Iphigenia In Splott hits the spot as Livy Potter plays a young woman spiralling into an abyss of drugs, drink and drama

“As soon as I read the play, I knew I had to accept the challenge,” says Livy Potter of playing Effie in Gary Owen’s Iphigenia In Splott

GREEK myth meets modern reality in Gary Owen’s “horribly relevant” one-woman drama Iphigenia In Splott at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from Wednesday to Saturday.

Under the direction of Jim Paterson, York company Black Treacle Theatre presents Livy Potter in a 75-minute monologue about Effie, whose life spirals through a mess of drink, drugs and drama every night, and a hangover worse than death the next day, until one incident gives her the chance to be something more.

Set in contemporary Cardiff, Owen’s play is rooted in the ancient tale of Iphigenia being sacrificed by her father to placate the gods. Effie, in turn, is the kind of woman to avoid eye contact with in the street when she is drunk at 11.30am in the morning.

“Iphigenia In Splott is a play about our country right now,” says director Jim Paterson

Named by the Guardian in its list of the 50 best plays of the 21st century, on account of being a “shattering modern classic that distils all our troubles”, Iphigenia In Splott is both a portrait of a woman whose life is turned upside down by the events of one night and a broader picture of the brutal impact of austerity on communities across Britain.

Director Paterson says “Iphigenia In Splott is a play about our country right now. It was originally written in 2015, but remains horribly relevant when we consider the state of our public services, the cost-of-living crisis and what this means for those already struggling to get by – who are too often forgotten or ignored by those in power.

“What makes it such a brilliantly rich play is the unforgettable character of Effie, and the poetry and lyricism in the language that Gary Owen has written for her. This gives it an emotional heft and weight that I think will be incredibly cathartic for an audience.”

Livy Potter and Jim Paterson in the rehearsal room

Livy Potter, the sole actor on stage throughout, says: “It’s such a privilege to be given the chance to play Effie. As soon as I read the play, I knew I had to accept the challenge; it’s poetic, emotional, witty and riveting.

“I can’t wait to share this story with York audiences. It’s been great to work with Jim again, having been directed by him in York Settlement Community Players’ production of Christopher Durang’s comedy  Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike last November. To be back performing at Theatre@41 is fantastic too.”

Paterson is joined in the production team by lighting designer Ivy Magee and set designer Richard Hampton with technical support from Sam Elmer.

Black Treacle Theatre in Iphigenia In Splott, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

“I can’t wait to share this story with York audiences,” says Livy Potter

How do you solve a problem like casting Maria? Call on Sanna Jeppsson for Pick Me Up Theatre’s The Sound Of Music

Sanna Jeppsson’s Maria Rainer in a scene with the von Trapp children in Pick Me Up Theatre’s The Sound Of Music. Picture: Robert Readman

SANNA Jeppsson is following in the hill-loving footsteps of Julie Andrews, Petula Clark, Marie Osmond and Connie Fisher in playing Maria Rainer, the trainee nun turned free-spirited nanny in The Sound Of Music from tonight in York.

The Swedish-born stage and film actress already has given stand-out turns as a mysterious, German-accented femme fatale in Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps in her York debut in November 2021; boundary-breaking Viola de Lesseps in Shakespeare In Love in April and scene-stealing Cassandra, the hippy home help, in Christopher Durang’s American comedy Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike in November.

All three were staged at Theatre@41, Monkgate, as will be Pick Me Up Theatre’s production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s final collaboration, under the direction of Robert Readman, hot on the heels of his delivery of Nativity! The Musical at the Grand Opera House last month and Matilda The Musical Jr at Monkgate in late-September.

From tonight to December 30, Sanna will play Maria opposite 2022 Commonwealth Games squash doubles gold medallist and Harrogate actor James Willstrop’s Captain von Trapp.

Sanna Jeppsson: Making her mark on the York stage since November 2021

Here CharlesHutchPress is alive with a flurry of questions for Sanna.

When did you first see The Sound Of Music, the film or on stage?

“I first saw the film when I was a child, maybe around seven years old, and I remember enjoying it. I thought it was fun and I loved all the songs, still do. I’ve never actually seen it on stage, so this is a whole new experience for me.”

Is the film as popular in your Swedish homeland as it is over here?

“I would say, yes. It’s a classic and iconic, it used to be on TV every Christmas, and I would dare to suggest most Swedes have probably seen it.

“And I’ve heard of sing-a-long showings – though they may not be quite as well attended as a sing-a-long Mamma Mia!”

What do you most like about the stage version as opposed to the film?

“I think the same as with all stage versions of films: the magic of live theatre!”

Are you a Julie Andrews fan? 

“Yes! I’ll admit I’m not her biggest fan, but I’ve always found her enchanting to watch and listen to.”

How much do you have to block Julie out of your mind to find your own Maria?

“Since being cast, I’ve resisted the urge to re-watch the film, so I haven’t seen it in years. Instead, I’ve aimed to find the character only though the text in the script. And let myself go on Maria’s journey of finding her purpose, which I think is one many people can relate to in some way.”

Sanna Jeppsson’s Viola de Lesseps in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Shakespeare In Love atTheatre@41, Monkgate, York, in April 2022

What are the cornerstones of Maria’s character? 

“She’s a genuinely good person. Honest, loving, and obviously adores music and singing. She wants to do good for all people around her. She’s got a playful side that’s hard for her to control sometimes; she’s clever and witty too.

“I think her religion keeps her grounded and gives her confidence that as long as she’s honest and tries to do good, she can’t go wrong. I think that’s where she finds the courage to speak her mind and confront the Captain when she needs to.” 

What is your favourite song to sing in the show? 

“Wow! That’s a hard question. I love all of them. I have to say, though, that the songs with the children, Do-Re-Mi and The Lonely Goatherd, are super-fun to do. I basically just get to play and have fun with the kids!”

How have you found working with James Willstrop, squash ace and man of the musicals and theatre in Yorkshire?

“It’s been great! What I’ve most appreciated about James is how calm he seems at all times! Maybe it’s his many years in professional sport, but he doesn’t appear affected by nerves. He’s relaxed and easy to work with, and that helps a lot.”  

Sanna Jeppsson’s Cassandra, centre, in York Settlement Community Players’ Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike in November 2022. Picture: John Saunders

How does this role compare with your past Pick Me Up and York Settlement Community Players performances? Performing with children is a big part of this one…

“It’s my first musical with Pick Me Up, and also my first lead role in a musical. Also the first time working with children in the cast! Lots of firsts, I’ve just realised!

“As with previous Pick Me Up productions, it’s a strong cast and great production team, the children adding a playful energy to it, which has been interesting and fun to work with!

As there are three children’s teams, each team brings something different to the show, which makes the performance feel fresh and new for every run.”

What’s coming next for you on stage? 

“Nothing decided yet, but I have a few auditions coming up in the New Year, so hopefully I won’t have to stay away from the stage too long!”

Pick Me Up Theatre in The Sound Of Music, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, December 16 to 30. Performances: 7.30pm, December 16, 17, 19, 21, 23, 27, 28 and 29; 2.30pm, 17, 18, 20, 22, 27, 29 and 30. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Sanna Jeppsson’s femme fatale with Aran MacRae’s Richard Hannay in York Settlement Community Players’ The 39 Steps in November 2021. Picture: John Saunders

Did you know?

GRACE Kelly, Doris Day, Audrey Hepburn and Anne Bancroft were all considered for the role of Maria Rainer in Robert Wise’s 1965 film of The Sound Of Music.

Did you know too? 

SHIRLEY Bassey had a UK number one with Climb Every Mountain in 1961 as a double A-side with Reach For The Stars.

My Favourite Things has been recorded by Barbra Streisand (1967), Dionne Warwick (2004), Mary J Blige and Kelly Clarkson (both 2013).

More Things To Do in York and beyond as clocks go back for longer nights and festival shorts. Hutch’s List No. 104, from The Press

Filip Fredrik’s Elements: Showing at Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2022

A FILM festival with international pedigree, poetry clashes, comedy aplenty and Constellations shine out for Charles Hutchinson.

Festival of the week: Aesthetica Short Film Festival, across York, Tuesday to Sunday

AESTHETICA Short Film Festival returns for 300 films in 15 venues over six days in York in its 12th edition. The BAFTA-Qualifying event will have a hybrid format, combining the live festival with a selection of screenings, masterclasses and events on the digital platform until November 30.

New for 2022 will be York Days, a discount scheme with the chance to save 50 per cent on prices on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday programmes. Comedies, dramas, thrillers, animation, family-friendly films and documentaries all feature, complemented by workshops, the Virtual Reality Lab, installations and the festival fringe. Box office: asff.co.uk/tickets.

Malaika Kegode: Guest appearance at Say Owt Slam’s birthday party. Picture: Jon Aitken

Birthday party of the week: Say Owt Slam’s 8th Birthday Special, with Malaika Kegode, The Crescent, York, tonight (29/10/2022), 7.30pm

SAY Owt, York’s loveable gang of performance poets, Stu Freestone, Henry Raby, Hannah Davies and David Jarman, welcome special-guest Bristol poet Malaika Kegode to a high-energy night of words and verse, humour and poet-versus-poet fun.

“It started as a one-off gig! I can’t believe we’re still slamming eight years later,” says artistic director and host Raby. “Whether you’re a veteran or looking for something new, everyone is welcome at a Say Owt Slam, where each poet has a maximum of three minutes to wow randomly selected judges with their poetry.” Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

David O’Doherty: Change of date for York gig

On the move: David O’Doherty: Whoa Is Me, Grand Opera House, York, changing from Monday to February 5 2023, 8pm

HERE he comes again, albeit later than first planned, trotting on stage with all of the misplaced confidence of a waiter with no pad.

“There’ll be lots of talking, some apologising and some songs on a glued-together plastic keyboard from 1986,” promises David O’Doherty, comedian, author, musician, actor and playwright, 1990 East Leinster under-14 triple jump bronze medallist and son of jazz pianist Jim Doherty. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Flo & Joan: Musical comedy duo offer thoughts on topics of the day

Musical comedy of the week: Flo & Joan, Sweet Release, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday, 7.3pm

FLO & Joan, the British musical comedy duo of sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey, play York as one of 30 additional dates on their 2022 tour after their return to the Edinburgh Fringe.

Climbing back out of their pits, armed with a piano and percussion, they poke around the  classic topics of the day with their fusion of comedy and song with a dark undertow.

The sisters have penned five numbers for the West End musical Death Drop and have written and performed songs for Horrible Histories (CBBC), Rob Delaney’s Stand Up Central (Comedy Central) and BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

Emilio Iannucci: Starring in Nick Payne’s romantic two-hander Constellations at the SJT

Play of the week outside York: Constellations, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, running until November 12

WHEN beekeeper Roland meets scientist Marianne, anything could happen in University of York alumnus Nick Payne’s romantic and revealing exploration of the many possibilities that can result from a single meeting. Reminiscent of Sliding Doors and Kate Atkinson’s novel Life After Life, this two-hander starring Carla Harrison-Hodge and Emilio Iannucci ponders “What if?”.

“Constellations plays with time and space in the most brilliant way,” says director Paul Robinson. “Deeply human, deeply moving, it genuinely tilts the world for you. I challenge anyone not to leave the theatre just a bit more aware of what a fragile and remarkable thing life is.” Box office: 01723 370541 or sjt.uk.com.

Bring It On: “The thrill of extreme competition”

Backflip of the week: York Stage in Bring It On: The Musical, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm; Saturday matinee, 2.30pm

THE York premiere of Bring It On backflips into the JoRo in a youth theatre production directed by Nik Briggs. Inspired by the film of the same name, this story of the challenges and surprising bonds forged through the thrill of extreme competition is packed with vibrant characters, electrifying contemporary songs and explosive choreography.

This Broadway hit is the energy-fuelled work of Tony Award winners Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and Tom Kitt (Grease: Live). Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.

Humour on hand: Harry Hill promises Pedigree Fun on his first tour since 2013

Very silly show of the week: Harry Hill, Pedigree Fun!, Grand Opera House, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

COMEDIAN, writer, actor, artist and former doctor Harry Hill and his big shirt collars take to the stage for an all-singing, all-dancing surrealist spectacular in his long-awaited return to the live arena for the fist time since 2013’s Sausage Time tour.

“I hadn’t realised how much I missed performing live until lockdown stopped me from doing it,” he says. “The good news is I’m planning a very silly show.” Full of pop-culture spoofs, no doubt.

Audiences will meet Harry’s new baby elephant, Sarah, along with regular sidekick Stouffer the Cat. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/York.

John McCusker: Fiddler supreme on 30th anniversary tour

Fiddler on the road: The John McCusker Band 30th Anniversary Tour, National Centre for Early Music, York, Wednesday, 7.30pm

SCOTTISH fiddle player John McCusker will be joined by Ian Carr, Sam Kelly, Helen McCabe and Toby Shaer for his concert series in celebration of 30 years as a professional folk musician since cutting his teeth in The Battlefield Band at 17.

To coincide with this landmark, McCusker has released a Best Of album featuring tracks from his solo records and television and film soundtracks, alongside a book of 100 original compositions, John McCusker: The Collection.

“I’m delighted to be able to get this special show on the road and celebrate 30 years as a professional musician,” says McCusker. “I’m looking forward to performing the highlights from my back catalogue and revisiting memories associated with those tracks.

“It’s brilliant that I’ve been able to make music and perform for 30 years and I’ve worked with so many incredible people in that time. I’ve never had a plan; good things have just
happened and, so far, it’s worked out as well as I could possibly have dreamed of. I can’t
wait to play with my friends again.” Box office: 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk.

York Settlement Community Players’ cast for Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike: Mick Liversidge (Vanya), top left, Victoria Delaney (Sonia) and Susannah Baines (Sasha); Andrew Roberts (Spike), bottom left, Sanna Jeppsson (Cassandra) and Livy Potter

York premiere of the week: York Settlement Community Players in Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Thursday, Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm, 7.30pm

VANYA and his sister Sonia live a quiet life in the Pennsylvania farmhouse where they grew up, but when their famous film-star sister, Masha, makes an impromptu visit with her dashing, twenty-something boyfriend, Spike, a chaotic weekend ensues.

Resentment, rivalry and revealing premonitions begin to boil over as the three siblings battle to be heard in Christopher Durang’s comedy, winner of the 2013 Tony Award for Best New Play with its blend of Chekhovian ennui, modern-day concerns of celebrity, social networking and the troubling onset of middle age. Jim Paterson directs Settlement Players’ production. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.

Plastic Mermaids: “Emotional exploration of the many facets of heartbreak”

Time to discover…Plastic Mermaids, The Crescent, York, November 10; Oporto, Leeds, February 2 2023

AFTER playing Glastonbury and Camp Bestival in the summertime, Isle of Wight five-piece Plastic Mermaids are off on an 11-date tour to promote their second album, It’s Not Comfortable To Grow, out now on Sunday Best.

Led by brothers Douglas and Jamie Richards, who approach life like an art project, they face up to their dark side in an emotional exploration of the many facets of heartbreak on such psych-rock and electronica numbers as Girl Boy Girl, Disposable Love, Something Better and Elastic Time. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.

Settlement Players to stage American comedy Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike in Nov. Audition dates announced

(Part of) York Settlement Community Players’ poster for Christopher Durang’s play Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike

YORK Settlement Community Players’ autumn production will be Christopher Durang’s  Broadway hit comedy Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike.

Directed by Jim Paterson, this amateur premiere will run at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from November 3 to 5.

Rehearsals will run from Sunday, September 4 an average of three times a week: two on weekday evenings and one daytime session at the weekend, building momentum to the production week starting on October 31.

Premiered in 2012, Durang’s play revolves around the relationships of three middle-aged single siblings, two of whom live together, and takes place during a visit by the third, who supports them.

“Playing with classic Chekhovian situations but taking them in humorous new directions that anyone can enjoy, the play tells the story of Vanya and Sonia, who live a quiet life in the Pennsylvania farmhouse where they grew up,” says Settlement stalwart Helen Wilson.

“But their peace is shattered when their movie-star sister, Masha, returns unannounced with her twentysomething toyboy Spike. A weekend of rivalry, regret and raucousness begins.

“This is a in a brilliantly funny play, with six very different roles that are a treat for comic actors who enjoy scratching past the surface to find the sadness underneath.”

Here are the characters up for grabs at auditions at Southlands Methodist Church, Bishopthorpe Road, later this month:

Vanya (male, 50s):  resigned to his life, more or less, at least by comparison with Sonia;
Sonia (female, early 50s): Vanya’s adopted sister, who lives with him. Discontented, upset, regretful;
Masha (female, 50s): Their sister. Glamorous and successful globetrotting actress;
Spike (male, 20s): Aspiring actor, sexy, self-absorbed. Masha’s new companion. Actor playing this role will need to be physically fit and comfortable in underwear on stage;
Nina (female, early 20s): Lovely, sincere, would-be actress. Starstruck and energetic;
Cassandra (female, any age): Cleaning lady and soothsayer. Odd, very odd.

Those auditions will be held on Thursday, July 14, 7.30pm to 9.30pm; Sunday, July 17, 1pm to 4pm, and Tuesday, July 19, 7pm to 9.30pm.

“You do not need to prepare a monologue,” advises Helen. “We’ll ask you to perform an extract from the play with a partner, which will be supplied in advance. The play is set in Pennsylvania, and you will need to be able to perform – or have the ability to learn – a decent American accent. We will provide you with a half-hour audition time slot.”

To register your interest, please email yorksettlementcommunityplayers@gmail.com with details of your name, the part you are interested in, a brief overview of your previous acting experience, and any commitments that would make you unavailable during rehearsal and performance times. Please specify too if you are unable to make any of the audition dates.

You must join the Settlement Players to be part of the cast.