More Things To Do in York and beyond the paranormal before 2:22 in the morning. Hutch’s List No. 18, from The Press

Vera Chok and Jay McGuiness in a scene from 2:22 – A Ghost Story, haunting the Grand Opera House, York, from Tuesday

JUST a normal week? No, paranormal, more like, as a ghost story pumps up the spooks. Fear not, a Led Zeppelin legend, country-town teen days, a hope-filled musical and dances of love, loss and legacy are Charles Hutchinson’s picks too.  

New ghost to haunt “Europe’s most haunted city”: 2:22 – A Ghost Story, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm fright-nightly; 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday; 3.30pm, Friday

JENNY believes her new London home is haunted, hearing a disturbance every night at the same time, but husband Sam isn’t having any of it. They argue with their first dinner guests, old friend Lauren and new partner Ben.

Belief and scepticism clash, but something feels strange and frightening, and that something is drawing closer, so they decide to stay up… until 2:22 in the morning… and then they’ll know in The Battersea Poltergeist podcaster Danny Robins’s paranormal thriller, wherein secrets emerge and ghosts may, or may not, appear. Fiona Wade, George Rainsford and Vera Chok join The Wanted singer Jay McGuiness in Matthew Dunster & Isabel Marr’s cast. Box office:

Robert Plant’s Saving Grace: Playing Harrogate Royal Hall on Tuesday

Gig of the week outside York: Robert Plant’s Saving Grace, Harrogate Royal Hall, Tuesday, 8pm

ERSTWHILE Led Zeppelin singer and lyricist Robert Plant, now 75, leads the folk, Americana and blues co-operative Saving Grace, featuring Suzi Dian (vocals), Oli Jefferson (percussion), Tony Kelsey (mandolin, baritone, acoustic guitar, and Matt Worley (banjo, acoustic/baritone guitars, cuatro), on their 15-date Never Ending Spring itinerary. South Carolina singer-songwriter Taylor McCall supports. Box office: 01423 502116 or

Country matters: Henry Madd’s Henry and Marc Benga’s Jake in Land Of Lost Content at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York

Touring play of the week: Henry Madd’s Land Of Lost Content, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

NIC Connaughton, the Pleasance’s head of theatre, directs Land Of Lost Content, Henry Madd’s autobiographical insight into friendship, adolescence, forgiveness and life not going to plan in an empowering coming-of-age story about the trials of growing up in a small country town and its ongoing effects on two estranged mates.

Henry (Madd) and Jake (Marc Benga) were bored friends who grew up in Ludlow, where friendships were forged in failed adventures, bad habits and damp raves as they stumbled through teenage days looking for something to do. Then Henry moved away. Now he is back, needing to face up to the memories and the people he left behind. Box office:

Come From Away: Award-winning musical of hope, humanity and unity on tour at Leeds Grand Theatre

Musical of the week: Come From Away, Leeds Grand Theatre, Tuesday to May 11, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Thursday and Saturday matinees

IRENE Sankoff and David Hein’s four-time Olivier Award-winning musical tells the remarkable true story of 6,579 air passengers from around the world being grounded in Canada in the wake of 9/11. Whereupon the small Newfoundland community of Gander invites these ‘come from aways’ into their lives with open hearts.

As spirited locals and global passengers come together to forge friendships, we meet first female American Airlines captain, the quick-thinking town mayor, the mother of a New York firefighter and the eager local news reporter in a celebration of hope, humanity and unity. Box office: 0113 243 0808 or

Claire Morley: Directing York Shakespeare Project in Sunday’s rehearsed reading of John Fletcher’s The Tamer Tamed. Picture: S R Taylor Photography

Battle of the sexes, round two: York Shakespeare Project in The Tamer Tamed, Creative Arts Centre Auditorium, York St John University, tomorrow (28/4/2024), 5pm

YORK Shakespeare Project complements this week’s run of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew at Theatre@41, Monkgate, with a rehearsed reading of John Fletcher’s Jacobean riposte to the Bard’s most controversial comedy, directed by Claire Morley.

In Fletcher’s sequel, the widowed Petruchio has a new wife and a new challenge as he discovers that he is not the only one who can do the taming. Fletcher borrows characters from Shakespeare and Ben Jonson and a key plot device from Ancient Greek dramatist Aristophanes’s Lysistrata for his exploration of marriage and relationships. Box office: or

The poster for Alexander O’Neal’s farewell tour, Time To Say Goodbye, bound for York Barbican on May 3

Farewell tour of the Week: Alexander O’Neal, Time To Say Goodbye, York Barbican, May 3, 7.30pm

AFTER nearly five decades, Mississippi soul singer Alexander O’Neal is hitting the road one final time at 70 on his Time to Say Goodbye: Farewell World Tour, accompanied by his nine-piece band.

O’Neal will be undertaking a journey through his career with the aid of never-before-seen-photos, testimonies and tributes, all set to the tune of such hits as Criticize, Fake and If You Were Here Tonight. Box office:

Phoenix Dance Theatre in Dane Hurst’s Requiem, part of the Belonging: Loss. Legacy. Love programme at York Theatre Royal. Picture: Drew Forsyth

Dance show of the week: Phoenix Dance Theatre in Belonging: Loss. Legacy. Love, York Theatre Royal, May 3, 7.30pm; May 4, 2.30pm and 7.30pm

YORK Theatre Royal is the final venue on Leeds company Phoenix Dance Theatre’s first British tour since 2022 with a visceral triple bill of works by international dance makers Dane Hurst, Miguel Altunaga and Phoenix artistic director Marcus Jarrell Willis.

Belonging: Loss. Legacy. Love opens with South African choreographer and former Phoenix artistic director Hurst’s reimagining of Mozart’s Requiem in response to pandemic-induced grief. Two world premieres follow: Afro-Cuban choreographer Altunaga’s first Phoenix commission, the daring Cloudburst, and Texas-born Jarrell Willis’s Terms Of Agreement. Box office: 01904 623568 or

The Cult: Marking 40th anniversary with the 8424 tour this autumn. Picture: Jackie Middleton

Gig announcement of the week: The Cult, The 8424 Tour, York Barbican, October 29

SINGER Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy mark the 40th anniversary of The Cult, the Bradford band noted for their pioneering mix of post-punk, hard rock and melodramatic experimentalism, by heading out on The 8424 Tour.

Once dubbed “shamanic Goths”, Astbury and Duffy will perform songs from The Cult’s 11-album discography, from 1984’s Dreamtime to 2022’s Under The Midnight Sun, in a set sure to feature She Sells Sanctuary, Rain, Love Removal Machine, Wild Flower and Lil’ Devil. Box office:

REVIEW: York Shakespeare Project in The Taming Of The Shrew, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, ends tomorrow ****

Nick Patrick Jones’s Hortensio, left, Stuart Green’s Grumio, Mark Simmonds’s Vincentio, Sam Jackson’s Lucentio, hidden, Mark Payton’s Gremio, back, Rosy Rowley’s Baptista Minola, front, Kirsty Farrow’s Bianca, Joy Warner’s Merchant/Widow and Flo Poskitt’s Katherine in York Shakespeare Project’s The Taming Of The Shrew. Picture: David Kessel

TWENTY one years have passed since York Shakespeare Project first staged The Taming Of The Shrew as its second ever production.

Staging Shakespeare’s “most controversial” comedy has become even more awkward in that time. The term “Gaslighting” is in common parlance; the #MeToo movement has found its voice; misogyny and sexism are a minefield of social media debate, Andrew Tate et al.

In 2003, Paul Toy, YSP’s director for Shrew, talked of the “welcome gains of feminism leaving it as less of a comedy, more of a problem play”. In 2009, Mooted Theatre’s Mark France saw the 1592 play’s sexual politics as “a gradual meeting of minds” in a war of words between Kate and Petruchio where both subvert the roles that society has determined for them. He coined the term “casual cruelty” to encapsulate the ploys of deception conducted by Tranio, Lucentio and Hortensio.

In 2003, Toy reversed the usual gender casting of the lovers and their servants, with Alice Borthwick, a tall Scot with a pageboy haircut, playing Petruchio in strapping manner opposite John Sharpe’s Katherina with his/her pale commedia dell’arte face and rouge lips. “There is now no pretence that what you see is `real’,” he said. “Hopefully, the play can be seen as less of a treatise and more of a game”.

Now, Maggie Smales, whose all-female version of Henry V in 2015 lingers in the memory, returns to the YSP director’s chair for ‘Shrew’, assisted by Claire Morley [her Henry , from that production].

Smales had played a serving wench in a South Yorkshire For Youth production of ‘Shrew’ in the mid-Sixties in Rotherham and Bianca in 1972 on her Bretton Hall drama course, now recalling them as “exemplifying the hypocrisy of a time that seemed to be offering the opportunity of gender equality without any real shift in attitudes”.

“We thought we were shaping a new world order with altered values,” she laments. “But there’s still quite a lot to be done about gender equality”.

Florence Poskitt’s Katherine in York Shakespeare Project’s The Taming Of The Shrew

No better time to start than now with this bracing production of ‘Shrew’, astutely edited by Smales and Morley. In their hands, ‘Shrew’ remains a combustible, hot and bothered drama that does not shy away from the “inherent misogyny” and gaslighting abuse in Petruchio’s regime of sleep deprivation and starvation rations for Katherine.

Crucially, however, Florence Poskitt’s feminist Katherine has the last say, not so much a shrewish shrew as shrewd in determining her path, rather than “melting” to Petruchio’s taming techniques after their calamitous nuptials.

Smales has set Shakespeare’s battle of the sexes/war of words in 1970, when the sun was setting on the Summer of Love and Germaine Greer published The Female Eunuch, a landmark statement in the feminist movement.

More precisely, Smales’s ‘Shrew’ opens in 1960 with a reimagined induction/prologue (replacing the Christopher Sly one), the cast exchanging presents beside the Christmas tree. The players then find themselves transported into a 1970 world wherein they experience and perform the play.

Judith Ireland’s costumes, from her own collection apparently, evoke that psychedelic age of flares, scarves, long hair, dark glasses and headbands, matched with the hits of Hendrix, The Who and Credence Clearwater Revival.

Ah, the whiff of nostalgia, the look, the sounds, setting up the boisterous fun and games that play out in the hands of Lara Stafford’s Tranio and Sam Jackson’s Lucentio, swapping clothes, genders and roles, and the deluded sparring of Nick Patrick Jones’s Hortensio and Mark Payton’s Gremio (in professional actor turned Shakespeare teacher Payton’s ‘first proper acting experience for almost 20 years’ – and what a joyful return he makes).

Stuart Green’s Grumio, with his guitar and shades, adds to the rock concert vibe, along with Joy Warner in her roadie cameo, while Rosy Rowley and Poskitt both perform a song, Rowley in the rowdy spirit of a Janis Joplin; Poskitt, in white, in a quiet solo spotlight in Fred Neil’s Everybody’s Talkin’.

Jim Paterson’s Petruchio. Picture: David Kessel

Rowley is playing Baptista Minola, traditionally Katherine and Bianca’s father, but here turned into their mother: a significant change that alters the male-dominated dynamic. A decision typical of Smales’s good judgement that always marks out her direction.

The “Taming” remains a battle waged between the needs of individual freedom and the demands of social conformity that decree that Katherine should be wed and that Petruchio seeks to apply in his unconventional way.

Poskitt, who took on her role with only a week to learn her lines and another to join the last week of rehearsals, is known for her wide-eyed comedy chops and singing, but there is much more lurking inside that comes out here (as it did in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None). Wild, scolding-tongued, as those around her decry, her subversive Katherine is ultimately more than a match to Petruchio’s prodding. Not so much a woman ‘tamed’ at the end as one establishing her own rights.

Paterson’s Petruchio pulls off the balancing act of being a rock music-loving, preening popinjay but humorous too for all his outrageous behaviour. Rik Mayall, Rupert Everett, that brand of English humour.

Maggie Smales has conquered Shakespeare’s problem play, no problem. This ‘Shrew’ is funny, furious, feminist, with an eye to the future too, as peace, love and equality are secured at last. 

Performances at 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm and 7.30pm tomorrow, as part of York International Shakespeare Festival. Box office:

Let the battle of the sexes resume as York Shakespeare Project gives rehearsed reading of Fletcher’s The Tamer Tamed

York Shakespeare Project’s poster for Sunday’s rehearsed reading of John Fletcher’s The Tamer Tamed

YORK Shakespeare Project is complementing this week’s run of Shakespeare’s The Taming Of The Shrew with a one-off performance of John Fletcher’s sequel, The Tamer Tamed, at the Creative Arts Centre Auditorium, York St John University, on Sunday at 5pm.

Fletcher’s rarely staged Jacobean riposte to William Shakespeare’s most controversial “problem play” will be presented in a rehearsed reading on the closing day of the 2024 York International Shakespeare Festival.

YSP chair Tony Froud explains: “We are very happy to borrow an idea from Gregory Doran, who staged both plays in tandem, using the same cast, in his productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2003. Fletcher’s play is a deliberate and very entertaining response to Shakespeare’s original.”

Director Claire Morley in rehearsals. Picture: S R Taylor Photography

Written in 1611, 20 years after Shakespeare’s battle of the sexes, The Tamer Tamed (or The Woman’s Prize) gives an insight into changing attitudes to women and marriage in the Jacobean period.

YSP’s rehearsed reading is being directed by Claire Morley, assistant director to Maggie Smales on The Taming Of The Shrew, whose run at Theatre@41, Monkgate, ends tomorrow night. Many of the same cast will undertake Sunday’s reading, joined by familiar YSP faces Andrew Isherwood, Effie Warboys and Sally Mitcham.

“We’re enormously grateful to members of our very talented cast for committing to perform a second play, but the actors couldn’t resist the challenge of exploring Fletcher’s fascinating take on Shakespeare,” says Claire. “Luckily they don’t have to learn any more lines, as this will be a script-in-hand reading.”

Claire Morley, front row, second from right , in the role of Henry V in York Shakespeare Project’s Heny V in 2015

Claire is no stranger to York Shakespeare Project, having appeared in several of its productions, most notably playing the title role in Maggie Smales’s all-female Henry V in 2015. “It’s a joy to be working with Maggie again and we’re very lucky to have such a fabulous cast,” she adds.

In Fletcher’s sequel, the widowed Petruchio has a new wife and a new challenge as he discovers that he is not the only one who can do the taming. Fletcher borrows characters from Shakespeare and Ben Jonson and a key plot device from Ancient Greek dramatist Aristophanes’s Lysistrata. “The result is a richly entertaining exploration of marriage and relationships in another battle of the sexes,” says Tony.

The cast comprises: Rosy Rowley as Maria; Effie Warboys, Livia; Kirsty Farrow, Bianca; Andrew Isherwood, Petruchio; Mark Simmonds, Petronius; Mark Payton, Gremio and Peter; Sam Jackson, Rowland; Nick Patrick Jones, Hortensio; Sally Mitcham, Tranio, and Stuart Green, Grumio.

Tickets are on sale at or

How Florence Poskitt stepped in to play Kate in Shakespeare’s battle of the sexes The Taming Of The Shrew for YSP

Florence Poskitt: Taking on principal role of Kate

WHEN University of York student Chesca Downes had to pull out of playing Kate in York Shakespeare Project’s The Taming Of The Shrew, up stepped Florece Poskitt at short notice.

The York actor-musician and member of musical comedy duo Fladam had only a fortnight to learn and rehearse Shakespeare’s problem play for this week’s run at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from tomorrow to Saturday.

YSP chair Tony Froud says: “We’re delighted to welcome someone as talented as Flo into the cast and thank her for stepping into the role after Chesca had to withdraw for personal reasons.”

“We are very sorry to lose Chesca, but entirely understand her decision to leave the production,” adds director Maggie Smales.

Florence is a familiar face to York theatregoers, latterly appearing at Theatre@41 as Vera Claythorne in Pick Me Up Theatre’s staging of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and Mishka and a gormless Shopkeeper in York Settlement Community Players’ Government Inspector last autumn.

York Shakespeare Project’s psychedelic poster for The Taming Of The Shrew

Now she is reuniting with Maggie Smales, who first directed Florence in November 2019 in Andrew Bovell’s apocalyptic play When The Rain Stops Falling, again at Theatre@41.

“I was due to have a couple of weeks off after doing my own stuff with Fladam for the past two months, going down to the Greenwich Theatre in London with our Green Fingers show, and then suddenly I got a call from Maggie to say, ‘Can you do this role, Flo?’, and she’s one of those people you just can’t say ‘No’ to!” says Florence. 

“So the second I got back, I threw myself into playing Kate. She’s one of those roles that are such a treat to get to play – though ideally with more rehearsal time! I had just a week’s notice to get it learnt before joining the last week of rehearsals.

“With Shakespeare you can’t just make it work like you can with a modern text; it’s not just knowing your own lines; you’ve got know the feed lines; you have to be able to cue in other actors; you’ve got to become familiar with the blocking.”

Last Thursday night was the first full run, leading to the tech rehearsal on Sunday and dress rehearsal tonight (22/4/2024). “Everyone has been very welcoming, especially Rosy Rowley, who plays Kate’s mum [Baptista Minola] and Jim Paterson, who’s brilliant as Petruchio, as well as doing the music for the show. The chat-up scene up scene with Kate is so funny, it’s been difficult not to laugh in rehearsals.”

Maggie Smales: Directing York Shakespeare Project in The Taming Of The Shrew

As the multi-coloured psychedelic poster proclaims, Smales is setting Shakespeare’s controversial battle of the sexes in 1970 in her first YSP production since her all-female Henry V in 2015.

The Sixties have shaken off the post-World War Two blues; the baby boomers are growing up, primed and ready to do their own thing; the world is opening up, promising peace, love and equality. Surely, “The Times They Are a’Changin’” and the old order is dead. Or is it, asks Smales.

“As a play it’s not designed for a modern audience. Petruchio can be seen as a kind of abuser, and what Maggie and co-director Claire Morley have done with Kate’s monologue is to find a way around the awkwardness of her saying she can do whatever she wants now she is tamed,” says Florence.

“In this version, the ‘shrew’ [Kate] is a normal person and everyone else is abnormal, and you see what she has to go through and how these gaslighters can get to anybody.

“You don’t have to change the text. You have to change the meaning, and Maggie and Claire have been very clever at doing that. There’s very much a stereotype of what a ‘shrewish woman’ would be. We’ve decided that she fits the shrewish stereotype in wanting to fit in, but she doesn’t want to be wed. That leads to her being isolated for not being understood.”

Fladam’s Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter

The 1970 setting has led to a more open attitude. “Kate gets her comic moments, so does Petruchio because he’s so ridiculous. Once he was perceived as heroic, definitely not so now, but even though his behaviour is not right, Jim’s Petruchio is still endearing,” says Florence.

“I also gathered from Maggie that she chose 1970 as it was then that women started to be working women rather than housewives – and that connects with Kate not wanting a husband and wanting to be just herself.”

Playing Kate will be Florence’s first Shakespeare work since doing a training project at Newcastle Theatre Royal, performing snippets from Much Ado About Nothing in the role of Beatrice in 2021.

“The last time I worked with York Shakespeare Project I did the costumes for The Winter’s Tale and that’s when I first met Maggie, who was playing Paulina. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity. I did originally audition for Kate, but I would have been too busy with Fladam, but now it’s worked out well, even if I wish I’d had more time,” says Florence.

“I love doing comedy and musical theatre, but it’s lovely to do something different, to break the mould, to prove I can do more than Victoria Wood – though I would say I do play Kate quite like a Last Of The Summer Wine character. She’s quite grumpy!”

York Shakespeare Project in The Taming Of The Shrew, York International Shakespeare Festival, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, April 23 to 27, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office:

More Things To Do in Ryedale, York and beyond “the carriage ride of your life”. Hutch’s List No. 11, from Gazette & Herald

Katherine Lea: Making her Hotbuckle Productions debut in Pride & Prejudice

BUCKLE up for Austen’s sister act, Shakespeare’s battle of the sexes and Sheridan’s scandalous comedy of manners, plus music, art and poetry in the library, baroque and blues concerts and tragic opera, advises Charles Hutchinson.   

Ryedale play of the week: Hotbuckle Productions in Pride & Prejudice, Helmsley Arts Centre, Saturday, 7.30pm

IN artistic director Adrian Preater’s humorous, multi role-playing adaptation of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel, Hotbuckle Productions enter the world of the Bennets.

From headstrong Elizabeth to proud Mr Darcy, rich characterisations abound as five sisters deal with marriage, morality and misconceptions. “Hotbuckle up for the carriage ride of your life” with Joanna Purslow, Tomas Mason and company newcomer Katherine Lea. Box office: 01439 771700 or

Patricia Qua: Ceramicist and graphic designer taking part in York Open Studios for the first time in Hempland Drive, York

Art around every corner: York Open Studios, Saturday and Sunday, 10am to 5pm

AS many as 156 artists and makers who live or work within a ten-mile radius of York will be welcoming visitors to 106 workspaces to show and sell their art, ranging from ceramics, collage, digital, illustration, jewellery and mixed media to painting, print, photography, sculpture, textiles, glass and wood. Among them will be 31 new participants. Full details and a map can be found at Look out for booklets around the city too.

Keeping an eye on things: English Touring Opera in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at York Theatre Royal

Opera of the week: English Touring Opera in Manon Lescaut, York Theatre Royal, Friday, 7.30pm

ENGLISH Touring Opera returns to York in Jude Christian radical production of Giacomo Puccini’s heartbreaking Manon Lescaut, for which she brings incisive direction to her sharp, poetic new translation.

Puccini’s 1892 breakthrough hit presents a devastating depiction of a woman wrestling with her desire for love on her own terms and the rigid double standards imposed on her by society. Box office: 01904 623568 or

London Obbligato Collective: Opening the York Baroque+ Day at the NCEM

Classical concert of the week: London Obbligato Collective, York Baroque+ Day, National Centre for Early Music, York Saturday, 12 noon  

FORMED by Masumi Yamamoto, the new London Obbligato Collective focuses on “accompanied harpsichord sonatas”, where the harpsichord is given the solo role within the trio sonata texture, highlighting and enriching the colours and nuances of the instrument.

Next Saturday’s programme includes 18th century music by Felice Giardini, Johann Christian Bach and Carl Friedrich. Box office: 01904 658338 or

Lydea Perkins, as Lady Teazle, and Joseph Marcell, as Sir Peter Teazle, in Tilted Wig’s The School For Scandal. Picture: Anthony Robling

Touring play of the week: Tilted Wig, Malvern Theatres and Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, present The School For Scandal, York Theatre Royal, April 23 to 27, 7.30pm plus 2pm Thursday and 7.30pm Saturday matinees

JOSEPH Marcell, fondly remembered as Geoffrey the butler in the American comedy series Fresh Prince of Bel Air, stars in Seán Aydon’s new production of Richard B Sheridan’s comedy of manners The School For Scandal, where gossip never goes out of fashion.

Marcell plays Sir Peter Teazle, who believes his young wife is sleeping with someone else. Not true, but she is starting to think that if her husband believes it, she should give it a go. After all, if you are going to cause a scandal, you may as well enjoy it. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Florence Poskitt: Stepping in to play Kate in York Shakespeare Project’s The Taming Of The Shrew

Seventies’ Shakespeare play of the week: York Shakespeare Project in The Taming Of The Shrew, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, April 23 to 27, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday

IN a late change of cast, actor-musician Florence Poskitt, from the York musical comedy duo Fladam, is taking over the principal role of Kate in Maggie Smales’s production of Shakespeare’s controversial battle of the sexes, now set in 1970.

A psychedelic world is opening up, promising peace, love and equality, but Kate was born to be wild and wants a voice of her own. The times they are a’changin’ and the old order is dead…or is it? Let battle commence. Box office:

Redfish Blues Band: Returning to Milton Rooms, Malton

Blues gig of the week: Redfish Blues Band, Ryedale Blues Club, Milton Rooms, Malton, April 25, 8pm

NOMINATED for Blues Band of the Year and Blues Album of the Year in the UK 2024 Blues Awards, Redfish Blues Band return to Malton with Christian Sharpe on vocals and guitar, Steve McGuckin on Hammond, Rod Mackay on bass and Steve Gibson on drums.

As witnessed on their Together Is Better album and Soho Rising (Girls, Girls, Girls) single, they play a delicious, bubbling gumbo of blues, soul, gospel and funk in live performances defined by energy and restraint. Box office: 01653 696240 or

Kai West’s poster for Bull’s Live At The Library day on May 19, based on the Cluedo board game design

Gig announcement of the week: Bull present Live At The Library, York Explore Library & Archive, Library Square, York, May 19, from 12 noon

YORK Explore and Please Please You team up with York band Bull for a day of music, art and poetry to celebrate Explore York’s tenth birthday and raise funds for York’s libraries. The climax will be a 6.30pm to 10pm gig by Bull, Marnie Glum, Rowan and performance poet Stu Freestone (tickets,

Free activities include open mic-style performances run by Bull frontman Tom Beer in the Marriott Room from midday, featuring Gabbie Lord, Maggie, Gilles, She Choir, Filipe, Old Time Rags, Eve Thomas & Co and more,  plus art workshops for all ages hosted by Izzy Williamson (lino printing, 1pm) and Bull bassist and illustrator Kai West (T-shirt design and screen printing, 12 noon to 2pm) in the Garden Room, with donations welcome.

Maggie Smales to direct The Taming Of The Shrew for York Shakespeare Project at York International Shakespeare Festival

Maggie Smales: Directing York Shakespeare Project in The Taming Of The Shrew. All pictures: SR Taylor

YORK Shakespeare Project welcomes back Maggie Smales to direct The Taming Of The Shrew, Shakespeare’s controversial battle of the sexes, at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from April 23 to 27.

