Cupid, draw back your bow and let your beer flow on York Theatre Royal’s patio

Cupid’s Bar this way: A new poster points to York Theatre Royal’s outdoor space for for residents and visitors to socialise safely. Picture: Livy Potter

LOVE is in the Step 2 air, and soon will be on the York Theatre Royal stage too for The Love Season from May 17.

What better time to launch Cupid’s Bar on the Theatre Royal patio, open from tomorrow (14/4/2021) for five weeks.

The bar will run from midday to 9.30pm every Thursday to Sunday, providing an outdoor space in the heart of the city for residents and visitors to socialise safely. Working with regional suppliers, Cupid’s Bar will offer a range of drink options, such as draught beer from Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, and York Gin from, er, York.

York Theatre Royal’s new patio bar

Freshly spruce after an eight-hour wait for a lockdown-easement haircut on Monday, Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird says: “We’re thrilled to be opening Cupid’s Bar on our patio. It’s the perfect space to enjoy the picturesque delights of the city with family and friends, just a stone’s throw from York Minster and the Museum Gardens.

“We think it’s important to offer our community a chance to visit us ahead of our full reopening for live performances on 17 May with The Love Season. And we’re delighted that we can work with some of York’s best independent businesses and suppliers, so our customers can enjoy a range of great drinks.”

The bar will be socially distanced, with table service and card payments only. Tables will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hannah Sibai’s terrace design for last summer’s Pop-Up On The Patio festival at York Theatre Royal

The Theatre Royal patio was last used for the Pop-Up On The Patio festival from August 14 to 29 last year in a Covid-secure summer season of outdoor performances by “Yorkshire’s finest theatre and dance makers”, presented on a terrace stage designed by Yorkshire theatre designer Hannah Sibai.

Taking part were York Dance Space; Mud Pie Arts; Crafty Tales; Fool(ish) Improv; The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre; puppeteer Freddie Hayes; Cosmic Collective Theatre; performance poet Henry Raby; Say Owt, the York outlet for slam poets, word-weavers and “gobheads”; magician, juggler and children’s entertainer Josh Benson and singer Jess Gardham.

Look who’s coming to York Theatre Royal in July…

Another Fiennes message: Ralph Fiennes in rehearsal for his solo performance of T S Eliot’s Four Quartets poems

STAR of stage and screen Ralph Fiennes is to direct and perform in the world premiere of T S Eliot’s Four Quartets in his York Theatre Royal debut from July 26 to 31 as the zenith of The Love Season.

This solo theatre adaptation will feature Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages and Little Giddings, published together in 1943 in a quartet that ranges across themes of time, nature and the elements, faith and spirituality and war and mortality.

For full details of The Love Season and to book tickets, go to: yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Full story will follow in charleshutchpress.co.uk.

York Theatre Royal boosted by £324,289 in round two of Cultural Recovery Fund

York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird: “Delighted and relieved that our application for funds was successful”

YORK Theatre Royal is to receive £324,289 from the second round of the Government’s  Cultural Recovery Fund.

The St Leonard’s Place theatre is among more than 2,700 recipients to benefit from this tranche of awards, announced by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Friday, from the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. 

“This award is critical to York Theatre Royal and will support the re-opening of the theatre in May with The Love Season,” says the theatre’s announcement. 

“We’re delighted and relieved that our application for funds was successful,” says Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird. “This award ensures that York Theatre Royal can look ahead to the future with confidence and a renewed sense of purpose as it helps us to play our role in supporting arts for the community in York.

“I would call this funding more about recovery and reopening, whereas the last round was still ‘emergency’ funding.”

Tom continued: “It’s brilliant news for us, and we’re obviously very chuffed as this £324,289 grant allows us to support The Love Season, which we’ll be announcing on April 7. We can’t wait to welcome our audiences back to the theatre in May with an exciting and varied programme of work that celebrates what we’ve all been missing this past year; human connection, the live experience, and a sense of togetherness.”

York Theatre Royal’s artwork for The Love Season, to be announced on April 7

More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country in this round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund as a “much-needed helping hand for organisations transitioning back to normal in the months ahead”.

This comes on top of more than £800 million in grants and loans awarded already to support almost 3,800 cinemas, performance venues, museums, heritage sites and other cultural organisations dealing with the immediate challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The funding awarded on Friday is drawn from a £400 million pot that was held back last year to ensure the Culture Recovery Fund could continue to help organisations in need as the public health picture changed. The funding has been awarded by Arts Council England, as well as Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

In the initial surge of the Covid-19 crisis, Arts Council England (ACE) set up a £160 million Emergency Response Fund package, with nearly 90 per cent coming from the National Lottery, for organisations and individuals needing support.

York Theatre Royal received £196,493 from ACE’s emergency fund to help to cover costs in the fallow months from last July to September 30. “The ACE grant was about ‘What do you need right now not to collapse?’,” said Tom at the time.

Julie Hesmondhalgh in The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, part of The Love Season at York Theatre Royal, starting next month

Last October, the Theatre Royal was awarded £230,000 from the Cultural Recovery Fund to assist the theatre until March 31.

While the emergency and recovery funding has been vital, it has not prevented the Theatre Royal from having to cut its permanent staff by one third – seven voluntary redundancies and nine staff made redundant – last September after extensive consultations, as well as cutting all ties with the neighbouring De Grey Rooms.

“You have to bear in mind that normally we have a £4.5 million turnover each year, with 89 per cent of our annual income being generated through selling tickets [combined with associated revenue streams, such as the bars and café],” says Tom.

“The problem with an old building that’s so huge and hard to heat is that it costs £475,000 a year just to keep it open, without staffing, to cover heating, lighting, water and safety.”

York Theatre Royal – the longest-running theatre in England outside London – hosted two socially distanced preview performances of The Travelling Pantomime last December but otherwise the main-house and Studio stages have been dark since March 15 last year.  

CharlesHutchPress will cover next Wednesday’s announcement of The Love Season – socially distanced and Covid-safe – with an interview with Tom Bird to follow. At the core of the season will be Coronation Street and Broadchurch alumnus Julie Hesmondhalgh starring in her husband Ian Kershaw’s one-woman show The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…from June 1 to 5.

Love bites in myriad forms as York Theatre Royal seeks artists for May 17 reopening

YORK Theatre Royal will reopen on May 17 with a celebration of York’s creativity, pending any Government update on the roadmap rollout.

A call-out has gone out to York artists – poets, writers, performers, singers, dancers and digital artists – to mark the return of live performance to the St Leonard’s Place building, 14 months since its Covid-enforced closure.

The Theatre Royal is commissioning a series of “love letters” from York artists – under the umbrella title Love Bites – to be performed on the opening night of The Love Season, a programme of plays based on the theme of love. The commissions will then be presented across the following fortnight as a prelude to the theatre production playing each night.

The theatre aims to commission 20 Love Bites love letters, each lasting up to five minutes. Artists will be offered £1,000 per commission plus £150 every time it is performed.

“The love letter could be to a person, a place, an object, the city of York itself – or anything else,” says York Theatre Royal creative director Juliet Forster

Creative director Juliet Forster says: “We want artists working in any form or medium and living in York to join forces with us in celebrating the start of live performances when restrictions lift in May. 

“We’re looking for artists to create love letters through any medium. The love letter could be to a person, a place, an object, the city of York itself – or anything else. 

“We’re very keen to incorporate as wide a mix of art forms and interpretations of what a love letter is as possible. It could be a poem, a song, a piece of digital art, a dance piece, but should be able to be performed or shared both live and in digital form. 

“The piece should have a duration of up to five minutes. If the artist doesn’t want to perform the piece themselves, we will work with them on engaging an appropriate performer.”

“We’re ecstatic at the prospect of reopening in May with the much-anticipated Love Season,” says York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird

Those interested in being commissioned are asked to write a short proposal for what their love letter might be and how it could be performed live and translated into digital form. They should submit links to their website or previous work too. 

Submissions must be emailed to commissions@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk by March 22 2021. Details of how to apply can be found on the website at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

York Theatre Royal is set to reopen for socially distanced performances from May 17, once Government restrictions are lifted. Chief executive Tom Bird says: “We’re ecstatic at the prospect of reopening in May with the much-anticipated Love Season.

“After the challenges that the pandemic has brought for freelance artists, we’re particularly delighted to be able to commission 20 York artists to relaunch the theatre programme with Love Bites. We’ll be announcing the remainder of the season in April. We can’t wait to welcome the people of York back to their wonderful theatre.”

Love’s labours lost for St Valentine’s Day at York Theatre Royal but love is still in the air

Love lost: The Love Season is on hold at York Theatre Royal

TODAY should have been a Happy St Valentine’s Day for York Theatre Royal, but Lockdown 3 postponed the love-match re-opening until further notice.

The Love Season launch was given the kiss-off by the third wave of Covid killjoy strictures that began on January 5, putting a red line through this evening’s York In Love special event and the February 16 to 20 run of The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…, starring Coronation Street soap alumnus Julie Hesmondhalgh.

When first announced, the season was to have run until April 21, presenting a series of plays from around the world. Socially distanced love will still out in the end, however, although no rearranged dates have yet been put in place for a season that would have a Covid-secure main-house capacity reduced from 750 to 345.

Indeed, the next show with a confirmed booking on the Theatre Royal website is for cookery writer Yotam Ottolenghi’s A Life In Flavour talk, presented by Penguin Live on April 14.

Amid the wait-and-see scenario until the Government’s February 22 update on Coronavirus containment measures, chief executive Tom Bird says: “We are committed to spreading the love and sharing the joy of live theatre with The Love Season as soon as we are able to do so safely. We’ll be announcing our revised plans and reopening date as soon as possible.

Julie Hesmondhalgh: Starring in the one-woman show The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…

“The Love Season is designed to remind us that human connection – love, sympathy, kindness, mutual understanding, warmth, equality – is what makes us the wonderful human beings we are. In 2021 we want to celebrate humanity, our own community and a sense of togetherness.  

“We want to do that with words, music, dancing, film and even food! It’s going to be fun and we can’t wait.”

Aside from two previews of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime on a pop-up stage on December 2 and 3, the Theatre Royal auditorium has remained dark since the March 2020 shutdown.

A revised itinerary for the debut tour of The Greatest Play In The History Of The World has been announced, with only York Theatre Royal yet to rubber-stamp its dates.

After the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe premiere at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, the play transferred to Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre Studio in September 2018 and to London’s West End in December 2019. Now, the show has been adapted especially for the tour in light of these pandemic times and performances will be housed in the larger spaces of each theatre. 

York Theatre Royal’s promotional artwork in situ for the Love Season

Winner of The Stage Edinburgh Award in 2018, Raz Shaw’s production will be on the road from May 7 to July 3, pencilling in the York run for the first week in June, after the scrapping of the original January 29 to March 3 tour.

The tour will open at Hull Truck Theatre from May 7 to 15 (7.30pm and 2pm, Wednesday and Saturday), followed by a second Yorkshire outing at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, May 18 to 22 (7.30pm, 1.30pm, Thursday and 2.30pm, Saturday).

Written by Julie’s husband, the Bruntwood Award-winning Ian Kershaw, The Greatest Play In The History Of The World heads out on a heartfelt journey that starts and ends in a small, unassuming house on a quiet suburban road. Julie narrates the story of two neighbours and the people on their street, as she navigates the audience through the nuances of life, the possibilities of science and the meaning of love. 

“A man wakes in the middle of the night to discover that the world has stopped,” explains Ian, who has written for Coronation Street, Cold Feet and Shameless. “Through the crack in his bedroom curtains, he can see no signs of life at all, other than a light in the house opposite where a woman in an over-sized Bowie T-shirt stands, looking back at him.”

“A beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one,” says Julie Hesmondhalgh, introducing The Greatest Play In The History Of The World…

Recalling the play’s roots, Julie says: “I had a notion, a romantic notion, that my husband, the writer Ian Kershaw, should write a one-woman show for me and we could tour it together into our dotage, like travelling troubadours (or something).

“A couple of Christmases ago, Ian kept disappearing to the cellar for an hour at a time, wrapping presents maybe, I thought. And then he presented me with this lovely thing. 

“A beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one – literally! – about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark on the world – and maybe beyond – that shows us, the human race, in all its glorious messiness, confusion and joy.

“It was the best present I ever got. In these dark and confusing times, it offers a bit of love and light as we enter 2021 with fresh hope.”

Tickets for Hull Truck Theatre are on sale at hulltruck.co.uk; Scarborough, sjt.uk.com.

York Theatre Royal is all out of love as season is postponed by Lockdown 3

“A beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one – literally! – about learning in time what matters in the end,” says Julie Hesmondhalgh, introducing her one-woman show The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, part of The Love Season, now postponed at York Theatre Royal

YORK Theatre Royal’s St Valentine’s Day reopening has been given the kiss-off by the Lockdown 3 strictures.

As the killjoy Covid curse strikes again, The Love Season is being postponed, but socially distanced love will out in the end.

Tickets were due to go on sale tomorrow (8/1/2021), but the launch has been put on hold while theatre programmers rethink plans for a season to be performed to a Covid-secure reduced capacity.

Explaining the inevitable decision, chief executive Tom Bird says: “We are committed to spreading the love and sharing the joy of live theatre with The Love Season as soon as we are able to do so safely. We’ll be announcing our revised plans and reopening date as soon as possible.

“The Love Season is designed to remind us that human connection – love, sympathy, kindness, mutual understanding, warmth, equality – is what makes us the wonderful human beings we are. In 2021 we want to celebrate humanity, our own community and a sense of togetherness.  

“We want to do that with words, music, dancing, film and even food! It’s going to be fun and we can’t wait.”

Aside from two previews of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime on a pop-up stage on December 2 and 3, the Theatre Royal auditorium has remained dark since the March shutdown.

Once the green light is given, The Love Season will be played to a main-house capacity reduced from 750 to a socially distanced 345.

When first announced, the season was to have opened with a York In Love “special event” on February 14, to be followed by plays from around the world embracing love in its many forms, running until April 21.

First up, booked in for February 16 to 20, was the debut tour of The Greatest Play In The History Of The World, a one-woman show for Coronation Street and Broadchurch actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, premiered at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, in 2018, when she won the The Stage Edinburgh Award for her performance.

“We are committed to spreading the love and sharing the joy of live theatre with The Love Season,” says York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird as he looks forward to rearranging the postponed programme

The putative 2021 itinerary took in further Yorkshire shows at Hull Truck Theatre, from January 29 to February 6, and the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from March 9 to 13.

Recalling the play’s roots, Hesmondhalgh said: “I had a notion, a romantic notion, that my husband, the writer Ian Kershaw, should write a one-woman show for me and we could tour it together into our dotage, like travelling troubadours (or something).

“A couple of Christmases ago, Ian kept disappearing to the cellar for an hour at a time, wrapping presents maybe, I thought. And then he presented me with this lovely thing. 

“A beautiful play, a love story, but a universal one – literally! – about learning in time what matters in the end, about leaving a mark on the world – and maybe beyond – that shows us, the human race, in all its glorious messiness, confusion and joy.

“It was the best present I ever got. In these dark and confusing times, it offers a bit of love and light as we end this difficult year and enter 2021 with fresh hope.”

The Love Season programme also includes the premiere of Tonderai Munyevu’s Mugabe, My Dad And Me, one of the productions postponed when the Theatre Royal had to close.

Theatre Royal associate director John R Wilkinson directs writer-performer Munyevu in this co-production with English Touring Theatre: a one-man show that charts the rise and fall of Robert Mugabe, the controversial Zimbabwean revolutionary and president, through the personal story of Tonderai’s family and his relationship with his father.

Watch this space for updates on the revised Love Season.

Did you know?

YORK Theatre Royal has been granted the use of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre’s See It Safely mark. This certification affirms the theatre is complying with the latest Government and industry Covid-19 guidelines to ensure the safety of staff and audiences.

York Theatre Royal’s artwork for The Love Season