Charles Hutchinson fishes out No Such Thing As A Fish and plenty more besides to hook you in.
Two bites at the cherry of sceptical comedy: Jimmy Carr: Terribly Funny, York Barbican, tonight, 8pm; Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday, 8pm
JIMMY Carr will be playing York twice inside a week on his rescheduled Terribly Funny tour, visiting both the Barbican and Grand Opera House.
The host of Channel 4’s The Friday Night Project and 8 Out Of 10 Cats will be discussing terrible things that might have affected you or people you know and love. “But they’re just jokes,” Carr says. “They are not the terrible things.”
Having political correctness at a comedy show is like having health and safety at a rodeo, he asserts. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk or atgtickets.com/york.
National treasure shows of the week: Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, York Barbican, tomorrow, 7.30pm; Harrogate Convention Centre, Saturday, doors, 7pm
PIANIST, bandleader and ringmaster Jools Holland is joined by his 19-piece orchestra for the 2021 autumn tour of his long-running celebration of ska, boogie-woogie and the blues.
The Later presenter, 63, will be welcoming regular vocalists Ruby Turner and Louise Marshall, plus special guest Chris Difford, his former compadre in Squeeze. Lulu is in with a Shout of a guest spot too. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk or harrogatetheatre.co.uk.
Folk gig of the week: Bella Gaffney, York St John University Theatre, Saturday, 7.45pm
BORN in Bradford and educated in Nottingham, singer-songwriter Bella Gaffney now lives in York, performing both in The Magpies trio and solo.
Combining her folk-inspired compositions with her original arrangements of traditional pieces, Bella has a new album on its way in 2022 funded by Arts Council England and York charity Doing It For Liam.
Listen out for the single Black Water, a lockdown-inspired homage to the River Wharfe and its power to connect Bella to family and friends miles away. Katie Spencer supports on a bill promoted by The Crescent in a new venture with York St John. Box office: ticketweb.uk.
Matinee idol of the week: Russell Watson, 20th Anniversary Of The Voice, York Barbican, Sunday, 3pm
REARRANGED from October 9 2020, Salford tenor Russell Watson’s 20th anniversary celebration of his debut album The Voice will be a Sunday afternoon performance.
Watson will be joined by a choir for a matinee concert featuring such favourites as Caruso, O Sole Mio, Il Gladiatore, Nessun Dorma, You Are So Beautiful, Someone To Remember Me and Faith Of The Heart. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Escapist nostalgia of the week: York Musical Theatre in Hooray For Hollywood, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Monday to Wednesday, 7.30pm
DEVISED by director Paul Laidlaw, York Musical Theatre Company’s Hooray For Hollywood celebrates songs from Tinseltown’s golden age of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. No
Laidlaw’s slick and sophisticated six-hander show stars Cat Foster, Rachel Higgs, Henrietta Linnemann, Helen Spencer, Richard Bayton and John Haigh, who will be evoking the days of Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk or on 01904 501935.
Podcast transfer of the week: No Such Thing As A Fish, Nerd Immunity, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, 8pm
SUITABLE for “anyone with a thirst for knowledge, a taste for puns and a need for belly-laughs”, the weekly British podcast series No Such Thing As A Fish is presented by the geeky researchers behind the BBC Two panel game QI: James Harkin, Andrew Hunter Murray, Anna Ptaszynski and Dan Schreiber.
Now, “the QI elves” are on their first tour since 2019, revealing favourite unbelievable facts in their Nerd Immunity live show. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
World premiere of the week in York: Emma Rice’s Wise Children in Wuthering Heights, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to November 20
EMMA Rice’s Wise Children teams up with the National Theatre, York Theatre Royal and Bristol Old Vic for Rice’s folk musical, robustly visual account of Emily Bronte’s Yorkshire moorland novel.
Lucy McCormick plays Cathy in this epic story of love, revenge and redemption, now infused, according to the Guardian review, with “unfaithful storytelling”, pastiche, comedy and a “raging camp” tone. Interesting! Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
What better time for The Good Times: Omid Djalili, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 8pm
AFTER experimenting with a Zoom gig where he was muted by 639 people, British-Iranian comedian, actor, television producer, presenter, voice actor and writer Omid Djalili is back where he belongs: bringing The Good Times to the stage.
Expect intelligent, provocative, fast-talking, boundlessly energetic comedic outbursts rooted in cultural observations, wherein Djalili explores the diversity of modern Britain. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Newly confirmed for 2022: Kristin Hersh Electric Trio, The Crescent, York, April 24, 7.30pm
THROWING Muses co-founder Kristin Hersh will return to The Crescent with her Electric Trio, featuring Throwing Muses bass player Fred Abong and drummer Rob Ahlers, from her other band, 50 Foot Wave.
In store is a loud, tight and intense set of material spread across singer and multi-instrumentalist Hersh’s 30-year career that saw Throwing Muses deliver their latest indie rock album, Sun Racket, in September 2020. Ahlers will open the gig in a solo showcase for his album Yellow Throat. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
Recommended but sold out already:
SOUL singer Gabrielle’s Rise Again Tour show at York Barbican on Wednesday; poet and author Hollie McNish, hosted by York’s spoken-word crew Say Owt, at The Crescent, York, on Wednesday.
World premiere of the week outside York: Northern Ballet in Merlin, Leeds Grand Theatre, Tuesday to November 20
OLIVIER Award-winning choreographer Drew McOnie makes his Northern Ballet debut with the epic adventure of Merlin, the world’s most famous sorcerer, who must discover how to master his magic to unite a warring kingdom. Cue heartbreak, humour and more than a little magic.
McOnie is working with the Leeds company after choreographing King Kong on Broadway and Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com.
REVIEW, 10/11/2021: Northern Ballet in Merlin, Leeds Grand Theatre ***
DREW McOnie’s dazzling direction of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2016 whetted the appetite for his debut for fellow Leeds company Northern Ballet.
In his first full-length ballet, the Portsmouth-born Olivier Award winner applies his choreographic prowess to the world premiere of Merlin, an epic fantasy adventure, very definitely for a family audience, that would have benefited from being staged in the upcoming holiday season.
Merlin may be billed as “the world’s most famous sorcerer”, but the story that unfolds here needs recourse to Page 4 and 5 of the programme to peruse The Story – At A Glance to be assured wholly of who’s who and what’s what in what Northern Ballet artistic director David Nixon calls “this magical tale with a heart-warming family narrative”.
In a nutshell, “an otherworldly ritual brings with it two mighty Gods. Their union creates an orb that falls to earth and reveals a baby within: Merlin. A young Blacksmith (Minju Kang) finds this helpless child, adopting him in as her own.”
Hence the family appeal of a coming-of-age story with fleet-footed, nimble Kevin Poeung in the role of blossoming wizard Merlin discovering how to use his magical powers to unite the warring kingdom.
The importance of family – in this case Merlin being raised by a strong, principled single mum – provides the everyday beating heart of McOnie’s Merlin, albeit that power struggles and romance are the more obvious headline-making material here.
Northern Ballet go for the epic scale to excite younger audiences drawn to Harry Potter, Star Wars and the Tolkien films: cue sword fights, puppets for a smoke-billowing dragon and wild dogs, and an Excalibur that lights up in the manner of a Jedi lightsabre.
Colin Richmond’s golden set designs are spectacular, even magical, and of course there is magic in the show, but CharlesHutchPress did not find McOnie’s production wholly magical, despite the performances of Antoinette Brooks-Daw’s Morgan, Javier Torres’s Vortigern and Abigail Prudames’ Lady of the Lake.
McOnie has made his name in musical theatre, an artform that comes with narrative in song and book, but dance must fill in the gaps, and the storytelling is not this Merlin’s strongest suit, for all the zest of Grant Olding’s music and the panache of McOnie’s modern choreography, allied to classical steps.
Review by Charles Hutchinson