YORK Shakespeare Project’s Sonnets At The Bar 2021 played to record attendances, surpassing the annual summer event’s previous peak by 190.
Running from July 30 to August 7 in YSP’s new Sonnets location of the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre’s “secret garden”, in Blossom Street, York, Emile Knight’s production drew 428 people. The past best was 238.
Producer Maurice Crichton reflects: “We took a few chances with the weather and got through all 18 planned performances without a real downpour. I think we may well return to the same venue next year when the perils of Covid and pinging interdicts will hopefully be fully behind us.
“I was particularly pleased that we managed to involve three young men – Aran MacRae, Luke Tearney and Josh Roe – who all contributed to a very strong company bond. There’s something special about a group of players aged from 15 to 60 plus.”
Next up for York Shakespeare Project will be Leo Doulton’s production of Macbeth in October. Watch this space for more details to follow.
YORK Shakespeare Project’s Sonnets At The Bar resume in the “secret garden” of the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre from this evening.
Not so secret that the pesky rain could not find Friday’s first performance at 6pm, but this new location for YSP affords protection under parasols and the natural shade of the garden itself, plus the availability of umbrellas and tea towels for wiping down seats. Ah, the joys of the English summer.
YSP had favoured Sonnet Walks through the city streets and public gardens for several years before switching to socially distanced Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity churchyard, in Goodramgate, last September in a pragmatic response to Covid safety requirements.
The audience is seated once more for Sonnets At The Bar, but there is movement aplenty by Emilie Knight’s cast of sonneteers, each emerging from different corners and paths for their allotted time in the spotlight.
Knight has moved up from playing Covid Nurse last year to nursing the 2021 production through rehearsals, introducing four debutant sonneteers and five Shakespeare sonnets new to YSP service.
Noting how the Bar Convent is a hive of community activities, some held outdoors for Covid safety, she hit on the structure of each sonneteer playing someone either hosting classes, groups or meetings or attending them, all under the often irascible care of Mick Taylor’s seen-it-all-before, seen-it-all-once-too-often caretaker, Mr Barrowclough, in effect our hurry-up host for the hour.
It takes little to rile him, as he hectors Luke Tearney’s amicable busker off the premises and later ponders how much money he could have made from a PPE contract, given the omnipresence of discarded face masks he has to pick up. In a nutshell, Taylor’s brusquely humorous Barrowclough prefers talking to the trees, giving each a punning name.
From each character’s thoughts and actions emerges a sonnet, starting with Sally Mitcham’s vexed Zumba class attendee Karen (O From What Power Hast Thou This Powerful Might), followed by Helen Wilson’s jaunty Scouser Julie, always cajoling at her side (Whilst I Alone Did Call Upon They Aid).
Frank Brogan’s fever-browed Simon is in a bad place, or rather the wrong place, as he discovers all too late after unburdening himself at what he assumes to be an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. His rendition of When In Disgrace With Fortune And Men’s Eyes, so troubling and confessional as he strives to come to terms with the loss of his wife, feels like invading grief even though he has been brave enough to go public.
Taylor’s Mr Barrowclough brings out all his exasperation in Tired With All These, For Restful Death I Cry before West End musical actor Aran MacRae makes his return to the York stage as Paul, a principled parish clerk weighed down by skeletons and impropriety all around him, who delivers Let Those Who Are In Favour With Their Stars with a sombre down-beat.
Darkness makes way for all the colours under the sun in Sindy Allen’s Persephone, a yoga instructor determined to keep doom at bay through indefatigable brightness of spirit and even brighter hair and clothing. Let Not My Love Be Called Idolatry has all the bounce of Tigger when escaping her lips.
Youngest participant Josh Roe’s Joseph Smythe has been using lockdown to teach himself assorted musical instruments, and dressed as if for the Proms, he conducts his audition with precocity and youthful lack of self-awareness, making way for a suitably assured account of Music To Hear, Why Hear’st Thou Music Sadly?.
Lindsay Waller-Wilkinson, one of the 2021 newcomers, has a naturally theatrical voice, one that draws you in to her role as Liz, an ebullient grandmother too busy for “swiping right”, as she undertakes childminding duties. “Some Say Thy Fault Is Youth, Some Wantonness” takes on a knowing air.
None other than Judith Ireland could play Sister Colette, radiating wisdom and serenity, in a finale that interrupts her peace in the garden with the vomiting interjection of Luke Tearney’s surly, scowling, cussing Tim, a bad lad or maybe just one in need of re-direction, courtesy of remediuk.org.
He brings anger, frustration and desperation to ’Tis Better To Be Vile Than Vile Esteemed in an eye-catching performance of much promise, and who better to restore calm than Ireland’s nun with No More Be Grieved At That Which Thou Hast Done. Amen to that.
Taylor’s Mr Barrowclough has to have the final word, one last harrumph before we leave, the rain having desisted. Three Saturday performances would subsequently pass without a downpour, despite a dodgy forecast, a blessing that producer Maurice Crichton put down to “the power of the Bar Convent sisterhood’s prayer”.
All hell will return come the autumn when YSP’s two-decade passage through Shakespeare’s plays will resume with Leo Doulton’s apocalyptic account of Macbeth in October.
York Shakespeare Project presents Sonnets At The Bar 2021, Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, Blossom Street, York, until August 7. Performances: 6pm and 7.30pm nightly, plus 4.15pm, Saturday. Tickets: 01904 623568 or at yorkthreatreroyal.co.uk.
ARAN MacRae joins Lindsay Waller Wilkinson, Luke Tearney and Josh Roe in the four new sonneteers corralled for York Shakespeare Project’s Sonnets At The Bar 2021 from this evening.
Not that Aran is “new” to the acting scene. Far from it, the York actor, singer, songwriter and self-taught guitarist and percussion player returned to his home city in March 2019 after building momentum in his career in London, Europe and beyond.
After training in musical theatre for three years at the Guildford School of Acting, post-graduation in 2017 he had originated the role of 14-year-old Tink in the West End premiere of the Jim Steinman and Meat Loaf musical Bat Out Of Hell at the London Coliseum, following up with the Canadian run at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto.
“If you shave off your beard, you’ve got the part,” he was told at the last audition: a wonderful start to life on the professional boards.
“We did the show for 13 months and it gave me such an insight to musical theatre and to rock’n’roll too, going to Toronto and falling in love with a beautiful woman who’d just joined the cast there,” he says.
Aran then appeared in the immersive promenade production of Jonathan Larson’s Rent at the world’s oldest working paper mill, Frogmore Paper Mill in Apsley, Hertfordshire, in July 2018 and sang in Midas’s Twelve Tenors tour across Europe and South Korea in 2018 and early 2019.
His profile on Mandy states he is now “busking in my hometown of York, playing acoustic covers and putting together lyrics and music for solo material”.
Sonnets At The Bar brings him back to theatre work in the city where, in York College days, he had starred in York Stage Musicals’ The Flint Street Nativity and Mayhem, NUEMusic Theatre’s Bare, Bat Boy The Musical and Rent and Pick Me Up Theatre’s Evita, Che Guevara beard et al. If memory serves, he was the singer in The Frizz too, in even younger days.
“I’d been living in Potters Bar in London, plying my trade as an actor, when I decided to come back to York in Spring 2019,” says Aran. “I was aware of York Shakespeare Project and got in touch straightaway to join their mailing list because I knew that Macbeth and The Tempest were coming up and I was really up for directing The Tempest.
“Then ‘the Cloud’, as I shall call it, came along and slowed things down; Macbeth was put back, but then I saw they were doing Sonnets At The Bar and I jumped on to it.
“I’m a fan of Shakespeare’s sonnets: not that they need a lot of investigating, but they explore the concept of love in a manner full of thought and consideration, and what is very special about them is the answer that’s given to any Shakespeare question: they are timeless and you can find modern-day parallels in them.”
Directed by Emilie Knight and produced by fellow company regular Maurice Crichton, Sonnets At The Bar 2021 will be staged in the “secret garden” of the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, in Blossom Street, from tonight to August 7.
Emilie, who played a Covid nurse in last year’s Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity churchyard in Goodramgate, has come up with the conceit of the Bar Convent being in use for all sorts of community centre-type activities, some of them outdoors in the garden on account of Covid, with the sonneteers either hosting classes or groups or attending them, all under the watchful eye of the caretaker, Mr Barrowclough.
In YSP’s now time-honoured fashion, each character has a sonnet to set up, the pairing of character and sonnet opening up unknown sonnets in an accessible way or giving well-known ones a new angle.
Aran will be performing Sonnet 25, Let Those Who Are In Favour With Their Stars, in the role of Paul, clerk to the parish council in this age of new awareness of parish-council machinations after the explosive Jackie Weaver and Handworth shenanigans on Zoom went global.
“He’s a little bit righteous, I think,” he says. “He’s not got a point to prove but when he witnesses injustice, he takes it on his shoulders to deal with it, leaving him between a rock and a hard place.
“He has to have a lot of integrity and non-bias and that’s an incredibly lofty responsibility, when you’re dealing with care for the community and injustice, though what he’s witnessed is more to do with internal parish [council] matters, rather than the community.”
Analysing Sonnet 25, Aran says: “My sonnet is about idol worship, and I can certainly find modern-day resonances within it. I’m sure Shakespeare wasn’t thinking of me 420 years ago (!), but I’m thinking of him 420 years later, taking me to an emotional place. It’s like time travel.”
Aran has relished rehearsals under Emilie’s guidance. “It’s been really free spirited, and that freedom has been wonderful, especially in ‘the Cloud’,” he says. “Not only does everyone jump in and sound ideas off each other, but Emilie basically gave each of us a small piece of text to set up each sonnet and said, ‘if you’d like to ad-lib the lead-in to the sonnet, go for it, or if you’d like to add to it, do that’.
“That was quite testing for me because I then had to look at the structure of what the character was going to say, working out how the parish clerk would communicate in a way that was more astute and level-headed than I would be in that situation!”
Initially, Aran had envisaged “just performing the sonnet and walking off with my chest out”. “But doing it this way, building up a character, allows me to test my writing skills too…because if I’m going to be in a film, I’m going to have to write it myself!” he says.
Where does Aran see his future? “Doing Bat Out Of Hell gave me an insight into where I want to direct my abilities. I loved being in a musical, with all that high energy and lots of post-teens diving around saying ‘this is it’, ‘it’s punk!’, but sometimes I wanted to be thinking more about the task in hand, when it was on stage.
“I want to pursue my career by continuing to work in musical theatre but also look to break into theatre, even though it’s such a closed circle.
“Coming back to the city where I’d lived from the age of three to 21, suddenly there was that ‘Cloud’ and a lot of solitary confinement, so I’ve been reading the classics after I’ve not had the time to read for years, in order to consider it as a career when it’s your heart that calls you to this profession.”
One classical role Aran will not be giving us is his Lady Macbeth in York Shakespeare Project’s promenade production of Macbeth in October, staged at Theatre@41 Monkgate by director Leo Doulton in a “corrupted world of moving forests, daggers from the dark and cyberpunk dystopia, falling from civilisation into a civil war between darkness and light”.
Lady Macbeth, Aran?. “I put my two-penneth in at the auditions to play her as I thought, ‘what better chance to play one of the great string-puller roles, like in The Hunger Games in a past of such apocalyptic brutality, with suave sophistication,” he says. “I gave it a good shot…”
The role has gone to Nell Frampton instead, but Aran can still apply to direct The Tempest, with no production dates set in place yet for York Shakespeare Project’s final play.
York Shakespeare Project presents Sonnets At The Bar 2021, Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, Blossom Street, York, today (30/7/2021) until August 7; no show on August 2. Performances: 6pm and 7.30pm nightly, plus 4.15pm on both Saturdays. Tickets: 01904 623568, at yorkthreatreroyal.co.uk or in person from the YTR box office.
YORK Shakespeare Project has a not-so-secret location for its latest sonnet adventures, the “secret garden” of the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, in Blossom Street, York.
After several years of Sonnet Walks through the city streets and public gardens and the socially distanced Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity churchyard, in Goodramgate, last September, here come Sonnets At the Bar 2021, directed by Emilie Knight and produced by Maurice Crichton from tomorrow (30/7/2021) to August 7.
Emilie, who played a Covid Nurse in last year’s performances, has come up with the conceit of the Bar Convent being in use for all sorts of community centre-type activities, some of them outdoors in the garden on account of Covid, with the sonneteers either hosting classes or groups or attending them, all under the watchful eye of the caretaker, Mr Barrowclough.
In YSP’s now time-honoured fashion, each character has a sonnet to set up, the pairing of character and sonnet opening up some unknown sonnets in an accessible way or giving well-known ones a new angle.
Here, Emilie answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions on plays versus sonnets, topical characters, outdoor performances, new sonneteers and Covid times.
What draws you to Shakespeare’s sonnets by comparison with his plays?
“The sonnets provide an instant hit of the Bard’s language and turn of phrase, and while you may need to read it over and for some do a little research, when you do get it, it’s striking. Each one tells a story or even more than one as we’ve explored with the Sonnets productions.”
What struck you most about performing the topical Covid Nurse role in last September’s production?
“Although there was a touch of humour in the role, I found playing the nurse very moving. I have no healthcare experience and felt a tinge of imposter syndrome, especially when I was leafleting in Goodramgate between performances in my scrubs and people came up to me assuming I was campaigning for the NHS, which in a way, I was.”
What did you learn from that outdoor staging – in one location, rather than moving around York’s streets and gardens – that you can bring to this summer’s production?
“There was a stillness in Holy Trinity churchyard – apart from the restaurant kitchen noises that punctuated some of the performances – that enabled the audience to really focus on the character and their sonnet without distractions from passers-by and traffic.
“I was keen to replicate that while introducing the movement that the sonnet walks allows. In this case, the characters are moving through the space rather than the audience moving through York.”
What do you see as the director’s role in this production?
“Very much as an introducer of ideas. I had a strong image of how I wanted the production to look and feel, but from my own experience as a sonneteer also knew that the organic nature of this sonnets concept relies on the ideas we have and sometimes accidental discoveries we make throughout the rehearsal process.
“It’s also been my role to ensure that everyone has fun. We’re a community group with jobs, studying, family responsibilities to deal with, all coming together because we love theatre and never more so than now after the challenging times we’ve all experienced.”
How did you settle on this year’s Shakespeare Sonnets conceit of the Bar Convent being in use for all sorts of community centre-type activities?
“Within hours of finishing our last production, I’d started mulling over possible future themes, and by the beginning of this year, it struck me that through the pandemic our hobbies and community activities had been completely turned upside down.
“I asked myself, ‘how is it going to feel to return to gatherings in person after doing everything online for so long?’ and whether there would be any hesitation in doing so. We heard a lot about how desperate everyone was to ‘get back to normal’, but I did wonder whether some people would prefer it to stay as it is, and that’s when Harry Barrowclough popped into my head.
“Then I thought about all the different things that go on in community centres that, unless you’re involved in yourself, you barely give any thought to. A major consideration in the early days was where to stage the production and, given the community connection and the fabulous garden, theBar Convent seemed a perfect fit and it has been.
How did you decide on the characters? Did you give the actors leeway to create them or did you create the characters first and then let them work on them?
“I had very clear characters in mind and drafted a working script as a starting point. But you never know who’s going to audition; through that process I was able to identify some who fitted a particular character exactly as I thought of them or who delivered something completely different from how I imagined it and it just worked.
“From day one of rehearsals, I invited the sonneteers to play with their character and dialogue and try out different ideas until we settled on the perfect fit. For me, the joy of the YSP Sonnets programme is very much that it is a creative process for everyone involved and together we develop something very special.”
Five “new” sonnets feature among the selection. What made you choose those ones?
“I chose all the sonnets first with a few extra, without reference to which had been used before, and by a happy coincidence there were new ones. Some I chose for their direct relevance to a character and situation I had in mind; others I simply found very beautiful and knew I wanted to use them and so devised a way to make them suit.”
How have you rehearsed the sonnets in Covid times?
“We were very fortunate that the Bar Convent embraced our production from the beginning and made it possible for us to rehearse in the space, which, being open air, made everything instantly more Covid safe.
“We’ve also been lucky with the weather…so far! Of course, we’ve had the ongoing challenge of cast members being ‘pinged’ at any moment and have all been committed to keeping each other safe and will continue to do so for ourselves, the Bar Convent community and our audiences.”
Among the cast, you have selected four actors new to York Shakespeare Project. Who are they?
“Lindsay Waller Wilkinson, Aran MacRae, Luke Tearney and Josh Roe. I’m so excited about this production and very proud of all the work everyone has put in, most especially the youngsters.
“With the cuts in arts education generally and worryingly more to come, and the reduced opportunities for our youth to explore the creative arts, it’s been very rewarding to have been able to offer this chance for them to shine.”
York Shakespeare Project presents Sonnets At The Bar 2021, Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, Blossom Street, York, tomorrow (30/7/2021) until August 7; no show on August 2. Performances: 6pm and 7.30pm nightly, plus 4.15pm on both Saturdays. Tickets: 01904 623568, at yorkthreatreroyal.co.uk or in person from the YTR box office.
FROM circus at York Theatre Royal, to Moby Dock on a Hull dry dock, Benedetti in Pickering to Riding Lights on film, Charles Hutchinson enjoys his ever busier perch to spot what’s happening.
Circus in town: Ockham’s Razor in This Time, The Love Season, York Theatre Royal, June 8 and 9, 8pm
CIRCUS theatre company Ockham’s Razor’s This Time is a show about time, age and the stories we tell ourselves, presented by a cast ranging in age from 13 to 60.
Circus and aerial skills, autobiographical storytelling and original equipment combine in a visual theatre piece that looks at love, support and struggle in families, alongside perceptions of strength and ability: how we are strong in different ways at different times in our lives.
Festival residency of the summer: Nicola Benedetti: Live and In Person, Ryedale Festival 40th Anniversary Launch Concert, Pickering Parish Church, tomorrow (4/6/2021), 4pm and 8pm
TOMORROW, in-person music making returns to Ryedale Festival at Pickering Parish Church, when Scottish-Italian violinist Nicola Benedetti opens her 2021 festival residency by launching the Live and In Person series.
She will join her regular chamber music partners, cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk, to perform one of Beethoven’s wittiest and most loveable works and an inspired piano trio by Brahms.
Outdoor play of the month: Moby Dick, John Godber Company, Stage@The Dock, next to The Deep, Hull, until June 12
JOHN Godber and Nick Lane’s radical reworking of Herman Melville’s epic novel, Moby Dick, is being staged in Hull’s dry dock amphitheatre by an East Yorkshire cast of eight from the John Godber Company
Adhering to Covid-safe rules, and with a playing time of 70 minutes and no interval, this fast-paced physical production transports socially distanced audiences to the deck of Captain Ahab’s ship the Pequod in his catastrophic battle with the monster white whale, Moby Dick.
Godber’s production references Hull’s global importance as a port, its former prowess as a whaling centre and contemporary conservation issues of conservation.
“Film” of the week: Riding Lights Theatre Company in Pericles, York International Shakespeare Festival, online, tomorrow (4/6/2021) to Sunday
YORK company Riding Lights present their sparkling, streamlined, 80-minute theatre-on-film performance of a lesser-known but still gripping Shakespeare work, Pericles, The Prince Of Tyre, online.
In a “perilous voyage through the storms of life”, brave adventurer Pericles sets off to win the girl on everyone’s lips. Uncovering a sinister truth, he plunges into a rolling surge of events that leaves him broken, gasping for life.
Topical themes of abuse of power, desperate crossings of the Mediterranean and sex trafficking ensure this extraordinary saga sails uncomfortably close to home. For tickets, go to ridinglights.org/pericles.
York gig announcement of the week: Roger Taylor, Outsider Tour, York Barbican, October 5.
QUEEN legend Roget Taylor will play York Barbican as the only Yorkshire show of his “modest” 14-date Outsider tour this autumn.
In a “surprise announcement”, rock drummer Taylor, 71, confirmed he would be on the road from October 2 to 22. “This is my modest tour,” he says. “I just want it to be lots of fun, very good musically, and I want everybody to enjoy it. I’m really looking forward to it. Will I be playing Queen songs too? Absolutely!”
Outsider, his first solo album since 2013’s Fun On Earth, will be released on October 1 on Universal, dedicated to “all the outsiders, those who feel left on the sidelines”.
On the move: Changes afoot at Scarborough Open Air Theatre for 2021 and 2022
CANADIAN rocker Bryan Adams is moving his entire ten-date UK outdoor tour from 2021 to the summer of ’22, now playing Scarborough Open Air Theatre on July 1 and Harewood House, near Leeds, on July 10. Tickets remain valid for the new shows.
In further OAT changes, Kaiser Chiefs have moved to August 8; Keane, August 21; Olly Murs, August 27; UB40 featuring Ali Campbell and Astro, August 28; Snow Patrol, September 10, and Duran Duran, September 17. Westlife stick with August 17; Nile Rodgers & Chic with August 20.
For next summer’s line-up, Ru Paul’s Drag Race: Werq The World has changed to May 29 2022; Crowded House, June 11; Lionel Richie, July 2, and Lewis Capaldi, July 7.
Exhibition of the week: Summer Eclectic, Blue Tree Gallery, Bootham, York, until July 3
SUMMER Eclectic marks the reopening of Blue Tree Gallery after a run of online shows.
“It’s good to see York open again for all to visit and enjoy, as we help to keep York culturally alive, safe and well,” say Gordon and Maria Giarchi and their gallery team. “We’ll be open to the public with this show and it’s available online too.”
On view are original paintings by Yorkshire artists Janine Baldwin, Colin Cook, Deborah Grice and Karen Turner.
Auditions of the week: York Shakespeare Project’s Sonnets At The Bar, Bar Convent, York, Friday and Saturday
YORK Shakespeare Project has a not-so-secret new location for its latest sonnet adventures, the secret garden of the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, in Blossom Street, York, for Sonnets At the Bar 2021 from July 30 to August 7.
Open-to-all auditions will be held at the Bar Convent tomorrow (4/6/2021) from 5pm and on Saturday from 10am. Those wanting to arrange an audition time should contact director Emilie Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org, putting ‘Sonnets’ in the heading and indicating a preference of day and time day and time.
“I will provide details of everything you need to prepare when confirming your audition time,” says Emilie, who performed in last year’s Sit-down Sonnets.
YORK Shakespeare Project has a not-so-secret new location for its latest sonnet adventures, the secret garden of the Bar Convent Living Heritage Centre, in Blossom Street, York.
After several years of Sonnet Walks through the city streets and public gardens and the socially distanced Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity churchyard, in Goodramgate, last September, here come Sonnets At the Bar 2021, directed by Emilie Knight and produced by Maurice Crichton, from July 30 to August 7.
“Emilie Knight and I have struck up a good working relationship at the Bar Convent with James Foster, the chief operations officer,” says Maurice. “They have a lovely ‘secret’ garden with plenty of room and a surprisingly quiet, voice-friendly acoustic for a space so close to one of the busiest road junctions in the city.”
Looking forward to mounting this summer’s spree of Shakespeare sonnets, Maurice enthuses: “York Shakespeare Project wants to involve people in a close engagement with Shakespeare’s writing, and as Jonathan Bate says in every Royal Shakespeare Company edition of the plays: ‘The best way to understand a Shakespeare play is to see it or ideally to participate in it’.
“Emilie is setting up auditions ‘open to all’ and we want to get the word out as widely as possible to try to involve some new faces in this format.”
Those auditions will be held at the Bar Convent onJune 4 from 5pm and June 5 from 10am. Anyone wanting to arrange an audition time should contact Emilie at email@example.com, putting ‘Sonnets’ in the heading and indicating a preference of day and time.
“I’ll provide details of everything you need to prepare when confirming your audition time,” says Emilie, who performed in last year’s Sit-down Sonnets in role of Covid Nurse at Holy Trinity Church.
Outlining the format of this summer’s performances, she explains: “We’ll be bringing our audience into the secret garden of the Bar Convent to witness the comings and goings of the ordinary people of York as they pursue their hobbies and interests at a community venue.
“The characters cover a range of age and gender and a couple also require some musical ability (instrument or vocal). We welcome all levels of experience, as commitment, enthusiasm and a certain amount of flexibility will determine the success of this production. And, we want you to have fun!”
Rehearsals will be held outdoors, initially in West Bank Park, Holgate, and then at the Bar Convent.
The eight evening performances from July 30 to August 7 – no show on Monday, August 2 – will be complemented by late-afternoon matinees on both Saturdays. “We’re going to include a drink in the ticket price and this will be provided by the heritage centre’s café,” says Maurice.
YORK Shakespeare Project has appointed Emilie Knight to direct the 2021 Sonnet Walks in a plan to resume open-air theatre in York as soon as conditions allow.
Anticipating the granting of Government permission for outdoor events, but awaiting confirmation on what level of social distancing will be required, YSP is delighted to make the appointment.
“We want to hit the ground running just as soon as we’re permitted to,” says York Shakespeare Project (YSP) committee member Tony Froud.
YSP will make an announcement on performance dates and the audition process for Emilie’s production later in the spring.
Emilie is well acquainted with the Sonnet Walks, having appeared in three productions. First performing as a Sting-obsessed sonneteer in 2018 an d as Mother of the Bride and guide the following year, she found playing Covid Nurse in last year’s Sit-down Sonnets at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, was “one of the most affecting roles I’ve ever played”.
York resident Emilie has made regular appearances with the Knaresborough Players and was involved in the York community projects Blood + Chocolate on the city streets in 2013 and Everything Is Possible: The York Suffragettes at York Theatre Royal in 2017.
Interested in all aspects of theatre, not least costume and tech, Emilie says it was only a matter of time before she would turn her attention to directing: “This is a new adventure for me and I’m thrilled to have been chosen to direct this year’s Sonnets production.
“I’m very grateful to the YSP committee for entrusting me with this important feature of the canon. I look forward to the challenge and hard work involved as I know it will be hugely rewarding.
“I was made so welcome when I joined YSP, have learnt so much and have had so much fun. I want others to share that experience too.”
The Sonnet Walks were first performed by YSP in 2014, and since their revival in 2017 they have become an annual event. Until 2020, they took the form of a walk around the streets and snickelways of York, allowing audience members to meet a series of colourful local characters, each with a lively tale to tell and a Shakespearean sonnet to recite.
Last September, Covid-safe restrictions saw the format adapted to the Sit-Down Sonnets, with audience and cast members all socially distanced in the atmospheric setting of the Holy Trinity churchyard.
YSP is confident York audiences are crying out for the resumption of live theatre. “With theatres closed since March, last September’s Sit-Down Sonnets were hugely welcomed by actors and audience members alike,” says Tony Froud.
“We’re hoping for the same response for live performance this year. By appointing Emilie now, we’re making sure that it will happen immediately guidance permits.”
Meanwhile, YSP is “hoping to revive” its production of Macbeth, postponed by Lockdown 1 ten days short of its first night in March 2020. Watch this space for any updates.