More Things To Do in York and beyond light nights. Plenty of stuff and Nunsense in Hutch’s List No. 26, from The Press, York

Sing something wimple: Emily Rockliff’s Sister Robert Anne to the fore in a rehearsal for York Light Opera Company’s Nunsense: The Mega-Musical

FROM nuns in a riotous revue to a celebration of Caribbean culture, The Fonz’s memoirs to Ballet Black’s heroes of dance, Charles Hutchinson’s arts diary matches the June sunshine.  

York musical of the week: York Light Opera Company in Nunsense: The Mega-Musical!, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, 7.30pm, June 26 to 28, July 2 to 5; 3pm; June 29 and 30, July 6

AFTER the unfortunate passing of four beloved sisters in a “culinary catastrophe”, the remaining Little Sisters of Hoboken find themselves in a sticky situation. To raise funds for a proper burial (and perhaps a new cook), the nuns take centre stage for a riotous revue unlike any other.

Director Neil Wood brings Dan Goggin’s musical to mega-sized life in a version that boasts an expanded cast, new characters and even more musical mayhem. Box office:

Lynda Burrell, left, and Catherine Ross, founders of exhibition curators Museumand, at the launch of 70 Objeks & Tings at York Castle Museum. Picture: Gareth Buddo

Exhibition of the week: 70 Objeks & Tings, York Castle Museum, until November 4; Mondays, 11am to 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm

70 OBJEKS & Tings, a celebration of 75 years of Caribbean culture, showcases 70 items that connect us to the Windrush Generation in an “extraordinary exhibition of the ordinary”.

Curated by mother and daughter Catherine Ross and Lynda Barrett, founders of Museumand, the National Caribbean Heritage Museum, it features objects that combine familiarity and practicality and have been passed down the generations. On show are cooking and household goods, food packaging and beauty supplies, funeral items, music, games, books and newspapers. Tickets: 

Alexandra Kidgell: Soprano soloist for Haydn’s The Creation at York Minster

Classical concert of the week: York Musical Society, Haydn’s The Creation, York Minster, tonight, 7.30pm

FOUR years later than first planned – blame Covid – York Musical Society performs Haydn’s oratorio The Creation under the baton of musical director David Pipe. The choir and orchestra will be joined by soloists Alexandra Kidgell, soprano, Nathan Vale, tenor, and Thomas Humphreys, baritone.

The Creation was composed in 1797, following Haydn’s visits to London, when he was inspired by hearing Handel’s great oratorios, such as the Messiah, sung by huge choral gatherings.

“Haydn’s oratorio is one of the most upbeat and enjoyable works in the repertoire, with plenty of drama for the chorus to bring to life,” says Pipe. “We are excited to have the chance to perform The Creation in York Minster’s inspiring surroundings.” Box office: 01904 623568, at or on the door.

Mostly Autumn: Highly summer concert at The Crescent tonight

York band of the week: Mostly Autumn, The Crescent, York, tonight, 7.30pm

MOSTLY Autumn may have been called “the best band you have never heard”, but that is a misnomer in their home city of York, where Bryan Josh and Olivia Sparnenn-Josh’s classic rock combo play tonight.  

Twenty years of gigging, whether headlining or supporting Blackmore’s Night, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull and Bryan Adams, goes into performing their combination of Seventies’ rock and prog-rock, peppered with a sense of the future. Box office:

Henry Winkler: American actor discusses The Fonz and more on Sunday

Coolest show of the week: Henry Winkler, The Fonz & Beyond, Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

HEY, Happy Days star HenryWinkler shares stories of his life on the 50th anniversary of his time in Hollywood after being told he would “never achieve”.

The Emmy award-winning actor, author, director and producer, now 78, is promoting his Being Henry memoir as he reflects on his sitcom days as The Fonz, the Happy Days role that defined a generation of cool, as well as subsequent appearances in Arrested Development, Parks And Recreation and Barry. Box office:

Tom Jones: Returning to Scarborough Open Air Theatre for the first time since July 2022

Coastal gig of the week: Tom Jones, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, June 26, gates open at 6pm

SEATED tickets have sold out for Welsh whirlwind Tom Jones’s outdoor gig in Scarborough but that still leaves room for standing. Sixty years since releasing his first single, Chills And Fever, in 1964, he is still blowing those bellows as powerfully as ever at 84, having made history as the oldest man to notch up a number one with an album of new material in the UK Official Album Charts in 2021 with Surrounded By Time, overtaking Bob Dylan.

Expect It’s Not Unusual, What’s New Pussycat?, Delilah, She’s A Lady, Green, Green Grass Of Home, Kiss, You Can Leave Your Hat On, Sex Bomb et al from Sir Tom. Box office: Box office:

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats: Introducing new album South Of Here at York Barbican

Rhythm & blues gig of the week: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, York Barbican, June 27, doors 7pm

NATHANIEL Rateliff & The Night Sweats play York Barbican as the only Yorkshire venue on their six-date South Of Here summer tour.

Noted for supplying the zeal of a whisky-chugging Pentecostal preacher to songs of shared woes, old-fashioned rhythm & blues singer and songwriter Rateliff will be showcasing his Missouri band’s fourth studio album on the eve of its Friday release. William The Conqueror support. Box office:

Crowning glory: Ballet Black in If At First, on tour at York Theatre Royal

Dance show of the week: Ballet Black: Heroes, York Theatre Royal, June 28, 7.30pm

CASSA Pancho’s dance company returns to York with the double bill Ballet Black: Heroes. Choreographer Mthuthuzeli November contemplates the meaning of life in The Waiting Game, a 2020 work infused with a dynamic soundtrack featuring the voices of Ballet Black artists.

Franco-British artist Sophie Laplane, choreographer-in-residence at Scottish Ballet, follows up her 2019 Ballet Black debut, Click!, with If At First, her exploration of “a more subtle heroism, a quieter triumph over adversity, in a struggle that unites us all”. Humanity, heroism and self-acceptance combine in this celebratory piece. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Eliza Carthy: Performing solo at the NCEM, York, and Fylingdales Village Hall

Folk gigs of the week: Eliza Carthy, National Centre for Early Music, Walmgate, York, June 28, 7.30pm; Fylingdales Village Hall, Station Road, Robin Hood’s Bay, June 30, 7.30pm

ELIZA Carthy, innovative fiddler and vocalist from the First Family of Folk, heads from Robin Hood’s Bay to York for a solo gig at the NCEM. At once a folk traditionalist and iconoclast, she revels in centuries-old ballads and Carthy compositions alike.

