More Things To Do in York & beyond when the stakes are high in Dracula. Get stuck in to Hutch’s List No. 28, from The Press

The Gesualdo Six: Performing in the Chapter House at York Minster on July 9 as part of the 2024 York Early Music Festival. Picture: Ash Mills

A CELEBRATION of the voice, the truth behind Dracula, flying doctors and grim tales lead off Charles Hutchinson’s tips for jaunty July trips.

York festival of the week: 2024 York Early Music Festival, Metamorfosi, today until July 13

IN an eight-day celebration of music from the medieval to the baroque under the title of Metamorfosi, York Ealy Music Festival will focus on the human voice and song with performances by Concerto Soave, The Gesualdo Six, festival newcomers Vox Luminis and Cappella Pratensis & I Fedeli, The Sixteen, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Rose Consort of Viols and Gawain Glenton’s Ensemble In Echo.

Taking part too will be mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston, the Consone Quartet, Cubaroque, Apotropaïk and Utopia, climaxing with the biennial York International Young Artists Competition. Full festival programme and tickets at Box office: 01904 658338.

Princess locked up in the castle: Freckle Productions in Zog & The Flying Doctors

Children’s show of the week: Freckle Productions in Zog & The Flying Doctors, Grand Opera House, York, today and tomorrow, 10.30am and 1.30pm

ZOG, super-keen student-turned-air ambulance, still lands with a bang-crash-thump. Together with his Flying Doctor crew, Princess Pearl and Sir Gadabout, they tend to a sunburnt mermaid, a unicorn with one too many horns and a lion with the flu.

However, Pearl’s uncle, the King, has other ideas about whether princesses should be doctors, and soon she is soon locked up in the castle. Can her friends and half a pound of cheese help Pearl make her uncle better and prove princesses can be doctors too in this Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler story with music and lyrics by Joe Stilgoe? Suitable for age three upwards. Box office:

Carnival time in Copmanthorpe

Carnival of the week: Cop’ Carnival, Copmanthorpe Recreation Centre, Barons Crescent, Copmanthorpe, York, today, 11.30am to 7pm

IN its 55th year, Cop’ Carnival features live music acts and dance troupes on the main stage, an inflatable assault course, fairground rides and attractions, street food vendors, free children’s entertainment, stalls and more besides. No dogs are allowed on site, apart from assistance dogs. Tickets are on sale at; under-14s are admitted free of charge. 

Sam Johnson: Playing with his jazz trio at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Jazz gig of the week: Sam Johnson Trio, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow (7/7/2024),

THE Sam Johnson Trio, led by pianist Sam Johnson with Georgia Johnson on bass and James Wood on drums, bring a mid-20th century jazz vibe to their performance, in the style of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, Oscar Peterson Trio and vintage Blue Note and Verve Records artists.

Combining original material with jazz standards from the past seven decades, the trio will be joined by guest soloists and frequent collaborators Richard Oakman (saxophone) and Kirsty Hughes (vocals). Box office:

Macabre: Killian Macardle, left, Annie Kirkman and Chris Hannon in Dracula: The Bloody Truth at the SJT. Picture: Pamela Raith

Comedy drama of the week: Dracula: The Bloody Truth, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tonight to July 27

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre teams up with Bolton’s Octagon Theatre to stage physical theatre comedy exponents La Navet Bete & John Nicholson’s Dracula: The Bloody Truth, based very loosely on Bram Stoker’s story.

SJT artistic director Paul Robinson directs Chris Hannon, Annie Kirkman, Alyce Liburd and Killian Macardle as vampire hunter Professor Abraham Van Helsing reveals the real story behind the legend of Dracula, the one with the Whitby connection. Box office: 01723 370541 or

Paul Weller: Reflecting on turning 66 at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Coastal gigs of the week: Fatboy Slim, today; Paul Weller, tomorrow, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, gates open at 6pm

NORMAN Cook has come a long way, baby, since he played bass in Hull band The Housemartins. Now the BRIT award-winning, Brighton-based DJ, aka Fatboy Slim, heads back north to fill Scarborough with big beats and huge hooks in Rockafeller Skank, Gangster Trippin, Praise You and Right Here Right Now et al tonight.

The Modfather Paul Weller showcases his 17th studio album, 66, full of ruminations on ageing, in Sunday’s set of songs from The Jam, Style Council and his solo years. Box office:

Here wig go: Sarah-Louise Young in I Am Your Tribute at Theatre@41 Monkgate, York

Fringe show of the week: Sarah-Louise Young, I Am Your Tribute, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, July 11, 7.30pm

AFTER An Evening Without Kate Bush, the Julie Andrews-focused Julie Madly Deeply and The Silent Treatment, Sarah-Louise Young returns to Theatre@41 with her Edinburgh Fringe-bound new show, I Am Your Tribute.

In her “most ambitiously interactive performance yet”, she invites you to help her create the ultimate tribute to an act of your choosing. Along the way she will teach you the tricks of the trade, share her greatest hits and uncover the occasionally darker side of living in someone’s else’s shadow. Expect music, wigs and wonderment. Box office:

Rowntree Players cast members rehearsing for Grimm Tales

Fairy tales of the week: Rowntree Players in Grimm Tales, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, July 11 to 13, 7.30pm

AMI Carter directs Rowntree Players in Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation of Grimm Tales, dramatised by Tim Supple, with Chris Meadley in the role of the Narrator.

The cast of 15 takes a journey through a selection of delightfully bizarre stories from the Brothers Grimm collection to reveal their true origins and to discover that the path to a happy ending can, indeed, be a little grim. Box office: 01904 501395 or

In Focus: Weekend events at Ripon Theatre Festival, July 6 and 7

The Tea Cosies: Street entertainment with Kitch’n’Sync today

PUPPETS, stories, dance, drama, circus and street entertainment pop up in new and surprising places alongside more familiar venues, such as Newby Hall, The Old Deanery, Ripon Cathedral, Ripon Arts Hub and Fountains Abbey, as Ripon Theatre Festival returns for its third year.

Saturday keeps festivalgoers on the move in a day of Pop-Up Events at various locations from 9.30am to 6pm. Ilaria Passeri hosts a morning of adventures for four-year-olds and upwards in Tales From Honeypot Village, featuring Rita the Mouse and the Tidy Trolls in the front room of The Unicorn Hotel at 9.30am and the back room of The Little Ripon Bookshop at 11.30am.

Puppeteers Eye Of Newt open their magical miniature suitcase for Ayla’s Dream, a captivating tale of night skies, light and counting sheep for three to ten-year-olds at Ripon Library at 10.30am (accompanied by a puppet workshop) and Ripon Cathedral from 12 noon to 12.30pm (performance every ten minutes).

York performer Tempest Wisdom takes a journey down the rabbit hole in the family-friendly Curiouser & Curiouser, a show for age five + packed with Lewis Carroll’s whimsical writings, inspired by Ripon Cathedral’s nooks and crannies. Free performances take place at Ripon Cathedral at 11am, 12.30pm and The Little Ripon Bookshop at 2.30pm.

Join the Master and Matron on the front lawn for an interactive game of giant Snakes And Ladders At The Workhouse Museum. Learn how life then, as now, is as precarious as a shake of the dice; slither down the snake to a shaven head and defumigation or ascent to a life out of the ashes from 11am to 12.30pm or 1pm to 3pm.

Festival favourites Lempen Puppet Theatre return with the free show Theatre For One in Ripon Cathedral from 10.45am to 11.30pm and Kirkgate from 1.30pm to 2.30pm and 3pm to 4pm. In a micro-theatre experience for one at a time, plus curious onlookers, a mini-performance of The Belly Bug or Dr Frankenstein will be staged every five minutes.

Tempest Wisdom: Taking a journey down the rabbit hole in Curiouser & Curiouser

Members of the Workhouse Theatre Group invite you to experience justice 1871 style in The Trial Of John Sinkler in a case of poaching and threatening behaviour from 2pm to 3pm at The Courthouse Museum.

Ensure justice is seen to be done or perhaps take a more active role in a lively scripted re-enactment led by Mark Cronfield, formerly of Nobby Dimon’s North Country Theatre company.

The festival fun continues in Kirkgate with buskers, bands and more from 3pm to 6pm, while Street Entertainment will be spread between Market Place, Minster Gardens and city streets with a fiesta of free events from 10am to 4pm.

Mark Cronfield and Tom Frere invite you to hail down the ultimate in Georgian transport for Sedan Chair Stories. Be carried above the hoi polloi as your footmen pass on their scurrilous stories from Ripon’s scandalous past.

Bearded Belfast multi-manipulator and circus performer Logy will be juggling danger and excitement in Logy On Fire, a show of full of raw rock’n’roll comedy. Look out for the beautiful birds of The Bachelors Of Paradise parading their glorious wingspans and beautiful tailfeathers.

In Stone Soup, a suitcase show performed from a travelling cart with music and comical puppets, Hebden Bridge company Eye Of Newt ask this question: can you really make soup with only a stone? The secret to making a delicious soup rests with a wandering stranger.

Street performers and fatal fools Medieval Maniax promise to amuse and bemuse with their historical hysterics, music and illusions. Kitch’n’Sync, from Wales, invite you to have a natter with their colourful crochet trolley dollies, Dorothy Dunker, Tippy Teapot and Barbara Bourbon, alias The Tea Cosies.

Logy On Fire: Multi-manipulator and circus performer

A friendly team from Casson & Friends will connect you with the childlike joy of play in their interactive games, set to a bouncing electronic soundtrack, in Arcade.

Playing their part in the day too will be Yorkshire Voices, Medusa, Ripon City Morris Dancers, 400 Roses And Thorns, Ripon Drum Circle, The U3A Folk Group, The Wakeman Mummers, Ripon Rock Choir and Workhouse Walkabouts.

Weekend community performers contribute to the festival on Sunday too in the form of Lily Worth, Trinity Singers, Freddie Cleary, Ripon Goes To Bollywood, Henshaws Performing Arts Group, Danceability, Passion For Movement, Cricket On The Hearth, The U3A Ukulele Group and Ripon Walled Garden Performers.

Open-air theatre specialists Illyria present Oliver Grey’s adaptation of Hugo Lofting’s The Adventures Of Doctor Doolittle in the Newby Hall Gardens at 5.30pm (gates 5pm). In this new family musical, performed with wit and flair, Doctor Doolittle leads a simple life as a village doctor until one day, with the help of his wise old parrot Polynesia, he makes an extraordinary discovery: he can talk to animals.

Radical Leeds troupe Red Ladder Theatre Company return to the festival to with We’re Not Going Back, Boff Whalley’s Miners’ Strike musical comedy about 75 mines, three sisters, one cause and a six-pack of Babycham at Ripon Arts Hub at 7.30pm.

In early 1984, the everyday squabbles of sisters Olive, Mary and Isabel collide with a strike that forces them to question their lives, their relationships and their family ties.

Sunday has a couple of Pop-Up Events, led off by Opera Brunch with down-to-earth diva Nicola Mills, from Huddersfield, whose song menu at Valentino’s Ristorante ranges from Italian arias to crossover classics, served with sweet or savoury pastries and Bucks Fizz or a hot drink from 10.30am to 12 noon.

From 3pm to 4.30pm, in the Guardians’ Room of The Workhouse Museum, Fellfoss Theatre present a rehearsed reading and workshop performance of Fate And The Warrior, Mark Cronfield’s new play about the troubled and prolific Guyana-born author Edgar Mittelholzer, a pioneer of Caribbean culture. Join Cronfield and his scratch team of actors for a dark and intriguing tale in atmospheric surroundings.

Thingumajig Theatre in Kit And Caboodle

Ripon Spa Gardens and Market Place will play host to Sunday’s Family Day from 10am to 4pm. Look out for the Hedge Heads, suspicious-looking shrubbery lurking in the bushes; Henshaws Performing Arts Group’s The Golden Tree, fairy tales of heroes, villains, royalty and fools, and  Open The Books’ The Story Of Daniel, a distillation of all the best bits in 20 minutes, dreams, lions et al.

In Wrongsemble’s epic new adventure The Not So Big Bad Wolf favourite tales are re-spun and woven by Little Red, adventurer, heroine and True Grimm podcaster, on a mission to debunk the myths around her so-called nemesis, with the help of a few storybook staples, her red cloak and a basket full of music, mayhem and magic tricks.

Thingumajig Theatre, from Hebden Bridge, return to Ripon with their big, beautiful, rolling mule packed with miniature puppet shows, full of stories and songs of remarkable journeys and refugees. Struzzo and Maxim, stalwarts of street theatre for many decades, promise music, magic and their famous ostrich.

Three quirky characters are waiting for a train but how will they pass the time in Grantham company Rhubarb Theatre’s show The Three Suitcases? Three Marie Antoinettes take to the street to feed the public their tasty treats in Let Them Eat Cake. Expect a right royal ruckus wherever these comedy pompous poodle-haired queens of comedy go.

Three courageous airmen, Roger, Reggie and Rupert, are caught in a freak storm in The Bombardiers. Armed only with their wits and extremely good looks, who knows where they will end up!

In The Fireman Dave Circus Skills Drop-In, Dave Ford, from Hebden Bridge, invites you to have a go at juggling, plate-spinning, diabolo, hula-hooping and more at Ripon Spa Gardens from 1pm to 2.30pm.

The 2024 festival concludes with Scottish company Folksy Theatre’s open-air production of Shakespeare’s leafy tale of banishment, love and disguise, As You Like It, at The Old Deanery at 7pm. Cue comedy stuffed with music, bold characters and audience interaction. Bring something to sit on, pack a picnic and come prepared for the weather.

“We believe that theatre should be for everyone,” says festival director Katie Scott. “Our varied and accessible programme of events provides real theatrical treats for seasoned theatre-goes, but also lively and low-cost opportunities for first-timers and families. We love bringing events to non-theatre spaces and working with local businesses and other partner organisations to create a buzz in the city which all can enjoy.”

For full festival details and tickets, head to: A preview of further events at Ripon Theatre Festival on July 6 and 7 will follow.

Folksy Theatre in As You Like It in the open air at The Old Deanery on Sunday

What’s On in Ryedale, York and beyond when the vampire hunters strikes back. Hutch’s List No. 23, from Gazette & Herald

Killian Macardle, left, Annie Kirkman and Chris Hannon in Dracula: The Bloody Truth at the SJT. Picture: Pamela Raith

THE truth behind Dracula, wall-to-wall graffiti, vicar irreverence and a blast of brass bring variety to Charles Hutchinson’s tips for jaunty July trips.

Comedy drama of the week: Dracula: The Bloody Truth, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tonight to July 27

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre teams up with Bolton’s Octagon Theatre to stage physical theatre comedy exponents La Navet Bete & John Nicholson’s Dracula: The Bloody Truth, based very loosely on Bram Stoker’s story.

SJT artistic director Paul Robinson directs Chris Hannon, Annie Kirkman, Alyce Liburd and Killian Macardle as vampire hunter Professor Abraham Van Helsing reveals the real story behind the legend of Dracula, the one with the Whitby connection. Box office: 01723 370541 or

Hamish Brown’s Alexis, left, Alexandra Mather’s Miss Aline Sangazure and Anthony Gardner’s John Wellington Wells in York Opera’s The Sorcerer. Picture: John Saunders

Everything stops for tea:  York Opera in The Sorcerer, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

JOHN Soper directs York Opera in The Sorcerer, Gilbert and Sullivan’s first full-length comic opera, wherein Sir Marmaduke Pointdextre (Ian Thomson-Smith) hosts a tea party in the Ploverleigh Hall gardens to celebrate the betrothal of his only son, Alexis (Hamish Brown) to Miss Aline Sangazure (Alexandra Mather), daughter of Lady Annabella Sangazure (Rebecca Smith).

When a love-at-first-sight elixir is mixed into the celebration tea by a sorcerer, John Wellington Wells (Anthony Gardner, in the role played by Soper for York Opera in 2001), mayhem follows as the assembled guests fall under his magic spell. What could possibly go wrong? Box office: 01904 623568 or

Julia Bullock’s Geraldine Granger, Oliver Clive’s Hugo Horton, centre, and Grahame Sammons’s David Horton in 1812 Theatre Company’s The Vicar Of Dibley

Religious conversion of the week: 1812 Theatre Company in The Vicar Of Dibley, Helmsley Arts Centre, untilSaturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

JULIE Lomas directs Helmsley Arts Centre’s resident company in a stage play adapted from the original BBC television series by Richard Curtis and Paul Mayhew-Archer. When Reverend Pottle dies, much to the surprise of the Dibley Parish Council, his replacement is Geraldine Granger, a vicar who is also a chocoholic sex kitten.

Follow the antics of David Horton, his son Hugo, Jim, Owen, Frank and Mrs Cropley as they adjust to working with the witty and wonderful Geraldine, assisted by her verger, Alice Tinker. Box office: 01439 771700 or

Bright Light Musical Productions in Green Day’s American Idiot: York premiere at Joseph Rowntree Theatre. Picture: Dan Crawfurd-Porter

York musical of the week: Bright Light Musical Productions in Green Day’s American Idiot, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, tomorrow to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

NORTH Yorkshire company Bright Light Musical Productions make their JoRo debut in the York premiere of punk rock opera Green Day’s American Idiot with a cast of 14 directed by Dan Crawfurd-Porter and a seven-piece band under Matthew Peter Clare’s musical direction.  

Inspired by the Californian band’s 2004 album, American Idiot tells the story of Johnny (Iain Harvey), “Jesus of Suburbia”, and his friends Will (William Thirlaway) and Tunny (Dan Poppitt) as they attempt to break out of their mind-numbing, aimless suburban existence. Box office: 01904 501935 or

For those about to rock: Live/Wire take the highway to hell with AC/DC classics at The Crescent

Tribute show of the week: Live/Wire, The AC/DC Show, The Crescent, York, Friday and Saturday (sold out), doors 7.30pm

LIVE/WIRE, The AC/DC Show pays tribute to the Aussie heavy rock band, replete with a wall of Marshall amps for two hours of high voltage rock’n’roll. Podge Blacksmith, a double take for frontman Brian Johnson, revels in a set taking in everything from Highway To Hell and Whole Lotta Rosie to Back In Black and latest album Rock Or Bust. Box office for Friday only:

One of James Jessop’s works on show in Rise Of The Vandals at the disused office block at 2, Low Ousegate, York

Exhibition/installation of the week: Bombsquad, Rise Of The Vandals, 2, Low Ousegate, York, Friday to Sunday, 11am to 6pm.

SPREAD over four floors in a disused Low Ousegate office block, York art collective Bombsquad showcases retrospective and contemporary spray paint culture, graffiti, street art and public art in three galleries, a cinema room, a Wendy house and art shop, in aid of SASH (Safe and Sound Homes).

Taking part in Rise Of The Vandals are York graffiti archivist Keith Hopewell, James Jessop, Bristol legend Inkie, Chu, Rowdy, Kid Acne, Remi Rough, Prefab77, SODA, Replete, Jo Peel, Sharon McDonagh, Lincoln Lightfoot, Anonymouse, Boxxhead and live DJs in SODA’s booth. Free entry; donations are encouraged. Dog friendly.

Fatboy Slim: Cooking up the beats at Scarborough Open Air Theatre. Picture:

Coastal gigs of the week: Fatboy Slim, Saturday; Paul Weller, Sunday, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, gates open at 6pm

NORMAN Cook has come a long way, baby, since he played bass in Hull band The Housemartins. Now the BRIT award-winning, Brighton-based DJ, aka Fatboy Slim, heads back north to fill Scarborough with big beats and huge hooks in Rockafeller Skank, Gangster Trippin, Praise You and Right Here Right Now et al on Saturday night.

The Modfather Paul Weller showcases his 17th studio album, 66, full of ruminations on ageing, in Sunday’s set of songs from The Jam, Style Council and his solo years. Box office:

Paul Weller: Reflections on hitting 66 at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Brass Band Summer Showcase of the week: Swinton & District Excelsior Brass Band, Milton Rooms, Malton, Sunday, 2pm

AS part of Brass Band Week, the Summer Showcase features the Swinton & District Excelsior Brass Band with trumpet and cornet soloist Sean Chandler. Taking part too will be the Swinton Training Band and The Workshop Band, including members from Swinton, Stape, Malton and Kirkbymoorside Brass Bands. Entry is free; tickets are available from 01653 696240, or

More Things To Do in York and beyond as the diary takes shape for May 4 onwards. Hutch’s List No. 19, from The Press, York

Sculptor Tony Cragg with his bronze work Outspan in the Great Hall at Castle Howard. Picture: Charlotte Graham

FROM landscape sculptures to community cinema screenings, a circus company’s novel assignment to a soap star’s heavenly musical role, Charles Hutchinson’s week ahead is taking shape.

Exhibition of the week: Tony Cragg at Castle Howard, near York, until September 22

SCULPTOR Tony Cragg presents the first major exhibition by a leading contemporary artist in the house and grounds of Castle Howard. On show are new and recent sculptures, many being presented on British soil for the first time, including large-scale works in bronze, stainless steel, aluminium and fibreglass.

Inside the house are works in bronze and wood, glass sculptures and works on paper in the Great Hall, Garden Hall, High South, Octagon and Colonnade. Tickets:

The Lapins: Celebrating travel, exploration and adventure in music at the Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York

World premieres of the week: York Late Music, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, Mike Sluman, oboe, and Jenny Martins, piano, Saturday (4/5/2024), 1pm; The Lapins, Saturday (4/5/2024), 7.30pm

MIKEY Sluman highlights the range of the oboe family – oboe, oboe d’amore, cor anglais and bass oboe – in his lunchtime programme of Lutoslawski, Talbot-Howard and Poulenc works and world premieres of Desmond Clarke’s Five Exploded Pastorals and Nick Williams’s A Hundred Miles Down The Road (Le Tombeau de Fred).

The Lapins examine ideas of space, place and time in an evening programme that extols the joys of travel, exploration and adventure through the music of Brian Eno, Stockhausen and Erik Satie, the world premiere of James Else’s A Tapestry In Glass and the first complete performance of Hayley Jenkins’s Gyps Fulvus. Tickets: or on the door.

The poster for The Groves Community Cinema festival at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Film event of the week: The Groves Community Cinema, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, May 5 to May 11  

THE third Groves Community Cinema film festival promises a wide variety of films, from cult classics and music to drama and animated fun. Supported by Make It York and City of York Council, the event opens with Sunday’s Arnie Schwarzenegger double bill of The Terminator at 6.30pm and T2 Judgement Day at 8.45pm.

Monday follows up Marcel The Shell With Shoes at 2.30pm with Justine Triet’s legal drama Anatomy Of A Fall at 6.30pm; Tuesday offers Ian McKellen’s Hamlet at 7.30pm; Wednesday, Yorkshire Film Archives’ Social Cinema, 6.30pm, and Friday, cult classical musical Hedwig And The Angry Inch, 8pm. To finish, next Saturday serves up the animated Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse at 2.30pm and Jonathan Demme’s concert documentary Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense at 7.30pm. Box office:

Steve Cassidy: Performing with his band and friends at the JoRo

Nostalgic gig of the week: Steve Cassidy Band & Friends, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday (5/5/2024), 7.30pm

VETERAN York frontman Steve Cassidy leads his band in an evening of rock, country and ballads, old and new, with songs from the 1960s to 21st century favourites in their playlist.

Cassidy, a three-time winner of New Faces, has recorded with celebrated York composer John Barry and performed in the United States and many European countries. Box office: 01904 501935 or

Let us pray: Landi Oshinowo’s Deloris Van Cartier and Sue Cleaver’s Mother Superior in Sister Act, on tour at Grand Opera House, York

Musical of the week: Sister Act, Grand Opera House, York, May 6 to 11, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday

SUE Cleaver takes holy orders in a break from Coronation Street to play the Mother Superior in Sister Act in her first stage role in three decades. Adding Alan Menken songs to the 1992 film’s storyline, the show testifies to the universal power of friendship, sisterhood and music in its humorous account of disco diva Deloris Van Cartier’s life taking a surprising turn when she witnesses a murder.

Placed in protective custody, in the disguise of a nun under the Mother Superior’s suspicious eye, Deloris (Landi Oshinowo) helps her fellow sisters find their voices as she unexpectedly rediscovers her own. Box office:

Lila Naruse’s Memory Tess in Ockham’s Razor’s circus theatre production of Tess at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Kie Cummings

“Bold new vision” of the week: Ockham’s Razor in Tess, York Theatre Royal, May 8 to 11, 7.30pm

CIRCUS theatre exponents Ockham’s Razor tackle a novel for the first time in a staging of Thomas Hardy’s  Tess Of The D’Urbervilles that combines artistic directors Charlotte Mooney and Alex Harvey’s adaptation of the original text with the physical language of circus and dance.

Exploring questions of privilege, class, consent, agency, female desire and sisterhood, Tess utilises seven performers, including Harona Kamen’s Narrator Tess and Lila Naruse’s Memory Tess, to re-tell the Victorian story of power, loss and endurance through a feminist lens. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart: Night of dub, funk and world music at Pocklington Arts Centre

Funkiest gig of the week: Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart, Pocklington Arts Centre, May 9, 8pm

SUPREME bassist Jah Wobble’s two-hour show takes in material from his work with John Lydon in Public Image Ltd and collaborations with Brian Eno, Bjork, Sinead O’Connor, U2’s The Edge, Can’s Holger Czukay, Ministry’s Chris Connelly and Killing Joke’s Geordie Walker.

Born John Wardle in 1958, he was renamed by Sex Pistol Sid Vicious, who struggled to pronounce his name correctly. Wobble combines dub, funk and world music, especially Africa and the Middle East, in his songwriting. Box office: 01759 301547 or

“Charming nonsense”: Steven Lee’s There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly at the SJT, Scarborough

Half-term show announcement of the week: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, May 28, 2.30pm

FIRST written as a song in 1953, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly was a chart-topping hit for singer and actor Burl Ives before being adapted into a best-selling book by Pam Adams a few years later, one still found in schools, nurseries and homes across the world.  

To mark the nursery rhyme’s 50th anniversary, children’s author Steven Lee has created a magical musical stage show for little ones to enjoy with their parents that combines the charming nonsense of the rhyme with his own “suitably silly twists”. Box office: 01723 370541 or

More Things To Do in Ryedale, York and beyond comedy & climate change. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 13, from Gazette & Herald

Vera Chok’s Lauren and Jay McGuiness’s Ben in a scene from 2:22 – A Ghost Story, on tour at Grand Opera House, York, this week

JUST a normal week? No, paranormal, more like, as a ghost story pumps up the spooks. Fear not, a hope-filled musical, dances of love, loss and legacy and soul, folk and funk gigs are Charles Hutchinson’s picks too.  

New ghost to haunt “Europe’s most haunted city”: 2:22 – A Ghost Story, Grand Opera House, York, spooking until Saturday, 7.30pm fright-nightly; 2.30pm today (1/5/2024) and Saturday; 3.30pm, Friday

JENNY believes her new London home is haunted, hearing a disturbance every night at the same time, but husband Sam isn’t having any of it. They argue with their first dinner guests, old friend Lauren and new partner Ben.

Belief and scepticism clash, but something feels strange and frightening, and that something is drawing closer, so they decide to stay up… until 2:22 in the morning… and then they’ll know in The Battersea Poltergeist podcaster Danny Robins’s paranormal thriller, wherein secrets emerge and ghosts may, or may not, appear. Fiona Wade, George Rainsford and Vera Chok join The Wanted singer Jay McGuiness in Matthew Dunster & Isabel Marr’s cast. Box office:

Come From Away: Award-winning musical of hope, humanity and unity on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre

Musical of the week: Come From Away, Leeds Grand Theatre, running until May 11, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Thursday and Saturday matinees

IRENE Sankoff and David Hein’s four-time Olivier Award-winning musical tells the remarkable true story of 6,579 air passengers from around the world being grounded in Canada in the wake of 9/11. Whereupon the small Newfoundland community of Gander invites these ‘come from aways’ into their lives with open hearts.

As spirited locals and global passengers come together to forge friendships, we meet first female American Airlines captain, the quick-thinking town mayor, the mother of a New York firefighter and the eager local news reporter in a celebration of hope, humanity and unity. Box office: 0113 2430808 or

The poster for Alexander O’Neal’s farewell tour, Time To Say Goodbye, bound for York Barbican on Friday

Farewell tour of the week: Alexander O’Neal, Time To Say Goodbye, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

AFTER nearly five decades, Mississippi soul singer Alexander O’Neal is hitting the road one final time at 70 on his Time to Say Goodbye: Farewell World Tour, accompanied by his nine-piece band.

O’Neal will be undertaking a journey through his career with the aid of never-before-seen-photos, testimonies and tributes, all set to the tune of such hits as Criticize, Fake and If You Were Here Tonight. Box office:

Phoenix Dance Theatre in Dane Hurst’s Requiem, part of the Belonging: Loss. Legacy. Love programme at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Drew Forsyth

Dance show of the week: Phoenix Dance Theatre in Belonging: Loss. Legacy. Love, York Theatre Royal, Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

YORK Theatre Royal is the final venue on Leeds company Phoenix Dance Theatre’s first British tour since 2022 with a visceral triple bill of works by international dance makers Dane Hurst, Miguel Altunaga and Phoenix artistic director Marcus Jarrell Willis.

Belonging: Loss. Legacy. Love opens with South African choreographer and former Phoenix artistic director Hurst’s reimagining of Mozart’s Requiem in response to pandemic-induced grief. Two world premieres follow: Afro-Cuban choreographer Altunaga’s first Phoenix commission, the daring Cloudburst, and Texas-born Jarrell Willis’s Terms Of Agreement. Box office: 01904 623568 or

The Milton Rooms’ poster for the Comedy vs Climate workshops this weekend in Malton

Workshop of the week: Comedy vs Climate Change, Milton Rooms, Malton, Saturday and Sunday

THIS weekend Comedy vs Climate Change hosts a brace of workshop projects for 18 to 30-year-olds from North Yorkshire with the aim of raising awareness of climate issues and funds for environmental causes, as well as finding hope in climate humour that shapes a greener, better and fairer future.

Saturday’s 2pm to 5pm session provides an introduction to stand-up and joke writing; Sunday’s 10am to 1pm session focuses on improv and character development. Both use humour to explore environmental issues based around local rivers. Ring 01653 696240 or go to to book a place.

Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart: Playing dub, funk and world music at Pocklington Arts Centre

Funkiest gig of the week: Jah Wobble & The Invaders Of The Heart, Pocklington Arts Centre, May 9, 8pm

SUPREME bassist Jah Wobble’s two-hour show takes in material from his work with John Lydon in Public Image Ltd and collaborations with Brian Eno, Bjork, Sinead O’Connor, U2’s The Edge, Can’s Holger Czukay, Ministry’s Chris Connelly and Killing Joke’s Geordie Walker.

Born John Wardle in 1958, he was renamed by Sex Pistol Sid Vicious, who struggled to pronounce his name correctly. Wobble has combined elements of dub, funk and world music, especially Africa and the Middle East, in his songwriting and has written books on music, politics, spirituality and Eastern philosophy too. Box office: 01759 301547 or

Gigspanner Trio: Led by fiddler Peter Knight at Helmsley Arts Centre

Folk gig of the week: Gigspanner Trio, Helmsley Arts Centre, May 10, 7.30pm

IN the wake of his departure from Steeleye Span, fiddle player Peter Knight has turned his full attention to the Gigspanner Trio, a ground-breaking force on the British folk scene.

Knight, who first performed with the fledgling Steeleye line-up in 1970, is joined in his trio by percussionist Sacha Trochet and guitarist Roger Flack. Together, they combine self-penned material with arrangements of music rooted in the British Isles and beyond. Box office: 01439 771700 or

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly: On tour at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

Half-term show announcement of the week: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, May 28, 2.30pm

FIRST written as a song in 1953, There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly was a chart-topping hit for singer and actor Burl Ives before being adapted into a best-selling book by Pam Adams a few years later, one still found in schools, nurseries and homes across the world.  

To mark the nursery rhyme’s 50th anniversary, children’s author Steven Lee has created a magical musical stage show for little ones to enjoy with their parents that combines the charming nonsense of the rhyme with his own “suitably silly twists”. Box office: 01723 370541 or

Bottom’s up for love & looning in More Things To Do in Ryedale, York & beyond. Hutch’s List No. 9, from Gazette & Herald

Rebecca Banatvala, back, AK Golding, middle, and Sam Newton, front, in Northanger Abbey at the SJT, Scarborough. Picture: Pamela Raith

GOTHIC Austen, a clowning Bottom, dark pop chat, vintage blues and harmonious folk feature in Charles Hutchinson’s suggestions for a busy diary.

Play of the week outside York: Northanger Abbey, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until April 13, 7.30pm plus 1.30pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees

ZOE Cooper adapts Jane Austen’s coming-of-age satire of Gothic novels in a co-production by the SJT, Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, Octagon Theatre, Bolton, and Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, starring Rebecca Banatvala (Cath), AK Golding (Iz) and Sam Newton (Hen) under Tessa Walker’s direction.

In a play fizzing with imagination, humour and love, Cath Morland knows little of the world, but who needs real-life experience when you have books to guide you? Cath seizes her chance to escape her claustrophobic family life and join the smart set in Bath. Between balls and parties, she meets worldly, sophisticated Iz, and so Cath’s very own adventure begins. Box office: 01723 370541 or

Megson: Folk duo Debs and Stu Hanna at Helmsley Arts Centre

Folk concert of the week: Megson, Helmsley Arts Centre, Saturday, 7.30pm

BRITISH folk duo Megson combines Debs Hanna’s vocals, whistle and piano accordion with Stu Hanna’s guitar, mandola and banjo on songs filled with perceptive lyrics and exquisite musicianship. An infectious mix of heavenly vocals, lush harmonies and driving rhythmic guitars mark their concerts, topped off with northern humour between numbers.

Chalking up 13 studio albums in 20 years, the four-time BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominees and two-time Spiral Earth Award winners will be showcasing their latest release, March 2023’s What Are We Trying To Say?. Box office: 01439 771700 or

Red, a dare: Tweedy’s Bottom, clowning around and chancing his luck in love in the Everyman Theatre Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, on tour at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Andrew Huggins/Thousand Word Media

York play of the week: Cheltenham Everyman Theatre in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, York Theatre Royal, April 9 to 13, 7pm plus 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees

THE Everyman Theatre Company staging of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream puts a new twist on the familiar tale by casting comedy clown Tweedy as Bottom and making him “comedy advisor” on Paul Milton’s production to boot.

The night’s magic, mischief, and mayhem unfold in an enchanted forest in Athens, intertwining the romantic misadventures of four young lovers, the playful meddling of mischievous fairies and the comedic antics of amateur actors, culminating in a tale of love, mistaken identity and reconciliation engineered by Jeremy Stockwell’s meddlesome Puck. Box office: 01904 623568 or

John Robb: Rock’n’roll tales at Pocklington Arts Centre

Pop chat of the week: John Robb: Do You Believe In The Power Of Rock’n’Roll?, Pocklington Arts Centre, April 11, 8pm

JOHN Robb discusses his life in music; his pop culture book Art Of Darkness: The History Of Goth; being the first person to interview Nirvana; inventing the word Britpop and his adventures on the post-punk frontline.

Blackpool-born Robb is an author, musician, journalist, television and radio presenter and pundit, music website boss, publisher, Louder Than Words festival boss, eco-warrior and talking-head singer of The Membranes. His special guest is The Sisters Of Mercy co-founder Gary Marx. Box office: 01759 301547 or

Pianist Robert Gammon: Performing with Maria Marshall and Alison Gmmon at musical tea concert

Dementia Friendly Tea Concert: Maria Marshall, Robert Gammon and Alison Gammon, St Chad’s Church, Campleshon Road, York, April 182.30pm

CELLIST Maria Marshall opens this Dementia Friendly Tea Concert with Faure’s Elegy, accompanied by pianist Robert Gammon, who then plays two short solo Grieg piano pieces. Alison Gammon joins them for Beethoven’s trio Opus 11 for clarinet, piano and cello.

The relaxed 45-minute concert, ideal for people who may not feel comfortable at a formal classical concert, will be followed by tea and homemade cakes in the church hall. Seating is unreserved; no charge applies to attend but donations are welcome for hire costs and Alzheimer’s charities. On-street parking along Campleshon Road complements the church’s small car park.

The Nightcreatures’ Henry Botham and Tom Davies: Blues songs and stories at Milton Rooms, Malton

Blues gig of the week: The Nightcreatures, Farewell To Storyville, Songs and Stories from New Orleans, Milton Rooms, Malton, April 12, 8pm

THE Nightcreatures duo of pianist Henry Botham and guitarist and singer Tom Davies take a journey to old New Orleans for a night of songs and stories, serving up a spicy gumbo of filthy blues, funky grooves and classic tunes.

Old blues, Mardi Gras songs and vintage New Orleans material are explored, drawing on the heritage of Dr John, James Booker, Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint and the great Louisiana bluesmen. Jenny Wren and Her Borrowed Wings, a trio led by singer and double bassist Jenny Trilsbach, support. Box office: 01653 696240 or

Sam Jewison: Interpreting the Great American Songbook at the SJT

Jazz gig of the month: Sam Jewison, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, April 27, 7.30pm

JAZZ singer and pianist Sam Jewison returns to the SJT after a sold-out show in 2023 to perform his interpretation of the Great American Songbook in a fusion of jazz, classical and popular music.

Expect to hear new treatments of songs from the Broadway stage, Hollywood screen and golden age of American popular music, made famous Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Oscar Peterson, from the pens of Cole Porter, Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin. Joining Jewison will be Fraser Smith (tenor saxophone), Harry Sankey (guitar), Harry Evans (double bass) and Joe Dessauer (drums). Box office: 01723 370541 or 

Lucy Worsley: Revelations from the life of Jane Austen at York Barbican

Show announcement of the week: An Audience with Lucy Worsley on Jane Austen, York Barbican, October 14,

FOLLOWING up her Agatha Christie tour, historian Lucy Worsley’s latest illustrated talk steps into the world of Jane Austen, one of English literature’s most cherished figures as the author of Pride And Prejudice, Sense And Sensibility and Persuasion. 

Through the houses, places and possessions that mattered to Austen, Worsley looks at what home meant to her and to the women like her who populate her novels. Austen lived a “life without incident”, but with new research and insights Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. Box office:

More Things To Do in York and beyond as the Vikings take over. Hutch’s List No. 7 for February 10 onwards, from The Press

In with a shout: Jorvik Viking Festival returns to York

INVASION? Installation? Theatre innovation? Half-term challenges? Giants and dinosaurs? Yes, yes, yes. Charles Hutchinson signposts what to catch in the days and weeks ahead.

Festival of the week: Jorvik Viking Festival 2024, invading York from February 12 to 18

NOW in its 39th year, Europe’s largest annual Viking festival will be attracting up to 45,000 visitors of all ages over the week ahead. “We’d always advise booking in for some of the activities – including a visit to Jorvik Viking Centre and the Festival Finale – but many have booking slots available on the day too,” advises event manager Abigail Judge.

Family activities include Monday’s smelly, squelchy Poo Day! at DIG, St Saviourgate, from 11am to 3pm; daily Berserker Camp, family crafting and saga story-telling Arena! shows, and a new event, the Best Dressed Viking, Best Beast and Best Beard competitions, on February 18 at 12.30pm in St Sampson’s Square. For tickets and the full programme, visit:

Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia in rehearsal for the Imitating The Dog and Leeds Playhouse co-production of Frankenstein. Picture: Ed Waring

Yorkshire theatre premiere of the week: Frankenstein, Leeds Playhouse Courtyard Theatre, February 15 to 24

PIONEERING Leeds company Imitating The Dog teams up with Leeds Playhouse for a “visually captivating and psychologically thrilling” multi-media exploration of Mary Shelley’s Gothic tale of fear and anxiety, posing the question “what is it to be human?”.

Georgia-Mae Myers and Nedum Okonyia play all the roles across parallel narratives, threading together the late-18th century’ story of Frankenstein with a contemporary conversation between a pregnant young couple, fearful of what it means to bring life into the world. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or

Ironing 1924 style at Nunnington Hall over half-term. Picture: Arnhel de Serra

Half-term family activity of the week: Nunnington Hall, Nunnington, near Helmsley, February 10 to 18, 10.30am to 4pm, last entry at 3.15pm.

TRAVEL back to 1924 this half-term when families can enjoy being tasked with carrying out activities performed by household servants 100 years ago, from ironing to dusting bannisters, cross stitch to flower arranging.  

The National Trust property has created a fun, interactive trail around the manor house in the form of a CV that guides visitors through the various servant skills. Children can find out if they meet the requirements necessary to fulfil the responsibilities of the desired positions, and then decide which roles, if any, they would choose to accept. Tickets:

Going Wilde in the country: Tiny & Tall Productions and Soap Soup Theatre’s touring production of The Selfish Giant visits Helmsley

Children’s show of the week: Tiny & Tall Productions and Soap Soup Theatre in The Selfish Giant, Helmsley Arts Centre, February 11, 2.30pm

BRISTOL family theatre companies Tiny & Tall Productions and Soap Soup Theatre head north with their collaborative exploration of Oscar Wilde’s children’s story of an unusual friendship, The Selfish Giant.

In this version, the giant Grinter lives happily alone in her huge icy house, shutting out the world that long ago shut her out. Outside, very little greenery is left. One spring day, the children, tired of playing on hard roads and grey rooftops, climb through a chink in her garden walls, changing the course of their lives forever and Grinter’s too. Box office: 01439 771700 or

Jonathan Pie: Hero or villain? Time for a rant at York Barbican

York comedy gig(s) of the week: Jonathan Pie: Hero Or Villain?, York Barbican, February 14 and 15, 7.30pm

FOR the record, ranting political correspondent Jonathan Pie is a fictional character portrayed by British comedian Tom Walker, scripted by Walker and Irish comedian Andrew Doyle. In his latest slice of Pie, he hopes to answer the question: hero or villain?

Join him, on a St Valentine’s Day date or the night after, as he “celebrates the UK’s greatest heroes (nurses/Gary Lineker/24-hour off licence proprietors), takes a verbal blowtorch to its villains (the Tories/cyclists), kicks in the Establishment’s back doors and rifles through its kitchen cupboards”. Box office:

Jurassic Live: Dinosaur adventures on a musical journey at York Barbican

Swimming dinosaur alert: Jurassic Live, York Barbican, February 16, 5pm; February 17, 11am, 3pm; February 18, 1pm

NEW for 2024 in this interactive theatrical dinosaur show is the Tylosaurus, a genus of Mosasaur: the largest predatory marine reptile to ever grace our oceans and now the largest marine puppet ever made as it swims in its gigantic purpose-built Jurassic tank on stage. Be warned: if you sit near the front, you will get wet!

Family show Jurassic Live undertakes a musical journey as little Amber, Ranger Joe and Ranger Nora strive to save the day from an evil man determined to close the Jurassic facility. Box office:

Barrie and the Bard: Barrie Rutter discusses Shakespeare’s Royals at the SJT, Scarborough, Salts Mill, York Theatre Royal and Ripon Theatre Festival

Regal tour of the north: Barrie Rutter: Shakespeare’s Royals, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 1, 7.30pm; Arrival Of Spring Gallery, Salts Mill, Saltaire, April 13, 7.30pm; York Theatre Royal Studio, April 26, 7.45pm; Ripon Theatre Festival, Ripon Cathedral, July 4, 7.30pm

BARRIE Rutter, founder and former director of Northern Broadsides, celebrates the Bard’s kings and queens – their achievements, conquests and foibles – with tales, anecdotes and memories from a career of playing and directing Shakespeare’s Royals.

After being told he could never play a king on account of his Yorkshire accent, Hull-born Rutter, now 77, took the revolutionary step of creating his own theatre company in 1992 in Halifax to use the northern voice for Shakespeare’s kings, queens and emperors, not only the usual drunken porters, jesters or fools. As he says on X: “Lover of language. Awobopaloobopalopbamboom – everything else is Shakespeare”. Box office: Scarborough, 01723 370541 or; Salt’s Mill,;  York, 01904 623568 or; Ripon,

In Focus: Art installation Colour & Light, York Art Gallery, going full frontal until February 25

Colour & Light: Art from the York Art Gallery collection spreads over the gallery facade in Double Take Projections’ installation. Picture: York BID/Double Take Projections

YORK BID links up with York Museums Trust for the return of Colour & Light: an innovative project designed to warm up York Art Gallery’s facade in the cold winter with an art-filled light installation by David McConnachie’s Edinburgh company Double Take Projections.

This “high impact and large-scale visual arts project” uses 3D projection mapping to bring York’s iconic buildings to life, first York Minster last year, now York Art Gallery, where the projection will play every ten minutes from 6pm to 9pm daily in a non-ticketed free event. 

Highlighting York’s UNESCO Media Arts status, this outdoor projection is the work of Double Take Projections, who architecturally scanned the gallery facade to generate a 3D model.

This model served as the template for content application. From there, they used multiple projections to create one seamless image by projecting from different angles and wrapping content on the irregularly shaped frontage.

Viewers can notice something new at each viewing, such as York’s skyline being hidden in different mediums or artistic elements of the gallery’s façade that they may not have spotted previously.

The William Etty statue in front of the gallery, in Exhibition Square, has been brought to life too. Born in Feasegate and buried just around the corner from the gallery in Marygate, Etty is York’s most iconic artist.

Considered the first significant British painter of nudes and still lifes, Etty’s 19th century paintings were somewhat controversial at the time, but he also played a role in the conservation of the city walls.  His work Preparing For AFancy Dress Ball features in the Colour & Light display.

Not only York Art Gallery’s paintings are highlighted. Spot the reference to the extensive Centre of Ceramic Arts (CoCA) and the two tiled panels on the side of the building, Leonardo Expiring In The Arms Of Francis I and Michelangelo Showing His Moses

Viewers can pick up exclusive Colour & Light merchandise from the Sketch Box for £2 or less while watching the show, as well as churros, soft serve and hot drinks.

Carl Alsop, York BID’s operations manager, says: “This event is all about making world-class culture more accessible, and it’s been brilliant watching the show from Exhibition Square, traditionally a quiet and reserved space, with children playing, dancing and laughing, and people from all backgrounds enjoying the show together.

“It’s also been great to see people discovering some of the less obvious aspects of the projection on a second viewing. Audiences have enjoyed various buildings from York’s skyline reimagined in different mediums, as well as seeing elements of York Art Gallery, like the mosaics on each side of the building, brought to life.”

Richard Saward, York Museums Trust’s head of visitor experience and commercial, says: “We are thrilled to be involved with York BID’s Colour & Light show. This event kicks off a fantastic season at York Art Gallery, including The Aesthetica Art Prize 2024 exhibition and Claude Monet’s painting The Waterlily-Pond, which will be on display in York from May 10 to celebrate the 200th birthday of the National Gallery.” 

Dancefloor disciple John Godber keeps the faith in Northern Soul in days of drudgery and nights of joy in Do I Love You?

Emilio Encinoso-Gil, Martha Godber, centre, and Chloe McDonald in John Godber’s Do I Love You?, returning Northern Soul to Scarborough this week. Picture: Ian Hodgson

“I’M not afraid to admit I was a rather good dancer,” says playwright, director, actor and erstwhile terpsichorean tornado John Godber. “Not so good now, mind. My knees.”

His ‘tap’ these days would be on the laptop, leading to his latest play, a hymn to Northern Soul that keeps the faith with the Wigan Casino days but addresses today’s believers in Do I Love You?, on tourthis week at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, in Scarborough, where John once cut a rug at all-nighters.

“This is Northern Soul for a new generation, but with rising costs, unemployment and small-town blues, has anything really changed?” asks John, now 67. “Is this England 1973 or 2023? The pubs are closing, hospitality has gone, and strikes are everywhere…but when you’re out on the floor…”

…There you will find Godber’s twentysomethings, Sally, Nat and Kyle, as they develop a love for Northern Soul and the people absorbed in its culture across the industrial north. What started as a college project has grown into a passion, but the dance steps are exhausting.

Far beyond their home city of Hull, they find excitement, purpose and the tribe they have been seeking. Cue talcum powder, loafers and weekenders, from Brid Spa to Stoke, from Oxford to the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, as these young soulies vow to keep the faith, even as Britain crumbles, school buildings and all.

Do I Love You? Indeed he did, back in the day. “I went to all-nighters in Scarborough, Doncaster, Wakefield, Whitby, Hornsea, and even then that single [Frank Wilson’s title song] was worth £45,000,” says John.

“It’s the one that lots of people know, but lots of soulists despise it because it’s too well known! Only 200 copies were printed, and one copy recently sold for £150,000.

“There’s this really interesting thing that soulies want to keep it underground, which is difficult, particularly when the BBC Proms did a Northern Soul Prom last summer [July 15 2023, curated by broadcaster and writer Stuart Maconie], gentrifying it with symphonic arrangements, of course!”

Playwright and Northern Soul devotee John Godber

John recalls his dancing nights and early single acquisitions. “Dobie Gray’s Out On The Floor was my first one, then The Flasher, the instrumental by Mistura, and then you’re on to Al Wilson’s The Snake,” he says.

“Every church hall had a Northern Soul night, every youth club had a Northern Soul Night back then. For every song, they danced throughout and clapped in time together because the music realy meant something to them.

“Before we opened the tour last September , the cast went to a soul night at an ex-servicemen’s club, where they played Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You?, and they came away saying, ‘oh my God, it’s all true’.

After a run of state-of-the-nation plays (Shafted, 2015; Scary Bikers, 2018, Sunny Side Up, 2020; Living On Fresh Air, 2023), Godber’s latest comedy is more of a celebration, albeit with politics still at its rotten core.

“I’m interested in enclosed environments: nightclubs [Bouncers], schools [Teechers], gymnasiums [Gym And Tonic], now the Northern Soul scene,” says John.

“This time there’s a lot of music, a lot of dancing, in the show, and we’ve had the world champion Northern Soul dancer, Sally Molloy, in for a couple of sessions. Just extraordinary!

“She came to the read-through to authenticate the piece and said, ‘I bless this show’, which was great because we want it to be authentic.

“Dancing was important to the casting, so we looked far and wide and even looked at auditioning some Northern Soul dancers but they just didn’t cut the mustard with the acting.”

John settled instead on a typically compact cast of Yorkshire actors Emilio Encinoso-Gil and Martha Godber and Belfast-born, Liverpool-trained newcomer Chloe McDonald.

Dancefloor discussion: Emilio Encinoso-Gil, Chloe McDonald, centre, and Martha Godber in Do I Love You?. Picture: Ian Hodgson

“Martha went to Northern Contemporary dance in Leeds when she was 16 and got into Trinity Laban [Conservatoire of Music and Dance], but then decided to go to LIPA (Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts) to train as an actor,” he says.

“They worked with Sally a couple of months before rehearsals started, then did a full day with her, after the read-through day, when they almost couldn’t walk for a week!”

John’s own research brought him into contact with Dr Sarah Raine, from the cultural industries department at Leeds University.

“What she’s identified is a real growth in Northern Soul, when working men’s clubs have gone, youth clubs have gone, Sunday League football has gone, funding has gone, but Northern Soul club nights go on,” says John.

“It’s an echo back to when there was pride in your work, what you do, where you fit into your community, doing something that requires a skill through the ability to dance, and conssequently you gain status in your community.

“The music is put first; it’s not about leaving with someone on your arm, unlike in Bouncers, though the drug scene is pretty clear, but after 12 hours of stomping, you’re going to need something stronger than coffee and Red Bull!

Godber’s twentysomethings in Do I Love You? work in a “chicken drive-through portal” as he euphemistically puts it. “It’s not a great place to work. Two of them have degrees, one in psychology, one in musical theatre; the other has stayed at home to look after her grandmother,” he says.

High kicks: Martha Godber in rehearsal at Hull Truck Theatre for Do I Love You?

“After Covid, they’ve picked up these low-grade jobs, but the music underlines where they are in their rites of passage. They find this creed they have some sympathy with, a kind of religion, a kind of tribe, to counter domestic difficulties, loss of love and dreary jobs.”

“In 2024, with the drudgery of daily life, now it’s about finding meaning and young people feeling they’re in a safe place.”

As for keeping the faith by seeing Do I Love You?, “What’s interesting is that if you’re my age, you’ll be re-living your youth; if your’re young, in your 20s, you’ll think, ‘yes, I can see why it means so much to them’.

“Why coin that adage ‘Keep the faith’? I guess soul music is not a million miles away from religion, so it’s not far away from faith.”

Northern Soul disciple John has a confession to make: “The full disclosure is, I was really into Northern Soul, but I was also into prog-rock,” he says. “That was my intellectual side. Northern Soul was my spiritual side.”

John Godber Company in Do I Love You?, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until Saturday, 7.30pm nightly; 1.30pm tomorrow; 2.30pm, Saturday. Box office: 01723 370541 or

Leap of faith: Emilio Encinoso-Gil during rehearsals for Do I Love You?

Did you know?

NORTHERN Soul dancers, in their flat, slippy shoes, would dust the dancefloor with talcum powder to make their moves glide more easily, countering the stickiness of spilt beer. “But talc is frowned on these days because it’s carciogenic,” says John.

Did you know too?

RARE American soul songs, expressing pain and suffering, were favoured over slick Motown chartbusters by the working-class, predominantly male dance crowds that gathered at burgeoning Northern Soul nights across the north in the late-1960s and early 1970s. Football fans on away days would bring back records from London record shops.

What is John Godber’s favourite Northern Soul record?

TOBI Legend’s Time Will Pass You By. “It’s a song about dying, which makes it utterly existential,” says John.

REVIEW: Do I Love You?, from when John Godber’s premiere opened at Wakefield Theatre Royal in September 2023

TWO Big Egos In A Small Car podcasters Charles Hutchinson and Graham Chalmers discuss John Godber’s Do I Love You? and last autumn’s premiere of Alan Ayckbourn’s Constant Companions, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, in Episode 152.

Head to 12 minutes 45 seconds into:

The Paper Birds test empathy in interactive verbatim theatre show Feel Me at the SJT

Lil McGibbon, left, and Daz Scott in The Paper Birds’ Feel Me, on tour at the SJT, Scarborough. Picture: Will Green

WHAT makes us feel for another person? After extensive research and development, The Paper Birds answer this question in the verbatim theatre piece Feel Me, whose world premiere tour visits Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre on February 27 and 28.

Billed as “an interrogation of empathy that actively measures each audience’s engagement with the theme during the show”, Feel Me uses a mixture of live performance, film, projection, dance and interactive elements to explore the different lenses through which we are told, and connect to, stories.

Worlds unfold from backpacks and tents are constructed and dismantled again, each scene and location being temporary, like a transient teenager in search of safety, acceptance and a new place to call home.

Company co-founder and co-director Jemma McDonnell says: “The idea for Feel Me started in 2015 when I saw a picture of a three-year-old boy, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a beach.

Daz Scott, Kiren Virdee and Lil McGibbon in a scene from Feel Me. Picture: Will Green

“It was a picture I couldn’t get out of my mind; there was something in that horrifying viral image that kept making me return to the concept of empathy and what it means to feel for another. Jump forward five years, and sat in lockdown with my own small children to take care of, I decided to revisit this idea.”

Feel Me “seeks real world impact and action”, achieving it with help from modern technology. As active participants within the show, audience members are gently and anonymously asked to share how they feel about the story they are witnessing at different moments using their phones, and to consider who they connect with, who they feel empathy for, and why.

The data gathered will be measured using innovative software accessed by the audience in a series of collaborative “check-in” moments, with results creatively shared live as part of the performance.

Working with academics from Essex University, the Malden company – the Paper Birds migrated south from Leeds in 2022 – uses mobile phones to measure the impact Feel Me has had on audiences and their immediate empathy levels as well as post-show.

Lil McGibbon, Kiren Virdee and Daz Scott: Conducting an “interrogation of empathy” in Feel Me. Picture: Will Green

Jemma says: “In 2021, we devised a multi-artform digital project for 14 to 25-year-olds, The School Of Hope, during which we worked with nine partner organisations in five countries over three continents to really begin to interrogate who we care for and who we don’t, and why that might be.

“Working with numerous cohorts of young artists and creatives on this subject matter in digital and hybrid formats over the lengthy research and development period that followed, our initial findings made us feel compelled and excited to explore within the show not only the stories we hear, but the way we often receive these stories via tech, most commonly our phones.”

The Paper Birds saw an opportunity to create an interactive element that allowed audiences to share how they felt about the story that was unfolding in front of them. “This interactive element has proved to be a massive challenge, but one, as a new NPO (National Portfolio Organisation) and company wholly committed to giving,” says Jemma.

“I am really proud of what we have made, as empathy is about connection and Feel Me allows hundreds of audience members to have a voice, to see and hear how their community around them is also feeling, and most importantly to connect.”

The Paper Birds cast embraces technology in Feel Me. Picture: Will Green

Known for their devised work with and for young people, The Paper Birds put together a creative team of emerging artists aged under 30 to work on Feel Me, including assistant director Shanice Sewell, designer Imogen Melhuish, sound and music designer Fraser Owen and cast members Lil McGibbon, Daz Scott and Kiren Virdee.

The company has worked with five youth creative councils: steering groups made up of young people aged 13 to 25 years, some with a lived experience of forced displacement. They have been invited to share their thoughts and opinions on the show as it went through the devising process and rehearsals.

Feel Me was made in partnership with Theatre Centre and is a co-production with the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, supported by Padepokan Seni Bagong Kussudiardja, Indonesia, and The Point, Eastleigh, Hampshire.

The Paper Birds in Feel Me, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, February 27, 7.30pm, and February 28, 1.30pm. Box office: 01723 370541 or

The Paper Birds: the back story

The Paper Birds’ co-directors Jemma McDonnell and Kylie Perry

ESSEX theatre company with a social and political agenda, specialising in devised verbatim theatre pieces. Relocated company home from Leeds to Malden in 2022.

“We’re artists, investigators, entrepreneurs, educators. We pride ourselves on taking complex, multi-faceted subjects and making them accessible. We have an artistic programme and a creative learning programme and nurture both equally,” say co-directors Jemma McDonnell and Kylie Perry.

Why Malcolm James keeps returning to haunted tale of The Woman In Black, on tour at Grand Opera House next week  

Malcolm James in the role of Arthur Kipps, the lawyer burdened with the need to tell his terrifying story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul in The Woman In Black, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, from January 30. Picture: Mark Douet

QUESTION: Which play marked the reopening of the Grand Opera House, York, after 547 days of Covid-enforced darkness on September 13 2021?

Answer: Stephen Mallatratt’s adaptation of Susan Hill’s ghost story The Woman In Black, first staged in a pub setting by the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, as a Christmas ghost story in 1987.

Now, 869 days later, PW Productions’ tour returns to haunt the York theatre once more, “direct from the West End”, with a cast of Malcolm James as lawyer Arthur Kipps and Mark Hawkins as The Actor.

Malcolm and Mark have previous form for presenting the tale of an elderly lawyer obsessed with a curse that he believes has been cast over his family by the spectre of a “Woman in Black” for 50 years.  

“We did the show together very briefly in Dubai, for 11 performances, in 2017,” recalls Malcolm. “It might have seemed unusual doing a really ghostly story at Christmas in a modern Dubai building, but it proved very popular, though stepping outside the accommodation and theatre into 40-degree heat was a bit of a learning curve for me!”

Renewing the partnership on the 2023-2024 tour, James and Hawkins will be playing York amid the more apt winter chill, as Arthur Kipps engages a sceptical young actor to help him tell his terrifying story and exorcise the fear that grips his soul. “Mark is a wonderful young actor, very engaged and really committed to the play, bringing such intensity to it, never letting me drop from my A-game,” says Malcolm.

Mark Hawkins as The Actor, left, and Malcolm James as Arthur Kipps in The Woman In Black. Picture: Mark Douet 

He first played Arthur Kipps on the 2014-2015 tour and in a subsequent West End run at the Fortune Theatre, London, in 2016, both with Matt Connor in the role of The Actor. “The show certainly changed from where we started, and that’s one of the joys of doing long runs. I keep learning, as I’ve been doing throughout my career,” says Malcolm.

“After drama school, a three-week run at Leeds Playhouse feels huge, when you’ve not done that before, but then, when you start doing tours, you find out how limiting a short run is. And because The Woman In Black is a two-hander, there’s so much more to explore, as you keep discovering new things, where suddenly a new emphasis is thrown up when one actor says a line differently.”

As ever, Robin Herford is directing the latest tour. “Working again with the same director is a joy because it’s my favourite play, my favourite part, so rewarding, as you get the initial feedback from the chills, the thrills, the mystery, but ultimately it’s a very human story of grief,” says Malcolm.

“Arthur Kipps is full of suffering, tormented by the burden of this demon that he needs to purge by telling his story. This time Robin [Herford] wanted to make it grittier, and it’s definitely become darker and richer, so as much as the audience may get caught up in the ‘jump scares’, they’re relating to the human drama too.”

Malcolm thrives on performing a play that revels in its own theatrical setting, steeped in atmosphere, illusion and horror. “It’s set up from the beginning, just two people on stage who are going to rehearse a play from Kipps’s story with basic props,” he says.

“The audience willingly slips into thinking they are watching the real thing unfold, not just watching two actors, and it absolutely shows the power of what theatre can do that no other medium does, where everyone becomes caught up in a brilliant piece of storytelling.

Malcolm James, left, and Matt Connor on the 2014-2015 tour of The Woman In Black that visited York Theatre Royal in November 2014. Picture: Tristram Kenton

“Stephen Mallatratt is absolutely faithful to the novel and to the language of the period, and he’s brilliant at building up the story, where each time he goes back into the drama, he does it for longer, with comedy and anticipation at first, until the story becomes relentless to the point where most of the second half is set in the [haunted] house.”

The 2014-205 tour brought Malcolm to York Theatre Royal in November 2014. “I haven’t played the Grand Opera House before, and that’s another joy of touring because playing different theatres helps to keep it fresh,” he says.

“In London, we played it in a 1920s’ theatre, The Fortune, which was perfect as it was small and close up, but on tour it’s a challenge every week, such as dealing with the differing acoustics.

“If you’re playing a theatre that’s seen better days, in a play with an old theatre setting, that’s fantastic, and I love working in proscenium-arch theatres for that reason, but it still works in a modern theatre, a big wooden barn, where you’re asking for an extra level of suspension of disbelief.”

First Matt Connor, now Mark Hawkins, Malcolm has enjoyed the chemistry of both partnerships, so vital to the play’s impact. “I’ve been very lucky with both Matt and Mark,” he says. “It’s great if there’s a personal rapport as well as a professional one, and I’ve had that each time, making the relationship work on stage, having a pint together afterwards.”

The Woman In Black spooks Grand Opera House, York, January 30 to February 3, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Box office:

Copyright of The Press, York

Favourite play, favourite role: Malcolm James’s verdict on playing Arthur Kipps in The Woman In Black