THE Gruffalo’s Child will be on an adventurous mission at York Theatre Royal from February 1 to 3 in in Tall Stories’ enchanting adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture book.
One wild and windy night, the Gruffalo’s Child ignores her father’s warnings about the Big Bad Mouse and tiptoes out into the deep dark wood, where she will follow snowy tracks and encounter mysterious creatures.
But the Big Bad Mouse doesn’t really exist…or does he? “Let your imagination run wild with songs, laughs and scary fun for everyone aged 3 to 103,” reads the invitation from director Olivia Jacobs, co-founder of Islington company Tall Stories, whose cast comprises Harriet Waters, Maxwell Tyler, Samuel Tracy and understudy Pip Simpson.
After seeing her book brought to life on stage, writer Julia Donaldson said: “Tall Stories bring their own special magic to their stage productions based on my books. Children will love entering the atmosphere of the deep dark wood and enjoy the catchy songs. The Big Bad Mouse is worth waiting for.” Ah, too late for a spoiler alert!
Illustrator Axel Scheffler enjoyed the show, saying afterwards: “The snowy deep dark wood based on my illustrations is brought to life by Tall Stories and it almost becomes a character in its own right in their production. A favourite moment for me is when the Gruffalo’s Child sits on the Gruffalo’s lap and the book cover image is created on the stage. I think the young audience will enjoy it very much.”
Tall Stories in The Gruffalo’s Child, York Theatre Royal, February 1, 1.30pm and 4.30pm; February 2, 1pm (relaxed performance) and 4.30pm; February 3, 10.30am and 1.30pm. Running time: 60 minutes. Age guidance: 3+. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
NLP’S world premiere staging of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Tales From Acorn Wood visits York Theatre Royal on January 26 and 27.
Based on favourite stories from their lift-the flap books for pre-school children, the 50-minute touring show is suitable for one-year-olds and upwards or anyone who loves books.
In Tales From Acorn Wood, poor old Fox has lost his socks, but are they in the kitchen or inside the clock? Meanwhile, who’s keeping tired Rabbit awake?
Audiences can join in with Pig and Hen’s game of hide-and-seek and discover the special surprise Postman Bear is planning for his friends in a show full of songs and beautifully crafted puppets.
NLP (No Limit People) feature projection in their staging, along with technology that incorporates the book’s lift-the-flap elements.
Donaldson says: “I am really happy that the Tales from AcornWood are now moving to the stage. Fans of the books are bound to enjoy seeing the four main characters – Fox, Bear, Pig and Rabbit – brought to life through NLP’s clever staging. Live performance and songs are both very close to my heart and I am sure this production will delight children and families.”
Scheffler enthuses: “I have always enjoyed illustrating the Tales From Acorn Wood stories; the wide cast of animal friends is fun to draw, and I enjoy developing their world through my pictures.
“I am very pleased that the NLP team is using state of the art staging and technology to create a brilliant experience for children, and I am looking forward to seeing it all, especially how they create the lift-th- flap effects on stage!”
In NLP’s creative team, puppet director and choreographer Johnny Autin is working alongside director Brad Fitt, production designer Ian Westbrook, motion graphic designer Louise Rhoades-Brown and lighting designer Alex Musgrave. Miles Russell is the composer and musical director; Entify’s Deborah Mingham has designed and created the props and puppets.
Tales From Acorn Wood has been made by the producing team behind Rod Campbell’s Dear Zoo Live and Dear Santa Live.
Derrick Gask, NLP’s company director and general manager, says: “As a theatre production company, we’re all incredibly excited to be working with such a prestigious creative team, to bring these much-loved children’s books to life. At NLP, we’re passionate about producing live theatre that inspires and entertains, and we’re in no doubt that the Tales From Acorn Wood will do just that.”
NLP presents Tales From Acorn Wood at York Theatre Royal on January 26, 4pm, and January 27, 11am and 2pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
IGGETY Ziggety Zaggety Zoom, Tall Stories’ stage adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture book Room On The Broom flies into York Theatre Royal today.
Directed by Olivia Jacobs, this enchanting Olivier Award-nominated production for everyone aged three and upwards is on an autumn tour after a West End summer run at the Lyric Theatre.
Jump on board the broom with the witch and her cat in this fun-filled magical musical adaptation at 1.30pm and 4.30pm today, then 10.30am and 1.30pm tomorrow.
