Bite-sized Q & A with…Erika Noda on her Love Bites piece at York Theatre Royal

Erika Noda: “A true and honest account of what it can be like for someone of dual heritage in a predominantly white city” in her Love Bite, Ai

THE Love Season will soon set hearts pulsing at York Theatre Royal, where the Step 3 reopening will make its mark with Love Bites: a love letter to live performance and a toast to the city’s creative talent.

More than 200 artists from a variety of art forms applied for £1,000 love-letter commissions to be staged on May 17 – the first day that theatres can reopen after restrictions are lifted – and May 18.

The 22 short pieces selected will be performed each night at 8pm under the overall direction of Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster. Each “bite” will take hold for five minutes.

In the third in a series of CharlesHutchPress Q&As, Japanese English actor Erika Noda has five minutes to discuss her Love Bite, Ai, her semi-autobiographical debut solo writing project.

How did you hear about Love Bites, Erika?

“I work as a youth theatre assistant at York Theatre Royal and heard about Love Bites from Kate Veysey, the director of youth theatre. I then went online and looked it up straightaway.” 

What is your connection with York?

“I was born in York and lived here most of my life. My family, on my mum’s side, can be traced back generations in the city. I know my four-times great grandad came to York from Rosedale and was a nightwatchman before he became a police sergeant and lived with his family in Micklegate Bar.” 

What will feature in your Love Bite, Ai, and why? 

“A true and honest account of what it can be like for someone of dual heritage in a predominantly white city. With the Black Lives Matter movement and the escalation of hate crimes against East and Southeast Asian people this past year, it made me think about my own experiences of microaggression and racism, as well as the importance of self-acceptance and self-love.

“It’s important to bring awareness to microaggression because many people are unknowingly hurting others through their words and actions.” 

What has been the best and the worst about growing up with dual heritage?

“I’d say the worst part is the racist comments and microaggressions. Through doing this project, I’ve come to realise how deeply emotionally affected I am by what people have said or done.

“It’s so degrading and belittling, it’s like a pin stabbing you in the heart; it hurts but you can survive if it happens once or twice, but if it keeps happening over and over eventually you collapse and you don’t know if you’ll get up again. 

“Some of the best things about being dual heritage, for me, is that I’ve been immersed in different cultures since I was born. I was two years old when I first went to Japan and was eating with chopsticks from the age of eight.

“I love how it enables me to understand other people’s experiences and ways of life. I’ve also been fortunate that I’m able to travel and experience other parts of the world and cultures for myself.” 

In lockdown, what have you missed most about theatre?

“I miss being on stage and taking theatre to those who may not usually get the opportunity to experience it. After graduating from East 15 Acting School I co-founded a theatre company that specialised in creating sensory shows and workshops for children and young people with complex needs.

“We had planned to tour in Summer 2020 but due to the pandemic it had to be cancelled and an online digital story was created instead. 

“I miss the adrenaline rush and feeling of having just done a performance and how rewarding it can be. I also miss watching theatre and being transported to another world.”   

What’s coming next for you?

“In terms of acting and creating, I don’t have any set plans yet, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next opportunity. Also, I’m working at an immersive art gallery that’s been closed due to lockdowns and now it’s able to open so I expect I’ll be busy there this summer.” 

What would be the best way to spend five minutes if you had a choice?

“Other than watching Love Bites, I would have a brew and a catch-up with my friends because I haven’t seen them in ages.” 

Tickets for Love Bites cost Pay What You Feel at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or on 01904 623568.

REVIEW: Live theatre at last in a York pub garden after a long winter of disconnection

Mandy Newby: Stand-out turn in Weirdo in Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios. Picture: James Drury

Review: Next Door But One in Yorkshire Trios, The Gillygate pub, Gillygate, York, April 23 and 24 2021

LIVE theatre has returned to York. Yes, you read that right.

For the first time since York Stage brought a Covid-enforced early end to their pantomime run of Jack And The Beanstalk on December 30 at Theatre @41, Monkgate, actors have taken to a York stage for two nights of pub theatre…in the spring open air.

Where once a tent would suffice for shows by Alexander Flanagan Wright’s company, now The Gillygate publican Brian Furey has installed a wooden-framed outdoor performance area in the beer garden.

Socially distanced tables with allocated seating and an outdoor bar were complemented by Covid-secure measures: pub staff in face masks to take and deliver drink and food orders; Next Doors But One organisers in black and red masks designed in company livery; the programme in e-programme mode, available online only.

Next Door But One, the York community arts collective directed by Matt Harper-Hardcastle, with input from associate and project manager Kate Veysey and creative producer El Stannage, originally hoped to present Yorkshire Trios: 15 Local Creatives, 5 Short Performances, 1 City, inside The Gillygate in early January until Lockdown 3 put a red pen through those plans.

Instead, backed by Arts Council England funding, NDB1 kept the creatives busy with two months of online professional skill- development sessions and mentoring until the Step 2 reopening of pubs’ outdoor hospitality provided the opportunity to perform.

Project manager Kate Veysey, Next Door But One director Matt Harper-Hardcastle and creative producer El Stannage at the Friday night performance of Yorkshire Trios

A day’s warm weather added to the weekend mood as the Friday audience settled in. Behind them were those who were only here for the beer, but rather than putting up a To Beer Or Not To Beer dividing line, and asking anyone to pipe down, everyone just raised a glass to being allowed to gather in a pub garden after the long winter’s hibernation.

Today, Next Door But One have issued a Let Us Know What You Thought email, asking attendees for Audience Feedback by “sparing a few minutes to complete our short survey so we can build and improve on the event”.

CharlesHutchPress is happy to oblige in the analysis of an evening “themed around Moments Yet To Happen, wherein trios of actors, directors and writers brought theatre-starved York a fistful of short stories of laughter, strength, dreams and everything in between: an optimistic carousel operator; a neighbour with a secret; a poet inviting us into her world; a Jane McDonald fan on a soapbox, and a delivery driver full of wanderlust;.

Taking part were the quintet of trios: actor Miles Kinsley, director Nicolette Hobson and writer, Anna Johnston, staging One More Time We Go; Christie Barnes, Fiona Baistow and Jenna Drury, unmasking Kelly Unmasked; Mandy Newby, Joe Feeney and Dan Norman presenting Weirdo; Emily Chattle, Libby Pearson and Lydia Crosland, making a point in Motormouth, and Nicki Davy, Becky Lennon and Rachel Price, asking And How Are Your Goats Keeping?.

On Friday night, one actor, Nicki Davy, from Leeds, had to be elsewhere (for acting work reasons, hurrah), meaning we missed out on answering the goat welfare question.

The poster for Yorkshire Trios at The Gillygate pub as live theatre sparked into life again

Anyway, here is the survey. Question 1: What did you think of the quality of the performances you saw? Rate from 1 for Poor to 5 for Excellent.

One play, Weirdo, was indeed excellent in darkly humorous, unpredictable, intriguing writing by Norman (the discovery of Yorkshire Trios), offbeat direction by Cosmic Collective Theatre’s Brighton-bound Feeney and deadpan execution by Mandy Newby, the most experienced actor on view, as the weird woman with the even weirder smell emanating from her home.

Kingsley, newly back north from completing his training at the Central School of Speech and Drama, had the difficult task of opening the show, not as the warm-up act but straight in at the deep end, side on under a flat cap, in Johnston’s lingering memory play, One More Time We Go, that demanded more assertiveness in performance under Hobson’s direction.

The most resonant piece in Covid times was Kelly Unmasked, Drury’s study of a woman, newly diagnosed in her 30s as autistic, trying to come to her own terms with a lockdown being experienced by unaware, socially distanced others all around her. It was stressful, as much as distressing watching Barnes’s on-the-wire poet Kelly, when director Baistow needed to extract more variety in her acting tropes.

Friday night ended with Abba dance moves, Jane McDonald cheerleading, a very northern no-nonsense feminist ultra and a soapbox that just didn’t quite wash. Not Macbeth’s tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, so much as a torrid tale told by a “Motormouth” devoid of self-awareness and an off-switch, signifying not enough, for all the energy of writer Crosland, director Pearson and actor Chattle.

In a nutshell, this was a night that swung erratically between 2 and 5 on the scorecard, but with consistently good-quality sound and lighting.

Kinsley amiss: Miles KInsley needed more assertiveness in his show-opening performance. Picture: James Drury

Question 2. Did you enjoy the performances being outdoors in a pub setting? Rate from 1 for Not At All to 5 for Very Much.

Yes and no. It was good to feel alive again in the company of actors, but noises off from the tables at the back, while entirely tolerable under present circumstances of outdoors being the only place to drink right now, would be distracting at future performances if the beer garden is to become a garden of artistic delights. So, 3 out of five for now.

Question 3: Do you feel the bitesize performance pieces suited the pub setting? Again, 1 for Not At All; 5 for Very Much.

Yes, because, like the next round, there was always another one coming down the line pretty pronto. That said, the original idea of promenade performances around the interior of the pub would have worked that much better. So, another 3 out of 5.

Question 4: How did you find the quality of the food and drink available during the performance. Same score grades.

Excellent, attentive service. Genial welcomes from Brian and Matt. White wine for the ladies went down very well. Blackcurrant cordial for the teetotal reviewer was totally entente cordial indeed. Didn’t nibble, so no quibble on that score. 5/5

Poet cornered: Christie Barnes as Kelly in Kelly Unmasked. Picture: James Drury

How did you find the COVID safety measures put in place for the performance? Same score grades.

As with last summer’s Park Bench Theatre at Rowntree Park, last autumn’s socially distanced shows in The Round at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, York Stage’s pantomime at Theatre @41, Monkgate, and York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime, the Covid-safety measures were meticulously carried out. 

As before, the message to the Government is, yes, the arts needs your support, but you should trust the arts to run events with the utmost professionalism, whatever the circumstances. The Gillygate, 5/5. The Government: could do better.

Would you be interested in attending a similar performance to Yorkshire Trios in the future?

Outdoors? Yes, but with the provisos mentioned above. Indoors, yes. The Gillygate has always been a good home to theatre.

As for the content, there is promise here and further opportunities should be encouraged.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience that might help us shape future events?

This review has run to 1,207 words already. Enough said, surely?!

Plenty to say for herself: Emily Chattle’s Motormouth in Yorkshire Trios at The Gillygate pub beer garden. Picture: James Drury

When three’s a crowd in a good way as Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios marks the return of open-air live theatre at York pub

Three cheers: Yorkshire Trios actors, writers, directors and project organisers are all smiles as they gather for a Zoom session

LIVE theatre will burst into life in York for the first time since December 30 when Next Door But One presents Yorkshire Trios in The Gillygate pub’s new outdoor seating area on April 23 and 24.

“The sun is beginning to shine, the days are getting longer, and lockdown restrictions are easing, so we’re inviting you to a production that brings you everything 2021 has been missing so far,” says Matt Harper-Hardcastle, the York community arts collective’s artistic director, who had to postpone the original “mini-promenade” shows planned for inside Brian Furey’s pub in Gillygate in January.

“The plan was that people could get a drink and move around the pub to see the five solo performances, but once lockdown was announced, we thought we’d wait to see what transpired, keeping it on a low heat, but still wanting to do it as soon as possible, when it could be a springboard for the 15 creatives involved to get back out there working again.

“Then Brian [Furey] got in touch to say he’d been building a gazebo structure to make it feasible for him to reopen the pub, but if we could put lighting in, it could double as a performance space too.

15 Local Creatives, 5 Short Performances, I City: Next Door But One’s poster for Yorkshire Trios at The Gillygate

“We could have waited to June, but this felt a brilliant opportunity to come back together now. It feels a really big step now, when two years ago, rocking up to a pub for a show would have felt perfectly normal.”  

Themed around Moments Yet To Happen, trios of actors, directors and writers will bring to theatre-starved York a quintet of short stories of laughter, strength, dreams and everything in between: a neighbour with a secret; a delivery driver full of wanderlust; an optimistic carousel operator; a poet inviting us into her world and a Jane McDonald fan on a soapbox.

Actor Mandy Newby, director Joe Feeney and writer Dan Norman will stage Weirdo; Nicki Davy, Becky Lennon and Rachel Price, And How Are Your Goats Keeping?; Emily Chattle, Libby Pearson and Lydia Crosland, Motormouth; Christie Barnes, Fiona Baistow and Jenna Drury, Kelly Unmasked, and Miles Kinsley, Nicolette Hobson, Anna Johnston, One More Time We Go.

“From the hearts of Yorkshire creatives, told in the heart of the city and into yours, Yorkshire Trios is here to remind you of the talent and stories that our community holds,” says Matt, ahead of next week’s 7.30pm performances, supported by Arts Council England funding.

Next Door But One artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle and Anna Johnston, writer of the Yorkshire Trios short play One More Time We Go, pictured in pre-pandemic times

“From humour to drama, sentimentality to the bizarre, an evening of Yorkshire Trios will have something for everyone…and there’s a drink included in the price!

“We all know the feelings of being stuck indoors, longing to go to the pub and catch up with our friends. Well, Yorkshire Trios has all of that and more. What better way to mark the latest phase of the Government’s Roadmap than being sat with your friends and family in The Gillygate pub’s beer garden, watching five original, locally produced and completely relatable short performances?”

Yorkshire Trios underpins the values of Next Door But One (NDB1) as a theatre company. “Buying a ticket to attend Yorkshire Trios is about more than watching theatre, it’s about our local community” says associate and project manager Kate Veysey, York Theatre Royal’s youth theatre director.

“It’s backing the wealth of creative talent in York, it’s supporting a local hospitality business at the centre of the city and it’s taking those small but manageable steps to reconnect people with one another and the wider community.”

“Yorkshire Trios is taking those small but manageable steps to reconnect people with one another and the wider community,” says project manager Kate Veysey

The 15 Yorkshire creatives at the heart of this NDB1’s project were recruited at the end of 2020, but after the imposition of Lockdown 3 from January 5 put a stop to that month’s performances, the collective talents of Newby, Feeney, Norman, Davy, Price, Lennon, Crosland, Pearson, Chattle, Drury, Barnes, Baistow, Johnston, Kinsley and Hobson have been kept busy and creative through a series of online professional development sessions.

“We know how difficult it has been for many professionals in the arts to stay engaged in their creative practice during lockdown, with many feeling disconnected from the industry and in need of opportunities to stretch themselves and keep them going” says creative producer El Stannage.

“For more than two months, we’ve provided skills development and mentoring sessions, meaning that now our 15 creatives are even more equipped to bring their best to the performances within Yorkshire Trios, and we cannot wait to share that with audiences.”

Matt emphasises the importance of Yorkshire Trios to all those involved. “It’s had that feeling of ‘this is what was needed’: someone saying, ‘we believe in you, and, yes, we want to use your talents’,” he says.

Trio-mendous! When three’s a crowd…in a good way for York writers, actors and directors

“It’s been wonderful having 15 people sharing their skills and having that belief that ‘you belong, you haven’t been forgotten; there’s still a place for you when you’ve been told your work is not viable’.”

Looking ahead, Matt says: “We’ll be recording the performances too, so that anyone who still doesn’t feel safe to attend or has any vulnerabilities stopping them, we can stream it to them at a later date, with more info on that following the live performances.” 

Next Door But One presents Yorkshire Trios outside at The Gillygate pub, Gillygate, York, on April 23 and 24 at 7.30pm. The performances are Covid safe and therefore with a socially distanced limited capacity, with tickets being sold as ‘tables’ of up to six individuals from a maximum of two households.

For more information and ticket details, go to: nextdoorbutone.co.uk/Yorkshire-Trios.php.

Copyright of The Press, York

York Theatre Royal takes Youth Theatre online for new term of interactive sessions

Harvey Harrison, aged eight, taking part in a York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre online session at home in York

YORK Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre is back in action…online, complete with scavenger hunts and kitchen discos.

The St Leonard’s Place building remains closed under Lockdown 3 strictures, ruling out the usual face-to-face sessions there, but here comes Zoom to lift any feelings of doom and gloom for participants in one of the North’s largest youth theatres.

Youth Theatre membership takes in 150 children and young people from across York and the surrounding areas, divided into ten age groups spanning five to 19, with each group working towards developing skills and experience in a variety of theatre disciplines.

Five groups for the older members began in November but had to be moved online after the first session in response to the second lockdown.

“These proved really successful,” says Julian Ollive, head of creative engagement.  “Face-to-face contact with our young people, being in the same space, working collaboratively and creatively, is really what we’re about and what we value. Unfortunately, this new lockdown has thwarted our ability to go live but we’re going ahead with running our classes online again.”

Julian continues: “In a time of great uncertainty, we believe it’s important to begin the process of coming back to a ‘normal’, which, for us, is working directly with children and young people in our community.

Martha and Wilf in an age five to eight group session on Zoom with practitioner Fiona Baistow, assistant Fiona and mentor Katherine

“Although we would have loved to welcome back our members face to face, we’re  excited by the creative challenges and opportunities that working online will bring.”

Youth Theatre director Kate Veysey says: “Offering youth theatre online gives us new opportunities to connect with the young people in different ways. We feel this is even more important at a time when they have additional pressures on them.

“The chance to connect, to work with their friends and make new ones, and be creative together, is fantastic.

“It’s been really wonderful welcoming back our young people to youth theatre, as well as some new members. In our first week back, we’ve had scavenger hunts, kitchen discos and props and costumes from everyone’s homes. It’s a joy to work together. 

“Our practitioners are relishing the challenge of making our online delivery as exciting and vibrant as our live sessions have been in the past until we can safely offer these again.”

The 14 to 19 age group is rehearsing the play Tuesday for NT Connections, a digital festival that brings together groups from around the country, this year remotely. In light of the festival going online, rehearsals are applying options within this format, such as breakout rooms to work on separate scenes, using props and making sound effects from home sources to support the text.

York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre’s 14 to 19 company working on the play Tuesday for the NT Connections festival

Among those joining in the new 2021 sessions from home in York is eight-year-old Harvey Harrison, pictured above, whose mother Hayley says: “Harvey has been a member of Youth Theatre for just over two years and in that time the activity has brought him a huge amount of pleasure.

“It’s been a fantastic creative outlet for a child who is often, socially anyway, quite reserved and he has developed a new-found bravery and sense of poise. The physical thrill he gets from the performance opportunities is perfectly complemented by his quiet and growing confidence.”

In part inspired by the impact of taking the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime to community venues last month, the Theatre Royal is planning to move the Youth Theatre further out into the community once restrictions allow.

Friargate Meeting House and New Earswick Folk Hall will then host groups throughout the week, as well as the Youth Theatre continuing to work in spaces at the Theatre Royal.

“We’re excited by the prospect of continuing the reach into our community, so positively felt and received through the Travelling Pantomime,” said Julian.

Visit yorktheatreroyal.co.uk for more information on joining York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre and applying online for a Y card, the new youth membership scheme. The card costs £5 and provides notifications when spaces in the youth theatre become available, invitations to games sessions and tasters, discounted membership rates on tickets, events and much more.

Go to: https://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/be-part-of-it/children-and-young-people/youth-theatre/ or email youththeatre@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk