REVIEW: 1812 Theatre Company in The Vicar of Dibley, Helmsley Arts Centre, until Saturday ****

Julia Bullock’s Geraldine Granger receives a frosty reception from Grahame Sammons’s parish council chairman David Horton on introducing herself as the new vicar. Oliver Clive’s Hugo Horton looks on rather more admiringly. Picture: Joe Coughlan

WHEN The Vicar Of Dibley was suggested for 1812 Theatre Company’s summer show, director Julie Lomas “had some reservations”. Who could follow comedy icon Dawn French and the rest from Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew- Archer’s beloved BBC series, she wondered.

Allaying those concerns, she found all her players in her first round of auditions, combining company debutants with familiar faces from Helmsley Arts Centre’s resident company, including Richard Noakes in his 51st appearance “in some way or other” at the Old Meeting House.

Two new members feature, led by Julia Bullock, from the Harrogate theatre scene, making “chocoholic sex kitten” Reverend Geraldine Granger her own, albeit with the Dawn French bob.

Beaj Johnson is stepping up for his stage debut at 60 as no, no, no, yes, Jim Trott, after many years as a photographer in the theatre world, taking portraits of Rik Mayall, Julian Clary, Celia Imrie, Imelda Staunton and…Dawn French (as featured with a flower in the 1812 programme). Not so much no, as yes, yes, yes, such is the comic joy of his terpsichorean turn as the dithering, rumbustious Jim.

Julie Lomas not only directs but also has credits for sound design (with John Lomas), set and lighting design, set decoration (with Pauline Noakes and Becca Magson), wardrobe (with Bullock and Magson) and programme design.

All in favour: Mike Martin’s Owen Newitt, left, Julia Bullock’s Geraldine Granger, Oliver Clive’s Hugo Horton, Grahame Sammons’s David Horton, Richard Noakes’s Frank Pickle, Sue Smith’s Sue Cropley and Beaj Johnson’s Jim Trott at a Dibley Parish Council

Hats off to such a hands-on contribution, but that’s not all. She has adapted the original Curtis & Mayhew-Archer script too, retaining the 1990s’ setting, with references to William Hague, Norma Major and Anne Robinson, but ostensibly moving the location from the south to Yorkshire, although only the vicar of Dibley dabbles in pronounced northern vowels, enhancing Bullock’s distancing from the French style.

The rest mirror the accents of the TV originals, adding to the mist of nostalgia that had seen this week’s evening performances all but sell out in advance. (N.B. Two tickets are still available for Saturday night, more for the matinee).

The play starts where else but at the Dibley Parish Council meeting where misogynistic, autocratic chairman David Horton (Grahame [CORRECT] Sammons, stuffed of shirt, acid of mouth) announces the need to replace the departed Reverend Pottle.

All the favourites are there: the pedantic/fastidious parish clerk Frank Pickle (a steadfast Richard Noakes); Mrs Cropley (stoical Sue Smith), with her waste-not but not-wanted nibbles; geeky, quirky Hugo Horton (Oliver Clive); the aforementioned Jim (Johnson, as much a nod to Wilfrid Brambell and Ade Edmondson as to Roger Lloyd Pack ) and the late-arriving Owen Newitt, (a bucolic, West Country, hangdog Mike Martin), struggling with his latest bowel affliction.

Lomas quickly establishes economy of scene and speed of scene change with an open plan set that combines the Horton mansion with the village hall and the vicarage, topped off by a stained-glass window that will come into play late on as Barry Whitaker’s Bishop of Mulberry makes his mark.

At last! Julia Bullock’s Geraldine Granger celebrates as Oliver Clive’s Hugo Horton and Jeanette Hambidge’s Alice Tinker finally have their Rodin sculpture moment. Picture: Joe Coughlan

All gather at Horton HQ for the arrival of the new vicar, Horton handing out the cheap sherry. Not a woman, he prays. Enter Bullock’s Geraldine Granger, the answer to the village’s prayers as it turns out. Immediately drawing attention to her bust, and instantly demanding whisky, she is frank, fearless, forthright, funny. She loves Sean Bean, she loves a naughty joke, she loves chocolate, she loves love, what’s not to love?

Crucial too is the vicar’s relationship with Alice Tinker, the verger, so maddening, unpredictable, pedantic, sometimes as thick as clotted cream, yet as lovable too. Here Lomas has cast superbly in Jeanette Hambidge for a role that demands a multi-faceted performance, and Bullock and Hambidge duly bring out the best in each other.

In her programme notes, Lomas had highlighted not only nostalgia but poignancy too, a characteristic that applies to both the slow-to-blossom romance of Hugo and Alice – beautifully, tentatively, tenderly played by Clive and Hambidge – and to the emotionally parched Horton developing feelings for Geraldine. Sammons plays these scenes particularly well, full of delusion, then the drain of reality and sudden generosity of spirit, bringing a lump to the throat.

Lomas wrote too of the “comedy still being fresh”, despite the period setting, the absence of mobile phones, and it is to her cast’s huge credit that they have all made it fresh anew, episodic in structure, but complete in a way that a sitcom episode cannot be. How else could it finish but with Geraldine and Alice on different wavelengths in a kitchen conversation.

1812 Theatre Company in The Vicar Of Dibley, Helmsley Arts Centre, 7.30pm tonight and tomorrow; 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrow. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

What’s On in Ryedale, York and beyond when the vampire hunters strikes back. Hutch’s List No. 23, from Gazette & Herald

Killian Macardle, left, Annie Kirkman and Chris Hannon in Dracula: The Bloody Truth at the SJT. Picture: Pamela Raith

THE truth behind Dracula, wall-to-wall graffiti, vicar irreverence and a blast of brass bring variety to Charles Hutchinson’s tips for jaunty July trips.

Comedy drama of the week: Dracula: The Bloody Truth, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tonight to July 27

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre teams up with Bolton’s Octagon Theatre to stage physical theatre comedy exponents La Navet Bete & John Nicholson’s Dracula: The Bloody Truth, based very loosely on Bram Stoker’s story.

SJT artistic director Paul Robinson directs Chris Hannon, Annie Kirkman, Alyce Liburd and Killian Macardle as vampire hunter Professor Abraham Van Helsing reveals the real story behind the legend of Dracula, the one with the Whitby connection. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Hamish Brown’s Alexis, left, Alexandra Mather’s Miss Aline Sangazure and Anthony Gardner’s John Wellington Wells in York Opera’s The Sorcerer. Picture: John Saunders

Everything stops for tea:  York Opera in The Sorcerer, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

JOHN Soper directs York Opera in The Sorcerer, Gilbert and Sullivan’s first full-length comic opera, wherein Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre (Ian Thomson-Smith) hosts a tea party in the Ploverleigh Hall gardens to celebrate the betrothal of his only son, Alexis (Hamish Brown) to Miss Aline Sangazure (Alexandra Mather), daughter of Lady Annabella Sangazure (Rebecca Smith).

When a love-at-first-sight elixir is mixed into the celebration tea by a sorcerer, John Wellington Wells (Anthony Gardner, in the role played by Soper for York Opera in 2001), mayhem follows as the assembled guests fall under his magic spell. What could possibly go wrong? Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Julia Bullock’s Geraldine Granger, Oliver Clive’s Hugo Horton, centre, and Grahame Sammons’s David Horton in 1812 Theatre Company’s The Vicar Of Dibley

Religious conversion of the week: 1812 Theatre Company in The Vicar Of Dibley, Helmsley Arts Centre, untilSaturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

JULIE Lomas directs Helmsley Arts Centre’s resident company in a stage play adapted from the original BBC television series by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. When Reverend Pottle dies, much to the surprise of the Dibley Parish Council, his replacement is Geraldine Granger, a vicar who is also a chocoholic sex kitten.

Follow the antics of David Horton, his son Hugo, Jim, Owen, Frank and Mrs Cropley as they adjust to working with the witty and wonderful Geraldine, assisted by her verger, Alice Tinker. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Bright Light Musical Productions in Green Day’s American Idiot: York premiere at Joseph Rowntree Theatre. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

York musical of the week: Bright Light Musical Productions in Green Day’s American Idiot, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

NORTH Yorkshire company Bright Light Musical Productions make their JoRo debut in the York premiere of punk rock opera Green Day’s American Idiot with a cast of 14 directed by Dan Crawfurd-Porter and a seven-piece band under Matthew Peter Clare’s musical direction.  

Inspired by the Californian band’s 2004 album, American Idiot tells the story of Johnny (Iain Harvey), “Jesus of Suburbia”, and his friends Will (William Thirlaway) and Tunny (Dan Poppitt) as they attempt to break out of their mind-numbing, aimless suburban existence. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

For those about to rock: Live/Wire take the highway to hell with AC/DC classics at The Crescent

Tribute show of the week: Live/Wire, The AC/DC Show, The Crescent, York, Friday and Saturday (sold out), doors 7.30pm

LIVE/WIRE, The AC/DC Show pays tribute to the Aussie heavy rock band, replete with a wall of Marshall amps for two hours of high voltage rock’n’roll. Podge Blacksmith, a double take for frontman Brian Johnson, revels in a set taking in everything from Highway To Hell and Whole Lotta Rosie to Back In Black and latest album Rock Or Bust. Box office for Friday only: thecrescentyork.com.

One of James Jessop’s works on show in Rise Of The Vandals at the disused office block at 2, Low Ousegate, York

Exhibition/installation of the week: Bombsquad, Rise Of The Vandals, 2, Low Ousegate, York, Friday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm.

SPREAD over four floors in a disused Low Ousegate office block, York art collective Bombsquad showcases retrospective and contemporary spray paint culture, graffiti, street art and public art in three galleries, a cinema room, a Wendy house and art shop, in aid of SASH (Safe and Sound Homes).

Taking part in Rise Of The Vandals are York graffiti archivist Keith Hopewell, James Jessop, Bristol legend Inkie, Chu, Rowdy, Kid Acne, Remi Rough, Prefab77, SODA, Replete, Jo Peel, Sharon McDonagh, Lincoln Lightfoot, Anonymouse, Boxxhead and live DJs in SODA’s booth. Free entry; donations are encouraged. Dog friendly.

Fatboy Slim: Cooking up the beats at Scarborough Open Air Theatre. Picture: fatboyslim.net

Coastal gigs of the week: Fatboy Slim, Saturday; Paul Weller, Sunday, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, gates open at 6pm

NORMAN Cook has come a long way, baby, since he played bass in Hull band The Housemartins. Now the BRIT award-winning, Brighton-based DJ, aka Fatboy Slim, heads back north to fill Scarborough with big beats and huge hooks in Rockafeller Skank, Gangster Trippin, Praise You and Right Here Right Now et al on Saturday night.

The Modfather Paul Weller showcases his 17th studio album, 66, full of ruminations on ageing, in Sunday’s set of songs from The Jam, Style Council and his solo years. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Paul Weller: Reflections on hitting 66 at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Brass Band Summer Showcase of the week: Swinton & District Excelsior Brass Band, Milton Rooms, Malton, Sunday, 2pm

AS part of Brass Band Week, the Summer Showcase features the Swinton & District Excelsior Brass Band with trumpet and cornet soloist Sean Chandler. Taking part too will be the Swinton Training Band and The Workshop Band, including members from Swinton, Stape, Malton and Kirkbymoorside Brass Bands. Entry is free; tickets are available from 01653 696240, themiltonrooms.com or ticketsource.co.uk.

Bright Light Musical Productions make York debut with punk opera rebel yell of Green Day’s American Idiot at the JoRo Theatre

On the boulevard of broken dreams: Dan Poppitt’s Tunny, left, Iain Harvey’s Johhny and William Thirlaway’s Will in Bright Light Musical Productions’ York premiere of Green Day’s American Idiot. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

BRIGHT Light Musical Productions will stage the York premiere of punk rock opera Green Day’s American Idiot at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from tomorrow to Saturday.

Producer/director Dan Crawfurd-Porter’s high-octane, politically driven production opens on American Independence Day and General Election Day in the United Kingdom, while marking the 20th anniversary of Green Day’s groundbreaking album American Idiot.

Produced by North Yorkshire company Bright Light with support from York company Black Sheep Theatre Productions, the Tony Award-winning show with music by Green Day, lyrics by Billie Joe Armstrong and book by Armstrong and Michael Mayer “promises an electrifying experience that captures the spirit and energy of Green Day’s influential music”. 

Boasting a cast of 14 and an eight-piece rock band, Bright Light’s production is propelled by the vision of producer/director Crawfurd-Porter, musical director Matthew Peter Clare and choreographer/assistant director Freya McIntosh.

“This show is a powerful statement about a world that remains unchanged since the original album’s release in 2004,” says Dan. “Its relevance to young people today is as strong as ever, with its commentary on America and politics resonating deeply this year, especially on July 4th.”

Inspired by the Californian band’s chart-topping album, American Idiot tells the story of Johnny the “Jesus of Suburbia” (played by Iain Harvey), and his friends Will (William Thirlaway) and Tunny (Dan Poppitt) as they attempt to break out of their mind-numbing, aimless suburban existence.

Their journey embodies the youthful struggle between passionate rebellion and the search for love, echoing the punk voice of their era. From Boulevard Of Broken Dreams to Holiday, Wake Me Up When September Ends to 21 Guns, American Idiot brings the “soundtrack of a generation” to the stage with the promise of captivating and energising audiences with early 2000s’ nostalgia. 

Director Dan Crawfurd-Porter

“Personally, the issues it tackles have affected me profoundly, as they have many others. The aim is to give a voice to those who feel unheard, just as it has given one to me,” says Dan, 25.

