How Sarah-Louise Young finds her voice, stronger than ever, in The Silent Treatment

Sarah-Louise Young: “I have made this show from a place of strength and recovery,” she says. “It is ultimately a very positive story of resilience and healing”. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

WARNING: Sarah-Louise Young’s show in York tomorrow night, The Silent Treatment, includes themes of trauma and sexual violence.

After her celebrations of Kate Bush (An Evening Without…) and Julie Andrews (Julie Madly Deeply), the Canterbury-born writer-performer returns to Theatre@41, Monkgate, with the highly personal true story of a singer who loses her voice and embarks on an unexpected journey of self-revelation and vocal healing.

In a career as a musical theatre actress, singer, writer, director, Showstopper! improviser and cabaret performer with Fascinating Aida, Sarah-Louise had “always known something wasn’t right with my voice but, like many singers, I assumed it was my fault,” as she revealed to the Guardian in June last year, ahead of the show’s Edinburgh Fringe run. “When a singer loses their voice we question their technique, their lifestyle, even their commitment.”

She had to hide how, every few months, her soprano voice would disappear, inducing a paralysing shame until it returned after few days’ rest. Then, after 11 years of ceaseless performing, “secret collapse and hidden recovery”, she lost her voice on stage mid-performance. “I was mortified,” she told the Guardian.

A consultant discovered cysts, probably there since childhood, he suggested, prompting him to ask Sarah-Louise if anything in her childhood – expressly before she was ten – could have traumatised her voice.

The answer was yes; she was sexually attacked at the age of seven, in daylight. “After the initial distress, I never gave it much thought. But the hand on my mouth, the stifled scream…what the mind forgets, the body remembers,” she wrote in her Guardian piece.

Self-care was advised, coffee became a no-no, work flowed, but after three years, her surgeon deemed an operation was necessary after her cysts burst when performing Julie Madly Deeply through bronchitis for six weeks.

Now there was something else to hide: she would be considered “damaged goods” if it became known she had undergone surgery, or so the “industry gatekeepers” forewarned. Stay silent? No, vowed Sarah-Louise, and nine years on, The Silent Treatment is her story, her voice found anew and her diary busier than ever at 47.

Sarah-Louise Young: “The first time I sang after the operation it was like night and day from singing pre-surgery”. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

Here Sarah-Louise discusses singing, healing and dealing with what life throws at you with CharlesHutchPress.

What has been the reaction to The Silent Treatment, especially to your revelations about the sexual attack you suffered aged seven?

“The audience and critical response has been overwhelmingly positive. Whenever I make a new show, especially one which is autobiographical, I ask myself the same question: why should anyone care?

“So although the details of the story are personal to me, it connects with many other people’s lived experiences of being silenced, singers and non-singers alike.

“In terms of the sexual attack, my brilliant director Sioned Jones and I spent a lot of time discussing how best to portray it without sensationalising it or traumatising anyone watching.

“Close friends who didn’t know about it were understandably moved or concerned when they watched it but I have made this show from a place of strength and recovery. It is ultimately a very positive story of resilience and healing.” 

How do you structure this show?

“Without giving too much away about the piece, I play several different characters, ranging from my suave surgeon to a fruity diaphragm. It’s part quest, part journey into the past. It’s definitely not a conventional linear narrative but you’ll have to come along and see it to find out more.” 

Where do songs fit in?

“Music is important and I was lucky enough to work with a fabulous composer called Chris Ash who I knew from Showstopper! The Improvised Musical. He created beautiful soundscapes for the different worlds of the piece, including scenes which take place inside the human body. He even sampled my voice electronically to add to the mix.

“I write the lyrics and we worked together on the songs, which were all created originally for the show to serve different moments. For example, the cysts get their own big solo number, which is great fun.” 

An Evening Without Kate Bush and Julie Madly Deeply both had personal elements within them, but this is your most personal show. How does that feel when you perform it?

“I love connecting with an audience and have found with both of those shows that the more generous and open hearted I am, the more the audience will join me. It’s always a privilege to perform for people who have chosen to spend their time with you and the fact that they are invested in my journey is of course very rewarding for me.

“Most importantly, I want them to see themselves reflected back and find a universal meaning within the story.” 

Both the Bush and Andrews shows were joyous. What is the tone of The Silent Treatment?

“It’s funny, surreal, intimate and heartfelt, incorporating songs, stories, characterisation, puppetry, movement and mime. There’s a lot going on and while I’m required to give the show a trigger warning due to its sensitive thematic content, I hope I have created a piece of cabaret which is uplifting and entertaining.” 

Will there be any audience participation?

“Much less than in my other shows! I chat to the audience as they enter the space and collect tongue-twisters from them. The show is very much performed to them without a fourth wall, but I don’t invite anyone up onto the stage. Well, not yet anyway!” 

I believe it’s a story which needed to be told and I know I’m not alone in this,” says Sarah-Louise

When did you first find your voice, not the prescribed musical theatre voice?

“I think I found my voice as a child, before I was aware of training. It was free and playful. It took many years later on in life to re-discover that sense of play. I had a fantastic singing teacher, Maureen Scott, who guided me through my surgery and a wonderful vocal therapist called Dr Rehab afterwards.

“Our voices change and develop as we age and making this show has really empowered me to sing with my own authentic voice. I love singing Kate Bush and Julie Andrews’ songs too and enjoy the vocal gymnastics of switching between styles.” 

Did you have to re-find your voice after the operation for the cysts?

“I did a month of vocal therapy six times a day. The minimum recovery time from surgery is four weeks and I only had four weeks and a day before opening in Julie Madly Deeply in Toronto, so I had to focus entirely on getting match fit.

“The first time I sang after the operation it was like night and day from singing pre-surgery. My voice has been strong and happy since then and I’ve never looked back.” 

Describe a singer’s fear of being treated as damaged goods after an operation…

“At the time I felt vulnerable and also very angry because I knew it wasn’t true. It was someone else’s idea which I had absorbed. Singers get injuries just like athletes and there was no reason for me to feel any different.

“What happens to us is not our shame and I should never have been made to feel embarrassed or that I needed to hide the truth. The Silent Treatment is my response to being told I needed to stay quiet about my experience. I believe it’s a story which needed to be told and I know I’m not alone in this.” 

“What the mind forgets, the body remembers,” you say. How have you dealt with that psychologically and physically?

“I’ve been through talking therapy and practice movement as part of my creative process. Our bodies have an incredible higher wisdom and if we listen to them, they will often guide us in the right direction.

“I’ve been mentoring a number of other artists recently and one of the things we explore is readiness to tell your story. Although the rehearsal room can feel therapeutic at times, the performer must be on the right side of therapy before they share that work with a paying audience.

“It must be safe for them and their public to perform the show. If it isn’t, in my opinion, then you might not be ready yet.”

The voice is the most vulnerable, personal, unpredictable instrument, even by comparison with a highly-strung guitar or piano. The only human instrument too.

Why are we not more understanding of its delicate nature for performers, who often pray to “Dr Theatre” to continue performing, as you did for so many years?

“Unless you are fortunate enough to have a laryngoscopy, the voice remains invisible to most people. It is a mysterious instrument and everyone’s voice is unique to them.

“I hope for the next generation of performers there will be more compassion and understanding moving forward,” says Sarah-Louise. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

“Some singers swear by gargling with cider vinegar, others smoke 20 cigarettes a day and still sing like an angel (although this isn’t a behaviour I endorse for obvious reasons).

“History also has fetishised singers who push themselves to the edge: Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Amy Winehouse, for example. How can these incredible voices come from such damaged people?

“We love watching people on the edge, on a tightrope, and when they fall, we make them martyrs for their art.

“It’s getting better for performers now, partly thanks to high-profile artists like Adele going public with their vocal challenges and partly, I think, because in general we’re waking up to the importance of looking after our mental health.

“Our voices and our well-being are intrinsically linked, and I hope for the next generation of performers there will be more compassion and understanding moving forward.

“I was chatting to the principal of an Australian musical theatre course recently and he told me they get all their students scoped in the first term, so not only do they see and understand their voices, but they also have a visual record for the rest of their careers to refer back to if they run into any difficulties.

“Had that been available to me all those years ago, I might have discovered my issue decades earlier.” 

Did your voice change after the cysts were removed?

“The tone and sound was the same, but it was much stronger and I don’t have any breathiness any more, even when I’m tired.” 

How does your voice behave now?

“It’s a joy to sing and I have no concerns whatsoever.” 

How do you take care of your voice on tour, at the Fringe etc?

