MIKRON Theatre Company are launching a near-£50,000 fundraising appeal to secure their 50th anniversary year, but under the dark clouds of Coronavirus their future is at risk.
The West Yorkshire company had to cancel this summer’s tours of Amanda Whittington’s Atalanta Forever and Poppy Hollman’s A Dog’s Tale, once the Covid-19 lockdown strictures prevented them from touring by canal, river and road as is their custom.
The stultifying impact of the pandemic has dealt Mikron a “potentially catastrophic blow” and consequently they need help to “ensure that they get back on their feet, back on the road and back on the water”.
No touring from April to October has meant no income from 130 shows, no merchandise, no programmes, no raffle, in the budget, whereupon Mikron are facing a shortfall of £48,337.49.
Artistic director Marianne McNamara says: “The entire management team is doing as much as we can to reduce costs month by month, but this simply is not enough. On current budgets, the company will run out of money before our 50th year of touring in 2021.
“With this in mind, we have no choice but to launch an appeal to raise £48,337.49 by the end of December 2020 to ensure that Mikron has a future within the theatre industry.”
Should the appeal be successful, next summer Mikron will tour Atalanta Forever, Whittington’s story of women’s football in the 1920s, and Hollman’s canine comedy caper A Dog’s Tale. As ever, York would play host to shows at Scarcroft Allotments and Clements Hall.
After making the decision not to tour in light of the pandemic, Mikron took Arts Council England’s advice and have been helping the community in their home village of Marsden, near Huddersfield.
To do so, they have repurposed their office and van to assist with the village Covid-19 mutual aid group Marsden Help and have delivered hundreds of food parcels and prescriptions to self-isolating and vulnerable families.
“We’re so incredibly sad not to be touring,” says Marianne. “In the early stages of the Coronavirus outbreak we looked at every possible combination, but none of them were practical.
“What I would not give to see Mikron performing at a canalside venue to a large crowd with the sun setting behind us. We see the same faces in different places year on year and we really miss them but the safety of the cast and crew, venues and, of course, our loyal audiences, had to come first.”
Based in the village of Marsden, at the foot of the Yorkshire Pennines, Mikron tour on board a vintage narrowboat, Tyseley, putting on shows in “places that other theatre companies wouldn’t dream of”.
It could be a play about growing-your-own, staged at allotments; a play abuzz with bees, performed next to hives, or a play where the chips are down, served up in a fish and chip restaurant. Add to that list a play celebrating hostelling, booked into YHA Youth hostels and the story of the RNLI, launched from several lifeboat stations on the coast.
Since Mikron formed in 1972, they have:
Written 64 original shows;
Composed 384 songs;
Issued 236 actor-musician contracts;
Spent 30,000 boating hours on the inland waterways;
Covered 530,000 road miles;
Performed 5,060 times;
Played to 428,000 people.
For further information and to donate to the appeal to keep Yorkshire’s narrowboat theatre company afloat, visit mikron.org.uk/appeal. Donations also can be sent to Mikron Theatre, Marsden Huddersfield, HD7 6BW.
YORK Musical Theatre Company will mark the first anniversary of leading light Richard Bainbridge’s exit stage left on Sunday with a special online memorial concert.
Streamed on YMTC’s YouTube channel, the 7.30pm programme will celebrate Richard’s theatrical life with songs from all the shows he loved and the many he graced with the company.
Richard passed away last summer at the age of 64 after a long association with York Musical Theatre Company – formerly known as York Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society until 2002 – as actor, director and latterly company chairman.
Taking part on Sunday night will be Eleanor Leaper; Matthew Ainsworth; John Haigh; Florence Taylor; Moira Murphy; Amy Lacy; Rachel Higgs; Peter Wookie; Matthew Clare; Chris Gibson; Helen Singhateh and Jessa & Mick Liversidge.
“There’ll be a group performance from YMTC members too and we’re thrilled to have professional actor Samuel Edward-Cook – Sam Coulson in his YMTC days – back with us performing a special number,” says director Paul Laidlaw.
He is keeping the running order and who will be singing each number under wraps as a surprise for Richard’s family.
Among those songs will be Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’, from Oklahoma!; As Long As He Needs Me, from Oliver!; Tomorrow, from Annie; Mister Snow, from Carousel; Some Enchanted Evening, from South Pacific; Seeing Is Believing, from Aspects Of Love, and My Time Of Day, from Guys And Dolls.
“It’s hard to believe that a year has gone by since we lost our dear friend and colleague, Richard,” says Paul. “I think I can speak for the whole company when I say how much we still miss him.
“His enthusiasm, drive and, above all, his incredible sense of humour would have been a tonic in these extraordinary times. He would, of course, have been actively taking part in the Off-stage But Online concerts we are presenting under lockdown, and with a mixture of encouragement, bribery, coercion and threats he would have made sure that everyone else took part too.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s memorial celebration, Paul says: “We wanted this next concert, falling on the anniversary of his death, to be dedicated to Richard. Many of the performers have fond memories of working alongside him and the song choices often reflect moments spent with him on stage. Happy memories, tinged with sadness of course but, oh, how lucky we were to have known him.”
THEATRE has been hit for six by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, but SIX The Musical has found a way to make a summer comeback as a drive-in theatre experience at a Church Fenton airport.
Leeds East Airport is among 12 locations nationwide picked for Live Nation Entertainment’s Utilita Live From The Drive-In: SIX The Musical, The Live Concert, as the West End and tour casts take to the road in August and September to present the full musical version in the open air.
Church Fenton’s six performances of SIX – how apt – will start at 9pm on August 11; 5pm, August 13; 9pm, August 14, and 5pm and 9pm, August 15 and 16. Tickets for “the first West End musical to perform again after lockdown” will go on sale at 8am on Friday, July 3 at livenation.co.uk/artist/six-the-musical-ticket.
“For the next three months, SIX will be the only stage musical anyone starved of theatre in the country is able to see,” say producers Kenny Wax, Wendy and Andy Barnes and George Stiles.
Designed to comply with all official guidelines in these Covid-19 times, Utilita Live From The Drive-In will “deliver a drive-in experience boasting concert-quality sound from a live stage with a full state-of-the-art sound system, lighting rig and high-definition LED screens”.
This will create an arena or stadium concert feel in a safe drive-in setting adhering to the Government’s social-distancing rules to protect fans, artists, crews and staff at all times.
Customers will arrive by car but then can step outside, picnic and party while they watch the “festival-style” live stage show from their own dedicated area next to their vehicle. Up to 300 vehicles can park up for each show with a maximum of seven people allowed in each one.
Now billed as “Divorced, Beheaded, Drive – Live In Concert”, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss‘s SIX is the “electrifying musical phenomenon that everyone has lost their head over”. First presented by Cambridge University students at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the show has been catapulted into a West End and international hit en route to being named the Musical of the Decade by WhatsOnStage.
From Tudor queens to pop princesses, the six wives of Henry VIII take to the mic in SIX to tell their tales, remixing 500 years of historical heartbreak into a 75-minute celebration of 21st-century girl power where these queens may have green sleeves but their lipstick is rebellious red.
“You’ve seen them in theatres across the world, streamed their album countless times and now you can join the rest of the Queendom for a party and picnic on a Utilita Live From The Drive-In arena stage!” says the drive-in publicity machine.
“This intoxicating Tudor take by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss is a histo-remixed pop-concert musical you won’t forget. The Queens are back, so grab your crowns and your picnic blankets and get down like it’s 1533.”
SIX The Musical and Utilita Live From The Drive-In will link up this summer from August 4 to September 12 for shows at Colesdale Farm, London; Birmingham Resorts World Arena; University of Bolton Stadium, Bolton; Filton Airfield, Bristol; Cheltenham Racecourse; the Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh; Leeds East Airport, Church Fenton, near Leeds; Lincoln, Central Docks, Liverpool; The National Bowl, Milton Keynes; the July Course, Newmarket Racecourse, and Teesside International Airport.
Producer Kenny Wax, president of the Society of London Theatre, says: “We are delighted that SIX will spearhead the re-opening of one of London and the UK’s most popular shows. With the industry in crisis, theatres struggling and some even going out of business, this drive-in event offers hope for the future and, equally importantly, jobs for about 50 of our company including cast, musicians, stage managers, technicians and freelancers.
“We are using both our West End and UK touring casts, rehearsing and touring them in a bubble and having them work in teams of six – fortunate for us – as per the government guidance.”
As the Coronavirus pandemic struck, SIX fans were left disappointed when sold-out runs at the Arts Theatre in London and up and down the country on the UK tour had to be cancelled. All those touring dates have been moved to 2021.
Any questions before you start the engine? Which SIX cast members will be performing? “We are sending the Arts Theatre cast and the UK Tour casts on tour subject to the Queens’ own availability. We can’t guarantee any individual cast members at specific performances. Church Fenton will have the Arts Theatre cast.”
Will we be seeing the full show? “Yes, the whole show will be performed live from start to finish. The duration is 75 minutes and there is no interval.”
Will the cast be wearing their show costumes? “Yes.”
Is the show being performed as a concert or with full choreography? “The cast will be performing the show with full choreography.”
How will we see the stage and the cast if we are parked a long way away? “Like most concerts, there will be large screens either side of the stage and live show footage played on the screens.”
Can we sing and dance along? “We hope you can enjoy yourselves without spoiling the enjoyment of others around you.
Will the music be played live by the musicians? “Yes, the musicians, our ‘ladies in waiting’, will be playing live”.
Will we be able to “meet and greet” the Queens after the show for autographs and photos? “Due to current social-distancing guidelines related to Covid-19, sadly the cast will not be available after the performance to meet audience members.”
Did you know?
SIX made its debut as a Cambridge University student production in a 100-seat room at Sweet Venue at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Not only was SIX playing London’s West End and across the UK and Australia when Covid-19 intervened, but also its opening night on Broadway on March 12 was called off when, three hours before showtime, the New York Governor shut down theatreland.
SIX was nominated for five Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical, and won the What’s On Stage Award for Best Musical 2020. Songs from the SIX studio album are streamed on average 450,000 times per day, making it the second-highest streaming musical theatre recording in the world after Hamilton.
SIX was written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, with direction by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage; choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille; set design by Emma Bailey; costume design by Gabriella Slade; lighting design by Tim Deiling; sound design by Paul Gatehouse; musical orchestration by Tom Curran; musical supervision by Joe Beighton and musical direction by Katy Richardson.
REGULAR Joseph Rowntree Theatre performer Hannah King will run an online virtual dance fitness class tomorrow morning in aid of the JoRo’s Raise The Roof appeal in York.
From 10am to 11am, Hannah will guide an enthusiastic group of theatre supporters through their steps as they dance to favourite show tunes.
Graham Mitchell, the Haxby Road theatre’s events and fundraising director, says: “Already we have more than 20 participants but, being online, there’s space for everyone.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, you can join in. We’ve even got participants in Troon and Aberdeen! At only £3 a slot, it’s a cheap way to have a fun hour of fitness and raise money for our appeal at the same time.”
The JoRo launched its Raise The Roof campaign last week by creating an online music video put together “virtually” during lockdown. The appeal has garnered more than £2,000 already and tomorrow’s online dance class will see this total grow over the weekend.
Dan Shrimpton, chair of trustees of the JoRo charity, say: “There’s a real swell of support from all those connected with the theatre, from stewards to performers, from stage crew to hirers. This dance class is the second event in a chain of many fundraisers that we have in the pipeline.”
To launch the Raise The Roof campaign, the theatre has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging people to donate “even just the amount of a takeaway coffee”. Go to: justgiving.com/campaign/Raise-the-Roof.
ALAN Ayckbourn’s debut audio play, Anno Domino, will run online for an extra week in response to huge demand from theatregoers worldwide.
Available exclusively on the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s website, at sjt.uk.com, Ayckbourn’s 84th premiere had a cut-off point of June 25 at 12 noon, but the deadline is being extended to July 2 at midday.
The extension was announced this morning after feedback suggested that plenty of theatre fans were still keen to listen to Ayckbourn, 81, and his wife, actress Heather Stoney, performing together for the first time in 56 years.
In one of his lighter pieces, charting the break-up of a long-established marriage and its domino effect on family and friends, Ayckbourn and Stoney play four characters each, aged 18 to mid-70s.
“We were just mucking about in our sitting room,” says former radio producer Ayckbourn, who wrote, directed and performed the lockdown play, as well as overseeing the sound effects at their Scarborough home.
The SJT’s artistic director, Paul Robinson, says of the extension: “So far, more than 12,500 people have heard Anno Domino, nearly 1,000 of them last weekend alone. That represents 31 complete sell-out performances in our Round auditorium, where Alan’s shows are usually premiered.
“People have listened in from all over the globe, including the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe.
“We’re keen to make it accessible to as many people as possible, so we’ve decided to extend the listening period by a week, but this really will be your last opportunity to hear it!”
Anno Domino proved particularly popular in the United States – where Ayckbourn’s plays are performed regularly in New York – after being reviewed favourably in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and featuring on Morning Edition, the nationwide flagship show of National Public Radio.
This summer, Ayckbourn should have been directing the world premiere of his 83rd play, Truth Will Out, ironically featuring a virulent computer virus, preceded by his revival of his 1976 comedy, Just Between Ourselves, “the one with the car”, that would have opened last Thursday until the Covid-19 pandemic intervened.
Instead, recording at their Scarborough home, Ayckbourn and Stoney acted together for the first time since performing in William Gibson’s American two-hander Two For The Seesaw at the Rotherham Civic Theatre in 1964: Ayckbourn’s exit stage left from treading the boards on a professional stage.
Stoney’s last full season as an actress was at the SJT in the 1985 repertory company that presented the world premiere of Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind.
Ayckbourn says of Anno Domino: “The inspiration came from the idea that all relationships ultimately, however resilient they appear to be, are built on sand! And it only takes one couple to break up abruptly to take us all by surprise, then all of a sudden everyone is questioning their own unshakeable relationship.”
This SJT production, with a final audio mix by Paul Steer, marks the first time Ayckbourn has both directed and performed in one of his own plays: one of a multitude of reasons to tune in before noon on July 2. Make the most of the extension. No excuses.
THEATRES can “re-open” from July 4, but not for performances. That’s like saying pubs can re-open but not serve any beer.
Theatre’s future and indeed theatres’ futures are hanging by a thread. For once, take something other than the besmirching of Winston Churchill’s statue seriously, Prime Minister, not wiffle-waffle about “can re-open”.
SCARBOROUGH theatre company Animated Objects is taking part in this summer’s Scarborough Borough Council community outreach programme.
Artistic director Lee Threadgold’s company has created the costumes for children to dress as the young people’s Red Arrows for Scarborough’s virtual Armed Forces Day to mark this national event coming to the East Coast resort in June 2021.
On Monday this week, the council launched its virtual celebration of the Armed forces with various events and films being aired on the Scarborough Armed Forces website, scarborougharmedforcesday.co.uk, and Facebook page, facebook.com/ScarboroughArmedForcesDay/.
Animated Objects Theatre Company is “a small company that delivers really big ideas”, specialising in large-scale events, outdoor theatre, giant artworks and performances.
TONIGHT should have been the press night for Emeritus director Alan Ayckbourn’s revival of his 1976 garage-and-garden dark comedy, Just Between Ourselves, at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre.
However, as with the no-longer upcoming world premiere of his 83rd play, Truth Will Out, the summer production of this rarely staged Seventies’ gem has been scuppered by the Coronavirus crisis that has led to the SJT being closed.
Instead, why not head to @ArchivingAlanA for Simon Murgatroyd’s exclusive new interview with the Scarborough playwright, who discusses his classic play and his thoughts on it now. Find it at archivingayckbourn.home.blog/?p=1100@Ayckbourn.
In “the one with the car”, set on four birthdays, Dennis thinks he is a master at DIY and a perfect husband but in reality he is neither. When he decides to sell his car, Neil turns up as a potential buyer, wanting it for his wife Pam’s birthday.
In Ayckbourn’s dissection of man’s inhumanity to woman, as two couples become unlikely friends, aided and abetted by Dennis’s meddling live-in mother, Marjorie, a collision course becomes inevitable.
Sheridan Morley said of the 1977 West End premiere: “I had the feeling I’d seen Uncle Vanya rewritten by and for the Marx Brothers.” Bernard Levin’s verdict in The Sunday Times proclaimed: “Ayckbourn has gained an immense reputation with a series of plays in which puppets dance most divertingly on their strings. Here he has cut the strings and then stuck the knife into the puppets.”
How frustrating there will be no SJT revival this summer, but make sure you do listen to Ayckbourn’s 84th premiere, his audio play for lockdown, Anno Domino, starring Ayckbourn himself and his wife Heather Stoney,
In one of his lighter pieces, charting the break-up of a long-established marriage and its domino effect on family and friends, Ayckbourn, 81, and Stoney play four characters each, aged 18 to mid-70s. “We were just mucking about in our sitting room,” says Ayckbourn of a world premiere available for free exclusively on the SJT’s website, sjt.uk.com, until noon on June 25.
YORK Stage Musicals are to present The Hunchback Of Notre Dame in…2022.
“Theatres may be closed at the moment but that does not stop us planning for the future,” says artistic director Nik Briggs.
“We are honoured to be producing The Hunchback Of Notre Dame at the Grand Opera House in Autumn 2022. With lyrics by Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz and music by Aladdin’s Alan Menken, this is a very exciting project for us indeed.
“It was one where we were approached by the rights holders, like with Shrek The Musical. We love that because we’re not in the rat race to get it, and it’s nice they value the work we do, especially with Disney, who have very strict regulations.”
The York Stage diary for 2021 is taking shape with Shrek The Musical confirmed for a return to the Grand Opera House next spring, over the Easter holidays, and rights secured for Elf next winter.
More shows are being lined up too, not least a new work from Alex Weatherhill, who starred as Bernadette in York Stage Musicals’ production of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, The Musical, in September 2017.
“Alex came to see us in Tim Firth’s The Flint Street Nativity and Steel Magnolias and said he wanted to do something for us, and we’re delighted as he writes the summer show at the Bridlington Spa,” says Nik.
Shrek The Musical will bring York Stage full circle, being the last show the company staged at the Grand Opera House before the Coronavirus pandemic shut down theatres and the first to be mounted by YSM once the Cumberland Street theatre re-opens.
As for The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, Nik says: “It’s a show we’ve always wanted to look at doing because it’s never been done in the West End, only in America, so it will be nice to bring it to York.”
Indeed it will but, after his tour de force as Shrek in Shrek The Musical last September, will Nik be playing the Hunchback? “Definitely not,” he insists. That Autumn 2022 slot still leaves plenty of time to change his mind, however.
THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, is launching a song on You Tube to help raise £5,000 towards vital roof repairs.
At a time when the future is looking bleak for many theatres in the Coronavirus crisis, York’s community theatre in Haxby Road is determined to buck the trend of depressing news by using lockdown as a chance to further its expansion plans.
Launching the online video this week kick-starts Raise The Roof, the JoRo’s fundraising campaign with a £90,000 target.
Aptly, the choice of song is a cover of The Drifters’ hit Up On The Roof, written in 1962 by Gerry Goffin and Carole King.
The video has been produced, arranged and performed by York performers who call the Art Deco building their theatrical home, many of them also counting themselves among the JoRo’s army of volunteers. Put together during lockdown via socially distanced media, it can be viewed at youtu.be/IPsw4VQcMsg.
Stage manager Ollie Nash and Jessica Douglas, a regular musical director of shows at the JoRo, have brought together a team of singers and musicians to create the video. “It’s been a real challenge under lockdown conditions,” says Ollie. “In the week leading up to its release, I spent 30 hours pulling all the bits together for the final edit.”
Arranged by Jessica and mixed and edited by Ollie, Up On The Roof is performed by Abigail Atkinson, Chris Gibson, Helen Singhateh, Jennie Wogan, Nick Sephton, Paul Blenkiron, Ruth McCartney, Sandy Nicholson and Susan Blenkiron. Backing them in the recording are Jessica Douglas, piano, Clark Howard, drums, Georgia Johnson, bass, Damien Sweeting, guitar, and Emily Jones and Tom Marlow, violin.
Graham Mitchell, the JoRo’s fundraising and events director, says: “We’ve had great fun putting this video together. The fact that so many of our performing and volunteering community came together ‘virtually’ to produce it shows just how much the future success of the theatre means to them.”
Against a backdrop of growing fears over the future for many arts venues across the country, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre believes it is in a “particularly strong position”.
How come? Because the charity that runs it owns the building and the theatre is operated entirely by more than 170 unpaid volunteers.
Dan Shrimpton, chair of the board of trustees, says: “We’re using this period of enforced closure to look after and improve the fabric of the building. The roof repairs need to be completed before we can move on with our major plans to expand the building.
“The new insulation and solar panels will significantly reduce our operating costs and also the impact we have on the environment. The expansion plans will make our venue even greener and more accessible.”
The roof has stood the test of time, not needing any major work since the theatre was built 85 years ago. The Raise The Roof appeal is not the first time it has appeared in a news article, however. In 2012, the Daily Telegraph published the story of a teenage Judi Dench coming down from the roof after watching the sunset with a group of friends.
One brave young man took the opportunity to sneak a quick kiss on the way down the ladder! Dame Judi does not remember the name of the cheeky chap, but it is a favourite anecdote among the theatre’s volunteers.
To launch the Raise the Roof campaign, the JoRo has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging people to donate “even just the amount of a takeaway coffee”. Go to: justgiving.com/campaign/Raise-the-Roof.
Did you know?
THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre was built by the Joseph Rowntree Village Trustees as a place for recreation and education for the benefit of Rowntree employees and the York community.
Seebohm Rowntree opened the Haxby Road theatre in 1935. It remains a vital community asset, run entirely by volunteers for the people of York. A board of 13 trustees and 170 volunteers give 17,000 hours of volunteering time every year.
Last year, the JoRo put on more than 135 performances, staged by 35 York groups and several professional touring companies.