“American Idiot is talking about America, but the issues reach across the world – war, drugs, depression and longing for a better world – and they resonate everywhere. Twenty years on, in Britain, those issues are still completely relevant, even if the world is in a different place, but there are still wars going on.

“Obviously, in an ideal world, this musical would no longer be relevant, but the reality is that will keep on being relevant – and Green Day’s songs still resonate too. I was among 50,000 people watching them at Old Trafford [the Lancashire cricket ground) on June 21.

“Those songs speak to anyone who was a teenager or young adult, in the Nineties or 2000s, and they appeal to the teenagers and young adults of today as much as they ever did. ”  

Why does American Idiot work so well in its transfer from studio album to stage musical, Dan? “Because it has a defined story,” he says. “It was the producer/director who saw its potential, starting the process of turning the album into a show by having to convince Green Day.

“There’s a brilliant documentary called Broadway Idiot that charts that process, taking the band from the concept to eventually Billy Joe Armstrong starring on Broadway in the lead role.

“The show takes those great songs, where there are only three of them in the band, playing with so much energy, and then adds five more instruments, multiple characters and an ensemble to give those already powerful songs extra oomph.”

Mickey Moran’s St Jimmy, centre, with Tiggy-Jade, Diane Wilkinson, Rebecca Firth, Charlie Clarke, Jack Fry and Josh Woodgate. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

Assessing those songs’ impact, Dan says: “Green Day’s songs, particularly in this show, are full of life, and with a running time of one hour 45 minutes, non-stop, no interval, it’s almost designed like a rock concert that tells a story, with guitars and strings to the fore.

“There’s a lot of emotion behind it as well as energy, so it’s not just shouting! Like Billy Joe writing Wake Me Up When Saturday Comes after his dad had passed away. Seeing Green Day play last month, you could tell Billy Joe was singing about himself, and the songs were so real because they were written from personal experience.”

 Green Day’s American Idiot forms the first York production for Bright Light after making their debut in 2023 in Ripon. “When I founded the company in 2022 with William Thirlaway, at the time we were doing shows with RAOS [Ripon Amateur Operatic Society], and we did our first Bright Light show, Tick, Tick…Boom!, as an independent production at Ripon Arts Hub,” says Dan, who lives at Killinghall, near Harrogate, where he works as head of design and innovation for Clevershot, utilising his video and photography skills in content-led marketing.

“Tick, Tick…Boom! was the show Jonathan Larson wrote before Rent, and after seeing the film version on Netflix, it seemed like a good choice for us to do, with a cast of four doing eight shows, where we could learn how to put on a show, working with Black Sheep’s experienced Matthew Peter Clare as our musical director.”

Explaining the choice of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre for Bright Light’s York debut, Dan says: “Matthew was my introduction to York, playing Whizzer in his production of Falsettos and appearing in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s Musicals In The Multiverse, when he was the MD, both at the Rowntree theatre.

“It was a move up from a black-box theatre in Ripon to doing shows in York, where I found there were many companies already, but I thought ‘why not add another one’?! Having performed Falsettos and ‘Multiverse’ there, the Rowntree theatre seemed like a very accessible space for a company new to York.

“It’s an achievable theatre to perform in, and I immediately realised on contacting them that they’re a really helpful theatre – helping with all aspects of putting on a show.”

Giving it the finger: Charlie Clarke, left, Ellie Carrier, Chloe Pearson, Tiggy-Jade and Rebecca Firth in Green Day’s American Idiot. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

The JoRo is a suitable size too, says Dan. “It’s big, and a show like this needs a big set, with a scaffold design. We needed room for 14 people on that set, to go with all the resources the theatre offers.”

Looking ahead, “it seems like Bright Light are going to transition to York and potentially stay there, but we haven’t decided yet,” says Dan.

Watch this space. In the meantime, “join us for a memorable and high-energy performance that promises to be both a tribute to a seminal album and a resonant voice for today’s issues,” advises Dan.

“It will be interesting to see who comes, but I expect a passionate audience, who will probably already know the show or at least the album, so it could be quite a specific group that forms a large part of the audience. There’ll be Green Day fans but there’ll also be a crossover with musical fans.”

Bright Light Musical Productions present Green Day’s American Idiot, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow (4/7/2024) to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Who’s in the cast?

IAIN Harvey as Johnny; Dan Poppitt as Tunny; William Thirlaway as Will; Mickey Moran as St Jimmy; Chloe Pearson as Whatsername; Ellie Carrier as Heather; Rebecca Firth as Extraordinary Girl/Dance Captain and Richard Bayton as Favourite Son/ensemble. Jack Fry, Kailum Farmery, Tiggy-Jade, Charlie Clarke, Josh Woodgate and Diane Wilkinson will be on ensemble duty.

Rehaearsals began on March 15 and have since been held on Friday nights and Sundays each week. “The casting didn’t come without its challenges,” says Dan. “I had to pull in Richard Bayton as a replacement. I’d worked with him at the National Centre for Early Music in Black Sheep’s Cages Or Wings? and you could see what he could do with a specific role for him in this show. He’s been an exceptional addition to the cast.”

Richard Bayton, as Favourite Son, with Charlie Clarke (red), Ellie Carrier (silver), Tiggy-Jade (blue) and Rebecca Firth (gold). Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

Rowntree Players to perform delightfully bizarre stories in Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of Grimm Tales at the JoRo

Rowntree Players cast members rehearsing for Grimm Tales

ROWNTREE Players will stage Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of Grimm Tales, dramatised by Tim Supple, at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from July 11 to 13.

Amy Carter’s cast will take a journey through a selection of delightfully bizarre stories from the Brothers Grimm collection to reveal their true origins and to discover how the path to a happy ending can, indeed, be a little grim.

Presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals, on behalf of Samuel French, Grimm Tales will be narrated by Chris Meadley, joined by Geoff Walker as Male 1; Graham Smith, Male 2; Joe Marrucci, Male 3; Fergus Green, Male 4; Abbey Follansbee, Female 1; Hannah Wood, Female 2; Meg Badrick, Female 3, and Annie Dunbar, Female 4.

In the ensemble will be Henry Cullen, Jess Whitehead, Britt Brett, Jess Dawson, Libby Roe and Ella Lofthouse.

Alongside Carter in the production team are production and technical manager Mark Lofthouse, scenic painter Anna Jones and Lena Ella, who is in charge of marketing and costumes.

Tickets for next week’s 7.30pm performances are on sale on 01904 501395 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk

Rowntree Players’ poster artwork for Grimm Tales at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

More Things To Do in York & beyond when art goes wall to wall and opera takes a love potion. Hutch’s List No. 27, from The Press

One of James Jessop’s works on show in Rise Of The Vandals in the disused office block at 2, Low Ousegate, York

GRAFFITI writ large, an American rock musical, G&S and afternoon tea, a theatre festival and a football play find Charles Hutchinson in tune with the joys of June.