In her 32-year career, Carthy has performed with The Imagined Village, The Wayward Band and The Restitution, collaborated with Paul Weller, Jarvis Cocker, Pere Ubu, Rufus & Martha Wainwright, Jools Holland, Patrick Wolf and Kae Tempest, served as president of the English Folk Dance & Song Society and artist in residence in Antarctica and been described by comedian Stewart Lee as “not the Messiah, but a very naughty girl”. Broadside balladeer Jennifer Reid supports at the York gig. Box office: York, for returns only, 01904 658338 or; Robin Hood’s Bay,

David Ward Maclean, centre, and musical friends Sarah Dean and Steve Kendra

Retirement concert of the week: David Ward Maclean and Friends, with special guest Edwina Hayes, Friargate Theatre, York, June 29, 6.30pm

YORK music scene stalwart and busker supreme David Ward Maclean plays his retirement gig with friends on the eve of his 66th birthday (June 30). “I’m retiring from all public performance, except the occasional open mic when I fancy it, maybe the odd charity appearance if requested, and will be focusing on finishing recording some 40 unreleased songs of mine,” he says.

Joining David will be The Howl & The Hum’s Sam Griffiths, Bradley Blackwell, Sarah Dean, Steve Kendra, Emily Lawler, Dan Webster, Paul Heaney, Al Hamilton, Robert Loxley Hughes, Amy Greene, Sarah Jennifer and special guest Edwina Hayes. Box office:

Paul Burbridge (1953-2023): A tribute

Paul Burbridge: Artistic director of Riding Lights Theatre Company for more than 40 years

A SERVICE of thanksgiving and celebration for the life of Riding Lights Theatre Company artistic director Paul Burbridge (1953-2023) will be held at St Michael le Belfrey, High Petergate, York, on June 10 at 2pm. All are welcome.

Paul, who ran the Christian theatre company and Friargate Theatre artistic programme in Lower Friargate, York, died on April 19 after a short illness.  

A statement from the board and staff on the Riding Lights website reads: “Paul, along with Nigel Forde and Murray Watts, founded Riding Lights in 1977, and led the company for over 40 years with unwavering vision and extraordinary creativity.

“His commitment to the company and to all who encountered it in any way was inspiring and infectious, as were his kindness, warmth and humour.

“He was an encourager, guide, mentor and friend to many, whose faith and faithfulness to God flowed into the lives of others. Riding Lights was his life’s work, his calling, and a source of deep joy to him.

“We know that this will come as a great shock and sadness to many, and that you may wish to be in touch with the company. Any messages can be sent to , and we will do our best to respond in due course.”

The statement concludes: “There will be an opportunity to make donations to Riding Lights in memory of Paul, in order to continue the work he loved. In the meantime, we value your prayers of thanksgiving for Paul’s life, for all of us at Riding Lights, and most of all for Bernadette [Paul’s wife], Patrick, Caitlin and Erin, that they may be comforted and surrounded by the love of God.”

Here CharlesHutchPress reflects on Paul Burbridge’s contribution to York’s theatre world with Damian Cruden, artistic director of York Theatre Royal from 1997 to 2019.

“WHEN I started, we met up, and right from the word go, Paul was one of those people who was always very welcoming and very easy to have a conversation with and always very constructive too,” remembers Damian, now CEO and artistic director of Alnwick Playhouse in Northumberland.

“The first major piece we did together was the Riding Lights/Theatre Royal collaboration on African Snow [Murray Watts’s play about slave ship captain John Newton, of Amazing Grace fame], directed by Paul in 2007. We then did Three Men In A Boat, directed by Paul at the Theatre Royal in April 2008.”

Paul had first adapted Jerome K Jerome’s late-Victorian tale of a trip up the Thames 18 years earlier for Riding Lights, reuniting with his original designer, Sean Cavanagh, for his Theatre Royal version of Jerome’s riparian mishaps and ineptitudes.

A community production of Anthony Minghella’s Two Planks And A Passion, co-directed by Paul and Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster in the round at the Theatre Royal in July 2011, was to be the precursor to the zenith of the Theatre Royal and Riding Lights creative partnership: the 2012 York Mystery Plays in the Museum Gardens.

“Paul was just very easy to work with because he always gave space,” says Damian, his co-director for that unforgettable open-air production. “He didn’t have an ego about himself. Instead, his artistic ego connected with the work of the community that he inspired. Above all, he was just really good fun to be with.

“For years, around the time of the opening of the panto, we cooked  a Christmas dinner in two sittings, one for the panto cast in the afternoon and then everyone else from the two companies in the evening, with the executives of the Theatre Royal and Riding Lights doing all the cooking.

“Afterwards, Paul would usually arrange a cabaret of some sort, with music and Paul doing some sketches as he was very amusing. Very Pythonesque, with a real sense of the absurdity of the world.”

Damian recalls how Paul’s faith was his bedrock. “We talked about it in depth when we were doing the Mystery Plays together; Paul as someone of faith, me as someone not of faith, wondering whether that would be difficult, and what it would mean in terms of creating the work, which I saw primarily as a big story, but for him it had a very different resonance,” he says.

“It was very important to have that mix,  people who have faith, people who were agnostic,  with me and Mike [writer Mike Kenny] as non-believers, Paul and Sean (designer Sean Cavanagh) as believers. It never got in the way at all. It was always very much about focusing on the telling of the story, and I think that faith was an important aspect in how we discussed it.

“I don’t think the production would have been as meaningful without that balance. The community cast that told that story was of a similar diversity of belief and non-belief, who discovered respect for each other’s position, and that was testament to Paul’s ability as an artist and leader to be magnanimous, to allow space, to be so highly inspirational in that way.

“He always wore his faith lightly but with an incredible depth of belief. I would say his faith was unshakeable, and his perception of the world found him working with faith groups in Palestine, stretching across faiths and the barriers that had been created.”

Paul was instrumental in Riding Lights establishing its headquarters in Lower Friargate in May 2000, taking over the 19th century building that previously had housed the Friargate Wax Museum until its closure in 1996.

Aptly, the opening production in the 100-seat studio theatre was Ben Jonson’s satire, The Alchemist, Paul having converted the base metals of a redundant museum into the universal elixir of theatrical gold.

“He was a very good leader, very intelligent, very knowledgeable, very talented,” says Damian. “He wasn’t self-obsessed and always knew why he was doing what he was.

“Riding Lights has been very successful in terms of its shows but also in terms of fulfilling its purpose. It’s a really important venue in York with a really strong commitment to youth theatre and a very clear sense of the community around it, which all theatres need to have.

“While its mission revolves around faith, you don’t feel like you’re going to have a religious diatribe when you go to a show. In many ways, Paul’s work has been superbly humanist, focusing on humanity. Very grounded, very connected.”

Reflecting further on Pauls’ leadership prowess, Damian says: “He would be one of the first people to say Riding Lights wasn’t just about him. He chose people around him that were good at what they did and that let Riding Lights become a potent organisation.”

Assessing Paul’s legacy, Damian starts by saying: “If you just think about the number of people who got up and strutted their stuff because Paul made it possible: whether through the youth theatre, summer projects, presenting work by community theatre companies and welcoming touring performers, on top of putting on all those Riding Lights productions.

