REVIEW: York Settlement Community Players in Government Inspector, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York ****

Mike Hickman as the insufferable Mayor in Settlement Players’ Government Inspector. All pictures: Sarah Ford

GOVERNMENT Inspector is to be confused with The Government Inspector. As was A Government Inspector, Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s Russian malarkey for Northern Broadsides in 2012.

David Harrower’s take on Gogol’s 1836 political satire dates from a year earlier and was the choice of Alan Park, dynamic actor and even more dynamic Theatre@41 chair, when picked to direct Settlement Players’ autumn production in his first time back in the director’s seat in 15 years.

McAndrew shifted the council shenanigans from small-town 19th century Russia to the small-town Pennines. Harrower keeps the Russian locale but moves Gogol’s cautionary tale of bribes, backhanders, brown envelopes and bent practices to the crumbling Soviet days of the 1980s, although its digs at corporate cronyism and rotten eggs could be directed at any complacent, corrupt, smug local authority, any time, any place, anywhere.

Sonia Di Lorenzo’s Bobchinsky, left, Katie Leckey’s Dobchinsky, Paul Osborne’s School Superintendent and Mark Simmonds’s Head of Hospitals all suck up to Andrew Roberts’s Khlestakov in Government Inspector

Park’s design team of Richard Hampton and Stephen Palmer favour the greys and dour blocks of Russian Brutalism in a minimalist set of one chair and desk.

Faded Soviet Union graffiti is splattered on the walls of the traverse stage, drapes and beading put the red into Russia, while costume duo Judith Ireland and Grace Trapps have fun with Eighties’ shell-suits and track suits, braces, bright shirts, ghastly ties and clashing bold-checked jackets. All topped off by shoulder pads for the high fashions of the Mayor’s wife, Anna, (Alison Taylor) and daughter Maria (Pearl Mollison, returning to the boards after several years backstage stage-managing productions).

Park’s show may be of Shakesperean length – even the cast was conceding the first half was too long on the first night, as the clock ticked towards three hours – but it nevertheless moves at a fair old lick, led by Mike Hickman’s frenetic Mayor.

Competitive mother and daughter: Alison Taylor’s Anna, the Mayor’s wife, in a power-dressing clash with Pearl Mollison’s Maria

The running time could have been shortened by not inserting a town band to perform deadpan dollops of Eighties’ hits, but that would have taken away from one of the primary joys of Park’s perky production, led by musical director Jim Paterson’s Buster Keaton-faced interjections and sometimes silent bewilderment.

Patterson has his moment in the sunshine too when called on to read the lines of a serf, book in hand, humorously growing into the role the more confident he becomes, in the tradition of a chorus line conversion to a principal.

His keep-it-simple keyboards and quickfire hop on to guitar are joined by Adam Sowter’s deliberately cheesy Eighties’ flourishes on keys, Matt Pattison’s guitar and Florence Poskitt’s accordion. Pattison and Poskitt’s interval rendition of Islands In The Stream is a particular delight, stripped of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton’s big-haired country romanticism.

A note of concern: Adam Sowter’s Police Superintendent, left, and Mark Simmonds’s Head of Hospitals discover the latest revelation from Matt Pattison’s Postmaster’s habit of opening mail

Patterson, Pattison and Poskitt are part of a cast that puts the emphasis on the ensemble, on comedy teamwork, but with room for individual flair and double-act tomfoolery to shine too.

Hickman is on a hot streak after his mysterious, cunning Captain Philip Lombard’s in Pick Me Up Theatre’s And Then There Were None last month, and here his corrupt character goes from over-confident to nervous wreck, as unloved as Malvolio.

November’s Movember campaign to cultivate moustaches to raise awareness of men’s health issues may still be around the corner, but Park’s coterie of men have done so already, from Hickman and Patterson to Mark Simmonds’s Head of Hospitals, Sowter’s biscuit-dipping, tea-drinking Police Superintendent and Paul Osborne’s School Superintendent, who receives a standing ovation after a piece of flustered comic invention involving choking on a cigar in the form of a kazoo.

