More Things To Do in York and beyond the second star to the right. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 48 for 2023, from The Press, York

Christmas In Neverland at Castle Howard

’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:    

Nunkie Theatre Company’s artwork for Casting The Runes

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:

Who am I? The answer is Bridget Christie, feeling the heat at Grand Opera House, York. Picture: Natasha Pszenicki

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:

James Swanton: Presenting Ghost Stories For Christmas at York Medical Society

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

Joanne Clifton’s Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical at Grand Opera House, York

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:

Kit Stroud as Ebenezer Scrooge in NE Theatre York’s A Christmas Carol

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

Mark Farrelly in Jarman at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

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:

Paul Weller: Returning to York Barbican next spring

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,, and

Joanne Clifton revels in unconventional Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical on her Grand Opera House return from Monday

“It’s my favourite role I’ve ever done,” says Joanne Clifton of playing P:rincess Fiona in Shrek The Musical

JOANNE Clifton loves the Grand Opera House, York, and not only for theatrical reasons.

“I’ve done three musicals there but it’s also where I signed off on my first house in Dressing Room 2,” says the 2016 Strictly Come Dancing champion.

From Monday, Joanne returns to the Cumberland Street theatre to play Princess Fiona alongside Antony Lawrence’s Shrek, James Gillan’s Lord Farquaad and Brandon Lee Sears’ Donkey in Sam Holmes and Nick Winston’s “Shrektacular” 2023-2024 touring production of David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeannie Tesori’s musical.

“We’re on the road from the end of July to April next year: a long tour, I know, but it’s my favourite role I’ve ever done, so I’m happy to do it as long as possible,” says the 2013 World Ballroom Showdance champion, who turned 40 on October 26.

Splashdance! Joanne Clifton as welder and dancer Alex Owens in the iconic scene in Flashdance at the Grand Opera House in November 2017

“Fiona’s someone I really relate to. I know she’s a cartoon character, but if ever there was a princess I should play, it would be Fiona, as I’m not your typical princess. Maybe that’s because I’m from Grimsby.

“I’m never going to be the same as Cameron Diaz [who voiced Fiona in the Shrek films]. I’m told I’m more feisty. I shout a lot, especially at Shrek in my first few scenes where I want him to rescue me right now from the tower.”

Joanne loved the original Shrek animated film that spawned this official Dreamworks  Theatricals musical. “Everyone knows the film, and how the film wasn’t the same as other cartoon films,” she says. “It’s a feelgood, funny musical, and of course it’s for kids but there are lots of jokes for adults too that go over kids’ heads.

“There are some important messages behind it too: be who you want to be, rather than living up to other people’s expectations. Princess Fiona starts out trying to be  like how people expect a princess to be but ends up fighting and burping, falling for an ogre and getting on with a donkey!”

Fab-u-lous! Joanne Clifton as Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Grand Opera House in February 2017

Summing up the humour, Joanne says: “It’s a very, very funny show, especially Lord Farquaad, and all that trumping that Shrek does and Fiona does. The kids absolutely love that! So there’s adult humour and toilet humour – at the end of the day trumps are just funny!”

Nick Winston’s choreography includes a big tap number for the former Strictly winner at the opening to Act Two. “I’m tap dancing with loads of rats as I’ve met the Pied Piper, who’s being followed by all these rats,” she says. “Especially as I’m 40 now, it’s one of the most demanding parts of the show – apart from the quick chase with the ogre at the end – because I’m singing, then I’m tap dancing and then have to finish by singing these big notes.”

The song in question is Morning Person. “I’m absolutely not a morning person!” says Joanne. “I’m very much an evening person. I’ll stay up until 2am, and if I could, I’d stay in bed all day.”

Nevertheless, the weekly performance schedule demands plenty of matinees. “We’ve recently done two weeks where we’ve had ‘double doubles’, matinees and evening shows on Wednesday and Thursday and then two shows on Saturday too. Sometimes we do eight shows in five days, but we just have to make it fun, and this cast is really good fun.

Shocked in pink: Joanne Clifton’s prim and proper Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show at the Grand Opera House in June 2019

“On those matinee days, we’ll get breakfast, do the show, where we’re all buzzing after doing I’m A Believer at the end, and then everyone’s in the green room, having fun, some cast members doing jigsaws, and we have a Lego club too.”

Neil Diamond’s I’m A Believer – best known for The Monkees’ 1966 hit version – is joined by original songs aplenty in the musical. “There are extra bits to the story too that make it better,” says Joanne. “Like my first song, I Know It’s Today, where Fiona goes through the stages of her life in the tower, from the age of seven, reading books, then teenage Fiona, older and brasher, and then I come on as Fiona as she is now, going out of her mind stuck in the tower.”

Joanne will be appearing in an American musical for the fourth time at the Grand Opera House after playing prim and proper college student Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Show in June 2019 and starring twice in 2017, first as demure Kansas flapper girl Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie in February, then combustible Pittsburgh steel mill welder Alex Owens in Flashdance in November.

“It’s one of my favourite theatres,” she says. “I love old, traditional theatres, and York has such happy memories for me.”

Shrek The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, November 27 to December 2, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office:

Copyright of The Press, York

“Be who you want to be, rather than living up to other people’s expectation,” urges Joanne Clifton, in reaction to playing convention-busting Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical

REVIEW: Steve Crowther’s verdict on The Chimera Ensemble, Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, University of York, November 17

The Chimera Ensemble performing at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall. Picture: Steve Crowther

GYOGY Kurtág’s Játékok piano pieces formed the main part of this innovative programme, with works by Howard Skempton and Paige Halliwell threaded in between the four groupings and closing with Michael Nyman.

This is the first time I have heard the Játékok pieces live, and they were a revelation. The only real influence I could discern was certainly not Beethoven, nor indeed Bartok, but Webern. In truth they were utterly original.

Each miniature beautifully crafted, each a portrait, a homage to his friends, fellow artistic travellers – Ligeti, Christian Wolff, a nod to Bach and, in the touching Hommage á Kurtág Márta, his wife with whom he played the piano duets.

All four groups were played by different pianists: Brinsley Morrison, Sam Goodhead, Katie Laing and Imogen Weedon & Charlotte Brettell (duets from Book VIII). Their care, the quality of touch, the precision and understanding of these tiny, intricate, aphoristic gems was a delight; polished and professional.

Játékok means games in Hungarian. Indeed, Kurtág said: “The idea of composing Játékok was suggested by children playing spontaneously, children for whom the piano still means a toy.” And this was what the performances created, that sense of innocent wonderment and discovery. 

The Chimera Ensemble was conducted by John Stringer, always a good thing. His precision and quiet authority ensured refinement and clarity in the three dovetailed works.

Howard Skempton’s Sirens (Version 1 and Versions 2 & 3) came across like musical paintings, gentle landscapes of instrumental colour created by simple chords oscillating between the different instrumental groups.

Now I do like Howard’s music, and I like the guy himself. I also like that these pieces were written for CoMA, a contemporary music organisation whose aims and values I share. However, although the performances were genuinely relaxing and engaging, the experience for me at least, was a little underwhelming.

Indeed, I initially thought the second Chimera contribution was also by Skempton – the lights being dimmed for, presumably, a performance-enhanced experience also meant it was difficult to see the actual programme notes – and a more enjoyable one too.

I’d actually written “that’s more like it, Howard” in my notes, only to discover it was a piece called Flux by Paige Halliwell – and a good one too. The Chimera Ensemble delivered its monolithic sound world to great effect where melodic shapes emerged, sometimes for their own sake and sometimes as part of a short musical conversation. Good performance, good piece.

Now to the Nyman, a composer whose music always gives me genuine foot-tapping, pulsating joy. I love the immediacy, intelligence and the physicality of his works. Not here, however. Despite the remarkably disciplined six-piano performance, the velvety textures and quiet jazzy influences, this did not work for me. I found the piece and musical experience a spectacularly self-indulgent, utterly tedious waste of time. I’ll get my coat.

Review by Steve Crowther

More Things To Do in York and beyond from November 18. Here’s holidaying Hutch’s List No. 47 for 2023, from The Press, York

Who’s next as the death count rises in Lucy Bailey’s production of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture: Manuel Harlan

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:

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:

Simon Brodkin: Screwed Up revelations from prankster at Grand Opera House, York

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:

Not just cricket: Henry Blofeld discusses “flannelled fools” and much besides at York Theatre Royal

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

The Trials Of Cato: Twisting folk into new shapes at Pocklington Arts Centre

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

Jess Gardham: On Navigators Art & Performance’s Basement Sessions bill at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York

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: or on the door.

Stepping out of the shadow: Atila Huyesin celebrates the music of Nat King Cole at the NCEM, York

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

Chris McCausland: Warming up at Selby Town Hall for a year of travels on his 2024 Yonks! tour

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:

Peter Hook & The Light to play Joy Division and New Order’s Substance albums in full at York Barbican next October. Bradford too

Picture: Julien LachaussÇe

PETER Hook & The Light will open the British and Irish leg of their 2024 travels at York Barbican on October 10.

Bass player Hook’s focus will be on Joy Division and New Order’s Substance albums, playing both in full.  

“It still amazes me how enjoyable it is to play the Substance LPs,” says Hook, former member of both iconic Manchester bands. “The contrast between Joy Division and New Order is very apparent but both complement each other very well.

“My only frustration is not being able to play more of our records each night. I am totally looking forward to the next phase. So, let’s enjoy some Substance and get ready for the future. Lots of love, Hooky.”

The poster for Peter Hook & The Light’s Substance tour of Britain and Ireland

On their Substance World Tour, Peter Hook & The Light will play Australia and New Zealand in May, North America in late-August and September, then 17 British and Irish dates in October and November, including a second Yorkshire gig at St George’s Hall, Bradford, on November 1.

Hook, 67, first revisited Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album in May 2010 for a commemorative charity concert, since when he has performed subsequent albums from Joy Division and New Order’s repertoire each year with The Light, culminating in Factory Records’ Substance compilations.

Hook’s band played Unknown Pleasures and Closer in full in his Joy Division: A Celebration concerts to mark their 40th anniversary. In October, they performed both Substance albums at their biggest London concert yet at the 5,300-capacity Eventim Apollo.

“It still amazes me how enjoyable it is to play the Substance LPs,” says Peter Hook

Hook’s dedication to his back catalogue has seen him move through Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, Closer and Still albums and New Order’s Movement, Power Corruption & Lies, Low Life, Brotherhood, Technique and Republic to arrive at next year’s Substance showcases.

Having toured these albums extensively, Peter Hook & The Light have amassed more than 600 concerts. Among the highlights since he began to reintroduce his early repertoire to a legion of new audiences across the world have been appearances at Benicassim, Primavera Sound, Bestival, Kendal Calling, Victorious and Rebellion, alongside sold-out gigs and extensive touring in Europe, North and South America, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Tickets go on general sale at 10am on Friday (17/11/2023) at; York,; Bradford, 01274 432000 or

Peter Hook & The Light’s logo

More Things To Do in York & beyond from Nov 11. Hutch’s List No. 46, from The Press

Tracy-Ann Oberman’s Cable Street pawnbroker and single mother Shylock in the 1936 East End with fascism on the rise. Picture: Mark Senior

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

Ross Noble: Geordie surrealist in his natural habitat in Jibber Jabber Jamboree at Grand Opera House, York

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:

Fame Hasn’t Changed Me, by Susan Bower, from Kentmere House Gallery’s winter exhibition

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. 

Kirkgate, Leeds, by Jonathan Hooper, from Kentmere House Gallery’s winter show

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:

Raqhael Harte as Sophie Goodman, Mick Liversidge as Phil Goodman and Ian Giles as Ratko Ilich in Lumar Productions’ premiere of Sea Stones. Picture: Chris Mackins

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:

Phil Grainger, left, and Alexander Flanagan Wright: Performing Orpheus at Rise@Bluebird Bakery, Acomb

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:

Long time coming: Ben Folds will stride into the Grand Opera House for his overdue York debut on Thusday

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:

Snake Davis: Sax to the max at Pocklington Arts Centre

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

Haircut 100: Wearing their favourite shirts at York Barbican on Friday

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:

The tour poster for Only Fools And Horses The Musical, bound for York next year

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:

Sarah Millican: Fully booked run at York Barbican

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.  

Zeus: Once the ancient Greek god of the sky, lightning, thunder, law and order; now a champion dog with a lead role in York Theatre Royal’s pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk

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.

Pull the udder one: Anna Soden goes solo as Dave the Cow in Jack And The Beanstalk

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

Navigators Art & Performance launches Basement Sessions of music, spoken word & comedy at City Screen Picturehouse

Jess Gardham: York singer-songwriter playing Navigators Art & Performance’s inaugural Basement Sessions bill at City Screen Picturehouse, York

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 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.”

The flyer for Navigators Art & Performance’s first Basement Sessions bill

REVIEW: York Light Youth in School Of Rock, The Musical, The Next Generation, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York ****

Emma Louise Dickinson and Jonny Holbek in rehearsal with York Light Youth company members for School Of Rock The Musical

YORK Light Youth’s tenth anniversary show is the York premiere of The Next Generation Edition of School Of Rock, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes, of Downton Abbey fame.

This all-American celebration of music, friendship and the power of self-expression is described as “technically and musically challenging”.  “Technically” because it features not one, but two bands, an adult one in the pit and a group of whippersnapper talents ready to knock rock into shape on stage.

“Musically” because Lloyd Webber’s rock songs do rock out, not to the level of screeching heavy metal pyrotechnics, but demanding muscular singing from Jonny Holbek’s lead character, substitute teacher Dewey Finn, especially in When I Climb To The Top Of Mt. Rock and Jack Black’s In The End Of Time.

“Any York production is always better for the presence of Jonny Holbek,” CharlesHutchPress opined when reviewing his scene-stealing Tobias Ragg in York Light Opera Company’s Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber Of Fleet Street in February.

That York Theatre Royal performance was marked by “humour and tragedy, light and darkness, hope and desperation, naivety and madness”. Move forward to School Of Rock, where Holbek brings buckets of humour and a dab of sadness, light and shade, hope and desperation, naivety and madcap mayhem to Dewey Finn.

A musician as well as an actor, here’s Jonny lapping up a well-deserved lead role, such fun to watch as he interacts brilliantly with the young company (aged ten to 17), the big kid among a bunch of them. Dewey is a ckeeky chappie role he was born to play, and he is indeed the Finnished article here.

Based on Mike White’s storyline for the  2003 film, Holbek’s Dewey is a failed wannabe rock star, who passes himself off as teacher flatmate Ned Schneebly (Flynn Coultous) to raise the rent by becoming the  substitute teacher to a class of prep school students.

What can he teach them? Not history but the history of rock and how to play, so they can take on his old band No Vacancy in the Battle Of The Bands. They learn, he learns, and there is something of the vibe and spirit of both John Godber’s Teechers and Willy Russell’s Our Day Out in looking outside the box to stimulate children’s minds and actions.

Prominent among the adults in the story is Emma Louise Dickinson’s headteacher, Rosalie Mullins, repressed and orderly until Dewey brings out the Stevie Nicks butterfly from her dowdy chrysalis. She sings as beautifully as ever, best in show once more.

Multiple performers delight among the young company: whether Flynn Coultous revelling in the bossed-about adult role of Ned Schneebly; Georgia Foster as the insufferable Patty Di Marco; Olivia Swales’s precocious, bossy Summer Hathaway or Iris Wragg’s reserved Tomika Spencer-Williams, brought out of her shell by Dewey to reveal her singing talent. Look out for Isaac Patterson’s fashion-obsessed Billy Sandford too.

You will love the talented young musicians: Sam Brophy’s keyboard wizard Lawrence Turner, a Rick Wakeman in the making; Bella Smith’s too-cool-for-school bass player Katie Travis; Ollie Lee’s putative guitar god and Finley Walters’ all-action drummer Freddie Hamilton.

The first half is too long, with so many songs to fit in, but Sue Hawksworth’s direction elicits the best from individual and ensemble performances alike; musical director Martin Lay and his band power the songs to the max, and David Pumfrey’s set design ensures quick scene changes.

York Light Youth’s exuberant production really does Stick It To The Man, right down to an in-joke putdown at Lloyd Webber’s expense when Holkbek’s Dewey disses his lordship’s ballad Memory.

York Light Youth in School Of Rock, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, 2.30pm and 7.30pm today. Box office: 01904 501935 or

REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict Steve Gunn and Brigid Mae Power, Rise @ Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, November 1

Steve Gunn: “Dexterously employing delay and effects, he was able to inject variation and other sound dimensions into otherwise attractive acoustic composition”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

THIS wildly popular Acomb café proved the perfect setting for Steve Gunn and Brigid Mae Power to kick off a tour as part of Bluebird Bakery’s rapidly expanding Rise programme of evening concerts.

The intimate surroundings put everyone at ease, the abstract art by York artist Rosie Bramley providing the ideal backdrop for the performers to slowly weave their magic.

