The Snow Queen’s deep freeze stretches to the end of January for SJT film streaming

Polly Lister as the “silly Sorceress” in Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen, the SJT production available for streaming throughout January. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

LOCKDOWN 3 is enforcing a Stay Home policy that consigns theatres to hibernation through the winter chill and maybe beyond.

Until whenever, the arts must be a remote prospect for entertainment, and where better to start than the film version of the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s five-star Christmas show, The Snow Queen.

A sell-out success in the Covid-secure, socially distanced Round auditorium last month, Nick Lane’s one-woman show for Polly Lister lost only its last day (December 31) to Scarborough’s move to Tier 3 status.

If you missed the live performances or want to re-live Lane’s magical, mischievous, moving show, The Snow Queen is available to rent until midnight on January 31. Tickets cost £12 at sjt.uk.com/SJTathome and allow online access for a week.

Lane, audacious inventor of winter wonderlands at the SJT since 2016, had been writing a five-hander version in the manner of past hits Pinocchio, A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol and Alice In Wonderland.

“Nick, could you change it to a one-hander,” asked SJT artistic director Paul Robinson, his regular partner in “sublime not-pantomime” shows for the child in all of us. Yes, he said.

Paul Robinson: Stephen Joseph Theatre artistic director, who directed Polly Lister in Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

“Polly, could you do it as a solo show,” Robinson asked Polly Lister, so memorably “hyper, needy, overbearing, but funny and vulnerable” as Mari Hoff in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice and “sporty and no-nonsense” as lesbian Di in Di And Viv And Rose in the SJT’s 2017 summer season.

“Yes,” said Polly, who now would be playing multitudinous characters – a Goth raven poet and a grumpy Brummie reindeer among them – rather than merely the icy blast of the Snow Queen.

On board once more too were SJT artistic associate Simon Slater, Scarborough-born composer, lyricist and sound designer; video and lighting wizard Paul Steer; movement and puppetry director Gemma Fairlie and Helen Coyston, the designer for A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol, who decided everything should go with a swing in The Snow Queen.

Nick recalls the Covid-enforced change of tack from a cast of five to a solo show. “I got the call from Paul, when I’d done two drafts of the five-hander, full bells and whistles,” he says.

“He’d already cut it to a cast of four. ‘No problem at all’, I said, but then he said, ‘I’ve had a re-think, we’re going to make it a one-woman show’.

“And while he was explaining his reasoning, having first thought he was joking, I thought, ‘I’ve done two or three one-man shows before; this can work’. But having now done a two-hander Snow Queen at Hull Truck and started on the five-hander for the SJT and now written this solo show version, I don’t want to do another Snow Queen for ten years!”

“You know the story of The Snow Queen. It’s bonkers,” says playwright Nick Lane

Nick revelled in his new task. “You know the story of The Snow Queen: it’s bonkers!” he says. “In order to make it a one-woman show, give it a strong narrative and make it locally relevant, I followed a plot that wasn’t in the play originally, as you don’t just adapt a five-hander into a one-hander, as that would be really lazy.

“It’s ended up being my furthest removed play from the source material. That’s not to say it doesn’t follow Hans Christian Andersen’s story beats, but one of the things about The Snow Queen story is that she’s not in it apart from the beginning and the end, and there’s no explanation about why she did what she did and why she isn’t in the story more, so I’ve found a way to do that.

“At Hull Truck, the two-hander show was all about following the narrative beat and being silly, whereas this version does follow the narrative path but it does meander too.”

A child’s imagination was the key to Nick’s structure. “What a child enjoys is storytelling, which is the first avenue that opens up in a child, but it has to be more imaginative to fill the stage when it’s only one performer,” he says. “It has to be high energy and it must keep pushing the narrative to make the show work.”

Nick recalled meeting up with Polly Lister in 2017 after a Theatre Mill performance of his play Frankenstein Revelations at the York Medical Society premises in Stonegate. “She was with Richard Keightley, who was playing Victor Frankenstein, and we all went to the pub down the street, when she told me she was working on a one-woman play, more serious than mine, about having been a wife.”

Polly says: “Yes, I have form with solo shows. I wrote that one in 2017 for The Dukes theatre in Lancaster. It was called I Was A Wife and was autobiographical – I was a wife but then got ‘sacked’ from that role. By the time I wrote it, I was getting divorced: I got told the locks had been changed.

Viktoria Kay and Zach Lee in Nick Lane’s Frankenstein Revelations, presented at York Medical Society by Theatre Mill in February and March 2017. Picture: Tom Jackson

“It was set in a dressing room and it interrogated my idea of roles, being cast in different roles, with the different characters I’d played taking on the roles in the play.”

Polly, from Didsbury, Manchester, was familiar with Nick’s work. “I’ve been a fan from seeing two of his Christmas shows at Scarborough and that three-hander version of Frankenstein with all his lightness of touch, but a darkness too,” she says.

“So, I’ve wanted to work with him for ages and I was thrilled to be given the chance with The Snow Queen. I love every word of his script!”

A script that takes in not only the Snow Queen and Kai and Gerda from the Hans Christian Andersen story, but the aforementioned Brummie reindeer, the poetic raven and the Snow Queen’s sister, a “silly Sorceress” with Steampunk glasses, in a transformative journey to “the Other Scarborough” that can end only in glory or grief.

“I was allowed to be involved in the show’s creation, workshopping the play with Nick, looking to bring the characters alive, seeing which ones landed and which ones would need to grow,” says Polly.

“Nick never goes for the obvious, and I love the way he creates moods. You will feel sympathy for a character, but he doesn’t spoon-feed you, so nothing is overdone and there’s real pathos.”

In the bleak midwinter: Polly Lister as the Snow Queen in the SJT’s The Snow Queen. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Once Paul Robinson had made his “brave, cavalier but sensible” decision to go with a solo show, Polly knew she would relish performing in The Round. “I’m familiar with that stage design from the New Vic and the Theatre by the Lake at Keswick, and it’s my favourite way to perform,” she says.

“It feels much more intimate; you are all going on the journey together, and as a performer every angle is on show. You have to live it, breathe it and embody it.

“The ethos goes that once you’ve performed in the round, you’ll never want to perform again in an end-on theatre. The ‘Round’ sets you free.”

One revelation came as a surprise. “Every bit of why I love what I do is because I love being part of a team, so I really don’t like being the centre of attention this much!” says Polly, whose stage career runs to 24 years.

“Having it all rest on me, I’ve not enjoyed previously. On your own on stage, it’s harder work, whereas I love that thrill of uncertainty of sharing a stage, where I know I’m one of those people who knows I can help someone fix it when something goes wrong, bridging the broken dam.

“I feel much freer when I can be the saviour for someone else, but, for The Snow Queen, I just have to save myself.”

You would never sense any such loneliness of the socially distanced actor in Polly’s performance, maybe because she moves so fast between so many characters.

Explosive impact: Polly Lister’s Brummie reindeer in The Snow Queen. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Polly had a couple of major roles lined up for 2020, in Theresa Hawkins’s adaptation of Angela Carter’s The Company Of Wolves at the New Vic Theatre and Richard Bean’s One Man, Two Guvnors at the Bolton Octagon. “Hopefully, they’ve just been postponed,” she says.

“Once we got over the ‘fear’, I went into a bubble with my parents and started painting, doing a lot of shelves and making wine racks in my flat in Didsbury. I did some little videos of what I’d been doing, and it was really nice to do some work on my flat, with it becoming a nest for the first time.”

2020 still elicited artistic output from Polly, such as an audiobook of The Snow Queen for Hello Out There Productions and playing Beatrice in a Zoom production of Much Ado About Nothing.

“We are the kings and queens of creation, and it’s just in our nature to be creative, whatever the circumstances” says Polly.

Those pandemic circumstances led to the SJT’s one-woman version of The Snow Queen, and you have until January 31 to enjoy actor Lister, director Robinson and writer Lane’s outstanding creativity in the home quiet of Lockdown 3.

Lister act: Polly Lister’s “silly Sorceress”, armed with her Flying Monkey Powder…and the magic dust of Nick Lane’s script for The Snow Queen. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen is in full swing as Polly Lister hits the multi-tasking heights

Ice on fire: Polly Lister’s extraordinary one-woman tour de force peaks with her Snow Queen in Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Pictures: Tony Bartholomew

REVIEW: The Snow Queen, The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, receiving anything but frosty receptions until December 31. Box office: sjt.uk.com *****

HELL would have had to freeze over before the ever-resilient Stephen Joseph Theatre gave up on presenting a Christmas show in Covid-quashed 2020.

Nick Lane, audacious inventor of winter wonderlands at the SJT since 2016, had been writing a five-hander version in the manner of past hits Pinocchio, A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol and Alice In Wonderland.

“Nick, could you change it to a one-hander,” asked SJT artistic director Paul Robinson, his regular partner in “sublime not-pantomime” shows for the child in all of us.

“Polly, could you do it as a solo show,” Robinson asked Polly Lister, so memorably “hyper, needy, overbearing, but funny and vulnerable” as Mari Hoff in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice and “sporty and no-nonsense” as lesbian Di in Di And Viv And Rose in the SJT’s 2017 summer season.

Yes, said Polly, who now would be playing multitudinous characters – a Goth raven  poet and a grumpy Brummie deer among them – rather than merely the icy blast of the Snow Queen.

On board once more too are SJT artistic associate Simon Slater, Scarborough-born composer, lyricist and sound designer; video and lighting wizard Paul Steer; movement and puppetry director Gemma Fairlie and Helen Coyston, the designer for A (Scarborough) Christmas Carol, who decides everything should go with a swing in The Snow Queen.

Oh, and with a garden shed, bin, fencing, log, boxes, bench, and wonky wooden wheelbarrow; a video screen; a suspended branch and more besides in a circular design that retains the feel of the Round, albeit with the socially distanced, Covid-secure audience in three banks of seating, rather than the usual four.

For a familiar yet re-booted Hans Christian Andersen story that will “end in grief or glory”, our narrator – in striped leggings, gown and Steampunk glasses, coupled with a genial, garden-enthusiast, bonkers boffin manner – is the “silly Sorceress”, whose “problem sister” happens to be the titular ice block to Christmas joy.

Seamlessly, the ever-fantastical Lane introduces best friends Gerda and Kai, initially in puppet form on the swing, but of course polymath Polly adds them to her ever-expanding list of roles, adjusting body shape and expression, as well as voice, at every turn.

Lister act: Another role for Polly, this as the somewhat nutty narrator with the Flying Monkey Powder. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Best friends Gerda and Kai do what children do, sharing jokes, games and stories, especially tales of the mysterious Lady in the Sky with her faraway Palace Of Ice, but is she fantasy or reality? When Kai disappears from his Gran’s house in Scarborough, his eye and heart pierced by an icicle, Gerda knows the Snow Queen is no fake-news fable as she vows to rescue him.

A journey to a “world of weirdness and wonderment, known as the Other Scarborough” ensues as Lane lets his imagination off the leash again. We expect poo, wind and booby references from Nick, long attuned to what makes “children of Scarborough” laugh, and yes, he cannot resist once more, and nor should he.

This time, he conjures a raven who writes poo-ems in a typical cheeky Lane invention, and daftness takes the form of a huge travelling trunk that springs open to reveal a French DJ called Jean Claude, who happens to be a puppet hedgehog with prickly ego and attitude, downing tools until a certain popular foodstuff is delivered from the Golden Arches.

Then add the doleful reindeer, a bunch of talking flowers and unwise words from wisewomen, all topped off by Lister’s terrific haughty-and-ice Snow Queen and a glorious video send-up of influencer bloggers with hashtags by the dozen.

Storyteller, puppeteer, singer, woman of so many voices, humorous but scary, daft but caring, playful yet serious, what a performance director Robinson elicits from Lister, who makes a one-woman show the perfect way to experience The Snow Queen in these restricted times.

Slater’s witty, potent and dramatic songs, his way with both a tune and a lyric, are a delight too in a show sure to banish the Christmas 2020 blues with a sense of the ridiculous and the need to escape, to laugh, to be transported to another world: the other Scarborough for Scarborough and beyond to enjoy while we must endure the Covid Grinch.

SJT rules on Covid guidance for attendance:

1.You can’t visit with anyone who you don’t live with, or who isn’t part of your support bubble.
2. SJT, Scarborough, is in a Tier 2 area, so if you live in a Tier 3 area, don’t come.

3. Face coverings are mandatory throughout the building (unless exempt – this includes under 11s), except when eating or drinking. 

Remaining performances:

December 21 to 23, 1pm, 7pm; December 24, 1pm; December 24, 1pm; December 26, 6pm; December 27, 1pm; December 29, December 30, 1pm, 7pm; December 31, 1pm.

Age guidance: Five and upwards

Running time: One hour 45 minutes, including interval

Cast: Polly Lister or her alternate, Jacoba Williams, whose remaining performances will be on December 26, 6pm, and Decembger 27, 1pm.

TICKETS UPDATE 22/12/2020, 8am

All performances were sold out but now some returns have become available. Go to sjt.uk.com/booking?id=1015 for more details.

NEWSFLASH 24/12/2020

A BRAND new film of the SJT’s Christmas show, The Snow Queen, is available to rent from now until midnight on January 31. Tickets cost £12 and allow online access for a week at sjt.uk.com/SJTathome.

Post-Lockdown 2, lights on for More Things To Do in and around York and at home. List No 20, courtesy of The Press, York

Travelling players: York Theatre Royal pantomime stars Robin Simpson’s dame, Faye Williams’ hero, Reuben Johnson’s villain, Anna Soden’s fairy and Josh Benson’s comic. Picture: Ant Robling

EXIT LOCKDOWN 2, enter Tier 2 for York and North Yorkshire, Tier 3 for next-door neighbours The Humber and West Yorkshire.

That means plenty of openings and re-openings for Charles Hutchinson to highlight, but no roads leading to Leeds, Hull or…Pocklington.

The pantomime season in York

NO Dame Berwick Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the still-closed Grand Opera House, alas, but after two nights at the Theatre Royal this week, York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be making its way around York’s wards until December 23.

Dame for a laugh: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Trott in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Audience members will vote for whether they want to see Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington or Snow White. All performances have sold out but more may yet be added.

Tickets are still available for York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, directed by Nik Briggs and choreographed by West End hotshot Gary Lloyd at Theatre @41 Monkgate from December 11 to January 3. Fans of York drag diva Velma Celli should look out for creator Ian Stroughair’s transformation into baddie Flesh Creep.

The Marian Consort: Live at the NCEM for the York Early Music Christmas Festival and online for York Christmas At Home

Festival at the double for 2020: York Early Christmas Music Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4 to 12 and York Christmas At Home, December 11 to 13

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the NCEM, the other online. Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures and cabaret-style seating at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, complemented by a new digital weekend festival.

York Christmas At Home will be streamed from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.

Performing live will be Palisander, The Marian Consort, Illyria Consort, Joglaresa, The York Waits and Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston, Frederick Long and Peter Seymour. Add The Chiaroscuro Quartet, Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth, Spiritato!, Steven Devine and Stile Antico to that list for the At Home programme.

On your mask, get set, go: Susan Bower’s Christmas Party 2020, newly on show at Kentmere House Gallery, York

Post-Lockdown 2 gallery re-opening: Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, from this evening (3/12/2020)

NEW work by Susan Bower, John Thornton and Rosie Dean has arrived at Kentmere House Gallery in good time for Christmas. Ann Petherick will re-open her home art-space tomorrow evening from 6pm to 9pm, followed by weekend opening each Saturday and Sunday until December 20 from 11am to 5pm.

Oils, watercolours, pastels and original prints by 70 British artists are on display, along with books, greetings cards and Christmas cards exclusive to the gallery.

Visits arranged by appointment will be resuming too, on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825 or by emailing ann@kentmerehouse.co.uk.

Climate change: Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer

Christmas snow: Badapple Theatre Company, in The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 5, 2.30pm, 7.30pm; December 6, 1pm, 6pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre revive their 2019 Christmas hit, The Snow Dancer, for two days only at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre, newly equipped with chair wraps to denote the socially distanced seating plan.

Last year’s cast of Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor will re-assemble to perform writer-director Kate Bramley’s cautionary global-warming tale, set in the Great Wood, where something is awry.

Welcome back: Stu Freestone wants a word with you at Say Owt’s December 11 return to live performance

Owt and about again: Say Owt word weavers at The Crescent, York, December 11, 7pm

SAY Owt, York’s loveable gang of performance poets, are back in live action for the first time since the summer for a night of socially distanced spoken word at The Crescent, re-opening that night with Covid-secure measures and a seated capacity of 60.

Stepping up to the mic will be Say Owt’s A-team of Henry Raby, Hannah Davies, Stu Freestone and Dave Jarman, joined by special guest poets Katie Greenbrown and Ruth Awolola.

“The night will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this December,” says artistic director Raby. “Expect some brand-new pieces, improv poetry and a few silly surprises hiding up our spoken-word sleeves.”

A guided quest with Potions Professor, magical spells and afternoon tea add up to A Very Magical Christmas on the streets of York

New children’s attraction of the week in York: A Very Magical Christmas, York city centre, until January 5

FROM the creators of A Very Magical Adventure comes A Very Magical Christmas: a live interactive theatrical quest with magical spell-casting and a fun, festive afternoon tea with special effects to knock your socks off. Even a visit from old St Nicholas is promised.

The quest will begin at St Michael le Belfrey, where you will meet your guide, the Potions Professor from Old Jacob’s School of Magic, who will teach you how to cast spells and find clues that will lead you to the secret location of the wizard school. For more details, go to averymagicaladventure.co.uk.

A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail: Solve clues at Beningbrough Hall on various dates in December

Children’s attraction of the week outside York: A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail, Beninbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, December 5 and eight other open days, 10am to 3pm

GRAB a £2 goody bag per child while stocks last, complete with an activity sheet, pencil, certificate, badge and play pack, to embark on a family-friendly Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Trail in the Beningbrough Hall gardens and grounds.

The task is to solve the clues to help Peter and his friends prepare for the winter ahead, while spotting nature in all its seasonal glory. Expect to find Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Jeremy Fisher, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail before having your photograph taken beside the Peter Rabbit board.

Do check availability of the goody bags before setting off at nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall-gallery-and-gardens

Ghost story for Christmas: Alan Ayckbourn has voiced all the roles for the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s audio version of his 1994 play Haunting Julia. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

And what about?

TUNE into Alan Ayckbourn’s ghost story for a winter chill, his 1994 play Haunting Julia, in an audio version for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, with all three roles voiced by Ayckbourn, at  sjt.uk.com/event/1078/haunting_julia until January 5.

Don’t miss the SJT’s Christmas show, Nick Lane’s one-woman version of The Snow Queen, starring Polly Lister at some shows, Jacoba Williams at others, from December 7 to 31.

York Barbican has been busy booking shows for 2021: artist and TV presenter Grayson Perry’s existentialist distraction from the very meaningless of life, A Show For Normal People, September 6;  London indie-pop trio Scouting For Girls, October 10; astronaut Tim Peake’s Journey Into The Unknown, November 2, and comedian Sarah Millican’s Bobby Dazzler, November 12 and 13.

“You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” promises Grayson Perry

Stephen Joseph Theatre strikes gold with Arts and Culture win in White Rose Awards

Gold winners: The Stephen Joseph Theatre has taken home the Arts and Culture prize in the White Rose Awards. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

THE Stephen Joseph Theatre has won gold in Welcome To Yorkshire’s White Rose Awards.

The Scarborough theatre topped the Arts and Culture category, seeing off stiff competition from a shortlist of silver recipients Harewood House; bronze-placed Selby District Council (Selby 950); Hull’s Freedom Festival Arts Trust; Huddersfield Literature Festival; Hull Libraries (The Big Malarkey Festival), Bradford intercultural arts hub Kala Sangam and Yorkshire Sculpture International.

The judges said: “From their innovative approach to accessibility and inclusivity, the rave reviews and so much more, this business truly impressed the judges.

“The great online and social media presence, international profile and a real commitment to engaging the local community is what, for us, makes the Stephen Joseph Theatre such a worthy winner.'”

Caroline Routh, the SJT’s executive director Caroline Routh, says: “This has been a tough year for just about everyone, and it’s so nice to have something to celebrate for once.

“We were thrilled to win the White Rose Arts and Culture Award, and particularly to be shortlisted in such fantastic company. We’re now looking forward to bringing our Christmas show, The Snow Queen, to Scarborough, live on stage throughout December, as well as an online treat: an audio recording of Alan Ayckbourn’s Haunting Julia, performed by the writer himself.”

Held online on Monday evening, the annual White Rose Awards – Britain’s largest tourism awards ceremony – showcase the best and brightest Yorkshire has to offer.

To find out what’s on at the SJT, visitwww.sjt.uk.com.

Tier 2 status confirms the Stephen Joseph Theatre can reopen for The Snow Queen

The SJT to close for Lockdown 2 but The Snow Queen rehearsals WILL go ahead

Rehearsals can go ahead in Lockdown 2 for The Snow Queen at the Stephen Joseph Theatre

SCARBOROUGH’S Stephen Joseph Theatre will close its doors to the public again from Thursday to December 2, re-opening on December 3, pending further Government Covid-19 pronouncements.

In the light of last night’s confirmation from Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden that rehearsals can continue behind closed doors, the SJT will be going ahead with its vibrant Christmas production of Nick Lane’s The Snow Queen throughout December.

The SJT had re-opened its McCarthy cinema in late-August and has been presenting live theatre from the start of October: one of the first theatres in the country to do so.

November’s live shows – My Favourite Summer and Orpheus & Eurydice, plus play readings of Canton, Worldly and With Bells On! – will move to next spring. New dates will be announced as soon as possible.

As much of the November cinema programme as possible will be switched to December. Again, new dates will be posted ASAP.

Haunting Julia, an audio version of Alan Ayckbourn’s 1994 play directed and performed by Sir Alan himself, is unaffected. Theatre-goers who prefer to stay at home can book to listen between December 1 and January 5 via the theatre’s website, sjt.uk.com. Raven’s sold-out Christmas concert on December 15 will go ahead as planned too.

The SJT’s box-office team is working hard to contact everyone with bookings affected by the changes. Ticket-bookers can choose whether they would like a refund, a credit to their account, or to donate the cost of their ticket to help secure the theatre’s future.

Those with bookings are asked not to contact the box office if possible. The team is making its way through November’s bookings in date order as fast as it can.

The SJT’s executive director, Caroline Routh, says: “Of course, it’s a huge disappointment to us all to have to close again. Our audiences have been so appreciative that we reopened our cinema in August and recommenced live theatre in October, and really generous in their support in so many ways.

“Most of our screenings and shows, includingJohn Godber’s Sunny Side Up! just last week, have sold out, although our capacities have been reduced because of social distancing.

“But the safety of our audience, our in-house team and our visiting companies is, of course, paramount. When we do re-open, we‘ll still be following the same stringent safety procedures that have made our audiences feel so safe recently.

“And we’re so thrilled that we’re still able to bring The Snow Queen to Scarborough for Christmas. It promises to be a really lively and memorable show, starring the fabulous Polly Lister and, on certain performances, her talented ‘alternate’ Jacoba Williams. We’re confident it’ll be a Christmas must-see for 2020!”

Please note, if you do need to contact the box office for any reason, you can do so on 01723 370541, between 10am and noon, Mondays to Fridays, until 2 December (phone queries only; the building will not be open for in-person visits.

Tickets for all December events can still be booked online through the lockdown period at sjt.uk.com.

Murder and masks as Simon Slater returns home for thriller Bloodshot at the SJT

Down on his luck: Simon Slater as Derek Eveleigh in Douglas Post’s thriller Bloodshot. Picture: Mark Brenner

SIMON Slater, Scarborough-born actor, musical director and composer, is revisiting familiar ground on his return to his hometown.

From Wednesday to Saturday at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, he will perform Douglas Post’s Bloodshot, a one-man, four-role thriller he premiered nine years ago.

“This autumn, I’ve been doing it four weeks at the Watermill, Newbury, playing to a socially distanced 80-capacity audience, then I finish with five performances in The Round at the SJT,” says Simon.

“Doing a one-man show, you’re so alone. One stage manager and a lighting guy at each venue, as technically, it’s quite a big show with slides, music and videos.”

Alone, yes, but Simon fills the stage with four contrasting characters in Post’s gripping yarn of vaudeville, murder, magic and jazz, wherein the central character is Derek Eveleigh, a down-on-his-luck, yet skilled photographer in 1957 London.

A mysterious envelope arrives from a stranger asking Eveleigh to take secret pictures of an elegant young woman as she walks in Holland Park. The reward is handsome, but the irresistible assignment takes a sudden, shocking turn.

“I think to myself, ‘why am I doing this? No-one to talk to for two hours except me!” says Simon, who has performed Bloodshot 300 times

Entangled and compelled to understand, Derek is led into a seedy Soho nightlife populated by dubious characters: an Irish comedian, a New York saxophone player and a Russian magician.

“An Irishman, an American and a Russian…it sounds like the start of a joke, doesn’t it?!” says Simon, who calls on his diverse skills to play them all under Patrick Sandford’s direction.

What have they to do with the bloody event Eveleigh has witnessed and how are these men connected to the woman in Holland Park? In attempting to learn the truth, Eveleigh will find his whole life being turned upside down.

Simon has been involved with the globe-trotting Bloodshot from the very start. “Douglas Post is an American writer, who wrote a thriller called Earth And Sky that I did at the Nuffield Theatre, and we became mates. I was holidaying in Chicago, where my brother has a house, and we met up in a late-night bar, where I said, ‘Go on, Douglas, write me a play.”

Post duly did so, incorporating Simon’s mastery of magic, composition and ear for accents. “I’ve always done magic since I was a kid, when there was a magic shop on the Scarborough front called Dinsdale’s [Famous Joke & Trick Shop],” he says.

“He knew I was a musician too, so I get to show off all my meagre talents! There I am, on stage, talking to myself in a schizophrenic way in various accents. I offend everybody equally by stereotyping three nations with my accents…but offending in a nice way!”

On a knife edge: Simon Slater in the one-man thriller Bloodshot

As for the music, “I sent Douglas a CD of George Formby songs for inspiration for the Irish comedian’s ukulele song. God knows what a Chicago writer would have made of that!” recalls Simon, who has been teaching saxophone on Zoom during lockdown and beyond, by the way.

He has performed Bloodshot around 300 times, in London, Canada, Vienna and Chicago. “But never Scarborough…until now,” he says. “I last did it in Chicago four years, and the dialogue did come back quickly when I started rehearsing for the Watermill run.

“But if you think too hard, you have no idea where you are and sometimes you can’t remember a  particular word. Like the other night, when I couldn’t remember ‘boat’. My late father [celebrated one-legged Prospect Of Whitby yachtsman Arthur Slater] would be turning in his grave!

“I talk side to side, back and forth, like schizophrenia, but if you get the timing wrong, it’s most extraordinary. I remember when I forgot my line as Derek and the Russian magician prompted me and felt very smug at doing that. It’s a complete internal conversation that’s going on.”

Simon describes the experience of performing Bloodshot as “absolutely knackering”. “I think to myself, ‘why am I doing this? No-one to talk to for two hours except me!” he says.

“It’s the only one-man thriller I’ve ever heard of, and whether my body can hold up, we’ll see, as I damaged my shoulder playing squash with my son. My rotator cuff. It’s b****y painful. My squash days are over, which is a relief…especially for my son!”

Simon Slater and Jemma Redgrave: Rehearsed reading of Simon Woods’ Hansard at the SJT tonight (October 19)

Simon, who played Sam Carmichael in Mamma Mia! in the West End for five years and appeared regularly as Inspector Kite in The Bill, will be doing one other performance while back in Scarborough: a rehearsed reading of Simon Woods’ brutally funny political satire Hansard tonight (October 19).

SJT artistic associate Simon will be teaming up with theatrical dynasty luminary Jemma Redgrave for the sold-out 7.30pm show, directed by SJT artistic director Paul Robinson, in The Round.

Premiered at the National Theatre, London, in August 2019, Hansard’s witty and devastating play takes place on a summer’s morning in 1988, when Tory politician Robin Hesketh has returned home to the idyllic Cotswold house he shares with his wife of 30 years, Diana, but all is not as blissful as it first seems.

Diana has a stinking hangover, a fox is destroying the garden, and secrets are being dug up all over the place. As the day draws on, what starts as gentle ribbing and the familiar rhythms of marital sparring quickly turns to blood-sport.

“It’s set at the time of Section 28 [banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools, enacted by Margaret Thatcher’s Government on May 24 1988] and as a play it’s a bit like Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? with a political edge to it,” says Simon.

“It was Paul who found the play – which I haven’t seen – and we’ve been rehearsing it on Zoom with my friend Jemma to perform as a reading with chairs and lecterns. Paul is yet to decide whether to stage the play next year, so let’s see what happens.”

The eyes have it; the ice has it: Polly Lister in the SJT’s poster for The Snow Queen, featuring music by artistic associate Simon Slater

Looking forward to spending this week at the SJT, Simon says: “It’s going to be quite busy! It’s almost like a career.”

Ever in demand as a musical director and composer, whether as MD for Amadeus at the National Theatre or writing more than 300 original scores for theatre, film, TV, radio and theatre, Simon has one further engagement at the SJT in the winter ahead.

Having provided the score for Nick Lane’s past four Christmas shows in the Round, he will do so again for The Snow Queen, now revised by Lane as a solo show for Polly Lister from December 4 to 30.

“The songs will all be recorded on click track and I can be in a bubble for rehearsals,” says Simon. “I’m also writing the music for Winchester Theatre Royal’s panto for four socially distanced actors, Four Dames, written by James Barry with lots of routines about dames, obviously!”

In Newbury, Simon has been adapting to performing in Covid times, the audiences masked up and distanced from each other. “You know that theatre expression, ‘you can’t hear a smile’. Well, now you can’t see one either,” he says.

“Audiences have been quite self-conscious in this new way of watching live theatre: it’s like playing to 65 Lone Rangers.”

Nevertheless, let’s celebrate that the Stephen Joseph Theatre is presenting theatre once more…and that tickets are selling well for Simon’s five performances as he prepares to play to a home crowd.

Simon Slater in Douglas Post’s Bloodshot, in The Round, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

The Snow Queen will run from December 4 to 30. Box office: sjt.uk.com/whatson or call 01723 370541 (Tuesdays to Saturdays, 11am to 4pm, for both phone calls and in-person bookings).

Good Godber! Stephen Joseph Theatre to re-start indoor live shows next month. Hull Truck Theatre to reopen too in November

Family drama: Playwright John Godber with wife Jane Thornton and daughters Martha and Elizabeth

LIVE indoor theatre will return on the East Coast this autumn at both Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre and Hull Truck Theatre.

Today, the SJT announces an “innovative autumn and winter season for 2020 that has been carefully crafted to combine live theatre for socially distanced audiences with digital work for those that prefer to stay at home”.

In the SJT’s headline news, the waiting for Godber’s new play is over. The world premiere of the ground-breaking former Hull Truck artistic director’s Sunny Side Up! will be a family affair, starring John Godber, his wife Jane Thornton and their daughter Martha Godber from October 28 to 31 in The Round.

Written and directed by Godber, the humorous and moving Sunny Side Up! depicts a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it. “Join proprietors Barney, Cath and Tina as they share their stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy in this seaside rollercoaster that digs into what our ‘staycations’ are all about,” invites John.

Further news bongs go to a new audio recording by former SJT artistic director Sir Alan Ayckbourn and a one-woman Christmas show, likely to be one of the few in the region, specially rewritten to adapt to prevailing Covid-19 pandemic circumstances.

After the lockdown success of his debut audio play, Anno Domino, premiered by writer-director Ayckbourn and his wife, actor Heather Stoney, Ayckbourn goes solo for Haunting Julia, his ghostly 1994 play, wherein he will play all three parts. As before, his master’s voice can be heard only via the SJT website, sjt.uk.com, with the play being available online “throughout December”, although the exact dates are yet to be rubber-stamped.

Going solo: Sir Alan Ayckbourn will re-visit his 1994 ghostly play Haunting Julia in a solo audio recording in December

The SJT Christmas show, from December 4 to 30, reassembles the crack team behind the hit productions of the past four winters: director Paul Robinson, writer Nick Lane and musical director Simon Slater, the latter two both serving up shows earlier in the season too.

Adapted by Lane from the Hans Christian Andersen story, the solo version of The Snow Queen will be performed by Polly Lister, who played Mari in Jim Cartwright’s The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice and Di in Amelia Bullmore’s Di And Viv And Rose when part of the SJT’s 2017 summer repertory company.

Scarborough-born Slater, an SJT associate artist, will appear in Douglas Post’s one-man thriller Bloodshot from October 21 to 24 in The Round, where all productions will be mounted, save for the online performances.

Slater will play Derek Eveleigh, a photographer with a serious drinking problem, who pursues a mysterious female subject across 1957 London from racially troubled Notting Hill to the raucous entertainments of Soho.

Often comedic Nick Lane’s sardonic, surreal and “intensely autobiographical” first straight play, My Favourite Summer, was premiered at Hull Truck in January and February 2007. This autumn, the original cast and the belting Nineties’ soundtrack will return in the torrid tale of Dave, who spends a month working alongside a nutcase called Melvin in the summer job from hell in 1995. 

Winter chill: Polly Lister in the SJT’s one-woman Christmas show, The Snow Queen, written by Nick Lane

Saving money to take the girl he loves away on holiday, before she disappears out of his life forever, has never been so hard. Still, at least the weather’s nice in a comedy for “everyone who’s ever been in love and lived to tell the tale”.

Lane, whose adaptation of The Sign Of Four was well received by SJT audiences last year, will direct the semi-staged 2020 performance of My Favourite Summer in a run from November 12 to 14.

The autumn/winter season will begin on October 1 with a live performance on Zoom of Love Letters At Home. “In response to our desire for connection in times of physical distance, Uninvited Guests have created an innovative, digital, wholly personal and wonderfully live experience,” the SJT announces.

By collecting song requests and dedications from audience members, Uninvited Guests create a show guaranteed to be unique to each audience. Join them on Zoom to raise a glass to long lost and current loves, to mums and dads, and to absent friends.

Light entertainment: A switched-on Katie Arnstein in her one-woman show Sexy Lamp

“Have you ever been treated like an inanimate object?” asks Katie Arnstein in her solo show Sexy Lamp on October 15. Katie has suffered that slight, she says, although in reality she is a “friendly, lovable and hilarious real-life person”.

Join her as she re-lives, through story and songs, all the times she was not seen as one, however. Billed as “somewhere between the comedy of Victoria Wood, the comfort of going for a drink with your best mate and the high drama of Hamlet”, Arnstein’s show won both Show of the Week and Pleasance Pick at last year’s VAULT Festival in London. “It’s nothing like Hamlet,” she corrects herself.

In Alison Carr’s dark comedy, Dogwalker, on November 6 and 7, Helen finds a dead body in the local dog park, whereupon suddenly everyone is paying attention to her. At least for a little while.

Now she has had a taste of the limelight, Helen will not fade into the shadows without a fight in a play that first dropped through the SJT Open Script Submissions window and is being developed for a potential run at the Edinburgh Fringe under the direction of Chelsey Gillard, the SJT’s Carne Trust associate director.

Carr, by the way, had the disappointment of her sold-out performances of The Last Quiz Night In Earth in March being scrapped under the Coronavirus theatre shutdown.

On the beach: Serena Manteghi, in her guise as teenage single mum Yasmin in Build A Rocket. In November, she returns to the SJT. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

After writer Alexander Flanagan-Wright and musician Phil Grainger’s performances of linking shows Orpheus and Eurydice in the At The Mill season at Stillington Mill and York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio festival, Serena Manteghi will be in the cast for SJT performances from November 19 to 21.

Serena premiered Eurydice to award-winning success in Australia, when joined in the two-hander by actor and designer Casey Jay Andrews. She will be familiar to SJT audiences from playing LV in The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice and Yasmin in the premiere of Christopher York’s Build A Rocket.

From The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre stable, Orpheus and Eurydice are modern re-tellings of ancient Greek mythology, interweaving a world of dive bars, side streets and ancient gods. (Newsflash: 21/10/2020: Flanagan-Wright, Grainger, Manteghi and Andrews will be performing the plays together in a new version at the SJT).

A series of rehearsed play readings will take place in the theatre on October 7, 13 and 20, then each Tuesday from November 3 to 24, including Sarah Gordon’s The Underdog, Katie Redford’s Tapped and Rebecca Jade Hammond’s Canton. 

Further shows will be announced soon, among them an evening of conversation with Hull-born Maureen Lipman and an innovative online show from outspoken Denby Dale comedian Daniel Kitson.

“We see it as part of our ongoing civic role to open as soon as is reasonably practicable and to present irresistible work,” says SJT artistic director Paul Robinson

The re-opened SJT has been showing films in the McCarthy at the former Odeon cinema building since last month and will continue to do so. Now, artistic director and joint chief executive Paul Robinson is looking forward to the return of live theatre.

“We’ve worked hard to create an ambitious season of relatively small-scale work, but one that promises great entertainment and really does have something for everyone, including shows for those who are happy to return to the building, and also for those who aren’t.

“We see it as part of our ongoing civic role to open as soon as is reasonably practicable and to present irresistible work alongside meticulously thought-through health and safety measures.

“Our family show at Christmas, for instance, was originally written for five actors, but that would have made rehearsing impossible under current guidelines. Writer Nick Lane has adapted it into a remarkable one-woman show that we’re confident will be every bit as much fun as the original and will really showcase the multi-talented Polly Lister.” 

The SJT has introduced comprehensive measures for the safety and comfort of its audiences – full details at https://www.sjt.uk.com/were_back  – and has been awarded VisitEngland’s We’re Good to Go industry standard mark, signifying adherence to government and public health guidance.

On a knife edge: Simon Slater in Bloodshot, playing the SJT from October 21 to 24

“Everything will pay proper heed to social distancing, for both the audience and for our staff and performers,” says Robinson. “The seating capacity in The Round will vary from show to show but the socially distanced maximum will be 185.”

All the autumn and winter events will be added to the SJT website shortly; booking will open for Circle members from September 8 and for general sales from September 11. 

To book, visit sjt.uk.com/whatson or call the box office on 01723 370541. The box office is open Thursdays to Saturdays, 11am to 4pm, for both phone calls and in-person bookings.

HULL Truck Theatre will reopen with the Hull Jazz Festival from November 12 and a seating capacity reduced to 20 to 30 per cent, but The Railway Children will not go ahead.

A statement from the Ferensway theatre announces: “The Hull Jazz Festival is a key part of our autumn season and we are really pleased that after eight months of closure, we are able to work with long-term partners J-Night to open the building with their exciting programme. Audience capacity will be smaller as we adhere to social distancing, but the programme and experience will still be the same great quality.”

York playwright Mike Kenny’s The Railway Children will be back on track in December 2021 after being de-railed from its 2020 Hull Truck Theatre Christmas run by the Covid curse

However, the theatre bosses have had to make the “difficult decision” to postpone the 2020 Christmas production of E Nesbit’s The Railway Children, scripted by York playwright Mike Kenny in a re-visit of his award-winning adaptation for York Theatre Royal at the National Railway Museum (2008/2009) and Waterloo Station, London (2010).

“The creation of one of our Christmas shows usually begins in August but without an announced date from the Government on when theatre performances can resume without social distancing, a show of this scale would not be economically viable,” the Hull Truck statement reads.

“The Railway Children will be postponed until Christmas 2021 and all tickets will be automatically transferred into the equivalent date, time and original seat selection. We will be contacting all customers with details of their ticket transfer and, with our reduced team, we ask that customers do not contact the box office at this time.”

The statement continues: “While we may not be able to do something in our auditorium on the scale of The Railway Children, we remain committed to creating magical Christmas experiences for our audiences and are delighted to announce we will be producing an alternative show for 2020.”

The new show will be a promenade production of Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker that will enable audiences to enjoy a festive adventure within small groups and under social-distancing measures as they move through the theatre.

“We are very excited to have a reopening date,” says Hull Truck Theatre artistic director Mark Babych

What lies in store? Every year on Christmas Eve, Prince Charming – soon to be King and deluded Crooner – celebrates the festive season with an annual knees-up:  the Christmas Cracker. This year, a big announcement is imminent and you are all invited.

Further details and on-sale dates for Hull Jazz Festival and Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker will be announced in September, alongside up-to-date information on how Hull Truck is being made a safe place to visit within Government guidelines.

Announcements on the updated January to March 2021 season will be made later in the autumn, once Hull Truck has more information regarding social-distancing guidelines.

“We are dependent on Government advice on social distancing regarding the ability to stage productions and therefore whether they are financially viable,” the statement emphasises.

Artistic director Mark Babych and his joint chief executive officer, Janthi Mills-Ward, say: “We are very excited to have a reopening date to bring alive our wonderful theatre again. We will obviously be operating at a much-reduced capacity – 20 to 30 per cent – while social distancing is in place, which makes re-opening a difficult financial jigsaw of what and how we present work.

Truck on: Hull Truck Theatre’s main auditorium, reopening from November 12

“But with meticulous planning to ensure the theatre is a safe place and innovative ideas for a programme that is possible with social distancing, we look forward to sharing the joy of live theatre again.”

They continue: “Part of this will be doing Christmas differently this year, which presents lots of creative challenges for the Hull Truck team to work on together, as well as opportunities for freelance artists. 

“Our vision is to create a joyful, fun and uplifting production that takes audiences on an exciting journey through the theatre and we are sure this show is going to be just what we all need to get us in the Christmas spirit after a difficult year!”

Please note, Hull Truck “asks for your patience and kindness at this time as the box-office team work to contact all customers who have booked for The Railway Children”.