Shopkeepers at the treble: Alexandra Mather, left, Adam Sowter and Florence Poskitt

Matt Pattison’s full-of-wonder/snooping Postmaster and Paul French’s lackey Osip were already fully bearded as their programme mugshots reveal.

In Shakespeare master-and-servant tradition, French’s Osip is doing the bidding for Andrew Roberts’s Khlestakov, the “government inspector” of Gogol’s play, or so all the town assumes when sent into a panic by news of his imminent arrival. 

Roberts, with his moustache from a matinee-idol cigarette card and Terry-Thomas air, is a dapper chancer, with comic timing and humorous physicality that revels in his ascension to the lead role.

Judging the moment: Maggie Smales’s Judge in Government Inspector

Spot-on casting all round by Park, from Taylor’s vainglorious Anna and Mollison’s preening Maria, to Maggie Smales’s corruptible Judge, Poskitt’s quick switches from gormless Shopkeeper to Mishka and Alexandra Mather’s trio of wide-eyed cameos.

Forever arguing with each other’s account of what’s happening, landowners Dobchinsky and Bobchinsky receive the clowning treatment from Irish-accented University of York theatre MA student Katie Leckey in her Settlement debut and Sonia Di Lorenzo in her Settlement return after a seven-year hiatus. These shell-suit shockers are one of many reasons to inspect Government Inspector, sent from Russia with gloves off.

Performances are at 7.30pm tonight (27/10/2023); 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrow. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Aghast again: Musical director Jim Patterson in Government Inspector

From Russia with gloves off as Settlement Players run riot in Government Inspector

Director Alan Park, back row, right, and his ensemble cast for Government Inspector at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York. Picture: John Saunders

THEATRE@41 chair and actor Alan Park is in the director’s seat for the first time in 15 years, steering the York Settlement Community Players through the Russian political quagmire of Government Inspector.

David Harrower’s adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s satirical exposé of hypocrisy and corruption in high places will run from tomorrow at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, where Park’s ensemble cast of eccentrics will undertake a fun, chaotic journey through 1980s’ Soviet Russia in a plot rooted in a simple case of mistaken identity.

“Communism is collapsing, it’s every man, woman and dog for themselves. What could possibly go wrong?” asks Alan, as the bureaucrats of a small Russian town are sent into a panic by news of the government inspector’s imminent arrival.

Harrower’s version premiered at the Warwick Arts Centre in May 2011 and transferred to the Young Vic, London, later that year. Now it provides “the perfect platform” for Settlement Players’ 14-strong ensemble.

”Directing this production came out of me having performed Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing with Settlement at the Theatre Royal Studio in February,” says Alan.

“I enjoyed the acting company, the production team and the whole creative process so much that when the call-out came for a director this autumn, I was keen to do a play with lots of actors.

“There are some incredibly talented actors in York, and I wanted to do something that would bring the best out of them as an ensemble, playing loads of parts, and I needed a play that would facilitate that.”

Gogol’s Government Inspector was suggested to him, and once he came across Harrower’s adaptation, it was the perfect fit. “David’s version is fun, it’s fast-moving; the dialogue zips along, and it really lends itself to these 14 actors, who have created the community of this Russian town, where they are all out for their own interests only…and then discover the government inspector is coming to town,” says Alan.

He last directed a play in his professional acting days in London, where he ran workshops and oversaw youth productions. “I’ve been looking to do something for a while, but there has never been the window of opportunity, as I have a full-time job as well as running Theatre@41 and performing in plays.” He is a father too. “My kids look at me and wonder who I am!” he says.

He has revelled in directing Harrower’s script. “I looked at a few adaptations as I wanted to find a good translation, and this one stood out. Julian Barratt, from The Mighty Boosh, was in the Young Vic production, and this was the script that I couldn’t put down. It told the plot really well and suited what I wanted to do.”

Going flat out: York Settlement Community Players’ cast members in rehearsal for this week’s riotous production of Government Inspector. Director Alan Park looks on, left. Picture: John Saunders

Settlement Players’ staging of Government Inspector comes against the backdrop of Putin’s stultifying dictatorship and warmongering. “We can’t get away from it being a Russian play! It’s a great satire on Russia, and there’s never been a better time to poke fun at what Russia still appears to stand for.

