More Things To Do in York and beyond in search of algorithms, rhythm and a Snake. List No. 88, courtesy of The Press

Algorithm & blues: Coder and post-classical pianist Larkhall at Micklegate Social. Picture: Samuel White

GLASTONBURY? Out of sight, out of mind, out of pocket, Charles Hutchinson prefers to stay up north for arts and crafts aplenty.

Curioso gigs of the week: Larkhall, Micklegate Social, Micklegate, York, tonight, 8pm; Brudenell Piano Sessions, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds Grand Theatre, tomorrow, 4pm

RECOMMENDED to Nils Frahm and Max Richter neo-classical devotees, Larkhall combines creative coding with beautiful post-classical piano pieces and makes algorithmically created visuals as he plays.

Larkhall is the performance alias of Minnesota mining town-born, Cambridge University-educated, Bath-based composer, coder and new-media artist Charlie Williams, whose intimate York show coincides with this week’s release of his third album, Say You’re With Me, with its theme of men’s mental health.

Can algorithms be art? Charlie reckons so. “My shows are an experience of algorithms creating beauty instead of, like, getting us to buy more stuff,” he says. Box office: larkhall.org.

Frankie Valli: Fronting The Four Seasons in one day at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Nostalgia of the week: Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, tonight, gates, 6pm

THE Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys, chronicling the life and times of Frankie Valli and his New Jersey group, has brought so many songs to a new generation.

Cue Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Frankie playing Scarborough at 88 with The Four Seasons, performing Sherry, Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man, Rag Doll, Let’s Hang On, My Eyes Adored You, Who Loves You, December, 1963 (Oh What A Night), Grease et al. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Leg up for comic effect: Thom Tuck and Dennis Herdman’s double act in The Play What I Wrote at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Manuel Harlan

Play of the week: Birmingham Rep in The Play What I Wrote, York Theatre Royal, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; Thursday, 2pm; Saturday, 2.30pm

WRITTEN by The Right Size comic coupling of Sean Foley and Hamish McColl in tandem with Eddie Braben, the chap what wrote little Ern’s plays, The Play What I Wrote is both a dissection of double acts and a celebration of Morecambe and Wise.

Thom Wall insists on performing yet another of his hapless plays, an epic set in the French Revolution. Partner Dennis Hayward prefers to continue with their failing comedy duo instead, believing a tribute to Morecambe & Wise will restore Wall’s confidence. First, he needs to persuade a mystery guest to appear in the play what Thom wrote, with a different star for each show. Box office: 01904 623658 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Snake Davis: Saxophonist plays Cop’ Carnival’s debut jazz night on Tuesday

Community event of the week: Cop’ Carnival Day, Copmanthorpe Recreation Centre, Barons Crescent, York, July 2, 11.30am to 6pm

NOW in its 51st year, Cop’ Carnival Day retains its familiar format of dance troops, bands, traditional games and attractions next weekend. Tickets cost £5 in advance or £8 on the day.

In addition, Cop’ Carnival’s first jazz night, hosted with York Gin, presents An Evening With Snake Davis, saxophonist to the stars, on Tuesday at 7pm. Two nights later, the carnival’s comedy bill features Steve Royle, Tom Wrigglesworth, David Eagle and compere Alex Boardman from 8pm.

Throughout the festival, 30 artists are exhibiting at Copmanthorpe Methodist Church nightly from 7pm, admission free. Box office: copmanthorpecarnival.org.uk.

Strictly between them: Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice team up for Him & Me

Dance moves of the week: Anton & Giovanni, Him & Me, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday, 7.30pm

 STRICTLY Come Dancing judge Anton du Beke and 2021 champion professional Giovanni Pernice are joined by dancers and singers for Him & Me, a night when the Ballroom King meets the Jive Master. Expect dance, song, light-hearted fun and banter.

Both Strictly stars will be making their second York appearance of 2022; Anton & Erin’s Showtime played York Barbican in February; Giovanni’s This Is Me followed suit in March. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Fran, frankly: Fran Lebowitz’s evening of acerbic New York wit and astute observation at Grand Opera House

Social commentator of the week: An Evening With Fran Lebowitz, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

FRAN Lebowitz, New York purveyor of urban cool, cultural satirist and author, will be typically forthright and unapologetically opinionated in her dry-humoured social commentary on anything and everything, with a Q&A to boot.

After Pretend It’s A City, Lebowitz’s Netflix documentary series directed by filmmaker and friend Martin Scorsese, here comes her acerbic insights on gender, race, gay rights and the media, plus her pet peeves of celebrity culture, tourists, and baby strollers. Box office: atgtickets.com/York.

Who’d be a teacher? Sam Jackson’s Nick struggles with more than the paperwork in Foxglove Theatre’s The Brink

Shock of the new: Foxglove Theatre in The Brink, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm

IN Brad Birch’s darkly comic, explosive psychological thriller, history teacher Nick is a normal person, working a normal job, who lives a normal life, but he suffers a downward spiral fuelled by dreams and whispers of a bomb buried under the school.

“Thrilling, turbulent, unconventional, The Brink is an unwavering dive into dark and prominent subject matter, alien to the established York stage,” says Nathan Butler, director of new York company Foxglove Theatre. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Suzanne Vega: Booked into York Barbican for February 2023 concert

Big signings of the week for 2023: Suzanne Vega, York Barbican, February 22; Mike + The Mechanics, York Barbican, April 12

GLASTONBURY acoustic stage headliner Suzanne Vega will play York Barbican as the only Yorkshire show of the New York folk singer-songwriter’s 14-date tour next year, with Luka, Marlene On The Wall and Tom’s Diner to the fore.

Mike + The Mechanics will return to York Barbican next spring on their Refueled! 2023 Tour, promising “all the hits and a drop of Genesis” – Mike Rutherford’s other band – plus songs from latest album Out Of The Blue. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Foxglove Theatre’s young blades head for dark side to shake up York’s stage scene

Too much paper work: Sam Jackson as teacher Nick in Foxglove Theatre’s The Brink

NEWLY formed York company Foxglove Theatre aim to “fill the blind spot” of York’s theatre scene by producing thought-provoking, dark and contemporary work.

First up – after an initial February staging circa St Valentine’s Day at University of York DramaSoc – will be their debut at Theatre@41, Monkgate, from June 30 to July 2 with Welsh writer Brad Birch’s The Brink: a comedy replete with blood, murder and death, sexual imagery and ephebophilia (sexual attraction to post-pubescent adolescents and older teenagers, aged 15 to 19).

Formed by producers Ione Vaughan, 21, and Ivy Magee, 20, and director Nathan Butler, 21, Foxglove’s vision is to create and promote thrilling theatre that encourages audiences to engage with live performance as naturally and readily as with their favourite television and streaming platforms.

“Amazing effects and chilling performances are not bound solely to our screens but can be enjoyed to the fullest live on stage as well,” reasons production manager and lighting designer Ivy.

Sam Jackson’s Nick, a school teacher on the brink, is confronted by Abel Kent’s Mr Boyd, the troublesome head teacher who plays with his already fragile sense of reality

“Our company believes in preserving theatre in an age of multi-media, not by binding ourselves to tradition but through adapting the stage alongside the screen.”

Cue The Brink, suitably provocative, dark and contemporary, with unsettling time shifts to boot, premiered at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond, in June 2016.

History teacher Nick is a normal person, working a normal job, who lives a normal life, but he is stuck in an everlasting cycle of stasis at 27. Caught up in a downward spiral fuelled by dreams and whispers of a bomb buried under the school, he begins to lose control in a play with survival at its heart.

“The Brink is a psychological thriller and dark comedy that’s impossible to summarise in just one word,” says Ivy. “But if I had to: explosive!” 

Sam Jackson’s Nick recounts his recurring nightmare

Why stage The Brink, Nathan? “Thrilling, turbulent, unconventional, it encapsulates everything we want to bring to the York theatre scene,” he says. “It’s an unwavering dive into dark and prominent subject matter, alien to the established York stage.

“So, if you’re a Black Mirror, Love, Death And Robots or simply a psychological thriller fan, this is certainly the play for you. By utilising technology and special effects as additional storytellers, we invite you to celebrate the unique capabilities of contemporary theatre.”

You might expect the burgeoning talents of Foxglove Theatre to want to head to this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe, but Nathan says: “In my mind, I’d rather do it here – York has a good theatre scene – rather than taking the 50,000 steps needed to go to the Edinburgh Fringe. Let’s take one step: let’s play York – and our Crowd Funding goals have been reached and exceeded already.”

Nathan admires the work of Brad Birch, an award-winning playwright and screenwriter with plays such as Missing People, Black Mountain, Gardening For The Unfulfilled and Alienated, as well as The Brink, to his name.

“I saw The Brink when it premiered at the Orange Tree, when I was part of National Theatre Connections, and I fell in love with it. Then I acted in it in 2018 for the In Yer Face Company, when we took it to Leatherhead Festival, and it was my favourite thing I did with them.

Sam Jackson’s Nick confides in Harshavardhini Pareek’s Jo, his fellow teacher

“There’s just something about it: it starts off so accessible, you feel you could be watching a TV show or a film – but on stage – where you’re in that comfortable space, feeling like you could be having popcorn!

“But then there are these little hints that something isn’t right and you start feeling differently about what’s going on as Nick’s mental health deteriorates. You’re thrust into this visceral world where you see someone’s descent in front of you.”

Nathan is using a cast of four featuring Sam Jackson, 21, as Nick; Zoe Freeman, 21, as girlfriend Chloe/Jessica; Harshavardhini Pareek, 20, as teacher Jo, and Abel Kent, 22, as head teacher Mr Boyd/Martin.

“There’s so much competition for Sam; everyone wants him for DramaSoc shows,” says Nathan, “We thought, ‘we’re not going to get him’, but thankfully he said yes. The reason he’s so amazing is that my vision for Nick is that ‘this could go anywhere’, and from the very beginning Sam’s portrayal was amazing.”

Grim reaping: Sam Jackson’s teacher Nick imposes a different form of school cuts in The Brink

Birch’s play will be performed on an end-on set designed by Lily Ball, 21, with costume designs by Emily Youngson, 21, sound design by Kai Tangaki, 22, and stage management by Charlotte Powell, 21.

The running time will be two hours without an interval. No interval, Nathan? “It’s a play that gets faster and faster as it goes on. It’s very accessible, as I say, and by the end you’ll be clinging to your seat, I promise.”

Given the amateur status of the company, no-one is being paid, but the Crowd Funding campaign has covered the production costs. “Our long-term goal is that if this goes well, it will only be the start for Foxglove Theatre – and I just love York!” says Nathan.

Foxglove Theatre in The Brink, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, June 30 to July 2, 7.30pm. Tickets: £8, general admission; students, £6; Crowd Funding donators, £5. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Copyright of The Press, York

Badapple’s Danny Mellor goes down to the woods for poignant war memorial comedy Yorkshire Kernel at Theatre@41 Monkgate

The poster for Badapple Theatre Company’s one-man show Yorkshire Kernel

JAMES’S Grandad is at death’s door, but he has one last mission: to find a tree. Many trees in fact, scattered around the country in memory of his Second World War comrades. 

So begins Yorkshire Kernel, written and performed by Danny Mellor for Green Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre Company, on tour at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, on Friday at 7.30pm and Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

Divided between being haunted by his plain-speaking grandfather, his mother rekindling her romance with an old flame, and James’s pregnant partner, Rosie, thinking he is cheating on her, Mellor’s “bonkers” solo show undertakes a journey of Yorkshire wit and grit through one man’s determination to leave a long-lasting legacy.

Danny Mellor: Writer, performer and puppeteer

Newly commissioned by Badapple for their No Hall Too Small scheme, this poignant and humorous world premiere is directed by artistic director Kate Bramley.

Mellor previously wrote Undermined for Leeds company Red Ladder and wrote and performed in Badapple’s garden tour of Suffer Fools Gladly, presented under socially distanced restrictions in September 2020.

Yorkshire Kernel is suitable for age ten upwards. Tickets are on sale at tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond when not only the Mouse will play in all weathers. List No. 83, courtesy of The Press

Behind you! Behind you: Will The Gruffalo pounce on Mouse in Tall Stories’ The Gruffalo?

POLITICS, the weather, monsters, Sixties and Eighties’ favourites, comedy songs and a north eastern tornado all are talking points for Charles Hutchinson for the week ahead.

Children’s show of the week: Tall Stories in The Gruffalo, Grand Opera House, York, today, 1pm and 3pm; tomorrow, 11am and 2pm

JOIN Mouse on a daring adventure through the deep, dark wood in Tall Stories’ magical, musical, monstrous adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture book, suitable for children aged three upwards.

Searching for hazelnuts, Mouse meets cunning Fox, eccentric old Owl and high-spirited Snake. Will the story of the terrifying Gruffalo save Mouse from becoming dinner for these hungry woodland creatures? After all, there is no such thing as a Gruffalo – or is there? Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

True or false: Is Tony Hadley playing York Barbican on Sunday? True!

Eighties’ nostalgia of the week: Tony Hadley, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

I KNOW this much is true: smooth London crooner Tony Hadley is celebrating 40 years in the music business with a 2022 tour that focuses on both his Spandau Ballet and solo years.

Once at the forefront of the New Romantic pop movement, Islington-born Hadley, 61, is the velvet voice of hits such as True, Gold, Chant No. 1, Instinction and Paint Me Down and solo numbers Lost In Your Love and Tonight Belongs To Us. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Up and at’em, Fladam: York musical comedy duo Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter

Comedy songs of the week: Fladam & Friends, Let’s Do It Again!, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, today at 2.30pm and 7.30pm

YORK musical comedy duo Fladam, alias Florence Poskitt and piano-playing partner Adam Sowter, vowed to return after last year’s Hootenanny, and return they will this weekend. But can they really “do it again?”, they ask. Is a sequel ever as good?

Mixing comic classics from Victoria Wood with fabulous Fladam originals, plus a sneak peak of this summer’s Edinburgh Fringe debut, this new show will “either be the Empire Strikes Back of musical comedy sequels or another case of Grease 2”. Tickets to find out which one: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Always take a brolly with you just in case: Mikron Theatre Company’s James Mclean, left, Hannah Bainbridge, Alice McKenna and Thomas Cotran on tour in Lindsay Rodden’s all-weathers play, Red Sky At Night. Picture: Liz Baker

Whatever the weather, nothing stops Mikron Theatre Company in Red Sky At Night, Scarcroft Allotments, York, Sunday, 2pm

HAYLEY’S sunny, beloved dad was the nation’s favourite weatherman. Now, she is following in his footsteps, joining the ranks of the forecasting fraternity, or at least local shoestring teatime telly.

When the pressure drops and dark clouds gather, Hayley melts faster than a lonely snowflake. She may be the future’s forecast, but will anyone listen in Lindsay Rodden’s premiere, toured by Marsden company Mikron’s 50th anniversary troupe of James Mclean, Hannah Bainbridge, Alice McKenna and Thomas Cotran. No tickets are required; a Pay What You Feel collection will be taken after the show.

Stop Stop Start: The Hollies’ rearranged 60th anniversary tour will arrive at York Barbican on Monday

Sixties’ nostalgia of the week: The Hollies, 60th Anniversary Tour, York Barbican, Monday, 7.30pm

MOVED from September 2021, with tickets still valid, this 60th anniversary celebration of the Manchester band features a line-up of two original members, drummer Bobby Elliott and lead guitarist Tony Hicks, joined by lead singer Peter Howarth, bassist Ray Stiles, keyboardist Ian Parker and rhythm guitarist Steve Lauri.

Expect He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother, I Can’t Let Go, Just One Look, Bus Stop, I’m Alive, Carrie Anne, On A Carousel, Jennifer Eccles, Sorry Suzanne, The Air That I Breathe and more besides. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Giving an earful: Bettrys Jones’s Ellen Wilkinson MP, left, has a word with Laura Evelyn’s British Communist activist Isabel Brown in Red Ellen

A bit of politics of the week: Northern Stage in Red Ellen, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2pm, Thursday; 2.30pm, Saturday

CAROLINE Bird’s new play turns the overdue spotlight on “Mighty Atom” Ellen Wilkinson, the crusading Labour MP cast forever on the right side of history, but the wrong side of life.

Caught between revolutionary and parliamentary politics, Ellen fights with an unstoppable, reckless energy for a better world, whether battling to save Jewish refugees in Nazi Germany; leading 200 workers on the Jarrow Crusade; serving in Churchill’s war cabinet or becoming the first female Minister for Education. Yet somehow she still finds herself on the outside looking in.​ Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Steven Jobson, as Jekyll/Hyde, and Nicola Holliday, as Lucy Harris, in York Musical Theatre Company’s photocall for Jekyll & Hyde The Musical at York Castle Museum

Musical of the week: York Musical Theatre Company in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm, Saturday matinee

BE immersed in the myth and mystery of London’s fog-bound streets where love, betrayal and murder lurk at every chilling twist and turn in Matthew Clare’s production of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s musical adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s epic struggle between good and evil.

Steven Jobson plays the dual role of Dr Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde in the evocative tale of two men – one, a doctor, passionate and romantic; the other, a terrifying madman – and two women – one, beautiful and trusting; the other, beautiful and trusting only herself– both women in love with the same man and both unaware of his dark secret. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Coastal call: Sam Fender kicks off the 2022 season at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Award winner of the week: Sam Fender, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, May 27, gates open at 6pm

WINNER earlier this week of the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for his Seventeen Going Under single, North Shields singer-songwriter Sam Fender opens the 2022 Scarborough Open Air Theatre summer season next Friday.

Already Fender, 28, has the 2022 Brit Award for Best British Alternative/Rock Act in his bag as he heads down the coast to perform his frank, intensely personal, high-octane songs from 2019’s Hypersonic Missiles and 2021’s Seventeen Going Under. Box office: scarboroughopenairtheatre.com. 

Music, fandom and mythology combine in Sarah-Louise Young’s chaotic cabaret cult show An Evening Without Kate Bush

“A bonkers triumph”: Sarah-Louise Young in An Evening Without Kate Bush

KATE Bush has never played York but here comes An Evening Without Kate Bush, Sarah- Louise Young’s show for uber-fans and newcomers alike, at Theatre@41, Monkgate, on Thursday night.

Made by actress, writer, director and international cabaret performer Young with theatre-maker Russell Lucas, this “chaotic cabaret cult” is as much about fandom and mythology as a celebration of Bush’s five decades of ground-breaking music, from the chart-topping Wuthering Heights at the age of 19 in 1978 to the 22-night run of her three-act Before The Dawn show at Hammersmith Apollo in 2014.

“My big brother’s first cerebral and physical crush was Kate Bush, and I do remember dancing madly to Wuthering Heights when I was four and a half, with four older brothers around me,” says Sarah-Louise.

“Hounds Of Love was my Kate Bush album, and I was a big fan of her videos; their theatricality was part of my genesis as a performer.”

Young and Lucas had first made a show together ten years ago, Julie Madly Deeply, in celebration of stage and screen actress Julie Andrews. “We wanted to make another show because we’d started to explore fans and fandom in the Julie show, and with Kate not performing for more than 30 years, we started thinking about doing a show focusing on Kate and her fans,” recalls Sarah Louise.

“Then suddenly she announced the Before The Dawn concerts, so we put it on ice. We both had tickets but had to give them away as we’d been invited to perform a three-week run of Julie Madly Deeply at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto.

“But the idea was still very hot and we thought, ‘let’s just make it’, coming up with the idea of wanting to make a piece of fan art about how Kate Bush might make a piece about her fans, with us creating a show we could perform out of suitcases.”

The resulting show is in the spirit of Kate Bush “but never trying to imitate her”, one where people often come out afterwards with their mouths open, saying “it’s not what I expected at all”…or asking Sarah-Louise if she does yoga exercises. The answer is No.

Kate Bush once said, “it’s not important to me that people understand me”. Indeed Sarah-Louise quotes a line from Graeme Thomson’s 2010 biography, Under The Ivy , that says “some people have found her easier to parody than to understand”, but An Evening Without Kate Bush is definitely not in that camp.

Rather than a parody, it is a deep dive seeking a deeper understanding of her music and mythology. “We nod to tribute shows, but then take a journey down the worm hole to show the flip side, the B-side, of Kate, where she keeps evolving and regenerating,” says Sarah-Louise.

What emerges is a “Chaotic Cabaret Cult”, as Young and Lucas define the show. “We came up with that phrase after we spent a lot of time at the start thinking about the audience experience, what they’ll get out of the show, and will it be fun for us?” says Sarah-Louise.

“I want chaos! ‘Cult’ was an ambitious idea, but it has turned into that, and cabaret, for me, encompasses all theatre genres, especially after the two years we’ve just had. The show is never the same twice.”

Each night is a transformative experience for Sarah-Louise. “I get spat out at the other end of the show,” she says,

Choosing songs was “immensely difficulty”, so much so that “we put it out on social media, asking people to tell us what songs they wouldn’t forgive us for not including”. “But we also didn’t want to make a show where they were all from the early era,” says Sarah-Louise. “And we had to look at what backing tracks were available, so we’ve done Hammer Horror and James And The Cold Gun afresh.”

She acknowledges that “for some people, Kate’s music is a quasi-religious experience”. “We learned a lot from our Julie Madly Deeply show, where people bring their childhood memories to it; their love of The Sound Of Music and Mary Poppins, and that was very helpful in creating this show,” says Sarah-Louise.

“It was important that I was a fan but also a theatre-maker who could step away from that, so that the show works for both super-fans and those who aren’t.

“It’s a celebration of fans and their experiences, made from a place of respect because I was aware that people wanted their love to be respected and affirmed. They love her epic themes, and that is what art should do: give us a portal to understand ourselves.”

An Evening Without Kate Bush takes on a different life each night: “There’s another show going on that’s not in my control,” says Sarah-Louise. “People bring their history and their love; how lucky I am to have those experiences in the room.”

One review has called it “a bonkers triumph”. “I’m very, very happy with that! Those two words – ‘bonkers triumph’ – work so well together because it is in part a clown show that allows that side of Kate to come through, as well as showing respect.”

An Evening Without Kate Bush, but with Sarah-Louise Young, at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday (28/4/2022), 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Sarah-Louise Young in Kate Bush mode: Note the red shoes

HERE is the official syndicated interview with Sarah-Louise Young for even more insight into An Evening Without Kate Bush, a show heading out on tour after a three-week London season.

What attracted you to Kate Bush as the possible subject for the show? 

“I’ve aways loved Kate Bush’s music and as a child of the ’70s and 80s remember that first appearance on Top Of The Pops and all those amazing videos and songs which followed.  Plus my brother fancied her a bit, so her music was always floating through the house. 

“Kate Bush is a true icon: her music is unique, spanning nearly five decades, winning countless awards and selling millions of records, but the woman herself is something of an enigma.

“Not performing live for over 30 years between her 1979 Tour Of Life and 2014’s Before The Dawn at the Hammersmith Apollo, she spoke to us through her recorded music. 

“In her physical absence, her fans created their own community: ‘The Fish People’. They are at the heart of An Evening Without Kate Bush. 

“We wanted to celebrate them through her music. That was the starting point of making the show.” 

Do you try to impersonate Kate in the show? 

“I never set out to impersonate her – I mean who could? – but it’s amazing how many people tell me I sound like her though. A few fans thought I was miming at the start of the show!” 

How hard is it to sing in Kate’s extraordinary vocal range?

“It’s definitely a vocally athletic workout! She sang them all live back in 1979, apart from Hammer Horror – a song we do in the two-act touring version of An Evening Without Kate Bush – so there’s no excuse not to do the same.

“What you hear on the albums is months of intricate layering of harmonies and different instruments, so it’s a more raw sound on stage, of course. 

“I perform all the songs in their original keys, and I think part of it is that she chose such specific phrasing and wrote such intricate melodies, hearing them instantly hot-wires you back to the original.” 

How did you prepare the movement aspect of your show?

“I spent one day working with the amazing Tom Jackson Greaves, who is a director and choreographer. We watched a lot of her videos and noted down some of her choices.

“We explored those in our session; again, never trying to ‘be’ her, more tap into her spirit. Quite by accident, the nicknames we came up with for her moves (‘The Pulse’, ‘The Champagne Whipcrack’, for example) found their way into the show.

“That’s often how it happens with devised work: you become a sponge for every impulse and they jostle around your head during the making process until they either find a home or float off into the ether.

“With the costumes too, my brilliant co-creator, Russell Lucas, and I tried to evoke her, not copy her. We rub shoulders with themes: she uses a lot of nature and bird imagery in her work, hence the feathery headdress.

“The cleaner’s outfit for This Woman’s Work is as much a nod to the cleaner’s story we mention at the start of the show, as it is to her TV special appearance where Kate sang Army Dreamers dressed as a cleaner or archetypal vintage housewife. That’s one for the super-fans.

“We did of course watch a lot of footage, interviews, videos, everything we could find, to get to know her journey as an artist and also how the world around her changed.

“Her early interviews are so uncomfortable. She is often being asked truly banal or overtly sexualised questions. She is so polite and accommodating but it’s great to see her later on in her career take the reins and shut down lines of enquiry that show the interviewers have no idea what they’re talking about.

“I also read the brilliant biography by Graeme Thomson called Under The Ivy. It’s the best music biography I’ve ever read and really lets you into her creative process.”

Do you need to know Kate’s music and be a super-fan to enjoy An Evening Without Kate Bush?

“Absolutely not. It’s one of the biggest compliments the show has received. Of course, if you are a super-fan, you’ll hear lots of the songs you know and love plus some little hidden gems for those in-the-know.

“But none of that is at the expense of the audience members who have perhaps come along with a fan friend or just out of curiosity. We elevate and celebrate everyone and when someone tells me after the show that they didn’t know her work but will be going home to listen to her music, then I’m thrilled.” 

Your show encourages interaction. How does that work?

“It’s as interactive as you want it to be. I’ve been working in cabaret for over 20 years and my primary aim is that the audience have a good time. It’s great to be challenged and surprised, but I want them to feel safe. That’s really important to me. 

“The invitation to participate starts small, a wave of a hand or a howl in the dark. I’m always really careful with any audience interaction to choose people who want to participate. There’s no enforced joining in; just gentle encouragement.

“I find that people self-select pretty easily. If someone doesn’t want to play, their body language communicates that. So far, I’ve never chosen anyone who didn’t want to be asked and I’ve had people come up to me after the show and fling their arms around me with gratitude.

“There’s a lovely moment where I invite a couple to dance together. During our Edinburgh Fringe run, we had a mum and her son come and dance, which reduced the whole room to tears, and in London, a couple who’d recently broken up but wanted to stay friends joined us on stage: they sought me out afterwards to say thank you. Our audiences have been brilliant. There is always so much love in the room. 

“Russell Lucas and I were inspired by Kate Bush flashmobs and events like The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever, which have sprung up around the world, from Sydney, Australia to Folkestone, Kent. We’ve taken fans’ stories and paid tribute to them on stage. You’ll enjoy the songs you know and love but put through the lens of the fans’ story. 

Sarah-Louise Young in her headdress from Denmark, the first costume piece of costume she bought for An Evening Without Kate Bush

After the opening song, And Dream Of Sheep, you say, “She’s not here but you are”! How would you feel if the real Kate Bush were in the audience? Would you want to know in advance?

“We would absolutely LOVE it if she came to see the show, although she’d have to wear a disguise as I think the audience would capsize if they knew she was in.

“When we were making it, we always knew we wanted it to be something she would approve of – so it’s been created with love, respect and a hefty does of joyful eccentricity! 

“Friends of hers have seen it and loved it, and in Chichester I had the great privilege of meeting one of her original Tour Of Life backing singers, Glenys Groves.

“She was so enthusiastic about the piece and is still in touch with Kate, so you never know…we might yet have an evening WITH Kate Bush one of these days!”

Your show focuses on Kate’s fans worldwide. Who are the most bizarre you came across?

“Kate Bush’s fans are really friendly and open! People have shared so many incredible and personal stories with me: there’s the man who proposed to his wife to The Kick Inside; the young lad who found the courage to come out to his parents after listening to Wow, and the couple who chose Don’t Give Up as the first dance at their wedding.

“We’ve been touring a two-act version of this show around the country, with even more costume changes, so I’m able to weave some of these new stories into the next night’s performance.

“We’ve also heard from fans who went to see every single Tour Of Life date, have tattoos of her lyrics on their arms, and folk who come to the show dressed as her. 

Does the show change each night depending on the audience’s reactions?

“No two shows are the same and I love that. It keeps it fresh and alive. 

I ask the audience what their favourite songs are or what’s brought them to the theatre and then weave their stories into the evening’s entertainment. 

“We call it a ‘chaotic cabaret cult’ and it really is! It’s playful, anarchic, touching, hot and sweaty and full of music and laughter. 

“Imagine if Kate Bush made a tribute show about her fans and you come close to capturing the spirit of An Evening Without Kate Bush. Even if you just howl with the hounds or wave a hand in the air, you are still part of the experience. 

“I love hearing people’s stories and I always come out into the foyer afterwards to chat to anyone who wants to stay and talk. The audience really make this show.” 

How difficult was it to decide which songs to include?

“It was a massive challenge as there are many across such a huge time span. Inevitably there are lots from her early albums. The Kick Inside and Hounds Of Love are a lot of people’s favourites and first experience of her work.

“When we were making the show, we ran a poll on social media to see what songs people wouldn’t forgive us for not including! But we still had to leave some out. I adore Deeper Understanding and Under The Ivy, for example, but if we put them all in, it would be longer than The Ring Cycle! 

“We take well-known songs like This Woman’s Work and Cloudbusting and give them a twist. So, if you come to see An Evening Without Kate Bush, you might find yourself suddenly singing backing vocals or slow dancing with your partner at the school disco.

“If you speak Russian, you might enjoy joining in with my version of Babooshka! The longer touring version allows us to include some surprises like her cover of Sexual Healing and a little slice of Pi. 

Do you have a favourite moment in the show?

“I love the moment, usually about half way through Don’t Give Up, when the couple dancing on stage have realised they basically get to hug for six minutes and after some expected clowning about, just start to relax and enjoy the opportunity to be close.

“The audience is often singing with me and it’s a lovely moment of coming together. At the end of the song, I thank them and guide them carefully to their seats and they often say a big thank you or lean in for a hug. 

“I guess my favourite parts are when something spontaneous or unexpected happens as a result of some audience interaction. They keep me on my toes and anything unique to that gathering of people reminds them and me that this night, this configuration of people, will never happen again. It’s special. I like theatre which is made with love and danger; that excites me.” 

What’s your favourite costume in the show?

“The feathered headdress I’m wearing in the poster is very special. We found that in Denmark and it was the first piece of costume we bought.

“The whole show is made from scratch, so I hand-made my Vileda super-mop costume, and the Snowflake headdress I wear at the top of Act Two took me about two solid days to stitch, so I love to because it was such a triumph of experience over skill in the making.”

Why is Kate so intriguing to so many people after all the decades?

“Her fans have travelled with her and as she has evolved as an artist, she has become the soundtrack to their lives. That’s my oven-ready hypothesis. I also think she influenced so many other artists that the whole music scene is steeped in her musical juices, as it were.

“She was one of the first people to experiment with the Fairlight, she mastered complex sampling of vocals, including the Trio Bulgarka from Hungary, and if you read the list of pop royalty lining up to play a couple of bars on her albums, everyone wants to work with her.

“She never shied away from writing about the largeness of life either, epic themes, the loneliness of love, the wonder of creation, the sensuality of being human.

“Her albums are somewhere you can climb inside and dream in. She’s one of us and yet totally Other. She’s a tea-drinking mum and an Ivy Glad Goddess.” 

If you could ask Kater one thing, what would it be?

“‘Please would you come and see our show?’. I feel like she’s said what she needs to say in her music. Perhaps I’d just ask her if she’d like a cup of tea and we’d see what happens next.”

Sarah-Louise Young: actress, writer, director, cabaret performer…and Kate Bush fan

This woman’s work: Who is Sarah-Louise Young?

Actress, writer, director and international cabaret performer. She has appeared in London’s West End with Julie Madly Deeply, Fascinating Aïda, La Soirée and Olivier-winning improvised musical group The Showstoppers.

Named one of Time Out’s Top Ten Cabaret Acts and voted Best Musical Variety Act in the London Cabaret Awards, she has been nominated for an Offie too and awarded The Stage Award for Acting. She is one half of writing and performing duo Roulston & Young, at present creating a new musical, Maxa, The Most Assassinated Woman In The World.

She directed Mark Farrelly in Jarman and Paulus in Looking For Me Friend, The Music Of Victoria Wood and has directed Russell Lucas in his solo show The Bobby Kennedy Experience.

More Things To Do in and around York when Wrong is the right choice. Magical List No.79, courtesy of The Press, York

Mind games: Beverley actor Rory Fairbairn as the Mind Mangler in Magic Goes Wrong, on tour at York Theatre Royal from Tuesday

MAGIC is on the cards in the week ahead, and you can’t wrong if you follow Charles Hutchinson’s tips for what else to do and see.

Mayhem in April: Mischief in Magic Goes Wrong, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Sunday, 7.30pm (except Sunday); 2pm, Thursday and Sunday, 2.30pm, Saturday

MASTERS of catastrophic comedy Mischief team up with deconstructionist American magicians Penn & Teller for Magic Goes Wrong, their most daring calamitous show yet.

When a hapless gang of magicians strive to stage an evening of grand illusion to raise cash for charity, magic turns to mayhem, accidents spiral out of control and so does their fundraising target. Penn & Teller will not be appearing on stage. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Kristin Hersh: Fronting her Electric Trio at The Crescent

Cult gig of the week: Kristin Hersh Electric Trio, The Crescent, York, tomorrow, 7.30pm

BOSTON songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and author Kristin Hersh, leader of indie rock band Throwing Muses and noise rock power trio 50 Foot Wave, is on the road with her hard-hitting super-group.

Joining Hersh, 55, will be 50 Foot Wave drummer Rob Ahlers and Throwing Muses bassist Fred Abong, who opens the night playing solo, promoting his Yellow Throat album. Expect Throwing Muses’s 2020 album, Sun Racket, to feature alongside material spanning Hersh’s 30-year career. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Improvising a musical: Showstoppers Ruth Bratt, left, Lauren Shearing and Pippa Evans with Duncan Walsh Atkins, on keys, and Chris Ash on reeds. Picture: Alex Harvey-Brown

Anything could happen: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, York Theatre Royal, tonight, 7.30pm

OLIVIER Award winners Showstopper! return to York with…well, you decide! At each show, a new musical comedy is created from scratch as audience suggestions are transformed on the spot into an all-singing, all-dancing production.

From Hamilton in a hospital to Sondheim in the Sahara, you suggest it and The Showstoppers will sing it. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Blues power: Guitarist Joanne Shaw Taylor returns to York Barbican

Blues gig of the week: Joanne Shaw Taylor, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

WEST Midlands blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Joanne Shaw Taylor plays York as one of five British dates this month, performing songs from 2021’s The Blues Album.

That album showcased covers of 11 rare blues classics first recorded by Albert King, Peter Green, Little Richard, Magic Sam, Aretha Franklin and Little Milton. Expect selections from her albums Reckless Heart, Wild, The Dirty Truth, Almost Always Never, Diamonds In The Dirt and White Sugar too. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Gabrielle Sargent: Soprano soloist for York Guildhall Orchestra’s St George’s Day concert

Celebration of the week: York Guildhall Orchestra’s St George’s Day Concert, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

YORK Guildhall Orchestra make their JoRo debut under the baton of conductor Simon Wright, who turns the spotlight on English composers in an Anglophile programme of light music to mark St George’s Day.

“Come down for a springtime evening of joyful music and not a dragon in sight,” says Wright, who will be combining favourite pieces with lesser-known gems. Sullivan, Elgar and Handel feature; so do Strachy’s Party Mood (from Housewives’ Choice), Wood’s Barwick Green (The Archers) and Coates’s By The Sleepy Lagoon (Desert Island Discs). Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

One giant leap for Lee Harris’s Mr Toad during rehearsals for NE Musicals York’s York premiere of The Wind In The Willows The Musical

Family musical of the week: NE Musicals York in The Wind In The Willows The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, April 27 to May 1, 7.30pm; 2.30pm matinees, Saturday, Sunday

NE Musicals York transform the JoRo theatre into a riverbank and wildwood for director and designer Steve Tearle’s York premiere of Julian Fellowes’ stage adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s story with a score by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe.

Join Ratty (Finlay Butler), Mole (Jack Hambleton), Badger (Tom Henshaw) and the impulsive Mr Toad (Lee Harris), whose insatiable need for speed lands him in serious bother. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Horse Chestnut Leaves, a watercolour by Selby artist Lynda Heaton, from her Village Gallery exhibition in York

Exhibition launch of the week: Lynda Heaton, Expressions In Watercolour, Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, Tuesday to June 4

SINCE retiring, Selby artist Lynda Heaton has spent much of her time painting in her home studio. “I’m passionate about watercolour painting and love the way the colours mingle and move across the paper, sometimes giving surprising effects,” she says.

“My works come from my imagination or from memories of somewhere I’ve been and the mood of that place.” Other pieces are inspired by the natural world, the colours, textures and rhythms found in nature.

Diversity performing Connected in their April 4 performance at York Barbican. Picture: Sarah Hollis

Quick return of the week: Diversity: Connected, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.45pm

HOT on the heels of their April 4 visit, London street dancers Diversity return to York Barbican due to public demand as part of their 79-show 2022 tour.

In a show created by choreographer Ashley Banjo, the 2009 Britain’s Got Talent winners will be building their routines around the internet, social media, the digital era and how it connects us all. Their Black Lives Matter-inspired dance, premiered on Britain’s Got Talent to a flood of complaints to Ofcom in September 2020, definitely features. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

This woman’s re-work: Sarah-Louise Young in An Evening Without Kate Bush at Theatre@41

An Evening Without Kate Bush but with Sarah-Louise Young, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York,  Thursday, 7.30pm

THE “chaotic cabaret cult”, An Evening Without Kate Bush”, finds Cabaret Whore, The Showstoppers, La Soiree performer Sarah-Louise Young teaming up theatre maker Russell Lucas to explore the music and mythology of one of the most influential voices in British music.

Kate’s not there, but you are, for a show that is as much about fandom as Bush’s songs and wider cultural impact. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

REVIEW: Pick Me Up Theatre in Shakespeare In Love, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, until Saturday ****

Sanna Jeppsson in noblewoman Viola’s guise as young actor Thomas Kent. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

SHAKESPEARE In Love was a film about theatre, as much as it was about love. Now it is a play about theatre, with even more theatre in it, more Marlowe as well as Shakespeare, as much as it is still about love.

It makes perfect sense to transfer the period rom-com from screen to its natural bedfellow, the stage, and who better than Lee Hall to effect that transition.  

For the north-eastern mining and dancing drama Billy Elliot, he adapted his own screenplay; this time, he makes merry with Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman’s boisterous and romantic script for John Madden’s 1999 award-winner, ruffing it up to the neck in Shakespeare in-jokes, but not roughing up its sophisticated wit.

Robert Readman: Producer, set designer and builder, costume guru and thespian, playing hammy Elizabethan actor Ned Alleyn. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

Pick Me Up Theatre’s always quick-off-the-mark founder, Robert Readman, was typically speedy to pick up the rights to Shakespeare In Love for the York company’s tenth anniversary, whereupon a series of spot-on decisions were made.

First, appoint Bard buff and Pick Me Up ace card Mark Hird to direct the rollicking romp. Second, bring George Stagnell back to the York stage to play the title role. Third, talent-spot Swedish-born Sanna Jeppsson in York Settlement Community Players’ The 39 Steps (even when it fell at the first step, called off through cast illness after one night last November).

Four, utilise Readman’s skills, not only as producer and designer/builder, but also his dormant love of performing. When you need a thick slice of ham to play larger-than-life Elizabethan actor Ned Alleyn, “prince of the provinces”, who you gonna call? Why, Mr Readman, of course, tapping into his inner plummy Simon Callow.

Sanna Jeppsson’s Viola de Lesseps and George Stagnell’s Will Shakespeare mutually admire his newly quilled lines in Shakespeare In Love. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

Readman has conjured an end-on, raised stage built for the outdoors, but no less suited to the John Cooper Studio’s black box, with its echoes of Shakespeare’s Globe or the Rose; decorative flowers; curtains to cover amorous going-ons behind, and traps for hasty exits and entries.

Ensemble cast members sit beside the stage apron, watching the action when not involved. On a mezzanine level, musical director Natalie Walker and Royal College of Music student Tom Bennett are playing Paddy Cunneen’s gorgeous score.

Hird’s company looks the Elizabethan part too, Readman’s costume brief requiring hires from the Royal Shakespeare Company, no less, as well as York Theatre Royal and Leeds Playhouse, plus ear studs and earrings aplenty (for the men).

Ian Giles’s Henslowe and Andrew Roberts’s Ralph. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

Praise too for Emma Godivala and York College’s work on hair, fake moustaches and make-up, especially for Jeppsson when taking the guise of young actor Thomas Kent.

The make-up for the men is deliberately heavy, in keeping with Shakespeare’s day, but everything else is conducted with a delightfully light touch under Hird’s direction, where the next scene chases the previous one off the stage, such is the gleeful urgency to crack on with such a cracking plot replete with cross-dressing, swordplay and backside-biting puppetry (courtesy of Elanor Kitchen’s Spot the Dog).

The only slowness is in the pace of lines coming to Shakespeare’s quill, surrounded by the company of actors awaiting the next play of his still fledgling career, outshone by dashing, daring Kit Marlowe (Adam Price), amusingly providing his young friend (Stagnell’s Will) with all his best lines.

Adam Price’s devil-may-care Kit Marlowe has a word with George Stagnell’s Will, in desperate disguise for his safety at this juncture. Picture: Matthew Kitchen

Theatre bosses Henslowe (Ian Giles) and rival Richard Burbage (Tony Froud) are vying for Shakespeare’s services; theatre backer “The Money” Fennyman (Andrew Isherwood) keeps applying the financial squeeze, often with menaces; Tilney (Neil Foster), the supercilious Lord Chamberlain with the insufferable killjoy manner of Malvolio, is determined to shut down theatres, whatever excuse he can find.

Queen Elizabeth (Joy Warner) wants a dog to have its day in every play; Guy Wilson’s John Webster just wants a chance; Shakespeare needs a muse. Enter Jeppsson’s Viola de Lesseps, alas promised to the ghastly Lord Wessex (Jim Paterson) against her wishes. Viola is banned from the stage under the rules, but takes the dangerous step of performing as Thomas Kent, and what a performer he/she is.

Viola’s amusing West Country Nurse (Beryl Nairn) becomes the template for that very character in Romeo & Juliet, and as Shakespeare’s work in progress changes from comedy  to tragedy, Alleyn plays Mercutio, fabulously outraged at being killed off so early.

Sam Hird, left, and Tom Bennett, from the Royal College of Music, on song in Shakespeare In Love

Shakespeare In Love gives us a developing play within a play, and while it helps to have some knowledge of Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Burbage et al, it echoes Blackadder in having such fun with a period setting and re-writing history, here imagining how Romeo & Juliet and in turn Twelfth Night may have emerged.

What’s more, Stagnell and Jeppsson are a delight in the swelling love story, as well as in delivering Shakespeare’s lines when called on to do so.

Terrific performances abound around them, especially from Price, Isherwood, Paterson and Wilson, a young talent with a gift for physical comedy in the Marty Feldman and Tony Robinson tradition, while Warner’s cameos as Queen Elizabeth are a joy too.

To cap it all, Sam Hird and Tom Bennett’s performance of an Elizabethan ballad is beautiful, typical of  a swashbuckling performance that is a palpable hit in every way. If you love theatre, this play is why you do. If you don’t, go anyway and be converted. Tonight until Friday’s shows have sold out but tickets are still available for 2.30pm and 7.30pm on Saturday at tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

More Things To Do in York and beyond as Bloosmbury sets in for spring gallery run. List No. 72, courtesy of The Press, York

Fan-tasia : Becky Gee, curator of fine art at York Museums Trust, at the Beyond Bloomsbury: Life, Love & Legacy exhibition at York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

FROM an ice trail to Spring Awakening, a very happy pig in mud to sibling rivalry in a salon, Charles Hutchinson points you in the right direction for days and nights out.

Exhibition opening of the week: Beyond Bloomsbury: Life, Love & Legacy, York Art Gallery, until June 5

YORK Art Gallery’s spring exhibition, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery and Sheffield Museums, explores the lives and work of the extraordinary Bloomsbury writers, artists and thinkers.

Active in England in the first half of the 20th century, they included the writer and feminist pioneer Virginia Woolf and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell, as key figures.

On show are more than 60 major loans of oil paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs by Bell, Dora Carrington, Roger Fry, Duncan Grant, Paul Nash, Gwen Raverat and Ray Strachey, plus four commissions from Sahara Longe, painted in response to the Bloomsbury legacy, and Bloomsbury-inspired murals and fireplaces designed by graphic artist Lydia Caprani. 

York Ice Trail: Thrills in chills this weekend

Spectacle of the week: York Ice Trail, today and tomorrow

MAKE IT York and Visit York invite you to “pack your suitcase, grab your passport and embark on a journey around the world” in the return of the York Ice Trail.

Sculptures of solid ice await discovery at 43 locations this weekend, inspired by international cultures and a love of travel. Live carving is promised too.

In response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the National Railway Museum has withdrawn its Faberge’s Trans-Siberian Railway Egg in Low Petergate, but a newly added ice sculpture in support of Ukraine will be on display in St Helen’s Square.

Giovanni Pernice: This is him in This Is Me!, on tour at York Barbican on Wednesday

Dance show of the week: Giovanni Pernice: This Is Me!, York Barbican,  7.30pm

AFTER partnering Rose Ayling-Ellis to Glitterball Trophy success in the 2021 series of Strictly Come Dancing, Giovanni Pernice pays homage to the music and dances that inspired his journey from competition dancer to television favourite.

“I just want to try and do something different, something that you haven’t seen before,” says Sicilian stallion Pernice, 31. “I want to challenge myself and show off my hidden talents.” Cue ballroom and Latin dances and more besides. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Peppa Pig in her dressing room, awaiting her call for the Best Day Ever

Children’s show of the week: Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 1pm and 4pm; Thursday, 10am and 1pm

PEPPA Pig is so excited to be heading off on a special day out with George, Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig in a road trip full of adventures, songs, games and laughter.

From castles to caves, dragons to dinosaurs, ice creams to the obligatory muddy puddles, there will be something for all the family to enjoy. Look out for Miss Rabbit, Mr Bull and Gerald Giraffe too on “the best day ever for Peppa Pig fans”. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Hair-larious: Buglight Theatre turn the Bronte sisters into salon stylists in Jane Hair

Salon appointment of the week : Buglight Theatre in Jane Hair: The Brontes Restyled, York Theatre Royal, Studio, Thursday, 7.45pm

SIBLING rivalry meets literary debate one explosive evening when stylists Anne, Emily and Charlotte Bronte cut, colour and style while sharing their hopes and dreams in Bradford’s most creative beauty salon.

Buglight Theatre writers Kirsty Smith and Kat Rose-Martin offer this chance to meet the modern-day versions of three determined young women from Yorkshire who set the literary world on fire. For returns only, ring 01904 623568.

Josh Liew and Amy Hawtin: Playing the leads, Melchior Gabor and Wendla Bergman, in Central Hall Musical Society’s Spring Awakening at Theatre@41

Musical of the week: Central Hall Musical Society in Spring Awakening, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday and Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm, 7.30pm

CENTRAL Hall Musical Society (also known as CHMS, York), from the University of York, present Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater’s 2006 rock musical revamp of a once-banned Frank Wedekind play, directed by Abena Abban.

A group of teenagers in a small German village in 1891 find the oppressive structures upheld by their parents and teachers to be at odds with their own awakening sexuality.

Spring Awakening explores themes of sex, puberty, coming of age and a yearning for a more progressive future, refracting old-fashioned values through a 21st-century lens. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Le Navet Bete’s motley crew of pirates in Treasure Island at York Theatre Royal

Family show of the week; Le Navet Bete in Treasure Island, York Theatre Royal, Thursday, Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

LAST in York last September to reveal a vampire’ secrets in Dracula: The Bloody Truth, physical comedy company Le Navet Bete now go in search of buried treasure in a swashbuckling family adventure, Treasure Island.

Peepolykus artistic director and writer John Nicholson directs a cast of four, playing 26 characters in a fresh take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale laced with contemporary comedic twists, tropical islands, an unusual motley crew of pirates, a parrot called Alexa (straight from the Amazon), a white-bearded fish finger tycoon and unforgettable mermaid.  Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

David Ford: Living in interesting times at Pocklington Arts Centre on Thursday

Gig of the week outside York: David Ford, Pocklington Arts Centre, Thursday, 8pm

WHAT happens when you shut a creative force in a room for two years? The answer is a tornado blast of a new album from Eastbourne singer-songwriter David Ford documenting the tumultuous events of 2020 and 2021, as he charts the rise of Covid and fall of Trump, although both are still stubbornly refusing to go away.

Ford will air songs from the imminent May You Live In Interesting Times, along with compositions written in two days and recorded in one with American support act Annie Dressner. Look out for their six-track EP on sale at the Pock gig. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

More Things To Do in York and beyond despite Killer Queen banning rock music. List No. 69, courtesy of The Press, York

Bohemians in rhapsody: We Will Rock You weaves its way through 24 Queen songs at the Grand Opera House, York. Picture: Johan Persson

FROM Queen’s “rock theatrical” to Britney fandom, a café’s mug exhibition to folk’s witching hour, outlaw cabaret with gin to confronting digital intrusiveness, Charles Hutchinson finds diversity aplenty to enjoy.

Musical of the week: We Will Rock You, Grand Opera House, York, Monday to Saturday, 7.30pm; 2.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday

WRITER and comedian Ben Elton directs the 20th anniversary of We Will Rock You, the “guaranteed-to-blow-your-mind” Queen musical built around his dystopian futuristic storyline.

In a system that bans rock music, a handful of rebels, the Bohemians, vows to fight against an all-powerful global company and its boss, the Killer Queen.

Musical advisor Brian May says “the world’s first true Rock Theatrical” now has a state-of-the-art new look, with a story of breaking free from conformity more relevant than ever. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at atgtickets.com/York.

Reiko Kaneko: Taking part in the Cups and Such exhibition at FortyFive Vinyl Cafe. Picture: Cat Garcia

Cracking (or hopefully not) exhibition of the week: Cups and Such…or, A Hug In A Mug, FortyFive Vinyl Café, Micklegate, York, until March 6

“A HUG for you, or for someone else, Cups and Such is an exhibition of beautiful, handmade drinking vessels that promises to offer comfort and solace for all,” says curator Lotte Inch.

Working in tandem with FortyFive Vinyl Café, that welcoming haven of music, coffee and comfort food, Lotte Inch Gallery has selected cups, mugs, beakers, tea bowls and more, made by hand by Rebecca Callis, Reiko Kaneko, Ali Tomlin and the Leach Studios to “offer someone a moment of warmth, a sense of connection and an opportunity to embrace”. 

“This can’t be it,” ponders Mark Watson in Pocklington tonight. Picture: Matt Crockett

Topical comedy gig of the outside York: Mark Watson, This Can’t Be It, Pocklington Arts Centre, tonight, 8pm

AMID so much pandemic pondering about the fragility of life recently, don’t worry, comedian Mark Watson has it covered.  At 41 – he turns 42 tomorrow – he is halfway through his days on Earth, according to the life expectancy calculator app that cost him all of £1.49.

That life is in the best shape in living memory but one problem remains. A huge one. Spiritual enquiry meets high-octane observational comedy as the No More Jockeys cult leader strives to cram two years of pathological overthinking into an evening of stand-up. “Maybe we’ll even solve the huge problem,” says Watson. “Doubt it, though.” Box office for returns only: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.

Shereen Roushbaiani in Saving Britney at Theatre@ 41, Monkgate, York

Noughties’ nostalgia of the week: Saving Britney, John Cooper Studio, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, tomorrow (13/2/2022) at 8pm

MILLENNIALS such as Jean grew up with Britney Spears. Saving Britney recounts how the Princess of Pop influenced Jean’s life and how the connections shared between them led to an unbelievable moment of self-discovery.

Inspired by the #FreeBritney movement, Shereen Roushbaiani takes a humorous yet heart-breaking look at celebrity obsession, sexuality and growing up in the early Noughties. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Heal & Harrow’s Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl

Folk concert of the week: Heal & Harrow, National Centre for Early Music, York, Monday, 7.30pm

HEAL & Harrow are folk musicians Rachel Newton, from The Shee, The Furrow Collective and Spell Songs, and Lauren MacColl, of Rant and Salt House.

Working as duo for the first time, they combine newly composed music and accompanying visuals in a tribute to those persecuted in the 16th and 17th century Scottish Witch Trials, 80 per cent of them women.

The project also explores historical beliefs in the supernatural and modern-day parallels, each piece being based on commissioned works by author Mairi Kidd. Box office: 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk.

Reality check: Corinne Kilvington’s Polly in The Girl In The Machine

Premiere of the week: Theatre Space North-East in Girl In The Machine, John Cooper Studio, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, February 17, 7.30pm

STEF Smith’s ground-breaking play Girl In The Machine explores our unease over digital intrusiveness, then pushes it a step into the future in Jamie Brown’s touring production.

In brief: Owen (Lawrence Neale) and Polly (Corinne Kilvington) are in successful careers and wildly in love, feeling ready to take on the world, but when a mysterious new technology, promising a break from the daily grind, creeps into everyone’s phones, their world is turned upside down.

As the line between physical and digital dissipates, Owen and Polly are forced to question whether their definitions of reality and freedom are the same. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Back on the Chain Gang: Miles Salter lines up new band members for Black Swan gig

Meet the new Gang: Miles And The Chain Gang, The Black Swan Inn, Peasholme Green, York, February 19, 8pm to 11.30pm

YORK writer, musician and storyteller Miles Salter is back with a new Chain Gang for a headline show at the Black Swan.

“This is the first gig with the new line-up and it’s sounding great,” says Salter, introducing Daniel Bowater on keyboards, Steve Purton on drums, Mat Watt on bass and Mark Hawkins on lead guitar.

Miles And The Chain Gang will be supported by Sarah Louise Boyle, Lee Moore and Monkey Paw. “It’ll be a diverse and fun evening, so do come along,” says Salter. Tickets: at prime4.bandcamp.com/merch/miles or on the door.

Sax Forte: First concert of York Unitarians’ 2022 lunchtime series

Sax to the max: Sax Forte, York Unitarians Friday Lunchtime Concerts, St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, March 11, 12.30pm

CELEBRATING their 350th anniversary in 2022, York Unitarians open their 11th season of  Friday lunchtime concerts with the return of York saxophone quartet Sax Forte.

Playing together since 2016, Chris Hayes, Keith Schooling, Jane Parkin and David Badcock all have extensive experience with other quartets, bands and orchestras. They are equally at home playing programmes of serious and light classical music or jazz and swing standards. Tickets cost £6 (cash) on the door.

Gin up: Drag diva Velma Celli hosts Outlaw Live cabaret night with a dash of York Gin

Not just the tonic: Velma Celli and York Gin’s Outlaw Live cabaret night, National Centre for Early Music, York, March 25, 8pm to 10.30pm

YORK drag diva Velma Celli invites you to “celebrate your inner outlaw” at York Gin’s cabaret soiree at the NCEM.

For one night only, glamorous Velma and friends will be celebrating all that’s naughty, villainous and defiantly outrageous about York and its outlaws, from Guy Fawkes to Dick Turpin, with a combination of song, laughter and York Gin.

Tickets are on sale at tickettailor.com/events/yorkgin/590817/ and admission includes a gin cocktail on arrival.

‘Be pleasantly surprised by how little you really know of Frankenstein,’ say York horror company Theatre Of The Macabre

Lee Gemmell, left, and Dan Boyle in rehearsal for Theatre Of The Macabre’s Frankenstein. All pictures:  Hannah Jade Robbins

DO you reckon you know everything there is to be known of the story of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein?

“If so, come along and be pleasantly surprised about how little you really know,” say York company Theatre Of The Macabre, introducing the twisted fantasies and grotesque dreamscapes of next week’s York premiere at Theatre@41, Monkgate, on Wednesday.

“Join us as we discover Victor Frankenstein’s innermost fears and misgivings that haunt his troubled mind and how his ungodly experiments defied the Laws of Nature.”

Director Bryan Heeley’s production began life in 2019 and was set to be unfurled at Theatre@41 in April 2020, only to be derailed by the pandemic. “My original cast was halved due to circumstances too bizarre to stretch belief, so in 2020 we had to re-build, which was by no means easy,” he says. “Eventually, however, the play was re-cast and, despite the strict restrictions, began its ‘rebirth’.”

“All the original cast worked at The York Dungeon so it was relatively easy to arrange meetings. For next week’s cast, besides myself as Walton, there’ll be three of the original actors: Dan Boyle as Victor Frankenstein, Hannah Jade Robbins as Elizabeth and Naomi Lombard as Justine.

Gripping scene: Hannah Jade Robbins’ Elizabeth and Lee Gemmell’s Creature

“They’ll be joined by Jess Murray as Henry and the redoubtable Lee Gemmell as the Creature.”

When first conceived, the cast numbered 20-plus. “But it was relatively easy to divide the parts for this production, giving equal parts to everyone except Lee and Dan,” says Bryan.

“I’d worked with Jess before, in Bronzehead Theatre’s The Alchemist, which also featured multi-role parts, so I knew she was capable of this.

“Lee has been a revalation as the Creature, and as I knew the play backwards, I replaced Dan, who was the original Walton. I was determined to share the parts out equally, regardless of the sex of the character and one character Greta impressed me so much, she was given an extra scene.”

Why are we still so fascinated by Frankenstein and his Creature, Bryan? “I’m constantly amazed, when mentioning the name Frankenstein, how many diverse people quote it as their favourite book and the interesting slants they have on the characters,” he says.

Find out the answer to the question above at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from February 2 to 5

“Feminists love it, sc-fi enthusiasts rate it and ‘horror nuts’ like me constantly cite it among their top ten, along with Dracula and The Phantom Of The Opera.”

Then add the medical aspect that prevails throughout the book, says Bryan. “The ‘miracle’ of rebirth has slowly become a reality as science and medicine have uncovered further revelations. So, it’s even more remarkable that Mary Shelley in the 19th century could conceive such unthinkable ideas. How can we fail to not be impressed by such fantastical concepts?”

No longer does the horror genre suffer from the prejudiced perception of being an “inferior artform”. “It now has the legitimacy it rightly deserves,” says Bryan.

“As a child of the 1960s, my staple diet of entertainment gravitated to Hammer Horror films such as Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman and, of course, Frankenstein.

“Such influences are still there to be seen today; just pop along to HMV and listen to diverse people wax lyrical about the latest Zombie epic while ploughing through the shelves marked ‘Horror’ for undiscovered gems.

The caption above receives a tut-tut from the CharlesHutchPress spelling police

“Theatre has flourished at the same time: the likes of Stephen Mallatratt’s The Woman In Black, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom Of The Opera, Richard Curtis’s The Rocky Horror Show and Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s excellent Ghost Stories are prime examples of this. Even the National Theatre ‘dipped their toes’ with Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein.”

Bryan continues: “The York Dungeon, a fine exponent of the genre, has hosted popular zombie events, which could be classed as live theatre. The pandemic has brought its own particular terrors, yet it was a no-budget short called The Host that generated worldwide acclaim, not least due to participation of York’s own James Swanton as the malevolent spirit. Among the carnage, people still preferred to be shocked.”

Theatre@41’s black-box John Cooper Studio is the perfect theatrical setting for Frankenstein. “We wanted to create a claustrophobic atmosphere to coincide with Victor’s ‘madness’ and Theatre@41 is the ideal space to create such an environment,” says Bryan.

“A thrust-style setting should put our audience close to the action and a few ‘shocks’ on the way will hopefully add an added element to their experience. If we can achieve this then we can go away with a satisfactory feeling and, as the Creature says, ‘rest in peace’.”               

Frankenstein wholly suits a theatrical presentation. “There is nothing so satisfying as taking one’s seat in the theatre, whether it be for a comedy, musical or simply to be shocked,” says Bryan.

“A skilful artist can take you by the hand and lead you a merry dance,” says Theatre Of The Macabre director Bryan Heeley

“A darkened stage invokes our primal fear of the unknown. You have no control of your emotions. A skilful artist can take you by the hand and lead you a merry dance and, somewhere at the back of your mind, you want to go there, no matter what the consequence.

“Frankenstein is such a creature (forgive the pun). You share the emotions of the characters as they pass through their journey and question their motives. You feel invested in the action and leave thinking, ‘would I have done the same thing?’. I have to admit, even though I’ve lived with this project for so long, I still ponder these questions myself.”

One final question demands to be asked: why will next week’s audiences be “pleasantly surprised about how little you really know” about Frankenstein?

“As the old saying goes, ‘there are no original ideas left’, so this question is the trickiest to answer,” concedes Bryan.

Theatre Of The Macabre’s poster for Frankensetin

“I would like to think that by emphasising Victor Frankenstein’s state of mind and his extreme behaviour, I have brought some originality to this production. His actions are for the most part despicable, rash and questionable, despite the events unfolding.

“One could say they are the classic symptoms of a sociopath. His musings are comparable to Hamlet and it’s no coincidence that Shakespeare’s play is quoted in this production – and we all know how that ended.

“But we must also remember they are actions sanctioned by Mary Shelley herself and I’m trying to be faithful to her while adding my own spin. I leave it to the audience to judge and ultimately decide.”  

Theatre Of The Macabre in Frankenstein, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, February 2 to 5, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Looking ahead

AN offshoot of the Theatre Of The Macabre company regularly presents a Halloween Spectacular in Budapest, Hungary. “It is hoped, in the future, to organise a possible production there,” says Bryan Heeley.