From Bowie to Nick Cave, Costello’s teddy to Morrissey’s chin, Simon Cooper captures rock icons in caricature at Pocklington show

Chin up, Morrissey: The Smiths, as portrayed by Simon Cooper

EAST Yorkshire illustrator Simon Cooper has worked for NME, Time Out, the Radio Times and Punch magazines.

Now, he has launched an exhibition of original art, illustrations and prints at Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) that will run in the Studio until January 6.

On show are many of his commissions for NME (New Musical Express, as was), inspired by Simon’s lifelong love of music. 

“Music has always been an important part of my life,” he says.” For as long as I can remember I’ve immersed myself in records, live shows and the music press. When I got my degree in illustration and started to work for Sounds and NME, it was my dream gig.”

Knuckling down: Elvis Costello teaches teddy a lesson, by Simon Cooper

He ended up working for the two rock music weeklies for almost 20 years, producing hundreds of illustrations during that time. 

“The first two pictures were of Malcolm McLaren and the Beastie Boys and the last two were of Super Furry Animals and Manic Street Preachers,” he says. 

Simon, who lives in Everingham, near Pocklington, had graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, in Dundee, before moving to London to pursue his career as an illustrator.

“My four years at art college, surrounded by like-minded creative types, were particularly inspiring and motivating,” he says. 

Beastie Boys: Simon Cooper’s first illustration for New Musical Express

He worked almost exclusively for magazines before going on to illustrate many children’s books for Pan Macmillan, Penguin and Oxford University Press, among others.

Simon names Chuck Jones, Ronald Searle, Rene Magritte, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall among his artistic inspirations, alongside his penchant for comic books. “I’ve always had a love of comics and cartoons and consequently my style usually errs in that direction,” he says.  

His latest piece, The Owl And The Pussycat, is his favourite new work among the collection in PAC’s Studio. “It’s got music, romance and a dreamlike quality,” reasons Simon, who now focuses on independent projects, creating artwork and illustrations for sale at galleries, art shows and through his online shop at etsy.com/uk/shop/Cooperillo. 

Illustrator and caricaturist Simon Cooper

Here CharlesHutchPress puts quick questions to Simon Cooper for sketch-quick answers.

Why did you first choose musicians for your subject matter as opposed to film stars, comedians, politicians?

“Because music was my first love and it will be my last. Music of the future and music of the past. [Editor: Spot the reference to John Miles’s grandiose 1976 top three hit Music]. 

How did you settle on your distinctive style of illustrations? Trial and error? Gradually? 

“A bit of both. My style develops all the time. I’m inspired and influenced by new things every day.” 

Has your style changed over the years?

“My style, the way I work and the way I see things, has changed a lot over the years. These days most of my work has a digital element but when I started, I only used pencil, ink and paint.”

Cave art: Simon Cooper’s illustration of Bad Seeds frontman Nick Cave

What do you like most about black-and-white caricatures?

“I’m so old that when I first started working for the music press they were only printing in black and white! I had to develop a style that looked bold in newsprint. I still enjoy doing the occasional black-and-white image – like my recent Nick Cave picture – although most of my work now is in full colour.” 

What do you like most about colour caricatures?

“Working in colour allows me to use more textures and take a more painterly approach.” 

What source material do you work from? Moving imagery? Photographs?

“It would be nice to have the musicians come and sit for me but I have to make do with looking at their photos while listening to their music!”

Rubberband girl: Kate Bush, at a stretch, by Simon Cooper

What have musicians said about your depictions of them? Have you had face-to-face encounters with any of them?!

“Sadly no face-to-face encounters, unless you count seeing them in a live performance, though I have had positive feedback from musicians via magazine editors and one or two phone calls and emails from the artists themselves.” 

Your tone is generally light-hearted and humorous? Why?

“It’s perhaps what separated my work from everyone else’s at art college. I’ve always preferred to include humour or visual puns in my work rather than any lofty narrative.” 

How did you first land commissions with NME and Sounds?

“I left Dundee College of Art and headed to London with my portfolio under my arm. I knocked on doors and asked for appointments with art editors of my favourite magazines. I’m probably making it sound easier than it was, but I think my timing was right and the humorous element worked to my advantage.”  

Space odyssey: Simon Cooper’s David Bowie

What have been the career highlights of your other illustrative work?

