WILL there be a more theatre-filled week in York this year?
A star-vehicle tour of Calendar Girls The Musical at the Grand Opera House is competing for attention with four York companies: York Light in Disney’s The Little Mermaid and, next door in the Studio, the Settlement Players in Rattigan’s Separate Tables, both at the Theatre Royal; Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s Kander & Ebb musical Curtains at the JoRo, and York Actors Collective (YAC) at Theatre@41, Monkgate.
Driven by her desire for more political, thought-provoking theatre in York, director and theatre critic Angie Millard launched YAC last March with Joe Orton’s Sixties’ farce Entertaining Mr Sloane.
Now comes a cruel farce, one highlighting the zero-hours contracts that have re-shaped workers’ rights to the point of having no rights, in Alexander Zeldin’s slice of agitprop, devised with The Yard actors in London in 2014.
Work 14 consecutive days? Like it or lump it, frustrated night shift manager and company mandarin Ian (Neil Vincent) tells agency cleaners Grace, Becky and Sam as they turn up for an interview at a meat-packing factory.
Grace (Victoria Delaney) is disabled, struggling with rheumatoid arthritis, but with her benefits stopped, she must find work, even though its physical demands could be too much despite her wish to be a team player.
Becky (Clare Halliday) is a single parent, with a daughter out of reach. Desperate for money. She has a loose lip that can talk her into trouble and she is not afraid to use her sexuality.
Sam (Mick Liversedge) needs a job, any job. He’s nursing a dodgy arm, sofa surfing, “wondering how I got here and if I will ever get out”.
Phil (Chris Pomfrett) has been doing this job for ages. He’s bored, says little but reads a lot, a Dick Francis thriller at the moment.
Vincent’s smug Ian thinks he has Phil in his pocket. As for the newbies, rules are rules and Ian’s gonna use them, turning up like the proverbial bad penny, changing their shifts at short notice, putting them through job satisfaction questionnaires, looking through their bags.
What a piece of work he is, never lifting a finger, full of himself, conniving and snide. You would call him a pillock…and then lose your shift.
Millard had her cast members building back-stories for their characters, but not to be shared with each other, in a directorial decision that bears fruit in the initial awkwardness of meeting for the first time, before gradually getting to know each other, but not everything about them. This layer of secrecy adds workplace friction, but bonds build too.
Sam nicks biscuits and tries to stay the night there, unseen by his fellow workers. Becky speaks to her daughter on the phone, out of hearing range from the others. Ian idles the time away watching porn on his phone.
The devised, improvised origins of this 90-minute play with no interval makes for raw, emotionally naked theatre in a series of vignettes that recall the agitprop insurgency of Scottish company 7:84 and carry an authenticity usually to be found in verbatim dramas.
Tremendous performances all round, both individually and collectively, combine with Millard’s frank, kitchen-sink direction to make you care utterly about Beyond Caring with its bleak humour, desperate truths and camaraderie in crap conditions. The coffee machine never works but the price goes up, just another example of what puts the grating into Great Britain.
Performances: 2.30pm and 7.30pm today. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk
A GLUT of York theatre companies, a nocturnal sky festival, a Yorkshire musical and a colourful installation light up the dark nights of February for culture guide Charles Hutchinson.
Social drama of the week: York Actors Collective in Beyond Caring, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Tuesday to Friday, 7.30pm; Saturday, 2.30pm and 5.30pm
DEVISED by Alexander Zeldin and the original Yard Theatre cast in London, this 90-minute play highlighting the social damage inflicted by zero-hours contracts forms York Actors Collective’s second production, directed by founder Angie Millard.
Performed by Victoria Delaney, Clare Halliday, Mick Liversidge, Chris Pomfrett and Neil Vincent, Beyond Caring follows meat-packing factory cleaners Becky, Grace and Sam on the night shift as they confront the reality of low wage employment, never sure whether their ‘job’ will continue. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Late Music at the double: Steve Bingham, violin and electronics, 1pm today; Robert Rice, baritone, and William Vann, piano, 7.30pm tonight, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York
PET Shop Boys’ It’s A Sin chills with Bach’s Allemande in D minor, while a tango from Piazzolla is thrown in for good measure, as Steve Bingham explores four centuries of solo violin music this afternoon. World premieres of David Power’s Miniatures, Wayne Siegel’s Salamander (violin and electronics) and Rowan Alfred’s Cuckoo Phase will be performed too.
York composer David Power has curated Robert Rice and William Vann’s evening recital, featuring the first complete performance of Power’s Three Char Songs (1985 and 2016). Works by Gerald Finzi, Cecil Armstrong Gibbs, Herbert Howells, Robert Walker, William Rhys Meek, Charlotte Marlow, Liz Dilnot Johnson, David Lancaster, Hannah Garton, Ruth Lee, Hayley Jenkins and Phillip Cooke. Power gives a pre-concert talk at 6.45pm with a complimentary glass of wine or juice. Tickets: latemusic.org or on the door.
Nautical adventure of the week: York Light Opera Company in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, York Theatre Royal, February 7 to 17, except February 12
BASED on the classic 1989 Disney animated film, The Little Mermaid tells the enchanting story of Ariel, a mermaid who dreams of trading her tail for legs and exploring the human world. Aided by her mischievous sidekick, Flounder, and the cunning Ursula, Ariel strikes a bargain that will change her life forever.
Martyn Knight’s production for York Light features stunning projection, dazzling costumes, unforgettable musical numbers, such as Under The Sea and Kiss The Girl, and choreography by Rachael Whitehead. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Installation launch of the week: Colour & Light, York Art Gallery, February 7 to 25
YORK BID is linking up with York Museums Trust for the return of Colour & Light: an innovative project that will transform the facade of York Art Gallery to counter the cold winter with a vibrant light installation.
This “high impact and large-scale visual arts project” uses 3D projection mapping to bring York’s iconic buildings to life, first York Minster last year, now York Art Gallery, where the projection will play every ten minutes from 6pm to 9pm daily in a non-ticketed free event.
It’s Curtains for…Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee
WHEN the leading lady of a new musical mysteriously dies on stage, a plucky local detective must solve this 1959 case at Boston’s Colonial Theatre, where the entire cast and crew are suspects in Kander & Ebb’s musical with a book by Rupert Holmes.
Cue delightful characters, a witty and charming script and glorious tunes in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s staging of Curtains. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Touring musical of the week: Calendar Girls The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees
YOU know the story, the one where a husband’s death to leukaemia prompts a group of ordinary women in a small Yorkshire Women’s Institute to do an extraordinary thing, whereupon they set about creating a nude calendarto raise money for charity.
Premiered at Leeds Grand Theatre in 2015, Gary Barlow and Tim Firth’s musical is now touring with a cast of music, stage and television stars. Baring all will be Laurie Brettas Annie;Liz Carneyas Marie; Helen Pearson as Celia; Samantha Seager as Chris; Maureen Nolan as Ruth; Lyn Paul as Jessie and Honeysuckle Weeks as Cora. Once more the tour supports Blood Cancer UK. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
English manners of the week: York Settlement Community Players in Separate Tables, York Theatre Royal Studio, February 8 to 17, 7.45pm except Sunday and Monday, plus 2pm Saturday matinees
AFTER directing four Russian plays by Chekhov, Helen Wilson turns her attention to Separate Tables, two very English Terence Rattigan tales of love and loss, set in a shabby Bournemouth hotel in the 1950s.
Guests, both permanent and transient, sit on separate tables, a formality that underlines the loneliness of these characters in a play about class, secrets and repressed emotions. Chris Meadley, Paul French, Molly Kay, Jess Murray, Marie-Louise Feeley, Caroline Greenwood and Linda Fletcher are among the Settlement cast. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Festival of the month: North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales Dark Skies Festival, February 9 to 25
TEAMING up for the ninth time since 2016, the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Park authorities celebrate the jewels of God’s Own Country’s night sky this month.
Discover nocturnal activities to heighten the senses such as the Dark Skies Experience (February 9 to 25) night navigation (February 16); trail run and yoga (February 17, sold out); canoeing; planet trail and constellation trail at Aysgarth Falls (February 9 to 25); astrophotography workshops at Castle Howard (February 22), stargazing safaris, children’s daytime trails, art workshops and mindful experiences. More details: darkskiesnationalparks.org.uk; yorkshiredales.org.uk/things-to-do/whats-on/shows/dark-skies-festival/.
Outdoor gig announcement of the week: Richard Ashcroft, Forest Live, Dalby Forest, near Pickering, June 23
FORESTRY England completes its Forest Live return to Dalby Forest for the first time since 2019 with Richard Ashcroft, the two-time Ivor Novello Award-winning Wigan singer, songwriter and frontman of The Verve.
Canadian rocker Bryan Adams and disco icons Nile Rodgers & CHIC were confirmed already for June 21 and 22 respectively. New addition Ashcroft’s set list will draw on his five solo albums, along with The Verve’s anthems Bittersweet Symphony, The Drugs Don’t Work, Lucky Man and Sonnet. Leeds band Apollo Junction will be supporting. Box office: forestlive.com.
In Focus: York Ice Trail, City of Dreams, York city centre, today and tomorrow, from 10am
THE theme for York Ice Trail 2024 transforms York into the City of Dreams, inviting visitors to dream big.
The last York Ice Trail, in February 2023, drew 40,000 visitors to York to view 36 sculptures. Organised by Make It York, the 2024 event again sees the “coolest” sculptures line the streets of York, each conceived and sponsored by businesses and designed and created by ice specialist Icebox.
Sarah Loftus, Make It York managing director, says: “York Ice Trail is one of the most-loved events in the city for residents and visitors alike, and we’re excited to be bringing it back for another year in 2024.
“It’s a huge celebration of our city and businesses, and the concept will inspire everyone’s inner child, encouraging people to let their imagination run wild.”
Icebox managing director Greg Pittard says: “Returning to York for the 2024 Ice Trail is a true honour for us. The York Ice Trail holds a special place in our hearts, and we are thrilled to bring this year’s theme to life.
“Our talented team of ice carvers pour their passion into crafting magnificent ice sculptures that will transport visitors to a world of wonder and delight.”
The 2024 ice sculptures:
Our City Of Dreams, provided by Make It York, Parliament Street.
A Field Of Dreams, Murton Park, Parliament Street.
A Journey In ice, Grand Central, Parliament Street.
City Of Trees, Dalby Forest, Parliament Street.
Chasing Rainbows, in celebration of York band Shed Seven topping the UK official album chart in January, York Mix Radio, Parliament Street.
I’m Late, I’m Late! For A Very Important Date!, Ate O’Clock, High Ousegate.
Sewing Like A Dream, Gillies Fabrics, Peter Lane.
Mythical Beasts: The Yeti, York BID, Walmgate.
Hop On Your Bike, Spark:York, Piccadilly (Spark:York will be open from 12 noon).
Belle Of The Ball, York Castle Museum, Eye of York.
WHAT lies ahead in the New Year? Charles Hutchinson picks his path through highlights across the city’s venues.
It’s only A Matter Of Time before: Shed Seven release their new album
YORK band Shed Seven will mark the January 5 release of their sixth studio album, A Matter Of Time, on new home Cooking Vinyl with a meet & greet/signing session that day at HMV, in Coney Street, York, at 4.30pm (tickets: shedsevenn.lnk.to/instores). Their midday appearance and stripped-back performance on the same day at Vinyl Whistle, in Otley Road, Headingley, Leeds, has sold out.
In the summertime, when the weather is hopefully fine, The Sheds will celebrate their 30th anniversary with a brace of outdoor concerts in York Museum Gardens on July 19 and 20, supported by Peter Doherty, no less. Both have sold out already. Box office: seetickets.com.
It’s Curtains for…Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, February 7 to 10, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee
WHEN the leading lady of a new musical mysteriously dies on stage, a plucky local detective must solve this 1959 case at Boston’s Colonial Theatre, where the entire cast and crew are suspects in Kander & Ebb’s musical with a book by Rupert Holmes. Cue delightful characters, a witty and charming script and glorious tunes in the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company’s staging of Curtains. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
Beta times ahead: Brudenell Presents Steve Mason, The Crescent, York, January 30, 7.30pm
SCOTTISH indie songwriter Steve Mason, founder of The Beta Band, returns to The Crescent as part of Independent Venue Week. Combining a rare melodic gift with an itch to experiment, as heard on his 2023 album Brothers & Sisters, he investigates where the boundaries lie between the craft of songwriting, technology and free expression.
Taking part in Independent Venue Week too will be Leeds band English Teacher, whose January 28 night of dreamy pop and post-punk noise has sold out already. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
Dinosaurs take over York: Jurassic Live 2024 World Tour, York Barbican, February 16, 5pm; February 17, 11am and 3pm; February 18, 1pm
LIFE-SIZED monstrous beasts roar into York in an interactive all-star theatrical spectacular featuring the world’s only Tylosaurus in a giant tank (new for 2024), the last flying Pterodactyl, a Tyrannosaurus Rex called Suzie and more dinosaur species than any other show on Earth.
Join little Amber, Ranger Joe, Ranger Nora and the rest of the Jurassic Live rangers on a musical journey to help save the day from an evil man who is trying to shut down the Jurassic facility. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Most anticipated touring musical: Pretty Woman: The Musical, Grand Opera House, York, February 20 to 24, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Wednesday and Saturday
BILLED as “Hollywood’s ultimate rom-com, live on stage”, Pretty Woman: The Musical is set once upon a time in the late 1980s, when Vivian (Amber Davies) meets Edward (Oliver Savile) and her life is changed forever.
Strictly champ Ore Oduba’s Happy Man/Mr Thompson and Natalie Paris’s Kit De Luca will be in the cast too for a musical featuring original music and lyrics by Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance and a book by Garry Marshall and the film’s screenwriter, J.F. Lawton. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
World premiere of the season: Emma Rice’s Wise Children in Blue Beard, York Theatre Royal, February 27 to March 9, 7.30pm and 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees
BLUE Beard will be Wise Children’s fourth visit to York after Wise Children, Malory Towers and Wuthering Heights, this time in a co-production between Emma Rice’s Bristol company, York Theatre Royal, Birmingham Rep, HOME Manchester and the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh.
Rice brings her brand of theatrical wonder to the beguiling and disturbing folk tale of Bluebeard meeting his match when his young bride discovers his dark and murderous secret. Summoning all her rage, all her smarts and all her sisters, she vows to bring the curtain down on his tyrannous reign. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Welcome home: Rob Auton, The Rob Auton Show, Burning Duck Comedy Club, The Crescent, York, February 28, 7.30pm
AFTER nine Edinburgh Fringe shows on themes as diverse as the colour yellow, the sky, faces, water, sleep, hair, talking, time and crowds, York writer, comedian, artist and actor Rob Auton delivers his most autobiographical work, exploring the memories and feelings that create his life on a daily basis. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
Comedy comeback : Rhod Gilbert & The Giant Grapefruit, York Barbican, June 20, 8pm
IN his last show, The Book Of John, firebrand Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert dealt with “some pretty pungent life citrus” and an idiot called John. Little did he know that things were about to turn even more sour.
Gilbert, 55, required surgery for metastatic cancer of the head and neck as well as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, receiving his first clear cancer scan in October after undergoing treatment.
“Not bitter, he’s bouncing back and feeling remarkably zesty”, returning with a dark, passionate and way-too-personal tour show that squeezes every last drop out of life’s latest curveballs…with a little help from an old adversary. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Even further ahead:Jason Donovan, Doin’ Fine 25 Tour, York Barbican, March 8 2025, 8pm
IF 2023 was the year of Kylie, all that attention on Tension, Padam Padam and ITV’s An Audience With, then 2025, yes 2025, promises a York date with her Neighbours beau, Jason Donovan, in celebration of his “incredible ride” through 35 years in music, theatre, film and television.
His long-awaited sequel to Doin’ Fine 90 will feature Jason’s most beloved songs from his stage shows, nods to his TV times in Neighbours and Strictly Come Dancing and his biggest pop hits. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
In Focus: York Actors Collective in Beyond Caring, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, cleaning up from February 6 to 10
YORK Actors Collective follows March 2023’s debut production of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloanewith Beyond Caring, a play that highlights the social damage inflicted by zero hours contracts.
Devised by Alexander Zeldin and the original Yard Theatre cast in East London in 2014, later transferring to the National Theatre, the story of agency cleaners at a meat factory will be directed in York by Angie Millard, working with a cast of Victoria Delaney, Clare Halliday, Mick Liversidge, Chris Pomfrett and Neil Vincent.
Over 90 unbroken minutes, Beyond Caring follows two women, Becky and Grace, and one man, Sam (replacing Sarah from past productions in a directorial decision), as they confront the reality of low wage, zero-hour contract employment, never sure of how many hours they have to work, when they will be paid and whether their ‘job’ will continue.
Director Angie Millard says: “This play is remarkable in its structure and power. It totally represents 2024 where many workers are on the breadline, trapped in employment with no guarantee of further work and no way to improve their position.
“What drew me to the play, however, is the message it conveys about people surviving and keeping a sense of humour. I loved the intensity of the piece with its silences, its disappointments and its determination to get pleasure out of the smallest things. It gave me hope.”
Stage managed by Em Peattie, Millard’s production will play nightly at 7.30pm, Tuesday to Friday, followed by Saturday shows at 2.30 and 5.30pm. “Ticket sales for our first production indicated that a Saturday matinee was very popular,” says Angie.
“We thought that having two early Saturday performances would give the audience an opportunity to see the show and still have time to go for a drink or meal afterwards, making a night of it.” Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
York Actors Collective in Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight at 7.30pm; tomorrow at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk
YORK Actors Collective is a new group of like-minded actors whose aim is to produce entertaining and thought-provoking theatre.
Launched by director Angie Millard, with actors Chris Pomfrett and Victoria Delaney in tandem, YAC is looking to fill a gap by staging plays that might otherwise sit gathering dust.
One such is Joe Orton’s 1964 farce Entertaining Mr Sloane, controversial in its West End day and still as discomfiting as a punch in the gut.
It is not a farce to call it a farce – trousers are removed, and yes, there’s sex, please, despite being British – but this is not farce of the cosy, comfy Brian Rix variety. Orton is an iconoclast, a rule breaker, an agent provocateur, an even angrier young man than those Angry Young Men that seethed before him: Osborne, Amis, Braine, Sillitoe, Wain, Braine and co. This is farce as jet-black comedy and psychological drama, all normality refracted through a writer’s absurdist lens.
Orton’s play has a psychopath, physical abuse and sibling squabbling; homosexuality, still illegal in 1964, hovers beneath the surface as the love that dare not speak its name (not least to beat the censor’s scowl). Its humour is savage, cruel, awkward, the kind that in 2023 has you thinking, “is that funny?”. Just as Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming, likewise premiered in 1964, had the same effect when revived on tour at York Theatre Royal last May.
Orton’s play is not quite as shocking in impact as Ben Weir’s hair – dyed three times on Millard’s instruction to make it look so obviously bleached (and disturbingly reminiscent of angels in a Renaissance religious painting) – but it does shock, especially in its brutality to Mick Liversidge’s Dada Kemp, the old man who knows too much, and its treatment of the vulnerable, needy, highly sexualised Kath (Delaney).
Weir is an exciting young talent from York St John University and here he makes his mark in very good, experienced York company: Liversidge, Delaney and Pomfrett. A tall, lean north easterner, he has an unnerving presence beneath his burning bright hair, his cocksure, amoral lodger Sloane being the house guest yet the cuckoo’s egg in the nest. The Sloane danger.
Liversidge’s Dada shuffles around pitiably, caught in the crossfire as Weir’s Sloane plays Delaney’s desperate-to-please seductress, Kath, off against her brother, Pomfrett’s Ed, his self-aggrandising new employer, as they pursue his affections.
The humour tends to stick in the throat rather than be “laugh out loud” funny, but Millard’s cast is all the better for playing it straight, even confrontational, to emphasise how selfish and shameless everyone is.
As Millard says, Orton winds his characters up like toys and then watches what happens. Pomfrett, Liversidge, Weir and Delaney are happy to do exactly the same, their characters beyond control like dodgem cars.
“Our challenge is to attract an audience but shake up their expectations a little,” says Millard in her programme notes. Job done in this disturbing debut.
YORK actress Victoria Delaney will be appearing in two plays in quick succession, all on top of her daytime job and being a mum.
From tonight until Saturday, she plays Kath in York Actors Collective’s debut production of Joe Orton’s savage 1964 farce Entertaining Mr Sloane at Theatre@41, Monkgate.
From April 5 to 15, this will be followed by her turn as in York Settlement Community Players’ staging of Tom Stoppard’s 1982 exploration of love and infidelity, The Real Thing, at York Theatre Royal Studio.
Entertaining Mr Sloane launches director and tutor Angie Millard’s new company. “After Angie directed Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind for Settlement Players last February, we were mulling over a few ideas about starting up a company, and what to do, and we settled on Entertaining Mr Sloane,” says Victoria, who had played the lead, housewife Susan, in Ayckbourn’s dark comedy.
“It’s a highly pressurised play for the cast, especially for the young actor playing Sloane. Angie has chosen Ben Weir, from York St John University, who appeared in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Shakespeare In Love last April.”
In Orton’s fractious farce, Delaney’s Kath, who lives with her father Dada Kemp, brings home a lodger, the amoral and psychopathic Mr Sloane, a face familiar to the father from his past.
When her brother Ed arrives, complications crank up when the siblings become embroiled in a tense sexual struggle for Sloane as he plays one off against the other while Dada Kemp is caught in the crossfire.
“I think it’s still a radical play as it’s such a dark comedy, but people need to remember that they’re permitted to laugh because it is really funny. People are drawn to looking at the scene of a car crash and that’s a bit like what watching really dark comedy is like,” says Victoria.
She is delighted to be appearing in a cast featuring Chris Pomfrett as Ed and Mick Liversidge as Dada Kemp alongside Weir’s Sloane. “I’m really lucky to be working with Chris, who played the doctor in Woman In Mind, and Mick, who was Vanya in Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike, the last play Settlement did last year. It’s great to be back with them as there’s a lot of trust there.”
That trust is essential when performing a play of extreme behaviour. “It’s misogynistic, there are racist comments in there, and Kath’s character is vulnerable and highly sexualised. Feminists will be up in arms,” says Victoria.
“But isn’t theatre supposed to be thought-provoking and aren’t we supposed to learn from the mistakes of the past, like how we now look at Dada Kemp’s racist comments?
“Also, some of the terminology shows how different society was at that time, like Kath’s illegitimate baby, when she was young, was ‘born on the wrong side of the blanket’. It’s good to dip your toe into different times to show how it was.”
Victoria has a preference for Entertaining Mr Sloane over Orton’s most performed work, What The Butler Saw. “Maybe it’s more gritty, and I like that,” she says. “If I had to choose a modern-day drama to perform, I would pick something gritty and British that has wit as well, and Entertaining Mr Sloane does.
“If you have a powerful plot, then you really have the chance to up your acting game and show your skills. At times, it’s also important to remember it’s a comedy, but there are some scenes that however you approach them, they’re not going to be funny, but what you do next has to be funny to lift the mood.”
Coming next will be her first experience of performing a play by Pocklington School alumnus Tom Stoppard, The Real Thing. “It’s my first Stoppard and my first time of working with director Jacob ward, who I met when we did The Coppergate Woman last year at York Theatre Royal, where he played one of the gods,” says Victoria. “He came to see me in Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike, liked what I did, and that helped with the audition.”
In Stoppard’s typically witty and adroit play within a play, Henry is married to Charlotte, Victoria’s character. Max is married to Annie. Henry – possibly the sharpest playwright of his generation – has written a play about a couple whose marriage is on the brink of collapse. Charlotte and Max, his leading couple, are soon to find out that sometimes life imitates art, as Stoppard has everyone questioning, “What is the real thing?”
“Charlotte’s husband has written a play for her to star in, but she hates him and the play as he’s written a really weak woman character, which is something that Stoppard was accused of doing in the past. So this is Stoppard taking the mick out of himself,” says Victoria.
York Actors Collective in Entertaining Mr Sloane, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, tonight (15/3/2023) to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
York Settlement Community Players in The Real Thing, York Theatre Royal Studio, April 5 and 6, 7.30pm; April 11 to 15, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. No performances from April 7 to 10. Question-and-answer session after the April 12 peformance. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Jacob Ward to direct York Settlement Community Players in Tom Stoppard’s deceptive comedy The Real Thing
YORK thespian Jacob Ward is directing York Settlement Community Players for the first time in Tom Stoppard’s play within a play, The Real Thing, at York Theatre Royal Studio from April 5 to 15.
First performed in 1982, this award-winning beguiling play of surprise and wit follows Henry, possibly the sharpest playwright of his generation, who is married to Charlotte, an actress. Max is married to Annie.
Henry has written a play about a couple whose marriage is on the brink of collapse. Charlotte and Max, his leading couple, are soon to learn that sometimes life imitates art in Stoppard’s study of love and infidelity that ponders: “What is the real thing…?”
Settlement Players’ last production was New Jersey playwright Christopher Durang’s relationship comedy Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike at Theatre@41 in November 2022.
The Real Thing marks their return to the Theatre Royal Studio after presenting Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind last February.
Director Jacob Ward says: “I’m very excited for an audience to interact with our modern-day version of Stoppard’s play. Its subject seems simple but, as we see through the eyes of various characters, we realise its complexity, and enjoy having our views on love and relationships broadened.
“The writing is nothing short of genius – it really is. Even after 20-plus times of reading, I’m still finding impossible connections and meaning. It’s a joy to direct and will be a thrill to watch: hilarious, heart-warming and thought-provoking all in one.
“We have a brilliant cast to take you on the journey and a truly dedicated production team to bring the play to life. I can’t wait to add the audience.”
Alan Park, chair of Theatre@41, takes on the role of Henry. Alice Melton, last seen in York Mystery Plays Supporters Trust’s 2022 production of A Nativity Of York last December, plays Annie. They are joined by Settlement regulars and newcomers: Victoria Delaney as Charlotte; Mike Hickman as Max; Rebecca Harrison as Billy; Hannah Waring as Debbie and Alexandra Logan as Brodie.
THE week ahead is so crammed with clashing cultural highlights, Charles Hutchinson wishes you could climb aboard a time machine.
Find time for: Original Theatre in The Time Machine, York Theatre Royal, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2pm Thursday and 2.30pm Saturday matinees
DAVE Hearn, a fixture in Mischief Theatre’s calamitous comedies for a decade, takes time out to go time travelling in John Nicholson and Steven Canny’s re-visit of H G Wells’s epic sci-fi story for Original Theatre.
“It’s a play about three actors who run a theatre company and are trying to put on a production of The Time Machine, with fairly limited success,” says Hearn. “But then a big event happens that causes the play to spiral out of control and my character [Dave] discovers actual time travel.” Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Farewell of the week: The Curtain Descends, Village Gallery, Colliergate, York, until April 15
AS the title indicates, The Curtain Descends will be the last exhibition at Village Gallery after 40 exhibitions showcasing 100-plus Yorkshire artists in five and a half years. “The end of the shop lease and old age creeping up has sadly forced the decision,” says gallery co-owner Simon Main.
Ten artists have returned for the farewell with work reduced specially to sale prices. On show are watercolours by Lynda Heaton, Jean Luce and Suzanne McQuade; oils and acrylics by Paul Blackwell, Julie Lightburn, Malcolm Ludvigsen, Anne Thornhill and Hilary Thorpe; pastels by Allen Humphries and lino and woodcut prints by Michael Atkin. Opening hours are 10am to 4pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
Festival of the week: York Literature Festival, various venues, today until March 27
HIGHLIGHTS aplenty permeate this annual festival, featuring 27 events, bolstered by new sponsorship from York St John University. Among the authors will be broadcasters David Dimbleby and Steve Richards; political journalist and think tank director Sebastian Payne (on The Fall of Boris Johnson); The League Of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson; Juno Dawson, thriller writer Saima Mir and York poet Hannah Davies.
On Music Memoir Day at The Crescent, on March 18, at 1.30pm American singer PP Arnold delves into her autobiography, Soul Survivor, at 1.30pm. At 4pm, writer/broadcaster Lucy O’Brien discusses her new book, Lead Sister: The Story Of Karen Carpenter, and the challenges of writing a biography. Go to yorkliteraturefestival.co.uk for the full programme.
Hot moves amid the weekend chill: Gorka Marquez and Karen Hauer in Firedance, Grand Opera House, York, Sunday, 5pm
STRICTLY Come Dancing stars Gorka Marquez and Karen Hauer reignite their chemistry in Firedance, a show full of supercharged choreography, sizzling dancers and mesmerising fire specialists.
Inspired by movie blockbusters Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Carmen and West Side Story, Marquez and Hauer turn up the heat as they dance to Latin, rock and pop songs by Camilla Cabello, Jason Derulo, Gregory Porter, Gipsy Kings and Jennifer Lopez. Box office: atgtickets.com/york.
Gig of the week: Suede, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.45pm
ELEGANT London rock band Suede play York Barbican for the first time in more than 25 years on the closing night of their 2023 tour. Pretty much sold out, alas, but do check yorkbarbican.co.uk for late availability.
Last appearing there on April 23 1997, Brett Anderson and co return with a set list of Suede classics and selections from last September’s Autofiction, their ninth studio album and first since 2018. “Our punk record,” as Anderson called it. “No whistles and bells. The band exposed in all their primal mess.”
Debut of the week: York Actors Collective in Entertaining Mr Sloane, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee
DIRECTOR Angie Millard launches her new company, York Actors Collective, with Joe Orton’s controversial, ribald comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane, the one that shook up English farce with its savage humour in 1964.
Living with her father, Dada Kemp (Mick Liversidge), Kath (Victoria Delaney) brings home a lodger: the amoral and psychopathic Sloane (Ben Weir). When her brother Ed (Chris Monfrett) arrives, the siblings become involved in a sexual struggle for Sloane, who plays one off against the other as their father is caught in the crossfire. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Education, education, education play of the week: Rowntree Players in Teechers, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Thursday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee
FAMILIAR to York’s streets at night as ghost-walk guide and spookologist Dr Dorian Deathly, actor Jamie McKellar is directing a play for the first time since 2008, at the helm of Rowntree Players’ production of former teacher John Godber’s state-of-the nation, state-of state-education comedy Teechers.
Updated for Hull Truck’s 50th anniversary celebrations as Teechers Leavers ’22, Godber’s class warfare play within a play features a multi role-playing, all-female cast of Laura Castle, Sophie Bullivant and Sarah Howlett as Year 11 school leavers Salty, Hobby and Gail put on a valedictory performance, inspired by their new drama teacher. Box office: 01904 501935 or josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk.
The robots are coming: David Ford, Songs 2023, The Crescent, York, Thursday, 7.30pm
EASTBOURNE singer-songwriter David Ford might play solo stomps with loop machines and effects pedals or backed by a swish jazz trio or with a string quartet attached. Not this time.
For 2023, Ford has taken the rare decision to keep it simple, leave most of the crazy machines at home, play some of his favourite songs and share stories about where they came from. Oh, and he’ll be bringing his new DIY toy, a drum robot. Beat that. Box office: thecrescentyork.com.
Tuesday’s seated Crescent gig by The Go-Betweens’ Robert Forster, promoting his new album The Candle And The Flame, has sold out by the way.
Caring comedian of the week: Burning Duck Comedy Club presents Bilal Zafar in Care, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, March 19, 8pm
WANSTEAD comedian Bilal Zafar, 31, is on his travels with a new show about how he spent a year working in a care home for very wealthy people while being on the minimum wage.
Fresh out of university with a media degree, Bilal was dropped into the real world, where he was given far too much responsibility for a 21-year-old lad who had just spent three years watching films. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk; age limit,18 and over.
In Focus: Anders Lustgarten’sThe City And The Town, at Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 15 to 17
LONDON playwright and political activist Anders Lustgarten’s new play, The City And The Town, heads to the Yorkshire coast next week.
This funny, eclectic drama brings a fresh perspective to the political divides and problems facing Great Britain and Europe today.
By way of contrast to those schisms, the tour involves a hands-across-the-water partnership: a co-production by Riksteatern, the national touring theatre of Sweden, and Matthew Linley Creative Projects in association with Hull Truck Theatre.
Lustgarten’s play tells the story of brothers Ben and Magnus. Ben, a successful London lawyer, returns home for his father’s funeral after 13 years away, only to be confronted not only by family and old friends, but also by uncomfortable truths about the past, present and future of the provincial community and family he grew up in and left behind for the metroplis.
Lustgarten, by the way, is the son of progressive American academics and read Chinese Studies at Oxford: in other words, he is an internationalist (and an Arsenal supporter to boot).
Directed by Riksteatern artistic director Dritero Kasapi, The City And The Town features Gareth Watkins as Magnus, Amelia Donkor as Lyndsay and Sam Collings as Ben, with set design by Hannah Sibai and lighting design by Matt Haskins.
Kasapi is at the helm of his first UK production since Nina – A Story About Me And Nina Simone. “Even from the very first draft Anders sent us, I knew that this was a play I wanted to direct,” he says. “In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s the play I’ve wanted to direct for a very long time.
“By exploring the rise of the right, Anders is looking at something that is happening all over Europe. But this is not just a political play, it’s also a humane one. It explores the question of if and how we belong to society, what can happen when we lose that connection and how we perceive our common history as a society.”
Kasapi was educated as a stage director at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Skopje, Macedonia, but since the early years of his professional life he has been engaged as a cultural organiser.
From 2015 to 2018, he was the deputy artistic director at Kulturhuset Stadstetern in Stockholm. He took up his present post in November 2018.
The City And The Town follows such Lustgarten plays as Lampedusa (Hightide/Soho Theatre), The Seven Acts Of Mercy (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Secret Theatre(Shakespeare’s Globe) and The Damned United (Red Ladder/West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2016, turning Brian Clough’s 44 days as Leeds United manager in 1974 into a Greek tragedy).
The City And The Town began its UK tour at Hull Truck on February 10 and 11 and has since played Northern Stage, Newcastle, Wilton’s Music Hall, London, Mercury Theatre, Colchester, and Norwich Playhouse before its Scarborough finale. It will then transfer to Sweden for an autumn tour.
The City And The Town, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 15 to 17, 7.45pm plus 1.45pm Thursday matinee.Box office: 01723 370541 or www.sjt.uk.com
YORK Actors Collective, the like-minded group set up by theatre director, critic and theatre and film studies tutor Angie Millard, will make their debut with Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr Sloane next month.
Premiered in the West End in 1964, Orton’s controversial farce still has the power to shock almost 50 years later with its story of Kath bringing home a lodger: the amoral and psychopathic Mr Sloane.
Her father recognises him from his past life and challenges Mr Sloane’s honesty, but when her brother Ed arrives, everything turns more complicated. A tense sexual struggle for Mr Sloane ensues as he plays one sibling off against the other while their father is caught in the crossfire.
The roles at Theatre@41, Monkgate, from March 15 to 18 go to Victoria Delaney as Kath, York St John University student Ben Weir as Mr Sloane, Chris Pomfrett as Ed and Mick Liversidge as the father, Dada Kemp.
“Victoria and Chris have been involved with the new group since last summer,” says Angie. “We talked about so many plays, plays that would have audience appeal but also be challenging for the performers.
“Entertaining Mr Sloane was one. Joe Orton died too young [aged 34 on August 9 1967], so there aren’t that many plays and they’re not performed that often. I think people are a bit frightened of him, but the thing I love about him is the way he takes a theatrical form and updates it totally to his time, the Sixties. The language is brilliant; the writing is so funny.”
Angie continues: “The other big thing about Orton is that he was writing at a time of censorship, and the innuendo in the play is there to help him get away with things – and he did! He got away with murder! Especially when the censors were looking for homosexuality without recognising it.”
Controversy still surrounds Orton. “I find his treatment of women difficult in his plays, like his treatment of Kath. He makes her grotesque, and finally when she gets her revenge, in a way he had to do that for the shape of the play,” says Angie.
“Left to his own devices, he wouldn’t have done it, but he was such a master of theatrical form, though not of detail. It means I have to work very hard to work out how to get props on and off because he’s forgotten about them.”
Orton’s savagely sharp, confrontational dramas present challenges to director and cast alike. “I like to look at a play and see what you can do with it, and then you make your decisions about it. Orton’s estate are keen that you don’t change words, but rather than Kath having to be naked [as denoted in the play], Victoria is making her look seductive, clothed,” says Angie.
“We’re playing it in the period setting – the 1960s – and there are things like racist references in there, but because Kath takes a non-racist attitude, it works.
“There are lots of times where her brother Ed treats her shabbily too – they have a very unhappy, complex relationship – and you realise he could easily be transported to 2023 and still behave like that in the home.”
Looking back to the Sixties and the prevailing attitudes towards women at the time, Angie says: “I was a young student in London, at college doing drama and then going to university after that, and men treated you in a certain way; they all did, but that was the culture of the time. When I hear women complain now, I understand, but I also think, ‘you should have been there in the Sixties; that behaviour was the norm’.”
From Sheffield originally, Angie and her husband Clive moved to York ten years ago, since when she has played her part in the arts world, whether directing Alan Ayckbourn’s Woman In Mind for York Settlement Community Players or writing reviews for York Calling.
Now, she has formed her own troupe. “I don’t know if any other group would have put on this play, saying ‘it’s too shocking. No-one will come’. But York deserves to be shocked! If you fall shy of that, then you don’t see the theatre you deserve,” she says.
“I’m putting my own money into this project. People have hobbies that they put their money into, and I’m equating what I’m doing with that. I’d like to break even, and if people come along, we shall continue and do another play.”
Should you be wondering why the York Actors Collective is so called, Angie says: “I wanted to call it a ‘cooperative’ but everyone else wanted ‘collective’, and I thought ‘fair enough’! But whatever the name, it’s a passion project that I really wanted to do, where like-minded actors aim to produce entertaining and thought-provoking theatre.
“I don’t think Entertaining Mr Sloane is Orton’s best play. That would be What The Butler Saw, but by not doing this play you would be losing out on what is superb about it: it’s an actor’s play, a character play, where you really get into those characters’ situations.”
And so, the York Actors Collective is born.
York Actors Collective in Entertaining Mr Sloane, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, March 15 to 18, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
Did you know?
ENTERTAINING Mr Sloane lead actress Victoria Delaney also will be appearing in York Settlement Community Players’ production of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing at York Theatre Royal Studio from April 5 to 15. Box office: 01904 623568 or yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.