“Out of habit from so many years of looking after myself, I tend not to drink alcohol when I’m working but that is as much about mental clarity as vocal care. I used to have acid reflux but I don’t any more, so I mainly focus on getting good sleep, staying hydrated and warming down after a show as well as warming up.” 

Are you off to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer?

“I’ll be there for the first week to bed-in two shows I’ve directed: Gertrude Lawrence – A Lovely Way To Spend An Evening, with Lucy Stevens, and Kravitz, Cohen, Bernstein And Me with Deb Filler. I’ll also be running a drop-in for solo performers on August 7, offering solidarity and support to artists on their own.” 

Sarah-Louise Young in The Silent Treatment, Theatre@41, Monkgate, tomorrow (16/7/2023), 7pm. Box office:

Music, fandom and mythology combine in Sarah-Louise Young’s chaotic cabaret cult show An Evening Without Kate Bush

“A bonkers triumph”: Sarah-Louise Young in An Evening Without Kate Bush

KATE Bush has never played York but here comes An Evening Without Kate Bush, Sarah- Louise Young’s show for uber-fans and newcomers alike, at Theatre@41, Monkgate, on Thursday night.

Made by actress, writer, director and international cabaret performer Young with theatre-maker Russell Lucas, this “chaotic cabaret cult” is as much about fandom and mythology as a celebration of Bush’s five decades of ground-breaking music, from the chart-topping Wuthering Heights at the age of 19 in 1978 to the 22-night run of her three-act Before The Dawn show at Hammersmith Apollo in 2014.

“My big brother’s first cerebral and physical crush was Kate Bush, and I do remember dancing madly to Wuthering Heights when I was four and a half, with four older brothers around me,” says Sarah-Louise.

“Hounds Of Love was my Kate Bush album, and I was a big fan of her videos; their theatricality was part of my genesis as a performer.”

Young and Lucas had first made a show together ten years ago, Julie Madly Deeply, in celebration of stage and screen actress Julie Andrews. “We wanted to make another show because we’d started to explore fans and fandom in the Julie show, and with Kate not performing for more than 30 years, we started thinking about doing a show focusing on Kate and her fans,” recalls Sarah Louise.

“Then suddenly she announced the Before The Dawn concerts, so we put it on ice. We both had tickets but had to give them away as we’d been invited to perform a three-week run of Julie Madly Deeply at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto.

“But the idea was still very hot and we thought, ‘let’s just make it’, coming up with the idea of wanting to make a piece of fan art about how Kate Bush might make a piece about her fans, with us creating a show we could perform out of suitcases.”

The resulting show is in the spirit of Kate Bush “but never trying to imitate her”, one where people often come out afterwards with their mouths open, saying “it’s not what I expected at all”…or asking Sarah-Louise if she does yoga exercises. The answer is No.

Kate Bush once said, “it’s not important to me that people understand me”. Indeed Sarah-Louise quotes a line from Graeme Thomson’s 2010 biography, Under The Ivy , that says “some people have found her easier to parody than to understand”, but An Evening Without Kate Bush is definitely not in that camp.

Rather than a parody, it is a deep dive seeking a deeper understanding of her music and mythology. “We nod to tribute shows, but then take a journey down the worm hole to show the flip side, the B-side, of Kate, where she keeps evolving and regenerating,” says Sarah-Louise.

What emerges is a “Chaotic Cabaret Cult”, as Young and Lucas define the show. “We came up with that phrase after we spent a lot of time at the start thinking about the audience experience, what they’ll get out of the show, and will it be fun for us?” says Sarah-Louise.

“I want chaos! ‘Cult’ was an ambitious idea, but it has turned into that, and cabaret, for me, encompasses all theatre genres, especially after the two years we’ve just had. The show is never the same twice.”

Each night is a transformative experience for Sarah-Louise. “I get spat out at the other end of the show,” she says,

Choosing songs was “immensely difficulty”, so much so that “we put it out on social media, asking people to tell us what songs they wouldn’t forgive us for not including”. “But we also didn’t want to make a show where they were all from the early era,” says Sarah-Louise. “And we had to look at what backing tracks were available, so we’ve done Hammer Horror and James And The Cold Gun afresh.”

She acknowledges that “for some people, Kate’s music is a quasi-religious experience”. “We learned a lot from our Julie Madly Deeply show, where people bring their childhood memories to it; their love of The Sound Of Music and Mary Poppins, and that was very helpful in creating this show,” says Sarah-Louise.

“It was important that I was a fan but also a theatre-maker who could step away from that, so that the show works for both super-fans and those who aren’t.

“It’s a celebration of fans and their experiences, made from a place of respect because I was aware that people wanted their love to be respected and affirmed. They love her epic themes, and that is what art should do: give us a portal to understand ourselves.”

An Evening Without Kate Bush takes on a different life each night: “There’s another show going on that’s not in my control,” says Sarah-Louise. “People bring their history and their love; how lucky I am to have those experiences in the room.”

One review has called it “a bonkers triumph”. “I’m very, very happy with that! Those two words – ‘bonkers triumph’ – work so well together because it is in part a clown show that allows that side of Kate to come through, as well as showing respect.”

An Evening Without Kate Bush, but with Sarah-Louise Young, at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday (28/4/2022), 7.30pm. Box office:

Sarah-Louise Young in Kate Bush mode: Note the red shoes

HERE is the official syndicated interview with Sarah-Louise Young for even more insight into An Evening Without Kate Bush, a show heading out on tour after a three-week London season.

What attracted you to Kate Bush as the possible subject for the show? 

“I’ve aways loved Kate Bush’s music and as a child of the ’70s and 80s remember that first appearance on Top Of The Pops and all those amazing videos and songs which followed.  Plus my brother fancied her a bit, so her music was always floating through the house. 

“Kate Bush is a true icon: her music is unique, spanning nearly five decades, winning countless awards and selling millions of records, but the woman herself is something of an enigma.

“Not performing live for over 30 years between her 1979 Tour Of Life and 2014’s Before The Dawn at the Hammersmith Apollo, she spoke to us through her recorded music. 

“In her physical absence, her fans created their own community: ‘The Fish People’. They are at the heart of An Evening Without Kate Bush. 

“We wanted to celebrate them through her music. That was the starting point of making the show.” 

Do you try to impersonate Kate in the show? 

“I never set out to impersonate her – I mean who could? – but it’s amazing how many people tell me I sound like her though. A few fans thought I was miming at the start of the show!” 

How hard is it to sing in Kate’s extraordinary vocal range?

“It’s definitely a vocally athletic workout! She sang them all live back in 1979, apart from Hammer Horror – a song we do in the two-act touring version of An Evening Without Kate Bush – so there’s no excuse not to do the same.

“What you hear on the albums is months of intricate layering of harmonies and different instruments, so it’s a more raw sound on stage, of course. 

“I perform all the songs in their original keys, and I think part of it is that she chose such specific phrasing and wrote such intricate melodies, hearing them instantly hot-wires you back to the original.” 

How did you prepare the movement aspect of your show?

“I spent one day working with the amazing Tom Jackson Greaves, who is a director and choreographer. We watched a lot of her videos and noted down some of her choices.

“We explored those in our session; again, never trying to ‘be’ her, more tap into her spirit. Quite by accident, the nicknames we came up with for her moves (‘The Pulse’, ‘The Champagne Whipcrack’, for example) found their way into the show.

“That’s often how it happens with devised work: you become a sponge for every impulse and they jostle around your head during the making process until they either find a home or float off into the ether.

“With the costumes too, my brilliant co-creator, Russell Lucas, and I tried to evoke her, not copy her. We rub shoulders with themes: she uses a lot of nature and bird imagery in her work, hence the feathery headdress.

“The cleaner’s outfit for This Woman’s Work is as much a nod to the cleaner’s story we mention at the start of the show, as it is to her TV special appearance where Kate sang Army Dreamers dressed as a cleaner or archetypal vintage housewife. That’s one for the super-fans.

“We did of course watch a lot of footage, interviews, videos, everything we could find, to get to know her journey as an artist and also how the world around her changed.

“Her early interviews are so uncomfortable. She is often being asked truly banal or overtly sexualised questions. She is so polite and accommodating but it’s great to see her later on in her career take the reins and shut down lines of enquiry that show the interviewers have no idea what they’re talking about.

“I also read the brilliant biography by Graeme Thomson called Under The Ivy. It’s the best music biography I’ve ever read and really lets you into her creative process.”

Do you need to know Kate’s music and be a super-fan to enjoy An Evening Without Kate Bush?

“Absolutely not. It’s one of the biggest compliments the show has received. Of course, if you are a super-fan, you’ll hear lots of the songs you know and love plus some little hidden gems for those in-the-know.