“I’ve won a couple of awards for children’s book covers for Pan Macmillan. 

“I’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of commissions over the years from high-profile magazines such as Punch, Radio Times, Time Out. 

“I’ve worked for the British Film Institute’s magazine Sight And Sound for the past ten years. That’s been an absolute pleasure as film is another of my passions.”  

How have Chuck Jones, Ronald Searle, Rene Magritte, Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall inspired you? Humour? Playfulness? Artistic style?

“Chuck Jones and Ronald Searle’s humour, Magritte’s playfulness and Chagall and Matisse’s artistic style.” 

Do you have a favourite among your music portraits? If so, which one and why?

“Tom Waits, because I’m a huge fan. Years ago, I was commissioned by Sounds magazine to produce a picture of him. I happened to have tickets to see him that night at Hammersmith Odeon. I went to the gig, which was magnificent. I went straight home, feeling very inspired, finished the picture and delivered it to Sounds the very next morning.” 

Tom Waits: Simon Cooper’s favourite among his music portraits

What are you working on at present?

“I’m just finishing a Led Zeppelin picture. Another of my all-time favourites.”

How would you sum up your Pocklington show?

“Plenty of aesthetically pleasing images, a hint of quirky humour and a slice of rock’n’roll nostalgia for music fans.” 

This feature runs to 1,034 words. Can a picture say more than 1,000 words?

“Yes, give or take a few hundred words.”

Simon Cooper: Art, Illustration & Prints, Pocklington Arts Centre, until January 6 2022. Admission is free during opening hours only. For more information, visit pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk or call the box office on 01759 301547.

Simon Cooper’s poster for his Pocklington Arts Centre exhibition

“When Ash and Lucy start to fizz together, the planets start to spin,” says Emma Rice of her Wuthering Heights coupling

Lucy McCormick’s “rock star” Cathy in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Steve Tanner

ASK Wise Children artistic director Emma Rice why she cast performance artist and actor Lucy McCormick as Cathy in her stage adaptation of Wuthering Heights, and she replies: “Lucy is a rock star.”

Literally and metaphorically! She is pure charisma and has a wildness of spirit that takes my breath away. She is fearless, passionate, seriously sexy and maverick,” says Emma. “She was my Catherine Earnshaw from the moment I saw her perform and I cannot believe my luck that she is creating this role with me. I am in awe.”

Ask Emma why she picked Ash Hunter for Heathcliff, and she enthuses: “Oh, everything! Ash Hunter is everything I want from my Heathcliff. He has a unique intensity that could stop a train in its tracks and a deep understanding of human love, rage and sorrow. He is one of the finest actors I have ever worked with and when he and Lucy start to fizz together, the planets start to spin. I am beyond words.”

From Tuesday (9/11/2021), Lucy and Ash will be at York Theatre Royal, leading Rice’s company in Wise Children’s wild folk musical account of Emily Bronte’s raging Yorkshire moorland tale of love, revenge and redemption in a co-production with the York theatre, the National Theatre and the Bristol Old Vic.

Here Lucy and Ash discuss Emma’s directorial style, returning to the stage, their roles, their passions, their accents.  

Emma’s style is so distinctive, how would you describe it?

Lucy: “I would say ‘theatrical’.”

Ash: “I read somewhere that it’s ‘theatre magic’ and I think that a very apt description of her style. She’s got a massive bag of tricks, which she can delve into to create something rare and different to the theatre you see anywhere else.”

Lucy: “Colourful and dramatic but very theatrical and very musical. A bit of everything.”

Ash: “She clearly has a love for the stage and all of its facets; puppetry, song, dance, there’s nothing that doesn’t happen in this production. Vivid.”

How are you feeling about getting stuck into this production, especially after the last two years?

Lucy: “I’ve known about this job during that whole time, which was weird. It got postponed twice during those two years, but it’s good to be back being busy.”

Ash: “Previous to lockdown, the last couple of jobs I’ve had were in TV, so it’s great to be back on stage again. But this has always been a huge production that we’ve been leading up to. So, I think in terms of emotion and preparation it’s been quite a big shift starting Wuthering Heights.”

“When Ash and Lucy start to fizz together, the planets start to spin,” says director of Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff and Lucy McCormick’s Cathy in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights. Picture: Steve Tanner

Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff are a passionate pair, what are you most passionate about?

Ash: “I’m passionate about Lucy.”

Lucy: “I’m passionate about deconstructing patriarchal capitalist systems and I like peanut butter.”

Ash: “And I’m still passionate about Lucy.”

Emily Brontë’s novel has inspired so many versions. How do you best know Wuthering Heights: as the book, a film or TV adaptation or that Kate Bush song?

Ash: “Mine is the Kate Bush song, always and forever, and the Tom Hardy TV series version, which is what I based my Heathcliff on,” [he says with a laugh].

Lucy: “I’ve read the book, back when I was an acting student. I read it because I thought I should read some old classic novels, and now I’m in it!”

What sort of Heathcliff and Cathy will feature in this version of Wuthering Heights?

Lucy: “I’m a bit more intense than Cathy in my actual life.”

Ash: “I think what’s quite clear is that we have some similarities to our characters in real life. I think I’m a lot like him, especially the version that we are doing here. We were saying the version of Heathcliff here isn’t colour-blind casting; he is black, he’s got a Jamaican accent.

“He’s spurned and treated like an outcast, not only because of his poverty or social standing, but also because of his colour, and the anger that’s brewed up within him is a righteous anger.

“Colourful and dramatic but very theatrical and very musical,” says Lucy McCormick, summing up Emma Rice’s stage version of Wuthering Heights. Picture: Steve Tanner

“It’s something that I have felt; I think he is me if I hadn’t found my peace. I actually think that he is less brutal than the Heathcliff in the book and there was a desire to show that people are not entirely bad or entirely good. I think Emma [Rice] hasn’t allowed Heathcliff to become as dark as he could have become, and there are moments where you see him soften.”

Lucy: “Emma wants to leave it on a positive. He’s bad enough.”

Why should this story be told now?

Ash: “For me, its specific to what’s going on in the world and with me and my relationship with my blackness and masculinity. I’m hoping there are people who are going to see this and identify with Heathcliff and his struggles. If you treat someone like a monster, then you create a monster. You wanted a monster, you got one.

“Hopefully, people see that reflection and even out of that can come love and positivity, and if you do face that and deal with your demons, something good can come from it.”

Lucy: “I do think people will always be a***holes; what’s a better way of putting that? It’s like reality TV, these awful people play out their lives and people love to look in on it and their mistakes and hopefully learn from them.

“It’s a classic story of dysfunctional people making mistakes and hopefully an audience can analyse it and see where it went wrong. Because people can be rubbish, and that’s never going to change, unfortunately.”

This is a classic Yorkshire tale; how are your accents coming along?

Ash: “I’m speaking with a Caribbean accent. I love it because of the lyricalness of it. I can’t imagine doing it another way and also where it places him and my voice. It is there to differentiate him from everyone else; you can’t get away from his otherness.

Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff with Katy Owen’s Isabella in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights. Picture: Steve Tanner

“The choice that when he comes back a gentleman, that he hasn’t changed his accent, he has a more refined, posh, deeper Jamaican accent but he’s not trying to change who he is, he’s owning it. It’s beautiful.”

Lucy: “What was weird for me is that it’s close to my accent but not my accent. I’ve almost found that harder than say an American accent or whatever else I’ve done. It’s just working on that subtle difference. Tweaking my own voice. It’s quite annoying!”

What can the York audiences expect to feel after watching this adaptation of Wuthering Heights?

Ash: “Exhausted! It’s a whole gamut of human emotions! Emma hasn’t left anything out.”

Lucy: “They’re going to laugh, they’re going to cry – and feel celebratory at the end but they will have gone through a journey.”

Ash: “The first half is just a juggernaut. It’s a play in itself! The ending of the first half is just… Watching Catherine and Heathcliff’s descent into mutual madness is just woah! It’s cool.”

Lucy: “There’s a point in the first half that you get to and you just don’t stop! And then we do a second play! The audience seem to feel good about it. Emma wants the audience to feel good at the end.”

Ash: “The first half has a massive tragedy and the second half ends with big drama but in a different way. Emma is careful to give the audience a gift to go away with.”

Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights runs at York Theatre Royal, November 9 to 20. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Lucy McCormick in Wise Children’s tour poster for Wuthering Heights, leaping onto the York Theatre Royal stage from Tuesday. Picture: Hugo Glendinning




Hitting the Heights – Heathcliff Richard, throbbing passion and withering looks

Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff and Lucy McComick’s Cathy in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights in 2021. Picture: Steve Tanner

AS Emma Rice’s adaptation of Emily Brontë’sWuthering Heights heads to York Theatre Royal from November 2, Steve Pratt considers the reaction to the original novel and previous incarnations of the story.

Bell, book and Brontë 

EMILY Brontë’s only novel Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 under the pseudonym Ellis Bell. Wuthering Heights and Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey were accepted by publisher Thomas Newby before the success of their sister Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre. 

It was described by reviewers as both “a disagreeable story” and “a strange book”. Another thought the faults of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre were “magnified a thousand-fold”, adding that “the only consolation which we have in reflecting upon it is that it will never be generally read”.

Another critic noted: “It is not without evidences of considerable power: but, as a whole, it is wild, confused, disjointed, and improbable; and the people who make up the drama, which is tragic enough in its consequences, are savages ruder than those who lived before the days of Homer.” 

Praise was in short supply. “We rise from the perusal of Wuthering Heightsas if we had come fresh from a pest-house. Read Jane Eyreis our advice, but burn Wuthering Heights,” suggested one critic. 

The writer in United States’ publication Graham’s Lady’s Magazine was clearly no fan: “How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors…”

Cliff Richard’s Heathcliff in 1996

Heath-Cliff Richard

HEATHCLIFF, a musical conceived by and starring Cliff Richard, centred on the character of – yes, you’ve guessed it – Heathcliff. Some imagined that dark and brooding Heathcliff was outside clean-cut pop star Cliff’s acting range. Song lyrics were by Tim Rice, no less. The musical’s book was not by Ms Brontë but Cliff and theatre director Frank Dunlop. 

A studio album with ten songs from the show, including duets with now-Dame Olivia Newton-John, was released in 1995 with the stage version premiering the following year in London. Ticket sales broke box office records although critics were less enthusiastic than Cliff’s fans.

Moors the merrier

IN 1939, MGM turned the book into a movie, recreating the Yorkshire Moors on a California ranch and in a Hollywood film studio. Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon starred. A “very poor” adaptation, thought one critic, adding: “The accuracy is dreadful, the characters are almost unrecognisable and the setting a century and a half out. Enjoy it as a romance but, if you watch as a portrayal of the book, you will be disappointed.”

Oscar-nominated as best picture, the film lost out to Gone With The Wind.

Ralph Fiennes, in his film debut as Heathcliff, and French star Juliette Binoche as Cathy in Peter Kosminsky’s 1992 film Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

Beating about the Bush

WUTHERING Heights was Kate Bush’s debut single in 1977, written when she was 17. It became the first UK number one written and performed by a female artist.

Kiss me Hardy

THE 2009 ITV adaptation of Wuthering Heights starred Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy, who became a couple in real life once the cameras stopped turning. Their romance had a happier ending than Cathy and Heathcliff’s – they are now married with children.

Throbbing passion 

JANET McTeer, the award-winning actor who worked in the York Theatre Royal coffee bar as a student, not only appeared in the 1992 Wuthering Heights film as Ellen Dean but also read the audio book.

A reviewer considered her performance brought the book fully to life, adding, “McTeer’s sections throb with the passions appropriate to this classic.”

O-O-Brontë 

THE forgotten James Bond – hands up those who remember Timothy Dalton played 007 in three movies – was shaken and stirred by Cathy when he played Heathcliff in the 1970 film. Producer Louis Heyward declared this would be more like the book than the first American version (not difficult), saying “Hollywood now goes in for the truth. Heathcliff was a bastard and Cathy a real bitch and that’s how they’ll be in this film”.

A sequel, Return to Wuthering Heights, was threatened but happily never materialised.

Lip Service satirists Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding in Withering Looks

‘Allo, ‘Allo, Eeethcleef

THE 1992 film version was shot on Yorkshire locations with Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff and French actress Juliette Binoche as Cathy. The scenery was authentic but critics worried about the French actress’s faltering English accent, not to mention seeing an uncredited Sinead O’Connor narrating the story as Emily Brontë herself.

Effing Heights

A BBC Radio 3 adaptation put the f-word into the mouths of Cathy and Heathcliff to “capture the shock” that greeted the publication of the book (which had words crossed out in the original text because they were considered too strong).

Writer Jonathan Holloway declared: “What I wanted to elbow out is this idea that it’s the cosy greatest love story ever told – it’s not. For me Wuthering Heights is a story of violent obsession, and a tortuous unfulfilled relationship. This is not a Vaseline-lensed experience.”

Gone with the Howling Wind

HURLEVENTwhich translates as Howling Wind – was a 1985 French film adaptation of the first part of the novel, set in 1930s’ Southern France. Other adaptations have moved the story to Catholic Mexico, a California high school and medieval Japan. The book has also been an opera and a graphic novel.

Withering Looks

LIP Service, alias comedy duo Sue Ryding and York’s Maggie Fox, continue to perform their award-winning Brontë spoof Withering Looks on stages up and down the land. The show is described as “an authentic look at the lives and works of the Brontë sisters – well, two of them actually as Anne has just popped out for a cup of sugar”. 

Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights, a York Theatre Royal, National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic co-production with Emma Rice’s Wise Children, runs at York Theatre Royal from November 2 to 9. Box office: 01904 623568.

The Moor the merrier as Ben books mini-season with Joanna Neary at Theatre@41

Ben Moor and Joanna Neary: Mini-season of comedy shows at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York. Picture: Natalie Shaw

MOOR, Moor, Moor is in store when Ben Moor takes over Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, for a mini-season of offbeat comedy with Joanna Neary from October 21 to 23.

Ben presents Pronoun Trouble, A Comedy Lecture, on Thursday at 8pm; then he and fellow writer-performer Joanna team up for an unconventional comedy double bill on Friday at 7.30pm.

Neary’s Wife On Earth, a multi-character sketch show with songs and impersonations, will be followed by Moor’s Who Here’s Lost?, his dream-like tale of a road trip of the soul taken by two outsiders, a melancholy, uninspired artist and a mute architect, as they seek an understanding of what they have made with their lives while visiting some quirky landmarks.

Saturday opens at 3pm with Joanna’s debut children’s puppet show, Stinky McFish And The World’s Worst Wish, and concludes at 7pm with the two-hander BookTalkBookTalkBook, a “silly author event parody show” wherein Moor and Neary portray a pair of writers trapped inside a book festival. As the event spins beyond their control, it degenerates into an absurdist comedy about authorship, artificial intelligence and washing-up.

In the first of the 55-minute, Edinburgh Fringe-length shows, Pronoun Trouble, a lecturer takes to the stage and begins an analysis of The Hunting Trilogy at a symposium on the subject of Looney Tunes.

This series of Chuck Jones shorts features Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, and their ongoing argument as to whether it is now Duck Season or Rabbit Season. “As she delves deeper into the alternate reality of the characters’ world, her talk goes off the rails and into the woods,” says Ben.

“Meanwhile, an attendee makes notes, not just on the subject matter but also on the lecturer, on things he sees in the room, and the other students. His favourite words, his favourite mugs and T-shirts, and the schism on London’s high streets between the spellings of launderette and laundrette, all cross his mind.” 

Eventually the two strands of thought twist together, and the piece concludes with a contemplation of performance, friendship and regret.

Ben Moor and Joanna Neary: Presenting their comedy double bill of Who Here’s Lost? and Wife On Earth

“Pronoun Trouble is a lecture about lectures, the intricacies of passion, and how we should be there for each other. The Powerpoint uses the cartoons to go into ridiculously unnecessary depth – and a swathe of invented academia – to dissect hidden meanings, secret stories and unconsidered relationships with other works,” says Ben. “Likewise and concurrently, the audience member scrutinises parts of his own life and output.” 

Pronoun Trouble is typical of Moor’s “stand-up theatre” pieces wherein he places universal themes in bizarre and funny landscapes, with his writing drawing comparisons with authors as diverse as Lewis Carroll and Thomas Pynchon.

“First performed in 2017, the response to Pronoun Trouble has been overwhelmingly positive,” he says. “Audience members have described it variously as brilliant, hilarious, wonderful, clever, surreal and very, very, very silly. It is, hopefully, all of those things.”

In Neary’s Wife On Earth, Brief Encounter-inspired Fantasist-housewife Celia and friends take their Cosmic Shambles Network podcast on the road with their wife-based gang show. 

