More Things To Do in Ryedale, York and beyond, both normal and paranormal. Hutch’s List No 4, from Gazette and Herald

Alex Hamilton: Scottish guitarist plays Ryedale Blues Club gig at Milton Rooms, Malton

BLUES guitars, psychological bunny puppetry, mountain films, sci-fi theatre, paranormal investigations and explosive dance promise out-of-this-world cultural experiences, reckons Charles Hutchinson.

Blues gig of the week: Ryedale Blues Club presents Alex Hamilton Band, Milton Rooms, Malton, tomorrow, 8pm

GLASWEGIAN guitarist Alex Hamilton (formerly Lewis Hamilton) has been part of the British blues/rock scene since 2010. Parading a playing style that recalls Robben Ford and Matt Scofield, he released his debut album, Gambling Machine, at 18, winning the Scottish New Music Award for Jazz/Blues album in 2012.

Further albums Empty Roads, Ghost Train, Shipwrecked and On The Radio have followed. Hamilton makes his return to Malton in a trio with his father, Nick Hamilton, on bass and Ian Beestin on drums. Box office: 01653 696240 or themiltonrooms.com.

George Green in Foxglove Theatre’s Rabbit

New play of the week in York: Foxglove Theatre in Rabbit, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow to Saturday, 7.30pm

YORK company Foxglove Theatre identified a need for weirder, more experimental theatre in the city, focusing on “psychological exploration through innovative visual storytelling”. Here comes their debut new work, Rabbit, wherein a brave bunny wakes up lost in a murky forest determined to find her way home to Mumma.

Blending puppetry and visual effects, George Green’s performance explores the psychological damage that develops from even the smallest mishandlings of our childhood selves. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

The poster for 1812 Youth Theatre’s production of Tuesday at Helmsley Arts Centre

When Tuesday is on a Friday and Saturday: 1812 Youth Theatre in Tuesday, Helmsley Arts Centre, Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm, 7.30pm

AN ordinary Tuesday turns really, really weird when the sky over the school playground suddenly rips open in Alison Carr’s funny and playful play Tuesday. Pupils and teachers are sucked up to a parallel universe as a new set of people rain down from above. ‘Us’ and ‘Them’ must come together to work out what is going on and how to return things to how they were.

Carr combines “a little bit of sci-fi and a lot of big themes”: friendship, family, identity, grief, responsibility – and what happens when an unexpected event turns the world upside down. Box office: 01439 771700 or helmsleyarts.co.uk.

Banff Mountain Film Festival: Visiting York Barbican on world tour on Friday

Film event of the week: Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, Red Film Programme, York Barbican, Friday, 7.30pm

EXPERIENCE a night of thrilling adventure – up on the big screen. The Banff Mountain Film Festival features a new collection of short films filled with extreme journeys, untamed characters and captivating cinematography.

Join the world’s top adventure filmmakers and thrill-seekers as they climb, ski, paddle and ride into the wildest corners of the planet. Prize giveaways are promised too. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Back on the Chain Gang: Miles Salter, second left, and his York band play Ampleforth Village Hall for the second time

Ryedale gig of the week: Miles and The Chain Gang, Ampleforth Village Hall, near Helmsley, Saturday, 7.30pm

YORK band Miles and The Chain Gang return to Ampleforth Village Hall by popular demand after a first outing there last summer. Expect rock’n’roll, acoustic songs, new wave, soul and country, plus Rolling Stones, Joni Mitchell and Johnny Cash covers.

Their latest digital single, the country-tinged Raining Cats And Dogs, is sure to feature in the set by Miles Salter, guitar and vocals, Mat Watt, bass, Steve Purton, drums, and Charlie Daykin, keyboards. Tickets: 07549 775971.

Yvette Fielding: Leading the paranormal investigations in the Most Haunted stage show at the Grand Opera House, York

Paranormal show of the week: Most Haunted: The Stage Show, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

YVETTE Fielding, “the first lady of the paranormal”, joins Karl Beattie, producer and director of the Most Haunted television series, in the investigative team to take Sunday’s audience on “the darkest, most terrifying journey of your life”, followed by a question-and-answer session.

In a city bursting at the seams with ghost stories and walks, Fielding and Beattie present Most Haunted’s All-Time Top Ten Scares, complete with unseen video footage from haunted castles, manor houses, hospitals and prisons. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Diversity: Dancing around the Supernova at the Grand Opera House, York, for two nights

Dance show of the week: Diversity in Supernova, Grand Opera House, York, March 7 and 8, 7.45pm; Harrogate Convention Centre, Saturday, 3.30pm; Hull Connexin Live, April 7, 2.30pm

2009 Britain’s Got Talent winners Diversity return to York on their biggest tour yet to stage Supernova, devised by founder Ashley Banjo. More than 120,000 tickets have sold for more than 90 dates in 40 cities and towns through 2023 and 2024, with both Grand Opera House performances down to the last few tickets.

Diversity will be supporting the Trussell Trust, the anti-poverty charity, inviting audience members to bring food donations to place in collection points. Cash donations in buckets are welcome too. Box office: York, atgtickets.com/york; Harrogate, 01423 502116 or harrogatetheatre.co.uk; Hull, connexinlivehull.com.

Suzi Quatro: Using this iconic image from her first photographic session with Gered Mankowitz in 1973 to promote her 60th anniversary tour. York Barbican awaits

Gig announcement of the week: Suzi Quatro, York Barbican, November 15

SUZI Quatro will mark the 60th year of her reign as “the Queen of Rock’n’Roll” by embarking on a five-date autumn tour, taking in York Barbican as the only Yorkshire venue.

Born in Michigan, Quatro flew to England in 1971 to work with songwriting duo Chinn and Chapman, chalking up chart toppers with Can The Can and Devil Gate Drive and further hits with 48 Crash, Daytona Demon, The Wild One, If You Can’t Give Me Love and She’s In Love With You, as well as co-writing Babbies & Bairns with dame Berwick Kaler in his York Theatre Royal panto pomp. Tickets will go on sale from 10am on Friday at https://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/360060579D80156E.

No weird, psychological dramas in York? Foxglove Theatre fill the gap with experimental play Rabbit at Theatre@41

George Green and puppet in Foxglove Theatre’s premiere of Rabbit at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

YORK company Foxglove Theatre have identified a need for weirder, more experimental theatre in the city, focusing on “psychological exploration through innovative visual storytelling”.

Here comes their debut new work, Rabbit, booked into Theatre@41, Monkgate, from Thursday to Saturday with a warning: “This is not a play for children”.

Why? Rabbit contains:

Disturbing content; physical harm/violence (explicit); suffocation; vomiting; flashing lights; jump scares; sudden loud noises; use of haze.

What happens? Rabbit is lost. Rabbit is scared. She will die by the end of the night. Waking up lost in a murky forest, this brave bunny is determined to find her way home to Mumma.

Foxglove Theatre’s poster for psychological drama Rabbit

However, an innocent bunny is not prepared for the trials and tribulations of the real world, where the wind cuts deep, teeth slice flesh, and a mothers hug falls short.

Blending puppetry and visual storytelling effects, Foxglove Theatre’s performance explores the psychological damage that develops from even the smallest mishandlings of our childhood selves.

Focusing on attachment and loss, Rabbit invites this week’s audiences to place their inner child under a magnifying glass and watch it burn.

Vowing to bring impactful, new age, daring theatrical productions to York, Foxglove Theatre made their debut in Summer 2002 at Theatre@41 with Welsh writer Brad Birch’s thriller The Brink: a dark comedy replete with blood, murder and death, sexual imagery and ephebophilia (sexual attraction to post-pubescent adolescents and older teenagers, aged 15 to 19).

Sam Jackson’s Nick comes face to face with Abel Kent’s Mr Boyd, the head teacher, in Foxglove Theatre’s inaugural prodiction, Brad Birch’s psychological thriller The Brink, in 2022

“As young people exploring our creative boundaries in York, we identified a gap in York’s theatre scene, a need for weirder, more experimental performance, and through Rabbit, our first new-work piece, we hope to begin to address this blind spot,” says producer Ione Vaughan.

“This 60-minute production aims to invite our audience into a space for self-reflection, while also refusing to diminish the negative repercussions of allowing poor mental health to fester. Combining modern contemporary theatre technology with the traditional medium of puppetry, we are utilising everything live performance has to offer to provide an impactful and immerse experience for our audience.”

Foxglove Theatre was formed by producers Ione Vaughan and Ivy Magee and director Nathan Butler. “Deciding to dedicate our work to bringing innovative theatre to this brilliant city, we also chose to champion the growth of young creatives like ourselves, offering flexible and malleable opportunities to develop their creative practice while with our company,” says Ione.

“This has been a success with our performer, George Green, as we developed a unique skill to add to their repertoire: puppetry. George learnt a range of puppetry techniques, both those required by the performance and beyond, including training with Leeds puppetry company The Object Project to support their overall development as a performer.”

Foxglove Theatre in Rabbit, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm. Recommended age: 16 plus. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

George Green in a scene from Foxglove Theatre’s Rabbit

More Things To Do in York and beyond when it ‘definitely won’t be boring’! Here’s Hutch’s List No. 9 for 2024, from The Press

Wise Children “open the bloody door” to Emma Rice’s beguiling but disturbing Blue Beard at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday. Picture: Steve Tanner

PANTO dame tales and a comedian’s first-time memories, a classic thriller and a feminist fairytale, a community choir festival and a prog-rock legend make Charles Hutchinson’s list of upcoming cultural highlights.

Play of the week: Wise Children in Emma Rice’s Blue Beard, York Theatre Royal, February 27 to March 9, 7.30pm plus 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees

BLUE Beard meets his match when his young bride discovers his dark and murderous secret. She summons all her rage, all her smarts and all her sisters to bring the curtain down on his tyrannous reign as writer-director Emma Rice brings her own brand of theatrical wonder to this beguiling, disturbing tale.

Applying Rice’s signature sleight of hand, Blue Beard explores curiosity and consent, violence and vengeance, all through an intoxicating lens of music, wit and tender truth. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Rick Wakeman: Last return of the Caped Crusader at York Barbican

Catch him while you can: Rick Wakeman, Return Of The Caped Crusader, York Barbican, tonight (24/02/2024), 7.30pm

PROG-ROCK icon and Yes keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman, 76, is to call time on his one-man shows to concentrate on composing, recording and collaborating, but not before playing York. “I always planned to stop touring by my 77th birthday,” he says. “For those of you who wish to send me a card, it’s 18th May!”

Saturday’s show opens with Wakeman’s new arrangements of Yes material for band and vocalists, followed after the interval by his epic work Journey To The Centre Of The Earth. Box office for returns only: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Robin Simpson on dame duty in York Theatre Royal’s All New Adventures Of Peter Pan

Pantomime revelations of the week: Robin Simpson: There Ain’t Nothing Like A Dame, Rise, Bluebird Bakery, Acomb Road, Acomb, York, tomorrow, 6.30pm

ALREADY confirmed for his return for Aladdin from December 3 to January 5 2025, York Theatre Royal’s resident dame, Robin Simpson, takes a peak behind the wigs into the glitz and glamour of life as a pantomime dame.

Simpson provides an insight into the origins of the character, backstage antics and classic cheeky panto humour as he reveals “what it’s really like to frock up and tread the boards”. Expect cheesy gags, naughty nonsense and even a silly sing-song.

“I’ve run this event before and it was mostly for slightly older children and adults. Ages 7/8 and above really,” says Robin. “The show includes stories, song-sheet sing-alongs and silly poems. It’s not at all serious!

“It’s fun to approach storytelling from the perspective of the dame. It’s a little more anarchic. I also start with a brief history of the pantomime, from Roman times to the modern day.

“I do this while getting dressed and made up into the dame with the idea that, by the time I’m talking about Dan Leno and the Victorian dame, I’m completely changed. There’s room for questions and chat too about being in a panto and what happens on stage and backstage. Like I say, it’s for KS2 and adults really.”

Earlier in the day, at 4.30pm, in an interactive one-hour event for children aged three to six, Robin and Susanna Meese will be spinning the Storywheel to reveal much-loved nursery tales. “It’s a wheel of fortune-style story generator where random fairytales are told and there’s lots of dressing-up, musical instruments, songs, props, puppets and play,” says Robin.

Afterwards, children can delve into story bags full of goodies and stay and play with the hosts, who will have everything needed for the children to tell the tales, including puppets, props, and costumes. Box office: bluebirdbakery.co.uk/rise

Maura Jackson: Public speaker, charity boss and now comedian, playing Theatre@41 tomorrow

Storyteller of the week: Maura Jackson: More O’ Me, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

AT 53 Maura Jackson cannot decide if she is a keynote speaker, charity CEO or comedian. Thanks to “the recklessness of menopause”, she is all three.

After living a life and a half and taking up stand-up in 2022 on a whim, storyteller Jackson takes tomorrow’s audience on a humorous rollercoaster of life-defining moments, good or bad. Despite her professed aversion to drama, she is surrounded by it. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Neil McDermott, left, and Todd Boyce in Sleuth, “the thriller about thrillers”, at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture: Jack Merriman

Thriller of the week: Sleuth, Grand Opera House, York, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday

TODD Boyce, best known for playing Coronation Street’s notorious baddie Stephen Reid, will be joined by EastEnders soap star Neil McDermott in Anthony Shaffer’s dark psychological thriller about thrillers, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh.

What happens? A young man arrives at the impressive home of a famous mystery writer, only to be unwittingly drawn into a tangled web of intrigue and gamesmanship, where nothing is quite as it seems. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

Rob Auton: Star of The Rob Auton Show, full of firsts, from memories to girlfriends to jobs

Comedy gig(s) of the week: Rob Auton, The Rob Auton Show, Burning Duck Comedy Club, The Crescent, York, February 28, 7.30pm; Mortimer Suite, Hull City Hall, February 29, 7.30pm; The Wardrobe, Leeds, March 1, 7.30pm

ROB Auton, Pocklington-raised stand-up comedian, writer, podcaster, actor, illustrator and former Glastonbury festival poet-in-residence, returns north from London with his self-titled tenth themed solo show.

After the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking, time and crowds, Auton turns the spotlight on himself, exploring the memories and feelings that create his life on a daily basis. Box office: York, thecrescentyork.seetickets.com; Hull, hulltheatres.co.uk; Leeds, brudenellsocialclub.seetickets.com.

Skylights: Lighting up York Barbican in November

Gig announcement of the week: Skylights, York Barbican, November 2

YORK band Skylights will play their biggest home-city show yet this autumn, with tickets newly on sale at ticketmaster.co.uk in a week when latest release Time To Let Things Go has risen to number two in the Official Vinyl Singles Chart.

Guitarist Turnbull Smith says: ‘We’re absolutely over the moon to be headlining the biggest venue in our home city of York, the Barbican. It’s always been a dream of ours to play here, so to headline will be the perfect way to finish what’s going to be a great year. Thanks to everyone for the support. It means the world and we’ll see you all there.”

In Focus: York Community Choir Festival 2024

Jessa Liversidge: Directing Easingwold Community Singers’ performance at the York Community Choir Festival

York Community Choir Festival 2024, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 25, 6pm; February 26 to March 1, 7.30pm; March 2, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

THE 8th York Community Choir Festival spreads 31 choirs across eight concerts over six days at the JoRo. On the opening evening, Easingwold Community Singers will be premiering director Jessa Liversidge’s arrangement of The Secret Of Happiness from the American musical Daddy Long Legs, with permission of composer and lyricist Paul Gordon.

“Festival organiser Graham Mitchell wanted a choir to perform this song,” says Jessa. “I bought the music but couldn’t find a choral arrangement, so I chanced my arm on contacting the composer to ask if there were any arrangements or could I do one, and he said, ‘yes, you can’.

“It’s a lovely gentle song. Hopefully it will go well, and I can then send Paul a recording.”

Choirs range from York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir to The Rolling Tones, Sounds Fun Singers to York Military Wives Choir, Selby Youth Choir to Track 29 Ladies Close Harmony Chorus. Six choirs from Huntington School perform next Friday, taking up all the first-half programme. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

York Community Choir Festival: the programme

Sunday, 6pm

Selby Youth Choir, Bishopthorpe Community Choir, Eboraca, Easingwold Community Singers.

Monday, 7.30pm

Community Chorus, York Celebration Singers, Euphonics, York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir.

Tuesday, 7.30pm

Jubilate, Some Voices York, Sounds Fun Singers, Abbey Belles Chorus.

Wednesday, 7.30pm

Stagecoach Youth Junior Choir, The Garrowby Singers, In Harmony, Stamford Bridge Community Choir.

Thursday, 7.30pm

York Military Wives Choir, Harmonia, Spirit of Harmony Barbershop Chorus, Heworth Community Choir.

Friday, 7.30pm

Huntington School Choirs, Vivace! Aviva York Choir, Main Street Sound Ladies, Barbershop Chorus

Saturday, 2.30pm

Singing Communities, Fairburn Singers, Daytones Harmony Chorus,

The Rolling Tones.

Saturday, 7.30pm

Headlands Primary School, York Sing Space Musical Theatre Choir, Track 29 Ladies Close Harmony Chorus, The Wellbeing Choir.

REVIEW: Griffonage Theatre in Rope, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight and tomorrow, 7.30pm ***

Carly Bednar’s Leila Arden in rehearsal for Rope

GRIFFONAGE Theatre may well be a new name to you, rooted in a word that means “careless handwritinga crude or illegible scrawl”.

The York company has its roots in the University of York, where director Katie Leckey is studying for a Masters in theatre-making.

Already, the company with the mantra of “making the strange familiar, and the familiar strange” has staged Poe In The Pitch Black in the non-theatrical but very atmospheric Perky Peacock café, in the 14th century Barker Tower on North Street.

Rope, Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 thriller famous for Alfred Hitchcock’s groundbreaking 1948 film version, marks Griffonage’s move into a formal theatre space, the black box of the John Cooper Studio at Theatre@41.

Set designer Alicia Oldbury keeps it as black as the humour and mood of the piece with its shadows of the rise of British fascism. On the walls are mirrors and picture frames left blank, to match the values of William Osbon’s weak-minded Charles Granillo and especially Nick Clark’s fly Wyndham Brandon treating lives as worthless.

Rope opens in the smart London home where Brandon and Granillo will host the weirdest of dinner parties. Not in the dining room, where the table is now buried under a heap of books left to Brandon to sell, but the drawing room where the maid, Sabot (Molly Raine), sets up the food and cutlery on a wooden chest.

In that chest, as we know from the opening scene in the dark, is the body of Granillo and Brandon’s fellow Oxford student, the sporty Ronald Kentley. This is no spoiler alert: Rope is not so much a whodunit or whydunit (disdain, pleasure, arrogance, contempt), but a case of will the smug, wealthy duo get away with their “perfect crime”?

Enter, at Brandon and Granillo’s calculated invitation: glamorous socialite but not bright Leila Arden (Carly Bednar, delightfully daffy performance; too-modern dress); awfully nice but a tad dim student – and Brandon’s former school fag – Kenneth Raglan (Peter Hopwood, dressed in black tie and a never-removed top hat,) and the Oscar Wilde of Brandon’s circuit, Rupert Cadell, a droll poet with a lame leg but tack-sharp mind (Griffonage co-artistic director Jack Mackay).

Completing the assortment of guests as eccentric as the meal’s random contents are Ronald’s esteemed, book-collector father Sir William Kentley (Liam Godfrey, as suitably stiff in his disposition as a book cover) and his taciturn sister Mrs Debenham (Frankie Hayes, as disapproving in manner as Lady Bracknell, but saying everything in a look rather than words).

A white door of an erratic nature, period furniture, a drinks trolley, a piano, all play their part, lighting is kept simple, and tension takes its time to turn to Hitchcockian horror, hushed arguments broken like glass by fevered shouts as the cigarettes pile up and the drinks click in.

The atmosphere is awkward, as it would be, lightened by the nervous chatter of Bednar’s Leila, but Rope tightens its grip once the Mackay’s Cadell and Clark’s Brandon – the two outstanding performers – lock horns, one ultimately smarter than the other, as Osbon’s tad-hammy Granillo, by now a drunk, quivering wreck, slumps by the chest.

Rope is the work of a young company finding its feet, a new addition to the Theatre@41 portfolio with plenty of room to grow and another production on its way.

Box office: tickets.41monkgate.

The last dinner party? Not the in vogue band but York company Griffonage Theatre staging Patrick Hamilton’s thriller Rope

Carly Bednar in rehearsal for her role as Leila Arden in Griffonage Theatre’s Rope. Picture: Ella Tomlin

HALFWAY through her MA in theatre studies, Katie Leckey is directing York company Griffonage Theatre in their Theatre@41 debut in Patrick Hamilton’s thriller Rope from Wednesday to Saturday.

Built around an invitation to a dinner party like no other, against the backdrop of Britain’s flirtation with fascism, this 1929 whodunit states exactly who did it, but the mystery is: will they be caught? Cue a soiree full of eccentric characters, ticking clocks and hushed arguments.

Leckey’s cast comprises predominantly actors aged 21 or 22: Nick Clark as Wyndham Branson; Will Obson as Charles Granillo; Jack Mackay as Rupert Cadell; Carly Bednar as Leila Arden; Peter Hopwood as Kenneth Raglan and Molly Raine as Sabot.

They will be joined by two older actors, Liam Godrey as Sir Johnstone Kentley and Frankie Hayes as Mrs Debenham. Alicia Oldsbury is the set designer; Grace Trapps, the costumier; Margaux Campbell, the fight choreographer.

“We are so excited to have audiences begin to see this show!” says Katie. “It’s been something of a passion project for me and the entire process has been so rewarding already.”

Katie Leckey directing the University of York Gilbert and Sullivan’s Society’s Patience, aloongside production manager Sam Armstrong. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Here, CharlesHutchPress puts questions to director Katie Leckey on staging Rope, the rise of Griffonage Theatre and her plans for the year ahead.

When and where did you form Griffonage Theatre?

“We were formed about a year ago after a University of York Shakespeare Society production of Julius Caesar that I directed and in which my fellow co-artistic director, Jack Mackay, played Caesar.

“We realised that we had very similar creative styles and overlapping interests during that rehearsal process and this sparked a discussion about how we could branch out of university and into the York theatre scene.

Griffonage Theatre co-artistic director Jack Mackay rehearsing his role as Rupert Cadell. Picture: Ella Tomlin

“We were keen to put on plays that are underperformed (like Rope) or a little bit strange, silly or macabre! York is the perfect place to do this as there’s such a wealth of storytelling potential and inspiration everywhere!

“Jack and I like to (half) joke that we would get nothing done without our amazing executive producer, Anna Njoroge, who is basically a wizard at organisation and the main reason our ideas aren’t sitting dormant in our heads!”

How is the University of York involved?

“Like I say, Griffonage wouldn’t have been born had it not been for the university’s performance societies and the experience that we got from being involved in those. Jack is now chair of the Shakespeare Society, and I learnt a lot from directing and performing with and eventually being the chair of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society, especially about adapting older texts for audiences today in an accessible way – something that is a real goal of our company.

“Jack is studying English Literature at the uni, and I just finished the same degree for my undergraduate studies, so we’re also very keen to explore new writing and ways of facilitating that being put on in the city, alongside putting on adaptations of more well-established playwrights.”

Molly Raine’s Sabot, left, and Frankie Hayes’ Mrs Debenham. Picture: Ella Tomlin

What is your specialist focus in your MA in theatre studies?

“I’m halfway through my MA in theatre-making and it’s just amazing! I’m very interested in physical theatre and clowning in my individual practice as a performer. As a director, though, I find the juiciest plays are the ones that have darker themes that I can present through the guise of light-heartedness.

“I think the best plays are ones that aren’t easily labelled as one thing or another, which is why I’m drawn to surrealist and absurdist themes and imagery as well. The MA has equipped me so far with lots of practical skills in running rehearsals, workshops and (perhaps most importantly) working with others in an ensemble to create interesting and often experimental art.”

What first brought you to York?

“I’m originally from Northern Ireland – from the rural town of Ballyclare about 20 minutes away from Belfast – and came over here to study for my undergrad degree – I liked it so much that I’ve decided to stay! It’s just the most gorgeous, historic place and I love the fact that everyone knows everyone somehow or other! Also being able to access so much theatre and arts on my doorstep here was definitely a draw as well.

Katie Leckey exercising her comedic chops as Samuel Beckett in University of York Drama Society’s 2023 Edinburgh Fringe show, Dan Sinclair’s The Courteous Enemy. Picture:Tegan Steward 

Where did you take your first steps in theatre?

“I was so privileged to have a great drama teacher at my secondary school, who put on a musical in our assembly hall every year! My first production was Annie when I was around 13 or so, and I just remember growing in confidence after each rehearsal and the feeling of becoming an entirely different person for a few hours!

“As time went on, I had singing lessons and just kept acting in anything I could on the side of everything else. Obviously, I enjoy the bigger picture of storytelling, because I decided to do an English Lit degree, but it was only when I was given the chance to direct Patience as part of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society in my second year of Uni (after a bit of a hiatus from all things theatre during Covid) that all the stars aligned for me.

“I realised that directing was a way of combining all my passions and interests into one activity! And I’ve been absolutely determined tm make, and be in, as much theatre as I can ever since!”

Katie Leckey as the Duchess in University of York Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s 2023 production of The Gondoliers. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick 

Hence the rise of Griffonage Theatre. Why choose that name?

“If you ask the dictionary, Griffonage means ‘careless handwriting: a crude or illegible scrawl’. Jack and I felt like the word really summed up our creative process – something that’s a little careless, crude (mostly from my end) or even illegible is usually the spark for our ideas, and we are so passionate about how we turn these scrawls into something palpable for audiences to enjoy!

“We also liked how it has connotations with the mythical beast the Griffin, as we’re constantly in awe of things that are inexplicable, fantastical and ancient.”

What is Griffonage Theatre’s mission statement?

“We are a team of York-based storytellers who leap at the opportunity to shock and delight. We revel in the grotesque, in the weaving of new worlds, and in sharing the beauty and terror of humanity’s strangest stories.

“Our ambition is to reveal the dark hearts of stories across a wide range of genres: to galvanise narratives that have been lost and to foster the creation of exciting, original work.”

Griffonage Theatre’s cast for Poe In The Pitch Black at the Perky Peacock cafe. Picture: Lotty Farmer

What has the company done so far?

“We had a sold-out site-specific show, Poe In The Pitch Black, at the Perky Peacock café [in the mediaeval, wood-beamed Barker Tower on North Street]. We adapted three of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories and told them in the dark, using age-old practical theatrical techniques to spook our audiences!

“We crammed them in! We were able to get 20 spectators in, along with five actors. It was definitely a squeeze in the lower room!

“A particular highlight of the show was the creation of a puppet for the character of the old man in the Tell Tale Heart (performed by Will Osbon, who is returning to play Charles Granillo in Rope), which we were told sufficiently creeped out a lot of our audience!”

How did the chance to perform at Theatre@41 emerge?

“I had the joy of performing in York Settlement Community Players’ Government Inspector last October and got to know the brilliant Alan Park [Theatre@41’s chair], as he was directing the show!

Katie Leckey’s Dobchinsky in York Settlement Community Players’ Government Inpector. Picture: Sarah Ford

“I approached him with the idea of putting a play on at the theatre and was completely shocked that he didn’t shrug me off right away; in fact he was keen that we got everything sorted as soon as possible!

“It’s truly a privilege to be able to put our show on at all, never mind in a space at the heart of the community in York! It’s just so special!”

What attracted you to Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play Rope?

“It’s just genius. Its readability was the first thing that struck me – the stage directions are a hoot! I really recommend for people to read the play, as well as watching it, as it really is fantastic. Hamilton’s grasp of character is phenomenal.

“The play is at once funny and dark, light but intense, deeply philosophical yet entirely playful. I was also fascinated by the fact that it was so heavily concerned with the rise of British fascism pre-World War Two. It’s such a poignant meditation on war, justice, self-awareness and the value of all human life.

Liam Godfrey as Sir Johnstone Kentley, left, Nick Clark as Wyndham Brandon and Peter Hopwood as Kenneth Raglan in the Rope rehearsal room. Picture: Ella Tomlin

“It’s also genuinely hilarious and includes a lot of delightful witticisms and snarky comments. The fact that it is based on a real murder case also intrigued me greatly. With the growing popularity of ‘true crime’ as a genre, it’s utterly fascinating to see a play that attempts to directly confront its viewers with their own desire to witness violence and its consequences.

“It’s very interesting from a queer perspective as well. Without spoiling too much, I would recommend contemplating what the overt and implied relationships between the characters say about the implications of the story itself.

What does Rope say to a modern audience?

“Aside from a few 1920s slang terms, Rope is inherently modern in its sensibilities, despite the fact it has nearly been 100 years since its first performance. (Indeed, this isn’t surprising considering Hamilton coined the thoroughly modern word ‘gaslight’).

“This is why we’ve chosen to make the set look like it hasn’t been moved for 100 years – as something of a time capsule, but also a direct reflection of today. The play acts as a warning for what can happen if you let insidious beliefs and attitudes fester, but beyond this it asks the audience to evaluate themselves what justice looks like, and if it is attainable or desirable at all.

“Furthermore, it delights in the small things: dancing, eating, drinking and socialising – reminding audiences that while they should be alert to little cruelties and genuine evils alike, there is still some good in most people, and this can be seen in the most unlikely of circumstances, including an outré dinner party.”

Mollie Raine’s Sabot and Nick Clark’s Wyndham Brandon in a light moment mid-rehearsal. Picture: Ella Tomlin

Have you seen Alfred Hitchcock’s groundbreaking single-take 1948 film version, shot with the camera kept in continuous motion?

“I love this question! Yes! I actually watched it as soon as I finished reading theplay for the first time! I remember turning to Jack in utter amazement at somemoments (mostly when Jimmy Stewart did anything as Rupert – his performance is phenomenal!) and in complete horror at the extraordinarycensorship that the film was subject to!

“The deviation from Hamilton’s originalis masterful in a way only Hitchcock is, and the choice to set it in post-WW2America is also a stroke of total genius, but it does, at least in my opinionremove some of the most unique and interesting qualities of the original.”

When did you last attend a dinner party?

“For my friend Grace’s birthday a few months ago. It was so much fun, we dressed up in formal clothes and had a little boogie afterwards as well!”

Who would be your ideal guests at a dinner party and why?

“This is so tough! I would have to say Oscar Wilde as he was the subject of my dissertation at undergrad and I would honestly love to be the butt of some of his quips. My fiancé Peter Hopwood (who plays Raglan in the show!) because I feel like I always need a wingman to back me up in dinner party-discussion and he certainly knows me best!

Peter Hopwood: Ideal dinner party guest, fiancé and Rope cast member. Picture: Ella Tomlin

I would also love Mary Wollstonecraft [18th century British writer, philosopher and advocate of women’s rights] to be there just because I feel like she would be so interesting to chat with about philosophy and womanhood.

“I would invite Dolly Parton because she’s just the greatest and my complete idol. I would bring Jack [co-artistic director Jack Mackay] as a scribe, so I could remember what we chatted about. Finally, I think I would invite Samuel Beckett, just to ask him what on earth was he thinking when he wrote his televised play Quad.”

What makes a good dinner party?

“A good host. Unfortunately for the characters in Rope…

“Also some gentle jazz music in the background is a must; it just feels too awkward otherwise!”

Katie Leckey as Jennet Marlin in York Theatre Royal’s 2023 community play, Sovereign, at King’s Manor, Exhibition Square, York. Picture: James Drury

You participated in York Theatre Royal’s community play, Sovereign, at King’s Manor last summer. In a cast of thousands (!), who did you play?

“I played Jennet Marlin (spoiler alert: she was a baddie!) – and what a great time I had. Playing her was a little bit out of my comfort zone but I grew to love her and her very sour face! The people I met as part of it was definitely the highlight. I also LOVED the costume; it made me feel like a real princess – and as a person who usually plays fools this was a unique occasion!”

What comes next for you and Griffonage Theatre?

“Oh, now that would be telling… but since you’ve pulled my leg – personally I’m going to finish my masters in September and start looking for jobs in the industry and I’m also hoping to get married in the winter!

“Griffonage are making our return to Theatre@41 in July this year, and we can’t WAIT to reveal what we’re up to!”

Griffonage Theatre in Rope, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 21 to 24, 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond as arts take to the bike & beach. Hutch’s List No. 8 for 2024, from The Press, York

Pilot Theatre’s cast for A Song For Ella Grey at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Topher McGrillis

BEACH encounters with Orpheus, tandem cyclists divided by Brexit,  a joyful mess in art, an Eighties rom-com revisited, Ukrainian opera and big summer concerts brighten Charles Hutchinson’s days ahead.

York play of the week: Pilot Theatre in A Song For Ella Grey, York Theatre Royal, February 20 to 24, 7pm plus 1pm, Thursday and 2pm, Saturday; Hull Truck Theatre, March 5 to 9, 7.30pm plus 2pm, Wednesday and Saturday

IN Zoe Cooper’s stage adaptation of David Almond’s novel for York company Pilot Theatre and Newcastle’s Northern Stage, Claire and her best friend, Ella Grey, are ordinary kids from ordinary families in an ordinary world as modern teenagers meet ancient forces.

They and their friends fall in and out of love, play music and dance, stare at the stars, yearn for excitement, and have parties on Northumbrian beaches. One day, a stranger, a musician called Orpheus, appears on the beach and entrances them all, especially Ella. Where has Orpheus come from and what path will Ella follow in this contemporary re-telling of the ancient Greek myth. Box office: York, 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk; Hull, 01482 323638 or hulltruck.co.uk.

Displayful artists Luke Beech, Wendy Galloway, Kate Fox and Liberty Hodes, exhibiting at Scarborough Art Gallery. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Coastal exhibition of the season: Displayful, Scarborough Art Gallery until May 7

DISPLAYFUL celebrates happy accidents and joyful mess, aiming to brighten the winter months by inviting visitors to enjoy uplifting contemporary artistic responses to objects from the collections of Scarborough Museums and Galleries.

The show combines new work by five regional artists, Luke Beech, Kate Fox, Wendy Galloway, Liberty Hodes and Angela Knipe, alongside historical artefacts and asks audiences to consider new possibilities for the lives of objects.

Amber Davies’s Vivian and Oliver Savile’s Edward, centre, in a scene from Pretty Woman The Musical, on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, next week

Musical of the week: Pretty Woman The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, February 20 to 24, 7.30pm, plus 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees

BILLED as Hollywood’s ultimate rom-com, live on stage, Pretty Woman: The Musical is set once upon a time in the late 1980s, when Hollywood Boulevard hooker Vivian meets entrepreneur Edward Lewis and her life changes forever.

Amber Davies plays Vivian opposite Oliver Savile’s Edward; 2016 Strictly Come Dancing champion Ore Oduba, last seen at this theatre in fishnets in March 2022 as Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Show, has two roles as hotel manager Barnard Thompson/Happy Man, and Natalie Paris will be Vivian’s wisecracking roommate Kit De Luca. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

The poster artwork for Dnipro Opera’s Madama Butterfly at York Barbican

Opera of the week: Dnipro Opera in Madama Butterfly, York Barbican, February 20, 7pm

DNIPRO Opera, the Ukrainian National Opera, returns to British shores after last year’s visit to perform Puccini’s favourite work, Madama Butterfly, sung in Italian with English surtitles (CORRECT).

Set in Japan in 1904, this torrid tale of innocent love crushed between two contrasting cultures charts the affair between an American naval officer and his young Japanese bride, whose self-sacrifice and defiance of her family leads to tragedy. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Carly Bednar in rehearsal for her role as Leila Arden in Griffonage Theatre’s Rope at Theatre@41, Monkgate

Thriller of the week: Griffonage Theatre in Rope, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 21 to 24, 7.30pm

HALFWAY through her MA in theatre studies, Katie Leckey directs York company Griffonage Theatre in their Theatre@41 debut in Patrick Hamilton’s thriller Rope, with its invitation to a dinner party like no other.

Set in 1929 against the backdrop of Britain’s flirtation with fascism, this whodunit states exactly who did it, but the mystery is will they be caught? Cue a soiree full of eccentric characters, ticking clocks and hushed arguments. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

An Eiffel and an earful: Don (John Lister) and Carol (Kate Caute) share a cycle but not political views in Paris in 1812 Theatre Company’s Scary Bikers

Ryedale play of the week: 1812 Theatre Company in Scary Bikers, Helmsley Arts Centre, February 21 to 24, 7.30pm

HELMSLEY’S 1812 Theatre Company stage their first John Godber comedy next week, his 2018 two hander Scary Bikers. Outwardly, redundant miner Don (John Lister) and former private school teacher Carol (Kate Caute) have little in common, but beneath the surface their former spouses are buried next to each other. Soon widowed Don and Carol bump into each other.

An innocent coffee leads to a bike ride through the Yorkshire Dales, then a bike tour across Europe to Florence. All looks promising for a budding romance, but their departure date is June 23 2016 and Don and Carol are on the opposite sides of the Brexit fence. Box office: helmsleyarts.co.uk or in person from the arts centre.

S Club: Post-racing party songs at York Racecourse on July 27

Bring it all back: S Club, York Racecourse Music Showcase Weekend, July 27

JULY 27 will be S Club Party time after the Saturday afternoon race card on the Knavesmire track. Once S Club 7, now the five-piece S Club comprises Jo O’Meara, Rachel Stevens, Jon Lee, Tina Barrett and Bradley McIntosh, following last April’s death of Paul Cattermole from heart complications at 46 and Hannah Spearritt not featuring in 2023’s 25th anniversary tour.

This month finds S Club in the USA playing Boston, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Roll on summertime to enjoy chart toppers Bring It All Back, Never Had A Dream Come True, Don’t Stop Movin’ and Have You Ever, plus You’re My Number One, Reach, Two In A Million, S Club Party et al in York. Tickets: yorkracecourse.co.uk.

James: Returning to Scarborough Open Air Theatre in July. Picture: Paul Dixon

Yorkshire gig announcement of the week: James, supported by Reverend & The Makers and Girlband!, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 26

MANCHESTER band James play Scarborough Open Air Theatre for the fourth time on July 26, the night when Leeds lads Kaiser Chiefs finish off the evening card at York Races.

“If you haven’t been there before, then make sure you come,” says James bassist and founder member Jim Glennie. “It’s a cracking venue and you can even have a paddle in the sea before the show!” New album Yummy arrives on April 12. Box office: James, ticketmaster.co.uk from 9am on Friday; Kaiser Chiefs, yorkracecourse.co.uk.

REVIEW: York Actors Collective in Beyond Caring, John Cooper Studio, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York ****

Chris Pomfrett’s taciturn Phil and Clare Halliday’s feisty Becky in Beyond Caring

WILL there be a more theatre-filled week in York this year?

A star-vehicle tour of Calendar Girls The Musical at the Grand Opera House is competing for attention with four York companies: York Light in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and, next door in the Studio, the Settlement Players in Rattigan’s Separate Tables, both at the Theatre Royal; Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s Kander & Ebb musical Curtains at the JoRo, and York Actors Collective (YAC) at Theatre@41, Monkgate.

Driven by her desire for more political, thought-provoking theatre in York, director and theatre critic Angie Millard launched YAC last March with Joe Orton’s Sixties’ farce Entertaining Mr Sloane.

Now comes a cruel farce, one highlighting the zero-hours contracts that have re-shaped workers’ rights to the point of having no rights, in Alexander Zeldin’s slice of agitprop, devised with The Yard actors in London in 2014.

Work 14 consecutive days? Like it or lump it, frustrated night shift manager and company mandarin Ian (Neil Vincent) tells agency cleaners Grace, Becky and Sam as they turn up for an interview at a meat-packing factory.

Grace (Victoria Delaney) is disabled, struggling with rheumatoid arthritis, but with her benefits stopped, she must find work, even though its physical demands could be too much despite her wish to be a team player.

Becky (Clare Halliday) is a single parent, with a daughter out of reach. Desperate for money. She  has a loose lip that can talk her into trouble and she is not afraid to use her sexuality.

Sam (Mick Liversedge) needs a job, any job. He’s nursing a dodgy arm, sofa surfing, “wondering how I got here and if I will ever get out”.

Phil (Chris Pomfrett) has been doing this job for ages. He’s bored, says little but reads a lot, a Dick Francis thriller at the moment.

Vincent’s smug Ian thinks he has Phil in his pocket. As for the newbies, rules are rules and Ian’s gonna use them, turning up like the proverbial bad penny, changing their shifts at short notice, putting them through job satisfaction questionnaires, looking through their bags.

What a piece of work he is, never lifting a finger, full of himself, conniving and snide. You would call him a pillock…and then lose your shift.

Millard had her cast members building back-stories for their characters, but not to be shared with each other, in a directorial decision that bears fruit in the initial awkwardness of meeting for the first time, before gradually getting to know each other, but not everything about them. This layer of secrecy adds workplace friction, but bonds build too.  

Sam nicks biscuits and tries to stay the night there, unseen by his fellow workers. Becky speaks to her daughter on the phone, out of hearing range from the others. Ian idles the time away watching porn on his phone.

The devised, improvised origins of this 90-minute play with no interval makes for raw, emotionally naked theatre in a series of vignettes that recall the agitprop insurgency of Scottish company 7:84 and carry an authenticity usually to be found in verbatim dramas.

Tremendous performances all round, both individually and collectively, combine with Millard’s frank, kitchen-sink direction to make you care utterly about Beyond Caring with its bleak humour, desperate truths and camaraderie in crap conditions. The coffee machine never works but the price goes up, just another example of what puts the grating into Great Britain.

Performances: 2.30pm and 7.30pm today. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk

More Things To Do in York & beyond, when skies are dark or lights are bright. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 6 for 2024, from The Press

Neil Vincent, left, Clare Halliday, Chris Pomfrett, Victoria Delaney and Mick Liversidge in rehearsal for York Actors Collective’s Beyond Caring

A GLUT of York theatre companies, a nocturnal sky festival, a Yorkshire musical and a colourful installation light up the dark nights of February for culture guide Charles Hutchinson.

Social drama of the week: York Actors Collective in Beyond Caring, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday to Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 5.30pm

DEVISED by Alexander Zeldin and the original Yard Theatre cast in London, this 90-minute play highlighting the social damage inflicted by zero-hours contracts forms York Actors Collective’s second production, directed by founder Angie Millard.

Performed by Victoria Delaney, Clare Halliday, Mick Liversidge, Chris Pomfrett and Neil Vincent, Beyond Caring follows meat-packing factory cleaners Becky, Grace and Sam on the night shift as they confront the reality of low wage employment, never sure whether their ‘job’ will continue. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Robert Rice: Recital at Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate tonight


Late Music at the double: Steve Bingham, violin and electronics, 1pm today; Robert Rice, baritone, and William Vann, piano, 7.30pm tonight, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York

PET Shop Boys’ It’s A Sin chills with Bach’s Allemande in D minor, while a tango from Piazzolla is thrown in for good measure, as Steve Bingham explores four centuries of solo violin music this afternoon. World premieres of David Power’s Miniatures, Wayne Siegel’s Salamander (violin and electronics) and Rowan Alfred’s Cuckoo Phase will be performed too.

York composer David Power has curated Robert Rice and William Vann’s evening recital, featuring the first complete performance of Power’s Three Char Songs (1985 and 2016). Works by Gerald Finzi, Cecil Armstrong Gibbs, Herbert Howells, Robert Walker, William Rhys Meek, Charlotte Marlow, Liz Dilnot Johnson, David Lancaster, Hannah Garton, Ruth Lee, Hayley Jenkins and Phillip Cooke. Power gives a pre-concert talk at 6.45pm with a complimentary glass of wine or juice. Tickets: latemusic.org or on the door.

Jonny Holbek as Sebastian in York Light Opera Company’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

Nautical adventure of the week: York Light Opera Company in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, York Theatre Royal, February 7 to 17, except February 12

BASED on the classic 1989 Disney animated film, The Little Mermaid tells the enchanting story of Ariel, a mermaid who dreams of trading her tail for legs and exploring the human world. Aided by her mischievous sidekick, Flounder, and the cunning Ursula, Ariel strikes a bargain that will change her life forever.

Martyn Knight’s production for York Light features stunning projection, dazzling costumes, unforgettable musical numbers, such as Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl, and choreography by Rachael Whitehead. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

The poster for Colour & Light, soon to illuminate the facade of York Art Gallery

Installation launch of the week: Colour & Light, York Art Gallery, February 7 to 25

YORK BID is linking up with York Museums Trust for the return of Colour & Light: an innovative project that will transform the facade of York Art Gallery to counter the cold winter with a vibrant light installation.

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.

Watching the detective: Steven Jobson’s Lieutenant Frank Cioffi in Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s Curtains. Picture: Jennifer Jones

It’s Curtains for…Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

WHEN the leading lady of a new musical mysteriously dies on stage, a plucky local detective must solve this 1959 case at Boston’s Colonial Theatre, where the entire cast and crew are suspects in Kander & Ebb’s musical with a book by Rupert Holmes.

Cue delightful characters, a witty and charming script and glorious tunes in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s staging of Curtains. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Sunflower power: The Calendar Girls cast on tour at the Grand Opera House, York, from Tuesday to Saturday

Touring musical of the week: Calendar Girls The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees

YOU know the story, the one where a husband’s death to leukaemia prompts a group of ordinary women in a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute to do an extraordinary thing, whereupon they set about creating a nude calendar to raise money for charity.

Premiered at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2015, Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s musical is now touring with a cast of music, stage and television stars. Baring all will be Laurie Brett as Annie; Liz Carney as Marie; Helen Pearson as Celia; Samantha Seager as Chris; Maureen Nolan as Ruth; Lyn Paul as Jessie and Honeysuckle Weeks as Cora. Once more the tour supports Blood Cancer UK. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.

 Nicola Holliday (as Jean Tanner) and James Lee (as Charles Stratton) in rehearsal for Settlement Players’ Separate Tables. Picture: John Saunders

English manners of the week: York Settlement Community Players in Separate Tables, York Theatre Royal Studio, February 8 to 17, 7.45pm except Sunday and Monday, plus 2pm Saturday matinees

AFTER directing four Russian plays by Chekhov, Helen Wilson turns her attention to Separate Tables, two very English Terence Rattigan tales of love and loss, set in a shabby Bournemouth hotel in the 1950s.

Guests, both permanent and transient, sit on separate tables, a formality that underlines the loneliness of these characters in a play about class, secrets and repressed emotions. Chris Meadley, Paul French, Molly Kay, Jess Murray, Marie-Louise Feeley, Caroline Greenwood and Linda Fletcher are among the Settlement cast. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Festival of the month: North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales Dark Skies Festival, February 9 to 25

TEAMING up for the ninth time since 2016, the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park authorities celebrate the jewels of God’s Own Country’s night sky this month.

Discover nocturnal activities to heighten the senses such as the Dark Skies Experience (February 9 to 25) night navigation (February 16); trail run and yoga (February 17, sold out); canoeing; planet trail and constellation trail at Aysgarth Falls (February 9 to 25); astrophotography workshops at Castle Howard (February 22), stargazing safaris, children’s daytime trails, art workshops and mindful experiences. More details: darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk; yorkshiredales.org.uk/things-to-do/whats-on/shows/dark-skies-festival/.

Richard Ashcroft: Heading to the woods for Forest Live at Dalby Forest in June. Picture: Dean Chalkley

Outdoor gig announcement of the week: Richard Ashcroft, Forest Live, Dalby Forest, near Pickering, June 23

FORESTRY England completes its Forest Live return to Dalby Forest for the first time since 2019 with Richard Ashcroft, the two-time Ivor Novello Award-winning Wigan singer, songwriter and frontman of The Verve.

Canadian rocker Bryan Adams and disco icons Nile Rodgers & CHIC were confirmed already for June 21 and 22 respectively. New addition Ashcroft’s set list will draw on his five solo albums, along with The Verve’s anthems Bittersweet Symphony, The Drugs Don’t Work, Lucky Man and Sonnet. Leeds band Apollo Junction will be supporting. Box office: forestlive.com.

In Focus: York Ice Trail, City of Dreams, York city centre, today and tomorrow, from 10am

York Ice Trail: City of Dreams this weekend

THE theme for York Ice Trail 2024 transforms York into the City of Dreams, inviting visitors to dream big.

The last York Ice Trail, in February 2023, drew 40,000 visitors to York to view 36 sculptures. Organised by Make It York, the 2024 event again sees the “coolest” sculptures line the streets of York, each conceived and sponsored by businesses and designed and created by ice specialist Icebox.

Sarah Loftus, Make It York managing director, says: “York Ice Trail is one of the most-loved events in the city for residents and visitors alike, and we’re excited to be bringing it back for another year in 2024. 

“It’s a huge celebration of our city and businesses, and the concept will inspire everyone’s inner child, encouraging people to let their imagination run wild.” 

Icebox managing director Greg Pittard says: “Returning to York for the 2024 Ice Trail is a true honour for us. The York Ice Trail holds a special place in our hearts, and we are thrilled to bring this year’s theme to life.

“Our talented team of ice carvers pour their passion into crafting magnificent ice sculptures that will transport visitors to a world of wonder and delight.”

The 2024 ice sculptures:

Our City Of Dreams, provided by Make It York, Parliament Street.

A Field Of Dreams, Murton Park, Parliament Street.

A Journey In ice, Grand Central, Parliament Street.

City Of Trees, Dalby Forest, Parliament Street.

Chasing Rainbows, in celebration of York band Shed Seven topping the UK official album chart in January, York Mix Radio, Parliament Street.

I’m Late, I’m Late! For A Very Important Date!, Ate O’Clock, High Ousegate.

Sewing Like A Dream, Gillies Fabrics, Peter Lane.

Mythical Beasts: The Yeti, York BID, Walmgate.

Hop On Your Bike, Spark:York, Piccadilly (Spark:York will be open from 12 noon).

Belle Of The Ball, York Castle Museum, Eye of York.

Brolly Walks, The Coppergate Centre.

Supporting Our Armed Forces, Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors, Clifford Street.

Mythical Beasts: The Kraken, York BID, Micklegate (moved from King’s Staith on account of high river levels).

The Slithering Serpent, The Potions Cauldron, Middletons, Skeldergate.

Oompa Loompas, York’s Chocolate Story, Middletons, Skeldergate.

Wonkavision, City Cruises, Middletons, Skeldergate.

The Golden Ticket, filled with Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, Middletons, at Middletons, Skeldergate.

Mythical Beasts: The Phoenix, York BID, Micklegate.

Throne Of Dreams, Storage King, Station Road.

York Principal, The Principal York, Principal Gardens.

A Hat Full Of Dreams, The Grand, York, Station Rise.

Judges And Dragons, The Judge’s Lodging, Lendal.

Your Key To The National Park, North York Moors National Park, Exhibition Square.

Mythical Beasts: The Unicorn, York BID, Gillygate.

Mythical Beasts, The Hydra, York BID, Goodramgate.

The Big Bad Wolf, York Minster, Minster Piazza.

Train Of Dreams, National Railway Museum, High Petergate.

Bradley’s Jewellers’ Christmas Robin Egg, Bradley’s Jewellers, Low Petergate.

Floating Dreams, Lucia Bar, Grape Lane.

Fly Into York With P&R, York Park & Ride, St Helen’s Square.

RMS Queen Mary, Betts, Davygate.

Dreaming Of Cut And Craft, Cut And Craft, St Sampson’s Square.

Live Carving, Make It York, St Sampson’s Square.

York Actors Collective delves into zero-hour contracts in Alexander Zeldin’s modern-day tragedy Beyond Caring at Theatre@41

Clare Halliday, left, Chris Pomfrett, Victoria Delaney and Mick Liversidge in rehearsal for York Actors Collective’s Beyond Caring

YORK Actors Collective is following up March 2023’s debut production of Joe Orton’s risqué Sixties’ farce Entertaining Mr Sloane with Beyond Caring, a topical exposé of the social damage inflicted by zero hours contracts. 

Running at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from February 6 to 9, this “modern-day tragedy” was devised by Alexander Zeldin and the original Yard Theatre cast in East London in 2014, later transferring to the National Theatre.

Its story of agency cleaners at a meat-packing factory is being directed in York by former teacher Angie Millard, working with a cast of Victoria Delaney, Clare Halliday, Mick Liversidge, Chris Pomfrett and Neil Vincent.

Over 90 unbroken minutes, Beyond Caring follows two women, Becky and Grace, and one man, Sam (replacing Sarah from past productions in a directorial decision), as they confront the reality of minimum wage, zero-hour contract employment, never sure of how many hours they have to work, when they will be paid and whether their ‘job’ will continue.

“This play is remarkable in its structure and power,” says Angie. “It totally represents 2024 where many workers are on the breadline, trapped in employment with no guarantee of further work and no way to improve their position. 

“What drew me to the play, however, is the message it conveys about people surviving and keeping a sense of humour. I loved the intensity of the piece with its silences, its disappointments and its determination to determination to get pleasure out of the smallest things. It gave me hope.”

Beyond Caring was brought to Angie’s attention by fellow company co-founder Chris Pomfrett, who had played the self-aggrandising Ed in Entertaining Mr Sloane. “Following that debut show, our brief was to find something that would appeal to audiences as entertaining but also have an edge to it,” he says.

“I had a look at a lot of play synopses around particular subject matters, came across this one, bought a copy and was completely blown away by it. When it was first done in London, then at the National, it was described as ‘comically devastating’ and that’s absolutely right.”

Beyond Caring forms part of a series of Alexander Zeldin plays entitled The Inequality Triptych, addressing the theme of the impact of austerity. “This one deals with a group of people meeting for the first time to work the night shift cleaning a meat factory on zero-hours contracts, all employed through a temp agency with different arrangements for pay for each of them,” says Chris, who plays scarred, taciturn worker Phil.

“So they’re all strangers, and as happens when strangers meet, there are silences and awkward pauses, like in Harold Pinter’s plays, but they’re all full of meaning.

“Gradually, you see glimpses of their lives and their insecurities, and how that affects them and those around them, mostly adversely.”

Clare Halliday’s factory cleaner Becky and Neil Vincent’s manager Ian in a scene from the darkly humorous Beyond Caring

Chris continues: “I think it’s important for us to do plays that deal with these issues, as they’re still occurring. One of the things that has struck me, after Mr Bates vs. The Post Office is how a TV drama can have a massive impact on the Government’s actions, and that’s because people are confronted with real characters, and there’s an emotional response that you don’t get with news bulletins.

“The same goes for a play like this, and the great thing about all the characters is that in some ways you can see yourself in them.”

In Chris’s case, he can draw on his own experiences working in the community for the NHS (National Health Service) as part of the combined therapy multi-disciplinary team. “You can see the effects of the care system being shot to pieces,” he says.

Clare Halliday will be making her York Actors Collective debut after more than a decade of involvement in York community productions, such as the 2012 York Mystery Plays, when she first met Angie.

“I learned that Angie had created York Actors Collective and went to see Entertaining Mr Sloane, then heard they were doing Beyond Caring and auditioned for the role of Becky [one of the cleaners] after reading about the play and watching extracts from when it was at the National,” she says.

“Becky is a very resilient character, very tough on the exterior. I see her as a born survivor with ways and means of surviving, using her sexuality to get what she wants, in the only way she knows how. We assume she’s had very little education, and we know she’s a single mum, whose daughter is not living with her – she’s probably in care – but she’s trying to see her.

“I can relate to that, as I’ve had work insecurity and been on benefits, so at some points in my life I’ve walked similar steps.”

Clare now runs the Clare’s Kitchen mobile cookery school in York, being involved with schools since 2015.  “Before that, I was living in France, training as a chef, and I wanted to work with children, having been involved in cooking in the kitchen with my mum since the age of two or three,” she says.

“I work with Year One to Six children at Knavesmire Primary, Ralph Butterfield Primary, Haxby, Rufforth, Dringhouses and Lord Deramore’s. I’ve just taken on another lady to help as I’m so busy.”

York Actors Collective in Beyond Caring, Theatre@41, Monkgte, York, February 6 to 9, 7.30pm; February 10, 2.30pm and 5.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Copyright of The Press, York

Charles Hutchinson’s review of the year of culture & art in York & beyond in 2023

Sleuth and sidekick: Fergus Rattigan’s Matthew Shardlake, left, with Sam Thorpe-Spinks’s Jack Barak in Sovereign at King’s Manor. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Community show of the year: Sovereign, King’s Manor, York, July

YORK Theatre Royal’s best show of the year was not at the Theatre Royal, but across Exhibition Square in the courtard of King’s Manor, the setting for C J Sansom’s Tudor sleuth yarn, adapted typically adroitly by the golden pen of York playwright Mike Kenny.

Henry VIII was given the Yorkshire cold shoulder by a cast of 100 led by Fergus Rattigan and Sam Thorpe-Spinks, complemented by Madeleine Hudson’s choir.

Livy Potter in Iphigenia In Splott at Theatre@41, Monkgate

Solo performance of the year: Livy Potter in Black Treacle Theatre’s Iphigenia In Splott, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, March

GREEK myth is smacked in the chops by modern reality in Gary Owen’s scabrous, “horribly relevant” one-woman drama Iphigenia In Splott, a stark, dark 75-minute play, played out on a single blue chair, with no props, under Jim Paterson’s direction.

Livy Potter kept meeting you in the eye, telling you the bruised, devastating tale of Cardiff wastrel Effie, and her downward spiral through a mess of drink, drugs and drama every night, with shards of jagged humour and shattering blows to the heart.

Crowded in: Comedian Rob Auton’s artwork for The Crowd Show

Comedy show of the year: Rob Auton in The Crowd Show, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 24

COMEDIANS tend to play to a room full of strangers, hence the subject matter of Rob Auton’s The Crowd Show, with its discussions of crowds, people and connection.

Except that the crowd for this (London-based) York comedian, born in Barmby Moor and educated in Pocklington, was made up of friends, family, extended family, and loyal local enthusiasts. The home crowd, rather than the in-crowd, as it were. Auton revelled in a unique performing experience, even more surreal than usual.

Honourable mention: Stewart Lee, Basic Lee, York Theatre Royal, March 20. Serious yet seriously amusing dissection of the rotten state of the nation and comedy itself.

Christmas In Neverland at Castle Howard. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Exhibition of the year: Christmas In Neverland, Castle Howard, near York, running until January 7

IS it a Christmas event, an installation or an exhibition? All three, in that Charlotte Lloyd Webber Event Design makes an exhibit of the 300-year-old stately home at Castle Howard each winter.

This time, the theme is a Peter Pan-inspired festive experience, transforming rooms and corridors alike with floristry, installations, props, soundscapes, and projections, conjuring a Mermaid’s Lagoon, Captain Hook’s Cabin and the Jolly Roger with new innovations from Leeds company imitating the dog.

Honourable mention: Austrian artist Erwin Wurm’s absurdist sculptures in Trap Of The Truth, his first UK museum show, at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, near Wakefield, bringing a whimsical smile until April 28 2024.

Kevin Rowland leading Dexys through The Feminine Divine and old hits sublime at York Barbican

Favourite gigs of the year?

SPOILT for choice. At York Barbican: Suzanne Vega, vowing I Never Wear White in droll delight on February 22; James, bolstered by orchestra and gospel choir, hitting heavenly heights, April 28; Dexys’ two sets, one new and theatrical, the other laden with soul-powered hits, September 5; Lloyd Cole’s two sets, one ostensibly acoustic, the other electric, both eclectic, on October 22.

At The Crescent: The Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster, performing with his son; March 14; Lawrence, once of Felt and Denim, now channelling Mark E Smith and the Velvet Underground in Mozart Estate, October 7; The Howl And The Hum’s extraordinary, deeply emotional three-night farewell to the York band’s original line-up in December.

The long-dormant Pulp’s poster for their This Is What We Do For An Encore return to performing live

Outdoor experience of the year: Pulp, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, July 9

THE rain swept in on the Eighties’ electronic nostalgia of Being Boiled at the Human League’s Music Showcase Weekend at York Racecourse on July 28 too, but that was a mere watering can by comparison with the deluge that befell the Open Air Theatre half an hour before fellow Sheffield legends Pulp took to the Scarborough stage. “Has it been raining?”, teased Jarvis Cocker, but huddled beneath hastily purchased sheeting, the night was still plastic fantastic.  

Cherie Federico: At the helm of all things Aesthetica in York

Driving force of the year in York: Cherie Federico, Aesthetica

2023 marked the 20th anniversary of Aesthetica, the international art magazine set up in York by New Yorker and York St John University alumna Cherie Federico. The Aesthetica Art Prize was as innovative and stimulating as ever at York Art Gallery; the 13th Aesthetica Short Film Festival, spanning five days in November, was the biggest yet. On top of that came the Future Now Symposium in March and the launch of Reignite to bolster York’s focus on being a fulcrum for the arts, media arts and gaming industry innovations of the future.

A star performance: Andy Cryer in The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less) at Stephen Jospeh Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Patch Dolan

Best Shakespeare of the year: The Comedy Of Errors (More Or Less), Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, April

THE SJT teamed up with Shakespeare North Playhouse, Nick Lane paired up with co-writer Elizabeth Godber, and Eighties’ pop guilty pleasures rubbed shoulders with Shakespeare’s rebooted comedy as Yorkshire clashed with Lancashire and everyone won. This Comedy Of Errors got everything right. Not more or less. Just right. Full stop. 

Nuno Queimado and Rumi Sutton in Gus Gowland’s Mayflies at York Theatre Royal

New musical of the year in York: Mayflies, York Theatre Royal, May

YORK Theatre Royal resident artist Gus Gowland deserved far bigger audiences for the premiere of the intriguing Mayflies, as confirmed by no fewer than nine nominations in the BroadwayWorldUK Awards.

O, the app-hazard nature of modern love under Covid’s black cloud, as two people meet up after two years of tentative communication online. In Tania Azevedo’s flexible casting, you could pick any configuration of Rumi Sutton, Nuno Queimado or Emma Thornett for the couple of your choice. Better still, you should have seen all three; the songs, the nuances, the humour, grew with familiarity.

Leigh Symonds’ engineer Winston and Naomi Petersen’s automaton house maid ED in Alan Ayckbourn’s Constant Companions. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

Still delivering the goods in Yorkshire

ALAN Ayckbourn’s visions of AI in Constant Companions, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough; John Godber’s Northern Soul-powered Do I Love You?, on tour into 2024; Barnsley bard Ian McMillan’s Yorkshire take on The Barber Of Seville, St George’s Hall, Bradford; Robin Simpson’s dame in Jack And The Beanstalk, York Theatre Royal.

Copyright of The Press, York