What would you do if you found Bram Stoker’s original version of Dracula? James Gaddas wrote an obsessive one-man show

James Gaddas: Getting his teeth stuck into Dracula’s story

THIS is the story of Bad Girls, Coronation Street and Hollyoaks actor James Gaddas happening upon Bram Stoker’s original handwritten manuscript of Dracula.

He duly reads of strange encounters in the Count’s castle in Transylvania, his ghostly arrival on a ship of death off the coast of Whitby, his midnight seductions, and a heroic pursuit across Europe in a race against the setting of the sun.

So far, so familiar, but this document contains pages never published, leading Gaddas to a terrifying discovery, one that he shares with the Grand Opera House audience in York on Monday (21/2/2022) in his solo show Dracula – One Man’s Search For The Truth.

“What if everything we thought we knew was just the beginning? What if it’s not a work of fiction but a warning? What if the legend is real?” ponders James, who will bring the original version to life before sharing his discovery in a performance with one actor, 15 characters and one monumental decision. “Are some things better left unburied,” he must discern.

Are you telling the “truth” in this adaptation, James? “It’s more like Boris Johnson’s ‘truth’,” he says. “It’s conjecture. It’s a way of being able to do a one-man version of Dracula without just concentrating on the end.”

Born in Teesside, James recalls Dracula being the first horror film he saw when he was only 11. “I was staying with my grandparents,” he recalls. “I went to bed, but being typically adventurous, I tiptoed downstairs, turned on the telly, and there it was: Dracula, starring Peter Cushing.”

Gaddas, now 61, initially had the chance to appear in Dracula with a small-scale theatre company in Bath 40 years ago when training at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. “I was going to do it, but then I got offered work for my Equity Card, and there was nothing for me in doing Dracula as it was a non-Equity production,” he says.

The idea of doing his own Dracula show first came after watching programmes about searching for lost Second World War treasure. “You watch, knowing from the start they won’t find anything, and they still haven’t after an hour, with all those looks to the camera, but it made me think, ‘wouldn’t it be fascinating to find Stoker’s original version of Dracula?’.

Gaddas was duly asked to voice one of those “lost treasures” investigations into the roots of Stoker’s manuscript, taking him to Romania, where he travelled around Dracula country with a film crew and director in jeeps. “But then something goes wrong with the filming and we have to come back to England,” he says.

Whereupon he took up the role of abusive care-home worker Cormac Ranger in Hollyoaks, shooting episodes sporadically in 2020 and 2021. “I was doing Hollyoaks when lockdown started, so I was left kicking my heels and started looking further into the Stoker story, deciding to write my adaptation in lockdown in London,” says James.

“The idea is that Stoker had been asked by Van Helsing to put this genuine document in book form and I then take it upon myself to take up that story – and by trying to tell it like an investigative journalist, it allows you to play with how Stoker had everything flying around all over the place – the timelines, the newspaper cuttings, the journals – when he was writing the book.

The poster, blood-red writing and all, for James Gaddas’s Dracula – One Man’s Search For The Truth

“In my show, the search for the truth becomes an obsession, and that psychological side of a story is such a strong part of a solo show.”

Gaddas previously wrote a solo play in Australia in 1989 called Shadow Boxing. “It was about a gay boxer,” he says. “It came about when this actor, David Field, said, ‘write me a one-man show’, and his dad had been a boxer. That play was revived on an Arts Council tour over here two years ago.”

Gaddas knew what form his Dracula show should take. “Doing such a classic piece, I wanted to get away from just standing there enunciating the book,” he says. “We’ve come to the point where we expect Dracula to be a comedy, whereas really it isn’t. It’s much more like Nosferatu, rooted in Eastern European ideology, while playing with what happens to someone when sense ends and obsession begins. It’s that archetypal thing where an obsession can take over.”

He may be performing on his own, but he has an impressive production team that has created the show with him, led by director Pip Minnithorpe, UK associate director of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child.

Illusion design is by John Bulleid, who provided the Olivier Award-winning illusions for The Worst Witch, and Deborah Radin has provided the movement direction.

The show’s original music is by composer and Downton Abbey and Ted Lasso actor Jeremy Swift. “I’ve known Jez since he was 11, when we were at school together,” says James.

“He’s always had a love of music, and we’d write songs together; he’d write the tunes, I’d write the lyrics. Anyway, we were on this walk on Hampstead Heath, when he said, ‘what are you doing in lockdown?’, and I told him I was writing a one-man play. ‘Would you like me to write the music?’ he said.”

Tomorrow, Gaddas will be playing no fewer than 15 characters. “It’s slightly easier than when I did Billy Bishop Goes To War, a [John MacLachlan Gray ] musical about a Canadian First World War flying ace, where I had to play 23 characters – and I didn’t get to choose those characters, but here, for Dracula, I could.”

As the interview draws to a close, Gaddas offers a final thought on Stoker’s sense of drama in his writing. “Today, he would probably have been writing episodes for Coronation Street,” he says. Imagine that.

James Gaddas in Dracula – One Man’s Search For The Truth, Grand Opera House, York, February 21, 7.30pm. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Dickens tales, dames and Damon drop in. List No. 59, courtesy of The Press, York

What the Dickens? Yes, James Swanton is reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas at York Medical Society

FROM boyish Boris to Dame Edna, Christmas concerts to panto dames, Dickensian ghost stories to solo Damon, Charles Hutchinson has highlights aplenty to recommend.   

Dickensian Christmas in York: James Swanton’s Ghost Stories For Christmas, York Medical Society, on various dates between December 2 and 13, 7pm

AFTER the silent nights of last December, York gothic actor supreme James Swanton is gleefully reviving his Ghost Stories For Christmas performances of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, The Haunted Man and The Chimes.

“I’ve scheduled extra performances of A Christmas Carol: the perfect cheering antidote, I feel, to the misery we’ve all been through,” says Swanton. “But the two lesser-known stories are also very relevant to our times.”

A reduced capacity is operating for Covid safety, meaning that tickets are at a premium on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Boris: World King, under debate at Theatre@41

Political debate of the week: Boris: World King, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight, 7.30pm

THE year is 1985 and Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson has plenty going for him, being young, posh and really rather blond. However, his efforts to become President of the Oxford Union debating society have been thwarted.

Never fear. Boris always has a cunning plan up his sleeve. Cue time travel, classical allusions and good clean banter in Boris: World King, Tom Crawshaw’s comedic exploration of a young man’s ambition and humanity explored as a half-hour one-man show. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Richard Kay: Co-directing York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir’s Christmas concerts

Harmony at Christmas: York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir and the Citadel Singers, Christmas Traditions 2021, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, Tuesday to Friday, doors 7pm

AFTER delivering an online Christmas concert via Zoom to an international audience in 2020, York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir return to live concerts for Christmas Traditions 2021.

The Citadel allows room for cabaret seating downstairs and balcony seating that can ensure safe distancing is maintained, while the show retains its format of carols old and new, Christmas songs, festive readings and sketches. Box office: arkevent.co.uk/christmastraditions2021.

The poster for Damon Albarn’s night at the double at York Minster

York gig(s) of the week: Damon Albarn, York Minster, Thursday, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

DAMON Albarn quickly added a second special intimate album-launch show at York Minster after the first was fully booked in a flash.

The Blur, Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad & The Queen leader now plays two sold-out concerts in one night in his first ever York performances, marking the November 12 release of his solo studio recording The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows.

Albarn, 53, has been on a “dark journey” making this album in lockdown, exploring themes of fragility, loss, emergence and rebirth.

Martyn Joseph: Lockdown reflections on landmark birthday on new album, showcased in concert at Pocklington Arts Centre concert

Gig of the week outside York: Martyn Joseph, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

“THE Welsh Springsteen”, singer-songwriter Martyn Joseph, will be showcasing his 23rd studio album, 1960, a “coming of age” record with a difference, in Pocklington.

Last year, amid the isolation of the pandemic, Penarth-born Joseph turned 60 on July 15, a landmark birthday, a time of self-reflection, that shaped his songs of despair and sadness, gratitude and wonder, and gave the album its title. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Alistair Griffin: Series of Big Christmas Concerts in York

Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert, St Michael-le-Belfrey, York, December 3 (sold out) and December 10, 8pm; Alistair Griffin’s Candlelit Christmas, Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, December 11, 8pm

ON December 3 and 10, a brass band greets revellers, then York singer-songwriter Alistair Griffin’s Big Christmas Concert takes a musical journey from acoustic traditional carols to Wizzard, Slade and The Pogues. “Sing along and sip mulled wine while enjoying the fairytale of old York,” says Griffin’s invitation.

On December 11, he switches from St Michael-le-Belfrey to a candle-lit Holy Trinity Church. “Take a seat, or in this case, a medieval pew and soak in the festive atmosphere,” he says. Cue mulled wine, Christmas tunes, acoustic festive numbers and a Christmas carol singalong. Box office: alistairgriffin.com.

York playwright Mike Kenny: New production of The Railway Children with his award-winning script at Hull Truck

On the right track show of the week outside York: The Railway Children, Hull Truck Theatre, running until January 2

YORK playwright Mike Kenny has revisited his award-winning adaptation of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children – first staged so memorably by York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum – for Hull Truck’s Christmas musical.

Directed by artistic director Mark Babych in the manner of his Oliver Twist and Peter Pan shows of Christmases past, original music and dance routines complement Kenny’s storytelling in this warm-hearted, uplifting tale of hope, friendship and family, set in Yorkshire. Box office: 01482 323638 or at hulltruck.co.uk.

Faye Campbell: Brushing up on playing Cinderella in York Theatre Royal’s pantomime, opening on Friday

Evolution, not revolution, in pantoland: Cinderella, York Theatre Royal, December 3 to January 2

YORK Theatre Royal’s post-Berwick era began last year with the Travelling Pantomime, establishing the partnership of Evolution Pantomimes’ man with the Midas touch, Paul Hendy, as writer and Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster as director.

After the 2020 road show, here comes the full-scale return to the main house for Cinderella, starring CBeebies’ Andy Day (Dandini), last winter’s stars Faye Campbell (Cinderella) and Robin Simpson (Sister), Paul Hawkyard (the other Sister), ventriloquist comedian Max Fulham (Buttons), Benjamin Lafayette (Prince Charming) and Sarah Leatherbarrow (Fairy Godmother). Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Unmasked: Barry Humphries tells all at the Grand Opera House, York next April

Hottest ticket launch of the week: Barry Humphries, The Man Behind The Mask, Grand Opera House, York, April 13 2022

AUSTRALIAN actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure Barry Humphries will play only one Yorkshire show on his 2022 tour, here in York.

Set to turn 88 on February 17, he will take a revelatory trip through his colourful life and theatrical career in an intimate, confessional evening, seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling and occasionally outrageous stories of alter egos Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone. Hurry, hurry, for tickets on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Hal Cruttenden and Rosie Jones double up for Your Place Comedy online on Sunday. Oh, and when will Selby Town Hall re-open? UPDATED 23/02/2021

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Doubling up: Hal Cruttenden and Rosie Jones link up online from their living rooms for Your Place Comedy on February 28

YORKSHIRE and Humber virtual comedy club Your Place Comedy will play host to its eighth online double bill on Sunday, presenting the remote coupling of Hal Cruttenden and Rosie Jones.

Co-ordinator Chris Jones, manager of Selby Town Hall, says: “After a triumphant return to phones, tablets, laptops and smart TVs on January 24 with Josie Long and Ahir Shah, this collaborative live-stream project, organised by a collective of 12 small, independent northern venues, will once again transport two of the UK’s best stand-ups from their living rooms to yours…and all for free.”

Television comedy mainstay Hal has guested on Have I Got News For You on four occasions, hosted Live At The Apollo, starred in The Royal Variety Performance and appeared as a regular panellist on Mock The Week, popping up on Celebrity Mastermind and Would I Lie To You? too.

Bridlington-born Rosie, a patron of Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, since last May, is one of the fastest-rising stars on the comedy circuit, making her impact on Live At The Apollo, Mock The Week, The Jonathan Ross Show and 8 Out Of 10 Cats and as a panellist on BBC1’s Question Time.

Placed second at the Leicester Mercury New Comedian of the Year Award in 2018, she also has appeared on The Last Leg, Hypothetical and Comedy Central’s Roast Battle, as well as writing for the second series of Netflix hit Sex Education.

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Rosie Jones: Fast-rising voice of comedy, scriptwriter and actor

Once again, the streamed show will be compered by Tim FitzHigham, writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler and presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge.

Your Place Comedy will be free to watch on YouTube and Twitch at 8pm, with an option for viewers to donate if they have enjoyed the broadcast. “The money raised will be used to support the performers and the 12 venues involved, all of whom face continued uncertainty as lockdown regulations have once again prevent theatres from opening,” says Chris, manager of Selby Town Hall and arts officer for Selby Town Council.

“We were really thrilled with the response to Your Place Comedy’s return last month. As venues rooted in communities, we’ve all missed those direct connections with our brilliant and loyal audiences while the pandemic has kept theatre doors shut.

“Being able to share laughter and light-hearted moments from some of the acts who would normally appear on our stages, in what always feels like such a warm and intimate way, has been an incredible tonic over the past year and I’m delighted that acts of Hal and Rosie’s calibre have signed up to take part in this latest edition.

“Hal has been among the most prolific comedy performers of recent years, appearing on every panel show and at every comedy festival going, while Rosie looks set to become a superstar of the near future with burgeoning careers as an actor and children’s author now developing alongside her rapidly increasing comedy profile.”

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Hal Cruttenden: Television comedy mainstay, appearing on screen via You Tube and Twitch streaming on Sunday

Joining together to mount Your Place Comedy Season 3 are 2021 additions The Civic, Barnsley, Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, and Rural Arts, at The Courthouse, Thirsk, alongside Selby Town Hall; Otley Courthouse; Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; The Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; Pocklington Arts Centre and Rotherham Theatres.

Delighted at the response to the third wave of Your Place Comedy in lockdown, Chris says: “We had a brilliant return last month with Ahir Shah and Josie Long. Over 600 devices logged on to watch with nearly £1,000 raised in donations to help pay the performers and support the venues involved.

“The acts were brilliant, and it’s been fascinating to watch how quickly and ingeniously comedians have all adapted to the format of online shows over recent months. For many, it works remarkably well, and I do wonder if some version of online gigging in the comedy world will remain even when all of this is over.”

“I know that times are tough for many people, and so we’re committed to keeping these shows completely free, so please do come and join Hal, Rosie and Tim for some top entertainment at an unbeatable price, as for now streaming is the only show in town.”

Ahead of Boris Johnson’s Monday pronouncement, Chris had said: “Sadly, I don’t hold out much hope. I’ve got autumn tours now moving to 2022 as they anticipate social distancing for the rest of the year. We won’t have anything in Selby Town Hall until autumn at the earliest.”

Now, with a road map for reopening at least in pencil form after the Prime Minister announced a four-step plan for lockdown easement, Chris says: “It certainly provides a chink of light.

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Josie Long and Ahir Shah: the double bill for Your Place Comedy on January 24

“The headline is that – if all goes according to plan – venues will be able to open in a socially distanced manner from May 17, but no level of social distancing is viable for us, and I still think audience confidence will be low at that point, so it’s unlikely we will re-open ahead of June.”

Chris is only “cautiously optimistic” about that possibility at the 150-capacity Selby Town Hall. “It certainly seems as though, at current trajectory, the vaccination programme will be all but complete by the end of that month, but most tour shows before autumn have already rescheduled,” he says.

Chris believes “we need a longer lead-in time for ticket sales and for audience confidence to return”. “I also await the small print on this – what conditions will be attached to a non-socially distanced reopening?” he ponders. “Will we have to implement rapid testing on site, or ask people to come with either proof of a recent negative PCR test or vaccination ‘passport’…or both?”

Looking ahead, Chris says: “My focus remains on delivering a full autumn programme, and Monday’s announcements give me more confidence that this will be possible.

“If, with a favourable wind, we are to open safely, in a practically and financially viable manner, at full capacity, before September, I will be thrilled. For the moment though, I remain cautious about the chances of any activity taking place in the summer.”

For full details on Your Place Comedy, and to find out how to watch the February 28 show, go to: yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

Selby Town Hall: When will it re-open?

Hal Cruttenden and Rosie Jones double up for Your Place Comedy online on Sunday UPDATED 23/02/2021

Doubling up: Hal Cruttenden and Rosie Jones link up online from their living rooms for Your Place Comedy on February 28

YORKSHIRE and Humber virtual comedy club Your Place Comedy will play host to its eighth online double bill on Sunday, presenting the remote coupling of Hal Cruttenden and Rosie Jones.

Co-ordinator Chris Jones, manager of Selby Town Hall, says: “After a triumphant return to phones, tablets, laptops and smart TVs on January 24 with Josie Long and Ahir Shah, this collaborative live-stream project, organised by a collective of 12 small, independent northern venues, will once again transport two of the UK’s best stand-ups from their living rooms to yours…and all for free.”

Television comedy mainstay Hal has guested on Have I Got News For You on four occasions, hosted Live At The Apollo, starred in The Royal Variety Performance and appeared as a regular panellist on Mock The Week, popping up on Celebrity Mastermind and Would I Lie To You? too.

Bridlington-born Rosie, a patron of Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, since last May, is one of the fastest-rising stars on the comedy circuit, making her impact on Live At The Apollo, Mock The Week, The Jonathan Ross Show and 8 Out Of 10 Cats and as a panellist on BBC1’s Question Time.

Placed second at the Leicester Mercury New Comedian of the Year Award in 2018, she also has appeared on The Last Leg, Hypothetical and Comedy Central’s Roast Battle, as well as writing for the second series of Netflix hit Sex Education.

Rosie Jones: Fast-rising voice of comedy, scriptwriter and actor

Once again, the streamed show will be compered by Tim FitzHigham, writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s The Gambler and presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge.

Your Place Comedy will be free to watch on YouTube and Twitch, with an option for viewers to donate if they have enjoyed the broadcast. “The money raised will be used to support the performers and the 12 venues involved, all of whom face continued uncertainty as lockdown regulations have once again prevent theatres from opening,” says Chris, manager of Selby Town Hall and arts officer for Selby Town Council.

“We were really thrilled with the response to Your Place Comedy’s return last month. As venues rooted in communities, we’ve all missed those direct connections with our brilliant and loyal audiences while the pandemic has kept theatre doors shut.

“Being able to share laughter and light-hearted moments from some of the acts who would normally appear on our stages, in what always feels like such a warm and intimate way, has been an incredible tonic over the past year and I’m delighted that acts of Hal and Rosie’s calibre have signed up to take part in this latest edition.

“Hal has been among the most prolific comedy performers of recent years, appearing on every panel show and at every comedy festival going, while Rosie looks set to become a superstar of the near future with burgeoning careers as an actor and children’s author now developing alongside her rapidly increasing comedy profile.”

Hal Cruttenden: Television comedy mainstay, appearing on screen via You Tube and Twitch streaming on Sunday

Joining together to mount Your Place Comedy Season 3 are 2021 additions The Civic, Barnsley, Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, and Rural Arts, at The Courthouse, Thirsk, alongside Selby Town Hall; Otley Courthouse; Ropewalk, Barton upon Humber; East Riding Theatre, Beverley; Junction, Goole; Helmsley Arts Centre; The Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds; Pocklington Arts Centre and Rotherham Theatres.

Delighted at the response to the third wave of Your Place Comedy in lockdown, Chris says: “We had a brilliant return last month with Ahir Shah and Josie Long. Over 600 devices logged on to watch with nearly £1,000 raised in donations to help pay the performers and support the venues involved.

“The acts were brilliant, and it’s been fascinating to watch how quickly and ingeniously comedians have all adapted to the format of online shows over recent months. For many, it works remarkably well, and I do wonder if some version of online gigging in the comedy world will remain even when all of this is over.”

“I know that times are tough for many people, and so we’re committed to keeping these shows completely free, so please do come and join Hal, Rosie and Tim for some top entertainment at an unbeatable price, as for now streaming is the only show in town.”

Ahead of Boris Johnson’s Monday pronouncement, Chris had said: “Sadly, I don’t hold out much hope. I’ve got autumn tours now moving to 2022 as they anticipate social distancing for the rest of the year. We won’t have anything in Selby Town Hall until autumn at the earliest.”

Now, with a road map for reopening at least in pencil form after the Prime Minister announced a four-step plan for lockdown easement, Chris says: “It certainly provides a chink of light.

Josie Long and Ahir Shah: the double bill for Your Place Comedy on January 24

“The headline is that – if all goes according to plan – venues will be able to open in a socially distanced manner from May 17, but no level of social distancing is viable for us, and I still think audience confidence will be low at that point, so it’s unlikely we will re-open ahead of June.”

Chris is only “cautiously optimistic” about that possibility at the 150-capacity Selby Town Hall. “It certainly seems as though, at current trajectory, the vaccination programme will be all but complete by the end of that month, but most tour shows before autumn have already rescheduled.”

Chris believes “we need a longer lead-in time for ticket sales and for audience confidence to return”. “I also await the small print on this – what conditions will be attached to a non-socially distanced reopening?” he ponders. “Will we have to implement rapid testing on site, or ask people to come with either proof of a recent negative PCR test or vaccination ‘passport’…or both?”

Looking ahead, Chris says: “My focus remains on delivering a full autumn programme, and Monday’s announcements give me more confidence that this will be possible.

“If, with a favourable wind, we are to open safely, in a practically and financially viable manner, at full capacity, before September, I will be thrilled. For the moment though, I remain cautious about the chances of any activity taking place in the summer.”

For full details on Your Place Comedy, and to find out how to watch the February 28 show, go to: yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

Selby Town Hall: When will it re-open?

Alex Weatherhill has bean there, done that, as panto musical director and director. Now he makes his Dame debut with a Beanstalk

Blending in with the scenery: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nanna Trott hits trouble when trying to develop a new milkshake recipe in York Stage’s slapstick scene in Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

ALEX Weatherhill has been making a Dame for himself for the first time – and a resplendent name for her too – as Dame Nancy Angelina Norma Nigella Alana Trott (Nanna for short) in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk.

Here, Alex discusses his “rather challenging and iconic start” to performing in pantomime as he answers Charles Hutchinson’s quickfire questions.

What was the first pantomime you ever saw and what do you recall of it?

“I don’t remember which one it was, but I remember being totally confused about people shouting things out. Even though I was young, I had only seen grown-up theatre, where you must sit politely, not talk and respect the performers and the theatre itself. I thought everyone was being really rude shouting things out!”

What was your first pantomime role?

“Can you believe it…this! My first role on stage in panto! I’ve been a musical director and director for quite a few, but never been the other side of the footlights for this particular style of theatre.”

What would be your ideal pantomime role if you could choose?

“Ummmm, I’m going to have to say this one! I waited a long time and went in with a rather iconic and challenging start!”

Who else would you like to play and why?

“I’ve always wondered if playing Dame would suit and wanted to try it. I’m getting a taste for it and would like to try more…maybe play an Ugly Sister, where you get to be mean!”

Who is your favourite pantomime performer and why?

“I worked with a Dame a few years ago called Joe Standerline. He’s recently been part of the movement to bring attention to the arts at this tricky time and so some might recognise his look from the media.

“As a Dame, he treads the balance between lovable, sharp wit and a little bit of sauce. I love that.”

This year’s pantomime will be an experience like no other…what are your expectations of performing a show in these strange circumstances?

“We’re all going to be a little emotional as we get to actually perform on a stage with real people. We aim to bring a little joy into the lives of our audience; some sparkle at the close of a tough year for many.”

“I’ve always wondered if playing Dame would suit and wanted to try it,” says Alex Weatherhill. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Which pantomime role should Boris Johnson play and why?

“Ooh, this is a tricky one to answer without getting too political! Ha ha. I think his hair and demeanor suit Beauty’s mad inventor father in Beauty And The Beast!”

Who or what has been the villain of 2020?

“Covid-19! It would definitely be wearing a cape and lit in green and red!”

Who or what has been the fairy of 2020?

“The vaccine! It waited until the last moment to come and save the day, but in it comes lit in pink and delivered by a wand…..of sorts!”

How would you sum up 2020 in five words?

“Testing. Re-evaluation. Home. Netflix. Zoom!”

What are your wishes for 2021?

“I hope that we can get back to some sense of normality, so that we can come together and appreciate the company of others again.”

What are your hopes for the world of theatre in 2021?

“The hope is for a bounce-back and the joyous celebration of the arts again. The arts being streamed online got many through these dark days; let’s hope we can find a way to bring it back to life in a live setting.”

York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until January 3 2021.

Show times: Boxing Day, December 26, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm (sold out); December 27, 11am (sold out), 1pm (sold out) and 6pm; December 28, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm (sold out); December 29, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 30, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; New Year’s Eve, December 31, 12 noon (sold out); January 2, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; January 3, 1pm and 6pm.

Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

“We aim to bring a little joy into the lives of our audience; some sparkle at the close of a tough year for many,” says Alex Weatherhill. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

Taylor-made for panto stage from Emily’s scene-stealing impromptu debut at five

Emily Taylor: Lighting up the York Stage pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, in the transformation scene. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

EMILY Taylor was cut out for the stage from her first moment in the spotlight at the age of five.

Now the York dance tutor, regular dance captain and choreographer for myriad Grand Opera House pantomimes is starring in York Stage’s debut pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk.

She forms part of the all-action ensemble with Danielle Mullan and Matthew Ives in writer-director Nik Briggs’s production at the Covid-secure, socially distanced, beanstalk-staired Theatre @41 Monkgate.

Here Emily answers Charles Hutchinson’s scattergun questions on pantomimes past, present and future, heroes, villains and fairies, 2020 and 2021.

What was the first pantomime you ever saw and what do you recall of it?

“Cinderella at the Grand Opera House, York. Frazer Hines was Buttons and I was about five years old. We were seated in a box closest to the stage and in the song sheet, when they asked for children to go up on stage, my Dad lifted me over the edge so I could run up.

“We did I Am The Music Man and they kept me up as the last child to finish it by myself. That was my first ever panto experience and my first ever time on stage.” 

What was your first pantomime role?

“Grumpy the dwarf in Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.”

What has been your favourite pantomime role?

“I’ve LOVED all of my years as a dancer. However, I think covering for Debbie McGee as Fairy in Beauty And The Beast when she was doing Strictly, and getting to work alongside the lovely Lynne McGranger, was a highlight. I really enjoy the acting part of things.”

Who have you not yet played in pantomime that you would love to play and why?

“I’d love to actually play the  Fairy for a full run, or at the other end of the scale, an evil queen/baddie role.” 

Who is your favourite pantomime performer and why?

“I’ve worked with so many people whose talent I admire and have learnt so much from watching how different people work. As a teenager, I worked with Michael Starke, as the Emperor of China, who was totally professional, hard working, and just a genuinely lovely person. Although, after this show, I feel like I may have some new favourites!”

This year’s pantomime will be an experience like no other…what are your expectations of performing a show in these strange circumstances?

“This year’s show is already filled with so much joy and appreciation from us all as a cast. I’m hoping the audience will share that joy with us – everyone will just be so happy to see live theatre again.

“The performance space is much more intimate here, which brings a whole new element to it.”

Emily Taylor in the York Stage pantomime slapstick scene with Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nanna Trott. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography


Which pantomime role should Boris Johnson play and why?

“Hmmmmm…maybe the Genie of the Ring. They often have a lot of power but are not quite sure how to use it in the best way. A difficult situation to be in!”

Who or what has been the villain of 2020?

“Covid-19.”

Who or what has been the fairy of 2020? 

“Nik Briggs. 100 per cent!!!!!”

How would you sum up 2020 in five words?

“Enlightening. Chance to re-evaluate priorities.”

What are your wishes for 2021?

“For Covid to be under control or, even better, be gone completely, so that I can give my Mum and Dad a hug! I also want to perform as much as possible if I can. 2020 has certainly cemented just how much I love the theatre.”

What are your hopes for the world of theatre in 2021?

“For theatre to return quickly and safely and things to get back to normal, but with a whole new level of appreciation, as soon as possible.”

York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, until January 3 2021.

Show times: December 15 and 16, 7pm; December 18, 7pm (sold out); December 19, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 20, 11am, 1pm (sold out) and 6pm; December 21, 7pm; December 22, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 23, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; Christmas Eve, December 24, 11am, 1pm (sold out) and 5pm (sold out).

Boxing Day, December 26, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 27, 11am, 1pm (sold out) and 6pm; December 28, 11am, 2pm (sold out) and 7pm; December 29 and 30, 2pm and 7pm; New Year’s Eve, December 31, 12 noon. 

Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only. 

Are WeFail’s satirical collages “disgusting”! “Disgraceful”? You decide at Art Of Protest

Clap 2, Boris Johnson, by WeFail, posted on Facebook on April 24 and now on show at Art Of Protest, York

THE art of horror is not only for Halloween, protests York gallery owner Craig Humble as he opens a timely exhibition of shock-horror works by the controversial artist known as WeFail.

Hogarthian cartoon collages by WeFail, alias Martin Hughes, from Manchester, chime with the gallery name as Art Of Protest settles into its new home at 11, Walmgate.

In May, WeFail’s “Blood on their hands for PPE failures” collages of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, each clapping for the NHS, made the pages of the Daily Mail Online.

Art Of Protest owner and curator Craig Humble outside his new gallery premises in Walmgate, York

Why?  After being posted on Facebook, they subsequently appeared on the Havant Labour page with trenchant comments about the Government “completely mismanaging” the Coronavirus crisis.

“Disgusting”, “Disgraceful”, came the Conservative outcry, and Havant Labour subsequently removed the post and apologised fully.

The paintings had been premiered on WeFail’s social media and website , and in response to the reaction to the Labour Facebook post, WeFail posted: “‘Disgraceful art’, what’s really disgraceful is having the highest death rate in Europe, by choice.” “Never apologise for my art”, tweeted WeFail, whose website says he “paints monsters”.

Four Horsemen, by WeFail, at Art Of Protest Gallery

In the window of Art Of Protest is the artist’s statement, WeFail On The Covid-19 Crisis, as he explains: This Is Why I Paint.

Its closing paragraphs read: “At the most crucial time when lives could have been saved, this Government did nothing, in fact on the advice of ghouls like ‘too bad’ Cummings they actively sought to spread the virus and gain the mythical herd immunity.

“Thousands have died needlessly. But it’s pointless debating this, they see what they want to see and when this has passed they will try to rewrite the history books.”

The Art Of Protest Gallery window set up for WeFail’s works of political satire

Welcoming WeFail’s works to Art Of Protest, Craig says: “Political satire has a long history in the UK: WeFail’s work is in the tradition of James Gillray and William Hogarth via its satirical attack on those in power but stylistically is nearer the horrors of Francis Bacon, Otto Dix and Francisco Goya. For this reason, it seems an ideal exhibition for the Halloween weekend.

“Art Of Protest Gallery prides itself on art that makes a viewer look. WeFail soars above this bar. As the first gallery to dare to exhibit original work by WeFail, we’re proud to share this cutting edge of contemporary political satire.”

A digital catalogue is available of WeFail’s hand-finished collages by emailing info@artofprotestgallery.com to provide the opportunity to be “one of the few to own this portentous series of original works”, with the artist making works individually to order.

Clap 2, Matt Hancock, by WeFail from the “Blood on their hands for PPE failure” triptych of works also featuring Boris Johnson and Michael Gove

Art Of Protest has re-located from 16, Little Stonegate after nearly four years, following what Craig calls “a fraught series of unfortunate coincidences and Covid-themed interventions” that led him to declare he was the subject of a “Catch-22 eviction”.

Putting a sense of injustice to one side, the rent he had set aside for staying at Little Stonegate has enabled him to move to Walmgate instead. “There’s a strong relationship with the landlord who owns the building,” says Craig.

“The neighbours have been welcoming and vehicle access to the gallery has made a noticeable difference to the overall experience for collectors.”

A protest marcher with WeFail’s Clap 2 collage of Boris Johnson

WeFail’s exhibition will run until the third week of November, to be followed by a solo show by Dan Cimmermann, opening on the last weekend of November.

“Cimmermann has created a show built on portraiture from the 12th to 16th centuries but melded with the stags and hens that occupy the streets of York today,” says Craig.

“Dan is one of the northern artists whose work is predominantly exhibited in London and Japan but the Art of Protest Gallery likes to champion him a bit nearer his roots in Middlesbrough and where he works in his day job as Art Master of Pocklington School.”

REVIEW: Suffer Fools Gladly, Badapple Theatre Company, on tour to September 23

Anastasia Benham’s Queen Avril and Danny Mellor’s Geordie jester Jagger in Badapple Theatre Company’s Suffer Fools Gladly

WANTED urgently, the plea went out. Open-air venues to host Badapple Theatre Company’s new short play. Apply promptly, help Badapple hit their required target in their 21st anniversary year and Arts Council England would back it.

Sure enough, such is the fond support for Green Hammerton’s “Theatre on your Doorstep” exponents that a list of North and East Yorkshire private gardens, campsites and hall car parks was full as quick as a finger click.

ACE has provided a £14,998 grant that will cover not only the doorstep tour of Yorkshire actor and writer Danny Mellor’s Suffer Fools Gladly, but also the “creative filming” of artistic director Kate Bramley’s smash-hit play Eddie And The Gold Tops for a November to February itinerary of film performances at familiar Badapple indoor venues under Covid-secure, socially-distanced guidelines.

This “Hybrid-Live” season opens with Suffer Fools Gladly’s September 15 to 23 run. Such was the ticket demand that doorstep destination number two presented three sold-out performances in one day – in the pantomime tradition of bygone days – under an awning on the terracing of a Stockton-on-the-Forest garden.

Danny Mellor as the “Mad Dad” in the premiere of his play Suffer Fools Gladly

In one side, out the other, hand sanitiser stations at the garden entry and exit, socially scattered garden chairs, this was theatre-going for the Covid age, and Arts Council England should be thanked for making it possible.

You may have rather different feelings towards the Government’s flowery response to the plight of an arts world still largely stymied since lockdown, but we are where we are, sitting in a Yorkshire country garden watching two actors, Mellor and Anastasia Benham, working for the first time since lockdown. Indeed for the first time since they performed Badapple’s winter warmer, The Snow Dancer.

Mellor has created Suffer Fools Gladly in that time: a quick-moving, quick-witted hour-long comedy that delights in testing and tracing the merits of always having to tell the truth: a compulsion from which our parliamentarians seem to be socially distanced, alas.

Mellor is playing Ozzy, a Brummie-voiced jester, exiled by Queen Avril from the magical kingdom of Marillion, where he is replaced by the lying Jagger. Ozzy, Marillion, Jagger…are you spotting all the rock references? Plenty more are on their way, punk henchmen Sid and Nancy making their day too.

One of three performances of Suffer Fools Gladly in one day in a Stockton-on-the-Forest garden

Through portal travel, Ozzy and his truth-dispensing marotte (the French word for a fool’s bauble) end up on Earth, where he strikes up an unlikely – but very likely in this upbeat, daft play – friendship with Earth girl Stevie (Benham).

She is 17, wont to be sceptical, even cynical, and expected to make the grades to study science at Oxford, with no time for fun, she complains.

Her rock-obsessed Yorkshireman father, the “mad dad” who named her after Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, has his mind on other things, forever reliving the 1980s. Queen to be precise, irresponsibly and misguidedly resolving to give up his job to be Freddie Mercury in a tribute band, although his singing voice is more lead than mercury. No wonder, her mum left him, says an exasperated Stevie.

Here we have two Queens in one show. The ubiquitous band and the autocratic ruler of Marillion (Benham’s second role), with a penchant for a bustle that “makes her bottom look big”, but Jagger won’t say that, whereas, stick in hand, Ozzy would.

Sticking to the truth: Danny Mellor’s jester, Ozzy, with his marotte in Suffer Fools Gladly

Mellor and Benham have comedy-and-pathos chemistry aplenty from The Snow Dancer, and even with the requirement for two metres of separation at all times, they bond so well again as they move to and fro between multiple roles.

Under Mellor and Bramley’s brisk co-direction, they are a joy to watch, full of fun and invention, whether sending up teenage proclivities, regal divas or rock gods or spoofing Boris Johnson, so glad to be playing to an audience once more too.

From topical Covid references and a Cummings dig to Ozzy’s observation that butterflies are “just moths with make-up on”, Mellor’s script has lip and zip, quirky observation and home truths…and even a Sex Pistols lyric. “No future, no future, no future for you”? Wrong, Mellor definitely has a future as a writer as much as an actor with an ear for so many accents.

Whoever holds the marotte, truth will out in a fearless play where protagonists are caught between rock (music) and a hard place. Stick to the truth is the message here. Truth be bold, truth be told. Politicians, take note.

Kate Bramley: Badapple Theatre Company founder and artistic director and co-director of Suffer Fools Gladly

Suffer Fools Gladly’s September tour itinerary continues at:

19: Colton Farm, near Tadcaster, 2pm, sold out.
20: St. Alban’s Church, Hull, car park, 2pm, sold out.
20: Skipsea, 7pm, tickets available.

21: Private garden, Driffield, 2pm, sold out.
22: Private garden, Gilberdyke, Goole, 5pm, tickets available.
23: Moor Monkton, 5pm, tickets available.

For tickets, go to: badappletheatre.co.uk/show/suffer-fools-gladly/

Thought for the day…

Dark times: York Theatre Royal, exit stage left until further, more helpful notice from the Government’s Washing Hands department

THEATRES can “re-open” from July 4, but not for performances. That’s like saying pubs can re-open but not serve any beer.

Theatre’s future and indeed theatres’ futures are hanging by a thread. For once, take something other than the besmirching of Winston Churchill’s statue seriously, Prime Minister, not wiffle-waffle about “can re-open”.