The film flopped but can Rachel Wagstaff’s play crack The Da Vinci Code? Find out at Grand Opera House, York, this spring

Hannah Rose Caton, in character as Sophie Neveu in The Da Vinci Code, at The Temple Church, London,  a location featured in Dan Brown’s story. Picture: Oliver Rosser

THE world-premiere stage adaptation of Dan Brown’s thriller The Da Vinci Code will play the Grand Opera House, York, from May 30 to June 4.

Directed by Luke Sheppard, who was at the helm of the award-winning West End musical & Juliet, the debut tour from January 10 to November 12 will take in further Yorkshire dates in Sheffield, Hull, Leeds and Bradford.

Producer Simon Friend says: “We have a truly stellar cast and creative team bringing The Da Vinci Code to life on stage for the first time, and with Dan Brown’s full endorsement of the show and the talented director Luke Sheppard at the helm, we’re confident that we’ll please devoted fans as well as newcomers to this magnificent story.

“Dan Brown’s epic thriller has been read by millions worldwide and seen by millions worldwide on the big screen, and we’re all looking forward to taking our brand-new stage version to audiences all over the UK.”

Writer Dan Brown says: “I’m thrilled that The Da Vinci Code is being adapted for the stage and excited to see the unique potential of live theatre enhance this story.

Hannah Rose Caton’s Sophie Neveu, Nigel Harman’s Robert Langdon and Danny John-Jules’s Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code. Picture: Oliver Rosser

“The team making the production has been faithful to the book, but will also bring something new for the audience, in what is certain to be a gripping, fast-paced stage thriller and a thoroughly entertaining show.”

Nigel Harman and Danny John-Jules will be performing the roles of Robert Langdon and Sir Leigh Teabing up to April 16 in Newcastle, taking in Sheffield Lyceum Theatre from January 25 to 29 and Hull New Theatre from March 1 to 5.

Harman will re-join the tour from the August 30 to September 3 dates at Leeds Grand Theatre until the Swindon run in late-October.

The casting for Robert Langdon and Sir Leigh Teabing for the York performances and Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre from November 8 to 12 is yet to be announced.

Other roles go to Hannah Rose Caton, in her British theatre debut, as Sophie Neveu; Joshua Lacy, Silas; Basienka Blake, Vernet; Alasdair Buchan, Remy; Alpha Kargbo, Fache; Leigh Lothian, Collet; Andrew Lewis, Saunière, and Debra Michaels, Sister Sandrine/Marie.

Nigel Harman in character as Robert Langdon: Appearing in Sheffield, Hull and Leeds, but not York and Bradford, in The Da Vinci Code

Should you need a quick refresher course on The Da Vinci Code’s plot, the curator of the Louvre, in Paris, has been brutally murdered. Alongside his body is a series of baffling codes.

Professor Robert Langdon and fellow cryptologist Sophie Neveu attempt to solve the riddles, leading to the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and beyond as they delve deep into the vault of history. In a breathless race through the streets of Europe, Langdon and Neveu must decipher the labyrinthine code before a shocking historical secret is lost forever.

The Da Vinci Code has been adapted for the stage by Rachel Wagstaff (Flowers For Mrs Harris, Birdsong) and Duncan Abel (The Girl On The Train). Director Luke Sheppard, who directed What’s New Pussycatat Birmingham Rep, is joined in the creative team by set and costume designer David Woodhead, video designer Andrzej Goulding,the composition and sound design team of Ben and Max Ringham and lighting designer Lizzie Powell.

Sheppard says: “Cracking The Da Vinci Code open for the stage reveals an epic thriller steeped in theatrical potential, rich in suspense and surprising at every turn. Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel’s brilliant adaptation leaps off the page and demands us to push the limits of our imagination, creating a production that champions dynamic theatrical storytelling and places the audience up close in the heat of this gripping mystery.”

York tickets are on sale at atgtickets.com/york; Sheffield, sheffieldtheatres.co.uk; Hull, hulltheatres.co.uk; Leeds, leedsheritagetheatres.com; Bradford, bradford-theatres.co.uk.

Barry Humphries unmasks for confessional show at Grand Opera House, possums

The man behind the mask: Barry Humphries, Australian actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure

BARRY Humphries will reveal The Man Behind The Mask on his new 2022 tour, visiting the Grand Opera House for his only Yorkshire show on April 13.

The Australian actor, comedian, satirist, artist, author and national treasure, who is set to turn 88 on February 17, will take a revelatory trip through his colourful life and theatrical career in an intimate, confessional evening, seasoned with highly personal, sometimes startling and occasionally outrageous stories of Dame Edna Everage et al.

Tickets for the 7.30pm performance go on sale at £46.50 upwards at 10am tomorrow morning on 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/york.

The Brits welcomed housewife and talk-show host Dame Edna with open arms as Humphries’ premier alter ego immediately became a household favourite, later joined by obese, lecherous and offensive Australian cultural attaché, the Honourable Sir Les Patterson and the elderly, childless Sandy Stone, “Australia’s most boring man”, as Humphries has called him.

