ESSEX comedian and stroke survivor Markus Birdman headlines Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club’s two shows on Saturday at The Basement, City Screen Picturehousen, York.
Joining him on the 5pm and 8pm bills will be Tal Davies, Hasan Al-Habib and promoter/master of ceremonies Damion Larkin.
Noted for his physicality, timing and topicality, Birdman was a 2001 finalist in the BBC New Comedy Awards, has appeared on Channel 9 TV in Australia, plays London’s Comedy Store and major UK comedy clubs and has headlined the Avalon comedy network.
He has headed up to the Edinburgh Fringe for 15 summers, presenting The Bearable Heaviness Of Nearly Not Being in 2022, and is a graffiti artist, muralist, performance poet and Glastonbury Festival poetry slam champion too.
In 2022, he suffered a stroke and ended up with a platinum heart, the subject of his Platinum Tour show. This year he was a semi-finalist on Britain’s Got Talent.
On the circuit since 2019, emerging comedian and writer Tal Davies was crowned Best Breakthrough Act at the 2021 Midlands Comedy Awards and was a Funny Women semi-finalist too, as well as being shortlisted for the BBC New Comedy Award.
BBC WritersRoom invited her to be part of the 2021 Coventry Voices programme, and the strength of her writing can be seen on stage, where she balances toe-curling anecdotes with dry observational humour, delivered with a warm stage presence and a deadpan Brummie accent.
Hasan Al-Habib was born to Iraqi parents who “decided Baghdad wasn’t dangerous enough and so moved to Birmingham”.
Starting stand-up at university, he took his 2019 show FootDarks to the Edinburgh Fringe, since when he has performed around the country and opened for comedians Ken Cheng, Fern Brady, Ahir Shah, Adam Hess and Sara Barron.
’TIS the season for Dickens shows to begin, from solo shows to a musical, and to venture into Neverland too as Charles Hutchinson gets his festive skates on.
Fantastical adventure of the week and beyond: Christmas In Neverland, Castle Howard, near York, extended until January 7
CASTLE Howard is transformed with floristry, installations, props, soundscapes and projections to create an enchanting festive experience inspired by J M Barrie’s Peter Pan in Charlotte Lloyd Webber Event Design’s sixth magical installations inside the 300-year-old country house.
Look out for the Darling children’s London bedroom, Mermaid’s Lagoon, Captain Hook’s Cabin and the Jolly Roger as the design team prioritises sustainability and recycled materials, such as paper and glass, and teams up with Leeds theatre company Imitating The Dog, whose immersive projections and soundscapes feature for the first time. Tickets: castlehoward.co.uk.
Thriller of the week: Nunkie Theatre Company in Casting The Runes, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Sunday (26/11/2023), 7.30pm
M R James wrote his ghost stories to perform to friends in the years leading up to the First World War. Today they have lost none of their power to terrify and amuse in the hands of Nunkie Theatre Company, presenting two tales in a one-man show.
Casting The Runes’ story of the unforgettable Mr Karswell, magic lanternist, occult historian and scourge of academics, is partnered by James’s most neglected masterpiece, The Residence At Whitminster, wherein a dark shadow looms over the precinct of a peaceful English church. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Comedy gig of the week: Bridget Christie: Who Am I?, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday (26/11/2023), 7.30pm
BRIDGET Christie is hot, but not in a good way, she says, in her menopause comedy, where she is confused, furious, sweaty and annoyed by everything. At 52, she leaks blood, sweats, thinks Chris Rock is the same person as The Rock and cannot ride the motorbike she bought to combat her mid-life crisis because of early osteoarthritis in her hips and RSI in her wrist.
In Who Am I? Christie wonders why there are so many films, made by men, about young women discovering their sexuality, but none about middle-aged women forgetting theirs. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Dickens of a good storyteller: James Swanton’s Ghost Stories For Christmas, York Medical Society, Stonegate, York, select dates from November 27 to December 11, 7pm
SOON to be seen in Lot No. 249, Mark Gatiss’s retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Christmas ghost story for the BBC, gothic York storyteller and actor James Swanton revives his seasonal Charles Dickens trilogy: A Christmas Carol (six performances), on the book’s 180th anniversary, The Haunted Man and The Chimes (two each).
“‘All three stories are richly rewarding,” says James. “They brim with Dickens’s eye for capturing the weird, the strange and the odd, from human eccentricities to full blown phantoms. Dickens’s anger at social injustice also aligns sharply with our own – and of course, there’s a lot to be angry about at the moment.” Box office and performance details: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
American musical of the week: Shrek The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinee
LEAVE winter troubles far, far away to join the musical adventure as ogre Shrek (Antony Lawrence) and his buddy Donkey (Brandon Lee Sears) endeavour to complete their quest to defeat the dragon and save Princess Fiona (2016 Strictly champ Joanne Clifton). Look out for James Gillan’s Lord Farquaad too.
Based on the first animated Shrek film, DreamWorks’ musical features such David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori songs as Big Bright Beautiful World and I Know It’s Today alongside Neil Diamond’s climactic I’m A Believer. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Festive musical of the week: NE Theatre York in A Christmas Carol, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee
STEVE Tearle first staged Alan Menken’s musical version of Charles Dickens’s heart-warming story A Christmas Carol for NE Musicals five years ago. Once more he will combine directing a cast of 60 with playing the chain-clanking Jacob Marley.
Kit Stroud plays Ebenezer Scrooge, whose deep dislike of mankind is interrupted on Christmas Eve by three ghosts who, one by one, warn him of the consequences of the suffering he has caused. Will he join them, or will he mend his ways? Tickets update: all but the first two performances have sold out; last few tickets for Tuesday and Wednesday, 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Solo play of the week: Mark Farrelly’s Jarman, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm
MARK Farrelly, the writer-performer behind Quention Crisp: Naked Hope and Howerd’s End, turns his attention to Derek Jarman, iconoclastic filmmaker, painter, Prospect Cottage gardener, gay rights activist and writer.
