York puppeteer Freddie Hayes introduces The Magic Lady, wild, bonkers, twisted, cruel yet charming, at Micklegate Social

Freddie Hayes as the dark and mysterious Magic Lady

YORK puppeteer and storyteller Freddie Hayes warms up for her Edinburgh Fringe return with a home-city preview of her outrageous new character comedy show, The Magic Lady, on Monday night at Micklegate Social.

“After a smash-hit run with Potatohead in 2022, I’m thrilled to be going back to the Fringe and really excited about returning to York to perform my full-hour comedy, clown and puppetry magic show,” says the playful yet poignant York performer and theatre-maker, who will head to the Hyde Park Book Club in Leeds on Tuesday for a further preview.

Expect magic and mayhem, hypnotism and ridiculous props as Freddie invites you to “enter the magic circle for your appointment with the Magic Lady in an unforgettable night of comedy, clowning and puppetry”, directed by Ecole Gaulier-trained clown Mikey Bligh Smith of The Lovely Boys.

What lies in store? “After a long and arduous career treading the boards as a glamorous assistant to some of the greats, it is the Magic Lady’s turn to rise from the ashes and dazzle the audience with a mix of chaotic comedy and questionable magic that will leave you spellbound.” says Freddie, 2022 winner of the Most Bizarre Moment in Theatre Award.

“This haphazard showbiz loon will be surprising, exorcising, escapologising and taking back what was hers once before. Watch out for the famous levitation trick! Houdini who?”

Freddie Hayes in the guise of Potatohead

Introducing her Magic Lady, Freddie says: “I’m always creating characters, and she’s sort of been brewing for a while. She wears an Eighties’ cocktail dress, and the dress came before the character. I found it in a vintage shop.

“She’s another alter ego of mine. I was interested in the role of the old Hollywood assistant, who in this case becomes the Magic Lady. That was always her dream, but she’s a deluded illusionist. She believes she was part of the Broadway world when in fact she’s in Blackpool.

“She acts very posh, putting on airs and graces; there’s a bit of Hyacinth Bucket [from Keeping Up Appearances] about her; a bit of Joanna Lumley in there, but maybe underneath all that, she’s a northerner.”

The Magic Lady has been taking shape at London gigs at the Moth Club, Hackney, and the Soho Theatre, along with the Machynlleth Comedy Festival in Wales and her first hour-long full preview at The Wardrobe Theatre in Bristol.

Freddie has shared a bill with puppeteer Nina Conti too. “She’s a bit of a hero of mine. We didn’t swap notes but she did say I was funny,” she recalls.

“I always like to have a bit of the gothic and the macabre in a show,” says puppeteer and theatre-maker Freddie Hayes

“I love using puppets. I think I will always have a puppet in my shows in some sort of way. If it’s a shadow or a sock, it will always be part of my performance style – and I still have a few puppet surprises for this show. I like to keep them as surprises.”

 Does the Magic Lady have a name? “She does but she will never say what it is,” says Freddie. “She’s a dark and mysterious character, quite twisted, and she alludes to the fact that she sawed one of her husbands in half. I always like to have a bit of the gothic and the macabre in a show!

“She’s has loads of affairs and she likes to put it around that she was the understudy to Liza Minnelli and how she broke Bobby Davro’s heart.”  

Expect the unexpected. “Every night will be completely different, playing to how the audience are feeling, or if someone is misbehaving,” says Freddie. “I like to throw the script out of the window as I’m always keen to interact. Watch out!”