“But none of that is at the expense of the audience members who have perhaps come along with a fan friend or just out of curiosity. We elevate and celebrate everyone and when someone tells me after the show that they didn’t know her work but will be going home to listen to her music, then I’m thrilled.” 

Your show encourages interaction. How does that work?

“It’s as interactive as you want it to be. I’ve been working in cabaret for over 20 years and my primary aim is that the audience have a good time. It’s great to be challenged and surprised, but I want them to feel safe. That’s really important to me. 

“The invitation to participate starts small, a wave of a hand or a howl in the dark. I’m always really careful with any audience interaction to choose people who want to participate. There’s no enforced joining in; just gentle encouragement.

“I find that people self-select pretty easily. If someone doesn’t want to play, their body language communicates that. So far, I’ve never chosen anyone who didn’t want to be asked and I’ve had people come up to me after the show and fling their arms around me with gratitude.

“There’s a lovely moment where I invite a couple to dance together. During our Edinburgh Fringe run, we had a mum and her son come and dance, which reduced the whole room to tears, and in London, a couple who’d recently broken up but wanted to stay friends joined us on stage: they sought me out afterwards to say thank you. Our audiences have been brilliant. There is always so much love in the room. 

“Russell Lucas and I were inspired by Kate Bush flashmobs and events like The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever, which have sprung up around the world, from Sydney, Australia to Folkestone, Kent. We’ve taken fans’ stories and paid tribute to them on stage. You’ll enjoy the songs you know and love but put through the lens of the fans’ story. 

Sarah-Louise Young in her headdress from Denmark, the first costume piece of costume she bought for An Evening Without Kate Bush

After the opening song, And Dream Of Sheep, you say, “She’s not here but you are”! How would you feel if the real Kate Bush were in the audience? Would you want to know in advance?

“We would absolutely LOVE it if she came to see the show, although she’d have to wear a disguise as I think the audience would capsize if they knew she was in.

“When we were making it, we always knew we wanted it to be something she would approve of – so it’s been created with love, respect and a hefty does of joyful eccentricity! 

“Friends of hers have seen it and loved it, and in Chichester I had the great privilege of meeting one of her original Tour Of Life backing singers, Glenys Groves.

“She was so enthusiastic about the piece and is still in touch with Kate, so you never know…we might yet have an evening WITH Kate Bush one of these days!”

Your show focuses on Kate’s fans worldwide. Who are the most bizarre you came across?

“Kate Bush’s fans are really friendly and open! People have shared so many incredible and personal stories with me: there’s the man who proposed to his wife to The Kick Inside; the young lad who found the courage to come out to his parents after listening to Wow, and the couple who chose Don’t Give Up as the first dance at their wedding.

“We’ve been touring a two-act version of this show around the country, with even more costume changes, so I’m able to weave some of these new stories into the next night’s performance.

“We’ve also heard from fans who went to see every single Tour Of Life date, have tattoos of her lyrics on their arms, and folk who come to the show dressed as her. 

Does the show change each night depending on the audience’s reactions?

“No two shows are the same and I love that. It keeps it fresh and alive. 

I ask the audience what their favourite songs are or what’s brought them to the theatre and then weave their stories into the evening’s entertainment. 

“We call it a ‘chaotic cabaret cult’ and it really is! It’s playful, anarchic, touching, hot and sweaty and full of music and laughter. 

“Imagine if Kate Bush made a tribute show about her fans and you come close to capturing the spirit of An Evening Without Kate Bush. Even if you just howl with the hounds or wave a hand in the air, you are still part of the experience. 

“I love hearing people’s stories and I always come out into the foyer afterwards to chat to anyone who wants to stay and talk. The audience really make this show.” 

How difficult was it to decide which songs to include?

“It was a massive challenge as there are many across such a huge time span. Inevitably there are lots from her early albums. The Kick Inside and Hounds Of Love are a lot of people’s favourites and first experience of her work.

“When we were making the show, we ran a poll on social media to see what songs people wouldn’t forgive us for not including! But we still had to leave some out. I adore Deeper Understanding and Under The Ivy, for example, but if we put them all in, it would be longer than The Ring Cycle! 

“We take well-known songs like This Woman’s Work and Cloudbusting and give them a twist. So, if you come to see An Evening Without Kate Bush, you might find yourself suddenly singing backing vocals or slow dancing with your partner at the school disco.