“Harrower has set it in the late-1980s, when everything was crumbling in Russia, and if we’re making any comment on Russia, it is that the whole thing is ridiculous. There’s no way anyone would think that the Russian way is the best way forward.”

Rather than attempting Russian accents, Alan has encouraged his cast members to use their own accents. “I was inspired to do that by the Chernobyl TV series,” he says.

In choosing that cast, Alan was keen to avoid holding auditions with three faces staring out from behind a desk. “Instead we had workshops, playing games, and went from there,” he says.

“There will be familiar actors, but not necessarily in familiar roles, like Andrew Roberts, who’s not done big roles before, playing Khlestakov [the inspector’s role]. Mike Hickman, who was in The Real Thing, is a fabulously instinctive performer, who just gets it straightway, and he’s perfect for the Mayor, who’s losing his grip on everything and gradually losing control.

“He’s also a massive fan of Tony Hancock, who appeared in The Government Inspector in 1958, and so he’s delighted to be doing this play.”

Adam Sowter and Florence Poskett, from the York musical comedy duo Fladam, have amusing cameo roles as the Police Superintendent and Mishka respectively, while University of York drama student Katie Leckey will bring her physical comedy skills to Dobchinsky and Pearl Mollison steps out from the wings to play the Mayor’s daughter after several years of stage managing shows.

Musical director Jim Paterson will lead a live band, made up of cast members, such as Matt Pattison on guitar, Sowter on keyboards and Poskitt on accordion, through a liberal dose of Eighties’ rock ballads.

Judith Ireland’s costume designs, all Eighties’ tracksuits, suits and shoulder pads, will complement a Brutalist set of grey blocks and faded Russian graffiti.

“My main aim is that the production should be actor led, and I’m always keen for a set to let the actors do what they want,” says Alan. “That’s why there’ll just be the blocks, and slogans on every wall, with Russian propaganda to represent the decaying town.”

York Settlement Community Players in Government Inspector, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow (24/10/2023) to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

REVIEW: Pick Me Up Theatre in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, until Sat ****

And then there were ten: standing, Mark Simmonds, left, Martyn Hunter, Mike Hickman, Andrew Roberts, Ian Giles, Rory Mulvihill and Andrew Isherwood; seated, Jeanette Hunter, left, Florence Poskitt and Jessica Murray, in Pick Me Up Theatre’s And Then There Were None

NOT to be mistaken for Lucy Bailey’s “21st century reinvention” of Agatha Christie’s best-selling crime novel, bound for the Grand Opera House in November, this is the first of three Pick Me Up productions, made in York, one per month, this autumn.

For the record, Pick Me Up producer Robert Readman secured the rights for staging And Then There Were None before the Fiery Angel, ROYO and Royal & Derngate co-production emerged over the horizon.

He had put in place an autumn season to show off all the talents at Pick Me Up’s disposal: experienced hands for the “straight play”, Christie’s posh house party thriller; blossoming youths in The Worst Witch in late-October, and musical comedy exponents in Mel Brooks’s Young Frankenstein the following week.

Readman is a Christie aficionado – he could pick her as his specialist subject for Mastermind – but decided to spread the directorial workload for the season ahead, having already cast And Then There Were None before the handing the reins to cast member Andrew Isherwood to steer a film noir-style nail biter.

Law and order: Rory Mulvihill’s judge, Sir Lawrence Wargrave, left, and Andrew Isherwood’s Detective William Henry Blore

Readman will direct Young Frankenstein, preceded by Rosy Rowley overseeing The Worst Witch, but his creativity is at play in And Then There Were None too in his design for a Christie murder mystery set in 1939 with Europe on the brink of war.

Christie had talked of a bleak house that should feel like it had long been empty, furnished but stark and unwelcoming. Readman, with his collector’s eye for acquiring props, furniture, costumes and more besides at his Chicken Sheds warehouse in Bubwith, delivers the period look to the T. 