“His influence remains as strong as it was on the day AIDS killed him in 1994, but his story, one of the most extraordinary lives ever lived, has never been told. Until now,” says Farrelly, whose passionate, daring reminder of the courage it takes to truly live when alive takes Jarman from Dungeness to deepest, brightest Soho. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Gig announcement of the week: Paul Weller, York Barbican, April 17 2024
THE Modfather Paul Weller will head back to York Barbican next spring after kicking off 2024 with a long-awaited January return to Japan and a trip to Australia, highlighted by three nights at the Sydney Opera House. He last performed at the Barbican in April 2022.
In 2023, Weller has played around Europe, performed a handful of Forest Live shows and had a special guest slot to Blur at Wembley Stadium. Next spring’s 14-date tour also takes in Sheffield City Hall on April 11. Tickets go on sale from Friday, December 1 at 10am at ticketmaster.co.uk, seetickets.com, gigantic.com and paulweller.com.
AND then there were thrillers, music, spoken word and comedy gigs, a cricket legend show and smooth crooner tribute for Charles Hutchinson to recommend.
Thriller of the week: Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Grand Opera House, York, November 22 to 25, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees
AFTER Pick Me Up Theatre’s September staging at Theatre@41, Monkgate, here comes Lucy Bailey’s “genuinely terrifying” touring production of Agatha Christie’s best-selling 1939 crime novel, starring, among others, Andrew Lancel as William Blore, David Yelland as Judge Wargrave and Sophie Walter as Vera Claythorne.
Ten strangers – eight guests and a butler and his housekeeper wife – are lured to a solitary mansion off the coast of Devon. When a storm cuts them off from the mainland, the true reason for their presence on Soldier Island becomes horribly clear. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Spanish sarcasm of the week: Ignacio Lopez, YO1 Live Lounge, York Barbican, November 18, 8pm
SPANISH export Ignacio Lopez, from Live At The Apollo, The Now Show and Stand-Up Sesh, scrutinises his immigrant upbringing and family tree in a show about clashing cultures and never fitting in.
Sharing his biggest failures with a globe-trotting story of music, comedy and admin cock-ups, exotic outsider comedian Ignacio skewers Britain and Spain with an armada of stand-up sarcasm, silliness and songs. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Comedy times two at Grand Opera House, York: Simon Brodkin, Screwed Up, November 18, 8pm; Lucy Beaumont, The Trouble & Strife, November 19, 8pm
THE most viewed British comedian of all time on TikTok, notorious prankster and Lee Nelson creator Simon Brodkin rips into celebrity culture, social media, the police, Putin, Prince Andrew and Jesus in his new stand-up show, Screwed Up. Nothing is off limits, from his mental health to his five arrests and his family.
An award-winning stand-up (and actress) before she met Leeds comedian and now husband Jon Richardson, Hull-born Lucy Beaumont lets slip on her rollercoaster world through a surrealist lens. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Chat show of the week: An Audience With Henry Blofeld, York Theatre Royal, November 20, 7.30pm
TEST Match Special alumnus Henry Blofeld, 84, will discuss rather more than the art of cricket commentary. “If you think you’re going to learn how to play a forward defensive, you’ll be sadly disappointed,” he forewarns.
Instead, expect his colourful life story in a tongue-in-cheek show, full of after-dinner anecdotes and meandering digressions where Blowers pokes fun at himself and his TMS gaffes and his subjects veer from intergalactic travel to horticulture to mountaineering. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Folk gig of the week: The Trials Of Cato, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm
2019 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners The Trials Of Cato pay homage to the folk tradition while twisting old bones into something febrile and modern, combining stomping tunes and captivating stories.
Formed in Beirut, Lebanon, the Welsh/English band have been based in Britain since 2016, releasing the albums Hide And Hair in 2018 and Gog Magog, named after the mythical giant of Arthurian legend and a Cambridgeshire hilltop, last year. Mandolin player and vocalist Polly Bolton has joined the trio after leaving The Magpies. Support act will be Annie Dressner, once of New York City, now of Cambridgeshire. Box office: 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk
Underground movement of the week: Navigators Art & Performance, The Basement Sessions, The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York, November 25, doors, 7pm
YORK creative hub Navigators Art & Performance launches the Basement Sessions series of Music, Spoken Word and Comedy – Live, Local and Loud! with a bill of performers from the York area and “a few surprises up the sleeve”.
In the line-up are punk/post-punk/alt. rock/indie band What Fresh Hell, playing their farewell gig; pop, soul and acoustic singer-songwriter Jess Gardham; comedian John Pease; performance artist Carrieanne Vivianette, exploring the legacies of radical women through voice, movement and improvisation, and jazz-turned-punk Battle of the Bands finalists Attacker TV. Box office: bit.ly/nav-base-1 or on the door.
Tribute show of the week: Atila Huseyin in King For A Day: The Nat King Cole Story, National Centre for Early Music, York, November 26, 7pm
ATILA Huseyin combines live music, narration and projected archive images and footage in his concert celebration of one the 20th century’s greatest vocalists and entertainers, Nat King Cole. of the Twentieth Century: Nat King Cole.
Accompanied by world-class musicians, Huseyin performs such favourites as Nature Boy, Unforgettable and When I Fall in Love alongside stylish reworkings of his lesser-known gems. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.
Looking ahead: Chris McCausland, Yonks!, Grand Opera House, York, November 10 2024
LIVERPUDLIAN comedian Chris McCausland will follow up his 140-date Speaky Blinder tour with 104 shows on his Yonks! travels in January to May and September to December 2024. Why Yonks? “I’ve been called an ‘overnight success’, even though I’ve been doing this for yonks,” he reasons after more than two decades on the stand-up circuit.
This year, McCausland, 46, has hosted his own travel series, Wonders Of The World I Can’t See, on Channel 4. His Work In Progress show at Selby Town Hall on Wednesday (8pm) has sold out. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
THE most viewed British comedian of all time on TikTok, infamous prankster and Lee Nelson creator Simon Brodkin is all Screwed Up at the Grand Opera House, York, on Saturday.
That night he will rip into celebrity culture, social media, the police, Putin, Prince Andrew and Jesus in his new stand-up show, where nothing is off limits, from his mental health to his five arrests and his family.
Star of Channel 4’s Britain’s Greatest Hoaxer, Brodkin has pulled off headline-making stunts, from handing Theresa May a P45 during her Prime Minister’s speech at the Conservative Party Conference to showering disgraced FIFA president Sepp Blatter with bank notes.
From surrounding Donald Trump at the opening of his golf course with 60 swastika-emblazoned golf balls to attaching a 25ft sign to the side of Sir Philip Green’s super yacht, and going on Britain’s Got Talent as the ultra-orthodox Jewish rapper Steven Goldblatt – fooling Simon Cowell and the other judges to win four Yes votes.
“I have performed in York before,” says the 46-year-old Londoner. “It might well have been as my alter ego Lee Nelson and that’s why it’s exciting to be going to the big-time Grand Opera where you can’t just turn up. You have to bring your A-game. I might even sing.”
Lee Nelson was a “very useful” suit of armour for Simon. “It was the only way I could see myself being funny. That was my comedy, pretending to be him or pretending to be multiple characters, including for sketch shows for the BBC,” he says.
“It’s not brave, being a comedian, not like being a firefighter, but it did feel personally brave because I felt it was the most difficult thing I could do.”
Dropping the Lee Nelson front, the real Simon Brodkin will stand up at the Grand Opera House at 8pm on Saturday. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
POLITICAL dramas, a heap of big comedy names, a newly revived Eighties’ band and a belated American debut will keep Charles Hutchinson out and about.
Controversial play of the week: The Merchant Of Venice 1936, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm, plus 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees
WATFORD Palace Theatre’s ground-breaking touring production of Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice has been adapted and directed by Brigid Larmour from an original idea by co-creator and actress Tracy-Ann Oberman.
As the tide of fascism swells in 1936, Oberman’s Shylock is a strong-willed single mother who runs a pawnbroking business from her house in Cable Street, where Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts will soon march. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Comedy at the treble at Grand Opera House, York: Dave Gorman, Monday, 7.30pm; Ross Noble, Wednesday, 8pm; Paul Smith, 7.30pm
DAVE Gorman’s Powerpoint To The People show aims to demonstrate that a powerpoint presentation need not involve a man in a grey suit standing behind a lectern and saying “next slide please”. Far more important things demand analysis, he urges.
Geordie surrealist Ross Noble returns to York on his 21st tour, Jibber Jabber Jamboree, for another journey into inspired, improvised nonsensical comedy with detours galore. Paul Smith’s Joker gig, full of audience interaction and everyday true stories, has sold out. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Exhibition launch of the week: Not Black Friday But Colour Friday!, Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, until December 22
ORIGINAL art by more than 70 artists features in the Christmas exhibition at Kentmere House Gallery. “Among them is Jonathan Hooper, a Leeds painter deservedly becoming recognised, winning awards and now showing in London and at the Millenium Gallery in Sheffield,” says gallery owner and curator Ann Petherick.
“Then there’s Susan Bower, a Marmite painter – most love her, a few don’t! Look out for Andrew Morris’s delightful view of Knaresborough’s marketplace. We have new work arriving all the time.” Open any day, 11am to 5pm; ring 01904 656507 or 07801 810825 or take pot luck.
Tribute show of the week: The Chicago Blues Brothers, Cruisin’ For A Bluesin’ Tour, Grand Opera House, York, November 12, 7.30pm
JOIN Jake and Elwood, The Sweet Soul Sisters and the amazing CBB Band for a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, hard-hitting night of soul, rhythm & blues, country and Motown. Expect exuberant spirit, irresistible energy and even a few surprises. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Premiere of the week: Lumar Productions in Sea Stones, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee
AFTER eight novels and a regular column in The York Press, Tim Murgatroyd has written his debut play, an emotional, suspenseful night of the soul when four people are brought together in a lonely house by the sea.
Two fathers. Two daughters. Each confronted with the consequences of the past as a high tide is turning and tests to their relationships are escalating. Tests that might cost them not only their dearest hopes and loves, but their very lives. “The truth can set you free. Or drown you,” says Murgatroyd. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Double act of the week:Wright & Grainger in Orpheus, Rise@Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, Wednesday, 7pm to 9pm
ALEXANDER Flanagan Wright and Phil Grainger’s Greek myth adaptation in spoken word and song heads to Rise after Adelaide Fringe award-winning success in Australia and at the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as back home at Stillington Mill.
Dave is turning 30. Eurydice is a tree nymph. Bruce Springsteen is on the karaoke. Cue a tale of dive bars, side streets, ancient gods and how far you would go for love. Box office: bluebirdbakery.co.uk/rise.
Gig of the week: Ben Folds, What Matters Most Tour, Grand Opera House, York, Thursday,7.30pm
AT 57, North Carolina pianist, songwriter, author and podcast host Ben Folds plays his debut York show in support of What Matters Most, his first studio album since 2015.
