More Things To Do in York and beyond when not only the Mouse will play in all weathers. List No. 83, courtesy of The Press

Behind you! Behind you: Will The Gruffalo pounce on Mouse in Tall Stories’ The Gruffalo?

POLITICS, the weather, monsters, Sixties and Eighties’ favourites, comedy songs and a north eastern tornado all are talking points for Charles Hutchinson for the week ahead.

Children’s show of the week: Tall Stories in The Gruffalo, Grand Opera House, York, today, 1pm and 3pm; tomorrow, 11am and 2pm

JOIN Mouse on a daring adventure through the deep, dark wood in Tall Stories’ magical, musical, monstrous adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture book, suitable for children aged three upwards.

Searching for hazelnuts, Mouse meets cunning Fox, eccentric old Owl and high-spirited Snake. Will the story of the terrifying Gruffalo save Mouse from becoming dinner for these hungry woodland creatures? After all, there is no such thing as a Gruffalo – or is there? Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

True or false: Is Tony Hadley playing York Barbican on Sunday? True!

Eighties’ nostalgia of the week: Tony Hadley, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

I KNOW this much is true: smooth London crooner Tony Hadley is celebrating 40 years in the music business with a 2022 tour that focuses on both his Spandau Ballet and solo years.

Once at the forefront of the New Romantic pop movement, Islington-born Hadley, 61, is the velvet voice of hits such as True, Gold, Chant No. 1, Instinction and Paint Me Down and solo numbers Lost In Your Love and Tonight Belongs To Us. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Up and at’em, Fladam: York musical comedy duo Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter

Comedy songs of the week: Fladam & Friends, Let’s Do It Again!, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, today at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

YORK musical comedy duo Fladam, alias Florence Poskitt and piano-playing partner Adam Sowter, vowed to return after last year’s Hootenanny, and return they will this weekend. But can they really “do it again?”, they ask. Is a sequel ever as good?

Mixing comic classics from Victoria Wood with fabulous Fladam originals, plus a sneak peak of this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe debut, this new show will “either be the Empire Strikes Back of musical comedy sequels or another case of Grease 2”. Tickets to find out which one: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Always take a brolly with you just in case: Mikron Theatre Company’s James Mclean, left, Hannah Bainbridge, Alice McKenna and Thomas Cotran on tour in Lindsay Rodden’s all-weathers play, Red Sky At Night. Picture: Liz Baker

Whatever the weather, nothing stops Mikron Theatre Company in Red Sky At Night, Scarcroft Allotments, York, Sunday, 2pm

HAYLEY’S sunny, beloved dad was the nation’s favourite weatherman. Now, she is following in his footsteps, joining the ranks of the forecasting fraternity, or at least local shoestring teatime telly.

When the pressure drops and dark clouds gather, Hayley melts faster than a lonely snowflake. She may be the future’s forecast, but will anyone listen in Lindsay Rodden’s premiere, toured by Marsden company Mikron’s 50th anniversary troupe of James Mclean, Hannah Bainbridge, Alice McKenna and Thomas Cotran. No tickets are required; a Pay What You Feel collection will be taken after the show.

Stop Stop Start: The Hollies’ rearranged 60th anniversary tour will arrive at York Barbican on Monday

Sixties’ nostalgia of the week: The Hollies, 60th Anniversary Tour, York Barbican, Monday, 7.30pm

MOVED from September 2021, with tickets still valid, this 60th anniversary celebration of the Manchester band features a line-up of two original members, drummer Bobby Elliott and lead guitarist Tony Hicks, joined by lead singer Peter Howarth, bassist Ray Stiles, keyboardist Ian Parker and rhythm guitarist Steve Lauri.

