THE TakeOver Festival 2023 rules the roost at York Theatre Royal in a week-long theatre festival run by final-year York St John University students as they take their first leap into the entertainment industry.
The Theatre Royal is partnering with York St John to give students the opportunity to perform their own work on the main stage, as well as learn about key roles in the theatre.
Taking over the Theatre Royal all this week until Saturday, the students have booked York theatre companies Next Door But One, Out Of Character, Fladam and Hallmark Theatre to perform too, plus Pink Milk from London.
As part of their third-year assessment, 32 students have formed eight of their own theatre companies to showcase their talents: Compos Mentis, MOOT, Reconnect, Cordless, Chaos, Bridge Theatre, For Us By Us and Twisted Tales.
TakeOver enables third-year performance students to work as producers, production managers and front of house, in addition to marketing the festival on their social media platforms. The festival also works with the wider community, making theatre with children from York High School and sharing the joy of theatre with families.
This year’s event takes the theme of In Living Colour: Listen, Inspire, Act. “We aim to get people talking about what’s important, shedding colourful light on to meaningful issues,” says TakeOver 2023 producer Megan Price. “The festival will bring to light new possibilities and provide a platform that celebrates each other. TakeOver allows people to have a voice and share their creativity on a bigger platform.”
David Richmond, senior performance lecturer at York St John University, says: “TakeOver is a fantastic opportunity for students to make that important first step to being professional theatre makers.
“It gives the Theatre Royal an opportunity to see what the next key developments in theatre will be – as this generation really is going to be doing things differently. For the audiences, it will give them an insight into the future of theatre, and on their own doorstep.”
Zoe Colven-Davies, from York Theatre Royal, adds: “It’s been wonderful to work with third-year performance students, to see them bring to York Theatre Royal stage their own work as well as the work of creators in York.”
Megan, 21, from Blackhall, County Durham, is studying on the acting course at York St John, where courses also run in Drama & Theatre, Drama & Dance and Drama, Education and Community.
“None of my family is creative,” she says. “But I got into amateur dramatics with Blackhall Drama Group, doing a pantomime every January and a summer showcase from the shows every June/July.
“I mainly perform, but after going away to university and having two years out from the shows, they’ve asked me for a wider input, now that I’m back,” she says.
Megan was selected by a combination of York Theatre Royal staff and York St John lecturers after pitching for the post of producer. Roles in production management, communications, outreach and front of house have been designated too.
“It’s a major part of the degree, with the course advertising that in your third year you will work with and perform at York Theatre Royal and will be assessed on running a festival and being involved in it too,” she says.
“For TakeOver 2023, we created the first draft of the festival programme, working with communications and production management to agree on certain things. Front of house need to know what will be going into the theatre; communications need to know what shows they will be promoting. The closer to the opening, the more collaborative it becomes.”
Why did Megan put herself forward for the top post? “I wanted to be the producer because it’s not something I’ve had much experience of doing, whereas with other roles, I have done that,” she says.
“I wanted to do something that would challenge me and provide me with new skills, in terms of financial budgeting and scheduling.
“The artistic vision comes into it too, but the theme of In Living Colour had already been chosen before I took up my post. Each group of performers from York St John had to pitch a theme for the festival, and the Theatre Royal then chose the theme on the basis of what fitted in best with previous years.”
Megan and her fellow programmers wanted to create a festival that would be accessible to theatre companies in the north, giving them the chance to perform at the Theatre Royal, while “bringing to light themes that are hidden in the world”.
Plays range from Pink Milk, the one London company heading north, presenting Naughty’s frank account of growing up queer outside of a big city to Hallmark Theatre’s An Open Mind, a comedy drama about two autistic children trying to navigate the ups and downs of school and the education system.
Megan will not only be producing the festival but performing in it too in Chaos’s production of Female Rage on May 27 at 1pm in the York Theare Royal main house. “We can’t have an ordinary Shakespeare at TakeOver!” she says. “We’re basing our play around Macbeth, taking themes from Shakespeare’s play and expressing how they affect us as women in society,” she says.
“Presenting our play in a post-dramatic style, we’re looking at women that are so often overlooked. We feature not only Lady Macbeth, but also Lady Macduff and The Witches and Hecate, who we’ve made the central focus of our piece.”
In a nutshell, Female Rage shines a light on witches and womanly wisdom while intertwining Shakespearian themes with stories only women can tell. “We don’t play the characters but use them to channel our rage, with Hecate guiding the performance,” says Megan.
Summing up her involvement in TakeOver 2023, she says: “Not just performing but now doing the other side as well allows me to apply for jobs in the creative industry, like an assistant producer’s job at a film festival here in York,” she says.
“It’s been really helpful to have all that professional experience on hand, but at the same time York St John and York Theatre Royal have let us take the event into our own hands.”
For the full programme and tickets, head to yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
TakeOver Festival 2023: the programme
The Storyteller by Charlotte Tunks
May 22, 11am, York Theatre Royal upper foyer.
The Storyteller speaks the story of the eve of St Agnes. An adaptation of one of John Keats’s best poems.
The Wall by Josh Davies
May 22, 2pm; May 23, 11am, York Theatre Royal foyer.
Thirty to 45-minute musical performance, including renditions of songs from Pink Floyd’s album The Wall.
Operation Hummingbird by Next Door But One
May 23 and 24, 12 noon and 7pm, York Theatre Royal main house.
Teenager Jimmy deals with his mum’s terminal illness diagnosis by diving into computer games. Through this virtual reality, he meets his future self and asks: will everything turn out OK?
Poignant, funny and uplifting, this two-hander by award-winning York company Next Door But One returns after a sell-out debut tour in 2021. Based on director Matt Harper-Hardcastle’s memoir, Operation Hummingbir dexplores grief, loss and the power of noticing just how far you have come.
Crafting Hope – Box Making Workshop
May 23, 1pm, York Theatre Royal foyer.
Do you ever feel like the world has spun into a wormhole of chaos, conflict and civil unrest? This workshop provides the opportunity to relax, retreat and join the quest of breathing hope back into humanity through the art of box-making. A brighter future starts with you, your words and your actions.
City Dance Trail
May 23, 2pm, starting at York St John University’s Creative Centre and journeying through the city.
Join the Dance Trail and experience the city in an entirely new way. Theatre and dance students from York St John University and guest performers from Mind The Gap share a series of site-specific dance performances across the city centre.
Follow the trail through York and watch original dance pieces that explore the promise of the unknown and the potential revelation of new-found realties in familiar and unfamiliar places. Watch out for an unexpected flash mob moment – or better still, join in!
Stepping Stones To Success – Workshop by Next Door But One
May23, 3pm, York Theatre Royal main house.
Are you an emerging theatre practitioner? Thinking of ways to further your career, develop a business idea or kickstart a new project? Work alongside Next Door But One’s artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle as he goes through the lessons he has learned from founding and running a York theatre company for ten years. Participants will walk away with a plan to put their ideas into action.
Stories BetweenThe Lines by Reconnect
May 23, 4.30pm, York Theatre Royal Studio.
Stories Between The Lines is a TIE (theatre in education) performance that highlights the lives of four characters as they navigate the complexities of family life and teenage years. Through the lens of drama, the show explores the issues of concern for the characters and the possibilities for self-care, support, and intervention.
Reconnect discusses the characters’ concerns, then looks at the possibility of self-care, support and intervention. Suitable for 11+.
Dancing In Living Colour by York St John Dance Society
May 24, 1pm, York Theatre Royal upper foyer.
The university dance society offers both competitive and casual memberships to students. Its competition team has been placed first, second and third across various competitions this season. Team members have put together a showcase to celebrate the festival theme. “Come and enjoy Dancing In Living Colour,” they say.
Finding Your Voice As A Playwright – Workshop by Next Door But One
May 24, 3pm, York Theatre Royal main house.
DO you have a play in your head but are not sure how to put it on paper? This workshop will go through several techniques to help you breathe new colour into your creative idea. Tools to help overcome writer’s block, structure your story and understand what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Business Unfinished by Compos Mentis
May 25, 2pm, York Theatre Royal main house.
Compos Mentis explore men’s mental health through post-traumatic theatre in a cabaret that discusses their understanding of the issue along with the stereotypes of a working men’s club. Contains strong language and sexual references; suitable for age 12+.
The Modern Maidens by Twisted Tales
May 25, 3.30pm , York Theatre Royal main house.
Twisted Tales interweave women’s issues with classic fairy tales to look at themes of jealousy, revenge, innocence and betrayal, with a passion for going against social norms and showing that women can be however they want to be. Suitable for age 16+.
Shattered by Out Of Character
May 25, 7pm, York Theatre Royal Studio.
Written by Paul Birch, performed by York company Out Of Character, directed by Kate Veysey and Jane Allanach.
The world has broken. Its colours have drained away. A community is splintered and all seems lost. But in the cracks, and amid the broken pieces, something strange is happening. Something that disturbs, unsettles and surprises.
Welcome to Shattered, a mysterious show where, in the midst of a sinister and impossible fog, things are about to become clear. Suitable for all ages.
Express Your Colours Within – Movement Workshop for Adults
May 26, 11am, York Theatre Royal Studio.
This movement-based workshop invites participants to engage in ways of moving that normally they would not do. Scarves, ribbons and coloured materials will help to create visually appealing work in a workshop run by performing arts and dance students.
4th Round by Cordless Theatre
May 26, 2pm, York Theatre Royal main house.
Cordless Theatre present a collection of playful vignettes inspired by the work of Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. Suitable for all ages.
Inside Outside by Bridge Theatre
May 26, 2.45pm, York Theatre Royal Studio.
How do we understand loss? Bridge Theatre show their experience of loss through movement and verbatim text. Suitable for age 12+.
I Wanna Hold Your Hand by MOOT
May 26, 3.30pm, York Theatre Royal main house.
A fun and physical devised piece that explores the challenges of connecting to others. Suitable for all ages.
Open Mic Nights
May 26 and 27, 6pm, York Theatre Royal foyer.
Naughty by Pink Milk
May 26, 7.45pm, York Theatre Royal Studio.
Days after Andrew ends his seven-year relationship with college sweetheart Jake, he is messaged out of the blue by a former “friend”. This unwelcome advance triggers an emotional spiral as Andrew recounts his unstable first steps into the world of gay sex and queer identity, under the increasingly imposing guidance of Kevin, a teacher at his drama academy.
Naughty provides a frank account of growing up queer outside of a big city. The piece was written to examine the common lack of safe mentorship for LGBTQ+ youth and the over-sexualisation of queer relationships. First performed at Camden Fringe in 2021, Naughty toured in 2022. Suitable for age 11+.
Female Rage by Chaos
May 27, 1pm, York Theatre Royal main house.
Inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Chaos wants to take a closer look at the women that are so often overlooked. Female Rage shines a light on witches and womanly wisdom as they intertwine Shakespearian themes with stories only women can tell. Suitable for age 12+.
Green Fingers by Fladam
May 27, 3pm, York Theatre Royal Studio
York musical comedy duo Fladam – Flo Poskitt and Adam Sowter – are back with a deliciously Roald Dahl-style family treat. Did you ever hear the tale of Green Fingers? A boy born with hands that turn all he touches a shocking shade of green! But is he really as wicked as people say? All will be revealed in this work-in-progress performance, where audience feedback will be welcomed and encouraged afterwards. Suitable for all ages.
36DDD by For Us By Us
May 27, 3.30pm, York Theatre Royal main house.
Inspired by playwright Tim Firth’s Neville’s Island, For Us By Us head out on a girls’ trip gone wrong. After surrendering their phones in a time-locked box, they must surrender themselves to the bitter wilderness as they navigate their fears and secrets.
Containing strong language and sexual references, this comedy-thriller will see the characters bond under extreme circumstances. Suitable for ages 16+.
An Open Mind by Hallmark Theatre
May 27, 7.30pm, York Theatre Royal Studio.
A new comedy drama from Hallmark Theatre about two autistic children trying to navigate the ups and downs of school and the education system. Suitable for 15+
Listen, Inspire, Act – Zentangle Workshop
Available all week, York Theatre Royal foyer.
The Zentangle art form allows creativity and mindfulness through a series of repetitive patterns that are drawn into a starting point of a scribble to produce a unique artwork. This workshop encourages conversation in the community. This activity focuses the mind and is useful in relieving stress and allowing unpressured conversations to happen while in the act of doing.