More Things To Do in York and beyond in search of algorithms, rhythm and a Snake. List No. 88, courtesy of The Press

Algorithm & blues: Coder and post-classical pianist Larkhall at Micklegate Social. Picture: Samuel White

GLASTONBURY? Out of sight, out of mind, out of pocket, Charles Hutchinson prefers to stay up north for arts and crafts aplenty.

Curioso gigs of the week: Larkhall, Micklegate Social, Micklegate, York, tonight, 8pm; Brudenell Piano Sessions, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds Grand Theatre, tomorrow, 4pm

RECOMMENDED to Nils Frahm and Max Richter neo-classical devotees, Larkhall combines creative coding with beautiful post-classical piano pieces and makes algorithmically created visuals as he plays.

Larkhall is the performance alias of Minnesota mining town-born, Cambridge University-educated, Bath-based composer, coder and new-media artist Charlie Williams, whose intimate York show coincides with this week’s release of his third album, Say You’re With Me, with its theme of men’s mental health.

Can algorithms be art? Charlie reckons so. “My shows are an experience of algorithms creating beauty instead of, like, getting us to buy more stuff,” he says. Box office: larkhall.org.

Frankie Valli: Fronting The Four Seasons in one day at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Nostalgia of the week: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, tonight, gates, 6pm

THE Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys, chronicling the life and times of Frankie Valli and his New Jersey group, has brought so many songs to a new generation.

Cue Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Frankie playing Scarborough at 88 with The Four Seasons, performing Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man, Rag Doll, Let’s Hang On, My Eyes Adored You, Who Loves You, December, 1963 (Oh What A Night), Grease et al. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Leg up for comic effect: Thom Tuck and Dennis Herdman’s double act in The Play What I Wrote at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Play of the week: Birmingham Rep in The Play What I Wrote, York Theatre Royal, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; Thursday, 2pm; Saturday, 2.30pm

WRITTEN by The Right Size comic coupling of Sean Foley and Hamish McColl in tandem with Eddie Braben, the chap what wrote little Ern’s plays, The Play What I Wrote is both a dissection of double acts and a celebration of Morecambe and Wise.

Thom Wall insists on performing yet another of his hapless plays, an epic set in the French Revolution. Partner Dennis Hayward prefers to continue with their failing comedy duo instead, believing a tribute to Morecambe & Wise will restore Wall’s confidence. First, he needs to persuade a mystery guest to appear in the play what Thom wrote, with a different star for each show. Box office: 01904 623658 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Snake Davis: Saxophonist plays Cop’ Carnival’s debut jazz night on Tuesday

Community event of the week: Cop’ Carnival Day, Copmanthorpe Recreation Centre, Barons Crescent, York, July 2, 11.30am to 6pm

NOW in its 51st year, Cop’ Carnival Day retains its familiar format of dance troops, bands, traditional games and attractions next weekend. Tickets cost £5 in advance or £8 on the day.

In addition, Cop’ Carnival’s first jazz night, hosted with York Gin, presents An Evening With Snake Davis, saxophonist to the stars, on Tuesday at 7pm. Two nights later, the carnival’s comedy bill features Steve Royle, Tom Wrigglesworth, David Eagle and compere Alex Boardman from 8pm.

Throughout the festival, 30 artists are exhibiting at Copmanthorpe Methodist Church nightly from 7pm, admission free. Box office: copmanthorpecarnival.org.uk.

Strictly between them: Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice team up for Him & Me

Dance moves of the week: Anton & Giovanni, Him & Me, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm

 STRICTLY Come Dancing judge Anton du Beke and 2021 champion professional Giovanni Pernice are joined by dancers and singers for Him & Me, a night when the Ballroom King meets the Jive Master. Expect dance, song, light-hearted fun and banter.

