ONLY the last few tickets are left for An Evening With Simon Armitage, the new Poet Laureate, at Pocklington Arts Centre on November 28.
The Huddersfield-born poet, playwright and novelist, 56, was appointed to his post for ten years earlier this year, succeeding Carol Ann Duffy.
In October 2017, he became the first Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds; in 2018, he received The Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry and an Ivor Novello Award for song-writing in the BAFTA-winning film Feltham Sings.
“It’s such a privilege to be able to welcome the UK’s new Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, to our stage,” says Pocklington Arts Centre director Janet Farmer.
“He’s such a celebrated poet of his times, so a chance to spend an evening in his company, within the intimate settings of our auditorium, to hear some of his live poetry and for a Q&A, is a unique opportunity for lovers of literature and poetry.
“But tickets have almost sold out, so I would urge you to book yours quickly or risk missing out .”
After studying geography at Portsmouth Polytechnic and writing an MA thesis at the University of Manchester on the the effects of television violence on young offenders, Armitage gained a social work qualification and became a probation officer, like his father before him. He worked in the Greater Manchester probation service until 1994, apparently once being introduced with the words: “By day he reads them their rights, by night he writes them their reads.”
He has published 28 collections of poetry, his first entitled Human Geography in 1988 and his latest, Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic. He writes extensively for television and radio, as well as penning three memoirs, All Points North, Walking Home and Walking Away, and he is the lead singer of The Scaremongers too.
Tickets for Armitage’s 7.30pm show in Pock cost £12.50 or £7 for under 21s on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk. He will be on hand to sign books in the foyer afterwards.
NORTHERN Broadsides will stage a festive fundraiser, Christmas
Broadsides, at The Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough. Halifax, from December 13 to
This concert is based around Broadside Ballads; song lyrics published
from the 1600s onwards, featuring popular songs of scurrilous dealings,
thwarted love and ginormous geese.
For this combination of folk song and storytelling, Amir Beymanesh and Kamran Hoss, two Iranian musicians who arrived in Yorkshire recently, will join Ripponden folk musician and multi-instrumentalist Alice Jones.
West Yorkshire actors Catherine Kinsella and Tom Shaw complete the Halifax company’s line-up for this celebration of festive cheer and reflection on Christmases past, present and future.
Broadsides’ artistic director, Laurie
Sansom, says: “We are thrilled to be celebrating this Christmas with old
friends and new, welcoming Amir and Kamaran to Halifax in this extraordinary
collaboration with the multi-talented Alice Jones.
“It’s a chance to share together ridiculous
festive songs of comic extravagance, whilst also thinking of those who may be
far from home this Christmas.
“We look forward to welcoming regular
supporters and new friends who want to support the work of their local theatre
company, and our collaborators at St Augustine’s Centre, who support refugees
and asylum seekers.”
Looking ahead to 2020, Sansom’s debut production as Broadsides’ artistic director, a new take on J.M. Barrie’s regency romantic comedy Quality Street, will open at Dean Clough from February 14 to 22.
Broadsides will collaborate with workers from the Halifax Quality Street
chocolates factory by developing contemporary
tales of hapless love that will frame the action
of Barrie’s tale.
Barrie’s play was so popular in its day that it gave the
chocolates their name. Its story revolves around Phoebe Throssel, who lives on
Quality Street, the bustling hub of a quaint northern town where she runs a
school for unruly children.
years since a tearful goodbye, an old flame returns from fighting Napoleon, but
the look of disappointment on Captain Valentine’s face when he greets a more
mature, less glamorous Phoebe, spurs the determined heroine to action.
She becomes the wild and sparkling Miss Livy, a younger alter-ego
who soon entraps the clueless Captain. As their romance is rekindled, can she
juggle both personas? Or will her deception scandalise the town and wreck any
future with the man she loves?
Now, as well as providing a modern lens through which to view Barrie’s
story, Broadsides also aims to build long-lasting relationships between the Halifax
employees and their local theatre company.
Broadsides’ tour of Quality Street will
take in Leeds Playhouse from April 21 to 25; Stephen Joseph Theatre,
Scarborough, May 12 to 16; Harrogate Theatre, May 19 to 23; Hull Truck Theatre,
June 2 to 6, and last stop York Theatre Royal, June 9 to 13.
