Westlife go East to play Scarborough Open Air Theatre as only 2021 outdoor north date

Westlife’s poster for next summer’s Scarborough Open Air Theatre concert

IRISH grown-up boy band Westlife will play an exclusive north of England outdoor show at Scarborough Open Air Theatre next summer.

The top-selling album band of the 21st century should have played both the Yorkshire coast venue and the inaugural York Festival in 2020, but the Covid lockdown enforced their cancellation.

Instead, Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan and Nicky Byrne will perform in Scarborough four days before their headline show at Wembley Stadium.

Westlife’s official statement reads: “Some exciting news! We are delighted to announce that Scarborough Open Air Theatre have invited us to join next year’s line-up on Tuesday, August 17.

“Given the current circumstances, we really are hopeful to announce more shows in the new year and look forward to being back with you all as soon as we can.

Westlife will perform such hits as Swear It Again, You Raise Me Up, My Love, Flying Without Wings, Uptown Girl, Unbreakable, When You’re Looking Like That and World Of Our Own, as well as picks from their chart-topping tenth album, 2019‘s Spectrum, Hello My Love among them.

Venue programmer Peter Taylor, of Scarborough OAT promoters Cuffe and Taylor, says: “Westlife fans were heartbroken when this summer’s tour was postponed due to the global pandemic, so we are delighted the boys will be coming to Scarborough OAT next summer.

“This is a real exclusive: Westlife’s only outdoor show in the north of England and four days before their headline show at Wembley. It’s going to be a brilliant night here!”

Westlife were booked to play Scarborough OAT on June 17 and York Festival at York Sports Club, Clifton Park, on June 20 as part of their 2020 Summer In The Stadiums tour before summer was scrapped.

Tickets for August 17 will go on sale via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com at 9am on Friday, October 30.

Scarborough Open Air Theatre’s 2021 season so far comprises: June 19, UB40 featuring Ali Campbell and Astro; June 20, RuPaul’s Drag Race: Werq The World; July 9, Keane; July 10, Olly Murs; August 17, Westlife, and August 20, Nile Rodgers & Chic. More concerts will be added; watch this space.

Did you know?

ALL ten of Westlife’s studio albums have reached the top five in the Official UK Albums Chart, five of them peaking at number one. Fourteen of their singles have made the top spot too.

REVIEW: Simon Slater serves up the chills, thrills and skills in Bloodshot at the SJT

Bottled up: Simon Slater as heavy-drinking, voyeuristic photographer Derek Eveleigh in Douglas Post’s Bloodshot

REVIEW: Simon Slater in Bloodshot, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm, 7.30pm tomorrow. Box office: sjt.uk.com/whatson or 01723 370541

SIMON Slater in Bloodshot? Make that a quartet of Simon Slaters in Bloodshot, a one-man, four-part noir tale of murder, vaudeville, magic and jazz, wherein he plays a booze-addled London photographer, a ukulele-strumming Irish comedian, an American saxophonist and a Russian magician.

In this Covid-restricted new theatre age of small casts and bubbles, Scarborough-born Slater’s Swiss Army Knife of skills makes him perfect for the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s return to live performances when even the Christmas show, The Snow Queen, will be a solo piece for Polly Lister.

Save for a quick look-around the Pavilion Theatre on the Cromer Pier while on holiday in Norfolk earlier this month, Wednesday night marked the first time CharlesHutchPress had set foot in a theatre auditorium since Pick Me Up Theatre’s Tom’s Midnight Garden at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, on March 13.

Rather than the clock striking 13, time came to a devastating stop for theatres only three days later, but the SJT has come out of hibernation this autumn, first for films upstairs in the McCarthy and now for theatre shows too.

A one-way system is in operation at the former Odeon Art Deco building, where you still enter through the familiar glass doors, but exit by the usually unseen back stairs. You take a temperature test, screen the NHS test and trace app, apply hand sanitiser and make your way to your seat, rather than to the bar, although drinks can be ordered from the ushers, ever busy on the stairways with trays in hand and sanitiser at hand.

No exhibition is in place on the corridor, no programmes are available, but the shop is still open.

The camera never lies…or does it in Bloodshot?

The 569 capacity in The Round is reduced to 80 for this show, with the audience on three sides only, each available socially distanced seat marked with a tick that makes you feel positive about being back in a theatre at last.

Yet how strange it feels. Normally 80 in the house would represent a flop; now it is a full house and a cause for celebration. Wearing a mask throughout your time in the building is the new norm. We must adjust, and so must the performer, as Slater observes. “You know that theatre expression, ‘you can’t hear a smile’. Well, now you can’t see one either,” he says, comparing his experience to playing to 70 Lone Rangers.

It feels good to break the ice with the first laugh and to burst into applause when Slater sings a song like an Irish variation on George Formby, or plays the jazz sax from behind dark glasses or munches his way through razor blades before regurgitating them on a piece of string in a magic routine rooted in his childhood love of Dinsdale’s, the Famous Joke & Trick Shop on the Scarborough sea front.

Now an associate artist at the SJT, Slater knows the theatre well, just as he knows Bloodshot well. He has chalked up 300 performances in the nine years since asking American playwright and good friend Douglas Post to write him a solo thriller over a late-night drink in a Chicago bar.

He last performed Bloodshot four years ago in Chicago before returning to the “only one-man thriller I’ve ever heard of”, but now attuning to the loneliness of the socially-distanced solo performer at the Watermill Theatre, Newbury, for four weeks this autumn under the fluent direction of Patrick Sandford.

Now comes the Scarborough finale, preceded by a Monday night rehearsed reading with Jemma Redgrave of Simon Woods’s brutally honest political satire, Hansard.

On a knife edge: Simon Slater as the Russian magician in Bloodshot

Slater’s Derek Eveleigh, enervated and broken, is standing on a bridge, contemplating suicide as the play starts at the end. Aided by back-projected photographic slides, music and video, Slater is at once narrator, protagonist and character actor, to go with his aforementioned deft skills of magic and music and his ear for an accent.

The setting is London, 1957, and Eveleigh reveals he is a former policeman whose photography of murder scenes brought on the alcoholism and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that led to his dismissal.

He has since made a career of filming women in public, but has fallen on hard times, and when  a mysterious envelope arrives from a stranger asking him to take secret pictures of an elegant young Caribbean-born woman, Cassandra, in Holland Park, the reward is too handsome to refuse.

Eveleigh is sucked into a seedy Soho nightlife suffused with dubious underground characters: the ageing Irish comic, New York sax player and club-owning Russian magician. Witnessing a bloody event, he vows to learn the truth, in particular how the three shady men, with their differing, contradictory stories, were connected to Cassandra.

Making light of a damaged shoulder, Slater says the show is “absolutely knackering”, but he throws himself into the murky maelstrom, combining his set-piece skills with a potent psychological portrait of the increasingly troubled, infatuated, sensitive Eveleigh, who is no angel among villains in a convoluted but increasingly rewarding murder mystery with surprises to the last.

A thrilling night in every way as theatre makes its SJT comeback.

Alone with a phone, are you a Good Neighbour as you walk Layerthorpe’s streets in York Mediale’s community policing experiment? The verdict

Neighbours, everybody needs Good Neighbours…or do they? You decide by taking part in York Mediale’s “weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk” in Layerthorpe this week

THE message arrived via email to confirm participation in York Mediale digital arts festival’s Good Neighbours scheme.

Your chosen Date: 20th October. Your chosen Time: 16:45. Location: 2 Foss Islands Rd, Layerthorpe: https://goo.gl/maps/BsBJjfxuB2tg7hkr6.

That’s opposite Walmgate Bar, should you be wondering, after a change from the original intention to mount the Good Neighbours project in The Groves, only for the City of York Council’s much publicised/controversial traffic measures to scupper that plan.

Never mind the bollards. Focus on Layerthorpe. “Please arrive promptly as we may have to cancel your slot if you arrive more than 5mins late,” the email warned.

Welcome to Good Neighbours, wherein “individual audience members will use their own mobile devices as they immerse themselves in a weirdly familiar fictional documentary walk alongside live performance, taking place in York city centre”.

A limping CH clocked in 3mins late, cutting it fine. “IMPORTANT: Bring a (charged) mobile phone with access to the internet (4G),” the email advised. “This will be a self-guided outdoor walk so do remember to dress appropriately and take care whilst engaging with the work, as you will be responsible for your own safety.” It is not easy to walk and keep on looking at the phone simultaneously, CH was to discover.

“Would you mind being filmed?” CH was asked before partaking in the dress rehearsal. No problem…unlike CH’s phone, whose data juice had run dry on holiday in Norfolk. Not a problem, CH was assured, by the guides, one filming all the while, the other (a familiar face from the York arts scene) conducting a Covid-secure safety check, hand sanitiser stern lecture and Green Cross Code reminder et al.

