REVIEW: Suffer Fools Gladly, Badapple Theatre Company, on tour to September 23

Anastasia Benham’s Queen Avril and Danny Mellor’s Geordie jester Jagger in Badapple Theatre Company’s Suffer Fools Gladly

WANTED urgently, the plea went out. Open-air venues to host Badapple Theatre Company’s new short play. Apply promptly, help Badapple hit their required target in their 21st anniversary year and Arts Council England would back it.

Sure enough, such is the fond support for Green Hammerton’s “Theatre on your Doorstep” exponents that a list of North and East Yorkshire private gardens, campsites and hall car parks was full as quick as a finger click.

ACE has provided a £14,998 grant that will cover not only the doorstep tour of Yorkshire actor and writer Danny Mellor’s Suffer Fools Gladly, but also the “creative filming” of artistic director Kate Bramley’s smash-hit play Eddie And The Gold Tops for a November to February itinerary of film performances at familiar Badapple indoor venues under Covid-secure, socially-distanced guidelines.

This “Hybrid-Live” season opens with Suffer Fools Gladly’s September 15 to 23 run. Such was the ticket demand that doorstep destination number two presented three sold-out performances in one day – in the pantomime tradition of bygone days – under an awning on the terracing of a Stockton-on-the-Forest garden.

Danny Mellor as the “Mad Dad” in the premiere of his play Suffer Fools Gladly

In one side, out the other, hand sanitiser stations at the garden entry and exit, socially scattered garden chairs, this was theatre-going for the Covid age, and Arts Council England should be thanked for making it possible.

You may have rather different feelings towards the Government’s flowery response to the plight of an arts world still largely stymied since lockdown, but we are where we are, sitting in a Yorkshire country garden watching two actors, Mellor and Anastasia Benham, working for the first time since lockdown. Indeed for the first time since they performed Badapple’s winter warmer, The Snow Dancer.

Mellor has created Suffer Fools Gladly in that time: a quick-moving, quick-witted hour-long comedy that delights in testing and tracing the merits of always having to tell the truth: a compulsion from which our parliamentarians seem to be socially distanced, alas.

Mellor is playing Ozzy, a Brummie-voiced jester, exiled by Queen Avril from the magical kingdom of Marillion, where he is replaced by the lying Jagger. Ozzy, Marillion, Jagger…are you spotting all the rock references? Plenty more are on their way, punk henchmen Sid and Nancy making their day too.

One of three performances of Suffer Fools Gladly in one day in a Stockton-on-the-Forest garden

Through portal travel, Ozzy and his truth-dispensing marotte (the French word for a fool’s bauble) end up on Earth, where he strikes up an unlikely – but very likely in this upbeat, daft play – friendship with Earth girl Stevie (Benham).

She is 17, wont to be sceptical, even cynical, and expected to make the grades to study science at Oxford, with no time for fun, she complains.

Her rock-obsessed Yorkshireman father, the “mad dad” who named her after Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks, has his mind on other things, forever reliving the 1980s. Queen to be precise, irresponsibly and misguidedly resolving to give up his job to be Freddie Mercury in a tribute band, although his singing voice is more lead than mercury. No wonder, her mum left him, says an exasperated Stevie.

Here we have two Queens in one show. The ubiquitous band and the autocratic ruler of Marillion (Benham’s second role), with a penchant for a bustle that “makes her bottom look big”, but Jagger won’t say that, whereas, stick in hand, Ozzy would.

Sticking to the truth: Danny Mellor’s jester, Ozzy, with his marotte in Suffer Fools Gladly

Mellor and Benham have comedy-and-pathos chemistry aplenty from The Snow Dancer, and even with the requirement for two metres of separation at all times, they bond so well again as they move to and fro between multiple roles.

Under Mellor and Bramley’s brisk co-direction, they are a joy to watch, full of fun and invention, whether sending up teenage proclivities, regal divas or rock gods or spoofing Boris Johnson, so glad to be playing to an audience once more too.

From topical Covid references and a Cummings dig to Ozzy’s observation that butterflies are “just moths with make-up on”, Mellor’s script has lip and zip, quirky observation and home truths…and even a Sex Pistols lyric. “No future, no future, no future for you”? Wrong, Mellor definitely has a future as a writer as much as an actor with an ear for so many accents.

