YORK company Pick Me Up Theatre will stage the northern UK
premiere of Edward Albee’s emotional rollercoaster of an American play, The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, next month.
World-famous New York architect Martin Gray has it all:
fame, fortune, a happy marriage to Stevie, and a wonderful son, Billy, but he
is hiding a BIG secret. Everything changes when he admits to his best friend,
Ross, that he is having an affair with…a goat.
The Goat caused controversy but was a hit with audiences when it opened on Broadway in 2002, going on to win the Tony Award for Best Play, 40 years after Albee took home the same award for Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
The tone switches between laugh-out-loud comedy and
full-blown tragedy as Stevie, Billy and Ross struggle to deal with Martin’s
Albee said: “The play is about love and loss, the
limits of our tolerance and who, indeed, we really are. All I ask of an
audience is that they leave their prejudices in the cloakroom … and later —
at home — imagine themselves as being in the predicament the play examines and
coming up with useful, if not necessarily comfortable, responses.”
Directed by Mark Hird and produced and designed by Robert Readman, Pick Me Up’s production
features Bryan Bounds as Martin; Susannah Baines as Stevie; Mick Liversidge as
Ross and Will Fealy, a student at CAPA College, the creative and performing
arts college in Wakefield, as Billy.
The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia?, will run at the John Cooper Studio, Theatre @41Monkgate, York, from February 25 to 29, 7.30pm nightly. Box office: 01904 623568 or at pickmeuptheatre.com. Please note: this play contains adult themes and strong language; suggested minimum age of 15.
Scrooge The Musical, Pick Me Up Theatre, Grand Opera House, York, until Sunday, December 1. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york
FOR years and years, Pick Me Up Theatre artistic director Robert
Readman has applied for the performing rights for Scrooge The Musical, more in
hope than expectation.
This year, at last, the answer was affirmative, and so Readman
reckons he must be the first director/producer to stage Leslie Bricusse’s
musical on this scale since Bill Kenwright’s long-running tour show.
Those were the days with Tommy Steele in the lead, with
songs specially added for his knees-up brand of showmanship, but Readman has restored
the 1992 score, when Bricusse transferred his 1970 film musical to the stage as
a vehicle for Anthony Newley, six new songs and all. Back come the likes of
Good Times, the best in the show, says Readman.
Ironically, if anything, there are too many songs, or, more precisely, there are not many memorable songs, making it feel like too many.
This is in part because the dialogue is largely true to Charles Dickens’s novel, save for the occasional modernism, and you wish for rather more of it, but another song is always nudging it out of the way.
While you could not call it a “sung-through musical”, it is veering towards that style, yet the great joy of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol lies in its storytelling and the myriad ways of presenting it, whether James Swanton’s one-man show, Alexander Wright’s pub supper two-hander with audience participation or Deborah McAndrew’s beautifully resonant adaptation for Hull Truck Theatre.
Readman goes for spectacle, garland upon garland of snowy white flowers decorating the stage; a huge door; a big four-poster bed; loud, very loud, sound effects for Jacob Marley’s entry, rattling chains et al; echoing voices; a company of more than 40; and two flying sequences. One for Tony Froud’s Marley; the other for Rory Mulvihill’s Ghost of Christmas Present and Mark Hird’s Ebenezer Scrooge, where they are held in suspense rather more than this ghost story holds us, in the absence of more darkness.
Hird’s diminutive Scrooge carries the last residue of his
wonderful Captain Mainwaring in Pick Me Up’s Dad’s Army, and consequently he is
humorous from the start, full of bluster rather than the coldness of a blasted
heath. You find yourself liking him, even when he is mithering and being
miserly, rather like Rowan Atkinson’s penny-pinching Mr Bean, but Scrooge’s
transformation is still highly enjoyable in his impish hands.
What’s more, his scenes with Young Ebenezer (Frankie Bounds) and his lost true love, Isabel (Jennie Wogan), and later with Bob Cratchit (Alan Park), Tiny Tim (Sonny Love) and the Cratchit family, are poignant to the core. Bounds, by the way, is the pick of the young talents, with a lovely singing voice in Happiness, while Olivia Caley, as the Ghost of Christmas Past, definitely has a future.
Look out too for Flo Poskitt’s comic cameo as Ethel Cratchit:
not for the first time this year, she gives a peach of a supporting
performance. Maybe next year, a director will reward her with an overdue lead.
Mulvihill amuses by lounging like Jacob Rees-Mogg in the
House of Commons, in his Christmas green silks and ermine; Sam Johnson leads
his musical forces with customary skill, and Iain Harvey and Readman’s choreography
has most fun when Andrew Isherwood’s Tom Jenkins leads the stand-out Thank You Very Much.
Overall, however, while it may feel “Bah Humbug” to say it, by
Pick Me Up standards, this Scrooge falls
short of a Christmas cracker.
WHO is your favourite Scrooge? Albert Finney? Tim Curry?
Patrick Stewart? George C Scott? Lionel Barrymore on the radio?
Maybe Michael Caine in The Muppets’ Christmas Carol? Jim Carrey?
Or how about Jim Backus as the voice of Mister Magoo in Mister Magoo’s Christmas
Carol, or even Bill Murray’s Frank Cross in Scrooged?
Mark Hird, who plays Scrooge from tomorrow (November 26) in Pick
Me Up Theatre’s Scrooge The Musical at the Grand Opera House, York, has no
hesitation in picking Alastair Sim from Brian Desmond Hurst’s 1951 film,
“I loved his performance! He was unashamedly nasty, but
there was something in his eyes, that glint, that made you think there’s
something going on there,” says Mark, who is leading Robert Readman’s cast,
fresh from directing this autumn’s Pick Me Up musical, Monster Makers,
at 41 Monkgate.
He now adds Charles Dickens’s
Ebenezer Scrooge to a diverse Pick Me Up CV that includes Captain Mainwaring inDad’s Army, Colonel Pickering inMy Fair Lady and Uncle Fester in
The Addams Family, and he is particularly enjoying performing the songs in Leslie
“The songs really help
in bringing out Scrooge’s thoughts, whether in the 1970 film musical with
Albert Finney or the stage version with six extra songs. You discover new
things every time you do it.” says Mark.
“I’ve had the chance
to play some really cold, nasty characters: there’s nothing redeemable about Inspector
Wormold in Betty Blue Eyes or The Beadle in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of
Fleet Street, but, on the other side, I also get to play all the ridiculously
loveable characters, like Captain Mainwaring, Uncle Fester and Colonel
“So, in many ways,
Scrooge is more interesting because he goes on a journey from one to the other,
and it’s really fun as an actor to make that transition, but also not to make
him black and white. There are reasons in his past for some of the things he’s
Time for a quick
refresher course: based on Dickens’s Victorian cautionary tale A Christmas
Carol, Scrooge tells the tale of old miser Ebenezer Scrooge on the night he is
visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come. Here that tale
is told in an “all-singing, all-dancing, all-flying” show.
All-flying, Mark? “Yes, we have some flying in this show.
Scrooge has to fly with Rory Mulvihill’s Ghost of Christmas Present, and Tony
Froud’s Jacob Marley will float above the stage to sing his big number,” says
“I haven’t flown on
stage before, but I’m not scared of heights. I love walking the hills in Scotland.”
Joining Mark in the
company will be Alan Park’s Bob Cratchit. “The advantage we have doing the show
at the Grand Opera House, rather than our other home at 41 Micklegate, is that you
can put on a big spectacle, but you can also have intimate scenes too, such as Cratchit
and Tiny Tim’s scenes,” says Alan.
“But the experience
of performing at 41 Micklegate develops that intimate form of acting, which you
can then take into the bigger theatre,” says Mark.
He and Park see the contemporary resonance in Dickens’s story. “It’s amazing to look back at the impact Dickens’s book had on politicians, as well as general readers, concerning the inequality of working conditions for the working classes, and the cruelty Cratchit faces. That strikes a chord today,” says Mark.
“Cratchit thinks ‘this
is my lot; I will make the most of what I have’, and he sees Scrooge as alien
to his world, because that’s how society is,” says Alan.
“No politician will
change Scrooge, but the three Ghosts do have an impact, which makes him change
“But what’s more
depressing is that if A Christmas Carol were to be played out in modern times,
I’m not sure there would be sympathy for the Bob Cratchits of this world.”
“Maybe we need
another Dickens for this age,” says Mark. “If the Ghost of Christmas Yet To
Come brought Dickens to 2019, I think he would be horrified.”
“You could argue that
we need the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come to visit some of our politicians
right now,” says Alan, as the winter-of-discontent General Election fast approaches.
Pick Me Up Theatre’s Scrooge The Musical runs from Tuesday, November 26 to Sunday, December 1 at Grand Opera House, York. Performances: 7.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday; 2.30pm, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york.
BAH Humbug! The
Christmas spirit is taking over the Grand Opera House, York, from Tuesday and
not even Ebenezer Scrooge can stop it.
York company Pick Me
Up Theatre are presenting their big winter show, Scrooge The Musical, directed
by Robert Readman, with choreography by Iain Harvey and musical direction by
course: based on Charles Dickens’s Victorian cautionary tale A Christmas Carol,
Scrooge tells the tale of old miser Ebenezer Scrooge on the night he is visited
by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come.
Can he be turned
from sourpuss to saint? What will happen to Tiny Tim? Will everyone have a
merry Christmas after all? “Come and find out in this all-singing, all-dancing,
all-flying show,” invites Robert.
His cast will be led by Pick Me Up regular Mark Hird, fresh from directing this autumn’s musical, Monster Makers, at 41 Monkgate. He now adds Scrooge to a diverse CV that includes Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army, Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family.
roles go to Rory Mulvihill as the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present and Alan
Park as Scrooge’s long-suffering clerk Bob Cratchit.
“It started out as a film musical in
1970, adapted for the screen by Leslie Bricusse, with Albert Finney as
Scrooge,” recalls Mark. “But it was one of those musicals that landed at an
unlucky time just as film musicals went out of fashion.
“Everyone thought it was an absolute banker, but times and tastes change,
but now, when you go back to it, it’s actually a really good film.
“So, 22 years later, Leslie Bricusse decided to turn it into a stage
musical, wrote half a dozen new songs, written specially for Anthony Newley’s
Scrooge, and it went down incredibly well.”
Alan Park chips in: “Then it became a vehicle for Tommy Steele for many
years in Bill Kenwright’s productions. Each year, Robert Readman put in a
request for the performing rights, and at last, this year he got a ‘Yes’.
“So, this must be the first time it will have been done in a theatre of
this size without it being a Bill Kenwright show.”
Park and Hird believe that Bricusse’s songs are vital to the show’s success.
“They provide the vehicle for you to discover more about the characters beyond
Scrooge, like Bob, so that by the end of a song you know more about them,” says
“You get the inner
thoughts of the characters in the songs, so you get more than 2D characters,”
suggests Mark. “You really see Scrooge’s progression, through his songs, for
“You’re also quite
surprised by the sheer variety of the songs and the music, with some big
“There are some
proper Cockney knees-up songs,” says Alan.
“But also some
lovely ballads, like when Scrooge sees the only girl he ever loved as a young
man, Isabel, his fiancée,” rejoins Mark. You go back in time and you hear her singing this gorgeous ballad
with Young Scrooge called Happiness, as old Scrooge looks on.”
“The way Robert has
staged it, you have Young Scrooge and old Scrooge mirroring each other’s
actions, so you kind of feel like Isabel is singing it to old Scrooge,” says
Picking up his
earlier point about Scrooge’s character progression, Mark says: “Through his
songs, Scrooge goes from his position of denial, saying how he hates Christmas,
to feeling ‘it’s not my fault, fate has done this to me’, when confronted by
the Ghost of Christmas Past.
“Then, with the
Ghost Of Christmas Present, he starts to think, ‘Could there be a better
life?’, so it’s a fantastic story arc and a fantastic set of songs, with one of
the most perfect stories ever written to hang it all together.”
A Christmas Carol
has been interpreted in myriad ways on screen and stage, even by The Muppets
puppets in 1992 in The Muppet Christmas Carol “My five-year-old daughter is
still convinced I’m playing a frog in Scrooge, because her exposure to A
Christmas Carol is seeing Kermit playing Bob Cratchit in the Muppets’ movie!”
abiding popularity of Dickens’ tale, Alan says: “It’s not just about
redemption. We all reflect on moments in our life, wishing we could have done
things differently, and the story also taps into nostalgia and regret and
worrying about things.
“Watching this story
unfold, it can change your perspective on the world and who you are.”
Mark adds: “It also
says it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf and never too late to start
“The story is full
of joyful moments that are infectious, even infecting Scrooge, so I do feel
it’s a feelgood show,” says Alan. “If you’re looking at a wider point, we all
tend to focus on what’s getting us down, but this story lets us step out and
think about all the joyful things of Christmas.”
Mark concludes: “There’s probably no better show to put you in a good mood for Christmas.”
Pick Me Up Theatre’s Scrooge The Musical runs from November 26 to December 1 at Grand Opera House, York. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at atgtickets.com/york.