Stringent phone-cleaning measures ensued as CH was provided with an all-important mobile to follow instructions on a walk that should take you ten to 15 minutes but was destined to run rather longer thanks to CH’s initial ineptitude.

Can your friends experience Good Neighbours with you, you may be wondering. The answer is: “We would encourage each adult to book their own slot as this experience has been designed to engage one person at a time. We do however exempt children accompanying parents and carers supporting individuals with access needs from this guidance.” 

CH was being guided around the streets and housing of the Layerthorpe Neighbourhood, but nevertheless still imagined the solo experience…although you are never alone when you are on the phone and assorted instructions and text messages keep popping up, as you follow the green Good Neighbours logos and white arrows on the pathways.

Suddenly CH came across a young man in a tracksuit dancing to rave music, crushed tinny in his hand. “Is that noise irritating you?” asked one irritated neighbour in a vexed text. Would you just let him be, or ask him to turn it down? Live and let live, CH suggested. Not the answer one neighbourhood watcher wanted to read.

By now, the raver was raving in a different way, asking if CH thought he was a chav and “you better move on, mate”. No problem, exit CH…but then came a message that Punch the dog was missing. Would CH help to look for him? And guess who was being accused of taking poor Punch. Rave on, crazy dancer.

To cut a long story/short walk shorter, after various encounters and stressful text messages, CH ended up having to knock on a door to ask if Punch was inside. “Go away”, a woman at the window suggested. She had just filmed CH at her doorway on one of those new-fangled home-security/delivery check cameras filling up TV advertising slots right now.

No sooner had CH “gone away” than a young woman from across the street aggressively started asking CH, “What do you think you’re doing? I’ve been watching you. Why have you got your phone out?”

CH was beginning to feel Punch-drunk by now, a Neighbourhood Watch novice assaulted from all sides, nervously awaiting his Good Neighbours Personality verdict at charles.hutchinson104@gmail.com. It never came, alas.

So, what was the purpose of this York Mediale outdoor project, brought to the 2020 festival by Klasien van de Zandschulp and Natalie Dixon of affect lab, an Amsterdam research hub and creative studio with a focus on the relationship between technology and communities, mounted against the backdrop of an increase in WhatsApp neighbourhood watch groups through lockdown?

“As places across the country head back into lockdown, there’s a lot of debate around ‘community policing’ and the micro-politics of communities,” they say.

“Love them or loathe them, the introduction of neighbourhood Whatsapp and Facebook groups has changed the way we communicate with our neighbourhoods, whether that’s positively or negatively, particularly in the already tough times of Covid.”

The lab duo note: “The introduction of fines and government ministers weighing in on whether it’s OK to snitch on our neighbours for breaking the rules has put community policing at the top of the agenda.”

Oh joy, what a wonderful time we are all having in Covid-19 2020, when Layerthorpe’s student residences reinforce the town-versus-gown frown that is growing across the face of the city.

CH’s verdict? Snooping, no, but pulling together to help each other via Whatsapp and Facebook, yes. Oh, and keep an eye out for Punch.

York Mediale runs Good Neighbours until Sunday, October 25. To book a walk, go to: yorkmediale.com.

We’re watching you! CH caught on camera in his search for Punch the dog.

Fancy learning about Gothic horror in fiction and film from Doctor Corstorphine? Here’s how on Halloween…

Whitby Abbey at fright-night: Beloved of Goths and devotees of Gothic fiction

ZOOM and doom combine in Exploring And Creating Gothic Fiction, a Halloween masterclass with Dr Kevin Corstorphine, run by the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on October 31 at 11.30am.

“This two-hour online session for adults will introduce participants to some of the main ways of thinking about horror in fiction and film, including sections on cutting-edge research in the field,” says the University of Hull lecturer in American Studies.

“It will also be an inclusive discussion, with all views welcome, as well as a chance to talk about your favourite examples of the spooky and macabre. Creative writers will find useful tips to get the most out of the genre in their writing.”

Dr Corstorphine, who has lectured in English at the University of Hull’s Scarborough campus too, teaches undergraduate modules including American Gothic and has supervised several PhDs on the subject.

He is a researcher in horror, gothic, and “weird” fiction and has published widely in the field, latterly editing the 2018 Palgrave Handbook to Horror Literature.

To book for this £10 masterclass, go to:
https://www.sjt.uk.com/event/1105/exploring_and_creating_gothic_fiction

The SJT recommends: “It will help if you can find somewhere in your home with a good internet connection, and if you have some, use headphones, ideally with a built-in microphone, as this will help reduce feedback during the session.”

Rob Brydon to take the trip to York Barbican for night of songs and laughter

Brydon and band: Rob Brydon’s poster for next year’s Songs & Laughter tour

WOULD I lie to you? Actor, comedian, impressionist, presenter and holiday-advert enthusiast Rob Brydon is to play with a band in York. It’s…true!

Yes, Brydon and his eight-piece band will take to the road next year for 20 dates with his new show, Rob Brydon: A Night of Songs & Laughter, visiting York Barbican on April 14 on his second tour to combine songs and music with his trademark wit and comedy.

Expect Brydon interpretations varying from fellow Welshman Tom Jones to Tom Waits, Guys And Dolls to Elvis Presley, and almost everything in between, plus a visit or two to his famed gallery of voices. 

“I’m so excited to get back on stage with this show,” says Brydon, 55. “Touring with this incredible band of musicians is such a delight. I’m looking forward to getting around the country next year and bring some much-needed music and laughter.”

Brydon’s varied career began with the television comedy shows Marion And Geoff and Human Remains in 2000, bringing him a British Comedy Award. Since then, he has made his cheeky mark in Gavin & Stacey, Black Books and Little Britain and as the host of Would I Lie To You?, as well as trading insults with fellow humorist Steve Coogan on The Trip mockumentary travel shows, whose fourth series, The Trip To Greece, has been confirmed as their last.

Last Christmas, he starred in the biggest ratings hit of the season, the one-off return of Gavin & Stacey, and voiced the BBC One animated special The Snail And The Whale.

“People often say to me, ‘I didn’t know you could sing’, and yet I have sung a lot,” says Rob Brydon

Brydon has appeared in such dramas as Oliver Twist, Heroes And Villains: Napoleon, The Way We Live Now, Murder In Mind and Marple and the films 24 Hour Party People, MirrorMask, A Cock And Bull Story and Swimming With Men.

In 2009, he joined Gavin & Stacey co-star Ruth Jones, Robin Gibb and Sir Tom Jones on the number one hit Islands In The Stream in aid of Comic Relief.

Past tours include the 87-date Rob Brydon Live stand-up itinerary and nationwide travels with Would I Lie To You? team captains Lee Mack and David Mitchell. On February 26, he set off on his sold-out Rob Brydon: Songs And Stories tour, only to be stopped in his tracks by the Coronavirus lockdown.

Before setting out on a tour that featured songs by Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Paul Simon et al, Brydon said of that show: “It will take some people by surprise. There are so many media outlets nowadays that some people might only know me from Gavin & Stacey and Would I Lie To You?.

“Those people often say to me, ‘I didn’t know you could sing’, and yet I have sung a lot. I hope this show is a very pleasant surprise for audiences.” The same sentiment surely will apply to next year’s An Evening Of Song & Laughter tour that will take in further Yorkshire dates at St George’s Hall, Bradford on April 12 and Sheffield City Hall on April 23.

The 5ft 7inch Brydon last appeared at York Barbican for two nights of his improvised stand-up show, I Am Standing Up, in October 2017. Tickets for his return are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk; Bradford, 01274 432000 or at bradford-theatres.co.uk; Sheffield, 0114 2 789 789 or sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.

Good luck, ticket seeker. The Waterboys at York Barbican go on sale tomorrow

Mike Scott: Another evening of The Waterboys at York Barbican, their hosts for a sixth time next October

GREAT, Scott will be back for An Evening With The Waterboys at York Barbican on October 9 2021.

Mike Scott has made a habit of playing the Barbican, laying on the “Big Music” in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and most recently in May 2018.

Scott, 61, will be joined by Memphis keyboardist “Brother” Paul Brown, Irish electric fiddler Steve Wickham, drummer Ralph Salmins and bass player Aongus Ralston, all players on this summer’s Waterboys’ album, Good Luck, Seeker.   

Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Signal Fires Festival lights torch for Pilot and Arcade’s female stories from the coast

Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson. Picture: Robert Day

TELLING stories around a fire is an early form of theatre, one that is to be celebrated in the nationwide Signal Fires Festival this autumn.

Among those taking part are York company Pilot Theatre and new Scarborough community producing company Arcade, who are collaborating on Northern Girls, an hour-long, socially distanced, fire-lit outdoor performance on October 27 and 28 in the YMCA Theatre Car Park, St Thomas Street, Scarborough YO11 1DY.

At 7pm each night, Pilot and Arcade will set free the stories of girls and women who live along the North East coastline and were encouraged to write and present tales that matter to them most in 2020.

Next week’s performances will feature short commissioned pieces from Asma Elbadawi, Zoe Cooper, Maureen Lennon and Charley Miles, complemented by work created with York spoken-word artist and tutor Hannah Davies and a group of young women from Scarborough.

A signal fire is defined as “a fire or light set up in a prominent position as a warning, signal, or celebration”, now re-purposed amid the Coronavirus crisis for the arts to “signal the vibrancy of touring theatre and the threat our industry continues to face”.

“This whole Covid situation has made it important to create theatre support networks across the country, with the issues faced by smaller companies, mid-scale companies and larger companies,” says Pilot artistic director Esther Richardson.

“If there has been any upside, it is that the theatre network across the country is far stronger now.”

The idea for the Signal Fires Festival came from English Touring Theatre and Headlong Theatre, building on the original desire to highlight the work of companies who do not have their own theatre base. “We were also thinking about ‘what can we do for freelancers in theatre’ and, most important of all, ‘how can we send out a fire signal that we want to bring back theatre stronger than ever?’,” says Esther.

Hannah Davies: York writer, spoken-word performer, tutor and actress

Pilot’s link-up with Arcade is rooted in Rach Drew and Sophie Drury-Bradey running the Scarborough company. “We knew Rach from her work at York Mediale and I’ve known Sophie for a long time from when she was at the Albany, when she asked me to develop some work with new writers, 15 years ago,” says Esther.

“It was then a coincidence that Sophie had come to Scarborough, but when this project came about, to amplify northern women as leaders as well as writers, it was just a natural progression to say, ‘What do you think, guys, about doing this project together?’.”

The theme of Northern Girls resonated with Esther not only because “Pilot has always been about helping those who are disadvantaged in the community”, but also because of her childhood on the North East coast.

“I lived in Redcar from the age of three to 11, so I’d always had this tug to do something on the coast. I’m someone who left there and has had a career in theatre but I keep in touch with people who live there,” she says.

“I’m aware of the lack of investment in those places, and the direct effect that has on young people and women in particular. So, this project was about creating an opportunity to unlock what people can do when they set their hearts and minds to it.”

Esther was keen to achieve a geographical spread of four female writers, all still in the process of establishing themselves. “Maureen Lennon is from Hull and I was aware of her work for Middle Child Theatre that is full of insight into working-class lives,” she says.

“Asma Elbadawi is a spoken-word artist and professional basketball player Bradford, and she’s someone we’ve been excited about for a while but we hadn’t found a project for her.

“Northern Girls was perfect for her to bring her perspective of growing up as a hijab-wearing girl in West Yorkshire.”

High Kilburn playwright Charley Miles

Zoe Cooper is an award-winning playwright from Newcastle. “Again, I’d been aware of her for a while, but if you think about women playwrights from the North, there’s Middle Child’s work in Hull, Charley Miles at Leeds Playhouse, but in the North East, there seems to be a dearth of female writers, so we’re delighted to be featuring Zoe’s work,” says Esther.

Charley Miles, from the Hambleton village of High Kilburn, first came to attention with her lyrical moorland village drama Blackthorn at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2016, and her all-female Yorkshire Ripper play, There Are No Beginnings, was the first to be staged when the Leeds Playhouse re-opened last October.

“We wanted writers from different places because we want to continue this process, to explore how we might take this writing project to other communities to develop new works,” says Esther.

She is pleased too by the impact of York writer Hannah Davies on the four women she has been working with in Scarborough: Amy-Kay Pell, Shannon Barker, Ariel Hebditch and Claire Edwards.

“Hannah is not just a wonderful writer but also she’s wonderful at working with young writers,” says Esther. “She has a really special gift for inspiring new writers, nurturing them and getting them to nurture themselves, in this case Amy, Shannon, Ariel and Claire.”

Asma Elbadawi will present her own work, while Laura Boughen, Laura Elsworthy, Siu-See Hung and Holly Surtees-Smith will perform the others, working with directors Esther Richardson, Gitika Buttoo, Oliver O’Shea and Maria Crocker.

All the short pieces address the barriers that women face, with each story being “in some sense an act of liberation”.  “With everyone writing to the same theme, straight from the heart, some plays are more political, but they all make you think about things you might not have thought about otherwise,” says Esther.

The “fire” setting will be fire pits in the car park. “At first we wanted to do it by the sea, but there are loads of problems doing a show with a fire on the beach, not least the tides!” says Esther.

Pilot Theatre and Arcade present Northern Girls for the Signal Fires Festival, at YMCA Theatre Car Park, St Thomas Street, Scarborough YO11 1DY, on October 27 and 28, 7pm to 8pm.

The recommended age is 14 plus. Please bring headphones. Each £10 ticket is sold for a clearly marked bubble that can seat one or two people. Audience members must wear a mask on arrival and throughout the performance.

For tickets, go to: eventbrite.co.uk/e/northern-girls-signal-fires-festival-tickets-124268972843

Sophie Drury-Bradey and Rach Drew of Arcade, the new Scarborough community producing company

More Things To Do in and around York and at home despite the second wave. List No 17, courtesy of The Press, York

Keeping an ear to the wind for the sound of an artbeat. Charles Hutchinson stands by The ScallopMaggi Hambling’s tribute sculpture to composer Benjamin Britten on the beach at Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Picture: Celestine Dubruel

WE may be beset by tiers before bedtime, but the arts world will not lie down meekly in the face of the pandemic’s second wave. Instead, Charles Hutchinson highlights events on-going, on the horizon and online.

Robin Ince and Laura Lexx: The last hurrah for Your Place Comedy this weekend

The rule of six, over and out: Robin Ince and Laura Lexx, Your Place Comedy, live-streaming on Sunday, 8pm

YOUR Place Comedy, the virtual comedy club launched in lockdown by Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones and ten independent Yorkshire and Humber arts venues, concludes with its sixth line-up this weekend.

The last laugh will go to The Infinite Monkey Cage co-host Robin Ince and Jurgen Klopp’s number one fan, Laura Lexx, introduced by remotely by regular host Tim FitzHigham, alias Pittancer of Selby, as they perform from their living rooms into yours. The show is free to watch on YouTube and Twitch via yourplacecomedy.co.uk, with donations welcome afterwards.

Matt Haig: Discussing his tale of regret, hope, forgiveness and second chances

Online literary event of the week: Matt Haig, The Midnight Library, Raworths Harrogate Literature Festival, streaming from 8am tomorrow (October 23)

MATT Haig, the award-winning author with the York past, discusses his latest novel, The Midnight Library, a tale of regret, hope and forgiveness set in the strangest of libraries, one that houses second chances.

Haig asks a burning question: If you could wipe away your past mistakes and choose again, would you definitely make better choices? If you can’t view the free stream at 8am, second chances abound: “Come back here on Friday, at a time to suit you,” say the festival organisers. Go to: https://harrogateinternationalfestivals.com/literature-festival/matt-haig/

Offering glimpses into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious: Rachel Goodyear’s Limina, part of York Mediale’s Human Nature exhibition at York Art Gallery

Exhibition of the week and beyond: Human Nature, York Mediale/York Museums Trust, at Madsen Galleries, York Art Gallery, until January 24 2021

THIS triptych of installations under the banner of Human Nature combines the British premiere of Canadian media artist Kelly Richardson’s sensory woodland short film Embers And The Giants with two York Mediale commissions.

London immersive art collection Marshmallow Laser Feast look at the journey of oxygen from lungs to the heart and body in a series of installations that echo the ecosystem in nature inThe Tides Within Us.  

Manchester artist and animator Rachel Goodyear’s Limina combines a surrealist, Freudian and Jungian series of animations and intricate drawings, responding to an untitled sculpture from York Art Gallery’s collection as she offers glimpses into the psyche and fragments of the unconscious.

Hannah Davies: York writer, tutor, actress and spoken-word performer, taking part in Signal Fires Festival

Fired-up event of the week: Northern Girls, Pilot Theatre and Arcade, at Scarborough YMCA Car Park, for Signal Fires Festival, October 27 and 28, 7pm to 8pm

YORK company Pilot Theatre team up with new Scarborough arts makers Arcade to present Northern Girls by firelight for the nationwide Signal Fires Festival.

The one-hour performance sets free the stories of girls and women who live along the North East coastline, encouraging them to write and present tales that matter most to them in 2020.

Short pieces commissioned from Asma Elbadawi, Zoe Cooper, Maureen Lennon and Charley Miles will be complemented by York spoken-word artist Hannah Davies’s work with a group of young women from Scarborough.

Re-Wild Geodome at Pavilion Lawn, York Museum Gardens, for York Design Week, October 26 to November 1, 11am to 4pm

Both eyes on the future festival of the week ahead: York Design Week, October 26 to November 1

SUPPORTED by York’s Guild of Media Arts, the York Design Week festival will seek to design a positive future for the city under five themes: Re-Wild, Play, Share, Make Space and Trust.

In Covid-19 2020, the festival will combine in-person events with social-distancing measures in place, and a wide range of online workshops, exhibition seminars and talks.

Look out for workshops bringing together homeless people and architects to work on solutions for housing; sessions on innovation and rule-breaking; an exhibition inspired by a York printing firm; discussions on community art and planning and city trails designed by individual York citizens. Go to yorkdesignweek.com for full details.

Utterly Rutterly: Barrie Rutter’s solo show will combine tall tales, anecdotes, poetry and prose

Barrie’s back: An Evening With Barrie Rutter, The Holbeck, Jenkinson Lawn, Holbeck, Leeds, November 7, 7.15pm

BARRIE Rutter OBE is to return to the stage for the first time since his successful treatment for throat cancer.

The Hull-born titan of northern theatre, now 73, will perform his one-man show at The Holbeck,  home to the Slung Low theatre company in Leeds. The Saturday night of tall tales and anecdotes, poetry and prose will be a fundraiser for the installation of a new lift at the south Leeds community base, the oldest social club in the country.

“I’m absolutely thrilled at the invitation from Alan Lane and his team at Slung Low to perform at The Holbeck,” says Rutter. “What goes on in there is truly inspirational and I’m delighted support this wonderful venue.” 

Meet the Godbers: Jane, Martha, John and Elizabeth

Family business of the autumn: John Godber Company in Sunny Side Up, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, October 28 to 31; Hull Truck Theatre, November 17 to 22

THE waiting for Godber’s new play is over. The world premiere of the ground-breaking former Hull Truck artistic director’s Sunny Side Up! will be a family affair, starring John Godber, his wife Jane Thornton and daughter Martha, with daughter Elizabeth doing the stage management.

Written and directed by Godber, the humorous and moving Sunny Side Up! depicts a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it. “Join proprietors Barney, Cath and Tina as they share their stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy in this seaside rollercoaster that digs into what our ‘staycations’ are all about,” invites John.

Showtime for Anton du Beke and Erin Boag at York Barbican…but not until 2022

Looking ahead to 2021/2022: Dance shows at the treble at York Barbican

STRICTLY Come Dancing’s glittering weekend return to BBC One was a reminder that regular professionals Anton du Beke, Giovanni Pernice, Graziano di Prima, Aljaz Škorjanec and Janette Manrara are all booked to play York Barbican sometime over the rainbow, Killjoy Covid permitting.

Ballroom couple Anton & Erin’s: Showtime celebration of Astaire, Rogers, Sinatra, Garland, Chaplin, Minnelli, Bassey, Tom Jones and Elton John has moved from February 19 2021 to February 18 2022.

Aljaz and Graziano’s Here Comes The Boys show with former Strictly pro Pasha Kovalev has switched to June 30 2021; Aljaz and Janette’s Remembering The Oscars is now booked in for April 21 2021, and Giovanni’s This Is Me! is in the diary for March 17 next year.

Brydon and band: Rob Brydon will add song to laughter in next year’s new tour show

News just in: Rob Brydon in An Evening Of Song & Laughter, York Barbican, April 14 2021

WOULD I lie to you? Actor, comedian, impressionist, presenter and holiday-advert enthusiast Rob Brydon is to play with a band in York. It’s…true!

Yes, Brydon and his eight-piece band will take to the road next year for 20 dates with his new show, Rob Brydon: A Night of Songs & Laughter, visiting York Barbican on April 14 on his second tour to combine songs and music with his trademark wit and comedy. Expect Brydon interpretations varying from fellow Welshman Tom Jones to Tom Waits, Guys And Dolls to Elvis Presley.

The 5ft 7inch Brydon last appeared at York Barbican for two nights of his improvised stand-up show, I Am Standing Up, in October 2017. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

REVIEW: Connecting Voices, Opera North and Leeds Playhouse, 17/10/2020

Beautifully differentiated vowels: Gillene Butterfield as Elle in La Voix Humaine at Leeds Playhouse. Picture: Anthony Robling

Connecting Voices, Opera North and Leeds Playhouse, at Leeds Playhouse, October 17

COLLABORATIONS between Opera North and Leeds Playhouse in recent years have been proving increasingly fruitful.

This latest, a four-show programme in different locations throughout the Playhouse, was just what the doctor ordered: its umbrella title Connecting Voices homed in on the social interactions we have all been craving.

It was designed to “examine the power and expression of the solo voice” and ranged the gamut from pure opera to straight theatre.

Poulenc’s monodrama La Voix Humaine, in the Barber Studio, led the way. In Sameena Husain’s production, Gillene Butterfield poured her heart and voice into Elle’s desperate efforts to repair her faltering romance, using telephones from three different eras.

Plus ça change! She might as well have been on Zoom, so vivid were her emotions, made more so by superb diction and – a rarity among sopranos in my experience – beautifully differentiated vowels.

Annette Saunders’ piano was ideally attuned, blasting out jagged darts whenever Elle listened, calm when she spoke. The two of them combined to notable effect in the nostalgic waltz that follows Elle’s highest outburst.

Riveting voice: Niall Buggy in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape. Picture: Anthony Robling

Opera North was involved in two of the remaining items. Under its Resonance programme for Black and Asian musicians, Reflections: Dead And Wake explored the Caribbean funerary tradition of Nine-Nights from a specifically Jamaican perspective.

Alongside ethnic choruses, sounding perhaps more African than Caribbean, Paulette Morris caressed her solo songs lovingly. The recurring soundscape of Jamaican voices by the director Khadijah Ibrahiim was not especially intelligible, but certainly added atmosphere.

Among similar non-native sounds was the powerful contribution of the rapper Testament (aka Andy Brooks), in the title role of Orpheus In The Record Shop, injecting much sardonic humour while doubling as composer and writer.

Aletta Collins’ production gradually introduced eight members of the Opera North orchestra and the excellent wordless mezzo of Helen Évora, to bring an optimistic conclusion as bankruptcy loomed. Definitely a tale for our times.

The other riveting voice was that of Niall Buggy, raging and cackling against the dying of the light and his own misspent years in Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, directed by Dominic Hill. Like the Poulenc, it was written in 1958.

These days, theatre staff are front-line workers too. The small army of stewards here, totally tuned in and extremely helpful, deserve a final word of thanks.                                                   

Review by Martin Dreyer

Joseph Rowntree Theatre hits £10,000 target in crowdfunding campaign

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre: Fundraising target hit

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre has exceeded its ambitious £10,000 fundraising target, launched through the Theatres Trust’s national crowdfunding campaign.

The Haxby Road theatre, in York, was one of the first to sign up for a scheme designed to raise valuable funds to support theatres throughout the country.

Graham Mitchell, the JoRo’s fundraising and events director, says: “The fact that 165 supporters have donated to this campaign over just 41 days shows just how much this theatre and its survival means to the people of York and the surrounding area.

“In total, including Gift Aid, we’ve raised the incredible total of £10,377.50. Fundraising during a pandemic has certainly been a challenge and we want to say a huge, huge ‘Thank you’ to all those who have pledged an amount, large or small. We did it!”

Some donations went towards specific “rewards” on the Crowfunder page, such as theatre teddy bears, personal theatre tours and afternoon teas on the stage.

Paws and effect: A Joseph Rowntree Theatre fundraising teddy bear

Other benefits available included Friends’ memberships and sponsored seats, both still for sale via the JoRo’s website, josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/saveourtheatre.

The JoRo prides itself on being a strong community hub, a venue run for the community by the community. “Our income, however, has been decimated since lockdown, meaning that savings originally earmarked for vital repairs are now being used to fund day-to-day expenses,” says Graham.

You can view the journey of the charity’s campaign and see the support and comments from donors on the Rowntree theatre’s Crowdfunder page, https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/josephrowntreetheatre

The nationwide scheme has been backed by high- profile individuals such as The Third Day star Jude Law, who is a Theatres Trust ambassador.

“Theatres are a vital community hub that bring joy to millions of people each year and we must try and save these theatres for generations to come,” he said.