Whoever holds the marotte, truth will out in a fearless play where protagonists are caught between rock (music) and a hard place. Stick to the truth is the message here. Truth be bold, truth be told. Politicians, take note.

Kate Bramley: Badapple Theatre Company founder and artistic director and co-director of Suffer Fools Gladly

Suffer Fools Gladly’s September tour itinerary continues at:

19: Colton Farm, near Tadcaster, 2pm, sold out.
20: St. Alban’s Church, Hull, car park, 2pm, sold out.
20: Skipsea, 7pm, tickets available.

21: Private garden, Driffield, 2pm, sold out.
22: Private garden, Gilberdyke, Goole, 5pm, tickets available.
23: Moor Monkton, 5pm, tickets available.

For tickets, go to: badappletheatre.co.uk/show/suffer-fools-gladly/

Badapple Theatre happy to Suffer Fools Gladly in gardens with Arts Council support

Badapple Theatre Company’s poster for this month’s Suffer Fools Gladly tour

BADAPPLE Theatre Company can look forward to an autumn harvest of outdoor shows after hitting the Arts Council England deadline to find at least six willing venues for Danny Mellor’s new short play, Suffer Fools Gladly.

Awarded a £14,998 grant, the Green Hammerton purveyors of theatre on your doorstep will perform a Hybrid-Live season of Covid-secure outdoor and filmed shows in the months ahead.

Up to ten open-air performances of Suffer Fools Gladly will be staged at private gardens, campsites and hall car parks across North and East Yorkshire area from September 15.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in last winter’s Badapple play, The Snow Dancer. Now they are to perform together in Suffer Fools Gladly

In addition, the ACE funding will support the “creative filming” of Badapple’s hit 1960s-era comedy Eddie And The Gold Tops for a new film-theatre partnership with small halls and arts centres from November to February.

Furthermore, Badapple can now film their Christmas show The Snow Dancer, first toured last winter, to enable free distribution in Yorkshire schools, and Badapple Youth Theatre activities can resume too. 

Thanking Arts Council England, founder and artistic director Kate Bramley says: “We’re bowled over by this continued support from ACE at this difficult time that supports our concept of feel-good and safe small-scale events for the communities we partner with and support for our team of creative artists.

Anastasia Benham: On a front door step near you soon

“We’ve always specialised in Theatre On Your Doorstep and now for some garden owners in Yorkshire it’s just got even closer to their front door!

“We had as many as 25 offers of interest in hosting the show, and some wonderful hosts will be throwing open their gardens to audiences to experience this great new play from young Yorkshire writer Danny Mellor.”

Suffer Fools Gladly is a witty short comedy, around an hour in length, that drills down on the perils and perks of always having to tell the truth. “Appealing to young and old alike, this upbeat tale narrates the comic fall from grace of Ozzy, the court jester, who is exiled from the magical kingdom of Marillion,” says Danny.

“We’re bowled over by this continued support from ACE at this difficult time,” says Badapple artistic director Kate Bramley

“It takes an unlikely friendship with a cynical 17-year-old Earth girl called Stevie to bring the joy back to both their worlds.”

Co-directed by Bramley, with costume and puppetry design by Catherine Dawn, the premiere will be performed by Mellor and Anastasia Benham, resuming their stage partnership from The Snow Dancer tour last December.

Watch this space for updates on the Eddie And The Gold Tops film-theatre tour, with dates filling up in the Badapple diary for November, December and February.

Danny Mellor: Suffer Fools Gladly writer and actor

Suffer Fools Gladly tour itinerary in September:

15: Stonegate Farm, Whixley, 5pm;

16: Private garden, Stockton on the Forest, York, 2pm and 4pm;
17: The Poplars, Myton on Swale, 6pm;
18: Beech Cottage, Green Hammerton 2pm;
19: Colton Farm, near Tadcaster, 2pm;
20: St. Alban’s Church, Hull, car park, 2pm;
21: Private garden, Driffield, 2pm;
22: Private garden, Gilberdyke, 5pm;
23: To be confirmed.

