More Things To Do in York and beyond and on the home front in loosened lockdown. List No. 32, courtesy of The Press, York

Love letters straight to your art from York Theatre Royal’s reopening show, Love Bites

THE Downing Street briefing on Step 3 of the roadmap rollout is just around the tantalising corner. Charles Hutchinson highlights the rising tide of upcoming shows, ongoing festivals and exhibitions and online options.

Love story of the month: The Love Season: Love Bites, York Theatre Royal, May 17 and 18

YORK Theatre Royal reopens with two nights of Love Bites, both a love letter to live performance by York artists and a celebration of the creative talent across the city.

More than 200 artists from a variety of art forms applied for £1,000 love-letter commissions to be staged on May 17 – the first day theatres can reopen under Step 3 of the Government’s lockdown loosening – and May 18. The 22 short pieces will be performed each socially distanced night, introduced by broadcaster Harry Gration.

“We hope Love Bites will turn out to be ‘a many-splendored thing’!” says director Juliet Forster. Prompt booking is advised at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk or on 01904 623568.

Ruth Rogers: Violinist performing at Ryedale Festival’s online Spring Festival on RyeStream

Online festival of the week: Ryedale Festival’s Spring Festival, running until May 8

TOMORROW night will see the fast-rising combo The Immy Churchill Trio toast the arrival of spring with Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year, a late-night session of jazz standards from the Great American Songbook online from Helmsley Arts Centre at 9pm.

Finishing the festival at Castle Howard with The Lark Ascending on May 8 at 3pm, the virtuosic London Mozart Players and violinist Ruth Rogers will perform Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending and Vivaldi’s Spring from The Four Seasons.

The Spring Festival season will be available to view on RyeStream until the end of May.

Are you going for Scarborough air? York artist Malcolm Ludvigsen painting on the bracing seafront at the East Coast resort

Exhibition launch of the week in York: Malcolm Ludvigsen’s Art, Village Gallery, York

PROLIFIC York plein-air artist Malcolm Ludvigsen is the focus of Village Gallery’s first new exhibition of 2021 in Colliergate, York.

Erstwhile maths professor Ludvigsen spends much of his time on the beaches and headlands of Yorkshire, fascinated endlessly by the sea and sky.

The show of Ludvigsen oil paintings will run until Saturday, June 19 with Covid-secure, socially distanced measures in place. Opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

Not a spoiler alert: Irish humorist Ed Byrne will play York for the first time since his Spoiler Alert tour in 2018

Comedy gig announcement of the week in York: Live At The Theatre Royal Comedy Night, York Theatre Royal, July 1

THIS will be Ed Byrne’s night in York when the observational Southern Irish comedian headlines an all-star bill.

Joining headliner Ed will be Mock The Week’s whip-smart wordsmith Rhys James and Have I Got News For You panellist-in-lockdown Maisie Adam, hosted by “compere-beyond-compare” Arthur Smith, the veteran gloomy weather-faced comedian and presenter from Bermondsey, London.

Tickets are on sale at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk and on 01904 62356.

Cuppa and a couple of gigs at Pocklington Arts Centre for Omid Djalili in July

Comedy gig announcement of the week outside York: Omid Djalili, Pocklington Arts Centre, July 22, at the double

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre has confirmed its first live shows since Tom Rosenthal’s Manhood comedy gig on March 14 last year.

British-Iranian comedian Omid Djalili will perform twice on Thursday, July 22. Significantly too, those 7pm and 9pm performances will be without social-distancing measures, but full of provocative, intelligent cultural observations.

Djalili, 55, originally had been booked for July’s now-cancelled Platform Festival at the Old Station, Pocklington.

Dancing Dan: Dancing On Ice star Dan Whiston glides into Rawcliffe Country Park in August

Get your skates on: Cinderella On Ice, Rawcliffe Country Park, York, August 17 to 22

DANCING On Ice three-time champion Dan Whiston will lead the company for Cinderella On Ice, a show fuelled by high-speed ice-skating and aerial feats.

“I cannot wait to get back on the ice and for the crowds to witness this amazing show after such a troubled past 12 months of lockdowns,” says Whiston. “We hope to both wow and amaze.”

Fairytale On Ice’s ice-palace production will be performed by “some of the world’s most elite entertainers and skilled skaters after thousands of auditions”. Tickets for the 4.30pm matinees and 7.30pm evening performances are on sale at fairytaleonice.com.

Seven UP: Shed Seven’s Shedcember tour to climax with two nights at Leeds O2 Academy

The return of the York heroes: Shed Seven, Shedcember tour

SHED Seven will close their 2021 Shedcember tour with two nights at Leeds O2 Academy on December 20 and 21.

The York band’s 18-date itinerary will take in further Yorkshire shows at Sheffield O2 Academy on November 30 and Hull City Hall on December 1, but not a home-city gig, alas.

The Sheds’ concerts are billed as Another Night, Another Town – The Greatest Hits Live – a nod of acknowledgement in the direction of last December’s 21-track live double album. Tickets are selling very fast at shedseven.com, gigsandtours.com and ticketmaster.co.uk.

Senegal and Wales combine in the Pocklington-bound music-making of Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch

On the move: Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita, Pocklington Arts Centre

WELSH harpist Catrin Finch and Sengalese kora player Seckou Keita will now play Pocklington on May 21 2022.

The 7.30pm concert has been rescheduled from June 10 2021 for the usual Covid reasons. All original tickets remain valid; further tickets go on sale from 10am tomorrow (7/5/2021) at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Finch and Keita will be showcasing songs from their next album, as yet untitled and set for release next year. 

Rapper and beatboxer Testament testifying in Orpheus In The Record Shop

And what about?

AS lockdown’s gradual, grinding release continues to make an impact on live performance, Leeds company Opera North will seek to entertain viewers at home. Check out Orpheus In The Record Shop, available for free at: bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000vbtx/lights-up-orpheus-in-the-record-shop.

Inspired by the ancient Greek myth, rapper and playwright Testament fuses spoken word and beatboxing with a cinematic score performed by the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North.

Originally performed during Connecting Voices at Leeds Playhouse, it has been reworked for film by Alex Ramseyer-Bache and Playhouse artistic director James Brining as part of the BBC Lights Up season.

Opera North and Leeds Playhouse unite for October season of Connecting Voices

Testament: Leeds rapper, writer and beatboxer commissioned for new piece for Connecting Voices. Picture: Anthony Robling

OPERA North and Leeds Playhouse are collaborating on a celebration of the power and expressiveness of the human voice that will bring audiences back into the Quarry Hill theatre next month for the first time since the March lockdown.

They will co-produce Connecting Voices: six new and existing 40-minute pieces of live performance staged safely and Covid-securely in four areas of the Playhouse, played over three weekends in October, fusing classic and contemporary theatre on themes of isolation and connection, resilience and reflection 

Leeds rapper, writer and world record-holding beatboxer Testament has been commissioned to explore the power of the solo voice within a communal space and the relationship between performer and audience, while freelance artists Matthew Eberhardt and Khadijah Ibrahiim will be devising new work together with musicians, poets, actors and young people 

Running from October 2 to 17, Connecting Voices will mark the reopening of Leeds Playhouse six months after lockdown began by “partnering with the wider arts industry to find new and innovative ways of reintroducing audiences to live theatre, in a safe and secure environment, contributing to the life and vibrancy of the Leeds city region”.

Orpheus In The Record Store, written by Testament and directedby Aletta Collins, will fuse spoken word and beatboxing with players from the Orchestra of Opera North in a collaboration in the Quarry Theatre that gives the Greek myth of Orpheus a contemporary Yorkshire twist.

“I’m so excited to be back at Leeds Playhouse with Opera North, especially after this turbulent period,” says Testament. “To be commissioned to create a new piece of work is a massive honour.

“The Playhouse was one of the first organisations to take a chance on me as a theatre maker and it feels like home; their help and support has been invaluable to my growth as an artist.  And only last year I got to work with Opera North as an artist on their Resonance programme, which opened my eyes to new possibilities as a composer.”

Looking forward to live performances returning to Leeds Playhouse, Testament says: “There is much to say and share right now, and I passionately believe theatre has an almost spiritual role in making the direction we wish to go in as a society tangible.

“I can’t wait to be back in front of an actual audience – being together enjoying worlds that we make together in those moments of live connection.”

Khadijah Ibrahiim: Writing and directing Reflections: Dead And Wake for Connecting Voices

What can next month’s audiences expect? “Right now, I’m in the lab creating, pushing buttons, and I’ve got something planned as a beatboxer that has never been like this way before,” says Testament. “I am also super-excited about connecting with Opera North musicians:  we are planning to take the crowd on an epic journey with music, spoken word and live theatre.”

Playing alongside Orpheus In The Record Store will be topical re-awakenings of two pieces from 1958 that present characters isolated from others and struggling to connect again through technology.

The first is Irish playwright Samuel Beckett’s monologue Krapp’s Last Tape, to be performed by Niall Buggy in the Bramall Rock Void, directed by Dominic Hill.  This will be counterpointed by Francis Poulenc’sshort opera La Voix Humaine, performed by Opera North soprano Gillene Butterfield in the Barber Studio, directed by Leeds Playhouse’s Sameena Hussain.

In the Courtyard Theatre, each of the three weekends will see a different and newly devised piece of work from Leeds spoken-word artist Khadijah Ibrahiim and two pieces by freelance director Matthew Eberhardt, whose credits include Opera North’s Street Scene.

They will work  with singers, actors, young people and musicians, including classically-trained singer Keertan Kaur Rehal, Amy J Payne and stalwart Playhouse actor Robert Pickavance, to create contemporary responses to the themes of remembrance, collaboration and the act of storytelling.

James Brining, artistic director at Leeds Playhouse, says: “Re-opening the Playhouse after six months of enforced closure and being separated from each other has made us value even more than before the act of live performance and what that means. 

“Our beautifully refurbished building provides us with many opportunities to safely welcome audiences and artists back into the Playhouse.  Connecting Voices is a carefully curated programme exploring isolation and connection, resilience and reflection, as well as the relationship between performer and audience member in a shared space.”

Brining is delighted to be working once again with Leeds company Opera North. “We’re pooling our resources to help the city of Leeds to get back on its feet and bring joyous and powerful communal shared experiences back to the lives of its citizens,” he says. 

“As we head into our 50th year at this challenging time, it’s vital that we reconnect with audiences and communities and collaborate with bold and diverse voices from across the region. We can’t wait to welcome back artists and participants into the building safely to create and experience live theatre once again.”

“We can’t wait to welcome back artists and participants into the building safely to create and experience live theatre once again,” says Leeds Playhouse artistic director James Brining

Richard Mantle, Opera North’s general director, says: “Connecting Voices is a compelling exploration of the power of the human voice and the profound desire to establish meaningful ties out of experiences of isolation and loss.

“We are delighted that we are able to begin the process of welcoming audiences safely back to live performance through this collection of work in partnership with Leeds Playhouse.

“Connecting Voices brings together voices spoken and sung from across the city and wider region, and we are especially thrilled to be collaborating with such a diverse and talented group of freelance artists, singers, musicians, poets and directors who all share artistic ties to both Opera North and to Leeds Playhouse.

“Now, more than ever, it is apparent how strongly intertwined the artistic and cultural community in our region is, and how important collaboration will be in ensuring a vibrant future for the arts and audiences across the city.”

Please note, in line with Government guidelines, audiences will be of limited capacity with social distancing and temperature checking will be conducted too. Tickets will go on sale to Leeds Playhouse’s Supporters’ Club, Playhouse Pass holders and Opera North Patrons from Monday, September 14 and on general sale from 12 noon on Tuesday at leedsplayhouse.org.uk and on 0113 213 7700.

Connecting Voices: the full programme

Krapp’s Last Tape, by Samuel Beckett, directed by Dominic Hill

A 69-year-old man listens to the voice of his 39-year-old self. Looking back on his loves, failures and losses, Krapp rewinds through his life with humour and heartache. A classic Beckett play, both punchy and personal.

Performances: October 2, 9 and 16, 8pm; October 3, 10 and 17, 3.30pm and 8pm,
Bramall Rock Void, Leeds Playhouse.

Humour and heartache: Niall Buggy in Krapp’s Last Tape. Picture: Robert Workman

La Voix Humaine, by Francis Poulenc, directed by Sameena Hussain

A devastating short opera exploring the pain and fear of rejection in the rawest fashion. Through the lone voice of the woman, Poulenc expresses the full range of human emotion with a score of caressing warmth and intimacy. This powerful one-woman performance will be sung in English.

Performances: October 2, 9 and 16, 6pm, and October 3, 10 and 17, 1.30pm and 6pm, Barber Studio, Leeds Playhouse.

Orpheus In The Record Store, by Testament, directed by Aletta Collins

Orpheus is alone, playing tunes in his record shop. When an old friend arrives, music and stories collide as the ancient and contemporary merge. Testament takes inspiration from the classical Greek myth in a show that fuses spoken word and beatboxing with classical music from the Orchestra of Opera North.

Performances: October 2, 9 and 16, 9pm, and October 3, 10 and 17, 4.30pm and 9pm, Quarry Theatre, Leeds Playhouse.

Reflections: Dead And Wake, written and directed by Khadijah Ibrahiim

Experience a Jamaican “Nine Night” with literary activist and theatre maker Khadijah Ibrahiim. This thought-provoking performance explores Caribbean rituals around death through poetry, music and ghost [duppy] stories, featuring turntablist DJ NikNak and Paulette Morris. The event also includes performers from the Sunday Practise with their creative response to living through the last six months.

Performances: October 16, 7pm and October 17, 2.30pm and 7pm, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse.

Reflections on La Voix Humaine, directed by Matthew Eberhardt

Take your seat on the stage of the Courtyard Theatre, look out into the auditorium and witness actors and musicians explore themes of isolation and connection, of resilience and reflection, through words both spoken and sung. This is a contemporary reflection on Poulenc’s La Voix Humaine and can be enjoyed either alongside the original piece or independently.

Performances: October 2 at 7pm and October 3 at 2.30pm and 7pm, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse.

Reflections on Krapp’s Last Tape, directed by Matthew Eberhardt

Relish the power and expression of the solo voice from the stage of the Courtyard Theatre in this celebration of the return of live performance. An actor and a musician collaborate, filling the auditorium with words and music that reflect upon the themes of Samuel Beckett’s monologue Krapp’s Last Tape.

Performances: October 9 at 7pm and October 10 at 3.30pm and 7pm, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse.

The running time for each Connecting Voices performance is 40 minutes.