York Actors Collective delves into zero-hour contracts in Alexander Zeldin’s modern-day tragedy Beyond Caring at Theatre@41

Clare Halliday, left, Chris Pomfrett, Victoria Delaney and Mick Liversidge in rehearsal for York Actors Collective’s Beyond Caring

YORK Actors Collective is following up March 2023’s debut production of Joe Orton’s risqué Sixties’ farce Entertaining Mr Sloane with Beyond Caring, a topical exposé of the social damage inflicted by zero hours contracts. 

Running at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from February 6 to 9, this “modern-day tragedy” was devised by Alexander Zeldin and the original Yard Theatre cast in East London in 2014, later transferring to the National Theatre.

Its story of agency cleaners at a meat-packing factory is being directed in York by former teacher Angie Millard, working with a cast of Victoria Delaney, Clare Halliday, Mick Liversidge, Chris Pomfrett and Neil Vincent.

Over 90 unbroken minutes, Beyond Caring follows two women, Becky and Grace, and one man, Sam (replacing Sarah from past productions in a directorial decision), as they confront the reality of minimum wage, zero-hour contract employment, never sure of how many hours they have to work, when they will be paid and whether their ‘job’ will continue.

“This play is remarkable in its structure and power,” says Angie. “It totally represents 2024 where many workers are on the breadline, trapped in employment with no guarantee of further work and no way to improve their position. 

“What drew me to the play, however, is the message it conveys about people surviving and keeping a sense of humour. I loved the intensity of the piece with its silences, its disappointments and its determination to determination to get pleasure out of the smallest things. It gave me hope.”

Beyond Caring was brought to Angie’s attention by fellow company co-founder Chris Pomfrett, who had played the self-aggrandising Ed in Entertaining Mr Sloane. “Following that debut show, our brief was to find something that would appeal to audiences as entertaining but also have an edge to it,” he says.

“I had a look at a lot of play synopses around particular subject matters, came across this one, bought a copy and was completely blown away by it. When it was first done in London, then at the National, it was described as ‘comically devastating’ and that’s absolutely right.”

Beyond Caring forms part of a series of Alexander Zeldin plays entitled The Inequality Triptych, addressing the theme of the impact of austerity. “This one deals with a group of people meeting for the first time to work the night shift cleaning a meat factory on zero-hours contracts, all employed through a temp agency with different arrangements for pay for each of them,” says Chris, who plays scarred, taciturn worker Phil.

“So they’re all strangers, and as happens when strangers meet, there are silences and awkward pauses, like in Harold Pinter’s plays, but they’re all full of meaning.

“Gradually, you see glimpses of their lives and their insecurities, and how that affects them and those around them, mostly adversely.”

Clare Halliday’s factory cleaner Becky and Neil Vincent’s manager Ian in a scene from the darkly humorous Beyond Caring

Chris continues: “I think it’s important for us to do plays that deal with these issues, as they’re still occurring. One of the things that has struck me, after Mr Bates vs. The Post Office is how a TV drama can have a massive impact on the Government’s actions, and that’s because people are confronted with real characters, and there’s an emotional response that you don’t get with news bulletins.

“The same goes for a play like this, and the great thing about all the characters is that in some ways you can see yourself in them.”

In Chris’s case, he can draw on his own experiences working in the community for the NHS (National Health Service) as part of the combined therapy multi-disciplinary team. “You can see the effects of the care system being shot to pieces,” he says.

Clare Halliday will be making her York Actors Collective debut after more than a decade of involvement in York community productions, such as the 2012 York Mystery Plays, when she first met Angie.

“I learned that Angie had created York Actors Collective and went to see Entertaining Mr Sloane, then heard they were doing Beyond Caring and auditioned for the role of Becky [one of the cleaners] after reading about the play and watching extracts from when it was at the National,” she says.

“Becky is a very resilient character, very tough on the exterior. I see her as a born survivor with ways and means of surviving, using her sexuality to get what she wants, in the only way she knows how. We assume she’s had very little education, and we know she’s a single mum, whose daughter is not living with her – she’s probably in care – but she’s trying to see her.

“I can relate to that, as I’ve had work insecurity and been on benefits, so at some points in my life I’ve walked similar steps.”

Clare now runs the Clare’s Kitchen mobile cookery school in York, being involved with schools since 2015.  “Before that, I was living in France, training as a chef, and I wanted to work with children, having been involved in cooking in the kitchen with my mum since the age of two or three,” she says.

“I work with Year One to Six children at Knavesmire Primary, Ralph Butterfield Primary, Haxby, Rufforth, Dringhouses and Lord Deramore’s. I’ve just taken on another lady to help as I’m so busy.”

York Actors Collective in Beyond Caring, Theatre@41, Monkgte, York, February 6 to 9, 7.30pm; February 10, 2.30pm and 5.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Copyright of The Press, York

REVIEW: An Inspector Calls, PW Productions/National Theatre, Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday. SOLD OUT *****

Seat of power on shaky ground: Christine Kavanagh’s Sybil Birling, Jeffrey Harmer’s Arthur Birling and Chloe Orrock’s Sheila Birling in An Inspector Calls. Picture: Tristram Kenton

IT began at York Theatre Royal in 1989, last played there in 2018 and sold out this week’s run at the Grand Opera House well before the opening night.

Welcome back Stephen Daldry’s award-encrusted reinvention of Bradford socialist playwright JB Priestley’s time play, a set text on the school curriculum. Hence teenagers aplenty at Wednesday’s matinee, initially tucking into noisy packet contents, but gradually being drawn into Inspector Goole’s forensic, if unconventional inquisition of the wealthy Birling family on the 1912 night that daughter Sheila has become engaged to Gerald Croft.

More noise came from an audience member striding across the creaking dress-circle floorboards to complain of not being able to see inside the Birlings’ Edwardian home. But that is the point. Theirs is an enclosed, blinkered, self-serving world, one that the arrival of Liam Brennan’s Scotsman Goole will open to exposure and cause a stink, like the peeling back of a sardine can.

After sirens and rain and an orchestral swell at the start, as children seek to find a way through the stage curtain to remind us this is the world of theatre at play, the house is revealed, perched, like an oversized doll’s house, on a bombed London street, in Daldry’s nod to Priestley’s play being written in 1945.

Liam Brennan’s Inspector Goole: The voice of conscience in An Inspector Calls. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Nearby stands a red telephone box, stripped of its door,  in Ian MacNeil’s still breathtaking design, no matter how many times you may have seen Daldry’s production over the past 30-plus years.

Smug conversation emerges through the windows, dominated by knighthood-seeking, cigar-smoking businessman Arthur Birling (Jeffrey Harmer) and Sheila’s fiancé Gerald (Simon Cotton), an Arthur in the making. Wastrel son Eric (George Rowlands, understudied by Maceo Cortezz on Wednesday), forever disappointing his father, says little.

Outside, urchin children are playing on the shattered street, later joined by “supernumeraries”, haunting figures to match fellow outsider Edna (Frances Campbell), the family servant ignored by all but Sheila (Chloe Orrock), the only one to express regret at what subsequently unfolds. Edna will dutifully, silently, attend to her duties, providing cups of tea and food for Goole too.

Investigating the death of a young woman in poverty, he is the ultimate outsider, exposing something rotten in the state of the Birlings/England. Goole by name, ghoul by nature, the Marley to bilious Arthur Birling’s Ebenezer Scrooge, he is also Priestley’s still prescient prophet on stage (JB foreseeing the need for change in GB that will sweep Labour to power in 1945). The voice of moral conscience, the harbinger in the moonlight, demanding a turning of the tide.

Christine Kavanagh’s self-righteous Sybil Birling. Picture: Tristram Kenton

Like on a doll’s house, the whole of the front of the house suddenly opens, mini-front door et al. In turn, Goole will remove hat, coat and pinstriped suit jacket, even rolling up his sleeves, the more he exposes the arrogant, entitled behaviour of the Birlings and Croft, especially when the monstrous matriarch, Christine Kavanagh’s do-gooding, but does-no-gooding Sybil Birling, makes her grand entry.

Goole delivers one of theatre’s most resonant final speeches: “And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. Good night.”

It becomes all the more resonant in our strike-ridden, blame-game, divided, dyspeptic disunited kingdom, as Priestley calls for the need to care for each other, for compassion and collective responsibility, but definitely not applied with the insincerity of George Osborne’s “We’re all in this together” mantra of the austerity years.

In her interview, Christine Kavanagh talked of Daldry’s demeanour in the rehearsal room, his sense of humour, mischief and playfulness undimmed after so many years of directing this remarkable piece of theatre. That spirit pours through his cast in this latest tour, and you can be sure the inspector will keep on calling. We need to listen to him, that warning of fire and blood and anguish.

Review by Charles Hutchinson 

Monster role, monster tour as Christine Kavanagh takes the long road in JB Priestley’s time play An Inspector Calls

“She’s a tyrant, she’s a monster, but I play her as a mother who believes she was right,” says Christine Kavanagh of Mrs Birling, her role in An Inspector Calls. Picture: Tristram Kenton

AN Inspector Calls keeps on calling, returning to York next week on the 30th anniversary tour to mark Stephen Daldry’s radical take on J B Priestley’s thriller opening at the National Theatre.

“We’ve been touring so long already, it feels like the longest tour in history,” says Christine Kavanagh, who is in her 30th week of playing Mrs Birling in Priestley’s 1945 time play after starting rehearsals last August.

On the road from September 9 2022 to April 28 2023, Christine applies the philosophy of “It’s a marathon, not a sprint” to handling such a demanding itinerary.

“We all support each other in the ensemble. People think it’s all about the play, but each week it’s also about ‘where do you get the best poached eggs?’. Only on Fridays are there no matinees, so that day’s known as ‘Hot Friday’. Otherwise, it’s full on, from the Tuesday tech onwards.”

Last playing York in September 2018 at a sold-out Theatre Royal, PW Productions’ tour collaboration with the National Theatre switches to the Grand Opera House this time for a February 7 to 11 run that is fully booked already.

“Can you believe it, post-Covid, we’ve sold out every theatre we’ve been to on this tour,” says Christine, who defines the sustained appeal of Daldry’s award-garlanded account of Priestley’s story of the prosperous Birling family’s peaceful dinner party in 1912 being shattered by the inspector’s unexpected call and subsequent investigations into the death of a young woman.

“Stephen basically broke the play out of the box of being seen as a fusty old political melodrama, even though Priestley viewed it as an experimental piece, playing with time, that he first performed in Russia.

“Stephen brough it alive as a play for a contemporary audience, with bombs going off around an Edwardian house that emerges from a crater, in 1945 [the year it was written], but still with that sense that we’re all about to sink, from Priestley setting the play on the night the Titanic went down.”

Applying the format of a thriller, Priestley was using his play as a warning, suggests Christine, to highlight the dangers of casual capitalism’s cruelty, complacency, and hypocrisy. 

“Priestley was in the trenches in the First World War and had suffered badly, and he was worried what was coming down the pipe. He was a fierce advocate of Socialism and the redistribution of power,” she says.

Seat of power: Christine Kavanagh’s Mrs Birling in An Inspector Calls

“In this play, a young woman who was exploited dies in poverty, and in asking who’s responsible, Priestley’s saying we are all responsible. That theme has never gone away, and in our present society, it’s a simple message of how we must care for each other.”

Daldry premiered his startling reinvigoration of An Inspector Calls at York Theatre Royal in the autumn of 1989, three years before its National Theatre debut. He remains at the helm for the latest tour, directing a cast of Kavanagh’s Mrs Birling;  Liam Brennan, reprising his role of Inspector Goole for a fifth tour; Jeffrey Harmer as Mr Birling; Simon Cotton as Gerald Croft; Chloe Orrock as Sheila Birling; George Rowlands as Eric Birling and Frances Campbell as Edna. 

“Coming back into the rehearsal room, it was like Stephen was 22 again, loving being with us in our scruffs, with his sense of humour and mischief and his playfulness. He still loves all that,” says Christine.

“Not many productions can stand the test of time, and you could get cynical after a while, but then you see the effect this play has on schoolchildren, how hooked they are.”

What does she make of Mrs Birling, with all her shouting and foot stamping? “She represents power; she’s a tyrant, she’s a monster, but I play her as a mother who believes she was right. She’s rather intransigent and thinks, ‘I was just doing my duty’,” she says.

“I’m a mother too and I’m known for my sense of humour, whereas Mrs Birling has had a sense of humour bypass. I don’t know if I empathise with her, but it might be fun being filthy rich…but only for a while, though they always say ‘ the devil has the best lines’.”

As for the costumes, Christine’s heaviest dress wears six kilos off the waist. “That’s just the weight of all that silk. It’s like wearing a rucksack!” she says. “Each costume is handmade for each tour. The designs are fabulous.”

Christine, who studied at Bretton Halll College of Education in West Yorkshire, draws on all her experience of stage travels at 65. “Living out of a suitcase goes with the territory of going on tour, but you have to find ways to cope psychologically by bringing your creature comforts with you and not staying in Mrs Goggins’ digs 30 minutes from the theatre. I like my frothy coffee maker!” she says. “You have to look after yourself really well. Take your multi-vitamins and go to bed as early as you can.”

The long tour has afforded Christine a different opportunity too. “There’s not a city we don’t play, so going around the country lets you reflect on whether levelling up is happening or not,” she says. “I think every politician should do that.”

PW Productions and the National Theatre present An Inspector Calls at Grand Opera House, York, from February 7 to 11, 7.30pm plus Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm. SOLD OUT. Box office for returns only: atgtickets.com/York.

Copyright of The Press, York

Tom Bird bids farewell to York Theatre Royal after 5 years of momentous change

Tom Bird: Goodbye York Theatre Royal, hello Sheffield Theatres. Picture: Esme Mai

CHIEF executive Tom Bird is leaving York Theatre Royal after five years on February 3 to take up the equivalent post at Sheffield Theatres, England’s largest producing theatre complex outside London.

Head hunted for a post he “just couldn’t turn down”, he will migrate southwards to replace Dan Bates, who exited Sheffield last year after 13 years to become executive director of Bradford’s UK City of Culture 2025 programme.

From February 6, North Easterner (and Newcastle United fan) Tom he will be in charge of the South Yorkshire trio of Sheffield’s Crucible, Lyceum and Tanya Moiseiwitsch Playhouse (formerly the Studio), working closely with artistic director Robert Hastie and interim chief exec Bookey Oshin, who will stay on as deputy CEO, and the senior team.

He leaves behind a York Theatre Royal where he has overseen an emphasis on community productions and the showcasing of York talent; the departure of innovative artistic director Damian Cruden after 22 years and Britain’s longest-running pantomime dame, Berwick Kaler, after 41; the promotion of Juliet Forster to creative director with a programming team, and new partnerships with Emma Rice’s Wise Children company (and in turn the National Theatre) and Evolution Productions for the pantomime’s new chapter.

Such change could be planned, but then there was Covid, a shadow cast from March 2020, one that not only shut down the theatre in lockdown but led to redundancies and later the loss of £250,000 takings in a flash when the Christmas and New Year week of Cinderella last winter fell foul to a glut of positive tests.

York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird, centre, with creative director Juliet Forster and Evolution Productions director and pantomime writer Paul Hendy

“We were on to our fourth Cinderella by then,” recalls Tom. “It was impossible to continue. It couldn’t have happened in a worse week. Losing those performances was awful, even though we  got going again for the last performances.”

Twelve months on, Tom bids farewell with the Theatre Royal in a healthy position. “There’s money in the bank; there’s a great team working here; the pantomime is reinvigorated; the programming is good; there are excellent partnerships in place. I’m really proud of everything we’ve done,” he says.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a mission as such as I guess I wanted to learn that mission as I went along, and I certainly think the Theatre Royal is in a strong position. The relationship with Arts Council England is so important, and to still be on the NPO scheme [for National Portfolio funding for £1.8 million for 2023-2026) is so important.

“If I have one regret – and I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to run Sheffield – it is that it would have been nice to now have had two or three ‘normal’ years at York Theatre Royal as it’s such a wonderful place.”

Looking back on becoming the Theatre Royal’s executive director at 34 – he would later change the title to chief executive – after he and his family moved to York in December 2017, Tom says: “It was a massive change because my unofficial title at the Globe [Shakespeare’s Globe in London] was ‘Mr International’, producing a tour of Hamlet to 189 countries, but my personal circumstances had changed already.

A scene from The Coppergate Woman, York Theatre Royal’s 2022 community play. Picture: Jane Hobson

“We’d moved out to Kent; I’d been working as executive producer nationally and internationally, and though there was a lot of gloom about regional theatre at the time, I just thought, I’d love to get back north, to run a theatre.

“We’d co-produced plays to York, and there’s just something about the Theatre Royal, the building; the gorgeous auditorium.”

Nevertheless, Tom admits he was in for a surprise. “At first I thought, if you just transplanted London theatre here, it would work, but that was not the case,” he says. “York is a city of inequality, not the city that you would expect, and therefore not the theatre you would expect. You need to offer a cultural menu that caters for everyone. You have to fully fit in with the needs of the community, which is an exciting thing to do.

“After Damian left (in summer 2019), we wanted to make sure that we would be programming in a more collaborative way than we’d done before.  I think there’s since been the same amount of co-producing of shows, but we also said we wanted to do ‘very Yorkshire’ productions, like The Coppergate Woman community play and David Reed’s world premiere of Guy Fawkes last autumn.

“We’ve created the programming team, led by Juliet Forster, with associate director John R Wilkinson and resident artists, that naturally produces a wide range of voices and makes sure everything is rigorously tested as to what we will put on that stage and why.”

Wise Children’s co-production of Wuthering Heights with the National Theatre and York Theatre Royal

Community theatre is crucial, Tom says: “It’s what audiences want. It’s absolutely what people in the community say they want to see. The audiences for our community plays are phenomenal. July’s production of CJ Sansom’s Sovereign is already on track to sell out. York wants theatre shows that tell stories of the city and we’ve always tried to do that in an experimental way, which leads to us taking risks.”

For all the weight of its history, York needs to be averse to standing still. “The city has to make sure it’s always being dynamic in its culture and outlook, otherwise it will take on the profile of being frozen in aspic,” warns Tom.

“That’s why we did a hippy-trippy, Covid-influenced Viking story [The Coppergate Woman] and a dark comedy version of Guy Fawkes that people didn’t expect. You have to be ambitious and surprising. That’s a word we use all the time: the reward for York audiences is to be pleasantly surprised.”

As for the changing of the old guard in the pantomime, Tom says: “I’m conscious that it’s what I’ll be remembered for here, which is a shame. Bringing down the curtain on something is not what I want to be remembered for, but, to an extent, whoever had my job at the time, was going to have to deal with it in some way.

“Maybe someone else would have taken a different route, or taken it earlier, but I worked on three of Berwick’s pantomimes, so it wasn’t as though I didn’t know what I was dealing with, but there was an issue coming down the road in ten to 15 years’ time , maybe earlier: family audiences were not coming to the panto in2017-2018, so what was going to happen in future years?

“I’d grown an affinity with the company in those three years, as everyone does; you realise the exceptional quality of performers like David Leonard, but in all conscience, I could not responsibly leave the situation as it was.

Berwick Kaler playing Molly Motley in his last York Theatre Royal pantomime, The Grand Old Dame Of York, in 2018-2019. He co-directed and wrote the next year’s show, Sleeping Beauty, his last involvement with the Theatre Royal panto after 41 years

“I got a lot of public criticism – and a lot of private criticism too – and really there was a lack of understanding of what I was trying to achieve in making the change, which may have been my fault as I could have it explained it earlier, but everything I said at the time still stands.

“The audiences were declining and there was no obvious way of turning it around with that product still in place, and I would say that the decision to go into a partnership with Evolution Productions has been proved to be the right one.

“The new pantomime is still growing and we know there’s still work to do, but we’re really happy with how it’s going.”

After such highlights as The Travelling Pantomime’s socially distanced performances to York neighbourhoods in the first winter of Covid, the Love Bites and Green Shoots showcases for York professional theatre-makers, the Wise Children/National Theatre/York Theatre Royal co-production of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and Tom’s groundwork for Kyiv City Ballet’s first ever British visit in June, he moves to Sheffield in the year he turns 40.

In the words of Lord Kerslake, chair of Sheffield Theatres Trust board: “We have appointed a driven, experienced and creative leader who will help shape the next chapter of this world-class organisation.”

Just as Tom Bird has shaped York Theatre Royal’s future too.

Stephen Daldry’s thrilling version of JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls returns to York roots for Grand Opera House run

A scene from Stephen Daldry’s production from J B Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, heading to the Grand Opera House, York, on tour. Picture: Tristram Kenton

STEPHEN Daldry’s radical take on Yorkshireman J B Priestley’s thriller An Inspector Calls will return next month to York, the city where he first staged his award-garlanded production.

His premiere came at the Theatre Royal in the autumn of 1989, three years before its triumphant London opening at the National Theatre. Nineteen major awards and five million theatregoers worldwide later, Inspector Goole will be arriving unexpectedly at the prosperous Birling family home once more, this time on tour at the Grand Opera House from February 7 to 11.

Written at the end of the Second World War and set before the First, Priestley’s time play opens with the Birlings’ peaceful dinner party being shattered by the inspector’s call and subsequent investigations into the death of a young woman.

Goole’s startling revelations will shake the very foundations of their lives and challenge us all to examine our consciences as Daldry highlights the enduring relevance of Priestley’s dramatisation of the dangers of casual capitalism’s cruelty, complacency and hypocrisy. 

Liam Brennan will reprise his role as Inspector Goole from past tours, joined by Christine Kavanagh as Mrs Birling, Jeffrey Harmer as Mr Birling, Simon Cotton as Gerald Croft, Evlyne Oyedokun as Sheila Birling, George Rowlands as Eric Birling and Frances Campbell as Edna. 

Here, 2022-2023 tour cast member George Rowlands addresses questions not asked by Inspector Goole but by an investigative journalist.

Did you study An Inspector Calls at school?

“I did read it at school, although I can’t really remember much of it. But I did always like it. I always think at school when you sit down and analyse every single word, it can make you go a bit crazy, and I always thought it ruined books and plays.”

Is your appreciation of the play different as an adult?

“Now that I’m an adult, or more importantly now that I’m an actor, I definitely have more of an appreciation for it. This production of An Inspector Calls is now 30 years old and yet still as popular as ever.”

What makes the play so timeless and this production so engaging?

“At the end of the day, at its centre it’s a play about somebody in distress, and that doesn’t get old, does it? I think at different points in time, when we’ve put it on over the last 30 years, it’s been relevant. And this time around I think it’s more relevant than ever because of what’s going on in terms of the strike action and housing crisis.”

A shattering moment in An Inspector Calls

Provide three facts about your character, Eric Birling…

“Eric is well educated because he’s been sent to public school. He enjoys a drink, probably a little bit too much. The third fact is that Eric really wants to be respected by his dad. Unfortunately, the combination of those three facts results in some pretty catastrophic things.”

What made you want to be an actor?

“I think it beat doing any other boring job. I did find out quite early on in Year 6, for the-end-of-school plays we did The Wizard Of Oz, and I completely rewrote the script because I thought it was rubbish and obviously made my parts the best.

“I like storytelling and I like the creative and artistic aspect of it. With this production, it has enabled that part of acting, and it’s been a really good creative process.”

What’s the best part of going on tour with a show?

“Being able to play in these amazing theatres – I’m really excited to do that – and bringing the story to people.”

What are the essentials for your dressing room?

“ I’m sharing a room with Simon [Cotton], who’s playing Gerald. I don’t know… I think a bottle of water goes a long way. A bottle of water and some Vaseline is not a terrible idea – for the lips, obviously. I get chapped lips.”

What’s the most challenging part of being a performer?

“With other jobs, you can put a direct amount of work in, you can work more, you can do this, this and this, and your results will be better because of it. Like, if you’re studying for an exam, the more you revise, the better the result.

“But with acting it doesn’t work like that because being good is so subjective. There’s no grade. I think that’s quite hard. Putting lots of work in and not knowing really how it will go.”

If you could swap roles for a performance, would you?

“If I could pick any character, I’d probably pick Edna. I would love to play that role. If you haven’t seen this production, there’s a special thing that Edna is part of – a little bit of magic. She’s amazing.

“My second choice would be Mrs Birling. I really like Mrs Birling; she’s got such sass and doesn’t have the insecurities that Eric is stuck with.”

The National Theatre and PW Productions present An Inspector Calls at Grand Opera House, York, from February 7 to 11, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

George Rowlands’ Eric Birling and Christine Kavanagh’s Mrs Birling in rehearsal in 2022 for An Inspector Calls

An Inspector Calls will call again in February 2023, this time at Grand Opera House, York

Goole by name, ghoul by nature: Liam Brennan’s stern Inspector Goole in An Inspector Calls. Picture: Tristram Kenton, 2019

STEPHEN Daldry’s award-garlanded reimagining of J B Priestley’s haunting family drama An Inspector Calls will return to its York roots next year.

Premiered at York Theatre Royal in 1989, this time it will play the Grand Opera House for the first time from February 7 to 11 2023 on its 30th Anniversary UK and Ireland Tour: so called because the London premiere was staged in 1992 at the National Theatre.

PW Productions are mounting the 2022-23 tour that will see Liam Brennnan playing Inspector Goole, just as he did on the last visit to York when performing to sold-out audiences at the Theatre Royal in September 2018.

Writer-director Daldry’s ground-breaking production has accumulated 19 major awards, including four Tony Awards and three Olivier Awards, and played to more than five million theatregoers worldwide, en route to becoming the National Theatre’s most internationally lauded show.

Written at the end of the Second World War and set before the First, Bradford playwright Priestley’s thriller opens with the mysterious Inspector Goole calling unexpectedly on the prosperous Birling family home. Whereupon their peaceful family dinner party is shattered by his investigations into the suicide of a young, discarded, pregnant factory girl.

A scene of devastation: Brian MacNeil’s over-sized doll’s house design for An Inspector Calls, on tour at York Theatre Royal in 2018

Inside, the year is 1912; outside it is 1945 as urchins play in the rain-swept, thundering wartime streets in the year when Priestley wrote his play. A pillar-box telephone and steam radio denote the latter era, as does the Bogart raincoat of Brennan’s sternly Scottish Inspector Goole.

Under Goole’s forensic, assiduous, tongue-loosening style of questioning, the impact mirrors a wartime bombing raid as the ground buckles beneath them.

Priestley’s socialist uprising of a play dramatises the dangers of casual capitalism’s cruelty, complacency and hypocrisy. Over its 105 unbroken minutes, Daldry’s German expressionist interpretation builds a political layer, one whose resonance renews with each era.

In 1989, his wish was to send Margaret Thatcher’s Tory philosophies to the grave, to damn the pursuit of individual gain; in 2009, when playing Leeds Grand Theatre, parliamentary expense claims and duck ponds were in the headlines.

In 2018, Inspector Goole’s final speech, with its wish for collective responsibility and someone, anyone, willing to say sorry, rubbed against an age of austerity, intolerance, division and worsening working conditions.

Roll on 2022-23, a 12th year of Tory rule, as inflation rises and strikers rise up in an over-hot world but one where people can’t afford to heat themselves through the winter while oil and gas shareholders can afford to burn fivers by the barrowload.

Liam Brennan, left, and Jeffrey Harmer are all smiles as they rehearse for the latest tour of An Inspector Calls, heading for the Grand Opera House, next February

Dorset-born British theatre and film director Daldry will be at the directorial helm once more. Over the years, he has received Academy Award nominations for his films The Reader, The Hours, Billy Elliot and Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, while his West End theatre work includes David Hare’s Skylight at the Wyndham’s Theatre and Peter Morgan’s The Audience at the Apollo Theatre.

His multi award-winning production of Billy Elliot The Musical ran for 11 years at the Victoria Palace, London, before embarking on a national tour. Latterly, he has directed several episodes of the Netflix hit series The Crown, taking on the producer’s role too.

Joining him in the production team will be Oscar-winning composer Stephen Warbeck (Shakespeare In Love), lighting designer Rick Fisher and designer Ian MacNeil, whose audacious original set is still extraordinary, still breath-taking: an over-sized doll’s house set on stilts to raise its smug, partying Edwardian occupants for moral examination by Priestley, the inspector and the audience alike.

Alongside Brennan’s Inspector Goole will be Christine Kavanagh as haughty, social-climbing Sybil Birling; Jeffrey Harmer as bumptious former Lord Mayor Arthur Birling; Evlyne Oyedokun as daughter Sheila Birling; Simon Cotton as her arch fiancé, Gerald Croft; George Rowlands as Sheila’s unhappy, inadequate, lush brother, Eric Birling, and Frances Campbell as parlour maid Edna, complemented by understudies Philip Stewart, Beth Tuckey, Maceo Cortezz and Rue Blenkinsop.

Tickets for An Inspector Calls at Grand Opera House, York, cost £13 upwards on 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Evlyne Oyedoken in rehearsal with Jeffery Harmer, left, and Simon Cotton for the 2022-23 tour of An Inspector Calls

Here, George Rowlands (who will play Eric Birling) and Evlyne Oyedokun (Sheila Birling) escape Inspector Goole’s forensic scrutiny to answer questions of a different kind ahead of the 2023 tour of An Inspector Calls.

An Inspector Calls is on the school curriculum, sure to attract GCSE pupils and their parents alike to next year’s tour. Did you study it at school? If so, did you enjoy it? Does your appreciation of the play differ as an adult?

George: “I did read it at school, although I can’t really remember much of it. But I did always like it. I always think at school, when you sit down and analyse every single word, it can make you go a bit crazy, and I always thought it ruined books and plays. But now that I’m an adult, or more importantly now that I’m an actor, I definitely have more of an appreciation for it.”

Evlyne: “I actually didn’t study it  at school; I studied To Kill A Mockingbird. I’d heard about An Inspector Calls but I didn’t really know what it was, or really anything about it. It wasn’t until I got this audition that I actually read the play for the first time, and I still didn’t quite understand it. It took me a while to realise how many layers this play actually has.”

“It took me a while to realise how many layers this play actually has,” says Evlyne Oyedokun

What makes J B Priestley’s play so timeless and Stephen Daldry’s production so engaging?

Evlyne: “Well, the fact that is has three timelines helps. It’s set across three timelines – you’ve got 1912, which is where the play is set; then you’ve got the future, which is the Blitz, 1945, and then you’ve also got the current now, 2022.

“It’s amazing. You’re flicking through the past, present and the now constantly, and it’s so reflective on humanity, so it makes it so relevant, and people can really see themselves.”

George: At the end of the day, at its centre it’s a play about somebody in distress, and that doesn’t get old, does it? I think at different points in time, when we’ve put it on over the last 30 years, it’s been relevant. And this time around I think it’s more relevant than ever because of what’s going on in terms of the strike action and housing crisis.”

Give three characteristics of the character you will be playing?

George: “Eric is well educated because he’s been sent to public school. He enjoys a drink, probably a little bit too much. He really wants to be respected by his dad. Unfortunately, the combination results in some pretty catastrophic things.”

Evlyne: “Well, Sheila’s absolutely besotted with Gerald. She is very self-absorbed and in her own world, as she’s been brought up that way. She absolutely adores clothes.”

“Being an actor beats doing any other boring job,” says George Rowlands

What made you want to be an actor?

Evlyne: “Oh gosh! With me, I actually didn’t ever want to be an actor, it happened by accident. From a young age I was struggling with people and I never really spoke – I was pretty much mute to people I didn’t really know.

“My mum advised me to go and see a youth company at the weekends, so I did that, and I didn’t realise how natural it was to act as it is to live in the real world. I was a lot freer.

“That’s how I realised it’s the only thing I can do. Drama school taught me how to speak and acting taught me how to be more of a human than I ever was.”

George: “I think it beats doing any other boring job. I did find out quite early on in Year 6: for the end-of-school plays we did The Wizard Of Oz and I completely rewrote the script because I thought it was rubbish, and obviously made my parts the best.

“I like storytelling and I like the creative and artistic aspect of it. With this production, it has enabled that part of acting, and it’s been a really good creative process.”

Evlyne Oyedokun’s Sheila Birling and Simon Cotton’s Gerald Croft in the rehearsal room for An Inspector Calls. Picture: Mark Douet

When on tour, are there any essentials to have in your dressing room or top tips for making yourself feel at home in each city?

Evlyne: “I’m really bad at this stuff! A lot of people tend to make their dressing rooms cosy with nice blankets and things. I just bring everything that I have in my bag and that’s pretty much it.

“Some people put up fairy lights and flowers, but for me I’m very simple. With autism, as long as I’ve got really comfy clothes, a phone charger and headphones to cancel out sound, I’m all good.”

George: “I’m sharing a room with Simon [Cotton] who’s playing Gerald. I don’t know…I think a bottle of water goes a long way. A bottle of water and some Vaseline is not a terrible idea – for the lips, obviously! I get chapped lips.”

What is the most challenging part of being a performer?

Evlyne: “For me, it’s not being able to see your work or the story you’re creating because you’re so involved and living in the moment of it. You don’t really see the end result. I feel that the end result is mainly the response from the audience; if they got the story then we’ve done our job.”

George: “With other jobs, you can put a direct amount of work in, you can work more, you can do this and this, and your results will be better because of it. Like if you’re studying for an exam, the more you revise, the better the result.

George Rowlands’ Eric Birling and Christine Kavanagh’s Mrs Birling in rehearsal. Picture: Mark Douet

“But with acting it doesn’t work like that because being good is so subjective – there’s no grade. I think that’s quite hard. Putting lots of work in and not knowing really how it will go.”

Evlyne: “One of the sayings at RADA was, ‘plan it, know it and forget it’. It’s the hardest thing to do, but it’s the most rewarding thing to do.”

If you could swap roles for a performance, would you?

Evlyne: “If I had to be someone out of all the characters, it would definitely be the inspector, because I’m obsessed with crime documentaries and serial killers, everything to do with murder, unsolved murder, unsolved mysteries, death row, all of that! I’ve pretty much seen everything and I re-watch it to go to sleep.”

George: “If I could pick any character, I’d probably pick Edna [the parlour maid]. I would love to play her. If you haven’t seen this production, there’s a special thing that Edna is part of – a little bit of magic. She’s amazing.

“My second choice would be Mrs Birling. I really like Mrs Birling; she’s got such sass and doesn’t have the insecurities that Eric is stuck with.”

John Barrowman celebrates his musical theatre journey from West End to Broadway at York Barbican next May

“I’ve lived my dreams,” says John Barrowman. “My new show is a celebration of that wonderful journey”

MUSICAL theatre star John Barrowman will bring his new show I Am What I Am – West End To Broadway to York Barbican on May 20 2022.

Tickets go on sale on Friday, December 3 at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk for Barrowman’s return to the Barbican for the first time since May 2015.

“From the West End to Broadway, this has been the amazing journey of my musical theatre career,” says Barrowman. “I’ve worked with Andrew Lloyd Webber, Stephen Sondheim, Cameron Mackintosh, to name a few.

“I’ve performed at the National Theatre and on Broadway. I’ve lived my dreams. My new show is a celebration of that wonderful journey. I’ll perform songs from the biggest musicals I’ve starred in and perhaps one or two that I haven’t.

“Mix in a couple of duets. Sprinkle in a few surprises. This will be a show to remember. This has been a difficult time for many, so join me for a night of laughter and love and the best of musical theatre.”

John Barrowman is “the ultimate crossover artist”: he can sing, dance, act, present and on occasion he judges too.

The poster for John Barrowman’s I Am What I Am 2022 Tour

His journey to success on both sides of the Atlantic began in 1989 in musical theatre, making his West End debut as Billy Cocker opposite Elaine Paige in Cole Porter’s musical Anything Goes.

Leading West End roles ensued in Matador, Miss Saigon, The Phantom Of  The Opera and Sunset Boulevard, one he reprised in New York.

His other musical theatre credits include Putting It Together on Broadway and The Fix at London’s Donmar Warehouse, bringing him an Olivier nomination for Best Actor in a Musical.

The National Theatre revival of Anything Goes transferred to the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, but better still his performance – one of his favourites – as Albin in La Cage Aux Folles won him the What’s On Stage Best Takeover Role Award.

From that show, I Am What I Am has become his signature tune, always his choice to close his concert shows.

REVIEW: Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights, York Theatre Royal, until November 20 *****

Out on the wily, windy moor: Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff, Lucy McCormick’s Catherine Earnshaw and Nandi Bhebhe’s The Moor in Wise Children’s The 39 Steps

FIVE years ago, when Emma Rice all too briefly ruled the Globe, executive producer Tom Bird told her he would be fleeing the Shakespeare nest to move to York. “I’m going to do Wuthering Heights,” she told him that day.

Bird, now York Theatre Royal’s chief executive, recalled Rice’s vow at Wednesday’s post-show Q&A session, as the two friends from London days discussed Wise Children’s gothic musical play that felt like it had indeed “come home”, as both Bird and Kate Bush before him, put it.

In turn, Nottingham-born Rice remembered childhood walks up to the Top of th’ Withens – the West Riding house said to have inspired Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights – on her Yorkshire visits.

True to her word, Wise Children artistic director and former Kneehigh theatrical pioneer Rice has made her Wuthering Heights, in tandem with production partners York Theatre Royal, the Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre, no less.

Rice’s association with Bird post-Globe has been a joyous and fruitful one for the York theatre, first hosting the premiere of Wise Children’s debut, Angela Carter’s Wise Children, then collaborating on her adaptation of Enid Blyton’s jolly-hocket-sticks Mallory Towers in 2019. Wuthering Heights would have followed far sooner but for the delay impact of Covid’s long winter.

As eggs is eggs, and Rice is Rice, the wait has been well worth it, and sure enough the Theatre Royal snapped, crackled and popped with excitement as smiling, exhilarated university theatre students took their turn to be photographed with an ever-obliging Rice in the foyer in the post-show buzz. If you could bottle the essence of theatre, why it can and should matter to all ages, why it still has limitless possibilities, then bottle that air right here, right now.

How come there is so much life in Emma Rice’s Wuthering Heights when there is so much death and “so little love” in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (with a helpful, if grim family tree at the beginning of the digital programme)? Because she doesn’t look at life the way that others might, or tell it the way others might. Take, for example, her opinion that Emily Bronte is an “overlooked comic genius”, presenting as evidence the foppish Lockwood (Sam Archer) and Little Linton Heathcliff (Katy Owen), “the most despicably funny character ever written”.

Or how Rice transforms the Yorkshire moorland into a character, The Moor, led by Nandi Bhebhe, the narrator in a crown of thorns and twigs. All but Lucy McCormick’s Catherine Earnshaw and Ash Hunter’s Heathcliff play The Moor in Rice’s ensemble and even McCormick is seen shaking a stick feverishly in the first evocation of the moorland, amid the sound and fury of the live band’s percussive clatter signifying everything about Yorkshire’s tight, stifling grip.

Bhebhe’s bad weather-forecasting Moor and cohorts become the equivalent of Macbeth’s witches, both McCormick’s Cathy and Hunter’s conversing directly with her, although the cautionary Moor is trying to save them  from themselves.

Who cannot but love the team play in writer-director Rice’s shows, as exemplified by those Moors: the Moors, the merrier, as it were. Her cast sits attentively to the sides, always in view, visibly enthusing in each other’s performances as they conjure what Hunter calls her “theatre magic”.

Rice pulls off the feat of being deadly serious and yet seriously funny too; one review even used the words “camp” and “pastiche” to describe elements of the performance style, and there is something of the affectionate irreverence of Lip Service’s Withering Looks show about Rice’s script, not least when she comments on why do so many men’s names begin with H and why do so many characters have similar names?

Helpfully, each death is registered on a chalk board – as well as being signified by dark birds in flight across the projection screen – but there is a greater motive behind those boards: Rice’s passionate belief in the importance of literacy, a learning tool that was denied to Hareton by Heathcliff.

Rice is an audacious theatre-maker; she takes chances and invariably they pay off, typically in her casting choices, most notably maverick, fearless performance artist Lucy McCormick as her “unwell, prisoner-of-her-time Cathy, neither tortured romantic heroine, nor minx”.

“Lucy is a rock star,” she reasoned, and as if to prove the point, banshee McCormick suddenly grabs a microphone at one point, her locks tossed asunder by a fan, for an ensemble dance number that could have come from Rent or Spring Awakening as much as from the people’s operas of Brecht & Weill.

There is so much to love about Rice’s Wuthering Heights; the echo of Lawrence Olivier’s black-and-white film 1939 film in the title wording on screen; Vicki Mortimer’s set and costume designs, especially the towers of chairs; the use of puppetry and dance and projections; Ian Ross’s  songs, whether in folk musical major keys or minor keys for bleaker undercurrents; the musicianship of Sid Goldsmith, Nadine Lee and Renell Shaw; the way this is anything but the Heathcliff and Cathy show.

Katy Owen brings such heart to her double bill of spoilt toffs, Isabella and Little Linton; Sam Archer is playful as the absurd Lockwood and grave as the inadequate Edgar Linton; Tama Phethean’s glowering, towering Hindley and Hareton Earnshaw, the one bruising, the other bruised, hit home, and while Rice’s company makes you feel they are all scene stealers, none does more so than Craig Johnson’s deathly-camp Dr Kenneth.

Ultimately, spread over this revenge tragedy’s ensnaring three hours, this is more Heathcliff’s Wuthering Heights than Cathy’s, on account of Rice’s most serious social commentary of all, on racism, prompted by her visit to the Calais Jungle. Hunter’s intense, brooding, raging Heathcliff is the refugee, the outsider, of Jamaican roots, abused and mistreated. “Cruelty breeds cruelty. Be careful what you seed,” cautions Rice.

And yet, amid so little love and so much 19th century grimness up north, Rice finds an uplifting finale so beautiful that it brings tears of joy.

Tickets are still available; crack the whip, like Rice’s Cathy and Heathcliff, and book every last seat. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Emma Rice shakes up cautionary tale Wuthering Heights as epic folk musical

“Lucy McCormick is pure charisma and has a wildness of spirit that takes my breath away,” says director Emma Rice of her “rock star” actor playing Cathy. Picture: Steve Tanner

YORK Theatre Royal’s Haunted Season climaxes with Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights, Emma Rice’s long-touted elemental adaptation of Emily Bronte’s gothic Yorkshire revenge tragedy, from Tuesday to November 20.

Company founder and artistic director Rice completes a hattrick of Theatre Royal visits after her stage versions of Angela Carter’s Wise Children in March 2019 and Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers in September that year.

This time, she partners with the National Theatre, Bristol Vic (in the city where Wise Children are based in Spike Island) and the York theatre for a gale-force, folk musical Wuthering Heights, whose tale of love, revenge and redemption is marked by her trademark visual flair, wild humour, puppetry and casting of “rock star” Lucy McCormick as Cathy.

Here Emma answers Charles Hutchinson’s questions as Wuthering Heights seeks to hit new heights.

You call Wuthering Heights a “tragedy”, but reviews have emphasised the “comedy/pastiche”, “the unfaithful storytelling” and the folk musical panache of your interpretation. Have past productions been too serious and Yorkshire-grim?

“I believe that Emily Brontë is an overlooked comic genius. I love comedy and there’s always laughter in my shows, but it wasn’t difficult to bring fun to this adaptation – it’s all there in the text.

“Linton Heathcliff is the most despicably funny character ever written and Lockwood a comedy genius. I hope this production will celebrate Brontë’s sparkling humour as well as her bloody passion.”

Kandaka Moore (Zillah), left, Ash Hunter (Heathcliff), Nandi Bhebhe (The Moor), Lucy McCormick (Cathy) and Witney White (Frances Earnshaw) in Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights. Picture: Steve Tanner

What were the aspects of the story that you most wanted to bring out for a 2021 audience in its transition from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights to Emma Rice’s Wuthering Heights?

“There are several aspects of the show that cast a new ‘21st century’ light on the book, but one thing that stands out is how I see Catherine. I initially saw her as the traditional tortured romantic heroine, then as a bit of a minx. Now I think she’s unwell.

“I think she’s a prisoner of her time: a deeply independent women who is constrained by the limitations of being a woman in the 1800s and who fights against those restrictions until it literally drives her mad. I’ve enjoyed exploring this way of looking at this iconic character with Lucy [McCormick] in the role.”  

What made you cast Lucy McCormick as Cathy?

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

What do you recall of first reading Wuthering Heights:  where, when; how old were you?

“I have always loved the book, though at different times in my life it has meant different things to me. In my teens it was one of the first ‘exam’ books that really got me; it fired up my reluctant teenage brain and dared me to dream of passion and romance.

“In later readings, I was struck by how little love there actually is in the book: it’s brutal and cruel, and this darker version of the book stuck in my mind. 

Ash Hunter as Heathcliff and Lucy McCormick as Cathy. Picture: Steve Tanner

“Then, a few years ago, I was appalled by what I saw at the Calais Jungle and at refugee camps all over the world. I was horrified by the cold negotiations our government was having about how many refugee children we would take in – horrified that this could even be a question a so-called civilised country was asking. Something sparked in my brain. Wasn’t Heathcliff an accompanied child?”

Do you view the book and its writer differently now to when you first read it?

“It blows my mind that this book was written by someone so sheltered. The detail of Cathy’s neurosis and behavioural issues and the depiction of illness is devasting and brilliantly described.

“I wonder if, as a vicar’s daughter, all of life came to the Brontes’ door and that is how Emily knew so much about the human condition. I don’t find the novel unworldly in the slightest. It is brutally honest and frighteningly well observed. It explores, obsession, control, prejudice, jealousy, violence and hope. All themes very much rooted in reality.

“I knew I needed to tell this story and I needed to tell it now. When Heathcliff is found at the Liverpool docks, the way he is treated sparks a series of events that are catastrophic. This is a cautionary tale and a revenge tragedy. Truly a story for our times.”

What does outsider Heathcliff’s story represent in our increasingly intolerant, unwelcoming post-Brexit society?

“For me, Heathcliff, and the way he’s treated by those around him, is the key to the story. On the surface it’s a love story, but deep down I think it’s about kindness and about the danger of not showing compassion to those in need.

“Wuthering Heights is a cautionary tale about what happens when we treat those in need as somehow less than ourselves. This is the driving force of my adaptation: cruelty breeds cruelty. Be careful what you seed.” 

“Ash Hunter has a unique intensity that could stop a train in its tracks,” says Emma Rice of her pick to play Heathcliff, right

What made you cast Ash Hunter in the role?

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

How important is the physicality of the Yorkshire landscape to your production? How do you represent it on stage?

“Hugely important. In fact, I’ve made The Yorkshire Moor a character in the show, played by the jaw-droppingly talented Nandi Bhebhe and the ensemble. The Moor narrates the story, as well as trying – and often failing – to save the characters from themselves.”  

Wuthering Heights features a live band. Why is music so integral to your theatre-making?

“Music is important to every part of my life. I love music and can’t imagine making a show that wasn’t full of it. And it feels essential to theatre. Along with storytelling, making music is one of the oldest forms of communication. It’s how we reach across the divide and connect with other humans. 

“Wuthering Heights particularly calls for an epic score: it’s an epic novel and needs to be met with everything it demands and deserves. Ian Ross, my long-time collaborator, has composed the most extraordinary score, raw, ravishing and brimful of passion.”

Is it really “grim up north”? If not, why is that the north’s reputation?!

“Haha! I definitely don’t think it’s grim up north, in fact I love it! My family were big campers in the 1970s and many a wet weekend was spent in Derbyshire and Yorkshire. I remember walking up to Upper Withins – the place that is thought to have inspired Wuthering Heights – and being a little disappointed at how small it was. I was intoxicated by the moors though, and the Brontë Parsonage and the sheer wildness of that world.”

“It is a privilege and a wonder to be making something so important,” says Wuthering Heights director Emma Rice. Picture: Steve Tanner

You are building up a relationship with York Theatre Royal for your Wise Children work. Why is forging links with regional theatres, as well as with the National Theatre, important to you?

“York Theatre Royal is Wise Children’s most steadfast collaborator: we’ve made three original touring shows since we launched the company in 2018, and YTR has co-produced all of them! We love working with them and hope to continue doing so long into the future. 

“Wise Children’s mission is about making great work and touring it around the country – because we believe that audiences everywhere should have access to the talent and vision that is all too often only seen in the capital.

“We’re also committed to touring the ‘real thing’: we don’t send out a second cast, or a rejigged set – we tour with the original production and cast, making sure that the show is in its perfect form, whether you see it in York or Inverness.” 

If someone has never seen Wuthering Heights, or indeed read it, why should they come to your show?

“Because it’s got everything! An epic story, a staggeringly beautiful set, deliriously wonderful music, and a cast of such searing talent that my heart jumps every night. I truly feel this is some of the most thrilling work I have ever made, and I am loving watching audiences respond to it.

“Inspired and emboldened by lockdown, we were determined to bring everything we could to this show – and you can feel the energy in every song, dance, line and action. It is a privilege and a wonder to be making something so important with such an amazingly talented and joyful company.”

Wise Children’s Wuthering Heights runs at York Theatre Royal, November 9 to 20, 7.30pm (except November 14); 2pm matinees, November 11, 13, 18 and 20. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

“I truly feel this is some of the most thrilling work I have ever made,” says Emma Rice as Wuthering Heights blasts its way to York Theatre Royal . Picture: Steve Tanner

Copyright of The Press, York.

More Things To Do in York and beyond that Euro football tournament. It’s all kicking off in List No. 36, courtesy of The Press, York

What’s the pecking order here? Twirlywoos Live! at York Theatre Royal

EUROS 2020? What Euro 2020? The sun is out and so is Charles Hutchinson’s diary as he points you in the direction of curious CBeebies favourites, acoustic concerts, a dockyard Romeo & Juliet, a large painting, Clough v Leeds United and more ideas aplenty. 

Children’s show of the week: Twirlywoos Live!, York Theatre Royal, tomorrow at 1.30pm and 4pm; Saturday, Sunday, 10am and 2pm

TOODLOO, Great BigHoo, Chick and Peekaboo set sail for York on board their Big Red Boat for their Theatre Royal theatrical adventure Twirlywoos Live!.

Curious, inquisitive and eager to learn about the world, these small, bird-like characters from the CBeebies television factory will be brought to life with inventive puppetry, mischief, music and plenty of surprises.

Written by Zoe Bourn, the 55-minute show is recommended for ages 1+; babes in arms are welcome too. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Joshua Burnell: York prog-folk musician will perform in a Songs Under Skies double bill on June 14. Picture: Elly Lucas

Outdoor gigs of the week ahead: Songs Under Skies 2, National Centre for Early Music churchyard, York June 14 to 16

SONGS Under Skies returns to the NCEM’s glorious gardens at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, for acoustic double bills by Katie Spencer and Joshua Burnell on June 14, Zak Ford and Alice Simmons, June 15, and Epilogues and Sunflower Thieves, June 16.

As with last September’s debut series, season two of the open-air, Covid-safe concerts is presented by the NCEM in tandem with The Crescent community venue, the Fulford Arms and the Music Venues Alliance.

Gates open at 6.30pm for each 7pm to 8.30pm concert with a 30-minute interval between sets. Tickets must be bought in advance, either in “pods” for family groups or as individuals at tickets.ncem.co.uk.

Art at large: Subterranea Nostalgia, by Corrina Rothwell

Biggest painting of the week award: Corrina Rothwell’s Subterranea Nostalgia, in The Cacophany Of Ages at Pyramid Gallery, York, until July 1

CORRINA Rothwell’s exhibition of abstract works features the largest canvas painting in the near-30 years that Terry Brett has run Pyramid Gallery in York.

“Subterranea Nostalgia measures 1600mm by 1600mm. That was fun, getting it upstairs!” says Terry, whose gallery is housed in a National Trust-owned 15th century building in Stonegate. “The painting has a real impact. If you know anyone with really big walls, it would be perfect for them!”

Nottingham artist Corrina favours mixed media and acrylic on canvas for the paintings, on show at Pyramid and online at pyramidgallery.com.

Not having a ball: Luke Dickson’s Brian Clough goes to hell and back in his 44 days in charge of Leeds United in Red Ladder Theatre Company’s The Damned United

Football, football, football, not on the box but in a theatre: Red Ladder Theatre Company in The Damned United, York Theatre Royal, June 16

THE choice is yours: Italy versus Switzerland at the Euro 2020 on ITV at 8pm or the inner workings of Brian Clough’s troubled mind at Elland Road in 1974 at York Theatre Royal, kick-off 7.30pm.

Adapted from Yorkshireman David Peace’s biographical novel by Anders Lustgarten, The Damned United is a psychodrama that deconstructs Old Big ‘Ead’s 44 days as manager of Leeds United, whose Don Revie-tutored players he despised as much as they loathed him.

The double act of Luke Dickson’s flawed Clough and David Chafer’s avuncular Peter Taylor are joined by Jamie Smelt as everyone else in a story of sweat and booze, fury and power struggles, demons and defeats.

That’s a good idea…

Festival of the month: York Festival of Ideas 2021, running until June 20

THIS year marks the tenth anniversary of York’s bright idea of a festival dedicated to educating, entertaining and inspiring.

Under the banner of Infinite Horizons to reflect the need to adapt to pandemic, the Festival of Ideas is presenting a diverse programme of more than 150 free online and in-person events.

The best idea, when needing more info on the world-class speakers, performances, family activities and walking trails, is to head to yorkfestivalofideas.com/2021/.

You kiss by the dock: Husband and wife Jordan Metcalfe and Laura Elsworthy as Romeo and Juliet in Hull Truck Theatre’s Romeo & Juliet at Hull’s former dry dock

Outdoor play outside York announcement of the month: Hull Truck Theatre in Romeo & Juliet, Stage@The Dock, Hull, July 15 to August 7

AFTER John Godber Company’s Moby Dick completes its run at the converted Hull dry dockyard this Saturday, next comes Hull Truck Theatre’s al-fresco staging of Shakespeare’s tragic love story.

The title roles in Romeo & Juliet will be played by Hull-born husband and wife Jordan Metcalfe and Laura Elsworthy, who appeared in The Hypocrite and The Last Testament Of Lillian Bilocca in 2017 as part of Hull’s year as UK City of Culture celebrations.

Metcalfe and Elsworthy, who married in the summer of 2018 after bonding when working on The Hypocrite, will play a stage couple for the first time, performing on a traverse stage to emphasise Verona’s divided society. Box office: hulltruck.co.uk.

Hitting the Heights: Lucy McCormick’s wild-haired Cathy in the Wise Children poster for Emma Rice’s adaptation of Wuthering Heights, bound for York Theatre Royal

Looking ahead to the autumn: Wise Children in Emma Rice’s Wuthering Heights, York Theatre Royal, November 8 to 20

EMMA Rice’s Wise Children company is teaming up with the National Theatre, York Theatre Royal and the Bristol Old Vic for her elemental stage adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Yorkshire moorland story of love, vengeance and redemption.

In an intoxicating revenge tragedy for our time shot through with music, dance, passion and hope, Rice’s company of performers and musicians will be led by Lucy McCormick’s Cathy.

“Emboldened and humbled by the enforced break, I feel truly lucky,” says Rice. “I cannot wait to get back to doing what I love most and to share this thrilling and important piece with the world. It’s time.”

An Evening With Julian Norton, vet, author and now show host, is booked in for Pocklington Arts Centre

Veterinary appointment in 2022: An Evening With Julian Norton, Pocklington Arts Centre, January 18

JULIAN Norton, author, veterinary surgeon and star of Channel 5’s The Yorkshire Vet, will share amusing anecdotes from his work with animals in North Yorkshire, bringing to life all the drama and humour in the daily routine of a rural vet.

Following in the footsteps of James Herriot author Alf Wight, Norton has spent most of his working life in Thirsk. His latest book, All Creatures: Heart-warming Tales From A Yorkshire Vet, was published in March. Box office: pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.