Goose on the loose as pantomime box office opens for the return of the ‘Famous In York Five’ at Grand Opera House

Just the ticket: Berwick Kaler, left, Martin Barrass and David Leonard launch box-office sales for The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture: David Harrison

THEY’LL be back. All of them. Not only Dame Berwick Kaler, dastardly David Leonard and luvverly Brummie AJ Powell, but comic stooge Martin Barrass and principal gal Suzy Cooper too in The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose.

The Famous In York Five will resume pantomime business after all at the Grand Opera House after the initial pantomime ticket-launch press release left out Martin and Suzy, saying only that “further casting will be announced soon.”

“I was just finalising my contract through my agent,” clarified Martin after Wednesday’s meet-and-greet with the loyal queue that had begun forming at 3.40am outside the Cumberland Street theatre’s box office. “It was the same with Suzy, who doesn’t use an agent and does her own negotiations.”

Neither Suzy, nor AJ, was present on Wednesday but Dame Berwick, Martin and David pressed the flesh, then met the press to discuss their second year at the Opera House after their crosstown move from York Theatre Royal.

“I’m so glad Suzy will be back because I think she’s going to give us a run for our money as she’ll be playing two parts,” said Berwick.

Suzy Cooper as Donna Donut in Dick Turpin Rides Again last winter. Picture: David Harrison

“I gave you that idea,” interjected David. “She’s the fairy but she’s also my daughter and I don’t know she’s a fairy,” Berwick ploughed on. “Yes, that was my idea,” insisted David.

After last winter’s Dick Turpin Rides Again was produced by Crossroads Pantomimes [“the world’s biggest pantomime producer”], the Opera House panto has switched to new producers, UK Productions [“one of the country’s leading producers of musical theatre and pantomime, both nationally and internationally”].

“They’re a very good company, good on costumes and design, and they have The Kite Runner opening on Broadway,” said David.

“They’re a nice company, like a family,” said Berwick. “They were full of praise for the work we’ve done in pantomime, and I say ‘we’ because I had one discussion with Martin [producer Martin Dodd], where he thought he could easily find a replacement for one cast member…

“Martin!” interjected David. Berwick’s tongue had been in his cheek until this point, but he turned more serious to emphasise: “They’d come to York, and l’d said to them, ‘you can’t put a price on that rapport and how we’re just ordinary actors who’ve built up a reputation, and you can’t put a price on the way we work together. It’s taken us years’.

The Grand Opera House pantomime queue meets David Leonard, Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass at Wednesday’s box-office launch. Picture: David Harrison

“I think the audience wouldn’t accept not having us in the show, and these Grand Opera House shows wouldn’t have happened without us all being in them.”

Berwick misses having a trapdoor for its potential comic mayhem, but describes the Opera House as “a great theatre for pantomime”. “It’s a joy to play here,” said David. “I love the vista of the seating,” said Martin. “That massive sweep of stalls, dress circle and grand circle. It’s like the West End theatre of York, and there are no bad seats.”

Covid restrictions prevented Kaler and co going walkabout in Dick Turpin Rides Again. “We couldn’t go down the steps for Covid-safety reasons,” said Berwck. “But hopefully that will be different this year.”

“The band had to be under the stage last time so that we weren’t spitting on them, but all being well they’ll be back in view in the pit.”

Berwick will be in triple threat mode once more at the age of 76 [his birthday falls on October 31], writing and directing the show as well as playing the venerable dame. Already he is bouncing script ideas off David and Martin and, as for the directorial role, he said: “I don’t have to do that much with this lot, so I can concentrate on the chorus and anyone new, if we have a ‘guest’ join us.

Berwick Kaler in the “Eric Sykes Bar” at Wednesday’s launch day for The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose

“They’re all family in the ensemble and they all want to come back. They had a good time with Dick Turpin Rides Again and they want another good time.”

Last winter’s pantomime played to audiences advised to wear masks. “You stopped thinking about it because you got used to it, and it didn’t affect the laughter,” said Berwick.

“I decided not to mention Covid because what would have been the point? There’s nothing funny about it.

But what I will do is never get away from being edgy in what I say on stage, though I will never insult anyone’.” Martin and David act out their mock surprise at this comment, but maybe ‘jests’ is a better word than ‘insults’ for Kaler’s adlibs and asides.

“You’ve never taken the easy line of picking on someone in the audience for what they’re wearing,” noted David.

Pantomime stars Berwick Kaler, centre, Martin Barrass and David Leonard reunite for playful pantomime japes at the Grand Opera House. Picture: David Harrison

“We’ve always taken the mick out of ourselves instead,” said Berwick. “But no in-jokes; there’s no place for those.”

Kaler and co last staged Mother Goose in 2014-2015 at York Theatre Royal under the title of Old Mother Goose. “I want it to be different. I don’t want it to be Old Mother Goose again,” said Berwick.

“Or even Mama Goose?” said David. “It’ll be The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose,” said Berwick. “The parents can tell their bairns, ‘yes, there will be a goose in it’. ‘Yes, there’ll be an old Mother Goose in it’. ‘Yes, there’ll be a goose egg in it’, but after that, leave me alone to come up with ideas.”

Whereupon Berwick, Martin and David started to recall their past encounters with Mother Goose, like the one with the motorised duck with a life of its own and…

“I remember in the first Mother Goose, we had an 8ft goose that we had to hide from the audience,” recalled Martin. “So, we put a pair of dog’s ears on it!”