Both Strictly stars will be making their second York appearance of 2022; Anton & Erin’s Showtime played York Barbican in February; Giovanni’s This Is Me followed suit in March. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Fran, frankly: Fran Lebowitz’s evening of acerbic New York wit and astute observation at Grand Opera House

Social commentator of the week: An Evening With Fran Lebowitz, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

FRAN Lebowitz, New York purveyor of urban cool, cultural satirist and author, will be typically forthright and unapologetically opinionated in her dry-humoured social commentary on anything and everything, with a Q&A to boot.

After Pretend It’s A City, Lebowitz’s Netflix documentary series directed by filmmaker and friend Martin Scorsese, here comes her acerbic insights on gender, race, gay rights and the media, plus her pet peeves of celebrity culture, tourists, and baby strollers. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Who’d be a teacher? Sam Jackson’s Nick struggles with more than the paperwork in Foxglove Theatre’s The Brink

Shock of the new: Foxglove Theatre in The Brink, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm

IN Brad Birch’s darkly comic, explosive psychological thriller, history teacher Nick is a normal person, working a normal job, who lives a normal life, but he suffers a downward spiral fuelled by dreams and whispers of a bomb buried under the school.

“Thrilling, turbulent, unconventional, The Brink is an unwavering dive into dark and prominent subject matter, alien to the established York stage,” says Nathan Butler, director of new York company Foxglove Theatre. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Suzanne Vega: Booked into York Barbican for February 2023 concert

Big signings of the week for 2023: Suzanne Vega, York Barbican, February 22; Mike + The Mechanics, York Barbican, April 12

GLASTONBURY acoustic stage headliner Suzanne Vega will play York Barbican as the only Yorkshire show of the New York folk singer-songwriter’s 14-date tour next year, with Luka, Marlene On The Wall and Tom’s Diner to the fore.

Mike + The Mechanics will return to York Barbican next spring on their Refueled! 2023 Tour, promising “all the hits and a drop of Genesis” – Mike Rutherford’s other band – plus songs from latest album Out Of The Blue. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

The Play What I Wrote doubles up on double acts with nod to Eric and Ernie in York Theatre Royal week of mystery guests

The long and short of it: Dennis Herdman and Thom Tuck argue over who should be Eric Morecambe in their Morecambe & Wise tribute. Picture: Manuel Harlan

THE Play What I Wrote is both a dissection of double acts and a celebration of Morecambe and Wise.

Written by The Right Size comic coupling of Sean Foley and Hamish McColl in tandem with Eddie Braben, the chap what wrote little Ern’s plays, the West End and Broadway hit is doing the rounds anew, playing York Theatre Royal from Monday for a week in a Birmingham Rep touring production directed by artistic director Foley.

Premiered in 2001, Foley and McColl wanted their play to be inspired by Eric and Ernie rather than a tribute act to the beloved double act, and so they came up with a comedy duo of their own.

“The show is a tease,” says Foley of the combination of the expected and unexpected. “It’s a really lovely dance between the idea of you’re watching a Morecambe and Wise tribute show but actually you’re not. So, whenever we tease people with ‘here’s a bit of them’, they come to understand what the show is – which is a sophisticated but daft homage.”

The duo’s partnership is in trouble after 12 years. The shorter, prickly one, has grown professionally jealous of the tall one with the gags, insisting the failing partnership will revive only if they present the latest of his 72 unpublished plays, a very serious French Revolution epic with a hapless, innuendo-bedevilled script and a guest star.

Through a series of elaborate deceptions, the lanky one and oleaginous producer David Pugh dupe the little’un into thinking the play will be presented with Sir Ian McKellen in the company. In reality, he has signed up the comic duo for a Morecambe & Wise tribute, minus Sir Ian.

The Play What I Wrote is at once a delightful nostalgic re-creation of Eric and Ernie’s comic sunshine – you wish for even more of the old magic – and a smart post-modern analysis of the often complex chemistry and vulnerability of double acts. In a show of unalloyed joy, the happy conclusion finds the comedy duo abed, just like Morecambe & Wise, affirming why each needs the other.

The two clashing comedians will be played by Dennis Herdman and Thom Tuck, joined by Mitesh Soni, playing their comedy sidekick Arthur and all manner of other roles.

The cast can spot quickly if Eric and Ernie devotees are present. “But I don’t actually think it’s important at all for people to know Morecambe and Wise,” says Tuck.

“It’s just an extra sprinkling for the people who enjoy it, but at the first reference to them you can tell what percentage of the audience are Morecambe and Wise fans because you can hear the murmur ‘they’re doing it’.

“In a later scene, we do ‘What do you think of the show so far? Rubbish’. Some days that will get a round of applause and some days it will get a big laugh, but it doesn’t really matter between the two.”

The Play What I Wrote nods to Eric and Ernie by having a mystery guest in each performance, in keeping with their television shows: a convention that requires the cast to rehearse constantly with new actors.

During the Birmingham run, Tom Hiddleston, Kara Tointon and Sue Holderness were among those to pop up, but the guests for York remain a mystery, as an exploratory call to communications manager Amy Goodman affirmed.

“There are big changes depending on the guest star and the audience will react differently as well,” says Herdman. “They all bring something unique and change our dynamic instantly and we’re all either fawning around them or trying to pull the rug from under them.

“It’s fun! It’s lovely to have them on stage and be able to take the mickey and play with them. They’ve all been up for it and most have been terrified as well! It’s nice that they have a certain status and yet they are also clearly flesh and blood and a nervous human being.”

Director Foley praises the energy of Herdman, Tuck and Soni. “What is dazzling, and these guys do it completely brilliantly, is making all of the show look like it’s a high-wire act and things can go wrong at any time. That is really brilliant comic acting.

“Someone said to Eric Morecambe, ‘I love all your improv lines and your ad-libs’ and he responded, ‘It takes a lot of rehearsal to get them right’ and that’s the same with The Play What I Wrote.

“With this show you need the chemistry between the cast. We were very lucky that from final auditions, when we saw Dennis and Thom together, they were immediately a double act. Then we added Mitesh in and it just worked.”

Tuck notes how Eric and Ernie’s humour crosses generations through fitting into a comic tradition. “The ingrained thing about British people is that we like cheekiness and there’s a sort of ‘anti-establishmentism’ in Morecambe and Wise’s work,” he says.

“Whether it’s a look direct to camera which says ‘we know this is stupid’ or the play with the guest star, it’s ‘let’s muck about’. British audiences from variety onwards have had that sort of fun. It’s always high on the priority list.”

The Play What I Wrote, York Theatre Royal, June 27 to July 2. Box office:  01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

More Things To Do in York and beyond, as York welcomes York to York for the weekend. List No. 67, from The Press

Enjoy free admission to York Art Gallery’s Young Gainsborough: Rediscovered Landscape Drawings exhibition as part of York Residents’ Festival. Booking required. Picture: Charlotte Graham

YORK attracts 8.4 million visitors, but this weekend you are invited to be a tourist in your own city, as Charles Hutchinson highlights.

Festival of the week: York Residents’ Festival, today and tomorrow

MORE than 70 events, attractions and offers make up this weekend’s York Residents’ Festival, with the offers continuing all week.

Organised by Make It York, this annual festival invites all York residents with a valid YorkCard to “explore the city and be a tourist for the weekend”, one card per person. 

Pre-booking is required for some highlights of a festival that takes in museums, theatres, galleries, churches, hidden gems, historic buildings, food and drink and shops.  For more details, visit: visityork.org/residents-festival.

Tall storey in Tall Stories’ The Smeds And The Smoos at York Theatre Royal this weekend

Children’s show of the week: The Smeds And The Smoos, York Theatre Royal, today, 2.30pm and 4.30pm; tomorrow, 10.30am and 1.30pm

SOAR into space with Tall Stories’ exciting new stage adaptation of writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s joyful tale of star-crossed aliens.

On a far-off planet, Smeds and Smoos cannot be friends. Nevertheless, when a young Smed and Smoo fall in love, they promptly zoom off into space together.

How will their families get them back? Find out in an interplanetary adventure for everyone aged three upwards, full of music and laughter, from the company that delivered The Gruffalo and Room On The Broom on stage. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Bedtime story: Ian Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens as Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in Eric & Ern

Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be; it’s better in: Eric & Ern, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7.30pm

IAN Ashpitel and Jonty Stephens bring you sunshine in their uncanny portrayal of comedy duo Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in a show that has been touring for more than five years.

Combining renditions of famous comedy sketches with contemporary references, Eric & Ern contains some of the first new writing in the Morecambe & Wise  style in more than in 30 years. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Abstract collage, by Peter Schoenecker, at Pocklington Arts Centre

Exhibition of the week outside York: Peter Schoenecker, A New Way Of Looking, Pocklington Arts Centre, until February 19

PETER Schoenecker’s mixed-media artworks open Pocklington Arts Centre’s 2022 season of exhibitions in the studio.

On show are watercolours, acrylics and lino prints by the Pocklington artist, a former graphic designer, who is inspired by the landscape and seascape textures and lighting in and around his Yorkshire home.

“My aim is usually to create a mood or atmosphere using colour or black and white,” he says. “Switching between media keeps me interested and innovative, hopefully bringing a freshness to the work.”

Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant: From Liverpool to Leeds on Wednesday

Gig of the week outside York: Echo & The Bunnymen, Leeds O2 Academy, Wednesday, doors, 7pm

AHEAD of the February 18 vinyl reissue of their 1985 compilation Songs To Learn & Sing, Liverpool legends Echo & The Bunnymen play plenty of those songs and more besides in Leeds (and at Sheffield City Hall the night before).

Available for the first time since that initial release, the “Best Of” cherry picks from their first four albums with the single Bring On The Dancing Horses as the icing on top. On tour, vocalist Ian McCulloch and guitarist Will Sergeant will be leading a band now in their 44th year, still too cool to be called a heritage act. Box office: gigsandtours.com/tour/echo-and-the-bunnymen.

Granny (Isabel Ford) and Ben (Justin Davies) in the Crown Jewels-stealing scene in Birmingham Stage Company’s Gangsta Granny

Family show of the week: Birmingham Stage Company in Gangsta Granny, Grand Opera House, York, February 3 to 5, 2.30pm and 7pm; February 6, 11am and 3pm

IN David Walliams’s tale, Friday night means only one thing for 11-year-old Ben: staying with Granny, where he must put up with cabbage soup, cabbage pie and cabbage cake.

Ben knows one thing for sure – it will be so, so boring – but what Ben doesn’t know is that Granny has a secret. Soon Friday nights will be more exciting than he could ever imagine, as he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime with his very own Gangsta Granny, in Neal Foster’s touring production, back in York next week for the first time since 2016. Suitable for age five upwards. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Two out of Seven: Shed Seven’s Rick Witter and Paul Banks to perform as a duo in Scarborough

Compact Sheds: Rick Witter and Paul Banks, Scarborough Spa Theatre, April 17, 7.30pm

SHED Seven shed three when frontman Rick Witter and lead guitarist Paul Banks “go where no Shed has gone before” to play Scarborough over the Easter weekend.

Mr H Presents promoter Tim Hornsby says: “Expect a special night of classic Shed Seven material and a few surprises”.

“You already know this whites-of-their-eyes show is going to sell out, so don’t get bothered with the regular unholy last-minute scramble for tickets and purchase early for a holler-along to some of the best anthems ever,” he advises. Box office: scarboroughspa.co.uk.

James Swanton as Lucifer with cast members of The Last Judgement when plays from the 2018 York Mystery Plays were staged in the Shambles Market. Picture: Lewis Outing

Looking ahead to the summer: 2022 York Mystery Plays, York city centre, June 19 and 26

HERE come the wagons, rolling through York streets on two June weekends, as the Guilds of York maintain their four-yearly cycle of York Mystery Plays set in motion in 1998.

As in 2018, Tom Straszewski is the artistic director for a community production involving nearly 600 people creating hours of drama, performed for free, on eight wagons at four locations, including St Sampson’s Square, St Helen’s Square and King’s Manor.

“The plays will cover the creation of the world, floods, last meals together and resurrections,” says Strasz. “We’re still seeking directors, performance groups and actors, who should email director@yorkmysteryplays.co.uk to apply.”

REVIEW: The HandleBards’ biker-groovy Macbeth, York Theatre Royal ***

Something wickedly funny this way comes: Jenny Smith, left, Natalie Simone and Kathryn Perkins as the ‘Weird Sisters’ in The HandleBards’ Macbeth

The HandleBards in Macbeth, York Theatre Royal, tonight (26/1/2022) at 7.30pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

THE Scottish Play becomes The Skittish Play when recycled by eco-conscious pedalling enthusiasts The HandleBards in pursuit of daft laughs on their return to York Theatre Royal.

Tragedy takes a hike up the Scottish Highlands, soliloquys lose out to a rising cacophony of noise, and The Porter’s knock-knock interlude vanishes like the secret midnight hags into the dreek mists.

Often cut for being Shakespeare’s one (not-very-funny) comic interlude, as unwelcome as a drunken heckler, presumably this time Macbeth’s bouncer has been axed for being the one character that did not require conversion to comedy.

The HandleBards like to break down barriers, as Emma Sampson’s cast demolishes theatre’s fourth wall from the off when perky Kathryn Perkins, towering Natalie Simone and professional debutante Jenny Smith introduce themselves and who they will be playing. These days, it is called meta-theatre, a form of heightened awareness that a play is indeed all about playing.

Crowning gory? Kathryn Perkins’ hell-for-leathers Macbeth

Or it could just be that The HandleBards just want to “shake a spear” at all that seriousness that emanates from so many Shakespeare productions.

Macbeth has broad shoulders and can pretty much take anything you throw at it, on stage or screen, although there was one time on a Leeds stage where the lead actor was so hapless that he not only murdered all around him, he murdered Macbeth.

That does not happen here, but Perkins’ Cockernee Artful Dodger Macbeth does tend to play second fiddle to the weird sisters, the Witches pulling Macbeth every witch way, every which way in this all-female production.

If you want punk irreverence, you will find it here, not least in the biker costume designs of Lucy Green that echo the Seventies’ clobber of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren, tartan trim and all.

Jenny Smith’s Donalbain in The HandleBards’ Macbeth

Cycling paraphernalia is omnipresent too, from the bell to signify scene changes to the tyres on the Macbeth’s biker jacket; from the bicycle pedalling that provides the power for scenery to turn around to the honking of a horn to add to the anarchic silliness. Macbeth and co are bikers, not cyclists, as indicated by the HandleBards’ use of handlebars to signify motorbikes and a child’s toy for the sound of a revving engine.

There is abundant comic energy here, indeed an excess of it, that leaves Macbeth’s text struggling for air by comparison with last May’s visit of Romeo & Juliet that had a better balance between HandleBards’ comic mayhem and teen tragedy.

Imagine Eric Morecambe undermining Ernie Wise’s attempts to present one of those “plays what I wrote”, but then overplaying it as clarinet and shruti box drown out Perkins’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy. In such a moment, something of the play is lost in choosing to tell it by behaving like Shakespeare’s idiot, full of sound but not fury, signifying what?  

Elsewhere, the comic tone works better, as does the editing out of the dull political stuff down in England. Natalie Simone’s Strictly Come Dancing-loving Lady Macbeth is a scream, blessed with the best comic timing; Jenny Smith has bags of clowning physicality; Perkins’s Macbeth is sacrificed to the constant playfulness.

Dancing queen: Natalie Simone’s Strictly-loving Lady Macbeth

You will enjoy women sending up Macbeth and MacDuff comparing their manliness; the Witches’ percussive musicianship, singing and later rapping; the impatience at MacDuff taking forever to comprehend the news that his wife and bairns are all dead (spoiler alert); the use of red confetti to signify blood; the dagger attached to Macbeth’s head to “see before me”.

Look out too for two Coronavirus references, two well-placed insertions of topical comedy where, elsewhere, Sampson’s cast sometimes pushes too hard for lightweight laughs at the cost of storytelling.

Sampson had decided to not replicate the use of baked beans and tomato soup for blood from the original HandleBards’ Macbeth, preferring the less messy confetti, but there are moments where the production could be cleaner, less prone to over-excitement, less busy.

This Macbeth is neither ‘bloody’ funny, nor dead funny, in a hammy Hammer horror style; more of a Five Go Camp Acting jaunty jape instead.

Coming next will be a tour of Twelfth Night; dates are yet to be announced.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Fladam and their friends are up for a Saturday musical comedy hootenanny

Fladam musical comedy duo Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter

PUT York actors Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter together and they become Fladam, a musical comedy duo with a regular radio slot and a live show coming up at Theatre@ 41, Monkgate, York.

Make that two shows: Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny! will be performed at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Saturday (20/11/2021).

Devotees of York’s musical theatre and theatre scene will be familiar with Florence, northern character actress, comic performer, singer, dancer and multi-instrumentalist, and Adam, character actor, comic performer, pianist, harmonica and ukulele player, singer, composer, comedy songwriter and cartoonist.

A couple both on and off stage, they have branched out into presenting their own heartfelt, humorous songs, tackling the topical with witty wordplay, uplifting melodies and a dash of the Carry On! comic spirit.

“After our (almost) live debut at York Theatre Royal in the Love Bites nights in May, we’re coming home to host our very own Musical Comedy Hootenanny,” they say. “Enjoy special guests, fabulous Fladam originals and comic classics from Morecambe & Wise, Bernard Cribbins and Victoria Wood. What are you waiting for? ‘Let’s do it’!”

Fladam has progressed from bedroom to stage. “This is our first full-scale live show,” says Adam. “We’ve gone from recording videos of songs on phones from the corner of our bedroom in lockdown to doing it live, first with one number at Love Bites and now this show with friends.”

“With nowhere to rehearse, we’re rehearsing in the kitchen, to my parents’ delight,” says Florence.

Each Saturday, at 12.45pm, Fladam can be heard on Harry Whittaker’s show on BBC Radio York. “The challenge is to write a topical new song each week, recording it with an introduction, and sending it in on an MP3,” says Adam. “Simple as that!”

Fladam’s poster for Saturday’s shows at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

When Fladam met up with CharlesHutchPress, Adam and Florence had just spent half-term at Eureka!, the National Children’s Museum, in Halifax. “We spent a week being pirates, playing Captain Jack and Polly Roger in our Pirate Adventure,” says Florence.

“It came about through the company I work with when I do cruise ships,” says Adam. “They have many pies in the oven, including at Eureka!, where last year I played a vampire, Count Dracula, and they asked me, ‘Do you want to do another show?’ for half-term week.”

Yes, he would, albeit with only one day’s rehearsal with Florence. “We did the show four times a day, half an hour each show, starting with me doing a monologue, and by the Thursday my voice  had gone, so Adam had to go on and improvise!” says Florence, who studied last year on a year-long “Project A” course, run through Newcastle Theatre Royal, that ended up being conducted largely on Zoom under Covid restrictions.

“Though we did also get a lot of lessons on the main stage, wearing masks, as no productions could take place on there, but we couldn’t put on a single live show during the course.”

Now, Florence has a new day job at York Gin’s shop in Pavement, as well as her Fladam commitments, joined by three friends for this weekend’s shows: Alexandra Mather, fresh from playing Pamina in York Opera’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute; Andrew Isherwood, one of the Clowns in York Settlement Community Players’ illness-curtailed run of The 39 Steps last week, and Andrew Roberts, who starred in Rowntree Players’ modern account of Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web in late-September.

“When we were doing our little videos, we did a Dad’s Army section for VE Day, and had Andrew Roberts and Alex involved in that,” says Adam.

“Andrew Isherwood does a very good Tom Lehrer, as well as being like Eric Morecambe meets Rik Mayall.”

What’s in store on Saturday? “We’ll be doing plenty of comedy covers as well as our own songs, where we’ll plunder our archives and stuff we’ve done for Harry’s radio shows,” says Florence.

Adam Sowter, Florence Poskitt and Alexandra Mather in rehearsal for Saturday’s Fladam & Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny!

“We’ll be paying tribute to people who’ve inspired us, like Bernard Cribbins, Morecambe & Wise, George Formby, Victoria Wood and Monty Python…and maybe there’ll even be some puppets! Well, definitely a fish puppet, Mr Fish, for our spoof children’s show number.”

Adam adds: “One of the things we have to do is look at the old songs through 2021 eyes, acknowledging that a song is of its time, so we have to be a bit ‘woke’, like with Monty Python’s Lumberjack Song.

“Our set will be like a 1970s’ television special, with one side of the stage being like Eric and Ernie’s flat, and the show itself will be more like our little fantasy (as if you were watching Morecambe & Wise).

“Morecambe & Wise’s humour is so warm and lovely, and our style of humour is gentle too; we like to do songs that are clever and make you smile at the same time.”

Look out for a pantomime finale. “We’ll do a little pantomime from the songs we’d written for a panto last year that ended up being on a podcast, because of the Covid lockdown, after we were contacted to do a charity pantomime,” says Florence, who played Tommy the Cat, from Dick Whittington, while Adam played a full-of-beans Jack.

What is in the pipeline for Fladam in 2022? “We’ll see how this show goes and then look to develop it, possibly with a view to taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe next year, or maybe the year after, after we first planned to go to the Fringe two years ago, until Covid stopped that,” says Florence.

“We’re also looking to perform at At The Mill  at Stillington Mill, which we’d really love to do.”

Fladam and Friends’ Musical Comedy Hootenanny!, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, November 20, 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Why Serena is playing only men in farcical overhaul of The Hound Of The Baskervilles

Niall Ransome as Dr Watson, Jake Ferretti as Sherlock Holmes and Serena Manteghi as Henry Baskerville in The Hound Of The Baskervilles, on tour at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday

THE Hound Of The Baskervilles is at loose this Haunted Season at York Theatre Royal, returning Serena Manteghi to the city where she cut her acting teeth.

“I studied [at the University of York] and lived in York for many years and still work there often,” she says, ahead of the October 19 to 23 run. “It’s my spiritual home and I’ve been assured I can now call myself an honorary Yorkshire lass, so I’m very much looking forward to heading back there.”

Although based in London, Serena has spent plenty of time up north this summer, performing in early August in Alexander Wright and Phil Grainger’s Eurydice at Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, and later that month in the Harrogate Theatre community play Our Gate in and around the Wesley Centre, Harrogate.

Now she is part of a fast-moving cast of three in Lotte Wakeham’s production of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most celebrated detective tale as it receives a farcical overhaul, with Serena playing only men in Steven Canny and John Nicholson’s adaptation, first staged by Peepolykus in 2007 with West End success.

The story is as familiar as ever: world-renowned detective Sherlock Holmes and his colleague Dr Watson are asked to unravel the mystery surrounding the untimely death of Sir Charles Baskerville. Amid rumours of a cursed giant hound loose on the moors, they must act fast in order to save the Baskerville family’s last remaining heir.

“Yes, they’re all male characters that I’m playing, but I’ve not really thought about their gender; you just play the character – and I have played men before,” says Serena Manteghi, as she shares a laugh with Niall Ransome. left, and Jake Ferretti

What ensues, however, is an exhilarating collision of farce, ingenious theatrical invention and comic performances to “offer a brand-new twist on the greatest detective story of all time”, in the hands of the multi role-playing Serena, Jake Ferretti’s Sherlock Holmes and Niall Ransome’s Dr Watson.

“I play a whole host of colourful characters, including Sir Charles Baskerville, Dr Mortimer, a helpful London cabbie, three ‘yokels’ (one wise, two less so) and last but not least, the romantic lead (after Dr Watson, of course) and newest Squire of Baskerville Hall, Sir Henry Baskerville,” says Serena, who heads to York after breaking in the Bolton Octagon Theatre and Original Theatre Company production on the road under tour director Tim Jackson following rehearsals in London.

“Yes, they’re all male characters that I’m playing, but I’ve not really thought about their gender; you just play the character – and I have played men before.

“There were male characters in Build A Rocket, Christopher York’s one-woman play I did for the Stephen Joseph Theatre [Scarborough], and I played Rene Magritte in Belt Up Theatre’s Lorca Is Dead [York Theatre Royal, May 2010].

“And there are female characters in this show, played by Jake Ferretti, just as they were played by men when it was created by three wonderful performers [Javier Marzan, John Nicholson and Jason Thorpe]. I predominantly play Sir Henry, in the spirit of that original production.”

Serena Manteghi as LV in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in 2017. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

One consequence has come from the four weeks of shows so far, demanding more than “Olympian dexterity” from Serena, Jack and Niall. “It’s been quite hard on my voice because I’m having to use a much lower register all the time, so I have to work hard on my warm-ups,” says Serena, who is no stranger to challenging her vocal cords, having played LV, with all her singing voices, in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice at the SJT in 2017.

Likewise, The Hound Of The Baskervilles, and indeed myriad Sherlock Holmes stories have been stretched in multiple ways. “I think the books are woven so deeply and lovingly into our cultural vocabulary that, growing up in the UK, you feel the infamous Holmes and Watson are just a part of the literary furniture, as it were. Like Father Christmas,” says Serena.

“That said, I absolutely loved the recent BBC adaptations [starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman] and would tune in as soon as they were aired for fear of someone spoiling the mystery.

“I think the diverse versions work because the Holmes and Watson partnership is so iconic; the performers and the audience begin from such a familiar starting point and that means you can take them on a slightly unexpected journey.”

Holmes and Watson are embedded in our cultural psyche as much as Morecambe & Wise, suggests Serena. “They’re loved just as much, and that dynamic is beautifully honoured by Jack and Niall; that joy Holmes and Watson have in each other’s company, which is so apparent in Conan Doyle’s writing,” she says.

“It’s an utter pleasure to perform ,” says Serena Manteghi of Peepolykus duo Steven Canny and John Nicholson’s stage adaptation of The Hound Of The Baskervilles, as she teams up with Jake Ferretti and Niall Ransome

“Any literary die-hard fanatics of Conan Doyle will be pleasantly surprised by our show: it’s a comedy retelling,  written by a well-established comedy partnership in Steven Canny and John Nicholson – we met John when he came to see it in Exeter – and it’s an utter pleasure to perform. You’d be very hard-pressed not to enjoy yourself watching this play.”

Ah, but  is it still scary, Serena? “There are some scares, but it leans heavily on the humour, less so on scariness,” she says. “Every spooky note is buttoned with a gag, but it’s not a send-up. It never mocks the story; it’s more an affectionate take on it.

“Very often, when you have farcical versions of the classics, you have to leave behind the story, but here you do get the whole story, just laden with joy and fun.”

Look out for David Woodhead’s set and costume designs too. “They’re beautiful. That’s another reason to see the show,” says Serena. “The set is just gorgeous to behold, elevated and malleable for multiple uses, and everything we wear is beautifully made.” In other words, no tat, Sherlock!

Original Theatre Company and Octagon Theatre Bolton present The Hound Of The Baskervilles, York Theatre Royal, October 19 to 23, 7.30pm; 2pm, Thursday; 2.30pm, Saturday. Age guidance: eight upwards. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

By Charles Hutchinson