THE summer season of festival delights is drawing to a close but the outdoors still beckons Charles Hutchinson, who also looks ahead to big names northwards bound.
Festival of the week: Leeds Festival, Bramham Park, August 25 to 27
THE last big outdoor festival of the Yorkshire summer season kicks off on Friday with headliners Billie Eilish (Main Stage East) and Imagine Dragons (Main Stage West). Look out that day too for Steve Lacy, Declan McKenna, Rina Sawayama, Becky Hill and Little Tjay.
The Saturday bill includes headliners Sam Fender and Foals, Loyle Carner, Wet Leg, Leeds band Yard Act, Bicep Llve and Frank Turner. Among the Sunday acts will be headliners The Killers and The 1975, Central Cee, Nothing But Thieves, Knucks, Case Atlantic and Arlo Parks. Comedy and dance stages are on the menu too. Box office: leedsfestival.com.
Tribute show of the week: Supersonic Queen, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday, 7.30pm
SUPERSONIC Queen return to the JoRo with its “strongest, most talented line-up yet”, guaranteed to blow your mind. Ten years and counting on the tribute act circuit, these musicians “care deeply about delivering the most authentic and entertaining performance”, full of energy, enthusiasm and Queen hits by the dozen. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Exhibition of the week: Sean Taylor, Illustrations, City Screen Picturehouse café bar, Coney Street, York, until September 2
COINCIDING with City Screen Picturehouse’s latest Culture Shock season of Bruce Lee films, Sean Taylor is exhibiting paintings and pen and graphic drawing at City Screen Picturehouse. Icons aplenty feature, bold and striking.
Circus show of the week: All Ways Good Company in Swings & Roundabouts, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Sunday, 11am to 1pm
JOIN Jane and Dora, a mum and daughter circus duo, on three trips to the park, where they will share their tales with you and hear yours too before hosting an interactive finale.
Commissioned by Hullabaloo Theatre, Swings & Roundabouts is a selection of short stories about everyday moments in the park, told in an extraordinary way as Jane and Dora flip and fly, turning the park into an aerial playground. Then have a go yourself on the aerial equipment, whatever your age. Wear long sleeves but no jewellery or clothes with zips. Box office: atthemill.org.
Last of the summer season: Olly Murs and Scouting For Girls, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, Wednesday, gates open at 6pm
OLLY Murs concludes Cuffe & Taylor’s season of outdoor gigs on the Scarborough coast with support from Scouting For Girl on Wednesday night. After four years off the music radar, focusing on The Voice and Starstruck, Murs released his seventh studio album, Marry Me, last December, the title being prompted by his now fiancée Emelia Tank.
Tonight, at Scarborough OAT, DJ Pete Tong is in action with his Ibiza Classics. The Essential Orchestra and Jules Buckley will be there too. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.
Outdoor theatre show of the week: Slapstick Picnic in Peter Pan, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Wednesday, 6.30pm
SLAPSTICK Picnic whip up a three-hander version of Peter Pan, inviting imaginations to soar as they dish out J M Barrie’s timeless tale of hapless pirates, feral children and a particularly punctual reptile.
Look out for polished buffoonery and swift silliness as the cast members swap wigs, wings and waistcoats to play all the parts at Slapstick’s characteristic breakneck pace. A percentage of ticket sales will be donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital. Box office: atthemill.org.
Folk night of the week: Gary Stewart’s Folk Club, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Friday, 7.30pm
EASINGWOLD musician Gary Stewart’s Folk Club, a regular feature in At The Mill’s summer seasons, runs in two halves: The first is a traditional folk club, where anyone can come and play and offer up a song, a tune, a poem or a story. “Just turn up and let us know!” says Gary.
The second half is a headline set by a guest artist, in this case budding York singer-songwriter and newly formed producer Kitty VR, who fashions and performs her songs on electric guitar alongside her delicate vocals, with a sense of vulnerability and relatability. Box office: atthemill.org.
As recommended by the late John Peel: Nina Nastasia, The Crescent, York, August 29, 7.30pm
NINA Nastasia, an alt-folk artist of Calabrian-Italian and Irish descent, was born and raised in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California. Despite studying piano and showing an early talent for writing short stories, she initially had no aspirations of pursuing a career in music. Nevertheless, seven albums have ensued, along with airplay on the late John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show and album collaborations with Jim White.
After a period of relative obscurity, Nastasia returned in July 2022, signing a record deal with Temporary Residence to release Riderless Horse, recorded in upstate New York by Steve Albini and Greg Norman. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
Damian Lewis, yes, that Damian Lewis, at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, October 1, doors at 7.30pm
ACTOR and now singer and guitarist Damian Lewis will play Leeds as the only Yorkshire gig of his 11-date tour with his jazz and rock band in support of debut album Mission Creep, released on Decca Records in June.
