More Things To Do in Ryedale, York & beyond as arts take to the bike & beach. Hutch’s List No. 2 from Gazette & Herald

Don (John Lister) and Carol (Kate Caute) share a cycle but not political views in Paris in 1812 Theatre Company’s production of John Godber’s Scary Bikers

BIKERS divided by Brexit, beach encounters with Orpheus, a joyful mess in art, an Eighties rom-com revisited, Ukrainian opera and a big summer signing for Scarborough brighten Charles Hutchinson’s days ahead

Ryedale play of the week: 1812 Theatre Company in Scary Bikers, Helmsley Arts Centre, February 21 to 24, 7.30pm

HELMSLEY’S 1812 Theatre Company stage their first John Godber comedy next week, his 2018 two-hander Scary Bikers. Outwardly, redundant miner Don (John Lister) and former private school teacher Carol (Kate Caute) have little in common, but beneath the surface their former spouses are buried next to each other. Soon widowed Don and Carol will bump into each other.

An innocent coffee leads to a bike ride through the Yorkshire Dales, then a bike tour across Europe to Florence. All looks promising for a budding romance, but their departure date is June 23 2016 and Don and Carol are on the opposite sides of the Brexit fence. Box office: helmsleyarts.co.uk or in person from the arts centre.

Grace Long as Ella Grey in Pilot Theatre’s A Song For Ella Grey. Picture: Topher McGrillis

York play of the week: Pilot Theatre in A Song For Ella Grey, York Theatre Royal; February 20 to 24, Hull Truck Theatre, March 5 to 9

IN Zoe Cooper’s stage adaptation of David Almond’s novel for York company Pilot Theatre, York Theatre Royal and Newcastle’s Northern Stage, Claire and her best friend, Ella Grey, are ordinary kids from ordinary families in an ordinary world where modern teenagers meet ancient forces.

They and their friends fall in and out of love, play music and dance, stare at the stars, yearn for excitement, and have parties on Northumbrian beaches. One day, a stranger, a musician called Orpheus, appears on the beach and entrances them all, especially Ella. Where has Orpheus come from and what path will Ella follow in this contemporary re-telling of the ancient Greek myth? Box office: York, 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk; Hull,  01482 323638 or hulltruck.co.uk.

Displayful artists Luke Beech, Wendy Galloway, Kate Fox and Liberty Hodes, exhibiting at Scarborough Art Gallery. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Coastal exhibition of the season: Displayful, Scarborough Art Gallery until May 7

DISPLAYFUL celebrates happy accidents and joyful mess, aiming to brighten the winter months by inviting visitors to enjoy uplifting contemporary artistic responses to objects from the collections of Scarborough Museums and Galleries.

The show combines new work by five regional artists, Luke Beech, Kate Fox, Wendy Galloway, Liberty Hodes and Angela Knipe, alongside historical artefacts, and asks audiences to consider new possibilities for the lives of objects.  

Grant Harris: Making connections at Milton Rooms, Malton

Messages from beyond: Grant Harris: Medium, Milton Rooms, Malton, tomorrow (15/2/2024), 7pm

MEDIUM Grant Harris returns to the Milton Rooms to “connect with your loved ones to provide messages of support, reassurance and much needed clarity at times we require it most”.

“There are things we don’t fully understand about life and death but what I do is bring some peace to those who need it,” says Harris, whose shows promise humour too. Tickets: 01709 437700 or 01653 696240.

Amber Davies’s Vivian and Oliver Savile’s Edward, centre, in Pretty Woman The Musical, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York

Musical of the week: Pretty Woman The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, February 20 to 24, 7.30pm, plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees

BILLED as Hollywood’s ultimate rom-com, live on stage, Pretty Woman: The Musical is set once upon a time in the late 1980s, when Hollywood Boulevard hooker Vivian meets entrepreneur Edward Lewis and her life changes forever.

Amber Davies plays Vivian opposite Oliver Savile’s Edward; 2016 Strictly Come Dancing champion Ore Oduba, last seen at this theatre in fishnets in March 2022 as Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show, has two roles as hotel manager Barnard Thompson/Happy Man, and  Natalie Paris will be Vivian’s wisecracking roommate Kit De Luca. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

The poster artwork for Dnipro Opera’s Madama Butterfly at York Barbican

Opera of the week: Dnipro Opera in Madama Butterfly, York Barbican, February 20, 7pm

DNIPRO Opera, the Ukrainian National Opera, returns to British shores after last year’s visit to perform Puccini’s favourite work, Madama Butterfly, sung in Italian with English surtitles.

Set in Japan in 1904, this torrid tale of innocent love crushed between two contrasting cultures charts the affair between an American naval officer and his young Japanese bride, whose self-sacrifice and defiance of her family leads to tragedy. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Comedian Chloe Petts heads for York with her If You Can’t Say Anything Nice show

Comedy gig of the week: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Chloe Petts, The Crescent, York, tomorrow (15/2/2024), 7.30pm

BUOYED by her Edinburgh Fringe run and Soho Theatre sell-out debut in London, Chloe Petts serves up her follow-up hour, If You Can’t Say Anything Nice. Everyone complimented her on how polite she was with big issues in the last show, so now she is cashing in those points and plans on being really rude. “Expect routines on wedding dancefloors, the footie and calling you all a bunch of virgins,” she says. Box office: wegottickets.com/event/588889.

Look out too for Burning Duck’s 8pm show at Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, on Friday: the debut tour of northerner Paddy Young: Hungry, Horny, Scared..and “in the gutter but looking down on all of you”. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

James: Returning to Scarborough Open Air Theatre in July. Picture: Lewis Knaggs

Gig announcement of the week: James, supported by Reverend & The Makers and Girlband!, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 26

MANCHESTER band James play Scarborough Open Air Theatre for the fourth time on July 26, the night when Leeds lads Kaiser Chiefs finish off the evening card at York Races.

“If you haven’t been there before, then make sure you come,” says James bassist and founder member Jim Glennie. “It’s a cracking venue and you can even have a paddle in the sea before the show!” New album Yummy arrives on April 12. Box office: James, ticketmaster.co.uk from 9am on Friday; Kaiser Chiefs, yorkracecourse.co.uk.

Dancefloor disciple John Godber keeps the faith in Northern Soul in days of drudgery and nights of joy in Do I Love You?

Emilio Encinoso-Gil, Martha Godber, centre, and Chloe McDonald in John Godber’s Do I Love You?, returning Northern Soul to Scarborough this week. Picture: Ian Hodgson

“I’M not afraid to admit I was a rather good dancer,” says playwright, director, actor and erstwhile terpsichorean tornado John Godber. “Not so good now, mind. My knees.”

His ‘tap’ these days would be on the laptop, leading to his latest play, a hymn to Northern Soul that keeps the faith with the Wigan Casino days but addresses today’s believers in Do I Love You?, on tourthis week at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, in Scarborough, where John once cut a rug at all-nighters.

“This is Northern Soul for a new generation, but with rising costs, unemployment and small-town blues, has anything really changed?” asks John, now 67. “Is this England 1973 or 2023? The pubs are closing, hospitality has gone, and strikes are everywhere…but when you’re out on the floor…”

…There you will find Godber’s twentysomethings, Sally, Nat and Kyle, as they develop a love for Northern Soul and the people absorbed in its culture across the industrial north. What started as a college project has grown into a passion, but the dance steps are exhausting.

Far beyond their home city of Hull, they find excitement, purpose and the tribe they have been seeking. Cue talcum powder, loafers and weekenders, from Brid Spa to Stoke, from Oxford to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, as these young soulies vow to keep the faith, even as Britain crumbles, school buildings and all.

Do I Love You? Indeed he did, back in the day. “I went to all-nighters in Scarborough, Doncaster, Wakefield, Whitby, Hornsea, and even then that single [Frank Wilson’s title song] was worth £45,000,” says John.

“It’s the one that lots of people know, but lots of soulists despise it because it’s too well known! Only 200 copies were printed, and one copy recently sold for £150,000.

“There’s this really interesting thing that soulies want to keep it underground, which is difficult, particularly when the BBC Proms did a Northern Soul Prom last summer [July 15 2023, curated by broadcaster and writer Stuart Maconie], gentrifying it with symphonic arrangements, of course!”

Playwright and Northern Soul devotee John Godber

John recalls his dancing nights and early single acquisitions. “Dobie Gray’s Out On The Floor was my first one, then The Flasher, the instrumental by Mistura, and then you’re on to Al Wilson’s The Snake,” he says.

“Every church hall had a Northern Soul night, every youth club had a Northern Soul Night back then. For every song, they danced throughout and clapped in time together because the music realy meant something to them.

“Before we opened the tour last September , the cast went to a soul night at an ex-servicemen’s club, where they played Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You?, and they came away saying, ‘oh my God, it’s all true’.

After a run of state-of-the-nation plays (Shafted, 2015; Scary Bikers, 2018, Sunny Side Up, 2020; Living On Fresh Air, 2023), Godber’s latest comedy is more of a celebration, albeit with politics still at its rotten core.

“I’m interested in enclosed environments: nightclubs [Bouncers], schools [Teechers], gymnasiums [Gym And Tonic], now the Northern Soul scene,” says John.

“This time there’s a lot of music, a lot of dancing, in the show, and we’ve had the world champion Northern Soul dancer, Sally Molloy, in for a couple of sessions. Just extraordinary!

“She came to the read-through to authenticate the piece and said, ‘I bless this show’, which was great because we want it to be authentic.

“Dancing was important to the casting, so we looked far and wide and even looked at auditioning some Northern Soul dancers but they just didn’t cut the mustard with the acting.”

John settled instead on a typically compact cast of Yorkshire actors Emilio Encinoso-Gil and Martha Godber and Belfast-born, Liverpool-trained newcomer Chloe McDonald.

Dancefloor discussion: Emilio Encinoso-Gil, Chloe McDonald, centre, and Martha Godber in Do I Love You?. Picture: Ian Hodgson

“Martha went to Northern Contemporary dance in Leeds when she was 16 and got into Trinity Laban [Conservatoire of Music and Dance], but then decided to go to LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) to train as an actor,” he says.

“They worked with Sally a couple of months before rehearsals started, then did a full day with her, after the read-through day, when they almost couldn’t walk for a week!”

John’s own research brought him into contact with Dr Sarah Raine, from the cultural industries department at Leeds University.

“What she’s identified is a real growth in Northern Soul, when working men’s clubs have gone, youth clubs have gone, Sunday League football has gone, funding has gone, but Northern Soul club nights go on,” says John.

“It’s an echo back to when there was pride in your work, what you do, where you fit into your community, doing something that requires a skill through the ability to dance, and conssequently you gain status in your community.

“The music is put first; it’s not about leaving with someone on your arm, unlike in Bouncers, though the drug scene is pretty clear, but after 12 hours of stomping, you’re going to need something stronger than coffee and Red Bull!

Godber’s twentysomethings in Do I Love You? work in a “chicken drive-through portal” as he euphemistically puts it. “It’s not a great place to work. Two of them have degrees, one in psychology, one in musical theatre; the other has stayed at home to look after her grandmother,” he says.

High kicks: Martha Godber in rehearsal at Hull Truck Theatre for Do I Love You?

“After Covid, they’ve picked up these low-grade jobs, but the music underlines where they are in their rites of passage. They find this creed they have some sympathy with, a kind of religion, a kind of tribe, to counter domestic difficulties, loss of love and dreary jobs.”

“In 2024, with the drudgery of daily life, now it’s about finding meaning and young people feeling they’re in a safe place.”

As for keeping the faith by seeing Do I Love You?, “What’s interesting is that if you’re my age, you’ll be re-living your youth; if your’re young, in your 20s, you’ll think, ‘yes, I can see why it means so much to them’.

“Why coin that adage ‘Keep the faith’? I guess soul music is not a million miles away from religion, so it’s not far away from faith.”

Northern Soul disciple John has a confession to make: “The full disclosure is, I was really into Northern Soul, but I was also into prog-rock,” he says. “That was my intellectual side. Northern Soul was my spiritual side.”

John Godber Company in Do I Love You?, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until Saturday, 7.30pm nightly; 1.30pm tomorrow; 2.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Leap of faith: Emilio Encinoso-Gil during rehearsals for Do I Love You?

Did you know?

NORTHERN Soul dancers, in their flat, slippy shoes, would dust the dancefloor with talcum powder to make their moves glide more easily, countering the stickiness of spilt beer. “But talc is frowned on these days because it’s carciogenic,” says John.

Did you know too?

RARE American soul songs, expressing pain and suffering, were favoured over slick Motown chartbusters by the working-class, predominantly male dance crowds that gathered at burgeoning Northern Soul nights across the north in the late-1960s and early 1970s. Football fans on away days would bring back records from London record shops.

What is John Godber’s favourite Northern Soul record?

TOBI Legend’s Time Will Pass You By. “It’s a song about dying, which makes it utterly existential,” says John.

REVIEW: Do I Love You?, from when John Godber’s premiere opened at Wakefield Theatre Royal in September 2023

TWO Big Egos In A Small Car podcasters Charles Hutchinson and Graham Chalmers discuss John Godber’s Do I Love You? and last autumn’s premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s Constant Companions, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in Episode 152.

Head to 12 minutes 45 seconds into:  https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/13689546

Charles Hutchinson’s review of the year of culture & art in York & beyond in 2023

Sleuth and sidekick: Fergus Rattigan’s Matthew Shardlake, left, with Sam Thorpe-Spinks’s Jack Barak in Sovereign at King’s Manor. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Community show of the year: Sovereign, King’s Manor, York, July

YORK Theatre Royal’s best show of the year was not at the Theatre Royal, but across Exhibition Square in the courtard of King’s Manor, the setting for C J Sansom’s Tudor sleuth yarn, adapted typically adroitly by the golden pen of York playwright Mike Kenny.

Henry VIII was given the Yorkshire cold shoulder by a cast of 100 led by Fergus Rattigan and Sam Thorpe-Spinks, complemented by Madeleine Hudson’s choir.

Livy Potter in Iphigenia In Splott at Theatre@41, Monkgate

Solo performance of the year: Livy Potter in Black Treacle Theatre’s Iphigenia In Splott, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, March

GREEK myth is smacked in the chops by modern reality in Gary Owen’s scabrous, “horribly relevant” one-woman drama Iphigenia In Splott, a stark, dark 75-minute play, played out on a single blue chair, with no props, under Jim Paterson’s direction.

Livy Potter kept meeting you in the eye, telling you the bruised, devastating tale of Cardiff wastrel Effie, and her downward spiral through a mess of drink, drugs and drama every night, with shards of jagged humour and shattering blows to the heart.

Crowded in: Comedian Rob Auton’s artwork for The Crowd Show

Comedy show of the year: Rob Auton in The Crowd Show, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 24

COMEDIANS tend to play to a room full of strangers, hence the subject matter of Rob Auton’s The Crowd Show, with its discussions of crowds, people and connection.

Except that the crowd for this (London-based) York comedian, born in Barmby Moor and educated in Pocklington, was made up of friends, family, extended family, and loyal local enthusiasts. The home crowd, rather than the in-crowd, as it were. Auton revelled in a unique performing experience, even more surreal than usual.

Honourable mention: Stewart Lee, Basic Lee, York Theatre Royal, March 20. Serious yet seriously amusing dissection of the rotten state of the nation and comedy itself.

Christmas In Neverland at Castle Howard. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Exhibition of the year: Christmas In Neverland, Castle Howard, near York, running until January 7

IS it a Christmas event, an installation or an exhibition? All three, in that Charlotte Lloyd Webber Event Design makes an exhibit of the 300-year-old stately home at Castle Howard each winter.

This time, the theme is a Peter Pan-inspired festive experience, transforming rooms and corridors alike with floristry, installations, props, soundscapes, and projections, conjuring a Mermaid’s Lagoon, Captain Hook’s Cabin and the Jolly Roger with new innovations from Leeds company imitating the dog.

Honourable mention: Austrian artist Erwin Wurm’s absurdist sculptures in Trap Of The Truth, his first UK museum show, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, bringing a whimsical smile until April 28 2024.

Kevin Rowland leading Dexys through The Feminine Divine and old hits sublime at York Barbican

Favourite gigs of the year?

