Badapple Theatre are back at York Theatre Royal after a decade tonight with the haunted dance hall comedy Elephant Rock

Haunted happenings: Jessica Woodward, left, Robert Wade and Stephanie Hutchinson in Badapple Theatre Company’s Elephant Rock

GREEN Hammerton theatre-on-your-doorstep purveyors Badapple Theatre Company return to York Theatre Royal for the first time in a decade tonight (10/5/2022).

At the invitation of TakeOver 2022, the arts festival run by York St John University, Kate Bramley’s travelling troupe will be presenting Elephant Rock, a “lighthearted comedy about finding your place in the world” set against the backdrop of environmental change.

“We were last at the Theatre Royal with Back To The Land Girls roughly ten years ago and it feels very exciting to be back. We’re delighted,” says writer-director Kate. “It’s come about through the York St John performing arts students, who, as part of their final-year work, have the chance to put together a week of performances in a festival.

“They came to us and asked if we could do Elephant Rock, so we juggled things around a bit on the tour, and here we are, on the main stage, which is lovely for us, having the chance to use more than the five lanterns we take on tour for the lighting!”

Badapple Theatre Company artistic director Kate Bramley: Delighted to be returning to York Theatre Royal

Set in a storm-battered seaside village, Kate’s upbeat play with original music and songs by Jez Lowe follows the fortunes of a family trying desperately to keep the struggling pier-front Palace Theatre open, come hell or high water.

“The heyday of the great British seaside holiday may have gone but the memories remain,” says Kate. “So too does the old Palace Theatre, once perched proudly on the pier in sight of the mighty Elephant Rock, and boasting its own fabulous attraction, The Amazing Mechanical Elephant.

“But the relentless tides have chipped away at the coast, and Elephant Rock and its mechanical counterpart are long gone, as if instinct and longing have lured them off to the land of their ancestors.

“Amid the comic yet heartfelt attempts of the mismatched team who are determined that the Palace doors stay open, they discover a surprising family history that stretches across a hundred years and five thousand miles, from the rocky coast of England to the sweeping grasslands of Sri Lanka.”

Jessica Woodward: Pink dress, pink umbrella, in Catherine Dawn’s typically colourful design for Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock’s subject matter was prompted by a family visit to Withernsea, the East Riding resort noted for its Pier Towers, sandy beach, Valley Gardens and lighthouse. “A few years back, we were staying there, and where there used to be a road, now there was just a drop with a sign saying ‘End’,” says Kate.

“It was partly that observation that set me thinking about erosion, and we’d also heard the story of the Elephant Rock, just off the coast at Hartlepool, standing there for many years and then ‘wandering off’, disappearing into the sea – though we’ve had sightings of ‘Elephant Rocks’ elsewhere: one was in Iceland and another off the Vietnamese coast.

“It seems to be a phenomenon to do with coastal erosion that leaves rock in the shape of an animal.”

While the Elephant Rock story was a “bit of trivia”, Kate noted how coastal communities were being hit by climate change and the impact of erosion. “I thought about how people need to move and migrate, and I wondered whether people had to come from a place to call it ‘home’, when the coast plays host to a fluctuating community, such as carnival troupes that come and go.”

Entertainment on the pier: Robert Wade and Stephanie Hutchinson in the vintage dance hall in Elephant Rock

Elephant Rock is set in the present day while harking back to the past. “The three principal characters are stuck in a dance hall where these comedic hauntings happen to them as they try to decide what to do with a magical box,” explains Kate.

Those roles and no doubt more besides are played by Jessica Woodward, Robert Wade and Stephanie Hutchinson. “They’re a lovely bunch, all Yorkshire actors – quite by chance it’s fallen that way – and they’re having a lovely time together on what is our ‘comeback tour’ to full-scale touring after these past two years. Thankfully all these venues have stayed loyal to us,” says Kate.

“Robert worked with us in The Carlton Colliers and The Last Station Keeper before we lost him to Northern Broadsides and the West End, but now we’ve tempted him back to the north!

“Jess graduated from ALRA [Academy of Live and Recorded Arts] a couple of years ago and this is her first long tour. She’s a whiz, a classic ALRA all-rounder. Stephanie is a lovely actor from Leeds, who’s done some rural touring and telly and does the bulk of the singing in the show.”

Look out for new compositions by Jez Lowe that are set within the action of the play, recounting what happened to Elephant Rock, and he has delivered some fun Fifties’ jive numbers too.

Stephanie Hutchinson: Making her Badapple Theatre Company debut

Kate has been delighted at the response to the show that opened on April 22 and will be on the road until June 19 in Badapple’s 24th year of touring original productions with professional actors to the “most unexpected of places”: the smallest and hardest-to-reach rural venues and village halls in Yorkshire and beyond.

“It seems people are resting more easily around the Covid situation, and it feels like a transitional show, reminding people that they can go out,” she says. “We’ve had people saying ‘I’ve really missed it’ – and that is our role, to go out there on rural tours, bringing joy to communities.

“There’s still some generation caution about going out, with older people proving to be more cautious, but that said, equally some people feel far safer going to their village hall than going into town to see a show.”

Should you miss tonight’s 7.30pm show, Badapple’s spring and summer tour has plenty more performances in the York vicinity: May 17, Green Hammerton Village Hall (box office, 01423 331304); May 18, Terrington Village Hall, 8pm (01653 648394); May 20, Sutton upon Derwent Village Hall (01904 608524); June 10, Low Catton Village Hall (07837 330421); June 12, Skipsea Village Hall (01262 469714), and June 15, Galtres Centre, Easingwold (01347 822472, Monday to Friday, 9am, to 5pm). Shows start at 7.30pm unless stated otherwise.

Tickets for tonight and all the TakeOver 2022 festival events are on sale on 01904 623568 or at

Badapple Theatre Company tackles global warming in revival of The Snow Dancer eco-fable at Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Meg Matthews and Danny Mellor in Badapple Theatre Company’s 2021 revival of The Snow Dancer. Picture: Karl Andre Photography

BADAPPLE Theatre Company’s Christmas show, The Snow Dancer, opens a two-day run at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow.

In its 21st year, the Green Hammerton theatre-on-your-doorstep company has revived artistic director Kate Bramley’s magical eco-fable for its latest rural tour from December 2.

Bramley’s original story blends festive family entertainment with an important eco-message and an original score by Jez Lowe, as actors Meg Matthews and Danny Mellor tell the story of the animals of The Great Wood, who are desperate for a long sleep, but find it too warm because something is awry.

Everyone is going around in circles and is sick of nuts before Christmas is even in sight. On a set design by Catherine Dawn, the intrepid heroes in this fairy tale with a furry tail must search for the mysterious Snow Dancer to make it snow if they are ever to sleep.

Badapple’s trademark humorous, song-filled shows have been delighting audiences of all ages for 21 years on tours of rural locations around Yorkshire and further afield. The company “brings a full theatre experience to unusual, often tiny, spaces with significance to their communities in productions that reflect world-wide issues that have an impact on village life”.

Founder, writer and director Kate says: “Theatre is just storytelling and what better way to raise awareness of issues? The climate emergency, referenced in The Snow Dancer, is something we’ve been concerned about for a long time.

Badapple Theatre Company artistic director Kate Bramley

“We want to create social discussion that’s relevant to our audiences and 21st century living. We can do this through theatre and constantly reinventing what that is: with music, sometimes dance, puppetry and on one occasion live baking!”

Kate continues:“Badapple as a company has been working on becoming more environmentally sustainable for over a decade, wherever possible reusing or recycling sets and sourcing sustainable clothing for costumes.

“By taking theatre to rural locations on tour, we have reduced the environmental impact of audiences having to travel to one location to see a production.”

Badapple will stage two school shows and one public performance at the JoRo at this week’s residency. “We’ve rarely performed at a ‘fixed’ venue in a city in the past 15 years, but we’ve struck up a great partnership with Joseph Rowntree Theatre and their community commitment and ethos is so synchronised to our core values,” says Kate.

“It’s harder for us to sustain a run of performances in one larger venue, having not specialised in this area for 15 years, but it’s just about making new friends in new areas and the return of The Snow Dancer to York this year is a great chance for the good folk of our nearest city to see what it is we do.”

As with all theatre companies, particularly touring companies, Badapple has experienced the hardships of the various lockdowns during the pandemic. In particular, one show in production for 18 month and booked into 30 venues had to be cancelled immediately. The pandemic has been a time of crisis for the North Yorkshire company but nevertheless one of reflection that has resulted in positive outcomes and new plans for the future.

“Theatre is just storytelling and what better way to raise awareness of issues?” says Badapple writer-director Kate Bramley of The Snow Dancer, with its climate change topicality, performed by Danny Mellor and Meg Matthews. Picture: Karl Andre Photography

Kate says:“We were lucky to be so well supported by Arts Council England to get us through this period. It was really hard but we came out fighting. We made sure we stayed connected to our Badapple Youth Theatre students online and later with outdoor classes, and then we diversified into outdoor touring for the first time [with Danny Mellor’s Suffer Fools Glady in September 2020].

“Like many other organisations, we had to diversify, exploring film work and also radio. Despite the hardships of that time, there were so many positives to come out of it. We are now looking to find long-term partners and finance to create a bespoke outdoor space for summer shows for the next decade and hopefully beyond.”

Badapple Theatre Company in The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 15 (two school performances) and December 16 (public performance). Tickets for Thursday’s 7.30pm show are on sale on 01904 501935 or at

Further Yorkshire performances:

Thornton le Dale Village Hall, December 17, 6.30pm, tickets on 07894 345126 or via

Brandesburton Village Hall, East Yorkshire, December 18, 6pm; tickets on 01423 339168.

East Morton Village Institute, 11 Main Road, East Morton, Keighley, December 19, 3pm; tickets on 01423 339168.

Green Hammerton Village Hall, near York, December 20, 2pm; tickets on 01423 339168.

Badapple Theatre posts allotment drama as finale to lockdown free podcast series

Kate Bramley: Podcast play “inspired by the power of soundscapes to inspire imagination”

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre Company has added a new Kate Bramley play to its Theatre On Your Desktop series as it extends its lockdown season of free podcasts. 

Click on for the first instalment of The World Is Still Next Door, artistic director Bramley’s account of some strange and wonderful goings on at the allotment as Mo and her young son search for a place to fight off the lockdown blues.

Set during four sunny days in May in deep lockdown, Bramley’s play was prompted by her discussion with a BBC Radio York colleague about the power of soundscapes to inspire imagination.

“I got really interested in the idea of creating a new short piece with many voices of varying ages and accents, as well as delving into sound montages that evoke settings from our local Yorkshire all the way to Watamu Beach in Kenya,” says Kate. “With a bit of Badapple signature magic-realism thrown in for good measure.”

Featuring the voices of Kathryn Hanke, Thomas Frere, Anastasia Benham, Danny Mellor, Pauline Babula and A.J. Lowe, The World Is Still Next Door is the final commissioned show of Badapple’s Arts Council England-funded Theatre On Your Desktop season. Once more, Sony Radio Academy Award winner Jez Lowe provides the music.

Still available at is the extended radio version of Badapple’s hit comedy Eddie And The Gold Tops, set against the backdrop of the Swinging Sixties, with original songs and music by Lowe.

Bramley’s tale follows Eddie, a much-loved milkman from a family of great Italian milkmen, who finds himself becoming a chart-topping Beat group star wholly by accident. However, when things take a churn for the worse, will he return home in time for the morning milk?

Based at Green Hammerton, near York, Badapple Theatre Company is celebrating 21 years of touring this year, highlighted by the open-air performances of Danny Mellor’s Suffer Fools Gladly in September.  

Badapple specialises in inventive new comedy designed specifically for small community venues, taking theatre to the most unexpected of places.

Badapple Theatre’s slice of bakery comedy The Daily Bread to be served up at home

Scottish actor, clown, raconteur and cake business boss Colin Moncrieff in Badapple Theatre’s 2014 production of The Daily Bread, a play he now revives for the Podbean podcast

THE Daily Bread rises again as the latest free Podbean podcast from Green Hammerton company Badapple Theatre.

Glaswegian actor, clown and raconteur Colin Moncrieff reprises his 2014 stage performance in artistic director Kate Bramley’s comedy about a master baker who is the talk of the tiny village of Bottledale, thanks to his sumptuous sponges and beautiful buns, this time giving a relaxed reading from home, accompanied by songs by Sony Award-winning singer-songwriter Jez Lowe.

Go to to discover whether the baker’s cheery façade hides a dark secret. How come his name is so uncannily similar to that of disgraced media magnate August de Ville, who hid the truth behind the Bottledale bank crash?

For the villagers, is it a case of better the de Ville you don’t know, or will the truth come out, as Bramley adds more and more ingredients to her play recipe, ranging from a Women’s Institute narrator and a dour Yorkshireman to a Nigella Awesome send-up, a Mafia boss and a lumbering thug?

When toured in 2014, The Daily Bread was delivered to each village doorstep with “live baking” in a working oven. The one-man show was bread and butter to Moncrieff, who once worked with a French baker in New York and later ran his own cake business in Scotland.

Moncrieff’s prowess with flour, water, salt and yeast had come to light as he toured with Badapple in Laurel & Charlie, prompting writer-director Bramley to see the potential in writing a play that would combine all his skills.

What ensued was a nimble show of Machiavellian subterfuge, comedy, multiple role-playing, physical clowning as dextrous as Keaton and Chaplin, the aforementioned live baking, banking, and “a little bit of politics”, as Ben Elton once was wont to say too often.

A second Badapple show, audience favourite The Carlton Colliers, is available for free too at Bramley’s comic tale of an amateur football team saved from an eternal losing streak by a stroke of allotment magic is read from home by Thomas Frere, Robert Wade and Stephanie Hutchinson, again complemented by songs by Lowe.

Badapple Theatre writer-director Kate Bramley

“This is a story about a village, a story about love, optimism and yes, sometimes a story about football,” says Bramley.

She sets that story in Carlton Flatts, a northern place where “nobody notices you’re doing nothing, ’cause there’s nothing for anyone to do” since the village pit closed: a stasis captured in Lowe’s evocative folk music.

“But you have to dream, don’t you,” reckons the playwright, who gives the dreamer role, the escape route, to Jemmy, the sharp-shooter of the hapless Carlton Colliers football team, whose quality left foot could land him a contract with a League side. First, however, he must lead the Colliers out of trouble, Roy Of The Rovers style, while keeping both feet out of his mouth in the presence of Nina.

Frank, no-nonsense, ever efficient, she hates football but doggedly runs her Zumba classes and hopes her bit-part as a dancer on Coronation Street could be her ticket to bigger opportunities elsewhere.

Meanwhile, taciturn Chris has withdrawn to a barge but when he is left an allotment by a man to whom he has not spoken for 15 years, change beckons.

In Bramley’s head, The Carlton Colliers was always a love story. “Whether the love affairs with friends, football or hometown ever work out quite the way you expect is another story – but the love remains, just the same,” she says.

Without giving the plot away, the world does alter for each of her protagonists in a play where they bloom as much as the allotment at the back of the football pitch does.

Although the allotment is sited on Carlton Roadends, as one road ends, new paths begin, poetically symbolised by the presence of a plethora of parrots in Bramley’s storyline.

So, sit back at home and enjoy the nuggety northern humour, the borrowed football sayings – courtesy of the likes of late Liverpool gaffer Bill Shankly – and love in its myriad forms in this hymn to village life.