Furniture from a friend’s house move, tick. A redundant fireplace from another friend’s refurb, tick. The glass-framed doors from York Theatre Royal’s production of Private Lives, tick. The ten little soldier boy models, from Readman’s research, tick. An Ercol chair from the Readman family stock, tick.

He assembles them on an end-on/side on set that dominates the Theatre@41 black box, deliberately so to give Isherwood’s production an oppressive, claustrophobic air. There will be no escape from Soldier Island, off the Devon Coast, for the eight house guests, butler and his housekeeper wife, assembled there at the intriguing invitation of a certain Mr and Mrs U N Owen (whose identity and whereabouts shall indeed remain unknown).

Passing judgement: Jessica Murray’s Emily Brent vents her spleen at Florence Poskitt’s Vera Claythorne in And Then There Were None

One by one, they are introduced to the audience, first the husband-and-wife staff Rogers and Mrs Rogers, played by husband-and-wife Martyn and Jeanette Hunter, Martyn delightfully understated, Jeanette gone, spoiler alert, all too soon.

Not before Rogers follows instructions to play a sternly delivered recording that declares all of them to have a wicked past and a secret destined to seal their fate, each being marked for murder.

As the weather turns thunderous, cutting the island rock off from the mainland, let the bloodbath begin, the toy soldiers disappearing one by one with each murder, in accordance with the lines of a sinister nursery rhyme on display above the mantelpiece.

Andrew Roberts has a cameo, West Country accent and all as Fred Narracott, delivering the guests to the island, before re-emerging as spiffing, fast-living, flippant Anthony Marston. Florence Poskitt’s outwardly level-headed but on-edge Vera Claythorne is welcoming guests on the Owens’ behalf; Mike Hickman’s devil-may-care Captain Philip Lombard likes to be seen keeping spirits up and his spirit intake up even higher.

What the butler saw or did he? Martyn Hunter’s Rogers and Jeanette Hunter’s Mrs Rogers in And Then There Were None

Andrew Isherwood soon sheds the dodgy accent of his cover as a wealthy South African, Davis, to be revealed as retired Detective William Henry Blore.

Ian Giles’s old boy, General MacKenzie, appears to be losing his marbles; Jessica Murray’s disapproving religious zealot Emily Brent knits feverishly, and Mark Simmonds’ Dr Armstrong is as earnest as brown bread.

Rory Mulvihill’s Sir Lawrence Wargrave is wont to dominate, a judge by profession, with a  permanent black-cap countenance and a voice that commands the stage and those around him alike.

Isherwood’s direction skilfully steers a path through dark humour, heightened tensions and chilling revelations, capturing Christie’s scathing dismissal of so many restrictive institutions, and his cast applies both light and increasing shade. 

Ian Giles’s General MacKenzie holds forth in And Then There Were None as Florence Poskitt’s Vera Claythone looks on quizzically

Hickman’s mysterious Lombard is particularly good at keeping up a front; Poskitt may be associated with wide-eyed, squishy faced comedy but here delves into disturbing inner turmoil, a revelation that affirms she should not be pigeonholed.

Mulvihill, latterly flourishing in diverse roles beyond his musical theatre leading-man prowess, is in terrific form once more, his grave Wargrave judging everyone to damnation.  

Will Nicholson and Adam Coggin’s lighting blends in just right with each scene’s tone and Readman’s scenery in Isherwood’s engrossing production that benefits from one other Readman decision: replacing the play’s happier ending with the novel’s original darker denouement, with permission from the Christie estate. Right again, Robert.

Performances: 7.30pm nightly, plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Pick Me Up Theatre’s poster artwork for And Then There Were None

And now there are ten as Pick Me Up Theatre announces September cast for Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. UPDATED 18/9/2023

Pick Me Up Theatre’s poster for September’s production of And Then There Were None at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

1939. Europe teeters on the brink of war. Eight strangers receive an intriguing invitation to a posh house party on Soldier Island, an isolated rock near the Devon coast.

These house guests are to be met by the butler and his housekeeper wife…And Then There Were Ten, but not for long.

So begins Agartha Christie’s groundbreaking whodunit And Then There Were None, to be staged by York company Pick Me Up Theatre under Andrew Isherwood’s direction at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from September 22 to 30.

Grave expression: Rory Mulvihill, cast as Sir Lawrence Wargrave, the retired judge, in And Then There Were None

What the guests have in common is a wicked past that they are unwilling to reveal and a secret destined to seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. As the weather turns, the bloodbath begins and one by one they are brutally murdered in accordance with the lines of a sinister nursery rhyme.

“Cut off from the mainland, they are each accused of a terrible crime. When one of the party dies suddenly, they realise they may be harbouring a murderer among their number,” says producer Robert Readman. “The tension escalates as the survivors realise the killer is not only among them but also is preparing to strike again… and again.”

See Emily play up: Jess Murray, cast as “ruthlessly religious” knittijng fiend Emily Brent in And Then There Were None

Director Isherwood will be among Pick Me Up’s “fabulous cast of the county’s finest”, playing William Blore alongside Flo Poskitt’s Vera Claythorne; Mike Hickman’s Philip Lombard; Rory Mulvihill’s Sir Lawrence Wargrave; husband and wife Martyn and Jeannette Hunter’s butler Rogers and housekeeper wife Mrs Rogers; Andrew Roberts’s Anthony Marston; Ian Giles’s General John MacKenzie; Mark Simmonds’s Dr Edward Armstrong and Jess Murray’s Emily Brent.

Pick Me Up’s Facebook page is introducing Christie’s “motley characters” one by one in an on-going series. First up: meet Rory Mulvihill’s judge, Sir Lawrence Wargrave. “The Judge…you wouldn’t want to cross him,” forewarns Readman’s profile notes.

What the butler’s wife saw: Jeannette Hunter, picked to play housekeeper Mrs Rogers in Pick Me Up Theatre’s And Then There Were None

“Recently retired, he is intelligent, cold and commanding. During his years on the bench, he had a reputation as a ‘hanging judge’ – a judge who persuaded juries to bring back guilty verdicts and sentenced many convicted criminals to death. He should be right at home then.”

Next meet Jeanette Hunter’s Mrs Rogers. “She is the housekeeper in a big posh mansion where eight perfect strangers have been invited to spend the weekend by an unknown host. She is rather timid, has a dominating husband and she tells us she’s ‘always left to do the dirty work’,” says Readman.

Mysterious, confident, cunning: Mike Hickman’s Philip Lombard

“And there’s plenty of it in And Then There Were None but take nothing at face value in this twisty tale of murder and revenge! Jeanette’s character might not be all she seems.”

Step forward dodgy character number three: Jess Murray’s Emily Brent. “She is a ruthlessly religious woman who reads her Bible every day,” says Readman. “She might devour the good book – but her actions are anything but Christian. And she knits – like those ghouls from the guillotine!”

Does Martyn Hunter’s butler Thomas Rogers look shifty? Find out from September 22 to 25

Next up: Mike Hickman’s Philip Lombard. “A mysterious, confident and cunning man, we think he was maybe a mercenary soldier in Africa? Anyway, it looks like Mike Hickman isn’t about to take any prisoners in this role…Could he be the guilty one?” ponders Robert.

Who’s next? “Here comes Thomas Rogers…A respectable and reliable butler. Or is he? Don’t you think he looks a bit shifty? And Martin Hunter plays the part perfectly. Come and find out if he dunnit in Agatha Christie’s corking murder mystery,” says Robert.

Ian Giles’s General John Gordon McKenzie: “Upstanding”…or does that not stand up to appraisal?

How about Ian Giles’s General John Gordon Mackenzie? “He’s an upstanding military man – or is he?” asks Robert. “One of eight seemingly random guests invited to a mysterious house party in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, how could anyone think our Ian Giles could be the one wot dunnit?”

Who is Andrew Roberts playing? “This handsome devil (see below) is Anthony Marston: a rich, swanky guy who likes fast cars and fast living,” says Robert. “He seems to have no conscience but is he a murderer?”