Details on how to apply for tickets will be updated regularly on the Badapple website, badappletheatre.co.uk

Can you provide a home for Badapple Theatre’s new play Suffer Fools Gladly or live film Eddie And The Gold Tops? Urgently

Kate Bramley: Badapple Theatre artistic director is looking to launch two autumn shows, one outdoors, the other indoors

WANTED! Badapple Theatre, the Green Hammerton company that takes shows to your doorstep, needs your urgent help to secure funding for two autumn projects.

Urgent really does mean urgent, as company founder and artistic director Kate Bramley explains: “We’ve just been offered a new grant from Arts Council England to cover our interim work between now and December 2020. They have set a deadline of Monday, August 31 for us to have six outdoor performances and six film events confirmed, so please do get in touch as soon as possible if you would like to be included.”

To put flesh on those bones: “As part of that, we’re looking to find a small number of outdoor spaces that would be willing to host a performance of Danny Mellor’s new play, Suffer Fools Gladly, between September 16 and 23,” says Kate, who commissioned Danny in the spring to write the piece for Badapple’s Lockdown Podcast series.

“It’s an extremely inventive and witty short comedy that at its core simply looks at the perils and perks if you had to tell the truth…all the time!” says Kate.

“Appealing to young and old audiences alike, this upbeat tale narrates the comic fall from grace of Ozzy, the court jester who is exiled from the magical kingdom of Marillion. It takes an unlikely friendship with a cynical 17-year old Earth girl, Stevie, to bring the joy back to both of their worlds.

Danny Mellor: Actor and writer for Badapple Theatre’s September play, Suffer Fools Gladly

“Danny’s play has a hint of political comment for the times but is really just meant to be a fun hour of upbeat storytelling to give people a bit of a lift.”

Danny has signed up to perform in next month’s mini-tour with Anastasia Berham, his co-star in last year’s Badapple Christmas show, Bramley’s warming winter play The Snow Dancer.

“They’re two great young actors who’ll be taking on the many voices and parts in a show with costume and puppetry design by Catherine Dawn,” says Kate, who will co-direct next month’s production.  “So, I’m now hoping to find a few hosts/ venues – we need six in mid-September – to make it work and we’re moving swiftly to do this.”

Badapple’s second putative autumn project has been prompted by an “overwhelming response from halls” [village and community halls] to a survey, expressing an interest in high-quality filmed versions of theatre shows.

“We’re looking at late October to early November for bookings for film-live screenings of Eddie And The Gold Tops,” reveals Kate. “To this end, we are again seeking a minimum of six venues to take part.

Last Christmas: Danny Mellor and Anastasia Berham in Badapple Theatre’s 2019 tour of The Snow Dancer.
Picture: Karl Andre

“When we started looking for the ultimate ‘feel-good’ show from the Badapple back catalogue, there was no contest! Eddie And The Gold Tops is our 1960s’ comedy about the unexpected and meteoric rise to stardom of Eddie, the local Bottledale milkman.

“With award-winning design by Charlie Cridlan and catchy and comic 1960s-style songs from our Sony Award-winning resident composer Jez Lowe, this show has delighted our audiences since 2012.”

In the Eddie And The Gold Tops storyline, Eddie inherited the family milk round from his father and has fulfilled his deathbed promise to never miss a delivery to the good people of Bottledale. Suddenly things are on the up: his songs are heading up the charts and if he can turn up by tonight, he will be on Top Of The Pops…so, get ready, Eddie, go! When things take a churn for the worse, however, will he arrive back in time for the morning milk round?

“Arts Council England have accepted our programme to make Eddie And The Gold Tops the first of these live-film featured events,” says Kate. “Our ambition is to create a new style of filmed performance – the ‘hybrid-live’ – that captures the energy, theatricality and immediacy of our live theatre shows while providing a quality of filmed entertainment that modern audiences have come to expect.

“The filmed show will feature a cast of three versatile performers leaping swiftly through a multitude of roles and songs, for audiences of all ages to tap their feet and laugh along to. We’re therefore looking for a small number of organisers to screen these pilot Theatre Film Night performances for socially distanced audiences at indoor venues in late October. Even better, make it a Sixties’ themed night with fancy dress and Bring Your Own.”

Anastasia Berham: Signed up to co-star with Danny Mellor in Suffer Fools Gladly

Summing up Badapple’s aims in an open letter headlined “Badapple Theatre: To Boldy Go… “,  administrator and company director Claire Jeffrey says: “As you all know, the Coronavirus pandemic has meant the closure of all live events for a prolonged period and we are hoping to now work in partnership with Arts Council England to safely deliver a small number of live events between September 2020 and January 2021.

“Our project ambition is simply to offer a series of pure feel-good events that are open to all ages and are just about local people having the confidence to gather safely with friends and neighbours at our ultra-small-scale Theatre On Your Doorstep events.

“We will, of course, be preparing a full Covid-19 risk assessment in line with Government guidelines for both of these projects that have been specifically designed to build audience confidence for live events by offering reduced capacity/ socially distanced showings.”

Claire’s letter concludes: “We would be delighted to answer any questions that you may have about the details, including finances and being Covid-19 safe. I’m working from home at the moment and can be reached on 01423 331304 or by email to clairebadappletheatre@gmail.com if you have any questions or wish to talk anything through.”

Hurry, hurry, with that phone call or email as Badapple need six of the best twice over…venues, that is. “We have to get them confirmed for Eddie And The Gold Tops before we can get the money to do the filming,” urges Claire.


The poster for Badapple Theatre’s first tour of Eddie And The Gold Tops, or Eddie & The Gold Tops as it was billed in 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Badapple Theatre writer-director Kate Bramley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only one question for…Badapple Theatre Company artistic director Kate Bramley

Kate Bramley: artistic director of Green Hammerton touring troupe Badapple Theatre Company

Question: In her opinion piece in The Stage, esteemed theatre critic Lyn Gardner speculated on whether rural touring shows would be the first to be released from the lockdown prohibitions. Could Badapple’s Theatre On Your Doorstep shows be back soonest, Kate?

“Unfortunately, I think Lyn has overlooked the [often older] age of the hall organisers and their community audiences and the latent fear factor, which I believe will make them unlikely to want to socialise in groups at all.

“I think she’s right about the flexibility of the seats, i.e. seats can be spaced apart to give social distance, and arts events that are ultra-local must be safer. But audiences would still have to move to and from the venue safely and, of course, the performers would have to be safe.”

“It’s just as complex for a small hall as for an arena when you start to break down the variables. Venues would still have to operate at 30 per cent of capacity for people to move around within them safely and certainly, for us, it doesn’t seem economically viable on that basis.”

Badapple Theatre switch from theatre on your doorstep to desktop for podcasts. UPDATED with Kate Bramley interview

Badapple Theatre Company podcast duo Frances Tither, left, and Sarah Paine, pictured in Badapple’s 2018 touring show Amy Johnson

BADAPPLE Theatre Company’s Theatre On Your Doorstep van is parked up, the hand brake applied by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of travelling to Yorkshire’s smallest and hardest-to-reach village halls this spring, the Green Hammerton company is switching to Theatre On Your Desktop.

“At a time when arts projects of all kinds are on hold, we’re keeping spirits up by making freely available podcasts of one of our best-loved productions, Back To The Land Girls,” says artistic director Kate Bramley, who founded the grassroots touring company 21 years ago with the mission to “offer the best of new theatre in the most unexpected of places”.

“Now you can access relaxed readings of our popular World War Two comedy in a series of free ten-minute podcasts, starring Frances Tither and Sarah Raine.”

Explaining the rationale behind the Desktop initiative, Kate says: “For the past 21 years, we’ve been touring original productions to rural communities that do not normally get the chance to host shows locally.

“But the creative team decided the best way to keep the plays coming during lockdown was to bring them direct to people’s desktops and hopefully spread a little virtual cheer.”

Back To The Land Girls is an apt choice for Badapple’s debut virtual venture, given the parallels with the strictures of 2020 life in Covid-19 lockdown limbo. “This historic play of ours is surprisingly resonant at this time as our Land Girls are facing life-changing times head on, but are resilient and manage to triumph,” says Kate.

“The most resonant aspect of looking at the Land Girls play again is their uncertainty and trepidation about what’s going to happen, and then a decent amount of grit and determination as they turn their hands to learning new skills in a hurry.

“It seems that a lot of us are having to do that, albeit from the confines of our own homes, rather relocating to the country.”

Kate’s story follows the adventures of Buff and Biddy, two young women who volunteer for the Women’s Land Army in Yorkshire, played by Frances Tither, BBC docu-drama award winner for 2018’s Emmeline: Portrait Of A Militant, and Sarah Raine, whose credits include Wild Rumpus Theatre’s Colour The Clouds.