SPOILT for choice. At York Barbican: Suzanne Vega, vowing I Never Wear White in droll delight on February 22; James, bolstered by orchestra and gospel choir, hitting heavenly heights, April 28; Dexys’ two sets, one new and theatrical, the other laden with soul-powered hits, September 5; Lloyd Cole’s two sets, one ostensibly acoustic, the other electric, both eclectic, on October 22.

At The Crescent: The Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster, performing with his son; March 14; Lawrence, once of Felt and Denim, now channelling Mark E Smith and the Velvet Underground in Mozart Estate, October 7; The Howl And The Hum’s extraordinary, deeply emotional three-night farewell to the York band’s original line-up in December.

The long-dormant Pulp’s poster for their This Is What We Do For An Encore return to performing live

Outdoor experience of the year: Pulp, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 9

THE rain swept in on the Eighties’ electronic nostalgia of Being Boiled at the Human League’s Music Showcase Weekend at York Racecourse on July 28 too, but that was a mere watering can by comparison with the deluge that befell the Open Air Theatre half an hour before fellow Sheffield legends Pulp took to the Scarborough stage. “Has it been raining?”, teased Jarvis Cocker, but huddled beneath hastily purchased sheeting, the night was still plastic fantastic.  

Cherie Federico: At the helm of all things Aesthetica in York

Driving force of the year in York: Cherie Federico, Aesthetica

2023 marked the 20th anniversary of Aesthetica, the international art magazine set up in York by New Yorker and York St John University alumna Cherie Federico. The Aesthetica Art Prize was as innovative and stimulating as ever at York Art Gallery; the 13th Aesthetica Short Film Festival, spanning five days in November, was the biggest yet. On top of that came the Future Now Symposium in March and the launch of Reignite to bolster York’s focus on being a fulcrum for the arts, media arts and gaming industry innovations of the future.

A star performance: Andy Cryer in The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less) at Stephen Jospeh Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Patch Dolan

Best Shakespeare of the year: The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less), Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, April

THE SJT teamed up with Shakespeare North Playhouse, Nick Lane paired up with co-writer Elizabeth Godber, and Eighties’ pop guilty pleasures rubbed shoulders with Shakespeare’s rebooted comedy as Yorkshire clashed with Lancashire and everyone won. This Comedy Of Errors got everything right. Not more or less. Just right. Full stop. 

Nuno Queimado and Rumi Sutton in Gus Gowland’s Mayflies at York Theatre Royal

New musical of the year in York: Mayflies, York Theatre Royal, May

YORK Theatre Royal resident artist Gus Gowland deserved far bigger audiences for the premiere of the intriguing Mayflies, as confirmed by no fewer than nine nominations in the BroadwayWorldUK Awards.

O, the app-hazard nature of modern love under Covid’s black cloud, as two people meet up after two years of tentative communication online. In Tania Azevedo’s flexible casting, you could pick any configuration of Rumi Sutton, Nuno Queimado or Emma Thornett for the couple of your choice. Better still, you should have seen all three; the songs, the nuances, the humour, grew with familiarity.

Leigh Symonds’ engineer Winston and Naomi Petersen’s automaton house maid ED in Alan Ayckbourn’s Constant Companions. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Still delivering the goods in Yorkshire

ALAN Ayckbourn’s visions of AI in Constant Companions, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough; John Godber’s Northern Soul-powered Do I Love You?, on tour into 2024; Barnsley bard Ian McMillan’s Yorkshire take on The Barber Of Seville, St George’s Hall, Bradford; Robin Simpson’s dame in Jack And The Beanstalk, York Theatre Royal.

Copyright of The Press, York

Dancefloor disciple John Godber keeps the faith in Northern Soul in days of drudgery and nights of joy in Do I Love You?

Northern Soul power: It’ll never be over for Emilio Encinoso-Gil, Chloe McDonald and Martha Godber in John Godber’s Do I Love You?. Picture: Ian Hodgson

“I’M not afraid to admit I was a rather good dancer,” says playwright, director, actor and erstwhile terpsichorean tornado John Godber. “Not so good now, mind. My knees.”

John’s ‘tap’ these days would be on the laptop, leading to his latest play, a hymn to Northern Soul that keeps the faith with the Wigan Casino days but addresses today’s believers in Do I Love You?, opening at Wakefield Theatre Royal tonight (7/9/2023)

“This is Northern Soul for a new generation, but with rising costs, unemployment and small-town blues, has anything really changed?” asks John, now 67. “Is this England 1973 or 2023? The pubs are closing, hospitality has gone, and strikes are everywhere…but when you’re out on the floor…”

…There you will find Godber’s twentysomethings, Sally, Nat and Kyle, as they develop a love for Northern Soul and the people involved with it across the industrial north. What started as a college project has grown into a passion, but the dance steps are exhausting.

Far beyond their home city of Hull, they find excitement, purpose and the tribe they have been seeking. Cue talcum powder, loafers and weekenders,  from Brid Spa to Stoke, from Oxford to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, as these young soulies vow to keep the faith, even as Britain crumbles, school buildings and all.

Do I Love You? Indeed he did, back in the day. “I went to all-nighters in Scarborough, and even then that single [Frank Wilson’s title song] was worth £45,000,” says John.

“It’s the one that lots of people know, but lots of soulists despise it because it’s too well known! Only 200 copies were printed, and one copy recently sold for £150,000.

Leap of faith: Emilio Encinoso-Gil shows off a Northern Soul move for Do I Love You? during rehearsals in the John Godber Studio at Hull Truck Theatre

“There’s this really interesting thing that soulies want to keep it underground, which is difficult, particularly when the BBC Proms did a Northern Soul Prom this summer [July 15 2023, curated by broadcaster and writer Stuart Maconie], gentrifying it with symphonic arrangements, of course!”

John recalls his dancing nights and early single acquisitions. “Dobie Gray’s Out On The Floor was my first one, then The Flasher, the instrumental by Mistura, and then you’re on to Al Wilson’s The Snake,” he says.

“Every church hall had a Northern Soul night, every youth club had a Northern Soul Night back then.

“A couple of Fridays ago, the cast went to a soul night at an ex-servicemen’s club, where they played Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You?, and they came away saying, ‘oh my God, it’s all true’.”

After a run of state-of-the-nation plays (Shafted, 2015; Scary Bikers, 2018, Sunny Side Up, 2020; Living On Fresh Air, 2023), Godber’s latest comedy is more of a celebration, albeit with politics still at its rotten core.

“I’m interested in enclosed environments: nightclubs [Bouncers], schools [Teechers], gymnasiums [Gym And Tonic], now the Northern Soul scene,” says John.

“This time there’s a lot of music, a lot of dancing, in the show, and we’ve had the world champion Northern Soul dancer, Sally Molloy, in for a couple of sessions. Just extraordinary!

A high-steping Martha Godber in rehearsal for Do I Love You?

“She came to the read-through to authenticate the piece and said, ‘I bless this show’, which was great because we want it to be authentic.

“Dancing was important to the casting, so we looked far and wide and even looked at auditioning some Northern Soul dancers but they just didn’t cut the mustard with the acting.”

John settled instead on a typically compact cast of Yorkshire actors Emilio Encinoso-Gil and Martha Godber and Belfast-born, Liverpool-trained newcomer Chloe McDonald.

“Martha went to Northern Contemporary dance in Leeds when she was 16 and got into Trinity Laban [Conservatoire of Music and Dance], but then decided to go to LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) to train as an actor,” he says.

“They worked with Sally a couple of months ago before rehearsals started, then did a full day with her, after the read-through day, when they almost couldn’t walk for a week!”

John’s own research brought him into contact with Dr Sarah Raine, from the cultural industries department at Leeds University, (who is in the process of moving to York by the way).

“What she’s identified is a real growth in Northern Soul, when working men’s clubs have gone, youth clubs have gone, but Northern Soul club nights go on,” says John.

Newcomer Chloe McDonald is making her John Godber Company debut in the premiere of Do I Love You?

“The music is put first; it’s not about leaving with someone on your arm, unlike in Bouncers, though the drug scene is pretty clear, but after 12 hours of stomping, you’re going to need something stronger than coffee and Red Bull!”

Godber’s twentysomethings in Do I Love You? work in a “chicken drive-through portal” as he euphemistically puts it. “It’s not a great place to work. Two of them have degrees, one in psychology, one in musical theatre; the other has stayed at home to look after her grandmother,” he says.

“After Covid, they’ve picked up these low-grade jobs, but the music underlines where they are in their rites of passage. They find this creed they have some sympathy with, a kind of religion, a kind of tribe.”

“In 2023, with the drudgery of daily life, now it’s about finding meaning and young people feeling they’re in a safe place.”

John Godber Company in Do I Love You?, Yorkshire dates: Theatre Royal, Wakefield, tonight until September 16; Georgian Theatre  Royal, Richmond, September 26 to 29; Pocklington Arts Centre, September 30, sold out; Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough, Halifax, October 3 to 5; Barnsley Civic, October 6 and 7; Bridlington Spa, October 27 and 28; Hull Truck Theatre, October 31 to November 4; Cast, Doncaster, January 24 to 27 2024; Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, February 7 to 10.

Box office: Wakefield, 01924 211311 or theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk; Richmond, georgiantheatreroyal.savoysystems.co.uk; Pocklington, for returns only, 01759 301547; Halifax, 01422 849227 or theviaducttheatre.co.uk; Barnsley, civicbarnsley.ticketsolve.com; Bridlington, 01262 678258 or bridspa.com/; Hull, 01482 323638 or hulltruck.co.uk; Doncaster, 01302 303959 or castindoncaster.com; Scarborough, 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Did you know?

THE latest plays by Great Britain’s most performed and second most performed playwrights open on the same night: Alan Ayckbourn’s Constant Companions at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and John Godber’s Do I Love You? at the Theatre Royal, Wakefield.

John Godber: Playwright, director and Northern Soul disciple

REVIEW: Living On Fresh Air, “A breath-taking comedy” by John Godber ****

On their knees: Jane Thornton’s Caroline and John Godber’s Dave in Living On Fresh Air

John Godber Company in Living On Fresh Air, striding out at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tonight until Saturday, 7.30pm plus 1.30pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees. Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com

JOHN Godber likes to put the physical in his plays, from men’s Rugby League to ladies’ rugby sevens, judo to weightlifting, skiing to crown bowls, cycling to hill walking… or the sheer physicality of the clashing doormen in Bouncers. Action theatre as the academics call it.

Walking, in pursuit of exercise under Covid restrictions, grew in popularity beyond Alfred Wainwright devotees. On one such pandemic perambulation, your reviewer bumped into – well, kept a responsible social distance from – John Godber and wife Jane Thornton on the waterside of Pocklington Canal.

“Must be plenty of material for a play about Covid-19, John?”. “No comedy there,” ruled out Godber. So, maybe not Covid (although it does feature prominently in his revamp of Teechers Leavers ’22) but walking now lies at the heart of Living On Fresh Air, as John and Jane take to the stage together again, just as they did in recent years in Shafted, Scary Bikers and Sunny Side Up.

Presented by the John Godber Company in association with Harrogate Theatre, Godber’s state-of-the-nation report and all’s-not-well Orwellian look into the future already has had a run-out in the reviving spa town after a preview week at Beverley’s East Riding Theatre in late-March.

Now Living On Fresh Air is going for a bracing stretch on the coast, camping out in the Round from tonight at the SJT. It opens with Godber and Thornton’s newly retired Yorkshire couple Dave and Caroline out of puff as they reach the peak of Scafell Pike.

It will be all down hill from there, for Britain, for Dave and Caroline’s retirement plans, but not for the play, a grouchily humorous outpouring of present frustrations, doom-and-gloom whither-next forecasts and forlorn, probably futile forewarnings amid Godber’s despair at how we have gone from the Sex Pistols’ Anarchy In The UK to apathy at the decay.

In a typically conversational Godber play of direct address to the audience and chatter between the affable, head-shaking couple, full of anecdotal snapshots, we learn that Dave and Caroline had everything they ever wanted: nice house, hot tub, small mortgage, a few savings and a new smart meter.

However, the plug is pulled from the hot tub (er, do hot tubs have plugs?) by the double whammy of Covid and its equally unwelcome new next-door neighbour, the cost-of-living crisis.

Their middle-aged son (Peter McMillan) moves back home, bills are rising faster than Boris Johnson’s fat cheques on the speaker circuit, and so is the temperature (that other crisis of the climate variety). Peace and quiet, going, money, going, tub gone.

Better take to the hills, they decide, to live on fresh air, wrapped up against the elements, in the Dales and the Lakes and on Scafell Pike alike on Graham Kirk’s set, but even that has a sting in the tale once Godber projects into the not-too-distant future. (Just as Alan Ayckbourn is doing likewise, by the way, in his two imminent premieres, Welcome To The Family, at The Old Laundry, Bowness-on-Windermere, from May 12 to 27, and Constant Companions at his regular stamping ground of the SJT from September 7 to October 7).

Ten years from now, as his by-now septuagenarian couple reveals, Godber predicts people will be living in containers in London; the arts will have been suppressed; health care privatised; fat cats will be even fatter; utilities bills ever higher, and roaming charges will apply, not to using mobile phones abroad, but to walking in beautiful public spaces.

Is this a joke? A tragicomedy, more like. Or a farce too serious to be funny, although there is observant, blunt but sharp Yorkshire humour aplenty here too.

Does a playwright need to offer hope? No? Does he have a duty to offer answers? No. McCartney once sang “I admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time”, only for Lennon to counter acidly “It can’t get no worse”, but now Godber believes it can and it will. No sign of a tide turning, or even a voice turning against the tide; no raging against the dying of the light; no wise Shakespearean Fool on the hill. Only Cassandra.

Co-directed briskly by Godber and Neil Sissons, you can’t call it a cautionary tale because Godber foresees no-one breaking the shackles of apathy. What lies in store? Struggles to pull on your socks as you age is just the start. Tough as old boots they may be, but weary walkers Dave and Caroline have too many mountains to climb, and so do we all.

More Things To Do in York and beyond for optimists, walkers and nights in full swing. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 16, from The Press

Plum job: Robert Daws at the typewriter in his role as P. G. Wodehouse in Wodehouse In Wonderland at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Pamela Raith

THE Plum life of Wodehouse, Godber’s walk into the future, happy and angry comedy, Bros big band style and mountain adventures on screen jostle for a starring role in Charles Hutchinson’s week ahead.

PG tips and Wooster source of the week: Wodehouse In Wonderland, York Theatre Royal, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

IN William Humble’s play set in the exiled English author’s New York State home in the 1950s, P. G. Wodehouse is trying to write the latest instalment of Jeeves and Wooster. However, a would-be biographer, his wife, his daughter and even his two Pekingese dogs have other ideas.

Performed by Robert Daws, Wodehouse In Wonderland presents stories of first meeting Jeeves, Wodehouse’s addiction to soap operas, and why he wrote books “like musical comedies without music”, combined with Broadway songs composed by Kern, Gershwin, Porter and Novello with lyrics by Wodehouse himself, but is there a darker story to be told too? Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Garrett Millerick: Thumbs-up to optimism with an angry hue

Grumpy comedy gig of the week: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Garrett Millerick: Just Trying To Help, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Sunday, 8pm

THE world’s angriest optimist returns for another bash at sorting out life’s inexplicable complications in a night of comedy for people who like to keep things simple.

Stand-up comedian, writer and director Garrett Millerick investigates the unintended consequences of doing our best, the mayhem that ensues when people try to help, in a cathartic appeal for calm from one of the least calm people in the country. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

On their knees: Jane Thornton and John Godber in Godber’s new comedy Living On Fresh Air, on tour at the SJT from Wednesday

State of the nation report of the week: John Godber Company in Living On Fresh Air, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm, plus 1.30pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees

PLAYWRIGHT John Godber and wife Jane Thornton play newly retired Yorkshire couple Caroline and Dave, who have everything they have ever wanted: a nice house, a hot tub, a small mortgage, a few savings and a new smart meter.

However, Covid and the cost-of-living crisis changes everything. Their son has moved back home, their money is disappearing, the hot tub’s gone, the lights are going out and the smart meter is stressful. Time to head for the hills for their new-found hobby of walking, but far can you go living on fresh air as Godber projects an even gloomier future ten years on in this bleak comedy? Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.  

Johannes Radebe: Expressing Freedom in movement at Grand Opera House

Dance show of the week: Johannes Radebe in Freedom Unleashed, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

CONFIRMED for the 2023 series of Strictly Come Dancing, South African dancer and international champion Johannes Radebe returns to the Grand Opera House with his cast of dancers and singers.

Freedom Unleashed combines African rhythms and party anthems with a touch of ballroom magic in a jubilant celebration of culture, passion, and freedom. Completing the company will be South African singer-songwriter Ramelo, a former contestant on The Voice South Africa. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Millie Manders & The Shutup: Songs of loss, betrayal and political unrest at The Crescent, York

Band to discover of the week: Millie Manders & The Shutup, The Crescent, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

NEWSFLASH 19/4/2023: Unfortunately, illness has forced this gig to be rescheduled. New date is July 7. All tickets remain valid but refunds are available from point of purchase.

NORTHERN SkaFace presents cross-genre punks Millie Manders & The Shutup, a band noted for grinding guitars and irresistible horns, topped off by Manders’ vocal dexterity. Their lyrics deliberate on themes of loss, betrayal, anger, anxiety, heartbreak and bitterness, environmental catastrophe and political unrest. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Matt gloss: Bros singer Matt Goss gives songs the big band and orchestral makeover at York Barbican

Hitting his swing: The Matt Goss Experience with MG Big Band and the Royal Philharmonic, York Barbican, Thursday, 7.30pm

BROS frontman and Strictly Come Dancing 2022 contestant Matt Goss had to reschedule his York gig after the recurrence of a shoulder/collar bone injury. Original tickets remain valid for the new date (20/4/2023).

“I never give less than 100 per cent on every single show I do, so I had to adhere to the medical advice,” says Goss, 54, who headlined Las Vegas for 11 years. Expect his biggest hits, new original music and a Cole Porter tribute in a night of swing, glitz and swagger. Dressing to the nines is encouraged. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Pulling faces:

Seriously silly: Phil Wang, Wang In There, Baby!, Leeds City Varieties, Thursday, 7.30pm, sold out; Grand Opera House, York, Friday, 7.30pm; York Barbican, September 23, 7.30pm

HOT on the heels of his Netflix special, David Letterman appearance, role in Life & Beth with Amy Schumer and debut book Sidesplitter, Phil Wang discusses race, family, nipples and everything else going on in his Philly little life in his latest stand-up show, Wang In There, Baby! Box office: atgtickets.com/york; yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Mountain high: Film feats at York Barbican

Film event of the week: BANFF Mountain Film Festival World Tour, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

THE world’s most prestigious mountain film festival presents the 2023 Blue Film Programme, a new adrenaline-fuelled collection of short films by the best adventure filmmakers and explorers as they push themselves to the limits in the most remote corners of the globe. Witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography on the big screen. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

 Miles And The Chain Gang: Launching new single Charlie 

Single launch: Miles And The Chain Gang, Victoria Vaults, Nunnery Lane, York, April 29, doors 7pm; first band 8pm

MILES And The Chain Gang launch their April 21 single, Charlie, at the Vaults, where they will play their rock’n’roll the old-fashioned way in the vein of Van Morrison, The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen.

The York band are fronted by singer, songwriter, poet, storyteller and podcaster Miles Salter, organiser of the new York Alive festival. In the support slot on this night of blues, soul and funk, The Long Shots, featuring Chain Gang rhythm section Steve Purton and Mat Watt, give their debut public performance. Box office: theyorkvaults.com.

Scouting For Girls: New album and autumn dates in York, Leeds and Sheffield

Gig announcement of the week: Scouting For Girls, York Barbican, November 10, Leeds O2 Academy, November 23, and Sheffield O2 Academy, November 24

WEST London trio Scouting For Girls will follow up the October 13 release of their seventh indie-pop album, the life-affirming The Place We Used To Meet, with a 22-date autumn tour. York, Leeds and Sheffield await. Tickets go on sale on April 21 at 10am at gigst.rs/SFG.

“As the name suggests, it’s an album about going back to our roots and starting again. Falling back in love with music,” says band leader Roy Stride. “Heartbreaking, anthemic, fun and pop, indie and serious, anything went as long as we loved it. It’s the best collection of songs we’ve ever had, and I’ve loved every minute of making it.”

In Focus: Leeds Fine Artists’ exhibition, Awakening, at Blossom Street Gallery, York

The Midnight Hour, by Kate Buckley, at the Leeds Fine Artists show in York

LEEDS Fine Artists are marking the arrival of spring with Awakening on their return to Blossom Street Gallery, York.

Among those showing new work are York artists Tim Pearce, Kate Buckley, Luisa Holden and Gail Fox.

Both Pearce and Buckley also are taking part in York Open Studios this weekend and next weekend too, 10am to 5pm each day.

Mixed-media artist Pearce’s paintings and sculptural ceramics, informed by Cubist sensitivity to form, colour and rhythm, can be found in his studio, house and garden at Brambles, Warthill, York.

Light, shadow, surface and space come into play in Buckley’s contemporary, press-moulded sculptural porcelain artworks for the wall and home at 31 Wentworth Road, York.

Leeds Fine Artists (LFA), an association of artists from across Yorkshire, was established in 1874, making it one of the oldest regional arts bodies in the UK. From its beginnings in Leeds, it has spread throughout Yorkshire and is now among the most prestigious arts organisations in the north.

Lamona For Blossom Street, by Gail Fox

LFA has more than 50 exhibiting members working in two and three dimensions in a broad span of media and seeks to encourage and promote art and artists throughout Yorkshire.

An annual exhibition is held in the Crossley Gallery at Dean Clough, Halifax, and other exhibitions are organised across the region each year, bringing together the wide range of styles and approaches of LFA’s members.

In addition to group exhibitions, many LFA artists exhibit individually, both in Yorkshire and internationally as well as promoting excellence in the visual arts through education.

Applications to join LFA are welcomed from fine artists practising in all areas of the visual and applied arts. For more details, go to: leedsfineartists.co.uk/yorkshire/leeds-fine-artists-become-a-member/.

Membership is by election, decided by a panel of members, who look for a high standard in each applicant’s work, including quality, content and consistency, as well as a professional approach to exhibiting.

Awakening is on show at Blossom Street Gallery, Blossom Street, York, until May 28.

Work by Leeds Fine Artists members on show and for sale at Blossom Street Gallery, York

More Things To Do in York & beyond when time travel and hot dancing counters the chill. Hutch’s List No. 11, from The Press

The future, here they come: Amy Revelle, Dave Hearn, centre, and Michael Dylan in Original Theatre’s The Time Machine. Picture: Manuel Harlan

THE week ahead is so crammed with clashing cultural highlights, Charles Hutchinson wishes you could climb aboard a time machine.

Find time for: Original Theatre in The Time Machine, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees  

DAVE Hearn, a fixture in Mischief Theatre’s calamitous comedies for a decade, takes time out to go time travelling in John Nicholson and Steven Canny’s re-visit of H G Wells’s epic sci-fi story for Original Theatre.

“It’s a play about three actors who run a theatre company and are trying to put on a production of The Time Machine, with fairly limited success,” says Hearn. “But then a big event happens that causes the play to spiral out of control and my character [Dave] discovers actual time travel.” Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Curtains At Village Gallery, by Suzanne McQuade, marks the final exhibition at Simon and Helen Main’s art space in Colliergate, York

Farewell of the week: The Curtain Descends, Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, until April 15

AS the title indicates, The Curtain Descends will be the last exhibition at Village Gallery after 40 exhibitions showcasing 100-plus Yorkshire artists in five and a half years. “The end of the shop lease and old age creeping up has sadly forced the decision,” says gallery co-owner Simon Main.

Ten artists have returned for the farewell with work reduced specially to sale prices. On show are watercolours by Lynda Heaton, Jean Luce and Suzanne McQuade; oils and acrylics by Paul Blackwell, Julie Lightburn, Malcolm Ludvigsen, Anne Thornhill and Hilary Thorpe; pastels by Allen Humphries and lino and woodcut prints by Michael Atkin. Opening hours are 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday.

Singer PP Arnold: From The First Cut Is The Deepest to Soul Survivor, her autobiography is under discussion at York Literature Festival

Festival of the week: York Literature Festival, various venues, today until March 27

HIGHLIGHTS aplenty permeate this annual festival, featuring 27 events, bolstered by new sponsorship from York St John University. Among the authors will be broadcasters David Dimbleby and Steve Richards; political journalist and think tank director Sebastian Payne (on The Fall of Boris Johnson); The League Of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson; Juno Dawson, thriller writer Saima Mir and York poet Hannah Davies.

On Music Memoir Day at The Crescent, on March 18, at 1.30pm American singer PP Arnold delves into her autobiography, Soul Survivor, at 1.30pm. At 4pm, writer/broadcaster Lucy O’Brien discusses her new book, Lead Sister: The Story Of Karen Carpenter, and the challenges of writing a biography. Go to yorkliteraturefestival.co.uk for the full programme.

Too hot to handle: Strictly’s Gorka Marquez and Karen Hauer in Firedance at the Grand Opera House, York

Hot moves amid the weekend chill: Gorka Marquez and Karen Hauer in Firedance, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday, 5pm

STRICTLY Come Dancing stars Gorka Marquez and Karen Hauer reignite their chemistry in Firedance, a show full of supercharged choreography, sizzling dancers and mesmerising fire specialists.

Inspired by movie blockbusters Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Carmen and West Side Story, Marquez and Hauer turn up the heat as they dance to Latin, rock and pop songs by Camilla Cabello, Jason Derulo, Gregory Porter, Gipsy Kings and Jennifer Lopez. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Suede: First appearance at York Barbican in a quarter of a century

Gig of the week: Suede, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.45pm

ELEGANT London rock band Suede play York Barbican for the first time in more than 25 years on the closing night of their 2023 tour. Pretty much sold out, alas, but do check yorkbarbican.co.uk for late availability.

Last appearing there on April 23 1997, Brett Anderson and co return with a set list of Suede classics and selections from last September’s Autofiction, their ninth studio album and first since 2018. “Our punk record,” as Anderson called it. “No whistles and bells. The band exposed in all their primal mess.”

Sloane danger: Ben Weir’s psychopathic Sloane, left, playing siblings Kath (Victoria Delaney) and Ed (Chris Pomfrett) off each other in rehearsal for York Actors Collective’s Entertaining Mr Sloane

Debut of the week: York Actors Collective in Entertaining Mr Sloane, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

DIRECTOR Angie Millard launches her new company, York Actors Collective, with Joe Orton’s controversial, ribald comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane, the one that shook up English farce with its savage humour in 1964.

Living with her father, Dada Kemp (Mick Liversidge), Kath (Victoria Delaney) brings home a lodger: the amoral and psychopathic Sloane (Ben Weir). When her brother Ed (Chris Monfrett) arrives, the siblings become involved in a sexual struggle for Sloane, who plays one off against the other as their father is caught in the crossfire. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Classrooom comedy: Sara Howlett, left, Laura Castle and Sophie Bullivant in rehearsal for Rowntree Players’ production of John Godber’s Teechers Leavers ’22

Education, education, education play of the week: Rowntree Players in Teechers, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

FAMILIAR to York’s streets at night as ghost-walk guide and spookologist Dr Dorian Deathly, actor Jamie McKellar is directing a play for the first time since 2008, at the helm of Rowntree Players’ production of former teacher John Godber’s state-of-the nation, state-of state-education comedy Teechers.

Updated for Hull Truck’s 50th anniversary celebrations as Teechers Leavers ’22, Godber’s class warfare play within a play features a multi role-playing, all-female cast of Laura Castle, Sophie Bullivant and Sarah Howlett as Year 11 school leavers Salty, Hobby and Gail put on a valedictory performance, inspired by their new drama teacher. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

David Ford: Songs and stories at The Crescent

The robots are coming: David Ford, Songs 2023, The Crescent, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

EASTBOURNE singer-songwriter David Ford might play solo stomps with loop machines and effects pedals or backed by a swish jazz trio or with a string quartet attached. Not this time.

For 2023, Ford has taken the rare decision to keep it simple, leave most of the crazy machines at home, play some of his favourite songs and share stories about where they came from. Oh, and he’ll be bringing his new DIY toy, a drum robot. Beat that. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Tuesday’s seated Crescent gig by The Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster, promoting his new album The Candle And The Flame, has sold out by the way.

Because he cared: Comedian Bilal Fafar reflects on working in a care home for the very wealthy in Care at Theatre@41, Monkgate

Caring comedian of the week: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Bilal Zafar in Care, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, March 19, 8pm

WANSTEAD comedian Bilal Zafar, 31, is on his travels with a new show about how he spent a year working in a care home for very wealthy people while being on the minimum wage.

Fresh out of university with a media degree, Bilal was dropped into the real world, where he was given far too much responsibility for a 21-year-old lad who had just spent three years watching films. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk; age limit,18 and over.

In Focus: Anders Lustgarten’sThe City And The Town, at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 15 to 17

Gareth Watkins as Magnus in Anders Lustgarten’s The City And The Town. Picture: Karl Andre

LONDON playwright and political activist Anders Lustgarten’s new play, The City And The Town, heads to the Yorkshire coast next week. 

This funny, eclectic drama brings a fresh perspective to the political divides and problems facing Great Britain and Europe today.

By way of contrast to those schisms, the tour involves a hands-across-the-water partnership: a co-production by Riksteatern, the national touring theatre of Sweden, and Matthew Linley Creative Projects in association with Hull Truck Theatre.

Lustgarten’s play tells the story of brothers Ben and Magnus. Ben, a successful London lawyer, returns home for his father’s funeral after 13 years away, only to be confronted not only by family and old friends, but also by uncomfortable truths about the past, present and future of the provincial community and family he grew up in and left behind for the metroplis.

Lustgarten, by the way, is the son of progressive American academics and read Chinese Studies at Oxford: in other words, he is an internationalist (and an Arsenal supporter to boot).

Directed by Riksteatern artistic director Dritero Kasapi, The City And The Town features Gareth Watkins as Magnus, Amelia Donkor as Lyndsay and Sam Collings as Ben, with set design by Hannah Sibai and lighting design by Matt Haskins.

Amelia Donkor’s Lyndsay in The City And The Town. Picture: Karl Andre

Kasapi is at the helm of his first UK production since Nina – A Story About Me And Nina Simone. “Even from the very first draft Anders sent us, I knew that this was a play I wanted to direct,” he says. “In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s the play I’ve wanted to direct for a very long time.

“By exploring the rise of the right, Anders is looking at something that is happening all over Europe. But this is not just a political play, it’s also a humane one. It explores the question of if and how we belong to society, what can happen when we lose that connection and how we perceive our common history as a society.”

Kasapi was educated as a stage director at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Skopje, Macedonia, but since the early years of his professional life he has been engaged as a cultural organiser.

From 2015 to 2018, he was the deputy artistic director at Kulturhuset Stadstetern in Stockholm. He took up his present post in November 2018. 

The City And The Town follows such Lustgarten plays as Lampedusa (Hightide/Soho Theatre), The Seven Acts Of Mercy (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Secret Theatre(Shakespeare’s Globe) and The Damned United (Red Ladder/West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2016, turning Brian Clough’s 44 days as Leeds United manager in 1974 into a Greek tragedy).

The City And The Town began its UK tour at Hull Truck on February 10 and 11 and has since played Northern Stage, Newcastle, Wilton’s Music Hall, London, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, and Norwich Playhouse before its Scarborough finale. It will then transfer to Sweden for an autumn tour.

The City And The Town, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 15 to 17, 7.45pm plus 1.45pm Thursday matinee. Box office: 01723 370541 or www.sjt.uk.com

The tour poster for The City And The Town

Jamie McKeller returns to directing after 15 years for Rowntree Players in John Godber’s classroom comedy Teechers Leavers ’22

Classrooom comedy: Sara Howlett, left, Laura Castle and  Sophie Bullivant  in rehearsal for Rowntree Players’ production of John Godber’s Teechers Leavers ’22

ACTOR, voiceover artist, filmmaker, tour guide, pantomime villain and York ghost-walk host Jamie McKeller is turning his hand to directing.

More precisely, he is reacquainting himself with the director’s seat after a 15-year hiatus, at the helm of former teacher John Godber’s 2022 update of Teechers, his state-of-education play originally commissioned by Hull Truck Theatre for £100 in 1984.