“They’ll be asking ‘what on earth is a wife? And why?’,” says Joanna, who creates character comedy shows in the vein of Victoria Wood and Vic Reeves.

“From the history of wifery, to the wiles and wherefores of when to wife; a dozen wives (ex-wives, future wives, non-wives and anti-wives) wait in the wings at a village hall near you, ready to share their startling stories, while bickering and drinking wine out of a teapot. Please note, some non-wives and wives will be expressing themselves in dance form.”

Summing up Wife On Earth, Ben says: “Joanna performs her brilliant buffet of characters as a gang of wives and non-wives go on tour to raise funds to re-lead the church roof with lead-free lead. New faces (wigs) plus old favourites such as Bjork, Kate Bush on sexy housework and Celia hosting and dancing.”

In the cryptic, melancholic, surreal, mind-expanding and heart-felt Who Here’s Lost?, Moor asks: “What do we make with our lives? An artist worries his work has lost its way. An architect wants to see her buildings for a final time. A changing landscape searches for itself.  

“This is a story about what we value as we go along, and how we present it to others. It features bubble-wrap, party games, museums, ants and ice cream – and a gorgeous score by Suns Of The Tundra – so so if you’re lost, just think about the ice cream.”

The poster for Ben Moor and Joanna Neary’s comedy theatre double bill when presented in Farsley, West Yorkshire earlier in the tour

Neary’s 40-minute puppet show, Stinky McFish And The World’s Worst Wish, is suitable for ages four to eight but is accessible to all. “Stinky The Crab longs to be human; Lucy would love her very own pet. Can they make each other’s dreams come true? Or should Stinky be careful what he wishes for?” asks Joanna.

“With original music and a cast of colourful characters, Marina Fishwife tells the tale of how the tiny brave creatures of the rock pools work together to make life in the rock pools good again for everyone.”

BookTalkBookTalkBook’s send-up of a very serious author talk going bizarrely off the rails introduces Jenny Nibbingley and Burton Mastrick, who need no introduction. As two of Britain’s most published – although least read and most widely ignored – novelists, it is no surprise they have been invited to today’s book festival.

Their event’s moderator, Tim Timminey, likewise significant, should be turning up soon, but until then, Jenny and Burt agree to read sections from their books, Wretched Lawns and The Exceptions. Bad decision.

“As an ex-couple, their writing seems mainly to consist of ongoing digs at the other’s character and work,” says Ben. “But is that all that is going on? Might this all be a reading from another book about a book talk going horribly wrong? Or is that also part of something else?

“BookTalkBookTalkBook combines a parody of awkward live author events, an exploration of artificial intelligence and the creative process, a Beckettian live theatre experience and an experiment in the limits of patience regarding card tricks.”

Layer folds into layer; story reflects story in a piece that changes direction constantly, challenging the audience while still being entertaining.

“If you’ve ever been to a literary event and thought somehow it needed to be even more awkward, hoped for confusing card tricks and/or wondered why the writers aren’t obsessed with washing up, this basically might just be the show for you,” says Ben.

Tickets for Ben Moor and Joanna Neary’s mini-season of shows are on sale at 41monkgate.co.uk.

Ben Moor: “A natural storyteller who blurs the boundaries between comedy, theatre and performance art,” says fellow humorist Stewart Lee

AFTER all that info, here is a burst of CharlesHutchPress quick questions for quick answers from Ben Moor.

How did the York run of shows come about and when did you and Joanna hit on the idea of sharing such blocks of performances?

“I’d worked with Alan Park [Theatre@41 chair] on a mentoring project in London called Scene and Heard, and when he said he was looking for shows for Theatre@41, I got in touch.

“All the shows were originally planned for the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe, but when that was cancelled, they were put into storage and now seems a good time to get them up and running again.”

Should more performers combine to mount shows this way?

“Of course! It’s a good way to present a mini-season and spend time in lovely York.”

How do you and Joanna know each other and what makes for a good combination of shows on the road?

“We first worked together on a project at the National Theatre Studio in 2005 and I’ve long been a fan of Joanna’s writing and performances. Neither of us fits particularly easily into the stand-up circuit and it’s great to learn that there’s a comedy audience who want something a bit out of the mainstream.”