On their travels, they pick up some hitch-hikers – a friendly dog, a beautiful green bird and a frantic frog – but alas this broomstick is not designed for five. Crack! It snaps in two just as the hungry dragon appears. Will there ever be room on the broom for everyone?
Combining puppetry, singalong songs, humour and fun, Room On The Broom’s magical introduction to theatre for young children features a cast of Jessica Manu as Witch; Hannah Miller, Cat; Peter Steele, Dog and Frog and Jake Waring, Bird and Dragon. Jayant Singh is the understudy.
Tall Stories have toured adaptations of Donaldson-Scheffler stories The Gruffalo, The Smeds And The Smoos, The Snail And The Whale and The Gruffalo’s Child, as well as this revival of Room On The Broom. “After a difficult time for touring theatre companies, this story of pulling together in times of adversity feels very apt,” says director and company co-founder Olivia Jacobs.
“We’re looking forward to bringing a sprinkling of magic to families this autumn with this funny, fast-paced, high-energy show. Come and join us – there’s plenty of room on the broom!”
Toby Mitchell, Tall Stories’ artistic director and co-founder, says: “We’ve produced 31 shows in our 25 years of existence, including five adaptations of much-loved books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, alongside many smaller-scale shows.
“We first brought Room On The Broom to the stage in 2008 and since then it’s toured nationally and beyond, including France, Germany, the United States, Australia and the Far East.
“We were delighted that the show was nominated for an Olivier Award [for Best Family and Entertainment production] in 2013, and we’re particularly excited about bringing some magical spells, catchy songs and lots of laughter to family audiences this autumn, following the uncertainty of the last couple of years. We can’t wait to see all those smiling faces.”
Room On The Broom has toured the UK and Ireland extensively, as well as numerous international tours to Australia (including Sydney Opera House), Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai and Poland. The show has been translated into German, touring regularly with Junges Theater, Bonn. A soundtrack of the show’s songs is on sale at tallstories.org.uk
Jacobs is joined in the production team by designer Morgan Large, puppet designer Yvonne Stone, lighting designer James Whiteside, choreographer Morag Cross and composers Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw.
Tickets for today and tomorrow’s performances cost £15 on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/show/room-on-the-broom/.
FOOD for thought from Charles Hutchinson as he contemplates what’s on the menu for autumn days and nights out.
Festival of the week: York Food and Drink Festival, Parliament Street and St Sampson’s Square, York, packed with flavour until October 2
IN its 26th year, York Food and Drink Festival offers demonstrations and hands-on participation, taste trails and wine tastings, markets and street food, with two marquees and live music until 9pm.
Look out for the free Food Factory cookery classes in the Museum Gardens and the Coppergate Centre; trails through the doors of artisan food producers, delicatessens and restaurants; Bedern Hall crowning York’s finest pork pie at its York Pork Pie competition and York Mansion House hosting a week-long tea exhibition and tasting. Head to yorkfoodfestival.com/programme for the full five-course details.
For the love of Nina Simone: Apphia Campbell in Black Is The Colour Of My Voice, Grand Opera House, York, Monday, 7.30pm
INSPIRED by the life of Nina Simone, writer, director and performer Apphia Campbell’s play follows a successful jazz singer and civil rights activist as she seeks redemption after the untimely death of her father.
Complemented by many of Simone’s most iconic songs sung live, she reflects on the journey that took her from a young piano prodigy, destined for a life in the service of the church, to a renowned jazz vocalist at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.
Musical of the week: Rock Of Ages, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm Saturday matinee
CAMERON Sharp returns to the rock demi-god role of Stacee Jaxx on the latest tour on Rock Of Ages after earlier appearances in the West End and on the road. He joins Coronation Street legend Kevin Kennedy, playing ornery Bourbon Room owner Dennis Dupree once more in this tongue-in-cheek musical comedy kitted out with classic rock anthems galore, from The Final Countdown to We Built This City, all played loud and proud.
The storyline invites you to “leave it all behind and lose yourself in a city and a time where the dreams are as big as the hair, and yes, they can come true.” Box office:0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/york.
History meets mystery: An Evening With Lucy Worsley On Agatha Christie, York Theatre Royal, Monday, 7.30pm
THE Queen of History will investigate the Queen of Crime in an illustrated talk that delves into the life of such an elusive, enigmatic 20th century figure.
Why did Agatha Christie spend her career pretending that she was just an ordinary housewife, a retiring Edwardian lady of leisure, when clearly she wasn’t? Agatha went surfing in Hawaii, loved fast cars and was intrigued by psychology, the new science that helped her through mental illness.
Sharing her research of the storyteller’s personal letters and papers, writer, broadcaster, speaker and Historic Royal Palaces chief curator Lucy Worsley will uncover the real, revolutionary, thoroughly modern Christie. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Golden celebrations of the week: Steve Hackett, Genesis Revisited – Foxtrot At Fifty + Hackett Highlights, York Barbican, tonight, 7.30pm; Don McLean, 50th Anniversary of American Pie, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.30pm
GUITARIST Steve Hackett, 72, revisits Genesis’s landmark 1972 prog rock album Foxtrot, the one with the 23-minute Supper’s Ready, preceded by an hour of highlights from his six years in the band and his solo career.
New Rochelle troubadour Don McLean, 76, marks the 50th anniversary of his 1971 album American Pie and its 1972 top two single, the poetic 8 minute 36 sec title track, a double A-side that had to be split over two sides of the vinyl with its mysterious, mystical tale of lost innocence “the day the music died”. Expect Vincent, Castles In The Air and And I Love You So too. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Comedy gig of the week, Katherine Ryan, Missus, York Barbican, Thursday, 8pm
AFTER previously denouncing partnerships, Canadian-born comedian, writer, presenter, podcaster and actress Ryan has since married her first love…accidentally.
“A lot has changed for everyone,” says the creator and star of Netflix series The Duchess and host of BBC Two’s jewellery-making competition All That Glitters, who looks forward to discussing her new perspectives on life, love and what it means to be Missus. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Children’s show of the week: Tall Stories Theatre Company in Room On The Broom, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 1.30pm and 4.30pm; Wednesday, 10.30am and 1.30pm
IGGETY Ziggety Zaggety Boom! Jump on board the broom with the witch and her cat in Tall Stories’ adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture book.
When they pick up some hitch-hikers – a friendly dog, a beautiful green bird and a frantic frog – alas the broomstick is not meant for five. Crack, it snaps in two just as the hungry dragon appears.
Will there ever be room on the broom for everyone? Find out in this 60-minute, magical, Olivier Award-nominated show for everyone aged three upwards. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Irish craic of the week: One Night In Dublin, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday, 7.30pm
IRISH tribute band The Wild Murphys roll out the Irish classics, Galway Girl, Tell Me Ma, Dirty Old Town, The Irish Rover, Brown Eyed Girl, Seven Drunken Nights, Whiskey In The Jar, Wild Rover and Molly Malone.
Kick back in Murphy’s Pub, sing along and imagine being back in Temple Bar as Middi and his band roar into York. “Ah, go on, go on, go on!” they say. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
2-4-6-8, don’t be late: Tom Robinson Band and TV Smith (solo), The Crescent, York, Friday, 7.30pm
PUNK veteran, LGBTQ rights activist and BBC 6 Music presenter Tom Robinson returns to The Crescent with his band to reactivate 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Glad To Be Gay, Up Against The Wall, The Winter Of ’79 and the cream of his early albums, 1978’s Power In The Darkness, 1979’s TRB Two, and beyond, maybe War Baby.
Support comes from TV Smith, once part of Seventies’ punks The Adverts, of Gary Gilmore’s Eyes notoriety. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
JULIA Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Zog And The Flying Doctors swoops in on York Theatre Royal in Freckle Productions and Rose Theatre’s world premiere tour on June 24 and June 25.
Dragon Zog, super-keen student turned air-ambulance, lands with a crash-bang-thump in a rhyming story for children aged three upwards. Zog and his Flying Doctor crew, Princess Pearl and Sir Gadabout, must tend to a sunburnt mermaid, a unicorn with one too many horns and a lion with the flu.
Alas, Pearl’s uncle, the King, has other ideas as to whether princesses should be doctors, and soon she is locked up in the castle, in a crown and silly frilly dress once more.
However, with help from friends and half a pound of cheese, can Pearl make her uncle better and prove princesses can be doctors too?
Freckle Productions reunites the creative team behind Zog, Emma Kilbey and Joe Stilgoe, for this modern take on a classic fairytale.
