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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The camera never lies…or does it in Bloodshot?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pilot Theatre artistic director Esther Richardson. Picture: Robert Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High Kilburn playwright Charley Miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Godbers: Jane, Martha, John and Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review by Martin Dreyer

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

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre: Fundraising target hit

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

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

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

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

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

Paws and effect: A Joseph Rowntree Theatre fundraising teddy bear

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

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

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

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

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

Utterly Rutterly as Barrie returns to the stage in one-man show at The Holbeck

Symbol of the North: Actor-manager, artistic director and theatre pioneer Barrie Rutter

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

The Hull-born titan of northern theatre, now 73, will perform his one-man show, An Evening With Barrie Rutter, on November 7 at The Holbeck, Jenkinson Lawn, Holbeck, home to the Slung Low theatre company in Leeds.

The Saturday night of tall tales and anecdotes, poetry and prose will be a fundraiser for the installation of a new lift at the south Leeds community base, the oldest social club in the country.

Actor-manager and artistic director Rutter founded the pioneering touring company Northern Broadsides, based at Dean Clough in Halifax, from where they delivered stories in full-blooded, unapologetic northern dialect in non-traditional spaces across Britain.

A formidable, inspiring frontman, never afraid to be outspoken, Rutter stood down as Broadsides’ artistic director in 2018 after 25 years at the helm but, as this one-off fundraising performance will demonstrate, the irrepressible Yorkshireman has lost none of his fervour to have a good time with audiences.

Barrie Rutter as Lear in Northern Broadsides’ 2015 production of King Lear. Picture: Nobby Clark

The son of a Hull fishmonger, Rutter was given a part in the school play by an English teacher who thought he had “the gob for it”. He discovered he loved the stage, whereupon his career went from taking early steps with the National Youth Theatre to performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and onwards to making such an impact with the clog-wearing Broadsides. In 2015, he was awarded the OBE for services to drama.

Rutter – he always signed off his director’s notes in Broadsides’ programmes solely with his surname – says: “I am absolutely thrilled at the invitation from Alan Lane and his team at Slung Low to perform at The Holbeck. What goes on in there is truly inspirational and I’m delighted support this wonderful venue when I perform there on November 7.”

All proceeds will go towards the Slung Low’s fundraising campaign for a lift to make The Holbeck accessible to everyone who wishes to attend events and private functions. Generous supporters have gifted £60,000 already towards the £150,000 target.

Alan Lane, Slung Low’s artistic director, says:“Barrie Rutter is one of the reasons why there are so many amazing theatre companies in the greater north nowadays – he was a genuine trail blazer. It’s such an honour to have Barrie perform at the club and delighted to share with our audience the opportunity to see a world-class, one-of-a-kind performer here at The Holbeck.”

Tickets for the 7.15pm show are priced at Pay What You Decide. To book, visit:  https://www.slunglow.org/whats-on/

Murder and masks as Simon Slater returns home for thriller Bloodshot at the SJT

Down on his luck: Simon Slater as Derek Eveleigh in Douglas Post’s thriller Bloodshot. Picture: Mark Brenner

SIMON Slater, Scarborough-born actor, musical director and composer, is revisiting familiar ground on his return to his hometown.

From Wednesday to Saturday at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, he will perform Douglas Post’s Bloodshot, a one-man, four-role thriller he premiered nine years ago.

“This autumn, I’ve been doing it four weeks at the Watermill, Newbury, playing to a socially distanced 80-capacity audience, then I finish with five performances in The Round at the SJT,” says Simon.

“Doing a one-man show, you’re so alone. One stage manager and a lighting guy at each venue, as technically, it’s quite a big show with slides, music and videos.”

Alone, yes, but Simon fills the stage with four contrasting characters in Post’s gripping yarn of vaudeville, murder, magic and jazz, wherein the central character is Derek Eveleigh, a down-on-his-luck, yet skilled photographer in 1957 London.

A mysterious envelope arrives from a stranger asking Eveleigh to take secret pictures of an elegant young woman as she walks in Holland Park. The reward is handsome, but the irresistible assignment takes a sudden, shocking turn.

“I think to myself, ‘why am I doing this? No-one to talk to for two hours except me!” says Simon, who has performed Bloodshot 300 times

Entangled and compelled to understand, Derek is led into a seedy Soho nightlife populated by dubious characters: an Irish comedian, a New York saxophone player and a Russian magician.

“An Irishman, an American and a Russian…it sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it?!” says Simon, who calls on his diverse skills to play them all under Patrick Sandford’s direction.

What have they to do with the bloody event Eveleigh has witnessed and how are these men connected to the woman in Holland Park? In attempting to learn the truth, Eveleigh will find his whole life being turned upside down.

Simon has been involved with the globe-trotting Bloodshot from the very start. “Douglas Post is an American writer, who wrote a thriller called Earth And Sky that I did at the Nuffield Theatre, and we became mates. I was holidaying in Chicago, where my brother has a house, and we met up in a late-night bar, where I said, ‘Go on, Douglas, write me a play.”

Post duly did so, incorporating Simon’s mastery of magic, composition and ear for accents. “I’ve always done magic since I was a kid, when there was a magic shop on the Scarborough front called Dinsdale’s [Famous Joke & Trick Shop],” he says.

“He knew I was a musician too, so I get to show off all my meagre talents! There I am, on stage, talking to myself in a schizophrenic way in various accents. I offend everybody equally by stereotyping three nations with my accents…but offending in a nice way!”

On a knife edge: Simon Slater in the one-man thriller Bloodshot

As for the music, “I sent Douglas a CD of George Formby songs for inspiration for the Irish comedian’s ukulele song. God knows what a Chicago writer would have made of that!” recalls Simon, who has been teaching saxophone on Zoom during lockdown and beyond, by the way.

He has performed Bloodshot around 300 times, in London, Canada, Vienna and Chicago. “But never Scarborough…until now,” he says. “I last did it in Chicago four years, and the dialogue did come back quickly when I started rehearsing for the Watermill run.

“But if you think too hard, you have no idea where you are and sometimes you can’t remember a  particular word. Like the other night, when I couldn’t remember ‘boat’. My late father [celebrated one-legged Prospect Of Whitby yachtsman Arthur Slater] would be turning in his grave!

“I talk side to side, back and forth, like schizophrenia, but if you get the timing wrong, it’s most extraordinary. I remember when I forgot my line as Derek and the Russian magician prompted me and felt very smug at doing that. It’s a complete internal conversation that’s going on.”

Simon describes the experience of performing Bloodshot as “absolutely knackering”. “I think to myself, ‘why am I doing this? No-one to talk to for two hours except me!” he says.

“It’s the only one-man thriller I’ve ever heard of, and whether my body can hold up, we’ll see, as I damaged my shoulder playing squash with my son. My rotator cuff. It’s b****y painful. My squash days are over, which is a relief…especially for my son!”

Simon Slater and Jemma Redgrave: Rehearsed reading of Simon Woods’ Hansard at the SJT tonight (October 19)

Simon, who played Sam Carmichael in Mamma Mia! in the West End for five years and appeared regularly as Inspector Kite in The Bill, will be doing one other performance while back in Scarborough: a rehearsed reading of Simon Woods’ brutally funny political satire Hansard tonight (October 19).

SJT artistic associate Simon will be teaming up with theatrical dynasty luminary Jemma Redgrave for the sold-out 7.30pm show, directed by SJT artistic director Paul Robinson, in The Round.

Premiered at the National Theatre, London, in August 2019, Hansard’s witty and devastating play takes place on a summer’s morning in 1988, when Tory politician Robin Hesketh has returned home to the idyllic Cotswold house he shares with his wife of 30 years, Diana, but all is not as blissful as it first seems.

Diana has a stinking hangover, a fox is destroying the garden, and secrets are being dug up all over the place. As the day draws on, what starts as gentle ribbing and the familiar rhythms of marital sparring quickly turns to blood-sport.

“It’s set at the time of Section 28 [banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools, enacted by Margaret Thatcher’s Government on May 24 1988] and as a play it’s a bit like Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? with a political edge to it,” says Simon.

“It was Paul who found the play – which I haven’t seen – and we’ve been rehearsing it on Zoom with my friend Jemma to perform as a reading with chairs and lecterns. Paul is yet to decide whether to stage the play next year, so let’s see what happens.”

The eyes have it; the ice has it: Polly Lister in the SJT’s poster for The Snow Queen, featuring music by artistic associate Simon Slater

Looking forward to spending this week at the SJT, Simon says: “It’s going to be quite busy! It’s almost like a career.”

Ever in demand as a musical director and composer, whether as MD for Amadeus at the National Theatre or writing more than 300 original scores for theatre, film, TV, radio and theatre, Simon has one further engagement at the SJT in the winter ahead.

Having provided the score for Nick Lane’s past four Christmas shows in the Round, he will do so again for The Snow Queen, now revised by Lane as a solo show for Polly Lister from December 4 to 30.

“The songs will all be recorded on click track and I can be in a bubble for rehearsals,” says Simon. “I’m also writing the music for Winchester Theatre Royal’s panto for four socially distanced actors, Four Dames, written by James Barry with lots of routines about dames, obviously!”

In Newbury, Simon has been adapting to performing in Covid times, the audiences masked up and distanced from each other. “You know that theatre expression, ‘you can’t hear a smile’. Well, now you can’t see one either,” he says.

“Audiences have been quite self-conscious in this new way of watching live theatre: it’s like playing to 65 Lone Rangers.”

Nevertheless, let’s celebrate that the Stephen Joseph Theatre is presenting theatre once more…and that tickets are selling well for Simon’s five performances as he prepares to play to a home crowd.

Simon Slater in Douglas Post’s Bloodshot, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

The Snow Queen will run from December 4 to 30. Box office: sjt.uk.com/whatson or call 01723 370541 (Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am to 4pm, for both phone calls and in-person bookings).

Look who’s in the Bean team as York Stage announce panto at Theatre @41 Monkgate

Full of beans! The York Stage cast for Jack And The Beanstalk, from top left: Jordan Fox, May Tether, Ian Stroughair, Livvy Evans, Alex Weatherhill, Emily Taylor, Matthew Ives and Danielle Mullan

CHRISTMAS in York would not be complete without a family outing to the pantomime, reckons York Stage producer Nik Briggs.

No wonder he is excited to announce his company will be  bringing a brand new professional staging of Jack And The Beanstalk to the city  this winter, billed as “a panto made in York for the people of York”. 

Running from December 11 2020 to January 3 2021 at Theatre @41  Monkgate, York, the 90-minute, Covid-secure show will feature Ian Stroughair, alias York’s  international drag diva Velma Celli, in wicked mode in the cast of eight laden with West  End talent from Yorkshire and the North East. 

Nik says: “Join us this December for some magical Christmas entertainment as we  present Jack And The Beanstalk in the Theatre @41 building in the heart of York on  Monkgate. 

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

“Our traditional family pantomime will be performed in a traverse setting in the John  Cooper Studio, with the audience placed either side of a central stage with a capacity of 80 and no interval in the show.” 

“Covid-secure safety measures will be in place and, for the first time at a York Stage  show, Perspex safety screens will be placed between households and support bubbles  so that our audiences can safely enjoy the show.” 

Introducing his cast, Nik says: “We’re so excited to be bringing a sensational show to  York this Christmas with the most exciting casting!”  

Taking on the challenge of climbing the beanstalk will be West End actor Jordan Fox  (from Kinky Boot, Friendsical, Beautiful) as Jack, who must take on the evil Flesh Creep, played by Ian Stroughair (Cats, Fame, Chicago and Rent, as well as award-winning drag vocalist Velma Celli).  

Ian Stroughair, pictured here in Velma Celli drag diva mode, will switch to the dark side as the villainous Flesh Creep in Jack And The Beanstalk

Supporting Jack on his quest will be another York-born West End talent, Livvy Evans  (Tina, Motown, Soho Cinders), as Fairy Mary and Alex Weatherhill (Chicago, All Male  G&S) as Dame Trott.  

York Stage are thrilled to be giving May Tether, a favourite of past York Stage Musicals  shows, her first professional contract, playing Jill, following her graduation from London  drama school Trinity Laban in July. 

Completing the cast will be Matthew Ives (The Boyfriend, Closer to Heaven, La Cage Aux  Folles); Emily Taylor (Great British Pantomime Award nominee and regular choreographer  of the Grand Opera House pantomime) and Danielle Mullan, the North Easterner who  captained the dance team in Berwick Kaler’s York Theatre Royal pantomimes for  many years.   

Looking forward to York Stage adding a new string to their bow after this summer’s open-air musical theatre concerts in Rowntree Park, Theatre@41 board chairman Alan Park  says: “Christmas isn’t Christmas without panto. We’re delighted York Stage are taking full  advantage of Theatre@41’s flexible space to ensure York families will still be able to safely  enjoy a full all-singing and all-dancing pantomime.

May Tether: Signed her first professional contract after drama school to play Jill in Jack And The Beanstalk. Here she is pictured singing in York Stage Musicals’ first summer concert at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre in August. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

“We can’t wait to welcome audiences  back and for the building to echo with music and laughter again.”  

Summing up what lies in store in Jack And The Beanstalk, Nik says: “With an exciting  cast filled with West End talent, all born and bred in Yorkshire, and a  creative team made up from those who brought shows such as Shrek, The Sound  Of Music and Hairspray to York, audiences can be assured of a show of true  panto magic!” 

“Expect glitzy sets and costumes, a show filled with singing and dancing, lots of laughs  and, of course, a huge beanstalk! Audiences can book now for a giant slice of traditional Christmas fun at one of the city’s most magical, bean-sized theatres for  all the family!” 

Tickets for the 40 performances are on sale at yorkstagepanto.com

Jack And The Beanstalk in a nutshell

Writer, director and producer Nik Briggs and musical director Jessica Douglas

PANTOMIME: Jack And The Beanstalk, presented by York Stage Ltd.

WHERE: John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41, Monkgate, York, YO31 7PB.  

WHEN: December 11 2020 to January 3 2021.  

SHOW TIMES: Monday to Saturday, 2pm and 7pm; Sundays, 1pm and 6pm; Christmas Eve, 12 noon and 5pm; New Year’s Eve,  12 noon.  

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes with no interval.   

AUDIENCE CAPACITY: 80, seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

PRICE: Ranging from £20 to £27.  

TICKETS: Available online only, via www.yorkstagepanto.com

Writer, director and producer for York Stage Ltd: NIK BRIGGS  

Musical director: JESSICA DOUGLAS 

Cast: JORDAN FOX as Jack; MAY TETHER as Jill; IAN STROUGHAIR as Flesh Creep; LIVVY  EVANS as Fairy Mary; ALEX WEATHERHILL as Dame Trott; EMILY TAYLOR,  MATTHEW IVES and DANIELLE MULLAN, Ensemble.  

More Things To Do in and around York and at home. List No. 16 for these three-tiered times, courtesy of The Press, York

Forming, by Nick Loaring, on show at the Flourish exhibition at Woodend Gallery, Scarborough

CINEWORLD, York, and City Screen, York are both closed temporarily until further notice after the new James Bond film, No Time To Die, was put back in cold storage until next April, a full year after its original planned release date.

However, despite the rising second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic, Charles Hutchinson continues to track and trace signs of artistic life, drive-in events and home entertainment.

Exhibition of the week outside York: Flourish, Woodend Gallery, Scarborough, until January 31 2021

RUN by Huddersfield’s West Yorkshire Print Workshop, Flourish brings together prints made by 13 nationwide artists shortlisted for this year’s Flourish Award.

Those artists are: Paulette Bansal; Suzanne Bethell; Louisa Boyd; Tony Carlton; Louise Garman; Pam Grimmond, from Markington, near Harrogate; Ian Irvine; Nick Loaring; Lucie MacGregor; Flora McLachlan; Lucy May Schofield; Claire Willberg and Susan Wright.

Back in Black: Chris While and Julie Matthews are to play an exclusive online concert for York’s Black Swan Folk Club

Online folk concert of the week: Chris While and Julie Matthews, Black Swan Folk Club, York, October 15, 7.30pm

BLACK Swan favourites Chris While and Julie Matthews will be playing this online concert exclusively for the York folk club and will conclude the night with a live question-and-answer session.

Tickets are on sale at: whileandmatthews.com/virtual-tour. “Once you’ve purchased a ticket, you’ll be able to watch the streamed performance whenever you want,” says organiser Chris Euesden. “Chris and Julie have been guests at the club and played for us in concert at the NCEM many times over the years and it’s always been a great evening.”

Joshua Burnell: One-off online concert presented by East Riding Theatre, Beverley. Picture: Elly Lucas

Folk-fused baroque’n’roll virtual gig of the week ahead: Joshua Burnell & Frances Sladen, Live In Your Living Room, October 17, 7.30pm

THE future of folk, alias York multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer Joshua Burnell, will be joined by his partner, vocalist Frances Sladen, for a one-off online concert hosted by the East Riding Theatre, Beverley.

“We’ll be playing acoustic versions of songs old and new,” says Joshua, who released his futuristic new album, Flowers Where The Horses Sleep, last month.

What can viewers expect when they head to ERT’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/365072138001228/ for the free concert? “I’m still figuring out exactly how it’ll work!” says Joshua, winner of the Rising Star award in the 2020 Folking Awards. “But we’ll definitely be sharing tales that influenced the songs, as well as reflections on how the lockdown affected our musical process.”

One man on a downer: Simon Slater as Derek Eveleigh in Douglas Post’s thriller Headshot. Picture: Marc Brenner

In search of a thriller this autumn? Head to Bloodshot, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, October 21 to 24, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

SIMON Slater, the Scarborough-born actor and composer with West End credits galore to his name, returns home to perform Bloodshot, Douglas Post’s one-man thriller.

In a story of vaudeville, murder, magic and jazz set in London in 1957, Derek Eveleigh is a skilled photographer but very down on his luck.

A mysterious envelope arrives from a stranger, asking him to take secret pictures of an elegant young woman as she walks in Holland Park. The reward is handsome, but the irresistible assignment takes a sudden, shocking turn. Entangled and compelled to understand, Derek is led into a seedy Soho nightlife populated by dubious characters.

Bang on! The poster for Autumn Lights’ drive-in spectacle of light on Guy Fawkes Night

Drive-in fireworks event on Guy Fawkes Night: Autumn Lights, Elvington Airfield, near York, November 5, 5pm to 8.30pm

ELVINGTON Airfield will be the setting for Autumn Lights’ spectacle of light on Guy Fawkes Night in a drive-in event billed as “York’s biggest fireworks extravaganza”.

Look out for a hot air balloon nightglow (albeit with the balloon inflation dependant on the weather), fire shows and street food at this Covid-secure evening with car parking and space to get out and enjoy the show. Find out more at Facebook.com/autmunlightsuk and Instagram @autumnlightsuk.

Arm in arm: Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman reflect on 25 years of making music together

Rearranged concert of the month ahead: Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman, National Centre for Early Music, York, November 17, 6pm and 8.30pm

KATHRYN Roberts and Sean Lakeman, partners in life and music, had to postpone their April 22 show at the NCEM. Now, instead, they will play not one, but two, hour-long shows, each featuring the same set list, as they mark 25 years of making folk music together.

To celebrate this milestone, the couple will revisit and reinterpret songs from the early days of folk supergroup Equation through to 2020’s album, On Reflection, with a nod or two along the way to their extracurricular musical adventures, in a whistle-stop tour through their artistic journey to date.

Limited seating will be available, each household/support bubble up to four people to be seated around small tables positioned at a two-metre social distance from others. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (October 9) at be on sale at blackswanfolkclub@yahoo.co.uk.

Visage voyage: Michelle Visage will be “spiralling through time with no way of returning home” from Scarborough Open Air Theatre next summer

Looking ahead to next summer: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Werq The World, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, June 20 2021

COMBINING music, comedy, sassiness and lavish set-pieces to “create the biggest, brashest, most utterly glorious party night of the year”, the fourth UK and European RuPaul Drag Race tour show will see “an experiment gone wrong that sends Drag Race judge and 2019 Strictly Come Dancing contestant Michelle Visage spiralling through time with no way of returning home”.

Newly crowned Season 12 Drag Race winner Jaida Essence Hall, Asia O’Hara,  Kameron Michaels, Plastique Tiara, Vanessa Vanjie and Yvie Oddly will be joined by stars from the latest latest USA, UK and Canadian seasons to “journey through iconic periods of history in the hope they will find their way back to the present day”.

Tickets for the only RuPaul’s Drag Race British outdoor show next summer, plus Olly Murs on July 10 and Nile Rodgers & Chic on August 20, are on sale via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Reflections on an autumn day at Holkham Beach in Norfolk. Picture: Celestine Dubruel

And what about?

Taking an autumn break in Norwich, Norfolk and on the Suffolk coast.

Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse combine horror movies and carnivals in thriller Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show

Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse in the dress rehearsal for Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show

IN the wake of their stage recreation of George A. Romero’s classic zombie movie Night Of The Living Dead ™- Remix, Leeds company Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse are joining forces again from tonight to stage the première of the raucous and deliciously dark new tale Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show. 

This show will play as part of Leeds Playhouse’s reopening season of work, designed to safely reintroduce audiences to the live theatre experience,  showcasing the vibrancy and resilience of the artists and venues creating work within the Leeds City Region.

Directed and written by Imitating The Dog’s co-artistic directors Andrew Quick and Pete Brooks,  Dr Blood’s Old Travelling Show will open outside Leeds Playhouse on Playhouse Square tonight and tomorrow and will then tour until October 24.

Imitating The Dog bring their theatrical and technical acumen to this unique outdoor live theatre experience. Their innovative story-telling skills will create this dark tale of mischief and immorality, drawing on classic horror movies and the traditions of carnival and medicine shows.

Set in a mythical North and made for these strange times of lockdown, Dr Blood and his motley crew tell a tale of the price paid for pursuing ambition, hypocrisy, and greed.

Imitating The Dog co-director Andrew Quick says: “It’s a strange time to be making a new show but we are really looking forward to meeting the new challenges of creating work in the present conditions.

“We felt it was important to keep going and create a piece that was not only magical and entertaining but will abide by social distancing guidance and be COVID 19 safe. It will be a challenge to make but it is a hugely entertaining production that is scary in parts but also full of fun, with some deep and dark themes running through it.

“We’ll be using screen and camera technologies for which we are known and I just can’t wait to share with audiences and venues like Leeds Playhouse that have supported us over the past decade and for us all to come together and experience all the joys of live theatre outdoors.”

Leeds Playhouse artistic director James Brining says: “We are working together with all our theatre partners to make sure that everyone who is coming back to watching live theatre does so in a safe environment.

“It is fantastic to see artists and theatre companies who throughout this time have grabbed the opportunity to create new work and explore different ways to entertain an audience. We are thrilled to be working once again with Imitating The Dog, who are constantly looking at new ways to create theatre and, in this case, will showcase the beautiful new space on Playhouse Square.”

The production’s creative team will feature design by Laura Hopkins (Black Watch and Peter Pan, National Theatre of Scotland; The Divide, Edinburgh International Festival and The Old Vic, and projection and video design by Simon Wainwright (Night Of The Living Dead ™- Remix, Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse and The Kid Stays In The PictureRoyal Court).

Lighting is by Andrew Crofts (Night Of The Living Dead ™- Remix, Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse and Trash Cuisine, Belarus Free Theatre and The Young Vic); original music has been composed by James Hamilton and models made by Matthew Tully.

After Leeds Playhouse, further Yorkshire performances follow at The Courtyard, Piece Hall, Halifax, on October 9 and 10. Plans are afoot to release a filmed version for streaming: watch this space for more details

In line with current Government guidelines, audiences will have a limited capacity with social distancing in place. To check ticket availability for Leeds Playhouse, go to leedsplayhouse.org.uk.

All ticket proceeds from the tour will go to support the tour venues during the lockdown.