What’s On in Ryedale, York and beyond food, glorious food. Here’s Hutch’s List No 17 for 2024, from Gazette & Herald

Jeanette Hunter’s Wicked Witch, right, in rehearsal for York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz with Daan Janssen’s Lion, left, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man, Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy and Toto puppeteer Adam Gill

FOOD for thought for the cultural week ahead, from the Yellow Brick Road to Heaven revisited, a foodie festival to Laurie Lee, seascapes to coastal Dexys, as Charles Hutchinson reports.

Musical of the week: York Musical Theatre Company in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

YORK stage stalwart Jeanette Hunter will play a villain for the first time next week, starring as the Wicked Witch in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz.

Following the Yellow Brick Road will be Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man and Daan Janssen’s Lion, while further principal roles will go to Liz Gardner as Glinda, Marlena Kellie as Auntie Em and Martin Hunter as the Wizard. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk. 

Velma Celli’s Show Queen: Celebrating the best of London’s West End and Broadway musical theatre hits at York Theatre Royal

Cabaret celebration of the week: Velma Celli’s Show Queen, York Theatre Royal, tomorrow (23/5/2024), 7.30pm

DRAG diva Velma Celli, the alter ego of York actor Ian Stroughair, goes back to Ian’s roots in Cats, Chicago, Fame and Rent for a new celebration of the best of London’s West End and Broadway musical theatre hits.

The show “takes us to every corner of the fabulous genre, from Kander & Ebb and Lloyd Webber to Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked and Schönberg’s Les Miserables and many more,” says Velma. “Like, more than Six!”. Special guests will be burlesque star Miss Betsy Rose and belting York singer Jessica Steel. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rebecca Ferguson: Liverpool soul singer’s last album and tour at 37

Soul gig of the week: Rebecca Ferguson, Heaven Part II Tour, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

LIVERPOOL soul singer and The X Factor alumna Rebecca Ferguson is touring her fifth and final album, Heaven Part II, released last December 12 years to the day since her debut, Heaven.

Working with new contributors and original Heaven writers and producers, Ferguson sings of love, family, joy, liberation and her journey to happiness over the past seven years. She is, however, calling time on recording and touring to “find a way to have a relationship with music which is positive”. Friday’s support acts will be York country singer Twinnie and Eloise Viola. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Malton Spring Food Lovers Festival: Look out for the festival guide and map on site

Festival of the week: Malton Spring Food Lovers Festival, Saturday, from 9am; Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday, from 10am

ON the streets of “Yorkshire’s Food Capital”, Malton Food Lovers Festival celebrates Yorkshire’s supreme produce and cooking over three days of 120 artisan stalls and street food vendors, talks, tastings, chef demonstrations, brass bands and buskers, festival bar, food shops, sculpture trail, entertainment, blacksmith workshops, vintage funfair and family fun with Be Amazing Arts’ Creativitent, Environmental Art’s Creative Chaos and Magical Quests North.

The live musicians will be: Saturday, Malton White Star Band, 11am to 1pm, The Rackateers, 1pm to 3pm, and Oz Ward, 6pm to 8pm; Sunday, White Star Training Band, 11.30am to 12.30pm, and The Rackateers, 1pm to 3pm, and Monday, The Acoustic Buddies, 11am to 12pm and 2pm to 3pm. Festival entry is free.

Kirkby Soul: Playing outdoors at Hemsley Walled Garden on Saturday

Fundraiser of the week: Kirkby Soul, Helmsley Walled Garden, Helmsley, Saturday, 7.30pm

RYEDALE eight-piece band Kirkby Soul present an evening of soul music in aid of Helmsley Arts Centre and Helmsley Walled Garden. Bring chairs, cushions, blankets, dancing shoes and picnics. A paying bar will be operation in the orchid house. Come prepared for the British weather! A marquee will be erected just in case. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Anton Lesser: Performing in Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music at Grand Opera House, York

Literary event of the week: Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music, Grand Opera House, York, May 26, 7.30pm

AUTHOR Laurie Lee’s extraordinary story is told in a captivating weave of music and his own words in Red Sky At Sunrise, performed by actors Anton Lesser and Charlie Hamblett, accompanied by David Le Page’s musical programme for Orchestra Of The Swan.

Together they celebrate Lee’s engaging humour, as well as portraying his darker side, in a performance that has startling resonance with modern events, tracing Lee’s path through Cider With Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment Of War as he ended up fighting with the International Brigades against General Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Jo’s Place, seascape, by Carolyn Coles, from her Home Is Where The Heart Is exhibition at Bluebird Bakery, Acomb

Exhibition launch: Carolyn Coles, Home Is Where The Heart Is, Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, May 30 to August 1

CREATING atmospheric, impressionistic and abstract seascapes, South Bank Studios artist Carolyn Coles paints mostly with acrylics on stretched canvasses, using an array of techniques and implements.

Known for evoking emotional responses, Carolyn reflects her love for the Yorkshire landscape, offering a direct response to the feelings and connections to places that feel like home. Everyone is welcome at the 6pm to 9pm launch on May 30, when Carolyn will be happy to answer questions.

Dirty Ruby: Ryedale Blues’ headliners at Milton Rooms, Malton

Blues gig of the week: Ryedale Blues presents Dirty Ruby, Milton Rooms, Malton, May 30, 8pm

NOTTINGHAMSHIRE five-piece Dirty Ruby have drawn comparisons with Seventies’ bands Stone The Crows and Vinegar Joe in their energetic, sharp-edged blues rock, combining Hammond organ and bluesy guitar with soulful lead vocals. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

Dexys: Showcasing The Feminine Divine at Scarborough Spa

Coastal trip of the week: Dexys, Scarborough Spa Grand Hall, May 30, doors 7pm

AFTER playing York for the first time in their 45-year career last September, Dexys return to North Yorkshire on the latest leg of The Feminine Divine Live!

Led as ever by Kevin Rowland, Dexys open with a theatrical presentation of last year’s album, The Feminine Divine, to be followed by a second soulful set of beloved hits, from Come On Eileen and Jackie Wilson Said to The Celtic Soul Brothers and Geno. Box office: 01723 376774 or scarboroughspa.co.uk.

In Focus: The 1879 FA Cup clash of Darwen FC and the Old Etonians in The Giant Killers at Milton Rooms, Malton

The tour poster for Long Lane Theatre Club’s The Giant Killers

MANCHESTER United meet “noisy neighbours” Manchester City in the 143rd FA Cup final on Saturday, coinciding with the tour launch of a fitting theatrical tribute to the competition’s early days.

Staged by Long Lane Theatre Club, The Giant Killers tells the story of how Darwen FC came to the public’s attention in 1870s’ Lancashire to proclaim Association Football as a people’s game and not only the preserve of the upper classes.

Good news for Malton, the story of Darwen’s FA Cup clashes with the toffs of the Old Etonians is booked to appear at the Milton Rooms on July 4 (now confirmed as the date for another battle, the 2024 General Election).

The Giant Killers recounts how a ragtag bunch of mill workers in Darwen took on the amateur gentleman’s club of the Old Etonians in the FA Cup quarter-final in 1879. The Old Etonians were winning 5-1 but Darwen rallied to force a replay after a 5-5 draw. 

One replay turned into three, with one abandoned through bad light. Forced to travel to London a very expensive three times and with team members losing a day’s work, Darwen eventually succumbed 6-2, but their story of working-class men inspiring a nation enabled the top hats in football crowds to turn into ‘’a sea of flat caps’’.

Kick-off – or kick-toff! – will be at 7.30pm for Andrew Pearson-Wright & Eve Pearson-Wright’s story of how Darwen FC rose up against prevailing social prejudice and the might of the Football Association to earn a place in history as the first real ‘‘giant killers’’ in English football. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

More Things To Do in York and beyond when the wonderful and the wicked await. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 21, from The Press

Mikron Theatre cast members Eddie Ahrens, left, Mark Emmon, Georgina Liley and Lauren Robinson: Presenting an outdoor performance of Common Ground at Scarcoft Allotments, York, on Sunday afternoon. Picture: Robling Photography

FROM land access tales to the Yellow Brick Road, wonderful words about wellies to a journey through isolation, show song heights to a soulful heaven, Charles Hutchinson follows the path to cultural discovery.

Touring play of the week: Mikron Theatre in Common Ground, Scarcroft Allotments, Scarcroft Road, York, May 19, 2pm

ON tour on narrow boat and canal, van and land until October 18, Marsden company Mikron Theatre present Common Ground, writer and lyricist Poppy Hollman’s hike through the history of land access in England, where only eight per cent of land is designated “open country”.

Under the direction of Gitika Buttoo, actor-musicians Eddie Ahrens, Georgina Liley, Lauren Robinson and Mark Emmon tell the tale of the fictional Pendale and District Ramblers as they look forward to celebrating their 50th anniversary walk, but the path has been blocked by the landowner. How will they find their way through? No reserved seating or tickets required; a “pay what you feel” collection will be taken post-show.

Harry Baker: Wonderful words by the slam champ at The Crescent

Spoken word gig of the week: Say Owt presents Harry Baker: Wonderful, The Crescent, York, May 20, 7.30pm

WORLD Poetry Slam champion Harry Baker is a poet, mathematician, stand-up comic and writer who reflects on “important stuff”, whether hope, dinosaurs or German falafel spoons, as found in his new poetry collection, Wonderful, published by Burning Eye this month.

On his 30-date Wonderful tour, the “maths-loving, TED-talking, German-speaking, battle-rapping, happy-crying, self-bio-writing unashamed human” brings his signature playfulness and poignancy to new poems about wellies, postcodes, sunflowers, sticky toffee pudding and his favourite German wheat beer. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Jeanette Hunter: Heading to the dark side as the Wicked Witch in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz

Musical of the week: York Musical Theatre Company in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, May 22 to 25, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

YORK stage stalwart Jeanette Hunter will play a villain for the first time next week, starring as the Wicked Witch in York Musical Theatre Company’s The Wizard Of Oz.

Following the Yellow Brick Road will be Sadie Sorensen’s Dorothy, Rachel Higgs’s Scarecrow, Zander Fick’s Tin Man and Daan Janssen’s Lion, while further principal roles will go to Liz Gardner as Glinda, Marlena Kellie as Auntie Em and Martin Hunter as the Wizard. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Miranda Sykes: Songs of isolation, illness and recovery at Black Swan Folk Club

Folk gig of the week: Miranda Sykes, Out Of The Woods Tour, Black Swan Folk Club, Black Swan Inn, Peasholme Green, York, May 23, 7.30pm

SHOW Of Hands and Daphne’s Flight member Miranda Sykes promotes her pandemic-scarred March album Out Of The Woods in her debut Black Swan solo gig, showcasing songs that chart her journey through isolation, illness and recovery with the aim of bringing comfort after such turbulent years.

“Life is many faceted; like most people I’ve had good times and hard times,” says the Lincolnshire-born singer, double bass player and guitarist. “I’ve taken some forks in the road I shouldn’t have done and I’ve had some knocks, but it’s all part of who I am now.”  Box office: blackswanfolkclub.org.uk.

Velma Celli’s Show Queen: Celebrating the best of West End and Broadway musical theatre at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Sophie Eleanor

Cabaret celebration of the week: Velma Celli’s Show Queen, York Theatre Royal, May 23, 7.30pm

DRAG diva Velma Celli, the alter ego of York actor Ian Stroughair, goes back to Ian’s roots in Cats, Chicago, Fame and Rent for a new celebration of the best of London’s West End and Broadway musical theatre hits.

The show “takes us to every corner of the fabulous genre, from Kander & Ebb and Lloyd Webber to Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked and Schönberg’s Les Miserables and many more,” says Velma. “Like, more than Six!”. Special guests will be burlesque star Miss Betsy Rose and belting York singer Jessica Steel. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rebecca Ferguson: Final album and tour at 37

Soul gig of the week: Rebecca Ferguson, Heaven Part II Tour, York Barbican, May 24, 7.30pm

LIVERPOOL soul singer and The X Factor alumna Rebecca Ferguson is touring her fifth and final album, Heaven Part II, released last December 12 years to the day since her debut, Heaven.

Working with new contributors and original Heaven writers and producers, Ferguson sings of love, family, joy, liberation and her journey to happiness over the past seven years. She is, however, calling time on recording and touring to “find a way to have a relationship with music which is positive”. Friday’s support acts will be York country singer Twinnie and Eloise Viola. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Anton Lesser in Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music at Grand Opera House, York

Literary event of the week: Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music, Grand Opera House, York, May 26, 7.30pm

AUTHOR Laurie Lee’s extraordinary story is told in a captivating weave of music and his own words in Red Sky At Sunrise, performed by actors Anton Lesser and Charlie Hamblett, accompanied by David Le Page’s musical programme for Orchestra Of The Swan.

Together, they celebrate Lee’s engaging humour, as well as portraying his darker side, in a performance that has startling resonance with modern events, tracing Lee’s path through Cider With Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment Of War as he ended up fighting with the International Brigades against General Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Home Is Where The Heart Is, seascape, by Carolyn Coles, from her exhibition at Bluebird Bakery, Acomb

Exhibition launch: Carolyn Coles, Home Is Where The Heart Is, Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, May 30 to August 1

CREATING atmospheric, impressionistic and abstract seascapes, South Bank Studios artist Carolyn Coles paints mostly with acrylics on stretched canvasses, using an array of techniques and implements.

Known for evoking emotional responses, Carolyn reflects her love for the Yorkshire landscape, offering a direct response to the feelings and connections to places that feel like home. Everyone is welcome at the 6pm to 9pm launch on May 30, when Carolyn will be happy to answer questions.

REVIEW: Twelve Angry Men, Grand Opera House, York, in session until Saturday ****

Spoiling for a fight: Tristan Gemmill’s Juror 3 has to be held back as Jason Merrells’s Juror 8, front left, probes. Picture: Jack Merriman

“UNBEARABLY hot!” was the verdict of one audience member, who bailed out of Monday’s press night at the interval. “Wedding ring and watch wouldn’t fit because of heat swelling fingers and wrist,” he reasoned.

Come Tuesday night, York’s heatwave had waved goodbye, but you could still feel the heat rising, temperature and tempers alike, on the Grand Opera House stage.

A storm is brewing both metaphorically and meteorologically in Reginald Rose’s “knife-edge thriller” on its return to the Grand Opera House for the first time since April 2015, in the finale to the 70th anniversary tour.

Mounted once more by Bill Kenwright Ltd and directed again by Christopher Haydon, with the same set design by Michael Pavelka, the latest production has the continuity and hallmark of quality of The Woman In Black under Robin Herford’s stewardship.

At the tiller since the 2013 premiere at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Haydon has assembled another supremely combative cast of 13, unlucky for none, whether fellow cast members or enthralled audience.

A train thunders by on the New York subway, a jolt to sharpen our senses for the war of words ahead before the sonorous voice of the unseen judge warns the jury, “one man is dead; the life of another is at stake”.

One by one, the 12 jurors file into the dingy jury deliberating room, opening the dusty windows to the street to counter the sweltering heat, a discomfort only heightened by the overhead fan failing to work.

Gray O’Brien’s Juror 10, left, and Michael Greco’s Juror 7 in discussion in Twelve Angry Men. Picture: Jack Merriman

To one side is an oft-visited rest room; to the other, an even more oft-visited water dispenser. Outside the locked door, a stone-faced guard (Jeffrey Harmer) is on duty.

Under the charge of the stoical foreman (Owen Oldroyd), the jurors must decide the fate of a young delinquent, a boy of 16 accused of stabbing his father to death.

It looks an open-and-shut case, as the preliminary guilty vote of 11 to one would indicate, but a unanimous verdict is required to condemn the boy to the mandatory death penalty.

Standing alone, unsure of guilt beyond reasonable doubt, is Jason Merrells’s Juror 8, an architect by profession who sets about building the case the defence lawyer never satisfactorily presented.

Admirably equitable and eloquent, Juror 8 is the calm amid the electric storm soon to crackle. The twelve angry men of the title turns out to be a misnomer: Merrells’s conciliatory juror never raises his voice or bursts the banks of frustration as those around him do in Rose’s claustrophobic study of human nature.

Haydon’s cast combines ensemble enterprise with individual expression, steered by Merrells’s assiduity, fair and quick of mind, always humanitarian, never righteous.

Mark Heenehan’s meticulously methodical broker, Juror 4 – watch how he washes his hands – comes slowly but authoritatively to the fore, by way of contrast with Tristan Gemmill’s vituperative, volcanic Juror 3 and Gray O’Brien’s boorish, bigoted Juror 10.

Christopher Haydon’s cast casting votes in Twelve Angry Men. Picture: Jack Merriman

Who will reach boiling point first as the art of persuasion locks horns with a surfeit of jackets-off testosterone? Not only a teenager’s guilt or innocence is under examination, so too are 12 men’s characters, their predilections and prejudices, hot-housed and released under pressure that builds like the beads of sweat to be wiped away with handkerchiefs.

Amid the tightening tensions and mid-20th century American angst, Haydon’s company also mines all the observational humour in Rose’s astute script, typified by the gum-chewing, hat-tilting swagger of Michael Greco’s time-watching marmalade salesman, Juror 7.

Ben Nealon, Gary Webster, Paul Beech, Paul Lavers and especially Kenneth Jay and Samarge Hamilton all do sterling jury service too, and one more character stands out: the revolving stage that keeps the jurors’ table moving. 

You could even call it scene stealing, such is the sleight of hand that means you never see it in circular motion, but move it most certainly does, facilitating seeing faces to the maximum within the proscenium arch framework.

As the table turns, so the tables turn in the jury room’s votes in a psychological drama where Pavelka’s set so cleverly mirrors the story, played out to a choreographer’s sense of movement by Haydon.

Pavelka, Haydon and his cast are guilty of being criminally good. To miss Twelve Angry Men would be a crime to make your reviewer one angry man.

Twelve Angry Men, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Spice up your life with Wannabe’s June 20 tribute to girl power at Grand Opera House

Wannabe’s Posh, left, Ginger, Sporty, Baby and Scary

WANNABE – The Spice Girls Show will celebrate three decades of girl power at the Grand Opera House, York, on June 20.

The “world’s longest-running” Spice Girls tribute stage production pays homage to the best-selling girl group of all time in a nostalgic journey through the Spice World.

Since its debut in 2017, Wannaba’s tribute to Sporty, Scary, Ginger, Baby and Posh has hit the West End and toured Great Britain, Europe, Asia, and Australia, playing to 300,000 Spice Girls devotees.

Wannabe charts the English girl group’s meteoric rise, from their debut number one, Wannabe, in July 1996 to Melanie Brown, Melanie Chisholm, Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell and Victoria Beckham’s reunion at the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Expect “meticulously crafted costumes representing pivotal moments in the Spice Girls’ career, unique vocal and musical arrangements exclusive to Wannabe, iconic dance routines and stunning visual flair”.

Tickets for June 20’s 7.30pm show are on sale at atgtickets.com/york.

More Things To Do in York and beyond when Monet…that’s what you want. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 20, from The Press, York

Florally attired York Art Gallery senior curator Dr Beatrice Bertram stands by Claude Monet’s The Water-Lily Pond, on loan from the National Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

NATURE in full bloom, hothoused Shakespeare, blossoming student creativity and teenage blues put the colour in Charles Hutchinson’s cheeks for warmer days ahead.

Exhibition of the summer: National Treasures: Monet In York: The Water-Lily Pond, York Art Gallery, in bloom until September 8

FRENCH Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s 1899 work, The Water-Lily Pond, forms the York centrepiece and trigger point for the National Gallery’s bicentenary celebrations in tandem with York Art Gallery. 

On show are key loans from regional and national institutions alongside York Art Gallery collection works and a large-scale commission by contemporary artist Michaela Yearwood-Dan, Una Sinfonia. Monet’s canvas is explored in the context of 19th-century French open-air painting, pictures by his early mentors and the Japanese prints that transformed his practice and beloved gardens in Giverny. Tickets: yorkartgallery.org.uk.

Stewart Dylan-Campbell’s Rob, left, and Aiden Kane’s Marc in Qweerdog Theatre’s Jump, playing Rise@Bluebird Bakery tomorrow

Relationship drama of the week: Qweerdog Theatre in Jump, at Rise@Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, tomorrow (12/5/2024), 8.30pm; doors 7.30pm

DEVELOPED through Manchester company Qweerdog’s LGBTQ+ writing project, Nick Maynard’s dark comedy takes an unusual look at contemporary gay life, exploring the possibility of relationships and how they are not always the way we imagine.

Directed by West End director Scott Le Crass, Jump depicts the lives, love lives and past lives of two lost souls drawn to a canal one night. As the weary, embittered Rob (Stewart Dylan-Campbell) contemplates the lure of the water, a handsome young man, the “chopsy” Marc (Aiden Kane), engages him in conversation. So begins a strange and fractious relationship that might just prove beneficial to them both. Box office: bluebirdbakery.co.uk/rise.

Paloma Faith: “Celebrating taking responsibility for your own happiness” at York Barbican tomorrow

Recommended but sold out already: Paloma Faith, York Barbican, tomorrow, 8pm; Katherine Priddy, The Crescent, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

STOKE Newington soul tour de force Paloma Faith showcases her sixth studio album, February’s deeply personal The Glorification Of Sadness, her “celebration of finding your way back after leaving a long-term relationship, being empowered even in your failures and taking responsibility for your own happiness”.

Birmingham folk singer and guitarist Katherine Priddy will be promoting second album The Pendulum Swing, released on Cooking Vinyl in February.  For the first time, her 14-date May tour finds her performing in a trio, joined by Harry Fausing Smith (strings) and support act George Boomsma (electric guitar).

Hollie McNish: Performing at the TakeOver festival at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Kat Gollock

Festival of the week: TakeOver – In The Limelight, York Theatre Royal, May 13 to 18

IN this annual collaboration between York Theatre Royal and York St John University, third-year drama students are put in charge of the theatre and programming its events for a week, with support and mentoring from professionals. 

Among those events will be writer Hollie McNish, reading from her latest book, Lobster And Other Things I’m Learning To Love (Thursday, 7.30pm), dance troupe Verve: Triple Bill (next Saturday, 7.30pm) and multiple shows by York St John students. For the full programme, head to: yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/be-part-of-it/children-and-young-people/takeover/. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Gray O’Brien’s Juror 10, left, and Michael Greco’s Juror 7 in the 70th anniversary production of Twelve Angry Men. Picture: Jack Merriman

Jury service: Twelve Angry Men, Grand Opera House, York, May 13 to 18, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees

IN its 70th anniversary touring production, Reginald Rose’s knife-edge courtroom thriller Twelve Angry Men resonates with today’s audiences with its intricately crafted study of human nature. Within the confines of the jury deliberating room, 12 men hold the fate of a young delinquent, accused of killing his father, in their hands. 

What looks an open-and-shut case soon becomes a dilemma, wherein Rose examines the art of persuasion as the jurors are forced to examine their own self-image, personalities, experiences and prejudices. Tristan Gemmill, Michael Greco, Jason Merrells, Gray O’Brien and Gary Webster feature in Christopher Haydon’s cast. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Steven Arran: Directing Shakespeare’s Speakeasy’s debut play in a day in York at Theatre@41, Monkgate

York debut of the week: Shakespeare’s Speakeasy, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

SHAKESPEARE’S Speakeasy is heading from Newcastle to York for the first time, making its Theatre@41 debut under the directorship of Steven Arran. “It’s Shakespeare, but it’s secret,” he says. “Can a group of strangers successfully stage a Shakespearean play in a day? Shakespeare’s Speakeasy is the place for you to find out.”

After learning lines over the past four weeks, the cast featuring the likes of Claire Morley, Esther Irving and Ian Giles meets for the first time on Thursday morning to rehearse an irreverent, entertaining take on one of Bill’s best-known plays, culminating in a public performance. Which one? “Like all good Speakeasys, that’s a secret,” says Arran. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Toby Lee: Blues prodigy heads to the Fulford Arms next Saturday

Blues gig of the week: Toby Lee, Fulford Arms, York, May 18, 7.30pm

BLUES rock prodigy Toby Lee, the 19-year-old Oxfordshire guitarist and singer, will be playing 100 showshome and abroad this year, 40 of them his own headline gigs, 60 as a special guest of boogie-woogie pianist Jools Holand and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

The 2023 Young Blues Musician of the Year learned his trade playing Zack Mooneyham in the first West End production of School Of Rock and has since shared stages with his hero Joe Bonamassa, Buddy Guy, Peter Frampton and Slash. First up, Fulford Arms next Saturday, then come Jools engagements at York Barbican on December 1 and Leeds First Direct Arena on December 20. Box office: ticketweb.uk/event/toby-lee-the-fulford-arms-tickets/13366163.

Her name is Del Rio: And she lives for stand-up comedy as drag queen Bianca feels Dead Inside on York-bound world tour

Gig announcement of the week: Bianca Del Rio, Dead Inside, York Barbican, September 18

COMEDY drag queen and RuPaul’s Drag Race champion Bianca Del Rio heads to York on her 11-date stand-up tour. Up for irreverent discussion will be politics, pop culture, political correctness, current events, cancel culture and everyday life, as observed through the eyes of a “clown in the gown”, who will be “coming out of my crypt and hitting the road again to remind everyone that I’m still dead inside”. Tickets go on sale on Tuesday at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Michael Greco relishes doing jury service in 70th anniversary tour of Twelve Angry Men

Gray O’Brien’s Juror 10, left, and Michael Greco’s Juror 7 in the 70th anniversary production of Twelve Angry Men. Picture: Jack Merriman

REGINALD Rose’s claustrophobic study of human nature, Twelve Angry Men, began as a teleplay, then transferred to the stage and finally to the screen in Sidney Lumet’s black-and-white 1957 film.

Now, after a record-breaking West End season, Rose’s courtroom thriller is back in session, on tour in its 70th year, visiting the Grand Opera House, York, from May 13 to 18.

The setting is not the courtroom but the jury deliberating room, where 12 men hold the fate of a young delinquent, accused of killing his father, in their hands. What looks an open-and-shut case, with an initial 11 to 1 guilty vote, becomes a fractious dilemma, where the jurors must each examine their self-image, personality, experiences and prejudices as the art of persuasion plays out.

Michael Greco, best known for his role as Beppe di Marco in EastEnders from 1998 to 2002, plays Juror 7 in Rose’s tableau of mid-20th century American angst.

‘I’d watched the film years ago and I loved it,” he recalls. “When I got a call to be in the show, a lot of my friends said, ‘oh my god, this is one of my favourite films, can’t wait to come’.

“It’s an amazing piece of writing, something that is for all ages, really from youngsters to older people who’ve known the show and have loved the film for years. People just love a murder mystery, a courtroom drama, seeing how it unfolds.”

Who is Juror 7, Michael? “In layman’s terms, I would describe him as ‘absolutely gagging to get to this huge basketball game’. It’s in three hours’ time and he can’t wait to go. He’s thinking, ‘yes, yes, yes, I can get there’, but then there’s a spanner in the works. I feel for him,” says the Chelsea fan. “He’s a funny character, a vexed character too.”

“He’s a funny character, a vexed character too,” says Michael Greco of Juror 7, his role in Twelve Angry Men

Preparing for a role, he says: “I think, as an actor, I always do my due diligence about what I would say about the character in the text, and then, secondly, you have to learn the subtext.

“Because he’s just called Juror 7, I give him a name and ask, ‘is he married?’; ‘is he an alcoholic?’; ‘has he been to prison?’, otherwise there’s no substance to him. Especially as I have to bring something new to him after that.”

Reflecting on Twelve Angry Men’s abiding impact in its depiction of men locking horns, Michael says: “It definitely resonates with today’s society. You will recognise some of the characters and the way that people are in their thinking and the way they are in their personalities.

“There are certain scenes where prejudices come out – and that’s still the case today. Like when a racist guy has a rant, he’s brought down very quickly.”

Michael, 53, looks back to his own family’s experiences in the 1950s. “I’m from an Italian immigrant family, who moved to London from Naples in the late-Fifties. They came to England without money, they didn’t speak any English, but they were welcomed with open arms. Prejudices were not so open.”

Michael’s character in Twelve Angry Men does have prejudices. “I decided to go over the top with this character because he’s someone people can associate with. The director [Christopher Haydon] just loved the comedy I brought to it and didn’t cut it back a bit. He’s just let me go with it,” he says.

Michael Greco

“You have to go on this journey with him where you try to get the audience on his side because you can see his frustration, and then he reaches that point where his prejudices come out. But I can play that with openness because, wherever it comes from, this character is a good guy, but the situation brings out the worst in him.”

Putting human behaviour under the microscope, Michael says: “Every human being is the same in that we all get intrusive thoughts, where you think, ‘where did that come from?’, but you then dismiss them.

“But any psychiatrist would tell you it’s natural to have these thoughts coming into your head and to reject them…but some people do act on them.”

Michael rules out changing the configuration of Twelve Angry Men to six men and six women. “It’s very difficult to know what to say, but I don’t think it would work because of the testosterone and the physical reactions in the writing, and because women are not built in the same way psychologically and physically. It would be a completely different play if you did that.

“You can do things with Shakespeare’s plays, but when you write a play called Twelve Angry Men, the clue is in the title. The thing is, we get it in all forms of society, not just in politics, but in the bragging rights of football, for example. I despise the ‘tragedy chanting’. I can’t believe people can sink so low.”

Twelve Angry Men, Grand Opera House, York, May 13 to 18, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday. Box office: atgtickets.com/york

More Things To Do in Ryedale, York and beyond as the week ahead takes shape. Hutch’s List No. 14, from Gazette & Herald

Sculptor Tony Cragg with his bronze work Outspan in the Great Hall at Castle Howard. Picture: Charlotte Graham

SCULPTURES and Tess in the country, free events at the double, nun fun on the run,  courtroom tensions and a funny mummy send Charles Hutchinson out and about.

Sculptures of the week: Tony Cragg at Castle Howard, near Malton, until September 22

SCULPTOR Tony Cragg presents the first major exhibition by a leading contemporary artist in the house and grounds of Castle Howard. On show are new and recent sculptures, many being presented on British soil for the first time, including large-scale works in bronze, stainless steel, aluminium and fibreglass.

Inside the house are works in bronze and wood, glass sculptures and works on paper in the Great Hall, Garden Hall, High South, Octagon and Colonnade. Tickets: castlehoward.co.uk.

Let us pray: Landi Oshinowo’s Deloris Van Cartier, left, and Sue Cleaver’s Mother Superior in Sister Act, on tour at Grand Opera House, York

Musical of the week: Sister Act, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm matinee, Saturday

SUE Cleaver takes holy orders in a break from Coronation Street to play the Mother Superior in Sister Act in her first stage role in three decades. Adding Alan Menken songs to the 1992 film’s storyline, the show testifies to the universal power of friendship, sisterhood and music in its humorous account of disco diva Deloris Van Cartier’s life taking a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder.

Placed in protective custody, in the disguise of a nun under the Mother Superior’s suspicious eye, Deloris (Landi Oshinowo) helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

One of Stephen G Bird’s artworks in his Helmsley Arts Centre exhibition

Exhibition of the week: Stephen G Bird, Helmsley Arts Centre, Helmsley, until June 28

NORTH Yorkshire artist Stephen G Bird works in a variety of painting and drawing media.  His pictures begin with extensive observational drawing in urban and rural landscapes. Once back in his studio, he creates pictorial and allegorical narratives from memory and imagination. Themes include tales from myth and legend and the comedy and tragedy of the everyday. “Life is dark but also funny,” he says.

Lila Naruse’s Memory Tess in Ockham’s Razor’s circus theatre production of Tess at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Kie Cummings

“Bold new vision” of the week: Ockham’s Razor in Tess, York Theatre Royal, tonight to Saturday, 7.30pm

CIRCUS theatre exponents Ockham’s Razor tackle a novel for the first time in a staging of Thomas Hardy’s Tess Of The D’Urbervilles that combines artistic directors Charlotte Mooney and Alex Harvey’s adaptation of the original text with the physical language of circus and dance.

Exploring questions of privilege, class, consent, agency, female desire and sisterhood, Tess utilises seven performers, including Harona Kamen’s Narrator Tess and Lila Naruse’s Memory Tess, to re-tell the Victorian story of power, loss and endurance through a feminist lens. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

The Funny Mummy: One-woman comedy show about the bonkers world of parenting

Comedy gig of the week: The Funny Mummy, Helmsley Arts Centre, Saturday, 7.30pm

THE Funny Mummy, alias Alyssa Kyria, delivers a one-woman comedy show about “the bonkers world” of parenting. “From pregnancy to playdates, WhatsApp groups to school runs, if you’re a parent, and you need a laugh, then this show is for you,” she advocates.  

Kyria, co-creator of Bring Your Own Baby Comedy, performs across the country and has appeared on the BBC, ITV and Sky. Her comedy, music videos and sketches have gone viral on Netmums and Facebook. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

The Twisty Turns: Country songs new and old at Milton Rooms, Malton

Free gig of the week: Lazy Sunday Sessions, The Twisty Turns and Joey Wing, Studio Bar, Milton Rooms, Malton, Sunday, 3pm to 5pm

The Milton Rooms’ new Lazy Sunday Sessions programme continues this weekend with a double bill headlined by Ryedale country band The Twisty Turns, who combine their own compositions, influenced by country, folk, country blues and bluegrass, with traditional country songs and rip-roaring fiddle tunes.

In the line-up are Benjamin Gallon, who provides acoustic guitar, vocals and “anteloping”; Jenny Trilsbach, on double bass, vocals and “foxiness”, and Jerry Bloom, on fiddle and “frogmanship”. Singer Joey Wing supports. Entry is free.

Butterwick Alpaca Retreat’s alpacas at the Love Local day at Nunnington Hall. Picture: National Trust

Free celebration of the week: Love Local, Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near Helmsley, Sunday, 10.30am to 5pm; last entry at 4.15pm

HELPING to raise awareness and “show off how brilliant Ryedale and the surrounding area is”, artists, craftspeople, businesses, charities, and community groups create this family event at the National Trust property.

Visitors can taste fresh Yorkshire produce, buy goods from Ryedale makers and crafters and enjoy free admission to the country house, gardens and the last day of the From The Earth exhibition by East Riding Artists’ group of painters, potters and creatives.

Taking the vote: The murder trial jurors in Reginald Rose’s Twelve Angry Men at Grand Opera House, York

Jury service: Twelve Angry Men, Grand Opera House, York, May 13 to 18, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees

IN its 70th anniversary touring production, Reginald Rose’s knife-edge courtroom thriller Twelve Angry Men resonates with today’s audiences with its intricately crafted study of human nature. Within the confines of the jury deliberating room, 12 men hold the fate of a young delinquent, accused of killing his father, in their hands. 

What looks an open-and-shut case soon becomes a dilemma, wherein Rose examines the art of persuasion as the jurors are forced to examine their own self-image, personalities, experiences and prejudices. Tristan Gemmill, Michael Greco, Jason Merrells, Gray O’Brien and Gary Webster feature in Christopher Haydon’s cast. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

REVIEW: Sister Act, A Divine Musical Comedy, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday ****

Heaven help us: Landi Oshinowo’s Deloris Van Cartier and Sue Cleaver’s Mother Superior seeking divine intervention in Sister Act

DELIGHTED to be back in the habit as Deloris Van Cartier, Landi Oshinowo “would like to thank her God and her church”, says her programme profile.

By comparison, lounge singer Deloris is uncomfortable at being given rosary beads by one of the sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow in 1977 Philadelphia.

Oshinowo’s Deloris is more a lady of perpetual motion and commotion, a lippy livewire first seen in sparkling dress and very big hair belting out Take Me To Heaven. Instead, her volatile mobster lover, Curtis Jackson (Ian Gareth-Jones) is taking her closer to hell, denying her the big break she craves.

On witnessing him kill an informant, she must flee from the Mafia’s clutches and into the church’s safe refuge as the unconventional meets the convent, clashing from the off with the formidable, dry-witted, disapproving Mother Superior (Sue Cleaver, in a break from Coronation Street for her first stage role in 30 years).

Placed in protective custody by gun-shy cop Eddie Souther (Alfie Parker), Deloris kicks the habits into shape, transforming the sisters’ singing from off-key shambolic to soul and gospel bliss as she blossoms into a divine diva.

Impressing Monsignor O’Hara (Phillip Arran) rather more than the exasperated Mother Superior, Deloris re-invigorates the rundown neighbourhood’s church services and coffers and rekindles the flame in Eddie’s schooldays crush.

Sister Act, A Divine Musical Comedy, plays to the effervescent spirit, irreverence and delightful daftness of Emile Ardolino’s 1992 movie, now bolstered by the Motown and Philly soul, funk, disco and rap pastiches of Little Shop Of Horrors’ Alan Menken and sassy lyrics of Glenn Slater.

Sue Cleaver: First stage role in 30 years for Coronation Street stalwart as Mother Superior

The book by Cheri and Bill Steinkellener revels in camping up the camp and giving the sisters bags of personality, from Eloise Runnette’s putative rebel Sister Mary Robert (in The Life I Never Had) to Isabel Canning’s boulder of sunshine Sister Mark Patrick and Julie Stark’s rasping, rapping Sister Mary Lazarus.

Callum Martin’s Joey, Michalis Antoniou’s Pablo and understudy Harvey Ebbage’s TJ are comic stooges to the manner born, their bungling mobster act peaking with Lady In The Long Black Dress (with its nod to The Floaters’ 1977 hit Float On). Better still is Parker’s Eddie Souther, ever humorous as the protective cop who craves stepping out of the background to live his soul singer dreams.

Cleaver brings more down-to-earth humour to the Mother Superior than past performers while retaining her serenity and air of authority, while Oshinowo is a joy as Deloris, funky, funny and feisty, equally at home in the heavenly ballads, Seventies’ soul struts and retro dance numbers.

Bill Buckhurst’s bright and boisterous direction brings out the best in all the characterisation and comical situations. At every opportunity, Alistair David’s choreography celebrates the glorious, ever-funny sight of sisters abandoning themselves to the joy of dancing, and Tom Slade’s band is in full swing and in the mood throughout.

Morgan Large’s set and costume designs are living it as large as his name would suggest, glittering finale et al.  The American Seventies burst out of his sets for club and stained-glass convent alike, evoking Studio 54 and Saturday Night Fever, Pam Grier and Shaft.

In a nutshell, Sister Act is divine entertainment to take you to musical heaven.  

Sister Act, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

More Things To Do in York and beyond as the diary takes shape for May 4 onwards. Hutch’s List No. 19, from The Press, York

Sculptor Tony Cragg with his bronze work Outspan in the Great Hall at Castle Howard. Picture: Charlotte Graham

FROM landscape sculptures to community cinema screenings, a circus company’s novel assignment to a soap star’s heavenly musical role, Charles Hutchinson’s week ahead is taking shape.

Exhibition of the week: Tony Cragg at Castle Howard, near York, until September 22

SCULPTOR Tony Cragg presents the first major exhibition by a leading contemporary artist in the house and grounds of Castle Howard. On show are new and recent sculptures, many being presented on British soil for the first time, including large-scale works in bronze, stainless steel, aluminium and fibreglass.

Inside the house are works in bronze and wood, glass sculptures and works on paper in the Great Hall, Garden Hall, High South, Octagon and Colonnade. Tickets: castlehoward.co.uk.

The Lapins: Celebrating travel, exploration and adventure in music at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York

World premieres of the week: York Late Music, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, Mike Sluman, oboe, and Jenny Martins, piano, Saturday (4/5/2024), 1pm; The Lapins, Saturday (4/5/2024), 7.30pm

MIKEY Sluman highlights the range of the oboe family – oboe, oboe d’amore, cor anglais and bass oboe – in his lunchtime programme of Lutoslawski, Talbot-Howard and Poulenc works and world premieres of Desmond Clarke’s Five Exploded Pastorals and Nick Williams’s A Hundred Miles Down The Road (Le Tombeau de Fred).

The Lapins examine ideas of space, place and time in an evening programme that extols the joys of travel, exploration and adventure through the music of Brian Eno, Stockhausen and Erik Satie, the world premiere of James Else’s A Tapestry In Glass and the first complete performance of Hayley Jenkins’s Gyps Fulvus. Tickets: latemusic.org or on the door.

The poster for The Groves Community Cinema festival at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Film event of the week: The Groves Community Cinema, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, May 5 to May 11  

THE third Groves Community Cinema film festival promises a wide variety of films, from cult classics and music to drama and animated fun. Supported by Make It York and City of York Council, the event opens with Sunday’s Arnie Schwarzenegger double bill of The Terminator at 6.30pm and T2 Judgement Day at 8.45pm.

Monday follows up Marcel The Shell With Shoes at 2.30pm with Justine Triet’s legal drama Anatomy Of A Fall at 6.30pm; Tuesday offers Ian McKellen’s Hamlet at 7.30pm; Wednesday, Yorkshire Film Archives’ Social Cinema, 6.30pm, and Friday, cult classical musical Hedwig And The Angry Inch, 8pm. To finish, next Saturday serves up the animated Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse at 2.30pm and Jonathan Demme’s concert documentary Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense at 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Steve Cassidy: Performing with his band and friends at the JoRo

Nostalgic gig of the week: Steve Cassidy Band & Friends, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday (5/5/2024), 7.30pm

VETERAN York frontman Steve Cassidy leads his band in an evening of rock, country and ballads, old and new, with songs from the 1960s to 21st century favourites in their playlist.

Cassidy, a three-time winner of New Faces, has recorded with celebrated York composer John Barry and performed in the United States and many European countries. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Let us pray: Landi Oshinowo’s Deloris Van Cartier and Sue Cleaver’s Mother Superior in Sister Act, on tour at Grand Opera House, York

Musical of the week: Sister Act, Grand Opera House, York, May 6 to 11, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday

SUE Cleaver takes holy orders in a break from Coronation Street to play the Mother Superior in Sister Act in her first stage role in three decades. Adding Alan Menken songs to the 1992 film’s storyline, the show testifies to the universal power of friendship, sisterhood and music in its humorous account of disco diva Deloris Van Cartier’s life taking a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder.

Placed in protective custody, in the disguise of a nun under the Mother Superior’s suspicious eye, Deloris (Landi Oshinowo) helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Lila Naruse’s Memory Tess in Ockham’s Razor’s circus theatre production of Tess at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Kie Cummings

“Bold new vision” of the week: Ockham’s Razor in Tess, York Theatre Royal, May 8 to 11, 7.30pm

CIRCUS theatre exponents Ockham’s Razor tackle a novel for the first time in a staging of Thomas Hardy’s  Tess Of The D’Urbervilles that combines artistic directors Charlotte Mooney and Alex Harvey’s adaptation of the original text with the physical language of circus and dance.

Exploring questions of privilege, class, consent, agency, female desire and sisterhood, Tess utilises seven performers, including Harona Kamen’s Narrator Tess and Lila Naruse’s Memory Tess, to re-tell the Victorian story of power, loss and endurance through a feminist lens. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart: Night of dub, funk and world music at Pocklington Arts Centre

Funkiest gig of the week: Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart, Pocklington Arts Centre, May 9, 8pm

SUPREME bassist Jah Wobble’s two-hour show takes in material from his work with John Lydon in Public Image Ltd and collaborations with Brian Eno, Bjork, Sinead O’Connor, U2’s The Edge, Can’s Holger Czukay, Ministry’s Chris Connelly and Killing Joke’s Geordie Walker.

Born John Wardle in 1958, he was renamed by Sex Pistol Sid Vicious, who struggled to pronounce his name correctly. Wobble combines dub, funk and world music, especially Africa and the Middle East, in his songwriting. Box office: 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

“Charming nonsense”: Steven Lee’s There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly at the SJT, Scarborough

Half-term show announcement of the week: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, May 28, 2.30pm

FIRST written as a song in 1953, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly was a chart-topping hit for singer and actor Burl Ives before being adapted into a best-selling book by Pam Adams a few years later, one still found in schools, nurseries and homes across the world.  

To mark the nursery rhyme’s 50th anniversary, children’s author Steven Lee has created a magical musical stage show for little ones to enjoy with their parents that combines the charming nonsense of the rhyme with his own “suitably silly twists”. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Anton Lesser & Charlie Hamblett combine with Orchestra Of The Swan to tell Laurie Lee’s story in words and music at GOH

Anton Lesser and Orchestra Of The Swan in a performance of Red Sky At Sunrise. Picture: Lucy Barriball

AUTHOR Laurie Lee’s extraordinary story is to be told in a captivating weave of music and his own words in Red Sky At Sunrise at the Grand Opera House, York, on May 26.

Actors Anton Lesser (from Endeavour, Wolf Hall and Game Of Thrones) and Charlie Hamblett (Killing Eve, Ghosts and The Burning Girls) play the role of Laurie Lee, older and younger, along with a rich array of other characters.

Together, they celebrate Lee’s engaging humour, as well as portraying his darker side, in a performance that has startling resonance with modern events. 

Actor Charlie Hamblett in the role of Laurie Lee, younger. Picture: Lucy Barriball

Red Sky At Sunrise follows Stroud-born Laurie Lee through his much-loved trilogy, Cider With Rosie, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning and A Moment Of War, when Lee famously walked out of the Slad valley one midsummer morning and ended up fighting with the International Brigades against General Franco’s forces in the Spanish Civil War.

Devised as a show by Judy Reaves, the text by Lee has been adapted by Deirdre Shields, to be accompanied by David Le Page’s musical programme for Orchestra Of The Swan.

His programme weaves around Lee’s writing, from the lush Gloucestershire countryside that Lee made famous in Cider With Rosie, to the dry landscapes of Spain, via the music of Vaughan Williams, Walton, Holst, Elgar, Britten, Grainger, Albeniz, Turina and De Falla. Guitarist Mark Ashford will be performing Asturias, Sevilla and Spanish Romance too.

David Le Page: Put together the musical programme for Orchestra Of The Swan for Red Sky At Sunrise. Picture: Lucy Barriball

Anton Lesser reflects: “It has been a joy to discover more of Laurie Lee’s sublime writing. In many ways, his account of what was happening in Spain in the 1930s is prescient of what is playing out now in Europe. 

“There is a heartbreaking moment when Lee writes: ‘Did we know, as we stood there, our clenched fists raised high, and scarcely a gun between three of us, that we had ranged against us the rising military power of Europe, and the deadly cynicism of Russia? No, we didn’t. We had yet to learn that sheer idealism never stopped a tank’.”

Red Sky At Sunrise, Laurie Lee in Words and Music, starring Anton Lesser, Charlie Hamblett and Orchestra Of The Swan, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday, May 26. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Guitarist Mark Ashford playing at a Red Sky At Sunrise performance. Picture: Lucy Barriball

In the spotlight: Anton Lesser on Laurie Lee, Red Sky At Sunrise, playing villains, Endeavour and favourite roles

What do you enjoy about Laurie Lee?

“I enjoy a sweet resonance I feel with Laurie Lee’s writing, a kind of recognition of something apparently difficult to access, but which mysteriously becomes available through great storytelling.”

What can the audience expect from Red Sky At Sunrise?

“The audience can expect to be taken on a journey, (which reflects Laurie’s actual travels from rural Gloucestershire to Spain, but also his inner journey from boyhood to maturity), all in the company of great musicians playing sublime music.”

How does performing a combination of words and music work for an actor?

“To be asked to read great writing, and to read it aloud is a privilege. To read it aloud supported by magnificent music is something more – I would call it a blessing. The words and the music combine, hopefully deepening and enriching the experience for both audience and practitioners.”

Can you be carried away by the music?

“Yes, I’m often so carried away by the musicians that I’m a bit of a liability – sometimes needing a bit of a nod or nudge to come in on cue!”

“I enjoy a sweet resonance I feel with Laurie Lee’s writing,” says actor Anton Lesser

You played the villainous advisor Qyburn in the HBO fantasy drama Game Of Thrones. Do you enjoy playing villains?

“It’s not so much that I enjoy playing ‘villains’ – I like to think that I approach every role without limiting their identity to a single label like good or bad – but I think it’s more that those characters tend to be more complex and interesting.”

True or false? When you did your first day’s shoot on Endeavour, Shaun Evans could not stop laughing?

“Yes, Sean did have a problem with me – for some reason in the first episode he couldn’t look at me without laughing. I like to think this was a manifestation of love, respect and huge professional admiration; sadly I suspect it had more to do with the ridiculous hat I was made to wear.”

 On Endeavour, you and Roger Allam were renowned for being cheeky together?

“Roger and I got away with a modicum of bad behaviour simply because we were very old. Two theatre actors in gentle competition for the best ‘light’ or close-up must have been a sad and sorry spectacle, and an example for younger actors how not to behave on set – but it was great fun and all in the best possible taste!”

Favourite roles? 

“My favourite role is usually the one I’m currently working on, but I can point to one or two which I remember as being particularly enjoyable. Feste in Twelfth Night (working with the wonderful Richard Briers), Serge in Art and more recently Benedict in The Two Popes. Vernon Marley in the TV series Better was especially fulfilling – a great character.”