Steve Gunn is one of the most talented acoustic guitar players (as well as a serial collaborator and producer), so it is credit to Joe Coates at Please Please You for enticing the New Yorker to Acomb.

With jetlag tapping Gunn on the shoulder (as he put it), it took a while for him to work his way into his set. By dexterously employing delay and effects, Gunn was able to inject variation and other sound dimensions into otherwise attractive acoustic compositions. At one point during Way Out Weather he risked tinnitus for us, by crouching right down to his speaker to get the (challenging) sound he was seeking before bringing us back to the safety of the original refrain.

Gunn’s approach is subtle, songs take time to perform, and, in truth, time to work their charm on the audience. On The Way and Morning River, both from his 2021 solo album Other You, occupied the first 25 minutes of the set. More memorable was Wildwood, a number about a place on the New Jersey coast that holds a special connection to him and his family.

Brigid Mae Power: “At their best, her songs are heart stopping, emotive fragments seemingly ripped from a diary”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

Gunn is touring with Brigid Mae Power in support. This Irish singer is justly a critical favourite, known for her heartfelt songs and beautiful voice. “Singing around a cough”, she spluttered while tuning, but she still sounded in fine voice.

Without the imaginative studio backings, Power’s material seems simply constructed and varies little. At their best, however,  they are heart stopping, emotive fragments seemingly ripped from a diary. Some Life You’ve Known was wonderful and perhaps the best song of the entire evening.

Running it close was Gunn’s cover of the late Michael Chapman’s Among The Trees. Chapman wrote this elegiac number before he was 30, and the melancholy for summer’s past was more universal than Gunn’s pieces. It was nevertheless a treat to see two talented performers up close and be able to hear and appreciate every note.

Review by Paul Rhodes, 1/11/2023

N.B. A launch Party for A Yorkshire Tribute To Michael Chapman, a compilation album curated by Henry Parker for release on the Tompkins Square label, will take place is at The Crescent on Friday,  December 1. Taking part will be Andrew DR Abbott, Chris Brain, Holly Blackshaw, Bobby Lee, Dean McPhee, Henry Parker and Katie Spencer. Box office:

On the Rise stage: Steve Gunn performing against the backdrop of Rosie Bramley’s paintings at Bluebird Bakery, Acomb. Picture: Paul Rhodes

REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on Bobby Lee and Pascallion, The Crescent, York

Bobby Lee and drummer Ian McCutcheon: “Guitar-driven instrumentals with an expansive, filmic quality”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

CUTTING a dash is rarely a bad move when it comes to performing music. While none at The Crescent did so much as bat an eye to the retro chic figure enjoying the support act, once on stage, Bobby Lee, from Sheffield but in every other respect American, looked like a man made for the limelight.

In appearance recalling Lee Hazlewood in his late 1960s’ pomp, Lee’s guitar-driven instrumentals have an expansive, filmic quality. The backdrop was video from the 1960s and 1970s, and promoters Ouroboros’s trademark floor lamp also added a certain period glow.

The three piece locked quickly into place, dispatching 15 songs in a little over an hour. That was enough, as the circular riffs were starting to turn in on themselves and blur.

Pascallion, alias York musician Jack Woods: “Dour, Elliot Smith-like nihilism contrasting with nimble, beautiful guitar playing”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

There were a number of peaks in the set, however. Reds For A Blue Planet, the opener from his best album to date, Endless Skyways, was confident, bold and melodic. Lee wisely leaves space for his music, resisting the urge to play lots of notes, or attempt jazz rock meanders. Closer in spirit perhaps to Link Wray, or Lee Hazlewood’s original charge, Duane Eddy.

His bandmates were able accomplices, drummer Ian McCutcheon in particular laying down inventive patterns without steeling any thunder. There was just enough variety and showmanship to keep the evening afloat, mixing more atmospheric numbers, such as  Acid Flat Lands, with more riff-based tunes, such as Heavy Friends.

The world certainly seems to weigh down on Pascallion, the York-based opener. Information online is sparse about this musician (Jack Woods), but the set was wonderful – his dour, Elliot Smith-like nihilism contrasting with his nimble, beautiful guitar playing. If the John Martyn comparisons are hard to avoid, this was a set of songs deserving of a wider audience.

That both performers had in common.

Review by Paul Rhodes, 29/10/2023

Bobby Lee’s three piece locked quickly into place, dispatching 15 songs in a little over an hour. Picture: Paul Rhodes