“If you speak Russian, you might enjoy joining in with my version of Babooshka! The longer touring version allows us to include some surprises like her cover of Sexual Healing and a little slice of Pi. 

Do you have a favourite moment in the show?

“I love the moment, usually about half way through Don’t Give Up, when the couple dancing on stage have realised they basically get to hug for six minutes and after some expected clowning about, just start to relax and enjoy the opportunity to be close.

“The audience is often singing with me and it’s a lovely moment of coming together. At the end of the song, I thank them and guide them carefully to their seats and they often say a big thank you or lean in for a hug. 

“I guess my favourite parts are when something spontaneous or unexpected happens as a result of some audience interaction. They keep me on my toes and anything unique to that gathering of people reminds them and me that this night, this configuration of people, will never happen again. It’s special. I like theatre which is made with love and danger; that excites me.” 

What’s your favourite costume in the show?

“The feathered headdress I’m wearing in the poster is very special. We found that in Denmark and it was the first piece of costume we bought.

“The whole show is made from scratch, so I hand-made my Vileda super-mop costume, and the Snowflake headdress I wear at the top of Act Two took me about two solid days to stitch, so I love to because it was such a triumph of experience over skill in the making.”

Why is Kate so intriguing to so many people after all the decades?

“Her fans have travelled with her and as she has evolved as an artist, she has become the soundtrack to their lives. That’s my oven-ready hypothesis. I also think she influenced so many other artists that the whole music scene is steeped in her musical juices, as it were.

“She was one of the first people to experiment with the Fairlight, she mastered complex sampling of vocals, including the Trio Bulgarka from Hungary, and if you read the list of pop royalty lining up to play a couple of bars on her albums, everyone wants to work with her.

“She never shied away from writing about the largeness of life either, epic themes, the loneliness of love, the wonder of creation, the sensuality of being human.

“Her albums are somewhere you can climb inside and dream in. She’s one of us and yet totally Other. She’s a tea-drinking mum and an Ivy Glad Goddess.” 

If you could ask Kater one thing, what would it be?

“‘Please would you come and see our show?’. I feel like she’s said what she needs to say in her music. Perhaps I’d just ask her if she’d like a cup of tea and we’d see what happens next.”

Sarah-Louise Young: actress, writer, director, cabaret performer…and Kate Bush fan

This woman’s work: Who is Sarah-Louise Young?

Actress, writer, director and international cabaret performer. She has appeared in London’s West End with Julie Madly Deeply, Fascinating Aïda, La Soirée and Olivier-winning improvised musical group The Showstoppers.

Named one of Time Out’s Top Ten Cabaret Acts and voted Best Musical Variety Act in the London Cabaret Awards, she has been nominated for an Offie too and awarded The Stage Award for Acting. She is one half of writing and performing duo Roulston & Young, at present creating a new musical, Maxa, The Most Assassinated Woman In The World.

She directed Mark Farrelly in Jarman and Paulus in Looking For Me Friend, The Music Of Victoria Wood and has directed Russell Lucas in his solo show The Bobby Kennedy Experience.

More Things To Do in and around York when Wrong is the right choice. Magical List No.79, courtesy of The Press, York

Mind games: Beverley actor Rory Fairbairn as the Mind Mangler in Magic Goes Wrong, on tour at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday

MAGIC is on the cards in the week ahead, and you can’t wrong if you follow Charles Hutchinson’s tips for what else to do and see.

Mayhem in April: Mischief in Magic Goes Wrong, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Sunday, 7.30pm (except Sunday); 2pm, Thursday and Sunday, 2.30pm, Saturday

MASTERS of catastrophic comedy Mischief team up with deconstructionist American magicians Penn & Teller for Magic Goes Wrong, their most daring calamitous show yet.

When a hapless gang of magicians strive to stage an evening of grand illusion to raise cash for charity, magic turns to mayhem, accidents spiral out of control and so does their fundraising target. Penn & Teller will not be appearing on stage. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Kristin Hersh: Fronting her Electric Trio at The Crescent

Cult gig of the week: Kristin Hersh Electric Trio, The Crescent, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

BOSTON songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and author Kristin Hersh, leader of indie rock band Throwing Muses and noise rock power trio 50 Foot Wave, is on the road with her hard-hitting super-group.

