Life and death, monologues and music in Big Ian’s The Missing Peace at the JoRo. Watch out for narrator Mark Addy too

The Missing Peace director Gemma McDonald and writer Ian Donaghy outside the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

NOBODY thought this morning when they turned the key in the door lock, “well, that’ll be the last time I’ll see you.”

So begins the book The Missing Peace: Creating A Life After Death, written by York musician, author, charity event organiser and motivational conference speaker Ian Donaghy, now adapted for the stage by Rowntree Players performer and York teacher Gemma McDonald and Big Ian himself.

Gemma could not help but imagine a book she loved so much transferring to the stage, and so she and Rowntree Players pantomime co-writer and director Howard Ella approached Ian with the idea.

“The Missing Peace lends itself beautifully to the stage and also allows an opportunity for actors of all ages to highlight their talents with heart-breaking and heart-warming monologues,” she says. “It’s a very different, original and powerful production.”

Billed as “One play…fifteen endings”, The Missing Peace will run at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from January 27 to 29, after the first Covid lockdown ruled out its original run last April, since when half the cast has changed.

Graham Smith in rehearsal for The Missing Peace. Picture: Duncan Lomax

Thankfully, Mark Addy, York star of The Full Monty, Game Of Thrones and White House Farm, had recorded his part as the Station Announcer narrator, ahead of heading to New York last year to appear in the Broadway premiere of Martin McDonagh’s Hangman.

Taking part on stage will be Mandy Newby; Sarah Howlett; Mark McDonald; Gemma McDonald; Joseph Paul; Beth Hutchinson; Alison Taylor; Hannah Wood; Graham Smith; Liam Godfrey; Caitlin Banks; Maggie Smales and busker Pete Hyndman, who will weave all the monologues together.

Big Ian recalls the original reason for writing The Missing Peace. “So many friends were losing grandparents, parents, siblings, friends and even children and I realised people did not know how to help or support them,” he says.

“People would say things like, ‘Don’t call Paul…his Mum’s just died’. Surely that’s exactly why you should call or at least send a text to say you are there any time for him.

“Based on real-life stories, many of them from interviews conducted in York, the book was written to show how people can somehow survive losing the people they love the most and how they can support others – and don’t underestimate the impact of losing a family pet, either. Expect the unexpected. The shared experience of short stories of survival and monologues are there to spark the conversation and show that you are not alone.”

Mark Addy: Recorded narrator for The Missing Peace

Big Ian and Gemma cherry-picked 15 of the monologues. “We chose a mixture of length, style, with different messages for the audience to take away: some heart-breaking, some heart-warming and a couple, light-hearted,” he says.

“Gemma came up with a brilliant idea to set it in York railway station. From the start to the finish of the one-act play, it flows from one voice in a crowd to another. Mark’s narration and Pete performing original songs will glue the monologues together.”

Gemma says: “I read the book back in 2019 and found it encapsulating. I was engrossed in each story and went through a series of emotions while reading it. I realised I’d never thought about grieving in the way in which some of the monologues suggested and I felt that it really helped me to consider others’ perspectives and the different way people deal with death.”

The stories have “adapted easily” to the stage, she says. “I wanted to create the feeling that we are all in our own world and living our own lives and very rarely do we really look closely at others’ lives, especially in relation to life after death and the grieving process that we have all been through at some stage in our lives,” reflects Gemma.

Explaining the choice of monologues, Big Ian says: “We wanted to get a mix. It’s not a play about dying; it’s about living and celebrating life, so we chose the ones to best reflect that.

Mark McDonald and Gemma McDonald in the rehearsal room. Picture: Duncan Lomax

“The overarching theme is that we should be there for one another. We are all broken biscuits. We can either dwell on our cracks alone or make the best cheesecake in the world together.

“On stage, The Missing Peace is not so much a play as a patchwork of friendship and survival. Bring tissues but you will also laugh in places as humour can be found in the darkest of places.”

Donaghy’s writing, whether in The Missing Peace or his lockdown follow-up, A Pocketful Of Kindness, has drawn praise from Barnsley bard Ian McMillan; Emmerdale actor and regular tweeter Reece Dinsdale; York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird, who loves the “northern heartbeat” in his his fellow North Easterner’s stories, and The League Of Gentlemen co-creator Mark Gatiis, who devoured the “wonderful and inspirational” book
in a night without going to bed.

“If you’ve lost someone and have felt alone – as many do – these ‘talking heads’ monologues look at loss from so many viewpoints to help you help you and others when grieving,” says Big Ian.

Mandy Newby, who will be performing one of the monologues in The Missing Peace. Picture: Duncan Lomax

“To have The Missing Peace go from page to stage is going to challenge people’s thinking and start conversations. On opening night, I will have a dream come true that I never realised I had. Writing has opened up some many new doors.”

Gemma adds: “I hope the audience will get an insight into the different ways people grieve and how to deal with certain situations. There are moments of sadness, laughter and reflection throughout, and the actors capture this beautifully.”

The pandemic toll has added even more resonance to The Missing Peace. “It was never the hope to make this play more and more relevant,” says Big Ian. “But during the pandemic, families have had loved ones vanish, not die. Gone without a goodbye. Gone without holding a hand. A story with the last pages ripped out, denied by a virus.”

What is the best piece of wisdom Big Ian has been given to deal with grief? “Be strong for no-one,” he says. “Do whatever you need to do at any point to get you through the hardest challenges life can throw at you. Remember that you are made of bits of the person you have lost.”

Beth Hutchinson rehearsing her monologue. Picture: Duncan Lomax

As rehearsals progress, he takes pride in Made In York running through the core of The Missing Peace. “It’s a big deal! It’s not the merry-go-round of same old plays. It’s not Fiddler On The  Roof or Annie. It isn’t a musical, though it features four original songs,” says Big Ian.

“Rarely will York be so well represented in a production: York actors; York production company; York set designers; York play written by a man who has made York his home about people who live in York.”

What might happen next to The Missing Peace? “I can’t say just yet but it is very exciting,” he promises. Watch this space.