“We are absolutely delighted to have Maggie as our director,” says YSP chair Tony Froud. “We know that she will find an exciting way to let the play speak to us in 2024.”

This is the first time that Maggie has directed for York Shakespeare Project since her all-female version of Henry V, chosen as “York Play of the Year” in the 2015 Hutch Awards.

Chesca Downes: Playing Kate in The Taming Of The Shrew

YSP’s multi-coloured psychedelic poster announces the production’s setting in 1970. The Sixties have shaken off the post-Second World War blues. The baby boomers are growing up, primed and ready to do their own thing. The world is opening up, promising peace, love and equality. Surely, The Times They Are a’Changin’ and the old order is dead? Or is it, asks Smales’s production.

“This will actually be my third encounter with this play,” she says. “I played in it as a youngster in Rotherham in South Yorkshire Theatre for Youth in the 1960s, then as a Bretton Hall drama student in 1970, and it was experiences of those days that gave me the inspiration for my ideas for this production.”

At the centre of the play are Kate and Petruchio, played in Franco Zeffirelli’s 1967 film version by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. YSP’s Kate is University of York student Chesca Downes, in her first YSP role after playing a number of major roles at the university, such as the duchess in The Duchess Of Malfi.

Jim Paterson: Playing Petruchio for a second time

Opposite her will be Jim Paterson, a face more familiar to YSP audiences, who will recall his lead roles in The Two Noble Kinsmen, Cymbeline and Antony And Cleopatra. He is no stranger to the part of Petruchio, having played him in Cole Porter’s musical Kiss Me Kate in 2019.

Further roles go to Rosy Rowley as Baptista Minola; Kirsty Farrow, Bianca; Mark Payton, Gremio; Nick Patrick Jones, Hortensio; Sam Jackson, Lucentio; Mark Simmonds, Vincentio; Lara Stafford, Tranio; Cari Hughes, Biondello; Stuart Green, Grumio, and Joy Warner, Merchant and Widow.

As YSP’s second cycle of staging all of Shakespeare’s plays over 25 years rolls on, The Taming Of The Shrew will be performed as part of the 2024 York International Shakespeare Festival. Tickets for the 7.30pm evening performances and 2.30pm Saturday matinee are on sale at

Claire Morley to perform reading of Rachel E Thorn’s Me For You at SJT and take part in Yorkshire Trios at York Theatre Royal

Claire Morley: Performing new works in Scarborough and York

YORK actresses Claire Morley and Elizabeth Hope will perform a script-in-hand reading of Rachel E Thorn’s new play, Me For You, at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, on January 30.

This is the latest in the SJT’s regular series of readings of works by up-and-coming writers, chosen from submissions to the literary department, in this case one longlisted for the Kenneth Branagh Award for New Drama Writing.

In Me For You, Holly (played by Elizabeth Hope) knows that human beings have screwed the planet, but she is still desperate to have a baby of her own. She has tried doing the right thing, but can using a bamboo toothbrush really reverse global warming?

In a bid to save the planet, Holly has joined Extinction Rebellion and just wishes her girlfriend, Alex (Claire Morley), would sign up too.

Me For You writer Rachel E Thorn

“Me For You is a play all about love in the face of overwhelming evidence that we’re a despicable race of selfish parasites,” says Rachel E Thorn, a writer and actress from Sheffield, who pens comedy for BBC Radio 4 and has collaborated with impressionists Alistair McGowan, Charlie Hopkinson and Darren Altman.

Rachel also tours the country with her improvised shows that have taken home the Best Improv Show awards from the Leicester Comedy Festival and Edinburgh Fringe.

Claire’s preparations are under way for this month’s one-off reading. “I was sent a draft of the script in November, so that I can get an idea of the themes of the play and the characters, but really most of the work is done on the day as there might be new edits,” she says. 

“On the morning of the performance, I’ll meet with Fleur Hebditch, a producer at the SJT, writer Rachel and Elizabeth for the first time. We’ll spend the day discussing the script and have a rehearsal before a sharing in the evening, script in hand.

Elizabeth Hope: Performing Me For You with Claire Morley at the SJT

“There’ll also be a Q&A with the writer afterwards. Rachel has written a cracking piece so I’m excited to get stuck in.”

Claire first took part in a Stephen Joseph Theatre reading in August 2021. “We did Emma Geraghty’s play Lagan,” she recalls. “It then became These Majestic Creatures, which was produced by the SJT as a fully realised production last autumn [in the McCarthy].

“The emphasis is really on the development of the work for the writer. That’s why it’s so great to work with them during the day as you can find out their vision and do your best in fleshing out this character for them, often for the first time.”

Claire continues: “Rehearsed readings are a great opportunity to work on complex characters and interesting writing without the pressure of line-learning! I enjoyed being part of one with Live Theatre, Newcastle, last April as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations, along with their special guest, Roger Allam, who played my father in Shelagh Stephenson’s An Experiment With An Air Pump.”

Claire Morley’s Henry V, centre, at Agincourt in York Shakespeare Project’s Henry V in 2015

Born and bred in York, Claire is a graduate of ALRA (Academy of Live & Recorded Arts) North Drama School, in Wigan, Greater Manchester, and a former teacher.

She caught the eye on the York stage in the title role in Maggie Smales’s all-female version of Henry V for York Shakespeare Project (YSP) in 2015 and as Kastril in Bronzehead Theatre’s masked production of Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist at the 2019 York International Shakespeare Festival.

In 2022, she completed a hattrick of all-female Shakespeare performances, after YSP’s Henry V and Coriolanus in 2019, starring as Macbeth in Chris Connaughton’s three-hander version of Macbeth for Northumberland Theatre Company in a tour that visited Stillington Village Hall, near York, and Pocklington Arts Centre.

Claire Morley’s Kastril, right, in Bronzehead Theatre’s The Alchemist in 2019. Picture: Jtu Photography

Coming next after Me For You will be Claire’s participation in York community arts collective Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios at York Theatre Royal Studio on March 26 and 27.

Through a series of commissions, York actors, writers and directors are being supported by NDB1 to produce original, short pieces of theatre – five to 15-minute solo performances – that respond to the overall theme of Top of the Hill.

Directed Jacob Ward, Claire will perform Yixia Jiang’s Love Letters Before Dawn. ”Jacob and I should be receiving Yixia’s script later this week, so I actually know very little at this stage,” she says.

Claire Morley’s Macbeth in Northumberland Theatre Company’s 2022 tour of Macbeth

“I do know it’s about a soldier defending a battlefield despite all seeming lost, and how to persevere and find hope. I’m excited to read it. We’ll be having a handful of rehearsals between now and joining up with the other trios for the performances in March.” 

Me For You, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, January 30, 7.15pm. Tickets: £5, on 01723 370541 or at Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios, York Theatre Royal Studio, March 26 and 27, 7.45pm. Box office: 01904 623568 or

Did you know?

CLAIRE Morley first made the pages of The Press, York, on August 18 2007 after she achieved A grades in five A-levels at All Saints’ RC School, York.

Claire, from Osbaldwick, achieved top marks in English literature, German, history, philosophy & ethics and general studies at 17, going on to study a four-year modern languages course at Somerville College, Oxford University, specialising in German.

York Shakespeare Project’s psychedelic promotional image for Maggie Smales’s production of The Taming Of The Shrew, set in 1970

Did you know too?

CLAIRE Morley will reunite with Henry V director Maggie Smales to be her assistant director for York Shakespeare Project’s spring production of The Taming Of The Shrew.

“Make Love Not War,” reads the invitation to Maggie’s 1970 setting of Shakespeare’s problematic comedy. “As they emerge from the post-Second World War greyness, the baby boomers are growing up, primed and ready to do their own thing.

“A psychedelic world is opening up, promising peace, love and equality. Kate was born, born to be wild. She wants a voice of her own. The Times They Are A’Changin’ and the old order is dead. Or is it? Find out in The Taming Of The Shrew, Shakespeare’s controversial battle of the sexes.”

York Shakespeare Project’s The Taming Of The Shrew runs at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from April 23 to 27, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office:

REVIEW: York Shakespeare Project in Edward II, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York ****

The power of love and the love of power: James Lee’s Gaveston, left, entwined with Jack Downey’s Edward II in York Shakespeare Project’s Edward II. All pictures: John Saunders

BE warned. Expect to be splashed by water if you sit in the front row, comes the polite advice on arrival at Theatre@41, Monkgate.

Welcome to the new age of York Shakespeare Project, splashing around in works by Shakespeare’s rivals as a key part of phase two over the next 25 years. Rival number one: the ill-fated Christopher “Kit” Marlowe.

We are used to the spillage of blood as the bodies pile up in Elizabethan and Jacobean tragedies, but water? Jack Downey’s Edward II will end up bedraggled, buckets of water poured over his head, containing autumnal leaves too, in a child’s paddling pool: a fate almost as ignominious as his fabled “lamentable” death by red polka hot.

That exit awaits his malevolent executioner: Thomas Jennings, back on crop-haired hitman duty again as Lightborn after his cutthroat cameos, camera in hand, in April’s Richard III. Stereotyping maybe, but again he takes the scene-stealing honours.

Lipstick, power and paint: Emma Scott’s Young Mortimer making plans and leaving messages in Edward II

Not only water is splashed about in director-designer Tom Straszewski’s Edward II. So is gold, chucked across the back wall like a Roy Lichtenstein Pop Art explosion; splattered on Edward II’s trousers and across his forehead; emerging from his back pocket in the colour of his handkerchief.

In paper and ribbon, gold is wrapped around a heap of presents that Edward will bestow, along with titles, as freely and as ill-deserved as those winners of the Boris Johnson lottery, otherwise known as the 2022 Prime Minister’s Resignation Honours list.

Always touched by your presents, dear, but all that glisters is not gold for Downey’s Edward II, although he puts up a better fight than the weak king of earlier incarnations.

Straszewki, or Strasz as he likes to be known for short, introduces his bravura production from the end-on stage with a mischievous look in his eye, directing YSP for the third time with flinty humour, dollops of drag culture. fresh faces aplenty, and serious points to make about cancel culture, identity (Young Edward/Princess Edie), sexuality and social mobility (or immobility).

“Like Marlowe himself, we wanted to focus less on historical accuracy or psychological realism, and instead as a fantasia of power and love. This is a fearful England,” mused the director.

A woman scorned: Danae Artega Hernandez’s Queen Isabel, ready to turn tables on wanderlust husband Edward in Tom Straszewski’s bravura production of Edward II

Not only the power of love, but the love of power, craving it, attaining it, keeping it, losing it, or even not wanting it in the case of Edward’s young daughter Princess Edie (Effie Warboys), who treats the crown like a poisoned chalice.

We first encounter Miss Warboys seated at a table, in front of a dressing-room mirror, being filmed on a screen that carries the text for the benefit of deaf audience members. Playing Edward and Queen Isabel’s daughter, she is flicking idly through fashion magazines, cutting out pictures of the glitterati, silently watching from the shadows, “desperate to mend her broken family and nation”…or “bring them to heel”, as Strasz adds in his notes.

This is indeed the essence of a dysfunctional family. Edward has his irons in another fire, obsessed with Piers Gaveston (James Lee), his jumped-up, preening, exiled lover who so angers the court (James Tyler’s overwrought Lancaster, York tour guide Alan Sharp’s Warwick, Harry Summers’ Mortimer Senior) and the clergy (Stuart Lindsay’s Bishop) alike.

And above all, Queen Isabel (Danae Artega Hernandez, in her first full-scale role since playing the Angel Gabriel in high school days), who duly takes her own lover. Ever glummer, despite the glamour, divorce and plans to bring down Edward will inevitably follow.

Director Tom Straszewski: “Striving for something glorious”

There is no place for a quiet life here, much as Princess Edie might initially crave one, and safety may be sought but is never found. Social climbing is all the rage, whether Lee’s flash-harry, Beatle-booted Gaveston, Emma Scott’s outstanding Mortimer Junior or Adam Kadow’s foppish Spenser, beneath a bird’s nest of peroxide Johnson hair.

Strasz wanted to wanted to “treat Edward II as a queer play, not just in terms of the love between Edward and Gaveston, but as something that challenges what it means to be powerful”. He does exactly that, and successfully too, as power proves to be as slippery as soap.

“Underneath all that [shimmering gold] are ordinary people, striving for something glorious,” he argues. He has found it with this modern-day reading of Edward II that gives both the play and YSP new life.

Lee, Scott and Downey are the new generation of bold YSP leads, and there is much else to enjoy here, especially the use of make-up as a source of power; the lipstick slashes across the throat to signify imminent exits stage left, and the music: serenades and a power ballad, and each of Edward’s lovers crooning The Ink Spots’ I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire. Maybe not, but Strasz does.

Performances: 7.30pm tonight; 2.30pm, 7.30pm tomorrow. Box office:

Party time in York Shakespeare Project’s Edward II

More Things To Do in York and beyond as trips & strips, trails & pumpkins await. Here’s Hutch’s List No. 42, from The Press

Made in Sheffield, on tour in York: Simon Beaufoy’s The Full Monty, packed with a star cast at the Grand Opera House

GHOSTS in gardens, men in hats and nowt else, kings in trouble, Halloween scares and pumpkins galore offer an autumn harvest for Charles Hutchinson and you to pick.

