MAY Tether will make her professional stage debut in Jack And The Beanstalk back home in Yorkshire after her graduation from London drama school Trinity Laban in July with first class honours.
From December 11, she will play Jill in York Stage’s debut pantomime at Theatre @41 Monnkgate, as she rejoins the company where she became a favourite in such roles as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray, Elle Woods in Legally Blonde: The Musical and office martinet Roz in 9 To 5: The Musical: American roles all.
Back then, May was known as Maya, studying musical theatre at York College before heading from Goole to London.
“Do you know what I’m loving about the panto script?” she says on the first day of rehearsals under writer-director Nik Briggs. “It reads really well in my own accent when I’m used to playing parts with heavy American accents or Cockney character roles as I’m a character actress, but for this, when people put on a Yorkshire accent, they sound like me!
“I’ve never had the chance to use my own accent, so this will be the first role in my native tongue, which is great.”
May, 23, has worked with Nik plenty of times previously, most recently when performing in York Stage Musicals’ first open-air concert to a socially distanced audience at the Rowntree Park amphitheatre in August post-Lockdown 1.
Exciting too is the rehearsal-room presence of West End choreographer Gary Lloyd, a Premier League signing to Briggs’s production team. “I’m thrilled to be working with Gary because doing a show on this scale, with a cast of eight, rather than a big West End cast, gives a lovely insight into how he choreographs,” says May.
“When I was Trinity Laban, I did a piece for my dissertation about Gary’s choreography because some of his work is so abstract!”
In a year when the pandemic brought theatre to a stop, May is shaking off the dust from the quiet months. “What’s strange for me is that it does feel like riding a bike, acting again…though not the singing! With the acting, I was thinking, ‘I’m back and I’m really in my comfort zone!’,” she says.
“I’m known as being quite ‘belty’ as a singer, and I couldn’t do it just straight out, so I had a bit of a panic attack, but actually then it was OK for the Rowntree Park concert.
”Singing in that tent in that field, I’ve never been so happy to see everyone there, watching a show in the rain. It was unbelievable to see how much people cared about going out to see a show after so long with no theatre.”
May is looking forward to performing on a traverse stage, a configuration with the audience on either side of the performance space. “I love traverse. It’s my favourite,” she says. “I just enjoy being able to look around and taking in everyone’s gaze. You’ve got to include everyone, be unselfish and keep moving. It’s very Shakespearean and I love Shakespeare.
“With the audience sitting in bubbles, we need to make the panto feel as inclusive as possible. Where normally you have a ‘fourth wall’ to break down, this show isn’t traditional. There’s a pandemic going on, audience sizes have to be reduced, but it’s very exciting to be doing a panto in such an intimate setting. Nik has a way of making everything he does a huge spectacle and this will be no exception.”
May in December is focusing fully on her return to the stage. “Now I’m back working in the theatre, I’m not thinking about Christmas. I just want to do my job again,” she says. “It’s really nice to be thinking, ‘I’m back on my feet, doing something I love so much’. My family haven’t thought about Christmas yet either because they just want to see the show. They can’t wait!”.
York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, from December 11 to January 3; show times, Monday to Saturday, 2pm and 7pm; Sundays, 1pm and 6pm; Christmas Eve, 12 noon and 5pm; New Year’s Eve, 12 noon. Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only.
THIS is a sentence that could not have been foreseen at the outset of 2021: all performances of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime have sold out.
This was the year when the first Theatre Royal and Evolution Productions co-production of the post-Dame Berwick Kaler era should have been Cinderella, but Covid-19 cancelled all invitations to the ball.
Instead, in a tempestuous year like no other for theatre at large, the Theatre Royal vowed that if audiences could not come to the theatre, then now was the time to take theatre to the people.
Permitted by the Government’s Covid-secure regulations to “go to work” to rehearse behind closed doors through Lockdown 2, creative director Juliet Forster’s Travelling players have now been given the green light for the December tour by York’s Tier 2 status.