Rowntree Players in The Missing Peace, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, January 27 to 29, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk. All profits will be split between St Leonard’s Hospice and Bereaved Children Support York.

Copyright of The Press, York

More Things To Do in York and beyond as something wickedly funny this way comes. List No. 64, courtesy of The Press, York

When shall we three meet again? When the hurlyburly’s done in The HandleBards’ Macbeth at York Theatre Royal

AS the pantomime season draws to a close, Charles Hutchinson turns his focus to new seasons and new reasons to venture out.

The skittish play: The HandleBards in Macbeth, York Theatre Royal, January 25, 7.30pm; January 26, 2pm and 7.30pm

THE HandleBards were the first professional company to play York Theatre Royal after Lockdown 3, lifting the long gloom with a ridiculously funny Romeo And Juliet. Now the three-pronged troupe opens the Spring! Season with an all-female, bewitching, unhinged, bicycle-powered, dead funny take on Macbeth, starring Kathryn Perkins, Natalie Simone and Jenny Smith.

Expect music, mayhem, murders, unusual applications of cycling paraphernalia and more costume changes “than you can Shake a spear at” in this irreverent, skittish romp through Shakespeare’s tragic “Scottish play”. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Charles Court Opera in The Mikado, visiting Harrogate Royal Hall on Sunday. Picture: Bill Knight

Oh, Vienna: International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival’s New Year celebration, Harrogate Royal Hall, today and tomorrow, 7.30pm.

ENCHANTMENT awaits in the Magic Of Vienna New Year Gala Concert today when the National Festival Orchestra, conducted by Aidan Faughey, presents works by Johann Strauss, Mozart and Lehar. International opera stars James Cleverton and Rebecca Bottone will be the soloists.

Charles Court Opera’s London production of G&S’s The Mikado will be performed on Sunday night, accompanied by the National Festival Orchestra. Box office: 01422 323352 or at gsfestivals.co.uk.

One Iota: Debut album launch at the JoRo

York album launch of the month: One Iota, supported by Odin Dragonfly, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, January 21, 7.15pm

YORK band One Iota are launching their debut album, More Than You Take, recorded at the venerable Abbey Road studios, in London, and Fairview Studios, Willerby.

Adam Dawson, James Brown, Andy Bowen and Phil Everard’s alt-pop group grew out of their three-piece tribute to The Beatles – The Threetles, of course – when they acquired a taste for writing their own songs in lockdown.

One Iota’s debut live show promises a full line-up, featuring live string arrangements for the Fab Four-influenced songs marked by rich vocal harmonies, innovative melodies and “more hooks than a cloakroom”. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Jacob George: Soloist for Schumann’s Violin Concerto at the Academy of St Olave’s January concert

By George, he’s back: Academy of St Olave’s Winter Concert, St Olave’s Church, Marygate, York, January 22, 8pm

THE Academy of St Olave’s Winter Concert features Jacob George, son of musical director Alan George, as soloist for Schumann’s Violin Concerto. He returns to solo duty for the York chamber orchestra after performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto in 2019.

The ASO’s first concert since last September’s sold-out resumption also includes two works inspired by Italy: Schubert’s Overture in the Italian Style, and Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony No. 4. Box office: academyofstolaves.org.uk.

Nunkie Theatre Company’s artwork for the third instalment of their M R James Project, A Warning To The Curious

Ghosts at play: Nunkie Theatre Company in M R James’s A Warning To The Curious, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, January 28, 7.30pm

NUNKIE Theatre Company bring two of M R James’s eeriest and most entertaining ghost stories back to life in Robert Lloyd Parry’s candlelit one-man show. Lost Hearts, an early work, is constructed around one of his most memorable villains, the predatory scholar Mr Abney.

Lloyd Parry pairs it with perhaps James’s most poignant and personal story, inspired by his holidays in Aldeburgh: A Warning To The Curious’s account of a young archaeologist being haunted and hunted by the guardian of an ancient treasure. Has the English seaside ever looked so menacing? Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Yvette Stone’s life-size puppet of The Creature, as first seen in Blackeyed Theatre’s Frankenstein in 2016. The new tour visits Scarborough next month. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

Monster smash: Blackeyed Theatre in Frankenstein, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, February 9 to 12

NICK Lane has reinterpreted John Ginman’s original 2016 script for Blackeyed Theatre, built around Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel, wherein nothing can prepare Victor Frankenstein for what he creates in pursuit of the elixir of life.

Eliot Giuralarocca’s highly theatrical production combines live music and ensemble storytelling with Bunraku-style puppetry to portray The Creature, in the life-size form of Yvonne Stone’s 6ft 4inch puppet, operated by up to three actors at once. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Four decades of topical songs and glamour: Fascinating Aida’s Liza Pulman, left, Dillie Keane and Adèle Anderson. Picture: Johnny Boylan

Never tire of satire: Fascinating Aida, York Barbican, February 12, 7.30pm

DILLIE Keane, Adèle Anderson and Liza Pulman’s latest Fascinating Aida tour show features old favourites, songs you haven’t heard before and some you wish you’d never heard in the first place.

“But the songs are mostly topical and the glamour remains unstoppable,” say the satirists, who have been capturing the political and social fixations of our times for nigh on 40 years, from 1984’s Sweet FA to 2012’s Cheap Flights and beyond. All tickets remain valid from the postponed May 5 2021 date. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Marc Almond fronting The Loveless, headliners at late-October’s Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival in Whitby

Looking ahead to Halloween: Marc Almond’s The Loveless, headlining the Saturday bill at Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival 2022, Whitby Pavilion, October 29

THE Loveless make their Tomorrow’s Ghosts debut with a headline set of their devilishly dark arts at Whitby Pavilion next Halloween.

In a project designed to take its constituent parts back to where they all began, Soft Cell singer Almond, Sigue Sigue Sputnik axeman Neal X, Iggy Pop’s touring rhythm section of Mat Hector and Ben Ellis and haunting Hammond organist James Beaumont “pledge themselves to the pulp appeal of garage rock in its rawest, most gripping guise”.

