IT is no secret that the arts haves been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As many theatres roll out their plans to “Build Back Better”, York community arts collective Next Door But One are focusing their support on the city’s freelancers, delivering another series of free professional development workshops.
Various UK surveys throughout the Covid pandemic have highlighted how seven out of ten parents and carers, nearly two thirds of disabled practitioners and 70 per cent of those who identify as being from a socioeconomically disadvantaged background are thinking they will need to leave their careers in the creative industries.
“These figures are extremely concerning for a number of reasons” says Next Door But One’s artistic director, Matt Harper-Hardcastle. “Not only is our own team created from these different artists, but without the correct continued investment, the arts risks taking huge steps backwards in respect of access, representation and diversity.
“As a small theatre company, dependent on the skilled freelancers within York, it is important we look after our people.”
Last year, Next Door But One ran their first programme of professional development, funded by Arts Council England, for 27 performing arts professionals, offering workshops on fundraising, facilitation, directing and scriptwriting, as well as group mentoring sessions and networking opportunities.
“Ninety per cent of participants on this programme had lost most of their freelance work, were struggling to secure new opportunities or had considered a change in career,” says associate director Kate Veysey.
“From our previous cohort, we supported many to secure future employment and to raise funds for their own projects (notably £50,000 in Develop Your Creative Practice funding through Arts Council England).
“But the overriding feedback was on the importance of Next Door But One creating a new network for participants to support one another through the difficult time of the pandemic. A network which is still helping people flourish.”
Next Door But One are now mounting a similar programme, Opening Doors, that hopes to do just that, says Matt. “If people need some direction, or support on what they should do next, or what might be possible for them; that’s what we hope to offer,” he reasons.
Opening Doors will begin this month (February 2022), funded by the City of York Council, York Centre for Voluntary Services and Make It York, and Next Door But One are looking for individuals to register their interest if engagement in this programme would be of use to them.
“The process is quick and open to any performing arts professional, from new graduates, emerging or re-emerging artists, or those who just need support to get back on their desired track, based in or around York,” says Matt.
“Some workshops will be in person, at the company’s new home of The Gillygate pub, in Gillygate, while others will be virtual and will be run by industry leading directors, producers, fundraisers, casting directors and playwrights.”
To register your interest, go to www.nextdoorbutone.co.uk or if you have any questions about the professional development programme, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are reading this, are thinking of registering your interest, but are still unsure, here is what one of last year’s participants said: “
NICK Lane’s adaptation of Frankenstein will be staged by Blackeyed Theatre at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre from February 9 to 12 as part of a national tour.
South Yorkshire playwright Lane has reinterpreted John Ginman’s original 2016 script for the Bracknell touring company, built around Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel set in Geneva in 1816, where Victor Frankenstein obsesses in the pursuit of nature’s secret, the elixir of life itself.
Alas, nothing can prepare him for what he creates, and so begins a gripping life-or-death adventure taking him to the ends of the Earth and beyond.
Blackeyed Theatre’s highly theatrical telling combines live music and ensemble storytelling with Bunraku-style puppetry to portray The Creature. Designed and built by Warhorse and His Dark Materials alumna Yvonne Stone, the 6ft 4inch puppet is operated by up to three actors at any one time, adding a new dimension to the retelling of the Frankenstein story.
Director Eliot Giuralarocca says: “For me, the beauty and excitement of theatre is that it’s live, unfolding in front of an audience as they watch, and the decision to make the creature a life-sized puppet – beautifully and painstakingly made by Yvonne Stone – seemed to fit perfectly with this approach.
“Frankenstein is obsessed with re-animating dead matter by finding the spark of creation, the ‘elixir of life’. We bring our creature to life theatrically, animating, manipulating and breathing life into the puppet right in front of the audience, and in doing so, I hope we present a lovely theatrical metaphor for the act of creation in the story itself and give audiences the chance to share in that creation.”
Victor Frankenstein will be played by Robert Bradley (Hedda Gabler, National Theatre, Joe Strummer Takes A Walk, Cervantes Theatre, Encounters With The Past, Hampton Court Palace).
Max Gallagher (Brief Encounter, Watermill Newbury, War Horse, National Theatre, Richard III, Northern Broadsides) reprises the role of Henry Clerval, while Benedict Hastings(Wolf Hall, Royal Shakespeare Company, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, Kenny Wax) plays Robert Walton.
Billy Irving (War Horse Tenth Anniversary Tour, National Theatre) is chief puppeteer and the voice of The Creature; Rose Bruford graduate Alice E Mayer makes her professional stage debut as Elizabeth Lavenza.
Writer Nick Lane, whose SJT winter production of Jack And The Beanstalk can be watched online until January 31 via sjt.uk.com, was associate director and literary manager at Hull Truck Theatre from 2006 to 2014.
Director Eliot Giuralarocca and puppetry creator and director Yvonne Stone are joined in the Blackeyed Theatre production team by composer Ron McAllister, musical director Ellie Verkerk, set designer Victoria Spearing, costume designer Anne Thomson and lighting designer Alan Valentine (whereas the 2016 production was lit by Charlotte McClelland).
Frankenstein is produced by Blackeyed Theatre in association with South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, with support from Arts Council England.
