Badapple to return to live shows with eco-adventure Tales From The Great Wood

When Richard met Hetty: York actor Richard Kay with Hetty the hare in Badapple Theatre Company’s new eco-adventure, Tales From The Great Wood

BADAPPLE Theatre Company will return to live performances this summer with Tales From The Great Wood.

“This is a new short play for children and grandparents – and everyone else – to enjoy together that can be performed indoor or outdoor,” says writer-director Kate Bramley, founder of the Green Hammerton theatre-on-your-doorstep proponents, as she introduces her interactive storytelling eco-adventure.

“Listen! Can you hear the whispering in the trees? The Great Wood is full of stories. It’s a hot summer’s day, perfect for basking in the sun, but instead of resting, Hetty the hare is investigating because someone is missing.

“As she unravels a tall tale that stretches from end to end of The Great Wood, Hetty realises that every creature – no matter how small – can have a huge part to play in the world of the forest.”

Starring York actor Richard Kay, Danny Mellor and a host of puppets made by designer Catherine Dawn, this show for ages five to 95 will be performed at the Covid-secure Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, on July 2 and 3.

“We’ll also be playing Skipsea Village Hall on the Sunday, and we’re looking to do some outdoor performances too, such as at stately homes, with Annabelle Polito working on that for us at the moment,” says Kate.

“I’m trying to create a show that is ‘omni-everything’: suitable for outdoor spaces and for indoors, so it’s not only a play for all seasons, but a play for all eventualities.”

Badapple Theatre Company turned an empty grain store into a theatre/film studio to record the hit play Eddie And The Gold Tops

To add to the feeling of resurgence, Badapple Theatre Company is celebrating being awarded two grants to support its youth theatre classes, as well as the resumption of professional live shows this summer. 

Over lockdown, the North Yorkshire touring theatre company moved its youth theatre classes online, created a free Theatre On Your Desktop podcast series of online plays and even converted an empty grain store into a theatre/film studio to record two of its plays, Eddie And The Gold Tops and The Snow Dancer.

Now, the Local Fund Harrogate District, administered by Two Ridings Community Foundation, has provided £2,908 to cover Badapple’s core costs and ensure its community projects can continue through to August, such as its regular youth theatre sessions in the village.

“Meanwhile, Arts Council England has awarded £15,000 in financial support to commission new plays for the youth theatre and youth summer school and to ensure a return to professional live performance,” says Kate, Badapple’s artistic director.

“We’re delighted to be celebrating both of these grant awards. The two go hand in hand to keep us afloat with our community work right now and keep us moving forward with brand new shows for audiences this summer.”

Looking back on a 21st anniversary year spent under the Covid cloud, Kate says: “Arts Council England stepped in and bailed us out spectacularly, but we couldn’t monetise the online programme, beyond getting plenty of hits for the Christmas show, but certainly we couldn’t live off that.”

Badapple resumed live performances last September with Suffer Fools Gladly, actor Danny Mellor’s hour-long comedy about the perils and perks of always having to tell the truth, presented in Yorkshire private gardens, campsites and hall car parks.

Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor in Mellor’s Suffer Fools Gladly when Badapple Theatre Company resumed live shows with outdoor performances last September

“We really hit lucky with Danny’s show, and we were really lucky with the September weather, except for the last show, when we needed a sturdy, stoic audience!” says Kate. “The shows were utterly Covid-safe too.”

Reflecting on how theatre companies responded to the Coronavirus crisis, Kate comments: “So many companies adapted to the social need, whether to run food banks or provide outdoor events, and that’s a good thing to come out of the arts world in pandemic times.

“There’s been less navel-gazing with a lot of good companies looking beyond their own agenda to think, ‘what do people need from us now?’.”

Looking ahead, Kate reveals: “December 2021 will see the rescheduling of our original eco-fable The Snow Dancer, the Christmas show that we were so lucky to present in a handful of performances at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in December 2020 between lockdowns.

“Our Christmas remit is always to play to children and grandparents, so that’s our agenda again, to bring those two generations back to seeing things together,” says Kate.

“May/June 2022 will finally – everything crossed! – see the long awaited and much- postponed premiere of my brand-new comedy Elephant Rock. This twice-postponed show is already funded by Arts Council England, so we’re excited to be programming venues for this event from now onwards.”

What happens in Elephant Rock? “From the great age of the steamers and through the heyday of the British seaside resorts, the old Palace dance hall stood proudly on the pier, attended by the greatest of all attractions, the Mechanical Elephant,” says Kate.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer, performed in a Covid-secure, socially distanced Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York last December

“But the relentless tides have chipped away at the coast and the mighty Elephant Rock that gave the headland its name seemingly walked off overnight. Join us for a night of comic capers from a family who are trying to keep the Palace doors on, and open, as they delve into a complicated family history of music hall owners spanning 100 years and 5,000 miles to the elephant-filled grasslands of Sri Lanka.”

At the heart of Badapple’s Arts Council funding bid was an emphasis on children, leading to a focus on commissioning new plays for the youth theatre and supporting the youth summer school.

“In the pandemic, children have not only lost a year’s work at school, but also a year of playing and social-skill building, when they’ve not been able to relax their bodies and lark about, instead being in a ‘straitjacket’ at home,” says Kate.

“They’ve been amazing in keeping to social distancing and in putting up with how they’ve had to be dressed.”

Kate continues: “That’s why it’s important for us to be exploratory in how we tell children’s stories and how we let them have fun now, so with that in mind, we’ve asked Richard Kay to write us a pantomime for our youth theatre.

“He’s written a couple of shows for us, Cinderella and a mash-up of Snow White and Babes In The Wood, so that there could be a big cast with plenty for them all to do.

“He understands how to write a pantomime that’s very funny but also entirely appropriate for Key 2 children, so we’re really excited about it.”

Richard Kay: Badapple Theatre Company actor and pantomime writer

Kay’s 2021 pantomime will feature young actors who have attended  Badapple youth theatre sessions on Zoom in lockdown. “We’re hoping of course that it will be the first chance for parents and wider audiences to see them on stage again,” says Kate.

“The children have worked so hard for a year, but apart from the odd vignette online, parents haven’t been able to see them perform or see the big strides they’ve made.

“We’re kind of in awe of how good spirited they’ve been in taking part in exactly the same way even though it’s just each of them in their own room, connecting online.

“For some of them, it’s been the making of them, with their confidence picking up when there’s no peer pressure about how they look or how they feel, and all of them keeping it high energy in an hour’s involvement.”

Kate adds: “For some, it’s given a greater depth to their performances because they’ve had no distractions, so that’s been the bonus, with them really thriving in the online environment, though we all agree that ‘live is best’.”

Even though the Government has decreed youth theatre sessions can be resumed indoors, Badapple’s young performers have wanted to do outdoor sessions. “It’s that thing of enjoying nature in a different way, improvising with the world around us, making playlets based on the garden settings around us,” Kate says.

“In the pandemic, children have not only lost a year’s work at school, but also a year of playing and social-skill building,” says Badapple Theatre Company artistic director Kate Bramley

Outdoor performance takes her back to Cornish youth. “When I grew up, the company I would see was Kneehigh, before they became the national name they are now, doing open-air shows.

“Then, when I was with Cornwall Youth Theatre Company, there was always that thing of grand pageantry, so that outdoor theme has always been important to me, and I’m really happy to be building up youth theatre work that has an outdoor element to it,” says Kate.

“If this past year has given me anything to think about, if I’m to keep going for another 20 years, I would like to mix indoor and outdoor strands, as we’ve always been ecologically minded.

“For us, it’s always about storytelling and creating a storytelling experience that’s magical when people come together, and it’s just about finding different ways of doing that.”

Kate notes how Badapple’s philosophy chimes with Arts Council England’s thinking. “I don’t think we’ve done anything differently to gain funding. It’s the fact that the Arts Council’s Let Create strategy, handed out before lockdown, is much more in alignment with how we think about arts provision and productions, where they seek three strands: community involvement, excellence in artists and international pedigree,” she says.

“We’ve always felt our work is as valuable as everyone else’s, and we seem to be on a crest of a wave, having created a strategy that chimes with everyone. The Arts Council have done us so proud, intervening in a way where there are possibilities on so many different levels for us.

Children and tutors enjoying a Badapple Youth Theatre summer school session in pre-Covid times

“Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council have freed up funding too, ending up with us breaking even in the latest financial year, and I’ve never been so proud about that. We’re still trading, we’re still alive and kicking, with good projects to look forward to.”

Another plus point of the past year has been forging a partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York’s community-run theatre in Haxby Road, first for The Snow Dancer last December and now for Tales From The Great Wood in July.

“That’s something that would never happened without the pandemic, doing the socially distanced performances of The Snow Dancer after their board member Moira Tait hosted three shows of Suffer Fools Gladly in her garden,” says Kate.

“Now, we’re excited to premiere Tales From The Great Woods at the Rowntree Theatre, as it fits our ethos of taking shows to people that wouldn’t otherwise see it.

“They want us to do The Snow Dancer there again in this winter’s tour and we want to support them as much as possible, as we were bowled over by how they kitted out the theatre to be Covid-safe for last winter’s shows.”

Badapple Theatre Company presents Tales From The Great Wood, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 2, 7.30pm, and July 3, 11am, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 501935.

Copyright of The Press, York

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/

Badapple Theatre happy to Suffer Fools Gladly in gardens with Arts Council support

Badapple Theatre Company’s poster for this month’s Suffer Fools Gladly tour

BADAPPLE Theatre Company can look forward to an autumn harvest of outdoor shows after hitting the Arts Council England deadline to find at least six willing venues for Danny Mellor’s new short play, Suffer Fools Gladly.

Awarded a £14,998 grant, the Green Hammerton purveyors of theatre on your doorstep will perform a Hybrid-Live season of Covid-secure outdoor and filmed shows in the months ahead.

Up to ten open-air performances of Suffer Fools Gladly will be staged at private gardens, campsites and hall car parks across North and East Yorkshire area from September 15.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in last winter’s Badapple play, The Snow Dancer. Now they are to perform together in Suffer Fools Gladly

In addition, the ACE funding will support the “creative filming” of Badapple’s hit 1960s-era comedy Eddie And The Gold Tops for a new film-theatre partnership with small halls and arts centres from November to February.

Furthermore, Badapple can now film their Christmas show The Snow Dancer, first toured last winter, to enable free distribution in Yorkshire schools, and Badapple Youth Theatre activities can resume too. 

Thanking Arts Council England, founder and artistic director Kate Bramley says: “We’re bowled over by this continued support from ACE at this difficult time that supports our concept of feel-good and safe small-scale events for the communities we partner with and support for our team of creative artists.

Anastasia Benham: On a front door step near you soon

“We’ve always specialised in Theatre On Your Doorstep and now for some garden owners in Yorkshire it’s just got even closer to their front door!

“We had as many as 25 offers of interest in hosting the show, and some wonderful hosts will be throwing open their gardens to audiences to experience this great new play from young Yorkshire writer Danny Mellor.”

Suffer Fools Gladly is a witty short comedy, around an hour in length, that drills down on the perils and perks of always having to tell the truth. “Appealing to young and old alike, this upbeat tale narrates the comic fall from grace of Ozzy, the court jester, who is exiled from the magical kingdom of Marillion,” says Danny.

“We’re bowled over by this continued support from ACE at this difficult time,” says Badapple artistic director Kate Bramley

“It takes an unlikely friendship with a cynical 17-year-old Earth girl called Stevie to bring the joy back to both their worlds.”

Co-directed by Bramley, with costume and puppetry design by Catherine Dawn, the premiere will be performed by Mellor and Anastasia Benham, resuming their stage partnership from The Snow Dancer tour last December.

Watch this space for updates on the Eddie And The Gold Tops film-theatre tour, with dates filling up in the Badapple diary for November, December and February.

Danny Mellor: Suffer Fools Gladly writer and actor

Suffer Fools Gladly tour itinerary in September:

15: Stonegate Farm, Whixley, 5pm;

16: Private garden, Stockton on the Forest, York, 2pm and 4pm;
17: The Poplars, Myton on Swale, 6pm;
18: Beech Cottage, Green Hammerton 2pm;
19: Colton Farm, near Tadcaster, 2pm;
20: St. Alban’s Church, Hull, car park, 2pm;
21: Private garden, Driffield, 2pm;
22: Private garden, Gilberdyke, 5pm;
23: To be confirmed.

Details on how to apply for tickets will be updated regularly on the Badapple website, badappletheatre.co.uk

Can you provide a home for Badapple Theatre’s new play Suffer Fools Gladly or live film Eddie And The Gold Tops? Urgently

Kate Bramley: Badapple Theatre artistic director is looking to launch two autumn shows, one outdoors, the other indoors

WANTED! Badapple Theatre, the Green Hammerton company that takes shows to your doorstep, needs your urgent help to secure funding for two autumn projects.

Urgent really does mean urgent, as company founder and artistic director Kate Bramley explains: “We’ve just been offered a new grant from Arts Council England to cover our interim work between now and December 2020. They have set a deadline of Monday, August 31 for us to have six outdoor performances and six film events confirmed, so please do get in touch as soon as possible if you would like to be included.”

To put flesh on those bones: “As part of that, we’re looking to find a small number of outdoor spaces that would be willing to host a performance of Danny Mellor’s new play, Suffer Fools Gladly, between September 16 and 23,” says Kate, who commissioned Danny in the spring to write the piece for Badapple’s Lockdown Podcast series.

“It’s an extremely inventive and witty short comedy that at its core simply looks at the perils and perks if you had to tell the truth…all the time!” says Kate.

“Appealing to young and old audiences alike, this upbeat tale narrates the comic fall from grace of Ozzy, the court jester who is exiled from the magical kingdom of Marillion. It takes an unlikely friendship with a cynical 17-year old Earth girl, Stevie, to bring the joy back to both of their worlds.

Danny Mellor: Actor and writer for Badapple Theatre’s September play, Suffer Fools Gladly

“Danny’s play has a hint of political comment for the times but is really just meant to be a fun hour of upbeat storytelling to give people a bit of a lift.”

Danny has signed up to perform in next month’s mini-tour with Anastasia Berham, his co-star in last year’s Badapple Christmas show, Bramley’s warming winter play The Snow Dancer.

“They’re two great young actors who’ll be taking on the many voices and parts in a show with costume and puppetry design by Catherine Dawn,” says Kate, who will co-direct next month’s production.  “So, I’m now hoping to find a few hosts/ venues – we need six in mid-September – to make it work and we’re moving swiftly to do this.”

Badapple’s second putative autumn project has been prompted by an “overwhelming response from halls” [village and community halls] to a survey, expressing an interest in high-quality filmed versions of theatre shows.

“We’re looking at late October to early November for bookings for film-live screenings of Eddie And The Gold Tops,” reveals Kate. “To this end, we are again seeking a minimum of six venues to take part.

Last Christmas: Danny Mellor and Anastasia Berham in Badapple Theatre’s 2019 tour of The Snow Dancer.
Picture: Karl Andre

“When we started looking for the ultimate ‘feel-good’ show from the Badapple back catalogue, there was no contest! Eddie And The Gold Tops is our 1960s’ comedy about the unexpected and meteoric rise to stardom of Eddie, the local Bottledale milkman.

“With award-winning design by Charlie Cridlan and catchy and comic 1960s-style songs from our Sony Award-winning resident composer Jez Lowe, this show has delighted our audiences since 2012.”

In the Eddie And The Gold Tops storyline, Eddie inherited the family milk round from his father and has fulfilled his deathbed promise to never miss a delivery to the good people of Bottledale. Suddenly things are on the up: his songs are heading up the charts and if he can turn up by tonight, he will be on Top Of The Pops…so, get ready, Eddie, go! When things take a churn for the worse, however, will he arrive back in time for the morning milk round?

“Arts Council England have accepted our programme to make Eddie And The Gold Tops the first of these live-film featured events,” says Kate. “Our ambition is to create a new style of filmed performance – the ‘hybrid-live’ – that captures the energy, theatricality and immediacy of our live theatre shows while providing a quality of filmed entertainment that modern audiences have come to expect.

“The filmed show will feature a cast of three versatile performers leaping swiftly through a multitude of roles and songs, for audiences of all ages to tap their feet and laugh along to. We’re therefore looking for a small number of organisers to screen these pilot Theatre Film Night performances for socially distanced audiences at indoor venues in late October. Even better, make it a Sixties’ themed night with fancy dress and Bring Your Own.”

Anastasia Berham: Signed up to co-star with Danny Mellor in Suffer Fools Gladly

Summing up Badapple’s aims in an open letter headlined “Badapple Theatre: To Boldy Go… “,  administrator and company director Claire Jeffrey says: “As you all know, the Coronavirus pandemic has meant the closure of all live events for a prolonged period and we are hoping to now work in partnership with Arts Council England to safely deliver a small number of live events between September 2020 and January 2021.

“Our project ambition is simply to offer a series of pure feel-good events that are open to all ages and are just about local people having the confidence to gather safely with friends and neighbours at our ultra-small-scale Theatre On Your Doorstep events.

“We will, of course, be preparing a full Covid-19 risk assessment in line with Government guidelines for both of these projects that have been specifically designed to build audience confidence for live events by offering reduced capacity/ socially distanced showings.”

Claire’s letter concludes: “We would be delighted to answer any questions that you may have about the details, including finances and being Covid-19 safe. I’m working from home at the moment and can be reached on 01423 331304 or by email to clairebadappletheatre@gmail.com if you have any questions or wish to talk anything through.”

Hurry, hurry, with that phone call or email as Badapple need six of the best twice over…venues, that is. “We have to get them confirmed for Eddie And The Gold Tops before we can get the money to do the filming,” urges Claire.


The poster for Badapple Theatre’s first tour of Eddie And The Gold Tops, or Eddie & The Gold Tops as it was billed in 2012