The Loveless draw material from Almond’s expansive back catalogue, Lou Reed and David Bowie’s canons, warped 1960s’ R&B staples and lost garage-rock gems. Box office: ticketweb.uk/event/tomorrows-ghosts-festival.

Artist Stephen Todd in his Sheffield studio

Weekend opening: Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, today and tomorrow

NEW year, New Beginnings and a website “going live again at last” adds up to the start of 2022 for Ann Petherick’s gallery in her home at Kentmere House, York.

Among the works on show today and tomorrow from 11am to 5pm are Allotments In Autumn paintings by featured artist Stephen Todd, from Sheffield.

Kentmere House Gallery also will be open for the York Residents Residents’ Weekend on January 29 and 30, 11am to 6pm each day.

More Things To Do in York and beyond in 2022 as the icing man cometh. List of ingredients No. 63, courtesy of The Press

Car Park Panto’s cast dishes up a Horrible Christmas to Sunday’s drive-in audience at Elvington Airfield

AS U2 once sang, all is quiet on New Year’s Day, but Charles Hutchinson has his diary out to note down events for the months ahead.

Drive-in pantomime: Car Park Panto’s Horrible Christmas, Elvington Airfield, near York, tomorrow (Sunday,) 11am, 2pm and 5pm

BIRMINGHAM Stage Company’s Horrible Histories franchise teams up with Coalition Presents for Car Park Panto’s Horrible Christmas.

In writer-director Neal Foster’s adaptation of Terry Deary’s story, when Christmas comes under threat from a jolly man dressed in red, one young boy must save the day as a cast of eight sets off on a hair-raising adventure through the history of Christmas.

At this Covid-secure experience, children and adults can jump up and down in their car seats and make as much noise as they like, tuning in to the live show on stage and screen. Box office: carparkparty.com.

Shaparak Khorsandi: Revisiting her 1900s’ experiences in It Was The 90s! at Selby Town Hall

Looking back, but not nostalgically: Shaparak Khorsandi, It Was The 90s!, Selby Town Hall, January 22, 8pm

SHAPARAK Khorsandi, the Iranian-born British stand-up comedian and author formerly known as Shappi, tackles the celebrated but maligned 1990s in her new show, It Was The 90s!.

Back then, she flew around London with hope in her heart, a tenner in her pocket and spare knickers in her handbag. “But how does the decade of binge drinking and walks of shame look now without snakebite and black-tinted specs?” asks Shaparak, 48.

“This is a show about how we ’90s kids are looking to young people to learn how to take care of ourselves, because if you survived the car crash of being a ’90s kid, then surely Things Can Only Get Better.” Box office: 01757 708449 or selbytownhall.co.uk.

Round The Horne as re-created by Apollo Stage Company at the Grand Opera House, York

Looking back, nostalgically: Round The Horne, Grand Opera House, York, January 27, 7.30pm

FROM the producers of The Goon Show and Hancock’s Half Hour tours comes another radio comedy classic, re-created live on stage by Apollo Stage Company.

Compiled and directed by Tim Astley from Barry Took and Marty Feldman’s scripts, this meticulous show takes a step back in time to the BBC’s Paris studios to re-play the recordings of the Sunday afternoon broadcasts of Kenneth Horne and his merry crew in mischievous mood.

Expect wordplay, camp caricatures and risqué innuendos, film spoofs and such favourite characters as Rambling Sid Rumpo, Charles and Fiona, J. Peasemold Gruntfuttock and Julia and Sandy. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Kipps, The New Half A Sixpence Musical: Making its York debut at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in February

Heart or head choice: Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company in Kipps, The New Half A Sixpence Musical, Joseph Theatre Company, York, February 9 to 12, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

IN the coastal town of Folkestone, Arthur Kipps knows there is more to life than his demanding but unrewarding job as an apprentice draper.

When he suddenly inherits a fortune, Kipps is thrown into a world of upper-class soirées and strict rules of etiquette that he barely understands. Torn between the affections of the kind but proper Helen and childhood sweetheart Ann, Kipps must determine whether such a simple soul can find a place in high society.

Tickets for this fundraising show for the JoRo are on sale on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Giovanni Pernice: This is him in This Is Me after his Strictly Come Dancing triumph

Strictly winner comes dancing: Giovanni Pernice: This Is Me, York Barbican, March 9, 7.30pm

GLITTER ball still gleaming, Giovanni Pernice will take to the road on his rescheduled tour after winning Strictly Come Dancing as the professional partner to ground-breaking deaf EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis.

The Italian dance stallion will be joined by his cast of professional dancers for This Is Me, his homage to the music and dances that have inspired Pernice’s career, from a competition dancer to being a mainstay of the gushing BBC show.

“Expect all of your favourite Ballroom and Latin dances and more,” says Giovanni. Tickets remain valid from the original date of June 11 2020. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

The Script: Returning to Scarborough Open Air Theatre in July

Off to the East Coast part one: The Script, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 14

IRISH rock band The Script topped the album charts for a sixth time in October with their greatest hits collection Tales From The Script, matching the feats of Arctic Monkeys, Pink Floyd and Radiohead.

Those songs can be heard live next summer when lead vocalist and keyboardist Danny O’Donoghue, guitarist Mark Sheehan and drummer Glen Power return to Scarborough Open Air Theatre for the first time since June 2018.

Formed in Dublin in 2007, The Script have sold more than 30 million records, chalking up hits with We Cry, The Man Who Can’t Be Moved, For The First Time, Hall Of Fame and Superheroes. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Jane McDonald: Leading the line-up at Yorkshire’s Platinum Jubilee Concert at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Off to the East Coast part two: Jane McDonald and special guests, Yorkshire’s Platinum Jubilee Concert, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, June 4

WAKEFIELD singing star Jane McDonald will top the bill at next summer’s Scarborough celebration of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. A host of special guests will be added.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be headlining this very special concert, and where better to be holding such a brilliant event than in Yorkshire,” she says. “Everyone knows I’m a proud Yorkshire lass, so it will be so thrilling to walk on to stage in Scarborough for these celebrations.” Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Paul Hollywood will pour some sugar on Harrogate Convention Centre in October

The Great British Baker gets cooking: Paul Hollywood Live, Harrogate Convention Centre, October 23

GREAT British Bake Off judge, celebrity chef and cookbook author Paul Hollywood promises live demonstrations, baking tasks, sugar-coated secrets and special surprises in next autumn’s tour.

Visiting 18 cities and towns, including Harrogate (October 23) and Sheffield City Hall (November 1), Wallasey-born baker’s son Hollywood, 55, will work from a fully equipped on-stage kitchen, sharing his tricks of the trade. Tickets for a slice of Hollywood action are on sale at cuffeandtaylor.com.

What’s on the menu? More Things To Do in York and beyond, hopefully, but check for updates. List No. 62, from The Press, York

Waiter! David Leonard’s Vermin the Destroyer, left, and A J Powell’s Luvlie Limpit survey what’s left of the Ye Olde Whippet Inn menu as Martin Barrass’s Dunkin Donut offers advice in Dick Turpin Rides Again. Picture: David Harrison

GIVEN the ever-changing Omicron briefings, Charles Hutchinson has a rubber as well as a pencil in his hand as he highlights what to see now and further ahead.

Still time for pantomime unless Omicron measures intervene part one: Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, until January 9

BACK on stage for the first time since February 2 2019, grand dame Berwick Kaler reunites with long-standing partners in panto Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and A J Powell.

After his crosstown switch to the Grand Opera House, Kaler steps out of retirement to write, direct and lead his first show for Crossroads Pantomimes, playing Dotty Donut, with Daniel Conway as the company’s new face in the Essex lad title role amid the familiar Kaler traditions. Look out for the flying horse. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Come join the rev-olution: Stepsisters Manky (Robin Simpson), left, and Mardy (Paul Hawkyard) make a raucous entrance in Cinderella. Alas, the Theatre Royal panto is now on hold until December 30 after a Covid outbreak

Still time for pantomime but only after a week in self-isolation: Cinderella, York Theatre Royal, ending on January 2 2022

COVID has struck three cast members and understudies too, leading to the decision to cancel performances of Cinderella from today until December 30.

Fingers crossed, you can still enjoy Evolution Productions writer Paul Hendy and York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster’s panto custom-built for 21st century audiences.

Targeted at drawing in children with magical storytelling, silliness aplenty and pop songs, Cinderella has a thoroughly modern cast, ranging from CBeebies’ Andy Day as Dandini to Faye Campbell as Cinders and ventriloquist Max Fulham as Buttons, with his Monkey on hand for cheekiness.

Robin Simpson and Paul Hawkyard’s riotous step-sisters Manky and Mardy and puns galore add to the fun. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

A wintry landscape by Julia Borodina, on show at Blossom Street Gallery, York

Buy now before her prices go up! Julia Borodina, Into The Light, Blossom Street Gallery, York, until January 31

JULIA Borodina will be competing in Sky’ Arts’ 2022 Landscape Artist of the Year, set for screening in January and February. Perfect timing for her York exhibition, Into The Light, on show until the end of next month.

Bretta Gerecke, part of the design team behind Castle Howard’s Christmas In Narnia displays, stands by the 28ft decorated tree in the Great Hall. Picture: Charlotte Graham

THE Christmas tree of the season: Christmas In Narnia at Castle Howard, near York, until January 2

CASTLE Howard has topped past peaks by installing a 28ft spruce tree from Scotland in the Great Hall as part of the Christmas In Narnia displays and decorations.

 “We believe that this is the largest real indoor Christmas tree in the country, standing around eight feet higher than the impressive tree normally installed in Buckingham Palace,” says the Hon Nicholas Howard, guardian of Castle Howard. 

“It’s certainly the largest we have had, both in terms of height and width at the base, which has a huge footprint in the Great Hall – but thankfully leaves a gap on either side for visitors to walk right around it.” Tickets for Christmas In Narnia must be booked before arrival at castlehoward.co.uk.

York Community Choir Festival: Eight diverse concerts at Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

Choirs galore: York Community Choir Festival, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 27 to March 5 2022

EIGHT shows, different every night, will be the format for this choral celebration of how and why people come together to make music and have fun.

At least four choirs will be on stage in every concert in a festival featuring show tunes, pop and folk songs, world music, classical music, gospel songs, close harmonies, blues and jazz.

From primary-school choirs through to teenage, young adult and adult choirs, the choral configurations span male groups, female groups and mixed-voice choirs. Proceeds will go to the JoRo theatre from ticket sales on 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

David Ford’s poster for his Interesting Times tour, visiting Pocklington Arts Centre in March

If you see one sage and rage singer-songwriter next year, make it: David Ford, Interesting Times Tour 22, Pocklington Arts Centre, March 10 2022, 8pm

EASTBOURNE troubadour David Ford will return to the road with an album of songs documenting the tumultuous year that was 2020.

May You Live In Interesting Times, his sixth studio set, charts the rise of Covid alongside the decline of President Trump. Recorded at home during various stages of lockdown, the album captures the moment with Ford’s trademark emotional eloquence and dark irony.

After the imposed hiatus times three (and maybe four, wait and see), the new incarnation of Ford’s innovative, incendiary live show promises to demonstrate just what happens when you shut such a creative force in a room for two years. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Sir Tom Jones: Playing Scarborough Open Air Theatre for a third time next summer

Amid the winter uncertainty, look to next summer’s knight to remember: Sir Tom Jones at Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 26 2022

SIR Tom Jones will complete a hattrick of Scarborough Open Air Theatre concerts after his 2015 and 2017 gigs with his July return.

In April, the Welsh wonder released his 41st studio album, the chart-topping Surrounded By Time, featuring the singles Talking Reality Television Blues, No Hole in My Head, One More Cup of Coffee and Pop Star.

Sir Tom, 81, will play a second outdoor Yorkshire concert in 2022, at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on July 10. Box office for both shows: ticketmaster.co.uk.

Flying dreamers: Elbow showcase their ninth studio album in Scarborough next July

Deep in the bleak midwinter, think of days out on the Yorkshire coast part two: Elbow, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 9 2022

MAKE Elbow room in your diary to join Guy Garvey, Craig Potter, Mark Potter and Pete Turner on the East Coast in July.

Formed in 1997 in Bury, Greater Manchester, BBC 6 Music Sunday afternoon presenter Garvey and co chalked up their seventh top ten album in 2021 with Flying Dream 1.

Released on November 19, Elbow’s ninth studio album was written remotely in home studios before the lifelong friends met up at the empty Brighton Theatre Royal to perfect, perform, and record the songs. Box office: ticketmaster.co.uk.

York Musical Theatre Company seeks new recruits for May’s Jekyll & Hyde The Musical as part of 120th anniversary celebrations

York Musical Theatre Company’s poster for next May’s production of Jekyll & Hyde The Musical

YORK Musical Theatre Company is seeking to attract new members to take part in next year’s exciting shows to marks its 120th anniversary.

First up will be Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, directed by Matthew Clare, with musical direction by John Atkin, at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from May 25 to 28.

An introductory evening will be held on Thursday, January 6 at 7.30pm at Poppleton Methodist Church Hall. “This will be a chance for anyone interested in being involved with the show to meet the production team and chat about auditions, rehearsals, the characters, the plot and the music,” says new committee member Mick Liversidge.

“There’ll be auditions for all character and ensemble roles on Saturday, January 15, from 11am to 3pm, and Tuesday, January 18, from 7.3pm to 9.30pm, again at Poppleton.”

Based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s thriller The Strange Case Of Jekyll And Hyde, the musical sets the gripping tale of a brilliant mind gone horrifically awry to a powerful pop-rock score by Frank Wildhorn, with book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.

“Jekyll & Hyde The Musical should be a truly memorable show to celebrate York Musical Theatre Company’s 120th year,” says committee member and actor Mick Liversidge

In attempting to cure his ailing father’s mental illness by separating “good” from “evil” in the human personality, talented physician Dr Jekyll inadvertently creates an alternate personality of pure evil, dubbed Mr Hyde, who wreaks murderous havoc on the city of London.

As his fiancée, Emma, grows increasingly fearful for her betrothed, a prostitute, Lucy, finds herself involved dangerously with both the doctor and his alter ego. Struggling to control Hyde before he takes over for good, Jekyll must race to find a cure for the demon he has created in his own mind.

“The music for this show is sumptuous, with some fabulous moving numbers for the lead characters to perform, backing up a truly bittersweet story of love, passion, sex and murder, mixed with both the physical and mental struggles of Dr Jekyll to vindicate his medical theories,” says Mick.

To register for an audition, send an email to: auditions@yorkmusicaltheatrecompany.org.uk.
“The auditions are open to anyone who wishes to be involved in what should be a truly memorable show to celebrate York Musical Theatre Company’s 120th year,” says Mick.

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 josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Further Yorkshire performances:

Thornton le Dale Village Hall, December 17, 6.30pm, tickets on 07894 345126 or via bookings@tledvillagehall.co.uk.

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.

Review: Rowntree Players in Dick Whittington, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until Saturday

“Let’s remember what it feels like to come together to sing, to dance, to perform, to laugh,” enthuses Rowntree Players’ pantomime director, Howard Ella

FIRST came the announcement: “In the interests of everyone’s safety, please ensure masks are worn at all times”.

“Ensure”. Good word, that one, stopping all the wishee-washeeness that has prevailed so far, when there is a new variant in town.

Major London theatres are making masks compulsory (for all but children); York theatres really should be singing from the same panto song-sheet too. Anything that helps to keeps theatres open is not an unreasonable request to make.

Hannah King’s Dick Whittington and the ensemble in Rowntree Players’ Dick Whittington

Rant over. If masks are one emblem of pantomime-in-pandemic times, it is comforting to have familiarity too. Look at the sign in Rowntree Theatre’s London street scene: Ivor Leak, Plumber. Ho, ho.

Or look at the cubs and brownies filling row after row at the JoRo, bouncing up and down on their seats on a Monday night. It was ever thus at this community show.

“Let’s make the most of it and remember what it feels like to come together to sing, to dance, to perform, to laugh,” says director Howard Ella in his programme notes. How right he is.

Belting performance: Ellie Watson’s Alice Fitzwarren

Perish the thought that any theatre should ever rehash an old pantomime script – no names, no pack drill – but Rowntree Players have every right to revisit Ella and regular co-writer Andy Welch’s Dick Whittington, last year’s cancelled panto. Now it is the equivalent of a Christmas pudding becoming all the richer for having had to be put back in the larder for a year.

Hannah King’s resourceful, sprightly Dick Whittington and the ensemble set the tone with the opening Here I Am, establishing the Yorkshireman abroad in London Town vibe, grappling with a strange place of rhyming slang and “Oy, oy, Saveloy”.

Ami Carter’s choreography is superb throughout, knitting principal actors, principal dancers and the young team together so assuredly, and she hits her stride early in Money, marking Martyn Hunter’s return to the Rowntree panto ranks as mayoral candidate and rodent villain King Rat as he leads this irresistible number from Cabaret with panache.

In the pit: Musical director Jessica Douglas, centre, and guitarist Georgia Johnson

The song-and-dance list will go on to draw heavily on musicals, some well-known, some rather less so (Love Is Your Legs, from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, for example), but all well chosen and delivered with musical-theatre oomph by musical director Jessica Douglas’s band.

Pantomimes need to combine the tried and tested with the fresh, and here Ella’s regular trouble-making comedy double act of Graham Smith’s saucy, head-strong, sometimes brusque dame, Dora Di Sorderlie, and Gemma McDonald’s daft, accident-prone, lovable, ginger-nutted Duncan Di Sorderlie, must play hapless security guards at Alderman Fitzwarren’s bank. 

Their verbal interplay is always a joy, their physical slapstick peaking as they are drenched in coins, but to be pernickety, on occasion they could pick up the pace a tad, especially in the long first half.

Rat-a-tat-tat: Martyn Hunter’s King Rat and Mary-Louise Surgenor’s Ratatouille in a musical number in Dick Whittington

One stretched-out discussion between Hunter’s King Rat and Mary-Louise Surgenor’s sidekick Ratatouille had the cubs and brownies fidgeting, but otherwise this is a second partnership of highly experienced principals that clicks, albeit Hunter could have had a more poisonous bite to his ratty demeanour.

Company stalwart Geoff Walker’s Alderman Fitzwarren is suitably avuncular and the show’s knockout vocal award goes to singing teacher Ellie Watson for a belting My Hero in the role of Alice Fitzwarren.

Bernie Calpin’s sassy Kit the Cat is an unusually chatty moggie and all the better for it, when so often Dick’s companion merely meows.

Gemma McDonald’s Duncan Di Sorderlie and Mary-Louise Surgenor’s Daisy duetting on Love Is Your Legs

Adding to the pleasure are the uncredited set designs, and even more so the costumes, especially for Smith’s dame (look out for the Chocolate Whip!).

Smith relishes one joke in particular. When McDonald’s Duncan talks of “not making a scene” after losing a job as a set builder, the dame waspishly adds: “Unlike someone”. Who could Graham possibly mean?!

Rowntree Players present Dick Whittington at Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, until December 11, 7.30pm plus 2pm, Saturday. Ticket availability: tonight and Friday, widest choice; Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday night, limited; Saturday matinee, last few. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk. 

Shocking pink: Graham Smith in saucy mode as Dame Dora Di Sorderlie

Review by Charles Hutchinson

‘Excited isn’t the word!’ says director Howard Ella as Rowntree Players prepare to open Dick Whittington on panto return

Rowntree Players’ principal cast members: Gemma McDonald’s Duncan, left, Hannah King’s Dick Whittington, Ellie Watson’s Alice Fitzwarren, Graham Smith’s Dame Dora and Martyn Hunter’s King Rat

DICK Whittington had to turn round and rest up for a year when Rowntree Players’ 2020 show was cancelled by Covid.

Now, however, Dick and his cat  will be on the road from York to London from Saturday (4/12/2021), when the Players take to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre stage with director Howard Ella and co-writer Andy Welch’s pantomime.

Joining Hannah King’s Dick Whittington in the cast will be Graham Smith’s Dame Dora; Gemma McDonald’s Duncan; Martyn Hunter’s King Rat; Marie-Louise Surgenor’s Ratatouille; Geoff Walker’s Alderman Fitzwarren; Ellie Watson’s Alice Fitzwarren and Bernie Calpin’s Kit The Cat.

Howard and Andy first wrote the script remotely, via a satellite link, before the 2020 show was called off. “Socially distanced writing – that was a challenge,” says Howard. “I work away a lot so there had always been an element of remote collaboration, but this was full on.

“What was missing was the ability to read and act as we wrote without a satellite delay. That one-second delay kills humour stone dead, so there was a lot of writing on instinct. Then we had to shelve the script. Totally gutting.”

Roll on a year and out came the script again. “What was great was to lift it out a year later, read it with fresh eyes and still enjoy it,” says Howard. “What’s most strange is that it really demonstrated the stasis we have been in.  It still felt relevant, if only because so much of our world of Covid and politics did not change.

“Of course, once we start blocking with the cast, then the gags change and everyone throws in their bit.”

Comedy writing as a duo, in the tradition of Galton & Simpson and Le Frenais & Clement, works well for the Players’ pantos. “I’ve written on my own and with both Barry [former dame Barry Benson] and Andy on different panto years,” says Howard.

“It’s exciting as you can bounce off each other and try things out before anyone else ever sees the script. The trick in making that writing partnership work is honesty and trust. When you don’t find something funny, when it’s not quite good enough, you have to say so and in a clear way.

Hannah King’s Dick Whittington is ready to set off from York to London in Rowntree Players’ Dick Whittington

“If you’re on the other end of the criticism, that’s where the trust kicks in. You trust you partner’s judgement and screw up the page. Sometimes tough, but you have to see it as collaboration, not compromise.”

This year’s cast is down in size by a couple of principals. “But that was story driven,” reasons Howard. “We wrote the script in early 2020 assuming Covid would drift past, so, in reality, there’s no compromises there. The script has the cast it always needed.

“That said, our chorus numbers are slightly lower to facilitate sensible spacing in dressing rooms and to deal with the [pandemic-enforced] practicalities, like not being able to share costumes between teams.”

Adapting to Covid restrictions has created extra challenges both in rehearsal and at the JoRo theatre. “We’ve had mask wearing and sanitising and spacing where we can,” says Howard.

“Everyone has been on different testing regimes through work and school, and they have been ever changing. Also, there’s double jabs where possible (and some of us oldies are boosted too!)

“What’s great is that the Joseph Rowntree Theatre is aligned with all the guidelines and so we’ve worked together, more than ever, to make it as safe as possible for everyone, both backstage and in the audience.

“But in reality we’re in the lap of the gods. From here on in, we put on a great show and hope that we all stay healthy. Otherwise, I’ll be picking up a script and donning a frock!”

As the first night approaches, what’s the mood in the camp?  “Excited isn’t the word!  We have missed the community aspect so much – and you only realise the strength of bond between the Rowntree Players company when it hasn’t been there and we all get back together.

“Stepping into the theatre on Sunday for the get-in, seeing all those familiar, yet strangely masked, faces was a delight. We haven’t done this for two years but it’s all come flooding back.

Rowntree Players’ Gemma McDonald, Hannah King, Ellie Watson, Martyn Hunter and Graham Smith dress in pantomime character on a day out at Murton Park, the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, near York

“In the company, we have a lot of returning cast and chorus, which has really helped us to short-cut through both Covid and a slightly curtailed rehearsal period because we slotted in Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web in September, having delayed that production three times.

“Martyn Hunter has returned to the panto fold after a few years away and he’s done so with gusto, as has Bernie Calpin as Kit the Cat.”

Balancing work commitments with rehearsals, Howard is delighted to be bringing Dick Whittington to the stage. “At its heart, Dick Whittington has traditional pantomime roots. That’s what I love. We try and make every pantomime relevant, recognise how the world is changing and represent it in our own way.  

“But underneath all good pantomimes is a tale of right and wrong with a love story in the background and the freedom to be silly in between.

“I’ve also always liked the reminder that nowhere’s streets are paved with gold and that generally you have to work hard and you get out what you put in,” he says, “channelling his inner Yorkshireman”.

Saturday’s opening show will be emotional for cast and audience alike, given the sense of community at the core of all the Players’ work. “Everything we do at Rowntree Players aims to be inclusive of anyone who wants to take part,” says Howard, who is presenting Dick Whittington in tandem with choreographer Ami Carter, musical director Jess Douglas and production manager Helen Woodall.

“There’s a real commitment, there’s a pride in being involved with such an old society returning to the theatre where they started.

“The joy for any audience comes from the cast and their joy in being part of a production. We get so much pleasure from our hobby, we laugh an enormous amount, and I think that enjoyment flows over the pit and into the auditorium in everything we do.”

Rowntree Players present Dick Whittington at Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 4 to 11. Performances: 7.30pm, except Sunday; 2pm matinees, Saturday, Sunday and next Saturday. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond, as musicals abound, comedy turns angry and Madchester revives. List No. 58, courtesy of The Press, York

So frustrated: Paul Chowdhry has his say on Covid, fame, England’s football team and Tom Cruise’s chopper at the Grand Opera House, York, tonight

IMAGINE if you could have a busy week ahead? Let Charles Hutchinson fill your diary.

Angriest comedy gig of the week: Paul Chowdhry, Grand Opera House, York, tonight, 8pm

AFTER barely surviving the pandemic, British-Asian stand-up Paul Chowdhry tackles the UK’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis and why the rules of six only worked for white people in Family-Friendly Comedian (No Children).

Two years of pent-up frustration go into this new tour show, where Londoner Chowdhry also discusses fame, England football fans and Tom Cruise landing his helicopter in someone’s garden. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

Chesca Cholewa: Writer of Imagine If Theatre Company’s My Old Man

Studio play of the week: Imagine If Theatre Company in My Old Man, York Theatre Royal Studio, tonight, 8pm

IMAGINE If Theatre Company, from Leeds, is touring a part-theatre, part-film production of Chesca Cholewa’s humorous and heartfelt play My Old Man.

When Michal Piwowarski’s granddaughter, Tasha (played by Cholewa), finally moves out, his whole world changes. The school dinner-lady becomes his favourite person, a new neighbour moves on to the street, and Michal (Paul Shelley) has to face his biggest battle yet as My Old Man follows the trials and tribulations of this old, blind Polish soldier. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorkthreatreroyal.co.uk.

Songs and Stables’ leadership: Kate Stables brings her band This Is The Kit to The Citadel tomorrow night

Experimental gig of the week: This Is The Kit, The Citadel, Gillygate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

KATE Stables’ experimental folk quartet This Is The Kit return to York for a special show at The Citadel, the former Salvation Army HQ, presented by Please Please You, The Crescent and Brudenell Presents. Support comes from Nuala Honan and Pavey Ark. Box office: brudenellsocialclub.seetickets.com.

York artist Karen Winship, taking part in the Inspired Christmas event at York Cemetery Chapel

Christmas shopping? Opportunity presents itself at Inspired, York Cemetery Chapel, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm.

INSPIRED, the annual Christmas show by York artist and designer makers, will be held at York Cemetery Chapel, in Cemetery Road, York, this weekend.

Taking part will be Jo Bagshaw and Richard Whitelegg, jewellery; Catherine Boyne-Whitelegg, pottery; Petra Bradley, textiles; Sally Clarke, collage printmaking; Angela Newdick, collage and surface pattern design; Adi French and Karen Winship, painting, and John Watts and Wilf Williams, furniture.

PQA York’s poster for Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr at the JoRo

Children’s show of the week: PQA Productions in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow and Saturday, 7.30pm

PAULINE Quirke Academy (PQA) York journeys under the sea with Ariel and her aquatic friends in Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr, adapted from Disney’s Broadway show and film, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story of sacrifices made for love and acceptance.

Young mermaid Ariel longs to leave her magical ocean home and fins behind for the world above. First, however, she must defy her father, King Triton, make a deal with evil sea witch Ursula and convince Prince Eric she is the girl whose enchanting voice he has been seeking. Separate casts perform the two shows. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Adam Sowter, Florence Poskitt, Alexandra Mather and Andrew Roberts in rehearsal for Saturday’s Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny

Witty and warm songs of the week: Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

FLADAM duo Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter take to the Theatre@41 stage with thespian friends Alexandra Mather, Andrew Roberts and Andrew Isherwood for two shows of musical comedy joy.

Fladam’s own topical witty ditties will be complemented by a celebration of Morecambe & Wise, Bernard Cribbins, Victoria Wood and more. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Scarlett Waugh, left, and Libby Anderson: Sharing the role of Dorothy in NE Musicals York’s production of The Wizard Of Oz

Sparkling slippers of the week: NE Musicals York in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday (23/11/2021) to Saturday

DIRECTOR Steve Tearle has assembled a cast of 60 for NE Musicals York’s energetic staging of The Wizard Of Oz, led by Libby Anderson and Scarlett Waugh, who will alternate the role of Dorothy.

Further roles go to Maia Stroud as Glinda; YO1 presenter Chris Marsden, the Wizard of Oz; Perri Ann Barley, Wicked Witch of the West; Finley Butler, the Scarecrow; Kristian Barley, the Tin Man, and Tearle himself as the Cowardly Lion.

Expect an all-singing, all-dancing production with special effects by Adam Moore’s team at Tech247. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Phoenix rising again: Phoenix Dance Theatre celebrate their 40th anniversary this autumn, opening their tour at York Theatre Royal

Dance celebration of the week: Phoenix Dance Theatre in 40 Years Of Phoenix, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm

PHOENIX Dance Theatre launch their milestone 40th birthday programme at York Theatre Royal, bringing together highlights from the Leeds company’s groundbreaking history.

Phoenix will combine celebration and reflection in a show featuring Lost Dog duo Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer’s Pave Up Paradise; former artistic director Darshan Singh Bhuller’s Heart Of Chaos; Henri Oguike’s Signal; Shapiro and Smith’s satirical piece Family and Jane Dudley’s 1938 masterpiece Harmonica Breakdown. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Director Nik Briggs, left, choreographer Emily Taylor and lead actors Sophie Hammond and Damien Poole at the launch of York Stage Musicals’ festive show, Elf! The Musical

Christmas musical of the week: York Stage Musicals in Elf! The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, November 25 to December 3

YORK Stage Musicals present the York premiere of Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin’s Elf! The Musical, directed by artistic director Nik Briggs.

Based on Will Ferrell’s 2003 film, Elf! follows orphan child Buddy to Santa’s North Pole abode, where, unaware he is human, his enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth.

Given Santa’s permission, Buddy (Damien Poole) heads to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity and help the Big Apple to remember the true meaning of Christmas. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Amaka Okafor: Taking part in the staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s Maryland at Friargate Theatre, York

Play readings of the week: Riding Lights Theatre Company presents Maryland, Friargate Theatre, York, November 26, 6.30pm and 8.30pm

TWO staged readings of Lucy Kirkwood’s 30-minute protest play will feature Amaka Okafor, from the original Royal Court Theatre cast, Laura Pyper, Mark Holgate, Cassie Vallance, Kesiah Joseph, Patricia Jones and Meg Blowey.

Kirkwood wrote Maryland as a “passionate and furious act of resistance to draw attention to the shocking numbers of women who repeatedly suffer violent abuse throughout Britain. The play is not specific; it addresses issues of police behaviour and a culture of violence against women and girls”.

After sold-out performances in London, the Royal Court offered Maryland for free for theatre companies to perform in solidarity and protest. York company Riding Lights has taken up that opportunity, with associate director Bridget Foreman directing the readings. Box office: 01904 613000.

James: Teaming up with Happy Mondays for a Manchester night out in Leeds

Gig of the week ahead outside York: James and special guests Happy Mondays, Leeds First Direct Arena, November 25, doors, 6pm

ALL of 33 years ago, Factory label mates James and Happy Mondays first toured together. Now, two of Manchester’s champion bands reunite for a November and December arena tour.

 “Last played with them in 1988, hopefully this time they won’t steal our rider or try and spike my drink,” tweeted Tim Booth, James’s Clifford-born frontman, when announcing the dates with rapscallion rascals Shaun Ryder, Bez and co.

James, who played Scarborough Open Air Theatre this summer, will be showcasing their “sweet 16th” album, All The Colours Of You, released in June. Box office: firstdirectarena.com. Stage times: Happy Mondays, 7.30pm; James, 9pm.

NE Musicals York to stage The Wizard Of Oz with orchestra, two Dorothys, two Totos, a cast of 60, 150 wigs and 200 costumes

They’re off to see the Wizard: Libby Anderson’s Dorothy, Kristian Barley’s Tin Man and Finley Butler’s Scarecrow in rehearsal for NE Musicals York’s The Wizard Of Oz

DIRECTOR Steve Tearle has assembled a cast of 60 for NE Musicals York’s energetic staging of The Wizard Of Oz at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, from November 23 to 27.

The company will be led by Libby Anderson and Scarlett Waugh, who will alternate the role of Dorothy. “They are both amazing,” says Steve.

Further principal roles go to Maia Stroud as Glinda; YO1 presenter Chris Marsden, the Wizard of Oz; Perri Ann Barley, Wicked Witch of the West; Finley Butler, the Scarecrow; Kristian Barley, the Tin Man, and Tearle himself as the Cowardly Lion.

The Lollipop Guild welcomes Dorothy (out of picture) to Munchkinland:  Zachary Pickersgill, left, as Someri Munchkin, Jack Reed as Ginger Munchkin, Matthew Musk as Kikiaru Munchkin and Sam Reed as Henkle Munchkin

Expect an all-singing, all-dancing production with special effects by Adam Moore’s team at Tech247. “This amazing story is full of heart, knowledge, courage and love for our families,” says company chairman Steve.

“With more than 60 cast members and the youngest being just six years old, this truly is a theatre event. Our company is made up of families, with mums and dads on stage and their children or parents chaperoning backstage.”

In the familiar but updated story, when a tornado rips through present-day Kansas, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, are whisked away in their house to the magical land of Oz.

The Lullaby League: Sophia Cocker as Lullaby League teacher Amie-Amme Munchkin; Lexie Brooks as Mubba-Subba Munchkin; Aimee Dean-Hamilton as Bonnini-Pop Munchkin; Suraya Pickersgill as Pippy-Bay Munchkin; Abigail Ainley as Mulini Munchkin Graggity and Elizabeth Reese as Blinki-Bop Munchkin

There they meet a good witch called Glinda, who tells them they need to follow the Yellow Brick Road towards the Emerald City to meet the Wizard. Along the way, Dorothy and Toto befriend a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion, who join them on her quest, but not all is as it seems, alas.

The Wicked Witch of the West is determined to stop them, but will she succeed, or will Dorothy prevail and return home safely, Toto in tow?

“We’ll have a full orchestra, 200 specially designed costumes and 150 wigs, and our amazing projections will only add to this being a truly magical musical adventure,” says Steve.

A group rehearsal for NE Musicals York’s production of The Wizard Of Oz

“Rehearsals are going well, and we go into the theatre from Sunday. Fingers crossed all goes to plan!  We’ve sold out the Friday evening show and Saturday matinee, with only seven seats left for the Saturday night and limited availability for the Tuesday and Thursday performances.

“Our opening night is dedicated to Millie May Wright, and the charities we’ll be supporting and collecting for are Candlelighters, Snappy and Stimul8.”

NE Musicals York in The Wizard Of Oz, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, November 23 to 27, 7,.30pm nightly and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Meet Dolly, one of two Totos, along with her brother Teddy, for NE Musicals York’s The Wizard Of Oz