Preview performances last night and tonight on a pop-up stage at the Theatre Royal – the first shows inside the St Leonard’s Place building since the March shutdown – will warm up comic Josh Benson, dame Robin Simpson, fairy Anna Soden, hero Faye Campbell and villain Reuben Johnson for socially distanced shows in Covid-secure church halls, village halls, community centres, schools, a reading room and even an hotel.
Chief executive Tom Bird is delighted the show can go ahead, or, more precisely, each show’s audience choice from three pantomimes penned by Evolution Productions’ Paul Hendy: Dick Whittington, Jack And The Beanstalk and Snow White.
“A huge amount of work has gone into the Travelling Pantomime already, organising everything with the venues, and it’s great that every show has sold out, so people are really interested in getting back to seeing shows,” he says.
“The plan was to tour to all 21 York wards, and it’s touch and go whether we’ll do that, but we’ve added Strensall – sold out already! – to take the total to 16 and we’re still in negotiations with others.
“The venues have to be right, we have to be sure they are Covid-safe and that’s quite a challenge in some venues, but we’re still hopeful of adding a few more.”
For those unable to see a live performance, the Theatre Royal will be filming tonight’s preview on the Theatre Royal main stage for streaming from a date yet to be confirmed.
Tom watched the tech rehearsal last Friday, as the treading of boards returned to the Theatre Royal. “The whole atmosphere felt heavy with emotion,” he says. “After the year we’ve all had, it must be like a shop opening again or a pub landlord re-opening.
“Just seeing the lights on and watching Juliet directing, it’s so exciting to be back, not yet back as we knew it before, but at least we’re back. Being on home turf for the first game of the season feels good.”
Tom believes the early decision to mount a Travelling Pantomime in a year of so much uncertainty has proved judicious. “We felt basically that for a number of reasons getting out and about was the best way to go this year. We know that transport can be complicated in the pandemic, so it’s best to keep the shows local,” he says.
“We could have done shows to 344 people with social distancing at the Theatre Royal, and that would have been completely legal, but we still felt the Travelling Pantomime was the best thing for now, showing a generosity of spirit to the city.
“Mounting a Christmas show was always going to be a logistical Everest in 2020, whether at the Theatre Royal or on the road, but it just felt crucial to do it. It’s so important for us, it truly is, because you want to give people a laugh but also to remind people that we are here.”
Rehearsals have been joyful, even under the shadow of the pandemic. “Juliet has really enjoyed it; the creative team have really enjoyed it, and we have a good mix of actors, some comparatively new to pantomime, some who’ve done zillions.
“Every week in rehearsals and every second day during the production run, they’re being Covid-tested, which does put everyone at east. It costs quite a lot, but it’s absolutely been worth it.”
Tom has had to oversee a pandemic-blighted year when ticket income all but dried up until the Travelling Pantomime; the neighbouring De Grey Rooms lease was not renewed, and 16 redundancies had to be made.
In October, the Theatre Royal was awarded £230,000 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund to help the theatre until March, having earlier received £196,493 from Arts Council England’s Emergency Response Fund in July to cover the fallow months until September.
The latter grant will facilitate the Theatre Royal looking to the future, with Tom taking on the new title of chief executive, replacing his executive director tag. “It’s more for ease of messaging within the system. It’s just for tidying things up,” he says. “Nothing more than that.”
Juliet Forster switches from associate director to creative director. “I’m not the world’s biggest fan of ‘associate’ titles, especially when Juliet is absolutely crucial to the theatre – she’s been with the Theatre Royal for 13 years.”
After focusing on Pop Up On The Patio festival and the Traveling Pantomime since summer, now Tom and the artistic planning team, including producer Thom Freeth and artistic associate John Wilkinson, are turning their attention to re-opening the Theatre Royal.