Christmas Broadsides will be performed at The Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough, Halifax, at 7pm on December 13 and 3pm and 6pm on December 14 and 15. Tickets are on sale on 01422 849227 or at northern-broadsides.co.uk.
THE second weekend of the 2019 Yorkshire Schools Dance
Festival will be held at Central Hall, University of York, on Saturday and
Sunday from 3pm.
As many as 1,200 children aged four to 19, from 57 primary
schools, secondary schools, colleges and community dance groups, are taking
part in this annual non-competitive event.
Spread over two weekends, the festival celebrates the
region’s young creative talent and raises the profile of dance provision within
schools and the wider community, while showcasing a range of abilities and
dance styles. For the vast majority, this is the first time they will have
danced in public.
For the four days of dancing, groups are travelling from as
far afield as Ingleton, Hull, Thirsk and Barnsley to take part after developing
their performances through after-school clubs, during curriculum time and as
part of examination courses.
A festival theme is set each year, and for the past few
months schools and groups have been deciding how best to interpret this year’s theme,
Reflections. Performances vary from reinterpretations of the Snow White story,
through to a consideration of the physics of reflection, to support work within
Laura Brett, class teacher at Naburn CE Primary School,
York, says: “Our dance piece tells the story of a Grandma and Grandad
reflecting on their lives as children, watching as visions of their younger
selves relive some of the happier days in their lives.
“The children have had great fun choreographing this –
prompting some discussion about the lives we lead and the mark we want to make
on the world.”
Taking part from Keighley, Emma Pease, Class 3 teacher at
Cowling Primary School, says: “We thought about how social media affects us and
our mental health. The group then modelled how we could reflect this negativity
away from us, realising our strength together and becoming more resilient as a
The festival is produced by York arts education specialists Creative Learning Partnerships, whose director, Colin Jackson, says: “Dance is an art form that is central to our heritage and culture. It’s celebrated increasingly on our TV screens through shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent.
“The sad state of affairs in schools, however, is that it is
quickly disappearing from the curriculum, despite the overwhelming evidence of
its positive impact on physical, emotional and social wellbeing.
“Dance is a collaborative process that develops teamwork,
resilience, communication skills, creativity and a sense of pride. Why
shouldn’t our children be afforded these opportunities?”
Across the two weekends, the 1,200 dancers will be performing
to 2,000 people, who will see how schools have interpreted the theme in
In an extension to the 2019 festival, through funding from
Arts Council England, Engage & Inspire will be giving participating children
the chance to work with professional artists from Yorkshire and the North.
Northern Rascals and Hawk Dance Theatre are presenting
specially commissioned performances, Casson & Friends and TenFoot Dance are
hosting interactive workshops while Brink & Howl Creative are delivering an
innovative digital dance installation combining music, dance and digital
projections. Two hundred children will have the opportunity to achieve an Arts
Award to reward their efforts.
Jon Beney, associate artist at Hull Truck Theatre and co-artistic
director at TenFoot Dance, says: “The Yorkshire Schools Dance Festival is a
great opportunity for the young dancers of Yorkshire to come together and
celebrate everything dance.
As a kid, I was inspired by many people that shaped my
journey and it feels nice to have stories and skills to help inspire others.”
Tickets are available at yorkshireschoolsdancefestival.co.uk,
priced at £7 for adults, £6 for children, plus a booking fee.
Plant is touring for the first time in 20 years in Nigel Slater’s Toast. By a happy coincidence, the show brings him back to a theatre he
knows very well, York Theatre Royal, from tomorrow.
He first worked
on the stage crew 34 years ago while studying at York St John College (as the
university was called then).
“I’ve done regional theatre but only in one specific theatre, not
touring,” says Blair. “Over the last six or seven years I’ve done a lot of work
in the West End.
changed agents for the first time in 15 years and my new agent said I’ve got to
put myself about a bit more and perhaps take less comfortable jobs than the
West End work I’ve been doing. Basically, to get out and get back on the road
and be seen by more people.”
Toast has been adapted for the stage from food writer Nigel
Slater’s book recounting his childhood and cooking ambitions. Blair knew
“nothing at all” about the show and Slater’s life before the job came along,
although they do have one thing in common: both come from Wolverhampton.
He plays Nigel Slater’s father, so when Slater watches the play,
that understandably adds to Blair’s nervousness. “He had a complicated
relationship with his father,” he says. “His father makes the children laugh
and is a nice dad sometimes but then just flips and switches. You never know
when that’s going to happen. He’s not a violent man but is unpredictable, short
Slater attended rehearsals. “He’s lovely. He baked a cake and
brought it in for us,” recalls Blair.
