RhymeNReason ask questions aplenty in Yorkshire short plays at Theatre@41

The artwork for RhymeNReason’s Put On Shorts at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

WHAT was Margaret Thatcher’s relationship with Jimmy Savile? Why did a Yorkshire pensioner try to smuggle a fruit cake through Australian customs? What really happened on day three in the Garden of Eden? How should a perfect murder end in a real cliff hanger?  

Questions, questions, all these questions, will be answered at the RhymeNReason Put On Shorts four-day run at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from tomorrow (29/9/2021).

These funny, thought-provoking short plays by Yorkshire writers David Allison, Steve Brennen, Lisa Holdsworth and Graham Rollason were first performed in Leeds, as part of Slung Low Shorts or Leeds Pub Theatre/Leeds Literature Festival, and at York Theatre Royal Studio at Script Yorkshire’s Page To Stage competition.

“They thoroughly deserve another airing,” says Theatre@41 chair Alan Park. “What better way to mark the beginning of live theatre being back to normal? That is a rhetorical question. Answers on postcards are not required.”

Tickets for the 7.30pm performances on September 29 to October 2 are on sale at tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Why Luke Adamson’s Twelfth Night will be at sixes and sevens on a Selby rugby field

Director Luke Adamson and actor Martha Godber in rehearsal at Selby RUFC for JLA Productions’ Twelfth Night

“I’M just getting in touch to announce that we’re doing some Shakespeare on a rugby pitch in Selby in August. Crazy? Perhaps. But it’s going to be fun!”, teases the email from Luke Adamson.

The Selby actor, writer, London pub theatre boss and son of former England squad fly half Ray Adamson will be returning to the scene of his “greatest triumphs” – two times winner of Selby Rugby Club’s Stars in Their Eyes competition, no less – to present Twelfth Night on August 20 and 21.

Adapted and directed by Adamson, his raucous musical version of “Shakespeare’s funniest play” will be staged on Selby RUFC turf by JLA Productions with Adamson as the foppish comic foil Sir Andrew Aguecheek in a cast rich with acting talent from York, Selby, Leeds and Hull, who began rehearsals at the rugby club on Monday this week.

Luke’s good friend from York youth theatre days, John Holt-Roberts, frontman of boisterous York band Hyde Family Jam, will play Sir Toby Belch; Millie Gaston, Maria; Martha Godber, playwrights John and Jane’s daughter, Olivia, and Imogen Ruby Little, Viola.

Emilio Encinoso-Gil and Imogen Ruby Little in a tender scene in rehearsal for Twelfth Night

Double-barrelled Emilio Encinoso-Gil will be on double duty as Feste and Orsino; likewise Aidan Thompson-Coates, for Sebastian and Malvolio.

Twelfth Night is the Shakespeare one where identical twins Sebastian and Viola are separated at sea after their ship sinks. When Viola washes up on the shores of Illyria, she must disguise herself as a man to gain employment with the local Duke, Orsino.

In a nutshell, as Luke puts it: “Orsino is in love with Olivia; Olivia is in love with Viola (who she thinks is a man called Cesario); Malvolio thinks Olivia is in love with him; Viola is in love with Orsino (who also thinks she is a man called Cesario).

“Antonia is in love with Sebastian; Sir Andrew is trying to woo Olivia; Feste is stirring the pot and Sir Toby Belch and Maria are getting drunk and making mischief.”

Millie Gaston, as Maria, and John Holt-Roberts, as Sir Toby Belch, in rehearsal for Twelfth Night

Ah, yes, that one! “Out go pantaloons, cross garters and big fluffy collars,” says Luke. “In come yellow and black rugby socks, cricket jumpers and questionable facial hair for a fast, funny, family-friendly show filled with slapstick comedy, famous songs and more than a few modern references.”

Luke, artistic director of JLA Productions and The Bridge House Theatre, in London SE20, is no stranger to the Selby RUFC pitches. He once played scrum half alongside his formidable fly-half father Ray, who toured Australia and Fiji as part of England’s squad in 1988.

“It was for Selby fifth team,” recalls Luke, who later returned to the ground on a Sunday afternoon in July 2017 as part of the squad for Leeds company Slung Low’s free Selby Arts Festival performance of Lisa Holdsworth’s Rugby Songs: the show with headsets for the crowd, first staged at assorted Yorkshire grounds during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Ray reached the rugby heights, not only as a player for Wakefied but also as a referee, and Luke showed promise too. “I played in the North Yorkshire squad for one season in my age group, but by then I was starting to go to youth theatre in York and I knew that was the route I wanted to go down, but I did still play that season with the Selby fifths with my dad in 2006-2007,” he recalls.

Ray Adamson, Wakefield and Selby fly half, 1988 England squad member and actor Luke’s father, in his playing days

Now he will return to Selby RUFC for all the fun and games of Twelfth Night. “Initially I was contacted by Selby rugby club because they were looking at diversifying their programme after recent events,” says Luke.

“During the lockdowns, the bar couldn’t open for hospitality, and there was no rugby being played, but they still had to support the clubhouse, the ground staff, so they were looking at fundraising.

“They asked me if I’d be interested in doing a show and I said, ‘Absolutely! Yes!’. My mind went straight back to when I’d done Permanently Bard pub theatre in collaboration with Fullers.”

Over three years, Permanently Bard took Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night to pubs in London and the south. “I just thought it was a very informal, very relaxed and anarchic way to perform, giving the opportunity to play with people, when normally they would never go to their local theatre, but hopefully they would go to their local pub, and if something was on, they’d happily pay for it,” recalls Luke. “They loved it!”

Aidan Thompson-Coates having a Malvolio moment during rehearsals for Twelfth Night

Rather than performing in the Selby clubhouse, Luke and his company will be taking to the grass, entering the pitch from exactly where the first XV does. “The outdoor show will suit all ages,” he says. “There’ll be stuff for older ages, and stuff that children will like as Twelfth Night is the perfect starter play with a lovely plot and fun characters.

“We’re trimming it down to 90 minutes plus interval, and we’ll be performing with our native accents, but the key thing is to do it with clarity, cutting out the things that may have been clever wordplay in Shakespeare’s time but don’t work now.

“There’s room for adlibbing with the audience too, certainly for Feste; we’ll be adding original music by Stefan Galt to complement Shakespeare’s songs, and the scale of the show will be epic but simultaneously intimate!”

As for giving a nod to the rugby setting, “We might even have some tackle shields as part of the set,” promises Luke.

JLA Productions in Twelfth Night, Selby Rugby Union Football Club, August 20, kick-off, 7.30pm; August 21, 2.30pm, 7.30pm. Tickets are on sale at jlaproductions.co.uk with discounts available for family bookings.

Perfect pitch! Luke Adamson, left, and fellow Slung Low cast members Sally Ann Staunton, Nadia Imam and Tyron Maynard for Rugby Songs, performed at Selby RUFC in July 2017

Copyright of The Press, York

Scrum down for Luke Adamson’s fun and games with Twelfth Night at Selby RUFC

A variation on Malvolio’s cross-gartered stocking theme: Yellow and black rugby socks for Luke Adamson’s version of Twelfth Night on the Selby RUFC pitch

“I’M just getting in touch to announce that we’re doing some Shakespeare on a rugby pitch in Selby in August. Crazy? Perhaps. But it’s going to be fun!”, promises the email from Luke Adamson.

The Selby actor, London pub theatre boss and son of former England squad fly half Ray Adamson will be returning to the scene of his “greatest triumphs” – two times winner of Selby Rugby Club’s Stars in Their Eyes competition, no less – to present Twelfth Night on August 20 and 21.

Adapted and directed by Adamson, his raucous, musical version of “Shakespeare’s funniest play” will be staged on Selby RUFC turf by JLA Productions with Adamson as the foppish comic foil Sir Andrew Aguecheek in a cast rich with Yorkshire acting talent.

Twelfth Night is the Shakespeare one where identical twins Sebastian and Viola are separated at sea after their ship sinks. When Viola washes up on the shores of Illyria, she must disguise herself as a man in order to gain employment with the local Duke, Orsino.

“Filled with slapstick comedy, famous songs and more than a few modern references, our Twelfth Night promises to be a fast, funny, family-friendly show for all ages,” says Luke Adamson, Selby actor-director and former Selby RUFC fifth team scrum half

In a nutshell, “Orsino is in love with Olivia; Olivia is in love with Viola (who she thinks is a man called Cesario); Malvolio thinks Olivia is in love with him; Viola is in love with Orsino (who also thinks she is a man called Cesario),” runs the plot.

“Antonia is in love with Sebastian; Sir Andrew is trying to woo Olivia; Feste is stirring the pot and Sir Toby Belch and Maria are getting drunk and making mischief.”

Ah, yes, that one! “Out go pantaloons, cross garters and big fluffy collars,” says Luke. “In come rugby socks, cricket jumpers and questionable facial hair. Filled with slapstick comedy, famous songs and more than a few modern references, it promises to be a fast, funny, family-friendly show for all ages.”

Luke, artistic director of JLA Productions and The Bridge House Theatre, in London SE20, is no stranger to the Selby RUFC pitches. He once played scrum half alongside his fly-half father Ray, who toured Australia and Fiji as part of England’s squad in 1988.

Perfect pitch! Luke Adamson and fellow Slung Low cast members Sally Ann Staunton, Nadia Imam and Tyron Maynard for Rugby Songs, performed at Selby RUFC in July 2017

“It was for Selby  fifth team” recalls Luke, who later returned to the ground on a Sunday afternoon in July 2017 as part of the squad for Leeds company Slung Low’s free Selby Arts Festival performance of Lisa Holdsworth’s Rugby Songs: the show with headsets for the crowd, first staged at assorted Yorkshire grounds during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Luke knew Slung Low director Alan Lane from doing Blood + Chocolate with him in York in 2013 and festival director David Edmunds from when his Dep Arts organisation helped him to  tour One Last Waltz, a play about Alzheimer’s.

“The prospect of doing a show with rugby songs at rugby club grounds was something I wanted to get involved with, so I contacted Alan,” he says.

“I’d played Rugby Union since junior days, as a scrum half, starting at seven years old, and my dad went on tour with England in 1988, when he was playing for fly half and full back for Wakefield, and he was also in the squad for the Five Nations, so it was interesting when the script came through, with stories such as when England fans first sang Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, at Twickenham that year.”

Ray Adamson, Wakefield and Selby fly half, 1988 England squad member and actor Luke’s father, in his playing days

Chris Oti, England’s black winger, had scored a second-half hattrick of tries that March afternoon in a 35-3 victory, prompting the Twickenham throng to burst into their tribute song. “‘I was there’, my dad said. ‘What, you were in the crowd?’ I asked him. ‘No, I was on the England bench’!”

Ray reached the rugby heights, first as a player then as a referee, and Luke showed promise too. “I played in the North Yorkshire squad for one season in my age group, but by then I was starting to go to youth theatre in York and I knew that was the route I wanted to go down, but I did play a season with the Selby fifths with my dad in 2006-2007,” he recalls.

The July 2017 sold-out performance took place on Selby RUFC’s first-team pitch with the crowd on the touchlines, hearing every note and story behind each national song, from New Zealand’s Haka to South Africa’s Shosholoza, through hi-tech headphone technology, the trademark of Slung Low’s outdoor productions.

Luke, who appeared in the 2015 production too, performed with Nadia Imam, Tyron Maynard and Sally Ann Staunton, each kitted in myriad national rugby shirts.

The post for JLA Productions’ Twelfth Night at Selby RUFC

“Doing it in the middle of summer, it was so hot as we each had to have six jerseys on at one point – and we had to make sure we’d all got them on in the right order,” he says Luke.

The Kiwis’ Haka is traditionally the most fearsome sight and sound in world rugby, but Luke fondly remembers that not being the case on that Sunday afternoon. “I’m not sure it’s quite as intimidating when you have just four actors,” he concedes. “But the message was very profound and philosophical about life and death.”

Now he will return to Selby RUFC, for all the fun and games of Twelfth Night, later this summer.

JLA Productions in Twelfth Night, Selby Rugby Union Football Club, August 20, 7.30pm; August 21, 2.30pm, 7.30pm. Tickets are on sale at jlaproductions.co.uk with discounts available for family bookings.

Utterly Rutterly as Barrie returns to the stage in one-man show at The Holbeck

Symbol of the North: Actor-manager, artistic director and theatre pioneer Barrie Rutter

BARRIE Rutter OBE is to return to the stage for the first time since his successful treatment for throat cancer.

The Hull-born titan of northern theatre, now 73, will perform his one-man show, An Evening With Barrie Rutter, on November 7 at The Holbeck, Jenkinson Lawn, Holbeck, home to the Slung Low theatre company in Leeds.

The Saturday night of tall tales and anecdotes, poetry and prose will be a fundraiser for the installation of a new lift at the south Leeds community base, the oldest social club in the country.

Actor-manager and artistic director Rutter founded the pioneering touring company Northern Broadsides, based at Dean Clough in Halifax, from where they delivered stories in full-blooded, unapologetic northern dialect in non-traditional spaces across Britain.

A formidable, inspiring frontman, never afraid to be outspoken, Rutter stood down as Broadsides’ artistic director in 2018 after 25 years at the helm but, as this one-off fundraising performance will demonstrate, the irrepressible Yorkshireman has lost none of his fervour to have a good time with audiences.

Barrie Rutter as Lear in Northern Broadsides’ 2015 production of King Lear. Picture: Nobby Clark

The son of a Hull fishmonger, Rutter was given a part in the school play by an English teacher who thought he had “the gob for it”. He discovered he loved the stage, whereupon his career went from taking early steps with the National Youth Theatre to performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and onwards to making such an impact with the clog-wearing Broadsides. In 2015, he was awarded the OBE for services to drama.

Rutter – he always signed off his director’s notes in Broadsides’ programmes solely with his surname – says: “I am absolutely thrilled at the invitation from Alan Lane and his team at Slung Low to perform at The Holbeck. What goes on in there is truly inspirational and I’m delighted support this wonderful venue when I perform there on November 7.”

All proceeds will go towards the Slung Low’s fundraising campaign for a lift to make The Holbeck accessible to everyone who wishes to attend events and private functions. Generous supporters have gifted £60,000 already towards the £150,000 target.

Alan Lane, Slung Low’s artistic director, says:“Barrie Rutter is one of the reasons why there are so many amazing theatre companies in the greater north nowadays – he was a genuine trail blazer. It’s such an honour to have Barrie perform at the club and delighted to share with our audience the opportunity to see a world-class, one-of-a-kind performer here at The Holbeck.”

Tickets for the 7.15pm show are priced at Pay What You Decide. To book, visit:  https://www.slunglow.org/whats-on/

Slung Low turn another page with dystopian short film The Good Book streaming online from tomorrow

Riana Duce as Avalon and Angus Imrie as Geraint in a scene from The Good Book, streaming online from tomorrow

PIONEERING Leeds theatre company Slung Low will premiere their new short film The Good Book from 12 noon tomorrow, streaming online for free.

Set in a future Leeds, James Phillips’s story depicts a society divided between loyalists of the powerful Queen Bear and radical followers of Galahad.

Avalon, played by Riana Duce, is a young woman desperate not to take sides, but as civil war begins, she must undertake a dangerous mission to rescue a precious relic from destruction.

Riana, from Bradford, is joined in the cast of invited actors by Angus Imrie, from Fleabag, Emma and The Archers, Katie Eldred and more than 100 members of the Holbeck community.

Directed by Sheffield filmmaker Brett Chapman, filming took place in late-January at Slung Low’s base, The Holbeck Social Club and at Holbeck Cemetery, Leeds Central Library and Leeds Town Hall.

Slung Low cast members Riana Duce and Angus Imrie in a scene from The Good Book in Holbeck Cemetery

The Good Book forms the first production for the newly formed Leeds People’s Theatre, created by producers Slung Low with support of Leeds 2023, the city’s upcoming international cultural festival, Leeds City Council and the Arts Council.

The film continues writer James Phillips’s future dystopia, a series that began with The White Whale at Leeds Dock in 2013, followed by Camelot, a Slung Low and Sheffield Theatres outdoor co-production in 2015.

Next came Flood, the epic centrepiece of Hull, UK City of Culture 2017’s performance programme that also featured on the BBC.

Project number four represents a departure for Slung Low: the film The Good Book, at once self-contained but also drawing on the world of Camelot.

“I think the plan was to launch it in Leeds and do a little festival run, but after the Coronavirus lockdown it seemed better and more useful to put it out there now online,” says James.

Katie Eldred , centre, as Vivian in The Good Book

“We were lucky that we got the filming done in the last two and a half weeks of January, and the penultimate day was ‘Brexit Day’. Not that long ago, but that now seems a world of somewhat different concerns.”

The Good Book finds Phillips working once more with Slung Low artistic director and executive producer Alan Lane. “The work Alan and I do together is different to the other work Slung Low does,” says James.

“For pieces like Flood, a full-blown epic for Hull’s City of Culture year, it’s a ‘future present’ that we create that allows us to play with big political ideas and look at things in a slightly different way.

“Camelot was done with a massive cast of 127 on Sheffield’s streets in 2015, and again it was a prescient piece where I became obsessed with the thought of a dangerous nostalgia, that need to look back to look forward, which has caused so many problems.

“That play was about a young girl who saw visions of the future of Arthurian Britain, and then ten years later, people come along who have taken those visions seriously but are utterly more dangerous. This re-birth of ‘purity’ becomes so destructive that a civil war starts.”

Angus Imrie as Geraint in Leeds Central Library in The Good Book

James continues: “This was just before Trump’s presidency, Brexit and the Corbyn revolution, so something was in the air. Like ISIS being a nostalgic organisation looking back to something that never existed…and I wondered about Christian fundamentalism too.”

The Good Book is set ten years into that new world, now in Holbeck, as a counter-revolution starts in Leeds, whereas Camelot was set and made in Sheffield.

The switch of location was a “very logical step”, says James: “When I wanted to make this film, it was good to tie it in with the idea that Leeds was the last place that Sheffield would want a counter-revolution to start, and whereas Camelot was about heroes, this story is about a small revolution.”

In The Good Book, an old man caught between two opposing factions gives a young girl a piece of paper with a reference number for a book at Leeds Library. “She has to decide whether to risk herself to save the book, and she wonders what meaning the book might have,” says James.

Is “The Good Book” the Bible? “No. It’s something more than anything to do with what’s going on in the world now,” says James.

Riana Duce as Avalon in The Good Book

A short film may suggest a more intimate work than Camelot, but “it is and it isn’t more intimate”, the writer says. “I made the decision to push the envelope, so it’s not a typical short film. It has a big cast of 100, so technically it’s too long for a ‘short film’.

“At the end, there’s a big riot involving 90 people, and we had lots of recruits wanting to do that scene!”

How does James expect viewers to react to The Good Book? “Hopefully they will be surprised. It’s different. I’ve done screen things before, like the Flood project having a short film and a piece for the BBC, but The Good Book was always, deliberately, conceived to be a short film,” he says.

“I think we’re on to a good thing with this film, so it would be great to do more of them.”

Slung Low’s The Good Book will be available to stream online for free from 12 noon tomorrow (May 1) at www.slunglow.org/TGB

Slung Low’s film poster for The Good Book

Did you know?

LEEDS People’s Theatre has been created by Slung Low as a dedicated division for large-scale professional arts projects with communities in Leeds at the heart of them.

This involves the community working in tandem with professional artists and creative teams, offering an opportunity to learn, gain more experience or simply be part of a community. 

The Good Book will be the first of several projects Slung Low are planning for Leeds People’s Theatre. Watch this space.

Slung Low theatre company to launch street art gallery on Leeds lamp posts

The Slung Low team outside The Holbeck Slung Low in Leeds

LEEDS theatre company Slung Low are to open a new art gallery with a difference this month.

Based in Holbeck, South Leeds, the company will be setting up the LS11 Art Gallery to showcase the best paintings, drawings and photographs created and chosen by the people of Holbeck and Beeston.

However, instead of displaying the images on gallery walls, they will be placed on lamp posts for all to see.   

Slung Low have asked people from the two Leeds areas to email their image to the theatre company. Slung Low will then arrange to come around and take a copy of it and then print the images on special plastic board for display on lamp posts around Holbeck and Beeston.

Artistic director Alan Lane says: “Our instinct at Slung Low is always to be useful and kind. For the last few weeks that has primarily been about delivering food-bank parcels and helping people get their prescription.

“We know that a hungry soul will find it hard to be creative, to find joy, so the first part of our response has to be making sure that people have their basic material needs met: and we will continue that work until this is all over.

“But as theatre makers we also understand the importance of storytelling and that there are different ways to be useful.”

Alan continues: “LS11 Art Gallery is us telling the story that this area – like all parts of this nation – is full of creativity; that in every house are people who are brilliant, creative and capable of profound beauty. We need to make sure we keep telling that story in these challenging times. 

“We’re going to open an art gallery on the lamp posts of LS11 and the people who live here will make what we exhibit. Let’s cheer ourselves up a bit.”

Founded in 2000, Slung Low specialises in making epic productions in non-theatre spaces, often with large community performance companies at their heart. 

The company has relocated to The Holbeck in South Leeds, the oldest working men’s club in Britain.

There, they run the bar as a traditional members’ bar and the rest of the building as an open development space for artists and a place where Slung Low invite other companies to present their work that otherwise might not be seen in Leeds. All work presented at The Holbeck is Pay What You Decide. 

In Autumn 2018, Slung Low launched a cultural community college based in Holbeck; a place where adults come to learn new cultural skills, from stargazing to South Indian cooking, from carpentry to singing in a choir. All workshops, supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, are provided on a Pay What You Decide basis.  

Slung Low are now volunteer guardians of the city wards of Beeston and Holbeck, taking referrals from the Leeds City Council Covid-19 helpline (0113 378 1877).

In turn, with help from the staff of other arts organisations in Leeds, including Opera North, they are delivering food and medicine to the vulnerable, elderly and those in isolation. 

How to take part in the LS11 Art Gallery: 

IF you live in the Holbeck or Beeston areas of Leeds and want your drawing, painting or photograph to be featured, please take a picture of it.

Then send it to Slung Low by email at theholbeck@slunglow.org or by text on 07704 582137. Slung Low will then arrange to come around to take a copy of it for you.