“He made all that possible within York, and I can’t imagine how many people he’s influenced. All those people who started out at Riding Lights, it’s a huge list, all inspired by Paul and what the company stands for.”

Looking at Paul’s wider legacy, Damian says. “I hope that York continues to be a place that is absolutely engaged in presenting work that is there for the community and the creativity of that community, and that it remains something that is valued and given proper support.

“In a way, that’s the thing that would most upset Paul: if community creativity were left to wither on the vine. Community theatre, and the broad spectrum it covers, requires constant nurturing: the way Paul did it.

“He was a theatre gardener, knowing how to make sure the garden of theatre could survive in straitened time and be rich and productive in good times.”

God bless you, Paul, and thank you, guiding light of Riding Lights and Friargate Theatre.

REVIEW: York International Shakespeare Festival, York Shakespeare Project in Richard III, Friargate Theatre, York ***

Harry Summers’ Richard, Duke of Gloucester addressing the House of Commons benches in York Shakespeare Project’s Richard III. Pictures: John Saunders

ROUND Two of York Shakespeare Project begins with the knockout punch of “the York play”, Richard III. Here come 37 Shakespeare plays in 25 years, plus works by his contemporaries, in the sequel to “the most ambitious project ever mounted on the York amateur theatre circuit”.

Can the second cycle of the First Folio plus one surpass such ambitions, fulfilled after 20 years with The Tempest tour last autumn? Surely there would be no point starting to re-climb this artistic Everest otherwise.

Certainly, Dr Daniel Roy Connelly, former diplomat, actor, writer, academic, podcaster and director home and abroad, is in a fighting mood to match Shakespeare’s Richard in his YSP debut after moving to York.

Frank Brogan: Appearing in York Shakespeare Project’s two Richard III productions 21 years apart

“The opportunity to re-boot YSP’s cycle of the canon was very attractive to me,” he said in his CharlesHutchPress interview this week. “I’m someone who always wants to go either first or last, to set the bar high or to leave everyone with something to go home with.”

As befits the True & Fair Party (“We all deserve better”) prospective parliamentary candidate for York Outer at the next General Election, Connelly has placed Richard’s winter of discontent in our “frenetic, calculating and brutal 21st century Westminster with its endless Machiavellian bloodletting and daily treacheries”.

This is rather more the world of Malcolm Tucker’s The Thick Of It than Jim Hacker’s Yes, Prime Minister, Connelly being in mischief-making mood with his use of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg memes and a photo montage of political fashion statements (Churchill, jogger BoJo and Hague’s baseball cap faux pas) on a video screen kept in regular use from its opening shot of the House of Commons benches and cry of “Order, order”.

Clive Lyons, drink in hand, and a dismissive-looking Nell Frampton in the Westminster wars of York Shakespeare Project’s Richard III

Putin, Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping pop up on there too, as do PlantageNews headlines and social-media posts from media manipulators Richard, Duke Of Gloucester (Harry Summers) and the Duke of Buckingham (Rosy Rowley), updating on Richard’s progress to the throne and beyond.

Paranoia is everywhere, laptops constantly being tapped behind twitching drapes to each side of Richard Hampton, Jeremey Muldowney and Sarah Strong’s set design but always in view of the audience, in a merry-go-round of briefing and counter-briefing from the chairs’ ever-changing occupants.

Summers’ Richard, with his rock’n’roll quiff, oversized Harry Hill shirt collars and flamboyant cane, has a vaudevillian air, even a hint of Blockhead Ian Dury. For Shakespeare’s character assassination too, he has a stump of a left arm, a leg calliper and a facial scar, and like Ian McKellen’s film portrayal, he is pretty nifty with his only hand.

Grim prospects: Miranda Mufema’s Lady Anne and Frankie Hayes’s Duchess of York

Summers’ Richard is less the wintry malcontent, more the ever-quotable narcissist who relishes the rough and tumble of politics with a Johnsonsian thick skin and lack of moral compass. He is darkness with the shrug-of-the-shoulders nonchalance of Cabaret’s Emcee and a love of breaking down theatre’s fourth wall for choice asides, almost too likeable in the manner of a camp panto villain. 

Around him, amid the pinstripe suited superficial civility, spin furtive turns by Rowley’s Buckingham and Clive Lyons’s Lord Hastings and Frank Brogan’s fevered performance as a Yorkshire-voiced King Edward IV in a considerable casting upgrade from his Second Murderer/Messenger spear-carrying in John White’s Richard III in YSP’s 2002 debut!

Frankie Hayes (Sir William Catesby/Duchess of York), Jack Downey (an amusingly heartless Sir Richard Ratcliffe), Miranda Mufema (Lady Anne) and YSP’s new Nick Jones (a commanding Earl of Richmond) make their mark too. For stage presence, look no further than Thomas Jennings’s crop-haired hitman, relishing every cull with a glint in his eye and the click of his mobile phone camera.

Eli Cunniff’s costume designs, red and white buttonhole roses et al, together with Connelly’s spot-on soundbite selection of blues, jazz and more, underscore the noir vib, as the cultural references keep a’coming.

If looks could kill: Thomas Jennings’s brazen hitman

Cue a drunken chamber the morning after Richard’s coronation (a la lockdown “parties” at Number 10); Richard calling out to Alexa for answers as much as his kingdom for a horse in his hour of need, and Richard and Richmond sporting stab vests in white and red in the style of Banksy’s Union Flag design for Stormzy at Glastonbury.

Connelly conducts parliamentary business briskly, no prevaricating here, before the first-night pace and focus slips at the battlefield finale until Jones’s Richmond steers the reins in the home straight in more classical Bard style.

Throughout, Friargate Theatre’s compact, close-up stage feels crammed to the gills, especially with the shadowy figures in the wings, adding a noose of claustrophobia to Richard’s tyranny in Connelly’s state-of-the-nation’s rotten politics report. As promised, he does indeed “leave everyone with something to go home with”.

York Shakespeare Project in Richard III, Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate, York, 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrowBox office:

York Shakespeare Project to stage Richard III and Lucrece at York International Shakespeare Festival on 25-year mission

Harry Summers: Facing a winter of discontent as Richard, Duke of Gloucester in York Shakespeare Project’s Richard III

AS in 2002, York Shakespeare Project launches a mission to perform all of Shakespeare’s plays with Richard III, staged at Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate, York, from April 26 to 29.

The first cycle concluded with a tour of The Tempest last September, and now YSP has initiated a bold endeavour to combine Shakespeare’s works with the best of his contemporaries over the next 25 years.

Esteemed York thespian John White directed YSP’s debut production of Richard III in Elizabethan garb at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from October 30 to November 2 2002.

In contrast, Daniel Roy Connelly’s 2023 incarnation of “the York play”, part of the York International Shakespeare Festival, is rooted firmly in the 21st century. His production is set in a frenetic, calculating and brutal Westminster, with endless Machiavellian bloodletting and daily treacheries.

Connelly espouses that the England of Richard III could hardly be closer to today’s political minefield. “Telling Shakespeare through what is comfortably the most corrupt institution in the county, the play explores the cut and thrust of power’s crucible, with laws ignored and lies sown,” he contends.

“I believe that a parliamentary telling of Richard III is not only long overdue, it’s also bang on time. Prepare then for British politics as played out, murderously, on the floor of the House of Commons.”

Daniel Roy Connolly: Former diplomat directing York Shakespeare Project for the first time in Richard III

Audiences may find Connelly’s contemporary vision remarkably familiar. Richard and Buckingham excel as social media manipulators within a world of warring political parties. In the shadowy corridors of power, everyone is culpable.

Richard’s watchword? “My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, and every tongue brings in a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain”.

Making his YSP bow, Connelly is a former British diplomat, theatre director, actor, author and academic. He has acted in and directed theatre in the United States, the UK, Italy and China, where his 2009 production of David Henry Hwang’s M Butterfly was forced to close by the Chinese secret police.

In his cast will be: Harry Summers as Richard, Duke of Gloucester/Richard III; Rosy Rowley, Duke of Buckingham; Miranda Mufema, Lady Anne;  Emily Hansen, Queen Margaret; Andrea Mitchell, Queen Elizabeth; Frankie Hayes, Duchess of York/Sir William Catesby, and Matt Simpson, Duke of Clarence.

So too will be: Jack Downey, Sir Richard Ratcliffe; Clive Lyons, Lord Hastings; Michael Peirce, Young York/Lord Grey/Murderer; Nell Frampton, Prince Edward/Rivers; Frank Brogan, King Edward IV/Stanley; Thomas Jennings, Sir James Tyrell; Nick Jones, Earl of Richmond; James Tyler, Archbishop, and Anna Kedge, Marquis of Dorset.

Tickets for the 7.30pm evening performances and 2.30pm Saturday matinee are on sale at and on 01904 655317.

Elizabeth Elsworth’s regal, calculating Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, opposite Jim Paterson’s Mark Antony in York Shakespeare Project’s Antony And Cleopatra in 2019. Now she is directing YSP’s semi-staged version of Lucrece in her directorial debut

YORK Shakespeare Project will mark Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23 with three performances of Lucrece, a semi-staged version of his early narrative poem The Rape Of Lucrece, at Friargate Theatre, York.

Its original production was set to play at the Mansion House in April 2020 as a culminating feature of then YSP chair Councillor Janet Looker’s year as Lord Mayor, until the pandemic lockdown enforced its postponement.

Now it will be presented under Elizabeth Elsworth’s direction in performances at 2.30pm and 6pm on Sunday and 6pm on Monday as part of the York International Shakespeare Festival.

By the time of the poem’s publication in 1594, Shakespeare already had written the three parts of Henry VI, Two Gentlemen Of Verona and Richard III. When an outbreak of the plague caused a Tudor lockdown that closed London’s theatres, Shakespeare turned to poetry, exploring the theme of misplaced desire in Venus And Adonis and again in Lucrece, as it was entitled on the original frontispiece.

Extremely successful in his lifetime, these poems established Shakespeare as a poet but are rarely heard today. Just as his plays are celebrated for giving extraordinary life to their characters and stories, so he charts the inner worlds and challenges of the characters in The Rape Of Lucrece.

Emma Scott in the title role for York Shakespeare Project’s semi-staged version of Lucrece

In doing so, he gives voice to the unspeakable, his writing taking his audience to the heart of the matter. A voice is heard and actions will have consequences. In verse both gripping and heartfelt, he depicts an action resonating beyond Lucrece herself as she faces life-changing questions. How do you speak to power? To whom do you complain?

Lucrece speaks to the “MeToo” generation about situations and decisions that touch lives so deeply in a rare opportunity to experience Shakespeare’s writing at it most poignant and immediate.

Making her directorial debut, Elizabeth Elsworth has been a familiar face in many YSP productions, notably playing Katherine in Henry VIII in 2017 and Cleopatra in Antony And Cleopatra in 2019.

Emma Scott, who played Macbeth in Leo Doulton’s 2021 production of “the Scottish play”, takes the title role of Lucrece, alongside Stuart Lindsay as Tarquin; Diana Wyatt, Maid/Narrator; Judith Ireland, Player Queen/Narrator; Catherine Edge, Brutus/Narrator; Paul French, Lucretius/Narrator;  Jay Wadhawan, Collatine and a female chorus of Sally Mitcham, Sonia De Lorenzo and Lydia McCudden.

Box office: or 01904 655317.

As York Shakespeare Project opens phase two with Edward III at Black Swan Inn, director Tony Froud looks at the future

Mark Hird: Taking the role of King Edward in tonight’s rehearsed reading of Edward III by the York Shakespeare Project at the Black Swan Inn

PHASE two of York Shakespeare Project (YSP) begins tonight with a staged rehearsed reading of Edward III upstairs at the Black Swan Inn, Peasholme Green, York, at 7.30pm.

This rarely performed 1592 history play is now widely accepted as a collaboration between William Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd, replete with its celebration of Edward’s victories over the French, satirical digs at the Scots and depiction of the Black Prince.

Rehearsed February readings will be a regular part of YSP’s broadened remit to include work by the best of Shakespeare’s contemporaries, alongside a second staging of all his works, over the next 25 years.

Tony Froud’s cast will be led by Pick Me Up Theatre luminary Mark Hird in the title role. “At short notice, I’ve been able to bring together a strong cast that mixes YSP stalwarts, such as Liz Elsworth and Emma Scott, with new faces to us, such as Mark,” says Tony.

Hird’s King Edward will be joined by Elsworth’s Derby and Queen Philippa; Scott’s Gobin de Grey, Villiers, Frenchman 3 and Captain; Ben Thorburn’s Prince Edward; Nell Frampton’s Warwick and Salisbury; Bill Laverick’s Audley and Messenger and Stuart Lindsay’s Lodowick, Frenchman 4 and King David.

In the company too are: Sally Mitcham’s William Montague, Jon Copland, Herald 1, Frenchman 2 and Earl Douglas; Joy Warner’s Squire, Artois and Frenchman 1; Tom Jennings’s Herald 2 and Prince Charles; Jodie Fletcher’s Herald 3, Lorraine, Mariner and Messenger 2; Harry Summers’ King John and Lara Stafford’s Prince Philip and Countess Salisbury.

“It will be a one-night-only show, following the pattern of Ben Prusiner’s season of John Fletcher comedies and Jim Paterson’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which showed the impressive quality of performance that can be achieved in a short time by a good cast,” says Tony.

“The rehearsed reading puts a great emphasis on the language, so do come along to meet some colourful characters and hear some fabulous language in a plot that will take you from London to Calais via Northumberland and Crecy.”

YSP completed its mission to perform all 37 of  Shakespeare’s plays within 20 years with last September’s tour of The Tempest, but it had long been decided the project would continue. “The committee made the decision after about 15 years that YSP would do another cycle,” recalls Tony.

Why do Phase two? “Shakespeare is always relevant and will always find a new audience, and YSP will continue to find new ways to present Shakespeare suitable to the times,” says Tony.

“We will always be open to challenging ways of performing Shakespeare, like we did for Maggie Smales’s all-female Henry V.

“When you think that YSP’s first production of Richard III was in 2002, 21 years later we will look at politics, power and corruption through today’s lens in our new Richard III in April. All those things will be pertinent to anyone who has had their eye on Westminster in the last few years.”

Tony Froud: Directing York Shakespesare Project’s rehearsed reading of Edward III

More than 300 actors have performed in YSP productions to date. “It’s a matter of principle that we always have open auditions for our directors and our actors, so we ensure that we’re open to new ideas and new talent,” says Tony.

“That will continue with Dr Daniel Roy Connelly’s cast of 16 for Richard III, which will be a rich mix of faces familiar and new. We’ve often gained from our association with York’s universities and that will again be reflected in this cast.”

Tony welcomes the decision to expand YSP’s brief in phase two. “It’s very exciting to open up the opportunity to perform the best writing of the time beyond Shakespeare to see how his contemporaries have contributed to that extraordinary period of dramatic writing,” he says.

“We’ll be doing that when we put on Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II, and also through the annual series of rehearsed readings, which will allow us to explore less commercial texts too.”

Next year’s plays are scheduled to be on the theme of the Plantagenets. “It will be interesting to see what ideas come up for combining Shakespeare’s plays in different ways to phase one,” says Tony.

YSP will be looking to add new sites too. “Like we did outdoors at Holy Trinity Church and the Bar Convent [Living Heritage Centre], which both made very atmospheric venues for our Sonnets shows,” says Tony. “Doing Edward III upstairs at the Black Swan is another example of doing that.

“We plan to open up to new audiences, especially in the summer when we do the Sonnets, and we’ll look to do more of what we did on the outdoor space at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre.”

Since last October’s annual general meeting, a new committee of nine has been in place. “The likes of Frank Brogan and Janet Looker, who had seen the original project through to its completion, decided to take a well-earned rest from their long involvement.

“Now we have a committee of mainly young members, who will be bringing a lot of energy and new ideas,” says Tony, 68, who will represent the older brigade alongside Sam Valentine. “Hopefully a lot of the younger members will still be involved in 25 years’ time.”

York Shakespeare Project has charity status and its shows must keep a tight rein on budgets. “We have to be very careful with our finances. Very few of our Shakespeare productions have made a profit, so we have to be creative and look elsewhere to ensure our continued success,” says Tony.

“The directors receive an honorarium, but outside that role, we rely on the talents and generosity of a host of volunteers for each production.”

Tickets for tonight’s 7.30pm performance cost £5 on the door or at ahead, Dr Daniel Roy Connelly’s debut YSP production of Richard III at Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate, York, will run from April 26 to 29.

Bolshee launch Perform Yourself, a free eight-week creative project for women to find their voice at Friargate Theatre

Bolshee trio Lizzy Whynes, left, Megan Bailey and Paula Clark: Launching autobiographical performance project, Bolshee Women: Perform Yourself

THREE York women who set up an arts company this year to champion women and girls are to run a free project from October 20 with Make It York’s Cultural Wellbeing Grant funding.

Bolshee CIC– a female-led creative projects company – is run by artists and friends Paula Clark, creative director, Lizzy Whynes, associate director, and Megan Bailey, creative producer.

“We produce projects with the aim of helping everyone to feel heard, empowered and supported, regardless of their background, with a particular focus on women and girls,” they say.

“Collectively, as a team, we have 35 years’ experience in creating, producing and delivering creative arts projects with young people and adults, and in only six months, we’ve already made some noise in the city and beyond through collaborations with York St John University, At The Mill [at Stillington], Drawsome Festival, York Theatre Royal, ARC Stockton and York Design Week.”

Bolshee Women: Perform Yourself: New creative project funded through Make It York

Now, Bolshee CIC (community interest company) are launching an eight-week autobiographical performance project, Bolshee Women: Perform Yourself, for self-identifying women aged 25 and over to find their voice in collaboration with Make it York.

Paula explains: “It’s so important that we find our voice, take up space and share our truths. This is what Bolshee Women is all about. Coming together in solidarity to make friends, be creative and share our experiences has a hugely positive impact on our wellbeing.

“We wanted to offer a cultural provision, this time for women over the age of 25. We feel that this age group don’t have as many opportunities to get involved in performance in the city as younger people do. We also know that women will suffer disproportionately from the financial crisis we’re facing. That’s why Bolshee Women will be FREE to attend.”

Bolshee Women: Perform Yourself will be held at Friargate Theatre, Friargate, from October 20 to December 8 from 6.30pm to 8pm each week. “We will explore contemporary performance and autobiographical devising techniques, including free drawing and creative writing,” says Paula. “No experience is necessary. All materials will be provided.” To book for the workshops, go to:

Full of drive: Lizzy Whynes, Megan Bailey and Paula Clark

Who are the Bolshee triumvirate?

Paula Clark is a creative director, theatre maker and community artist.

Lizzy Whynes is a performer, movement and theatre director and facilitator.

Megan Bailey is a designer and producer.

More Things To Do in York and beyond on light nights as summer signals outdoor season. List No. 89, courtesy of The Press

York Light Opera Company’s performers and production team for A Night With The Light

FROM open-air films to the Proms, Early Music festival connections to Nordic sunshine, Charles Hutchinson’s summer season is in full bloom.

York Light Opera Company in A Night With The Light, Friargate Theatre, Friargate, York, today at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

UNDER the direction of Jonny Holbek and musical direction of Martin Lay, York Light presents a feel-good programme of powerful, funny, emotive and irreverent numbers from favourite musicals and new ones too.

Look forward to songs from Hamilton, Waitress, Wicked, Chicago, Chess, Avenue Q, The Phantom Of The Opera, Les Misérables, The Sound Of Music and plenty more. “Come join us as we have Magic To Do!” say Jonny and Martin. Box office: 01904 655317 or

West Side Story: One of the films to be shown at Picturehouse Outdoor Cinema in York Museum Gardens

Films under the stars: Picturehouse Outdoor Cinema, York Museum Gardens, York, tonight and tomorrow; August 5 to 7, 7.30pm

PICTUREHOUSE, owners of City Screen, York, present two weekends of open-air cinema with a summer vibe.

Tonight’s Grease (Sing-A-Long) (PG) will be followed by tomorrow’s 70th anniversary celebration of Singin’ In The Rain (U).

Next month’s trio of films opens with a 40th anniversary screening of Blade Runner (15) on August 5; next comes Steven Spielberg’s 2021 re-make of West Side Story (12A) on August 6;  last up, Disney’s Encanto (Sing-A-Long) (U) on August 7. Box office:

Off to the coast: a-ha head for Scarborough Open Air Theatre tomorrow

The sun always shines on…a-ha, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, tomorrow, gates, 6pm

NORWEGIAN synth-pop trio a-ha head to the Yorkshire coast on their 2022 World Tour of Europe, the United States and South America, 40 years since forming in Oslo.

Vocalist Morten Harket, guitarist Pal Waaktaar-Savoy and keyboardist Magne Furuholmen will be releasing a new album in October, True North, their first collection of new songs since 2015’s I, recorded in two days 25km inside the Arctic Circle.

Will they preview new songs alongside the familiar Take On Me, The Sun Always Shines On TV, Hunting High And Low and Stay On These Roads? Find out on Sunday. Box office:

Christina Bianco’s LV and Ian Kelsey’s Ray Say in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice at York Theatre Royal

Play of the week: Glass Half Full Productions in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2pm, Thursday; 2.30pm, Saturday

YORK actor Ian Kelsey returns to his home city to play viperous talent-spotting agent Ray Say in his Theatre Royal debut in a new tour of Jim Cartwright’s bittersweet comedy-drama, directed by Bronagh Lagan.

Coronation Street star Shobna Gulati plays louche, greedy, loud mother Mari Hoff and American actress and YouTube sensation Christina Bianco, her daughter LV, the recluse with the hidden singing talent for impersonating Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey et al. Can Ray draw her out of her shell and with what consequences? Box office: 01904 623568 or

The Sixteen: Returning to York Minster for York Early Music Festival 2022

Festival of the week: York Early Music Festival 2022, July 8 to 16

YORK Early Music Festival returns to a full-scale live programme for the first time since 2019 under the theme of connections.

“Concerts are linked together through a maze of interconnecting composers,” says festival administrative director Delma Tomlin. “We’re delighted to be able to shine a light on the many connections that hold us together in the past and into the future.”

At the heart of the 2022 festival will be three 7.30pm concerts in York Minster by The Sixteen (July 9, the Nave); The Tallis Scholars (July 11, Chapter House) and the Gabrieli Consort & Players (July 13, the Nave). For the full programme and tickets, head to:

Skylights: Playing their biggest gig yet at Leeds O2 Academy

York gig of the week in Leeds: Skylights, Leeds O2 Academy, July 9, doors, 7pm

YORK indie-rockers Skylights play “the biggest gig of our lives” next weekend up the road in Leeds, where previously they have sold out Leeds University and The Wardrobe and performed at Leeds United’s centenary celebrations in Millennium Square in October 2019.

Four Acomb lads in the 30s, singer Rob Scarisbrick, guitarist Turnbull Smith, drummer Myles Soley and bassist Jonny Scarisbrick, will perform to 2,300 fans in celebration of their debut album, What You Are, reaching number 34 in the charts in May. Box office:

Natasha Agarwal: Soprano soloist at York Proms

Picnic party of the week: York Proms, York Museum Gardens, York, July 10, gates, 4pm

MUSICAL director Ben Crick conducts the 22-piece Yorkshire Festival Orchestra in next weekend’s performance of classical and film pieces, a special Platinum Jubilee section in the second half and a rousing Proms finale.

Soloists will be soprano and dancer Natasha Agarwal, who performed in Opera North’s Carmen, and bass-baritone John Anthony Cunningham, who has chalked up principal roles with English National Opera, Opera North and the Royal Opera House.

York Proms founder Rebecca Newman’s special appearance includes a tribute to her husband and co-founder, Jonathan Fewtrell, who died suddenly in 2020. The Fireworkers provide a firework finishing flourish. Box office: 01904 555670 or

Calling Planet Earth: Elegy to the Eighties at York Barbican

New Romantic nostalgia in the air: Calling Planet Earth, York Barbican, January 21 2023, 8pm

THIS New Romantic Symphony takes a journey through the electrifying Eighties’ songs of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, The Human League, Ultravox, Tears For Fears, Depeche Mode, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Japan, ABC and Soft Cell.

Calling Planet Earth combines a live band with symphonic arrangements and vocals in a show designed to “simply define a decade”. Box office: or

Riding Lights address children’s mental health problems in lockdown in Fizzy Finn Finds His Feet at Friargate Theatre

Jared More’s Fizzy Finn and a puppet in Riding Lights Theatre Company’s Fizzy Finn Finds His Feet

RIDING Lights Theatre Company’s “crackling new Christmas adventure”, Fizzy Finn Finds His Feet, will hit the ground running from Saturday at Friargate Theatre, York.

Written by Jon Boustead for primary-school children, the topical play addresses children’s mental health problems arising from lockdowns and separation from family and friends.

Finn is a fidget whose brain is ablaze with an unbreakable buzz that fizzes to his fingers and tickles his toes, or it would do so if he could only find his feet, in a Christmas adventure full of fear and bravery in a stormy world.

“Christmas brings surprises and not all of them are nice,” says Boustead. “It’s a crackling mix of hopes and fears and they’re definitely getting closer. Finn is on the run. Can stories help to untangle things?

“If only someone would listen to Suzy Pettiskew before she bursts. Or stop Barney Box’s dog from growing bigger night by night. And can anyone really ‘blotzsh the Glim’?”

Jared More’s Fizzy Finn and Meg Blowey’s Tink the Cobbler in her amazing story-telling Shoe Shop

Directed by Erin Burbridge and designed by Anna Gooch, Fizzy Finn Finds His Feet features a magical blend of vivid storytelling, original music by Patrick Burbridge and creative puppetry, presented by Jared More’s Fizzy Finn and Meg Blowey’s Tink the Cobbler.

Suitable for five to 11-year-old children, the show has been available to schools this term either for live performances or in a film version, accompanied by a teachers’ pack, prepared by a primary school teacher, overseen by a child psychologist and approved by Ebor Psychology. “There’s really useful stuff in there for teachers and children,” says says acting general manager Bernadette Burbridge.

This is the second such Riding Lights film. “We learned last year, with a very charming filmed production of Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, that film offered a very successful way of supporting schools coping with lockdowns,” says Bernadette.

“We provided a link that they could forward to children at home and in some cases, the giants zoomed into schools, by agreement, to interact with the children.

Finding his feet: Jared More’s Fizzy Finn in a scene with Meg Blowey’s Tink the Cobbler

“Sadly, in November, we were receiving at least one call a day from a school to say they had Covid and didn’t want us to come into their buildings, so we had to cancel a number of Fizzy Finn performances.

“We offered them the film and a virtual visit from Tink the Cobbler and Fizzy Finn instead – and the advantage of having a filmed version is that we can make this available to audiences right across the UK and beyond.”

Now, Fizzy Finn Finds His Feet does exactly that from December 18 to 23 in 50-minute performances at 10am, 1pm and 3pm on Saturday and next Wednesday and 11am and 2pm next Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate.

“The film is a good alternative but there’s nothing like a live show!” says Bernadette, who sums up Fizzy Fiin’s tale this way: “Jon’s play isn’t about Christmas although it’s set at this time of year. It’s about learning to understand one’s fears and anxieties and finding good ways to deal with them.”

Jon concludes: “Shoes are very good storytellers. You experience a lot by stepping into someone else’s shoes. So fasten your laces! Tie them up tight and join Finn as he discovers Tink the Cobbler and her amazing story-telling Shoe Shop.”

Tickets are on sale on 01904 613000 or at

More Things To Do in York and beyond, as musicals abound, comedy turns angry and Madchester revives. List No. 58, courtesy of The Press, York

So frustrated: Paul Chowdhry has his say on Covid, fame, England’s football team and Tom Cruise’s chopper at the Grand Opera House, York, tonight

IMAGINE if you could have a busy week ahead? Let Charles Hutchinson fill your diary.

Angriest comedy gig of the week: Paul Chowdhry, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 8pm

AFTER barely surviving the pandemic, British-Asian stand-up Paul Chowdhry tackles the UK’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis and why the rules of six only worked for white people in Family-Friendly Comedian (No Children).

Two years of pent-up frustration go into this new tour show, where Londoner Chowdhry also discusses fame, England football fans and Tom Cruise landing his helicopter in someone’s garden. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at

Chesca Cholewa: Writer of Imagine If Theatre Company’s My Old Man

Studio play of the week: Imagine If Theatre Company in My Old Man, York Theatre Royal Studio, tonight, 8pm

IMAGINE If Theatre Company, from Leeds, is touring a part-theatre, part-film production of Chesca Cholewa’s humorous and heartfelt play My Old Man.

When Michal Piwowarski’s granddaughter, Tasha (played by Cholewa), finally moves out, his whole world changes. The school dinner-lady becomes his favourite person, a new neighbour moves on to the street, and Michal (Paul Shelley) has to face his biggest battle yet as My Old Man follows the trials and tribulations of this old, blind Polish soldier. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Songs and Stables’ leadership: Kate Stables brings her band This Is The Kit to The Citadel tomorrow night

Experimental gig of the week: This Is The Kit, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

KATE Stables’ experimental folk quartet This Is The Kit return to York for a special show at The Citadel, the former Salvation Army HQ, presented by Please Please You, The Crescent and Brudenell Presents. Support comes from Nuala Honan and Pavey Ark. Box office:

York artist Karen Winship, taking part in the Inspired Christmas event at York Cemetery Chapel

Christmas shopping? Opportunity presents itself at Inspired, York Cemetery Chapel, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

INSPIRED, the annual Christmas show by York artist and designer makers, will be held at York Cemetery Chapel, in Cemetery Road, York, this weekend.

Taking part will be Jo Bagshaw and Richard Whitelegg, jewellery; Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg, pottery; Petra Bradley, textiles; Sally Clarke, collage printmaking; Angela Newdick, collage and surface pattern design; Adi French and Karen Winship, painting, and John Watts and Wilf Williams, furniture.

PQA York’s poster for Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr at the JoRo

Children’s show of the week: PQA Productions in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow and Saturday, 7.30pm

PAULINE Quirke Academy (PQA) York journeys under the sea with Ariel and her aquatic friends in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, adapted from Disney’s Broadway show and film, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of sacrifices made for love and acceptance.

Young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her magical ocean home and fins behind for the world above. First, however, she must defy her father, King Triton, make a deal with evil sea witch Ursula and convince Prince Eric she is the girl whose enchanting voice he has been seeking. Separate casts perform the two shows. Box office: 01904 501935 or at

Adam Sowter, Florence Poskitt, Alexandra Mather and Andrew Roberts in rehearsal for Saturday’s Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny

Witty and warm songs of the week: Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

FLADAM duo Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter take to the Theatre@41 stage with thespian friends Alexandra Mather, Andrew Roberts and Andrew Isherwood for two shows of musical comedy joy.

Fladam’s own topical witty ditties will be complemented by a celebration of Morecambe & Wise, Bernard Cribbins, Victoria Wood and more. Box office:

Scarlett Waugh, left, and Libby Anderson: Sharing the role of Dorothy in NE Musicals York’s production of The Wizard Of Oz

Sparkling slippers of the week: NE Musicals York in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday (23/11/2021) to Saturday

DIRECTOR Steve Tearle has assembled a cast of 60 for NE Musicals York’s energetic staging of The Wizard Of Oz, led by Libby Anderson and Scarlett Waugh, who will alternate the role of Dorothy.

Further roles go to Maia Stroud as Glinda; YO1 presenter Chris Marsden, the Wizard of Oz; Perri Ann Barley, Wicked Witch of the West; Finley Butler, the Scarecrow; Kristian Barley, the Tin Man, and Tearle himself as the Cowardly Lion.

Expect an all-singing, all-dancing production with special effects by Adam Moore’s team at Tech247. Box office: 01904 501935 or at

Phoenix rising again: Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrate their 40th anniversary this autumn, opening their tour at York Theatre Royal

Dance celebration of the week: Phoenix Dance Theatre in 40 Years Of Phoenix, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm

PHOENIX Dance Theatre launch their milestone 40th birthday programme at York Theatre Royal, bringing together highlights from the Leeds company’s groundbreaking history.

Phoenix will combine celebration and reflection in a show featuring Lost Dog duo Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer’s Pave Up Paradise; former artistic director Darshan Singh Bhuller’s Heart Of Chaos; Henri Oguike’s Signal; Shapiro and Smith’s satirical piece Family and Jane Dudley’s 1938 masterpiece Harmonica Breakdown. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

Director Nik Briggs, left, choreographer Emily Taylor and lead actors Sophie Hammond and Damien Poole at the launch of York Stage Musicals’ festive show, Elf! The Musical

Christmas musical of the week: York Stage Musicals in Elf! The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, November 25 to December 3

YORK Stage Musicals present the York premiere of Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s Elf! The Musical, directed by artistic director Nik Briggs.

Based on Will Ferrell’s 2003 film, Elf! follows orphan child Buddy to Santa’s North Pole abode, where, unaware he is human, his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth.

Given Santa’s permission, Buddy (Damien Poole) heads to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity and help the Big Apple to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Box office:

Amaka Okafor: Taking part in the staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s Maryland at Friargate Theatre, York

Play readings of the week: Riding Lights Theatre Company presents Maryland, Friargate Theatre, York, November 26, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

TWO staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s 30-minute protest play will feature Amaka Okafor, from the original Royal Court Theatre cast, Laura Pyper, Mark Holgate, Cassie Vallance, Kesiah Joseph, Patricia Jones and Meg Blowey.