You call your offbeat comedy “nonsense”. That seems very harsh on yourself, especially as comedian, author and newspaper columnist Stewart Lee says: “Ben Moor, for my money, is the Ken Campbell/Spalding Gray of my generation, a natural storyteller who blurs the boundaries between comedy, theatre and performance art”. Discuss…

“All comedy is nonsense to some degree. My work doesn’t discuss the world as it is, it’s a glimpse into a universe a step or two either side of ours. I love theatre of the absurd and surreal humour too.”

Do you enjoy lectures?

“I do. Pronoun Trouble was partly inspired by a day of interesting talks and it was fascinating to watch the speakers “perform” and get their enthusiasm across to their audiences.”

Why are author events just so awkward and as stiff as an old green room sofa?

“There is a certain way of doing them that confines them – and in fact that is what appeals to their audience. They expect a reading or two, some questions from a moderator, questions from the audience and a signing.

“BookTalkBookTalkBook plays with those expectations and undermines them constantly.”

The poster for Ben Moor and Joanna Neary’s BookTalkBookTalkBook, Saturday’s two-hander at Theatre@41

The tour of your latest piece, Who Here’s Lost?, was delayed by the accursed pandemic. Did the piece change over those months that found many of us on “a road trip of the soul” as we couldn’t go anywhere and felt lost and disconnected?

“I first presented it at the Port Eliot Festival in Summer 2019 and it hasn’t changed much since. I’m sure there are going to be lots of shows about the last couple of years and they’ll be great, but no, it’s very much a piece in its own world.”

Apparently “Ben Moor’s shows aren’t easy to describe, but are impossible to forget”. Explain yourself, please!

“My work mixes comedy with storytelling and theatre and while that sounds like it’s caught between stools, I find the freedom to explore the space between the stools very liberating.

“I mix lines that are meant to be funny with ones that are poetic with others that are melancholy and it’s the task of an audience to follow all the threads to create their own pictures.”

What gets you up in the morning?

“The delight of sharing this wonderful world and the adventure of what might come next.”

After Moor, Moor, Moor in York, what might come next for you?

“Joanna and I are performing our Comedy Double Bill again in Aldershot in December, and we hope to have the other shows on the road next year too.”

Did you know?

BEN Moor has been producing offbeat solo comedy shows for nearly three decades, winning a Herald Angel Award for his show Coelacanth. As an actor, he has appeared in The Queen’s Gambit, A Very English Scandal and The IT Crowd. He created the series Undone and Elastic Planet for BBC Radio and is the author of More Trees To Climb.

JOANNA Neary produces character comedy shows such as Inbox – The Art Of Now and Before The Room Next Door, with Michael Spicer, both for BBC Radio 4.She has TV and film credits for Darkest Hour, Miranda, Ideal and Man Down and played Miss Jones in CBBC’s So Awkward. Wife On Earth is a live version of her podcast for the Cosmic Shambles Network.

Ben Moor in an episode of the hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit

Kate Bush’s Hounds Of Love comes under Harrogate Vinyl Sessions spotlight tonight

KATE Bush’s 1985 album Hounds Of Love will be the subject of tonight’s Harrogate Vinyl Sessions via Zoom to raise funds for the Friends of Harrogate Hospital charity.

The 7.30pm online event will be introduced by organiser and master of ceremonies Colin Paine, before a comprehensive Bush profile by Harrogate Advertiser journalist and Charm event host Graham Chalmers, the spa town “Professor of Pop”.

This will be complemented by “some video action” from Jim Dobbs during the album playback in full from 8pm.

“The multi-million selling Hounds Of Love is the fifth studio album by English singer-songwriter and musician Kate Bush,” says Graham. “Originally released on September 16 1985, it marked a return to the public eye for Bush and won her success in the USA after the relatively poor sales of her previous album, 1982’s The Dreaming.

“The lead track Running Up That Hill became one of Bush’s biggest hits. The album’s first side produced three further successful singles, Cloudbursting, Hounds Of Love and The Big Sky.

“The second side, subtitled The Ninth Wave, forms a conceptual suite about a person drifting alone in the sea at night.”

Colin says: “For our latest Vinyl Sessions we have put together a superb JVC turntable and Shure V15III Run via a magnificent Sony STR 6120 Receiver. We stream via our HQ Nidd server for music fans to enjoy. We run our dual platform audio stream and Zoom for the event.”

To join tonight’s online event, you need to book at Eventbrite on the Vinyl Sessions website at www.vinylsessions.org.