Side by side: Barry Humphries and alter ego Dame Edna Everage promoting his 2014 show Eat Pray Laugh!, Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour – not true as it now turns out!

Peeling off his mask to introduce the man behind the clown, Humphries says: “This is a show in which I am the principal character; it’s not Les, it’s not Edna, it’s not Sandy Stone. It is really about this character called ‘me’. I’m not in disguise.”

His York audience can expect a virtuoso comic solo performance filled with laughter, drama and surprise. “There will be an opportunity to ask questions and the magic of technology may even allow appearances – or interruptions – by unexpected guests,” Humphries’ press release teases.

Prompt booking is advised for his return to Yorkshire, where he presented Eat Pray Laugh!, Barry Humphries’ Farewell Tour at Leeds Grand Theatre from February 25 to March 1 2014.

REVIEW: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the Sheffield musical, not the film, in Leeds

Shobna Gulati’s Ray, Amy Ellen Richardson’s Margaret and Layton Williams’s Jamie New in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at Leeds Grand Theatre

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Sheffield Theatres/Nica Burns, at Leeds Grand Theatre, until Sunday. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com. *****

EVERYBODY’S been talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie coming to the Leeds Grand for ages: a two-year wait for early bookers after Covid shut down fun.

“The hit musical for today” began life at Sheffield Crucible Theatre in 2017 and finally makes the 44-mile trip to Leeds after West End success and a screen conversion to film release in September.

Inspired by the Firecracker documentary Jamie: Drag Queen At 16, composer Dan Gillespie Sells (from the pop band The Feeling) and writer/lyricist Tom MacRae worked their magic from an original idea by director and co-writer Jonathan Butterell.

What emerged was the completion of a populist trilogy of Sheffield comedy dramas: the defiant spirit and sheer balls of The Full Monty, the classroom politics and fledgling frustrations of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, and now Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the unapologetic story of the boy who sometimes to be wants to be a girl, wear a dress to the school prom and be a drag queen.

Now you can throw in the sass, the too-cool-for-school dress sense and the multi-cultural diversity of Sex Education, the Netflix binge-watch through lockdowns, as another barometer of Jamie’s topicality for our changing times and attitudes towards gender, bigotry, bullying, homophobia, absentee fathers and the right to self-expression.

Take a chance, if you have the time pre-show, to cast an eye over the programme’s pocket-profiles of Mayfield School Class of 2020, asking Jamie and his classmates: What do you want to be when you grow up? What’s your favourite thing about school? It could be any comprehensive classroom of 16-year-olds, capturing hopes, aspirations and realities with wit and spot-on social awareness. Another testament to just how switched on, relevant, yet boldly humorous this show is.

“Jamie”, on the one hand, is a classic teen rebel story, told from the teen perspective of Jamie New (Bury-born Layton Williams, reprising his West End role), but it is not merely a down-with-the-kids high-school musical.

Class act: Layton Williams’s Jamie New and his Mayfield School classmates in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Even more so than in Hairspray, it gives the adult viewpoint too, whether Jamie’s world-weary but ever supportive mum Margaret (Amy Ellen Richardson, expressed powerfully through her belting ballads, If I Met Myself Again and He’s My Boy); gobby best friend Ray (Shobna Gulati, wonderful);  Jamie’s stay-away Dad (Cameron Johnson); narrow-minded teacher Miss Hedge (Lara Denning), or dress-shop boss Hugo/veteran drag act Loco Chanelle (special guest Shane Richie as you have never heard or seen him before but will want to again!).

Serious points are made, confrontations have both poignancy and punch, but what’s not to love about the sheer bl**dy Yorkshireness of it all: from the frank, no-nonsense humour that mocks the ridiculous careers advice offered at schools to the raucous, rough-rouge glamour, tattoos and all, of Sheffield drag queens Sandra Bollock (Garry Lee), Laika Virgi (JP McCue) and Tray Sophisticay (Rhys Taylor), as musical pizzazz meets kitchen-sink drama.

The songs are a knock-out, led off by the immediately infectious And You Don’t Even Know It, through the irresistible title number and Jamie’s heartfelt Ugly In This Ugly World, to the show-closing defining statement of Out Of The Darkness (A Place Where We Belong). Sam Coates’s band have a ball with Gillespie Sells’ orchestrations.

Matt Ryan’s direction, Kate Prince’s choreography and Anna Fleischle’s designs are all fast-moving and slick but with room for grit too amid the glitter. You will note the brick designs on the side of the desks, for example.

Not only Williams’s Jamie scores high marks among the classroom performances, so too do George Sampson’s everybody-hating, self-loathing bully Dean Paxton and Sharan Phull’s self-assured, doctor-in-waiting Pritti Pasha.

Yet, of course, everyone is talking about Williams’s Jamie New, so restless at sweet 16 to be “something and someone fabulous”. His Jamie is a mover, a peacock groover, a fantabulous fusion of lip and lip gloss, high heels and higher hopes, outwardly confident yet naïve, in that teenage way, and vulnerable too. What a performance.

Yorkshire has given us Billy Liar’s Billy Fisher, Kes’s Billy Casper, and now Jamie New, disparate young dreamers in need of escape from the grey grime, but this time the story is so, so uplifting, emerging from darkness into the spotlight (and mirroring the return of live theatre from Covid quarantine to boot).

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Remaining performances: tonight, 7.30pm; tomorrow and Sunday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

REVIEW: Martin Dreyer’s verdict on Opera North in Carmen, Leeds Grand Theatre

Chrystal E. Williams in the title role in Opera North’s Carmen. Picture: Tristram Kenton

OPERA North was riding high coming into this new Edward Dick production.

Buoyant through lockdown with multiple streamed events via its own digital platform ON Demand, its backstage efforts were centred on a huge Music Works development.

The outcome of this is the new Howard Opera Centre, named after its principal benefactor Dr Keith Howard, who contributed some 60 per cent of the £18.5 million cost. It will house management and rehearsal studios for the company itself, while providing educational spaces for youngsters to explore their potential.

Within months, a new bar and restaurant with public access will open next to the Howard Assembly Room (now freed exclusively for smaller-scale events), the result of imaginative enclosure of a former Victorian street.

Camila Titinger as Micaëla and Erin Caves as Don José in Opera North’s Carmen. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Sadly, all this excitement did not generate a Carmen to do it justice. It is a besetting sin of Carmen producers that they feel the need to re-interpret Bizet, not to say Mérimée, in tune with modern attitudes.

This runs a serious risk of dumbing down, even presumption: this show’s Carmen, Chrystal E. Williams, was quoted in the programme as declaring that “it would be easy just to do a conventional Carmen”, as if convention were a dirty word – or easy.

It is hard to portray an incorrigible man-eater as a saint, albeit one who is the figment of solely male imaginations. Indeed, after Opera North’s last attempt at the work, Daniel Kramer’s brutalist affair ten years ago, no-one would have been surprised if the company had played this one straight down the middle.

Instead, what we have is a good night out, but with little relevance to the original. Time and place are not identified in Colin Richmond’s sets, but we can tell that this is a border town. Since the smugglers are dealing in drugs, we have every reason to assume that we are on the United States-Mexico border.

Phillip Rhodes as Escamillo with members of the Chorus of Opera North. Picture: Tristram Kenton

The action opens in a bordello masquerading as a night-club, whose clientele is mainly in uniform, doubtless drawn by the illuminated ‘GIRLS’ on scaffolding dominating the scenario. Not exactly an advertisement for women’s lib, especially given female staff sashaying around in flimsy underwear, to the designs of Laura Hopkins.

If these girls are smoking anything, it is coke, not cigarettes. Still, it has to be said, the ladies of the chorus bravely put their best foot forward; if they feel uncomfortable, it certainly does not show.

Immediately noticeable is the sparkling form of the orchestra, with Garry Walker at the helm for the first time as music director, a year later than planned. Theirs is much the most positive contribution to the evening.

Walker keeps rhythms consistently crisp but is equally alive to atmosphere: nerve-jangling chromatics in the card scene, for example, and velvet horns in Micaela’s song a little later. His tenure is off to a cracking start.

Nando Messias as Lillas Pastia: “Makes several androgynous incursions during the second half”. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Neither of the principal pair is vocally quick out of the blocks and he has to gentle them into the fray. Williams is lowered on a swing onto the night-club stage, to be embroiled at once in a fan-dance: it is an eye-catching entrance, in keeping with her charm.

When the stage swivels and we see the ‘real’ Carmen – at her make-up table, wig removed, cuddling what we assume is her daughter – her mezzo, although still light, begins to bite. But it is not until Act 3 that we hear what might have been: genuine passion.

The same applies to Don José. Erin Caves only joined the cast five days ahead of curtain-up, Covid having effectively removed two previous candidates. His safely surly opening is understandable, but does little to convince of his interest in Carmen or offer any reason for her pursuit of him.

If there is any electricity at their first encounter, it is low-voltage, like Caves’ tenor. It is only when his bile is up, much later, that he finds real resonance. His eventual throttling of Carmen prolongs her agony unjustifiably.

Erin Caves as Don José and Chrystal E. Williams as Carmen. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Phillip Rhodes’ Escamillo arrives on an electrically-powered bucking bronco, a cowboy not a toreador; there is no hint of the bull-ring. The swagger of his ‘Toreador’ song certainly raises the vocal temperature but thereafter gradually dissipates, lessening the likelihood that he would offer José any real threat. So when José chases him across the scaffolding that now stands in for a mountain fortress, we are entitled to wonder what all the fuss is about.

Camila Titinger gives an engaging Micaela, whose aria is a touch short on warmth; she is mistakenly encouraged to make much of her pregnancy. Amy Freston’s Frasquita and Helen Évora’s Mercedes are tirelessly flighty, raising everyone’s spirits, while the spivvy smugglers of Dean Robinson and Stuart Laing bring an element of light relief. Matthew Stiff is a firm if stolid Zuniga.