At the only Yorkshire gig of his nine-date British and Irish tour, Folds will be combining his new material with songs from his 35-year career. Guitarist and singer Lau Noah, from Catalonia via New York, is the support act. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Jazz gig of the week: Snake Davis & Friends, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm
JAZZ At PAC presents Snake Davis, saxophonist to the stars, from Paul McCartney, James Brown, Tina Turner and Eurythmics to Take That, Amy Winehouse, M-People and Lisa Stansfield.
First making his mark in York band Zoot & The Roots, Davis plays not only the saxophone family, but flutes, whistles and an ancient Japanese wind instrument, the Shakuhachi, too. Box office: 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
Fantastic day to see: Haircut 100, York Barbican, Friday, 8pm
NICK Heyward’s short-lived Brit-funk band Haircut 100 are back together after more than 40 years, following up May’s Pelican West 40th anniversary shows in London and Oxford with the 15-date Haircut 100% Live tour that ends in York, their only Yorkshire location.
“We are coming back with a tour to beat all tours this autumn,” says Beckenham-born Heyward, now 62. “All the hits that you love [Favourite Shirts (Boys And Girls), Love Plus One, Fantastic Day et al] and new tracks that we are bursting to share with you.” The support act will be Brighton band of brothers Barbara. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Lovely jubbly look-ahead: Only Fools And Horses The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, November 5 to 9 2024
DIRECT from a four-year sold-out West End run, Only Fools And Horses The Musical is heading to York in Paul Whitehouse and Jim Sullivan’s show, based on John Sullivan’s record-breaking 1980s’ BBC comedy.
Directed by Caroline Jay Ranger, it features a script and original score by John’s son and Whitehouse, bringing Peckham rogues Del Boy, Rodney, Grandad, Cassandra, Raquel, Boycie, Marlene, Trigger, Denzil, Mickey Pearce, Mike the Barman and the Driscoll Brothers to the stage with wide-boy humour and 20 songs. Bonnet de douche! Box office: atgtickets.co.uk.
Recommended but sold out already
THREE nights, three sell-outs for South Shields humorist Sarah Millican at York Barbican from November 14 to 16 on her Late Bloomer tour, where she discusses Sarah then and now, dinners and lady gardens at 8pm nightly. Come along, laugh at her, with her, beside her, reads the invitation.
In Focus: Best dog in show: Zeus the collie collars role in Jack And The Beanstalk
YOUNG Kennel Club Crufts trophy winner Zeus has won a lead role in this winter’s pantomime at York Theatre Royal.
The six-year-old Border Collie, from York, will make his stage debut alongside EastEnders star Nina Wadia, returnee panto dame Robin Simpson and CBBC’s Raven star James Mackenzie in Jack And The Beanstalk from December 8 to January 7 2024.
A theatre spokesperson says: “Zeus’s amazing audition gave us all paws for thought. He’s a natural stage performer whose dogged determination to win the role was a real tail-wagging moment.”
Already Zeus is a winner on the canine stage with three Young Kennel Club Crufts trophies to his credit. Those closest to him say he is very agile and loves to play but has an “off switch”and likes to wind down too.
Pantomime director Juliet Forster was delighted to hear that Zeus is “very eager to please, playful and up for learning” as she will be training him for his acting debut.
Zeus loves cream cheese, squeezy cheese too, and sometimes has carrots for breakfast. He eats at the table and even has his own chair. His favourite toys are balls and he has a collection of soft toys.
Zeus enjoys rounding up horses but not, as you might expect from a Border Collie, rounding up sheep. He is, however, best friends with two sheep, Maisie Midnight Fluffington and Wallace.
He is yet to meet cows but will have his first close encounter with the bovine world in the rehearsal room as one of his co-stars will be Dave the Cow.
Dave is a rare breed of pantomime cow. “You’d almost think Dave is human,” says York actor and musician Anna Soden, who will inhabit the role on her own, rather than the usual two people squeezed uncomfortably into a cow costume.
Writer Paul Hendy, director of York Theatre Royal’s producing partner Evolution Productions, says: “In 19 years of writing and producing pantomimes, we’ve never had a human cow before. We wanted to do something different and director Juliet Forster was very open to that. It makes more opportunities in the show for the cow. It’s a much bigger part than usual. Dave is very much one of the gang.
“Our company is called Evolution for a reason: we are constantly evolving. One of the reasons pantomime has survived for 150 years or more is that it changes. There has to be a formula but within that you have to be original.”
Evolution is producing three Jack And The Beanstalk pantomimes around the country this winter. York has Dave; the shows at The Grove, Dunstable (starring EastEnders’ Steve McFadden, by the way), and Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, will have a more traditional cow.
Meanwhile, the Theatre Royal’s legendary pantomime cow Patrica is heading for pastures new this Christmas with a role in Bridlington Spa Theatre’s pantomime, Beauty And The Beast.
Patricia’s career has taken in television appearances in The Crystal Maze with pantomime stalwart Christopher Biggins and Bargain Hunt, as well as starring in her own series of moo-vies on You Tube.
York Theatre Royal presents Jack And The Beanstalk, December 8 to January 7 2024. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
NAVIGATORS Art & Performance will launch the Basement Sessions series of Music, Spoken Word and Comedy – Live, Local and Loud! at City Screen Picturehouse, York, on November 25.
“Following our sold-out Punk/Jazz show at the Basement in October, we’re presenting an adventurous mixed bill of new music (bands and solo), comedy, spoken word and more, with a few surprises up our sleeve,” says Richard Kitchen, the York creative hub’s co-founder.
“All performers are from York or the surrounding area and are chosen for a spirit of experimentality and community – and of course for being excellent.”
In the line-up will be punk/post-punk/alt. rock/indie band What Fresh Hell, playing their last ever gig, and award-winning York pop, soul and acoustic singer-songwriter, actress and 2018 MasterChef quarter-finalist Jess Gardham.
