Ed Byrne out, Milton Jones in, as York Theatre Royal makes late line-up change

Byrne out: “Unable to appear due to circumstances beyond the Theatre Royal’s control”

OFF with his ‘Edliner! Comedian Ed Byrne will not top the Live At The Theatre Royal comedy bill in York on Thursday after all.

“We are sorry to announce that due to circumstances beyond our control, Ed Byrne is now unable to appear,” says the York Theatre Royal .

No Byrne’s night in York, but well equipped to take over at short notice is quip-witted pun-slinger Milton Jones.

Shock of the new: Milton Jones looks startled by his late call-up for the Live At The Theatre Royal comedy night

The shock-haired, excitable-shirted absurdist with the quiver of arrow-sharp one-liners will be joined by Rhys James and Maisie Adam, introduced by lugubrious host Arthur Smith. 

“If you have already booked your tickets, you do not need to do anything and we look forward to seeing you on Thursday,” says the box office. “If you need to contact us about your booking, please email boxoffice@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or call 01904 623568 between 12 noon and 3pm. Our team will be happy to answer any questions and help in any way they can.”

To check ticket availability, go to yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Byrne’s night as Irish comic Ed headlines York Theatre Royal comedy bill in July

Ed Byrne: Headline set at York Theatre Royal

JULY I will be Ed Byrne’s night in York when the observational Southern Irish comedian headlines an all-star bill for the Live At The Theatre Royal Comedy Night.

Byrne, 49, from Swords, County Dublin, has presented the television shows Just For Laughs and Uncut! Best Unseen Ads and co-hosted BBC2’s The World’s Most Dangerous Roads, Dara And Ed’s Big Adventure and Dara And Ed’s Road To Mandalay with fellow Irish humorist Dara O Briain.

He is a regular guest on numerous television panel games, most notably Mock The Week and Have I Got News For You and has appeared on TV cooking shows, such as Comic Relief Bake Off 2015.

Byrne last played York in March 2018, presenting his Spoiler Alert tour show at the Grand Opera House, where he explored the thin line between righteous complaining and brattish whining as he asked: “Are we right to be fed up or are we spoiled?”

Joining Bryne will be Mock The Week’s whipsmart wordsmith Rhys James and Have I Got News For You panellist-in-lockdown Maisie Adam, who performed from her living room on the second Your Place Comedy bill with prankster Simon Brodkin last May, as part of the virtual home entertainment series organised by Selby Town Council arts officer Chris Jones in tandem with ten independent Yorkshire and Humber arts centres and theatres during lockdown.

July 1’s 7.30pm show will be hosted by legendary compere-beyond-compare Arthur Smith, the veteran gloomy weather-faced comedian and presenter from Bermondsey, London.

Tickets cost £20 at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or on 01904 623568.

Bobby Dazzler of a new show brings Sarah Millican to York Barbican next November

“You’ll learn about what happens when your mouth seals shut,” says Sarah Millican, who will have to do exactly the opposite in her Bobby Dazzler show in 2021 and 2022

NORTH Eastern comedian Sarah Millican will pop down to York Barbican for the first time since November 2018 for two nights of her 2021/2022 Bobby Dazzler tour next autumn.

Millican, 45, will play York on November 12 and 13 on her sixth international tour where “you’ll learn about what happens when your mouth seals shut, how to throw poo over a wall, trying to lose weight but only losing the tip of your finger, a surprisingly funny smear test, and how truly awful a floatation tank can be”. 

Sarah says she has spent the past year writing jokes and growing her backside. “She can’t wait to get back on the road and make you laugh in her first return to York Barbican since her previous sell-out tour, Control Enthusiast,” her tour patter proclaims.

Last year, the South Shields comic began hosting the BBC Radio 4 comedy panel show Elephant In The Room, featuring panellists sharing their life experiences and testing who is closest and farthest from the national average.

Tickets for Sarah Millican: Bobby Dazzler go on sale tomorrow (27/11/2020) at 10am online only at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Sarah Millican’s tour poster for Bobby Dazzler, booked into York Barbican for a brace of November 2021 gigs


Martin Witts in happier times at the Great Yorkshire Fringe. Picture: Steve Ullathorne

THE comedy is over for the Great Yorkshire Fringe after five summers in York, blaming “city-centre management” for the decision to exit stage left.

In a formal statement, founder and director Martin Witts said: “Our experience of sponsoring, curating and managing an event in this small city of ours has led to the conclusion that until a well-managed and efficient is implemented, a festival of our size cannot thrive and does not have a place in York.”

Here Martin, who also runs the Leicester Square Theatre and Museum of Comedy in London, answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions.

1.What made you take this decision, Martin?

“My patience with all the red tape ran out of time. It was the same things every year, no matter what you try to do to address the most critical things on the Parliament Street village green site. Access. Drainage. The licence. Security.  What we were required to do changed every year.

“Right from the start, there were frustrations. We wanted to start the festival in 2014, but it took a year to get the licence from the city council for Parliament Street.”

2.What would constitute a “well-managed and efficient city-centre management”?

The City of York Council, Make It York and York BID are all involved in how the city centre is run. Everyone has great intentions, but there are too many chiefs, not enough Indians, and it’s got too complicated. That’s the frustration.”

3.Sean Bullick, managing director of Make It York, says he would “welcome the opportunity to discuss options with you to bring the event back”. Will you have that discussion?

“I had a meeting with Sean and Charlie Croft [assistant director of communities and culture at City of YorkCouncil] last year to say this needs to be resolved, but we still had problems at last summer’s festival with the drainage provision for the toilets.”

4. Last summer, some people said the ticket prices were high; some reckoned the quality of the newer acts had lowered; others felt the same names kept returning.  Your thoughts?

“We had no complaints about the festival content or the programming or the pricing. There were no negative comments from patrons on our social media and in the box-office day book. Indeed, only positives. The average ticket price remained the same.

“But there was a drop in audience numbers certainly, when the Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, running at the same time at the Castle car park, had an impact.”

5. Do festivals have a natural cycle, especially when the fickle world of comedy is prone to “the new rock’n’roll” going in and out of fashion?

“No, I disagree with that. Comedy always has a new audience and new acts. You only have to see the popularity of the New Comedian of the Year award we ran each year.

“Comedy is always changing, but people like to keep seeing their favourite comedian too.”

6.Emotionally, how do you feel about calling a halt to the Great Yorkshire Fringe after five years?

“I’m incredibly disappointed to be having to do this. You should see the messages I’ve had from the volunteers who worked for the Fringe saying it was the highlight of their career. It was the highlight of my career too.

“In an ideal world, if it had been easier, if there wasn’t the problem of the structure of the city-centre management, we would like to have continued the festival, but your patience runs out in the end when you want things to run smoothly.”

7. What did you achieve?

”We were committed to running the festival for five years and you hope that after those five years, you’ve covered your costs, broken even, and established yourself, which we had – and we proved Parliament Street could be a village green with shows and all the food and drink stalls.”

8. Would you consider taking the Great Yorkshire Fringe to another great Yorkshire city?

“No, absolutely not. I’m not planning to move it to Leeds. This festival was always designed for the city of York, the city where my family is from. York is the capital city of Yorkshire; the second city of the world.”

9. You say you will “continue to invest in the cultural scene of York”. In what ways will you do this?

“We’ll continue to do events in York, but not hold the festival, but do them in the spirit of the Great Yorkshire Fringe. We’ll probably have a year off but we’ll support The Arts Barge by doing a couple of things with them in York this summer.”

10. What else is happening in the world of Witts right now?

“We’re opening a scenery workshop in Pocklington, and I’ve bought the contents of the Goole Waterways Museum after it went into liquidation. We might look at doing something with antiquities and artefacts there.”