Exhibition/installation of the week: Bombsquad, Rise Of The Vandals, 2, Low Ousegate, York, today, tomorrow, then July 5 to 7, 11am to 6pm.

SPREAD over four floors in a disused Low Ousegate office block, York art collective Bombsquad showcases retrospective and contemporary spray paint culture, graffiti, street art and public art in three galleries, a cinema room, a Wendy house and art shop, in aid of SASH (Safe and Sound Homes).

Taking part in Rise Of The Vandals are York graffiti archivist Keith Hopewell, James Jessop, Bristol legend Inkie, Chu, Rowdy, Kid Acne, Remi Rough, Prefab77, SODA, Replete, Jo Peel, Sharon McDonagh, Lincoln Lightfoot, Anonymouse, Boxxhead and live DJs in SODA’s booth. Free entry; donations are encouraged. Dog friendly.

Johnny Marr: Playing songs from The Smiths to Electronic to his solo career (compiled on his Spirit Power collection) at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Coastal gigs of the week: Johnny Marr and The Charlatans, tonight; Gregory Porter, Monday, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, gates 6pm

JOHNNY Marr, The Smiths and Electronic guitarist, superstar collaborator and solo artist, cherry-picks from all eras of his career, right up to his November 2023 compilation Spirit Power in his headline set. First up on this north-western double bill on the East Coast will be The Charlatans, as full of indie rock swagger as ever after 22 Top 40 hits.

Grammy Award-winning Californian jazz vocalist and songwriter Gregory Porter performs songs from Liquid Spirit, Take To The Alley, Nat King Cole & Me, All Rise and more besides on Monday night. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Hamish Brown’s Alexis, left, Alexandra Mather’s Miss Aline Sangazure and Anthony Gardner’s John Wellington Wells in York Opera’s The Sorcerer. Picture: John Saunders

Everything stops for tea:  York Opera in The Sorcerer, York Theatre Royal, July 3 to 6, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

JOHN Soper directs York Opera in The Sorcerer, Gilbert and Sullivan’s first full-length comic opera, wherein Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre (Ian Thomson-Smith) hosts a tea party in the Ploverleigh Hall gardens to celebrate the betrothal of his only son, Alexis (Hamish Brown) to Miss Aline Sangazure (Alexandra Mather), daughter of Lady Annabella Sangazure (Rebecca Smith).

When a love-at-first-sight elixir is mixed into the celebration tea by a sorcerer, John Wellington Wells (Anthony Gardner, in the role played by Soper for York Opera in 2001), mayhem follows as the assembled guests fall under his magic spell. What could possibly go wrong? Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Julia Bullock’s Geraldine Granger, Oliver Clive’s Hugo Horton and Grahame Sammons’s David Horton in 1812 Theatre Company’s The Vicar Of Dibley

Religious conversion of the week: 1812 Theatre Company in The Vicar Of Dibley, Helmsley Arts Centre, July 3 to 6, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

JULIE Lomas directs Helmsley Arts Centre’s resident company in a stage play adapted from the original BBC television series by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. When Reverend Pottle dies, much to the surprise of the Dibley Parish Council, his replacement is Geraldine Granger, a vicar who is also a chocoholic sex kitten.

Follow the antics of David Horton, his son Hugo, Jim, Owen, Frank and Mrs Cropley as they adjust to working with the witty and wonderful Geraldine, assisted by her verger, Alice Tinker. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Bright Light Musical Productions in Green Day’s American Idiot: York premiere at Joseph Rowntree Theatre. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

Musical of the week: Bright Light Musical Productions in Green Day’s American Idiot, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 4 to 6, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

NORTH Yorkshire company Bright Light Musical Productions make their JoRo debut in the York premiere of punk rock opera Green Day’s American Idiot with a cast of 14 directed by Dan Crawfurd-Porter and a seven-piece band under Matthew Peter Clare’s musical direction.  

Inspired by the Californian band’s 2004 album, American Idiot tells the story of Johnny (Iain Harvey), “Jesus of Suburbia”, and his friends Will (William Thirlaway) and Tunny (Dan Poppitt) as they attempt to break out of their mind-numbing, aimless suburban existence. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

The bootiful game: Long Lane Theatre Club in The Giant Killers at the Milton Rooms, Malton

Football alternative to England at the Euros: Long Lane Theatre Club in The Giant Killers, Milton Rooms, Malton, July 4, kick-off at 7.30pm

THE Giant Killers tells the story of how Darwen FC came to the public’s attention in 1870s’ Lancashire to proclaim Association Football as the people’s game and not only the preserve of the upper classes.

Andrew Pearson-Wright & Eve Pearson-Wright’s play recounts how a ragtag bunch of mill workers in Darwen took on the amateur gentlemen’s club of the Old Etonians in the FA Cup quarter-final in 1879, rising up against prevailing social prejudice and the might of the Football Association to earn a place in history as the first real ‘‘giant killers’’ in English football. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

For those about to rock: Live/Wire take the highway to hell with AC/DC classics at The Crescent

Tribute show of the week: Live/Wire, The AC/DC Show, The Crescent, York, July 5 and 6 (sold out), doors 7.30pm

LIVE/WIRE, The AC/DC Show pays tribute to the Aussie heavy rock band, replete with a wall of Marshall amps for two hours of high voltage rock’n’roll. Podge Blacksmith, a double take for frontman Brian Johnson, revels in a set taking in everything from Highway To Hell and Whole Lotta Rosie to Back In Black and latest album Rock Or Bust. Box office for July 5 only: thecrescentyork.com.

In Focus: Shepherd Group Brass Bands, Best Of Brass, York Theatre Royal, tonight, 7.30pm

The poster for Shepherd Group Brass Bands’ Best Of Brass at York Theatre Royal

TONIGHT’S Shepherd Group Brass Bands concert features all of the Shepherd bands playing individually and then a mighty ensemble piece, when all 170 players perform a specially composed piece by Liz Lane to mark 20 years of the bands’ sponsorship by the Shepherd Group.

Liz’s celebratory work represents the bands – Brass Roots, Academy Brass, Youth Band, Concert Band and Shepherd Group Brass Band – and the company support that provides first-class rehearsal facilities and has enabled the band organisation to grow.

Liz has led  several workshops, where she has worked with each band, “ storyboarding players’ feelings about the band, what we get from it as players and as a band family as a whole”.

She has been allowed to visit the Portakabin production site too, where she drew inspiration from the machinery used in the production of product lines.

On May 21, players from each band gathered in the band room for the first full run-through in Liz’s presence.  Afterwards she went away with a couple of ideas for final tweaks. Now comes the premiere performance with “a few real surprises in store for the audience”. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

In Focus too: Festival of the week: Ripon Theatre Festival, July 2 to 7

Barrie Rutter: Presenting Shakespeare’s Royals in Ripon Cathedral on July 4 at 7.30pm

PUPPETS, stories, dance, drama, circus and street entertainment pop up in new and surprising places alongside more familiar venues, such as Newby Hall, The Old Deanery, Ripon Cathedral, Ripon Arts Hub and Fountains Abbey, as Ripon Theatre Festival returns.

In all, 109 events and activities will be crammed into five days and six nights. Among the highlights will be Barrie Rutter’s Shakespeare’s Royals, The Adventures Of Doctor Dolittle, Red Ladder’s Miners’ Strike musical comedy We’re Not Going Back, the Family Day on July 7 and Folksy Theatre’s open-air As You Like It.

Opening the festival on Tuesday at 11am and 2pm, Andrew Bates’s Brother Aidan brings heritage crafts, history and storytelling to his new home at Fountains Abbey. In Hazelsong Theatre’s interactive event for adults, he creates an Anglo-Saxon book, interwoven with stories of his life as a monk, with his demonstration including parchment and ink making, bookbinding and calligraphy.

On the first night, the Hilarity Bites Festival Special comedy bill will be hosted by Ripon favourite Lee Kyle at Ripon Arts Club on Tuesday at 8pm. Taking part will be sketch supergroup Tarot, musical comedy duo Black Liver and 2023 BBC New Comedian of the Year Joe Kent-Walters in the guise of his outrageous comic creation, Frankie Monroe, the MC of a working men’s club that provides a portal to hell.

York company Pilot Theatre and One To One Development Trust present daily screenings of Monoliths, an immersive, digital theatre experience that interweaves three northern landscapes – a moor, a city and a coast – with sweeping soundscapes and poetic monologues at Ripon Cathedral.

Written by Hannah Davies, from York, Carmen Marcus, from Saltburn-by-the-Sea, and Asma Elbadawi, from Leeds, the stories are an arresting testament to the inextricable link between person and place. Directed by Lucy Hammond, each performance lasts 11 minutes and can be experienced by three visitors at a time, wearing XR headsets. Times: 1.30pm to 3.30pm, July 2 to 5; 10.30am to 3.30pm, July 6.

Nicola Mills is joined by pianist Maria King for A Spoonful Of Julie, an hour-long tribute to Julie Andrews, full of charming stories of her life, songs, singalongs, medleys and favourite things, at Holy Trinity Church on Wednesday from 1pm to 2pm.

In Look After Your Eyes, at Ripon Arts Club at 8pm that night, Yorkshire theatre-maker, performer and physical comedian Natalie Bellingham reflects on the pain and beauty of love: what it is to both connect and unravel.  

Performed by a clown “delving into the space inside us left behind by loss”, her show celebrates being human in all its banality, sprinkled with joy and ridiculousness.

Natalie Bellingham in Look After Your Eyes

Thursday opens with Stand Up Stories, presented by Ripon Theatre Festival storyteller in residence Ilaria Passeri at the Storehouse Bar. Describing herself as the product of a bold Scottish mother, an errant Italian father and a little sister with the vocabulary of a truck driver, Ilaria has found herself in more than a few scrapes, situations and silly scenes.

In a whistlestop twilight tour through the confusing comedy of errors of her life, her tales introduce her family, friends, pets and one very peculiar clown.

From 7.15pm, Ripon Museum Trust guides lead the Ripon Heritage Ghost Walk from the Market Place. At 7.30pm, Northern Broadsides founder Barrie Rutter OBE celebrates the Bard’s Kings and Queens, their achievements, conquests and foibles, in Shakespeare’s Royals at Ripon Cathedral. Cue anecdotes and memories from a globe-spanning career of playing and directing Shakespeare.

Ilaria Passeri returns on Friday morning from 10.30am to 11am for Storytime for pre-schoolers at Ripon Library, featuring Derek the Dragon, Rita the skateboarding Mouse and Brian the Chicken’s messy bedroom. A short-story writing workshop for adults follows from 11.30am to 1pm; bring a pen and notepad.

At 2pm at Ripon Cathedral, Redheart Theatre presents Rupert Mason in Mr Owen’s Notebook, an exploration of Wilfred Owen’s experience of war through his poetry and the works of his contemporaries.

Written and directed by Justin Butcher, Mason’s one-man performance recalls how Owen lived his last summer in Ripon, where he spent his last birthday in the cathedral, now the backdrop to this sold-out show.

Mason charts how an officer travels from the Allied HQ to the Western Front one week before the Armistice and discovers the pocketbook of a young lieutenant killed that day: Wilfred Owen.

In a marquee at The Ripon Inn, in Park Street, Tell Tale Hearts serve up the teatime entertainment Trunk Tales, wherein a well-travelled lady arrives with her trunk of tales that tell of boastful toads, magical fish and fearsome beasts.

Using only the contents of her magical luggage, she creates Arabic seas, epic mountains, fields of turnips and the tallest trees in her interactive stories from around the world for four-year-olds and upwards.

Paulus the Cabaret Geek in Looking For Me Friend

Paulus the Cabaret Geek’s tour of Looking For Me Friend, The Music Of Victoria Wood arrives at Ripon Arts Hub on Friday at 8pm, accompanied by Fascinating Aida pianist Michael Roulston for an hour of songs and stories.

In telling Wood’s story, Paulus unfolds his own in a relatable account of a 1970s’ childhood and what it really means to find your tribe.

Saturday keeps festivalgoers on the move in a day of Pop-Up Events at various locations from 9.30am to 6pm. Ilaria Passeri hosts a morning of adventures for four-year-olds and upwards in Tales From Honeypot Village, featuring Rita the Mouse and the Tidy Trolls in the front room of The Unicorn Hotel at 9.30am and the back room of The Little Ripon Bookshop at 11.30am.

Puppeteers Eye Of Newt open their magical miniature suitcase for Ayla’s Dream, a captivating tale of night skies, light and counting sheep for three to ten-year-olds at Ripon Library at 10.30am (accompanied by a puppet workshop) and Ripon Cathedral from 12 noon to 12.30pm (performance every ten minutes).

York performer Tempest Wisdom takes a journey down the rabbit hole in the family-friendly Curiouser & Curiouser, a show for age five + packed with Lewis Carroll’s whimsical writings, inspired by Ripon Cathedral’s nooks and crannies. Free performances take place at Ripon Cathedral at 11am, 12.30pm and The Little Ripon Bookshop at 2.30pm.

Join the Master and Matron on the front lawn for an interactive game of giant Snakes And Ladders At The Workhouse Museum. Learn how life then, as now, is as precarious as a shake of the dice; slither down the snake to a shaven head and defumigation or ascent to a life out of the ashes from 11am to 12.30pm or 1pm to 3pm.

Festival favourites Lempen Puppet Theatre return with the free show Theatre For One in Ripon Cathedral from 10.45am to 11.30pm and Kirkgate from 1.30pm to 2.30pm and 3pm to 4pm. In a micro-theatre experience for one at a time, plus curious onlookers, a mini-performance of The Belly Bug or Dr Frankenstein will be staged every five minutes.

Members of the Workhouse Theatre Group invite you to experience justice 1871 style in The Trial Of John Sinkler in a case of poaching and threatening behaviour from 2pm to 3pm at The Courthouse Museum.

Ensure justice is seen to be done or perhaps take a more active role in a lively scripted re-enactment led by Mark Cronfield, formerly of Nobby Dimon’s North Country Theatre company.

The festival fun continues in Kirkgate with buskers, bands and more from 3pm to 6pm.

For full festival details and tickets, head to: ripontheatrefestival.org. A preview of further events at Ripon Theatre Festival on July 6 and 7 will follow.

Everwitch Theatre present Bomb Happy D-Day 80, Hank & Smudger’s Stories at Shepherds Hall, Lealholm, tonight

George Stagnell, playing D-Day veteran Dennis “Hank” Haydock, in a scene from In The Footsteps Of Hank Haydock: A Walk In The Park, filmed in Duncombe Park woodland

EVERWITCH Theatre will stage Bomb Happy D-Day 80: Hank & Smudger’s Stories, an evening of film and wartime spoken word, for a second time tonight.

First presented at Helmsley Arts Centre on June 1 in the lead-up to the 80th anniversary commemorations in Normandy, France, on June 6, In The Footsteps Of Hank Haydock: A Walk In The Park and Sleep/Re-live/Wake/Repeat will be presented at Shepherds Hall, Lealholm, near Whitby, at 7pm when a full house will attend.  

Looking ahead, Everwitch writer and director Helena Fox says: “After putting on the Helmsley and Shepherds Hall performances as our preview showings, we’re in the process of planning a tour next year to venues in the North to commemorate VE Day 80.

“We anticipate from the interest shown so far for these to include atmospheric non-arts venues, for example, historic Bamburgh Castle and the Second World War-themed  Eden Camp Modern History Museum. The film is being entered into international festivals too.”

The premiere at Helmsley Arts Centre drew a full house too, including York actor George Stagnell, making a quiet entrance after travelling up from his London home to watch his film role.

He had first appeared in the 2017 tour of Helena Fox’s Bomb Happy, a play inspired by the playwright’s conversations in 2016 with Yorkshire Normandy veterans. She had since returned to those conversations to create two new pieces for the 80th anniversary, opening the Helmsley show with Sleep/Re-live/Wake/Repeat, a live performance of verbatim spoken word and nostalgic a cappella song, presented by Fox in tandem with singer Natasha Jones.

They brought to life anew the first-hand accounts of D-Day veteran Private Ken “Smudger” Smith, from Armley, Leeds, those words echoing down the years as they charted the lifelong impact of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and sleep trauma.  

The first showing of black-and-white images from Ken Smith’s personal photo collection that followed his journey during an equally traumatic time in the Middle East after victory in Europe made Smith’s observations all the more resonant. Can a soldier ever find peace after the atrocities of war?

There followed, for that one night only, a new short story of an act of reconciliation for the 80th anniversary of D-Day: Our Mum, Our Dad, And A Door Handle, written and performed by Dorothy Bilton, daughter of Bomb Happy D-Day veteran Bert Barritt, whose experiences had featured in Bomb Happy.

Helena Fox, left, and Natasha Jones

George Stagnell had played Private Ken “Cookey” Cooke, from York, in Fox’s play. Cookey, the last of the Bomb Happy veterans still alive, had hoped to make the Helmsley performance, but in the end his energies were poured into attending the D-Day commemorations, where his television interviews were as poignant and lucid as ever.

For In the Footsteps Of Hank Haydock: A Walk In The Park, he switched to Guardsman Dennis “Hank” Haydock, conscripted at 18 from Sheffield to serve as a Sherman tank gunner in the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards.

Written and directed by Fox, her debut 30-minute film was shot by Jay Sillence of York company InkBlot Films on location in the woodland of Duncombe Park, near Helmsley, in July 2022. On the hottest day of the year. Pretty much in one continuous take, re-takes kept to a minimum with film stock running low.

Stagnell has previous form for wartime memoir, performing a remarkable one-man adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York in March 2017 and later at the Edinburgh Fringe.  Next came Bomb Happy and later, in 2021, a performance piece about Hank Haydock at Duncombe Park, where the young conscript had trained.

Stagnell is not an experienced film actor, but he has the attributes of stillness, presence, focus, in his understated yet weighted performance, allied to a mellifluous voice and mesmeric eyes, made for the big screen.

He looks the period part too, and he serves the words of Hank Haydock wonderfully well, especially when filmed in close up, as well as when striding through the woodland, looking skywards, as rueful as truthful in his demeanour.  

As Robert Laurence Binyan wrote in his poem For The Fallen, published in The Times on September 21 1914, “At the going down of the sun and in the morning/We will remember them.” Now, the archivist works of Helena Fox, the profound performance of George Stagnell, will do likewise in honouring those that served, ensuring their words, their foreboding, yet their camaraderie too, shall live on.  

Everwitch Theatre, Bomb Happy D-Day 80, Hank & Smudger’s Stories, Shepherds Hall, Lealholm, near Whitby, 7pm. For returns only: 01947 897011. All the Shepherds Hall hosting fee will be donated to the Royal British Legion.

SIX queen Jen Caldwell and Les Miserables star Samuel Wyn-Morris join Grand Opera House panto cast for Beauty And The Beast

Who’s who in Beauty And The Beast: from left, Phil Atkinson’s Hugo Pompidou, Jen Caldwell’s Belle, Dani Harmer’s Fairy Bon Bon, Leon Craig’s Polly la Plonk,  Samuel Wyn-Morris’s The Beast and Phil Reid’s Louis La Plonk

WHO will play the lead roles – the last to be announced – in the Grand Opera House pantomime, Beauty And The Beast, in York?

Producers UK Productions have confirmed that SIX The Musical star Jen Caldwell will be heading back to the Cumberland Street theatre after her fun-loving Yorkshire-voiced minx Anne Boleyn was head and shoulders the stand-out in Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s pop concert musical in October 2022.

“I am so excited to be returning to York and the beautiful Grand Opera House after having a wonderful time there with SIX back in 2022,” says Jen. “I can’t wait to meet all the wonderful panto audiences and spread some festive joy.” 

Welsh actor Samuel Wyn-Morris, whose role as Enjolras in Les Miserables brought him to Leeds Grand Theatre in November 2022, will be The Beast in the December 7 to January 5 2025 run.

New addition: Jen Caldwell’s Belle in Beauty And The Beast

“I am thrilled to be returning to Beauty And The Beast and to pantoland this Christmas,” says Samuel, who starred in the Sunderland Empire’s version last winter. “To be in beautiful York over the festive period is exciting and I’m looking forward to it greatly.”

Caldwell and Wyn-Morris will be joining the previously announced Tracy Beaker star Dani Harmer’s Fairy Bon Bon, Phil Atkinson’s villainous Hugo Pompidou, Leon Craig’s dame, Polly la Plonk, comedian Phil Reid’s Louis la Plonk and David Alcock’s Clement, the villain’s sidekick.  

Martin Dodd, UK Productions’ managing director and producer, says: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Samuel and Jen to the company of Beauty And The Beast. Both are amazing West End musical theatre talents and bring a wealth of experience to what we can promise will be the most musical, and magical, of all pantomimes.”

Heading for a beheading: Jen Caldwell’s Anne Boleyn in SIX The Musical, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, in October 2022. Picture: Pamela Raith

What lies in store in the first pantomime since the final curtain for Dame Berwick Kaler’s three-year residency at the Grand Opera House? “This year’s panto brings a larger-than-life range of characters together with side-splitting comedy, stunning sets and costumes, and with an award-winning script by Jon Monie, this will be a magnificent must-see musical adventure,” says the publicity machine.

“With additional morning performances for schools and suitable for all ages, this is not to be missed, with tickets from just £15.”

Laura McMillan, the Grand Opera House theatre director, says: “From the West End to York, this year our pantomime is set to be like nothing seen before at the Grand Opera House. We can’t wait to welcome families and friends to join us for this festive spectacular and I know the talented cast will wow our audiences and create memories for years to come.” 

Tickets are on sale at atgtickets.com/york

Jen Caldwell: the back story

Jen Caldwell

TRAINED at London School of Musical Theatre.

Credits include: Cover/resident director in Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder (West End); Emmeline Pankhurst in Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World (UK tour); Anne Boleyn in Six The Musical (UK, Ireland & Korea tour & West End); alternate Anne Boleyn & Katherine Howard in Six The Musical (UK & Ireland tour),

Swing/cover Heather/resident director in Green Day’s American Idiot (UK and Ireland tour); swing/cover Emily in Knights Of The Rose, (Arts Theatre); Flick in The Rhythm Method workshop, (The Bush Theatre and The Landor Space); Dyanne in Million Dollar Quartet (Indian tour); cover Dyanne/resident director/resident choreographer in Million Dollar Quartet (UK and Ireland tour); cover Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical (UK and Ireland tour) and cover Sophie and Ali in Mamma Mia! (Prince of Wales and Novello Theatres).

Samuel Wyn-Morris: the back story

Samuel Wyn-Morris in his role as The Beast

TRAINED at Guildford School of Acting.

Best known for his role as Enjolras in Cameron Mackintosh’s Les Miserables.

Theatre credits include: Beauty & The Beast (Sunderland Empire); Frederick Fleet in Titanic The Musical (China tour); Enjolras in Les Misérables (UK tour); Feuilly/Understudy Jean Valjean & Enjolras in Les Misérables (Sondheim Theatre); Feuilly/Understudy Enjolras in Les Misérables – The Staged Concert (Sondheim Theatre); Ensemble in Alan Ayckbourn’s The Divide (Old Vic Theatre).

REVIEW: York Light Opera Company in Nunsense: The Mega-Musical!, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, until July 6 *** ½

Let us pray…for laughs: The Little Sisters of Hoboken and Ben Wood’s Brother Timothy in York Light Opera Company’s Nunsense: The Mega-Musical! Picture: Matthew Kitchen

BLACK box theatre. Thick walls. No air conditioning, beyond a smattering of cooling fans. Then add nuns’ habits and wimples and the hottest night of the year.

No wonder, in the last breaths of her climactic big number, Clare Meadley’s Sister Mary Hubert suddenly exclaimed: “God it’s hot in here.”

The stultifying heat made the opening joke of Act 2 even more apt. “How do you make holy water?” “Boil the hell out of it!”. Theatre@41 boiled the hell out of us all, actors, Martin Lay’s band up high on the mezzanine level, and audience members alike, some improvising impromptu fans from programmes.

Good news – if not for sun worshippers – lies in the weather forecast. Lower temperatures for the rest of this week, even lower next week. Hallelujah, as the Little Sisters of Hoboken might well sing.

Or at least the last 12 still standing – and dancing, singing, acting, and telling jokes, too – after Sister Julia, Child of God’s dodgy Vichyssoise put paid to 52 of the sisters in a culinary catastrophe. Forty-eight have been buried but, heaven forbid, Reverend Mother Mary Regina (Joy Warner) has chucked money at buying a plasma TV, leaving the final four in limbo in the convent freezer.

Now the Little Sisters must stage a revue and talent show to raise the necessary funds, taking over the set for the 8th grade’s production of Grease at the neighbouring Mount St Helen’s School, James Dean & Marilyn Monroe posters, Fifties’ jukebox et al.

Cue the out-of-touch Reverend Mother mistakenly thinking the high-school musical was called Vaseline, but otherwise Grease references are not milked in Dan Goggin’s 1985 off-Broadway musical comedy.

Inspired by attending a school run by the Marywood Dominican Sisters that first spawned his line of greetings cards of a nun’s funny quips, Nunsense grew from a cabaret show into a full-scale production and later the Mega-Musical version with an expanded cast, more characters and more comic mayhem that Neil Wood is directing for York Light. In a nutshell, more fun per nun.

See Emily play: Emily Rockliff’s scene-stealing Sister Robert Anne in Nunsense: The Mega-Musical!. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

No nun pun is knowingly resisted by Goggin, from the song title Nunsense Is Habit Forming to the sisters’ vow that “on our way to heaven, we’re here to make some hell”, all in the cause of proving that “nuns can be fun”.

Five principal nuns each have a story to tell in both song and tale, enabling nuns and York Light alike to parade “triple threat” skills, whether Emma Craggs-Swainston’s Sister Mary Leo’s ballet dancing on point, or Emily Rockliff’s restless Sister Robert Anne, desperate to outgrow her “understudy” role, the convent equivalent of rising from chorus line to lead, as she parades her gift for mimicry with her wimple.

Kathryn Addison has fun with Sister Julia’s life-endangering cooking, Warner’s Reverend Mother maximises the comedy pratfalls in inhaling a mind-altering substance, and best of all is Annabel van Griethuysen’s forgetful but unforgettable Sister Mary Amnesia, parading her operatic voice, comic timing in eye contact and vocal delivery, even hammy ventriloquism with grouchy nun puppet “Maryonette”, all topped off by a country cowgirl song.

The humour is broad in range and style, occasionally smutty, sometimes slapstick, never subtle, and Goggin’s songs are similarly varied, from gospel to Andrews Sisters’ close harmonies, familiar musical theatre tropes to an ensemble tap-dancing dazzler, choreographed joyously by Rachel Whitehead.