With the Lillas Pastia of Nando Messias making several androgynous incursions during the second half, there is no end to the mixed messages of this ill-focused production. Thank heaven we have five children who know exactly what they have to do, working with a chorus that does its level best to sound persuasive. But the saving grace is the orchestra – focused on unvarnished Bizet.

Martin Dreyer

Further performances on October 26 and 28, then on tour until November 19, returning to Leeds in February 2022.

Will Young marks 20 years since Pop Idol win with hits album and 2022 autumn tour. York Barbican, Hull and Sheffield await

Will Young at 42: Heading for York, Hull and Sheffield on 20 Years Tour in 2022. Picture:

WILL Young will celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Pop Idol win with a 22-date tour next autumn, playing York Barbican on the second night, October 13.

Further Yorkshire dates on the 2022 itinerary of the 20 Years Tour will be at Hull Bonus Arena on October 21 and Sheffield City Hall on October 24. Tickets go on sale from 9am on Friday via aegpresents.co.uk and at yorkbarbican.co.uk, bonusarenahull.com and sheffieldcityhall.co.uk.

Since pipping Bradford musical theatre star Gareth Gates to win Pop Idol’s first series in 2002, Young has become the TV talent show’s most successful contestant, chalking up the best-selling single of the Noughties, Evergreen/Anything Is Possible, ten million record sales and eight UK top three albums, topped off by this year’s Crying On The Bathroom Floor.

Pop Idol was broadcast to as many as ten million viewers when it first aired, shooting South Londoner Young to fame and rewarding him with a record deal to release his debut chart-topping album, From Now On, after receiving a 4.6 million votes from the public.

Next year’s anniversary will be marked by the release of 20 Years – The Greatest Hits, a compilation that will span his Pop Idol winner’s single, Evergreen, and the number ones Light My Fire and Leave Right Now to Crying On The Bathroom Floor track Daniel and two new songs, yet to be named.

The album will be available next May on CD, deluxe signed CD & vinyl LP via Sony Music; fans can place pre-orders from today at will-young.myshopify.com to gain exclusive access to the tour pre-sale from Wednesday. 

Look out too for Young’s Crying On The Bathroom Floor Remix EP, set for release on Cooking Vinyl with six Sudlow remixes of Will’s interpretations of Daniel, Crying On The Bathroom Floor and latest single Indestructible.

Evergreen Will Young, 42, answers questions on his past, present and future:

What has been keeping you busy, Will?

“I just managed to have a lovely two-week break in Greece. I studied ancient history and was completely excited and overwhelmed at finally being able to visit the Acropolis, the birthplace of democracy.”

Young in younger days: Will after his Pop Idol success in 2002. Picture: Indira Cesarine


Can you believe two whole decades have passed by so quickly since your Pop Idol win?

“I love the phrase ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ and the last 20 years have been more fun than I could ever have imagined. I’ll never forget how people took the time to pick up the phone and vote for me. It’s kept me humble and grateful ever since.” 

On reflection, would you have succeeded as a pop star without that ‘sliding doors’ moment of auditioning for Pop Idol?

“I don’t think I would’ve become a pop star at that time without Pop Idol because I don’t think anyone would’ve signed me, an openly gay politics student.  That’s what was so beautiful about the show.”

How did it feel how to receive such a mountain of votes from the British public?

“It was such a new experience, not just for me, but also for everyone involved in the TV show. No-one knew it was going to become such a huge success, to the point where it was even debated in parliament! The whole thing was a rollercoaster of fun and laughs and it felt very validating to be voted for by so many people.”  

What can fans expect from the 20th anniversary live shows next autumn?

“I’m going to be playing most of my singles from over the last 20 years, possibly in chronological order. I’m also going to have a request section where me and my pianist will have learnt every single one of my songs,  including all the B-sides.”

How did you feel to be back on stage at last in front of a live audience for your handful of intimate ‘A Night With’ shows?

“Surprisingly, I didn’t feel like I had been away for that long. I thought I might be more nervous because it had been such a long time due to Covid. However, my muscle memory of gigging kicked in and I absolutely loved interacting with the audience, singing so many of my songs with just a piano. It was a beautiful experience.” 

The poster for Will Young’s 20 Years Tour next autumn

Will songs from this year’s Crying On The Bathroom Floor feature in the 2022 tour show?

“I will definitely be playing the singles from the latest album. I have been so thrilled with how well the whole record has been received. Sometimes things just fall into place and, with the combination of great production plus brilliant artists and songs, it worked out really well. I’m very proud of it.”

Not only did you shine a spotlight on some of your favourite, more leftfield modern female pop artists on this album, but also you wrote to each of them to explain why you recorded their song. Many replied to you – what was the loveliest response you received?

“All of the responses were lovely, but I was particularly moved by Clare Maguire’s response. Her single Elizabeth Taylor is such a special song and she’s such a kind person. I was so pleased that she was really thrilled with my version.” 

Your new single is a remix of your version of Swedish pop artist Robyn’s Indestructible. What attracted you to that song and Robyn in general?

“Robyn was very much an artist I wanted to cover; she’s so well respected as a pop artist and songwriter. I felt like Indestructible was the song of hers that I could do a good original-sounding version of.”

Did your dogs and passion for gardening help you during the pandemic lockdowns?

“Animals are a huge passion of mine; having rescue dogs to look after with all their various operations and rehabilitation definitely kept me focused. One of my concerns I’m exploring is how dogs like beagles are tested on in laboratories when they don’t need to be. If I can shine a light on animal cruelty, then I will.

“When it comes to gardening, I absolutely love it and get so much satisfaction out of it. I loved appearing on Gardeners’ World; it’s one of my favourite TV shows.” 

After the success of your role as Emcee in Cabaret, do you have any plans to return to acting in the near future?

“I’m very excited as I’ve just signed up with a new brilliant acting agent and I already have some plans in place for next year – more news coming soon.”

“I’m going to be playing most of my singles from over the last 20 years, possibly in chronological order,” says Will Young as he looks ahead to his 20 Years Tour

Will Young Facts

* Evergreen/Anything Is Possible is officially UK’s fastest-selling debut single of all time.

* Two BRIT Award wins: British Breakthrough Act in 2003 and British Single of the Year for Your Game in 2005.

* Young’s Leave Right Now won 2004 Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically.

* Performed at opening ceremony of 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, Nelson Mandela’s Unite The Stars charity concert in South Africa in 2006 and Concert for Diana at Wembley Stadium in 2007.

* Has performed live duets with Elton John, James Brown, Queen and Burt Bacharach.

* Starred in 2005 film Mrs. Henderson Presents alongside Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins.

* Mental health advocate, official ambassador for Women’s Aid and animal rights’ activist.

* Author of 2020 book on gay shame, To Be A Gay Man. Several follow-up books are in the works.

* Regularly guest-presents Jo Whiley Show on BBC Radio 2.

* Performed at Glastonbury Festival three times.

* Co-hosted first two seasons of Homo Sapiens LGBTQI podcast with Christopher Sweeney; new mental health podcast will launch in 2022.

* In his music-making, Young has collaborated with Burt Bacharach, Eg White, Sia, Steve Lipson, Cathy Dennis and Richard X.

* Played Emcee in Cabaret at Leeds Grand Theatre in October 2017.

* Played Dalby Forest, near Pickering, in June 2012 and Scarborough Open Air Theatre in June 2016. Last played York Barbican on Lexicon tour on October 20 2019.

Will Young as Emcee in Cabaret, on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2017. Picture: Jim Marks

As Billie Marten plays a not-so-secret gig, podcasters Chalmers and Hutch discuss the rise of the Ripon singer-songwriter…

Billie Marten: Ripon singer-songwriter in full bloom on third album Flora Fauna and at secret Harrogate gig with a full band. PIcture: Katie Silvester

WHAT else do culture vultures Graham Chalmers and Charles Hutchinson cram into Episode 57 of Two Big Egis In A Small Car?

How about Blade Runner and where next for billionaires in space?

What’s going on with Covid passports and arts venues?

What can the arts expect from novel Tory Culture supremo Nadine Dorries?

What is the future for album covers?

What was CH’s verdict on Tonderai Munyevu’s Mugabe, My Dad And Me at York Theatre Royal, The Woman In Black at the reopened Grand Opera House, York, and the pie-laden Waitress at Leeds Grand Theatre?

How does it feel to face up to the questions for the revived People We Love exhibition, soon to return to York Minster.

To find the answers, listen to: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1187561/9226087

Everything is right for The Play That Goes Wrong to go wronger for a bit longer on next week’s return to Grand Opera House

What could possibly go wrong? Cue the chaos, calamities, crises and catastrophes of Mischief’s The Play That Goes Wrong, returning to the Grand Opera House, York, from September 28. Picture: Robert Day

THE Play That Goes Wrong keeps getting it right, an Olivier Award winner from the Mischief makers that has chalked up productions across every continent, aside from being given the cold shoulder by Antarctica.

The West End’s longest-running comedy is spreading chaos and calamity across the Duchess Theatre for a seventh year and the fourth major British tour brings the show back to the Grand Opera House, York, from Tuesday after an earlier run there on tour number three in May 2018.

For those yet to encounter the thrills, spills and comedy mayhem of The Play That Goes Wrong, how would co-writer Jonathan Sayer sum it up? “It’s a comedy all about a drama university group who are putting on a play and everything that could possibly go wrong…goes wrong,” he says. “There’s a big cast, there’s lots of jokes and it pretty much does what it says on the tin.

“The three writers [artistic director Henry Lewis, company director Sayer and Henry Shields] have all worked in theatre and have experiences of things going awry in shows we’ve been in.

“Some of my favourite moments watching theatre have been where things have gone dreadfully wrong and the actors are forced to deal with the mistake and try to keep the show on track. 

“On top of that, a huge influence for us is Michael Green, who wrote The Art Of Coarse Acting and actually taught Henry Lewis at youth theatre. Then there’s a huge amount of physical comedy, which is definitely a nod to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.” 

Mischief began in 2008 as a group that specialised in improvised comedy in London and Edinburgh but now creates new comedy for theatre, such as Magic That Goes Wrong, on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre earlier this month, and for television, with the new six-part series of The Goes Wrong Show beginning on BBC One on September 27.

“We created the script for The Play That Goes Wrong when the three of us were living together in a pretty run-down flat in Gunnersbury,” says Jonathan. “We were all working in bars and call centres and restaurants, and in the evenings we’d come home and we’d write until the early hours.

“There’s a huge amount of physical comedy, which is definitely a nod to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton,” says The Play That Goes Wrong co-writer Jonathan Sayer. Picture: Robert Day

“The initial script took about a month to put together and we then workshopped the script with the rest of the Mischief team. Everyone’s done a lot of improv, so we try and take those principles into the writing room and into rehearsal where, if someone has an idea, you accept it and you build on it.”

From playing to 60 people in pub theatres, Mischief have gone on to take productions to 35 countries, none more successfully than The Play That Goes Wrong.

Back for a second tour of bumps and bruises is Huddersfield actor Gabriel Paul, last seen in York in 2018 playing Trevor, the sound engineer pressed into an emergency role on stage.

“There’s just me from the 2018 tour among the 2021 principals, but all eight of us have been in the principal cast on a previous tour, so we’re like the Avengers being reassembled as they needed people to do it who were already familiar with the challenges involved, all up to speed, because of the Covid situation,” he says.

“It was my agent who first put me up for an audition in November 2017 – when I was really embarrassed because I didn’t know anything about the show at all! – and that process involved a lot of improvisation because the director and writers had devised the show around a lot of improvising.

“Initially I auditioned on my own but I ended up doing five auditions, going down to London from Huddersfield each time. They don’t mess about! They really put you through your paces as they want to see how you work with other actors.”

Teamwork is vital, as Gabriel has found on tour in 2018 and 2021 and in the West End in 2019. “One hundred per cent that’s the case. There’s a certain skill in trying to make things look bad or that they’re going wrong, and you have to really be in tune with your fellow actors because otherwise you could get hurt if things go even more wrong than the title would suggest!” he says.

“Being a physical show, it’s not just the stunts we do, but there are strains you can get, so we do group physiotherapy sessions with Carl Heaton, a sports physiotherapist from Manchester, once a month.”

The fourth tour should have run from December 2020 to April 2021 but after the opening day’s two shows, Lockdown 3 put paid to those dates. Instead, Gabriel and co have been on the road since July 13, relishing a return to playing to audiences.

Gabriel Paul reprising his role as sound engineer Trevor in The Play That Goes Wrong, now “going wronger for a little bit longer”. Picture: Robert Day

“We have a saying, because there are 12 characters, we always say the 13th character is Nigel Hook’s award-winning set, but the 14th character is the audience because we do encourage them to participate and even to call out sometimes,” he says.

“It’s the audience’s reaction that I most enjoy about this show; being in a room where you hear people crying with laughter. Hearing that joy all around the country is wonderful.

“I’ve done plays with heavy subject matters  and they’re important to do, but it’s great to hear laughter again after the 18 months we’ve had.”

Comedy or tragedy, serious or light, Gabriel has enjoyed myriad stage roles, whether in Northern Broadsides’ Quality Street, The Queen Of Chapeltown at Leeds Playhouse, Bouncers for Esk Valley Theatre or Othello for Demi-paradise Productions.

“I wish I was in that position of being able to choose roles, but that’s not the reality, but I’ve had the chance to work with fantastic people in fantastic shows,” he says. “I like to do something funny or something conversational, like Everything I Own, the Daniel Ward play I did when Hull Truck Theatre reopened in June with a trio of monologues.

“It was about Errol, a man of Jamaican descent, who grew up in Hull and has just lost his father to Covid. He’s organising his father’s house, and it’s a play with universal themes about loss and grief, fathers and sons, family stories and a love of music.”

Now, “having hoped he had done enough never be asked back, Gabriel is contractually obliged to say he’s extremely honoured to be reprising the role of Trevor and getting the chance to go wronger for a little bit longer”, or so his The Play That Goes Wrong biog jokingly says.

The truth is, half way through a tour that runs until the end of November, Gabriel is loving every minute of being in the Wrong place at the right time again.

Mischief present The Play That Goes Wrong, Grand Opera House, York, September 28 to October 3, 7.30pm and 2.30pm, Saturday and Sunday matinees. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Copyright of The Press, York

Gabriel Paul playing Errol in Daniel Ward’s monologue Everything I Own at Hull Truck Theatre this summer

REVIEW: Waitress, Leeds Grand Theatre, serving pie until tomorrow ***

The waitresses in Waitress: Sandra Marvin’s Becky, left, Lucie Jones’s Jenna and Evie Hoskins’s Dawn

SUGAR, spice, all things nice and not so nice make up the recipe for Waitress, the all-American musical based on the late writer-director Adrienne Shelly’s minor-key 2007 film. 

Flavoured with music and lyrics by Sara Bareilles and book by Jessie Nelson, the show made its West End bow in 2019 and is now doing the regional rounds on its first tour.

Like Heathers: The Musical earlier this season, Waitress has drawn a predominantly female, young, highly enthusiastic audience, out to cheer on heroine Jenna Hunterson (Lucie Jones), waitress and ace pie-maker at Joe’s Pie Diner, a drudge of a cafe off-Highway 27 in small-town Indiana.

Going nowhere in an abusive relationship with layabout, wastrel husband Earl (Tamlyn Henderson), she dreams of escape by winning a prestigious $20,000 pie contest. What a time to discover she has a bun in her own oven.

Newly arrived in town is gynaecologist  Dr Pomatter (Matt Jay-Willis, busting out from boy band Busted), whose bedside manner is more akin to bumbling Mr Bean but is nevertheless most agreeably attractive, and you know where this will lead, married though they may both be, once he tastes her pies.

In other hands, other stories, the tone would be more bittersweet, more stridently feminist too, but brutish, feckless Earl stays in the wings for much of Act Two, the story instead being rich with comedic interplay, especially in the burgeoning relationships of Jenna’s fellow waitresses, one older and very self-assured, the other younger and nervous.

No-nonsense, sassy Becky (Emmerdale’s Sandra Marvin) makes out with the ponytailed grump behind the counter, Cal (Christopher D Hunt), while geeky, kooky Dawn (Evie Hoskins) discovers more than a shared love of historical re-enactments with fellow oddball Oggy (scene-stealing George Crawford, who lifts Act One just when it needs an extra ingredient).

Lorin Latarro’s choreography peaks with all three waitresses having their cherry on the cake at the same time, a climactic scene that brings the house down.

It would be misleading to suggest the savvy-humoured Waitress is too saccharine, even if the sung single-word refrain “Sugar” introduces each scene, but friendship and support, the pursuit of love, the search for joy and the quest for the perfect pie prevail over the darkness cast by Earl.

This is a musical, after all, and not a Tennessee Williams play, and so Diane Paulus’s direction is never too heavy on the salt, although always alive to the drive for female empowerment at the entertaining story’s heart.

Lucie Jones (The X Factor finalist in 2009 and Eurovision: You Decide participant in 2017) reprises her lead role from the West End, singing beautifully, especially in the signature song, She Used To Be Mine. Nelson’s book makes Jenna too sweetly accepting at first, but Jones absolutely captures the change into a woman determined to overcome adversity her way, ultimately free of male constraint.

Marvin’s Becky packs a punch, Hoskins’s Dawn is a daffy delight, and an unrecognisable Michael Starke makes a fine Midwestern gent as seen-it-all businessman and proprietor Joe.

Paulus’s direction is brisk, often as sharp as lime juice, sometimes sentimental; Bareilles’s songs have better lyrics than tunes but are delivered with energy and conviction; Scott Pask’s wheel-on set evokes the bustle of a diner and the wide expanse of Indiana beyond; and Paulus’s ensemble deliver sterling support, along with the band to the side of the stage.

Waitress’s musical pie is multi-layered, not perfectly balanced, more salted caramel than lemon zest, but certainly enjoyable.

Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com.

More Things To Do in and around York with fishermen, Irishmen and a Scotsman. List No. 48, courtesy of The Press, York

Getting Away With Murder(s) documentary filmmaker David Wilkinson at the gate of Auschwitz 1

AS the Grand Opera House reopens, diaries are starting to fill to pre-pandemic levels, much to the delight of a post self-isolating Charles Hutchinson.

Film world premiere of the week: Getting Away With Murder(s); Everyman York, Blossom Street, York, tonight, 6.30pm to 10.30pm

IT has taken 18 years for Yorkshire filmmaker David Wilkinson to bring his documentary, Getting Away With Murder(s), to the big screen.

Exploring an overlooked aspect of the Holocaust, he reveals that “almost one million people in 22 countries willingly carried out the unprovoked murder of 11 million innocent men, women and children but 99 per cent of those responsible were never prosecuted”.

Wilkinson, who examines the reasons behind the disregard for justice, will take part in a post-screening Q&A. Box office: everymancinema.com.

Fisherman’s Friends: Hooked on sea songs at York Barbican

They inspired a film and now they are back: Fisherman’s Friends: Unlocked & Unleashed, York Barbican, tomorrow, 7pm

CORNISH “buoy band” Fisherman’s Friends – combined aged 401 – re-emerge from lockdown for their Unlocked & Unleashed tour.

As celebrated in the film that shares their name, for 40 years they have met on the Platt of Port Isaac’s harbour to sing the songs of the sea.

In the line-up are lobster fisherman Jeremy Brown; writer, shopkeeper and master of ceremonies Jon Cleave; smallholder and engineer John ‘Lefty’ Lethbridge; Yorkshire-born builder John McDonnell; Padstow fisherman Jason Nicholas; filmmaker Toby Lobb and the new boy, former ambulance driver Pete Hicks. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

One Night In Dublin: One night in York for Irish songs aplenty at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Irish gig/jig of the week: One Night In Dublin, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Saturday, 7.30pm

SATURDAY night is the chance to spend One Night In Dublin – in York – when “Murphy’s Irish Pub” opens its doors at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre.

Join in the craic as the lively Irish tribute band covers such Irish staples as Galway Girl, Tell Me Ma, Dirty Old Town, Irish Rover, Seven Drunken Nights and Whiskey In The Jar. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Gary Meikle: Scottish comedian in Surreal mode at York Barbican

This experience really is “Surreal”: Gary Meikle: Surreal, York Barbican, Sunday, 8pm

DELAYED from April 8 to this weekend, playfully dark cheeky-chappie Scottish comedian and “viral sensation” Gary Meikel presents his second tour show in York.

Looking to “get away with talking about anything that will have you laughing at things you probably shouldn’t be”, punchy storyteller Meikle draws material from his own experiences, not least his unique family dynamic.

New show Surreal covers such topics as evolution, social media, how to deal with burglars, single mums, bee sex and small-man syndrome. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Exploration of family, myth and memory loss: Second Body’s Max Barton and Jethro Cooke in Styx at Theatre At The Mill

Residency of the week: Second Body in Styx, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, near York, Sunday and Tuesday, 8pm

SECOND Body duo Max Barton and Jethro Cooke present their theatre-concert exploration of family, myth, memory loss and Max’s grandma, now with remixed music and bearing wounds wrought by 18 months of disrupted human connectivity.

“What does it mean to lose the memories that make us who we are?” they ask. “How can we continue to be ourselves when we are separated from our loved ones.” Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill.

Back in Black: Robert Goodale and Antony Eden in the ghost story The Woman In Black, haunting the Grand Opera House, York, from Monday. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Re-opening of the week: Grand Opera House, York, for The Woman In Black, Monday to Saturday

AFTER 547 days, the Grand Opera House, York, steps out of the darkness and into The Woman In Black from Monday.

In PW Productions’ latest tour of Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s ghost story, Robert Goodale plays Arthur Kipps, an elderly lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over his family by the spectre of a “Woman in Black” for 50 years now.

Antony Eden is the young Actor he engages to help him tell that story and exorcise his fears, but soon reality begins to blur and the flesh begins to creep. Box office: atgtickets.com/york

Bird song: Henry Bird, pictured in his Vampires Rock days, will be the special guest for You Can’t Stop The Beat

Community concert of the week: You Can’t Stop The Beat, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm

GENERATION Groove and Community Chorus are joined by special guest Henry Bird, the well-travelled York singer and guitarist for Tuesday’s fundraiser.

“Concerts and performances have been on hold for well over a year and we’re all delighted to be back getting you singing and even dancing and raising money to help the wonderful Joseph Rowntree Theatre go from strength to strength,” say the organisers. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Waitress: Serving up a slice of musical pie at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday

Musical of the week outside York: Waitress, Leeds Grand Theatre, September 14 to 18

MEET Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of some joy in her life. When a hot new doctor arrives in town, life turns more complicated and challenging, but with the support of her workmates Becky and Dawn, she finds that laughter, love and friendship can provide the perfect recipe for happiness.

Sara Bareilles and Jessie Nelson’s comedy musical stars Lucie Jones as Jenna, Emmerdale’s Sandra Marvin as Becky, Evelyn Hoskins  as Dawn and Busted’s Matt Willis as Dr Pomatter. For tickets:  0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com.

Destiny calling: Kirk Brandon’s Spear Of Destiny are heading to The Crescent in York

Cult band you really should see: Spear Of Destiny, The Crescent, York, September 19

LEADING Spear Of Destiny for 38 years now, Kirk Brandon heads out on their Worldservice@35 tour on the back of releasing last November’s lockdown album.

Brandon’s post-punk band – featuring Adrian Portas (New Model Army/Sex Gang Children), Craig Adams (Sisters Of Mercy/The Cult /The Mission), Phil Martini (Jim Jones And The Righteous Mind) and saxophonist Clive Osborne – re-recorded 1985’s WorldService album during 2020.

The WorldService@35 tour features the album and B-sides in full plus an extended career-spanning encore at three Yorkshire shows: York, then Leeds Brudenell Social Club on September 21 and The Welly, Hull, September 25.

Pie thrower: Jonathan Pie will vent his anger at the truth vacuum at the Grand Opera House, York

Angriest man of the month award: Jonathan Pie, Fake News (The Corona Remix), Grand Opera House, York, September 19, 7.30pm

JONATHAN Pie, the no-holds-barred fictitious political broadcaster alter-ego of Tom Walker, is resuming his Fake News tour that began in 2019 and had to twiddle its agitated thumbs through lockdown.

In that hiatus, Walker continued to post Jonathan Pie content to his social-media channels, whether commenting on the global reaction to the 2020 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement or woke culture.

Now he unleashes his righteous rage once more on stage. Tickets for the York slice of Pie are on sale at atgtickets.com/york.