Talking of things to eat, the actor is required to demonstrate how
to eat a Walnut Whip at every performance, but don’t ask why! When you see the
play, you will understand.
After eating so
many in rehearsal, Blair “went off” Walnut Whips. A similar thing happened
during his student days in York when he was an ice cream seller: he swiftly stopped wanting to eat ice cream.
The York St John course that young Blair took was billed as
“dance, drama, movement, film and television”. His ambition was to act, but his
parents, who were funding him through university, preferred him to take an
However, he saw
working on the Theatre Royal stage crew during his student days as a means of
gaining entry into theatre.
He began as a follow-spot operator and LX technician before
joining the stage crew. His break came when the touring company run by actors
Kate O’Mara and Peter Woodward opened a show in York and the Theatre Royal
stage crew built the set.
them to take me on tour with them as their touring carpenter. I did that for 13
weeks and touring all over the country was a wonderful experience,” he says.
He was back at York when the same company asked if he would like to return as an acting assistant stage manager, an opportunity that enabled him to gain the all-important Equity union card. He toured with the company for four years, each time bringing a production to York, where he lived for 15 years after falling in love with the city during his student days.
He can also claim some responsibility for Damian Cruden becoming
artistic director at York Theatre Royal. Blair had been directed by the
Scotsman in John Godber’s Bouncers at Hull Truck Theatre and suggested him to
theatre bosses. The rest, as they say, is history. Damian was artistic
director for 22 years until he left earlier this year.
Blair worked with him several more times, including in The Railway
Children at both Waterloo and King’s Cross venues over a four-year period.
“Damian sent me the script before it went on at the Railway Museum in York. I’m
terrible at lifting a story off the page and didn’t get it at all and said it
wasn’t for me. I didn’t realise how immense the show was going to be,” he
When the award-winning production, which featured a real steam
train, transferred to London, Blair wanted to be part of it. He spent four
years playing first the dissident Russian intellectual, Mr
the Father in York playwright Mike Kenny’s adaptation of E. Nesbit’s book. “I
really, really loved it. It was a really lovely job,” says Blair.
He names his most challenging role at York – and of his career –
as Lenny in Alan Bleasdale’s comedy Having A Ball, where he had to strip on
stage and perform a six-minute monologue totally naked. “That was difficult to
do in the rehearsal room, but by the time we got on stage, I’d got over being
naked and so had the other actors. It was the audience who had to get over it.”
The most fun he has had was in Bouncers. “The buzz from that gig –
you couldn’t sleep until three in the morning because as an actor you are so
high and very fit,” he says.
Now Blair is
popping up in Toast on his latest return to York.
Nigel Slater’s Toast, York Theatre Royal, November 19 to 23,
7.30pm, plus 2pm, Thursday, and 2.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or
When The Rain Stops Falling, Rigmarole Theatre Company, John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate, York, 7.30pm tonight and tomorrow; 2.30pm and 7.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
WHEN will the rain stop falling, you may well be asking amid
Yorkshire’s November floods, burst banks and Army assistance in Fishlake.
Bad news. The answer, in Andrew Bovell’s apocalyptic play,
is 2039, and by then much water will have passed under the bridge in the two hours’
traffic of 41 Monkgate’s stage.
This week’s Yorkshire premiere of When The Rain Stops
Falling marks the debut of Rigmarole Theatre Company, a new York venture led by
artistic director and designer Maggie Smales, who directed York Shakespeare Project’s
award-winning all-female production of Henry V, set at a “Canary Girls” munitions
factory in the First World War.
In other words, she has pedigree for interesting directorial
choices, and Smales shows astute judgement again in picking Bovell’s multi-layered
mystery, spread across 80 years and four generations of one family in England
and Australia, premiered in Adelaide 11 years ago.
Once described as a “poetic pretzel of a play”, it takes the
form of an unbroken, non-linear staging of 22 scenes, in this case within the
John Cooper Studio’s black-box design, with a back-wall montage of umbrellas, a
drape of Aboriginal wall art, window frames and doorways painted white, ceiling
lamps in different shades and a prominent fish mobile.