Wood’s cast adheres wholly – and holy – to Goggin’s advice to “play nuns trying to be showgirls and not the other way round”, to the betterment of the show’s hearty comedy.

For added entertainment, the role of Father Virgil will be played in The Play What I Wrote guest turn tradition by a different actor at each performance. First up was Richard Bayton, setting the bar high in his good-natured cameo.

After The Sound Of Music and Sister Act The Musical, once more nuns are making a habit of entertaining in song and dance and unguarded humour in Nunsense. And that habit is catching: even stage manager Sarah Craggs is in nun’s clothes.

York Light Opera Company in Nunsense: The Mega-Musical!, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, running until July 6, 7.30pm (except June 30, July 1 and July 6); 3pm, June 29 and 30 and July 6.  Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Juliet Forster’s production of American classic Little Women confirmed for Theatre Royal autumn season. Who’s in the cast?

York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster

SCREENWRITER, novelist and playwright Anne-Marie Casey’s adaptation of Little Women will lead York Theatre Royal’s autumn season. Tickets for a special fundraising gala on October 2 go on sale today.

Running on the main stage from September 21 to October 12, Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster’s production will offer a fresh take on Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 coming-of-age novel set in Massachusetts, New England, where headstrong Jo March and her sisters Meg, Beth and Amy grow up during the American Civil War.

“We are thrilled to be staging an adaptation of such a much-loved classic,” says Juliet. “Louisa May Alcott’s story of Jo and her sisters finding their way in the world is so relatable to modern audiences and Anne-Marie Casey’s brilliant adaptation really brings to life the wonderful characters. We have such a great cast lined up and I can’t wait to get started later this year!”

Leading the cast as Jo March will be Freya Parks, who this year starred as bass-playing record shop worker Fiona in the BBC television series This Town and played Logan Somerville in an episode of the ITV detective drama Grace. 

Ainy Medina will play Meg, after appearing in ITV’s Archieand Helen Chong, from Cassie And The Lights, will be Amy.

Easingwold-raised Laura Soper, once a member of York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre before training at Bristol Old Vic, will return to the stage where she appeared in Hetty Feather and Swallows And Amazons, Damian Cruden’s last Theatre Royal production in 2019 after 22 years as artistic director. Fresh from touring with Pride And Prejudice* (*Sort Of), she will take the role of Beth.

Returning to the Theatre Royal too will be York actress Kate Hampson, playing Marmee after taking the title role in the August 2022 community production of Maureen Lennon’s The Coppergate Woman. Her other stage roles include Mother/Mrs Perks in The Railway Children at Hull Truck Theatre in 2021.

A third returnee will be Caroline Gruber, linking up again with Juliet Forster to play Aunt March after appearing as Vashti in her York Theatre Royal Studio production of E M Forster’s The Machine Stops in 2016. Nikhil Singh Rai’s Laurie completes the casting by Ellie Collyer-Bristow.

The Theatre Royal show is presented in association with Pitlochry Festival Theatre, by arrangement with Lee Dean, and is designed by Ruari Murchison.

The October 2 gala performance will raise vital funds for York Theatre Royal’s continued work as a producing theatre and for the development of future community projects.

Members’ priority booking for the rest of the performances will open on July 3; tickets will go on general sale on July 8 at 1pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Did you know?

ANNE-MARIE Casey’s stage adaptation of Little Women premiered at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, in November 2011.

Open Swim promises lush music, wild stories and wise words but no swimming, please, on The Arts Barge on Friday

Adderstone’s Cath Heinemeyer and Gemma McDermott: Wild swimmers, alt-folk duo and organisers of Open Swim on The Arts Barge

YORK’S floating venue, The Arts Barge, will be flowing with music and words at a special river-theme themed gig on Friday night at Foss Basin.

“The barge, alias Selby Tony, has woken up from its winter sleep and is ready for action,” says Arts Barge coordinator Hannah West. “It’s all aboard for Open Swim – but with no swimming allowed!”

In a joyous “aquatic feast of lush music, wild stories, wise words and all-round exquisite vibes”, the 7pm to 11pm bill comprises alt-folk duo Adderstone; multi-instrumentalists White Sail; storyteller and hypnotherapist Lara McClure’s strange tale of aquatic beasts, York slam champ Hannah Davies’s riverside poems; Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen’s poem invoking York’s rivers and Amy-Jane Beer’s stories of paddling along Britain’s rivers.

Poet Hannah Davies by the riverside in York

Ticket sale proceeds from Open Swim will go to Right to Roam, a charity that campaigns for better access to wild spaces. On the night, there will be the chance to buy a signed copy of Right to Roam’s hot-off-the-press new book, Wild Service, featuring a contribution by nature writer Beer.

“Rivers should be safe and accessible for swimmers, paddlers and other water users, both human and wild,” says the Right to Roam campaigner. “But only three per cent of the UK’s rivers have an uncontested right of access, and as we know, sewage and agricultural pollution mean that most of those are in poor health.

“Our own wellbeing is dependent on theirs. We need to reconnect with our rivers, to be able to care for them and fight for them. That’s why the book is called Wild Service, and this gig is an act of wild service.”

Kai West’s poster artwork for Friday’s Open Swim on The Arts Barge

Sewage…agricultural pollution…rivers in poor health: no wonder Open Swim is not a swimming invitation! Catherine Heinemeyer, one half of gig organisers Adderstone, comments:  “It’s wonderful to imagine a time when water companies have cleaned up their act and York’s rivers are beautiful clean places to swim – but alas, that’s not the case right now!

“As wild swimmers ourselves, we wanted to host an event to highlight the wild watery spaces we all love. And what better place to host a water-themed gig than the river itself?

“The Arts Barge is a wonderful local project that York is very proud of and we’re so excited to see it move closer to its full potential. Please come along and be enchanted by the wonderful line-up of musicians and artists we have put together, but please don’t bring your cossie!”

Richard Kitchen: Poet, artist and Navigators Art & Performance’s co-founder

All artists have agreed not to take a fee, thereby maximising the gig proceeds, with donations and bar takings going to The Arts Barge. “We’re totally reliant on volunteers and donations, and this summer we’re aiming to build the long-awaited deckhouse to create a covered area on the deck to finally stop the rain getting in,” says Hannah

“This will be a big step forwards towards becoming the fully accessible community arts space York has imagined and come to love. See the story and look out for future events this summer at www.artsbarge.com.”

Running /swimming order

Part 1: 7.30pm, Amy-Jane Beer and Adderstone , intertwined . 8.15pm, short break.

Part 2, Spoken word. 8.35pm, Richard Kitchen; 8.45pm, Lara McClure; 9.05pm, Hannah Davies. 9.25pm, short break.

Part 3: 9.45pm, White Sail; 10.25pm, The Parting Glass (all performers). 11pm, goodnight.

Tickets cost £8.50 from Eventbrite, via www.artsbarge.com/events, or £10 on the door.