Joining Hersh, 55, will be 50 Foot Wave drummer Rob Ahlers and Throwing Muses bassist Fred Abong, who opens the night playing solo, promoting his Yellow Throat album. Expect Throwing Muses’s 2020 album, Sun Racket, to feature alongside material spanning Hersh’s 30-year career. Box office:

Improvising a musical: Showstoppers Ruth Bratt, left, Lauren Shearing and Pippa Evans with Duncan Walsh Atkins, on keys, and Chris Ash on reeds. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

Anything could happen: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, York Theatre Royal, tonight, 7.30pm

OLIVIER Award winners Showstopper! return to York with…well, you decide! At each show, a new musical comedy is created from scratch as audience suggestions are transformed on the spot into an all-singing, all-dancing production.

From Hamilton in a hospital to Sondheim in the Sahara, you suggest it and The Showstoppers will sing it. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Blues power: Guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor returns to York Barbican

Blues gig of the week: Joanne Shaw Taylor, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

WEST Midlands blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Joanne Shaw Taylor plays York as one of five British dates this month, performing songs from 2021’s The Blues Album.

That album showcased covers of 11 rare blues classics first recorded by Albert King, Peter Green, Little Richard, Magic Sam, Aretha Franklin and Little Milton. Expect selections from her albums Reckless Heart, Wild, The Dirty Truth, Almost Always Never, Diamonds In The Dirt and White Sugar too. Box office:

Gabrielle Sargent: Soprano soloist for York Guildhall Orchestra’s St George’s Day concert

Celebration of the week: York Guildhall Orchestra’s St George’s Day Concert, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra make their JoRo debut under the baton of conductor Simon Wright, who turns the spotlight on English composers in an Anglophile programme of light music to mark St George’s Day.

“Come down for a springtime evening of joyful music and not a dragon in sight,” says Wright, who will be combining favourite pieces with lesser-known gems. Sullivan, Elgar and Handel feature; so do Strachy’s Party Mood (from Housewives’ Choice), Wood’s Barwick Green (The Archers) and Coates’s By The Sleepy Lagoon (Desert Island Discs). Box office: 01904 501935 or

One giant leap for Lee Harris’s Mr Toad during rehearsals for NE Musicals York’s York premiere of The Wind In The Willows The Musical

Family musical of the week: NE Musicals York in The Wind In The Willows The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, April 27 to May 1, 7.30pm; 2.30pm matinees, Saturday, Sunday

NE Musicals York transform the JoRo theatre into a riverbank and wildwood for director and designer Steve Tearle’s York premiere of Julian Fellowes’ stage adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s story with a score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

Join Ratty (Finlay Butler), Mole (Jack Hambleton), Badger (Tom Henshaw) and the impulsive Mr Toad (Lee Harris), whose insatiable need for speed lands him in serious bother. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Horse Chestnut Leaves, a watercolour by Selby artist Lynda Heaton, from her Village Gallery exhibition in York

Exhibition launch of the week: Lynda Heaton, Expressions In Watercolour, Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, Tuesday to June 4

SINCE retiring, Selby artist Lynda Heaton has spent much of her time painting in her home studio. “I’m passionate about watercolour painting and love the way the colours mingle and move across the paper, sometimes giving surprising effects,” she says.

“My works come from my imagination or from memories of somewhere I’ve been and the mood of that place.” Other pieces are inspired by the natural world, the colours, textures and rhythms found in nature.

Diversity performing Connected in their April 4 performance at York Barbican. Picture: Sarah Hollis

Quick return of the week: Diversity: Connected, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.45pm

HOT on the heels of their April 4 visit, London street dancers Diversity return to York Barbican due to public demand as part of their 79-show 2022 tour.

In a show created by choreographer Ashley Banjo, the 2009 Britain’s Got Talent winners will be building their routines around the internet, social media, the digital era and how it connects us all. Their Black Lives Matter-inspired dance, premiered on Britain’s Got Talent to a flood of complaints to Ofcom in September 2020, definitely features. Box office:

This woman’s re-work: Sarah-Louise Young in An Evening Without Kate Bush at Theatre@41

An Evening Without Kate Bush but with Sarah-Louise Young, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York,  Thursday, 7.30pm

THE “chaotic cabaret cult”, An Evening Without Kate Bush”, finds Cabaret Whore, The Showstoppers, La Soiree performer Sarah-Louise Young teaming up theatre maker Russell Lucas to explore the music and mythology of one of the most influential voices in British music.

Kate’s not there, but you are, for a show that is as much about fandom as Bush’s songs and wider cultural impact. Box office: