What’s On in Ryedale, York and beyond in the wild, on stage, canvas and dancefloor. Hutch’s List No 20, from Gazette & Herald

What’s All The Fuss About?, Will Palmer’s photo of Arctic walrus Thor on the Scarborough harbour slipway, from the British Wildlife Photography Awards exhibition at Nunnington Hall. Courtesy of National Trust

WILDLIFE photography, Rodgers and Hammerstein romance, a Strictly couple and a Scottish double bill send June into full bloom for Charles Hutchinson.

Ryedale exhibition of the week: British Wildlife Photography Awards, Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near Helmsley, until July 7

CELEBRATING the diversity of British wildlife and wild spaces, this exhibition aims to raise awareness of British biodiversity, species and habitats. On display are award-winning images selected from 14,000 entries in more than a dozen categories, including film and three for juniors.

Look out for What’s All The Fuss About?, taken by Scarborough photographer Will Palmer, who captured the headline-making Arctic walrus, Thor, when resting ashore on the harbour slipway cobbles on December 31 2022. Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 10.30am to 5pm; last entry at 4.15pm. Tickets: nationaltrust.org.uk/nunnington-hall.

Courtney Broan’s Ado Annie in Pickering Musical Society’s Oklahoma! at the Kirk Theatre, Pickering

American classic of the week: Pickering Musical Society in Oklahoma!, Kirk Theatre, Pickering, running until Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

LUKE Arnold directs Pickering Musical Society in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 love story of Curly (Marcus Burnside) and Laurie (Rachel Anderson), set in the sweeping landscapes of the American heartland. 

Further roles go to Courtney Broan as Ado Annie, Stephen Temple as Will Parker, Michael O’Brien as Mr Carnes and Rick Switzer-Green as Ali Hakim, joined by dancers from the Sarah Louise Ashworth School of Dance. Box office: 01751 474833 or kirktheatre.co.uk.

Nadiya & Kai: Strictly dancers venture Behind The Magic at York Barbican

Dance show of the week: Nadiya & Kai , Behind The Magic, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

STRICTLY Come Dancing professionals Nadiya Bychkova and Kai  Widdrington go Behind The Magic on a journey through the world of dance, from childhood memories and competition days, to dancing on Strictly and beyond.

The Ukraine-Southampton couple and their cast will be highlighting the influence of 20th century dance legends, creatives and artists alike. Expect “fabulous outfits, wonderful music and sensational dancing”. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Ceramicist Emily Stubbs: Exhibiting with sister Amy and father Christopher in Stubbs3 – Canvas, Clay and Cloth at Pyramid Gallery, York

Family exhibition of the week: Stubbs3 – Canvas, Clay and Cloth, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, June 15 to August 3

FAMILY artistry unites in Stubbs3 – Canvas, Clay and Cloth, a unique exhibition featuring works by sisters Emily Stubbs and Amy Stubbs, regular participants in York Open Studios, alongside their father, Christopher Stubbs, from Hepworth, West Yorkshire.

Their first-ever joint showcase brings together diverse artistic media in a celebration of family creativity. Contemporary ceramicist Emily Stubbs works from PICA Studios, in Grape Lane; Amy specialises in textile and surface pattern design in a range of homeware and wearable art; Christopher will be exhibiting framed paintings and sketches. All three will attend Saturday’s launch in a Meet The Artists session from 12 noon to 2pm.

Amy Stubbs: Homeware and wearable art

Vintage gig of the week: Ben Beattie’s After Midnight Band, Helmsley Arts Centre, Saturday, 8pm

BEN Beattie’s After Midnight Band celebrate the greats and the lesser known, from honking jump blues to hypnotic Latin beats, joyous African township sounds to the smoky jazz normally to be found in a Chicago speakeasy at 3am. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Ben Beattie: Heading to Helmsley with the After Midnight Band

Film music of the week: A Tribute To Hans Zimmer and Film Favourites Illuminated, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday, 3.30pm and 7pm

EXPERIENCE cinema’s most iconic soundtracks performed by the London Film Music Orchestra in an immersive tribute to Hans Zimmer and more besides in an immersive illuminated setting.

The chamber orchestra will be performing music from Harry Potter, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Gladiator, E.T., Pirates Of The Caribbean, Jaws, Interstellar, Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List and Inception. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Simple Minds in Scarborough: Charlie Burchill, left, and Jim Kerr are off to the Yorkshire coast on Tuesday. Picture: Dean Chalkley

Coastal gig of the week: Simple Minds and special guests Del Amitri, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, June 18; gates open at 6pm

SOMEONE somewhere in summertime, namely Simple Minds in Scarborough on Tuesday, finds Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill’s band revisiting such hits as Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize, Alive And Kicking, Sanctify Yourself, Don’t You Forget About Me and, aptly for Scarborough, Waterfront.

Opening the Scottish double bill will be fellow Glaswegians Del Amitri, led as ever by Justin Currie. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com/simpleminds.

Wannabe: Spicing up the Grand Opera House, York

York tribute show of the week: Wannabe – The Spice Girls Musical, Grand Opera House, York, June 20, 7.30pm

WANNABE, the “world’s longest-running” Spice Girls tribute stage production, celebrates three decades of girl power in a nostalgic journey through the Spice World.

The show charts the English girl group’s meteoric rise, from July 1996’s debut number one, Wannabe, to Scary, Sporty, Baby, Ginger and Posh’s reunion at the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony. Expect “meticulously crafted costumes, unique vocal and musical arrangements exclusive to Wannabe, iconic dance routines and stunning visual flair”. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Tim Ainslie: Leading his three-piece band in Malton

Blues gig of the month: Ryedale Blues Club, Tim Ainslie and The Vibes, Milton Rooms, Malton, June 27, 8pm

TIM Ainslie and The Vibes head up to Malton from Suffolk for a night of blues, jazz and funk, crossing over into country and rock too, making it hard to pigeonhole his three-piece’s style.

Ainslie, who turned professional in 1997, will be showcasing his original material and guitar-playing prowess that has seen him tour home and abroad with Steamboat To Chicago, Steel Street, Swagger, Groove Doctors, Delta Groove and American guitaristsBuddy WhittingtonandLightnin’ Willie. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

The poster artwork for Rick Witter and Paul Banks’s acoustic Shed Seven gigs at Huntington Working Men’s Club in December

Show announcement of the week: Shed Seven’s Rick Witter and Paul Banks, Huntington Working Men’s Club, York, December 21 and 22

RENASCENT York band Shed Seven will end their 30th anniversary celebrations with a brace of intimate acoustic concerts by frontman Rick Witter and guitarist Paul Banks at Huntington WMC, supported by a DJ set by Sheds’ bassist Tom Gladwin.

Tickets will go on sale at 9am today (12/6/2024) for these homecoming gigs: the York postscript to the Sheds’ 23-date 30th Anniversary Tour, their biggest ever “Shedcember” itinerary from November 14 to December 14. Box office: store.shedseven.com.

Tempest Wisdom appointed director of York Shakespeare Project’s autumn production The Two Gentlemen Of Verona

Tempest Wisdom: Writer, director, performer and teaching artist

TEMPEST Wisdom, York theatre-maker and educator, will direct York Shakespeare Project’s autumn production of The Two Gentlemen Of Verona at Theatre@41, 41 Monkgate, York.

Chair Tony Froud says: “Tempest [they/them] emerged from a strong field of applicants to direct the play. Their imagination, infectious enthusiasm and love of Shakespeare won the day. I cannot wait to see their production.”

Since moving to York in 2021, Tempest has made their mark with their work for York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre and as assistant director for York Theatre Royal and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s New Plays Festival, as well as in numerous stage appearances.

This year, they directed Jules Risingham’s Anorak in Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios at York Theatre Royal Studio and appeared in Shakespeare Speakeasy at Theatre@41 and Wittenberg Revisited, as part of the 2024 York International Shakespeare Festival.

Look out too for Tempest as the writer, producer and MC of Bard At The Bar, the bi-monthly “Shakespeare karaoke” readings at the Micklegate Social bar.

“I have exciting plans for the production, set in a Victorian music hall,” says Tempest. “I’m looking for a diverse and multi-talented ensemble of lively actors to bring Shakespeare’s comedy to life for a contemporary audience.”

Auditions for the October 23-26 production will be held at Southlands Methodist Church, in Bishopthorpe Road, on June 19 and 20 with callbacks on June 23. For further information and details of how to apply, contact Tempest via https://drive.google.com/file/d/1hVNoRWLyKhVQQfEcBn-hv-r0WfWj4mT0/view

Tempest Wisdom (they/them): the back story

Writer, director, performer and freelance teaching artist.

Originally hails from United States of America, where they wrote, directed, performed and taught for several years. Received Bachelor’s degree in theatre and performance studies from University of Chicago in 2018.

Relocated to York in 2021 to pursue Masters in theatre-making. Now here to stay!

Specialises in clown, mask and comedy work, with majority of training stemming from Italian tradition of commedia dell’arte.

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra, The 24, York Minster, June 8

The University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra in concert at York Minster. Picture: Steve Crowther

AS the Match Of The Day football pundits might say, this was a game of two halves.

Despite the obvious musical intelligence and quality on offer, I struggled with the performance of Mozart’s Mass in C minor. It is a large-scale work scored for two soprano soloists, a tenor and a bass, double chorus and large orchestra.

Coupled with the nature of Mozart’s musical dialogue, this meant that I simply could not hear all of the detail, thanks to this very generous Minster acoustic.

There was, however, much to admire: Elspeth Piggott’s soprano solo in the Christie was impressive, although I lost some of the lower register. The fine, crisp string playing in the Gloria. Soprano Rebecca Lea, a last-minute substitute for Helen Neeves, sang the Laudamus Te with real assurance, although again I lost some of the lower register.

More rewarding was when the two singers combined forces in the Domine Deus – tender exchanges and reassuring support. The following Qui Tollis was also satisfying, with Mozart using a double chorus underpinned by a pulsating dotted rhythm ostinato.

The highlight was always going to be Et Incarnatus Est, simply because of the intimacy of the scoring: soprano solo, solo flute, oboe and bassoon. That and the quality of Ms Piggott’s performance of this operatic aria.

Elspeth Piggott and Rebecca Lea were joined by tenor James Beddoe and bass Patrick Osborne for a very fine Benedictus before the recap of the fugal Hosanna, signing off the performance with aplomb.

And so, to the second half. As vocal musical experiences in the Minster go, it doesn’t come much better than the excellent The 24, directed by Robert Hollingworth, singing Bruckner’s Locus Iste and Christus Factus Est motets.

These are not the most technically demanding of works but, nevertheless, we were royally treated with performances of clarity, balance, detail and very real musical insight. The Minster acoustic loved it and, as a consequence, so did we.

This was followed by an inspired piece of programming with Elgar’s rarely heard Elegy op. 58. Well, I’ve never heard it anyway. The performance revealed a delightful jewel of a work intimately scored for string orchestra.

To be sure, there were echoes of Nimrod. Evidently his friend August Jaeger had died one month earlier, but it worked just fine in and of its own terms. Quite poignant, actually.

The concert closed with a full-bodied performance of Bruckner’s Te Deum in C, superbly marshalled by conductor John Stringer. Due to the cleaner, predominantly homophonic nature of Bruckner’s setting, the experience was much more rewarding than the Mozart.

The textures were less busy. Having said that, the sound world had a monumental quality: full-on tonal building blocks of sound augmented by the organ blasts of affirmation; a “cathedral of sound”. This is, after all, a deeply religious work.

There were moments of tranquillity, glimpses from within: the wonderful quartet of soloists – Elspeth Piggott, James Beddoe and Patrick Osborne, who were now joined by mezzo-soprano Helena Cooke. It was such a welcome relief to actually hear all the detail; a tender tenor solo with telling solo violin commentary (Michael Capecci).

However, the work ended as it had begun, in triumphant affirmation and splendour. I thought the sheer volume of sound might blow the Minster roof off; it certainly brought the house down.

Review by Steve Crowther

Christopher, Emily and Amy Stubbs exhibit together for first time at Pyramid Gallery

“Coming together now to showcase our work as a family is incredibly special,” says PICA Studios cereamicist Emily Stubbs

FAMILY artistry unites in Stubbs3 – Canvas, Clay and Cloth, a unique exhibition by sisters Emily Stubbs and Amy Stubbs, regular participants in York Open Studios, and their West Yorkshireman father, Christopher Stubbs, at Pyramid Gallery, York, from June 15 to August 3.

All three will attend Saturday’s launch at Terry Brett’s gallery in Stonegate in a Meet The Artists reception from 12 noon to 2pm.

Their first-ever joint showcase brings together diverse artistic media in a celebration of family creativity. Contemporary ceramicist Emily Stubbs works from PICA Studios, in Grape Lane; Amy specialises in textile and surface pattern design in a range of homeware and wearable art; Christopher, from Hepworth, will be exhibiting framed paintings and sketches.

Vessels, by Emily Stubbs, at Pyramid Gallery, York, from Saturday

“It’s incredibly rewarding to see my daughters continuing our family’s creative tradition,” says Christopher. “Exhibiting together is a wonderful experience, and it fills me with pride.”

Emily, who studied ceramics at Cardiff University, creates contemporary ceramic vessels that explore the relationship between colour, form and texture. Her work is characterised by the juxtaposition of contrasting elements, which she achieves through a process of sketching, drawing and collaging.

Emily’s ceramics are exhibited in galleries and events across Great Britain. In her latest exhibition, she will be showing a selection of abstract vessels.

Throughout the years, our work has clearly inspired one another,” says Amy Stubbs

“This exhibition is an exciting milestone for us,” she says. “Growing up immersed in Dad’s artwork profoundly inspired my creative journey. Studying an art foundation degree in Dewsbury, I realised my passion for ceramics.

“Amy, too, pursued her creative calling in textiles. Coming together now to showcase our work as a family is incredibly special.”

Amy, who studied at Falmouth University, combines manual print-making techniques with digital manipulation to create intricate surface patterns. Her work includes lampshades, cushions, silk scarves, other home furnishings and fashion accessories.

Cushions, by Amy Stubbs, on show at Pyramid Gallery from Saturday

Her designs are influenced by nostalgia and family heritage, reflecting a blend of traditional and contemporary style in her homeware and wearable art.

“Throughout the years, our work has clearly inspired one another,” says Amy. “We share a common language of mark-making and shapes, with a vibrant love of colour that resonates across all our pieces.”

Christopher is a seasoned artist with a multifaceted career since leaving school at 15 and working in engineering and textiles before transitioning to psychiatric nursing. He later studied fine art at Huddersfield College of Art, where he was influenced by the great masters and the importance of observation under the tutelage of William Cowper.

“Exhibiting together is a wonderful experience, and it fills me with pride,” says Christopher Stubbs

Further honing his skills in printmaking at Leeds Polytechnic, he drew inspiration from renowned artists such as Henri Matisse, Picasso and Willem de Kooning.

Over his career, Christopher has created works for such clients as J P Morgan, Royal Mail and British Steel and he has been the director of his own design company, alongside wife Joy, for more than 30 years.

Stubbs3 – Canvas, Clay and Cloth, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, June 15 to August 3. Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm; Saturdays, 10am to 5.30pm.

Untitled, by Christopher Stubbs, from Stubbs3 – Canvas, Clay and Cloth

Shed Seven to close 30th anniversary with December 21 and 22 gigs by Rick Witter and Paul Banks at Huntington WMC

Shed Seven’s Paul Banks and Rick Witter: Playing intimate acoustic sets at Huntington Working Men’s Club on December 21 and 22

SHED Seven will end their 30th anniversary celebrations with a brace of intimate acoustic concerts by frontman Rick Witter and guitarist Paul Banks at Huntington Working Men’s Club, York, on December 21 and 22.

“We are genuinely thrilled to announce a pair of very special homecoming shows,” says Rick. “And where better to end our 30th anniversary year than in Huntington, where me, Paul and Tom first met back in the ’80s and the story first began.” Tom, as in Sheds’ bassist Tom Gladwin, will do a DJ set each night.

Tickets will go on sale at store.shedseven.com at 9am on Wednesday (12/6/2024) for this York postscript to the Sheds’ 23-date November and December tour, their biggest ever “Shedcember” itinerary.

Yorkshire venues will be Sheffield Octagon, November 14 (sold out); Victoria Theatre, Halifax, November 18; Hull City Hall, November 19, and Leeds O2 Academy, November 30 (sold out).

The year began with the Sheds’ first ever number one album, A Matter Of Time, followed by vinyl chart-topping single Let’s Go Dancing, and next up will be two sold-out outdoor shows on July 19 and 20 as part of Futuresound Group’s four-day festival at York Museum Gardens.

On September 27, they will release Liquid Gold, an album of orchestral re-workings of 12 Shed Seven hits and live favourites, reimagined by the band in collaboration with arrangers Fiona Brice and Michael Rendall.

Brice’s credits include Liam Gallagher and Placebo, while Rendall worked with the Sheds on 2017’s Top Ten comeback album Instant Pleasures and A Matter Of Time.

Shed Seven’s 2024 line-up: Rob ‘Maxi’ Maxfield, left, Paul Banks, Rick Witter, Tom Gladwin and Tim Wills

For the richly reinventive recording sessions, Shed Seven teamed up with a full orchestra, brass section, gospel singers et al.

Released on Cooking Vinyl, Liquid Gold spans the band’s career, from Speakeasy and Ocean Pie, off 1994 debut album Change Giver, to Better Days, from Instant Pleasures, via a soaring, sweeping Disco Down.

It also revisits the Sheds’ landmark second album, 1996’s A Maximum High, for Getting Better, Going For Gold, On Standby and a dramatic new take on Parallel Lines, described playfully by Paul Banks as “sounding like Shed Zeppelin”.

The more luxuriant scale is encapsulated in Devil In My Shoes. Originally a slow-burning highlight of 1998’s Let It Ride, this new account adds a cinematic sheen: its new-found grandeur providing a shimmering contrast between the initially downbeat melancholy and the full force of optimism that beams through the crescendo.

Liquid Gold is completed by All Roads Lead To You, a new composition written specifically for this project, and a new version of Instant Pleasures-era bonus track Waiting For The Catch, now featuring Issy Ferris, from the UK Americana Award winners Ferris & Sylvester.

“This year we celebrate 30 years as recording artists and, after reminiscing about our career, we thought we’d celebrate the milestone by revisiting some key songs from our past,” says Rick.

“The idea being that if we cherry picked a hatful of songs and recorded them now, it would be a coherent stroll down memory lane but also sit sonically beside our recent number one album A Matter Of Time. A logical next step.”

The cover artwork for Shed Seven’s September 27 album of orchestral reinventions, Liquid Gold

Rick continues: “We see this record as a gateway into the world of Shed Seven. We also felt that adding an orchestra to each track would lend the whole project a unique slant. The songs have become widescreen, full of colour.

“The original recordings will always hold a special place in our hearts but re-recording the chosen songs was an exciting prospect for us. It’s a gift from the band to our loyal supporters and will hopefully introduce some golden moments throughout our career to a whole new audience. Enjoy, and here’s to the next 30 years!”

The Sheds gave a taster of Liquid Gold at their May 30 appearance on BBC Radio 2’s Piano Room, when they performed Chasing Rainbows, Talk Of The Town and a cover of Duran Duran’s Planet Earth live at Maida Vale with the BBC Concert Orchestra, conductor Chris George and arranger Fiona Brice.  

Liquid Gold is available to pre-order at shedsevenn.lnk.to/LiquidGoldPR, where the Sheds’ official store offers exclusives in the shape of a splatter vinyl with unique artwork, a different colour CD and a cassette, while all bundles also add a signed postcard.

Other retailer-specific formats include silver vinyl, from Assai Records, blue vinyl, from HMV, and yellow vinyl, from select indie stores.

After their open-air summertime shows in York and at Blossoms’ Big Bank Holiday Weekend at Wythenshawe Park, Manchester, on August 25, the 30th anniversary Tour will run from November 14 to December 14. Expect the Britpop-era hits, fresh favourites from A Matter Of Time and surprise guest appearances, plus support from special guests The Sherlocks. To check ticket availability amid a raft of sold-out shows, head to gigst.rs/SS24.

Liquid Gold track listing:

Getting Better; Speakeasy; Devil In Your Shoes; On Standby; Going For Gold; Waiting For The Catch, featuring Issy Ferris; Better Days; Parallel Lines; Disco Down; Ocean Pie; All Roads Lead To You; Chasing Rainbows.

The poster artwork for Shed Seven’s Rick Witter & Paul Banks gigs at Huntington Working Men’s Club

More Things To Do in York and beyond, whether Unfortunate or fortunate to be here. Hutch’s List No. 24, from The Press

Swing when you’re singing: Ryedale Primary Choir schoochildren doing their vocal exercises for Across The Whinny Moor

MUSICAL moorland mermaids and a villainous sea witch, motion in art and a Mozart mass, vintage Pink Floyd and a Louise Brooks silent movie set up Charles Hutchinson’s week ahead.

Ryedale Festival community event of the week: Across The Whinny Moor, St Peter’s Church, Norton, today, 4pm

THE world premiere of the Community Song Cycle: Across The Whinny Moor follows the trail of North Yorkshire’s Lyke Wake Walk, meeting cheeky hobs, angry mermaids, resourceful giants and wise witches along the way. 

The all-age cast for a walk through stories and songs by John Barber and Hazel Gould includes the schoolchildren of the Ryedale Primary Choir, the Ryedale Voices, Harmonia and The RyeLarks choirs, Kirkbymoorside Town Junior Brass Band, storyteller Rosie Barrett and mezzo-soprano soloist Victoria Simmonds, conducted by Caius Lee. Box office: ryedalefestival.ticketsolve.com/ticketbooth/shows/1173652657. 

Tim Pearce’s poster artwork for Life Forms In Motion at Blossom Street Gallery

Six of the best: Life Forms In Motion, Blossom Street Gallery, Blossom Street, York, until June 30

SIX Yorkshire artists give individual responses to the challenge of interpreting the motion of life forms in a range of static media. In a nutshell, time and space condensed into single, dynamic images.

Taking part are Tim Pearce, painting and sculpture; Cathy Denford, painting; Jo Ruth, printmaking; Adrienne French, painting; Mandy Long, ceramic sculpture, and Lesley Peatfield, photography. Opening hours: Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm; Sundays, 10am to 3pm.

Robert Hollingworth: On baton duty at the University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra’s concert at York Minster tonight

Classical concert of the week: University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra, York Minster, tonight, 7.30pm

UNDER the direction of Robert Hollingworth and John Stringer, the University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra perform Mozart’s ‘Great’ Mass in C minor, widely considered to be among his supreme choral works.

This will be complemented by a selection of works by Anton Bruckner, celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Austrian composer’s birth, including the Te Deum, “the pride of his life”. Box office: 01904 322439 or yorkconcerts.co.uk.

Across The Fields To The Sea, by John Thornton, from his Kentmere House Gallery exhibition

“Favourite artist” of the week: John Thornton, Across The Fields To The Sea, Kentmere House, Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York

BORN in York and now living in Selby, seascape and landscape artist John Thornton has opened his latest show, Across The Fields To The Sea, at his regular York gallery.

“John is everyone’s favourite painter,” says gallery owner and curator Ann Petherick. “I’m delighted he has produced a new and exciting collection of paintings of Askham Bog and Skipwith Common woodlands and meadows and the occasional seascape, inspired by his travels in Yorkshire since the end of Covid.” Opening hours: First weekend of each month, 11am to 5pm; every Thursday, 6pm to 9pm; any other time by appointment on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825.

Louise Brooks in Diary Of A Lost Girl, showing at the NCEM on Tuesday

Film event of the week: Diary Of A Lost Girl (PG), with pianist Utsav Lal, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, June 11, 7.30pm

TRAILBLAZING New York raga pianist Utsav Lal improvises his live score to accompany Diary Of A Lost Girl, a rarely shown gem of German silent cinema starring American icon Louise Brooks.

Presented by Northern Silents, G W Pabst’s 1929 film traces the journey of a young woman from the pit of despair to the moment of personal awakening. Box office: 01904 658338 and at ncem.co.uk.

Sex, sorcery and suckers: Shawna Hamic’s filthy-humoured Ursula in Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch. Picture: Pamela Raith

Musical discovery of the week: Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch, Grand Opera House, York, June 11 to 15, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

AFTER a hit London season, Yorkshire writer-director Robyn Grant heads north with her raucously rude, wickedly camp parody musical Unfortunate, wherein Disney diva Ursula, the villainous sea witch, rules the waves and waves the rules.

New York actress Shawna Hamic’s Ursula gives her filthy-humoured take on what really happened all those years ago under the sea in a bawdy tale of sex, sorcery and suckers. Age recommendation: 16+, on account of strong language, partial nudity and scenes of a sexual nature. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Courtney Broan as Ado Annie in Pickering Musical Society’s Oklahoma!

American classic of the week: Pickering Musical Society in Oklahoma!, Kirk Theatre, Pickering, June 11 to 15, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

LUKE Arnold directs Pickering Musical Society in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1943 love story of Curly (Marcus Burnside) and Laurie (Rachel Anderson), set in the sweeping landscapes of the American heartland. 

Further roles go to Courtney Broan as Ado Annie, Stephen Temple as Will Parker, Michael O’Brien as Mr Carnes and Rick Switzer-Green as AliHakim, joined by dancers from the Sarah Louise Ashworth School of Dance. Box office: 01751 474833 or kirktheatre.co.uk.

Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets: Re-visiting Pink Floyd at York Barbican

Rock gig of the week: Nick Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets, York Barbican, June 12, 7.45pm

NICK Mason’s Saucerful Of Secrets follow up their April 2022 appearance at York Barbican with Wednesday’s date on their Set The Controls Tour.

Once more, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason will be joined by Spandau Ballet guitarist Gary Kemp, bassist Guy Pratt, guitarist Lee Harris and keyboardist Dom Beken to perform vintage Pink Floyd material. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.   

The poster artwork for Calamity Jane, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher, on tour at Grand Opera House next spring

Show announcement of the week: Carrie Hope Fletcher in Calamity Jane, Grand Opera House, York, April 29 to May 3 2025

IN the week when Nikolai Foster’s production of An Officer And A Gentleman The Musical is on tour at the Grand Opera House, the York theatre announces the booking of another show with the North Yorkshire director at the helm, this one bound for the West End.

Three-time WhatsOnStage Best Actress in a Musical winner Carrie Hope Fletcher will star in the whip-crackin’ musical as fearless Dakota gun-slinger Calamity Jane. “She is one of those roles that doesn’t come around all too often,” she says. “She’s action, romance and comedy all packed into one character, and I can’t wait to take on the challenge of filling her shoes.” Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

REVIEW: Simple8 in Moby Dick, York Theatre Royal, on the hunt till tomorrow ***

Guy Rhys’s Captain Ahab in Simple8’s Moby Dick

THE publicity for Simple8’s Moby Dick promised a “fun, fast and joyous” production: three words not usually associated with Herman Melville’s labyrinthine leviathan novel.

What’s more, writer Sebastian Armesto described his adaptation as “mercifully brief”. “If you haven’t read the novel, you can watch our show and then pretend that you have,” he said, wryly.

Fun? No? Joyous? No. Fast? First half, yes, but the second half began to lull before a storming finale. Overall, “mercifully brief” would be doing a disservice to the intelligence and theatrical invention behind Royal & Derngate artistic director Jesse Jones’s production, although it never quite reaches the sublime heights, beauty, tragedy and surprising humour of Ockham’s Razor’s circus adaptation of Tess at the Theatre Royal last month.

The two touring productions share a use of planks of woods and sheets, an ensemble cast and a script pared back from a weighty 19th century novel, along with a combination of physicality and psychology that is the essence of theatre.

Spoiler alert, the whale of the title that cost Captain Ahab his leg turns up only in the “last few pages” as Guy Rhys’s Ahab takes his vendetta against the sperm whale to reckless extremes with his Pequod crew.

The rest is imagination: getting inside the head of Ahab and, first, the equally single-minded Ishmael (Mark Arends), the schoolmaster drawn to Nantucket to experience whale hunting on the Pequod.

The unseen threat of Moby Dick – mirroring Covid’s creeping progress, as Armesto commented in his interviews – is conjured through description and even in the shape of bones held aloft by cast members as we await the leviathan’s stealthy arrival. The only puppet is a porpoise pulled from a bucket.

Equally, Captain Ahab is the subject of much discussion, the last to arrive on board, inducing fear, adrenaline and stomach butterflies as much as the whale. His delayed entry, when it does come, is preceded by the thud of his stump, raising the blood pressure still more.

Arends’s Ishmael, rather than Ahab, is the narrator, the thinker, the innocent, intrigued outsider, learning as we do, gradually consumed by Ahab’s obsessive mission for vengeance.

In keeping with the duties of a crew, Jones’s ensemble cast of actor-musicians are “all in this together”.  “Everyone does everything for a really live, complicit experience,” as Armesto puts it. They act, they move scenery, they sing rousing, haunting sea shanties, all the while evoking the dangers of the sea and the mystery and the wonder of whales.

Who needs water or the shape of a whaling ship when you can make do with plenty of floorboards, scaffolding, sheets, a raised platform and a crow’s nest.

Armesto has called his play “a ripping yarn, a great piece of theatre for all ages”. It has humour, especially in the first encounter of Ishmael and Tom Swales’s Queequeg; it has spectacle too, but it is primarily a psychological drama full of existential fear and isolation, more than a seafaring (mis)adventure, leading to the loss of momentum until the climactic clash of whaler and whale.

For all that talk of being “fun, fast and joyous”, you should not expect to have a whale of a time, but Armesto, Jones and a highly committed cast deliver a deep dive into Moby Dick.

Simple8 in Moby Dick, York Theatre Royal, 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrow. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk ***

How Unfortunate became good news for The Little Mermaid’s villainous Ursula, Robyn Grant and Shawna Hamic

Shawna Hamic, centre, in all her “octo-glory” as Ursula, the sea witch, in Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch. Picture: Pamela Raith

IN the wake of a ten-week London run and the York Pride celebrations, the musical parody Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch arrives at the Grand Opera House, York, next week with its queer queen tales of sex, sorcery and suckers.

Co-written and directed by Leeds-born Robyn Grant, who cut her teeth on the York musical theatre scene, this rude, riotous riposte to Walt Disney’s 1989 animated film The Little Mermaid revels in the lead performance of Broadway actress Shawna Hamic, playing opposite RuPaul’s Drag Race UK star River Medway’s Ariel.

Combining the “trademark filthy humour” of Grant and Daniel Foxx’s script with an original hot pop soundtrack, arrangements and orchestrations by Tim Gilvin, Unfortunate finds Disney diva Ursula giving her take on what really happened all those years ago under the sea.

Six Off West End Theatre Award nominations have come the way of Unfortunate.  “If you hate it, it’s all my fault,” jokes writer-director Robyn Grant of her 2019 creation.

“I began making my own work after training as an actor at East 15 Acting School, where I started exploring writing and directing and wrote my first show, Buzz: A Musical History of the Vibrator in my second year.”

She toured with her company Fat Rascal Theatre. “We brought small-scale musicals to York Theatre Royal Studio, including a gender-swap Beauty And The Beast,” she recalls. “We liked doing parodies and flipping things, and off the back of that, we started thinking about Ursula. Even though the film came out in 1989, she’s very much part of culture.

“You can still buy Ursula pyjamas at Primark, and she’s become a queer icon. She’s one of the only female Disney villains. She’s plus size, naughty and sexy and very unapologetic about it, but she didn’t have much screen time so we decided to fix that!”

Unfortunate writer-director Robyn Grant

Unfortunate first emerged at the Underbelly at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe. “I played Ursula in that version, starting out at an hour-long. We were astonished that the run  sold out pretty early on, with this recognisable character really catching on,” Robyn says.

Gradually, the show has expanded from a cast of five to ten for the Southwark Playhouse run and five-month tour, while the running time is now 70 minutes for the first half, 65 for the second. The set is bigger too.

“In terms of a model for how to grow a British musical theatre show, not everyone has a Cameron Mackintosh or the RSC to support them, so we’re incredibly proud to hit this scale.

“The Birmingham Hippodrome has been very supportive, and we’ve been very lucky to have a commercial producer, Runaway Entertainment, producer of 2:22 A Ghost Story, who’ve come on board along with lots of angels backing us, who’ll hopefully get their money back and more.”

To cast Ursula this time, “I think I saw every fantastic-sized woman in the world,” says Robyn. “I first met Shawna on Zoom.  She was fabulous, crawling all over the camera! She was filthy, funny, such a laugh. She was extraordinary.

“I immediately said, to my producers’ horror, ‘we need to bring this woman over from America’, but thankfully they said ‘yes’ and she’s been absolutely worth it.

“The show has massively grown, and the way it’s grown so huge means we’re about to release a cast album led by Shawna, available on all streaming platforms. We’ve had people seeing the show multiple times, following it around, and we now have a global audience, excited at the possibility of doing the show. We’re being asked to take it to America, where we’re in negotiation to go there over the next two years.”

“I work on it every night, always trying to find a better and different way of doing the comedy,” says Unfortunate star Shawna Hamic

You will note that Disney is not mentioned in the show title. “Because it’s a parody musical we’re protected by those laws, so we’re able to jab at how they present princesses, the role of women in their movies, the representation of women in relationships, especially in The Little Mermaid,” says Robyn, who had “the absolute most fun making this glorious monstrosity”.

In that role, New York City actress Shawna Hamic is enjoying her British travels – “everywhere I go is like a new home, so that’s exciting,” she says – on the back of her London stage debut.

“When the producers contacted my agents to see if I’d be willing to do it, because Ursula is one of my favourite animated characters I leapt at it. It took a couple of months to process the visa, which was dependant on government approval to say I had enough credits to justify me taking the role, rather than a British actor.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity. It was always something I’d wanted to do, thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be amazing for a show to bring me over’, rather than me just coming over.”

Shawna feels a “great responsibility” in playing Ursula. “That’s because of all the work that’s gone before, with Robyn, Daniel and Tim putting their heart and soul into it,” she says. “But I also want to put my own stamp on it. I wouldn’t be in it if I didn’t think I could bring something to it.

“It’s been fun, and maybe I’ve even surprised Robyn by saying ‘I know you wrote it and starred in it, but how about doing it this way?’. I work on it every night, always trying to find a better and different way of doing the comedy, because otherwise it becomes stagnant – and I don’t want.”

Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Ursula The Sea Witch, Grand Opera House, York, June 11 to 15, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Age guidance: 16+. Why? Contains strong language, partial nudity, scenes of a sexual nature and flashing lights.

Copyright of The Press, York.

REVIEW: An Officer And A Gentleman The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday ****

Love lift us up where we belong: Georgia Lennon’s Paula Pokrifki and Luke Baker’s Zack Mayo

THE conversions keep coming. Hairspray. Shrek. Elf. Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. Billy Elliot. The Lion King. Legally Blonde. Heathers. The Bodyguard. Beetlejuice. Back To The Future.

Going back to find theatre’s future has become a well-worn path, one paved with gold for producers and venues alike as the conveyor belt from screen to stage musical threatens to turn into a traffic jam.

Already this year, the Grand Opera House has played host to the divinely sassy, soulful Sister Act The Musical and Pretty Woman The Musical, a cheesy, dated rom.com reboot with workmanlike Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance songs.

Back to the USA once more for An Officer And A Gentleman The Musical, a vastly more satisfying slice of American culture, driven by George Dyer’s superb orchestrations of Eighties’ pop bangers plus James Brown’s 1966 belter It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World (or This Is A Man’s Man’s Man’s World as it is re-named here for an assertive distaff rendition by the Port Townsend paper mill factory workers).

This Curve, Leicester touring production is stamped Made In Yorkshire as much as “product of the USA”. Director Nikolai Foster is a North Yorkshireman and lead actor Luke Baker was born in Leeds; both are on terrific form here.

As the press-night audience – dominated by women – settles into the dark, the voice of President Ronald Reagan evokes the 1982 setting from the off, making way for the roar of a jet as the new intake arrives at the United States Naval Aviation Training facility at Pensacola, Florida.

“This is not Top Gun,” said Baker in his interview. Indeed so. Not once will anyone be seen in a cockpit, the only sighting of a jet being the frame picked out in lights in the backdrop to Michael Taylor’s set.

Billed as a “timeless story of love, courage and redemption to make your heart soar and leave you breathless”, this show is an emotional rollercoaster rather than a thrill ride, darker too with its depiction of fatherly rejection, a mother’s suicide, factory ennui and mental turmoil, but yes, it is still romantic.

The 1982 screenwriter, Douglas Day Stewart, combines with Sharleen Cooper Cohen for a book that finds the ideal balance between male and female perspectives: the macho muscularity shielding vulnerability on one side; the bonding amid the monotonous hours for factory workers, such as Melanie Masson’s Esther Pokrifki and Wendi Harriott’s Aunt Bunny, on the other. In particular, the admirably singular focus of officer candidate Casey Segar (Olivia Foster-Browne).

Baker’s college graduate Zack Mayo arrives on his motorbike (the one engine we do hear), determined to make it through aviation school to elite jet training. He lost his mother at 12; his heavy-drinking navy dad (Tim Rogers’ Bryon Mayo) jettisoned any responsibility, but Zack has an outsider’s steely resolve to defy the odds. He clicks instantly with Esther’s daughter Paula  Pofrifki (Georgia Lennon),  a factory worker of Polish stock, determined to shake up her life.

In a parallel storyline, admiral’s son Sid Worley (Paul French) must deal with being burdened with his family name and his father’s unhidden preference for his late brother. Enter factory worker Lynette Pomeroy (Sinead Long in early Eighties’ Madonna’s wardrobe), ruthlessly looking for a good time.

Officer training runs in tandem with learning lessons in young love, the training in the charge of Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley (the outstanding Jamal Kane Crawford), a gravel-voiced, tough taskmaster with a waspish tongue to go with his physically and mentally exhausting regime. The bright lights of TJ’s bar and neon-lit motel bedrooms offer relief from navy discipline and navel gazing.

From Taylor’s metallic,  industrial set design and Eighties’ costume designs to Joanna Goodwin’s intense, hot choreography and Foster’s exhilarating direction to superb performances by Baker, Lennon, Crawford, French, Long and Foster-Browne, An Officer And A Gentleman hits the heights.

Backed by Christopher Duffy’s band, the vocal performances relish Dyer’s revelatory arrangements, whether opening with In The Navy Now, bringing new resonance to Kids In America or mirroring Madonna in pink in Material Girl. None betters French, Lennon and Baker’s take on Family Man, not even (Love Lift Us) Up Where We Belong.

An Officer And A Gentleman The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm, 7.30pm, Saturday. Box office: atgtickets.com/York

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican

York Guildhall Orchestra conductor Simon Wright

IT was a field day for horns. All the works in this afternoon programme conducted by Simon Wright featured important French horn solos. Strauss’s First Horn Concerto was centrepiece, preceded by a Humperdinck prelude and dances by Elgar, and followed by Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony.

The horn has always been considered the Romantic instrument par excellence, evocative of fairy-tale, fantasy and fanfare alike. Humperdinck opens his opera Hansel and Gretel with a chorale for a quartet of horns, suggesting the presence of the divine over the children’s adventures.  The horns here were a model of composure, although the orchestra’s subsequent capers just lacked that final ounce of playfulness.

Elgar’s three orchestrations of songs in From The Bavarian Highlands distil the essence of dance in the southern German countryside, a favourite holiday spot he enjoyed with his wife Alice. The central Lullaby found principal horn Janus Wadsworth in smooth fettle.

There was plenty of joie de vivre in the opening number, but the real joy came in The Marksmen, where Simon Wright’s delicate tempo changes were minutely observed and the final accelerando was delightfully dashing.

It was a privilege to be in the audience for the Strauss horn concerto. Its soloist, Annemarie Federle, principal horn of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, sports not merely superb technical expertise but a musicality personality that bubbles into all her playing.

It is not too strong to call her the Emma Raducanu of the horn. Both stars are 21, with bright futures and the freshness of youth on their side.

We have produced some outstanding horn players in this country over the years, but Federle is already right in the front rank. The orchestra offered every support she could have wanted, giving plenty of meaning to the ritornellos; Wright’s rapport with her was exemplary.

There was a telling moment in the opening movement. She leapt to a high note and it was not quite right. It was not out of tune, just not perfectly placed. But she made an immediate adjustment that opened out its resonance; it was the mark of a perfectionist.

Her velvety legato in the Andante encased a central section where she added heft to her tone to dramatic effect. In a seemingly nerveless finale, she managed some impeccable shades of phrasing despite the rapid tempo.

We were still not done with the horns. The slow movement of Dvorak’s Seventh features some telling moments for the instrument. Once again Wadsworth did not disappoint. He has been a faithful servant to this orchestra for many years and he deserved his moments in the spotlight.

The composer’s colourful orchestration emerged with considerable clarity in the opening Allegro, taken at a leisurely, lilting pace. But energy had been kept in reserve for the scherzo, which was crisp and taut, with idyllic contrast in its trio.

Wright’s command of this ensemble was in evidence again in the finale as he played with the tempo at phrase-endings and the orchestra responded as to the manner born. This movement has been compared to the devil’s music in Weber’s Der Freischütz and its stern drama remained strong right up until the final cadence in the major key.

The orchestra has decided to persist with Sunday matinee performances in the coming season, which begins on October 6. On this showing, any family with musical interests would be foolish to miss it.

Review by Martin Dreyer 19/5/2024