Performances in The Round at the SJT start at 7.30pm on February 9; 1.30pm and 7.30pm, February 10; 7.30pm, February 11, and 2.30pm and 7.30pm, February 12. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.
SAY Owt, York’s rowdy but loveable spoken-word and poetry gang, are bringing Bad Betty Press up north tonight for a 7.30pm bill of open-mic spots and featured wordsmiths at the Fulford Arms.
“Bad Betty Press are an independent publisher boasting some of the finest poets in the UK, and for this show we have open-mic spaces for poets local to York and surrounding towns and villages or people who have never performed with us before,” says Say Owt artistic director Henry Raby.
Tonight’s “super selection of super spoken worders” at the first Say Owt live event since December 2020 comprises York punk poet Crow Rudd and Bad Betty Poetry guests Kirsten Luckins and Tanatsei Gambura.
Crow Rudd (they/them) is a disabled nonbinary queer published poet and slam champion whose work focuses on mental health, grief, politics and the power of cuddles. Creator of Sad Poets Doorstep Club, founder of the UK Trans & Nonbinary Poets Network and reigning Stanza Slam champion, their debut collection ‘i am a thing of rough edges’ is out, published by Whisky & Beards.
Kirsten Luckins, a poet, performer and spoken word theatre-maker from the north-east coast, puts the emphasis on compassion and playfulness in her multi-artform, collaborative creative practice.
She has toured two award-nominated spoken-word shows and is a director, dramaturg and creative producer. She is artistic director of the Tees Women Poets collective and co-founder of the Celebrating Change digital storytelling project, where she teaches creative memoir writing.
Zimbabwean poet, intermedia artist and cultural practitioner Tanatsei Gambura was the runner-up in the inaugural Amsterdam Open Book Prize for the manuscript Things I Have Forgotten Before, published this year by Bad Betty Press.
Drawing from personal experience, her work explores the themes of black womanhood in the context of post-colonial immigration, global geopolitics and cultural identity. She is an alumnus of the British Council residency, These Images Are Stories, and her work has been recognised by United Nations Women and the Goethe Institut.
Say Owt’s always high-energy shows are supported by funding from Arts Council England. “Tonight’s event will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this October. Best of all, admission is free,” says Henry, who will co-host the show at the Fulford Arms, Fulford Road, with Stu Freestone.
IN The Open explores the impact of the Covid-19 public health crisis on artists and their creative practice in an open exhibition at Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, near Kirkbymoorside.
In 2021, in a desire to do something positive to support artists as the lockdown restrictions were lifted, the museum and artist Kane Cunningham came together to look at how artists were affected by the pandemic and how it changed their work.
The project finale is the exhibition of artistic responses to the northern landscape, on show in the art gallery and online via the museum’s website, ryedalefolkmuseum.co.uk, until Sunday, November 14.
Funded by Arts Council England and selected by a panel featuring curator Jennifer Smith, photographer Joe Cornish, painter Kane Cunningham and ceramic artist Layla Khoo, In the Open assembles paintings, photographs, ceramics and textiles by more than 80 professional, amateur and hobby artists who have turned to the landscape for inspiration.
Museum director Jennifer Smith says: “We are absolutely delighted by the quality and variety of entries. It is encouraging to witness the broad range of people turning to art to express their feelings about landscape and countryside during the pandemic. It has been my great pleasure to bring these individual perspectives together.”
Museum staff also invited entrants to submit an accompanying piece of writing, reflecting on the effects of the events of the past 18 months on their artistic practice.
“Many artists have taken the opportunity to discuss the role that their art has played in their lives during this time, supporting them through the lockdowns in a range of really significant ways,” explains Jennifer.
As well as showcasing art produced during lockdown, a central aim of In The Open was to provide a platform for artists to speak openly and share their experiences.
“During the selection process, we had a strong sense of the therapeutic aspects of making art, as well as the benefits of spending time out of doors,” says Jennifer.
“It’s very moving to learn how much both their artwork and the countryside have meant to artists in these times. Some artists have contributed very personal reflections. Taken together, they are poignant, touching and capture a particular moment in time.
Ryedale Folk Museum is open from 10am to 5pm in September, then 10am to 4pm in October and November. For more information, go to: ryedalefolkmuseum.co.uk/art-gallery/
The In The Open artists:
Garth Bayley; Sandra Storey; Nerissa Cargill Thompson; Kevin Parker; Adele Froude; Gaby Lees; Jennifer Cottis; Diana Terry; Freya Horsley; Rebekah Staples; Andrew Dalton; Anna Matyus; Rachel Morrell; Margaret Geraghty.
Emma Paragreen; Jane Wilson; Sarah Roberts; Tim Bos; Zara Browne-Gilbert; Debra Snow; Gigi Dyer; Jill Setterington; Susan Noble; Annie Louvaine; Diane Eagles; Heather Burton; Rebecca Hughes; Jane Walker.
Ernest Newton; David Hope; Louise Ventris; Katy Doncaster; Sue Slack; Jane Taylor; Tessa Bunney; Sarah Connell; Nick Walters; Iona Stock; Catherine Hill; Peter Hicks; Kirsty Davis; Francesca Simon; Janine Baldwin; Alice O’Neill.
Chris Carbro; Judith Pollock; Colin Culley; Sarah Cawthray; Alex McArthur; Sarah Billany; Angela Summerfield; Louise Gardner; Claire Castle; Marion Atkinson; Sandra Oakins; Teddi Coutts; Lucy Saggers; Christian Bailey.
Natalie McKeown; Stef Mitchell; Ken Clarry; Kimberli Werner; Louise Goult; Alina Savko; Louise Lorimer; Lesley Wood, Christine Heath; June Appleton; Joe Cornish; Joan Currie; Alison Britton; Susan Plover; Rob Moore.
Caroline Clarke Green; Simon Dobbs; Louise Harrison; Jean Stephenson; Simon Thurlow; Kane Cunningham; Lindsey Tyson; Judith Glover; Margaret Robson; Fran Brammer; Sally Lister; Amelia Baron and Wendy Tate.
THE No 4 Church Lane Café in a “hidden city-centre corner” is joining York’s new urban art plan.
Tucked away just off Coney Street, the café has commissioned Guardians Of York perpetrators Art Of Protest Projects to deliver a shot of vibrant colour in the form of a geometric painted mural, designed by the projects’ in-house team of Brenna Allsuch and Natasha Clarke.
“The new mural has instantly changed the landscape and vibe of the area and added a sense of playful excitement,” says Brenna. “The fresh splash of paint speaks for itself and invites patrons to enjoy a brew and a butty while bringing a new sense of identity to the area.”
Café owner Tess Harrison says: “I couldn’t be happier with the delivery of this wonderful mural and the smiles it has brought to my everyday regular customers, as well as the new business it’s brought in.
“From the planning stages right through to the execution and final reveal, the team at AOP Projects has made this a really fun experience and it’s turned out to be an emotional journey for me as my shop front has a whole new vibe!”
This café frontage adds to AOP Projects’ portfolio of murals and art trails across York and beyond, most notably the Guardians Of York project in tribute to “lockdown heroes”, created by Brighton street art collective The Postman, that wrapped up this week.
“We’ve been working on some exciting things across Yorkshire, but we definitely place a priority on developing our home base: the city of York,” says project support manager Brenna.
“The crew is looking to add more urban art in the form of paintings, installations and interactive seating and lighting displays as York continues on its path to upgrading the city streets and creating an edgy and visually appealing vibe for both locals and tourists.
“Watch out for more projects hitting the streets in the coming months and visit our website at artofprotest.co.uk to learn more about upcoming events and urban art.”
Founder and director Jeff Clark sums up AOP Projects’ mission: “There is a real thirst here for continuing to make the city walls our canvas and to make York an urban art hot spot. This is our speciality, we liaise with artists and city planners to deliver world class-murals that tell stories and involve the community.”
Farther afield, AOP Projects have teamed up with Doncaster Creates and Doncaster Council to unveil a facelift to a derelict park in Doncaster, with support from Arts Council England and external grant funding.
“We’re excited to announce the reimagination of Baxter Park, Wheatley, through the use of street art, sustainable play structures and rewilding, completely transforming the landscape of this urban space, finished with naturalisation and grassing of the surrounding space” says Jeff.
Doncaster Creates and AOP Projects have commissioned Static, a London artist duo with Scarborough roots, to design a gable-end wall mural and apply “jaw-dropping horizontal floor paint” to the park’s grounds.
Wood worker and designer Lewis Morgan, from Doncaster, has designed and constructed an array of sustainable, functional wood play structures and created several innovative, visually striking bug hotels, dotted around the park. “These beneficial structures support biodiversity and offer a space for propagation, encouraging the natural ecology to flourish,” says Jeff.
To unify the space and facilitate the health of natural flora and wildlife, Street Scene, from Doncaster Council, have implemented a rewilding and grassing initiative to “bring ongoing growth to support the park’s aesthetic and ecological elements”.
“This multi-phased park relaunch and the engagement sessions that have guided the designs and outcomes have already sparked a lot of excitement, as the primary mission is to transform the landscape and narrative of this area in need of imagination and rediscovery,” says Jeff.
“The vision for Baxter Park, in Wheatley, is to be a place of play for families and children and to detract from antisocial behaviour that can be problematic in an urban park. Through public engagement and programmes to support a healthy space, this park will not only be visually appealing, but will give back to the community.”
Created with longevity in mind, Baxter Park will be a space where Doncaster locals and visitors can enjoy wildlife in an urban setting with a big, bold splash of colour and imagination.
“Art has always been about affecting the hearts and minds of the people who live in and among it,” says Jeff.
“The opportunity to take a space such as Baxter Park in Doncaster, which lacked investment, and turn it into what is now a world-leading urban art space was just too good to turn down.”
Mike Stubbs, creative director of Doncaster Creates, says: “We are thrilled to welcome Static to Doncaster and Lewis Morgan back to his hometown to support this project, which will enhance the park area and the local community.
“The collaboration with Doncaster Council is incredible: to see the fusion of art and nature in an urban setting. I’m really pleased to see kids playing footie in the park already.”
Static artists Craig Evans and Tom Jackson say: “We’re really pleased to be part of this project at Baxter Park. There’s sometimes scepticism about how much ‘painting a wall’ can change things, but once people see it being done, the majority respond positively.
“We’ve been working towards this project for over a year, and to finally be here and to see the way residents are responding, particularly in the wake of Covid and the restrictions on where people can go, feels rewarding, with people enjoying an area that otherwise seems to feel overlooked.”
Moby Dick, John Godber Company, Stage @TheDock, Hull, until Saturday, 7pm and 4pm Saturday matinee. Box office: Eventbrite via thejohngodbercompany.co.uk
HULL was once among the world’s busiest whaling ports. At its peak, 68 whaling ships were registered to the East Riding dock and whale-processing oil and blubber factories spread over the Greenland yards on the River Hull.
In the wake of the Industrial Revolution, Hull had as many theatres as any city, and sometimes the stench from the factories’ pots of boiling blubber was so malodorous, theatres had to cancel performances as the pong was so overpowering.
The processing plants and ships have gone, the docks and Fruit Market have undergone a new industrial revolution, now housing solicitors’ offices, digital spaces, bars and restaurants and a gallery, under a vision realised by the Wykeland Group, triggered in part by Hull’s year as UK City of Culture in 2017.
In the shadow of The Deep visitor attraction, Stage@TheDock took over the shell of the central Hull dry dock at that time, and now John Godber, who has done so much to keep theatre open, alive and kicking in Hull, brings whaling, theatre and the amphitheatre together with support from Wykeland and an Arts Council England grant from the Culture Recovery Fund.
The John Godber Company’s Moby Dick is billed as a “new radical adaptation” of Herman Melville’s epic 1851 American novel. More precisely, it is a radical reworking of Godber and co-writer Nick Lane’s original, no less radical script for Hull Truck Theatre in 2002, a revision/reinvention that Godber describes as “filleted, better and topical”.
The first version was told by four old soaks in a bar on its own last orders; this time, an East Yorkshire professional cast plays eight modern-day characters, each with a relationship with this part of Hull through their parents or grandparents, whose stories they recount as the play dips in and out of the novel’s Godber-gutted story, like a ship’s passage through waves.
2002’s four-hander – “What were we thinking?! Four! It was almost impossible,” recalls Godber – was different in other ways: staged indoors at the old, compact, 150-seat Hull Truck. 2021’s John Godber and The Whalers’ show fits Step 3 times: a 70-minute performance with no interval, staged outdoors to a socially distanced audience, spread out over seating reduced in capacity from 350 to just shy of 90.
Covid-safety measures prevail too: staff in masks, tick; hand sanitiser, tick; surface cleaning, tick; cast Covid-testing regularly and staying together in a B&B social bubble, tick.
Within the cavernous dock’s stone walling is the wooden-floored stage that here becomes the deck of Captain Ahab’s ship, the Pequod, in his catastrophic, deranged, self-destructive battle with the monstrous white whale, Moby Dick.
Props are wooden too in the form of myriad pallets for constant rearrangement into different shapes to evoke, for example, the bow and to create a percussive sound when thrown down or knocked over. A rudimentary ship’s wheel is ever present and loose pieces of wood serve as harpoons. The bike ridden by Martha Godber’s impassioned narrator, Lucy, is the one concession to modernity.
Given the 7pm start, no lighting or special effect is needed for a back-to-basics yet epic production that, in Godber tradition, is driven by storytelling, physical theatre and teamwork (or should that be crew work?) as much as by individual performance.
This remains a dry dock in every way, no water to be seen throughout, and yet this Moby Dick still conjures the dangers, the rhythms, the vastness, of the sea through the cast’s movement and sound effects.
Sea shanties pepper the performance too, not least the newly ubiquitous chart-topper Wellerman, and it will come as no surprise to devotees of York Stage that Goole-born May Tether’s singing stands out.
Frazer Hammill’s Captain Ahab has the air of the blue-eyed cult-leader about him, a law unto himself that no-one dares to stop. Madness, misadventure and death this way lies in a tale as grave as an obsessive Greek tragedy.
Moby Dick finds Godber, who scripted the revised version after discussions with Lane, far removed from the agitated humour of many of his plays.
Instead, in a collective year in the shadow of an elusive enemy, devastating disease, mental anguish, constant uncertainty and ever greater division, there is no bigger fish to fry than a story of timeless human failings in command, set against the context of a modern-day discourse on Hull’s global importance as a port, its whaling past and the rising need for conservation.
Come Hull or high water, you will have a wail, rather than a whale, of a time as the Godber harpoon hits home hard.
SUPER Cool Drawing Machine, Yuppies Music’s touring exhibition of musicians’ “other” work, will run at The Crescent community venue, York, from Thursday to Sunday.
This celebration of art created by international touring independent musicians is billed as a “much-needed exploration of FUN stuff”, on show each day from 11am to 9pm with Covid-secure measures in place.
Under social distancing restrictions, attendees will have to book in advance, choosing a specific time slot to view the exhibition. Consequently, only a small number of tickets are available at £5 for each time slot at seetickets.com.
“Over the moon” to be supported by Arts Council England, Yuppies Music and York music promoters Please Please You will present works by renowned musicians from alternative, experimental, jazz, folk, rock, soul, ambient, indie backgrounds.
Among them will be trailblazing saxophonist and figurehead of the British jazz scene Shabaka Hutchings; Mercury-nominated Welsh singer/producer Cate Le Bon; experimental folk musician Richard Dawson; African-American experimentalist Lonnie Holley and drummer/composer Seb Rochford, plus members of This Is The Kit, Mammal Hands, Haiku Salut, Snapped Ankles and more besides.
On display from May 27 to 30 will be paintings, photography, drawings, ceramics, digital instillations, recycled arts, sculpture and furniture, adding up to “colourful and interactive arts for the open-minded and curious”, complemented by a gift shop.
The full listing of artists is: Bex Burch, of Vula Viel; Bryony Jarman-Pinto; night flight: Cate Le Bon; H. Hawkline; Tim Presley; Cloudshoes; Daisuke Tanabe; Ed Dowie; Francois & The Atlas Mountains; Haiku Salut; Holysseus Fly; Ichi; Jeffrey Lewis…
…Leafcutter John; Lonnie Holley; Mammal Hands; Peter Broderick; Poppy Ackroyd; Rachael Dadd; Richard Dawson; Rhodri Davies; Rozi Plain; Seb Rochford; Shabaka Hutchings; Snapped Ankles; Tara Clerkin; This Is The Kit; Yama Warashi and Yumi And The Weather.
YORK Theatre Royal will re-open tonight after 427 days, but chief executive Tom Bird feared this day might never have come.
Aside from two preview performances of December’s Travelling Pantomime tour, the main house stage has been in Covid-enforced hibernation since March 14’s performance of Alone In Berlin.
In the ensuing months, shorn of 89 per cent of its annual income being generated through selling tickets and associated revenue streams, the Theatre Royal had to cut its permanent staff by one third – seven voluntary redundancies and nine staff made redundant – after extensive consultations against a grim national picture where an estimated 40 per cent of theatre workers have lost jobs over the past 15 months.
Last September too, the Theatre Royal’s divorce was announced from the neighbouring De Grey Rooms, home to the theatre’s leased rehearsal rooms, workshops, offices and below-stairs costume department, as well as weddings, parties, award ceremonies and performances in the glorious ballroom.
Had Tom ever thought that the pandemic might be the final curtain for the Theatre Royal, England’s longest-running theatre outside London? “Yes, as early as last May, I started wondering. I remember it well because the weather was gorgeous, but the outlook was bleak, though it was at that stage that Arts Council England were brilliant, in that they moved very quickly to provide £160 million Emergency Funding to theatres like us,” he recalls.
The Theatre Royal received £196,493 to help to cover costs in the fallow months from last July to September 30. “The ACE grant was about ‘What do you need right now not to collapse?’,” said Tom at the time.
“But when 89 per cent of your income revolves around ticket sales, you’re looking at that situation thinking, ‘that’s 89 per cent of our revenue gone, a turnover of £4.5 million; what business survives that?’.”
What’s more, Tom and the theatre faced the problem of running an old, if recently refurbished, building that is both huge and hard to heat, “so much so that it costs £475,000 a year just to keep it open, without staffing, to cover heating, lighting, water and safety,” he reveals.
“At that point, we didn’t know that Culture Recovery Funding would be made available by the Government, though there was a lot of noise, and we didn’t know if the pantomime [Cinderella, in the Theatre Royal’s first collaboration with Evolution Productions] could go ahead.
“What we did was to get brave at that point, making big decisions, giving up the lease of De Grey House and the De Grey Rooms, going back into our old offices in the gorgeous, ramshackle Tate Wilkinson House.
“Then there’s the decision you never want to have to make: having to lose staff, and that decision still haunts me. But in a way, the need to make savings was pretty black and white; it wasn’t a case of looking to be a bit more efficient. We had to take steps now, and last summer was pretty tough.”
A Pop Up On The Patio festival season on the theatre terracing ran from August 14 to 29, a positive step in showcasing York and Yorkshire talent, but through the huge glass panes of the Theatre Royal could be seen the dormant foyer, box office and closed doorways to the main house and Studio: out of reach and shrouded in uncertainty.
Once the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund was announced, the Theatre Royal was awarded £230,000 to assist the theatre until March 31, but the pandemic’s grip put paid to any chance of Cinderella going to the ball at the Theatre Royal.
“What picked us up was deciding to do the Travelling Pantomime that we took round York’s wards: it gave us something to focus on, not just thinking ‘is the Theatre Royal going to survive?’,” says Tom.
“It energised us all, and it was such a great show to do, but the truth is, a year ago, I couldn’t have looked you in the eye and said, ‘this is going to be OK’.
“We didn’t even know what was going to happen through that year ahead, but I have to say that the Yorkshire producing theatres have been brilliant. York, Hull [Hull Truck], Leeds [Playhouse], Scarborough [Stephen Joseph Theatre] and Sheffield [Sheffield Theatres] have got together each week on Zoom, which has been a really good case of peers supporting each other…
“…and we are where we are now, reopening to coincide with Step 3 of the roadmap. Love is in the air at the Theatre Royal!”
Tom is referring to The Love Season, already trailered in CharlesHutchPress [April 29 2021], that opens with Love Bites: two nights of two nights of letters from the heart tonight and tomorrow at 8pm that have both sold out.
The Love Season should have opened on St Valentine’s Day, February 14, but Lockdown 3 put yet another red line through diary plans. However, a second round of the Cultural Recovering Fund grants has put a £324,289 spring in the Theatre Royal’s step, coupled with the third stage of lockdown loosening from today.
Love Bites will turn the spotlight on the creativity of artists from in and around York, whether poets, performers, singers, dancers or digital artists, who have been commissioned to write love letters celebrating the return to live performances after the easing of the Government’s pandemic restrictions.
Introduced by Look North alumnus Harry Gration, Love Biteswill explore the idea of love letters, dedicated to people, places, things, actions, occupations and more besides in five-minute specially commissioned bite-sized chunks.
The Love Season’s focus on human connection, the live experience and a sense of togetherness will embrace solo shows by stage and screen luminary Ralph Fiennes and Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh (The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…); a new Ben Brown political drama about writer Graham Greene and spy Kim Philby, A Splinter Of Ice, and Swedish playwright August Strindberg’s Miss Julie,transposed to 1940s’ Hong Kong by writer Amy Ng and director Dadiow Lin.
The number one talking point is Ralph Fiennes’s Theatre Royal debut, in six performances from July 26 to 31, directing himself in the world-premiere tour of T S Eliot’s Four Quartets: a solo theatre adaptation of Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages and Little Giddings, a set of poems first published together in 1943 on the themes of time, nature and the elements, faith and spirituality, war and mortality.
Tom says: “Ralph is rehearsing in London, opening at the Theatre Royal, Bath, from May 25 and then touring. We’re so chuffed to have Ralph coming to York. We can’t believe it!
“We’re thrilled that Ralph’s show became a possibility for us, and it’s a huge credit to him to recognise the need to support theatre around the country at this time. Let’s say it, it’s rare for an actor of his profile and standing to do a regional tour, but he’s seen that he can help to save some incredibly important producing houses, like this one, by doing a tour – and it’s not an act of charity; it’s an important and really exciting piece of work.”
Performances in The Love Season will be presented to socially distanced audiences, adhering to the latest Government and industry Covid-19 guidelines to ensure the safety of staff and audiences with a reduced capacity of 344, but should Step 4 of the roadmap roll-out go ahead as planned on June 21, there is scope for more seats to go on sale for shows later in the season. Over to you, Mr Johnson and the Indian Variant fly in the ointment.
For full details of The Love Season, go to: yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Tickets can be booked at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk; on 01904 623568, Monday to Saturday, 12 noon to 3pm, and in person, Thursday to Saturday, 12 noon to 3pm.
BADAPPLE Theatre Company will return to live performances this summer with Tales From The Great Wood.
“This is a new short play for children and grandparents – and everyone else – to enjoy together that can be performed indoor or outdoor,” says writer-director Kate Bramley, founder of the Green Hammerton theatre-on-your-doorstep proponents, as she introduces her interactive storytelling eco-adventure.
“Listen! Can you hear the whispering in the trees? The Great Wood is full of stories. It’s a hot summer’s day, perfect for basking in the sun, but instead of resting, Hetty the hare is investigating because someone is missing.
“As she unravels a tall tale that stretches from end to end of The Great Wood, Hetty realises that every creature – no matter how small – can have a huge part to play in the world of the forest.”
Starring York actor Richard Kay, Danny Mellor and a host of puppets made by designer Catherine Dawn, this show for ages five to 95 will be performed at the Covid-secure Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, on July 2 and 3.
“We’ll also be playing Skipsea Village Hall on the Sunday, and we’re looking to do some outdoor performances too, such as at stately homes, with Annabelle Polito working on that for us at the moment,” says Kate.
“I’m trying to create a show that is ‘omni-everything’: suitable for outdoor spaces and for indoors, so it’s not only a play for all seasons, but a play for all eventualities.”
To add to the feeling of resurgence, Badapple Theatre Company is celebrating being awarded two grants to support its youth theatre classes, as well as the resumption of professional live shows this summer.
Over lockdown, the North Yorkshire touring theatre company moved its youth theatre classes online, created a free Theatre On Your Desktop podcast series of online plays and even converted an empty grain store into a theatre/film studio to record two of its plays, Eddie And The Gold Tops and The Snow Dancer.
Now, the Local Fund Harrogate District, administered by Two Ridings Community Foundation, has provided £2,908 to cover Badapple’s core costs and ensure its community projects can continue through to August, such as its regular youth theatre sessions in the village.
“Meanwhile, Arts Council England has awarded £15,000 in financial support to commission new plays for the youth theatre and youth summer school and to ensure a return to professional live performance,” says Kate, Badapple’s artistic director.
“We’re delighted to be celebrating both of these grant awards. The two go hand in hand to keep us afloat with our community work right now and keep us moving forward with brand new shows for audiences this summer.”
Looking back on a 21st anniversary year spent under the Covid cloud, Kate says: “Arts Council England stepped in and bailed us out spectacularly, but we couldn’t monetise the online programme, beyond getting plenty of hits for the Christmas show, but certainly we couldn’t live off that.”
Badapple resumed live performances last September with Suffer Fools Gladly, actor Danny Mellor’s hour-long comedy about the perils and perks of always having to tell the truth, presented in Yorkshire private gardens, campsites and hall car parks.
“We really hit lucky with Danny’s show, and we were really lucky with the September weather, except for the last show, when we needed a sturdy, stoic audience!” says Kate. “The shows were utterly Covid-safe too.”
Reflecting on how theatre companies responded to the Coronavirus crisis, Kate comments: “So many companies adapted to the social need, whether to run food banks or provide outdoor events, and that’s a good thing to come out of the arts world in pandemic times.
“There’s been less navel-gazing with a lot of good companies looking beyond their own agenda to think, ‘what do people need from us now?’.”
Looking ahead, Kate reveals: “December 2021 will see the rescheduling of our original eco-fable The Snow Dancer, the Christmas show that we were so lucky to present in a handful of performances at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in December 2020 between lockdowns.
“Our Christmas remit is always to play to children and grandparents, so that’s our agenda again, to bring those two generations back to seeing things together,” says Kate.
“May/June 2022 will finally – everything crossed! – see the long awaited and much- postponed premiere of my brand-new comedy Elephant Rock. This twice-postponed show is already funded by Arts Council England, so we’re excited to be programming venues for this event from now onwards.”
What happens in Elephant Rock? “From the great age of the steamers and through the heyday of the British seaside resorts, the old Palace dance hall stood proudly on the pier, attended by the greatest of all attractions, the Mechanical Elephant,” says Kate.
“But the relentless tides have chipped away at the coast and the mighty Elephant Rock that gave the headland its name seemingly walked off overnight. Join us for a night of comic capers from a family who are trying to keep the Palace doors on, and open, as they delve into a complicated family history of music hall owners spanning 100 years and 5,000 miles to the elephant-filled grasslands of Sri Lanka.”
At the heart of Badapple’s Arts Council funding bid was an emphasis on children, leading to a focus on commissioning new plays for the youth theatre and supporting the youth summer school.
“In the pandemic, children have not only lost a year’s work at school, but also a year of playing and social-skill building, when they’ve not been able to relax their bodies and lark about, instead being in a ‘straitjacket’ at home,” says Kate.
“They’ve been amazing in keeping to social distancing and in putting up with how they’ve had to be dressed.”
Kate continues: “That’s why it’s important for us to be exploratory in how we tell children’s stories and how we let them have fun now, so with that in mind, we’ve asked Richard Kay to write us a pantomime for our youth theatre.
“He’s written a couple of shows for us, Cinderella and a mash-up of Snow White and Babes In The Wood, so that there could be a big cast with plenty for them all to do.
“He understands how to write a pantomime that’s very funny but also entirely appropriate for Key 2 children, so we’re really excited about it.”
Kay’s 2021 pantomime will feature young actors who have attended Badapple youth theatre sessions on Zoom in lockdown. “We’re hoping of course that it will be the first chance for parents and wider audiences to see them on stage again,” says Kate.
“The children have worked so hard for a year, but apart from the odd vignette online, parents haven’t been able to see them perform or see the big strides they’ve made.
“We’re kind of in awe of how good spirited they’ve been in taking part in exactly the same way even though it’s just each of them in their own room, connecting online.
“For some of them, it’s been the making of them, with their confidence picking up when there’s no peer pressure about how they look or how they feel, and all of them keeping it high energy in an hour’s involvement.”
Kate adds: “For some, it’s given a greater depth to their performances because they’ve had no distractions, so that’s been the bonus, with them really thriving in the online environment, though we all agree that ‘live is best’.”
Even though the Government has decreed youth theatre sessions can be resumed indoors, Badapple’s young performers have wanted to do outdoor sessions. “It’s that thing of enjoying nature in a different way, improvising with the world around us, making playlets based on the garden settings around us,” Kate says.
Outdoor performance takes her back to Cornish youth. “When I grew up, the company I would see was Kneehigh, before they became the national name they are now, doing open-air shows.
“Then, when I was with Cornwall Youth Theatre Company, there was always that thing of grand pageantry, so that outdoor theme has always been important to me, and I’m really happy to be building up youth theatre work that has an outdoor element to it,” says Kate.
“If this past year has given me anything to think about, if I’m to keep going for another 20 years, I would like to mix indoor and outdoor strands, as we’ve always been ecologically minded.
“For us, it’s always about storytelling and creating a storytelling experience that’s magical when people come together, and it’s just about finding different ways of doing that.”
Kate notes how Badapple’s philosophy chimes with Arts Council England’s thinking. “I don’t think we’ve done anything differently to gain funding. It’s the fact that the Arts Council’s Let Create strategy, handed out before lockdown, is much more in alignment with how we think about arts provision and productions, where they seek three strands: community involvement, excellence in artists and international pedigree,” she says.
“We’ve always felt our work is as valuable as everyone else’s, and we seem to be on a crest of a wave, having created a strategy that chimes with everyone. The Arts Council have done us so proud, intervening in a way where there are possibilities on so many different levels for us.
“Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council have freed up funding too, ending up with us breaking even in the latest financial year, and I’ve never been so proud about that. We’re still trading, we’re still alive and kicking, with good projects to look forward to.”
Another plus point of the past year has been forging a partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York’s community-run theatre in Haxby Road, first for The Snow Dancer last December and now for Tales From The Great Wood in July.
“That’s something that would never happened without the pandemic, doing the socially distanced performances of The Snow Dancer after their board member Moira Tait hosted three shows of Suffer Fools Gladly in her garden,” says Kate.
“Now, we’re excited to premiere Tales From The Great Woods at the Rowntree Theatre, as it fits our ethos of taking shows to people that wouldn’t otherwise see it.
“They want us to do The Snow Dancer there again in this winter’s tour and we want to support them as much as possible, as we were bowled over by how they kitted out the theatre to be Covid-safe for last winter’s shows.”
Badapple Theatre Company presents Tales From The Great Wood, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 2, 7.30pm, and July 3, 11am, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 501935.
LIVE theatre will burst into life in York for the first time since December 30 when Next Door But One presents Yorkshire Trios in The Gillygate pub’s new outdoor seating area on April 23 and 24.
“The sun is beginning to shine, the days are getting longer, and lockdown restrictions are easing, so we’re inviting you to a production that brings you everything 2021 has been missing so far,” says Matt Harper-Hardcastle, the York community arts collective’s artistic director, who had to postpone the original “mini-promenade” shows planned for inside Brian Furey’s pub in Gillygate in January.
“The plan was that people could get a drink and move around the pub to see the five solo performances, but once lockdown was announced, we thought we’d wait to see what transpired, keeping it on a low heat, but still wanting to do it as soon as possible, when it could be a springboard for the 15 creatives involved to get back out there working again.
“Then Brian [Furey] got in touch to say he’d been building a gazebo structure to make it feasible for him to reopen the pub, but if we could put lighting in, it could double as a performance space too.
“We could have waited to June, but this felt a brilliant opportunity to come back together now. It feels a really big step now, when two years ago, rocking up to a pub for a show would have felt perfectly normal.”
Themed around Moments Yet To Happen, trios of actors, directors and writers will bring to theatre-starved York a quintet of short stories of laughter, strength, dreams and everything in between: a neighbour with a secret; a delivery driver full of wanderlust; an optimistic carousel operator; a poet inviting us into her world and a Jane McDonald fan on a soapbox.
Actor Mandy Newby, director Joe Feeney and writer Dan Norman will stage Weirdo; Nicki Davy, Becky Lennon and Rachel Price, And How Are Your Goats Keeping?; Emily Chattle, Libby Pearson and Lydia Crosland, Motormouth; Christie Barnes, Fiona Baistow and Jenna Drury, Kelly Unmasked, and Miles Kinsley, Nicolette Hobson, Anna Johnston, One More Time We Go.
“From the hearts of Yorkshire creatives, told in the heart of the city and into yours, Yorkshire Trios is here to remind you of the talent and stories that our community holds,” says Matt, ahead of next week’s 7.30pm performances, supported by Arts Council England funding.
“From humour to drama, sentimentality to the bizarre, an evening of Yorkshire Trios will have something for everyone…and there’s a drink included in the price!
“We all know the feelings of being stuck indoors, longing to go to the pub and catch up with our friends. Well, Yorkshire Trios has all of that and more. What better way to mark the latest phase of the Government’s Roadmap than being sat with your friends and family in The Gillygate pub’s beer garden, watching five original, locally produced and completely relatable short performances?”
Yorkshire Trios underpins the values of Next Door But One (NDB1) as a theatre company. “Buying a ticket to attend Yorkshire Trios is about more than watching theatre, it’s about our local community” says associate and project manager Kate Veysey, York Theatre Royal’s youth theatre director.
“It’s backing the wealth of creative talent in York, it’s supporting a local hospitality business at the centre of the city and it’s taking those small but manageable steps to reconnect people with one another and the wider community.”
The 15 Yorkshire creatives at the heart of this NDB1’s project were recruited at the end of 2020, but after the imposition of Lockdown 3 from January 5 put a stop to that month’s performances, the collective talents of Newby, Feeney, Norman, Davy, Price, Lennon, Crosland, Pearson, Chattle, Drury, Barnes, Baistow, Johnston, Kinsley and Hobson have been kept busy and creative through a series of online professional development sessions.
“We know how difficult it has been for many professionals in the arts to stay engaged in their creative practice during lockdown, with many feeling disconnected from the industry and in need of opportunities to stretch themselves and keep them going” says creative producer El Stannage.
“For more than two months, we’ve provided skills development and mentoring sessions, meaning that now our 15 creatives are even more equipped to bring their best to the performances within Yorkshire Trios, and we cannot wait to share that with audiences.”
Matt emphasises the importance of Yorkshire Trios to all those involved. “It’s had that feeling of ‘this is what was needed’: someone saying, ‘we believe in you, and, yes, we want to use your talents’,” he says.
“It’s been wonderful having 15 people sharing their skills and having that belief that ‘you belong, you haven’t been forgotten; there’s still a place for you when you’ve been told your work is not viable’.”
Looking ahead, Matt says: “We’ll be recording the performances too, so that anyone who still doesn’t feel safe to attend or has any vulnerabilities stopping them, we can stream it to them at a later date, with more info on that following the live performances.”
Next Door But One presents Yorkshire Trios outside at The Gillygate pub, Gillygate, York, on April 23 and 24 at 7.30pm. The performances are Covid safe and therefore with a socially distanced limited capacity, with tickets being sold as ‘tables’ of up to six individuals from a maximum of two households.
For more information and ticket details, go to: nextdoorbutone.co.uk/Yorkshire-Trios.php.