“Over the past few weeks we’ve started to arrive at a position where we’re formulating a way of re-opening with social distancing, as we’ve been in receipt of funds [from the Culture Recovery Fund],” says Tom.
“We don’t yet have a date in mind, but we’re planning to open maybe sooner than the spring. We’ll get through the pantomime first and then make an announcement not long after that.”
For full details on the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime itinerary, go to yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
LOCKDOWN 2 wears the mask of uncertainty for another fortnight until the next Government proclamation on when and how it will all end in tiers.
Leaving predictions to the betting shops, this column will state the facts as they stand now on what – definitely or hopefully – will be happening in the weeks and months ahead as we wait for a prick to make a difference.
Charles Hutchinson consults his diary, written in pencil just in case, to help to fill yours.
Virtual shopping goes arty for Christmas: York River Art Market online
AFTER summer stalls by the Ouse were Covid-cancelled, York River Art Market will host a series of online markets in the lead-up to Christmas.
The #yramathome Virtual Winter Art Markets will run from 10am to 5pm each Sunday from November 22 to December 20, plus the last Saturday before Christmas Day, December 19.
Online shoppers can browse and buy artworks from a selection of 20-plus different “indie makers” at each market day via Instagram. Information on each weekend’s makers, along with instructions on how to shop, will be shared via the York River Art Market (YRAM) Facebook page.
Exhibition of the week: The Christmas Show, Blue Tree Gallery, York, online initially
ORIGINAL paintings by Colin Cook, Giuliana Lazzerini, Nikki Monaghan and Sharon Winter feature in The Christmas Show, the latest Blue Tree Gallery exhibition in York until January 16 2021.
Lockdown 2 means the show is starting online only at bluetreegallery.co.uk/christmas-show-2020, but the Bootham gallery will re-open in December, subject to the new Government rules and regulations.
Driftwood sculptures by Natalie Parr, Christmas-themed ceramics by Kath Cooper and oxidised steel hanging decorations by David Mayne will be tempting Christmas buyers too.
Live-stream of the Week: Say Owt’s Lovely Lockdown Lyricism, Friday (20/11/20200), 7pm to 7.45pm
SAY Owt, York’s battleground for warring wordsmiths in slam clashes and regular host to spoken-word artists du jour, switches to online transmission for a night of alliteratively entitled Lovely Lockdown Lyricism.
Whirling wisps of wordy wonder in Livestream 2: In Owt/Shake It All About, will be Say Owt’s A-team of anarchic administrator Henry Raby, co-founder Stu Freestone, associate artist Dave Jarman and playwright, tutor, theatre director and slam champ Hannah Davies.
Tune in for “good Friday vibes” at facebook.com/events/283791622875447. Looking ahead, Say Owt hopes to re-convene in socially distanced mode at The Crescent, York, on December 11.
Let it snow in York: Badapple Theatre Company, The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 5, 2.30pm, 7.30pm; December 6, 1pm, 6pm
GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre are to revive their 2019 Christmas show, The Snow Dancer, for two days only at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre, newly equipped with chair wraps to denote the socially distanced seating plan.
Last year’s cast of Anastasia Benham and Danny Mellor will re-assemble to perform writer-director Kate Bramley’s cautionary global-warming tale, set in the Great Wood, where something is awry.
The animals are desperate for sleep, but with the onset of climate change, the weather is just too warm. Step in Mellor and Benham’s intrepid heroes, who decide they must seek out the mysterious Snow Dancer if there is to be any chance of ever making it snow for Christmas.
Christmas concert at home: Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day, December 12, 7.30pm
THE 2020 Kate Rusby At Christmas tour will not be happening, ruling out her South Yorkshire pub carol concert at York Barbican on December 20.
However, in response to the Covid restrictions, the Barnsley folk nightingale has decided to go online instead, presenting Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day on December 12.
At this special concert, streamed worldwide, expect all the usual Rusby Christmas ingredients: familiar Carols but set to unfamiliar tunes; wintry Rusby songs; sparkly dress, twinkling lights; her regular folk band and brass quintet; Ruby Reindeer and a fancy-dress finale. For tickets, go to: katerusby.com/happy-holly-day/
Drive-in home for Christmas: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, Elvington Airfield, near York, December 18 to 20
AFTER Knavesmire in July and Rufforth Airfield for Halloween, the apostrophe-shy Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema finds a new Covid-secure home for Christmas: Elvington Airfield. Father Christmas, elves and screen characters will be driving by too.
December 18 will offer Frozen 2, Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands and Die Hard; December 19, Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins and Bad Santa; December 20, The Polar Express, Home Alone 2, Batman Returns and Love Actually.
The Friday and Saturday programmes will start at 12 noon; the Sunday shows at 11am. Audio will be transmitted via a specially assigned FM frequency direct to vehicles’ radios and food can be delivered to customers’ cars.
Looking ahead to 2021: Red Rose stalwarts James and Happy Mondays to invade the White Rose
JAMES have had to forego their traditional winter tour in 2020. Moving on, however, they will play Leeds First Direct Arena on November 25 2021, supported by fellow Manchester mavericks Happy Mondays.
“Feels like a new dawn to trumpet a celebratory tour, a week after the first news of hope,” said Clifford-raised frontman Tim Booth on Twitter. ”So looking forward to seeing you.”
Tickets will go on general sale from 9.30am tomorrow with more details on the Live page at wearejames.com. Look out for a new James live double album and DVD, Live In An Extraordinary World, on December 11.
And what about?
As trailered previously, York has two upcoming pantomimes. York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be making its way around all 21 wards from early December with a choice of three shows, Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and Snow White.
York Stage will be full of beans from December 11 to January 3 at Theatre @41 Monkgate with writer-director Nik Briggs’s production of Jack And The Beanstalk, choreographed by West End hotshot Gary Lloyd.
At home, TV is in the crowning season: The Crown season four and The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix and the crowning of The Great British Bake Off champion on Channel 4 on Tuesday night.
Albums to discover: Elvis Costello’s Hey Clockface; Fleet Foxes’ Shore, This Is The Kit’s Off Off On and, what joy, Songhoy Blues’ Optimisme.
REHEARSALS are underway for York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime, the neighbourhood show that will tour to all 21 wards in York.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden’s confirmation that theatre rehearsals could continue behind closed doors during Lockdown 2, despite all entertainment venues being closed from November 5, has facilitated director Juliet Forster bringing the cast together for sessions in the Covid-secure billiards room in the De Grey Rooms.
“It was a huge relief,” says Juliet, the Theatre Royal’s associate director. “We anticipated he would because he’d said film and TV rehearsals wouldn’t stop, but he hadn’t mentioned theatre at that time, so there was that awful feeling of not knowing, but it was great when the news came out at 9pm that night.”
Welcoming the cast of Robin Simpson, entertainer and magician Josh Benson, actor-musician Anna Soden, Reuben Johnson and Faye Campbell, chief executive Tom Bird says: “We’ve put Covid safety measures in place and will be carefully following Government guidelines over the weeks ahead, but we’re thrilled that we can carry on with our plans to take our pantomime out to the people of York this year.”
Revised dates – moved to a later start after Lockdown 2 was announced – are now in place for a run from December 3, with more to be added. The preview night on a pop-up theatre on York Theatre Royal’s main stage on December 3 will be filmed for broadcast so anyone who misses out on a ticket can still enjoy the show, co-produced by York Theatre Royal and new pantomime partners Evolution Productions.
“Be assured, one way or another, York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be coming to you,” says Tom.
“Panto really benefits from the input of the live audience, so that’s why it was always our intention to do the recording in front of an audience,” says Juliet.
Joined in the production team by Pop-Up On The Patio designer Hannah Sibai, choreographer Hayley Del Harrison and musical director James Harrison, Juliet will be working on not one, but three 70-minute pantomimes written by Evolution producer Paul Hendy for each audience to vote whether to see Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington or Snow White.
Three pantomimes? Plenty to rehearse there, Juliet?! “It’s do-able, and thanks to the Government, we have a bit more rehearsal time now,” she says.
A cast of only five will help too. “Because we’re working on a small touring stage, it wouldn’t have made sense to do a big-sized show with a dance ensemble,” says Juliet. “You may lose some spectacle, but in terms of story-telling, chatting with Paul [writer Paul Hendy], we decided that having just the five key characters intensifies the story, investing in each character’s journey.”
Actor and writer Reuben Johnson will play Fleshcreep and Ratticus Flinch, the villain’s roles, after working previously with Juliet last year, appearing as the thoroughly decent Marco in the Theatre Royal’s autumn production of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge.
“It was quite a different show from doing a panto!” he says. “We met on Skype to talk about it, and it’s a perfect chance to work on something fun in such dark times.”
“Reuben has such comedic funny bones, which you wouldn’t have seen in A View From The Bridge, but even there he mined a few comic moments,” says Juliet. “Sometimes you get someone in your head when you read a script, and they keep coming back into your head, like Reuben did, even though I think of him as a very serious actor. Some of my best casting has come that way.”
Reuben may be a pantomime debutant but says: “I’m a theatre fan in general. I love Shakespeare, new plays, physical comedy, pantomime. Panto wouldn’t normally be number one, but I enjoy all theatre and we do need some big fun right now.”
Reflecting on taking on the villain’s role, he says: “I’ve played baddies quite a bit, and what I like to think I can bring to them, when playing stereotypical villains, is trying to find the humour and likeability of that character, which really contradicts the audience’s thoughts and expectations about that person.
“When I watched them as a child, I often thought that bad guys were hilarious to be around, very rowdy, exciting. Now I’ve got the chance to go to town with it in pantomime.”
One rule of acting asserts that you do not have to sympathise with the characters you play, but you should at least empathise with them. “As long as you know your motivation, it’s how you then go about playing the villain,” says Reuben.
“In pantomime, you’ll want to hear people both laughing at you and with you. It’s that love/hate thing.”
Robin Simpson was last seen on the Theatre Royal stage in Northern Broadsides’ Much Ado About Nothing in May 2019 and has Theatre Royal credits to his name in The Railway Children, The Wind In The Willows, Pinocchio and Pygmalion.
This winter he returns in the juiciest of all pantomime parts, the Dame, a role he has played for the past three years at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield. “This time feels very different because of the current situation and the nature of the show,” says Robin, who played Dame Dolly in Jack And The Beanstalk, Widow Twankey in Aladdin and Nanny Fanny in Sleeping Beauty.
“We didn’t mine that name for any humour, I can assure you! We were all very grown up about it, weren’t we!”
Defining the dame’s importance to pantomime, Robin says: “It’s like being the best kind of party host, being welcoming, over the top, ebullient, everyone’s friend, which is so nice to play.”
In dame tradition, from Dan Leno to Berwick Kaler, he has settled on his distinctive persona. “If you’ve got something that works, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Robin says of the upcoming prospect of playing three variations on Dame Dolly next month.
“My dame is like Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck rolled into one! There won’t be any variation, except trying to remember who I’m playing each time, with the different frocks denoting the character.
“It’s very much a case of the dame generally being a working-class single mother, with numerous children; hard working, straight talking and funny. I’m sort of basing it loosely on northern women when I was growing up. That Ena Sharples character [in Coronation Street], gossiping over the wall; that matriarch; that Les Dawson send-up with Roy Barraclough.
“There’s lots of love there, but she’s also as hard as nails, and you don’t see that much anymore, but hopefully it’s still recognisable. But ultimately with the dame, she comes on stage as a bloke in a dress who tells jokes.”
Lockdown in March turned the lights out on stages across the country but both Johnson and Simpson have sought to keep busy. “I’ve done OK,” says Reuben. “Fortuitously for me, I write as well, doing spoken-word, so I’ve got by on that, with a few little acting jobs as well, but I’ve been craving getting back to work on a stage and that’s not been possible until now. Returning to the rehearsal room has been like a dream.”
Robin, who is also a storyteller, working in schools, libraries and museums all over the country, says: “I don’t want to complain too much because I know people have been going through worse. I’ve worked online, recording stories, learning skills like how to record and creating little films and kids’ stories on Facebook Live for Oldham Libraries,” he says.
“I think there’s merit in recording shows as I can reach places I couldn’t do with live performances for the library service, though you’ll never beat the ‘liveness’ of a show.”
Juliet rejoins: “It all comes back to the shared experience.” “That’s what we’re all desperate for,” says Robin.
“That’s why we couldn’t let go of the need to do a Theatre Royal pantomime this Christmas, even when we knew we weren’t going to be able to open the theatre,” says Juliet. “The prospect of not doing a panto felt wrong.
“We’d talked about community touring and rural touring, and our research told us that audiences would feel more comfortable going to a show locally with their neighbours, rather than coming to the theatre with people from all over the place.
“That’s why we decided to take something so synonymous with Christmas out of the theatre into York’s community centres, church halls and schools for families to have some festive fun with Paul’s shows that are really warm, funny for all ages, packed full of good characters and not innuendo.”
For tickets, dates and more details for The Travelling Pantomime, go to yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
YORK THEATRE ROYAL’S TRAVELLING PANTOMIME schedule of performances. Confirmed so far:
December 2: Members-only preview, York Theatre Royal (pop-up theatre on main stage).
December 3: Preview, York Theatre Royal (pop-up theatre on main stage).
December 4: Tang Hall Community Centre, 4.30pm and 7pm.
December 5: New Earswick Folk Hall, 4.30pm and 7pm.
December 8: The Reading Room, Dunnington, 7pm.
December 9: Wiggington Recreation Hall, 7pm.
December 10: St Barnabas Primary School, Holgate. Afternoon school performance; public
December 11: Clifton Church Hall, 4.30pm and 7pm.
December 12: Elvington Village Hall, Wheldrake, 4.30pm and 7pm.
December 13: The Poppleton Centre, 4.30pm and 7pm.
December 15: Acomb Parish Hall, 7pm.
December 16: Carr Junior School. Afternoon school performance; public performance, 6pm.
December 18: Copmanthorpe Methodist Church Hall, 4.30pm and 7pm.
December 19: Clifton Green Primary School, 4.30pm and 7pm.
December 20: York Pavilion Hotel, 4.30pm and 7pm.
December 22: Heworth Christ Church, 4.30pm and 7pm.
December 23: Archbishop Holgate’s School, 4.30pm and 7pm.
Additional venues to be confirmed.
Tickets cost £10 for adults, £5 for children, with a maximum party size of six people in a household or support bubble.
Up to 25 per cent of tickets will be made free of charge to families in need this Christmas.
Capacity at some venues is small. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis to anyone living in a York city ward.
Did you know?
TRAVELLING Pantomime musical director James Harrison was musical supervisor/director for Evolution Productions’ award-winning 2019-2020 pantomime, Cinderella, at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre. He was awarded the Best Music prize at the Great British Pantomime Awards.
Please note: York Theatre Royal’s planned 2020/21 pantomime, Cinderella, will not go to the ball until next winter.
DICK Whittington will still be the next Rowntree Players pantomime…but not until 2021.
“After many weeks of deliberation, it is with a very heavy heart that the Rowntree Players’ committee has eventually decided that this year’s pantomime, Dick Whittington, will not go ahead this year,” came today’s statement.
“But it will be back better than ever in December 2021.” Dates for next year’s diary will be December 4 to 11 with the usual evening and matinee performances.
The Players’ annual “rollicking romp of a panto” has taken place, with only a few breaks, for more than 70 years at York’s community theatre in Haxby Road. Given that long history, the decision to cancel the 2020 pantomime run amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic was not taken lightly.
Co-writer and director Howard Ella has worked closely with the board of trustees to mull over the possibilities, now that indoor performances are permitted, but in the end they bowed to the curse of social distancing and the uncertainty over when and if theatres can re-open at full capacity. No compromise was their verdict.
Howard says: “We could have considered performing to a small audience, with a three-piece band, no chorus, a limited cast and set, no shout-outs from the audience but, let’s be honest, that would not be the Rowntree Players’ panto everybody knows and loves.
“We have never done a compromised show and nor do we want to start to. The script is now locked in a secure vault in Alderman Fitzwarren’s bank, ready for summer auditions next year.”
The Players’ decision comes as the viability of Christmas pantomimes across the country is being assessed. “At a time when many venues are perilously close to closure, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre is unique in York in that it’s owned by the charity that runs it and has no staff overheads, run as it is by more than 170 volunteers,” says Dan Shrimpton, chair of the board of trustees.
“We wholeheartedly support Howard and his committee’s decision on this year’s pantomime, heart-breaking though it is. The ten-day run of performances in December is the real highlight of the theatre’s year, but we look forward to welcoming the Rowntree Players back next year with the postponed show. The show will go on – oh, yes it will!”
The Rowntree Players’ pantomime is “very much a community affair”, billed as all-round, good, affordable fun for all, written and directed by York artists, suitable for absolutely all ages, and not requiring any knowledge of previous shows or of the local area.
“Tickets will go on sale from the Joseph Rowntree Theatre box office in the summer of 2021 and are expected to sell very well, given the uncertainty surrounding many other local pantomimes,” today’s statement concludes.
CHRISTINE Friend normally would be making costumes for The Blue Light Theatre Company’s pantomime in York. For the past eight weeks, she has been turning her skills instead to sewing for frontline workers in the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
She is among a group of volunteers from York, Harrogate and Knaresborough that has come together via Facebook to make uniform wash bags out of anything from pillowcases to old duvet covers.
Now the Facebook group Bag The Bug is being wound up because many of the sewers and supporters are going back to work today, having made a total of 13,757 wash bags to donate to care homes, NHS staff, GP surgeries, ambulance stations and hospitals.
“They’ve been making the bags for all our Blue Light Theatre NHS friends and their colleagues and I think it’s amazing they’ve reached that total in only eight weeks,” says Christine’s husband, Mark, actor and publicist for Blue Light Theatre, a company made up of paramedics, ambulance dispatchers, York Hospital staff and members of York’s theatre scene.
“The idea is that after a shift, frontline workers can remove their uniform at work, put it straight into the bag, then close it tight and pop it into their washing machine when they get home to prevent cross-contamination.”
The Facebook group Bag The Bug – Covid 19 – York, Harrogate & Knaresborough was set up two months ago by Joanne Halliwell and her daughter Abbey. “They were wanting something to do during lockdown and found a group called Bag The Bug, based in the north west, who were making the bags for NHS staff in Bolton,” says Mark.
“They decided to make some bags too and after talking to the group’s coordinator, they set up a group locally.”
They had an immediate response, from people asking for the bags, others offering to donate material, sew, help to coordinate Bag The Bug and drive for the group.
Among the care workers to receive a bag was Adrian Deligny, who said: “The uniform bag is an excellent idea in order to help stop the spread of the virus at home.
“Before this, I was putting everything in a bin bag, which wasn’t the best. It is important that during these difficult times everybody is united. This project has shown an unparalleled demonstration of solidarity and generosity. My wife and I are extremely grateful.”