Lewis wrote all the album’s original songs during the pandemic’s first lockdown, although the origin story began when, after leaving school, he took to the road with his guitar and went busking through continental Europe. This experience has stayed with him ever since and is reflected in the album, produced by his friend, jazz musician Giacomo Smith. Box office: brudenellsocialclub.co.uk or seetickets.com.
Birthday celebration: Eight@Eighty, Joni Mitchell 80th Birthday Party charity concert, at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, York, November 2, 7.30pm
STAN Smith is organising a celebration of Canadian-American singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell’s 80th birthday this autumn. Taking part will be Edwina Hayes, Emily Lawler, Gracie Falls, Holly Taymar, Jeremy Bradford, Laura Ingram, Sarah Dean and Stan himself. Box office: stansmith.org.
Booking ahead: George Benson, supported by Melissa Errico, Leeds First Direct Arena, July 3 2024, 7.30pm
LEGENDARY American guitarist and singer George Benson, 80, will play Leeds on the closing night of next summer’s five-date British tour.
The ten-time Grammy Award winner will be performing such Gibson soul, jazz and blues favourites as Give Me The Night, Lady Love Me (One More Time), Turn Your Love Around, Inside Love, Never Give Up On A Good Thing and In Your Eyes. He is working on new music too. Box office: ticketline.co.uk.
In Focus: Director Zoe Waterman on reviving Alan Platers’s musical Blonde Bombshells Of 1943 at the SJT
ALAN Plater’s 2004 musical Blonde Bombshells Of 1943 is being revived most warmly and wittily by Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, Bolton’s Octagon Theatre and Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake.
This summer’s glorious co-production finds these northern powerhouse producing theatres collaborating for the third year in a row after Laura Wade’s Home, I’m Darling in 2021 and Emma Rice’s account of Noel Coward’s Brief Encounter in 2022.
Zoe Waterman, who directed Jane Eyre at the SJT last year, is at the helm for Hull playwright Plater’s fortifying wartime story of the North’s most glamorous all-girl Forties’ swing band, whose band leader, Betty, needs to find new musicians for an important BBC job after the latest exodus of members in the arms of American GIs.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be directing Blonde Bombshells Of 1943,” says Zoe. “We’ve got a glorious and terribly talented cast; it’s such a privilege to work with performers who are not only stunning actors but also phenomenal musicians.
“It’s always a joy to make work that celebrates women, and this isno exception: full of hilarious, practical, strong characters who make do and mend as the time dictates and manage to pull an all-singing, all-dancing performance out of the jaws of an air raid.”
Zoe also directed Jim Cartwright’s The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice at Theatre by the Lake in 2019, and when the three theatres discussed who should be the director this summer after settling on Blonde Bombshells for the 2023 co-production, Zoe was approached for the task.
“I’d been called by Paul [SJT artistic director Paul Robinson], who I knew from the SJT, and I’d worked a lot at Theatre by the Lake, where I’d really cut my theatre teeth, first doing a one-person show, then a three-hander in the studio and then graduating to a main theatre show,” she says. “I’d spoken with Lotte [artistic director Lotte Wakeham] at the Bolton Octagon too.”
Crucially too, Zoe had experience of mounting actor-musician productions: “I did The Borrowers that way at Theatre by the Lake and Jane Eyre was in that format at the SJT, and I’ve done actor-musician pantomimes at Theatr Clwyd,” she says.
“I absolutely love this way of working, though I wouldn’t want to do only this one form of theatre, but I love that thing of weaving the music into the story and really thinking of them as one in this piece, whereas in some actor-musician shows you think, ‘if they could have afforded a band and actors, that would have been better’.
“But to have actor-musicians front and centre in this show is fantastic and it works wonderfully.”
Step forward Verity Bajoria, Lauren Chinery, Georgina Field, Stacey Ghent, Rory Gradon, Alice McKenna, Gleanne Purcell-Brown and Sarah Groarke, who appeared in the 2004 premiere at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds.
Four weeks of rehearsals in Bolton – where Zoe was working for the first time – has led to a June run at the Octagon, followed by a July stretch in Keswick and now the August finale in Scarborough.
“So often in regional subsidised theatres, in-house productions run for only three weeks, so it’s gone in a blur and you’ve missed it, but co-productions give both audiences and actors a longer run at it,” she says.
“From starting in Bolton, it was wonderful to see how the show had developed by the show’s 50th performance, at Theatre by the Lake.”
Blonde Bombshells Of 1943 runs at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until August 26. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com .