Freddie Hayes in The Magic Lady, The Den, Micklegate Social, Micklegate, York, EdFringe preview, July 29, 7.30pm. Box office: billetto.co.uk/e/freddie-hayes. Hyde Park Book Club, 27-29 Headingley Lane, Leeds, EdFringe, July 30, 7.30pm. Box office: billetto.co.uk/e/freddie-hayes; hydeparkbookclub.co.uk. Edinburgh Fringe, Hoots @Potterrow, Big Yurt, August 2 to 11, 6pm. Box office: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/freddie-hayes-the-magic-lady

More Things To Do in York and beyond in a mighty crowded calendar. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 22 for 2023, from The Press, York

Rob Auton (self portrait): Seeking a crowd in Pocklington and Leeds

WHICH shows will draw the crowds? Charles Hutchinson prepares to join the merry throng across the summer beyond the Bank Holiday sunshine.

Crowd pleaser: Rob Auton, The Crowd Show, Pocklington Arts Centre, tonight, 8pm; Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, June 5, 7.30pm

CHARMINGLY offbeat Pocklington-raised poet, stand-up comedian, actor, author, artist and podcaster Rob Auton heads back north from his London abode on his 2023 leg of The Crowd Show tour to play Pock and Leeds.

After his philosophical observations on the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking and time, now he discusses crowds, people and connection in a night of comedy and theatre “suitable for anyone who wants to be in the crowd for this show”. Box office: Pocklington, 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk; Leeds, hydeparkbookclub.co.uk.

Antler alert: Comedian Tim Vine in his alarming headwear for Breeeep! at the Grand Opera House, York

“Witness the stupidity” comedy gig of the week: Tim Vine: Breeeep!, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 7.30pm

EXPECT a mountain of nonsense, one-liners, stupid things, crazy songs and wobbly props, plus utter drivel, advises punslinger Tim Vine.

“Tim’s like the manager of a sweet shop where all the sweets are replaced by jokes, and he serves them in a random order,” says the show blurb. “So it’s like a sweet shop where the manager just throws sweets at you. Enjoy the foolishness and laugh your slip-ons off.” Sold out; for returns only, check atgtickets.com/york.

Amy May Ellis: North York Moors singer-songwriter promotes her debut album at The Crescent

Homecoming of the week: Amy May Ellis, The Crescent, York, tomorrow, 8pm

NOW moved to Bristol, singer-songwriter Amy May Ellis was raised on a remote dale on the North York Moors, playing her early gigs at The Band Room, Low Mill, Farndale.

Steeped in the culture, scenery, folklore and wildlife of the countryside that surrounded and shaped her as a child, she wrote her debut album Over Ling And Bell – named after two types of heather – in a secluded moorland farmhouse, mostly alone but sometimes with friends. Released on Lost Map Records on May 12, it is available on digital platforms and limited-edition vinyl. She will be joined by her new band for tomorrow’s gig, when North Yorkshire-London combo Wanderland support. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Ryan Addyman as Jamie New, right, in York Stage’s Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Musical of the week: York Stage in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Teen Edition, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees

JAMIE New lives on a council estate in Sheffield with his loving mum. At 16, he doesn’t quite fit in. He may be terrified about the future, but Jamie is going to be a sensation.

The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae’s coming-of-age musical follows the true-life story of Sheffield schoolboy Jamie Campbell as he overcomes prejudice and bullying to step out of the darkness to become a drag queen. York Stage artistic director Nik Briggs directs. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Sarah Dean: Plucking strings at the City of York Roland Walls Folk Weekend at the Black Swan Inn

City of York Roland Walls Folk Weekend, Black Swan Folk Club, Black Swan Inn, Peasholme Green, York, June 2 to 4

TOM Bliss and The Burning Bridges open the three-day folk fiesta at the Black Swan on Friday night, to be followed by afternoon and evening sessions on Saturday and Sunday.

Among the weekend’s acts will be: Stan Graham; Eddie Affleck; The Barbarellas; Blonde On Bob; Clurachan; Union Jill; White Sail; Edwina Hayes; Minster Stray Morris; Caramba; The Old Humpy Band; Tommy Coyle; Paula Ryan; Judith Haswell; Sarah Dean; Chris Euesden and Ramshackle. Full details at: blackswanfolkclub.org.uk/programme.cfm.