The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose will run at Grand Opera House, York, from December 10 2022 to January 8 2023. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York

‘I’m definitely doing it!’, says York panto star Martin Barrass. ‘See you at Opera House’

Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass, pictured in last winter’s Dick Turpin Rides Again

YORK pantomime star Martin Barrass WILL be in this winter’s Grand Opera House show, he says.

Dame Berwick Kaler’s perennial comic sidekick has posted a reassuring message on social media after his name was missing from those confirmed for The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose’s run from December 10 2022 to January 8 2023.

The familiar team of dowager dame Kaler, dastardly villain David Leonard and “luvverly Brummie” AJ Powell have been signed up by the Ambassador Theatre Group theatre’s new pantomime producer, UK Productions, but yesterday’s press release made no reference to either Barrass or principal golden gal Suzy Cooper. “Further casting will be announced soon,” the announcement concluded.

This prompted spring-heeled Barrass to bounce back on social media: “I’m definitely doing it! Worry not! I think there was a blip in the publicity dept methinks. Either that or they’ve never heard of me lol. See you at the Opera House for the GRAND LAUNCH 13th April at 10!!”

Yesterday’s announcement stated Kaler and Leonard would be on hand at next Wednesday’s ticket sale launch.

The official confirmation on Barrass’s panto participation is awaited. Likewise, whether Suzy Cooper will or will not be returning.

Dame Berwick is back in The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose but could his pantomime team be broken up at Grand Opera House?

Grand Opera House return for Dame Berwick Kaler, pictured in last winter’s Dick Turpin Rides Again

DAME Berwick Kaler will pull on his big bovver boots for his second Grand Opera House pantomime, but will his “Famous In York Five” reunite?

The grand dame, 75, definitely will be joined in The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose by indomitable villain David Leonard and ‘luvverly Brummie’ AJ Powell, but two fellow regulars in the Kaler panto fixtures and fittings are yet to be confirmed. Or not.

“Further casting will be announced soon” is the official line. Watch this space for news of Kaler’s perennial sidekick, Martin Barrass, and principal golden gal Suzy Cooper as the Grand Opera House pantomime moves on to a new producer, UK Productions, after only one year under the Crossroads Pantomimes umbrella.

Dame Berwick and dastardly David will be on hand to launch ticket sales at the Cumberland Street theatre from 10am on Wednesday, April 13.

“I can’t wait to welcome Me Babbies and Bairns back to the Grand Opera House,” enthused Kaler, Britain’s longest-running dame. “But be warned – I’m under the not unreasonable delusion that I’m far too young to play a granny! So, brace yourself to expect the unexpected.”

Last December, Kaler returned to the York pantomime stage for the first time since February 2019, writing, directing and starring as dame Dotty Donut in Dick Turpin Rides Again alongside Barrass, Cooper, Leonard and Powell in their debut Grand Opera House panto.

Unlike so many pantomimes, they navigated the winter Covid wave without losing any performances or principal performers until the final week when both Kaler and Barrass had to step down after testing positive (despite experiencing no symptoms). In came Scotsmen Alan McHugh and Jack Buchanan, from the His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, pantomime cast, to play dame and stooge respectively.

Kaler had exited the York Theatre Royal pantomime stage bereft after 40 years, announcing The Grand Old Dame would be his farewell, but soon regretted his retirement decision, even more so after writing and co-directing the 2019-2020 show, Sleeping Beauty.

Pantomime villain David Leonard: Launching ticket sales for The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose with Berwick Kaler at the Grand Opera House on April 13

Dame Berwick and co duly signed up for Qdos Pantomimes’ new partnership with the Grand Opera House in January 2020 in the most sensational crosstown transfer since Denis Law swapped Manchester United for Manchester City in 1973.

The pandemic put a spoke in Dick Turpin’s planned return ride in 2020, and Qdos Pantomimes had been taken over by Crossroads Pantomimes by the time the show did go ahead last winter.

Now, Berwick will be back once more, presenting his second ageing variation on a Mother Goose theme after Old Mother Goose at York Theatre Royal in December 2014. It is yet to be confirmed if it will still be a traditional Kaler triple-threat show as star, writer and director or whether UK Productions will shake up the formula, not only in the casting but in the production team too.

In the meantime, the Grand Opera House publicity machine invites you to “discover for yourself why Berwick and his team have become a true rock of family entertainment over many decades with their hilarious anarchic approach to pantomime. It’s wonderfully madcap and is truly enjoyed by all ages. You may not remember the plot, but you will remember the laughs during the winter months.”

Producers UK Production have presented Christmas pantomimes across Great Britain for nigh on 30 years. During the 2022/23 season, they will produce 11 pantomimes of their own and provide productions to around another 30 nationwide.

Producer Martin Dodd said: “It is truly a privilege to be working with the legendary Berwick Kaler and his co-stars, including the deliciously devilish David Leonard and the lovely Brummie AJ Powell with further casting to be announced.

“I really am excited to be presenting this fabulously unique and much-loved pantomime that is as much a part of the York Christmas tradition as Turkey (or Goose!) and stuffing. We can promise a cracking good show full of laughter, music, and mayhem”.

The Adventures Of Old Granny Goose will run from December 10 2022 to January 8 2023. Next Wednesday morning’s general sale launch will be preceded by Priority TheatreCard Membership tickets from Monday, April 11. Prices will start at £13 at atgtickets.com/York or on 0844 871 7615.

There is nothing like…two dames

Berwick Kaler: Had to miss the last week of Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House, York, after positive Covid test. Picture: David Harrison

HOW did a York theatre cope with Covid crocking its legendary dame? Find out in Episode 73 of Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson‘s Two Big Egos In A Small Car podcast. Under discussion too are Peter Jackson’s fab, formidable Beatles documentary Get Back; Mike Leigh’s Naked foreseeing Britpop and The Tourist going down better than Novax in Australia.

To listen, head to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9886020

Alan McHugh: Aberdeen’s dame answered the call when Covid struck Berwick Kaler

Meet the new dame, not the same but sort of the same as the old dame, as Covid unseats Berwick from Dick Turpin Rides Again. In steps Scotsman Alan McHugh

Covid curse strikes again: Positive tests for Dame Berwick Kaler and comic stooge Martin Barrass rule them out of Dick Turpin Rides Again. Picture: David Harrison

ONCE upon a pantomime season, the ubiquitous Covid curse of cancelled shows had somehow evaded Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House in York.

York Theatre Royal had to cancel invitations to Cinderella’s ball from December 23 for traditionally the busiest box-office week of the year before reopening on December 30.

Leeds Playhouse, Leeds Grand Theatre, Hull Truck Theatre and Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre all lost performances as Omicron turned chronic.

Not only Covid had played its unsanitised hand this winter. A leaking roof put a thankfully temporary dampener on Cinderella at Harrogate Theatre, and a performance of Bedknobs And Broomsticks at Leeds Grand was derailed by the flying bed’s unfortunate impact on electric cabling.

“The legend’s return” at 75 in Dick Turpin Rides Again had survived unscathed, however, as grand dame Berwick Kaler’s comeback with his longstanding partners in panto, Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and comparative whippersnapper AJ Powell, clocked in for performance after performance from December 11 to December 31.

Scottish actor, comedian and writer Alan McHugh as Dame Bella Buchan in Beauty And The Beast at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen. Now he is stepping into the Covid-convalescing Berwick Kaler’s big boots in York in the final week of Dick Turpin Rides Again

Happy New Year? New Year’s Day was a day off, but come January 2, “Covid-enforced absences within the company” led to the cancellation of that day’s 2pm show at only 20 minutes’ notice, with some panto punters already in their seats, and the 5pm performance had to follow suit.

“Guests affected by this change will be contacted by their point of purchase in the coming days with alternative options,” read the official announcement.

“We apologise for any disappointment or inconvenience this may have caused and thank you for your continued support.”

By Monday, it became apparent those absentees were none other than Berwick Kaler – quel dammage – and his perennial comic sidekick, Martin Barrass, given that the man in the coarse wig and scruffy boots on stage was Scotsman Alan McHugh, in Kaler’s guise as Dotty Donut, and Barrass’s understudy, Jack Buchanan, had stepped up from the ensemble to bounce around as Dunkin Donut.

Glove, actually: Alan McHugh all dolled up as Dame Bella Buchan in Beauty And The Beast at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

McHugh had just finished pulling on his boots as Dame Bella Buchan in Beauty And The Beast, continuing his unbroken run as Qdos/Crossroads Pantomimes’ dame and writer at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen since 2004, albeit that Covid had brought a premature end to the show on December 24, when it should have run to January 2.

Now it was time to wear Kaler’s frocks instead. Kaler and Barrass, meanwhile, awaited their PCR results.

Tuesday was already in the diary as a rest day, before Dick Turpin Rides Again was due to climb back in the saddle with a relaxed performance on Wednesday evening. Would you believe it, now Jack Buchanan was not all right, Jack. He too had tested positive.

No relaxed show, but relax, Alan McHugh knew just the fellow Scot to step into Martin/Jack’s shoes: his very own sidekick in Beauty And The Beast, Paul-James Corrigan, who readers may know from his BBC role as Stevie in River City or recall from The Proclaimers’ musical, Sunshine On Leith, at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Off to the Granite City went McHugh, returning with Corrigan by his side to complete a Scottish invasion of York. Forget ever having played Boabby this winter, now Corrigan had 12 hours to dip into Dunkin Donut’s lines for Thursday’s brace of shows, while retaining Boabby’s attire.

Not unreasonably, he was still on the book for the matinee, but by 7pm, whoosh, the fresh Donut was rising fully to a challenge: the latest makeshift triumph in a winter when theatre’s old adage that The Show Must Go On has never rung truer.

Understudies and swings have stepped out of the shadows across the nation, their importance to productions being newly appreciated, amid the extra rehearsals and revisions needed to ensure shows could continue.

That said, Omicron’s omnipresence had played havoc with Dick Turpin’s ensemble: originally six, and then there were three as the curtain rose on last night’s opening number. Jack Buchanan. Gone. Ben MacGillivray. Off.  Gabriella-Rose Marchant. Out.  

Paul-James Corrigan, left and Alan McHugh in a scene from Aberdeen Performing Arts’ pantomime, Beauty And The Beast, in Aberdeen. Their partnership has come to York’s rescue in Dick Turpin’s hour of need

“Life’s not a dress rehearsal,” chirped Emily Taylor, Jake Lindsay and Charleigh Scott, who later received a special round of applause for ploughing on through this strangest of experiences. Another day, another day in the theatre trenches, but who will still be beside you?

Enter Alan McHugh’s dame, part Berwick, in “script” and wardrobe and trim build, but part his own “man in a frock” too: botched lipstick; broken front teeth; cartoon skinny legs with protruding lumps; more Mother Shipton than Old Mother Riley.

There ain’t nothin’ like Berwick’s dame? Well, Aberdeen Alan not only looked the part, flung the Wagon Wheels with elan, bonded cheekily with the regulars and matched him in donning glasses for the shout-outs, he also made references aplenty to the absent Berwick and ad-libbed in a post-modern, knowing way.

Breaking down theatre’s fourth wall, he relished moments of direct address with his new audience, once correcting himself for saying “he” rather than “she” – “I’ll get the gender right by the weekend,” he quipped – and playing the outsider looking in as he commented on the absurdity of a York panto plot that by now had Powell dressed as a shrove of garlic from the Planet Garlictica.  

For all the limitations of Kaler’s half-baked script for the second half, McHugh’s oven-ready partnership with Corrigan clicked in new kitchen surroundings, especially when daft lad Corrigan forgot his line for the only time. Cue improvisation, sudden memory of the line, and a putdown from McHugh when that line turned out to be nothing special after the big build-up.

Paul-James Corrigan: Twelve hours to learn his lines

As York lore has it, the presence of a Scotsman at night – on the city walls – can be met with the firing of an arrow, but these two interloping Scots have ridden to the rescue of Dick Turpin. David Leonard led the cast and audience’s gratitude at the finale, and more applause will follow.

Kaler and Barrass’s PCR test results, when they eventually came through, were positive. McHugh and Corrigan were back in action this afternoon and will be filling in the Dotty and Dunkin Donut holes again tonight and tomorrow.

Barrass is definitely out for the rest of the run, but should Dame Berwick have negative lateral flow tests on Saturday and Sunday morning, might he yet make an appearance on Sunday? Watch this space.

Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, remaining performances: 7pm tonight; 2pm and 7pm, tomorrow; 1pm and 5pm, Sunday. Box office: atgtickets.com/york

UPDATE: 1pm, 8/1/2022

DAME Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass are both OUT for the rest of the run, still self-isolating. Scottish duo Alan McHugh and Paul-James Corrigan will continue to stand in.

DAME BERWICK KALER’S LAST WORDS ON DICK TURPIN RIDES AGAIN

Berwick Kaler: Sent letter in his absence from the stage on Sunday

UNABLE to perform the last week of shows after testing positive for Covid, despite feeling “not even a headache”, Berwick Kaler asked for a letter to be read out to the last evening’s audience on January 9. Alan McHugh, the Scottish actor, comedian and writer who stood in as Dame Dotty Donut, did the honours.

Dame Berwick wrote: “We are one of the few pantos in the country that have managed to complete their scheduled run. The show must go on. And thanks to this amazing cast, musicians, stage management, backstage crew and front-of-house staff, this panto has survived what nature has thrown at us.

“Having experienced no symptoms whatsoever, it has been devastating for me to be forced to isolate this past week. But on a personal note, this is the only thing Martin Barrass has ever given me.

“Alan McHugh has been an ardent follower of our rubbish for many years and I cannot praise him enough. Likewise – PJ [Barrass’s stand-in, Paul-James Corrigan], my love and admiration to you both.

“But it is to you, the most loyal and long-suffering audience, that I heap the most praise on. Thanks to your continued support over more years than we’d care to remember, we have laughed together as one huge extended family. You are part of our lives and here’s to a few more years of belly laughs at the Grand Opera House, York.”

A decision on who will perform next year’s Grand Opera House pantomime is yet to be announced by producers Crossroads Pantomimes.

What’s on the menu? More Things To Do in York and beyond, hopefully, but check for updates. List No. 62, from The Press, York

Waiter! David Leonard’s Vermin the Destroyer, left, and A J Powell’s Luvlie Limpit survey what’s left of the Ye Olde Whippet Inn menu as Martin Barrass’s Dunkin Donut offers advice in Dick Turpin Rides Again. Picture: David Harrison

GIVEN the ever-changing Omicron briefings, Charles Hutchinson has a rubber as well as a pencil in his hand as he highlights what to see now and further ahead.

Still time for pantomime unless Omicron measures intervene part one: Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, until January 9

BACK on stage for the first time since February 2 2019, grand dame Berwick Kaler reunites with long-standing partners in panto Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and A J Powell.

After his crosstown switch to the Grand Opera House, Kaler steps out of retirement to write, direct and lead his first show for Crossroads Pantomimes, playing Dotty Donut, with Daniel Conway as the company’s new face in the Essex lad title role amid the familiar Kaler traditions. Look out for the flying horse. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Come join the rev-olution: Stepsisters Manky (Robin Simpson), left, and Mardy (Paul Hawkyard) make a raucous entrance in Cinderella. Alas, the Theatre Royal panto is now on hold until December 30 after a Covid outbreak

Still time for pantomime but only after a week in self-isolation: Cinderella, York Theatre Royal, ending on January 2 2022

COVID has struck three cast members and understudies too, leading to the decision to cancel performances of Cinderella from today until December 30.

Fingers crossed, you can still enjoy Evolution Productions writer Paul Hendy and York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster’s panto custom-built for 21st century audiences.

Targeted at drawing in children with magical storytelling, silliness aplenty and pop songs, Cinderella has a thoroughly modern cast, ranging from CBeebies’ Andy Day as Dandini to Faye Campbell as Cinders and ventriloquist Max Fulham as Buttons, with his Monkey on hand for cheekiness.

Robin Simpson and Paul Hawkyard’s riotous step-sisters Manky and Mardy and puns galore add to the fun. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

A wintry landscape by Julia Borodina, on show at Blossom Street Gallery, York

Buy now before her prices go up! Julia Borodina, Into The Light, Blossom Street Gallery, York, until January 31

JULIA Borodina will be competing in Sky’ Arts’ 2022 Landscape Artist of the Year, set for screening in January and February. Perfect timing for her York exhibition, Into The Light, on show until the end of next month.

Bretta Gerecke, part of the design team behind Castle Howard’s Christmas In Narnia displays, stands by the 28ft decorated tree in the Great Hall. Picture: Charlotte Graham

THE Christmas tree of the season: Christmas In Narnia at Castle Howard, near York, until January 2

CASTLE Howard has topped past peaks by installing a 28ft spruce tree from Scotland in the Great Hall as part of the Christmas In Narnia displays and decorations.

 “We believe that this is the largest real indoor Christmas tree in the country, standing around eight feet higher than the impressive tree normally installed in Buckingham Palace,” says the Hon Nicholas Howard, guardian of Castle Howard. 

“It’s certainly the largest we have had, both in terms of height and width at the base, which has a huge footprint in the Great Hall – but thankfully leaves a gap on either side for visitors to walk right around it.” Tickets for Christmas In Narnia must be booked before arrival at castlehoward.co.uk.

York Community Choir Festival: Eight diverse concerts at Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

Choirs galore: York Community Choir Festival, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 27 to March 5 2022

EIGHT shows, different every night, will be the format for this choral celebration of how and why people come together to make music and have fun.

At least four choirs will be on stage in every concert in a festival featuring show tunes, pop and folk songs, world music, classical music, gospel songs, close harmonies, blues and jazz.

From primary-school choirs through to teenage, young adult and adult choirs, the choral configurations span male groups, female groups and mixed-voice choirs. Proceeds will go to the JoRo theatre from ticket sales on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

David Ford’s poster for his Interesting Times tour, visiting Pocklington Arts Centre in March

If you see one sage and rage singer-songwriter next year, make it: David Ford, Interesting Times Tour 22, Pocklington Arts Centre, March 10 2022, 8pm

EASTBOURNE troubadour David Ford will return to the road with an album of songs documenting the tumultuous year that was 2020.

May You Live In Interesting Times, his sixth studio set, charts the rise of Covid alongside the decline of President Trump. Recorded at home during various stages of lockdown, the album captures the moment with Ford’s trademark emotional eloquence and dark irony.

After the imposed hiatus times three (and maybe four, wait and see), the new incarnation of Ford’s innovative, incendiary live show promises to demonstrate just what happens when you shut such a creative force in a room for two years. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Sir Tom Jones: Playing Scarborough Open Air Theatre for a third time next summer

Amid the winter uncertainty, look to next summer’s knight to remember: Sir Tom Jones at Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 26 2022

SIR Tom Jones will complete a hattrick of Scarborough Open Air Theatre concerts after his 2015 and 2017 gigs with his July return.

In April, the Welsh wonder released his 41st studio album, the chart-topping Surrounded By Time, featuring the singles Talking Reality Television Blues, No Hole in My Head, One More Cup of Coffee and Pop Star.

Sir Tom, 81, will play a second outdoor Yorkshire concert in 2022, at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on July 10. Box office for both shows: ticketmaster.co.uk.

Flying dreamers: Elbow showcase their ninth studio album in Scarborough next July

Deep in the bleak midwinter, think of days out on the Yorkshire coast part two: Elbow, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 9 2022

MAKE Elbow room in your diary to join Guy Garvey, Craig Potter, Mark Potter and Pete Turner on the East Coast in July.

Formed in 1997 in Bury, Greater Manchester, BBC 6 Music Sunday afternoon presenter Garvey and co chalked up their seventh top ten album in 2021 with Flying Dream 1.

Released on November 19, Elbow’s ninth studio album was written remotely in home studios before the lifelong friends met up at the empty Brighton Theatre Royal to perfect, perform, and record the songs. Box office: ticketmaster.co.uk.

Suzy and Martin delighted to be back on the York panto stage in Dick Turpin Rides Again

“To be given this opportunity at the Grand Opera is like receiving a transplant,” says Suzy Cooper. Picture: David Harrison

TONIGHT is press night for York pantomime stalwarts Suzy Cooper and Martin Barrass for the first time since December 2019.

They have reunited as part of the “Famous In York Five”, starring alongside grand dame Berwick Kaler, David Leonard and A J Powell in Dick Turpin Rides Again, their first pantomime for Crossroads Live since their switch to the Grand Opera House from York Theatre Royal.

“It’s a great stage for pantomime,” says principal girl Suzy, who plays Donna Donut this winter. “It’s a wonderful stage with a proscenium arch, stalls that go all the way back, a dress circle and upper circle, and it’s exciting to be back in a theatre with such a traditional auditorium.  Acoustically, it’s fantastic too.”

Delayed by a year by Covid enshrouding the Cumberland Street theatre in darkness last winter, Suzy is even keener to be back among friends. “We wanted to be back together, which was really important to do: we have a very loyal audience and it’s lovely to bring our pantomime to this city that we love, and not just for those that live here but also for the people from further afield whose tradition has been to come to our panto,” she says.

“I was devastated to lose the Theatre Royal, but to be given this opportunity at the Grand Opera is like receiving a transplant, allowing us to continue this tradition.”

Comic stooge Martin – son Dunkin Donut to Berwick’s mam Dotty Donut this time – is no less enthusiastic. “This place is fantastic,” he says. “It’s a bit like Dr Who’s Tardis; you stand outside and you have no idea how big it is, but it turns out to be a full 1,000-seat theatre inside.

“It’s lovely to have ended up here,  with all the legacy and longevity of Berwick Kaler’s pantomimes, and he’s been champing at the bit to get on stage again!”

Suzy is enjoying re-establishing the camaraderie of the long-running team, with Berwick restored to the fore after co-directing and writing Sleeping Beauty in the wake of his retirement from the pantomime stage in February 2019.

David Leonard’s Vermin the Destroyer, left, Martin Barrass’s Dunkin Donut, in waiter mode, and A J Powell’s Luvlie Lumpit making a meal of a scene in Dick Turpin Rides Again. Picture: David Harrison

“We have the added edge within us of knowing people want to see us doing pantomime together again,” she says. “We are blessed: it’s hard work doing panto but we know how teamwork is important and how we are the sum of our parts.

“When we did Sleeping Beauty, we missed Berwick on stage, the audience missed him, and now we have a second chance to be together again. We need him.

“There’s this awful ‘cancel culture’ going on, and yes, things have to develop and have to change, but the idea that a show like ours, that’s been going on for so long, shouldn’t continue is a travesty. We are not dead yet!

“I’m genuinely delighted to be here, in a city that means so much to me. Last year, it just wasn’t Christmas, because I wasn’t in York.”

Assessing what Grand Opera House audiences can expect from Dick Turpin Rides Again, with Berwick taking the rains once more as writer, director and dame, Suzy says: “We’ve always said that we’re a family pantomime but we are anarchic. There’s nothing that won’t delight children, but we are unruly.

“What’s our USP [unique selling point]? Our pantomime is anarchic, it’s crazy, it’s madcap!”

Did you know?

SUZY Cooper played a “lesbian office worker” in BBC One soap opera EastEnders this year, filming in lockdown in late-January and early February for episodes that went out in March/April. “It got me out of the house and into London for the first time in four months,” she says.

Did you know too?

Suzy, who lives in London, is a yoga teacher, teaching both in person and online on Zoom. “To share my yoga has been an amazing thing to do,” she says. “They are very tough, my classes!”

Dame Berwick Kaler returns to York stage after three years as Dick Turpin Rides Again opens today at Grand Opera House

Leaping to it: Berwick Kaler is raring to pick up the pantomime reins from today in Dick Turpin Rides Again. All pictures: David Harrison.

AFTER two dress rehearsals in one day, York’s comeback dame, Berwick Kaler, plays to an opening pantomime crowd today for the first time since December 13 2018.

Much water has passed under York’s bridges since Berwick’s farewell 40th anniversary show, The Grande Old Dame Of York.

He exited the York Theatre Royal stage for the last time in trademark boots, unruly wig and walkdown frock on February 2 2019, that night saying he would “return like a shot” if he were asked to do so.

That return, delayed by a year by Covid’s theatre shutdown, goes ahead today at Berwick’s new pantomime home after a crosstown transfer, the Grand Opera House, as he resumes panto business with vainglorious villain David Leonard, bouncy comic stooge Martin Barrass, golden gal Suzy Cooper and “luverly Brummie” A J Powell in Dick Turpin Rides Again.

“I’ve always thought the Grand Opera House is a proper theatre, absolutely right for pantomime,” says Berwick, who has appeared on the Cumberland Street stage only once before, when he played the flamboyant Captain Terri Dennis in Peter Nichols’ musical comedy Privates On Parade.

“Dick Turpin is one of the most original pantomimes ever, and I’m so excited by it,” says Berwick Kaler

“It’s no good asking me anymore when it was; it was a long time ago. I used to have the poster hanging in my loo, the one with me saluting.”

Should you or Berwick be wondering, the year was 1996, and now, 25 years on, he is back there, retirement plans cancelled. “You’re not going to believe this, but when I retired, I’d retired, and I’ve not earned a penny on stage since then, so I was retired,” he says.

“But we got this offer from Qdos Entertainment [now taken over by Crossroads Live], the biggest pantomime producer in the business, and the thing is I knew I had to be in it this time, not just write it and direct it, which I did for Sleeping Beauty [in 2019-2020 at the Theatre Royal].

“I took up the invitation to return for Martyn, David, Suzy and A J because they’re great exponents of the art of panto, who should be on stage in York.”

Recalling his experience of working on Sleeping Beauty, Berwick says: “At that time, I had no yearning to go back on stage,” he says. “It was a little too soon to start missing playing the dame. Even when I went in for rehearsals, I didn’t want to get up and do it.”

The dame and the daft lad: Berwick Kaler and Martin Barrass reunite for Dick Turpin Rides Again

Later, he would say he regretted the decision to exit stage left. “But when we got the offer to return, at first, I wasn’t sure, but now, at this stage, having said yes, I believe I’m writing better than ever. I’ve got my brain back in gear.”

Panto villain David Leonard has noted how Berwick becomes a “different animal” once he pulls on the dame’s wig and frocks, his voice taking on its stage power too. At 75, four years on from heart bypass surgery, he says, “The thing is, we have to be careful because we can’t do the full-scale slapstick like before, but there can still be slapstick, and Dick Turpin is one of the most original pantomimes ever, and I’m so excited by it.

“It was a one-off when we did it before, as my 30th Theatre Royal pantomime, and it was one of these shows that forced you to really use your imagination. It’s been great to bring it back and work on creating a new version all over again.”

“The legend returns!”, declares the show poster: a reference as much to Berwick Kaler as Dick Turpin as 49 performances lie ahead, starting at 2pm today.

Crossroads Live presents Berwick Kaler in Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, today until January 9. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

New home, familiar faces, as Berwick, David and co return in Dick Turpin Rides Again

Ride on time: AJ Powell, left, Suzy Cooper, Berwick Kaler, David Leonard and Martin Barrass return in Dick Turpin Rides Again. Picture: David Harrison

GRAND dame Berwick Kaler reunites with David Leonard, Martin Barrass, Suzy Cooper and AJ Powell from today at their new pantomime home of the Grand Opera House, York.

The Kaler comeback was delayed by Covid’s dark shroud, putting Dick Turpin Rides Again back in the stable for a year, during which panto producers Qdos Entertainment have been acquired by global entertainment company Crossroads Live.

Even more so now, this is a new beginning for the familiar team and their faithful followers. “What we want to do is get people back into the theatre, gathering together to have a jolly good laugh,” says villain David Leonard.

“Earlier this year, I did A Little Night Music at the Buxton Festival, and it was just lovely to see people having a pre-show drink, laughing and full of expectation of going to the theatre once more and being entertained. There was such a lovely buzz.

“That will be the case at the Grand Opera House, where we know it will be a family show because generation after generation have come to our pantomimes, and we’ve had such a response on social media, with people saying, ‘we’ve got our tickets, we can’t wait’.”

Leonard, Barrass, Cooper and Powell last performed together in Sleeping Beauty in the winter of 2018-2019, their Theatre Royal finale in a show written and co-directed by Kaler.

“Pantomime is a bit like a drug,” says David. “I miss it when I’m not doing it, like last year and when I was doing Matilda in the West End, though I’ve missed theatre in general too.

“Pantomime is a bit like a drug,” says David Leonard. “I miss it when I’m not doing it.” Picture: David Harrison.

“As [theatre director] Peter Brook said, people feel better after a show, and more so than ever this year, after the pandemic lockdowns, when people want to be together, being entertained by a live show, rather than sitting at home binge-watching Netflix.”

The “famous in York five” are delighted to be working together again. “It’s a good feeling,” says David. “When we did the launch, we hadn’t seen each other for over a year. There was Berwick, in his street clothes, chatting with the photographer, then I chatted to him, gave him a hug, and it was time to do the photoshoot.

“In those six minutes, as he put his ‘dress’ on, he becomes a different animal, the lord of misrule. I remember thinking, when he stopped after 40 years, ‘why are you retiring? You always played an old dame, even in your 30s’. Now you are the dame.’

“Berwick is witty, he’s a great ad-libber, and we revolve around his planet. He provides the energy; the drive; he has this natural performer gene, with his voice going up a notch as soon as he’s on stage.

“You can only sit at home for so long reading Dickens before wanting to get back on that stage. He’s still got that desire; he still wants to do it, even after three years of not performing. It’s natural to him, like breathing.”

Looking back at Sleeping Beauty, the pantomime with the Berwick-sized hole in the middle, David says: “Being a team, without him, it was, maybe not rudderless, but it was a different experience.

“Now Berwick’s back with his joshing, and Martin is so happy about that. As the villain, I have my own agenda, I don’t care who’s playing the dame!” You should note, at this point, his tongue is pushing deep into his cheek.

“Berwick is just himself up there, a bloke in a frock, and very few actors can do that,” says David Leonard. Picture: David Harrison

The production run for Dick Turpin Rides Again is much shorter than for the team’s long, long stretches at the Theatre Royal, and the rehearsal period is leaner too. “This time we have two and a half weeks of rehearsals, but I always felt we were twiddling our thumbs before, thinking, ‘we could probably get this on in a week because we know each other so well’; we have that shorthand,” says David.

Once praised by fellow dame Roy Hudd for “being the best dame because you play the dame as a man in a frock with no make-up”, Berwick has resumed the full reins at 75 as writer, director and grand dame.

“He sets the pace, and when you’re on stage with him, you have to be very disciplined, very solid, so that he can have some air around him to allow him to ad-lib, and Suzy and Martin know that better than anyone,” says David.

“Berwick is just himself up there, a bloke in a frock, and very few actors can do that. I can’t, Martin can’t, because we’re character actors, but he’s not afraid to be himself. He’s very honest about himself, who he is, and he’s not scared of showing that to the audience.

“That’s what people love about him; they really connect with him because he’s warm and genuine; he feels it inside, and you need that in the central character.”

Kaler and co first staged Dick Turpin in 2008. “Berwick said, ‘well, he’s a bit dark’, but I said, ‘make him a hero, good versus evil’,” recalls David. “I think it ended up being our most popular show, and yet it’s a completely original panto, like Berwick’s Millennium panto, Old Mother Millie, and Robinson Crusoe. I’m really glad he’s doing this one for his comeback.”

Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, December 11 to January 9 2022. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York

Copyright of The Press, York

More Things To Do in York and beyond as the grand old dame is ready to frock’n’roll. List No 59, courtesy of The Pess, York

The boys and gal are back in town: AJ Powell, left, Suzy Cooper, Berwick Kaler, David Leonard and Martin Barrass return to the pantomime stage in Dick Turpin Rides Again at their new home of the Grand Opera House, York. Picture by David Harrison

DAME Berwick rides again, Adrian Mole surfaces, carol concerts abound and contrasting comedy cracks on, all demanding a place in Charles Hutchinson’s diary

Comeback of the week: Berwick Kaler and co in Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, December 11 to January 9

DAME Berwick Kaler last took to the pantomime stage in his 40th anniversary show, The Grand Old Dame Of York, on February 2 2019, having announced his retirement. Subsequently, he decided it was the “worst decision he had ever made”, a feeling only compounded by writing and co-directing Sleeping Beauty.

In the tradition of Clive Sullivan and Denis Law, he then switched to the other side in the same city, leaving York Theatre Royal to sign up with the Grand Opera House, along with panto teammates Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and AJ Powell.

Delayed by a year, Dame Berwick now resumes panto business at 75, writing, directing and starring in Dick Turpin Rides Again. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Hannah King’s Dick Whittington is ready to stride out from York to London in Rowntree Players’ pantomime, Dick Whittington, from today

Community pantomime of the week: Rowntree Players in Dick Whittington, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, today until December 11

ROWNTREE Players should have presented Dick Whittington last year, but director Howard Ella and co-writer Andy Welch have now dusted off their script written by satellite in lockdown, freshening it up for 2021.

Martyn Hunter returns to the Players’ panto ranks as King Rat, as does Bernie Calpin as Kit The Cat, joining Hannah King’s Dick Whittington, Graham Smith’s Dame Dora, Gemma McDonald’s Duncan, Marie-Louise Surgenor’s Ratatouille, Geoff Walker’s Alderman Fitzwarren and Ellie Watson’s Alice Fitzwarren. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Native Harrow’s Stephen Harms and Devin Tuel will be airing songs from their fourth album, Closeness, at the Fulford Arms

American gig of the week in York: Native Harrow, Fulford Arms, York, Tuesday, 8pm 

PENNSYLVANIAN folk/rock duo Native Harrow are on the final leg of their tour travels showcasing their beautiful fourth album, Closeness.

Now re-located to Brighton, guitarist-singer Devin Tuel and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms have a new single too, Do It Again, one of six songs recorded when they elected to return to the studio where they had made Closeness to continue living in that world, if only for a few more days. Box office: seetickets.com/event/native-harrow/the-fulford-arms/1471604.

The secret is out: Jack Hambleton will be one of two Adrian Moles in Pick Me Up Theatre’s musical premiere. Picture: Matthew Kitchen Photography

Musical premiere of the week in York: Pick Me Up Theatre in The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, The Musical, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Wednesday to December 18

PICK Me Up Theatre are returning to the Theatre@41 Monkgate stage for the first time since Covid’s first lockdown curtailed Tom’s Midnight Garden in March 2020.

In a change from the initially announced SpongeBob The Musical, director Robert Readman has jumped at the chance to present the British amateur premiere of Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary’s musical version of Sue Townsend’s 1982 story of teenage diarist Adrian Mole. Ignore the official poster, there will be a 2pm Sunday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.  

Ryan’s laughter: Canada’s dry-humoured comic, Katherine Ryan, discusses life as a Missus at York Barbican

Comedy gig of the week: Katherine Ryan, Missus, York Barbican, Thursday, 8pm

CANADIAN comedian, writer, presenter and actress Katherine Ryan, 38, previously denounced partnerships but has since married her first love, accidentally.

A lot has changed for everyone, and now the London-based creator and star of Netflix series The Duchess and host of All That Glitters will be offering new perspectives on life, love and what it means to be Missus. Box office: yorkbarbicancentre.co.uk.

Ewa Salecka: Directing Prima Vocal Ensemble at Selby Abbey

Reunion of the week: Prima Vocal Ensemble and York Railway Institute Brass Band, Christmas Classics for Voices and Brass, Selby Abbey, December 11, 7.30pm

YORK choir Prima Vocal Ensemble and York Railway Institute Brass Band are uniting for a Christmas concert at Selby Abbey for the first time since 2018.

The choir will sing classical pieces by Morten Lauridsen, Gabriel Faure and John Rutter, while the band’s festive music will include Shepherd’s Song and Eric Bell’s Kingdom Triumphant.

Choir and band will join together for a finale of Gordon Langford’s joyous Christmas Fantasy. Tickets: on 07921 568826, from Selby Abbey or at primachoralartists.com.

York singer Steve Cassidy: Performing at the York Community Carol Concert at York Barbican

Welcome back: York Community Carol Concert, York Barbican, December 12, 2pm

YORK’S Community Carol Concert returns after last year’s Covid-enforced cancellation, with all the participants who missed out in 2020 taking up the invitation to take part in 2021.

In the Sunday afternoon line-up will be the Shepherd Group Concert Brass Band, Dringhouses Primary School Choir, Clifton Green Primary School Choir, Stamford Bridge Community Choir and York singer Steve Cassidy, hosted by the Reverend Andrew Foster and BBC Radio York presenter Adam Tomlinson. Plenty of tickets are still available but online only at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Holly head: Kate Rusby, who coined that term for a Christmas tradition enthusiast, will be in festive mood in both Harrogate and York. Picture: David Lindsay

Carol concert with a difference: Kate Rusby At Christmas, Harrogate Royal Hall, December 12, and York Barbican, December 20, 7.30pm

BARNSLEY folk singer Kate Rusby, her regular band and “the brass boys” have created a Christmas tradition of their own, celebrating South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire pub carols, punctuated by her own winter songs.

For more than 200 years, from late-November to New Year’s Day, these carols have been sung on Sunday lunchtimes in pubs, having been frowned on in Victorian times for being too happy. Not for the first time, the Victorians were wrong. Box office: Harrogate, 01423 502116 or at harrogatetheatre.co.uk; York, yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Nothing to smile about? Jimmy Carr takes a Terribly Funny turn for a third time in York

Looking ahead to a “terrible” 2022: Jimmy Carr, Terribly Funny, York Barbican, April 15, doors, 7pm

CYNICAL comedian Jimmy Carr will complete a hattrick of York performances of his Terribly Funny tour show next spring.

After playing sold-out gigs at York Barbican on November 4 and the Grand Opera House five nights later, he will return to the Barbican on April 15 with the promise of “all-new material for 2022”.

Carr will be discussing terrible things that might have affected you or people you know and love. “But they’re just jokes,” he says. “Political correctness at a comedy show is like having health and safety at a rodeo.” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk