West Country comedian Charlie Baker gets stuck into 24 Hour Pasty People at Pocklington Arts Centre on Friday night

Pasty face: Comedian Charlie Baker at Pocklington Arts Centre on Friday

DEVON comedian, actor, tap dancer and talkSport radio presenter Charlie Baker brings an hour of stand-up drenched in manure, cider and clotted cream to Pocklington Arts Centre on Friday.

Expect comedy with a countryside accent in 24 Hour Pasty People. “Imagine Jethro and Jack Black had a son. Job’s a good’un. Proper job,” he says.

Baker has appeared on The Last Leg, House Of Games, Harry Hill’s Tea Time, Comedy Central at the Comedy Store, The Great British Bake-Off: An Extra Slice, Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and Channel 4’s Comedy Gala.

He played Tim Reynolds in BBC One soap opera EastEnders in 2016 and took the title role in Harry Hill and Steve Brown’s satirical musical Tony! The Tony Blair Rock Opera at Park Theatre, north London, in 2022. 

Tickets for Friday’s 8pm gig are on sale on 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

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: ticketsource.co.uk/ridinglights.

Hurry up Harry! The wait is almost over for Pedigree Fun!, his first York gig in a decade

“I hadn’t realised how much I missed performing live,” says Harry Hill as he returns to touring after nine years

HARRY Hill, comedian, TV show host, writer, actor, artist and former doctor, is playing his first tour in nine years, promising absurdist Pedigree Fun! at the Grand Opera House, York, tomorrow night.

It was there that he last appeared in York, squeezing everything into Sausage Time in February 2013 after another long lull between tours since Hooves in 2006.

From Harry Hill’s TV Burp to You’ve Been Framed voiceovers and Junior Bake Off, Harry has been a fixture on the TV, but his brand of manic mayhem, slapstick comedy with daft props, pop culture send-ups, pertinent observational satire, daft songs and surrealist wit, always just too quick for the crowd, utterly suits the live arena.

“I hadn’t realised how much I missed performing live until lockdown stopped me from doing it,” says Harry, who turned 58 on October 1. “It’s great to be going back on stage and the good news is I’m planning a very silly show.”

A show with “brand-new amazing jokes in an all-singing, all-dancing one-man spectacular” with regular sidekick Stouffer The Cat, Harry’s new baby elephant, Sarah, and Ian, The Information Worm.

“No,” says Harry, correcting that piece of misinformation. “Not Ian.” What? Is the Information Worm worming his way out of the show? “No, he had to be cut. In the theatre no-one could see him. He’s been sacked!”   

No tours for nine years, but it was not a case of Harry giving up live comedy. “I’ve never stopped doing stand-up; always doing bits here and there when I wasn’t doing anything else,” he says.

“When I worked as a doctor, I was being told what to do, which I reacted against,” says Harry Hill of his journey into comedy

“I would do ten minutes in clubs around town because that’s how you come up with the jokes till you’ve built up an hour, and then more. The new show is two halves of about 50 minutes because I think two hours is too much of anyone’s time!

“What I try to do is more of the stand-up in the first half with some videos, then it goes up a level in the second half with Gary, my son from my first marriage, coming on.”

Gary, inevitably, takes the form of a dummy. “He’s got Covid, so we have to do a Covid test on stage,” reveals Harry. “Then there’s Sarah, the baby elephant. She won’t have been seen outside London, so she’s fresh and new and very nervous. I’ve rescued her from a circus clown who had a fetish for ears.”

How has his 2022 tour contrasted with his Sausage Time travels? “Well, I’m that much older, and my show is very physical, so I’ve been hobbling to the car after the show out of breath and in a pool of sweat,” says Harry.

“I had planned to get fit for the tour but then I hosted Junior Bake Off, so I put on a little weight with all those cakes.”

The pandemic lockdowns and the loss of his friend, fellow comedian Sean Lock, to cancer in August 2021, sparked Harry’s return to stand-up gigs. “I’d sort of forgotten, the thing that I really like about live comedy is being able to do what I want, which is what first attracted me.

“Whereas when I worked as a doctor, I was being told what to do, which I reacted against. It’s the same with TV, with people saying, ‘No, do it like this’. ‘Don’t do that’.

“My view is that people want to escape the everyday and on a good night, I do achieve that,” says Harry Hill

“The other thing is, and I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, but audiences are more up for it, because, (a), they’re pleased to see you’re bothering, and (b), it’s often the first time they’ve been out to a big gig when people are still nervous.”

Did the NHS put out a request to Harry to revive his medical skills during Covid? “I’m still on the register, and yeah, they approached me. I got an email, like all retired doctors, asking if I would help out, right at the start, when everyone thought it was a chance to play their part.

“So I clicked on this email and the next thing I got was another email, from the General Medical Council, saying, could I start working at the Nightingale Hospital [in London]?

“Well, I was available, but fortunately, because everyone washed their hands and stayed indoors, I was never called on.”

Now Harry is focusing once more on that alternative medicine: laughter, or in his case “a very silly show”. “There are trends in comedy, as with all things, and silliness is coming back, particularly now,” he says. “My view is that people want to escape the everyday and on a good night, I do achieve that.

“I take people on this journey where I say, ‘it’s not a dream’ and we re-set what’s normal for people after what we’ve all been through.”

Part of the pleasure for Harry is enjoying his badinage with dummy Gary in his chair and the unruly Stouffer. “It’s like having an alter-ego psychologically,” he says. “As a kid and as a comedian, I’m a big fan of double acts, and sadly there aren’t really acts like that anymore,” he says.

Fight! Harry Hill’s autobiography, published in 2021

“I was once in a double act, The Hall Brothers, with a friend of mine when we were students. We had a few laughs, but we liked the idea of it more than the work, because it’s hard work being a double act – and it’s only half the money!”

Harry’s autobiography, Fight! Thirty Years Not Quite At The Top, was published last November. What did he learn about himself? “I don’t know about that, but I was surprised by how much I’d got done, how single-minded I was,” he says.

“It wasn’t a psychological study but I learned the most important thing is to enjoy the process, not whether something is a success or a failure.

“It was a tongue-in-cheek title because there is no ‘top’, That’s the thing you discover. If that’s your motivation for success, you’ll find there’s always someone more successful than you.”

Savour the enjoyment of being creative, just as Harry did when his artwork featured in Grayson’s Art Club, iconoclastic artist Grayson Perry’s art-of-the-people series on Channel 4 during lockdown. “That was the best thing on the TV to come out of lockdown,” he says. “My wife [Magda Archer] is an artist and we were invited to his house for dinner. He was just as interesting as he is on the TV.

“I’ve always been interested in the visual side of things.” Witness Harry’s tour brochures, or his trademark attire of brothel creepers, slim-fit suit, elongated collars as if designed by Salvador Dali and a pocketful of pens.

Pedigree Fun! in that rata-tat-tat voice is on its way to York. Welcome back, Harry Hill.

Harry Hill: Pedigree Fun, Grand Opera House, York, November 2, Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/york

Did you know? Harry Hill’s real name is Matthew Keith Hall. 

More Things To Do in York and beyond as clocks go back for longer nights and festival shorts. Hutch’s List No. 104, from The Press

Filip Fredrik’s Elements: Showing at Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2022

A FILM festival with international pedigree, poetry clashes, comedy aplenty and Constellations shine out for Charles Hutchinson.

Festival of the week: Aesthetica Short Film Festival, across York, Tuesday to Sunday

AESTHETICA Short Film Festival returns for 300 films in 15 venues over six days in York in its 12th edition. The BAFTA-Qualifying event will have a hybrid format, combining the live festival with a selection of screenings, masterclasses and events on the digital platform until November 30.

New for 2022 will be York Days, a discount scheme with the chance to save 50 per cent on prices on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday programmes. Comedies, dramas, thrillers, animation, family-friendly films and documentaries all feature, complemented by workshops, the Virtual Reality Lab, installations and the festival fringe. Box office: asff.co.uk/tickets.

Malaika Kegode: Guest appearance at Say Owt Slam’s birthday party. Picture: Jon Aitken

Birthday party of the week: Say Owt Slam’s 8th Birthday Special, with Malaika Kegode, The Crescent, York, tonight (29/10/2022), 7.30pm

SAY Owt, York’s loveable gang of performance poets, Stu Freestone, Henry Raby, Hannah Davies and David Jarman, welcome special-guest Bristol poet Malaika Kegode to a high-energy night of words and verse, humour and poet-versus-poet fun.

“It started as a one-off gig! I can’t believe we’re still slamming eight years later,” says artistic director and host Raby. “Whether you’re a veteran or looking for something new, everyone is welcome at a Say Owt Slam, where each poet has a maximum of three minutes to wow randomly selected judges with their poetry.” Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

David O’Doherty: Change of date for York gig

On the move: David O’Doherty: Whoa Is Me, Grand Opera House, York, changing from Monday to February 5 2023, 8pm

HERE he comes again, albeit later than first planned, trotting on stage with all of the misplaced confidence of a waiter with no pad.

“There’ll be lots of talking, some apologising and some songs on a glued-together plastic keyboard from 1986,” promises David O’Doherty, comedian, author, musician, actor and playwright, 1990 East Leinster under-14 triple jump bronze medallist and son of jazz pianist Jim Doherty. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Flo & Joan: Musical comedy duo offer thoughts on topics of the day

Musical comedy of the week: Flo & Joan, Sweet Release, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday, 7.3pm

FLO & Joan, the British musical comedy duo of sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey, play York as one of 30 additional dates on their 2022 tour after their return to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Climbing back out of their pits, armed with a piano and percussion, they poke around the  classic topics of the day with their fusion of comedy and song with a dark undertow.

The sisters have penned five numbers for the West End musical Death Drop and have written and performed songs for Horrible Histories (CBBC), Rob Delaney’s Stand Up Central (Comedy Central) and BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Emilio Iannucci: Starring in Nick Payne’s romantic two-hander Constellations at the SJT

Play of the week outside York: Constellations, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, running until November 12

WHEN beekeeper Roland meets scientist Marianne, anything could happen in University of York alumnus Nick Payne’s romantic and revealing exploration of the many possibilities that can result from a single meeting. Reminiscent of Sliding Doors and Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life, this two-hander starring Carla Harrison-Hodge and Emilio Iannucci ponders “What if?”.

“Constellations plays with time and space in the most brilliant way,” says director Paul Robinson. “Deeply human, deeply moving, it genuinely tilts the world for you. I challenge anyone not to leave the theatre just a bit more aware of what a fragile and remarkable thing life is.” Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Bring It On: “The thrill of extreme competition”

Backflip of the week: York Stage in Bring It On: The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; Saturday matinee, 2.30pm

THE York premiere of Bring It On backflips into the JoRo in a youth theatre production directed by Nik Briggs. Inspired by the film of the same name, this story of the challenges and surprising bonds forged through the thrill of extreme competition is packed with vibrant characters, electrifying contemporary songs and explosive choreography.

This Broadway hit is the energy-fuelled work of Tony Award winners Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and Tom Kitt (Grease: Live). Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Humour on hand: Harry Hill promises Pedigree Fun on his first tour since 2013

Very silly show of the week: Harry Hill, Pedigree Fun!, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

COMEDIAN, writer, actor, artist and former doctor Harry Hill and his big shirt collars take to the stage for an all-singing, all-dancing surrealist spectacular in his long-awaited return to the live arena for the fist time since 2013’s Sausage Time tour.

“I hadn’t realised how much I missed performing live until lockdown stopped me from doing it,” he says. “The good news is I’m planning a very silly show.” Full of pop-culture spoofs, no doubt.

Audiences will meet Harry’s new baby elephant, Sarah, along with regular sidekick Stouffer the Cat. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

John McCusker: Fiddler supreme on 30th anniversary tour

Fiddler on the road: The John McCusker Band 30th Anniversary Tour, National Centre for Early Music, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

SCOTTISH fiddle player John McCusker will be joined by Ian Carr, Sam Kelly, Helen McCabe and Toby Shaer for his concert series in celebration of 30 years as a professional folk musician since cutting his teeth in The Battlefield Band at 17.

To coincide with this landmark, McCusker has released a Best Of album featuring tracks from his solo records and television and film soundtracks, alongside a book of 100 original compositions, John McCusker: The Collection.

“I’m delighted to be able to get this special show on the road and celebrate 30 years as a professional musician,” says McCusker. “I’m looking forward to performing the highlights from my back catalogue and revisiting memories associated with those tracks.

“It’s brilliant that I’ve been able to make music and perform for 30 years and I’ve worked with so many incredible people in that time. I’ve never had a plan; good things have just
happened and, so far, it’s worked out as well as I could possibly have dreamed of. I can’t
wait to play with my friends again.” Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

York Settlement Community Players’ cast for Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike: Mick Liversidge (Vanya), top left, Victoria Delaney (Sonia) and Susannah Baines (Sasha); Andrew Roberts (Spike), bottom left, Sanna Jeppsson (Cassandra) and Livy Potter

York premiere of the week: York Settlement Community Players in Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday, Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm, 7.30pm

VANYA and his sister Sonia live a quiet life in the Pennsylvania farmhouse where they grew up, but when their famous film-star sister, Masha, makes an impromptu visit with her dashing, twenty-something boyfriend, Spike, a chaotic weekend ensues.

Resentment, rivalry and revealing premonitions begin to boil over as the three siblings battle to be heard in Christopher Durang’s comedy, winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best New Play with its blend of Chekhovian ennui, modern-day concerns of celebrity, social networking and the troubling onset of middle age. Jim Paterson directs Settlement Players’ production. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Plastic Mermaids: “Emotional exploration of the many facets of heartbreak”

Time to discover…Plastic Mermaids, The Crescent, York, November 10; Oporto, Leeds, February 2 2023

AFTER playing Glastonbury and Camp Bestival in the summertime, Isle of Wight five-piece Plastic Mermaids are off on an 11-date tour to promote their second album, It’s Not Comfortable To Grow, out now on Sunday Best.

Led by brothers Douglas and Jamie Richards, who approach life like an art project, they face up to their dark side in an emotional exploration of the many facets of heartbreak on such psych-rock and electronica numbers as Girl Boy Girl, Disposable Love, Something Better and Elastic Time. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.