Where did Julia Donaldson’s inspiration for Zog come from? “Well, that one was quite unusual, in that the initial idea didn’t come from me. My editor said to me, ‘it would be lovely to have a story about a dragon’, so I started thinking about it and the name ‘Madam Dragon’ came into my head, which I thought had a nice sound.
“And then I thought, ‘what could Madame Dragon do, who could she be?’. I came up with various ideas and a schoolteacher was one of them, so I took it from there. Originally it was going to be about a knight and a dragon, but it ended up being about a Princess and a dragon – the story came to me bit by bit”.
Julia’s husband, Malcolm, who is a doctor, had some input here. “When I was planning the story, I knew that Zog would keep meeting the Princess, and originally I was going to have them play together and toast marshmallows,” she recalls. “Malcolm said, ‘that’s a bit soppy, couldn’t it be something with a bit more oomph?’. And then I came up with the doctor angle”.
Zog is far from the first animal to star in one of Julia’s stories. Whether a cat in Tabby McTat, a fish in Tiddler or the iconic Gruffalo, animals are regularly Julia’s most memorable creations. “It’s often used as a convention – like in Aesop’s Fables, where the animals aren’t really animals; they represent a quality or a characteristic,” she says.
“I also think it would be far more boring for the reader if Mouse in The Gruffalo was just a small but clever person, or The Gruffalo itself was a big, scary but rather stupid person. Or, in The Snail And The Whale, if the Whale was just a big person and the Snail a little person; I think you need animals to represent the qualities”.
One enduring facet of Julia’s stories is her partnership with German illustrator and animator Axel Scheffler, who has brought so many of her characters to life. How does this collaboration work? “It’s always through the editor,” Julia reveals.
“I never exchange a word with Axel about the pictures until my editor shows him the book – and then I have a nail-biting moment, wondering if he likes it and wants to do it. Then he’ll do some character sketches which I’ll look at.
“Sometimes, after he’s created sketches for every picture, I’ll think ‘oh hang on, I’m going to change that little bit of text, because I like what he’s done with that’.”
When Julia has had the characters in her head for so long, what happens if the illustrations turn out to be different to what she imagined? “I always say it’s like going on holiday: you’ve got an idea in your head of how it’s going to be, and then it’s always totally different. But once you’re there and enjoying it, you just forget what was in your head before,” she says.
“Also, I usually know when I’m writing something whether I want Axel to work on it – in which case I’ve got his style in my head as I’m working. It doesn’t influence the storyline, but it will influence how I picture the characters. So, I’m usually not surprised when I see Axel’s interpretation.”
Many of Julia’s books have been adapted for film or theatre, where they are reimagined all over again. “For me, it’s like an extension of working with an illustrator,” she says.
“Handing it over to a theatre company or film company, you know it’s going to change a bit; the end product will be a blend of my words and their artistic vision. And they do usually consult me and tell me what they’ve got in mind.”
Stage adaptations of Julia and Axel’s books, from Zog to Stick Man, are often a child’s first experience of live theatre, much to Julia’s delight. “I remember going to see The Nutcracker when I was a child and I found the whole thing completely magical. I can still remember how I felt when the curtain went up,” Julia says.
“I suppose in a way it’s the same thing that a book gives you, in that while you’re reading or watching, you believe in a different reality. And if it’s a good show, parents love to see that their children – even very young ones – can just be transfixed by it.”
Freckle Productions and Rose Theatre present Zog And The Flying Doctors, York Theatre Royal, June 24, 4.30pm; June 25, 11am, 2pm and 4.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
LOOKING to have a whale of a time? Here is Charles Hutchinson’s latest guide to what’s on and what’s coming up, featuring a snail, a whale, a hare, a York king and much more besides.
Anything Could Happen show of the week: The Showstoppers in Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, York Theatre Royal and livestream, June 30, 7.30pm
DIRECT from the West End, The Showstoppers’ Olivier Award-winning blend of comedy, musical theatre and spontaneity heads to York Theatre Royal for one night only.
A new musical comedy will be created from scratch as audience suggestions are transformed into an all-singing, all-dancing production packed with drama, dazzling dance routines and contagious melodies, everything being made up on the spot.
“Whether you fancy Hamiltonin a hospital or Sondheim in the Sahara, you suggest it and we’ll sing it,” say the Showstoppers, whose show will be livestreamed too, with more details in how to tune in at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/show/showstopper-the-improvised-musical-livestream.
Family show of the week: Badapple Theatre Company in Tales From The Great Wood, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 2, 7.30pm; July 3, 11am, 2.30pm and 7pm.
LISTEN! Can you hear the whispering in the trees? The wood is full of stories in Tales From The Wood, written and directed by Kate Bramley, artistic director of Green Hammerton company Badapple.
York actor Richard Kay, Danny Mellor and a host of puppets present an interactive storytelling eco-adventure for ages five to 95, set on a hot summer’s day, when, instead of resting, Hetty the hare is investigating because someone is missing.
As she unravels a tall tale that stretches across The Great Wood, Hetty realises how every creature, no matter how small, can have a huge part to play in the world of the forest. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Children’s show of the week: Tall Stories in The Snail And The Whale, York Theatre Royal, July 2, 2.30pm and 4.30pm; July 3, 10.30am and 1.30pm
TALL Stories invite you to join an adventurous young girl and her seafaring father as they reimagine the story of a globe-trotting tiny snail, inspired by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture book.
In this heart-warming play full of music, storytelling and laughter, the sea snail hitches a lift on the tail of a grey-blue humpback whale to head off an amazing journey around the world, but when the whale becomes beached, how will the snail save him? Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Folk event of the week ahead: Gary Stewart’s Folk Club, At The Mill, Stillington, near York, July 3, 7.30pm to 10pm
“IT will be a very special, one-off, folk club: part folk night, part headline gig, with an eclectic mix of acts and then me doing a set,” says Easingwold singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Gary Stewart.
Hosted by Gary, people in attendance will be given the chance to play and perform, whether music, stories, songs or poems. “If you want to share something, then bring your instrument and your voice and we’ll see you there!” says At The Mill’s Alexander Wright. For tickets, go to: atthemill.com.
Portrait of the summer: Richard III, Yorkshire Museum, York, July 9 to October 31.
HIS ex-car park bones may be stuck in Leicester Cathedral, but that right work of art, Richard III, is heading back to his favourite city, York, albeit in portrait form.
On loan from the National Portrait Gallery as part of its Coming Home project, the iconic 16th century painting by the mysterious Unknown Artist will be on show at the Yorkshire Museum alongside “one of the finest groups of objects associated with Richard III”, such as the magnificent Middleham Jewel, The Ryther Hoard and Stillingfleet Boar Badge.
“Coming home,” you say? Yes, the project lends portraits of iconic individuals to places across the UK with which they are most closely associated. York 1, Leicester 0.
Where there’s hope…and a NEW date: Hope & Social, The Crescent, York, October 12, 7.30pm. Moved from July 16
“WE wear blue jackets. Fingers crossed, we will die with our hearts out in bloom,” say Leeds band Hope & Social, purveyors of the 2014 Tour de France Grand Depart and Yorkshire Festival anthem The Big Wide.
Ah yes, but why do they wear those blue jackets? “Homburgs, in Leeds, were selling off goods, and they had a choice between Wombles outfits and these Butlins holiday camp-style outfits,” explains drummer Gary Stewart. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
Warm-up gig of the summer: The Courteeners, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, September 8
THE Courteeners will loosen up for two-late summer shows with an exclusive warm-up on the East Coast, supported by Wirral wonders The Coral.
The Middleton band are to play Glasgow’s TRNSMT Festival on September 10 and Manchester’s Emirates Old Trafford cricket ground on September 25, a home-coming that sold out in 90 minutes.
Best known for Not Nineteen Forever, Are You In Love With A Notion, How Good It Was, The 17th and Hanging Off Your Cloud, The Courteeners released their seventh top ten album, More. Again. Forever, in January 2020. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow (25/6/2021) via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.
Comedy gig announcement of the week: Joe Lycett: More, More, More! How Do You Lycett? How Do You Lycett?, York Barbican, April 1 and 3 2022
FRESH from filming in York last Thursday for his Channel 4 consumer-campaign series Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, Birmingham comedian and presenter Lycett has announced a 60-date tour with a title riffing on a 1976 Andrea True Connection disco floor-filler.
In More, More, More!, Lycett will explore his love of art and passion for gardening, how he toys with companies on Instagram and the perils of online trolls.
As well as his York Barbican brace, among more, more, more dates in 2022 will be Hull Bonus Arena on April 2 and Leeds First Direct Arena on September 14. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk and joelycett.com.