So too will be comedian John Pease, sharing his experiences and observations of the world; performance artist Carrieanne Vivianette, exploring the legacies of radical women through voice, movement and improvisation, and energetic jazz-turned-punk Battle of the Bands finalists Attacker TV.
Tickets cost £8 through TicketSource at https://bit.ly/nav-base-1 or £10 on the door from 7pm. “Please book ahead to avoid disappointment,” advises Richard. “We hope to see you there! Further Basement Sessions are planned for December 9 and January 27.”
FREEWHEELING Geordie comic Ross Noble will spin his web of nonsensical improvised comedy on his return to the Grand Opera House, York, on Wednesday (15/11/2023).
“It will be a playful experience for young and old,” he says. “Imagine watching someone create a magic carpet on an enchanted loom. Oh, hang on… magic carpets fly, that would smash the loom as it took flight. I haven’t thought that through…That’s what people can expect. Razor-sharp observations on things I haven’t thought through.”
Ross, who cut his teenage comedy teeth in York compering Comedy Shack gigs at the Bonding Warehouse, is settling into his 21st stand-up tour, talking genial Geordie gibberish on his Jibber Jabber Jamboree itinerary from October 25 to March 17 2024.
“I’ve got significantly better hotel accommodation,” says the Newcastle surrealist, reflecting on the contrast with his first tour. “That’s the main thing. Also, there are people coming to see me now who came with their parents when they were kids. That messes with your head a little bit.
“I still think of myself as being like 22 or 23 years old, and now I’ve got grown men going, ‘I saw you when I was 15. And now I’m a professional comedian’. Not even people going, ‘I want to be a comedian’ – like actual, established performers.”
Does that make Ross an elder statesman of comedy at 47? “I wouldn’t go that far! The people that get described as ‘elder statesman’…some of them are a little bit too confident in their opinions, you know? They start going: ‘Well, the thing about comedy…’. No! Shut up!”
Just as Bob Dylan sang “All I’ve got is a red guitar, three chords and the truth” in All Along The Watchtower, so Ross Noble once said his plans for a show ran to “about four words on a scrap of paper”. “That was actually taken slightly out of context,” he clarifies. “What I would do is go on and improvise, and then afterwards, I would write down things I could do again.
“I didn’t sit down to plan, think of four things and write them down. It’s the same today, really. Except I just don’t write them down – I feel like I should be able to remember four things!”
As ever, Ross will have no support (no, not even a chair) as he tucks into two hour-long sets on Wednesday. “The thing that gets me is comics who sit down,” he says. “Whenever I see a comic with a chair on stage, I just think ‘If you need that chair, do a shorter show! Get up and put some effort in’.”
How does Ross on stage contrast with Ross off stage? “The difference is that when I’m on stage I show my working out. As I’m talking, my brain is constantly interrupting itself, so I’ll be saying something and then that’ll spark another thing, and then something else will come in – and I explain all that as it happens,” he says.
“Those thoughts still happen when I’m off stage, but I don’t say them all out loud, so if you meet me in the street, I can seem kind of distracted. I’ll often get halfway through a sentence and just stop. It drives my wife up the wall.”
Come the interval on Wednesday, as is customary at a Noble gig, audience members will leave items on stage for Ross to weave into his wild imaginings in the second half.
“Somebody once left a pin from a ten-pin bowling alley and then a few nights later, somebody left another one. So, I tweeted about it, and over the course of the tour, I got all ten and we set up a bowling alley in the dressing room,” he recalls.
“Somebody did an oil painting of me as a centaur: full horse body, long flowing hair, rippling muscles like Fabio. Then above my head, there’s a Mr Kipling French Fancy with a rainbow coming out of it, and wings like a snitch from Harry Potter. That blew my mind.”
Before Wednesday, check out Ross’s YouTube channel, where he presents a spoof nature documentary series, The Unnatural History Show With Ross Noble, as a rather riskier retort to the Beeb’s Winterwatch.
“I love Winterwatch and Countryfile, but there’s a very British, very cosy way that people like Michaela Strachan and John Craven present,” he says. “It’s all people in jumpers and Berghaus jackets sitting around being very ‘Well, isn’t this marvellous seeing these mating chaffinches?’! I just thought: ‘This would be a lot better if some of these animals could kill you’.”
Back on stage, you may have seen Ross’s Igor in Mel Brooks’s musical Young Frankenstein on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre. What did he learn from his musical theatre experience that he could apply to stand-up? “Previously I thought the best thing about stand-up was that you didn’t have to deal with other people messing up what you want to do,” he says.
“But then you do something likeYoung Frankenstein, with the greatest comedy legend of all time, and the best Broadway director that’s working and you go: ‘Oh, no, it’s not that I don’t like working with other people. I just want to work with the absolute best people’.”
Now, solo once more, Ross will turn his stream-of-consciousnonsense tap on in York at 8pm on Wednesday. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Further Yorkshire dates on Ross Noble’s Jibber Jabber Jamboree tour in 2024: Sheffield City Hall, February 28, CAST, Doncaster, March 3; Leeds Grand Theatre, March 17. Box office: Sheffield, sheffieldcityhall.co.uk; Doncaster, 01302 303959 or castindoncaster.com; Leeds, 0113 243 0808 or leedsheritage theatres.com.
FIVE days of short films lead off a week long on Latin pop and school rock musicals, plus science and sticks, dance moves and festive designs, as Charles Hutchinson reports.
Festival of the week: Aesthetica Short Film Festival, York city centre, November 8 to 12
THE 13th edition of York’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival combines 300 films and 15 venues in a five-day showcase of worldwide independent film that champions emerging creative talent.
Guest programmes explore the climate crisis, Black British cinema and LGBTQ+ experiences. Look out too for the Aesthetica Games Lab, in celebration of video game culture, plus multiple masterclasses, networking sessions, kids’ workshops, AI workshops and the VR Lab’s selection of 360 (degree) and immersive film experiences. York residents can save 50 per cent each day with the York Days Discount. Full programme and tickets: asff.co.uk.
Exhibition launch of the week: Comfort And Joy, Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, November 4, 11am to 3pm, until mid-January 2024
PYRAMID Gallery’s Christmas show, Comfort And Joy, combines paintings, prints, ceramics, sculpture and glass. Look out for needlepoint by Dinny Pocock, jewellery by Joy McMillan and sculpture by Paul Smith, Lynn Muir, Helen Martino, Peter Hayes, Eva Mileusnic, Gwen Vaughan, Fidelma Massey and Louise Connell, among others.
On show too will be paintings and original prints by Sarah Williams, Anita Klein, Lesley Birch, Eliza Southwood, Emma Whitelock, Trevor Price, Mychael Barratt and Hilke Macintyre, porcelain origami by Kate Buckley, plus glass by Keith Cummings, E&M Glass, Hannah Gibson, Tracey Knowles, Will Shakspeare, Morag Reekie, Jo Kenny and more besides. Attending today’s launch will be Smith, Birch, McMillan, Whitelock and Knowles.
Inspired event: York Artists & Designer Makers’ Annual Christmas Show, York Cemetery Chapel, Cemetery Road, York, November 4 and 5, 10am to 5pm
YORK artists and designers return to York Cemetery Chapel this weekend for their Inspired festive showcase. Adrienne French will be exhibiting paintings; Jo Bagshaw and Richard Whitelegg, jewellery; Elliot Harrison, illustrations; Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg, pottery; John Watts and Wilf Williams, furniture; Petra Bradley, textiles; Sally Clarke, prints, and Simon Palmour, photography.
Science show of the week: Tutti Frutti and One Tenth Human in The Lightbulb Princess, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, November 5, 2pm
LEEDS company Tutti Frutti Productions and Lancaster’s One Tenth Human team up for a magical, fun-filled 50-minute extravaganza for children aged four and upwards that explores the science behind electricity.
Kai’s sister Ray is determined that Mum will enjoy a perfect Christmas. It may be way too early, but already she has Kai and Ali hunting everywhere for decorations. When they find tree-top sparkly fairy Filomina, an unexpected adventure begins, one where they will need your help in a show full of electrifying storytelling and original songs. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Song and dance of the week: An Evening With Anton Du Beke And Friends, York Theatre Royal, November 6, 7.30pm
STRICTLY Come Dancing legend and judge Anton Du Beke sashays into York with his live band, guest singer Lance Ellington and dancers for a fab-u-lous evening of song, dance and laughter. The ballroom king will be combining songs and dances that have inspired him with behind-the-scenes stories from his many years on Strictly. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
New musical of the week: La Bamba!, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; Wednesday and Saturday, 2.30pm
NOT to be confused with the 1987 film of the same name or Richie Valens’ teenage hit from 1958, La Bamba! is a new musical fiesta of passion, pride and Latin pop anthems starring Strictly Come Dancing champion Pasha Kovalev, The Wanted’s Siva Kaneswaran and rising star Inês Fernandez, choreographed by Strictly’s Graziano Di Prima.
Follow young Los Angeles dreamer Sofia as she takes her first steps toward stardom and witnesses the power of music to unite communities. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Children’s show of the week: Freckle Productions in Stick Man, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 4.30pm; Wednesday, 10.30am, 1.30pm and 4.30pm
WHAT begins as a morning jog becomes a misadventure for Stick Man: a dog wants to play Fetch, a swan builds a nest with him, and he even ends up atop a fire. How will Stick Man return to the family tree in time for Christmas?
Adapting Julia Donaldson’s book, Freckle Productions combine puppetry, songs, live music and funky moves in the 55-minute performance. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Are you ready to rock?York Light Youth in School Of Rock, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee
YORK Light Youth’s tenth anniversary show is the York premiere of the technically and musically challenging musical School Of Rock, combining young performers aged ten to 17 and York Light Opera Company adults.
Based on the 2003 film, the storyline follows Jonny Holbek’s Dewey Finn, a failed wannabe rock star, who vows to turn his clueless prep school students into a rock band to enter Battle of the Bands. Along the way, Dewey finds romance, self-worth, a proper job, while initiating the children and their parents in the beauty of rock. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Recommended but fully booked
QUEEN of British soul Beverley Knight’s York Barbican concert on Thursday has sold out, as has indie pop trio Scouting For Girls’ gig there the next night.
In Focus:Gigs of the week: Teenage Fanclub on tour in Leeds and Sheffield with new album Nothing Lasts Forever in tow
GLASGOW indie legends Teenage Fanclub follow up September’s release of 11th full-length studio album Nothing Lasts Forever with a 12-date November tour, taking in Yorkshire gigs in Leeds on Wednesday (sold out) and Sheffield on November 12
On songs looking for positives while faced with the grim realities of the 21st century, songwriters and guitarists Raymond McGinley and Norman Blake are joined by Francis Macdonald on drums, Dave McGowan on bass and Euros Childs on keyboards.
Light is a recurring theme, both as a metaphor for hope and as an ultimate destination further down the road. That said, although McGinley and Blake found themselves covering similar ground, it was pure coincidence.
McGinley says:“We never talk about what we’re going to do before we start making a record. We don’t plan much other than the nuts and bolts of where we’re going to record and when.
“That thing about light was completely accidental; we didn’t realise that until we’d finished half the songs. The record feels reflective, and I think the more we do this thing, the more we become comfortable with going to that place of melancholy, feeling and expressing those feelings.”
Blake reflects: “These songs are definitely personal. You’re getting older, you’re going into the cupboard getting the black suit out more often. Thoughts of mortality and the idea of the light must have been playing on our minds a lot.
“The songs on the last record were influenced by the break-up of my marriage. It was cathartic to write those songs. These new songs are reflective of how I’m feeling now, coming out of that period.
“They’re fairly optimistic, there’s an acceptance of a situation and all of the experience that comes with that acceptance. When we write, it’s a reflection of our lives, which are pretty ordinary.
“We’re not extraordinary people, and normal people get older. There’s a lot to write about in the mundane. I love reading Raymond Carver. Very often there’s not a lot that happens in those stories, but they speak to lived experience.”
While the vocals and finishing touches on Nothing Lasts Forever were added at McGinley’s place in Glasgow, the music was recorded in an intense ten-day period in the bucolic Welsh countryside at Rockfield Studios, near Monmouth, in late August.
This environment led to a record full of soft breezes, wide skies, beauty and space. “We like to get something out of where we go, and you can definitely hear a stamp of Rockfield on the record,” says McGinley.
“We recorded our album Howdy there in the late ’90s. Prior to that, I’d been a bit reluctant to go as everyone seemed to record there, especially if you were signed to Creation, but I thought I’d go and have a look at the place. “
McGinley continues: “When I went down there, I loved the fact that there’s no memorabilia about anyone who’s ever been in the studio. The only visual musical reference is a picture of [pioneering space age record producer} Joe Meek on their office wall.
“Anyway, over 20 years after our first visit, we decided to go back. When you’re there, it feels like your place. We’re really rubbish at trying to find words to describe how our music sounds, but maybe because we recorded in Rockfield in late summer, there’s something pastoral about the record.”
Blake, McGinley, Macdonald, McGowan and Childs arrived at the residential studio without a fixed plan. Their confidence and ease with working together meant the record came together quickly.
McGinley says: “When we got offered ten days in Rockfield, we weren’t ready in our minds but then we just thought, ‘**** it’ and went for it. If you’re sitting around waiting for the stars to align, you can end up never doing anything. We turned up and worked our way through ideas, and came up with some while we were there.
“The song Foreign Land was born in the studio. If we hadn’t gone there at that point through happenstance, that song wouldn’t exist. We like to let things happen. As people, we find a deadline inspiring. We like to put ourselves on the spot and see what happens. We usually get away with it. This record is the cliche of the blank canvas, which thankfully we managed to fill.”
Blake adds:“We’ve all been playing together for such a long time. In the past, whoever had written the song would have been the director. ‘This is how I’m hearing the drums, if you could play the bass like this’…We don’t do that now.
“Raymond or myself would just bring in the idea and people would listen and play what works with it. We’d play for a couple of hours and that would be the arrangement. There’s a trust that comes from knowing each other such a long time, a kind of telepathy. Everyone knows where they fit in the puzzle.”
The seven-minute acoustic closing track, I Will Love You, looks to a point beyond the fury and polarisation of our modern discourse, to a time when“the bigots are gone/after they apologise/for all the harm that they’ve done”.
McGinley says: “In many ways, us-and-them-ism has taken over the world. I Will Love You is looking for positivity but it’s being totally fatalistic at the same time. This s**t will exist forever, what are you going to do about it?
“I came up with the line ‘I will love you/until the flags are put down/and the exceptionalists are buried under the ground’ while I was playing the guitar. I started wondering what that was all about and where it might go. It’s looking for positives within a fatalistic, negative view of human nature.”
The full track listing is: Foreign Land; Tired Of Being Alone; I Left A Light On; See The Light; It’s Alright; Falling Into The Sun; Self-Sedation; Middle Of My Mind; Back To The Light and I Will Love You.
Teenage Fanclub play Leeds Brudenell Social Club, Wednesday, doors 7.30pm, sold out; Leadmill, Sheffield, November 12, 7.30pm. Support comes from Sweet Baboo. Box office for Sheffield: leadmill.co.uk.
DEVON comedian, actor, tap dancer and talkSport radio presenter Charlie Baker brings an hour of stand-up drenched in manure, cider and clotted cream to Pocklington Arts Centre on Friday.
Expect comedy with a countryside accent in 24 Hour Pasty People. “Imagine Jethro and Jack Black had a son. Job’s a good’un. Proper job,” he says.
Baker has appeared on The Last Leg, House Of Games, Harry Hill’s Tea Time, Comedy Central at the Comedy Store, The Great British Bake-Off: An Extra Slice, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and Channel 4’s Comedy Gala.
He played Tim Reynolds in BBC One soap opera EastEnders in 2016 and took the title role in Harry Hill and Steve Brown’s satirical musical Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera at Park Theatre, north London, in 2022.
Tickets for Friday’s 8pm gig are on sale on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
HALLOWEEN films and double bills, classic comedy and a time-travelling York legend, a Disney deep freeze and a punk/jazz collision help Charles Hutchinson leave behind October for November frights and delights.
Play of the week: Noises Off, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees
MATTHEW Kelly, Liza Goddard and Simon Shepherd lead the cast in Theatre Royal Bath’s touring revival of Michael Frayn’s riotous Noises Off, directed by Lindsay Posner, who staged Richard III and Romeo And Juliet for York’s first season of Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre productions in 2018.
Structured as a play within a play, this cherished 1982 farce follows the on and off-stage antics of a touring theatre company stumbling its way through the fictional farce Nothing On, from shambolic final rehearsals to a disastrous matinee, seen silently from backstage, before the catastrophic final performance. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
York legend of the week: Punch Porteous – Lost In Time, All Saints North Street, York, tonight, 7pm.
