York Theatre Royal Studio season promises queer history, a potato Faustus, a gaming romcom and Woolf’s talk on feminism

York puppeteer and performer Freddie Hayes’s Potatohead: “A starch-raving mad adaptation of Faustus with puppets”. Picture: Sophie Jouvenaar

YORK Theatre Royal’s Studio season will read the Riot Act on June 9 in a show created and performed by Alexis Gregory as part of a Pride Season tour.

Fresh from his success in Sex/Crime at London’s Soho Theatre, Gregory is directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair in his journey through six decades of queer history, told by those who helped to shape it from Gregory’s interviews with a survivor of the Stonewall Riots, a radical drag queen and an AIDS activist.

Ahead of her Edinburgh Fringe run, York puppeteer, performer and writer Freddie Hayes presents Potatohead, her humorously bizarre solo adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus And The Seven Deadly Sins, on June 10.

Directed by by Sh!t Theatre, Potatohead is saturated with potato puns from start to finish as Hayes tells the story of a humble spud who dreams of becoming a cabaret superstar.

Elements of kitsch cabaret and old-school entertainment characterise Hayes’s “one-potato show” show that blends puppetry, clowning and comedy in an unadulterated celebration of silliness. Expect sexual content and references to religion and the devil, hence the age guidance of 14+.

Hayes’s debut UK tour of her hour-long “starch-raving mad adaptation of Faustus with puppets” takes in a further North Yorkshire date in The McCarthy at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on June 14 at 7.45pm (box office, 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com).

Happy Meal, Tabby Lamb’s joyful queer romcom directed by Blythe Stewart, will be staged by Tadcaster’s Roots and Theatre Royal Plymouth from August 30 to September 3.

What’s the story? Bette, a teenager who knows her Neil Diamond, is into gaming alone, whereas Alec likes Swedish goth rock and multiplayer gaming. In the real world, they would never meet, but online these unlikely best friends can be everything they wanted to be.

Dyad Productions return to the Theatre Royal on October 6 and 7 to present A Room Of One’s Own, a wry, amusing and incisive trip through the history of literature, feminism and gender with a “21st century take on Virginia Woolf’s celebrated pre-TED talk”.

Tickets for these 7.45pm performances are on sale on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

York Theatre Royal Studio season takes in queer history, a potato Dr Faustus, an online gaming romcom and Woolf feminism

YORK Theatre Royal’s Studio season will read the Riot Act on June 9 in a show created and performed by Alexis Gregory as part of a Pride Season tour.

Fresh from his success in Sex/Crime at London’s Soho Theatre, Gregory is directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair in his journey through six decades of queer history, told by those who helped to shape it from Gregory’s interviews with a survivor of the Stonewall Riots, a radical drag queen and an AIDS activist.

Ahead of her Edinburgh Fringe run, York puppeteer, performer and writer Freddie Hayes presents Potatohead, her humorously bizarre solo adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus And The Seven Deadly Sins, on June 10.

Directed by by Sh!t Theatre, Potatohead is saturated with potato puns from start to finish as Hayes tells the story of a humble spud who dreams of becoming a cabaret superstar.

Elements of kitsch cabaret and old-school entertainment characterise a show that blends puppetry, clowning and comedy in an unadulterated celebration of silliness. Expect sexual content and references to religion and the devil, hence the age guidance of 14+.

Hayes’s debut UK theatre tour of her one-potato show has a further North Yorkshire performance on June 14 at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (box office, 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com).

Happy Meal, Tabby Lamb’s joyful queer romcom directed by Blythe Stewart, will be staged by Tadcaster’s Roots and Theatre Royal Plymouth from August 30 to September 3.

What’s the story? Bette, a teenager who knows her Neil Diamond, is into gaming alone, whereas Alec likes Swedish goth rock and multiplayer gaming. In the real world, they would never meet, but online these unlikely best friends can be everything they wanted to be.

Dyad Productions return to the Theatre Royal on October 6 and 7 to present A Room Of One’s Own, a wry, amusing and incisive trip through the history of literature, feminism and gender with a “21st century take on Virginia Woolf’s celebrated pre-TED talk”.

Tickets for these 7.45pm performances are on sale on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond when moments of laughter, sadness and reflection make List No. 66, from The Press

Beth Hutchinson in her monologue in Rowntree Players’ premiere of The Missing Peace. Picture: Duncan Lomax

FROM The Missing Peace to Shed Seven at the races, Charles Hutchinson finds the missing pieces to fill your diary

Premiere of the week: Rowntree Players in The Missing Peace, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, January 27 to 29, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

ROWNTREE Players director Gemma McDonald has adapted York author, singer, motivational conference speaker and charity champion Big Ian Donaghy’s book The Missing Peace, now billed as “One play…15 endings”.

On stage, Donaghy’s exploration of life after death takes the form of 15 Talking Heads-style monologues, many drawn from interviews he conducted in York. “It’s not a play about death, it’s a play about life,” he says. “There will be moments of laughter, sadness and reflection throughout.”

Look out for Mark Addy, who has recorded the narrator’s role as the Station Announcer. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes of The Shires: Acoustic show in their regular haunt of Pocklington

Country gig of the week: The Shires – Acoustic, Pocklington Arts Centre, January 26, 8pm

THE Shires, Britain’s best-selling country music act, bring their 2022 intimate acoustic tour to Pocklington on the back of working on their upcoming fifth album.

Award-winning duo Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes have made a habit of playing Pocklington since their Studio debut in 2014, appearing regularly at PAC and playing the Platform Festival at The Old Station in 2016 and 2019. To check ticket availability, go to pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk or call 01759 301547. 

Ross Noble: What is a Humournoid? Find out, or maybe not, in his new tour show

Comedy gig of the week: Ross Noble: Humournoid, Grand Opera House, York, January 29, 8pm

WHAT happens when a creature is created and bred to do stand up, asks Geordie comic Ross Noble in his Covid-delayed but finally here new tour show, Humournoid?

“Nobody knows because that isn’t a thing,” says his tour blurb. “What is a thing is Ross Noble doing a show. You can come and see it. This is it.”

As ever with this improviser supreme, it turns out Humournoid has no theme, says Noble, who promises a typically freewheeling performance on his return to one of his five favourite venues in the world. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Porridge Radio: Brighton band making waves at The Crescent in York. Picture: El Hardwick

If you discover one band this month, make it: Porridge Radio, The Crescent, York, January 31, 7.30pm

EVERY Bad, their 2020 album released by the super-cool Secretly Canadian label, has propelled Porridge Radio from a word-of-mouth gem of Brighton’s DIY scene to one of the country’s most exciting upcoming bands.

“Last here opening for BC Camplight, we’re very pleased to see them return,” say promoters Please Please You and Brudenell Presents. Pet Shimmers, a new supercharged seven-piece from Bristol, support. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Malaika Kegode: Guest poet at Say Owt Slam’s return to The Crescent

Word wars: Say Owt Slam with guest poet Malaika Kegode, The Crescent, York, February 5, 7.30pm

BRISTOL writer, performer and producer Malaika Kegode will be the special guest at York spoken-word hub Say Owt’s first Slam night for more than two years.

Kegode has appeared at WOMAD and Edinburgh Book Festival, published two poetry collections with Burning Eye Books and created Outlier, an autobiographical gig-theatre with prog-rock band Jakabol. Passionate about cinema, culture and race, her lyrical work journeys through lives and loves, exploring genre, form and the power of the written word made visual.

In the raucous poetry Slam, performers will have three minutes each to wow the audience. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Contrarian comedian Alfie Brown: Emotional moments in his Sensitive Man show

Moral dilemmas: Alfie Brown: Sensitive Man, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 10, 8pm

DOES emotion help us make moral judgments? In his new show, contrarian comedian Alfie Moore will address this question, using jokes.

These jokes will weave together to create something greater than the sum of their parts, answering a question about emotion and its complicated relationship with morality.

“I refute that I am saying things to plainly and wilfully disrupt social progress,” he says. “I am not. I might seem smug, I know, apologies, and I am often misunderstood. So, at this particular point in the unfolding history of meaning, intention, signs and signifiers, I am sometimes going to tell you what I mean.” Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Florence Odumosu as Nina Simone in Black Is The Color Of My Voice at the SJT, Scarborough

Nina’s blues: Black Is The Color Of My Voice, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 12, 7.30pm

FLORENCE Odumosu plays Nina Simone in Apphia Campbell’s story of the North Carolina-born jazz and blues singer and activist seeking redemption after the untimely death of her father. 

Simone reflects on the journey that took her from a young piano prodigy, destined for a life in the service of the church, to a renowned vocalist and pianist at the forefront of the civil rights movement. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Chasing winners: Shed Seven to play after the May 14 race card at Doncaster Racecourse

Racing certainty…hopefully: Shed Seven, Live After Racing @Doncaster Racecourse, May 14, from 11.15am

YORK band Shed Seven’s day at the races should have taken place on May 15 2021, but Covid made it a non-runner. Now they are under starter’s orders at Doncaster Racecourse for a hit-laden live set after the May 15 race card this spring.

Among the Sheds’ runners and riders will be Going For Gold, Chasing Rainbows, She Left Me On Friday, Disco Down, Dolphin, Where Have You Been Tonight? and fan favourites from 2017’s comeback album Instant Pleasures, Room In My House and Better Days. For tickets for the race-day and concert package, go to: doncaster-racecourse.co.uk/whats-on.

Nina Simone’s life story as jazz singer and civil rights activist charted in Black Is The Color Of My Voice at Scarborough’s SJT

Florence Odumosu as Nina Simone in Apphia Campbell’s play Black Is The Color Of My Voice

BLACK Is The Color Of My Voice, writer-director Apphia Campbell’s play Inspired by the life of Nina Simone, plays Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre on March 12.

After sell-out seasons in Shanghai, New York, Edinburgh and London’s West End, Seabright Productions’ national tour will take in further Yorkshire performances at the Square Chapel Arts Centre, Halifax, on March 8 and the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, on March 16, all three starting at 7.30pm.

Florence Odumosu will play the North Carolina-born jazz singer and civil rights activist in Campbell’s story of Simone seeking redemption after the untimely death of her father. 

Simone reflects on the journey that took her from a young piano prodigy, destined for a life in the service of the church, to a renowned jazz vocalist and pianist at the forefront of the civil rights movement.

Campbell, the IASH playwrighting fellow for 2021, is originally from the United States, where she graduated from Florida International University with a BFA in theatre performance.

She wrote Black Is The Color Of My Voice in 2013. In 2017, her show with Meredith Yarbrough, Woke, was presented as part of the Made In Scotland Showcase, where it won a Scotsman Fringe First.

In 2019, she made her West End debut with Black Is The Color Of My Voice at Trafalgar Studios and had a London premiere of Woke at Battersea Arts Centre.

In 2020, her first commission for the BBC, the children’s story Zachary The Zebroid, was aired; she wrote Birdie’s Dilemma for Scenes For Survival (BBC in collaboration with NTS Scotland), and she was among the six writers for the National Theatre of Scotland’s Christmas show, Rapunzel.

Black Is The Color Of My Voice is recommended for age 12 upwards. Scarborough box office: 01723 370 541 or at sjtg.uk.com; Halifax, 01422 349422 or squarechapel.co.uk; Huddersfield, 01484 430528 or thelbt.org.

More Things To Do in York and beyond as something wickedly funny this way comes. List No. 64, courtesy of The Press, York

When shall we three meet again? When the hurlyburly’s done in The HandleBards’ Macbeth at York Theatre Royal

AS the pantomime season draws to a close, Charles Hutchinson turns his focus to new seasons and new reasons to venture out.

The skittish play: The HandleBards in Macbeth, York Theatre Royal, January 25, 7.30pm; January 26, 2pm and 7.30pm

THE HandleBards were the first professional company to play York Theatre Royal after Lockdown 3, lifting the long gloom with a ridiculously funny Romeo And Juliet. Now the three-pronged troupe opens the Spring! Season with an all-female, bewitching, unhinged, bicycle-powered, dead funny take on Macbeth, starring Kathryn Perkins, Natalie Simone and Jenny Smith.

Expect music, mayhem, murders, unusual applications of cycling paraphernalia and more costume changes “than you can Shake a spear at” in this irreverent, skittish romp through Shakespeare’s tragic “Scottish play”. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Charles Court Opera in The Mikado, visiting Harrogate Royal Hall on Sunday. Picture: Bill Knight

Oh, Vienna: International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival’s New Year celebration, Harrogate Royal Hall, today and tomorrow, 7.30pm.

ENCHANTMENT awaits in the Magic Of Vienna New Year Gala Concert today when the National Festival Orchestra, conducted by Aidan Faughey, presents works by Johann Strauss, Mozart and Lehar. International opera stars James Cleverton and Rebecca Bottone will be the soloists.

Charles Court Opera’s London production of G&S’s The Mikado will be performed on Sunday night, accompanied by the National Festival Orchestra. Box office: 01422 323352 or at gsfestivals.co.uk.

One Iota: Debut album launch at the JoRo

York album launch of the month: One Iota, supported by Odin Dragonfly, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, January 21, 7.15pm

YORK band One Iota are launching their debut album, More Than You Take, recorded at the venerable Abbey Road studios, in London, and Fairview Studios, Willerby.

Adam Dawson, James Brown, Andy Bowen and Phil Everard’s alt-pop group grew out of their three-piece tribute to The Beatles – The Threetles, of course – when they acquired a taste for writing their own songs in lockdown.

One Iota’s debut live show promises a full line-up, featuring live string arrangements for the Fab Four-influenced songs marked by rich vocal harmonies, innovative melodies and “more hooks than a cloakroom”. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Jacob George: Soloist for Schumann’s Violin Concerto at the Academy of St Olave’s January concert

By George, he’s back: Academy of St Olave’s Winter Concert, St Olave’s Church, Marygate, York, January 22, 8pm

THE Academy of St Olave’s Winter Concert features Jacob George, son of musical director Alan George, as soloist for Schumann’s Violin Concerto. He returns to solo duty for the York chamber orchestra after performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto in 2019.

The ASO’s first concert since last September’s sold-out resumption also includes two works inspired by Italy: Schubert’s Overture in the Italian Style, and Mendelssohn’s “Italian” Symphony No. 4. Box office: academyofstolaves.org.uk.

Nunkie Theatre Company’s artwork for the third instalment of their M R James Project, A Warning To The Curious

Ghosts at play: Nunkie Theatre Company in M R James’s A Warning To The Curious, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, January 28, 7.30pm

NUNKIE Theatre Company bring two of M R James’s eeriest and most entertaining ghost stories back to life in Robert Lloyd Parry’s candlelit one-man show. Lost Hearts, an early work, is constructed around one of his most memorable villains, the predatory scholar Mr Abney.

Lloyd Parry pairs it with perhaps James’s most poignant and personal story, inspired by his holidays in Aldeburgh: A Warning To The Curious’s account of a young archaeologist being haunted and hunted by the guardian of an ancient treasure. Has the English seaside ever looked so menacing? Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Yvette Stone’s life-size puppet of The Creature, as first seen in Blackeyed Theatre’s Frankenstein in 2016. The new tour visits Scarborough next month. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

Monster smash: Blackeyed Theatre in Frankenstein, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, February 9 to 12

NICK Lane has reinterpreted John Ginman’s original 2016 script for Blackeyed Theatre, built around Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel, wherein nothing can prepare Victor Frankenstein for what he creates in pursuit of the elixir of life.

Eliot Giuralarocca’s highly theatrical production combines live music and ensemble storytelling with Bunraku-style puppetry to portray The Creature, in the life-size form of Yvonne Stone’s 6ft 4inch puppet, operated by up to three actors at once. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Four decades of topical songs and glamour: Fascinating Aida’s Liza Pulman, left, Dillie Keane and Adèle Anderson. Picture: Johnny Boylan

Never tire of satire: Fascinating Aida, York Barbican, February 12, 7.30pm

DILLIE Keane, Adèle Anderson and Liza Pulman’s latest Fascinating Aida tour show features old favourites, songs you haven’t heard before and some you wish you’d never heard in the first place.

“But the songs are mostly topical and the glamour remains unstoppable,” say the satirists, who have been capturing the political and social fixations of our times for nigh on 40 years, from 1984’s Sweet FA to 2012’s Cheap Flights and beyond. All tickets remain valid from the postponed May 5 2021 date. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Marc Almond fronting The Loveless, headliners at late-October’s Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival in Whitby

Looking ahead to Halloween: Marc Almond’s The Loveless, headlining the Saturday bill at Tomorrow’s Ghosts Festival 2022, Whitby Pavilion, October 29

THE Loveless make their Tomorrow’s Ghosts debut with a headline set of their devilishly dark arts at Whitby Pavilion next Halloween.

In a project designed to take its constituent parts back to where they all began, Soft Cell singer Almond, Sigue Sigue Sputnik axeman Neal X, Iggy Pop’s touring rhythm section of Mat Hector and Ben Ellis and haunting Hammond organist James Beaumont “pledge themselves to the pulp appeal of garage rock in its rawest, most gripping guise”.

The Loveless draw material from Almond’s expansive back catalogue, Lou Reed and David Bowie’s canons, warped 1960s’ R&B staples and lost garage-rock gems. Box office: ticketweb.uk/event/tomorrows-ghosts-festival.

Artist Stephen Todd in his Sheffield studio

Weekend opening: Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, today and tomorrow

NEW year, New Beginnings and a website “going live again at last” adds up to the start of 2022 for Ann Petherick’s gallery in her home at Kentmere House, York.

Among the works on show today and tomorrow from 11am to 5pm are Allotments In Autumn paintings by featured artist Stephen Todd, from Sheffield.

Kentmere House Gallery also will be open for the York Residents Residents’ Weekend on January 29 and 30, 11am to 6pm each day.

Blackeyed Theatre to stage Nick Lane’s take on Frankenstein at Scarborough’s SJT

Yvette Stone’s puppet of The Creature for Blackeyed Theatre’s 2016 production of Frankenstein. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

NICK Lane’s adaptation of Frankenstein will be staged by Blackeyed Theatre at Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre from February 9 to 12 as part of a national tour.

South Yorkshire playwright Lane has reinterpreted John Ginman’s original 2016 script for the Bracknell touring company, built around Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel set in Geneva in 1816, where Victor Frankenstein obsesses in the pursuit of nature’s secret, the elixir of life itself.

Alas, nothing can prepare him for what he creates, and so begins a gripping life-or-death adventure taking him to the ends of the Earth and beyond.

Blackeyed Theatre’s highly theatrical telling combines live music and ensemble storytelling with Bunraku-style puppetry to portray The Creature. Designed and built by Warhorse and His Dark Materials alumna Yvonne Stone, the 6ft 4inch puppet is operated by up to three actors at any one time, adding a new dimension to the retelling of the Frankenstein story.

Playwright Nick Lane

Director Eliot Giuralarocca says: “For me, the beauty and excitement of theatre is that it’s live, unfolding in front of an audience as they watch, and the decision to make the creature a life-sized puppet – beautifully and painstakingly made by Yvonne Stone – seemed to fit perfectly with this approach.

“Frankenstein is obsessed with re-animating dead matter by finding the spark of creation, the ‘elixir of life’. We bring our creature to life theatrically, animating, manipulating and breathing life into the puppet right in front of the audience, and in doing so, I hope we present a lovely theatrical metaphor for the act of creation in the story itself and give audiences the chance to share in that creation.”

Victor Frankenstein will be played by Robert Bradley (Hedda Gabler, National Theatre, Joe Strummer Takes A Walk, Cervantes Theatre, Encounters With The Past, Hampton Court Palace). 

Max Gallagher (Brief Encounter, Watermill Newbury, War Horse, National Theatre, Richard III, Northern Broadsides) reprises the role of Henry Clerval, while Benedict Hastings(Wolf Hall, Royal Shakespeare Company, We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, Kenny Wax) plays Robert Walton.

“We bring our creature to life theatrically, animating, manipulating and breathing life into the puppet right in front of the audience, ” says Blackeyed Theatre director Eliot Giuralarocca. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

Billy Irving (War Horse Tenth Anniversary Tour, National Theatre) is chief puppeteer and the voice of The Creature; Rose Bruford graduate Alice E Mayer makes her professional stage debut as Elizabeth Lavenza.

Writer Nick Lane, whose SJT winter production of Jack And The Beanstalk can be watched online until January 31 via sjt.uk.com, was associate director and literary manager at Hull Truck Theatre from 2006 to 2014.

Director Eliot Giuralarocca and puppetry creator and director Yvonne Stone are joined in the Blackeyed Theatre production team by composer Ron McAllister, musical director Ellie Verkerk, set designer Victoria Spearing, costume designer Anne Thomson and lighting designer Alan Valentine (whereas the 2016 production was lit by Charlotte McClelland).

Frankenstein is produced by Blackeyed Theatre in association with South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, with support from Arts Council England.

Performances in The Round at the SJT start at 7.30pm on February 9; 1.30pm and 7.30pm, February 10; 7.30pm, February 11, and 2.30pm and 7.30pm, February 12. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Blackeyed Theatre’s Bunraku-style puppetry for The Creature in Frankenstein. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

Why savvy Jill matters as much as nerdy Jack in Nick Lane’s Beanstalk play at SJT

Alicia Mckenzie, left, Loris Scarpa, Jacob Butler, Sheri Lineham and Jessica Dennis in Jack And The Beanstalk at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

AFTER the all-too-familiar scenario of Covid in the cast scuppering performances up to Christmas Eve, Jack And The Beanstalk is back up and running for its last week of shows at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

What’s more, for those unable to head to the East Coast, Nick Lane’s stage adaptation can be enjoyed at home in a film capture of the Christmas show via the SJT website until midnight on Monday, January 31.

From the SJT team that delivered The Snow Queen, Treasure Island, Alice In Wonderland,  A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol and Pinocchio comes Lane’s typically imaginative take on the beanstalk-climbing story by Benjamin Tabart and others, directed by Gemma Fairlie, with music and lyrics by Simon Slater and a set design by Helen Coyston.

Lane has taken hold of the traditional fairytale, re-envisioning it as a scary rumour going round town of a meaner than mean giant building a castle above the coastal clouds of Scarborough.

Sheri Lineham’s cool and savvy Jill. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

In Lane’s version, Jack had started the rumour by accident, but given that he seems to know more about this monster than anyone else, he is the obvious choice to head up that weird beanstalk he grew in the garden to destroy the beast. No problem, thinks Jack. Go up the most unpopular child in school; come down a hero. After all, it is only a rumour. Isn’t it?

“My thinking is that in an era when kids, even at the age of eight and nine, some have phones, some are on social media, everyone has to grow up so quickly, but Jack is still growing up, still a boy, still using his imagination, left behind by his peer group, as he still lives in his head,” says Nick.

“When he talks about a giant in the sky, no-one believes him. The cool kid at school just thinks he’s a nerd, so the story is that whole zero-to-hero thing.”

Lane has made a significant change in the balance of the story. “It’s quite male, the original story, so I thought, ‘how would you integrate changes relevant for now?’,” he says.

Playwright Nick Lane

“It’s become much more a tale of Jack and Jill, who’s more cool and savvier than Jack in one way, but in other ways is naïve, so they help each other, in the tradition of the buddy-buddy story.”

Two further elements are prominent in Lane’s sixth winter show for the SJT. Firstly, “Jack And The Beanstalk is just a fairytale, not a traditional Christmas show, so I have tried to ‘Christmas it up’,” he says.

Secondly, he likes to emphasise the Scarborough setting of his SJT shows. “I think that came from when I worked at Hull Truck, pushing that sense of place, when people have a long association with a building and a place,” says Nick.

“You recognise that theatre not only challenges people, but it also celebrates its community, and Scarborough is a great community. Here, it first came from A (Scarborough) Christmas, researching what people like to do at Christmas in Scarborough. It’s worth doing that so that a show feels ‘of us’.”

Polly Lister in Nick Lane’s one-woman version of The Snow Queen at the SJT in 2020

Adapting to changing Covid restrictions in 2020, Lane had to re-write The Snow Queen as a solo show for Polly Lister, having first written a script for a cast of five. “I’d done solo shows before, so when the decision came from on high, I was able to re-do it, and Paul [SJT artistic director Paul Robinson] was very understanding that the script would come in a little late,” says the experienced South Yorkshire playwright.

“I’d previously written A Christmas Carol as a solo show for myself and Royal Flush, a one-man play about Thomas Crapper [the South Yorkshire-born businessman, plumber and inventor of such water closet innovations as the floating ballcock and U-bend].”

Robinson directed The Snow Queen but this time he handed the reins to Gemma Fairlie, who shaped the winter play with her cast of Jacob Butler, Jessica Dennis, Sheri Lineham, Alicia Mckenzie and Loris Scarpa. “He chose Gemma after working with her before and seeing her other work, and if Paul says she’s good, then I trust him implicitly,” says Nick.

“I was given the option of contributing to rehearsals, but having directed as well as written plays, I think it’s fairer to hand it over.”

Alicia Mckenzie’s funky chicken in Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

As with the rest of the audience, Lane was in for a surprise when seeing how designer Helen Coyston would create the beanstalk for a theatre in the round. “You’re thinking, ‘it can’t go in the middle of the stage, rising up into the lighting rig, blocking everyone’s view, but it’s sure to be a typically beautifully design by Helen’,” says Nick, who had only a “very brief chat” with her.

Coyston’s multi-layered stage design does incorporate a giant footprint, but as for the beanstalk…you must watch the show!

Jack And The Beanstalk runs at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until December 31. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com. Tickets for the film cost £12 each or £15 for a group at sjt.uk.com/event/1294/sjt_at_home_jack.

Copyright of The Press, York

From zero to hero: Jacob Butler’s Jack in Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

COMING UP FROM NICK LANE’S PEN IN 2022

  1. Sherlock Holmes And The Valley Of Fear, for Blackeyed Theatre, touring from September.
  2. A revival of The Goal at The Courtyard, Hereford, marking the 50th anniversary of Ronnie Radford’s famous FA Cup goal for Hereford United against Newcastle United in the February 5 mud at Edgar Street.
  3. Also for The Courtyard, Hereford: a play charting the history and changing landscape of a farming family from the 1950s onwards. “In 2018, when I wrote The Goal, I thought, ‘I know four things about Hereford: cider; home of the SAS; beef farming and that Ronnie Radford goal’,” he says.
  4. Next winter’s play in The Round at the SJT, Scarborough; title to be announced in early February.

REVIEW: John Godber’s seaside last resort comedy, Sunny Side Up! ****

John Godber as taciturn B&B owner Barney in Godber’s coastal comedy Sunny Side Up!. Picture: Martha Godber

John Godber Company in Sunny Side Up!, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tonight, 7.30pm; Hull Truck Theatre, November 1 to 6; 7.30pm; 2pm, Wednesday and Saturday. Box office: Scarborough, 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com; Hull, 01482 323638 or hulltruck.co.uk

WHEN the Godber family presented last October’s premiere of Sunny Side Up! in their isolated North Sea bubble at Scarborough, the first sighting of the SJT audience in face masks prompted John Godber to say he thought he was in an operating theatre, not a theatre.

Unlike at many theatres, socially distanced seating prevails at the SJT, where wearing a mask is still the expectation, rather than the exception.

The Godbers, writer-director-actor John, wife Jane Thornton and daughter Martha Godber, remains the cast; her elder sister, Elizabeth, now studying at Hull University for a PhD in the poetry of Emily Dickinson, still finds time to be the company stage manager. Both sisters took the production pictures too.

What has changed? Sunny Side Up! is even better than it was a year ago – and longer too, with an interval inserted, more political grit, more comic interplay to go with the self-analysis and class wars, but still fast moving.

Godber has always been at his best when he is riled, questioning the status quo with Yorkshire frankness, shaking his head but finding humour as he observes British characteristics with befuddlement but a dart’s player’s accuracy, driven by a desire both for mischief making and for change.

Above all, an even stronger sense emerges of Godber commenting, not on the deathly march of Covid, nor the Government’s handling of the pandemic, but on its impact on our behaviour, our appreciation of people and nature around us, our re-evaluation of our neglected, suffering towns and forgotten, left-behind villages amid the expedient rise of the staycation.

Sunny Side Up! is billed as a “hilarious and moving account of a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it: down-to-earth proprietors Barney, Tina and daughter Cath and Tina as they share their stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy” in Godber’s familiar conversational, pull-up-a-chair story-telling style.

Martha Godber’s affronted holiday-maker confronts John Godber’s retired academic in Sunny Side Up!. Picture: Elizabeth Godber

The focus, however, falls more on one of those “snooty relatives”, the fish-out-of-water Graham, Tina’s brother, who has taken up her invitation to bring his wife for a short break back at his roots, now that a foreign trip has been ruled out.

It is not so much that Graham was a big fish in a small pool, so much as that his academic prowess led him to other pools, culminating in his becoming a professor and university pro-vice chancellor, who wanted his own success to be a template for other working-class children to follow suit on a social-mobility conveyor belt. He has not been “back home” to this East Coast last resort for ages.

Graham (John Godber) has the big black car with tinted windows, the expensive shoes and the expensive food tastes; his wife (Thornton) has an MBE for her work in the public cause. She is invariably happy, wanting to stop for a sandwich break on a lay-by after only four miles; Graham is perennially unhappy; he would not be going at all, if it came down to choice rather than a sense of family duty.

Brexiteer Barney, who largely takes a back seat, out on errands, is no fan of Graham, while daughter Cath (Martha’s main role) has the bloody-minded, mischievous streak that Godber himself loves.

Consequently, she, more so than Tina and Barney, breaks down theatre’s fourth wall to engage directly with the audience, putting them on her side as she makes sure Graham’s visit is anything but easy over and comments on his wife always calling her “Catherine”, a name she has grown to dislike for its unnecessary floweriness.

There are echoes of September In The Rain and Happy Jack as Graham revisits his past, going fishing in one beautiful, tender scene, but there is no whiff of nostalgia here. Initially, he had laughed scornfully at the cramped, antiquated top-floor bedroom Tina had provided, but the more he sees, the more it sets off his frustration at such places being forgotten, under-funded, under-appreciated, in need of watering.

Yet he himself had left Sunny Side, forgotten it, and so Godber does not let that pathos go unchallenged, nor Graham’s despair at a pair of holidaying old miners spouting Yorkshire cliches (in a cameo by John and Jane not far removed from the old Four Yorkshiremen sketch from The At Last The 1948 Show and Monty Python).

Jane Thornton’s Tina and Martha Godber’s Cath in Sunny Side Up! Picture: Elizabeth Godber

In the defining scene, Martha Godber’s second principal character, a blunt, no-nonsense holiday-maker no longer able to afford Zante, confronts Graham as to why he did not come home to try to make a difference – to do his own version of levelling up – rather than preach from his academic high tower, out of touch and out of reach.

Godber and Graham are both over 65; both have aching knees, both are bright working-class lads with teaching in their locker; both always vote Labour; both want better for what is already there or once was there until the oxygen was switched off.

Graham has retired, Godber is anything but retired, and Sunny Side Up! is up there with his radical environmental satire Crown Prince and his post-mining drama Shafted! as the best of his 21st century writing. Godber at his most humane and touching but b****y funny too.

There is even magic realism in an encounter between Graham and his late mother (Martha again), her memory eroded by dementia, and moments of physical comedy in the Bouncers tradition as Graham, his wife and Cath climb the endless stairs without a stairwell in sight.

Four chairs and a suitcase, a miniature lighthouse, some rocks and a plastic seagull make up Graham Kirk’s set with familiar Godber economy. In that open space, with room to breathe in that sea air, the performances are terrific. Godber doing a Godber play, with innate comic timing, is always a joy; likewise, his stage partnership with wife Jane makes for a wonderfully forthright double act but one grounded in truthfulness as much as playfulness.

Martha, meanwhile, continues a run of stand-out performances this year in Godber’s Moby Dick at Stage@The Dock, Hull; as Olivia in Luke Adamson’s Twelfth Night at Selby RUFC and now her multi-roles in Sunny Side Up!, full of humour but poignant too. Never better than when the grounded Cath, unlike Graham in younger days, says she will not move on but will look to make Sunny Side a better B&B.

Godber is on such good form here, he even weaves his and Jane’s conversion to “sort-of veganism” into the play with a running in-joke where Cath offers up eggs sunny side up as the vegan breakfast option. Think about it!

Review by Charles Hutchinson

John Godber and Jane Thornton: “A wonderfully forthright double act but grounded in truthfulness as much as playfulness”. Picture: Martha Godber

John Godber’s B&B comedy Sunny Side Up! is up for a return to Stephen Joseph Theatre

John Godber and Jane Thornton premiering Sunny Side Up! at the Stephen Joseph Theatre last October. Picture: Martha Godber

THE John Godber Company returns to the Stephen Joseph Theatre next month with Sunny Side Up!, the coastal comedy premiered by the Godbers in a family bubble at the Scarborough theatre last autumn.

Rehearsed at home, John Godber’s play played to socially distanced sell-out audiences at the end of October 2020, just before the start of the second pandemic lockdown. From October 7 to 9, it will be performed before a socially distanced audience once more in the Round.

Writer-director Godber will reprise his role as Barney alongside his wife, fellow writer Jane Thornton, and daughter, Martha Godber. Daughter Elizabeth completes the family line-up as company stage manager; Graham Kirk provides the design and lighting.

In Godber’s moving account of a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it, down-to-earth proprietors Barney, Cath and Tina share stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy.

Jane Thornton and Martha Godber in a scene from last October’s premiere of John Godber’s Sunny Side Up!. Picture: Elizabeth Godber

“If you’re thinking of holidaying at home this year, why not book into the Sunny Side Boarding House soon,” invites Godber, whose seaside feel-good rollercoaster digs into the essence of “staycations”.

Godber’s play is told in his signature style, blending authenticity and pathos as he addresses the problems of levelling up, leaving home and never forgetting where you come from.

This John Godber Company and Theatre Royal, Wakefield production can be seen at the SJT on October 7 at 1.30pm and 7.30pm, October 8, 7.30pm, and October 9, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Tickets, priced from £10, are available on 01723 370541 and at sjt.uk.com.

Barney trouble: John Godber in the role of struggling B&B proprietor Barney in Sunny Side Up!. Picture: Martha Godber

More Things To Do in and around York in the embers of the summer festival season. List No 46, courtesy of The Press, York

Liam Gallagher: Tomorrow’s headliner at Leeds Festival

SUMMER ends with Leeds Festival, apparently, but Charles Hutchinson begs to differ by highlighting plenty more reasons to be cheerful as nights start to lengthen.

Biggest crowd of the week: Leeds Festival, Bramham Park, near Wetherby, tomorrow (27/8/2021) to Sunday

AFTER a gap year in Covid-crocked 2020, Leeds Festival returns from tomorrow with a sold-out crowd at full capacity. 

Among the first day’s top acts are headliners Lian Gallagher and Biffy Clyro, Gerry Cinnamon, Wolf Alice, Blossoms and Doncaster’s Yungblud.

Saturday’s names to watch are Stormzy, Catfish And The Bottlemen, AJ Tracey, Mabel, Sam Fender and Sports Team. Sunday promises Post Malone, Disclosure, Two Door Cinema Club, The Wombats and Slowthai.  

Shed Seven: Topping the all-Yorkshire bill at The Piece Hall, Halifax, on Saturday

On the other hand, Yorkshire’s gig of the week is…Shed Seven at The Piece Hall, Halifax, Saturday.

YORK favourites Shed Seven at last can go ahead with their all-Yorkshire bill after 2020’s two postponements and a move from June 26 to August 28 this summer.

The dates may change but the bill remains the same: York’s on-the-rise, rousing  Skylights, Leeds bands The Pigeon Detectives and The Wedding Present and the Brighton Beach DJs on the decks.

Never mind the clash with Leeds Festival. “Let’s just say our fans are not their demographic,” says the Sheds’ Rick Witter.

Andrew Harrison: Performing Nigel Forde’s one-man show, The Last Cuckoo, at Stillington Mill, near York, tomorrow night

Bird song of the week: Sea View Productions in Nigel Forde’s The Last Cuckoo, Theatre At The Mill, Stillington, tomorrow, 7.30pm.

ON his return home from his irascible ornithologist uncle Harry Baskerville’s ’s funeral, Duncan Campbell begins the slow, sad process of working through its effects in The Last Cuckoo, a one-man show about loss, hope and birds.

As he does so, he finds within the ghostly confines of this remote coastal cottage a way into a world he never knew existed: the entrance into a life he never dared hope for. However, this awareness brings with it costly choices and, most daunting of all, the possibility of real change.

Penned exquisitely by Warter poet and writer Nigel Forde, former presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Bookshelf, this beautiful theatre piece will be performed by Riding Lights Theatre Company alumnus Andrew Harrison, directed for Sea View Productions by Robin Hereford. Box office: tickettailor.com/events/atthemill.

The Carpenters Experience: Tribute show to Karen and Richard at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

Tribute show of the week: The Carpenters Experience, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Saturday, 7.30pm

IT’S Yesterday Once More as British singer Maggie Nestor and eight musicians capture the smooth American sounds of Richard and Karen Carpenter. 

Expect echoes of Karen’s silky contralto, Richard’s pretty piano and seamless harmonies in a big production featuring Close To You, We’ve Only Just Begun, Top Of The World, Rainy Days And Mondays, Solitaire, Goodbye To Love, For All We Know and Only Yesterday. Box office: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Being Frank: Stephen Tompkinson in Educating Rita, on tour at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday. Picture: Matt Humphrey

Theatre show of the week in York: Educating Rita, York Theatre Royal, August 31 to September 4

WHEN married hairdresser Rita enrols on a university course to expand her horizons, little does she realise where her journey will take her.

Tutor Frank is a frustrated poet, brilliant academic and dedicated drinker, less than enthusiastic about taking on Rita, but soon they learn how much they have to teach each other.

Directed by Max Roberts, Willy Russell’s comedy two-hander stars Jessica Johnson as Rita and Stephen Tompkinson as Frank. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Curtains! Another catastrophe is imminent in Magic Goes Wrong, Mischief and Penn & Teller’s calamitous comedy caper at Leeds Grand Theatre

Theatre show of the week ahead outside York: Magic Goes Wrong, Leeds Grand Theatre, casting a spell from August 30 to September 4

BACK with another comedy catastrophe, this time dusted with magic, Mischief follow up The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery with a show created with   Penn & Teller, no less.

A hapless gang of magicians is staging an evening of grand illusion to raise cash for charity, but as the magic turns to mayhem, accidents spiral out of control and so does the fundraising target.

On tour for the first time, the show is written Penn Jillette, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Teller and directed by Adam Meggido. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or at leedsheritagetheatres.com.

Fangfest co-organiser Gerry Grant dunking a raku ceramic in water

Top of the pots: Fangfest, Fangfoss, September 4 and 5, 10am to 4pm each day

FANGFEST, the celebration of pottery, crafts, art and scarecrows in Fangfoss, ten miles east of York, returns next month after a Covid-enforced hiatus in 2020.

To keep the family event as Covid-safe as possible, much of the festival organised by Gerry and Lyn Grant, of Fangfoss Pottery, will be taking place outdoors.

The weekend combines art, pottery, illustration, jewellery, printmaking, archery, wood carving, textiles, willow weaving, classic cars, East Yorkshire history, food and scarecrows. Entry is free.

Kate Winslet, left, and Saoirse Ronan in Ammonite, showing at the Yorkshire Fossil Festival in Scarborough

Dinosaurs, stones and more in Yorkshire Fossil Festival’s fistful of films: Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, September 10 and 11

FOR the first time, the Stephen Joseph Theatre is teaming up with the Yorkshire Fossil Festival SJT to bring five palaeontology-inspired films to the McCarthy screen.

Highlights include September 10’s 8pm screening of stop-motion wizard Ray Harryhausen’s 1969 dinosaur classic, The Valley Of Gwangi, introduced by palaeo-artist James McKay, who hosts a post-screening Q&A too.

Further films on September 10 will be Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur (2pm) and Jurassic Park (5pm); September 11, The Land Before Time (2pm and 5pm) and Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan (8pm). Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Fish’n’quips: George Egg serves up his Movable Feast on tour in October

Meals on wheels, jokes on a plate, here comes George Egg’s cracking tour show…

COMEDY and cooking combine when anarchic cook George Egg serves up his Movable Feast on tour in Yorkshire in October.

Determined to make food on the move, Egg offers his guide to cooking with cars, on rail tracks and in the sky.  “It’s time for Planes, Trains and Automob-meals (sorry),” he says. 

Sprinkled with handy hacks, the 7.30pm shows conclude with the chance to taste the results on the three plates. Tour dates include Stillington Village Hall, near York, October 10; Pocklington Arts Centre, October 13, and Terrington Village Hall, near Malton, October 17. Box office: georgeegg.com.