Why now, Jamie? “I did the Rowntree Players’ pantomime last Christmas [playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in Babes In The Wood] and had a great time. Afterwards, Howard [Ella, the director] said, ‘we’re doing Teechers next’, and I thought, ‘Ooh, it’s been a while since I directed, I fancy doing that’. So, I pitched for it, and later that week the committee said yes.”

Jamie’s production of Teechers Leavers ’22 opens at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, on Thursday with an all-female cast – YorkMix radio presenter Laura Castle as Gail, Joseph Rowntree School drama teacher Sophie Bullivant as Salty and Rowntree Players regular Sara Howlett as Hobby – in keeping with Godber’s revised version for Hull Truck Theatre’s 50th anniversary last year.

Gail-force: Laura Castle as Gail in Teechers Leavers ’22

In Godber’s play within a play, they adopt multiple roles as the trio of Year 11 school leavers put on a valedictory performance, inspired by their new drama teacher but hindered by myriad obstacles and classroom poltics that vex playwright and pupils alike.

Jamie is no stranger to fellow Yorkshireman Godber’s work, both on and off stage. “I’ve been in Bouncers twice, as Judd and Les, but I’m still too young for Lucky Eric, so there’s time yet for that,” says Scarborough-born Jamie, who is 42.

“I was Salty in Teechers and did Lucky Sods in 2004, and I’ve already directed Teechers once in Scarborough in 2003 and Bouncers once too.”

In fact, whether in his university days at Hull University from 1998 or when studying Performance: Theatre at York St John University from 2006 to 2008 or working his way through Terry Pratchett stories at the YMCA Theatre in Scarborough, when doing his BTEC in theatre, he has directed more than 20 productions.

Class act: Sara Howlett’s Hobby

“But it’s now been a long time since I last directed a play. Not counting my self-directed shows that I took to the Edinburgh Fringe for five years, the last one was Danny King’s The Pornographer Diaries in 2008, here in York at Friargate Theatre, but originally I always wanted to be a director more than an actor,” says Jamie.

“I’d like people to become aware of me as a director as I’d forgotten the passion I had for it, and it’s where I feel most at home, cooking up ridiculous visuals in my head – so working with these three actors has been an absolute dream.”

6ft tall Jamie is a familiar cloaked figure on the streets of York at night, in the guise of spookologist Doctor Dorian Deathly, ghost tour guide for the award-winning Deathly Dark Tours, but he has a posse of guides to call on, enabling him to take time away from his “night job”, whether to do panto last winter or be at the helm of Teechers.

His enthusiasm for play and cast alike is writ large. “What I really like about Godber is that he’s always prefaced his scripts by saying, ‘make it work for your cast, make it work for the times, because if you don’t update it, it will be a museum piece,” says Jamie.

Match play: Sophie Bullivant’s Salty

“We’re delighted to be doing the 2022 version, where we’ve kept the politics, but eased back on the Covid material, as we’ve lived through it, though it’s still there in the dialogue, but just not at the forefront.”

Godber’s impassioned belief in the importance of the arts in the curriculum hits home with Jamie, from past experience. “The resources at York St John were being shrunk all around me. The Chapel theatre was closed in 2006, just before I went there, to become a conference hall, and I ended up rehearsing my last play there in my garden and then staging it in the quad at York St John as a sort of protest. That struggle for facilities still resonates with me,” he says.

“I make my living out of performing, but after a ghost walk tour, I’ve been asked ‘what else do you? Don’t think you should have a proper job?’. There’s still that dismissive attitude towards creativity as an occupation.”

On a positive note, Jamie loves the musicality in Godber’s writing. “When you get it right, it’s almost like Shakespeare, where if you see it performed poorly it’s an unpleasant experience, but it can be wonderful. That’s the same with Godber, which is why we’ve done lots of work on the rhythm and tempo,” he says.

Jamie McKeller’s other fella: Teechers director in his guise as Doctor Dorian Deathly, spookologist and ghost-walk host

Selected from open auditions, Castle and Bullivant are making their Rowntree Players debuts alongside Sara Howlett. “We wanted to find three actors that would instantly gel,” says Jamie. “We weren’t looking for the greatest actors, but the best combination, and they turned out to be great actors too!

“Having these three together, they’ve definitely bonded and become friends as well, meeting outside rehearsals and running their lines. They really care about getting it right and doing it well.

“The way it’s written, it requires a heightened style of performance, where you need to fill it with physicality too – and they’ve really put in the hard work for such a physically demanding play where they never leave the stage.”

Rowntree Players in Teechers Leavers ’22, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, March 16 to 18, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

One question for John Godber

Playwright John Godber

What were the biggest changes/themes you had to include in this reimagined version of Teechers, John?

“OBVIOUSLY, the language has changed, teenagers now have a whole new vernacular which had to be incorporated to make the characters seem real and authentic.

“I also changed the drama teacher character from male to female. Quite simply this is because when I wrote the play, I based that character on myself and my experience as a drama teacher.

“But now I have two daughters – one of whom [Martha] is an actress, the other [Elizabeth] has a PHD in gender studies – so I thought it’d be interesting to make that character female. Also, and this may have just been a coincidence, but many of the teachers I spoke to were women, so it made sense to write it as a female role.

“The impact of the pandemic is also a big theme as I feel it put the whole education system – and its failings, especially for working-class students – under a microscope. Digital poverty is a huge issue now and students not being able to access the internet via a computer or phone during lockdown meant for many – they couldn’t access their education for a major portion of those two years.

“The repercussions of this are huge – isolation, loss of communication skills, diminishing attention spans. However, I truly believe that harnessing the power of storytelling – whether that’s through writing or acting – is a way of overcoming these problems, which is another reason the arts should be a priority now more than ever and why this particular story resonates so much still today.”

More Things To Do in and around York in the jaws of a Jurassic invasion. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 4, courtesy of The Press, York

FROM giant dinosaurs to a heavyweight comedian, hardcore songs to a royal reading, Charles Hutchinson seeks to make life eventful.

Dinosaurs make a comeback: Jurassic Earth, Grand Opera House, York, January 28, 1pm and 4pm

JURASSIC Earth’s “live dinosaur show” roams York in an immersive, interactive, 75-minute, storytelling experience for all ages with state-of-the-art, animatronic, life-like creatures.

Audiences are invited to “bring your biggest roar and your fastest feet as you take Ranger Danger’s masterclass to become an Official Dinosaur Ranger – gaining the skills you need to come face-to-face with the world’s largest walking T Rex, a big-hearted Brontosaurus, tricky Triceratops, uncontrollable Carnotaurus, vicious Velociraptors and sneaky Spinosaurus”. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Tim Lowe: Cellist and York Chamber Music Festival director, performing Messiaen’s Quartet For The End Of Time at York Minster

 Holocaust memorial concert of the week: York Chamber Music Festival, Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet For The End Of Time, York Minster, Tuesday, 7pm

YORK Chamber Music Festival marks Holocaust Memorial Week – and the start of the festival’s tenth anniversary – with a performance of “one of the greatest pieces of music from the 20th century”, written and premiered in the German prisoner-of-war camp at Stalag VIIIa, Gorlitz, in 1941.

Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet For The End Of Time will be played by John Lenehan, piano, Sacha Rattle, clarinet, John Mills, violin, and festival director Tim Lowe, cello, in York Minster’s Lady Chapel under John Thornton’s restored 15th century Great East Window (the “Apocalypse Window”). Box office: tickets.yorkminster.org.

Lloyd Griffith: Comedy measured out as One Tonne Of Fun at The Crescent, York. Picture: Matt Crockett

Comedy gig of the week: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Lloyd Griffith, One Tonne Of Fun, The Crescent, York, Thursday, 7.30pm

AFTER Covid stretched Lloyd Griffith’s last tour to “eight years or so”, he returns with his biggest itinerary to date, One Tonne Of Fun.

Since school, he has always been a show-off, and 20-odd years later, nothing’s changed, so expect stand-up, dubious impressions and a sprinkling of his (incredible) singing from the comic with Ted Lasso, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Soccer AM, Question Of Sport, Not Going Out and House Of Games credits. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Ewa Salecka: Directing Prima Vocal Ensemble at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Choral concert of the week: Prima Vocal Ensemble, Lift Every Voice, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, January 29, 7.30pm

EWA Salecka directs Prima Vocal Ensemble in a life-affirming concert that weaves its way through diverse generations and genres with live accompaniment.

Living composers Lauridsen, Gjeilo, Whitacre and Jenkins sit alongside favourite numbers from Les Misérables and The Greatest Showman, complemented by songs by Annie Lennox, Elbow, the Gershwins and Cole Porter and a tribute to the people of Ukraine. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls: Playing York Barbican at the end of January

Hardcore York gig of the month: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, York Barbican, January 31, 8pm

FRANK Turner, punk and folk singer-songwriter from Meonstoke, Hampshire, will be accompanied by The Sleeping Souls in York as he draws on his nine studio albums from a 17-year solo career.

Last year, the former Million Dead frontman, 41, topped the UK Official Album Chart for the first time with FTHC (his anagram for Frank Turner Hardcore) after his previous four all made the top three. Support slots go to Lottery Winners & Wilswood Buoys. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Rosemary Brown: Author gives an insight into the remarkable life of Nellie Bly at York Theatre Royal

Who was Nellie Bly? In Conversation With Rosemary Brown, York Theatre Royal, February 4, 5.15pm, free admission

YORK Theatre Royal and Tilted Wig’s touring adaptation of Jules Verne’s madcap adventure Around The World In 80 days features not only the fictional feats of Phileas Fogg but also the real-life story of Nellie Bly, American journalist, industrialist, inventor, charity worker and globe-crossing record breaker.

In a free talk, director and adaptor Juliet Forster will be in conversation with Rosemary Brown, author of Following Nellie Bly, Her Record-Breaking Race Around The World, a book inspired by this human rights and environmental campaigner’s aim to put female adventurers back on the map. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Tony Froud: Directing York Shakespeare Project’s rehearsed reading of Edward II

The second coming of…York Shakespeare Project, Edward III, rehearsed reading, upstairs at Black Swan Inn, Peasholme Green, York, February 7, 7.30pm

PHASE Two of York Shakespeare Project begins with a staged rehearsed reading of Edward III, the rarely performed 1592 history play now widely accepted as a collaboration between William Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd, replete with its celebration of Edward’s victories over the French, depiction of the Black Prince and satirical digs at the Scots.

Rehearsed readings in February will be a regular part of YSP’s revamped remit to include work by the best of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Tony Froud’s cast includes Liz Elsworth, Emma Scott and Mark Hird, best known for his work with Pick Me Up Theatre. Tickets: on the door or via eventbrite.com.

Home work: Sara Howlett, Sophie Bullivant and Laura Castle in rehearsal for Rowntree Players’ spring production of Teachers Leavers ’22

Spring term school play: Rowntree Players in Teechers Leavers ’22, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, March 16 to 18, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee  

REHEARSALS are underway for Rowntree Players’ production of Teechers Leavers ’22, former teacher John Godber’s update of his state-of-education play, commissioned for £100 by Hull Truck Theatre in 1984.

Actor Jamie McKeller, familiar to York ghost-walk enthusiasts as Deathly Dark Tours spookologist Doctor Dorian Deathly, is working with a cast of Sara Howlett, Sophie Bullivant and Laura Castle as they “put in the hard work needed for this very physically demanding play”. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Badapple Theatre defrost The Frozen Roman for autumn tour as villagers go ‘ballisticus maximus in very silly show’ 

Badapple Theatre’s new cast for The Frozen Roman autumn tour: Ellen Carnazza, Andrew Purcell and Zach Atkinson. Picture: Karl André

GREEN Hammerton’s theatre-on-your-doorstep proponents Badapple Theatre take to the straight road this autumn with a revival of The Frozen Roman.

Artistic director and writer Kate Bramley has selected three actors new to the company – Zach Atkinson, Andrew Purcell and Ellen Carnazza – to re-tell the story of how the Romans came, they saw, they built a wall, they went away again…or did they?

When hapless villagers try to prevent a housing development being built in their midst, could the discovery of a burial site under the pub throw them a lifeline? Expect twists, turns and Latin puns as the situation in the village goes “ballisticus maximus”.

Why revive The Frozen Roman, “a very silly show about Romans and immigration” that Badapple first toured in 2019? “This play is still very appropriate,” says Kate.

Will villainous Drusilla (Ellen Carnazza) succeed in knocking down the old Merry Gladiator’ pub? Andrew Purcell, left, and Zach Atkinson look on. Picture: Karl André

“I always do social politics by stealth in our plays, and the ‘frozen’ man they reveal at the end to be a Syrian refugee, and that’s because the spread of the Roman Empire spread as far as Iraq and Hadrian’s Wall, and though you think of Romans being Roman, actually they collected people and repatriated them to serve their needs as migrants.

“Our character in the play has come from one end of the empire, and the other end is northern England, so it’s the same story of migration that has gone on in the last 2,000 years. That’s the social politics side to it, the serious side. However, as an audience experience, it’s all about maintaining a feeling of pure joy.

“It’s one of the silliest shows we’ve ever done, and that’s why we’re doing it again, when everyone has been through a bleak time. If we pull out the craziest, silliest story, when there are serious undertones to it too, then we’re doing our job properly, particularly when theatre is having a hard time to get people to come back out.”

Covid confidence is a factor, so too are tightened purse strings amid the cost-of-living crisis. “But the plus point for us is that our tour venues are small and geared to ‘small-scale experiences’. If people have drummed up the confidence to go to a coffee morning, then they’ll go to a theatre show,” says Kate.

Badapple Theatre artistic director Kate Bramley

“For our last tour, the audience figures were 70-80 per cent of what they normally are, and we see that as a significant upturn, but the reason for the delay in this tour is the time it’s taken our rural touring partners to come back on board.”

Kate is enjoying working with company debutants Zach Atkinson, Andrew Purcell and Ellen Carnazza. “It’s very exciting for me to get this team together, who are pretty young, ranging in age from their 20s to 30s, relatively new to professional theatre from doing their training,” she says.

“Zach is the youngest of the team at 21 but he’s the most experienced because he did four years in Billy Elliot in the West End aged 11 to 14. It’s an interesting mix of early-career actors who are a lot of fun, completely get the nature of high comedy and are prepared to take risks. The show has an energy to it because they’re all at that stage of their career where they just enjoy getting out there and performing.”

Playing village halls and community centres has a different vibe too. “There’s a level of interacting, a level of conversation with the audience, that’s slightly different to a formal theatre,” says Kate. “People feel they can converse with them and actors have to be in full cheerful control; it’s saying everything is going to be all right, we’re in control, with that cheery confidence to tell a story.

Can Diana (Ellen Carnazza) come up with a way to save Tessery Hill in Badapple Theatre’s The Frozen Roman. Picture: Karl André

“When I was at Hull Truck, John Godber drummed into me the idea of theatre as conversation. If you don’t have an audience, you don’t have theatre. That’s what different to watching films. The audience can contribute to each show when you’ve set out the rules that we’re all in this together, whether it’s in a village hall or an air hangar.

“All of the key influences I’ve had have come from companies that have the attitude that theatre should be inclusive, a social conversation for everyone, rather than high art. I think that’s very important now when no-one should be excluded by price or by ‘elitism’.”

On tour for six weeks from October 7 to November 13, taking in North Yorkshire, the Midlands, Lincolnshire, County Durham, Cumbria and Cheshire, The Frozen Roman will visit Tunstall Village Hall, Tunstall, on October 27 at 7.30pm (box office, 01748 811288) and North Stainley Village Hall, near Ripon, on October 28, 7.30pm (box office, 01765 635236 or 07971 093907).

Looking ahead, Badapple’s Christmas show, The Marvellous, Mystical Music Box, will be on tour from December 2 to 30, with full tour details at badappletheatre.co.uk. Written by Bramley and requiring an actor with circus skills, this two-hander involves Rosa inheriting a battered old music box that never seems to work when needed to do so. 

“But this year, when she wishes for her family to be reunited at Christmas, all sorts of magical things start to happen,” says Kate. Watch this space for a full preview.

Copyright of The Press, York

Khaled, the unfrozen Roman (Zach Atkinson), in The Frozen Roman. Picture: Karl André