show made in York for the people of York.”

In a coup for York Stage, Nik was able to call on the choreographic skills of West End hotshot Gary Lloyd, whose touring production of Heathers remained in hibernation. “I’ve known Gary’s work for many years [his sister is York Stage Musicals regular Jo Theaker]; I’m always knocked out by his choreography and musical staging,” he says.

“We’d spoken before about working together and this time last year I’d have laughed if you’d said we’d be doing a panto as our first show together, but it has been a brilliant experience. His storytelling through choreography is just so inspiring! As a creative, he was fantastic to work with; he really did inspire me in the rehearsal room every day.”

Given the Government’s ever-changing pandemic rules, navigating a safe passage for a show in late-2020 was a challenge like no other for a theatre director, not least the late rule change that cut the capacity from 80 to 55 (with the audience divided into bubbles divided by Perspex screens either side of the traverse stage).

Ian Stroughair’s villainous Fleshius Creepius in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

“The whole process was filled with challenges, but we knew, going into the project, it was never going to be easy,” says Nik. “We took every day as it presented itself to us. I’m very comfortable with change and the need to adapt, so as producer I felt confident leading the production through the Covid storm.

“Some days were harder than others, but we knew what we were doing was too important to walk away from.”

One of the talking points of Nik’s first pantomime was the inspired marketing coup of transforming the famous Bile Beans wall sign on Lord Mayor’s Walk into Bile Beanstalk to point passers-by in the direction of Theatre @41 Monkgate.

“It summed up our production perfectly,” he says. “Something new, something well executed, something in York we’re used to, being flipped on its head and turned for a short period into something new! People’s reaction was brilliant; they understood we were having fun and being playful while respecting the landmark.”

On the subject of creating “something new” for York, what more could Nik bring to a pantomime if he could do such a show under normal circumstances? “Who knows?! Talent and spectacle will always be the main two factors in my shows,” he says.

Pantomime transformation scene: York Stage ‘talk’ a good show by adding to the Bile Beans sign on Lord Mayor’s Walk

“I’m always looking to push forward and bring the biggest and best theatre to the city. York’s got two new pantos in 2021 with Qdos and Evolution, two of the country’s biggest panto producers, going head to head at the Grand Opera House and York Theatre Royal. How will that end?” 

Looking ahead, Nik’s plans for 2021 cannot be set in concrete while the pandemic still refuses to relent: “Have you got a crystal ball?” he says. “We’ve got rights secured for some brilliant titles over the next two years, but they will only be possible to stage when social distancing is over.

“The next big show we can realistically hope to stage is Elf The Musical at the Grand Opera House next November/December. Before that, we’ll be working on smaller shows with brilliant casts, which will be announced throughout the year.”

Through the year too, Nik will be busy running York Stage School, remotely while Covid regulations prevail, but then returning to Theatre @41 Monkgate. “We’ll be continuing to work with our students through 2021 and will be striving to bring them the best theatrical training possible,” he says.

York Stage’s poster for Jack And The Beanstalk, the pantomime where “giant magic can grow in the smallest places”

“We have survived two lockdowns and created brilliant work with them and that will continue this term.”

One lasting memory of Jack And The Beanstalk will be Nik’s impromptu emotional moment at the close of the final show, urging everyone to keep supporting theatre. “I don’t do last-night public speaking: it’s not my style and I cringe at it as people don’t come to hear me speak,” he says.

“They come to be entertained and forget whatever is going on outside, but I was ambushed – while I didn’t have any shoes on – and having received notice only a few hours before that our show would have to close that night, emotions were running high around the building.

“It’s scary producing shows at the moment: Will people support us? Will they come if we stage things? Will this bankrupt me?

“The Government closing theatres in Tier 3, where thousands have been spent to keep people safe, but allowing people to still shop and go around picking up produce just doesn’t make sense. It’s idiotic!”

Jordan Fox’s Jack Trott, front, with ensemble trio Matthew Ives, Emily Taylor and Danielle Mullan and May Tether’s Jill Gallop in Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Nik develops his point: “There are no recorded transmissions in theatre, that’s important to stress. So, it’s important audiences do support whatever is being produced. Otherwise, things won’t be produced, things won’t happen, and that’d make for a very sad cultural landscape,” he says.

“A lot of people have said we were lucky to get to perform 40 of the 45 shows scheduled. At first, I agreed, but with hindsight I’ve re-evaluated and realised that is a very dangerous way to think.

“We all worked tirelessly and sacrificed a lot to ensure we created a brilliant show that people could enjoy safely. There was no big financial reward dangling at the end of the run to tempt us to cut corners; we simply wouldn’t have staged the show if we thought we were doing anything unsafely or were creating risk.

“Our friends and family were among the audiences; we wouldn’t have risked them. So, we were lucky we didn’t fall short sooner because of the Governments poor management but there was nothing lucky in losing our final five shows.”

The timing of the Elf production rules out a second York Stage pantomime next winter, but what are Nik’s wishes for 2021? “To get people vaccinated quickly so we can get back to sitting close together, sharing stories and experiences in theatres across the city,” he says.

The end: York Stage’s pantomime cast bid farewell at the close of Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography


York Theatre Royal is all out of love as season is postponed by Lockdown 3

“A beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one – literally! – about learning in time what matters in the end,” says Julie Hesmondhalgh, introducing her one-woman show The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, part of The Love Season, now postponed at York Theatre Royal

YORK Theatre Royal’s St Valentine’s Day reopening has been given the kiss-off by the Lockdown 3 strictures.

As the killjoy Covid curse strikes again, The Love Season is being postponed, but socially distanced love will out in the end.

Tickets were due to go on sale tomorrow (8/1/2021), but the launch has been put on hold while theatre programmers rethink plans for a season to be performed to a Covid-secure reduced capacity.

Explaining the inevitable decision, chief executive Tom Bird says: “We are committed to spreading the love and sharing the joy of live theatre with The Love Season as soon as we are able to do so safely. We’ll be announcing our revised plans and reopening date as soon as possible.

“The Love Season is designed to remind us that human connection – love, sympathy, kindness, mutual understanding, warmth, equality – is what makes us the wonderful human beings we are. In 2021 we want to celebrate humanity, our own community and a sense of togetherness.  

“We want to do that with words, music, dancing, film and even food! It’s going to be fun and we can’t wait.”

Aside from two previews of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime on a pop-up stage on December 2 and 3, the Theatre Royal auditorium has remained dark since the March shutdown.

Once the green light is given, The Love Season will be played to a main-house capacity reduced from 750 to a socially distanced 345.

When first announced, the season was to have opened with a York In Love “special event” on February 14, to be followed by plays from around the world embracing love in its many forms, running until April 21.

First up, booked in for February 16 to 20, was the debut tour of The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, a one-woman show for Coronation Street and Broadchurch actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in 2019, when she won the The Stage Edinburgh Award for her performance.

“We are committed to spreading the love and sharing the joy of live theatre with The Love Season,” says York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird as he looks forward to rearranging the postponed programme

The putative 2021 itinerary took in further Yorkshire shows at Hull Truck Theatre, from January 29 to February 6, and the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from March 9 to 13.

Recalling the play’s roots, Hesmondhalgh said: “I had a notion, a romantic notion, that my husband, the writer Ian Kershaw, should write a one-woman show for me and we could tour it together into our dotage, like travelling troubadours (or something).

“A couple of Christmases ago, Ian kept disappearing to the cellar for an hour at a time, wrapping presents maybe, I thought. And then he presented me with this lovely thing. 

“A beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one – literally! – about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark on the world – and maybe beyond – that shows us, the human race, in all its glorious messiness, confusion and joy.

“It was the best present I ever got. In these dark and confusing times, it offers a bit of love and light as we end this difficult year and enter 2021 with fresh hope.”

The Love Season programme also includes the premiere of Tonderai Munyevu’s Mugabe, My Dad And Me, one of the productions postponed when the Theatre Royal had to close.

Theatre Royal associate director John R Wilkinson directs writer-performer Munyevu in this co-production with English Touring Theatre: a one-man show that charts the rise and fall of Robert Mugabe, the controversial Zimbabwean revolutionary and president, through the personal story of Tonderai’s family and his relationship with his father.

Watch this space for updates on the revised Love Season.

Did you know?

YORK Theatre Royal has been granted the use of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre’s See It Safely mark. This certification affirms the theatre is complying with the latest Government and industry Covid-19 guidelines to ensure the safety of staff and audiences.

York Theatre Royal’s artwork for The Love Season

Pocklington Arts Centre to stream Magic Carpet Theatre’s Magic Circus in lockdown

Director Jon Marshall as the Ringmaster, showing his frustration with Steve Collison’s Clown in Magic Carpet Theatre’s Magic Circus

FAMILIES are being given another chance to watch Pocklington Arts Centre’s online streaming of Magic Circus for free, in response to public demand.

The fun family-friendly show, performed by Hull company Magic Carpet Theatre and filmed behind closed doors at PAC last October, premiered to more than 1,000 viewers over Christmastide. Among them were families accessing food banks in the East Riding, who received exclusive early access. 

Now, the production is being streamed for free online once again to keep children entertained during Lockdown 3, with donations invited to PAC’s crowdfunding appeal at: justgiving.com/crowdfunding/magic-carpet-theatre.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “In the absence of our usual popular live family Christmas show, we were delighted to be able to bring all the fun and excitement of live theatre to younger audiences with our online production, made possible with thanks to a grant of £4,100 from the HEY Smile Foundation’s I am Fund. 

“It’s fantastic that so many people watched the show at home when it premiered the first time round, and as we’re now in lockdown once again, we wanted to give everyone another chance to enjoy Magic Circus.”

Magic Circus is one of two Magic Carpet Theatre theatre shows filmed live at PAC by Pocklington production company Digifish for audiences to watch online. The second, The Wizard Of Castle Magic, will be available to stream from February half-term.

In addition, online workshops are planned as part of a project designed to encourage sustained arts engagement from younger generations during the pandemic and increased attendance at PAC events when the Market Place venue can eventually re-open its doors. 

“As we’re now in lockdown once again, we wanted to give everyone another chance to enjoy Magic Circus,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

Magic Carpet Theatre are firm PAC favourites, noted for their circus skills, magic and audience participation, and have staged numerous sold-out events there.

Directed by Jon Marshall with music by Geoff Hardisty and effects by Theatrical Pyrotechnics, Magic Circus, is a fast-moving, colourful story that combines magical illusions, comedy, circus skills and puppets.

Performed by Marshall and Steve Collison, it tells the humorous tale of what happens to the ringmaster’s extravaganza plans after the artistes and elephants fail to arrive and everything has to be left in the calamitous hands of the clowns. Disaster!

Inevitably, they make a fantastically messy job of it as Magic Carpet Theatre take traditional circus and variety skills, dust them down and invest them with new life, moulding them into a mystifying hour-long play with a circus theme.

Second show The Wizard Of Castle Magic, based on the traditional tale of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, is also aimed at children aged three to 11 and their families with a script replete with comedy, illusion and special theatrical effects. 

Magic Circus can be viewed on Pocklington Arts Centre’s YouTube channel from 2.30pm today (7/1/2021) for 14 days. The Wizard Of Castle Magic will be streamed via YouTube from 2.30pm on Thursday, February 18. 

Watch online for free at: https://youtu.be/CNrUixTMWdQ.

Wanted: a director of volunteering for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre board

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre: Seeking a director of volunteering

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre is seeking a director of volunteering to join its board. 

The new volunteer board member will be jointly in charge of helping to manage and support the York theatre’s volunteer staff.  

Dan Shrimpton, the JoRo’s chair of trustees, says: “This role is vitally important to the smooth running of our fabulous community venue. Although unpaid, the post offers enormous rewards to the right candidate, including belonging to a very supportive board and enjoying the magic of theatre first-hand.

“You will be involved in one of the country’s top community-led theatres, working with remarkable people from a wide range of backgrounds to deliver great entertainment to the people of York.”

Barbara Boyce, the JoRo’s director of volunteering already in post, says: “The appointed trustee will be responsible for organising the scheduling of volunteers, both front of house and backstage.

“The workload will be shared between both of us. We are looking to recruit an exceptional person who will be crucial in ensuring the effective staffing of each production staged at the theatre.”

The coordination of the volunteers is done mainly electronically, using an online database and communication tools, hence having strong computer skills is a must. 

Established processes are in place already, but there will be opportunities aplenty for the new director of volunteering to make their own mark on how the role is carried out. The successful candidate must have first-class communication skills and enthusiasm for managing volunteers. 

The time commitment will vary, depending on the JoRo’s scheduled activities, but it is anticipated the role will usually take up approximately four to six hours per week.

In addition, the new trustee will attend 12 board meetings each year, each lasting approximately two hours, usually on the first Monday of each month. At present, meetings are held over video conferencing, so prospective applicants need to be willing to familiarise themselves with this way of communicating. 

All trustees act as duty managers within the theatre several times a month. On a typical show evening, the duty manager arrives by 6pm for a 7.30pm performance, usually leaving the Haxby Road building by 10.30 pm.  

Anyone interested and keen to find out more should email volunteering director Barbara Boyce at barbara.boyce@jrtheatre.co.uk to arrange a visit for an informal discussion with two or three trustees, once such meetings are permitted under Covid strictures.

After the informal discussion, an interview with trustees will be held for shortlisted candidates.

Josie Long and Ahir Shah stay home for Your Place Comedy’s new lockdown season

Remotely funny double bill: Josie Long and Ahir Shah will perform from their homes for Your Place Comedy’s streamed gig series

YOUR Place Comedy is back for another Stay Home season of remote double bills in Lockdown 3, kicking off on January 24 with Josie Long and Ahir Shah.

“While it wasn’t deliberately timed, another lockdown has brought another round of Your Place Comedy – or, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, another round of Your Place Comedy has ushered in another lockdown,” says virtual comedy club organiser Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer.

“We’re back, broadcasting from comedians’ living rooms, kitchens and attics or, as was the case with Lucy Beaumont, her homemade pub.”

Streamed gigs are booked in for January 24, February 28 and March 28. “Line-ups for instalments two and three are yet to be confirmed, but I’m thrilled to say that we’ve got the utterly brilliant and terrifyingly intelligent Josie Long and Ahir Shah signed up for the first show,” says Chris

“Between them they have no fewer than five nominations for the Edinburgh Comedy Award.

“Josie is one of the most respected and unique comedy voices of her generation. Winning the BBC New Comedy Award at the age of just 17 and crowned Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards in 2006, she became only the third act to achieve three successive Best Show nominations.” 

Josie Long: “Unique comedy voice of her generation”

Josie has appeared on The News Quiz, Just A Minute, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Drunk History, as well as writing and presenting several series of her own BBC Radio 4 show, Short Cuts.

Chris says of the fast-rising comic talent of Ahir Shah: “He’s one of the sharpest new political comics on the circuit. His sharp, intellectual blend of philosophical inquiry, political vigour and hard-hitting gags has seen him twice nominated for Best Show at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, while his latest stand-up hour has been recorded as a special for American streaming platform HBO Max.”

Ahir is a writer and regular feature host for The Mash Report and has appeared on The Now Show, Stand Up Central, Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, Campus and Catastrophe.

Looking forward to the January 24 re-launch, Chris says: “The format remains the same: two headline comedians, some stand-up and some chat, all skilfully juggled by regular compere Tim FitzHigham, writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler, presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge and Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee.

“The shows will still be free to watch on YouTube and Twitch but with donations keenly encouraged. The performers all get paid at a time when live work is otherwise non-existent, and any profits are split between the organising venues, all of whom have been forced to close in the pandemic and now face continued uncertainty as lockdown regulations once again prevent theatres from opening.”

A collective of 12 small, independent venues from across Yorkshire and the Humber Twelve venues are involved in Your Place Comedy Season 3. Howden’s Shire Hall has dropped out because all staff are furloughed – “they’re still very supportive but didn’t want to feel like they were riding on the coattails of everyone else’s work,” says Chris – and newly on board are The Civic, Barnsley, Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, and Rural Arts, at The Courthouse, Thirsk.

Ahir Shah: “One of the sharpest new political comics on the circuit”

Participating from the start have been Selby Town Hall and Otley Courthouse (the two venues programmed by Chris); Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; The Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; Pocklington Arts Centre and Rotherham Theatres. 

Set up as one of the first live-stream projects of the lockdown era, Your Place Comedy began last April when the first virtual show, starring Mark Watson and Hull humorist Lucy Beaumont, was watched by 3,500 people and raised more than £3,500 for the venues.

Designed to enable theatres and arts centres to continue presenting performances while their doors remain shut, this online platform has gone on to host Simon Brodkin and Maisie Adam, Jo Caulfield and Simon Evans, Paul Sinha and Angela Barnes, Shappi Khorsandi and Justin Moorhouse and, in the last bill on October 25, Robin Ince and Laura Lexx, all delivering intimate sets live from their own homes.

Chris concludes: “As the live entertainment industry continues to grapple with challenges presented by periods of enforced closure and frequent changes in regulations, I’m delighted that a group of small venues, all facing the same dilemmas and insecurity, have pooled their resources to put live comedy on phones, tablets, laptops and TVs around the region, delivered by the kinds of acts who would usually grace their stages.

“The first series of shows grew into something rather distinct: warm and intimate with a mix of chat and stand-up from top comedy names, all held together by genial host Tim FitzHigham.

“So, I’m thrilled to bits that Josie and Ahir have agreed to headline our first show of 2021. It looks set to be a lovely night in for comedy fans…and all for free. What’s not to like!”

For full details on Your Place Comedy, and to find out how to watch the show, go to: yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

Explore York libraries to provide essential services during Lockdown 3

York Explore Library and Archive

EXPLORE libraries in York will stay open during Lockdown 3 for essential services.

Books will be available through click and collect, while access to computers and printing will be given to people who do not have these at home. All books at present on loan will be renewed until March 31 2021. 

Explore centres in York, Acomb and Tang Hall will be open during the lockdown by pre-booked appointment only from Monday to Saturday. Computer access will be available at all three sites, with click-and-collect books available only from Acomb and Tang Hall.

The Reading Café at Rowntree Park will open every day for takeaway. All other Explore libraries and reading cafés in the city will be closed. The City Archives at York Explore are closed too, but archivists can answer questions by email. 

Online, Explore is offering free e-Books and audiobooks for all ages, free newspapers and magazines from around the world via the PressReader app, and a varied events programme via Zoom, featuring well-known authors, together with workshops and activities.

Explore’s specialist team has put together information to support people, covering everything from home schooling to maintaining health and wellbeing. All links can be found at www.exploreyork.org.uk

Fiona Williams, Explore’s chief executive, says: “Giving access to our pcs [personal computers] means everyone in York has access to the internet and isn’t digitally excluded.

“Opening at York, Acomb and Tang Hall provides a good coverage across the whole city. We will be monitoring usage and feedback and will be able to make changes in response.

“We have made everyone’s books due back on March 31, so no-one has to worry about fines. We will also continue with developing more online services in addition to those already available.”

Fiona adds: “I’m happy that our takeaway service from Rowntree Park Reading Café is available seven days a week. Many people take their exercise in the park and this means they can pick up a coffee.  It’s a shame that we’re back here in another lockdown, but we will hope that there’s a better future in a few months.” 

Councillor Darryl Smalley, executive member for culture, leisure and communities, says: “As the city comes together once again to fight Coronavirus and stay home as much as possible, it’s great to see our libraries adapt to continue essential services and offer resources for residents across the city.

“From story books for children staying home, to Zoom courses and workshops for those of us learning a new skill this lockdown, York’s libraries continue to offer something for everyone.

“I want to thank the brilliant staff and volunteers at Explore, and all those in community services, who are adapting to the new lockdown and working hard to serve the residents of York at this critical time.” 

Full details, such as opening hours during lockdown and how to book an appointment, can be found at https://exploreyork.org.uk/explore-during-lockdown/.

Artistic director sought for York Mystery Plays’ spring Passion Play production

Tom Straszewski: Writing an hour-long script for this spring’s Passion Play, presented by the York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, York Minster and York Festival Trust

AN artistic director is being sought for the York Mystery Plays’ outdoor community production of The Passion and Death of Christ at Easter.

The director will be expected to audition and rehearse in York, possibly virtually in the early stages, and then indoors and outdoors as Covid restrictions permit.

Applicants are asked to submit a one-page initial idea for the Passion Play production, along with a CV. Interest should be registered by emailing York Festival Trust chairman Roger Lee at: roger@yorkmysteryplays.co.uk. More details can be found at: bit.ly/YorkPassionPlay#yorkmysteryplays#york#theatre@YorkFestTrust

Tom Straszewski, director of the 2018 production on York’s streets, is developing an hour-long script for staging on waggons in the grounds of the Minster School, Minster Yard, Deangate, York.

Three performances a day will take place on Saturday, April 3 and Monday, April 5, mounted by a three-way partnership of York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, York Minster and York Festival Trust.

Funding for the spring production will come from York Festival Trust and York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust, boosted by a £2,000 grant received already from The Passion Plays Trust. Audience members will pay a nominal sum for tickets to enable the organisers to safely manage numbers, access and distancing, if Covid restrictions still apply.

There will be opportunity for involvement in all aspects of the production. Watch this space for updates.

Alan Ayckbourn’s ghost play Haunting Julia will keep you awake for an extra month

Alan Ayckbourn in his garden at his Scarborough home in May 2020. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

ALAN Ayckbourn’s 2020 audio version of his ghost play Haunting Julia is being given an afterlife.

Originally available through the Stephen Joseph Theatre website from December 1 to today (5/1/2021), the winter chiller now will be online until January 31.

Revisiting his 1994 play, Ayckbourn’s audio recording features the voice of the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s 81-year-old director emeritus. Or, rather, the three voices of Ayckbourn, who plays all three parts.

Directed by Ayckbourn, the “comic but scary” Haunting Julia was recorded at his Scarborough home studio, where he and his wife, Heather Stoney, had made his first ever audio play, his 84th premiere Anno Domino, in Lockdown 1.

Haunting Julia is set 12 years after the suicide of Otley-born musical prodigy Julia Lukin. Her father Joe, still struggling with her death, meets with former boyfriend Andy and psychic Ken to seek out the truth, but some questions are better left unanswered.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre artwork for the 2020 audio version of Haunting Julia, performed and directed by Alan Ayckbourn

Ayckbourn, who voiced characters ranging in age from teenage to septuagenarian in Anno Domino, here plays the parts of Joe, Andy and Ken, while “other voices” – previously off stage – are provided by Naomi Petersen.

The online version of Haunting Julia is going global, drawing bookings from the USA and beyond after a “really positive review” in New York City’s Wall Street Journal.

Bookings have come in from: Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Torrevieja, Alicante; Tucson, Arizona; Victoria, British Columbia; Los Altos, Santa Barbara, Oakland, Eureka, Clovis, Los Angeles, Woodside, Los Osos and Palo Alto, California; Denver, Colorado, and Washington, District of Columbia.

Bookings also have been made from: Decatur, Georgia; Evanston, Warrenville, Oak Park, Illinois; South Bend, Indiana; Madison, Maine; Silver Spring, Chevy Chase, Maryland; Holliston, Wellfleet, Carlisle, Milford, East Falmouth, Boxford, North Brookfield, Massachusetts, and Walled Lake, Michigan.

Naomi Petersen: Voices from beyond in Haunting Julia

So too from: Winona, Minnesota; St Louis, Missouri; Morris Plains, Mountain Lakes, Jersey City, New Jersey; Corrales, New Mexico; Waccabuc, Brooklyn, Larchmont, Rochester and multiple New York addresses, New York; Winston-Salem, North Carolina; Media, Easton, Pennsylvania, and Granbury, Texas.

Likewise from: Mission Hills, Kansas; New Orleans, Louisiana; Boca Raton, Sarasota, Jacksonville, Ocala, Belleair, Boynton Beach, California; Salt Lake City, Taylorsville, Utah; Glen Allen, Vienna, Virginia; Bainbridge Island, Seattle, Washington; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Nicosia, Cyprus, and Auckland, New Zealand.

How to listen to Alan Ayckbourn times three in Haunting Julia:

TICKETS for Haunting Julia can be booked any time up to and including January 31 2021, either via https://www.sjt.uk.com/event/1078/haunting_julia or on 01723 370541.

Once a £12 ticket has been bought, the buyer can access the audio show as often as they want between now and January 31, and as many people as are in their household or social bubble can listen in. Go to the website, sjt.uk.com, for more details.

Drag diva Velma Celli kickstarts 2021 with Large & Lit In Lockdown streamed show

Velma Celli: Large & Lit In Lockdown Again but from a new location

AFTER his “Fleshius Creepius” panto villain in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, Ian Stroughair planned to pull on his drag rags for a live Velma Celli show on January 15 at his adopted winter home of Theatre @41 Monkgate.

He anticipated more shows would have followed too, but then came York’s new impediment of Tier 3 status post-Christmas, and inevitably tighter restrictions still to come until the jabs make their point.