If looks could kill…but is Andrew Roberts’s Anthony Marston the murderer in And Then There Were None

Back in York after an Edinburgh Fringe run in York musical comedy duo Fladam’s children’s show Green Fingers, Flo Poskitt takes the role of former governess Vera Claythorne, who comes to Soldier Island as secretary to fellow guest Mrs Owen.

“Flo’s Vera is clever and capable, but she is also super-nervy and suffers from attacks of hysteria, so don’t cross her off the murderer suspect list just yet,” says Robert.

“Clever and capable, but super-nervy too”: Flo Poskitt’s Vera Claythorne in And Then There Were None

“Don’t trust him – even though he’s a doctor,” he forewarns of any encounter with Mark Simmonds’s Dr Edward Armstrong. “The other seven guests certainly don’t. In fact Armstrong is high up the suspect list because – well, he knows media stuff, doesn’t he?! He could easily bump someone off (if he wasn’t always yearning after a large glass of scotch).

“So, is Mark Simmonds our man in And Then There Were None? If you’ve read Agatha Crhsistie’s book or seen the films, no spoilers please!”

High up on the suspect list: Mark Simmonds’s Dr Edward Armstrong

And now there are ten

INTRODCING retired Inspector William Henry Blore, director Andrew Isherwood ‘s on-stage contribution to And Then There Were None.

“He should know his way around a crime scene and be a dependable chap in a crisis – like the one ten strangers find themselves facing at a weird house party in Christie’s nail-biter,” says Robert. “But really…when the killing starts – is the former policeman your best hope?”

On closer inspection: Andrew Isherwood looks judgemental in his guise as retired Inspector William Henry Blore

Ten Little Soldiers: the back story of a sinister nursery rhyme

THIS epigraph appears at the start of Agatha Christie’s 1939 murder mystery novel, And Then There Were None, foretelling the ten deaths (spoiler alert!) that will occur on Soldier Island.

Ten Little Soldier Boys went out to Dine, one choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine  Little Soldier Boys stayed up very late; One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight  Little Soldier Boys travelling in Devon; One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven Little Soldier Boys chopping up sticks; One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six  Little Soldier Boys playing with a hive; A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five Little Soldier Boys going through a door; One stubbed his toe and then there were four.

Four Little Soldier Boys going out to sea; A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three Little Soldier Boys walking in the zoo; A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two Little Soldier Boys sitting in the sun; One got frizzled up and then there was One.

One  Little Soldier Boy left all alone; He went and hanged himself and then there were none. 

Did you know?

THE island and Art Deco hotel of the same name that inspired Agatha Christie to write both And Then There Were None and the Hercule Poirot mystery Evil Under The Sun are for sale at £15 million: namely Burgh Island, off the south Devon coast. The sale includes Christie’s beach house, where she wrote, on the cliff edge.

Pick Me Up Theatre in And Then There Were None, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, September 22 to 30. Performances: 7.30pm, September 22, 23, 26 to 30; 2.30pm, September 23, 24 and 30. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk. Recommended age: eight plus.

Fladam and their friends are up for a Saturday musical comedy hootenanny

Fladam musical comedy duo Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter

PUT York actors Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter together and they become Fladam, a musical comedy duo with a regular radio slot and a live show coming up at Theatre@ 41, Monkgate, York.

Make that two shows: Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny! will be performed at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Saturday (20/11/2021).

Devotees of York’s musical theatre and theatre scene will be familiar with Florence, northern character actress, comic performer, singer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist, and Adam, character actor, comic performer, pianist, harmonica and ukulele player, singer, composer, comedy songwriter and cartoonist.

A couple both on and off stage, they have branched out into presenting their own heartfelt, humorous songs, tackling the topical with witty wordplay, uplifting melodies and a dash of the Carry On! comic spirit.

“After our (almost) live debut at York Theatre Royal in the Love Bites nights in May, we’re coming home to host our very own Musical Comedy Hootenanny,” they say. “Enjoy special guests, fabulous Fladam originals and comic classics from Morecambe & Wise, Bernard Cribbins and Victoria Wood. What are you waiting for? ‘Let’s do it’!”