Within this framework, the cast of nine moves furniture on
and off and occupants of rooms overlap as the years from 1969 to 2019 move backwards
To help you work out who’s who, the one-sheet “programme”
provides a pictorial family tree to distinguish between Gabriel and Gabriel and
even a Gabrielle.
The play opens to the inevitable sound of falling rain…in
the desert region of Alice Springs, Australia, in 2039, with Smales’s company standing
in lines beneath umbrellas on the stage periphery and criss-crossing the floor
in silent repetitive movements with soup bowls before making way for the first
monologue by Mick Liversidge’s Gabriel York.
This drifting, eccentric wanderer is waiting for his long-estranged
son, Andrew (Stan Gaskell), with no money, no socks and no food. As chance
would have it, a fish suddenly falls out of the sky…manna from heaven in a play
with downpours of biblical proportions.
Not till the end shall we see these two again, but as a
lattice builds, fish, or more precisely, fish soup, will keep making an appearance,
along with dining tables and references to rain in Bangladesh. This adds splashes
of dark humour to the otherwise claustrophobically black, stormy days of
betrayal, abandonment and destruction that unfold against a backdrop of climate
Bovell first heads back to a London flat in 1969, where we
meet Gabriel York’s grandparents, James Coldrick’s Henry Law and Florence
Poskitt’s Elizabeth, in younger days, their relationship problems heightened by
the arrival of son Gabriel. Elizabeth is encountered again in 1988, still in
the same flat, even more buttoned up, Gabriel (Adam Sowter) frustrated at her
still declining to reveal why his father suddenly disappeared when he was only
Sowter’s Gabriel duly heads to Australia to put the missing
pieces together, whereupon he encounters a troubled roadhouse waitress in
Coorong, Gabrielle York (Louise Henry, soon to play Snow White in Snow White
And The Seven Dwarfs at the Grand Opera House).
Tragedy has struck her not once, but thrice, but you should see
the play to find out how and why, as we learn still more from older Gabrielle
(Sally Mitcham) and stoical husband Joe Ryan (Maggie Smales).
Smales chose Bovell’s poetic allegory - full of Australian
culture, Greek myth, English awkwardness, French philosophy and meteorological
turmoil – because it addresses “the most important
question of our times”: Are we prepared to pass on the damage from the past to
our children or can we change to save ourselves?
Ultimately, in a prophetic play heavy with the weight of
legacy and inheritance, Bovell calls on us to change before it is too late. Smales’s
excellent cast, so skilled at storytelling and largely at Aussie accents too,
certainly makes the case for him.
In the words of the director, “If you like a powerful story that
has something to say about who we are and where we are going, this is the one
You are also assured of a warmer welcome than Boris Johnson
in sodden South Yorkshire this week. Among the drinks that the convivial bar is
serving is…water, naturally.
REVIEW: The Woman In Black, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
AFTER terrifying visits in 2013 and 2014, York Theatre Royal has gone back to Black for a wintry chill in 2019. Scream the house down for a ticket; this ghost story is still the best in the fright night business, although Gaslighting and the Grand Opera House-bound revival of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories are guaranteed to scare you witless too.
Stephen Mallatratt’s splendidly theatrical stage adaptation began life as a bonus Christmas show at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in 1987 in novelist Susan Hill’s hometown of Scarborough, and this latest touring production still retains its original director and designer, Robin Herford and Michael Holt. Well, if it ain’t broke, etc etc.
It is an old-fashioned piece, but delightfully so, with no hi-tech special effects. Instead, the programme states “harmless stage smoke and sudden loud effects are used in this production”. What matters is how they are used: the smoke gradually envelops you in a disorientating murk; the sound effects go off all around you, whether the approach of a horse’s hooves or jolting, silence-shattering screams. Cue shrieks, gasps and nervous audience laughter that ripple outwards through the stalls to the dress circle in waves.
Mallatratt’s two-hander begins in a dusty theatre as elderly lawyer Arthur Kipps (Robert Goodale) employs a young actor (Daniel Easton) to help him exorcise the fear that has filled his soul for more than 50 years. “For my health, my reason,” he says, “It must be told. I cannot bear the burden any longer.”
That burden is a stultifying obsession with the curse that he believes a spectral woman in a black cape with a wasted face has placed on his family. The Actor is initially sceptical, his mood light and cocky, yet the depth of Kipps’s desire to recover his peace of mind starts to grip the thespian too, and in turn the audience…whether a newcomer or a returnee glutton for more spine shivers.
The terrifying tale with the terrible toll is told in a theatrical re-enactment rendered with only two chairs, a skip of papers, a hanging rail of costume props, dust sheets over the stage apron and a frayed curtain.
Behind this gauze partition are the stairwell, passages, rooms and contents of the haunted Eel Marsh House, as the Actor plays young Arthur Kipps and stage novice Mr Kipps adapts himself to all manner of other parts, while growing ever more paralysed by resurgent fears as the story unfolds of his ill-fated errand as a young solicitor.
Sebastian Frost’s restless sound effects align with Kevin Sleep’s lighting design, where shadows and darkness wrestle with light for dominance, as Easton and Goodale re-create Kipps’s flesh-creeping journey to the eerie marshlands: an isolated place forever at odds with its wretched self.
As much as The Woman In Black is a ghost story first and foremost, in Mallatratt’s hands, it is also a celebration of the craft of acting, the power of storytelling and the role of the imagination.
Designed as a play within a play, the drama within takes over from the act of making it. You never see the horse and cart or a dog called Spider, but you feel their presence and you rise to applaud Easton and Goodale for having you wholly in their grip, as Hertford’s direction steers this eerie ghost ride with grave concern but dark humour too.
YORK director and designer Maggie Smales is reviving a
theatre company name from her Seventies’ student days to present Andrew
Bovell’s When The Rain Stops Falling, a multi-layered mystery spread across 80
years and four generations of one family in England and Australia.
Smales chose this apocalyptic story of betrayal, abandonment and destruction for Rigmarole Theatre Company’s debut venture because it addresses “the most important question of our times”: Are we prepared to pass on the damage from the past to our children?
Ahead of this Yorkshire premiere opening at 41 Monkgate, tomorrow (November 14), Maggie answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions.
What prompted you to
set up a theatre company now, Maggie?
“We’re lucky to have
a lot of heritage theatre and musicals here in York. While that is wonderful,
for both performers and audiences, I feel it’s important that there is
contemporary work on offer.
“There’s such a lot
of great work that offers a more direct connection to our lives today. TV
dramas are often fantastic, but I don’t think you can beat live drama where the
audience is in the room with the events playing out before them.”
Why make the link
with your student past by reviving the name Rigmarole?
“A bit frivolous, I suppose, but it is
somewhat in the spirit of sustainability and re-use, which are part of
“Also, I’m constantly
reminded while I work, whether directing or acting, that I’m still a student,
and long may that last!
Why did you choose
this play for your launch production?
“Taking on a directing task is a large
job, so when I take it on, it has to be for a text or project that matters to
“This play deals with
the most pressing question of our times. Can we change to save ourselves? A
question that is played out through the narratives of characters in the play
and set in the context of a climate that’s changing and threatening our very
“That sounds heavy,
but like other great plays, it just uses great storytelling. I was completely
blown away by it.
“Furthermore, it’s a
play that offers fantastic opportunities for actors. It’s beautifully crafted
and has a deliciously poetic text. As a director, it has a canvas that spans
the globe and 80 years of time, so it offers the fantastic challenge of
realising it all within a simple black box.”
Where did you come
across this play? Have you seen it?
“I haven’t seen it, but I read it before
seeing Andrew Bovell’s other well-known piece, Things I Know To Be True, which
he wrote for Frantic Assembly.
“His adaptation of
The Secret River by Kate Grenville was recently at the Edinburgh Festival and
at the National Theatre. I went to see it and was captivated by the way he uses
personal narrative to convey the story of a nation and the crimes at the very
heart of its growth.”
What resonates most
with you about this play?
“Something that has emerged as an
increasingly important feature is that of legacy and inheritance: that we live
among the presence of our ancestors but also with them inside our hearts. This
is something maybe the Australian aborigines understand much better than us.”
What do you read into
“With the weather
we’ve been having lately it’s become a bit of a sore point really! Or spookily
“Our story as humans
is of carrying on, of finding a way forward and sometimes of bearing the burden
of our own and others’ crimes. The final year of the play is set at the brink
of our possible extinction and leaves us wondering if we always will ‘carry
Do you believe we can
change, as Bovell’s play calls on us to do?
“I don’t think we do change. I think it
is more in our DNA to ‘carry on’ and adapt our behaviour to suit the demands
around us as we find them.
