York Shakespeare Project to stage Richard III and Lucrece at York International Shakespeare Festival on 25-year mission

Harry Summers: Facing a winter of discontent as Richard, Duke of Gloucester in York Shakespeare Project’s Richard III

AS in 2002, York Shakespeare Project launches a mission to perform all of Shakespeare’s plays with Richard III, staged at Friargate Theatre, Lower Friargate, York, from April 26 to 29.

The first cycle concluded with a tour of The Tempest last September, and now YSP has initiated a bold endeavour to combine Shakespeare’s works with the best of his contemporaries over the next 25 years.

Esteemed York thespian John White directed YSP’s debut production of Richard III in Elizabethan garb at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre from October 30 to November 2 2002.

In contrast, Daniel Roy Connelly’s 2023 incarnation of “the York play”, part of the York International Shakespeare Festival, is rooted firmly in the 21st century. His production is set in a frenetic, calculating and brutal Westminster, with endless Machiavellian bloodletting and daily treacheries.

Connelly espouses that the England of Richard III could hardly be closer to today’s political minefield. “Telling Shakespeare through what is comfortably the most corrupt institution in the county, the play explores the cut and thrust of power’s crucible, with laws ignored and lies sown,” he contends.

“I believe that a parliamentary telling of Richard III is not only long overdue, it’s also bang on time. Prepare then for British politics as played out, murderously, on the floor of the House of Commons.”

Daniel Roy Connolly: Former diplomat directing York Shakespeare Project for the first time in Richard III

Audiences may find Connelly’s contemporary vision remarkably familiar. Richard and Buckingham excel as social media manipulators within a world of warring political parties. In the shadowy corridors of power, everyone is culpable.

Richard’s watchword? “My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, and every tongue brings in a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain”.

Making his YSP bow, Connelly is a former British diplomat, theatre director, actor, author and academic. He has acted in and directed theatre in the United States, the UK, Italy and China, where his 2009 production of David Henry Hwang’s M Butterfly was forced to close by the Chinese secret police.

In his cast will be: Harry Summers as Richard, Duke of Gloucester/Richard III; Rosy Rowley, Duke of Buckingham; Miranda Mufema, Lady Anne;  Emily Hansen, Queen Margaret; Andrea Mitchell, Queen Elizabeth; Frankie Hayes, Duchess of York/Sir William Catesby, and Matt Simpson, Duke of Clarence.

So too will be: Jack Downey, Sir Richard Ratcliffe; Clive Lyons, Lord Hastings; Michael Peirce, Young York/Lord Grey/Murderer; Nell Frampton, Prince Edward/Rivers; Frank Brogan, King Edward IV/Stanley; Thomas Jennings, Sir James Tyrell; Nick Jones, Earl of Richmond; James Tyler, Archbishop, and Anna Kedge, Marquis of Dorset.

Tickets for the 7.30pm evening performances and 2.30pm Saturday matinee are on sale at ticketsource.co.uk/ridinglights and on 01904 655317.

Elizabeth Elsworth’s regal, calculating Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, opposite Jim Paterson’s Mark Antony in York Shakespeare Project’s Antony And Cleopatra in 2019. Now she is directing YSP’s semi-staged version of Lucrece in her directorial debut

YORK Shakespeare Project will mark Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23 with three performances of Lucrece, a semi-staged version of his early narrative poem The Rape Of Lucrece, at Friargate Theatre, York.

Its original production was set to play at the Mansion House in April 2020 as a culminating feature of then YSP chair Councillor Janet Looker’s year as Lord Mayor, until the pandemic lockdown enforced its postponement.

Now it will be presented under Elizabeth Elsworth’s direction in performances at 2.30pm and 6pm on Sunday and 6pm on Monday as part of the York International Shakespeare Festival.

By the time of the poem’s publication in 1594, Shakespeare already had written the three parts of Henry VI, Two Gentlemen Of Verona and Richard III. When an outbreak of the plague caused a Tudor lockdown that closed London’s theatres, Shakespeare turned to poetry, exploring the theme of misplaced desire in Venus And Adonis and again in Lucrece, as it was entitled on the original frontispiece.

Extremely successful in his lifetime, these poems established Shakespeare as a poet but are rarely heard today. Just as his plays are celebrated for giving extraordinary life to their characters and stories, so he charts the inner worlds and challenges of the characters in The Rape Of Lucrece.

Emma Scott in the title role for York Shakespeare Project’s semi-staged version of Lucrece

In doing so, he gives voice to the unspeakable, his writing taking his audience to the heart of the matter. A voice is heard and actions will have consequences. In verse both gripping and heartfelt, he depicts an action resonating beyond Lucrece herself as she faces life-changing questions. How do you speak to power? To whom do you complain?

Lucrece speaks to the “MeToo” generation about situations and decisions that touch lives so deeply in a rare opportunity to experience Shakespeare’s writing at it most poignant and immediate.

Making her directorial debut, Elizabeth Elsworth has been a familiar face in many YSP productions, notably playing Katherine in Henry VIII in 2017 and Cleopatra in Antony And Cleopatra in 2019.

Emma Scott, who played Macbeth in Leo Doulton’s 2021 production of “the Scottish play”, takes the title role of Lucrece, alongside Stuart Lindsay as Tarquin; Diana Wyatt, Maid/Narrator; Judith Ireland, Player Queen/Narrator; Catherine Edge, Brutus/Narrator; Paul French, Lucretius/Narrator;  Jay Wadhawan, Collatine and a female chorus of Sally Mitcham, Sonia De Lorenzo and Lydia McCudden.

Box office: ticketsource.co.uk/ridinglights or 01904 655317.

York International Shakespeare Festival is ON and you can play your part, but make it snappy! Here’s how…

Masked ball, pandemic style, in Romeo & Juliet: Not exactly kissing by the book in The HandleBards’ irreverent production at York Theatre Royal

TODAY is William Shakespeare’s 457th birthday: the perfect time to reveal what will be happening with this year’s York International Shakespeare Festival in May and how you can play your part.

“Covid, Brexit and all the issues around travel and funding mean that this won’t be the usual ‘YorkShakes’ experience,” says festival organiser Philip Parr, artistic director of Parrabbola.

“Festivals and theatre are facing tricky times, but all is not lost. Undaunted, we’re going ahead and have an exciting programme for you. Our festival may be little, but from May 25 to June 6, we’re fiercely determined to bring some international Shakespeare to York and to share work being made in the city.” 

The festival promises films of exciting international productions; the announcement of a new ongoing collaboration programme with colleagues in Taiwan, and “even some live Shakespeare”, courtesy of cycle-everywhere company The HandleBards’ irreverent Romeo & Juliet at a socially distanced York Theatre Royal on May 25 and 26.

Created by three actors cooped up together during lockdown, fuelled by cabin fever and a determination to forget the tears and the tragedy, the result is “an unhinged and bonkers, laugh-out-loud version of Shakespeare’s story of star-crossed lovers” that also will form part of the Theatre Royal’s Love Season.

“The festival climax will be a new, online filmed production of a fast-paced, pared-back Pericles by York company Riding Lights, and we’re also going to launch the world’s first ever – we think! – collection of all of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, each recorded in a different language or dialect,” says Philip.

“And we want you to be part of the festival too in the form of York Loves Shakespeare, a photographic project for people who live, work or play in York, and who love Shakespeare.”  

Here’s how to be involved: “We want you to propose your favourite line from a Shakespeare play and then we’re going to choose one line from every play (so either 37, 38 or a few more plays),” says Philip.

“If you and your line are selected, we’ll photograph you with that line at a location in York that is relevant, iconic and perhaps personally specific. The results will be presented on Instagram and other social media during the festival and then collected on a webpage – and might perhaps go further!

“It’s a simple commitment and can be done legally and safely under current pandemic rules. You’ll need to go to your venue, but it will be only you and the photographer working together. John Saunders, who is well-known around York, has agreed to take our photographs and we’re grateful to him for being a vital part of the team.”

To take part in this celebration of Shakespeare and York, just email Philip Parr at info@yorkshakes.co.uk and propose your play and your line. “The deadline is May 1, so not much thinking time – t’were well it were done quickly!” both he and Shakespeare advise.

“Once we’ve made our choices, we’ll be back in touch to discuss the how and where and when. We need you! Come and join in,” adds Philip.

More Things To Do in and around York and at home despite Cassandra Boris’s “six months” of masked-up misery. List No.15, courtesy of The Press

Fields And Lanes creative couple Mick and Jessa Liversidge head to the Easingwold Community Library willow tree for an open-air hour of poetry and song on Sunday

BORIS Johnson put on his serious face and hands act on Tuesday night to address the nation on the ins and outs of his Government’s latest Covid-clampdown measures: a stitch in time saves nine, Rules of Six, 10pm curfews and any number of other numbers that invariably add up to confusion.

However, Covid-secure, socially distanced theatre shows, exhibitions, cinema, comedy and concerts can continue, as well as home entertainment, of course.

Here, Charles Hutchinson tracks and traces signs of artistic life…with immediate results  

The Easingwold Community Library willow tree: Sunday’s setting for Fields And Lanes poetry and songs

Joint project of the week: Fields And Lanes Under A Willow Tree, Timeless Songs and Poems by Jessa and Mick Liversidge, outside Easingwold Community Library, Sunday, 2pm

INSPIRED by the “wonderful reaction” to the online streaming of their outdoor poetry and song performances in lockdown, creative Easingwold couple Jessa and Mick Liversidge present an hour of uplifting words and music in the open air this weekend.

The show will be Covid-safe and socially distanced; tickets are free, with a pay-as- you-feel collection afterwards, but must be acquired in advance on 07526 107448 or by emailing ecl.generalenquiries@gmail.com.

Giles Shenton…will go to any lengths to promote his one-man show Three Men In A Boat

Three is a magic number: Three Men In A Boat, Kick In The Head Productions, Milton Rooms, Malton, Sunday, 2.30pm

GILES Shenton takes the helm for 95 minutes in Kick In The Head’s one-man/Three Men show, a “rip-roaring barrel of fun” wherein he plays writer Jerome K Jerome and everyone besides in a delightfully ridiculous tale of men behaving badly while messing about on boats.

Shenton invites you to “join Jerome as he recounts the hilarious story of his boating holiday along the magnificent River Thames with his two companions, George and Harris, and Montmorency the dog”.

Justin Moorhouse will stay in his house to perform his Your Place Comedy set from the living room on Sunday. Shappi Khorsandi will surely not be needing armour to do likewise from her place

Living room laughs: Your Place Comedy: Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi, Sunday, online at 8pm

IN the fifth of six Your Place Comedy shows live-streamed from their living rooms into yours since lockdown, Justin Moorhouse and Shappi Khorsandi form the digital double bill introduced remotely by compere Tim FitzHigham.

The virtual comedy project has been organised by Selby Town Hall manager Chris Jones in liaison with nine other independent North and East Yorkshire arts centres and theatres, with donations welcome after each free screening to be divided between the still-closed venues. You can watch on YouTube and Twitch with more details at yourplacecomedy.co.uk.

Top Of The Hill, acrylic on canvas, by Debbie Lush

Exhibition launch of the week: Debbie Lush, Featured Artist, Blue Tree Gallery, Bootham, York, and online at bluetreegallery.co.uk, Saturday to November 7

TEN new works by Devon landscape artist Debbie Lush go on show at Blue Tree Gallery from this weekend.

The former freelance illustrator, who ran a Somerset country inn for 13 years, draws inspiration for her vividly coloured coastal and rural landscapes from her walks with her dog along weather-beaten coastal paths, across muddy footpaths, through gateways and over fields and farmland.

“I love the act of brushing blobs of paints of varying thickness in bright colours on a surface, one over another, to assemble landscapes,” she says.

Uninvited Guests invite guests to Love Letters Straight From Your Heart at the SJT and on Zoom. Picture: Jonathan Bewley

Antidote to isolation: Uninvited Guests’ Love Letters Straight From Your Heart, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, and on Zoom on October 1, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

THEATRE company Uninvited Guests will construct a “completely digital, wholly personal and wonderfully live experience” at the SJT and on Zoom in “very different” afternoon and evening shows.

Performed by Jessica Hoffman and Richard Dufty, Love Letters Straight From Your Heart invites the audience’s words, song dedications and stories – sent in earlier – to the stage where they are given a new shape, look you straight in the eye and offer to dance with everyone in the room.

Only 45 tickets will be sold for each show to maintain intimacy, but any number of audience members can sit at screens to watch what unfolds in 60 to 75 minutes.

Giant story: Riding Lights Theatre Company go online for Christmas

Latest Christmas show to be confirmed: Riding Lights Theatre Company in The Selfish Giant, storytelling theatre on film online, for primary schools

YORK company Riding Lights say, “We can’t come to you, but we can still bring exciting entertainment into every classroom with our online version of The Selfish Giant.

“The Giant is angry. He’s been away for a long time and returns to find children playing in his beautiful garden!

Every day after school, they come and run about, laughing and playing games under the blossom on his peach trees, listening to the delightful songs of the birds. So, he puts up a big wall and an even bigger Keep Out notice to put a stop to all that. Then winter seizes the garden in its icy fingers.”

Riding Lights ask primary school to book the online show via: https://ridinglights.org/the-selfish-giant-no/costs-and-booking/.

No traditional queue at York Barbican when Daniel O’Donnell tickets go on sale tomorrow. Booking is online only

Looking ahead to Irish gigs at the double: Clannad, York Barbican, March 10 2021 and Daniel O’Donnell, York Barbican, October 21 2021

CLANNAD are booked in to play York Barbican on March 10 on their Farewell Tour, but let’s see where Boris Johnson’s new Rule of Six Months’ More Misery leaves that show. Fingers crossed, we can wave goodbye to social distancing by then to enable bidding adieu to the ethereal purveyors of traditional Irish music, contemporary folk, new age and rock, led by Moya Brennan.

Meanwhile, tickets go on sale at 9am tomorrow (Friday) at yorkbarbican.co.uk for Kincasslagh crooner Daniel O’Donnell’s return to the Barbican on October 21.

And what about…?

A visit to Duncan Lomax’s new photographic exhibition space, Holgate Gallery, opening officially from tomorrow in Holgate Road, York, to show work by the 2016 York Mystery Plays official photographer and political satirist Cold War Steve.

The York Printmakers Virtual Print Fair, running until October 4, with daily updates at https://www.facebook.com/YorkPrintmakers/