Kate Bramley: Badapple Theatre Company artistic director and playwright

“Expect a humorous look at Buff and Biddy’s experiences as they are bonded by hard physical work, back ache and plenty of banter,” says Kate, whose script is complemented by original songs and music by Sony award-winning singer-songwriter Jez Lowe.

The podcast episodes were recorded during April by Kate, Frances and Sarah via Zoom from their homes. “The quality reflects that, but there is a relaxed feel to the readings that our listeners have commented they are enjoying,” says Kate.

“Hopefully, as the series develops, we’ll be able to upgrade the recording process, as well as continuing to employ a number of freelance performers who are currently out of work.”

Looking ahead, Kate says: “We’re hoping to expand the series to include more shows from the Badapple back catalogue – we have more than 20 years of plays to choose from – and we’re already looking at the possibility of delivering The Thankful Village, as it’s very resonant for rural communities and also those who are missing family they can’t be with.”

What else? “Probably The Carlton Colliers, for the football feel-good factor, and also Eddie And The Gold Tops, our ultimate rural touring Sixties’ music show,” says Kate. “Anything upbeat and fun, so we can spread good cheer around our isolated audiences.”

There is the possibility of new material too. “Subject to funding, we hope to commission some new short plays for the podcast series,” reveals Kate.

She has been “surprisingly busy” in lockdown with a combination of home-schooling and various creative projects on the back burner. “We’re still preparing for our next live tour of Elephant Rock, which we’re delighted has received Arts Council support,” she says.

Until Covid-19’s pandemic strictures intervened, dates were in the diary for Badapple to tour Kate’s latest play to 30 venues from April 16 to May 31. The Elephant Rock tour has been rearranged for September and October, pending Coronavirus governmental policy updates.

“But many of our partners are now re-considering moving it again to Spring 2021,” says Kate. “It’s a case of wait and see, but the creative team are still working and the designs look wonderful, so that’s some good news for us.

“We’ve had a full read-through of the new play – done virtually – and a lot of good discussions about the ins and outs of the staging, so it’s moving along well.”

From theatre on your doorstep….to theatre on your desktop

Theatre journalist and esteemed reviewer Lyn Gardner wrote an opinion piece in The Stage on May 4 speculating on whether rural touring shows could be the first to be released from the lockdown prohibitions.

Kate, however, strikes a cautionary tone: “Unfortunately, I think Lyn has overlooked the [often older] age of the hall organisers and their community audiences and the latent fear factor, which I believe will make them unlikely to want to socialise in groups at all,” she says.

“I think she’s right about the flexibility of the seats, i.e. seats can be spaced apart to give social distance, and arts events that are ultra-local must be safer. But audiences would still have to move to and from the venue safely and, of course, the performers would have to be safe.

“It’s just as complex for a small hall as for an arena when you start to break down the variables. Venues would still have to operate at 30 per cent of capacity for people to move around within them safely and certainly, for us, it doesn’t seem economically viable on that basis.”

Seven weeks in lockdown, how has village life been for Kate in Green Hammerton? “It’s very quiet in our village at the moment, though our premises are shared with the Post Office, village shop and village Coffee Shack, so we’re able to see villagers cautiously passing by to run their household errands and grab a socially distanced beverage or two,” she says.

“It’s pleasant to see other people passing, even if we can’t interact! A number of community groups have sprung up to support older households as well, and it’s great to see people looking beyond their own four walls to help others.”

Days spent in lockdown limbo afford time for learning, discovering and appreciating anew. “I have learned that my allotment works better when I’m not working full time! And I realise how lucky I am to live and work in a rural area,” says Kate.

“It has been a very different experience for my family than it has been for many others, and one has to hope that the societal will is now present to give greater equality to families who are struggling for either economic or geographical reasons.”

For more details of how to download Back To The Land Girls via Podbean, go to badappetheatre.com.

Badapple Theatre switch from theatre on your doorstep to desktop for podcasts

Badapple Theatre Company podcast duo Frances Tither, left, and Sarah Paine

BADAPPLE Theatre Company’s Theatre On Your Doorstep van is parked up, the hand brake applied by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of travelling to Yorkshire’s smallest and hardest-to-reach village halls this spring, the Green Hammerton company is switching to Theatre On Your Desktop.