“Our current crisis
shows that some of us are more prepared to adapt sooner rather than later. Put
differently, there are various types of self-interest at work in humankind, but
I’m fairly optimistic because there’s a lot of goodness in most people.”
Have you had any
discussions with Andrew Bovell?
“We’ve been in touch through his agent and
received a fantastic and insightful reply regarding the recent development
banning the ascents of Uluru. Such a climb is featured in the play but why a
‘fair-skinned Englishman’ went there in search of his father is something you’d
have to come and find out!
“The play has been
performed all around the world but this its first appearance in Yorkshire and
he wished us good luck.
“Bovell uses Australian
culture, Greek myth, French philosophy and meteorological events in history to
create a powerful allegory, which can be appreciated as both high opera and as
accessible soap opera.”
And finally, why
should we see When The Rain Stops Falling?
“If you like to be moved by what you
see, if you like to see a mystery unfold as the puzzle pieces come together, if
you like a powerful story that has something to say about who we are and where
we are going, this is one to see.”
Rigmarole Theatre Company presents When the Rain Stops Falling, John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate, York, November 14 to 16, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 623568, yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal box office in person.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Tutti Frutti/York Theatre Royal, at York Theatre Royal Studio, September 26 to October 12
RAIN, rain, rain, the River Ouse is in flood, but the weather is even worse at York Theatre Royal, where snow is falling and Tutti Frutti’s actors are covered from head to toe in wool.
Five years ago to the autumnal month, Leeds company Tutti Frutti first staged York playwright Mike Kenny’s re-spinning of Aesop’s wintery old yarn in new patterns and shades, as favoured by the contestants in the annual jumper-knitting competition that opens and closes this one-act show for three year olds and upwards.
Designer Hannah Sibai has cloaked the Studio stage in white, from the floor to the tree branches, set in place in upturned spools and wrapped in wool; from the lit-up miniature village houses at the front to the snow-peaked mountains that form the backdrop.
Colour comes from the suffusion of old-fashioned/Scandi-noir knitted clothing, scarves and hats worn by actor-musicians Alex Wingfield, Florence Russell and Guido Garcia Lueches, who add yet more woolly headgear when playing grouchy, unruly, hip-hop dancing sheep.
The play’s title carries a moralising tone, but Kenny, himself a father, prefers to encourage children to take on responsibility, rather than wave a scalding finger in their direction, in a story set over three winters in a bleak sheep-farming community.
Grandad (Garcia Lueches) now lacks the energy and spryness to guard the family’s flock from the predatory wolves high up in the mountains, handing over the duty to his grandson Silas (Wingfield), a very reluctant “bother of a boy”. “Everywhere, sheep, just sheep,” he bemoans. Not yet ten years old, he is far from thrilled by the honour of keeping his village safe as he quickly tires of the sheep’s irritating stubborn streak and decides to end his solitary sanctuary by lying that a wolf is in his midst. He will do so again the next winter, but each time his Mum (Russell) and Grandad caution him that “no-one trusts a liar, even when they’re telling the truth”. Only this way will he learn that he cannot pull the wool over their eyes.
Significantly, however, Kenny makes a point of Silas insisting he is not a “bad boy but occasionally does bad things”. Just give him time to grow up, embrace his responsibilities and even find his inner wolf.
Director Wendy Harris plays to Kenny’s storytelling strengths, bolstered by Dom Sales’s deeply daft folk songs, played on mandolin, guitar, flute, saxophone and cor anglais, in an enchanting, amusing and ever so slightly scary show when Joanne Bernard’s movement direction and the suitably named Mike Redley’s red lighting transform the cast into the prowling, sometimes howling wolves.
Kenny’s curmudgeonly but highly humorous sheep, with their bleating dialogue and wool-is-cool teenage demeanour, go down particularly well, providing the most fun for both the audience and the cast, who knit together so successfully they deserve to win the village jumper comp.
Cheeky of face, funny of expression, Wingfield captures the easily bored yet adventure-craving essence of Silas; ably backed up by Garcia Lueches’s wise, kindly Grandad and Russell’s often exasperated, always-knitting Mum.
Sheep fans, young mums and their lambs should escape the rain, embrace the snow and flock to this winter winner.
Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Grand Opera House, York, October 1 to 5
SUCH is the abiding popularity of this Dream of a show 46 years after its London debut that Bill Kenwright’s touring production can complete a week in York with two shows on Friday and three on Saturday.
Only Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – raving on yet again next March – rivals the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber biblical musical for returns to the Grand Opera House. This decade alone, Lee Mead swished Joseph’s multicoloured garment all around him in 2010; Keith Jack in 2012; Joe McElderry in 2016. Now is the turn of Jaymi Hensley, formerly one of the three Js in the pop-up X Factor boy band Union J, but also trained in musical theatre at the BRIT School, the London maker of stars.
Hensley is not the tallest – he is 5ft 8 – and like Any Dream Will Do’s Keith Jack, he plays Joseph the dreamer more as an innocent abroad, albeit with a twinkle in his eye whenever he takes in the audience’s gaze, rather than with the square-jawed, noble muscularity of Lee Mead.
It works well for Hensley in a show that is never shy of playing an old favourite with a knowing campness, especially among Joseph’s team of 11 brothers. Up pops a model of the Eiffel Tower, for example, when they sing the sad chanson Those Canaan Days, berets, Breton stripes, accordion, exaggerated French accents et al. Look out too for the deep-voiced camel cameo and the blow-up sheep that appear as if from nowhere.
Away from the harmony strictures of a boy band, Hensley sings like a dream, with power, drama, sweetness, range, whatever is demanded, and Any Dream Will Do and especially Close Every Door wholly suit him.
Alexandra Doar’s busy, busy Narrator and Amber Kennedy’s Tina Turner-style Mrs Potiphar are in good form too, while Andrew Geater’s Las Vegas Elvis pastiche for Pharaoh’s Song Of The KIng is a whole hunk of burning love. What’s more, since the 2007 London production, Pharaoh is given a second song, King Of My Heart, to show off another (crooning) side of Elvis’s singing. Thank you very much.
What’s new for 2019, Jaymi Hensley aside? Pop choreographer Gary Lloyd has come on board to pump up the dancing to dynamic effect. Meanwhile, of York interest, the show’s designer is Sean Cavanagh, artistic associate of Riding Lights, whose Friargate Theatre home he designed in 2000. Egypt looks a picture: one more reason to go, go, go to Joseph.
Monster Makers,Pick Me Up Theatre, John Cooper Studio, 41 Monkgate, York, October 23 to 26
“THEY did such a good job with Thrill Me, I knew that this was the company I wanted to premiere Monster Makers in the UK,” said writer-composer Stephen Dolginoff.
Pick Me Up Theatre staged the New Yorker’s murder musical two-hander in January 2018 at York Medical Society.
Now they darken the doors of the John Cooper Studio with a “triple feature horror show”, and once more it is a job well done by Mark Hird’s multi-role-playing cast of five, Andrew Isherwood, Alan Park, Darren Lumby, Tony Froud and Emma Louise Dickinson.
Designer Robert Readman has turned the black-box studio side on, with seating on an angle to the left and right and on the mezzanine level above, from where musical director Sam Johnson surveys all from his keyboard.Entrances on to a black-painted, revolving stage are made through a seemingly tight side door, adding to the sense of suspense or surprise as to who might enter next.
Dolginoff tells three “monstrously true” horror stories behind the making of landmark horror films through a combination of often witty dialogue, B-movie exaggeration and storytelling, emotional songs.
First up, German director FW Murnau (Isherwood) must face Bram Stoker’s furious widow, Florence (Dickinson), in court as she accuses him of stealing Dracula for 1922’s Nosferatu, with lead actor Max Shreck (Froud) showing a moral decency beyond the shifty “THEY did such a good job with Thrill Me, I knew that this was the company I wanted to premiere Monster Makers in the UK,” said writer-composer Stephen Dolginoff.
Next, maverick make-up artist Jack Pierce (Lumby) comes up against autocratic director James Whale (Isherwood) as he strives to convert Boris Karloff (Froud) into Frankenstein’s Monster.
Lastly, Peter Cushing (Froud) knocks the final nails into Hammer Horror’s coffin, making a Frankenstein and Dracula film simultaneously with a paltry budget, an unflappable director (Isherwood’s Terence Fisher], a scene-stealing stuntman (Lumby), doubling stoically and silently for the absent Christopher Lee, and the ever-willing, busty Victoria (Dickinson).
Isherwood’s trio of roles is the stand-out, Froud’s urbane Cushing is a joy too, while Dickinson, Park and Lumby add to the gothic, graveyard humour of this monster smash.