Fladam has progressed from bedroom to stage. “This is our first full-scale live show,” says Adam. “We’ve gone from recording videos of songs on phones from the corner of our bedroom in lockdown to doing it live, first with one number at Love Bites and now this show with friends.”

“With nowhere to rehearse, we’re rehearsing in the kitchen, to my parents’ delight,” says Florence.

Each Saturday, at 12.45pm, Fladam can be heard on Harry Whittaker’s show on BBC Radio York. “The challenge is to write a topical new song each week, recording it with an introduction, and sending it in on an MP3,” says Adam. “Simple as that!”

Fladam’s poster for Saturday’s shows at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

When Fladam met up with CharlesHutchPress, Adam and Florence had just spent half-term at Eureka!, the National Children’s Museum, in Halifax. “We spent a week being pirates, playing Captain Jack and Polly Roger in our Pirate Adventure,” says Florence.

“It came about through the company I work with when I do cruise ships,” says Adam. “They have many pies in the oven, including at Eureka!, where last year I played a vampire, Count Dracula, and they asked me, ‘Do you want to do another show?’ for half-term week.”

Yes, he would, albeit with only one day’s rehearsal with Florence. “We did the show four times a day, half an hour each show, starting with me doing a monologue, and by the Thursday my voice  had gone, so Adam had to go on and improvise!” says Florence, who studied last year on a year-long “Project A” course, run through Newcastle Theatre Royal, that ended up being conducted largely on Zoom under Covid restrictions.

“Though we did also get a lot of lessons on the main stage, wearing masks, as no productions could take place on there, but we couldn’t put on a single live show during the course.”

Now, Florence has a new day job at York Gin’s shop in Pavement, as well as her Fladam commitments, joined by three friends for this weekend’s shows: Alexandra Mather, fresh from playing Pamina in York Opera’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute; Andrew Isherwood, one of the Clowns in York Settlement Community Players’ illness-curtailed run of The 39 Steps last week, and Andrew Roberts, who starred in Rowntree Players’ modern account of Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web in late-September.

“When we were doing our little videos, we did a Dad’s Army section for VE Day, and had Andrew Roberts and Alex involved in that,” says Adam.

“Andrew Isherwood does a very good Tom Lehrer, as well as being like Eric Morecambe meets Rik Mayall.”

What’s in store on Saturday? “We’ll be doing plenty of comedy covers as well as our own songs, where we’ll plunder our archives and stuff we’ve done for Harry’s radio shows,” says Florence.

Adam Sowter, Florence Poskitt and Alexandra Mather in rehearsal for Saturday’s Fladam & Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny!

“We’ll be paying tribute to people who’ve inspired us, like Bernard Cribbins, Morecambe & Wise, George Formby, Victoria Wood and Monty Python…and maybe there’ll even be some puppets! Well, definitely a fish puppet, Mr Fish, for our spoof children’s show number.”

Adam adds: “One of the things we have to do is look at the old songs through 2021 eyes, acknowledging that a song is of its time, so we have to be a bit ‘woke’, like with Monty Python’s Lumberjack Song.

“Our set will be like a 1970s’ television special, with one side of the stage being like Eric and Ernie’s flat, and the show itself will be more like our little fantasy (as if you were watching Morecambe & Wise).

“Morecambe & Wise’s humour is so warm and lovely, and our style of humour is gentle too; we like to do songs that are clever and make you smile at the same time.”

Look out for a pantomime finale. “We’ll do a little pantomime from the songs we’d written for a panto last year that ended up being on a podcast, because of the Covid lockdown, after we were contacted to do a charity pantomime,” says Florence, who played Tommy the Cat, from Dick Whittington, while Adam played a full-of-beans Jack.

What is in the pipeline for Fladam in 2022? “We’ll see how this show goes and then look to develop it, possibly with a view to taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe next year, or maybe the year after, after we first planned to go to the Fringe two years ago, until Covid stopped that,” says Florence.

“We’re also looking to perform at At The Mill  at Stillington Mill, which we’d really love to do.”

Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny!, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, November 20, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.