“At a time when arts projects of all kinds are on hold, we’re keeping spirits up  by making freely available podcasts of one of our best-loved productions, Back To The Land Girls,” says artistic director Kate Bramley, who founded the grassroots touring company 21 years ago with the mission to “offer the best of new theatre in the most unexpected of places”.

“Now you can access relaxed readings of our popular World War Two comedy in a series of free ten-minute podcasts, starring Frances Tither and Sarah Raine.”

Explaining the rationale behind the Desktop initiative, Kate says: “For the past 21 years, we’ve been touring original productions to rural communities that do not normally get the chance to host shows locally.

Badapple Theatre Company artistic director and playwright Kate Bramley

“But the creative team decided the best way to keep the plays coming during lockdown was to bring them direct to people’s desktops and hopefully spread a little virtual cheer.”

Back To The Land Girls is an apt choice for Badapple’s debut virtual venture, given the parallels with the strictures of 2020 life in Covid-19 lockdown limbo. “This historic play of ours is surprisingly resonant at this time as our Land Girls are facing life-changing times head on, but are resilient and manage to triumph,” says Kate.

Her story follows the adventures of Buff and Biddy, two young women who volunteer for the Women’s Land Army in Yorkshire, played by Fran Tither, BBC docu-drama award winner for 2018’s Emmeline: Portrait Of A Militant and Sarah Raine, whose credits include Wild Rumpus Theatre’s Colour The Clouds.

“Expect a humorous look at Buff and Biddy’s experiences as they are bonded by hard physical work, back ache and plenty of banter,” says Kate, whose script is complemented by original songs and music by Sony award-winning singer-songwriter Jez Lowe.

Until Covid-19’s pandemic spread intervened, dates were in the diary for Badapple to tour Kate’s latest play, Elephant Rock, to 30 venues from April 16 to May 31. The tour is now being rearranged for September and October, pending Coronavirus governmental policy updates.

For more details of how to download Back To The Land Girls via Podbean, go to badappetheatre.com.

Coronavirus takes bite out of Badapple’s Elephant Rock tour, postponed to autumn

“The health and safety of the team and our audiences always comes first,” says Badapple Theatre Company artistic director Kate Bramley

BADAPPLE Theatre Company are postponing their spring premiere of Elephant Rock amid the creeping spread of Coronavirus.

The “decline in audience confidence for travelling to events following confirmation of Covid-19 as a global pandemic” has prompted Kate Bramley’s company, from Green Hammerton, York, to call off the April 16 to May 31 tour, now re-arranged for the autumn.

Badapple Theatre Company in 2016 production The Last Station Keeper. Picture: Karl Andre

“These are unprecedented times and while the current advice is for events to continue as normal, we are conscious this could change at any point,” says Kate.

“The financial risk of the project for us and our partner venues has become prohibitive. Postponing now, before our actors are in rehearsal, is much less stressful for them as they can plan more effectively around their own families.”

Kate continues: “Of course, the health and safety of the team and our audiences always comes first, so we understand people’s reluctance to book tickets for shows scheduled in April. We have already managed to rearrange most of the tour performances for September and October 2020, so we look forward to seeing our audiences later in the year.”

Badapple Theatre Company’s Theatre On Your Doorstep logo

Purveyors of “theatre on your doorstep”, Badapple were to have toured Elephant Rock to 30 venues to mark their 21st anniversary with founder and artistic director Bramley’s 21st original script for the North Yorkshire company.

Badapple’s previous shows have toured to predominantly rural areas, all written and directed by Bramley, who was born in Yorkshire, grew up in Cornwall and worked as associate director for Hull Truck Theatre before embarking on her own theatre business.

Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre’s 2019 Christmas show, The Snow Dancer. Picture: Karl Andre

Not only has Bramley sustained a long career as a playwright and a director, but she also has built a company that employs three permanent members of staff and countless actors, musicians and technicians every year.

In a sector that relies heavily on external funding from Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery UK and charities, more than 50 per cent of Badapple’s tours are self-funded, meaning box-office sales speak for themselves. The company had been offered project support of up to £15,000 towards the spring tour.