Alexander Ashworth: Baritone soloist for Elgar’s Dream Of Gerontius at York Minster. Picture: Debbie Scanlan

Purgatory awaits: University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra, Elgar’s Dream Of Gerontius, York Minster, June 14, 7.30pm

THE University of York Choir and Symphony Orchestra perform Edward Elgar’s Dream Of Gerontius with soloists Joshua Ellicott (Gerontius), Kitty Whately and Alexander Ashworth, conducted by John Stringer.

Elgar dramatically sets to music Cardinal Newman’s poem depicting the journey of Gerontius’s soul from his deathbed to judgement before God. On his way, he encounters angels and demons, colourfully portrayed by the chorus, before settling finally in purgatory. Box office: 01904 322439 or yorkconcerts.co.uk.

The poster for City Screen Picturehouse’s outdoor cinema season, Movies In The Moonlight, at York Museum Gardens in July

Outdoor cinema: City Screen Picturehouse presents Movies In The Moonlight, York Museum Gardens, Museum Street, York, July 14 to 16, from 7.30pm

MUSEUM Gardens play host to City Screen Picturehouse for three nights of summertime open-air film action, opening with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, starring Chris Pratt and Anya Taylor-Joy on July 14. Next come Mamma Mia!, featuring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, on July 15 and Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark attack classic Jaws on July 16.

All these outdoor cinema events start at 7.30pm. Films will be shown at sundown; drinks and snacks will be on offer but guests can bring picnics. Box office: picturehouses.com/outdoor.

Ruby Wax: Presenting the latest Wax work, I’m Not As Well As I Thought, at the Grand Opera House, York, this autumn

Looking ahead: Ruby Wax: I’m Not As Well As I Thought, Grand Opera House, York, September 28, 7.30pm

AFTER four years, American-British actress, comedian, writer, television personality and mental health campaigner Ruby Wax, 70, follows up her How To Be Human show with a stage adaptation of her May 11 book, I’m Not As Well As I Thought, promising her rawest, darkest, funniest show yet. 

In 2022, Wax began a search to find meaning, booking a series of potentially life-changing journeys: swimming with humpback whales in the Dominican Republic; joining a Christian monastery; working in a Greek refugee camp; undertaking a silent 30-day mindfulness retreat in California. Even greater change marked her inner journey. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Tom Allen: Completely and utterly at York Barbican

Recommended but too late for tickets

ACERBIC comedian Tom Allen’s Completely gig at York Barbican on Sunday at 8pm has sold out. Completely.

Under discussion will be Allen’s life updates, his vegetable patch and the protocol for inviting friends with children for dinner.

Every crowd has a silver lining for York comedian Rob Auton as he returns home

Getting mighty crowded: Rob Auton’s artwork for The Crowd Show

CHARMINGLY offbeat, inspiring, poetic writer, comedian, actor and podcaster Rob Auton returns home to York on February 24 on the 2023 leg of The Crowd Show tour.

After his philosophical observations in abstractly themed shows on the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking and time, now he discusses crowds, people and connection in a night of comedy and theatre “suitable for anyone who wants to be in the crowd for this show”, structured around internet instructions on how to give a speech. 

Ironically, he had started writing material for a show about crowds only a few weeks before the Covid lockdowns silenced them.

His 8pm homecoming has sold out already – York’s in-crowd for that night – but further Yorkshire gigs follow at Hebden Bridge Trades Club, April 16 (01422 845265 or thetradesclub.com); Sheffield Leadmill, April 30, 7.30pm (leadmill.co.uk); Pocklington Arts Centre, May 27, 8pm (01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk) and Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, June 5, 7.30pm (hydeparkbookclub.co.uk).

Tunnel vision: Rob Auton deep in thought at the Innocent Railway during the Edinburgh Fringe

In a crowded calendar, Rob Auton finds time to talk about The Crowd Show with CharlesHutchPress

How do you interpret the proverb “If two’s company, three’s a crowd”?