Consequently, he announces instead: “Darlings, as we head back into a lockdown in York, Velma Celli is back on the streaming! My first show, Large & Lit In Lockdown Again, is on Friday (8/1/2021) at 8pm. I would love you to join me for an hour of camp cabaret fun! Get those requests and shout-outs in!”

In 2020, Velma hosted a series of streamed shows from Case De Velma Celli, alias the drag diva’s Bishopthorpe kitchen. Firstly, on April 29, a fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice, followed by Large & Lit In Lockdown and virtual versions of the cabaret queen’s hit shows Equinox, Me & My Divas and A Night At The Musicals.

Usually to be found once a month gracing The Basement stage at City Screen, York, Velma returned to live performance in York by signing up for a rugby club – York RI Rugby Union Football Club, in New Lane, Acomb, to be precise – for An Evening Of Song outdoors under the September stars.

Jack And The Beanstalk saw Ian turn to the dark side as the vainglorious “Fleshius Creepius”, and now, newly moved into a riverside abode in York, he is ready to return to Velma Celli mode from Friday.

Tickets for Virtual Velma start at £10 via http://bit.ly/3nVaa4N. Watch this space for news of an online show every Friday from Ian’s new HQ.

Here, Ian answers Charles Hutchinson’s quickfire questions at the outset of a new year still shrouded in uncertainty for the arts world.

From where will you be streaming the January 8 show?  Still as a kitchen-sing drama or from a different room at your new riverside pad?

“The living room.”

On a technical level, what did you learn about doing digital streams from your earlier series of shows?

“That tech is stressful but once you have a system, it’s a piece of cake.” 

Ian Stroughair as Fleshius Creepius in York Stage’s pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk

What will the new show feature: any songs making their debut?

“Expect lots of divas as per. I’m gonna whack in some classic Amy Winehouse too: Back In Black.”

Will a remote guest be joining you?

“Not this time. You get Velma all to yourself.”

Your 2020 ended on a high with the villainous Fleshius Creepius in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk.  How did it feel to be back on stage in a show with a proper run to it?

“It was EVERYTHING. Such a joy and a wonderful experience. Feel so lucky and positive for a return of theatre as a whole!” 

What did you enjoy most about performing this pantomime – a new hybrid of “pansical” or “musical theatre with pantomime braces on” – in your home city?

“Working with the entire team. Everyone was sensational. The most talented cast I’ve ever worked with.” 

What were your highlights of 2020, aside from the pantomime?

“Reconnecting with York. I’ve fallen in love with it big time. Growing up here was a very different place and time, especially for the LGBTQIA+, but now it’s SO much more diverse.”

What realistic hopes do you have for yourself in 2021?

“That I can stay afloat until venues can open. It’s hard but, my lord, I’ll plod on.”

What hopes would you still have for 2021 in an ideal world?

“That theatre and the arts in general would have a boom and rebirth. I’m hopeful but realistic it may take longer than I dream.”

If you could address the Government, why do the arts matter?

“We need the arts more than we ever thought. It’s entertainment. It’s escapism. It’s culture. We all need it.” 

David Finnigan and Peter Davis launch According To McGee’s new year of painting

Artist Peter Davis with According To McGee co-curator Ails McGee, each holding a work from his Zeitgeist series at the gallery in Tower Street, York

DAVID Finnigan and Peter Davis will launch According To McGee’s focus on contemporary artwork in 2021 with a joint show from January 8.

“We see the pending challenges of the new year as an opportunity to refocus our ambition to provide crucial contemporary painting for collectors from all over the UK,” says Greg McGee, co-owner of the Tower Street art-space in York.

“We are a gallery that champions painting and the skill set and specific cultural heft that comes with it.”

Greg and co-owner Ails McGee “never got over our mid-Nineties education as art students”. “We were told by professors that painting as a medium was dead,” he recalls.

“It was ‘bourgeois’, ‘patriarchal’, ‘colonial’ and ‘irrelevant’, when exhibited alongside its shinier competitors: performance art, installation art, light projections and conceptual art.

“Twenty-five years later, and here we are, directing a commercial, independent art gallery. We see everyday close-up just how crucial painting is to culture and the creative industries. It’s painting that people want, and it’s never going to go out of fashion.”

Skater, Old Rowntree’s Factory, by Peter Davis, from his new series for According To McGee, York

Outlining the McGees’ outlook for 2021, Ails says: “We thought if we we’re going to get the foot in the door of 2021, we’d better come accompanied with painters who reflect the confidence of us going forward to thrive as a gallery in the ‘new normal’. So, we’re honoured to bring to York the painters David Finnigan and Peter Davis.”

Greg rejoins: “Both push paint around with the panache of Nureyev. This is ground-breaking work by any standard. What’s interesting is they both prioritise a realistic element. It’s not photorealism, as such, but a vision and a precise draughtsmanship that most artists would kill for.

“Contemporary painting is one of the few genres that have been democratised to the point of silliness. A perfectly executed painting is not a relic of the patriarchy. Spilling half a pint of acrylic from hip height on a canvas is not liberating because it deconstructs Western hegemony.

“At best, it’s creative, but it’s not art. Painting demands a zeal and a focused work ethic just as much as ballet or singing opera does. David and Peter and their respective collections showcase that better than any other painter we know and are perfect for our Contemporary Painting In 2021 series.”

The McGees are intrigued by Finnigan’s work not fitting into any pigeonhole. “It’s not just photorealism, where the paint simply does the job of a camera, but a whole lot slower,” says Ails.

“He observes his subject and then begins a process we as a gallery have seen only David execute. He breaks what he sees down into components, exaggerating certain aspects while retaining the realism of others. It’s a unique, idiosyncratic dedication to harnessing his own vision.”

Evolution, an earlier work by David Finnigan, not on show in his latest exhibition at According To McGee

David explains: “Although, in recent years, my paintings have been rooted in the traditions of photorealism painting, I’m now beginning to subvert the idea of a painted version of a photograph by ‘breaking up’ or modulating the picture plane to add new dimensions via careful and intuitive use of colour and graphical composition.

“I feel my work now has more of an affinity with the ‘Precisionists’ rather than the ‘Photorealists’.”

Finnigan, by the way, is working on a new smaller painting and developing ideas for the next few in his new series. “These will share the same visual concept that the work I’ve brought to According To McGee has,” he says. “Namely, subverting the surface detail of ‘the reality’ and forcing the issue of colour foremost, by adding a new layer of composition.”

Finnigan’s paintings sit well alongside the latest collection from Manchester artist Peter Davis, who is a member of the Contemporary British Portrait Painters and an elected council member of the Manchester Academy of Fine Arts.

“This is truly a solid duo exhibition,” says Greg. “Peter is recognised by the industry and serious collectors as one of the most important social realist painters in the UK.

“Normally, he focuses on figures dimly lit by their own absorption in their personal technology, but this series is different: Peter has produced a collection, Living History and Technology in York, especially for According To McGee.”

Graffiti, Old Rowntree’s Factory, by Peter Davis, from According To McGee’s first Contemporary Painting in 2021 exhibition in the new year

The McGees see Davis’s new work as a natural dovetail with the art of David Finnigan, as well as with their gallery’s mission statement. “We’re a contemporary art gallery in a city known for its history,” says Ails.

“There are loads of edgy, innovative aspects to York that sometimes don’t get noticed as much as they should. As awesome as heritage is, York is also shot through with what we call ‘Living History’. This is an opportunity for collectors to add art that reflects just that to their collection.”

Peter says of his new York collection: “Living History and Technology in York is part of a new urban realist series capturing contemporary stories of people in everyday life, technology in hand.

“These three paintings feature the old Rowntree’s factory on Haxby Road and are set in different parts of the building. I really liked the idea of capturing this York landmark before it’s redeveloped.”

As the changeover of calendars fast approaches, Greg looks back on a year in the unrelenting grip of the Coronavirus pandemic. “Yet 2020 still turned into the utopia I initially envisaged,” he says.

“In the shadow of the pandemic, I assumed fractures and tribalism would coagulate:  it’s hard to argue about politics in the pub when there’s a plague outside stalking the streets.

Critical Mass, by David Finnigan, on show at According To McGee

“But what happened instead was the noisiest, angriest year I have ever seen, which, conversely led to huge sales of impressionistic seascapes. The bitter beauty of dark seas, offset by just enough light on the horizon, became a refuge of many of our clients.

“So much so that Ails, my wife and business partner, felt encouraged to return to the studio to pick up the paintbrush. Her collection sold out and we look forward to exhibiting the next collection in 2021.”

Ails is confident 2021 will provide a clearer pathway for creative talents on every level. “After a year where the dominant theme has been uncertainty, creative people are rolling up their sleeves and identifying where they want to be at a given point. We are no different,” she says.

“For a while, as a gallery, we spent maybe a little too much time trying to reinvent ourselves with electronic art, video art, sound art and concepts. Believe me, that stuff is as boring to curate as it is to view.

“We’re a gallery that celebrates contemporary painting, and it’s for that reason that we’re preparing for our 17th anniversary as our most successful year yet. That’s a bold claim, but we have the art of David Finnigan and Peter Davis to launch. This is about as good as it gets.”

Contemporary Painting in 2021: David Finnigan and Peter Davis runs at According To McGee, Tower Street, York, from January 8 to February 14 2021. “We’ll be open, Covid-compliant, with no gatherings,” says Greg McGee, in the light of York’s Tier 3 status from December 31.

The Red Door, Old Rowntree’s Factory, the third new Peter Davis work on show at According To McGee from January 8

More Things To Do in and around York and at home in 2021, whatever barriers may yet lie ahead. List No 23, courtesy of The Press

Grayson Perry: Two shows in York in 2021; one an exhibition of “Lost Pots” at York Art Gallery, the other, his existentialist gig, A Show For Normal People, at York Barbican

AFTER a year where killjoy Covid-19 re-wrote the arts and events diary over and over again, here comes 2021, when the pandemic will still have a Red Pen influence.

Armed with a pantomime fairy’s magic wand rather than Madame Arcati’s crystal ball from Blithe Spirit, when what we need is a jab in the arm pronto, Charles Hutchinson picks out potential highlights from the New Year ahead that York will start in Tier 3.

Velma Celli: Had planned to present A Brief History Of Drag at Theatre @41 Monkgate in January; now heading online at home instead

Back on screen: Velma Celli, Large & Lit In Lockdown Again, streaming on January 8

AFTER his “Fleshius Creepius” panto villain in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, Ian Stroughair was planning to pull on his drag rags for a live Velma Celli show in January, and maybe more shows to follow, at his adopted winter home of Theatre @41 Monkgate.

Instead, he writes: “Darlings, as we head back into a lockdown in York, I am back on the streaming! My first show is next Friday at 8pm. I would love you to join me for an hour of camp cabaret fun! Get those requests and shout-outs in!” Tickets for Virtual Velma start at £10 via http://bit.ly/3nVaa4N; expect an online show every Friday from Ian’s new riverside abode.

Shed Seven: Headlining all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, in the summer

Open-air one-off event of the summer: Shed Seven, The Piece Hall, Halifax, June 26

FRESH from releasing live album Another Night, Another Town as a reminder of what everyone has had to miss in 2020, Shed Seven have confirmed their Piece Hall headliner in Halifax has been rearranged for next summer.

The Sheds have picked an all-Yorkshire support bill of Leeds bands The Wedding Present and The Pigeon Detectives and fast-rising fellow York act Skylights. For tickets, go to lunatickets.co.uk or seetickets.com.

Cocktail Party 1989, copyright of Grayson Perry/Victoria Miro, from the Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years exhibition, opening at CoCA, York Art Gallery, in May

Most anticipated York exhibition of 2021: Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, York Art Gallery, May 28 to September 5

CHANNEL 4’s  champion of people’s art in lockdown, Grayson Perry, will present his Covid-crocked 2020 exhibition of “lost pots” at the Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) next spring and summer instead.

The Pre-Therapy Years reassembles Perry’s earliest forays into ceramics; 70 “explosive and creative works” he made between 1982 and 1994. Look out too for the potter, painter, TV presenter and social commentator’s existentialist September 6 gig at York Barbican: Grayson Perry: A Show For Normal People, wherein he will “distract you from the very meaninglessness of life in the way only a man in a dress can”.

Chris Moreno: No festive cheer at Christmas, but now he looks forward to presenting The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime, Aladdin, on Knavesmire, York, in spring 2021

A pantomime in the spring? Yes, The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime in a tent on Knavesmire, York, March 19 to April 11

CHRIS Moreno, director of Three Bears’ Productions four pantomimes at the Grand Opera House from 2016 to 2019, will direct York’s first ever “tentomime”, Aladdin, this spring with a cast of “21 colourful characters”.

The Great Yorkshire Easter Pantomime will be presented in the luxurious, heated Tented Palace, Knavesmire, in a socially distanced configuration compliant with Covid-19 guidance.

The big top will have a capacity of 976 in tiered, cushioned seating, while the stage will span 50 metres, comprising a palace façade, projected scenery and magical special effects. Look out for the flying carpets.

Going solo: Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World at York Theatre Royal from February 16

Falling in love again with theatre: The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, February 14 to April 21

ON December 15, York Theatre Royal announced plans to reopen on St Valentine’s Day for The Love Season, with the audience capacity reduced from 750 to a socially distanced 345.

Full details will be confirmed in the New Year with tickets going on sale on January 8, and that remains the case, says chief executive Tom Bird, after hearing yesterday afternoon’s statement to the House of Commons by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

“We’re carrying on with our plans, including presenting Coronation Street and Broadchurch actor Julie Hesmondhalgh in husband Ian Kershaw’s one-woman play, The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, from February 16 to 20,” he confirmed.

Van Morrison: A brace of bracing nights at York Barbican in May

Six of the best at York Barbican in 2021

YORK Barbican has remained closed since the March lockdown, foregoing even the UK Snooker Championships in November and December.

A reopening date is yet to be announced but mark these shows in your diary, if only in pencil: Rob Brydon, A Night Of Songs & Laughter, April 14; Jimmy Carr, Terribly Funny, May 2; country duo The Shires, May 23; Van Morrison, May 25 and 26; Paul Weller, June 29, and Rufus Wainwright, Unfollow The Rules Tour, October 13.

Ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel: Looking forward to the 20th anniversary of York Open Studios

Anniversary celebration of the year: York Open Studios, April 17 and 18; 24 and 25, 10am to 5pm

2020 turned into a virtual Open Studios with displays online and in windows, but already 140 artists and makers are confirmed for the 20th anniversary event in the spring when they will show and sell their work within their homes and workspaces.

Many of 2020’s selected artists have deferred their space to 2021, but new additions will be announced soon, the website teases. “We’re channelling the optimism and enthusiasm from all our artists to ensure this year’s 20th show is one of the best,” says event co-founder and ceramicist Beccy Ridsdel.

Dr Delma Tomlin: Administrative director of the 2021 York Early Music Festival, running from July 9 to 17

And what about?

Festivals galore, as always, in the self-anointed “City of Festivals”. Coming up are the Jorvik Viking Festival; York Fashion Week; York Literature Festival; York Early Music Festival; York Festival of Ideas, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and more besides. 

What did we learn from York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime roadshow?

Robin Simpson’s dame and Reuben Johnson’s villain in far-from-subtle disguise in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

YORK Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime has been brought to a sudden stop by the Spectre of Christmas Present: the rapid rise in Covid cases in York.

Nevertheless, despite the loss of four post-Christmas shows this week, the decision to go on the road to as many of York’s 21 wards as possible has been vindicated.

Creative director Juliet Forster’s cast of Josh Benson’s rubber-bodied comic turn, Reuben Johnson’s Meerkat-accented villain, Anna Soden’s bass-playing funky fairy, Faye Campbell’s assertive hero and Robin Simpson’s droll dame played to full house after full house.

Despite no recorded transmission of the virus at any performance from December 2 to 23, the Theatre Royal has ruled the show must not go on, foregoing the resumption of its 70-minutes-straight-through, socially distanced touring production, having initially added a handful of post-Christmas shows.

Exit stage left too early, but we still learnt that Josh “Just Joshing” Benson, pocket-dynamo York magician, clown, comic, actor and children’s entertainer, is a natural fit for the silly billy/daft lad role. No magic tricks this time, but that skill is up his sleeve for the future.

Likewise, Robin Simpson’s dame, less outwardly demonstrative but more subtly sophisticated than the average panto man in a dress, is utterly comfortable, cheekily conspiratorial and joyful in the most revered of all pantomime parts.

Victory: Faye Campbell’s hero in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

So far, so good, but the still-blossoming Josh is tied into a contract as the Viaduct Theatre’s pantomime comic turn in Halifax, after making his debut there in Beauty And The Beast last winter, while Robin lives in Huddersfield, where he is bedded in as the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s dame. Both are set to return to fruitful past pastures next winter.

Johnson, York actor Soden and Campbell all made their mark too in shows blessed with terrific scripts by Paul Hendy, the award-winning co-founder of Evolution Productions, the Theatre Royal’s new partner in pantomime.

The handing-over of the panto baton after last winter’s toxic severance from Berwick Kaler’s 41-year venerated damehood should have seen the triumvirate of Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird, creative director Juliet Forster and Evolution director, producer and writer Paul Hendy presenting Cinderella on the main-house stage.

However, the pestilent Coronavirus pandemic cancelled invitations to the ball, after the St Leonard’s Place building was cast into darkness on March 16. Lockdown 1 and ever-changing rules ensued but in mid-September, the panto trio made the decision to take theatre to the people in the form of the pop-up Travelling Pantomime.

Each location, ranging from church halls to community centres, the Theatre Royal pop-up stage to social clubs and sports halls, had to be Covid-secure, adhering to Government guidance for staging socially distanced performances with capacities ranging from 35 to 50.

At each show, the audience members could vote for whether they wanted to see Dick Whittington, Jack And The Beanstalk or Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.

“The one thing I always want to do is bring joy,” says Evolution Productions’ Paul Hendy, writer of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

Hendy switched smoothly to this new writing task, for a cast of five, with no dance ensemble and no house band: just another challenge faced by Evolution Productions, who have still been involved in seven pantomime productions in this Covid-compromised year.

“In a strange way, I quite enjoyed Lockdown, time with the kids, and not the constant pressure of putting on shows; just the contrast of going out and listening to the birds,” says Paul.

Once the path ahead became clearer, although still shrouded in uncertainty, he and Evolution set to work on co-producing six shows, along with Paul providing the York scripts and directing Dick Whittington, The Pompey Panto at the Kings Theatre, Portsmouth.

From Operation Sleeping Beauty to Nurse Nanny Saves Panto to Damian Saves Panto, Paul penned a series of one-off new shows attuned to Covid times, while his York scripts sought to bottle and preserve the essence of pantomime.

“Awaiting the Government pandemic update on December 16, all we could do was roll with it, go ahead and start rehearsals – which qualified as ‘going to work’ and set about our aim to save pantomime,” says Paul.

“It doesn’t feel fair that the Government can say, ‘No, you can’t go ahead’, when there’s no evidence there’s been an outburst of Covid after theatres reopened with social distancing, especially as a lot of theatres have spent a lot of money on the infrastructure to make theatres a safe place to go, but what can we do?

Travelling players: Robin Simpson’s dame, Faye Campbell’s hero, Reuben Johnson’s villain, Anna Soden’s fairy and Josh Benson’s comic in the York Theatre Royal pantomime roadshow

“But then the pandemic is not fair on anyone in all sorts of industries, and that’s why, at this time, people needed pantomime more than ever.”

Thankfully, York’s Tier 2 status ensured that the Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime could roll out across York with Hendy’s scripts built around the baddie trying to steal the essence of pantomime. “The shows had to be full of laughter, community spirit and topical gags, as there’s so much material there this year,” he says.

Paul relished the opportunity to take pantomime into all manner of venues. “I’ve always said that pantomime can work in a black-box setting with just five actors because of that compact configuration and connection with the audience, and this year that’s what’s happened,” he says.

“It still works because pantomime is an interactive theatre genre – and how many other forms of theatre can you say appeal to five year olds and 95 year olds alike?”

One emotion above all others permeated through Paul’s pantos. “The one thing I always want to do is bring joy, make it funny of course, but ultimately make it a show driven by joy – and we did that,” he says. 

Josh Benson and Robin Simpson may not be back in Theatre Royal colours next winter, but Paul Hendy most definitely will, when Cinderella and York alike will have a ball.

Copyright of The Press, York

York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime stopped in its tracks by rise in Covid cases

Why the glum face, Dame Trott (Robin Simpson)? Blame the pandemic yet again as York Theatre Royal calls off the last week of performances of the Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

THE wheels have come off York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime within touching distance of the final curtain.

The rapid rise in York’s Coronavirus cases has brought the runaway success of the sold-out show to a shuddering halt as the Covid curse strikes yet again.

Despite no recorded transmission of the virus at any performance so far, the Theatre Royal has decided the show must not go on, foregoing the resumption its 70-minutes-straight-through, socially distanced, Covid-secure touring production, having initially added a handful of post-Christmas shows.

The rolling seven-day Covid rate for the City of York Council area in the week to December 23 was 218.4 per 100,000 population, higher than the regional average of 189.1 for Yorkshire and The Humber, and the big-city rates of 172.4 in Sheffield, 190.6 in Bradford and 184.8 in Leeds, but still much lower than the national average for England of 401.9.

The figure is higher than the average of 174.7 for North Yorkshire and 179.1 for East Yorkshire. Most disturbingly, York’s rate his risen steeply since a figure of 65 cases per 100,000 population a fortnight ago, an acceleration to which the influx of rule-breaking Tier 3 visitors and Christmas shoppers is thought likely to have contributed.

Travelling Pantomime director Juliet Forster with writer Paul Hendy, right, and York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird. Picture: Ant Robling

Explaining the decision, Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird says: “It is with great regret we have decided that the pantomime will not resume for its post-Christmas performances. This has been a tough decision to make, but we feel it is the right one.

“I pay tribute to the whole of the York Theatre Royal team for producing so many performances under such extraordinary conditions, and their diligence and hard work is borne out by the fact that we have no recorded transmission of the virus at the pantomime.”

After two previews at the Theatre Royal, the Travelling Pantomime team took the show to community venues in Tang Hall, Dunnington, Wigginton, Holgate, Clifton Moor, Elvington, Poppleton, Acomb, Carr Lane, Strensall, Copmanthorpe, Fulford, Heworth and Guildhall, to meet the aim of visiting all 21 wards in the city.

This week’s performances by Josh Benson’s comic turn, Robin Simpson’s dame, Anna Soden’s fairy, Faye Campbell’s hero and Reuben Johnson’s villain would have taken the company close to that target by the December 31 finale.

Well travelled: York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime cast and crew for performances across a multitude of York wards this month

“The theatre wants to thank the brilliant audiences, who have supported the pantomime in their local venues, and City of York Council, who have helped to distribute over 200 free tickets to families in need on the run-up to Christmas.”

Box-office staff will be in touch with ticket holders for cancelled performances in the next few days. Those shows would have taken place at Moor Lane Youth Centre, Dringhouses, last night; Southlands Methodist Church Hall, Bishopthorpe Road, tonight, and York Theatre Royal, tomorrow and Thursday.

The York Theatre Royal pantomime, co-produced with 2020 pantomime partners Evolution Productioms, will return to the main house for Cinderella from December 3 to January 2 2022.

Now that the Traveling Pantomime van has parked up for the last time, CharlesHutchPress can reveal that each audience’s vote to pick a panto from Dick Whittington, Jack And The Beanstalk and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs in reality came down to a choice of two.

Courtesy of writer Paul Hendy, each show’s early gag about the Rule of Six ruled out the Seven Dwarfs. “We had to lose one of the dwarfs,” said Robin Simpson’s dame. “Wasn’t Happy!” Boom! Boom!

Brought to its knees: York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime loses out to the city’s rising Coronavirus cases. No joke for comic turn Josh “Just Joshing” Benson et al. Picture: Ant Robling

YORK’S other pantomime, York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, will continue to run at Theatre @41 Monkgate, unless the Government’s Covid briefing tomorrow pronounces a change in York’s Tier 2 status.

Writer-director Nik Briggs’s show has upcoming performances until January 3 2021 with full details at yorkstagepanto.com. Watch this space for an update tomorrow.

REVIEW: Big Ian Donaghy’s Boxing Day visit to York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk

Ian Stroughair’s Flesh Creep: “Joyously evil-turned-up-to-11 villain”. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

MONKGATE magic!

Every year like clockwork, you wolf down the first clutch of chocolates from your Advent calendar, then panto arrives.

Men as women.

Women as men.

Two crew members as a horse.

Oh yes, it is!

Oh no, it isn’t!

Jack And The Beanstalk: “The healthy, bright-eyed and slim” bean feast of a York Stage pantomime, as promised by the newly appropriated Biles Beans sign

Children’s eyes agog.

But not in 2020.

The year that the show MUSTN’T go on.

Just watch the news.

Tisn’t the season to be jolly!

As theatres up and down the land spend Christmas in darkness, a shard of light could be seen down an alleyway off Monkgate.

It’ll never work.

How could it work?

Jack….and the beanstalk: Jordan Fox’s Jack with stage manager Lisa Cameron’s hand-made beanstalk in the York Stage pantomime. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

This needed ideas, creativity and the personnel to pull it off and even then one announcement could pull its plug at any moment.

This had failure written all over it.

As we walked past the finest piece of genius marketing on Boxing Night, extending the locals’ favourite landmark – the Bile Beans sign on Lord Mayor’s Walk – to read “Bile BeanSTALK”, we were smiling even before the first line.

“Where’s the Minster?”, people ask? “It’s just over the wall from the Bile Beans sign.”

After a balanced diet of cheese and Toblerones, could this be the panto to keep us “healthy, bright-eyed and slim?”.

Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nanna Trott: “Showing off a range to stop Mariah Carey warbling her festive favourite”. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

As we walked through the door, greenery festooned every bannister and surface.

With a tiny capacity of only 60 to meet Covid safety requirements, this was not so much a family panto as a “bubble panto”.

Jack was played by the endearing Jordan Fox, who somehow managed to be both idiot and hero at once.

Flesh Creep was played by the joyously evil-turned-up-to-11 Ian Stroughair, who was nearly eight feet tall with hat!

A three-piece dance troupe featuring dance captains from both the Grand Opera House (Emily Taylor) and Theatre Royal (Danielle Mullan) felt like a luxury as did a small house band (Jessica Douglas, Sam Johnson and Clark Howard).

Corners could have easily been cut but weren’t. Quality clearly means everything to writer-director Nik Briggs.

“Top-tier entertainment”: May Tether as Jill Gallop (on the podium) with ensemble trio Emily Taylor (left), Danielle Mullan and Matthew Ives. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

The cast faced magnetic north as a convoy of beautiful original songs and production numbers ran through the show, choreographed by West Ender Gary Lloyd .

The harmonies as all the cast sang together were spellbinding, as the hairs on the backs of your arms acknowledged this wasn’t another panto re-heat -this was fresh.

I could listen to May Tether (who played Jill) sing the terms and conditions of an insurance policy and she’d make it sound like Carole King had penned it.

Where many pantos have actors, singers or dancers with on obvious ‘also ran’ in their skill set, every cast member was a Swiss Army knife of lethally sharp talent.

Rarely do you get soulful vocals from a panto fairy (Livvy Evans) and even the Dame, played by Alex Weatherhill, showed off a range to stop Mariah Carey warbling her festive favourite.

Head’s gone: Writer-director Nik Briggs and stage manager Lisa Cameron in a revealing moment for the longer-than-usual pantomime cow, Daisy, in Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Surprisingly, the cast showed no fatigue from the three-shows-a-day schedule but it begs the question why this wasn’t in a bigger venue with Covid measures in place. I can only imagine that the paperwork and risk assessments took more paper than the script in this impossible year. The audience were even guided to do hand gestures, as everybody desisted from shouting “Oh yes he is” all night.

Every ticket in this traverse set-up was a golden ticket as each group was separated into plastic booths. This is “in your face” theatre – but socially distanced of course – that you can feel, not just watch.

Featuring some of the most original gags I have ever heard in a panto to reflect the times, plus a couple of very well-known faces on screen who could grace any stage in the land, this is a show full of surprises: doing the same things differently. Proving that theatre can adapt to fit around the safety of its audience to give a Christmas to remember to a year many of us would like to forget.

“Soulful vocals”: Livvy Evans as Fairy Mary in Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

In 2020, when Amazon have delivered everything to your doorstep, Briggs has delivered not just a panto, but also West End-quality musical theatre, while maintaining a safe distance, and NOBODY will be writing ‘Return to Sender’ on this triple threat-laden package.

York’s Tier 2 status meant that the doors could open, but there is nothing Tier 2 about this show in Monkgate. This is top-tier entertainment for all of your bubble.

Review by Ian Donaghy

Show times: December 29, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 30, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; New Year’s Eve, December 31, 12 noon (sold out); January 2, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; January 3, 1pm and 6pm.

Please visit yorkstagepanto.com for an update on performances once York’s new Tier status is confirmed in the Government briefing tomorrow (30/12/2020).

Name up in lights: The traverse stage for York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, with the audience seated in Perspex-shielded bubbles. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

Now’s the time to add finishing touch to your home revamp with artwork, urges Kentmere House curator Ann Petherick

Strictly, one of Susan Bower’s witty works, on show at Kentmere House Gallery, York

JANUARY is always a time to rethink what you want, in terms of home, job, friends and more besides, says Kentmere House Gallery owner Ann Petherick.

“Many people have spent time this year revamping their homes. Now, it’s time to add the finishing touch that will set your interior apart from the rest: original art,” she suggests. “It costs a lot less than you think and it will last you a lifetime.   

“With an original work from Kentmere House Gallery, you will have something that will complement the style of your home and express your personality in a way that a sofa or a cushion can’t.”

Kentmere House, relaxed home to Ann’s long-running gallery in Scarcroft Hill, York, shows the work of around 70 artists, many of them known nationally and exhibited nowhere else in the north.

Sunrise At Filey, by Kentmere House Gallery regular exhibitor John Thornton,

“Promising newcomers are shown side by side with established artists, so you can back your own judgement and identify the big names of the future,” says Ann. “All are at affordable prices and you can enjoy spending your Christmas gift money to buy that special piece of art you’ve always wanted.”  

Among the gallery’s new arrivals are Susan Bower’s witty family scenes, Keith Roper’s subtle semi-abstract landscapes and John Thornton’s striking seascapes and woodland scenes.

Kentmere House Gallery will be open on the first weekend of 2021, January 2 and 3, with reductions and special offers from 11am to 5pm each day. “All are welcome,” says Ann, whose home gallery also has late opening every Thursday evening, 6pm to 9pm, and welcomes visitors at other times by arrangement on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825.

What are York Stage pantomime fairy Livvy Evans’s wishes for 2021?

Walking in a winter wandland: Livvy Evans as Fairy Mary in Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

LIVVY Evans is back home in York for the winter, playing Fairy Mary In York Stage’s pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk.

Here she waves her magic wand at Charles Hutchinson’s quickfire questions.

What was the first pantomime you ever saw and what do you recall of it?

“First panto I can remember going to, I think, was Jack And The Beanstalk at the Grand Opera House, starring John Altman (Nasty Nick Cotton in EastEnders) as the baddie, I just remember him and being terrified!”

What was your first pantomime role?

“I played Happy the dwarf in Snow White at the Grand Opera House.”

What has been your favourite pantomime role?

“Princess Yasmin in Aladdin: my first professional job, also at the Grand Opera House. Playing Fairy Mary is shaping up to be a contender too!”

Who have you not yet played in pantomime that you would love to play?

“When I’m a bit older, I’d love to play the Wicked Queen. And, although traditionally male characters, I’ve always wanted to play a Buttons/Simple Simon-type character too.”

Who is your favourite pantomime performer and why?

“Being from York, I’d have to say Berwick Kaler, of course. His Dame is legendary!”

“Just feeling the excited presence of an audience is wonderful for us performers,” says Livvy Evans. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

This year’s pantomime will be an experience like no other…what are your expectations of performing a show in these strange circumstances?

“It will be strange at first, especially with the discouragement of vocal participation from the audience. However, I think they will get used to it very quickly, once they get engrossed in the magic. Just feeling the excited presence of an audience is wonderful for us performers.”

Which pantomime role should Boris Johnson play and why?

Boris doesn’t have the skill set to be an actor. He can just carry on playing the part of ‘Bumbling fool No. 1’.”

Who or what has been the villain of 2020?

“There are definitely more than a handful of villains this year. For me, personally, it’s Rishi Sunak. His comments surrounding the ‘non-viability’ of actors were pretty low. I would love to see him last a week in my profession!”

Who or what has been the fairy of 2020?

“It’s definitely a toss-up between Captain Sir Tom Moore and Marcus Rashford. Both have done incredible, selfless things this year and it proves that a big old heart is all a true hero needs.”

How would you sum up 2020 in five words?

“Exceptionally strange yet surprisingly adaptable.”

Butterfly wings: Livvy Evans’s costume for Fairy Mary from behind. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photogrphy

What are your wishes for 2021?

“I hope that everyone stays safe and continues to treat each other with some of the kindness and compassion we discovered this year.”

What are your hopes for the world of theatre in 2021?

“I hope that the theatre industry gets back on its feet ASAP and that people support it as much as they can.”

York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until January 3 2021.

Show times: December 28, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm (sold out); December 29, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 30, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; New Year’s Eve, December 31, 12 noon (sold out); January 2, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; January 3, 1pm and 6pm.

Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

Alex Weatherhill has bean there, done that, as panto musical director and director. Now he makes his Dame debut with a Beanstalk

Blending in with the scenery: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nanna Trott hits trouble when trying to develop a new milkshake recipe in York Stage’s slapstick scene in Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

ALEX Weatherhill has been making a Dame for himself for the first time – and a resplendent name for her too – as Dame Nancy Angelina Norma Nigella Alana Trott (Nanna for short) in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk.

Here, Alex discusses his “rather challenging and iconic start” to performing in pantomime as he answers Charles Hutchinson’s quickfire questions.

What was the first pantomime you ever saw and what do you recall of it?

“I don’t remember which one it was, but I remember being totally confused about people shouting things out. Even though I was young, I had only seen grown-up theatre, where you must sit politely, not talk and respect the performers and the theatre itself. I thought everyone was being really rude shouting things out!”

What was your first pantomime role?

“Can you believe it…this! My first role on stage in panto! I’ve been a musical director and director for quite a few, but never been the other side of the footlights for this particular style of theatre.”

What would be your ideal pantomime role if you could choose?

“Ummmm, I’m going to have to say this one! I waited a long time and went in with a rather iconic and challenging start!”

Who else would you like to play and why?

“I’ve always wondered if playing Dame would suit and wanted to try it. I’m getting a taste for it and would like to try more…maybe play an Ugly Sister, where you get to be mean!”

Who is your favourite pantomime performer and why?

“I worked with a Dame a few years ago called Joe Standerline. He’s recently been part of the movement to bring attention to the arts at this tricky time and so some might recognise his look from the media.

“As a Dame, he treads the balance between lovable, sharp wit and a little bit of sauce. I love that.”

This year’s pantomime will be an experience like no other…what are your expectations of performing a show in these strange circumstances?

“We’re all going to be a little emotional as we get to actually perform on a stage with real people. We aim to bring a little joy into the lives of our audience; some sparkle at the close of a tough year for many.”

“I’ve always wondered if playing Dame would suit and wanted to try it,” says Alex Weatherhill. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Which pantomime role should Boris Johnson play and why?

“Ooh, this is a tricky one to answer without getting too political! Ha ha. I think his hair and demeanor suit Beauty’s mad inventor father in Beauty And The Beast!”

Who or what has been the villain of 2020?

“Covid-19! It would definitely be wearing a cape and lit in green and red!”

Who or what has been the fairy of 2020?

“The vaccine! It waited until the last moment to come and save the day, but in it comes lit in pink and delivered by a wand…..of sorts!”

How would you sum up 2020 in five words?

“Testing. Re-evaluation. Home. Netflix. Zoom!”

What are your wishes for 2021?

“I hope that we can get back to some sense of normality, so that we can come together and appreciate the company of others again.”

What are your hopes for the world of theatre in 2021?

“The hope is for a bounce-back and the joyous celebration of the arts again. The arts being streamed online got many through these dark days; let’s hope we can find a way to bring it back to life in a live setting.”

York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until January 3 2021.

Show times: Boxing Day, December 26, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm (sold out); December 27, 11am (sold out), 1pm (sold out) and 6pm; December 28, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm (sold out); December 29, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 30, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; New Year’s Eve, December 31, 12 noon (sold out); January 2, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; January 3, 1pm and 6pm.

Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

“We aim to bring a little joy into the lives of our audience; some sparkle at the close of a tough year for many,” says Alex Weatherhill. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Who has been the pantomime villain and fairy of 2020? Here are York Stage’s Matthew Ives’ answers on Christmas Eve

Matthew Ives in the transformation scene in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

MATTHEW Ives, part of the all-action ensemble for York Stage’s pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk, steps up to the task of answering Charles Hutchinson’s quickfire questions.

What was the first pantomime you ever saw and what do you recall of it?

“Cinderella at what was the Civic Theatre in Leeds…I think. All I really remember is that I thought a girl in Year 6 looked like whoever played Cinderella. They probably didn’t!”

What was your first pantomime role?

“Dance Captain in Jack And The Beanstalk at The Capitol, Horsham.”

What has been your favourite pantomime role?

“I actually have no clue!”

Who have you not yet played in pantomime that you would love to play and why?

“I’d love to at some point play a panto villain as I think they get to have the most fun.”

Who is your favourite pantomime performer and why?

“Is it bad to say I don’t know? I’m a bit of a panto novice!”

This year’s pantomime will be an experience like no other…what are your expectations of performing a show in these strange circumstances?

“Apart from all the distancing, what is actually lovely is that it doesn’t feel too different to normal! What’s also nice is that with the more intimate venue and reduced audience, you get an even bigger connection with everyone in the audience.”

Which pantomime role should Boris Johnson play and why?

“King Rat seems apt.”

Who or what has been the villain of 2020?

“Dominic Cummings…or Trump.”

Who or what has been the fairy of 2020?

“Dolly Parton.”

How would you sum up 2020 in five words?

“Challenging, but happiness is paramount.”

 What are your wishes for 2021?

“That we can all get back to normality but that the lessons learned in this time stick.”

What are your hopes for the world of theatre in 2021?

“That we can all get back to doing what we do best!”

York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until January 3 2021.

Show times: Boxing Day, December 26, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm (sold out); December 27, 11am (sold out), 1pm (sold out) and 6pm; December 28, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm (sold out); December 29, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 30, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; New Year’s Eve, December 31, 12 noon (sold out); January 2, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; January 3, 1pm and 6pm.

Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

Big Ian launches The Big Christmas Care Singalong for all manner of homes

Sax to the max: Saxophonist Snake Davis recording his solo rendition of Silent Night for The Big Christmas Care Singalong

BIG Ian Donaghy has launched The Big Christmas Care Singalong for care homes across the country and beyond.

In any other year, the York fundraiser, musician, public speaker and dementia campaigner would have been leading a team of volunteers giving a family Christmas Day to older people living alone in the city with his Xmas Presence gathering, as they have for the past five years.

“Unfortunately, as with almost everything this year, it’s had to be cancelled because of Covid-19,” says Ian, who instead has created a “Play as Live online event to bring everyone together to sing with one voice with The Big Christmas Care Singalong”.

Samantha Holden: one of the guest singers taking part in the Singalong

After hatching his plan to unite the world of care this Christmas with The Big Christmas Care Singalong, Ian took over a warehouse with the help of Mark Parker, of AV Matrix.

“Socially distanced with great care and a green screen, one by one, singers and musicians were invited to perform carols and other Christmas mainstays,” says Ian, who conscripted the talents of Jess Steel, Graham Hodge, Jessa Liversidge and Samantha Holden (who has performed with Michael Bublé), accompanied by the omnipresent George Hall on piano.

Saxophone player to the stars Snake Davis – his CV spans Amy Winehouse, Take That, Paul McCartney, The Eurythmics and George Michael – recorded a haunting solo sax version of Silent Night. London session singer and pianist Sam Tanner, who has played with members of The Rolling Stones, The Who and Rod Stewart, performed a reggae version of White Christmas.

Tony, once Brian Clough’s favourite pub landlord, pictured in his Nottingham care home, enjoying The Big Christmas Care Singalong

Expect a setlist ranging from the carols Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Away In A Manger and In The Bleak Midwinter to a soulful version of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and a raucous rendition of The Twelve Days Of Christmas, bringing together people from all over the world.

“The performers are superb and the whole thing has a warmth to it that’s needed to lift this year,” says Ian. “A bespoke version of the Christmas Care Singalong created for Nottingham and care homes in the Midlands was broadcast on Tuesday, and afterwards they said: ‘It gave us a real lift to see some of our families involved on the screen sending messages and telling us about their Christmas memories’.

“In fact, the Singalong has already been seen by thousands of care homes all over the world with feedback like ‘Christmas ISN’T cancelled’, from Sam Barrington, an award-winning care consultant from Scarborough, and ‘the perfect gift to us this Christmas – thank you for bringing the UK and Australia together’, from Alana Parker in Sydney.”

Sam Tanner performing his reggae version of White Christmas for The Big Christmas Care Singalong

Ian is delighted that people from all over the world have sent in videos of their Christmas memories and of them singing their festive favourites. “Let’s just say there’s a range of quality but we have included everyone. We have people with learning difficulties and dementia singing alongside the people who support them,” he says.

Thousands of care homes will be playing the Christmas Singalong on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Hospitals and hospices are planning to make an event of it too.

For example, HC-One, the UK’s largest care provider, is embracing it in their 320 care homes. “Watching it on Tuesday, we laughed, cried and sang together – and this beautiful event features so many of our residents having fun,” says Roberta Roccella, HC-One’s head of Quality of Life.

George Hall playing piano for The Big Christmas Care Singalong

“This is a perfect event to bring everyone together. This has been the toughest year ever in care. Throughout the pandemic, Ian was asked to create the national film campaign for Health Education England to recruit the next generation of nurses into social care, so he saw the huge sacrifices people were making for those they cared for in the pandemic.”

During lockdown, when the venues where he usually does his public speaking were turned into Nightingale hospitals, Ian wrote and published a book, A Pocketful of Kindness, to celebrate the power of community and connection.

Now comes The Big Christmas Care Singalong. “This free online event has been universally welcomed by care homes, supported living, hospitals and hospices, both in the UK and Australia,” says Ian. “The joy of it is that if someone is isolated in their own room, they can have their very own private Christmas concert. Christmas can come to them.

Care home staff showing their support for The Big Christmas Care Singalong

“The Singalong can also be accessed in any home at www.thebigchristmassingalong.com, so you too can enjoy it and get an insight into the year people have had in care. In a year where very few television programmes are being made, it will be a welcome change from seeing celebrities on web cams or Del Boy as Batman yet again.”

The Big Christmas Care Singalong is going international in a year when embracing technology has been so vital to communication. “Alana Parker and Nick Wynn in Australia have got involved to spread the word far and wide beyond our shores,” says Ian. “Technology has come so far in the last year. Everyone is far more tech savvy.”

Soulful York singer Jess Steel recording her contribution to The Big Christmas Care Singalong

The online event also incorporates a Jackanory-style story narrated by the Bard of Barnsley, Ian McMillan, with illustrations by Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband. Television presenter Angela Rippon makes a surprise appearance too.

“Expect something that is somewhere between a Christmas concert, You’ve Been Framed and Gogglebox,” says Ian. “But we hope it will warm people’s hearts and show those who work in our care homes, hospitals and hospices just how invaluable they are.”

Summing up his wishes beyond the impact of The Big Christmas Care Singalong in Covid-19 2020, Ian says: “The vaccine has given us a light at the end of the tunnel but we are still in the tunnel! Despite some people’s wreckless behaviour and lack of consideration for others, we hope that the score at the end of this year will read Covid 19 Kindness 20.”

“Expect something that is somewhere between a Christmas concert, You’ve Been Framed and Gogglebox,” says Ian Donaghy, organiser of The Big Christmas Care Singalong

Bull end year with EP message of love and friendship and promise of spring album

Bullish for you: York band Bull end their year with an EP and look ahead to a spring album release and return to gigging in 2021. Picture: Amy D’Agorne Craghill

YORK alt-rockers Bull close out their breakthrough year with a new digital EP.

Out now on EMI Records in conjunction with York label Young Thugs, it combines the new title track with Bull’s three 2020 singles: the fuzz-rocking Disco Living, the noisy pop of Bonzo Please and the summer high of Green. 

Billed as a “brilliant slice of indie maximalism”, Love Goo hooks sweet pop melodies onto a ramshackle jangle rock template, with spritely xaphoon lines (a kind of pocket saxophone), tin whistle and piano to the fore.

“It’s a song about getting along with people,” explains wry-humoured Bull songwriter and singer Tom Beer. “It looks at my relationship with my family as well as my own feelings of ‘sticky love goo’, when thinking about people in my life and from my childhood.

“It’s about the difference between people, universal truth, gender fluidity, peace and love, understanding and all of that stuff.”

Tom penned Love Goo in 2018. “It’s one of my more recent songs on our upcoming album, in fact it’s the newest one on there. Out of the 13 songs, it’s the freshest,” he says. “It was written before all of what’s gone on this year but that now adds to it.

“It’s probably the happiest song I’ve ever written and I’m so happy to have written it. It’s both a reminder of why I wrote it, to make myself a better person and to be positive, and it’s nostalgic too, reflecting on people in my life and people I love.

“One of the reasons it sounds so good and comes across so well is that we recorded it maybe only a month after I wrote it.”

Contributing to Loo Goo’s happy disposition is the xaphoon, the aforementioned pocket saxophone. “It was ‘advertised’ to me on Facebook thanks to the wonders of algorithms; I showed it to [lead guitarist] Dan Lucas’s dad, Ross, who very kindly bought it for me for Christmas,” recalls Tom.

“We’d never thought of using it on any other song – though there may be a toot on Bonzo Please – but it suited Love Goo.”

Love Goo: Bull’s artwork for their new EP

Bull have made not one, but two videos to accompany Love Goo. “We started off making one video after our bassist, Kai West, bought a VHS camera for £6. It came with all the tape, so we thought, ‘we’ve got everything we need, let’s film while we’re on tour’,” says Tom, as they headed off to Amsterdam for shows with Dutch group Canshaker Pi.

“Kai’s idea was to take lots of two-second clips, tiny little snippets of whatever we were doing, for a song with a ‘Jing Jing’ rhythm to it. It’s simple but effective in what it does, showing us knocking about on tour, starting with getting on a train at York station, taking a ferry from Newcastle, playing the Dutch shows and coming back for our UK tour, playing Bristol and Manchester in the days when we could tour.”

Love Goo video number two has just been recorded, filmed against a blue screen backdrop, in the manner of Curtis Mayfield’s Seventies’ shows “before they were going to add all the hippy stuff”.  “Keeping it on the blue screen, it looks like we’re floating in this crazy space,” says Tom.

The Love Goo EP closes a year when Bull became the first York band to sign to a major record label since Nineties’ chart regulars Shed Seven. “2020 has been a mixed bag, but I think I can say it’s been a good year for us, in as far as how well it could have gone under the circumstances,” says Tom.

“We’ve done a lot of good things; we’ve finished our album; we’ve just done our live-streamed Christmas gig, the Snow Global Tour show we filmed at Reel Recording Studio in Elvington.

“We’ve made lots of videos; we’ve designed the album sleeve – and we’ve written lots of songs, progressing towards the next album.

“In a normal year, we’d have had the usual stresses of touring, though the other side has been great, but of course I’ve missed touring, seeing people, as everyone has, but it could have been worse.”

Looking ahead, the album is scheduled for March release and a tour is booked in for April for Beer, Lucas, West and drummer Tom Gabbatiss. “We’ve decided to go ahead, even if the gigs have to be socially distanced. We’ll be headlining at The Crescent [in York] and we’re going to play Leeds Brudenell Social Club, which is a dream come for me. It’s my favourite venue,” says Tom.

His wish for next year will strike a chord with everyone as the pandemic refuses to back down. “I just kinda hope that the vaccine really gets going and everyone gets it and we can all start moving on again,” he says.

Copyright of The Press, York

The Bleak Choir record York satirist Graham Sanderson’s carol, all the way from Frome

Frome was built in a day: In The Bleak Choir’s midwinter, Somerset musicians gathered remotely to record Graham Sanderson’s A Carol For The Cabinet

IT began as a topical revision of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen, Brexit, Covid et al, under the title of A Carol For The Cabinet.

Now, York Settlement Community Players’ stalwart Graham Sanderson’s words of wit and frustration have been set to the traditional tune of the 15th century carol by a group of singers…from Somerset.

CharlesHutchPress is not one to blow its own trumpet but Frome musician and video producer Patrick Dunn happened upon the new carol through this website, asking to contact Graham via the editor.

“Hi – myself and a bunch of friends want to perform this and film it. Is that OK? Do we need your/his permission? Thank you!” Patrick first enquired of this site.

“Hi Graham – I hope you don’t mind me contracting you,” his email to Graham opened. “A group of friends and myself were so taken by your re-working of ‘God Rest Ye Merry…’ that we’ve all recorded and filmed it, and set it to music (the correct music, of course). I’ve spent the day compiling the video, then it occurred to me I should ask your permission!”

His email expanded: “So, is this ok with you? It’s just a group of amateur singers performing the whole re-worked carol, each filming at home on their phones. I think it sounds lovely, in a casual, congregational kind of way. I’m a musician and video producer by profession, so the basic standard is reasonable. We’re all in Somerset by the way, so the other end of the country.”

Graham replied: “That’s fantastic!  Please go ahead. I’m really looking forward to seeing and hearing it! I was brought up in Bath, by the way, so Somerset is familiar and well-loved ground!”

The singers in question are the (mainly Frome) Bleak Choir, a name to resonate with Sanderson’s sentiments. “The video’s up now on YouTube, and we’re pretty happy with it,” says Patrick.

“It’s really just a bunch of friends, mainly from around Frome, who were amused by Graham’s words. We’re a close, musical and artistic community – ranging from casual amateur musicians to long-term professionals – and I thought we’d perform this well, so I asked around on Facebook and initially had about 70 people offer to sing.

“In the event, I got about 25 videos, all taken in isolation – and believe me, that’s more than enough! I just stuck them together really and added a cathedral organ in the background.”

Patrick could call on his own creative skills: “I’m a classical violinist by training, though never made it as a pro, so I’ve made a living producing videos and visuals for the music business, particularly over the past few years,” he says.

“I’ve done live visuals for Billy Bragg, The Orb, Tangerine Dream, Banco de Gaia, The Afro Celts and quite a few more although, of course, it’s been something of a quiet year! Fingers crossed for next year, all round.”

Graham is delighted by his “unexpected Christmas surprise”. To hear The Bleak Choir’s “alternative carol” version, go to: https://youtu.be/lM8xRf3jjXA.

Graham Sanderson: The eyes have had enough of 2020

Here is Graham Sanderson’s A Carol For The Cabinet:

God rest ye poor nonentities
Let nothing you dismay;
You made a mess of Test and Trace,
But Brexit’s on its way
To save us all from Euro power,
Keep foreigners at bay.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

In Ukip and the ERG
This blessed plot was born,
And laid before the people
As a glorious new morn,
And Boris was the chosen one
To welcome in the dawn.
Oh, tidings of Prejudice and Fear,
Making it clear,
We will not have asylum seekers here.

Oh, poverty of intellect
And fear of full debate,
Means Covid was neglected –
Equipment came too late,
On order by a nod and wink
From a Minister’s old mate.
Oh, tidings of Chaos and Despair –
Panic in the air –
Pretending to the people that they care.

God rest ye feeble ministers
And clueless Upper Class;
You witless, gutless Nationalists,
So full of piss and gas;
Self-serving opportunists
Who’ve brought us to this pass.
Oh, tidings of nastiness and sleaze –
‘We do as we please’:
A once beloved country on its knees.

Beanstalk of the town as Bile Beans sprouts size-doubling York Stage panto banner

Beanstalk of the town: York’s landmark Bile Beans sign, in Lord Mayor’s Walk, has grown today with a banner for York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, the pantomime where “giant magic can grow in the smallest of places”

JACK’s magical extra vegan beans at Theatre @41 Monkgate are not the only bean in York to be growing suddenly.

Today, the iconic Bile Beans sign on the side of a building in nearby Lord Mayor’s Walk has doubled in size to now read Bile Beanstalk to publicise York Stage’s debut pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk.

York Stage have joined forces with CSL Scaffolding, the York construction company, and Press Green, the York design and print agency in Lord Mayor’s Walk, to erect the complementary sign, advertising the show’s run with an arrow pointing in the direction of the theatre.

A sign of things to come: York Stage’s banner, made by Press Green, is ready to roll

Nik Briggs, York Stage’s artistic director and pantomime writer/director, says: “Mounting a panto in a pandemic was always going to be tricky. With lots of hurdles to overcome, we’ve really had to think outside of the box.

“I was sitting waiting at the traffic lights on Lord Mayor’s Walk a few weeks ago and chuckled to myself that we’d chosen to do Jack And The Beanstalk at a relatively unknown venue just down from a large sign that said Beans in big letters!”

Bright bean Nik promptly sowed the seeds for an eye-catching wind-permeable banner in a marketing coup on York’s most famous sign. “Nightly Bile Beans Keep You Healthy Bright-Eyed & Slim is such a large York landmark that we knew we had to bring it into play some way,” he says.

Workmen from York company CSL Scaffolding assemble the scaffolding to erect the new banner

“Obviously we didn’t want to touch the sign itself, so we again thought outside of the box and contacted Press Green, who are based in the row of properties that the sign is on, and also got in touch with the brilliant CSL Scaffolding Ltd.

“After the terrible year we’ve all had, we thought it’d be a fun thing to do to advertise where the panto is! We put our heads together and came up with the plan to do a little pop-up extension!”

York Stage have worked for a long time with Press Green, who created the banner, but “Bile Beanstalk” marks a new partnership with CSL Scaffolding. “They’re already making their mark on the city, having done some great work up at Allerton Castle, near Knaresborough, and more locally have been giving back to the community through supporting soup kitchens across the city.”

“One of our main men also dressed up for the occasion,” says CSL Scaffolding’s Facebook post earlier today. Picture: CSL Scaffolding

CSL Scaffolding have been quick to put pictures on Facebook, calling their scaffolding work “our final job of the year, helping out York Stage with their Jack In [sic] The Beanstalk pantomime”.  “One of our main men also dressed up for the occasion,” it adds, with one comment referring to Paul Wright.

Explaining the thinking behind putting up the banner, Nik says on Facebook: “People ask us where exactly is Theatre at 41?! Well, after a brainstorming session with our friends at Press Green and thanks to the generosity of CSL Scaffolding Ltd, we’ve managed to make it a bit more obvious!

“Merry Xmas from us all at York Stage. We hope this makes your journey to the theatre a little easier!”

Jack (Jordan Fox) and his beanstalk, stitched together by stage manager Lisa Cameron for York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Jack And The Beanstalk and the banner promotion will run until January 3 2021. “We hope the sign gives people a reason to smile,” says Nik. “It’s tongue in cheek and hopefully shows that there are still some things going on in and around York!”

Show times: December 23, 7pm; Christmas Eve, December 24, 11am, 1pm (sold out) and 5pm (sold out; Boxing Day, December 26, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 27, 11am, 1pm (sold out) and 6pm; December 28, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 29 and 30, 2pm and 7pm; New Year’s Eve, December 31, 12 noon. 

Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

York Stage’s poster for their debut pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, a show that will “grow and grow on you”

Shed Seven talk hits in tweets in last “gig” of 2020 as #TimsTwitterListening Party focuses on Another Night, Another Town

SHED Seven’s “final performance” of 2020 will be on Charlatans’ front man Tim Burgess’s cult show, #TimsTwitterListeningParty, this evening at 6pm.

Burgess’s lockdown- kickstarted show invites you to stream or play an album, in this case the Sheds’ Another Night, Another Town, their December 18 release of 21 live recordings from their Castlefield Bowl open-air show in Manchester on June 30 2018 and 2019’s Shedcember tour that took in the York band’s debut at Leeds First Direct Arena last December.

As Another Night, Another Town plays, listeners should follow Tim Burgess at @Tim_Burgess and the Twitterers from the Sheds’ ranks, @shedseven (lead guitarist Paul Banks), @RickTw1tter, @TomGladwin2, @badstonejoe (guitarist Joe Johnson) and @apeachyleach (drummer Alan Leach), to watch the exchange of tweets in real time and to ask questions too.

For more information, go to timstwitterlisteningparty.com.

Absolute turkey or totally gravy? 2020’s Christmas albums rated or roasted…

Holly Jolly Christmas, Dolly Parton style, in 2020

WHEN Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik sings “Drove a thousand miles/Just to see you smile” on his new star-guided long-journey-homer instant anthem This Is Christmas, it jolts you. This isn’t Christmas, not this year, not in Covid-19-cancelled 2020.

Christmas songs usually irritate from over-familiarity; from supermarket rotation long before Remembrance Sunday; from schmaltz and excess beyond even Nigella’s recipe for twice-buttered toast. From the need for everything to come with reindeer bells on; from failing to match Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You or the Seventies’ peaks of Slade and Wizzard or the peerless booze battle of The Pogues’ Fairtytale Of New York.

This year, however, they annoy, they grate, they frustrate, because of their incongruity, their nostalgia for what we can’t have: sadness for a Lost Christmas rather than Last Christmas. The absence of friends, awkward office parties, Carol singing, Nativity Play shepherds in tea towels, busker singalongs, too much on Zoom, not in the room, the dancefloor, the pub, the restaurant.

This was not the year surely, even with time on lockdown hands, to make a Christmas record that sounds like any other year’s Christmas records? Yet many have done exactly that, from Dolly Parton’s new happy holiday songs on A Holly Dolly Christmas to perma-smiling Andre Rieu’s Jolly Holiday, whose title irks in Boris’s one-day-only-Christmas Britain. The reindeer bells have not fallen silent

Look at the cover of Michael Ball and Alfie Boe’s Together At Christmas, and the Grinch in you thinks, “Hope you’re in a social bubble, beardy boys, otherwise shouldn’t you be two metres apart?”.

Everything begins to rile in stymied 2020: the year when pretty much everything has been too late, except, ironically for the glut of Christmas albums, their jolliness too early, too out of step with these long dark nights.

Maybe they want to perk up spirits, maybe they know that a Christmas hit lasts forever, from The Waitresses to Jona Lewie to Mariah Carey; that this Christmas will be the last Christmas of its strange kind…er, hopefully.

The best Christmas records usually wrap the season in both happiness and sadness, but 2020’s anaesthetic stockpile largely prefers to keep the Covid elephant out of the room. At least Andrew Bird’s Hark! acknowledges what’s going on in Christmas At April, and even Robbie Williams penned Can’t Stop Christmas! (“Santa’s on his sleigh, but now he’s two metres away” et al).

“The people gonna need something to believe in/After a year of being in,” offers Little Saint Robbie as his thought for the day, hoping the addition of his zeitgeist new single will entice you to buy 2020’s deluxe re-issue of last winter’s The Christmas Present.

“It’s never been like this before/It feels like we’re at war,” rhymes Robbie. At least that cliche sends CharlesHutchPress running for John & Yoko’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), his Christmas record for this and every year.

Together again, this time for Christmas: Ball & Boe reconvene for another assault on the top spot

Michael Ball & Alfie Boe, Together At Christmas (Decca)****

Wrapping: Have you ever seen a bad photograph of Messrs Ball & Boe? Both scrub up nicely in a series of photographs presumably taken at London’s Queen’s Theatre.

Gifts inside: Traditional, in every way, Together at Chrismas sports ten gilt-edged classics (Silent Night, O Holy Night and I’ll Be Home At Christmas) and two new songs, including My Christmas Will Be Better Than Yours.  

Style: Guests Gregory Porter and Phoebe Street join the festivities accompanied by the Czech National Symphony Orchestra.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Michael and Alfie know their audience’s tastes and deliver in trumps.

Scrooge moan? None with the record, but after Les Miserables re-opened with a stellar cast of Carrie Hope Fletcher, Matt Lucas and our boys, what a shame the show has been forced to close again.

White Christmas? Of course, Michael and Alfie cover Irving Berlin’s evergreen classic. It would be unthinkable not to do so.

Blue Christmas: Everyone has already made their mind up about Michael Ball & Alfie Boe. Those that love them will find this inspirational and uplifting.

Stocking or shocking? We all know someone who would LOVE this Christmas offering. Go on. It’s good to be nice to each other, especially this year.

Ian Sime

The Hello Darlins: First venture into musical wilds

The Hello Darlins, Heart In The Snow (Hello Darlins) ****

Wrapping: An inviting porch, looking out on an early snow fall, with the last of the autumn reds still in the forest. This EP is simply presented with the track-listing framed by monochromatic bare winter branches.

Gifts inside: Four songs over 13 minutes provide a seasonal aperitif. One More Christmas is a sentimental number for a family member who made it as far as Christmas Eve. Confusingly, it shares a title with Yorkshire’s own O’Hooley and Tidow’s (better) song of the same name from 2017’s Winterfolk. Given how the pandemic is preventing families everywhere from coming together, this could take on anthemic qualities.

Style: The Hello Darlins are a Canadian roots band. While each member has a successful career as a sideman for illustrious others, as a unit this is their first venture into the musical wilds. A Christmas EP is not a standard career-opening move, which bodes well. Here they present three new songs to sit alongside the chestnut, Do You Hear What I Hear.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Unlike the season itself, this is short and sweet and the singing is enough to quiet an unsettled mind.

Scrooge moan? It floats amiably by, but in three breaths it is gone. Such is the lot of an EP.

White Christmas? No hide nor hair of it.

Blue Christmas? Reflective and still, or as the band would have it, “peaceful, comforting and familiar”. On balance, that is how most would take their Christmas.

Stocking or shocking? This is an unexpected treat for anyone sitting by the tree wishing for another Alison Krauss to appear. The Hello Darlins’ first proper album, Go By Feel, is out in the spring.

Paul Rhodes

Calexico’s artwork for Seasonal Shift: Is this Christmas? In 2020, yes!

Calexico, Seasonal Shift (City Slang) ****

Wrapping: A lonesome, empty caravan, aglow with fairylights and a mysteriously welcoming open door, is parked up in a deserted desert-scape, the hills beyond defined by distant light. Is this the Grand Canyon? Possibly? Is this Christmas? In 2020, yes.

Gifts inside: Giant Sand alumni Joey Burns and John Convertino’s long-seasoned Americana/Tex-Mex indie rock band from the American south west of Tucson, Arizona top up seven new Burns compositions and one Convertino instrumental with covers of John & Yoko, Hugo Blanco and Tom Petty (Christmas All Over Again, so much more warmer than Goo Goo Dolls’ pedestrian version) on Calexico’s first holiday album.

Style: Have yourself a not-so-merry, dance alone, reflective, but apt for 2020 little Christmas with these Tex-Mex, Hispanic, North American, even pan-global winter holiday songs as Calexico go international with Burns and Convertino putting in their Seasonal Shift with guest collaborators Bombino, Gaby Moreno, Gisela Joao, Camilo Lara and Devotchka’s Nick Urata, all recording individually at home studios across Planet Earth.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Gaby Moreno’s joyous singing on the stand-out winter- warming cover of Blanco’s Mi Burrito Sabanero and the sudden burst of hip-hop in Sonoran Snoball, the bright-light break-out release from 2020’s oppressive winter bleakness.

Scrooge moan: Why couldn’t more Christmas albums in 2020 strike the mood and sentiment struck here, especially on Tanta Tristeza, Burns’s duet of lament with Gisela Joao?

White Christmas? No snow here, but the gorgeous cover of another Christmas landmark, John & Yoko’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), resonates anew with the addition of pedal steel and Tijuana trumpets.

Blue Christmas? Burns’smood-setting ballad, Fairytale Of New York-echoing opener Hear The Bellsis mournful, drowning sorrows in the rain, while Seasonal Shift waves bye-bye to 2020 and its “complex holidays” with its good-riddance sentiment of “There it goes ’round the bend/The year that would never end”. Convertino’s lovely Glory’s Hope is all the more lonesome for promising neither.

Stocking or shocking: Shock of shocks, an unexpected, unpredictable 2020 Christmas record that should be nestling by the bedside for Christmas morning opening.

Dolly Parton: First Christmas holiday album in 30 years

Dolly Parton, A Dolly Holly Christmas (Butterfly Records) ****

Wrapping: Dolly is looking as stunning as ever. If possible, try to track down all the variously coloured vinyl versions: red, white, green and gold!

Gifts inside: On her first Christmas album in 30 years, Dolly has roped in a feast of friendly celebs to make this a great party – Michael Buble, Jimmy Fallon, Willie Nelson, Ray Nelson, brother Randy Parton, Billy Ray Cyrus and even his naughty daughter Miley!

Style: Dolly’s unique brand of Country crosses all the genres, giving us a huge Yuletide smile.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: As if we ever needed another reason to love Dolly, we have learned that Ms Parton financially contributed handsomely to the Moderna Covid 19 vaccine. What a woman!

Scrooge moan? Don’t be silly, 47 albums into her career, everyone loves Dolly!

White Christmas? Not here. Most of the songs are brand new Dolly compositions, although she does cover Mariah’s All I Want For Christmas Is You!, alongside the likes of Holly Jolly Christmas, Cuddle Up, Cozy Down Christmas with Buble and Christmas Is with Miley.

Blue Christmas? Even when Dolly sings sad music, there is an inspirational uplifting spirit at its heart.

Stocking or shocking? Everyone loves the sight of Dolly’s stockings!

Ian Sime

Goo Goo Dolls: Too much goo, like an over-rich Christmas pudding

Goo Goo Dolls, It’s Christmas All Over (Warner Bros) **

Wrapping: Evocative of sleeves of Christmas yore by Dino and Elvis, with a Recorded In Glorious Stereo! boast, song titles on both front and red and green-lettered back. Fairy lights decorate a piano and guitar; inside, more red and green is the de rigueur colour code for the lyrics.

Gifts inside: Veteran Buffalo, New York rockers “always wanted to make some cool music for the season”, duly combining classics, a hymn and two new John Rzeznik originals “for fun”.

Style: From March beginnings in a vintage Boyle Heights studio in LA, Rzeznik and co set out to ape classic Yule records they grew up with, alas without adding their own stamp. They aim for sentimentality at times, reflections at others, but “most of all to make you smile and even laugh a bit”. Largely, they misfire, except for…

’Tis the reason to be jolly: This Is Christmas, an epic Christmas twist on Taylor Swift’s favourite Goo Goo Dolls anthem, Iris, 22 years on, and Rzeznik’s bash at You’re A Mean One Mr Grinch daftness, You Ain’t Getting Nothin’. Elsewhere, you ain’t giving noothin’ John.

Scrooge moan: Boil-in-the-bag, desultory, cover-by-numbers renditions of Tom Petty’s Christmas All Over Again, Louis Prima’s Shake Hands With Santa Claus and Alvin & The Chipmunks’ Christmas Don’t Be Late. More originals would have been welcome; Jamie Cullum came up with ten in lockdown for The Pianoman At Christmas; Joey Burns, eight for Calexico’s Seasonal Shift.  

White Christmas? No, but fellow November-onwards supermarket staples Let It Snow and Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas bathe in Michael Bublé fragrance without the warmth.

Blue Christmas? A stripped-back piano “cover” of prime-time Goo Goo Dolls, 2006’s Better Days, is newly made Christmas cutesy by Sydney McGorman, daughter of band collaborator Jim McGorman.

Stocking or shocking? Can you think of anyone desperate to hear Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (croak, more like)? No? Me neither.

Charles Hutchinson

Jamie Cullum: “Although all new material, The Pianoman borrows heavily from classic Yuletide jazz albums,” says reviewer Ian Sime

Jamie Cullum, The Pianoman At Christmas (Island Records)*****

Wrapping: If they are still available, try to track down one of the lovely signed gatefold card sleeves.

Gifts inside: Jamie wrote all ten songs during the spring lockdown. His charming swing style is performed to perfection by the cream of the country’s Jazz Musicians.

Style: Although all new material, The Pianoman borrows heavily from classic Yuletide jazz albums. The results feel both fresh yet familiar. That’s what we all love about Christmas anyway?

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Jamie’s printed message to wife Sophie Dahl is heartfelt. I’ve never met Jamie Cullum, yet have the impression he is a true gentleman.

Scrooge moan? Let’s not go there. ’Tis the season to be jolly and send goodwill to all.

White Christmas? Not on this collection. At the other extreme, the gloriously named The Jolly Fat Man sets the scene.

Blue Christmas? Not here. It’s a pretty fair bet that life in the Cullum Household is rather joyous at Christmas.

Stocking or shocking? As much as we love Mariah and Michael Buble, Jamie Cullum brings a fresh glow to Christmas. This will be loved by serious music buffs.

Ian Sime

Lady A: “Modern and tasteful covers of Christmas standards and classics, with just enough twang to keep it country,” says reviewer Paul Rhodes

Lady A, On This Winter’s Night (Deluxe) (BMLG) ****

Wrapping: This winter looks white and perfectly formed. The attractive country/pop trio sparkle on the cover, while they make light work of a snowy walk on the inside cover.

Gifts inside: For the uninitiated, Lady A were previously called Lady Antebellum. That name feels freighted with the wrong connotations for an act that has sold records by the million so the extra letters, country feel and historical shame were binned. This is an updated version of their popular 2012 Christmas record, now appended with an earlier EP and a new song.

Style: Modern and tasteful covers of Christmas standards and classics, with just enough twang to keep it country and dollops of pop harmony.

’Tis the reason to be jolly: Once you overcome any inbuilt prejudice towards liking such a wholesome band playing straight-up Christmas songs, then you have to grudgingly admit, it is very well done.

Song selection is great. Adding Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas shows taste. The trio have all become parents, and the only new material, Christmas Through Your Eyes, is a lovely addition to the seasonal canon: parent nip of the finest order.

Scrooge moan? This airbrushed set, presenting an idealised Yuletide where promise forever glimmers, is very out of kilter for the world it finds itself in, but perhaps that’s a good thing. Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime is hated by many, while slowing down Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You is likely to please no-one.

White Christmas? Snow is piled everywhere, but there is no White Christmas here.

Blue Christmas? N’er a blue note. Blue Christmas flirts with jazz but taken as a whole this is pure Christmas escapism.

Stocking or shocking? Music snobs will never forgive you, but almost anyone else will thank you. Easy to imagine it becoming the Christmas go-to record, guaranteed to upset no-one, even grandma.

Paul Rhodes

Barrie Rutter films with the sharks at The Deep for Hull Truck’s online short stories

Hull actor Barrie Rutter filming Sam Caseley’s short story Aquarium at The Deep on December 14. Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News & Pictures

BARRIE Rutter OBE returns to his home city of Hull to star in Hull Truck Theatre’s mini-film season, Miracle On The Humber, appearing online in Aquarium from 5pm today (22/12/2020).

The Ferensway theatre has joined forces with KCOM to present four festive short stories, written by Maureen Lennon and Sam Caseley expressly as a magical digital experience for families, in particular children aged five upwards, to enjoy for free.

Rutter, founder and former artistic director of Halifax theatre company Northern Broadsides and now Hull Truck patron, recorded Caseley’s tale Aquarium at The Deep, home to 3,000 creatures, from sharks to sawfish, in Tower Street, Hull.

“It’s a little Christmas story set in The Deep, where we filmed it last Monday,” says Barrie, 74-year-old son of a Hull dockworker. “It was brilliant because we had free rein as no-one else was there, filming with the Blacktip Reef Sharks, the big  Rays and the Sawfish behind me and these massive tortoises above me. I’m delighted to be taking part in this project; the films are just five minutes each and they’re fun.”

Aquarium forms part of a series spun around the themes of kindness, joy, family and love, linked by the simple idea of performing or experiencing a Christmas miracle and filmed at such Hull and East Riding locations as The Deep, Ferens Art Gallery and DoubleTree by Hilton Hull.

The mini-films are being released on Hull Truck’s YouTube channel from December 21 to 24, with Rutter, Channel 5’s Milkshake presenter Amy Thompson, Middle Child Theatre regular Josie Morley and Emmerdale, War Horse and Remould Theatre Company actor Matthew Booth each narrating a story to “celebrate our unique region while instilling local pride”.

The series opened yesterday with Lennon’s re-telling of Cinderella, followed by Aquarium today, The Christmas Kitten tomorrow and The Christmas Lights on Christmas Eve. Each can be watched on Hull Truck’s YouTube channel, accessible to online audiences in the East Riding and beyond, free of charge.

In at The Deep end: Barrie Rutter narrating Aquarium, filmed at the Hull attraction for Hull Truck Theatre’s Miracle On The Humber. Picture: Sean Spencer/Hull News & Pictures

Janthi Mills-Ward, Hull Truck’s executive director, says: “We’re delighted to be working with KCOM to deliver this fantastic project for our communities this Christmas. Born from the idea of KCOM’s ‘Father Christmas line’ in the 1950s. the idea was to bring magical storytelling back to life for the digital age.

“This project celebrates Hull Truck’s experience in great storytelling and KCOM’s digital expertise of connecting friends, families and wider communities. We live in a really special corner of the world, and these short films really bring this home.

“All of the venues featured in the films have had a hard year and have been in some way affected by the pandemic. It’s extra special to be able to bring these spaces back to life again, especially at this time of year.”

John Rooney, managing director of KCOM Retail, says: “We’re thrilled to join forces with Hull Truck Theatre for this fantastic online experience this Christmas. After what has been a very challenging year for many people, we hope that our festive-flavoured short stories bring some Christmas magic into homes across our region as parents and children settle down to watch them together.

“Hull Truck Theatre has pulled together a brilliant cast list of local talent to bring these original tales to life, from writers to actors and filmmakers, and I’m sure, after all the trials and tribulations of the past 12 months, these can herald a positive new chapter for the area and the brilliant people who live here.

“Happy Christmas from everyone at KCOM and we hope you enjoy our heart-warming Yuletide stories.”

Each film will be available online from 5pm on its allotted day to be enjoyed as a bedtime story experience.

Hull Truck pantomime Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker goes online for free

The invitation to Hull Truck Theatre’s streamed pantomime, Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker

HULL Truck Theatre’s Christmas show, Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker, will be streamed for free on YouTube from 7pm tonight (22/12/2020).

Written and directed by artistic director by Mark Babych, the virtual show will be available to watch on-demand until January 3.

“Christmas is a time of year when fairy-tale heroes and villains are a firm feature in the plays and pantos that so many of us love to experience as part of the festive calendar,” says Mark.

“Covid-19 is certainly this year’s villain but this year we have so many heroes to thank. We’re delighted the show can be enjoyed by audiences across the region and that we can continue to support artists and freelancers in what’s been an incredibly difficult year for the industry.” 

After Hull’s Tier 3 status under the Government’s pandemic strictures put paid to performances at the Ferensway theatre, a partnership between Hull Truck, Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council is bringing the Christmas show for free to Hull and East Yorkshire residents, schools, care homes and community groups.

From invitations sent with Christmas Day food parcels to online workshops and resource packs for schools, the innovative partnership aims to maximise the reach and impact of theatre while spreading festive joy.  

Every Hull and East Yorkshire household is invited to join Prince Charming from the comfort of home from this evening as he throws open the palace gates for his annual Christmas ball in Hull Truck’s festive fairytale adventure sprinkled with surprises, sparkle and a hint of magic. 

Online audiences for this uplifting shared theatrical experience are promised festive music, karaoke, unexpected guests and lashings of humour in “a ‘do’ like never before, with what is hoped to bring a dose of excitement and happiness at the end of this challenging year”. 

Here to entertain you…remotely: Director Mark Babych, front, and his Hull Truck Theatre cast for Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker, Joanna Holden, left, Louise Willoughy, Laurie Jamieson, Rachel Dale and Amelia Donkor. Picture: Karl Andre Photography

Rehearsals under Babych’s direction were on the cusp of starting when the country went into Lockdown 2. Given the continued restrictions, uncertainty and acknowledgement of the impact art and culture has on wellbeing, Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council stepped in, not only to ensure the show could go on, but also could be enjoyed by households across the region and beyond, “connecting families even if they’re not watching from the same sofa”. 

Janthi Mills-Ward, Hull Truck’s executive director, says: “This is the first time we’ve worked together with our two local councils to fund something like this, and we’re thrilled to be able to offer residents a magical Christmas experience. 

“Engaging in arts and culture has been found to be associated with increased wellbeing and we can’t thank East Riding of Yorkshire Council and Hull City Council enough for their support.

“We hope this innovative collaboration brings a little joy and happiness to residents, schools and care homes, with a shared experience for families and friends to enjoy together, whether as seasoned or first-time theatre-goers.” 

Councillor Stephen Brady, leader of Hull City Council, says: “It’s been a tremendously difficult year for all of us. Christmas is a special time, but sadly this year certain Christmas traditions cannot be celebrated in the usual ways.

“Going to the theatre, whether it be to see a pantomime or a retelling of one of our favourite Christmas tales, is, for many people, one of the highlights of the festive period. 

“Credit to Hull Truck for ensuring families and residents can still enjoy and experience the fun of the theatre this Christmas. Hull City Council is delighted to be able to support the performance and we wish all residents a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.” 

Councillor Richard Burton, leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, says: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to contribute to this exciting project, which we see as vital in engaging with all our local audiences in these challenging times. 

Council meeting: Local authority leaders, theatre directors and the pantomime cast gather outside Hull Truck Theatre: from left, Janthi Mills-Ward, Laurie Jamieson, Councillor Stephen Brady, Joanna Holden, Louise Willoughby, Rachel Dale, Councillor Richard Burton, Amelia Donkor and Mark Babych. Picture: Karl Andre

“Whether residents at home, schools, or residents in care homes, we all need the uplift that the performing arts can bring, and the connections it can make between us all. I’m really looking forward to seeing what promises to be a real cracker of a show.” 

As an interactive experience, with behind-the-scenes footage and backstage views, the streamed performance will be different to watching a film or show on TV.

Janthi says: “The streaming has been created to encapsulate those magical moments of a theatrical experience, as opposed to a film or television programme. The production will give people the opportunity to enjoy the show together, even if they’re watching in different homes.

“Whether you want to get dressed up and recreate the theatre experience at home, create a den or stay cosy on the sofa, we hope the live streaming offers a festive experience for the whole family to enjoy. 

“Theatre is a cornerstone at Christmas, so, alongside this exciting project, we’ve been working in partnership with KCOM to release four short family Christmas films in the run-up to Christmas that are set across Hull and East Riding as we continue to connect friends, families and communities through the magic of storytelling.”

Should you be unable to attend Prince Charming’s virtual ball this evening, worry not. The performance will be available for residents and care homes to watch from tomorrow (23/12/2020) to January 3, while schools and community groups will have access for the weeks beginning January 4 and January 11 2021, complemented by the accompanying resource pack.

Tickets are not required. Instead, the YouTube link will be made available on Hull Truck’s website, hulltruck.co.uk/Christmas-stream, and social media channels.

Ticket holders for the cancelled live performances at Hull Truck have been contacted to discuss options.

Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen is in full swing as Polly Lister hits the multi-tasking heights

Ice on fire: Polly Lister’s extraordinary one-woman tour de force peaks with her Snow Queen in Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Pictures: Tony Bartholomew

REVIEW: The Snow Queen, The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, receiving anything but frosty receptions until December 31. Box office: sjt.uk.com *****

HELL would have had to freeze over before the ever-resilient Stephen Joseph Theatre gave up on presenting a Christmas show in Covid-quashed 2020.

Nick Lane, audacious inventor of winter wonderlands at the SJT since 2016, had been writing a five-hander version in the manner of past hits Pinocchio, A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol and Alice In Wonderland.

“Nick, could you change it to a one-hander,” asked SJT artistic director Paul Robinson, his regular partner in “sublime not-pantomime” shows for the child in all of us.

“Polly, could you do it as a solo show,” Robinson asked Polly Lister, so memorably “hyper, needy, overbearing, but funny and vulnerable” as Mari Hoff in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice and “sporty and no-nonsense” as lesbian Di in Di And Viv And Rose in the SJT’s 2017 summer season.

Yes, said Polly, who now would be playing multitudinous characters – a Goth raven  poet and a grumpy Brummie deer among them – rather than merely the icy blast of the Snow Queen.

On board once more too are SJT artistic associate Simon Slater, Scarborough-born composer, lyricist and sound designer; video and lighting wizard Paul Steer; movement and puppetry director Gemma Fairlie and Helen Coyston, the designer for A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol, who decides everything should go with a swing in The Snow Queen.

Oh, and with a garden shed, bin, fencing, log, boxes, bench, and wonky wooden wheelbarrow; a video screen; a suspended branch and more besides in a circular design that retains the feel of the Round, albeit with the socially distanced, Covid-secure audience in three banks of seating, rather than the usual four.

For a familiar yet re-booted Hans Christian Andersen story that will “end in grief or glory”, our narrator – in striped leggings, gown and Steampunk glasses, coupled with a genial, garden-enthusiast, bonkers boffin manner – is the “silly Sorceress”, whose “problem sister” happens to be the titular ice block to Christmas joy.

Seamlessly, the ever-fantastical Lane introduces best friends Gerda and Kai, initially in puppet form on the swing, but of course polymath Polly adds them to her ever-expanding list of roles, adjusting body shape and expression, as well as voice, at every turn.

Lister act: Another role for Polly, this as the somewhat nutty narrator with the Flying Monkey Powder. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Best friends Gerda and Kai do what children do, sharing jokes, games and stories, especially tales of the mysterious Lady in the Sky with her faraway Palace Of Ice, but is she fantasy or reality? When Kai disappears from his Gran’s house in Scarborough, his eye and heart pierced by an icicle, Gerda knows the Snow Queen is no fake-news fable as she vows to rescue him.

A journey to a “world of weirdness and wonderment, known as the Other Scarborough” ensues as Lane lets his imagination off the leash again. We expect poo, wind and booby references from Nick, long attuned to what makes “children of Scarborough” laugh, and yes, he cannot resist once more, and nor should he.

This time, he conjures a raven who writes poo-ems in a typical cheeky Lane invention, and daftness takes the form of a huge travelling trunk that springs open to reveal a French DJ called Jean Claude, who happens to be a puppet hedgehog with prickly ego and attitude, downing tools until a certain popular foodstuff is delivered from the Golden Arches.

Then add the doleful reindeer, a bunch of talking flowers and unwise words from wisewomen, all topped off by Lister’s terrific haughty-and-ice Snow Queen and a glorious video send-up of influencer bloggers with hashtags by the dozen.

Storyteller, puppeteer, singer, woman of so many voices, humorous but scary, daft but caring, playful yet serious, what a performance director Robinson elicits from Lister, who makes a one-woman show the perfect way to experience The Snow Queen in these restricted times.

Slater’s witty, potent and dramatic songs, his way with both a tune and a lyric, are a delight too in a show sure to banish the Christmas 2020 blues with a sense of the ridiculous and the need to escape, to laugh, to be transported to another world: the other Scarborough for Scarborough and beyond to enjoy while we must endure the Covid Grinch.

SJT rules on Covid guidance for attendance:

1.You can’t visit with anyone who you don’t live with, or who isn’t part of your support bubble.
2. SJT, Scarborough, is in a Tier 2 area, so if you live in a Tier 3 area, don’t come.

3. Face coverings are mandatory throughout the building (unless exempt – this includes under 11s), except when eating or drinking. 

Remaining performances:

December 21 to 23, 1pm, 7pm; December 24, 1pm; December 24, 1pm; December 26, 6pm; December 27, 1pm; December 29, December 30, 1pm, 7pm; December 31, 1pm.

Age guidance: Five and upwards

Running time: One hour 45 minutes, including interval

Cast: Polly Lister or her alternate, Jacoba Williams, whose remaining performances will be on December 26, 6pm, and Decembger 27, 1pm.

TICKETS UPDATE 22/12/2020, 8am

All performances were sold out but now some returns have become available. Go to sjt.uk.com/booking?id=1015 for more details.

NEWSFLASH 24/12/2020

A BRAND new film of the SJT’s Christmas show, The Snow Queen, is available to rent from now until midnight on January 31. Tickets cost £12 and allow online access for a week at sjt.uk.com/SJTathome.

Red Hot Chilli Pipers to play Harrogate Royal Hall in May 2022, two years late

Piping hot…but not until 2022 at Harrogate Royal Hall after Red Hot Chilli Pipers rearranged the gig for a second time since the pandemic started to rule diary appointments

BAGROCK pioneers Red Hot Hot Chilli Pipers will pipe up at Harrogate Royal Hall on May 13 2022, more than two years after the Scots were first scheduled to play there.

The pernicious pandemic’s relentless stranglehold has seen the date moved twice, first from April 24 in Lockdown 1.0 this year to April 10 2021 and now to next spring.

Such an impact that the rearranged 14-gig itinerary will form the Chilli Pipers’ 20th anniversary tour, set for April 28 to June 5 2022. Harrogate Royal Hall will be the only Yorkshire concert, with tickets on sale at harrogatetheatre.co.uk or thegigcartel.com/Artists-profiles/Red-Hot-Chilli-Pipers.htm.

Formed in 2002, the Chilli Pipers popped up for a cameo in The Darkness’s set at the 2004 T in the Park, going on to headline the Scottish festival a decade later.

Now “the most famous bagpipe band on the planet…ever”, they present “bagpipes with attitude, drums with a Scottish accent and a show that should carry its own health warning”.

In the Red Hot Chilli Pipers’ tool kit is a groundbreaking fusion of traditional Scottish music and rock and pop anthems that they proudly call “Bagrock”, engineered by world championship-winning musicians, dancers and singers. 

In February 2019, the Chilli Pipers and Glasgow-born singer-songwriter Tom Walker released a piping-hot version  of his debut hit Leave A Light On in aid of Nordoff Robins, the music therapy charity. Their fundraising collaboration came after Walker and the Chilli Pipers performed together at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, before a Scotland versus Italy Six Nations rugby match.

The Chilli Pipers last released a studio album in June 2019, when Fresh Air combined new songs and covers, ranging from Walker’s Leave The Light On to Leonard Cohen´s Hallalujah and Walk The Moon’s Shut Up And Dance, both with Chris Judge on vocals.

Among their career highlights have been winning the BBC talent show When Will I Be Famous; playing at the BBC Proms in Hyde Park, NBC Olympics Studio and Rugby World Cup, and recording their 2014 live DVD and CD, Live At The Lake,  at Milwaukee Irish Fest, the band’s American spiritual home by the shores of Lake Michigan.

The poster for Red Hot Chilli Pipers’ 20th Anniversary Tour in 2022, stating tickets will remain valid from the postponed Spring 2021 shows

REVIEW: Opera North in Fidelio, Leeds Town Hall, December 12, and online

Oliver Johnston as Jaquino, Rachel Nicholls as Leonore, Brindley Sherratt as Rocco and Fflur Wyn as Marzelline in Opera North’s Fidelio. All pictures: Richard H Smith

BEETHOVEN’S birthdate remains a mystery. But he was certainly baptised on December 17, 1770.

So, this concert staging took place on, or very near, the 250th anniversary of his birth. It could hardly have been a more thrilling occasion, even considering that it was compulsorily live-streamed, without the intended audience, as the pandemic bit harder in West Yorkshire. 

There was from the start an extraordinarily upbeat flavour to the evening. It was as if every last ounce of the suppressed anger we were all feeling about the coronavirus was being channelled into sheer, bloody-minded determination to beat this enemy. No composer does anger better than Beethoven. Opera North was out to prove the point.

You could imagine different productions. But you would be hard put to find one in which every last one of the performers – soloists, chorus, orchestra, all under Mark Wigglesworth – was not merely on terrific form but prepared to shed sweat and tears in the cause. Call it wartime spirit, call it Yorkshire grit. In any case, the level was astounding given that so many of them had been like beached whales since early spring.

This was a bare-bones Fidelio, and all the better for that. In the pre-match interviews, both principals had questioned the weight of voices Beethoven had used at the 1805 premiere. Not that excuses were being made: both Rachel Nicholls as Leonore and Toby Spence as Florestan had plenty of heft when needed. But we have become inured to hearing something close to Wagnerian sopranos and heldentenors in these roles. They were not necessary here.

Social distancing had reduced the orchestra to Mozartian dimensions, with a chorus of only 24 wide-spaced across the bleachers behind. This was virtually Fidelio as chamber opera. But the town hall’s bright acoustic belied the small numbers. Not only were there no props or costumes, there was no dialogue either.

Rachel Nicholls as Leonore: “A relatively slight figure, she now produces astonishing power and intensity without loss of focus”

This meant the excision of the often-misleading exchanges in Act 1 as well as the Melodrama in Act 2. In their place we had brief English narrations devised by David Pountney and spoken in gently judicial tones by Matthew Stiff’s decisive Don Fernando.

Otherwise, Matthew Eberhardt’s production stuck to sung German, with the sole exception of Jacquino’s spoken ‘Der Minister Ist Hier!’.  Pountney did not attempt to summarise the dialogue, merely to set each new scene. With the interval also eliminated, the spotlight was firmly focused on the drama. The result was undeniably gripping, Beethoven red in tooth and claw.

Rachel Nicholls has come a long way from her early music days. A relatively slight figure, she now produces astonishing power and intensity without loss of focus. There was righteous anger to burn at the start of ‘Abscheulicher!’ but it melted into a lovely spirituality at ‘Komm, Hoffnung’; the horns gave superb support.

Toby Spence, barefoot on a small dais slightly below and in front of the stage, can rarely have sung with such splendidly burnished tone, a picture of perseverance and resolution. Together they generated an ecstatic ‘O Namenlose Freude!’, all the more laudable given that an embrace was out of the question. They seemed to feed off each other’s joy.

Oliver Johnston delivered an urgent, concerned Jaquino, much more than the usual cipher, while Fflur Wyn – another whose voice has grown in recent years – made a warm Marzelline and Brindley Sherratt a genial, compliant Rocco.

Toby Spence as Florestan: “Can rarely have sung with such splendidly burnished tone, a picture of perseverance and resolution”

Robert Hayward injected unrelenting menace into his Pizarro, to the point where we might have suspected it was all hot air. Such is the lot of the baddie.

The chorus, who had risen slowly and sporadically from their seats for their venture into the sunshine, drove the rest of their energy into a thunderous finale.

Wigglesworth’s decisive baton drew consistently tidy, transparent tone from his orchestra, all the more impressive since distancing must have made each player feel like a soloist. 

Peter Maniura’s TV direction found a pleasing balance between close-up and ensemble, while we could forgive English subtitles that lapsed into hyperbole with ‘Let us celebrate all magnificent women’ at the close, hardly what the libretto tells us.

It was decidedly a new-look Fidelio, with drama winning out over decibels. Who would have thought that a rescue opera would be loosening our shackles two centuries on? We have Beethoven to thank.

Online on demand via www.operanorth.co.uk until January 4

Review by Martin Dreyer

Who should Boris Johnson play in a panto? Ask York Stage star May Tether…

May Tether in her walkdown costume in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

MAY TETHER is back home in Yorkshire after leaving Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London, with first-class honours.

Now, the Goole musical actress is making her professional debut as Jill Gallop in Jack Stage’s pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.

Here, May gallops her way through Charles Hutchinson’s questions during a hectic weekend of six performances.

What was the first pantomime you ever saw and what do you recall of it?

“Dick Whittington, when the Cat was a lady. She took me on stage and I remember being terrified.”

What was your first pantomime role?

“Jill in Jack And The Beanstalk when I was 14.”

What has been your favourite pantomime role?

“Well, since I’ve only ever played Jills, I have to say she’s rather fabulous!”

Who have you not yet played in pantomime that you would love to play?

“The baddie!!!!!!!”

Who is your favourite pantomime performer and why?

“The ensemble of any show but ours are insane! I don’t understand how they do it. They keep me going. If they can high kick and sing, I can find energy from somewhere too.”

This year’s pantomime will be an experience like no other…what are your expectations of performing a show in these strange circumstances?

“I don’t have much experience as I’ve only ever done one other panto, in the same role. But I just want to bring joy to people in a very dark time.”

Which pantomime role should Boris Johnson play and why?

“He would play the Giant…because ideally there wouldn’t be one.”

Who or what has been the villain of 2020?

“For me, Rishi Sunak…get the theatres open, pally!”

Who or what has been the fairy of 2020?

“Andrew Lloyd Webber. Saving the day trialling shows at the London Palladium and offering to trial the vaccine. What a joy.”

How would you sum up 2020 in five words?

“It’s not been for me.”

What are your wishes for 2021?

“Health, happiness, success, to everyone in the year ahead. I hope everyone gets the fire to get back to work, whatever it is they do, and to feel they are happy again.”

What are your hopes for the world of theatre in 2021?

“Let’s just get the theatres open and get these, cough, cough, ‘non-viable’ people high kicking and belting out highs Cs or dressing as cats, or whatever it is they do best, back where they belong. A STRANGE time, but it IS coming to an end!!!”

York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until January 3. Box office: yorkstagepanto.com

REVIEW: Haunting Julia, audio version, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, online at sjt.uk.com until January 5 2021

All in the voice: Alan Ayckbourn, in his garden in Scarborough in May, in the year when he has recorded two audio plays. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

ALAN Ayckbourn’s Haunting Julia was last mounted by the SJT in 2008 as part of The Things That Go Bump, his farewell season as artistic director that brought out the ghosts lurking in the dark corners of all our minds.

Richard Derrington guest-directed that revival of Ayckbourn’s claustrophic, ever chillier 1994 response to Woman In Black, the SJT hit that went international. This time, in the wake of SJT director emeritus Ayckbourn’s online premiere of his 84th play, Anno Domino, in the first pandemic lockdown, he becomes a triple threat again for Haunting Julia.

Make that quadruple threat, because the Scarborough knight, now 81, is the writer, director, performer and sound designer for his only all-male play…although “other voices” are added to his triptych of roles, courtesy of Naomi Petersen.

Three men, a father, a lover and a medium, are each struggling to fathom why Otley-born classical musical genius Julia Lukin died at only 19, the victim of an accident or maybe suicide, or perhaps murkier, sinister circumstances shrouded in drugs and alcohol.

The day the music died in 1982, her father’s life stopped in its tracks. Twelve years on and no nearer the truth, bewildered, bluff, big-in-industrial-fencing-supplies businessman Joe Lukin has opened the Julia Lukin Centre for Performing Studies in her former attic student digs and two adjoining houses as a tribute to “Little Miss Mozart”.

Joe has made alterations to the building and the actress voicing Julia’s story is too buoyant: symbols of how this caring, but over-bearing West Yorkshireman never quite struck the right note with her, applying stultifying parental pressure as she struggled with a gift that made her sick, its uncontrollable insistence on being let out being “like a great cloud in front of the sun”.

On the recording, Julia’s distressed real voice can be heard, not only by Joe, but also by her close college friend Andy Rollinson, whose ever more apparent discomfort at having to dig up old ground will be brought to the surface by the arrival of Ken Chase, an over-enthusiastic psychic, the Madame Arcati of Haunting Julia. The truth will out, ultimately willingly from Ken, less so from Andy, who goes from distracted awkwardness to confronting his shut-down past.

May your reviewer make a suggestion, dear reader? Despite the play’s afternoon setting, listen to this audio version in the still of the night, in candlelight or by fire light, or even in the dark, curtains drawn, no distractions, maximum concentration, in part to contrast with the collective experience of a theatre audience, in part too to enhance the new format.

The Stephen Joseph Theatre poster for Alan Ayckbourn’s audio version of Haunting Julia

The shards of humour, often released as a form of relief from the rising tension in a packed auditorium, are less forthcoming on a solo journey through an audio recording, but the psychological impact of Ayckbourn’s ghost story grows in the loneliness of the socially distanced listener.

Ghost stories are as much a part of Christmas as pantomime dames and carol services, and so whereas the 1994 premiere and subsequent SJT revivals were staged in the summer, this is the perfect time for Haunting Julia to start haunting all over again.

“I consider Julia Lukin to be among the most complex and intriguing of my characters never physically to appear,” Ayckbourn has said. “Although a male three-hander, the play definitely belongs to her.”

Yes, and no. Yes, she possesses the three men, and in turn the listener, but Haunting Julia very definitely belongs to Ayckbourn too, not only as the consummate story-telling writer, but also in now voicing his three troubled protagonists.

Just as it was a pleasure to discover his dormant acting skills, alongside his wife Heather Stoney, in Anno Domino’s tale of marital breakdown and toxic politics, so his trio of accents and characters here is as enjoyable for us as it must have been for Ayckbourn to record in a year when his rehearsal room has had to fall silent.

What’s more, former BBC sound engineer Ayckbourn’s sound design adds hugely to the immersive audio encounter, playing on your imagination’s worst fears, as a ghost tale should.

“You have to build up the audience’s confidence in the story first, and then scare them, which is not that different from a farce, where you’re trying to make them laugh by surprising them,” said Ayckbourn of his first ghost play. Sure enough, surprise follows surprise here, and Haunting Julia is even better in this re-incarnation.

How to listen to Alan Ayckbourn times three in Haunting Julia:

TICKETS for Haunting Julia can be booked any time up to and including January 5 2021, either via https://www.sjt.uk.com/event/1078/haunting_julia or on 01723 370541.

Once a £12 ticket has been bought, the buyer can access the audio show as often as they want between now and January 5, and as many people as are in their household or social bubble can listen in. Go to the website, sjt.uk.com, for more details.

Monday is the chance to join Cuppa And A Chorus for virtual Christmas singing session

Cuppa And A Chorus participants at an earlier Zoom singing session

IF you are missing the joy of festive singing this Christmas, here is your chance at the obligatory remote distance.

On Monday (21/12/2020), the National Centre for Early Music, in York, will be hosting the Cuppa And A Chorus Christmas Special via Zoom, bringing Christmas cheer with this 6pm online singing session.

Expect Christmas songs, virtual mince pies and fun aplenty. Family members can celebrate together and there will be a break in the middle to enjoy that all important “cuppa” or maybe even a mulled wine and mince pie.

“The session will be conducted via Zoom and is a brilliant opportunity to socialise with friends, as well as a chance to make new ones,” says Lottie Brook, the NCEM’s learning and participation manager.

“No singing experience is necessary. Places are free but must be booked in advance. A Zoom link will be sent out on the day.”

Anyone nervous about using Zoom or accessing the concert can contact Lottie Brook at lottie.brook@ncem.co.uk.

To book, go to: https://www.ncem.co.uk/events/cuppa-and-a-chorus-christmas-special/

Today is officially Panto Day in a winter with all too few panto days…except in York

WHO better to mark Panto Day than York Stage’s villain, Ian Stroughair, whose performance in Jack And The Beanstalk combines a craving for power with towering stage domination.

Stroughair’s intemperate character, Flesh Creep, is so hell-bent in his quest, he could spare only three minutes for these short, sharp, snappy answers to CharlesHutchPress’s equally quickfire questions.

What was the first pantomime you ever saw and what do you recall of it?

“Leeds. Not sure which, but I was frightened to death by the baddie.”

What was your first pantomime role?

“Dandini in Cinderella, The Regent Theatre, Stoke.” 

What has been your favourite pantomime role?

“Dandini.”

Who have you not yet played in pantomime that you would love to play?

“Dame. Not old enough, I don’t think, though.” 

Who is your favourite pantomime performer and why?

“Julian Clary. Utterly fabulous.” 

This year’s pantomime will be an experience like no other…what are your expectations of performing a show in these strange circumstances?

“My expectations are that it will be awesome.” 

Which pantomime role should Boris Johnson play?

“The Evil Queen.”

Who or what has been the villain of 2020?

“Trump.”

Who or what has been the fairy of 2020?

“Netflix.”

How would you sum up 2020 in five words?

“It has been a mess.”

What are your wishes for 2021?

“For theatres to boom.”

What are your hopes for the world of theatre in 2021?

“For theatres to boom.”

Happy Panto Day, Ian.

York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk runs at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until January 3. Box office: yorkstagepanto.com

Leeds Playhouse goes digital with A Christmas Carol after Tier 3 renewal rules out performances 3 days before opening

Chain reaction: Everal A. Walsh’s Jacob Marley will set Ebenezer Scrooge on his path to redemption in A Christmas Carol. Picture: Anthony Robling

BAH, Tier 3 Humbug. A Christmas Carol should have been opening at Leeds Playhouse tomorrow for a run until January 9, but then came the Government’s latest killjoy message for much of the north.

The Playhouse’s response is to go ahead anyway…but for five special online performances only, from December 21 to 23.

“Just as the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future try to instil in Scrooge some seasonal spirit, Leeds Playhouse remains committed to spreading much-needed festive cheer across the city and beyond this year, with ‘as live’ digital screenings of its sensational family show A Christmas Carol,” says the Playhouse statement.

“As Leeds remains in Tier 3, the Playhouse is sadly unable to welcome people into its Quarry Theatre to enjoy the production in person, but we remain determined that audiences will be able to experience the spirit, fun, music and magic of A Christmas Carol in the run-up to the big day.” 

Leeds Playhouse has worked with Pilot Theatre, resident company at York Theatre Royal, to film the production and share it for free with care homes, schools and hospitals in Leeds.

“It’s brilliant to be working in a new partnership with Leeds Playhouse on Playhouse At Home,” says Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson. “We know how disappointing it is for everyone this Christmas in Leeds not to be able to attend theatre performances, but if you access the show via your television, or the largest screen you have at home, it’s amazing how close our team are able to make you feel to the actors and the magic of this enduring Christmas story.” 

Dan Parr in Leeds Playhouse’s production of A Christmas Carol. Picture: Anthony Robling

Now, tickets are being made available to the wider public for online performances at 7pm on December 21, then 2pm and 7pm on December 22 and 23. Prices start at £10, but be warned, numbers are limited, so early booking is advised to avoid disappointment.

Charles Dickens’s winter evergreen can be enjoyed in the comfort and safety of homes – whether in Tier 3 across West Yorkshire or Tier 2 in York and North Yorkshire – in Huddersfield-born Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation, premiered at Hull Truck Theatre in December 2017, when directed by Amy Leach.

Now associate director at Leeds Playhouse, Leach is directing this season’s production too, wherein the spirits of theatre past, present and future emerge from ghost lights centre stage to share with miser Ebenezer Scrooge the true meaning of this festive time of year.

On Christmas Eve in Victorian Leeds, the cold-hearted Scrooge has not spread an ounce of festive cheer. As the cold night draws in, first Jacob Marley, then the ghostly spirits, take Scrooge on his frightening but enlightening magical journey, hoping to show him the error of his ways.

“Our vivid retelling of one of the best-loved stories in English literature was inspired by the evocative beauty and intrinsic hope of the ghost lights that continued to burn bright while theatres across the land were forced to go dark when the pandemic hit,” says Leach.

“Our aim now with Playhouse At Home is to share that same light and hope with people in their own homes, giving them the best seats in the house for a story infused with goodwill, festive spirit and optimism. What a way to kick off Christmas week!”

Playwright Deborah McAndrew

As part of the Playhouse’s on-going commitment to supporting the Leeds community, the Quarry Hill theatre is gifting a free screening to closed wards of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, so patients can enjoy the on-stage magic even while they are in hospital over the festive period.

The offer is being extended to the Playhouse’s Burberry Inspire partner schools, residents in three care homes and to two day-service settings for adults with a learning disability.

Ticket holders who booked for cancelled shows will be sent the digital version for free. In addition, the Playhouse will bring A Christmas Carol to 1,000 NHS key workers and their families as part of the #LeedsSaysThanks scheme.

Playhouse artistic director James Brining says: “It feels more important than ever that we should honour our ongoing commitment to the wider Playhouse community in Leeds, the city region and beyond, giving our more vulnerable neighbours the chance to experience the life-enhancing joy of live theatre at Christmas in the comfort and safety of familiar surroundings.” 

Reflecting on “undoubtedly an incredibly challenging year”, Brining says: “With challenge comes innovation. We launched Playhouse Connect during lockdown to stay creatively engaged with more than 4,000 people across Leeds.

Jack Lord’s Ebenezer Scrooge, centre, has his measly meal interrupted by the nightcap-bothering Lladel Bryant in Leeds Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol. Picture: Anthony Robling

“This resulted in a collated series of dynamic online projects that we were able to successfully share with a much wider digital audience. We have also previously partnered with the National Theatre and Curve on lockdown screenings of Barber Shop Chronicles and  My Beautiful Laundrette.

“Playhouse At Home is the next logical step, giving us a vital outlet for the incredible work we are continuing to produce, and audiences an essential opportunity to experience inspiring and energising theatre at home.”

Jack Lord will play Ebenezer Scrooge; Stephen Collins and Nadia Nadarajah, Bob and Mrs Cratchit; Dan Parr, Young Scrooge and Fred; Tessa Parr, Christmas Past; Lladel Bryant, Dick Wilkins and Topper, and Everal A. Walsh, Marley and Fezziwig.

Lisa Howard, last seen in York in Park Bench Theatre’s late-summer premiere of Matt Aston’s lockdown play Every Time A Bell Rings in Rowntree Park, will take the roles of Christmas Present and Mrs Fezziwig.

Leach, who directed Oliver Twist at Leeds Playhouse in February, is joined in the creative team by designer Hayley Grindle; lighting designer Chris Davey; Leeds composer and music director John Biddle; Otley sound designer Ed Clarke; Leeds BSL consultant Adam Bassett; choreographer Lucy Cullingford; puppet designer Rachael Canning and puppet director Elisa De Grey.

The socially distanced Leeds Playhouse company in A Christmas Carol. Picture: Anthony Robling

Tickets (£10/£12/£150 can be booked at leedsplayhouse.org.uk or 0113 213 7700 with access for 48 hours from the ticket time. All performances include integrated British Sign Language (BSL), captioning and features creative audio description, courtesy of Hear The Picture.

Happy Christmas, your farce, pray God it’s our last of this bleak mid-Covid kind…

Graham Sanderson: The eyes have had enough of it

A Carol For The Cabinet

by York Settlement Community Players’ deeply unsettled satirist Graham Sanderson

God rest ye poor nonentities
Let nothing you dismay;
You made a mess of Test and Trace,
But Brexit’s on its way
To save us all from Euro power,
Keep foreigners at bay.
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
Oh, tidings of comfort and joy.

In Ukip and the ERG
This blessed plot was born,
And laid before the people
As a glorious new morn,
And Boris was the chosen one
To welcome in the dawn.
Oh, tidings of Prejudice and Fear,
Making it clear,
We will not have asylum seekers here.

Oh, poverty of intellect
And fear of full debate,
Means Covid was neglected –
Equipment came too late,
On order by a nod and wink
From a Minister’s old mate.
Oh, tidings of Chaos and Despair –
Panic in the air –
Pretending to the people that they care.

God rest ye feeble ministers
And clueless Upper Class;
You witless, gutless Nationalists,
So full of piss and gas;
Self-serving opportunists
Who’ve brought us to this pass.
Oh, tidings of nastiness and sleaze –
‘We do as we please’:
A once beloved country on its knees.

Jill and Stephen Outhwaite bow out of theatre costume hire as Dress Circle closes

The end of the clothing chapter: Jill and Stephen Outhwaite are closing their Dress Circle of York costume hire enterprise. Picture: Melissa Gresswell, Liss Photography

THE final curtain falls on costume-hire emporium Dress Circle of York after 18 years tomorrow when Stephen and Jill Outhwaite will bow out.

“I’ve counted up the number of companies, schools, film companies, event companies and more that we’ve dealt with, and I’m sure I’ve missed out some, but it must be around 160, and then there are all the individuals over the years,” says Jill.

York Stage Musicals, the Rowntree Players, Bev Jones Music Company, Helmsley Arts Centre’s 1820 Theatre  Company and Stephen Tearle’s NEMS York are but five of those companies grateful to theatre costumiers Stephen and Jill and their team of Sophie, Sue, Elaine, Caroline, Emily, Susan and Guy.

“We would like to thank all of valued customers for their support, laughs, friendliness, understanding, cakes and chocolate over the past 18 years,” says the official notice on the Dress Circle website.

“We will miss you and wish you all the very best of luck in the future. Stay safe and well as we take our final bows.”

Dress Circle of York is run in converted buildings of the Outhwaite family farm at Low Grange Farm, off Moor Lane – more and more lane, it is a long lane – in Haxby, near York. “After 0.75 miles, there is a sharp right bend in the road, continue straight down the ‘no-through road’ for 1 mile,” the website advises. “Turn left into the farm yard at white sign ‘Low Grange Farm’.”

Many a farm has diversified, whether into ice cream, maze attractions, fields for solar-heating generation or wedding party teepees, wind farms, holiday cottages, film studios, business parks, beer breweries, the list goes on…

Items for hire, in a flashback to the 1980s, at Dress Circle of York. Picture: Liss Photography

…But theatrical costume hire? Pantomimes, fancy dress, make-up and accessories too, that is another world, one of fantasy, fable and fabulous fun, where a farewell visit just had to be made to thank Stephen and Jill.

All that was missing, and the eyes could not possibly take in everything, was a Daisy the Cow, front and back end, down on this 150-acre farm.

“Dress Circle of York came into being in 2002 when Jill and I brought the theatrical costume-hire business into an empty barn,” says Stephen, who has a history of acting, directing, theatrical make-up and running a youth theatre [he founded and ran Flying Ducks Youth Theatre in York for many years].

“Combined with Jill’s experience of costuming shows and a history degree and encouraged by the Government and our accountant to diversify, when the farming wasn’t that good, we took the first step into developing Dress Circle, acquiring stock from Geraldine Jevons and Sue Morris.

“The business has grown and developed in a way not dreamt of, as we built up a team of staff with a wealth and diversity of experience in costume and the theatrical world.”

In a normal year, from the end of October through to early December would be Dress Circle’s busiest time, but this was the abnormal year where the Covid Grinch cancelled Christmas and much more besides. “Over the past few years, we have, on average, dressed 30 shows in those few weeks, but not this year of course,” says Jill.

In 2020 Dress Circle costumed 170 shows all told; in 2020, only 39, as theatres went dark and largely stayed dark. “Shows that would have been going out, until lockdown kicked in, now aren’t. Even those provisionally booked for next year, the orders couldn’t be confirmed,” says Jill.

Everything a panto dame could dream of matching with over-bold lippy and a wig” at Dress Circle of York

Not only theatre companies called on their Aladdin’s barn of costume opportunities. So too did those seeking clothes for weddings and even funerals; war-themed weekends; big parties with a dress code; bikers gathering in Helmsley for a charity Christmas ride; vintage car enthusiasts headed for the Goodwood Festival of Speed in West Sussex.

Everything could be found, from Lady Gaga and Tina Turner styles to Madonna cones; from Victorian and Edwardian clothes, through Seventies’ Glam to the modern day; from the full kit bag for Cinderella, Beauty And The Beast and Monty Python’s Spamalot to a Gruffalo; from Father Christmas outfits to The Pink Panther.

No fewer than 16,000 costumes and much more besides: hats and more hats; prop after prop; military attire; blazers and tailcoats; socks and handkerchiefs; umbrellas and swords; waistcoats up to a 60-inch chest, ties, scarves, suits-you-sir suits, dress upon dress. Aprons. Everything a panto dame could dream of matching with over-bold lippy and a wig. Anything for a Steampunk sci-fi enthusiast.

“We’re the biggest business of our type in the north east,” says Jill. “We cover as far as Blyth, in Northumberland, down to north Lincolnshire.”

So much glamour, such theatrical flourish, is promised in these most untheatrical of premises. “It was built for cattle, and over the years we had pigs and grain in it too,” says Stephen.

“We insulated all the walls, but heating-wise you don’t want gas because it puts moisture into the atmosphere, electricity is expensive, so I enquired about a wood burner.”

No ordinary wood burner, it turns out. It is as big as a fledgling dancer’s dreams. “We got it from Dowling Stoves in Scotland, though originally he was from Helmsley,” says Stephen. “It’s the only heating we need in here; it keeps a nice dry barn, really good for drying costumes.” Two washing machines can be heard too, yet tomorrow they will fall silent.

“No fewer than 16,000 costumes and much more besides: hats and more hats; prop after prop” at Dress Circle of York. Picture: Liss Photography

“When I was at school, I wanted to be either a farmer or an actor, so I started with farming – better the devil you know – but then I flipped to acting, and I did everything but opera,” says Stephen.

Not that the farming has ever had its final harvest. BSE (“Mad Cow Disease”) put paid to the beef farming, he gave up on sheep too, but pigs – “bed and breakfast weeners” – have played their part and so too have contract grass-seed drilling and diversification into growing 40 acres of miscanthus, a biofuel for greener times.

Somehow, Stephen has found time to spread his wings still further, whether into piloting Flying Ducks Youth Theatre, or providing theatrical make-up services, or building sets for theatre shows.

“The make-up work was by chance initially but then it blossomed into film work too and the Vikings Roadshow, designing the make-up,” he says. “It toured Europe, then came to the Museum Gardens in York.”

Stephen will turn 70 next year, Jill, 67, and 2020’s stultifying pandemic has pressed them into making the decision to call time on Dress Circle. “We have such good staff; we had seven, but three have left already, and that was the toughest thing,” says Jill. “We feel awful; they’re all good friends and we get on so well. We’re a costume-hire team with the personal touch.

“We tried to keep going, and the furlough scheme was a godsend, but there’s just nothing happening in the theatre world. Theatres have to get going again first, and then we could have got going again, but we’d already decided to retire anyway.”

As a reminder of a year brought to a shuddering halt, the costumes for Bev Jones Music Company’s Calamity Jane, stopped a day before opening by the pandemic lockdown, are still hanging unused on a rail.

Cleopatra Rey as Deloris and Joanne Theaker as Sister Mary Roberts in Sister Act, one of York Stage Musicals’ productions that used costumes from Dress Circle of York

“We’re trading to December 19 and then looking at the possibilities of what we can do,” says Jill. “The closure announcement is on Facebook, and ideally we’d like to sell Dress Circle as a going concern, and we’d love it to go locally preferably.”

Stephen reflects on the path ahead. “Time goes on and there comes a time when you have to say, ‘it’s time to move on’…

…“But there is room for this business still to grow if someone takes it on,” urges Jill, who can be contacted at jill­­_outhwaite@btconnect.com.

Not all theatrical enterprises will be ending at Low Grange Farm. Flying Ducks will continue to rehearse in one of the buildings and Steve will still be making set designs, keeping that wood burner alight.

Thank you to Dress Circle of York, so many shows, so many memories of nights in the theatre and contented customers beyond.   As Nik Briggs, artistic of York Stage Musicals, puts it: “Dress Circle have been a great asset to the York theatre scene. Jill and her team will be a huge miss.

“From creating Broadway-worthy sparkly nuns and a bunch of Seventies’ New York gangsters for our production of Sister Act, to creating a wardrobe for our Von Trapp children and the people of Austria on the brink of Anschluss in The Sound Of Music, their work has always been brilliant!”

No concerts in 2020 but Shed Seven are live on new album and back gigging in 2021

The artwork for Shed Seven: Live, Another Night, Another Town

SHED Seven’s live album, Another Night, Another Town, is out tomorrow

“We had to put back the release date by a fortnight, because under Covid guidance, we hadn’t been able to sign the signed copies,” says lead singer Rick Witter. “But last Thursday the warehouse delivered them and we sat in different rooms in the Gillygate pub to sign them, so everything is ready now.”

Specially curated by the York Britpop luminaries and available exclusively through the Sheds’ store, Another Night, Another Town “captures their dynamic live performances and anthemic songs over 21 tracks”.

As trailed on the shedseven.com website, Sheds’ followers can pick up a limited-edition coloured gatefold vinyl edition, a special double CD set, a 180g heavyweight triple vinyl version and a download, plus a selection of new merchandise.

Another Night, Another Town is Shed Seven’s fifth “live” album after Where Have You Been Tonight? Live, in 2003; Live At The BBC, in 2007; See Youse At The Barras: Live In Concert, 2009, and Live At Leeds 2007, digital download only, in 2009.

“But we hadn’t recorded a live album since we returned as a five-piece in 2007 and we certainly hadn’t released one as good as this!” says Rick, 48, reflecting on the new album, mixed by Chris Sheldon, who produced the Sheds’ 1996 album A Maximum High and 1999 single Disco Down (whose lyrics have been raided for the Another Night, Another Town title).

“We’re delighted with the results, which we think are as close as we can get to capturing the Shed Seven live experience on record.

“We’re playing better live now than ever, and with Chris Sheldon mixing it, it’s a good memory of great times. There’s brass on there as well, and because gigs with big crowds still aren’t coming back in the imminent future, this is the next best thing to a gig. At this time in our lives, it’s the best thing we can do.”

Shed Seven’s five-piece line-up since 2007: bassist Tom Gladwin, left, lead vocalist Rick Witter, drummer Alan Leach and guitarists Paul Banks and Joe Johnson

The decision to release a live album was made in the hiatus of the pandemic lockdown. “We were thinking, at the beginning of Lockdown, ‘we’re not going to be able to do anything, so how can we do something to stop us going stale?’.

“We’d recorded a lot of the last Shedcember tour in 2019, so this was a good time to go through those recordings and the 2018 Castlefield Bowl show [in Manchester] to curate the best live album we could.

“Listening to 18 different versions of She Left Me On Friday…we spent a lot of time doing that, then picking the best, so there are songs from lots of different gigs, which should please Shed Seven fans that were there.”

For the packaging, the Sheds have drawn inspiration from their favourite live albums, among them The Smiths’ Rank and U2’s Under A Blood Red Sky. “We also had a little bit of idea, from the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, such classic imagery, not copying it, but paying tribute to it,” says Rick.

“We must have grown as a band because we now have four photographers following regularly on our tours, with lots of logging of our gigs. We got in touch with three of them to ask if we could cherry pick them for album artwork and it looks great.”

Another Night, Another Town’s arrival coincides with tickets going on sale for the Sheds’ rearranged Live After Racing’ @ Doncaster Racecourse gig, now moved to May 15 2021.

“We should have been playing there this August, as well as about 12 big festivals and The Piece Hall at Halifax that we were headlining,” says Rick. “Thankfully, we’ve re-scheduled most of these gigs.

“The bonus for us is that usually in a year when we do a Shedcember tour, we’re not allowed to do those outdoor shows in the same year because the promoters like to push the Shedcember shows through the year, but because of what’s happened this year, we’ll now be doing both summer and winter shows in 2021. It looks like being a busy year.”

The poster for Shed Seven’s all-Yorkshire line-up at The Piece Hall, Halifax, next summer

Shed Seven’s diary for outdoor engagements in 2021 is taking shape: Don 21 Music Live, Doncaster Racecourse, May 15; Neighbourhood Festival, London, May 29; Isle of Wight Festival, Newport, June 18; The Piece Hall, Halifax, June 26; Corbridge Festival, July 3; Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, Beaufort, July 31, and Watchet Music Festival, Somerset, August 29.

The Piece Hall concert will be an all-Yorkshire event embracing Shed Seven, up-and-coming anthemic York band Skylights and Leeds groups The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present. “We wanted it to be a Yorkshire celebration, thinking, ‘who could we ask?’, ‘ who would be up for it?’, and it was a real delight that The Wedding Present said ‘Yes’, as I love them but haven’t seen them for a while,” says Rick.

Impeded by the unremitting Coronavirus pandemic, The Sheds have ended up “taking a rest this year. “But being savvy, I thought, ‘we’re going to be able to play next year but loads of bands will be looking to do the same, so we better not sit on our laurels’. We structured the 2021 Shedcember tour as soon as we could, getting the gigs organised,” says Rick.

The dates will be announced in due course but he did confirm Shed Seven would play the Leeds O2 Academy, rather than Leeds First Direct Arena, where they made their debut last winter. “It’s just too stressful!” Rick reveals. “We’re set in our ways and we just know what we’re doing in front of 3.000, 4,000, whereas with 10,000 you have to concentrate so much more to make it work.

“It’s like a big step-up to play arenas, especially when we’re playing ‘normal’ venues for the rest of the tour, with that gig in the middle. We ended up with three set builds, trawling stuff around for the tour where we wouldn’t use half of it on most nights!

“So, we’re going to revert back to our comfort zone, but with plenty of big cities on there, as I kinda let the cat on my radio show.”

Rick Witter’s Disco Down has found a new home at Jorvik Radio from 7pm to 9pm on Sunday. “I did show number three last weekend with [York singer-songwriter and erstwhile Seahorses frontman] Chris Helme as my guest,” says Rick. “Mark Morriss [from The Bluetones] did an earlier show, so I’m working my way through my contacts book!”

Tomorrow, the focus will fall on the launch of Another Night, Another Town. “We hope this album provides just a little bit of the live experience we’re all missing before we return in 2021,” says Rick.

More Things To Do in and around Tier 2 York at little merry Christmas time and beyond. List No. 22, from The Press, York

Blending into the scenery: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nanna Trott in an anything-but-smoothie moment in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

CHRISTMAS is on the way, in whatever form the Government allows you to wrap it up, but tiers will not be shed in the world of entertainment.

Charles Hutchinson picks his way through what’s on in the days ahead and in 2021 too.

Jessa Liversidge: Celebrating her favourite musical icons of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s at Sunday’s concert

Nostalgic concert of the week: Jessa Liversidge, Songbirds, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

YORK’S unstoppable force for the joy of singing, Jessa Liversidge, will present her celebration of female icons at the reopened JoRo this weekend, accompanied by pianist Malcolm Maddock.

Expect an eclectic mix of vintage pop, musical theatre and comedy from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. “One minute I may be in full, high-energy Victoria Wood flow,” she says. “Moments later, I could be totally still, lost in a Kate Bush or Karen Carpenter song, and then I’ll go straight into theatrical mode for Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns.”

Have yourself a medley little Christmas: York Guildhall Orchestra musicians box up their musical gift for you

Home comfort and joy: York Guildhall Orchestra’s Lockdown Christmas Medley, on YouTube

PERFORMED by more than 50 amateur York musicians, all playing in their own home, then seamlessly stitched together for YouTube by John Guy’s technical wizardry, here comes York Guildhall Orchestra’s Christmas Medley.

Arranged by conductor Simon Wright, they keep to the Wright time as they “play together” for the first time since February’s York Barbican concert, medleying their way through Hark!, The Herald Angels Sing, Ding Dong!, Silent Night And We Wish You A Merry Christmas. View their four-minute smile at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuoW6gvkGxk.

Elf and safety: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, the Covid-secure drive-in cinema, parks up at Elvington Airfield tomorrow

Drive-in home for Christmas: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, Elvington Airfield, near York, December 18 to 20

NOT only have Vue York at Clifton Moor and Everyman York, in Blossom Street, reopened but 2020’s socially distanced, car-contained drive-in boom hits the Christmas movie market from tomorrow too.

The apostrophe-shy Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema takes over Elvington Airfield for three days to show: December 18, from 12 noon, Frozen 2, Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands and Die Hard; December 19, from 12 noon, Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins and Bad Santa; December 20, from 11am, The Polar Express, Home Alone 2, Batman Returns and Love Actually.

Clowning around: Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Circus

Children’s virtual show of the week outside York: Pocklington Arts Centre presents Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Circus, from Saturday

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is to stream Magic Carpet Theatre’s show Magic Circus from 2.30pm on December 19, available on YouTube for up to seven days.

Directed by Jon Marshall with music by Geoff Hardisty and effects by Theatrical Pyrotechnics, this fast-moving hour-long show, full of magical illusions, comedy, circus skills and puppets, tells the humorous tale of what happens to the ringmaster’s extravaganza after the artistes and elephants fail to arrive and everything has to be left in the hands of the clowns. Disaster!

What a Carr-y on: Alan Carr rearranges York Barbican gigs for 2021…and 2022

Who should have been in York this week? Alan Carr: Not Again, Alan!, York Barbican, now re-scheduled

ALAN Carr, comic son of former York City footballer Graham Carr, had been booked in to perform Not Again, Alan! at York Barbican again and again this week, four nights in fact, from Wednesday to Saturday, on his first tour in four years.

Covid kicked all that into touch, but all tickets remain valid for the new dates. December 16 2020 is now in the diary for January 14 2022; December 17 for January 15 2022; December 18 for December 18 2021, and December 19 for the same day next year.

TV and radio presenter Carr will muse on the things that make his life weird and wonderful, from his star-studded wedding day to becoming an accidental anarchist; from fearing for his life at border control to becoming a reluctant farmer. “Three words spring to mind,” he says. “Not again, Alan!”

Crystal clear: Fairfax House raises a glass to a Georgian Christmas in A Season For Giving

Exhibition for the winter: A Season For Giving, Fairfax House, York, running until February 7

THE Christmas installation at the Georgian home of the Terry family, Fairfax House, ironically will not be open from December 21 to January 5, so catch it before then or afterwards (Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 4pm).

On a festive journey through the townhouse collections, room by room, magical scene by magical scene, meet Noel Terry for a 1940s’ family Christmas, join a raucous Georgian Christmas dinner party, and much more besides. Visits must be pre-booked.

Having a ball: Amy J Payne, Julia Mariko Smith and Marie Claire Breen in Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella for Opera North

Opera North at Christmas:  Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella, ONDemand from today

OPERA North’s Whistle Stop Opera version of Cinderella was booked into the NCEM in York and Pocklington Arts Centre but Covid ruled No Show. Instead, parents and children aged five upwards can enjoy it online at home over the school holidays.

Filmed at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, John Savournin’s magical musical production stars Marie Claire Breen as Cinderella, Amy J Payne as Prince/Stepmother and Julia Mariko Smith as Fairy Godmother, drawing on various versions of the rags-to-riches tale, such as Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Massenet’s Cendrillon, Pauline Viardot’s operetta Cendrillon and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella. For more details on how to watch, go to operanorth.co.uk

Braced for it: Van Morrison will play two nights at York Barbican next May

Big-name Irish signings for York Barbican in 2021: Van Morrison, May 25 and 26, and Chris De Burgh and Band, October 15

NORTHERN Irishman Van Morrison, 75, has booked a brace of Barbican gigs for the spring; Southern Irishman Chris De Burgh, will follow him to York next autumn.

In September, Morrison launched three protest songs, one every two weeks, railing against safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19: Born To Be Free, As I Walked Out and No More Lockdown. Will he unmask any of them next May? Wait and see.

De Burgh & Band’s only Yorkshire date of The Legend Of Robin Hood & Other Hits tour will support his upcoming album of the same name (except for the Other Hits part, obviously).

Arrowing experience: Chris De Burgh & Band will perform his 2021 tour show, The Legend Of Robin Hood & Other Hits, at York Barbican

And what about?

JUST a reminder, York has two pantomimes on the go: York Theatre Royal’s newly extended Travelling Pantomime tour of the city and York Stage’s “musical with pantomime braces on”, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41 Monkgate.

You’ve got to fight for your right to panto: Faye Campbell’s hero takes on Reuben Johnson’s villain in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

REVIEW: York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, the “musical with panto braces”

Wickedly bad, yet wickedly good: Ian Stroughair as “Fleshius Creepius” in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. All pictures: Kirkpatrick Photography

York Stage in Jack And The Beanstalk, John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until January 3 2021. Box office: yorkstagepanto.com

THIS is a York pantomime season like none before.

York Theatre Royal has, like a council politician, taken to the wards seeking votes, in this case for the audience choice of Travelling Pantomime. Dame Berwick Kaler’s comeback on board Dick Turpin Rides Again, after his headline-making crosstown transfer to the Grand Opera House, has gone into Covid-enforced hibernation for a year. Likewise, Rowntree Players have taken the winter off.

Yet, what’s this? A newcomer bean-sprouting up at Theatre @41 Monkgate, courtesy of York Stage’s debut pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, a show stuffed with West End talent with York and wider Yorkshire roots, bedding in nicely with socially-distanced performances for maximum audiences of 55 at the Covid-secure heart of Monkgateshire.

May Tether as Jill Gallop: “Investing personality in every line”

Once temperature tested at the doors and hands cleansed, you are led up the beanstalk-clad stairway to your brightly-coloured seat in the John Cooper Studio, a black-box theatre here configured as a traverse stage, the bubble-compliant audience sitting to either side or upstairs on the mezzanine level.

Safety division comes in the form of screens, like on Have I Got News For You, giving a different Perspextive on watching a show, but in no way impeding the view. Actors are socially distanced – they exchange elbow greetings; romance is replaced by best friendships – and audience members are close to the stage in this intimate setting, but not too close. The dame does not dispense sweets and we are asked to refrain from shouting.

Not your normal panto, then, in this all-too abnormal year, except that writer-director Nik Briggs’s 2020 vision for pantomime still has all the elements: the song and dance; the puns and punchlines;  the slapstick and the transformation scene; the dame (Alex Weatherhill) and Daisy the cow; the drama-queen baddie (Ian Stroughair) and his narcissism; the topical and the local references; the daft wannabe superhero dreamer (Jordan Fox) and the fairy (Livvy Evans);  the principal girl (May Tether) and her plain-speaking principles.

Slapstuck: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nancy Angelina Norma Nigella Alana Trott – Nanna for short – goes nuts in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk

Then add the all-action ensemble (Matthew Ives, Danielle Mullan and Emily Taylor) and the band, a trio of musical director Jessica Douglas, fellow keyboard player Sam Johnson and York’s premier league drummer, Clark Howard, parked upstairs but omnipresent and on the button, The Great British Bake Off theme tune et al.

Briggs has called his show “a musical with pantomime braces on”; his choreographer, Gary Lloyd, a big signing from the West End and tour circuit, has coined the term “pansical”. That may suggest a slightly awkward new hybrid, but like the cult rock’n’roll pantomime at Leeds City Varieties, the musical driving force here is a winning addition to the tradition.

Danielle Mullan lights up the transformation scene in Jack And The Beanstalk

Ninety minutes straight through – intervals are so last year – Jack And The Beanstalk is full of beans, lovely to look at and lively too, loud at times but rarely lewd (blame the dame for those “innocent but guilty” moments, met with knowing laughter).

Surprise celebrity cameos pop up on video, and York Mix Radio’s morning team of Ben Fry and Laura Castle provide the pre-recorded countdown chat pre-show.

Briggs is breaking his duck as a pantomime writer, and his script is a little mannered by comparison with the highly experienced Paul Hendy’s way with words for the Travelling Pantomime, but he does know the notes, he does play them in the right order, and the jokes invariably hit home, especially those that play on the Covid conventions of 2020.

Making a cow’s head of himself: York Stage pantomime writer-director Nik Briggs steps out of character with stage manager Lisa Cameron as the socially distanced, elongated Daisy in Jack And The Beanstalk

His reinvention of the pantomime cow is a particular joy, even if the dame’s nutty slapstick routine is hampered by having to play safe.

Briggs’s characters, bold and playful and bright, will appeal to children and adults alike. The singing is the ace card. What voices, whether Weatherhill’s operatic entry; professional debutante Tether’s arrival as Yorkshire’s next Sheridan Smith with her gift for investing personality in every line or the appealing Fox’s top-notch prowess in big numbers and ballads alike.

Foxy, ladies! Jordan Fox in superhero mode as Jack Trott in Jack And The Beanstalk

Evans’s Fairy Mary is fun and feisty, especially in her battles with Stroughair’s long-fingered, stove-pipe top-hatted Flesh Creep, commanding the stage with that irrepressible swagger and spectacular singing we know from his drag diva, Velma Celli.

You will never have a better chance to see Gary Lloyd’s flamboyant, fab-u-lous choreography so close up it is almost personal, dazzlingly pretty in the transformation scene, bouncing madly on and off trampolines in Stroughair’s high point, Jump (the Van Halen anthem).

Bean there, done that? Not until you have seen this new brand of York pantomime.

Review by BARSTOW TEASDALE. Copyright of The Press, York

Fairy tale ending: Livvy Evans as Fairy Mary in Jack And The Beanstalk

Miriam Margolyes and Ian McMillan poem premiere to grace A Christmas RyeStream

The guests of Christmas present: Ian McMillan and Miriam Margolyes will be performing readings at A Christmas RyeStream

NATIONAL treasure Miriam Margolyes and the poetic voice of Yorkshire, Ian McMillan, will take part in A Christmas RyeStream, Ryedale Festival’s online Christmas concert.

Billed as “a unique choral gift to give this Christmas”, this free-to-view Yuletide celebration can be enjoyed at your leisure over the Christmas holiday period from tomorrow (18/12/2020) at 7.30pm at ryestream.com.

Margoyles, star of stage, screen and Malton Dickensian Festival, and Bard of Barnsley McMillan will read Christmas texts by John Betjeman, Clive Sansom, Thomas Hardy, U.A. Fanthorpe, Edwin Morgan, Clive James and regular Malton visitor Charles Dickens.

McMillan, a prodigious, often amusingly profound word-weaver and compulsive conceiver of witty Tweets, will premiere I Saw A Star, a “Christmas poem for our times”. Written expressly for the occasion, it opens: “I saw a star socially distanced from the rising moon/I heard voices softly whisper words to a freezing tune”.

“It’s a beautiful thing for Ryedale,” says Ian, whose last performance came at the Penistone Paramount, near Barnsley, on March 20 as part of Penistone Arts Week. “We filmed it last Monday at Pickering Church on a beautiful day, like when we used to go to Pickering for the Santa Special.

“Ryedale Festival said, ‘Can you write us a poem for this Christmas?’, and that set me thinking about Christmas in 2020: that we’re going to have to be distanced, when normally in times of difficulty and crisis, your usual instinct is to step forward and embrace each other.

“But it’s also a poem about next Christmas, and the distance till being able to get together again, expressing hope for next Christmas.”

McMillan has one wish for I Saw A Star: “I’d love it to be set to music, because that’s how I treated the piece as I was writing it for a music festival, making it rhythmical,” he says.

“We’re going to have to be distanced, when normally in times of difficulty and crisis, your usual instinct is to step forward and embrace each other,” says Barnsley poet Ian McMillan

To complement his own poem, McMillan will read Thomas Hardy’s The Oxen and Edwin Morgan’s The Computer’s First Christmas Card, a particular favourite of his.

Margolyes, 79, and McMillan, 64, will be joined in this virtual concert by the Ryedale Festival Consort, directed by David Clegg, with Ben Morris at the organ.

Sopranos Zoe Brookshaw and Jessica Cale, altos Elisabeth Paul and Kim Porter, tenors Jeremy Budd and Julian Gregory and basses Robert Davies and William Gaunt will intersperse the readings with popular Christmas melodies, such as Ralph Vaughan Williams’s The Truth From Above, Harold Darke’s In the Bleak Midwinter, Jamie Burton’s arrangement of Silent Night and Thomas Tallis’s Videte Miraculum.

Filmed in St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Pickering, the festive concert will “bring a warm Yorkshire Christmas to homes across the country” through Ryedale Festival’s online platform, Ryestream.

Although it is free to view, donations to support the festival’s reach through its digital programme will be warmly accepted.

In response to the Coronavirus pandemic, RyeStream was created to share music from beautiful Ryedale locations across the world. In July, Ryedale Festival broadcast its inaugural online festival of eight live concerts from three Ryedale venues: All Saints’ Church, Helmsley, St Michael’s Church, Coxwold, and the triple whammy of the Long Gallery, pre-Raphaelite Chapel and Great Hall at Castle Howard.

A compilation film is still available to watch at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWJXqtAnl6U&feature=youtu.be

In addition, Ryedale Festival is partnering with three entrepreneurial choral groups, Echo Vocal Ensemble, The Swan Consort and The Gesualdo Six, to offer its followers “a unique opportunity to give a very special Christmas present”.

12 Days Of Christmas: A musical gift from Ryedale Festival

Filmed at Castle Howard, 12 Days Of Christmas will deliver a seasonal musical offering to each recipient’s inbox each day from December 25 to January 6. Prices start at £12 for the series, which comes with the option of eco-friendly digital delivery, bringing seasonal choral music to listeners in a year where many may not have been be able to hear live singing since March.

Created as “the perfect present for music-loving friends and family wherever they may be during the festive season”, this initiative has created work for 25 young choral professionals at the end of a challenging year for the arts sector. Go to https://12-days-of-christmas.tidze.com/ for the range of gift box options.

Looking ahead, Ryedale Festival will be celebrating its 40th anniversary next year.

The full programme for A Christmas Ryestream:

John Betjeman: Christmas

Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Truth From Above

Clive Sansom: The Innkeeper’s Wife

Alan Bullard: Shepherds Guarding Your Flocks

Clive James: The Crying Need For Snow

Harold Darke: In The Bleak Midwinter

Fanthorpe: BC:AD

Thomas Tallis: Videte Miraculum

Thomas Hardy: The Oxen (IM)

Richard Shephard: The Birds

Edwin Morgan: The Computer’s First Christmas Card

Arr. Jamie Burton: Silent Night

Ian McMillan: I Saw A Star, world premiere

John Gardner: Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day

Charles Dickens: from A Christmas Carol

Arr. Keith Roberts: Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Disney’s Bedknobs And Broomsticks to bob along to Leeds Grand Theatre next winter

The magical musical is on its way: The poster for the Leeds-bound world premiere tour of Disney’s Bedknobs And Broomsticks

IT is time to start believing. There WILL be a Christmas show at Leeds Grand Theatre next winter.

And what a show: the world premiere tour of Disney’s new stage musical, Bedknobs And Broomsticks, will be “bobbing along” to Yorkshire from December 8 2021 to January 9 2022 with its story of three orphaned children, evacuated ever so reluctantly from London to live with the mysterious Eglantine Price, a trainee witch.

Brought to stage life by Harry Potter And The Cursed Child illusionist Jamie Harrison and fellow award-winning theatre-maker Candice Edmunds, the show will feature songs by the legendary Sherman Brothers, of Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats fame.

Among them will be Portobello Road, The Age Of Not Believing and The Beautiful Briny, complemented by a new book by Brian Hill and new songs and additional music and lyrics by Neil Bartram.

The Leeds Grand Theatre auditorium: empty since March 14 in Covid-19 2020. Picture: Ant Robling

The show is based on the books The Magic Bedknob; Or, How To Become A Witch In Ten Easy Lessons (1943) and Bonfires And Broomsticks (1947) by Highbury-born children’s author Mary Norton, and Disney’s 1971 Academy Award-winning film, Bedknobs And Broomsticks, starring Angela Lansbury and David Tomlinson.

Confirmation of this five-week Christmas run follows the announcement that Mamma Mia! will return to the Leeds Grand in…2023. Mamma Mia indeed.

The jukebox musical with a book by British playwright Catherine Johnson and the ABBA songs of Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, had its 2020 run Covid-cancelled, but Leeds Grand audiences will be saying Thank You For The Music once more from April 4 to 15, almost 16 months from now. 

At the close of a year when the crushing pandemic brought the curtain down on the Leeds Grand stage after the March opening night of Northern Ballet’s world premiere of Kenneth Tindall’s Geisha, that stage will remain dark over Christmas for the first time in the New Briggate theatre’s 142-year history (bar the refurbishment of 2005-6). 

Ayama Miyata as Aiko and Minju Kang as Okichi in Northern Ballet’s Geisha. Picture: Guy Farrow

As a result of this on-going Covid-cursed shutdown and inability to generate earned revenue through ticket and secondary sales, the Leeds Grand is asking patrons, if financially possible, to help support its long-term survival by donating to its Keep A Seat Warm This Christmas campaign, buying tickets to future shows or memberships, gift vouchers and merchandise.

Chief executive officer Chris Blythe says: “I know it is a huge ask, especially at Christmas, but I also know how much the Grand means to the people of Leeds and wider region.

“The support and generosity of our patrons this year has been overwhelming, both financially and emotionally. It is abundantly clear that arts and culture are needed now more than ever to help boost people’s mental health and build community through shared experience, as we all try to find some escapism from our day-to-day and ongoing concerns for our futures.”

Tickets for Disney’s Bedknobs And Broomsticks and Mamma Mia! are on sale at leedsheritagetheatres.com or on 0113 243 0808. To support Leeds Heritage Theatres this Christmas, go to leedsheritagetheatres.com.

Jessa raises her voice to favourite female icons in Sunday night’s Songbirds show

Jessa Liversidge: Sunday celebration of female icons in her Songbirds concert at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

YORK’S unstoppable force for the joy of singing, Jessa Liversidge, will present Songbirds, her celebration of female icons through the decades, at the reopened Joseph Rowntree Theatre on Sunday.

She will be accompanied at the 7.30pm concert by Malcolm Maddock on piano. “Malcolm and I launched the show a year ago in Tollerton, then performed it at Helmsley Arts Centre in January,” says Jessa.

“Both shows received a fantastic response from audiences and we were all set for an April performance at the Rowntree Theatre, but it was not to be.

“However, we were able to put together a live-stream highlights version at the end of July, but we can’t wait to perform to a live theatre audience together again this weekend.”

Jessa has devised such one-woman shows as her tribute to wartime women, ‘Til The Boys Come Home, and a musical theatre compilation, Some Enchanted Sondheim. Songbirds, her late-2019 addition, is an eclectic mix of vintage pop, musical theatre and comedy from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

“The show came about as I wanted to pay tribute to some of my favourite female musical icons, even though they come from a wide range of styles,” she says.

“So, one minute I may be in full, high-energy Victoria Wood flow, performing some of her most well-known songs, like Barry And Freda, with all the verses…moments later, I could be totally still, lost in a Kate Bush or Karen Carpenter song, and then I’ll go straight into theatrical mode for Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns.”

Jessa Liversidge performing with Michael Maddock: “We have a wonderful collaborative relationship, and Malcolm is such a sensitive and responsive accompanist,” she says.

In the past few years, Dundee-born Jessa has become a huge fan of Carole King. “Through the lockdowns of the summer, I collaborated with Gary Stewart, a fantastic solo musician, as well as a member of Hope & Social and his own Graceland band – who happens to be our neighbour – to create some socially distanced Carole King and James Taylor collaborations,” says Jessa.

“Now, there are five Carole King songs featured in Songbirds and so many more I would like to do. Maybe a full tribute show is on the cards next.”

Songs by musical heroes from her teenage days, fellow Scot Annie Lennox and Alison Moyet, will feature too.

“I haven’t abandoned musical theatre completely,” says the York Musical Theatre Company regular. “I’ve included Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand in my list of icons, and songs such as Feed The Birds and The Way We Were are featured, as well as The Sound Of Music and On A Clear Day.”

Looking forward to playing once more with Malcolm Maddock, Jessa says: “Having worked together so much, we have a wonderful collaborative relationship, and Malcolm is such a sensitive and responsive accompanist.

“We’ve performed live together for the filming of the St Leonard’s Hospice Light Up A Life service – now available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/xkWheW34xB8 – and that was such a special moment, especially in the beautiful setting and acoustic of Selby Abbey.”

Sunday’s stage at the JoRo will be very simple and intimate. “The stars of this show are the songs,” says Jessa. “I will not be doing impressions of these legends or presenting tribute acts.

Out in the country: Mick and Jessa Liversidge taking in a breath of fresh Yorkshire when working on their Fields And Lanes recordings in lockdown

“What I aim to do is perform this massive range of songs in a way that is loyal to the original but also true to my own style. Every single song in this programme I love performing for different reasons, and I hope that passion comes across to the audience too. 

“But unusually for December 20, this will not be a festive show, though Malcolm and I have found a way of including at least one festive-themed song in the evening while staying true to the Songbirds theme.”

Jessa and her husband, fellow performer Mick, have played their part in the reopening of the JoRo theatre in Haxby Road, York. “In September, Mick and I performed our Fields And Lanes show there as a test for their Covid safety procedures,” she reveals.

“We were really pleased to be able to help the theatre in this way, and it has allowed the theatre to finalise their procedures and guidelines, enabling them to reopen and make the theatre visit as safe as possible for all guests and performers.

“It also allowed us to test out our outdoor poetry and song-based show in an indoor setting and it worked really well. 

“So, in 2021, we’re excited to be working together on a Fields And Lanes project for Helmsley Arts Centre, involving members of the community in workshops, leading up to a performance in March.”

Jessa advises: “There’ll be very limited places on these workshops as we hope to work very closely with people on their singing and poetry interpretation skills – and the final performance will be available both as a live theatre show and a live stream. Details will be on the Helmsley Arts Centre website from January.”

Jessa Liversidge in a still moment from one of her daily Singing For All Advent Singalongs throughout December

Meanwhile, this ever-busy people’s champion has been trying to keep all her singing groups going online amid the strictures of the pandemic. “This has been a particular challenge for my Singing For All group,” she says.

“I set up the group as a Community Interest Company in the summer – something I’d been meaning to do for a while – and, after nine months of drastically reduced participation due to the Covid situation, with so many of my members not being online, Singing For All is struggling to keep going.”

Aware that the “magic of Christmas would have to be a bit different for everyone this year”, Jessa decided to do a daily Singing For All Advent Singalong throughout December.

“Every day, I go live on Facebook and sing a festive song or two, while saying a little about how special Singing For All is, with a virtual busking hat so that people can help if they are able to. The Advent Singalongs can be found on my Facebook page and YouTube.”

On Saturdays throughout this month, Advent Singalong and Field Sing are being combined, with the festive songs being sung outside despite the inclement weather. Take a look at December 12’s results at https://youtu.be/lMUKkR7RR9s and at Jessa’s website blog on her busy festive diary at https://jessaliversidge.com/index.php/news/ 

Turning to 2021’s diary, Jessa says: “My hopes for next year are that I can somehow continue to keep singing and helping others find the singing joy, however I can. With any luck, at least some of that may be with live audiences and choirs.” 

Tickets for Sunday’s show are on sale at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/

McGoldrick, McCusker and Doyle go virtual for their debut Christmas concert at home

Christmas trio with a Christmas tree: Michael McGoldrick, left, John McCusker and John Doyle looking very much at home in their promotional picture for Christmas At Hiome

MICHAEL McGoldrick, John McCusker and John Doyle’s Christmas At Home concert will be shown online by Selby Town Hall tomorrow night (16/12/2020).

The folk trio have recorded a 45-minute festive set at The Met in Bury to be “streamed into the homes of people the length and breadth of the UK, linking with venues and festivals from the Highlands of Scotland, across the sea to Belfast, and on to the far south of England”.

Best known for their work with Bob Dylan, Mark Knopfler and BBC Transatlantic Sessions, as well as prominent roles with Solas, Capercaillie and Kate Rusby, this is the first time Manchester multi-instrumentalist McGoldrick, Scottish fiddler and tin whistler McCusker and Dublin multi-instrumentalist Doyle have played a Christmas gig.

Bringing together diverse Yuletide melodies, firm favorites and traditional and contemporary songs and tunes, their magical material will range from the medieval song Curoo Curoo to John Shehan’s hauntingly beautiful melody Christchurch and a majestic rendition of O Holy Night.

John McCusker, left, Michael McGoldrick and John Doyle performing their Christmas At Home concert

Each night’s online show will be different: questions submitted from the virtual audiences of each venue and festival will be answered for the individual streaming. Please note, all ticket buyers will be given the opportunity to send in a question for their particular venue.

McGoldrick says: “We felt we wanted to connect with people at this time of year and had been looking for a way to do this. This November, we were supposed to be performing in Switzerland and the Czech Republic, and John Doyle had flown over from his home in the US.

“The tour was cancelled at short notice and so we thought, this is our chance to use the time to record something special.”

Please note, ticket sales will be split between the artists and the individual venues and festivals, “so you can be confident your purchase will not only support McGoldrick, McCusker and Doyle at Christmas, but also your local venues, promoters and festivals”.

Star performers: John McCusker, Michael McGoldrick and John Doyle

What happens now:

Go to https://myplayer.uk/christmasathome and find the Selby Town Hall date to acquire a ticket for £12. Once you have done so, you will receive an email with information on how to watch the 8pm concert in the comfort of your home. Each ticket will allow one more screening within a seven-day period. Tickets are valid for only one device at a time and cannot be shared.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s streaming, Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones says: “We’re delighted to ‘virtually host’ three of the biggest and best names in contemporary folk as they undertake their first ever online tour.

“Christmas folk gigs are always such a warm and joyous affair, and while it’s a real shame that we can’t be welcoming the band into the venue in person this year, I’m very happy to be able to offer the next best thing.

“Some fantastic arts centres, theatres and festivals from across the UK have joined this tour, and all of them are a vital part of our vibrant touring circuit. I hope the venues, and the brilliant artists they put on, stay strong through this pandemic crisis and we can look forward to a bright and live 2021.”

Bull spread Love Goo’s message of getting on with people on eve of Snow Global show

Feeling Bullish: York band Bull see out 2020 with the Love Goo EP and a live-streamed show

YORK alt-rockers Bull close out their breakthrough year with a new EP and a live-streamed gig tomorrow night (16/12/2020).

The Love Goo EP, out now on EMI Records in conjunction with York label Young Thugs, combines the new title track with Bull’s three 2020 singles: the fuzz-rocking Disco Living, the noisy pop of Bonzo Please and the summer high of Green.

Billed as a “brilliant slice of indie maximalism”, Love Goo hooks sweet pop melodies onto a ramshackle jangle rock template, with spritely xaphoon lines (a kind of pocket saxophone), tin whistle and piano to the fore.

“It’s a song about getting along with people,” explains wry-humoured Bull songwriter and singer Tom Beer. “It looks at my relationship with my family as well as my own feelings of ‘sticky love goo’, when thinking about people in my life and from my childhood.

“It’s about the difference between people, universal truth, gender fluidity, peace and love, understanding and all of that stuff.”

Tomorrow, Bull will be performing a live-streamed gig, The Snow Global Tour, from a special winter wonderland location at 8pm. Each ticket not only guarantees access to the stream, but fans also will receive a special screen-printed T-shirt or commemorative poster designed by bassist Kai West. Tickets for this online event, hosted by Bull and Reel Recording Studio, are available at bull.veeps.com.

“We recorded it at Reel Recording Studio in Elvington on Monday (14/12/2020), in one of the industrial warehouses near the airfield, where we did up the whole studio like a Christmas grotto,” says Tom.

“We didn’t do a Christmas cover version, but I wrote a Christmas song two years ago though I didn’t know it was a Christmas song until it was! I wrote it when I was busking in York; I played these notes and thought, ‘Oh, this sounds Christmasy’, and it turned into a song about Christmas and my relationships at this time of year.

Bass player Kai West’s poster for Bull’s Snow Global Tour live-streamed gig on December 16

“I love it! I just think it’s a really nice song and for this live-streamed gig we had a brass band playing it with us: Bargestra, the Arts Barge’s community band, with Kai’s stepdad, Christian Topman, arranging it.”

Christian, York musician, teacher, workshop leader and Arts Barge co-founder, had taught Tom in his days of attending York Music Services’ Wednesday sessions, playing trombone in jazz and funk bands.  “I play it on the live-stream, not very well though,” says Tom.

“Christian had had this idea, saying, ‘Do you have any songs that we could do together this year?’, and we thought, ‘well, yeah, we’ve got this Christmas song’. Christian scored it out and they came and played it with us, socially distanced, wearing masks, though not when playing, obviously.”

What’s the title, Tom? “It’s called, well, we might call it Fairytale Of York! Though its short title is Gay Days, as the opening lines are: ‘The olden days, the olden golden gay days’. Whatever we call it, we’re thinking of chasing a number one hit next year!”

The live-streamed gig has been recorded with Ben Hammond, who has worked previously with My Chemical Romance, Florence +The Machine and Placebo. “We recorded a gig for Jorvik Radio there in July and thought, ‘wow, this place is at an impressive level we’ve not experienced before’,” recalls Tom. “So when they said, ‘do you want to do a streamed show with us?, we said ‘Yes!’.”

Russell Baldwin, the sound engineer for Bull’s gigs at the Fulford Arms, came on board too, and the result is a 50-minute show…

…”Getting on for nearer 60 minutes, with a few skits and some dancers,” says Tom. “I will say it was very strange to be playing a gig where you’re aware that people would be watching it, but they weren’t actually there.”

Explaining the Snow Global Tour title for a one-off gig, Tom says: “The idea was that we were going to make a T-shirt with only one date on the back, which we thought would be hilarious…but in the end we just printed T-shirts with lettering on the front.”

Next up from Bull at CharlesHutchPress will be an interview with Tom Beer about a band’s life in Covid-crocked 2020, the Love Goo EP, and plans for gigs and releases in 2021.

Taylor-made for panto stage from Emily’s scene-stealing impromptu debut at five

Emily Taylor: Lighting up the York Stage pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, in the transformation scene. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

EMILY Taylor was cut out for the stage from her first moment in the spotlight at the age of five.

Now the York dance tutor, regular dance captain and choreographer for myriad Grand Opera House pantomimes is starring in York Stage’s debut pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk.

She forms part of the all-action ensemble with Danielle Mullan and Matthew Ives in writer-director Nik Briggs’s production at the Covid-secure, socially distanced, beanstalk-staired Theatre @41 Monkgate.

Here Emily answers Charles Hutchinson’s scattergun questions on pantomimes past, present and future, heroes, villains and fairies, 2020 and 2021.

What was the first pantomime you ever saw and what do you recall of it?

“Cinderella at the Grand Opera House, York. Frazer Hines was Buttons and I was about five years old. We were seated in a box closest to the stage and in the song sheet, when they asked for children to go up on stage, my Dad lifted me over the edge so I could run up.

“We did I Am The Music Man and they kept me up as the last child to finish it by myself. That was my first ever panto experience and my first ever time on stage.” 

What was your first pantomime role?

“Grumpy the dwarf in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.”

What has been your favourite pantomime role?

“I’ve LOVED all of my years as a dancer. However, I think covering for Debbie McGee as Fairy in Beauty And The Beast when she was doing Strictly, and getting to work alongside the lovely Lynne McGranger, was a highlight. I really enjoy the acting part of things.”

Who have you not yet played in pantomime that you would love to play and why?

“I’d love to actually play the  Fairy for a full run, or at the other end of the scale, an evil queen/baddie role.” 

Who is your favourite pantomime performer and why?

“I’ve worked with so many people whose talent I admire and have learnt so much from watching how different people work. As a teenager, I worked with Michael Starke, as the Emperor of China, who was totally professional, hard working, and just a genuinely lovely person. Although, after this show, I feel like I may have some new favourites!”

This year’s pantomime will be an experience like no other…what are your expectations of performing a show in these strange circumstances?

“This year’s show is already filled with so much joy and appreciation from us all as a cast. I’m hoping the audience will share that joy with us – everyone will just be so happy to see live theatre again.

“The performance space is much more intimate here, which brings a whole new element to it.”

Emily Taylor in the York Stage pantomime slapstick scene with Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nanna Trott. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography


Which pantomime role should Boris Johnson play and why?

“Hmmmmm…maybe the Genie of the Ring. They often have a lot of power but are not quite sure how to use it in the best way. A difficult situation to be in!”

Who or what has been the villain of 2020?

“Covid-19.”

Who or what has been the fairy of 2020? 

“Nik Briggs. 100 per cent!!!!!”

How would you sum up 2020 in five words?

“Enlightening. Chance to re-evaluate priorities.”

What are your wishes for 2021?

“For Covid to be under control or, even better, be gone completely, so that I can give my Mum and Dad a hug! I also want to perform as much as possible if I can. 2020 has certainly cemented just how much I love the theatre.”

What are your hopes for the world of theatre in 2021?

“For theatre to return quickly and safely and things to get back to normal, but with a whole new level of appreciation, as soon as possible.”

York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until January 3 2021.

Show times: December 15 and 16, 7pm; December 18, 7pm (sold out); December 19, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 20, 11am, 1pm (sold out) and 6pm; December 21, 7pm; December 22, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 23, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; Christmas Eve, December 24, 11am, 1pm (sold out) and 5pm (sold out).

Boxing Day, December 26, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 27, 11am, 1pm (sold out) and 6pm; December 28, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 29 and 30, 2pm and 7pm; New Year’s Eve, December 31, 12 noon. 

Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

Pocklington Arts Centre to stream Magic Carpet Theatre’s clown show Magic Circus

Jon Marshall as the Ringmaster and Steve Collison as a clown in Magic Carpet Theatre’s Magic Circus

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is to stream Magic Carpet Theatre’s show Magic Circus from December 19, available online for up to seven days.

Thanks to a grant of £4,100 from the East Yorkshire’s I Am Fund, via the HEY Smile Foundation, the Hull company performed both Magic Circus and The Wizard Of Castle Magic behind closed doors at PAC, filmed by Pocklington production company Digifish. 

Families accessing the People’s Pantry food banks in Pocklington, Market Weighton and Holme-on-Spalding-Moor will be the first to receive an exclusive free link to watch Magic Circus, or a free DVD copy of the show, before it is rolled out to other food banks across the East Riding. 

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “With our national reputation for presenting high-quality children’s theatre and workshops, we have really missed being able to offer our family theatre programme to our audiences this year, especially at a time when we would traditionally be enjoying the build-up to our popular pantomime. 

“So, we are delighted to be able to bring the magic and joy of live theatre to our younger audiences through the power of live streaming.” 

Janet continues: “The funding we have secured will enable us to develop an enhanced online presence, with the long-term aim being to see sustained arts engagement from younger generations during the pandemic and increased attendance at PAC events when we are eventually able to re-open our doors. We are extremely grateful to the I Am Fund and the HEY Smile Foundation for making this possible.  

“We hope the show will bring a bit of happiness and cheer to families after what has been an incredibly tough year and we think it makes for the perfect run-up to Christmas.”

PAC plans to release The Wizard Of Castle Magic in time for February half-term, and as part of the project too, PAC intends to offer online workshops next year. 

Magic Carpet Theatre are Pocklington Arts Centre favourites, noted for their circus skills, magic and audience participation, and have staged numerous sold-out events there.

“We hope the show will bring a bit of happiness and cheer to families after what has been an incredibly tough year,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer

Directed by Jon Marshall with music by Geoff Hardisty and effects by Theatrical Pyrotechnics, the first online show, Magic Circus, is a fast-moving, colourful story that combines magical illusions, comedy, circus skills and puppets.

It tells the humorous tale of what happens to the ringmaster’s planned extravaganza after the artistes and elephants fail to arrive and everything has to be left in the hands of the clowns. Disaster!

Inevitably, they make a fantastically messy job of it as Magic Carpet Theatre take traditional circus and variety skills, dust them down and invest them with new life, moulding them into a mystifying hour-long play with a circus theme.

The second show, The Wizard Of Castle Magic, based on the traditional Sorcerer’s Apprentice tale, will enchant audiences aged three to 11 and their families with a script full of comedy, illusion and special theatrical effects. 

Heather Davidson, chair of the People’s Pantry for Pocklington, Market Weighton and Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, says: “We are delighted that our families will be among the first to get exclusive access to these shows. 

“It’s just really nice to offer them something else at Christmas other than a food parcel. While we are looking after the food parcel side of things, PAC is looking after the social side of things, which will hopefully bring a little bit of happiness to families that need it at this time of year.”

Magic Circus can be watched online for free on the Pocklington Arts Centre YouTube channel from 2.30pm on Saturday(19/12/2020).

The Wizard Of Castle Magic will be available to stream via YouTube from 2.30pm on Thursday, February 18 2021. 

Donations in support of Pocklington Arts Centre can be made at: justgiving.com/crowdfunding/magic-carpet-theatre

Bedern Hall will deck the hall for Christmas Craft Fair from Sunday to Thursday

The Christmas Craft Fair Christmas tree

BEDERN Hall, in Bedern, York, will play host to a Deck The Hall Christmas Craft Fair from Sunday (13/12/2020) to Thursday, 11am to 4pm.

Open to visitors for the first time since March, this is an opportunity to experience the 14th century hall decorated in traditional style, be inspired by a mini-Christmas market for gifts, cards and crafts and enjoy mulled juices and seasonal treats in the pop-up cafe. Admission is free but a donation would be welcome; £2 for adults, £1 for children aged eight upwards.

Roger Lee, Bedern Hall director and Freeman of the City of York, says: “Special places like Bedern Hall have not just popped up recently to take a cut of York’s tourist successes. They are the often-unnoticed background to all that happens in York; they shape the city streets; they quietly share their amazing stories and they look to the future with the perspective that only history can give. These places are York.”

Los Angeles singer Beth Hart will reveal dark secrets at York Barbican next October

GRAMMY nominee Beth Hart and her American band will play York Barbican on October 31 next year.

The Los Angeles singer-songwriter, 48, likes to throw down her cards and share her darkest secrets as she invites audiences to join her for the ride. Witness the DVD or Blu-ray of her sold-out Royal Albert Hall concert in London.

Hart last released an album, War In My Mind, in 2019. “More than any record I’ve ever made, I’m more open to being myself on these songs,” she said at the time. “I’ve come a long way with healing, and I’m comfortable with my darknesses, weirdnesses and things that I’m ashamed of, as well as all the things that make me feel good.”

From the extremes of her life come the heart, soul and blues of Hart’s songs. “A lot of subjects are covered on War In My Mind,” she reflected.

A year earlier, Hart teamed up with New York blues rock guitarist, singer and songwriter Joe Bonamassa for the album Black Coffee.

Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

York singer Steve Cassidy, band and guests to raise funds for Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Steve Cassidy: Fundraiser for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

THE Steve Cassidy Band play the reopened Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow (13/12/2020) to raise funds for their favourite venue.

Long-standing York singer Steve, his band and guests will be performing songs from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, along with classic numbers from the world of popular and country music.

Tickets for the Covid-secure, socially distanced 7.30pm concert cost £9 to £12 at: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/all-shows/steve-cassidy-band-in-concert/1374  

NCEM receives £28,000 Kickstart grant to boost ambitious digital outreach plans

“Over the past year, our digital outreach has become increasingly significant as part of our offer and we’re thrilled to be able to continue to expand it,” says NCEM director Delma Tomlin

THE National Centre for Early Music, in York, has been awarded a £28,000 Capital Kickstart grant from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

This will enable the NCEM, in St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, to push forward with its ambitious digital plans, despite the financial challenge caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

NCEM director Dr Delma Tomlin said:“We would like to thank the Culture Recovery Fund for their continued support and for this extremely generous grant in recognition of our vital and important work. Over the past year, our digital outreach has become increasingly significant as part of our offer and we’re thrilled to be able to continue to expand it.”

The NCEM is one of 74 organisations receiving grants totalling £58.9 million today. The Capital Kickstart grants programme helps organisations cover costs added to capital projects such as building works, refurbishments, and large-scale equipment purchases by pandemic-related delays or fundraising shortfalls. 

To continue the “outstanding success of its significantly increased digital output”, the NCEM needed additional funds for livestream cameras and filming equipment, plus in the new website in order to reach wider audiences and support the Early Music sector. 

Steven Devine performing the first live-streamed concert at the NCEM on March 21

The first live-streamed concert on Early Music Day on March 21 by harpsichordist Steven Devine attracted a worldwide audience of more than 70,000 and this summer’s online York Early Music Festival continued to engage new audiences from as far afield as the USA and Australia. 

This month, the NCEM is staging the York Early Music Christmas Festival, a festive programme of live concerts running until this weekend. Newly added for 2020 is York Christmas At Home, a digital festival of nine concerts to be streamed from today until Sunday that will then be available on demand.

In November, the NCEM’s Young Composers Award 2020, presented in association with BBC Radio 3 and The Tallis Scholars, took place digitally; again, the behind-closed-doors concert was live-streamed to a wide audience. Plans for next year’s award with BBC Radio 3 and 2021 partners, recorder quartet Palisander, are in progress already.

The NCEM continues to play an important part in the promotion and support of the professional development of Early Music ensembles worldwide with residencies and workshops in the planning stage. As a bonus, the NCEM’s new spring music festival will coincide with celebrations for 2021 Early Music Day on the anniversary of JS Bach’s birthday on March 21.

Alongside a varied programme of music, in 2021 the NCEM will be staging the Beverley & East Riding Early Music Festival and the York Early Music Festival.

Ben Pugh, seated, leading the tech team for the online 2020 York Early Music Festival in July

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, the NCEM has continued to keep music alive and was one of the first UK arts organisations to broadcast online concerts worldwide.

Education and engagement with communities has continued too, drawing in socially isolated individuals to a weekly Cuppa And A Chorus, as well as sharing music-making through a series of teaching videos aimed at deaf youngsters, I Can Play. 

Today, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport also announced that £165 million from the Culture Recovery Fund has been offered in repayable loans to help 11 major cultural organisations survive the loss of income caused by the crisis.

This follows previous rounds of the Culture Recovery Fund, including the grants programme that distributed £428 million to more than 2,000 cultural organisations across the country and the £3.36 million Emergency Grassroots Music Venues Fund.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This Government promised it would be here for culture and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word. 

Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth captured on camera in their live-streamed concert at the NCEM. The concert can be enjoyed again as part of York Christmas At Home on Sunday at 10.30am via ncem.co.uk

“The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.

“Today, we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture, so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.” 

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, said: “Today’s announcement is another vital step in securing the future of England’s cultural sector. Supporting capital projects will help to ensure that we maintain an innovative, sustainable cultural infrastructure that supports world-class creative work, while the loans announced today will enable some of our largest and most prestigious cultural organisations to weather the effects of Covid-19 and reopen when it is safe to do so.

“The Arts Council is grateful to the Government for their support through the Culture Recovery Fund and we are proud to support all the organisations receiving funding today.”

For more details on the 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival and York Christmas At Home festival, go to: ncem.co.uk.

York stags and hens, racecourse revellers and gargoyles, all through the eye of Dan Cimmermann at Art Of Protest Gallery

Trout, by Dan Cimmermann, from his new Oy! Oy! collection at the Art Of Protest Gallery, York

POCKLINGTON School art master Dan Cimmermann will be painting live from 11am until darkness at tomorrow’s Art Of Protest Gallery launch of his Oy! Oy! solo show in York.

“Join us for a glass of festive fizz and check out this collection of originals based on the streets of York,” says gallery founder and owner Craig Humble, extending an invitation to a timely exhibition that merges York’s past and present.

Put bluntly, “St William’s Window versus Stags, Hens and Racecourse Revellers”. “This exhibition uses art’s first role – to make us look – as a means to encourage our thoughts about what’s important for the living vibrant reality of York today,” he contends.

“We can respect the layers of history that make our city so attractive, while embracing those who use our city for celebrating birthdays, hen dos and globally important sporting events.” 

Woo! Woo!, by Dan Cimmermann, newly on show at the Art Of Protest Gallery

Craig, who has re-located his ever-provocative gallery to No. 11, Walmgate, this autumn, continues: “Dan’s show is another example of the Art Of Protest showing the contemporary side of this ancient city. Dan is a Yorkshire artist whose work is predominantly shown in London and Tokyo, so, as an art master at the 16th century Pocklington School, it’s nice to be able to show his work a little nearer home.”

Dan’s Oy! Oy! collection has emerged from his countless visits to York. Living nearby, he enjoys the city’s shops and restaurants, making cultural visits and a day at the races. As a keen photographer as well as a painter, he often takes snaps of scenes and events that catch his eye.

Over the years, he has come to ask himself, “What is it about a city with such a heritage that attracts such gatherings of hedonism and partying?”.

“When I was looking through my photos and sketches, I was struck with the contrast between the stoic architecture, layers of history and the revellers that drive the city’s economy today,” Dan says. 

Dan Cimmermann’s studio with his works Woo! Woo! and Museum Gardens

“Whether they be the stags and hens meeting centrally from across the country, or the landed gentry celebrating a coup at the races, York is filled every weekend with drunken forms and faces finding their way around the streets and alleys.

“I kept imagining the Minster’s gargoyles looking down and wondering about how their world view had changed over the millennia”.

Reflecting on the exhibition’s timing in the shadow of the pestilent pandemic, Craig says: “To put on this show after York has seen the quietest year in its history, regarding visitor numbers at least, is the sort of juxtaposition that tweaks the interest of an artist and a gallery, now in a new location. 

“Many a local has lamented the city being overrun every weekend, but this staccato year has reminded us all that the city has the restaurants, museums, pubs and cultural investment because of the people attracted to come for whatever reason.”

To mark tomorrow’s exhibition launch, Dan will paint a mural in the backyard of Art Of Protest’s new Walmgate home. Oy! Oy! will then run until January 16 2021.

Dan Cimmermann, pictured when exhibiting at The Biscuit Factory in Newcastle

Joseph Rowntree Theatre launches virtual bucket shake fundraiser with rewards

The Theatres Trust poster for the virtual bucket shake initiative

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, is taking part in the Theatres Trust national initiative to raise funds via a virtual bucket shake this festive season.

Donations will help to replace income lost in the grip of the pandemic. The Haxby Road theatre is asking supporters to help the JoRo to make sure it can welcome visiting performers and audiences to shows in 2021 by donating to a virtual bucket and then claiming a reward on the Crowdfunder page.

Dan Shrimpton, chair of trustees, says: “We’re facing an enormous loss of income from ticket sales, merchandise and ice creams, as well as missing out on the opportunity for a traditional bucket collection. This is why we’d like to invite you to take part in a virtual bucket collection this panto season.”

A retro-style illustration of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, aptly an Art Deco building, by York artist Elliot Harrison (alias York 360), available as a greeting card and print as a reward in the virtual bucket shake

The virtual bucket shake has been launched in advance of the JoRo reopening this weekend for Oddsocks Productions’ A Christmas Carol on Saturday at 3pm and 7.30pm and the Steve Cassidy Band on Sunday at 7.30pm. For tickets, go to: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/

Supporters can access the Crowdfunder page at crowdfunder.co.uk/virtual-bucket-shake-for-joseph-rowntree-theatre. Rewards on offer include teddy bears, theatre tote bags and greetings cards and prints of the JoRo.

You also can be a theatre elf or a theatre angel for a small donation, with donors being acknowledged on the theatre’s website.

Bah, Humbug to Covid. Nothing can stop Oddsocks bringing A Christmas Carol to Joseph Rowntree Theatre on Saturday

Ah, humbug…An unexpectedly sweet moment for Andy Barrow’s Scrooge in Oddsocks Productions’ A Christmas Carol

NO year can go by without jocund joshers Oddsocks Productions playing the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York, not even a Covid-compromised year.

Sure enough, the madcap Derby company return on Saturday for 60 minutes of socially distanced, slapstick-heavy festive fun with their very fast-moving adaptation of a Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

Make that 120 minutes because there will be two performances, the first at 3pm, the second at 7.30pm.

“Experience the ghostly tale of greed and comeuppance from the safety of your own table for up to six,” comes the Oddsocks invitation.

“Has Scrooge had his last humbug? Will he join the festive carollers and get some figgy pudding? Will Tiny Tim warm his stone-cold heart?” they ask.

Find out when Oddsocks serve up a Victorian feast of a family show in their own inimitable style using comedy, music and song.”

Oddsocks’ cracking crack at A Christmas Carol combines ghostly puppets from puppeteer Josh Elwell (CBeebies, Disney and The Jim Henson Company) with Oddsocks actor/director Andy Barrow as Scrooge and Joseph Maudsley (Ratty in Oddsocks’ The Wind In The Willows) as Bob Cratchit, also introducing Harrie Dobby to the Oddsocks family as Mrs Cratchit. 

Suitable for all from age seven upwards, A Christmas Carol will be performed without an interval but Humbug galore at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre. Tickets are on sale at: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/all-shows/a-christmas-carol/1327# or on 01904 501935.

First Martin Barrass loses one panto, now he loses another as outdoor show is off

Martin Barrass, attired in the late Bev Jones’s favourite colours of black and pink, is pictured publicising the now-cancelled Strictly Christmas Live In The Park

STRICTLY Xmas Live In The Park, with a singalong songsheet led by York pantomime perennial Martin Barrass, is off.

Organiser Lesley Jones confirmed the cancellation of Sunday’s open-air Bev Jones Music Company show at the Rowntree Park amphitheatre on Facebook.

“It is with huge sadness I have had to cancel the Xmas Concert on Sunday 13th. External circumstances forced the decision,” she revealed.

Charlotte Wood in the role of Silly Billy for Bev Jones Music Company’s Strictly Christmas Live In The Park

“However, we will be singing at Tesco, Askham Bar, on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th December from 1.30pm. Look out for our 2021 calendar. Thank you all as ever.”

In an earlier post, she wrote: “For many, many reasons we are beaten in this strangest of years! We must confess that we have taken the hardest decision to cancel our Strictly Live In The Park.

“You all know how I do always my best to give you the show I promise, but Covid, Tiers, illness, personal etc etc….force the decision.

The cast of Strictly Christmas Live In The Park, with Marin Barrass, front, centre, gathers for a socially distanced early rehearsal

“All ticket monies will be refunded in full. Roll on 2021. Keep in touch, join our Bev Jones Music Group page to find out what’s next.”

On November 29, Lesley had expressed excitement at the upcoming show’s progress. “Only two weeks to go! Tier 2 means we have the green light and we are good to go!” she posted

Strictly Xmas Live in The Park would have added up to a “3 in 1 Xmas experience” with Christmas songs through the decades, carols by candlelight and a one-of-a-kind, specially written pantomime,  Once Upon A Pud.

Martin Barrass, Dame Berwick’s stalwart comic stooge, was already missing out on the Covid-cancelled Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House. Now he has to forego leading the pantomime section of Strictly Xmas Live In The Park on Sunday afternoon too.

What? No show? Alas not for Melissa Boyd’s Princess and Terry Ford’s villain in the pantomime section of Bev Jones Music Company’s Strictly Xmas In The Park

In the Covid-secure, socially distanced performance, Martin would have reactivated his first ever song-sheet in a York Theatre Royal panto – all about Yorkshire Puddings – as well as telling a few seasonal jokes.

Joining him in the festive concert’s panto sequence would have been Melissa Boyd’s Princess, Terry Ford’s villain and Charlotte Wood’s Silly Billy, plus a Dame, Fairy Godmother, Prince Charming and Jack Ass.

Favourite Christmas songs, such as Santa Baby, Jingle Bell Rock and Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, and a visit from Father Christmas were in Sunday’s programme too. All audience members were to be temperature tested on arrival and placed into family private bubble areas.

Rehearsals were booked in for Rufforth Institute Hall, socially distanced and under a full Covid risk a