HAVE you heard or indeed seen the eccentric, evasive York legend Punch Porteous: soldier, philosopher, worker (when absolutely unavoidable), husbandman, connoisseur of ale and now the subject of poet Robert Powell, creative practitioner Ben Pugh and producer John Beecroft’s “multi-media drama experience”?
York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster directs Powell, Nick Naidu and Imogen Wood in Powell’s story of an ordinary man with an extraordinary predicament, lost in time in York. While the city shape-shifts around him, he is catapulted unpredictably into different eras of its history from c.70 to c.2023. Box office: yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/show/punch-porteous-lost-in-time/.
Music, poetry and comedy bill of the week: Navigation Art & Performance present Punk Jazz: A Halloween Special, The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York, tonight, 7.30pm
COMPLEMENTING the ongoing Punk/Jazz: Contrasts and Connections exhibition at Micklegate & Fossgate Socials, Navigators Art & Performance bring together energetic York punk band The Bricks; intense improvisers Teleost; the Neo Borgia Trio, formed for the occasion from a University of York big band; grunge-influenced Mike Ambler and the experimental Things Found And Made.
Taking part too will be firebrand polemical poet Rose Drew and comedians Isobel Wilson and Saeth Wheeler. Box office: https://bit.ly/nav-punkjazz.
Children’s concerts of the week: MishMash presents String!, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, tomorrow, 11.30am and 2pm
THE Gildas Quartet lead tomorrow’s double celebration of the string quartet in informal 40-minute performances featuring a diverse programme from Haydn to Jessie Montgomery, Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges to Dvorak, and everything in between.
Staged creatively to bring the audience into the music, these fun concerts are suitable for ages seven to 11 and their families. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.
Community film event of the week: The Witches (PG), Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow, 2.30pm
MAKE It York and The Groves Community Centre team up for a Halloween screening of Robert Zemeckis’s visually innovative 2020 film The Witches. Based on Roald Dahl’s novel, it tells the darkly humorous, heartwarming tale of an orphaned boy who goes to live with his loving Grandma in late-1967 in the rural Alabama town of Demopolis, where they have an run-in with the Grand High Witch (Anne Hathaway). Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Folk concert of the week: Emily Portman & Rob Harbron, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm
EMILY Portman, from The Furrow Collective, and Rob Harbron, who performs with Leveret, Fay Hield and Jon Boden, have formed an inspired collaboration to delve into English folk traditions with an intricately woven contemporary sound.
Portman (voice, banjo and piano) and fellow composer Harbron (concertina, guitar and voice) released their debut album, Time Was Away, last November, comprising eight English folk songs and two 20th century poems set to music. Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.
Halloween screaming/screening of the week: Nosferatu: Live Silent Cinema, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm
CHRIS Green’s score was commissioned by English Heritage for an outdoor screening of FW Murnau’s 1922 German Expressionist vampire film at Dracula’s spiritual home of Whitby Abbey. Now the composer plays his haunting blend of electronic and acoustic instruments for the first time in York to accompany the first cinematic interpretation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, one that gave birth to the horror movie. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Double bill of the week: Please Please You presents Steve Gunn & Brigid Mae Power, Rise@Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, Wednesday, doors 7.30pm
EXPERIMENTAL Brooklyn guitarist and songwriter Steve Gunn’s “forward-thinking” songwriting draws on the blues, folk, ecstatic free jazz and psychedelia, suffused with a raga influence. His website says he is “currently somewhere working on new music”, although York will be the first of 12 solo gigs in Britian, Spain and Poland in November.
Wednesday’s gig will be opened by Irish singer-songwriter Brigid Mae Power, whose latest folk-tinged dreampop album, Dream From The Deep Well, arrived in March. Box office: seetickets.com/event/steve-gunn/rise-bluebird/.
Musical of the week: York Stage in Disney’s Frozen Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee
IN a story of true love and acceptance between sisters, Disney’s Frozen Jr follows the journey of Princesses Anna and Elsa, based on the 2018 Broadway and West End musical set in the magical land of Arendelle, with all the Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez songs from the animated film.
Producer Nik Briggs directs a cast led by Megan Pickard, Bea Charlton, Matilda Park and Esther de la Pena as the princesses. Malachi Collins plays the Duke of Weselton, Lottie Marshall, Bulda, and Oliver Lawery, King Agnarr. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
In Focus: Say Owt Slam, with special guest Polarbear, The Crescent, tonight, 7.45pm
SAY Owt, York’s loveably gobby gang of performance poets, take over The Crescent community venue twice a year for a raucous night of spoken word and poetry in the form of a stellar slam.
Fast, frantic and fun, a slam gives each poet three minutes to wow the audience. Regular host Henry Raby enthuses: “We love doing Say Owt on a Saturday night, because it’s a party! A poetry party!
“Although one poet will be crowned a Say Owt Slam Champion, this isn’t a bitter battle. It’s a celebration as poets bring a variety of styles and forms. In the past, we’ve had tender personal reflections, hilarious laugh-out-loud comedy poems and fiery political tirades.”
Special guest at tonight’s Say Owt Slam in York will be Polarbear. “The last time he graced our city, Polarbear (a.k.a Steven Camden) was supporting Scroobius Pip and Kae Tempest,” says Henry. “He’s an internationally acclaimed spoken word artist and award-winning writer from Birmingham, whose poetry drips with gorgeous storytelling.
“He talks about people and places with a unique ear for language: celebrating the tiny human characteristics.”
Since first stepping on stage in 2004, Polarbear has performed his work and led creative projects from Manchester to Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur to California, as well as featuring on BBC Radio1, 3 and 6Music, attracting 155,000 views on YouTube and releasing a live album on Scroobius Pip’s Speech Development record label.
A few surprises might be in store tonight too. Box office: thecrescentyork.com/events/say-owt-slam-featuring-polarbear/ or on the door.