Kirkwood wrote Maryland as a “passionate and furious act of resistance to draw attention to the shocking numbers of women who repeatedly suffer violent abuse throughout Britain. The play is not specific; it addresses issues of police behaviour and a culture of violence against women and girls”.

After sold-out performances in London, the Royal Court offered Maryland for free for theatre companies to perform in solidarity and protest. York company Riding Lights has taken up that opportunity, with associate director Bridget Foreman directing the readings. Box office: 01904 613000.

James: Teaming up with Happy Mondays for a Manchester night out in Leeds

Gig of the week ahead outside York: James and special guests Happy Mondays, Leeds First Direct Arena, November 25, doors, 6pm

ALL of 33 years ago, Factory label mates James and Happy Mondays first toured together. Now, two of Manchester’s champion bands reunite for a November and December arena tour.

 “Last played with them in 1988, hopefully this time they won’t steal our rider or try and spike my drink,” tweeted Tim Booth, James’s Clifford-born frontman, when announcing the dates with rapscallion rascals Shaun Ryder, Bez and co.

James, who played Scarborough Open Air Theatre this summer, will be showcasing their “sweet 16th” album, All The Colours Of You, released in June. Box office: Stage times: Happy Mondays, 7.30pm; James, 9pm.

Lights out, but what are York’s theatres doing to keep the fat lady singer at bay?

“Critical situation”: Dark nights, dark days too, at York Theatre Royal until further notice

CLOSED. Closed. Closed. Closed. Closed. York’s theatres have shut down en masse in response to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Monday briefing on Black Monday to avoid unnecessary social contact at pubs, clubs and theatres.

One by one came the measured official statements in response to the rising Coronavirus pandemic, announced with regret, sadness and heavy hearts.

By way of contrast, a tide of anger rose ever higher on social media from the entertainment industry, feeling shafted by the PM not legislating closure, merely advising it.

In doing so, he placed the decision in the (no doubt frequently washed) hands  of theatre managements, boards and trusts, whose sense of moral responsibility left no option but to announce closure until further notice as a precaution amid the Coronavirus crisis. When insurance effectively amounts to no insurance, hell by hand cart is the only journey in town.

Lights out: Ellen Kent Company’s La Boheme, at the Grand Opera House tomorrow is snuffed out by the Prime Minister’s Coronavirus dictum

The Grand National, the first post-Brexit Eurovision, the Chelsea Flower Show, Glastonbury Festival, the Euro 2020 football championships, are all scrapped for 2020. A tsunami of further announcements will follow, not least from theatre companies cancelling or postponing tours.

Keep Calm and Carry On may be the mantra, but the fear is that Keep Calm and Carry On may well turn to carrion on account of, well, the accounts.

York Theatre Royal, in St Leonard’s Place, Theatre @41 Monkgate, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in Haxby Road, and Riding Lights Theatre Company’s Friargate Theatre, in Lower Friargate, have individual boards and managements addressing urgent, previously unimaginable requirements and strictures.

Likewise, the Ambassadors Theatre Group, owners of the Grand Opera House, is co-ordinating the Coronavirus-impacted strategy throughout ATG, making statements for the Cumberland Street theatre, whose staff are now working remotely from home.

Clock stopped: PIck Me Up Theatre’s Tom’s Midnight Garden was curtailed after Monday’s performance at Theatre @ 41 Monkgate, York

These are unprecedented circumstances. Circumstances not even seen in wartime when theatres – some, not all – across the land stayed open through 1939 to 1945.

Circumstances where the new C-word has led to theatre after theatre – together with cinemas, music clubs, museums, galleries, visitor attractions, SparkYork, et al – to issue variations on: “It is with enormous sadness that we take these measures, but the safety of our audiences, staff and community is of utmost importance.”

So, where does each of these York theatres stand now, in a city where, like the rest, the theatre focus is turning to those of the medical variety? The best advice is to visit the theatre websites for information on the present closures, ticket refunds, and, in light of the harsh financial reality, Donate Today requests. “Your support is vital to our survival,” pleads York Theatre Royal bluntly.

A spokesman for the Theatre Royal – take it as read that it was executive director Tom Bird – said: “The closure of theatres in the UK puts York Theatre Royal, along with hundreds of other theatres, into a critical situation.”

Road closed: Riding Lights Theatre Company have had give up The Narrow Road tour for Lent

Does that make it theatre’s version of the intensive care unit? Time will tell, but the arts have a way of defying the last rites, always have, always will, keeping the fat lady singer waiting, the final curtain up in the flies. What they will make of Richmond Rishi’s £330 billion loan scheme is another discussion point for the in-tray, however.

In a nutshell, York Theatre Royal’s shows and public events initially are cancelled until April 11, but there surely will be no miraculous resurrection on Easter Sunday. The York Theatre Royal building, box office and café remained open initially, but the building closed to the public today (March 19). The box office is still taking phone calls on 01904 623568; ticket refunds are underway.

Shows at the Grand Opera House, in common with all Ambassadors Theatre Group theatres, are “temporarily suspended with immediate effect”, with a policy of postponement and future re-arranged dates to be confirmed, rather than cancellations, at this stage.

“We are following government guidance which is currently ambiguous,” say ATG. “It is unclear how long theatres are to remain closed. We will reopen them once the government and medical authorities confirm that there is no risk to our audiences, performers and staff. 

The Missing Peace: one of the now missing pieces at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, but with plans for re-arranged dates later

“We are working hard with our producers and performers to understand how this will play out, so we can’t confirm that at this time. We will try, wherever possible, to re-programme shows that have been suspended.”

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre will remain closed “until we receive further instruction that it is safe to reopen”. “We will be issuing further advice in the coming days on how we are going to manage ticket refunds and exchanges,” says trust chairman Dan Shrimpton. “We would ask that you please bear with us and wait for us to contact you.”

The Theatre @41 Monkgate website is yet to be updated following Monday’s Coronavirus ultimatum – the About Us section has Covid-19 Guidance from before – but Pick Me Up Theatre artistic director Robert Readman announced performances would cease after Tom’s Midnight Garden that evening.

He also cancelled Pick Me Up’s Sondheim 90 birthday concert this Sunday and the April 17 to 25 run of The Pirates Of Penzance. Be assured that Coronavirus has been the death of York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth from March 31 to April 4 too.

Riding Lights, York’s Christian theatre company based at Friargate Theatre, have cancelled their March 16 to April 11 tour of The Narrow Road. “We are very sorry not to be performing this Lent but wish you a happy and safe Easter,” their website says.

Meanwhile, prayers and thoughts go to all those working in the theatres at York Hospital and elsewhere, preparing for whatever is to come.

Copyright of The Press, York