Expect He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, I Can’t Let Go, Just One Look, Bus Stop, I’m Alive, Carrie Anne, On A Carousel, Jennifer Eccles, Sorry Suzanne, The Air That I Breathe and more besides. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Giving an earful: Bettrys Jones’s Ellen Wilkinson MP, left, has a word with Laura Evelyn’s British Communist activist Isabel Brown in Red Ellen

A bit of politics of the week: Northern Stage in Red Ellen, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2pm, Thursday; 2.30pm, Saturday

CAROLINE Bird’s new play turns the overdue spotlight on “Mighty Atom” Ellen Wilkinson, the crusading Labour MP cast forever on the right side of history, but the wrong side of life.

Caught between revolutionary and parliamentary politics, Ellen fights with an unstoppable, reckless energy for a better world, whether battling to save Jewish refugees in Nazi Germany; leading 200 workers on the Jarrow Crusade; serving in Churchill’s war cabinet or becoming the first female Minister for Education. Yet somehow she still finds herself on the outside looking in.​ Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Steven Jobson, as Jekyll/Hyde, and Nicola Holliday, as Lucy Harris, in York Musical Theatre Company’s photocall for Jekyll & Hyde The Musical at York Castle Museum

Musical of the week: York Musical Theatre Company in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm, Saturday matinee

BE immersed in the myth and mystery of London’s fog-bound streets where love, betrayal and murder lurk at every chilling twist and turn in Matthew Clare’s production of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s epic struggle between good and evil.

Steven Jobson plays the dual role of Dr Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde in the evocative tale of two men – one, a doctor, passionate and romantic; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women – one, beautiful and trusting; the other, beautiful and trusting only herself– both women in love with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Coastal call: Sam Fender kicks off the 2022 season at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Award winner of the week: Sam Fender, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, May 27, gates open at 6pm

WINNER earlier this week of the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for his Seventeen Going Under single, North Shields singer-songwriter Sam Fender opens the 2022 Scarborough Open Air Theatre summer season next Friday.

Already Fender, 28, has the 2022 Brit Award for Best British Alternative/Rock Act in his bag as he heads down the coast to perform his frank, intensely personal, high-octane songs from 2019’s Hypersonic Missiles and 2021’s Seventeen Going Under. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com. 

REVIEW: Mikron Theatre Company in Atalanta Forever **** and A Dog’s Tale ***

Come on, Atalanta Forever: Elizabeth Robin, left, Thomas Cotran, Rachel Benson and James McLean, on commentary duty, in Amanda Whittington’s women’s football drama, at the Piece Hall, Halifax. Picture: Elizabeth Baker

Mikron Theatre Company in Atalanta Forever and A Dog’s Tale, on tour on boat, road and holding on to a lead until September 19

AFTER a Covid-cancelled year of no shows but resolute fund-raising to secure their future, Marsden’s Mikron Theatre Company are on their travels once more, giving plays the canal route treatment where possible aboard narrowboat Tyseley.

This should have been their 50th year of “theatre anywhere for everyone”, but those celebrations must wait until 2022. Nevertheless, the refreshing sight of company stalwart James McLean back on stage, in the company of fellow actor-musicians Rachel Benson, Elizabeth Cotran and luxuriant-haired Thomas Cotran, was cause enough to bring out the cheers at the Piece Hall press night for Amanda Whittington’s “fight for women’s football” drama, Atalanta Forever, in the Halifax open air.

Two nights later, and the same cast parked up at Scarcroft Allotments, in York, just as bushy tailed and bright eyed for the musical canine comedy caper A Dog’s Tale, Poppy Hollman’s debut professional commission after taking part in Mikron’s Writers’ Scheme in 2018.

Halifax, first. Noises off could be heard, nothing too distracting, not only from the bars around the Piece Hall but the peregrines that have taken over the Square Chapel gothic tower as their aerie. Then again, the players of Huddersfield’s Atalanta AFC women’s football team would have been used to crowds at fund-raising games for wounded soldiers, especially when playing the mighty Preston factory team Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC, legendary gay star winger Lily Parr et al.

Thomas Cotran, left, Rachel Benson, Elizabeth Robin and James McLean in a scene from Atalanta Forever. PIcture: Elizabeth Baker

Parr was the first woman to be inducted into the National Football Museum Hall of Fame, her pioneering story being told on stage in both Benjamin Peel’s Not A Game For Girls and Sabrina Mahfouz and Hollie McNish’s Offside, a play football, feminism and female empowerment.

Little is known of Atalanta AFC, however, who played for only a couple of seasons from 1920 before folding in 1924. “All that remains is a fixture list, a few newspaper reports and precious team photos,” writes Whittington in her programme notes.

“Who are those pioneering women and girls,” she asks. “The silence around them gave us space to imagine who played for Atalanta and why? It also allowed me to draw on my experience in the long shadow of the FA ban [on woman’s football that ran from 1921 to 1971].”

Aged 11, Whittington was the only girl who played in a 1980s’ Nottinghamshire boys’ village tournament and was promptly advised to stop because it “wasn’t appropriate”. She still feels the injustice, the sense of shame of wanting to do something she was “not meant to”.

Playwright Amanda Whittington: “Atalanta Forever is my revenge play,” she says, after being told it “wasn’t appropriate” for her to be playing in a boys’ football tournament at the age of 11

Atalanta Forever is her revenge play, she says. Amanda has written 30-plus plays, from Be My Baby to Ladies Day, Bollywood Jane to Mighty Atoms, and this time it’s personal. But not too personal, and not too, too serious either.

Although written with a campaigning zeal for the female empowerment of these ground-breaking players of the Twenties, Atalanta Forever is irreverent too about the beautiful game that is often anything but that, typified by the opening Rules Of The Game song. Ruby Of The Rovers and Girl’s Own adventures meet Match Of The Day and John Godber’s Rugby League physical comedy Up’n’Under.

Atalanta AFC blue-and-white scarves knitted by Mikron supporters decorate the fencing – and were tempting to purloin as the second half turned chillier – as we learn of the back stories of Annie (Benson) and Ethel (Robin), one a fireworks factory worker, the other a tram driver, when they join the new team.

Into the story come the multi-role playing Cotran (as team captain Constance, radical coach Ms Waller, Huddersfield Town legend Billy Smith and more besides) and McLean (as scoffing groundsman Arthur, a disapproving mother and John Motson send-up, Motty Johnson).

MIkron Theatre Company performing Atalanta Forever to a socially distanced full house at the PIece Hall, Halifax

In Mikron tradition, Whittington’s play is as educative as it is entertaining, balanced between righteous ire and humour, football match highlights and life off the pitch. She weaves in accounts of being stopped from writing left handed, the fate of a conscientious objector, massive post-war unemployment and strikes and a mother’s scorn for suffrage and socialism, but at the same she revels in an impromptu match with beret-wearing French tourists and even a Boris Johnson cameo.

How else could the play end but with a tribute to Lily Parr, a cheer for women’s football now thriving and a “nod to the brave girls who carried on”. Atalanta Forever is a resilient triumph, from Whittington’s stirring writing to Marianne McNamara’s pacy direction, Kieran Buckeridge’s playful songs to a chameleon cast of multiple talents. Back of the net!

Two evenings later, it was sunnier by far as dog owners took their pooches along the lane beside the Mikron van at Scarcroft Allotments. Again, they had brought only the simplest of set designs with a rail for hanging myriad costumes, instruments and props to the side, a raised stage and no lighting.

One of the joys of a long Mikron summer is the chance to see the same cast tackling two plays (although, alas, the 2021 tour being restricted to outdoor performances means no Clements Hall show this year in York, so you will have to travel farther afield).

Actor-musicians Elizabeth Robin, left, Thomas Cotran, James McLean and Rachel Benson in Mikron Theatre Company’s A Dog’s Tale

After football in Atalanta Forever, McLean, Benson, Robin and Cotran head into another competitive environment, the Cruft’s dog show, in A Dog’s Tale: cat-loving Poppy Hollman’s look at canines past and present, Cruft’s now and Cruft’s when started by cat-owning Charles Cruft, a suitably dogged late-19th century showman of Barnum instincts, puppy-keen to take on the stuffy Kennel Club.

The bond between people and their ‘best friends’ is ever present, ever enduring, even if shenanigans and skullduggery blight the competition in Hollman’s tale, one informed by her visit to Cruft’s in the name of an intrigued novice’s research.

History combines with a little mystery, a sense of mischief with an outsider’s initiation, in the world of “heroic hounds, pampered pooches and naughty nobblers”, as Benson’s Linda and her wayward rescue mutt, Gary, find themselves pursued by security through the halls of Crufts, accused of a “terrible crime”.

Robin and McLean have much fun as Margo and Carl, unbearably precious, ever-panicking, regular Cruft’s competitors; Cotran reels off all manner of accents in a multitude of roles; McLean twinkles as Cruft and has the best cameo in a spoof on Barbara Woodhouse.

Don’t be misled by the dog! A Dog’s Tale playwright Poppy Hollman is really a cat lover

Hollman challenges her cast with 20 characters between them, and in her first full-scale play, the characters and caricatures are her strongest suit, along with her sense of fun, both sharper than the dialogue and the slightly clunky storyline involving Gary’s crime and the naughty nobbler.

By comparison with McNamara’s Atalanta Forever, Rachel Gee’s direction has to work harder to maintain momentum and maximise the humour, but the performances are typically energetic, inventive, engaging and diverse, and the one scene with interloping cats is a gem of physical comedy and knowing contrast with the otherwise omnipresent dogs, topped off by a Dogs V. Cats rap battle.

Musical director Rebekah Hughes’s compositions for Hollman’s smart lyrics are a blast and Celia Perkins delivers fabulous costume designs that accentuate character superbly. The stiff dog’s leads with simply a collar where the head would be (rather than puppets) are particular favourite among the props.

Ultimately a little overstretched, the eager-to-please A Dog’s Tale nevertheless has much to enjoy, announcing a new talent in Hollman with the tools to take her comedy writing to the next level.  

For the full tour itineraries and booking details, go to: mikron.org.uk. P.S. Dogs are welcome at most performances of A Dog’s Tale.

Catty comment: Thomas Cotran, Elizabeth Robin and Rachel Benson’s moggies revel in their show-stealing cameo in A Dog’s Tale

Arts and Crufts come together in Poppy Hollman’s Mikron debut A Dog’s Tale

Do NOT be deceived by this picture of Polly Hollman and her canine compadre. Read on…

DON’T tell anyone, but A Dog’s Tale playwright Poppy Hollman prefers cats. Director Rachel Gee, by comparison, is a dog owner.

This evening, Mikron Theatre Company’s touring premiere pitches up at Scarcroft Allotments, Scarcroft Road, York, for a sold-out 6pm performance.

“Well, I’ve tried to keep it hush-hush…but yes, I’m a cat lover and I do have two cats,” admits Poppy. “But we had lovely comments at last Saturday’s opening show at The Holbeck in Leeds, and the loveliest was, ‘Do you know, I’d never have guessed you didn’t have a dog’!”

In their 49th year of touring by canal, river and road, Marsden company Mikron are celebrating (wo)man’s best friend in a musical comedy caper, commissioned from Poppy to “look at canines past and present and the enduring bond between people and their dogs”.

“I genuinely did have to research about dogs, looking to work out why dogs means so much to people,” says Poppy, of her first professional commission. “Over the past year, in the pandemic lockdowns, we’ve really seen that with sales of dogs going through the roof.”

Poppy’s research took her to Crufts, the self-anointed world’s greatest dog show. “You realise the broad appreciation the British have for their dogs, as you see just how much they love them,” she says.

MIkron Theatre Company gathering for rehearsals at Marsden Mechanics

“We close the play with the song I wrote, Be More Dog, about going for a walk and seeing the world through their eyes: their loyalty, their love, the simplicity of everything.”

As one verse goes: “So be more dog/With loyalty and courage we should/Be more dog. Be as they would be to you/Look outside your own head. Take the lead and don’t be led/’Cause doggedness is good for you.”

“Through writing this play, I’ve now got a real understanding of what dogs mean to people,” says Poppy. “I love cats, but we do have a Dogs v. Cats rap battle in the show, where I’m a bit mean about cats because of their aloofness. Dogs will do anything to please their owners, whereas cats will just walk away with their tails in the air.”

What are the characteristics of her two cats? “They’re two ginger toms, Ziggy and Sparky; one is very fluffy, the other is very smooth; one is very greedy; the other is very fussy, so the greedy one eats the other one’s food,” says Poppy.

Exit cats stage left, tales left in the air. We need to talk instead about A Dog’s Tale, wherein Linda and her wayward rescue dog Gary are pursued by security through the halls and history of Crufts, accused of a terrible crime.

In highly competitive world of heroic hounds, pampered pedigrees and naughty nobblers, does Gary have what it takes to win the day?

Lead actors: Mikron Theatre Company cast members James McLean, Rachel Benson, Elizabeth Robin and Thomas Coran going for walkies with a parade of pooches. Picture: Liz Baker

“I spent two fascinating days at Crufts [at the Birmingham NEC in March] last year, eavesdropping on competitors, chatting to people and trying to work out which dog would win in each competition (success rate: zero),” says Poppy.

“People were very friendly and frank in sharing their suspicions about judging bias. ‘Well, you know, that dog will win because it’s Scottish and so is the judge!’ (It did win).

“My impression of Crufts was that while dog participation was on an exclusive basis, a huge variety of humankind was in evidence, on two legs or four wheels.”

This was testament perhaps to the huge importance of dogs to many different people in their roles as pets, medical assistance dogs, working dogs and more, says Poppy. “It’s also true to the founding principles of Charles Cruft, who charged only a penny so that everyone could enter their best friend.”

A cast of actor-musicians, Rachel Benson, Thomas Cotran, James McLean and Elizabeth Robin, will tell Hollman’s stories. “I’ve vwritten over 20 characters to be played by only four actors, but I know they’ll enjoy the challenge of bringing it to life!” says Poppy, who was picked to write the play after participating in Mikron’s 2018 Writers Scheme.

“It’s my first professional commission. It’s been a delight to work for Mikron, a company whose creativity and ethos I love.

Cat, a tonic? Yes, indeed, as the moggies steal a scene from the doggies in A Dog’s Tale. In the feline line-up: Thomas Cotran, Elizabeth Robin and Rachel Benson. Picture: Liz Baker

“From the application process, they selected ten writers to go to Marsden to find out about Mikron, to understand how they work, how they have such a unique playing style.

“They asked us each to write a scene and a song for a show about Crufts, and on the basis of what I wrote, they chose me for the commission.”

How did she feel? “Initially, it was scary, because I knew nothing about Crufts, but actually once I added to that scene, I really got into it, with anything in its extremes tending to comedy.”

Poppy’s research also took her to the Kennel Club archives, Europe’s largest dog library, near Green Park, London. “It was a very nice library to work in on and off for a few weeks, and we do a bit about the Kennel Club in the show because they were the rivals to Charles Cruft, though I hope they don’t think we’ve been mean or unkind!” she says.

From her research, A Dog’s Tale had to emerge in the Mikron style. “Their brief was pretty loose: ‘we like to have a laugh, we like people to learn something, and if we have a cry as well, that’s great’,” summarises Poppy. “Mine is more of a comedy as I found so much joy in the dog world.

“The key Mikron house style is to have no lights, no recorded music, and every show is outdoors this year, because of Covid, and that means that the story really has to motor on to keep the audience’s attention when they’re outdoors.”

Mikron Theatre Company’s poster for the 2021 tour of A Dog’s Tale

Poppy believes she fits the Mikron modus operandi like a glove. “Exploring British life in an irreverent way is manna to the way I write, but I had to re-write what I understand about writing drama,” she says.

In practical terms, she found it impossible to write the script without allocating the parts first, given the need to accommodate 20-plus characters. “I had to think, ‘who’s just come off?’, ‘who can come on now?’, ‘who can do a quick scene here?’.

“So, the main parts take fewer of the side characters, with the other two ending up doing endless changes! James McLean is one of those two: look out for his Sandra Woofhouse, based on the character we love from TV!”

A Dog’s Tale should have wagged last year, but lockdown put paid to Mikron’s travel plans. A year later, “we’ve left the script pretty much as it was,” says Poppy.

“I handed it in February last year when they were about to go into rehearsal, and in a way, I wouldn’t know what to have done to update it, though we’ve seen things like dog prices sky-rocketing over the past year.

“As a writer, I just know they’re going to be creative with what you write for them,” says Poppy Hollman of A Dog’s Tale cast members Elizabeth Robin, left, Thomas Cotran, James McLean and Rachel Benson. Picture: Liz Baker

“We did think about Covid, but actually it’s a light show, and rather than saying what a terrible year we’ve had, it’s time for escapism!”

Before becoming a playwright in rural Bedfordshire, Poppy had a very different career as head of touring exhibitions at the V&A Museum, London, from 2006 to 2013.

“The change wasn’t accidental. I had children and we left London for more space and a more rural life. The practicalities of commuting to London to do a pretty serious and demanding job became more difficult. “I just needed to get out of London. I’d loved the job, but it was necessary to move on.”

Poppy set her heart on creating plays for community audiences. “I decided, with zero experience, that I would write a play about my home village of Turvey – Bells Of Turvey – focusing on a real family from the mid-19th century,” she recalls of her 2017 debut.

“We had a community cast of 40 and a big stage down the middle of Turvey Village Hall, inspired by things like the Mystery Plays and Lark Rise To Candleford.”

Not content with writing a show on such a scale, she also directed the community production. “But I’m not really a director at heart,” she says. “It’s healthy, I think, to have a director to bring something new and magical to the play, and in turn you should stick to your own strengths.”

Out on a lead: Rachel Benson in A Dog’s Tale. Picture: Liz Baker

She loves productions where you can feel the connection between the company and their audiences. “That happens even more with shows on Mikron’s scale. I just love the immediacy of the performances and the incredible talents of the actors, how they perform and play music too,” says Poppy. “As a writer, I just know they’re going to be creative with what you write for them.”

Looking ahead, “I’d love to write another play for Mikron, and I’m now working on a piece about the unrest of the late-15th and 16th century Enclosures, and our relationship with that world now.

“I’m also thinking of writing a play about bird-watching, which would definitely be a comedy. It’s been hard to write over the past year, though I’ve worked on some radio pieces off my own back, but it’s a situation that most writers face after doing their first commission.”

A Dog’s Tale is up and running, as cat-loving playwright Poppy Hollman and dog-owning Mikron director Rachel Gee’s shared vision comes to life.

Have they fought like cats and dogs? “We didn’t really discuss Rachel’s dog,” says Poppy. “We certainly didn’t bring up our differing preferences!”

Aboard narrowboat Tyseley and on land, Mikron Theatre Company are touring Poppy Hollman’s A Dog’s Tale nationally in tandem with Amanda Whittington’s new women’s football play, Atalanta Forever, until September 19. For full tour details and tickets, go to: mikronorg.uk

PLAY ON! Amanda Whittington takes fight for women’s football to dramatic climax in Mikron Theatre’s summer tour

Earning their stripes: Mikron Theatre Company’s poster for this summer’s tour of Amanda Whittington’s Atalanta Forever

MIKRON Theatre Company kick off their 2020 tour of Amanda Whittington’s new women’s football play, Atalanta Forever, on April 18.

Waiting in the wings is the Marsden company’s York performance at Scarcroft Allotments on June 2 at 6pm.

From the writer of Ladies Day, Ladies Day Down Under and Mighty Atoms for Hull Truck Theatre and Bollywood Jane for the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Atalanta Forever tells the story of pioneering women footballers in 1920.

In post-war Britain, women’s football is big news. Across the country, all-girl teams are pulling huge crowds in fund-raising games for wounded soldiers.

Huddersfield amateurs Ethel and Annie take a shot at the big time. Teammates at Atalanta AFC, they are soon tackling new football skills, mastering the offside rule and kicking back at the doubters.

This summer’s audiences are invited to “come and cheer for Atalanta as our plucky underdogs learn how to play the game, take on the legendary teams of the era and find the toughest opponent of all is the Football Association”.

Whittington’s play is based on the true story of one of three women’s football teams in Huddersfield in post-war Britain. As told through the lives of two young women, Atalanta Ladies Football Club was formed in 1920 to “provide games for the women of Huddersfield, to foster a sporting spirit, and a love of honour among its members”.

During the Great War, several women’s football teams had sprung up around the country, usually based in factories or munitions works, and proved a great success in raising money for hospitals, war widows and so on. 

The popularity of the women’s game may be measured by the estimated 25,000 crowd that packed Hillsborough, Sheffield, for the Huddersfield team’s next game with the Dick, Kerr Ladies FC of Preston on May 4, when they lost 4-0 to their much more experienced opponents.

In the wider football world, the growing popularity of women’s football was now causing concern. The FA even saw it as taking support away from the men’s game and on December 5, 1921, they banned women’s teams from using FA affiliated grounds.

Before folding in 1924, the pioneering Huddersfield Atalanta Ladies FC had raised more than £2,000 for various charities.

“I still feel the injustice and the sense of shame for wanting to do something I wasn’t meant to,” says playwright Amanda Whittington, recalling her own experiences of playing football

Writer and co-lyricist Whittington says of her new play: “I was an 11-year-old footballer in the 1980s, the only girl who played in the boys’ village tournament, and I vividly remember being ‘advised’ to stop because it wasn’t appropriate. 

“I still feel the injustice and the sense of shame for wanting to do something I wasn’t meant to. 

“It brings joy to my heart to see football’s now the biggest team sport for girls in Britain.  I wanted to write about the battle the women’s game has fought to survive and prosper – and perhaps to tell the 11-year-old me she was right?”

Atalanta Forever is directed by Mikron artistic director Marianne McNamara, who is joined in the production team by composer and co-lyricist Kieran Buckeridge, musical director Rebekah Hughes and designer Celia Perkins. Casting will be announced in the coming months.

Explaining why Mikron chose to tackle the subject of the fight for women’s football, McNamara says: “Women’s football is making a comeback and not before time. We are thrilled to pay homage to the trailblazing Huddersfield women that paved the way against all odds.

“Just like the great game itself, this will be an action-packed play of two halves, full of live music, fun and laughter with no plans for extra time!”

Mikron’s 49th year of touring will open at the National Football Museum, Manchester, on April 18 and then travel nationally by road and canal on a vintage narrowboat until October 24.

Atalanta Forever will be touring alongside Poppy Hollman’s new play, A Dog’s Tale, a celebration of canines past and present that explores the enduring love between people and their dogs.

As ever, Mikron will be putting on their shows in “places that other theatre companies wouldn’t dream of”, whether a play about growing-your-own veg, presented in  allotments; one about bees performed next to hives; another about chips in a fish and chips restaurant, as well as plays about hostelling in YHA youth hostels and the RNLI at several lifeboat stations around the UK.

For more information and tour dates and locations for Atalanta Forever, go to mikron.org.uk/shows/atalanta-forever.