More Things To Do in and around York, as Levelling up, peas and wickedness this way come. List No. 54, courtesy of The Press

Ben Moor and Joanna Neary: Mini-season of stand-up theatre and comedy at Theatre@41

MOOR, Moor, Moor and much more, more, more besides are on Charles Hutchinson’s list for the week ahead.

Surrealist stand-up theatre of the week, Ben Moor and Joanna Neary mini-season, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, today until Saturday

BEN Moor and Joanna Neary combine to deliver five offbeat comedy shows in three days in their Theatre@41 debut.

Moor contemplates performance, friendship and regret in his lecture about lectures, Pronoun Trouble, tonight at 8pm. Tomorrow, at 7.30pm, Neary’s multi-character sketch show with songs and impersonations, Wife On Earth, is followed by Moor’s Who Here’s Lost?, his dream-like tale of a road trip of the soul taken by two outsiders.

Saturday opens at 3pm with Joanna’s debut children’s puppet show, Stinky McFish And The World’s Worst Wish, and concludes at 7pm with the two-hander BookTalkBookTalkBook, a “silly author event parody show”. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Gunpowder Guy in Horrible Histories’ Barmy Britain. Picture: Frazer Ashford

Alternative history lesson of the week: Horrible Histories’ Barmy Britain, Grand Opera House, York, today at 1.30pm, 7pm; tomorrow, 10.30am and 7pm; Saturday, 3pm, 7pm; Sunday, 11am, 3pm

WHAT if a Viking moved in next door? Would you lose your heart or head to horrible Henry VIII? Can evil Elizabeth entertain England? Will Parliament survive Gunpowder Guy? Dare you stand and deliver to dastardly Dick Turpin?

Questions, questions, so many questions to answer, and here to answer them are the Horrible Histories team in Barmy Britain, a humorously horrible and eye-popping show trip to the past with Bogglevision 3D effects. Box office: atgtickets.com/york

Hannah Victoria in Tutti Frutti’s The Princess And The Pea at York Theatre Royal Studio

Reopening of the week: York Theatre Royal Studio for Tutti Frutti’s The Princess And The Pea, today to Tuesday; no show on Sunday

YORK Theatre Royal Studio reopens today with a capacity reduced from 100 to 71 and no longer any seating to the sides.

First up, Leeds children’s theatre company Tutti Frutti revive York playwright Mike Kenny’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story, set in a place where what you see is not what it seems: the Museum of Forgotten Things.

Three musical curators delve into the mystery of how a little green pea ended up there in an hour of humour, songs and a romp through every type of princess you could imagine. Box office and show times: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Artist Anita Bowerman and Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen at Dove Tree Art Gallery and Studio

Open Studios of the week: Anita Bowerman, Dove Tree Art Gallery and Studio, Back Granville Road, Harrogate, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm

HARROGATE paper-cut, watercolour and stainless steel artist Anita Bowerman opens her doors for refreshments and a browse around her new paintings of Yorkshire and Yorkshire Shepherdess Amanda Owen, prints and mugs. 

“It’s a perfect chance for inspiration before the Christmas present-buying rush starts,” says Anita, who has been busy illustrating a new charity Christmas card for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance featuring the Yorkshire Shepherdess.

Rachel Croft: York singer-songwriter performing at Drawsome! day of activities at Spark:York as part of York Design Week on Saturday

York Design Week gig of the week: Drawsome!, Mollie Coddled Talk More Pavilion, Spark:York, Saturday, from 3pm

AS part of Drawsome’s day of workshops and an Indy Makers Market to complement MarkoLooks’ print swap exhibition of illustrators and printmakers, York’s Young Thugs Records are curating a free line-up of live music.

Taking part will be The Hazy Janes, Kell Chambers and Rachel Croft, singer, songwriter and illustrator to boot.

Breabach: First touring band to play Selby Town Hall in “far too long”. Picture: Paul Jennings

Welcome back of the week: Breabach, Selby Town Hall, Saturday, 8pm

GLASGOW folk luminaries Breabach will be the first touring band to play Selby Town Hall for almost 20 months this weekend.

“Leading lights of the Scottish roots music scene and five-time Scots Trad Music Award winners, they’re a really phenomenally talented band,” says Chris Jones, Selby Town Council’s arts officer. “It’s an absolute thrill to have professional music back in the venue. It’s been far too long!” Box office: 01757 708449, at selbytownhall.co.uk or on the door from 7.30pm.

Levelling up in York: Jazz funksters Level 42 in the groove at York Barbican on Sunday night

Eighties’ celebration of the week: Level 42, York Barbican, Sunday, doors 7pm

ISLE of Wight jazz funksters Level 42 revive those rubbery bass favourites Lessons In Love, The Sun Goes Down (Living It Up), Something About You, Running In The Family et al at York Barbican.

Here are the facts: Mark King’s band released 14 studio, seven live and six compilation albums, sold out Wembley Arena for 21 nights and chalked up 30 million album sales worldwide. 

This From Eternity To Here tour gig has been rearranged from October 2020; original tickets remain valid. Box office for “limited availability”: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Writes of passage: Musician and now author Richard Thompson

Guitarist of the week:  Richard Thompson, York Barbican, Monday, doors 7pm

RICHARD Thompson plays York Barbican on the back of releasing Beeswing, his April autobiography subtitled Losing My Way And Finding My Voice 1967-1975.

An intimate memoir of musical exploration, personal history and social revelation, it charts his co-founding of folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention, survival of a car crash, formation of a duo with wife Linda and discovery of Sufism.

Move on from the back pages, here comes Richard Thompson OBE, aged 72, songwriter, singer and one of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 20 Guitarists of All Time. Katherine Priddy supports. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

That clinches it: Emma Scott’s Macbeth leaps into the arms of Nell Frampton’s The Lady in rehearsals for York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth. Picture: John Saunders

Something wicked this way comes…at last: York Shakespeare Project in Macbeth, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, October 26 to 30, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

THE curse of Macbeth combined with Lockdown 1’s imposition to put a stop to York Shakespeare Project’s Scottish Play one week before its March 2020 opening.

Rising like the ghost of Banquo, but sure to be better received, Leo Doulton’s resurrected production will run as the 37th play in the York charity’s mission to perform all Shakespeare’s known plays over 20 years.

Doulton casts Emma Scott’s Macbeth into a dystopian future, using a cyberpunk staging to bring to life this dark tale of ambition, murder and supernatural forces. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Ballet Black dancers Marie Astrid Mence, left, Isabela Coracy, Cira Robinson, Sayaka Ichikawa, Jose Alves, Ebony Thomas and Alexander Fadyiro in Mthuthuzeli’s The Waiting Game

Dance show of the week: Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 7.30pm

ARTISTIC director Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black return to York with a double bill full of lyrical contrasts and beautiful movement.

Will Tuckett blends classical ballet, poetry and music to explore ideas of home and belonging in Then Or Now; fellow Olivier Award-winning choreographer Mthuthuzeli November contemplates the purpose of life in The Waiting Game. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

From Limpsey Gate Lane, August, by Sue Slack

Exhibition of the week: Fylingdales Group of Artists, Blossom Street Gallery, Blossom Street, York, until November 30

TWELVE Fylingdales Group members are contributing 31 works to this exhibition of Yorkshire works, mainly of paintings in oils, acrylics, gouache and limonite.

Two pieces by Paul Blackwell are in pastel; Angie McCall has incorporated collage in her mixed-media work and printmaker Michael Atkin features too.

Also participating are David Allen, fellow Royal Society of Marine Artist member and past president David Howell, Kane Cunningham, John Freeman, Linda Lupton, Don Micklethwaite, Bruce Mulcahy, Sue Slack and Ann Thornhill.

Something wicked this way comes…at last as York Shakespeare Project’s delayed Macbeth takes a bewitched cyberpunk turn

Vaulting ambition: Emma Scott in rehearsal for her lead role as Macbeth in York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth. Picture: John Saunders

THE curse of Macbeth combined with Lockdown 1’s imposition to put a stop to York Shakespeare Project’s Scottish Play just one week before its March 2020 opening.

Rising like the ghost of Banquo, but sure to be better received, Leo Doulton’s resurrected production will run at Theatre@41, Monkgate, from October 26 to 30 as the 37th play in the York charity’s mission to perform all Shakespeare’s known plays in a 20-year span.

Doulton is casting Macbeth into a dystopian cyberpunk future, using a dramatic new staging to bring to life this dark tale of ambition, murder and supernatural forces.

“This production has had an unusually long journey, and I’m grateful to everyone involved for their wonderful creativity and resilience over the years, whether they’re a veteran of the original production or a newcomer,” he says.

Nell Frampton as The Lady in the York Shakespeare Project rehearsal room. Picture: John Saunders

“It would be impossible to present Macbeth in the same way as when we started work on it before the pandemic. We’ve moved from a world where we fear quite specific things to one where we fear more pervasive, invisible ones, such as the pandemic and the climate crisis. 

“Cyberpunk is an exciting genre for Macbeth, allowing us to explore Shakespeare’s ideas of lurking corruption, a disintegrating reality, and the search for some moral certainty. It is a magnificent play, and I look forward to sharing this production at long last.”

YSP secretary Tony Froud says: “We were all disappointed not to see Macbeth take place last year, when we were so close to the finish line, especially after the hard work of Leo and the cast and crew.

“During lockdowns and restrictions on performance, we’ve done our best to stay engaged with our community with online play readings and two successful outdoor productions of Sit Down Sonnets, but we’ve always been planning to return to this play and the resumption of our 20-year mission.

Tony Froud’s Ross, with Emma Scott’s Macbeth, left, and Elizabeth Elsworth’s Duncan, rehearsing a scene for Leo Doulton’s Macbeth production. Picture: John Saunders

“We’re really pleased that Leo and so many of the cast have been able to return, and we can’t wait to share this production with a wider audience.” 

York Shakespeare Project in Macbeth, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, October 26 to 30, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Tickets cost £15; £5 for students, means-tested benefit recipients and under-18s. The October 26 performance is an open dress rehearsal with tickets at £5.

YSP’s plot summary

MACBETH receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become king. Torn between duty and the chance of greatness, Macbeth and his devoted wife murder King Duncan and take the throne for themselves. Macbeth slowly turns into a tyrant, as corrupt as the strange witches. Meanwhile, the forces of virtue realise what Macbeth has become and a civil war begins.

Clive Lyons as Banquo in York Shakespeare Project’s Macbeth. Picture: John Saunders

Cast

Macbeth: Emma Scott

The Lady: Nell Frampton

Banquo, Siward: Clive Lyons

Fleance, Donalbain, Son, Young Siward: Meredith Stewart

Macduff: Frank Brogan

Duncan, Lady Macduff, Menteith: Elizabeth Elsworth

Malcolm: Rhiannon Griffiths

Lennox: Andrea Mitchell

Ross: Tony Froud

Angus: Sarah-Jane Strong

First Witch, First Murderer, Doctor: Joy Warner

Second Witch, Second Murderer, Gentlewoman: Diana Wyatt

Third Witch, Third Murderer, Caithness, Seyton: Xandra Logan

That clinches it: Emma Scott’s Macbeth and Nell Frampton’s The Lady embrace. Picture: John Saunders

Creative crew

Director: Leo Doulton

Set and costume designer: Charley Ipsen

Lighting designer: Neil Wood

Sound designer: Jim Paterson

Poster design: Charles Keusters

Company back story

YORK Shakespeare Project (YSP) was established in 2001 with a commitment to perform all of Shakespeare’s known plays in York over 20 years.

Debut production Richard III took place in 2002, since when YSP has staged 35 productions, covering 36 of Shakespeare’s plays. Despite the pandemic-enforced delays, YSP still plans to complete the project in 2022.

For more information, go to: yorkshakespeareproject.org.

Macbeth director Leo Doulton

Coming up at CharlesHutchPress: Director Leo Doulton discusses his dystopian, cyberpunk Macbeth.

The Moor the merrier as Ben books mini-season with Joanna Neary at Theatre@41

Ben Moor and Joanna Neary: Mini-season of comedy shows at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York. Picture: Natalie Shaw

MOOR, Moor, Moor is in store when Ben Moor takes over Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, for a mini-season of offbeat comedy with Joanna Neary from October 21 to 23.

Ben presents Pronoun Trouble, A Comedy Lecture, on Thursday at 8pm; then he and fellow writer-performer Joanna team up for an unconventional comedy double bill on Friday at 7.30pm.

Neary’s Wife On Earth, a multi-character sketch show with songs and impersonations, will be followed by Moor’s Who Here’s Lost?, his dream-like tale of a road trip of the soul taken by two outsiders, a melancholy, uninspired artist and a mute architect, as they seek an understanding of what they have made with their lives while visiting some quirky landmarks.

Saturday opens at 3pm with Joanna’s debut children’s puppet show, Stinky McFish And The World’s Worst Wish, and concludes at 7pm with the two-hander BookTalkBookTalkBook, a “silly author event parody show” wherein Moor and Neary portray a pair of writers trapped inside a book festival. As the event spins beyond their control, it degenerates into an absurdist comedy about authorship, artificial intelligence and washing-up.

In the first of the 55-minute, Edinburgh Fringe-length shows, Pronoun Trouble, a lecturer takes to the stage and begins an analysis of The Hunting Trilogy at a symposium on the subject of Looney Tunes.

This series of Chuck Jones shorts features Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, and their ongoing argument as to whether it is now Duck Season or Rabbit Season. “As she delves deeper into the alternate reality of the characters’ world, her talk goes off the rails and into the woods,” says Ben.

“Meanwhile, an attendee makes notes, not just on the subject matter but also on the lecturer, on things he sees in the room, and the other students. His favourite words, his favourite mugs and T-shirts, and the schism on London’s high streets between the spellings of launderette and laundrette, all cross his mind.” 

Eventually the two strands of thought twist together, and the piece concludes with a contemplation of performance, friendship and regret.

Ben Moor and Joanna Neary: Presenting their comedy double bill of Who Here’s Lost? and Wife On Earth

“Pronoun Trouble is a lecture about lectures, the intricacies of passion, and how we should be there for each other. The Powerpoint uses the cartoons to go into ridiculously unnecessary depth – and a swathe of invented academia – to dissect hidden meanings, secret stories and unconsidered relationships with other works,” says Ben. “Likewise and concurrently, the audience member scrutinises parts of his own life and output.” 

Pronoun Trouble is typical of Moor’s “stand-up theatre” pieces wherein he places universal themes in bizarre and funny landscapes, with his writing drawing comparisons with authors as diverse as Lewis Carroll and Thomas Pynchon.

“First performed in 2017, the response to Pronoun Trouble has been overwhelmingly positive,” he says. “Audience members have described it variously as brilliant, hilarious, wonderful, clever, surreal and very, very, very silly. It is, hopefully, all of those things.”

In Neary’s Wife On Earth, Brief Encounter-inspired Fantasist-housewife Celia and friends take their Cosmic Shambles Network podcast on the road with their wife-based gang show. 

“They’ll be asking ‘what on earth is a wife? And why?’,” says Joanna, who creates character comedy shows in the vein of Victoria Wood and Vic Reeves.

“From the history of wifery, to the wiles and wherefores of when to wife; a dozen wives (ex-wives, future wives, non-wives and anti-wives) wait in the wings at a village hall near you, ready to share their startling stories, while bickering and drinking wine out of a teapot. Please note, some non-wives and wives will be expressing themselves in dance form.”

Summing up Wife On Earth, Ben says: “Joanna performs her brilliant buffet of characters as a gang of wives and non-wives go on tour to raise funds to re-lead the church roof with lead-free lead. New faces (wigs) plus old favourites such as Bjork, Kate Bush on sexy housework and Celia hosting and dancing.”

In the cryptic, melancholic, surreal, mind-expanding and heart-felt Who Here’s Lost?, Moor asks: “What do we make with our lives? An artist worries his work has lost its way. An architect wants to see her buildings for a final time. A changing landscape searches for itself.  

“This is a story about what we value as we go along, and how we present it to others. It features bubble-wrap, party games, museums, ants and ice cream – and a gorgeous score by Suns Of The Tundra – so so if you’re lost, just think about the ice cream.”

The poster for Ben Moor and Joanna Neary’s comedy theatre double bill when presented in Farsley, West Yorkshire earlier in the tour

Neary’s 40-minute puppet show, Stinky McFish And The World’s Worst Wish, is suitable for ages four to eight but is accessible to all. “Stinky The Crab longs to be human; Lucy would love her very own pet. Can they make each other’s dreams come true? Or should Stinky be careful what he wishes for?” asks Joanna.

“With original music and a cast of colourful characters, Marina Fishwife tells the tale of how the tiny brave creatures of the rock pools work together to make life in the rock pools good again for everyone.”

BookTalkBookTalkBook’s send-up of a very serious author talk going bizarrely off the rails introduces Jenny Nibbingley and Burton Mastrick, who need no introduction. As two of Britain’s most published – although least read and most widely ignored – novelists, it is no surprise they have been invited to today’s book festival.

Their event’s moderator, Tim Timminey, likewise significant, should be turning up soon, but until then, Jenny and Burt agree to read sections from their books, Wretched Lawns and The Exceptions. Bad decision.

“As an ex-couple, their writing seems mainly to consist of ongoing digs at the other’s character and work,” says Ben. “But is that all that is going on? Might this all be a reading from another book about a book talk going horribly wrong? Or is that also part of something else?

“BookTalkBookTalkBook combines a parody of awkward live author events, an exploration of artificial intelligence and the creative process, a Beckettian live theatre experience and an experiment in the limits of patience regarding card tricks.”

Layer folds into layer; story reflects story in a piece that changes direction constantly, challenging the audience while still being entertaining.

“If you’ve ever been to a literary event and thought somehow it needed to be even more awkward, hoped for confusing card tricks and/or wondered why the writers aren’t obsessed with washing up, this basically might just be the show for you,” says Ben.

Tickets for Ben Moor and Joanna Neary’s mini-season of shows are on sale at 41monkgate.co.uk.

Ben Moor: “A natural storyteller who blurs the boundaries between comedy, theatre and performance art,” says fellow humorist Stewart Lee

AFTER all that info, here is a burst of CharlesHutchPress quick questions for quick answers from Ben Moor.

How did the York run of shows come about and when did you and Joanna hit on the idea of sharing such blocks of performances?

“I’d worked with Alan Park [Theatre@41 chair] on a mentoring project in London called Scene and Heard, and when he said he was looking for shows for Theatre@41, I got in touch.

“All the shows were originally planned for the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe, but when that was cancelled, they were put into storage and now seems a good time to get them up and running again.”

Should more performers combine to mount shows this way?

“Of course! It’s a good way to present a mini-season and spend time in lovely York.”

How do you and Joanna know each other and what makes for a good combination of shows on the road?

“We first worked together on a project at the National Theatre Studio in 2005 and I’ve long been a fan of Joanna’s writing and performances. Neither of us fits particularly easily into the stand-up circuit and it’s great to learn that there’s a comedy audience who want something a bit out of the mainstream.”

You call your offbeat comedy “nonsense”. That seems very harsh on yourself, especially as comedian, author and newspaper columnist Stewart Lee says: “Ben Moor, for my money, is the Ken Campbell/Spalding Gray of my generation, a natural storyteller who blurs the boundaries between comedy, theatre and performance art”. Discuss…

“All comedy is nonsense to some degree. My work doesn’t discuss the world as it is, it’s a glimpse into a universe a step or two either side of ours. I love theatre of the absurd and surreal humour too.”

Do you enjoy lectures?

“I do. Pronoun Trouble was partly inspired by a day of interesting talks and it was fascinating to watch the speakers “perform” and get their enthusiasm across to their audiences.”

Why are author events just so awkward and as stiff as an old green room sofa?

“There is a certain way of doing them that confines them – and in fact that is what appeals to their audience. They expect a reading or two, some questions from a moderator, questions from the audience and a signing.

“BookTalkBookTalkBook plays with those expectations and undermines them constantly.”

The poster for Ben Moor and Joanna Neary’s BookTalkBookTalkBook, Saturday’s two-hander at Theatre@41

The tour of your latest piece, Who Here’s Lost?, was delayed by the accursed pandemic. Did the piece change over those months that found many of us on “a road trip of the soul” as we couldn’t go anywhere and felt lost and disconnected?

“I first presented it at the Port Eliot Festival in Summer 2019 and it hasn’t changed much since. I’m sure there are going to be lots of shows about the last couple of years and they’ll be great, but no, it’s very much a piece in its own world.”

Apparently “Ben Moor’s shows aren’t easy to describe, but are impossible to forget”. Explain yourself, please!

“My work mixes comedy with storytelling and theatre and while that sounds like it’s caught between stools, I find the freedom to explore the space between the stools very liberating.

“I mix lines that are meant to be funny with ones that are poetic with others that are melancholy and it’s the task of an audience to follow all the threads to create their own pictures.”

What gets you up in the morning?

“The delight of sharing this wonderful world and the adventure of what might come next.”

After Moor, Moor, Moor in York, what might come next for you?

“Joanna and I are performing our Comedy Double Bill again in Aldershot in December, and we hope to have the other shows on the road next year too.”

Did you know?

BEN Moor has been producing offbeat solo comedy shows for nearly three decades, winning a Herald Angel Award for his show Coelacanth. As an actor, he has appeared in The Queen’s Gambit, A Very English Scandal and The IT Crowd. He created the series Undone and Elastic Planet for BBC Radio and is the author of More Trees To Climb.

JOANNA Neary produces character comedy shows such as Inbox – The Art Of Now and Before The Room Next Door, with Michael Spicer, both for BBC Radio 4.She has TV and film credits for Darkest Hour, Miranda, Ideal and Man Down and played Miss Jones in CBBC’s So Awkward. Wife On Earth is a live version of her podcast for the Cosmic Shambles Network.

Ben Moor in an episode of the hit Netflix series The Queen’s Gambit

Why we are still fascinated by Marilyn Monroe in remarkable farewell play

It is a gift of a part. An absolute dream role,” says Lizzie Wort, of playing screen icon Marilyn Monroe in Dyad Productions’ The Unremarkable Life Of Marilyn Monroe

LIZZIE Wort had written off Marilyn Monroe. “I really wasn’t very interested in her,” she says. “I had always thought she was kind of fun and frivolous.”

Then, however, writer-director Elton Townend Jones asked her to play Marilyn in The Unremarkable Death Of Marilyn Monroe.

“It is a gift of a part. An absolute dream role,” says Lizzie. So much so that Lizzie, trained ballet dancer, former comic entertainer, actor and mother, has returned to that dream role for St Albans company Dyad Productions’ latest tour, visiting Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, on Sunday night.

The date is August 5 1962, on Marilyn’s last night, at her 12305 Fifth Helena Drive home in Brentwood, Los Angeles. Marilyn as never seen before: alone in her bedroom in a dressing gown and underwear; no glitz, no glamour, no masks.

Overdosed on pills, the woman behind the icon unravels her remarkable life and travels back through the memories of her closest relationships. Repeatedly stalked by a mysterious caller, the Hollywood icon tells all – about Joe DiMaggio, Clark Gable, Arthur Miller, her mother – revealing a biting intelligence and an imperfect body, leading in real time to the moment of her death.

“Elton was very clear from the beginning that he wanted us to find a Marilyn that was recognisable as the well-loved icon, but also had a different, previously unseen side to her. This was such a gift for me in terms of finding the characterisation,” says Lizzie, who played her previously in 2015.

“To be cast as such a huge icon felt intimidating at first, and potentially limiting, but being able to dig beneath the surface opened up so many possibilities for her and my understanding of her, which was hugely rewarding and exciting.”

Marilyn was unusual. The more I have studied her, the more clearly I see how she was essentially always able to be many things to many people,” says Lizzie Wort

Lizzie continues: “Elton has written such a tremendously well rounded, rich character, who is flawed, gets angry, is at times selfish, bitingly intelligent, wry, playful, warm and deeply soulful.

“It is a gift of a part. An absolute dream role. It also feels so relevant to women today. Marilyn was a female in a male industry in a time when women weren’t allowed a voice. And, sadly, that struggle continues. To finally give her that voice, and in doing so, give other women that chance too, was such an exciting process and journey of discovery. 

“Her experiences are relevant still today and that played a large part in forming my characterisation of her.” 

Why are we still fascinated by Marilyn Monroe, Lizzie? “There are two elements to this. One is the endless fascination we have with celebrity in general. This is referenced in the play and she makes the point herself that we all invest in celebrity stories. We want to revel in other people’s lives. It’s a fascination that has existed for a long time now.

“Marilyn’s death was unexpected and far too early. To have a young, vibrant life cut short so suddenly was shocking. People feel that they know a person, feel they are connected to them, are invested in them. To lose them so early always feel tragic and unfathomable.

“The controversy surrounding her death and the fascination over how she died continues to this day. She was a hugely popular star, made all the more famous by her death, so this keeps her as an interesting character.”

The fascination goes beyond conspiracy, suggests Lizzie. “Marilyn was unusual. The more I have studied her, the more clearly I see how she was essentially always able to be many things to many people,” she says.

“Marilyn was somehow approachable and relatable, while also being totally unobtainable,”  says Lizzie

“She had an effortless ability to draw people in. She instinctively knew how to capture people’s interest. How to charm people. She had the perfect blend of vulnerability and unbridled joy. She was hugely likeable. And that’s not actually an easy thing to accomplish as a Hollywood star. To be likeable in the truest sense. She was somehow approachable and relatable, while also being totally unobtainable.” 

Naming her favourite Marilyn film roles as The Prince And The Show Girl (1957) and The Misfits (1961), Lizzie says that what she most loved about Marilyn was her strength. “She endured so much as a child, as a young woman, from the industry, from the press, from men. She carried a huge amount of trauma within her, but still radiated warmth and joy,” she reasons.

“When someone goes through personal pain and grows up with traumatic experiences, it shapes who you are and the way you view and receive the world. It can sometimes enable a person to feel both sides of the coin.

“You can feel the pain and the torture of your experience existing deeply in your body and have a sense from childhood of the fragility of life. But, if you are lucky, that pain can also then give you an even greater appreciation of the beauty and joy of life all the more deeply. I truly think she had that appreciation.”

Lizzie’s favourite discovery about Marilyn has been to realise that her golden Hollywood smile was actually real. “Not because she was a one-dimensional blonde movie star who just smiled vacuously for the cameras. It was a smile that expressed all her pain and joy simultaneously,” she says.

“She understood life deeply. She felt it all deeply. I find that incredibly beautiful. And I think fundamentally that’s why we all love her. She radiated humanity. Heartbreak and joy in a single smile.”

Dyad Productions in The Unremarkable Death Of Marilyn Monroe, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, October 10, 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk

“Heartbreak and joy in a single smile”: Lizzie Wort’s essence of Marilyn Monroe

Copyright of The Press, York

More Things To Do in and around York as mountainous films and gigs galore mount up. List No. 52, courtesy of The Press, York

The Russian is Homecoming: Comedy turn Olga Koch tries to figure out “who the heck she is” at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tomorrow

GODBER’S comedy, protest art, Russian and American comedy, an adventurous Scott, a DH Lawrence spoof, one of the Wainwrights, operatic Handel, Turkish songs, mountainous films and Velma’s witches find Charles Hutchinson spoilt for choice.

Yorkshire play of the week: John Godber Company in John Godber’s Sunny Side Up!, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, 1.30pm, 7.30pm today; 7.30pm, tomorrow; 2.30pm, 7.30pm Saturday

Coastal comedy: John Godber and Jane Thornton in Sunny Side Up! at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough. Picture: Martha Godber

THE John Godber Company returns to the SJT with Sunny Side Up!, the coastal comedy premiered by the Godbers in a family bubble in the Round last autumn.

In Godber’s moving account of a struggling Yorkshire coast B&B and the people who run it, down-to-earth proprietors Barney, Cath and Tina share stories of awkward clients, snooty relatives and eggs over easy.

Writer-director Godber plays Barney and Graham alongside his wife, fellow writer Jane Thornton, and daughter, Martha Godber. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.

Activist-artist Richard Lees’ campaigning prints are on show at York College

Exhibition of the week: Richard Lees, Justice, York College gallery, until October 21, open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday

A STALWART activist Hull artist once at the heart of the Rock Against Racism movement is exhibiting four decades of prints in his first York show, with his latest justice campaign project to the fore.

The exhibition title, Justice, is derived from printmaker Richard Lees’s linocuts inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I feel that all art has some element of politics in it, even if it’s to distract you,” he says. Entry is free but booking is essential via yorkcollege.ac.uk.

Barron’s night: Sara Barron will keep her Enemies Closer in York on Saturday

Comedy at the double at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York: Olga Koch, Homecoming, tomorrow (8/10/2021); Sara Barron, Enemies Closer, Saturday, both 8pm

BORN in Russia, educated at an American school in Staines, and now starring over here on Mock The Week and in her own BBC Radio 4 show, Olga Koch is touring her third show.

New passport in hand, tomorrow Olga will try to figure out who the heck she is as an immigrant and certified teen drama queen.

Saturday’s headline act, no-holds-barred Sara Barron, from Chicago, Illinois, is on her first British tour, examining kindness, meanness, ex-boyfriends, current husbands, all four of her remaining friends and two of her 12 enemies in Enemies Closer. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Mike Scott: Back at York Barbican with Memphis keyboard player Brother” Paul Brown, Irish electric fiddler Steve Wickham, drummer Ralph Salmins and bassist Aongus Ralston on Saturday

Return of the week: An Evening With The Waterboys, York Barbican, Saturday, 8pm

FROM the “Big Music” of the mid-1980s, to the Celtic swell of Fisherman’s Blues, to all manner of soul, rock, blues and folk since then, Mike Scott has been ever the adventurer with The Waterboys.

Last year came their 14th studio album, August 2020’s Good Luck, Seeker, and seekers of those songs in a live format should venture to the band’s regular York haunt this weekend. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Turning Lady Chatterley’s Lover upside down: Subversive writer-actor Lawrence Russell in a shocking moment for Lord Chatterley in Happy Idiot’s Not: Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Send-up show of the week: Happy Idiot in Not: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Helmsley Arts Centre, Saturday, 7.30pm

HAPPY Idiot team up with Worthing Theatres to rip through Lawrence Russell’s subversive, witty and, yes, rude parody of D H Lawrence’s once-banned bodice-ripper.

Russell’s Lord Chatterley will be joined in Ben Simpson’s cast by Christina Baston’s Lady Chatterley, Wesley Griffith’s Mellors and Rebecca McClay’s Mrs Bolton, with Chris Jamieson as the narrator and a score by Savage & Spies, for an evening of high drama, high comedy and highly raised eyebrows. Box office: 01439 772112 or at helmsleyarts.co.uk

Turkish delight in song: Olcay Bahir in her National Centre for Early Music debut on Sunday

World music concert of the week: Olcay Bayir, Dream For Anatolia, National Centre for Early Music, York, Sunday, 6.30pm

TURKISH singer Olcay Bayour makes her NCEM debut with her four-piece band, performing songs from her albums Neva and Rüya (Dream).

Born in the historical city of Gaziantep, she moved to Britain as a teenager and trained in opera. Now she showcases ancient poems and original songs in Turkish, Kurdish, and Armenian, reflecting her Anatolian heritage, wrapped in music of deep roots yet applied with contemporary, sophisticated arrangements, suffused with irresistible rhythms. Box office: 01904 658338 or at ncem.co.uk.

On fire: English Touring Opera in Handel’s Amadigi at York Theatre Royal

Two nights at the opera: English Touring Opera in Handel’s Amadigi, York Theatre Royal, Monday and Tuesday, 7.30pm

ENGLISH Touring Opera returns with James Conway’s new production of Handel’s “magic opera” Amadigi on a tour where William Towers and Tim Morgan share the title role.

Francesca Chiejina and Jenny Stafford play sorceress Melissa, whose infatuation with Amadigi drives her to imprison his love Oriana (Harriet Eyley) and torment him and his companion turned rival, Dardano (Rebecca Afonwy-Jones), with shape-shifting spells and devilish devices. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Taking to the mountains: Spectacle galore at Tuesday’s BANFF Mountain Film Festival night at York Barbican

Film scenery of the week: BANFF Mountain Film Festival World Tour, York Barbican, Tuesday, 7.30pm

THE BANFF Mountain Film Festival joins the world’s best adventure filmmakers and explorers as they push themselves to the limits in the most remote, breath-taking corners of the globe.

Witness epic human-powered feats, life-affirming challenges and mind-blowing cinematography on the big screen in a new collection of short films. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Rufus Wainwright: Follow him to York Barbican on Wednesday to discover how to Unfollow The Rules

Rule-breaker of the week ahead: Rufus Wainwright: Unfollow The Rules Tour, York Barbican, Wednesday, doors 7pm

CANADIAN singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright will be accompanied by a new band, under guitarist Brian Green’s musical direction, for his set of arch classics and new cuts from his latest album.

“I consider Unfollow the Rules my first fully mature album; it is like a bookend to the beginning of my career,” he says. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Under discussion: David Suchet’s Poirot years and much more besides from a 52-year career on stage and screen

Chat show of the week ahead: David Suchet, Poirot And More, A Retrospective, York Theatre Royal, Wednesday, 3pm and 8pm

DAVID Suchet is retracing his steps as a young actor on a tour of 20 theatres in conversation with Geoffrey Wansell, journalist, broadcaster, biographer and co-author of Poirot And Me.

Suchet, 75, will be looking back fondly on his illustrious five-decade career, shedding new, intimate light on his most beloved performances as they discuss the actor behind the Belgian detective and the many characters he has portrayed on stage and screen. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

“Out come the witches, creeps and freaks,” promises York vocal drag queen Velma Celli for a Halloweenish Equinox show at Impossible York

The glam night with the Halloweenish swish: The Velma Celli Show: Equinox, Impossible York Wonderbar, York, October 15, 7.30pm

YORK drag diva deluxe Velma Celli’s October residency night at Impossible York will be a Halloweenish twist on Velma’s Equinox show, the one with “witches, creeps and freaks”.

“I’ll be doing Hocus Pocus, I Put A Spell On You, Radiohead’s Creep, A Thousand Years from Twilight and much more gorgeous musical gore besides,” says Velma, the spectacular creation of musical theatre actor, cruise-ship headline act and Nola jazz singer Ian Stroughair. Box office: impossibleyork.com/wonderbar.

What hasn’t yet been said about Marilyn Monroe that still needs saying? “Almost everything!”, reckons writer Townend Jones

The final curtain: Lizzie Wort as Marilyn Monroe in The Unremarkable Death Of Marilyn Monroe

THIS is The Unremarkable Death Of Marilyn Monroe: August 5th, 1962. Marilyn as she has never been seen before: alone in her bedroom in a dressing gown and underwear; no glitz, no glamour, no masks.

So begins writer-director Elton Townend Jones’s play, presented by Dyad Productions on tour at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, on Sunday night with Lizzie Wort in the role of Monroe.

Overdosed on pills, the woman behind the icon unravels her remarkable life and travels back through the memories of her closest relationships. Repeatedly stalked by a mysterious caller, the Hollywood icon tells all – Joe DiMaggio, Clark Gable, Arthur Miller, her mother – revealing a biting intelligence and an imperfect body, leading us in real time to the very moment of her death.

A five-star hit at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe, The Unremarkable Death Of Marilyn Monroe comes from the St Albans company’s stable of touring shows such as Orlando; Jane Eyre: An Autobiography; Dalloway; Female Gothic; I, Elizabeth; The Diaries Of Adam And Eve; Christmas Gothic, The Time Machine and Austen’s Women.

Here, CharlesHutchPress puts questions to writer-director Elton Townend Jones and actor Lizzie Wort, previously seen on a York stage in the Theatre Royal and Tutti Frutti production of When We Lived In Uncle’s Hat in October 2010.

Elton Townend Jones: Writer-director of The Unremarkable Death Of Marilyn Monroe

What hasn’t yet been said about and by Marilyn Monroe that still needs saying, Elton?

“Almost everything! The collective impression of Marilyn is a combination of dizzy blonde, untalented actor, bimbo, and victim of a convoluted and conspiratorial political death.

“The woman herself – the complex and intelligent troubled female behind the painted icon – is obscured not only by the circumstances of her death but also by her own on-screen persona.

“That said, it’s evident, if one takes a moment to look at movies like Some Like It Hot, The Misfits or The Prince And The Showgirl, that she’s a tremendously gifted actor, but The Unremarkable Death Of Marilyn Monroe is about the fascinating, likeable real person that seems to have been lost in all of that.

“However, it’s not really a play solely about Marilyn. Working backwards through time from the moment of her death, we travel through her entire life via her relationships and loves. It’s a play about love and how we share and express that emotion.

“But more than that, this is a piece about all of us – yes, a great focus on the female experience of life, but a piece about our private troubles; about how we treat and are treated by others; about kindness and how we don’t do enough of that; about how we grow, how we endure our pains and celebrate our pleasures. It’s a play about living, surviving, enduring and giving ourselves to others.

“In many ways, it’s autobiographical to me – and I drew on much of my own life experience and relationships to give Marilyn a ‘voice’.

“Many reviewers and audience members comment on the authenticity of the female experience I depict, and seem to marvel at my ability to have tapped in to that. That’s very flattering and humbling, but really, I just wrote myself into Marilyn.

“I don’t consider different thoughts and responses to certain events or moments in life as belonging to one gender or another. Marilyn’s story is everybody’s story – she’s just an ordinary person living in extraordinary circumstances – and the play, though peppered with dark and difficult moments, is ultimately inspirational and life affirming; optimistic.”

What above all else drew you to Marilyn’s story and why should you be the one to voice it?

“I became interested in Marilyn when I was a schoolboy in Yorkshire. Aged 12, I saw Some Like It Hot and read an article about her in a Sunday supplement that had been left in the art room for use in making collages.

“The play, though peppered with dark and difficult moments, is ultimately inspirational and life affirming; optimistic,” says writer Elton Townend Jones of The Unremarkable Death Of Marilyn Monroe, starring Lizzie Wort

“From there, I read a few books and found myself identifying with the frailties of this fascinating and admittedly beguiling figure. I always suspected there was more going on under the surface that had yet to be revealed and knew – even at that early and naïve age – that I wanted to do some kind of theatrical representation of her; to investigate her and do justice to the truth of her.

“Fast-forward a generation and I’m a theatre director and I knew that I still had this itch to represent Marilyn on her terms and not the terms of the conspiracy theorists or her detractors. It’s called ‘The Unremarkable Death’, and the idea behind that really is that it’s a play about the inspirational, the positive – in spite of the many terrible and painful things she endured – a play about her ‘Remarkable Life’.

“It’s not her death that we should be focusing on: her life, her vivacity, her vulnerable but brilliant open- heartedness is bigger than that. There’s a lot to enjoy in this story, and a lot of comedy and laughter.”

Will Marilyn Monroe ever fade into the distance and be allowed to rest or will she be like those other ill-fated 20th century blondes/blonds, Diana, Princess of Wales and Kurt Cobain?

“I think her story has endured because of the myths and legends built around her death. Had she made it past 1962, she would have undoubtedly gone on to more significant movie work – perhaps not immediately, but there would certainly have been a revivalist interest in her as a performer and icon.

“One could imagine her turning up as an older, more seasoned actor in films by Cassavetes, Scorsese, Lynch and Tarantino even.

“Still, I think we’re at a very interesting transitional period of cultural history. The digital sphere is expanding beyond our ability to keep up with it, and I think we are beginning to gradually disconnect ourselves from much that was once culturally important or relevant.

“I think that within the next five to ten years, much of what we held up as iconic from the mid-20th century will be forgotten, which is an incredible shame, but that’s how we progress. I think we’ll be too busy dealing with other, more pressing matters than cultural nostalgia.

“But Marilyn’s story is currently still important – perhaps more important than we give it credit for. This piece was first written and performed almost a decade ago, but since then its relevance has increased, resonating with the #MeToo movement and other issues of inequality or institutional abuse and injustice perpetrated on women both in the celebrity sphere but also in ‘normal’ life.

“These are issues that the play takes great care to confront; these are issues that myself, the show’s producer, Rebecca Vaughan, and Dyad Productions are keen to explore and address in all our work.”

“This is a play about Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn Monroe only,” says playwright Elton Townend Jones. “Somebody else can write that conspiracy stuff, not me.”

Marilyn’s death has forever been the subject of conspiracy theories. Are you pouring more fuel on that fire, like an Oliver Stone film might, or is there a different reason for giving Marilyn her voice here?

“As I’ve suggested, this play isn’t about any of that stuff. Yes, the Kennedys are mentioned and they form an important backdrop to the final hour of her life, but really that’s just context. This is a play about Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn Monroe only.

“Somebody else can write that conspiracy stuff, not me. Having done masses of research on her life and career, I was able to join the dots in a way that I don’t think anyone had before, finding a definite connection between the way she died, the lateness on set, the miscarriages, the colitis, the endometriosis, the childhood abuse.

“This is my reading of Marilyn. I’ve made connections – and they may not necessarily be correct, but they’re certainly compelling. It’s up to the audience to decide whether or not this is the definitive Marilyn.

“Let’s not forget that this is a work of fiction, so I do have creative and artistic licence, but everything in the play is based on true events and things she said and did.

“Having a skilled and hauntingly apposite actor like Lizzie Wort play Marilyn only adds to the play’s veracity. If nothing else, this is a powerful and emotionally resonant piece because of her performance.”

What do you love about Marilyn Monroe? The films? Everything else? The iconic imagery? The mystery? The too-soon snuffing out of the candle in the wind?

“The iconic imagery is important to me. I adore her ‘look’ in her final years. The older, more experienced, lived-in look. It appeals to me aesthetically. There’s life in those eyes. Things that can’t be unseen.

“She is a powerful icon across much of her Hollywood career, but I personally identify with the pained vulnerability of those later years and always have.

“As I said, I wrote myself into this play and I suppose I identify with Marilyn because my own past has its own legacy of abuse, heartbreak and loss. As Marilyn is burdened by the pain of her childhood experiences, so am I; for both of us, this has resonated into our adult lives, and I think there was something about this that I ‘felt’ intuitively when I was 12, but couldn’t articulate until I was a playwright in my 40s.

“And I love her movies, particularly everything from after she took classes at the Actors Studio: she is amazing in the intense drama of The Misfits and the unparalleled comedy of Some Like It Hot, which are, for my money, two of the best movies you’ll ever see. She’s simply remarkable.”

“It is a gift of a part. An absolute dream role,” says actor Lizzie Wort of the opportunity to play Marilyn Monroe

How did you create your characterisation of Marilyn Monroe, Lizzie? From Elton’s script; from research; from films and interviews?

“Elton was very clear from the beginning that he wanted us to find a Marilyn that of course was recognisable as the well-loved icon, but also had a different, previously unseen side to her. This was such a gift for me in terms of finding the characterisation.

“To be cast as such a huge icon felt intimidating at first, and potentially limiting, but being able to dig beneath the surface opened up so many possibilities for her and my understanding of her, which was hugely rewarding and exciting.

“I was able to use her films and interviews to find elements of her on-screen persona to bring to the part, but could also draw from Elton’s script, which gives her such a strong and articulate voice. There were times when watching her was incredibly useful and then times when I had to turn it all off and approach the part as a new person, as a regular woman, using my empathy for her and connecting my own personal life experiences.

“Elton has written such a tremendously well rounded, rich character, who is flawed, gets angry, is at times selfish, bitingly intelligent, wry, playful, warm and deeply soulful.

“It is a gift of a part. An absolute dream role. It also feels so relevant to women today. She was a female in a male industry in a time when women weren’t allowed a voice. And, sadly, that struggle continues. To finally give her that voice, and in doing so, give other women that chance too, was such an exciting process and journey of discovery. 

“Her experiences are relevant still today and that played a large part in forming my characterisation of her.”

You are playing Marilyn at her final curtain – the Greek tragedy finale rather than the Hollywood rise and stumble – all alone at her 12305 Fifth Helena Drive home in Brentwood, Los Angeles. What are the principal challenges this scenario presents: the mortal versus the immortal? 

“I would say this isn’t a Greek Tragedy finale either. It is indeed tragic, and we see her unravel as she reflects on her life, but it is also joyous and uplifting. It is full of hope and wit. She shines so brightly in this piece and her demise is all the more quiet and simple, once her story is truly understood. The play is about her life, finally, rather than focusing on the many possible ways she may or may not have died.” 

Why are we endlessly fascinated by Marilyn Monroe?

“There are two elements to this. One is the endless fascination we have with celebrity in general. This is referenced in the play and she makes the point herself that we all invest in celebrity stories. We want to revel in other people’s lives. It’s a fascination that has existed for a long time now.

“Marilyn’s death was unexpected and far too early. To have a young, vibrant life cut short so suddenly was shocking. People feel that they know a person, feel they are connected to them, are invested in them. To lose them so early always feel tragic and unfathomable.

“The controversy surrounding her death and the fascination over how she died continues to this day. She was a hugely popular star, made all the more famous by her death, so this keeps her as an interesting character.

“But, of course, the fascination also goes beyond conspiracy. Marilyn was unusual. The more I have studied her, the more clearly I see how she was essentially always able to be many things to many people.

Lizzie Wort as Mum, second from left, in York Theatre Royal and Tutti Frutti’s When We Lived
In Uncle’s Hat in 2010

“She had an effortless ability to draw people in. She instinctively knew how to capture people’s interest. How to charm people. She had the perfect blend of vulnerability and unbridled joy. She was hugely likeable. And that’s not actually an easy thing to accomplish as a Hollywood star. To be likeable in the truest sense. She was somehow approachable and relatable, while also being totally unobtainable.” 

What is your favourite Marilyn film and film role and why?  

“I adore The Misfits [1961]. She is just so raw and beautiful in it. I also love The Prince And The Show Girl [1957]. It’s not necessarily my favourite film, but her performance is utterly electric. She outshines [Laurence] Olivier.

“I always feel a sense of pride and excitement for her when I watch it. You can see her making different choices in it, from how she previously might have, earlier in her career. I find it thrilling to watch, knowing she was at the beginning of a new chapter of her career, having left The Actors Studio.” 

What do you love about Marilyn Monroe? The films? Everything else? The iconic imagery? The mystery? The too-soon snuffing out of the candle in the wind?

“I love how strong she was. She endured so much as a child, as a young woman, from the industry, from the press, from men. She carried a huge amount of trauma within her, but still radiated warmth and joy.

“People talk a great deal about what she was feeling truly behind that beautiful big smile. I spent a lot of time studying photographs and looking at her eyes, that seemed to be saying something altogether different from her smile.

“It’s clear she covered up a lot of pain and sadness. Physical pain due to various health issues and also emotional struggles. However, I also believe she was a bright soul who genuinely adored life, adored people, had a thirst for knowledge, wanted to love and be loved.

“When someone goes through personal pain and grows up with traumatic experiences, it shapes who you are and the way you view and receive the world. It can sometimes enable a person to feel both sides of the coin.

“You can feel the pain and the torture of your experience existing deeply in your body and have a sense from childhood of the fragility of life. But, if you are lucky, that pain can also then give you an even greater appreciation of the beauty and joy of life all the more deeply. And I truly think she had that appreciation.

“It has been my favourite discovery about her. To realise that the golden Hollywood smile was actually real. Not because she was a one-dimensional blonde movie star who just smiled vacuously for the cameras. It was a smile that expressed all her pain and joy simultaneously.

“She understood life deeply. She felt it all deeply. I find that incredibly beautiful. And I think fundamentally THAT’S why we all love her. She radiated humanity. Heartbreak and joy in a single smile.”

Dyad Productions in The Unremarkable Death Of Marilyn Monroe, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, October 10, 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk

“Marilyn understood life deeply. She felt it all deeply. I find that incredibly beautiful. And I think fundamentally THAT’S why we all love her,” says actor Lizzie Wort

RhymeNReason ask questions aplenty in Yorkshire short plays at Theatre@41

The artwork for RhymeNReason’s Put On Shorts at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

WHAT was Margaret Thatcher’s relationship with Jimmy Savile? Why did a Yorkshire pensioner try to smuggle a fruit cake through Australian customs? What really happened on day three in the Garden of Eden? How should a perfect murder end in a real cliff hanger?  

Questions, questions, all these questions, will be answered at the RhymeNReason Put On Shorts four-day run at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from tomorrow (29/9/2021).

These funny, thought-provoking short plays by Yorkshire writers David Allison, Steve Brennen, Lisa Holdsworth and Graham Rollason were first performed in Leeds, as part of Slung Low Shorts or Leeds Pub Theatre/Leeds Literature Festival, and at York Theatre Royal Studio at Script Yorkshire’s Page To Stage competition.

“They thoroughly deserve another airing,” says Theatre@41 chair Alan Park. “What better way to mark the beginning of live theatre being back to normal? That is a rhetorical question. Answers on postcards are not required.”

Tickets for the 7.30pm performances on September 29 to October 2 are on sale at tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

The Killer Question: will YOU be watching Just Some Theatre’s dark comedy thriller?

In the chair tonight: Just Some Theatre in rehearsal for The Killer Question

WHAT is The Killer Question? The answer will come on Saturday when Silence Of The Lambs meets Last Of The Summer Wine in Just Some Theatre’s dark comedy thriller at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York.

In the latest touring show from the Manchester company behind 2013’s Coward and 2017’s The Doppelgang, former game show champion Walter Crump lives for murder.

It was even his specialist subject on the nerve-shredding general knowledge quiz show The Chair, but did his obsession with death ultimately lead to his own? Inspector Black certainly believes so, and now Crump’s dopey widow, Margaret, finds herself in the chair, accused of her husband’s murder. 

However, as shocking details emerge concerning the events leading to Walter’s final head-to-head, it soon transpires that what started out as an open-and-shut case has turned into another game altogether: one of the cat and mouse variety, with more than one deadly twist in the tale. 

Will Inspector Black solve the mystery? Will Margaret be home in time for Countryfile? Who will prove to be the ultimate victim of The Chair? Questions, so many questions, but there will be one more: which actor will play which character? Saturday’s audience in the John Cooper Studio will decide.

Just Some Theatre’s poster for Saturday’s performance of The Killer Question at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Those actors in question in Dave Payne’s 95-minute thriller will be University of Central Lancashire alumni Peter Stone, Jake Urry and Jordan Moore, now settled into an autumn tour of Alex Tole’s production from September 18 to November 4.

“In 2019, we did a script call-out and received over 300 scripts,” recalls Peter. “We worked our way through them all – it took a very long time! – and then The Killer Question script turned up and we thought, ‘it’s brilliant, but it’s way out of our casting bracket’ because it features an elderly couple in their 70s and a retiring policeman.

“We’re all in our 30s, so it’s obviously a big stretch, but then we thought, ‘if we were to do it in a League Of Gentlemen style, then it would suit us. It turned out Dave wrote it after seeing an episode of Inside No. 9 [the BBC Two dark comedy series created by League Of Gentlemen’s Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton].”

Playwright Payne, “a fantastic Midlands-based writer and producer for BBC Radio 4’s The Archers”, brings “a lot of humour and style from that show”, as well as from his sketch-writing for the CBBC comedy Class Dismissed, to Just Some Theatre’s biggest project to date, working with director Alex Tole for the first time.

“When it came to choosing who we should each play, we all liked them all, and I rather foolishly said, ‘why don’t we all play all of them, with the audience getting to decide who we play each night?’.

“We all agreed, and that now gives the start a game-show feel, a quiz show-feel, where we give a brief introduction to ourselves and the characters, thought we don’t give too much away, and then the audience have to hold up a programme, with one face per page, to cast their votes for that night’s roles.

Just Some Theatre coming to grips with Dave Payne’s comedy thriller The Killer Question in the rehearsal room

“Because they’re three very archetypal characters, we each bring something different to them, but they’re all very loveable, though we do each have the same favourite! We all love playing Margaret.

“The other day I had to drive around Manchester dressed as Margaret – and yes, I did get some funny looks!”

After breaking down the fourth wall with that informal start, Just Some Theatre’s cast then “well and truly build it up again” for the mystery thriller. “That’s one of the challenges. It requires us to perform in two different styles,” says Peter.

Just Some Theatre will be making their Theatre@41 debut. “Alan Park, from the York theatre, saw the show on the Lowry theatre website, and said to us, ‘hey, it looks great, would you bring it over here?’,” recalls Peter.

“It fitted us perfectly because we needed one more date to complete the tour and we needed one in that area. York was perfect; we’ve always wanted to perform there.

“Theatre@41, being in a former church hall, will really lend itself to the grandiose, slightly off-kilter world we’re creating.”

Just Some Theatre working on a scene for The Killer Question

Like so many theatre companies, Just Some Theatre have had to skate their way through the cracks and crevices of these pandemic times, receiving an Emergency Response Grant from Arts Council to cover costs for six months.

“That meant we could look at how we were working and how we could employ others to work with us, and so we employed 50 creatives for a Forward Dialogue project: 11 writers; ten scripts; ten directors, and a sea of actors, working online as part of that first wave of Zoom theatre,” says Peter.

“The final piece that ‘won’ the event, was called Happy!, written by Charlotte Souter and directed by Amy Burns Walker, a familiar name to York theatre audiences.  They created something truly unique that was really fabulous to see, with one actor ‘passing’ the same prop via the camera to the other actor ‘receiving it’. Brilliant!”

Ironically, just before the Covid cloud descended, Just Some Theatre had been touring a post-apocalyptic comedy about The Four Horsemen, who teamed up to create their own little virus. “Then Covid killed off that tour halfway through, just as we were about to start doing some shows for Cheshire Rural Arts Touring, after doing our urban dates. By that stage, if someone coughed, everyone fell silent, though the show was supposed to be a comedy.”  

Tickets for Saturday’s 7.30pm performance of Just Some Theatre’s The Killer Question cost £12 at tickets.41monkgate.co.uk/events/.

More Things To Do in and around York as creative night market launched. List No. 49, courtesy of The Press, York

Big news! York artist Freya Horsley, right, and gallery co-director Ails McGee with Freya’s paintings Turning Tide and Liquid Light at According To McGee, York

BIG paintings, a night market, thrillers at the double, cookery chat, an anniversary celebration, a long-awaited Scottish return and a brace of comedians are the diverse focus of Charles Hutchinson’s attention.

Exhibition of the week: Freya Horsley, Contemporary Seascapes, According To McGee, York, running until October 11

ACCORDING To McGee is playing host to the biggest paintings the Tower Street gallery has ever exhibited: Liquid Light and Turning Tide, two mixed-media works on canvas by Freya Horsley.

The York artist is displaying a new series of seascape paintings depicting the Cornish, Scottish and north east coastlines.

“Her art makes you look twice because it has a calming quality and, like a good sunrise, it makes you go ‘wow!’,” says co-director Greg McGee.

York Creatives Night Market: Debut night of arts, crafts, music, food and drink at Shambles Market tomorrow

York Creatives Night Market, Shambles Market, York, tomorrow, 7pm to 10.30pm

POSTPONED at short notice on August 20, the debut York Creatives Night Market goes ahead tomorrow in a chance to browse art and products by independent traders.

Street food, drinks and music all evening are on the menu too for this free event, open to all.

The Rusty Pegs: Tenth anniversary concert at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Celebrating ten years on: The Rusty Pegs, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Saturday, 8pm

TEN years ago, York country band The Rusty Pegs formed, drawn from volunteers at the Monkgate theatre, who were asked to perform their debut gig there at a Raising The Roof fundraiser.

To mark a decade of making music together, the Pegs have decided to come full circle by performing an anniversary gig in the same place where it all started, this time launching the autumn season. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

No mistaking Justin Currie: Del Amitri return with Fatal Mistakes album for first York gig since 2002

Long time coming: Del Amitri, York Barbican, Saturday, 7.45pm

DEL Amitri follow up the May 28 release of their seventh studio album, Fatal Mistakes, with a return to York Barbican after a 19-year hiatus.

Justin Currie’s Glaswegian band last played there in May 2002, the year they released their last album, Can You Do Me Good?.

“It’s been nearly 20 years since we toured with a new album, lord knows what took us so long,” says Currie. “The prospect of sprinkling our set with a few choices from Fatal Mistakes fills us with the sort of excitement that, for some men of our age, might call for light medication. We think the adrenaline will see us through.” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

No smoke without ire: Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss blows his top at York Barbican

Comedy gig of the week: Daniel Sloss: Hubris, York Barbican, Sunday, 7.30pm

SUNDAY’S gig is third time lucky for Scotsman Daniel Sloss, whose October 3 2020 and May 8 2021 visits were ruled out by the accursed Covid.

Sloss, 30, has sold out six New York solo off-Broadway seasons, appeared on American television’s Conan show ten times and toured to more than 50 countries. Now, at last, comes his new show, with special guest Kai Humphries.

Look out for Sloss’s book, Everyone You Hate Is Going To Die (And Other Comforting Thoughts On Family, Friends, Sex, Love, And More Things That Ruin Your Life), from October 12. For tickets for Sunday, go to: yorkbarbican.co.uk.

What’s cooking? Cookbook writer Yotam Ottolenghi finds flavour at York Theatre Royal on Tuesday

Flavour of the month: Yotam Ottolenghi, A Life In Flavour, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday, 7.30pm

CHEF, restaurateur and food writer Yotam Ottolenghi reflects on A Life In Flavour, provides cooking inspiration and signs copies of his “flavour-forward, vegetable-based” cookbook, Ottolenghi Flavour, after the show on Tuesday.

West Jerusalem-born Ottolenghi will be discussing the tastes, ingredients and flavours that excite him and how he has created a career from cooking.

Expect “unique insights into how flavour is dialled up and why it works, from basic pairings fundamental to taste, to cooking methods that elevate ingredients to great heights”. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Dane Baptiste: Comedian with a chip on his shoulder at Burning Duck Comedy Club

The other comedy gig of the week: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Dane Baptiste: The Chocolate Chip, The Crescent, York, September 23, 7.30pm

IN his own words, Dane Baptiste is now a “grown ass black man, too old to be concerned with chicken or trainers, too young to be considered a peer of Trevor McDonald”.

Has he got a chip on his shoulder? “Yes. A chocolate one,” says Baptiste, a south east London stand-up who once worked in media sales.

Noted for his boldly provocative material, he hosts the podcasts Dane Baptiste Questions Everything and Quotas Full. Box office: thecrescentyork.com/events.

The Rowntree Players’ poster for next week’s production of Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web

Web of the week: Rowntree Players in Agatha Christie’s Spider’s Web, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, September 23 to 25, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee

DIPLOMAT’S wife Clarissa is adept at spinning tales of adventure, but when a murder takes place in her drawing room, she finds live drama much harder to cope with in Rowntree Players’ autumn return, directed by Howard Ella.

Desperate to dispose of the body before her husband arrives with an important politician, she enlists the help of her guests. 

In a conscious parody of the detective thriller, Christie’s Spider’s Web delivers suspense and humour in equal measure in an intricate plot of murder, police detection, hidden doorways and secret drawers. Box office: 01904 501935 or at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

In the chair: Just Some Theatre in rehearsal for The Killer Question, heading to Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Mystery of the week ahead: Just Some Theatre in The Killer Question, Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, September 25, 7.30pm

THE Silence Of The Lambs meets Last Of The Summer Wine in Dave Payne’s dark comedy thriller The Killer Question, marking the York debut of Manchester company Just Some Theatre.

Did The Chair game show champion Walter Crump’s obsession with death ultimately lead to his own? Inspector Black believes so, and now Crump’s dopey widow, Margaret, finds herself accused of her husband’s murder. 

Faced by more than one deadly twist in the tale, can Inspector Black solve the mystery? Will Margaret be home in time for Countryfile? Just as important, which actor – Peter Stone, Jake Urry or Jordan Moore – will play which character? The audience decides. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Settlement Players to return from pandemic hiatus with high-wire comedy The 39 Steps at Theatre@41 Monkgate

Harri Marshall: Directing York Settlement Community Players’ production of The 39 Steps

YORK Settlement Community Players return from lockdown mothballing with Harri Marshall’s production of The 39 Steps at Theatre@41 Monkgate, York, from November 11 to 14.

Patrick Barlow’s two-time Tony and Drama Desk Award-winning comedy thriller – a hit in the West End, on Broadway and on multiple tours – asks the cast to play more than 150 characters in recreating an against-the-odds combination of both John Buchan’s 1915 novel and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film.

The task is to tell the fast-moving story of Richard Hannay, a man with a boring life, who meets a woman with a thick foreign accent who claims to be a spy. When he takes her home, she is murdered.

Soon, a mysterious organisation called “The 39 Steps” is hot on the man’s trail in a nationwide hunt that climaxes in a death-defying finale in Barlow’s adaptation, based on an original concept by North Country Theatre’s Nobby Dimon and Simon Corble.

Aran MacRae: Cast as Richard Hannay in the Settlement Players’ The 39 Steps

Aran MacRae, a professional actor who returned home to York in lockdown after working on the London musical theatre stage and on tour overseas, will play Richard Hannay, fresh from Aran being one of the sonneteers for York Shakespeare Project’s Sonnets At The Bar 2021.

Sanna Buck will take the roles of Annabella Schmidt, Pamela and Margaret, while Stephen Wright, Andrew Isherwood, Jim Paterson, Matt Pattison, Matt Lomax and Dan Boyle will be The Clowns, whereas normally they are played by only two actors rushing around frantically trying to do most of the 150-plus characters.

York Settlement Community Players’ last live theatre production was Chekhov’s The Seagull at York Theatre Royal Studio in March 2020, when the run ended a week before the theatre went dark for the first pandemic lockdown. Since then, the company has hosted play readings and social meet-ups online.

Benedict Turvill’s troubled playwright Konstantin and The Seagull of the title in York Settlement Community Players’ last stage production at the York Theatre Royal Studio in March 2020. Picture: John Saunders

The 39 Steps will be Harri Mashall’s second production for YSCP, after directing Nanci Harris’s adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Red Shoes at Theatre@41 in the autumn of 2019.

“For the past eighteen months, the UK feels like it’s lost its theatrical mojo, which is why I’m excited to bring this light, wickedly funny play to Theatre@41 to share in the love and laughter and to showcase some brilliantly inventive theatre,” says Harri, who identifies as a deaf director.

“Rehearsals are going very well; we started at the deep end, plunging into the logistics of how to re-create those fabulous iconic scenes that made The 39 Steps famous when it debuted on the West End.

Playwright Patrick Barlow

“This includes re-creating chase sequences on board the Flying Scotsman and a live on-stage plane crash.”

Harri adds: “I’m very lucky to be working with such a talented cast. Every single performer is a brilliant star in their own right. Their collective repertoire includes credits at the London Coliseum, York Theatre Royal, York Light Opera, the York Mystery Plays, Pick Me Up Theatre and previous successful York Settlement Community Players’ shows, such as The Cherry Orchard and The Red Shoes.”

This amateur production of The 39 Steps is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals Ltd on behalf of Samuel French Ltd.

Tickets for the 7.30pm evening shows and 2.30pm Saturday and Sunday matinees in the John Cooper Studio are on sale at tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

The poster artwork for York Settlement Community Players’ The 39 Steps