“I guess it’s different if you’re doing a show and there’s two people watching, I’m there too, so there’s three of us in the room but only two in the crowd and two isn’t a crowd. Maybe I’d sit down with them so there’s definitely a crowd.”

What’s the difference between an audience and a crowd?

“An audience all face in the same direction.”

Do you ever go crowd surfing, James’s Tim Booth or Peter Gabriel style?

“I went crowd surfing once when I was at a festival but that was only because it was the quickest way to get out of the hell that was that moshpit. I’ve never done it in one of my own gigs; I don’t think it works at comedy/spoken word shows.

“People are sitting down so it would put a lot of stress on their arms. I think if I went up to the front row and said ‘I’m going to Crowd surf now’, they would just look at me and remain seated.”

Can being with a crowd (of strangers) ever feel lonely when you are performing?

“I guess it’s a clear illustration of feeling like you don’t really fit in, everybody facing one way and you’re facing the other way. Sometimes I’m on stage and wish I was there in the crowd with my mates watching.

“One of the main objectives for me is making everyone in the room feel like we are all part of something together. I don’t feel lonely when I feel a connection with the crowd, so I really focus on that connection.”

Can being in a crowd ever feel lonely?

“In 2014 I was lucky enough to get the gig as the Glastonbury Festival Poet in Residence. I didn’t get a plus one and none of my mates were going that year so I was there on my own. Being around all those people having the time of their lives with their mates made me feel really lonely. I was pleased for them but also I felt cut off from the human side of the festival somehow.”

Do you prefer being in a football crowd or a concert crowd?

“I’ve had good times at both but I’ve had better times in music crowds.”

What is the smallest ever crowd you have played to?

“It depends on the room. If you have five people in a small room, it can feel like a decent crowd but the crowd that felt smallest was probably when I was on tour in 2015 doing my show about water. I’d been put in a 300-seater room and I think seven people were there, sitting quite far apart from each other. All character building, I guess.”

Owls of laughter: Rob Auton being an absolute hoot in his avian T-shirt

 What is the largest ever crowd you have played to?

“The one with the most people in it? Some of the gigs at festivals I have done have had some biggish crowds. I did one at Bestival where people had climbed up trees to watch my set. That was surreal; I think it was because the person on after me was an influencer who was doing a talk on tree climbing. I love it when there’s a big crowd and the laughter kind of crowd surfs around.”

As essentially social creatures, crowd experiences are important to us. Discuss…

“Yes certainly, I think, especially after the last few years we’ve had. Isolation brought the importance of other people into focus for sure. That’s not really me discussing it is it? I certainly feel better when I’ve been around people. Touring can be quite isolating so I have to really make the most of being around people in the show.”

Do you like to stand out in a crowd?

“Absolutely not. I think that’s why I’ve put myself on stage, out of the crowd. When I’m in a crowd, I’m constantly afraid that I’m in people’s way because I’m quite tall [Rob is 6ft 2].

What do you enjoy most about performing to a crowd?

The fact that the energy is different every night. The crowd really keeps me on my toes; I can never get complacent or think ‘oh this will work’. The act of just trying to be honest instead of trying to be clever, the crowd don’t want to see someone show off really, so walking that tightrope is what I love. The unpredictability of it.”

What do you enjoy least about performing to a crowd?

“I wish it could be just slightly more predictable.”

How do you control a crowd when performing? Indeed, do you need to control a crowd?

“There’s certain tools you can develop, eye contact, level and tone of voice, speed at which you talk, etc. It’s spinning plates really, trying to keep everyone engaged, but I often remind myself that the people who have come to see me have got a lot going on in their lives and might drift off and think about something more important for a bit.

“Trying to take control of one person’s brain for an hour is difficult, never mind a crowd of people. There needs to be a certain amount of playful authority or it can descend into chaos.”

When it comes to events, from gigs to football matches, rallies to festivals, most of us only ever experience the feeling of being in the crowd. What does it feel like being the performer playing to that crowd?

“I think ‘playing’ is the right word. It feels like I’ve given myself an opportunity to be in front of people by working hard, so I just have to share what I’ve made and trust my process and work. It feels like, ‘right, let’s give this to these people, they’ve paid me to give them the best side of me, so let’s give it everything I can while I’ve still got the chance.”

The tour poster for Rob Auton’s The Crowd Show

When do you feel you are going against the tide of a crowd? 

“Mainly on weekends when I’m going to do shows and other people are making plans to be with their mates. I feel like I’m swimming away from the party a bit then, but I’m very thankful that I get to do what I do so I’m not complaining one bit.”

How do you use the crowd in The Crowd Show?

“I use them by attempting to get them to surrender to the moment and give themselves fully to the space we’re sharing. I might not do that directly in the show but that’s my goal.”

Did the enforced absence of crowds in the pandemic make both you and audiences appreciate the importance of crowds in our lives even more?

“Definitely, that period made me realise how important people are in my life and my work. Without people we are absolutely done.”

What do you prefer: noise/crowds or silence/solitude?

“Both are important, but they can be quite jarring when put right next to each other. When I’m on tour and doing my show about crowds and connection and there’s lots of noise and fun and then I go back to the dressing room and it’s just me, back to the Travelodge and it’s just me, it’s quite a lot for the brain and body to take on.”

E M Forster could not have put it better than in his epigraph for Howards End: “Only connect”. Agree?

“Oh yeah, it’s all about connection, isn’t it. That’s all we have really, connecting with the moment and what’s in it. If I connect with the moment and there’s people in the moment as well and we conjure up a connection, then that’s it.”

So, why is disconnection – and division – on the increase?

“I’m not qualified to answer that.”

After talk, time and now crowds, what will you be looking at in your next show, opening at the 2023 Edinburgh Fringe this summer?

“I’m doing a show about me called The Rob Auton Show. A show about me. It will be my tenth show on a specific theme, so I thought I should mark it with a theme I haven’t really explored very much.”

Rob Auton in The Hair Show: He grew his hair from September 2016 to the tour’s closing night in May 2018

Crowd pleaser: Rob Auton Fact File

Born: Fulford Hospital, York; son of a plumber.

Raised: Barmby Moor.

Lives: London.

Education: Woldgate School, Pocklington; York College, art foundation course; Newcastle University, graphic design. “Each term I had to stand in front of the class and give a presentation and I’d try to make mine funny,” he says.

Occupation: Stand-up comedian, writer, poet, illustrator, artist, actor and podcaster. Named the “Brian Cox of comedy” by the Guardian.

First job: In London, writing adverts for the House of Fraser. “But I got really frustrated because I just wanted to make things entertaining and started filling notebooks with ideas I had.”

Bright idea: Rob Auton in his Fringe debut, The Yellow Show

What happened next? “The creative director said he was holding a firework night with poetry, and that’s when I read my poems for the first time.”

And then? Began performing with Bang Said The Gun, stand-up poetry collective founded by Dan Cockrill and Martin Galton, in London in 2007.

First solo comedy performance: 2008. “I started saying things aloud to groups of people without wanting them to respond verbally. Some call this ‘stand-up comedy’, some call it ‘stand-up poetry’,” he says.

Edinburgh Fringe debut: The Yellow Show, 2012.

Subsequent Edinburgh shows: All on specific themes, The Sky Show, 2013; The Face Show, 2014; The Water Show, 2015; The Sleep Show, 2016; The Hair Show, 2017; The Talk Show, 2018; The Time Show, 2019; The Crowd Show, 2022. Subsequently toured shows nationwide.

Award: Won the Dave Funniest Joke of the Edinburgh Fring’ award in 2013 for “I heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Could be a Chinese Wispa”.

Post: Poet-in-residence at 2014 Glastonbury Festival.

The cover for Rob Auton’s 2021 book, I Strongly Believe In Incredible Things

Books: Poet and illustrator for Bang Said The Gun’s Mud Wrestling With Words (2013) and solo works In Heaven The Onions Make You Laugh (2013), Petrol Honey (2014) and Take Hair (2017), all published by Burning Eye Books, and I Strongly Believe In Incredible Things: A Creative Journey Through The Everyday Wonders Of Our World (2021), featuring poetic prose, short stories and biro drawings, published by Mudlark/Harper Collins.

Television appearances: BBC1, BBC 2, Channel 4 and Netflix; The Russell Howard Hour and Stand Up Central.

Radio: His work has been played on Jarvis Cocker, Cerys Matthews and Scroobius Pip’s shows.

TV acting roles: Cold Feet, 2018, playing a bad spoken-word poet at a music festival; The End Of The F***ing World, 2019, as chef Tommy; Miracle Workers, 2019, as Hank.

Podcast: In 2020, he started The Rob Auton Daily Podcast, posting a new episode every day, as it says on the tin. Amassed two million listens and won gold award for Best Daily Podcast at the 2020 British Podcast Awards.

Likes: Musician Joe Strummer; artist Francis Bacon; author Richard Brautigan.

Auton on Auton: “I am a man who likes the sky and the ground in equal measures.  Sometimes I like the sky more than the ground.”

Performing philosophy: “You have to throw it to the wind, that’s when a show starts to really cook and the audience goes with it. It’s trial and error; that’s what all my shows have been.”

Time for a rest: Rob Auton in The Sleep Show

More Things To Do in York and beyond. Hutch’s List No. 2 for the road ahead in 2023, apocalyptic art et al, from The Press

John Ledger: Back To Normalism artist at Micklegate Social and Fossgate Social

IT’S time for back-to-normal service to resume as Charles Hutchinson wipes the sleep from the eyes of his diary for 2023. 

Exhibition launch of the week: Back To Normalism, by John Ledger, Micklegate Social, Micklegate, and Fossgate Social, Fossgate, York, January 13 to March 13

ON the portentous Friday the 13th, the preview of Barnsley artist John Ledger’s solo show Back To Normalism begins at 7pm at Micklegate Social. 

Ledger looks at the uncanny reality that has unfolded since the pandemic started, along with the underlying weirdness of trying to patch up the black holes in our collective experience of time, in a show about cultures uprooted and disjointed by a series of disasters and distorted by the consequences of trying to repeatedly return to a “before” moment.

Baaaaaarrrrgggghhhhhhbican frustration! Ricky Gervais’s brace of Armageddon dates at York Barbican sold out in 27 minutes

Apocalypse very soon: Ricky Gervais, Armageddon, York Barbican, Tuesday and Wednesday 7.30pm precisely

ARMAGEDDON is not the end of the world as we know it but the name of grouchy comedian, actor, screenwriter, director, singer, podcaster and awards ceremony host Ricky Gervais’s new tour show.

Gervais, 61, will be torching “woke over-earnestness and the contradictions of modern political correctness while imagining how it all might end for our ‘one species of narcissistic ape’,” according to the Guardian review of his Manchester Apollo gig. Box office? Oh dear, you’re too late for Armageddon; both nights have sold out.

Chris Helme: Revisiting his days in The Seahorses

Love Is The Law unto himself: Chris Helme, solo Do It Yourself 25th Anniversary Tour, Pocklington Arts Centre, January 14, 8pm

YORK singer-songwriter Chris Helme is marking the 25th anniversary of The Seahorses’ only album, Do It Yourself, released on May 26 1997 in guitarist John Squire’s short-lived post-Stone Roses project with Helme and fellow York musician Stuart Fletcher on bass.

Recorded in North Hollywood, California, the album was pipped to the number one spot by Gary Barlow while debut single Love Is The Law reached number three. A further highlight of Helme’s solo acoustic set will be Love Me And Leave Me, Liam Gallagher’s first songwriting credit, no less. Box office: 01759 301547 or pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

The Lonesome Ace Stringband: Turning bluegrass bluer and grassier at Selby Town Hall

Better late than never: The Lonesome Ace Stringband, Selby Town Hall, January 18, 8pm

RE-SCHEDULED from January 20 2022, The Lonesome Ace Stringband’s gig features righteous folk and country music, played by an old-time band with bluegrass chops and a feel for deep grooves.

Band members Chris Coole, banjo, John Showman, fiddle, and Max Heineman, bass, are three Canadians lost in the weird and wonderful traditional country music of the American South, having served their time in New Country Rehab, The David Francey Band, The Foggy Hogtown Boys and Fiver. Box office: 01757 708449 or selbytownhall.co.uk.

Robert Gammon: Relaxed concert of piano music at St Chad’s

Afternoon entertainment: Robert Gammon, Dementia Friendly Tea Concert, St Chad’s Church, Campleshon Road, York, January 19, 2.30pm

AT the first Dementia Friendly Tea Concert of 2023, pianist Robert Gammon plays J S Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B flat major from The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 2, Mozart’s Piano Sonata in B flat major K. 570 and Schubert’s serene Impromptu in A flat major, D. 935 No. 2. 

As usual, 45 minutes of music will be followed by tea and homemade cakes in the church hall. Next up will be University of York Students (violin and piano) on February 16. No charge, but donations welcome for church funds and Alzheimer’s charities.

Tales From Acorn Wood: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s stories take to the York Theatre Royal stage

Children’s show of the month: Tales From Acorn Wood, York Theatre Royal, January 26, 4pm; January 27, 11am and 2pm

NLP’s world premiere staging of Tales From Acorn Wood is based on favourite stories from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s lift-the flap books for pre-school children, featuring the sock-losing old Fox, the tired Rabbit, Postman Bear’s special surprise and Pig and Hen’s game of hide-and-seek.

Suitable for one-year-olds and upwards or anyone who loves books, this 50-minute touring show is full of songs, puppetry, projection and flap-lifting technology. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rob Auton: Getting mighty Crowded in his new stand-up show

Crowd pleaser: Rob Auton, The Crowd Show, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 24, 8pm; Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds, February 25, 7.30pm

CHARMINGLY eccentric, uplifting and poetic writer, comedian, actor and podcaster Rob Auton returns home to York on the 2023 leg of The Crowd Show tour.

After his philosophical observations on the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking and time, now he discusses crowds, people and connection in a night of comedy and theatre “suitable for anyone who wants to be in the crowd for this show”. Box office: York, tickets.41monkgate.co.uk; Leeds, hydeparkbookclub.co.uk.

Stewart Lee: Three nights, fully booked already, at York Theatre Royal in March

Too late for tickets already: Stewart Lee, Basic Lee, York Theatre Royal, March 20 to 22, 7.30pm

AFTER filming last May’s three-night run of his Snowflake/Tornado double bill for broadcast on the BBC, spiky comedian Stewart Lee returns to York with his back-to-basics new show.

Following a decade of ground-breaking high-concept gigs involving overarched interlinked narratives, Lee enters the post-pandemic era in streamlined solo stand-up mode: one man, one microphone, and one microphone in the wings in case the one on stage breaks. Tickets update: Sold out, basically.

Hands up who’s starring in Heathers: The black comedy musical to die for is heading to the Grand Opera House

Too cool for school: Heathers The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, May 9 to 13

WELCOME to Westerberg High, where Veronica Sawyer is just another nobody dreaming of a better day. When she joins the beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers, however, her craving for popularity may finally come true, whereupon mysterious teen rebel JD teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder being a somebody.

Winner of the What’sOnStage Award for Best New Musical, Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe’s black comedy rock musical, based on the 1988 cult film, makes its York debut,  produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor-Mills, directed by Andy Fickman and choreographed by Gary Lloyd. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.