Out go Peter Pan and panto play, in comes Luke Adamson, digital stream filmmaker

Luke in the mirror: Luke Adamson as Fanny Wood in his film Five Minutes With Fanny

NORTH Yorkshire actor Luke Adamson is responding to theatre’s lockdown mothballing by setting up a subscription streaming service for his work.

“As the theatres are closed, I’m taking my creativity online to try and earn a living by creating Luke Adamson TV, featuring all-new content written and created by myself.

“In December alone, I’ve created three short films and live-streamed my panto play, Oh No It Isn’t!, and there’ll be at least two new films coming in January.”

Subscriptions to Luke’s streaming service start from only £5 per month and you can sign up at https://www.patreon.com/lukeadamson.

Luke had been playing Tootles in OVO and Maltings Theatre’s Peter Pan – the play, not the pantomime – at the Alban Arena, St Albans, when Hertfordshire’s move into Tier 3 status put paid to that show on December 19 after eight out of 38 performances.

A London production of the award-winning Oh No It Isn’t! had to be called off too. “It was going to have a short run at The Library Theatre in Crystal Palace, a new venue that my friend Joe [co-producer Joseph Lindoe] and I have instigated at the Upper Norwood Library Hub,” says Luke.

“We were supposed to launch the venue in March last year but… well, you know, we’re hopeful to get a full theatre programme up and running there as soon as Covid allows.

“But with the Oh No It Isn’t! run cut off by Covid, we worked our little Christmas socks off to live-stream the piece to YouTube instead.”

Luke Adamson as Tootles, fourth from left, in Peter Pan at the Alban Arena, St Albans, curtailed by Covid Tier 3 restrictions after eight performances in December. Picture copyright: Elliott Franks

Luke’s prior commitment to playing Tootles in St Albans had necessitated employing John Gregor and Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare’s Robbie Capaldi – Luke’s co-star in performances at York Theatre Royal Studio in April 2019 – for the Crystal Palace show.

“I directed the live-stream performance, which we shot there using the library’s live-streaming capability and some equipment hired in at great personal expense,” he says.

Based in London since his drama-school days at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wandsworth, Selby-born Luke had returned north to play villainous David Leonard’s daft sidekick Useless Eustace in York Theatre Royal’s Jack And The Beanstalk in 2017/2018: a performance that brought him a Great British Pantomime Award nomination no less.

Earlier, he had first appeared in Dame Berwick Kaler’s Theatre Royal pantomimes as a bairn during his Selby childhood, as well as in amateur pantos in Thorpe Willoughby.

Luke drew on those panto experiences, on stage and backstage, to write Oh No It Isn’t!, his humorous and moving account of “the best of [Ugly] sisters on stage but the worst of friends off it”.

“The play is set at the final performance of Cinderella in a moth-eaten regional theatre, where backstage tensions threaten to boil over on stage,” he says. “Will the egotism, one-upmanship and sexual politics remain confined to the dressing room?

“Will the ugly sisters keep the professional professional and the personal personal?
Will we ever find out what happened during Babes In The Wood?”

Oh No It Isn’t! explores the highs and lows of life in the theatre. “Using real anecdotes and stories, it’s an impassioned yet tender love letter to the world of performance,” says Luke.

Slapstick: Luke Adamson, standing, and Robbie Capaldi as the two warring Ugly Sisters in Adamson’s play Oh No It Isn’t at York Theatre Royal Studio in April 201

“It’s something that had been in my head for a while: writing a play set on and off stage, with the dynamic of the calm, graceful swan on stage and the feet paddling frantically off stage to keep everything afloat.

“I wanted to show the effect of the trials and tribulations that go into creating a show. Within three weeks, I wrote it, we rehearsed it and put it on stage, and we ended up getting five-star reviews.”

Oh No It Isn’t! is complemented by three shorter films so far: Five Minutes With Fanny (in reality 15 minutes!); Thoughts From Waterloo Bridge (15 minutes) and Radio Lifebuoy FM (30 minutes).

“I did them pretty much single-handedly,” says Luke. “Having done a diploma in media production at Selby College, I had all the required technical abilities. I’ve been writing scripts since 2010 and acting since, well, forever! So, it was just a case of putting it all together.

“I used my girlfriend’s Canon DSLR to shoot the video; a Zoom H1N recording device to record the audio, and edited it all together on Final Cut Pro. So far, I’ve shot most of them in or around my flat due to lockdown but did manage to shoot Thoughts From Waterloo Bridge on Waterloo Bridge one night before Christmas.”

Luke was able to call on assistance from friends. “Joe was my cameraman and security on Waterloo Bridge and I’ve used music written by my friend and actor Dan Bottomley,” he says. “I’ve also featured small performances from other friends, such as Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter [York musical double act Fladam] in Radio Lifebuoy FM.”


Five Minutes With Fanny introduces the unsuspecting world to Fanny Wood and her world of Wetherspoons, gender politics and Only Fans. “You discover how she came to be, in this adults-only piece inspired by stories from real Only Fans models,” says Luke, who plays Fanny.

“This 15-minute monologue inspired by Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads gives you a funny, sometimes dark peek into the life of a very unique person.”

Luke Adamson as high-flying city boy Lee in a still from his film Thoughts From Waterloo Bridge

In Thoughts From Waterloo Bridge, high-flying city boy Lee takes up his annual vigil on Waterloo Bridge on Christmas Eve, having escaped the office Christmas party.

“Overlooking the late-night lights of London, he ruminates on the emptiness of his success and wonders when it was that Christmas lost its sparkle,” says Luke.

Radio Lifebuoy FM charts how a local radio DJ’s Christmas goes from bad to worse after his wife kicks him out and he is forced to host the station’s amateur singer call-in competition, We’ve Got The X(Mas) Factor. Will he manage to keep it together until he is off air?

“Inspired by shock-jock Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio and featuring a host of my talented friends and a sprinkling of favourite festive songs, this is guaranteed to put a smile on your face,” promises Luke.

Explaining how he created his film characters and revealing whether they were based on people he knew, Luke says: “In a way they’re all versions of me, but with licence to be more outrageous, more hilarious, more dark than I would be as myself.

“Fanny, in Five Minutes With Fanny, is a character I’ve been developing for a while. I remember Paul O’Grady once saying he felt much more confident and brave as Lily Savage than he ever did as himself, and that stuck with me, so I was developing Fanny with the plan of taking her on the stand-up circuit but…well, you know.”

Luke continues: “The styles of the pieces vary and are inspired by people I’ve long admired: Victoria Wood, Alan Bennett, (Steve Coogan’s) Alan Partridge, Joe Orton and Harold Pinter.

“I suppose there may be aspects of other people. I’ve always been quite observant and perceptive and I love to poke fun at very human foibles, inspired I suppose by the comedies of Anton Chekhov.”

TV star: Luke Adamson has set up Luke Adamson TV as a way of diversifying his creativity

In one of the pandemic’s more contentious statements, Chancellor Rishi Sunak suggested those working in the arts should look at pursuing alternative careers, but are there ways to diversify within the profession? Like Luke making films, for example?

“I think most jobbing actors have a massively diverse set of skills already, so it isn’t a case of having to restart and diversifying, it’s more refocussing your energies,” he suggests.

“Whereas before I would be writing most days, skimming through the Spotlight Jobs board or Backstage looking for opportunities, I’m now focussing on things that were small-time earners for me in the past: showreel editing (and script/scene writing for them); graphic design (show posters, programmes, flyers, etc); and acting or directing tuition.

“I created Luke Adamson TV as I started creating video content in the first lockdown and people were enjoying it and I thought, ‘well, this is what I’m trained to do and I’ve spent all my life honing this craft; why don’t I try and earn from it while the theatres are closed?’

“So, I upped the production values: writing proper scripts; spending money on new equipment; no more ‘one-take, it’ll do’ improvised stuff. And if only ten people subscribe, that’s £50 a month and it goes towards my food bill at least.”

New year, same Covid stranglehold, how is Luke approaching 2021 after the draining year that has gone before? “Semi-full of gin, my eyes closed, my arms outstretched and my fingers crossed,” he says.

As for his hopes for the year ahead: “To avoid bankruptcy without having to leave the industry.” A sobering final thought indeed.

Luke Adamson: Actor, director, writer, theatre programmer and Academy of Live and Recorded Arts board member

Should you be wondering, “Who is Tootles”, Luke Adamson’s role in Peter Pan?

Tootles is the humblest of the Lost Boys!” says Luke. “Often described as Peter’s favourite, he’s the one that shoots Wendy with the arrow; defends her when she decides to leave Neverland and return home; becomes the boatswain when Peter takes over the Jolly Roger, and ultimately marries Wendy when they all go back to London and grow up. He’s the most important character, in my opinion.”

Martin Barrass WILL star in a York panto this Christmas, but what’s the show? UPDATED

Martin Barrass: Back in pantoland for Strictly Xmas Live In The Park

MARTIN Barrass will be starring in a York pantomime after all this winter.

Dame Berwick’s perennial comic stooge may be missing out on the Covid-cancelled Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House, but now he will lead the pantomime section of Strictly Xmas Live In The Park.

Presented by the Bev Jones Music Company in a Covid-secure, socially distanced, open-air performance at the Rowntree Park Amphitheatre, the show will be a one-off on Sunday, December 13 at 2pm.

Martin Barrass as Queen Ariadne in his last York Theatre Royal pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, last winter

“I met Lesley Jones, widow of the formidable York producer and director Bev Jones, five or six weeks ago about doing a Christmas show to get people out and about on a crisp winter’s day,” says Martin.

“I’m thrilled to be taking part, and if you’re wondering why I’m wearing black and pink in the publicity picture, they were Bev’s favourite colours.”

Producer Lesley says: “We are delighted to welcome Martin into our company for this special guest appearance and he fits in so well to the company personality. He will lead the audience in the Christmas song with a drop-down song sheet.”

Martin Barrass, right, with AJ Powell, Berwick Kaler, Suzy Cooper and David Leonard at the February 14 launch of their debut Grand Opera House pantomime, now put back to 2021. PIcture: David Harrison

“I’ve chosen the first song-sheet I ever did at the Theatre Royal…about Yorkshire Puddings!” reveals Martin, as he breaks into song from memory: “‘You can’t beat a better bit of batter on your platter than a good old Yorkshire Pud!’

“I did that with Berwick in Sinbad The Sailor in 1984, and I always remember thinking, ‘Are they going to respond?’, but of course they did!” Nobody does it batter, Martin!

Expect a few seasonal jokes too from Barrass, who will be joined in the festive concert’s panto sequence by Melissa Boyd’s Princess, Terry Ford’s villain and Charlotte Wood’s Silly Billy.

“In addition, we’ll have the Dame, the Fairy Godmother, Prince Charming, Jack Ass and other characters,” says Lesley.

Charlotte Wood as Silly Billy for Strictly Xmas In The Park

“The concert will include all the favourite Christmas songs, such as Santa Baby, Jingle Bell Rock and Band Aid’s Do They Know It’s Christmas?, as well as the fun panto section for all the family.

“There’ll be a visit from Santa Claus for all the children, followed by a moving Carols By Candlelight finale, encouraging a sing-along for everyone.”

Rowntree Park Amphitheatre will play host to a non-alcoholic Festive Mulled Wine Van, selling hot drinks for all the family, whether tea, coffee, hot apple juice or children’s drinks, served with light complimentary snacks. 

Melissa Boyd’s Princess and Terry Ford’s villain for the Bev Jones Music Company’s Strictly Xmas In The Park

Rehearsals will be held at Rufforth Institute Hall , socially distanced and under a full Covid risk assessment. 

All audience members will be temperature tested on arrival and placed into family private bubble areas.

Tickets cost £5 for children and £10 for adults in bubbles for two to six people, on sale  on 01904 501935 or online at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/concert/strictly-xmas-live-in-the-park/1342/#schedules

Dame Berwick’s Dick Turpin Rides Again held up until December 2021 by Covid-19

Highway robbery: The curse of Covid-19 strikes again as Berwick Kaler’s comeback pantomime, Dick Turpin Rides Again, will be held up until 2021. Here Dame Berwick is pictured with A J Powell, Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and Martin Barrass at the Valentine’s Day launch at the Grand Opera House

DAME Berwick Kaler’s pantomime, Dick Turpin, will NOT Ride Again at the Grand Opera House, York, this Christmas.

Faced by the Government’s decision not to remove social-distancing requirements for theatres amid the rise in Covid-19 infections, Ambassador Theatre Group and pantomime producers Qdos Entertainment are moving Dick Turpin Rides Again to December 2021/January 2022.

Dame Berwick and his regular team of villain David Leonard, comic stooge Martin Barrass, perennial principal gal Suzy Cooper and luverly Brummie A J Cooper were to have made their Grand Opera House pantomime debut this winter after their headline-making, bittersweet crosstown transfer from York Theatre Royal.

In an official statement today, Kaler said: “Having secured the backing of the world’s leading pantomime producer Qdos, and knowing their commitment to save our acclaimed panto, I’m devastated that our loyal audience is going to have to wait until next year to see what we had planned for them.

“Hence, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Qdos and the wonderful staff of the York Grand Opera House who welcomed myself, Martin, Suzy, AJ and David with open arms. Dick Turpin will ride again for Christmas 2021. It’s a long time to wait for a laugh but I can assure you it will be worth it, and we’ll all be at the Grand Opera House to greet you all.” 

Rachel Lane, theatre director of the Cumberland Street theatre, added: “With the current Government guidance still unclear on when venues can open without social distancing in place, we have decided with our pantomime partner Qdos Entertainment to postpone the production of Dick Turpin Rides Again until Christmas 2021.

“We’re delighted that Berwick, Martin, Suzy, AJ and David are still able to join us next year.  We’ll contact customers directly in due course to move their bookings on a year; they don’t need to take any action at this stage.”

Dame Berwick, who will turn 74 on October 31, had played the Theatre Royal dame over a 40-year span before making his grand exit in The Grand Old Dame Of York, waving goodbye in February 2019, but Britain’s longest-serving dame regretted his decision, even more so when he wrote and co-directed last winter’s show, Sleeping Beauty, wherein Barrass played the nearest role to a dame, The Queen.

Dame Berwick made an impromptu, emotional speech to the last-night home crowd on January 25 in an atmosphere increasingly akin to a bear pit, in the wake of executive director Tom Bird and the board’s decision to break the chain after more than four decades of the distinctive Kaler brand of pantomime comic mayhem.

Only five days later, the switch to the Grand Opera House was announced, and the familiar five assembled on February 14 to launch ticket sales for Dick Turpin Rides Again, a new beginning for comeback-dame Kaler and the Grand Opera House alike, in tandem with Britain’s biggest pantomime producer, Qdos.

On February 3, York Theatre Royal announced a new partnership with Evolution Pantomimes, regular pantomime award winners who duly chalked up another success, taking home the Best Panto award [for750 to 1,500-seat theatres] for Cinderella at Sheffield Lyceum in the 2020 Great British Pantomime Awards.

Scripted by Evolution director and producer Paul Hendy, Cinderella would have been the new partners’ debut show at the Theatre Royal until Covid-19 enforced a change of plan. Hendy will now write scripts for three pantomimes, Aladdin, Dick Whittington and Jack And The Beanstalk, for the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime.

The tour starring York actor, panto comic turn and magician Josh Benson, will take in all 21 York wards in December and January, when audience members at each show will vote for which show they want to see.

Welcome to the new stage of Berwick Kaler pantomimes…but not everyone was welcome to ride again

New home: AJ Powell, Berwick Kaler, Suzy Cooper, David Leonard and Martin Barrass settle into the Grand Opera House auditorium. PIcture: David Harrison

THIS morning was the official launch for Berwick Kaler’s comeback pantomime, Dick Turpin Rides Again, as the resurrected York dame handed over the first tickets to queueing fans at his new home, the Grand Opera House.

Joining him were villain David Leonard, stalwart stooge Martin Barrass, ageless principal girl Suzy Cooper and luverly Brummie A J Powell after their controversial exit and crosstown switch from the York Theatre Royal, signing on the dotted line for pantomime powerhouse producers Qdos Entertainment and the Cumberland Street theatre’s owners, the Ambassador Theatre Group.

Not joining them, however, was CharlesHutchPress, barred from the launch and the morning’s media interviews at the request of the Panto Five in a move from the Dominic Cummings rule book for Number 10 press briefings .

This has to stop.

It is time to re-build bridges, and Valentine’s Day would have been a good start, rather than continuing this Charles Hutchinson Derides Again contretemps .