Yorkshiremen of the week: The Full Monty, Grand Opera House, York, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Wednesday and Saturday matinees

CELEBRATING the 25th anniversary of Peter Cattaneo’s Sheffield film, The Full Monty takes to the stage in a national tour of Simon Beaufoy’s play, wherein a group of lads on the scrapheap try to regain their dignity and pride in a story of ups and downs, humour and heartbreak, resonant anew amid the  cost-of-living crisis.

Leaving their hat on will be Danny Hatchard’s Gaz, Jake Quickenden’s Guy, Bill Ward’s Gerald, Neil Hurst’s Dave, Ben Onwukwe’s Horse and Nicholas Prasad’s Lomper. Box office:

Fiddler Ryan Young: NCEM concert

Fiddler of the week: Ryan Young & David Foley, National Centre for Early Music, York, Monday, 7.30pm

FIDDLER and 2022 MG ALBA Musician of the Year nominee Ryan Young brings new and exciting ideas to traditional Scottish music with his spellbinding interpretations of very old, often forgotten tunes. Joining him in York will be guitarist David Foley. Box office: 01904 658338 or

James Lee’s Gaveston, left, and Jack Downey’s Edward II in rehearsal for York Shakespeare Project’s Edward II. Picture: John Saunders

Play of the week: York Shakespeare Project in Edward II, Theatre@41, Monkgate, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee

PHASE two of York Shakespeare Project offers the chance over the next 25 years to see works by Shakespeare’s rivals, led off by Christopher “Kit” Marlowe’s intimate historical tragedy Edward II under the direction of Tom “Strasz” Straszewski.

Expect themes of cancel culture, social mobility and celebrity to pour out of this modern interpretation of Marlowe’s 1952 work, starring Jack Downey as Edward II, James Lee as his lover Gaveston and Danae Arteaga Hernandez as his wilful Queen, Isabel, in this “fantasia of power and love”. Box office: 

Fascinating Aida: Forty years of sassy satire encapsulated at York Barbican

Cabaret return of the week: Fascinating Aida – The 40th Anniversary Show, York Barbican, Wednesday, 7.30pm

DILLIE Keane, Adèle Anderson and Liza Pulman, “Britain’s raciest and sassiest musical cabaret trio”, celebrate 40 years of Fascinating Aida travels in their typically charming, belligerent, political, poignant, outrageous and filthy new show. Much-loved favourites, such as Dogging and Cheap Flights, will be combined with fresh satirical numbers. Box office:

Meanwhile, actress, presenter and writer Miriam Margolyes’s Oh Miriam! Live show on Monday has sold out.

Something wicked this way comes: Ian Thomson-Smith’s Macbeth and Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs’s Lady Macbeth in York Opera’s Macbeth

Opera of the week: York Opera in Verdi’s Macbeth, York Theatre Royal, Wednesday and Friday, 7pm; Saturday, 4pm

JOHN Soper directs York Opera in its autumn production of Giuseppe Verdi’s 1847 opera Macbeth, starring the highly experienced duo of baritone Ian Thomson-Smith as Macbeth and soprano Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs as Lady Macbeth.

Sung in English, it stays true to Shakespeare’s original play, complete with witches, ghosts, cut-throats and the political scheming of the Scottish court. Box office: 01904 623568 or 

Lloyd Cole: Two sets in one show, one acoustic, the other electric, at York Barbican

Gigs of the week: Lloyd Cole, Tuesday, 8pm; Paul Carrack, Thursday, 7.30pm at York Barbican  

LLOYD Cole plays two sets in one night on Tuesday, the first acoustic and solo, the second electric, with a band featuring two of his Commotions compadres, Blair Cowan and Neil Clark, as he showcases his 12th solo album, On Pain.

Sheffield singer, songwriter, guitarist and keyboard player Paul Carrack, the soulful voice of Ace, Squeeze and Mike + The Mechanics hits, returns to one of his most regular joints on Thursday. How long has this been going on? Oh, a long, long time. Box office:

Paul Carrack: Returning to York Barbican

Halloween days and nights: Hallowtween and Hallowscream, York Maze, near Elvington, York until November 4

HALLOWTWEEN is billed as the “UK’s only Halloween event for families with children aged ten to 15”. Venture inside four of York Maze’s Hallowscream scare houses but without the monsters that inhabit them at night for the shocks and thrills of Corny’s Cornevil, The Singularity, The Flesh Pot and a new haunted house.

Hallowscream fright nights promise fear and fun in five live-action scare houses, plus a new stage show, bar and hot food. Box office: or

The Bride, in Museums Gardens, part of the Ghosts In The Garden free sculpture trail in York. Picture: Gareth Buddo

Trail of the season: Ghosts In The Garden, haunting York until November 12

THE eerie sculptures of Ghosts In The Gardens return for the third time for haunted York’s spookiest season, as unearthly monks, a noble knight, Vikings, painters, archers, even a phantom peacock, pop up in translucent 3D wire mesh form.

Unconventional Designs have created a free trail of 39 sculptures, installed at  Museum Gardens, The Artists’ Garden, Treasurer’s House, Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, Middletons Hotel, St Anthony’s Garden, Barley Hall, Shambles, Clifford’s Tower, The Judge’s Lodging, DIG, Castle Museum Mill, Edible Wood and Library Lawn.

Professor Dan: Tricks and Treats at the Pumpkin Festival at Piglets Adventure Farm

Children’s festival of the month: Pumpkin Festival at Piglets Adventure Farm, Towthorpe Grange, Towthorpe Moor Lane, York, October 14, 15, 21, 22 and 28 to 31, then November 1 to 3

HERE comes the Pumpkin Patch (with a free pumpkin for every paying child), Pumpkin Carving Marquee, Catch The Bats Quiz, Professor Dan’s Tricks and Treats Magic Show at 12 noon and 2pm, The Bat-walk Fancy Dress Parade at 3.30pm, Gruesome Ghosts of York in the Maize Maze and Spooky Animal Encounters.

From November 1 to 3, the attractions will be Professor Dan’s eye-popping Magic Show (same show times), Gruesome Ghosts of York in the Maize Maze and Spooky Animal Encounters. Tickets:

Out of luck: Bev Jones Music Company has had to call off Guys And Dolls, starring Chris Hagyard

Postponed: Bev Jones Music Company in Guys And Dolls, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, October 18 to 21.

LUCK won’t be a lady next week after all. Cast illness has put paid to the Bev Jones Music Company’s first production since Covid-blighted 2020. Claire Pulpher was to have directed a York cast led by tenor Chris Hagyard in Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows’ 1950s’ musical. Plans are afoot to stage the show next summer instead. Ticket holders are being contacted by the JoRo box office team.

Catrin Finch, right, and Aoife Ni Bhriain: NCEM preview of debut album Double You

Duo of the week: Catrin Finch & Aoife Ni Bhriain, National Centre for Early Music, York, Friday, 7.30pm

AFTER her award-winning collaborations with Seckou Keita and Cimarron, Welsh harpist Catrin Finch has formed a virtuoso duo with Dublin violinist Aoife Ni Bhriain, who commands both the classical world and her traditional Irish heritage.

Inspired by a multitude of influences and linked by the cultures of their home countries, they follow up last November’s debut at Other Voices Cardigan with a select few concerts previewing the extraordinary and original material from their October 27 debut album, Double You. Box office: 01904 658338 or

Paloma Faith: New album, new tour, both entitled The Glorification Of Sadness, in 2024

Looking ahead: Paloma Faith, The Glorification Of Sadness Tour 2024, York Barbican, May 12

NEXT spring, Paloma Faith will play York for the first time since her York Racecourse Music Showcase set on Knavesmire in June 2018, promoting her sixth studio album, next February’s The Glorification Of Sadness.

Her new songs will be “celebrating finding your way back after leaving a long-term relationship, being empowered even in your failures and taking responsibility for your own happiness”, following last year’s split from French artist Leyman Lachine. Hull Bonus Arena on May 3 awaits too. Box office: from 10am on October 20, and

In Focus: Chronicled and Summer Art finalists’ exhibitions at Spark: York, Piccadilly, York, today and tomorrow

Spark summer art under-15s competition winner Emily Saunders with her mother Samantha and Spark:York resident artist and judging panellist Leon François Dumont

SPARK:YORK, the creative community space in Piccadilly, York, is hosting two exhibitions this weekend, both exploring themes powerfully relevant to our communities today.

Chronicled is a pop-up show organised by the University of York’s Ukrainian Society, showcasing works by Kyiv street photographer Dima Leonenko.

His dynamic vision of everyday life in the Ukrainian capital during the Russianfull-scale invasion is reflected through his film photos. ”When I see a character or a scene that catches my attention, I just press the button and capture it,” he says.

On show from 12 noon to 10.30pm today and tomorrow, Dima’s exhibition will be accompanied by an interactive project that allows visitors to immerse themselves in the “war-life reality’’ of the Ukrainian people. The event takes place in Spark:York’s co-working space downstairs, with a drinks welcome, from 6pm to 8pm tonight.

The poster for Kyiv street photographer Dima Leonenko’s Chronicled exhibition at Spark:York today and tomorrow

Spark:York also will be showcasing artworks submitted to its summer art competition, set up to  encourage York-based artists to imagine the city’s future 100 years from now and share their ideas, fears and hopes surrounding the impact of climate change on this historic city.

Leon François Dumont, Spark:York resident artist and judging panel member, says: ”In this art exhibition, we’ve witnessed a remarkable outpouring of creativity from both young and adult artists.

“From a city transformed by shipping containers to a bubble-like dome preserving York under water, these artworks by the finalists are a testament to the power of imagination.”

The exhibition can be viewed in Spark:York’s Show studio upstairs today and tomorrow from 12 noon to 9pm. Guests are invited to contribute to a time capsule created on the day by leaving a message and a memento for the people of York in 2050, the year of the UK’s net zero target. Spark: York hopes to pass the time capsule on to the City of York Council for safekeeping.

The VRAC (Vape Recycling Awareness Campaign) art installation SUCKERED – not – SUCCOURED in the making for display at Spark:York this weekend

At the front of Spark:York will be an art installation by VRAC (Vape Recycling Awareness Campaign), a York campaign group that has been been working with Spark:York over the past 18 months to collect used vapes that would otherwise end up being discarded, either in landfills or down drains, polluting waterways and ground water with toxic metals. An estimated 1.5 million per week are discarded in this way.

Group founder Mick Storey says: ”The SUCKERED – not – SUCCOURED installation, using some 3,000 used vapes, conveys a message about our responsibility to all our young people and the future generations yet to come who will inherit whatever future it is we leave behind us.”

Spark:York “hopes that both exhibitions can open a discussion around the future of our communities, as well as provoke reflections and meaningful actions that can help build a better world for us all”.

Entry to both exhibitions is free.  For more information, head to:

NEWS ALERT: 26/10/2023

The York In 100 Years exhibition has moved to Spark:York’s pop-up space, where it will be on display until November 5.

Lowri Clarke, winner of the 15-plus categrory of the Spark summer art competition

York Shakespeare Project deep into rehearsals for first full-scale production by Bard rival, Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II

James Lee, left, as Gaveston and Jack Downey as Edward II in rehearsal for York Shakespeare Project’s Edward II. All reheasal pictures: John Saunders

AT the heart of phase two of York Shakespeare Project over the next 25 years is the mission to stage not only all of Shakespeare’s plays, but also the finest works of his contemporaries.

Next week, the Bard’s rival in focus will be playwright, poet and translator Christopher “Kit”  Marlowe, writer of The Tragicall History of Dr Faustus; Tamburlaine The Great; Dido, Queen Of Carthage; Edward II; The Massacre At Paris and The Jew Of Malta.

York Shakespeare Project (YSP) will stage his intimate historical tragedy Edward II (The Troublesome Reign and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second, King of England) under the direction of Tom “Strasz” Straszewski at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, from October 17 to 21 at 7.30pm plus a 2.30pm Saturday matinee.

Strasz previously directed The Merry Wives Of Windsor in 2012 and The Two Noble Kinsmen in 2018, now joining Paul Toy, Mark France and Ben Prusiner as three-time directors for YSP. 

“We were delighted that Tom emerged from a strong field to be chosen as the director of the first non-Shakespeare play of YSP’s new project,” says chair Tony Froud.

“Strasz brings great knowledge and wide experience of directing Elizabethan and Jacobean drama and promises an innovative interpretation of Marlowe’s fascinating text.”

Cassi Roberts, left, as Kent and Emma Scott as Young Mortimer

Edward II is king at last. Determined to shower his loved ones with gifts, he summons his exiled lover, Piers Gaveston, 1st Earl of Cornwall. In the face of a king, court and country intoxicated by their passions, the Queen takes her own lover, whereupon the nation is torn apart in a merciless divorce. Their child watches from the shadows, desperate to mend this broken family and nation or bring them to heel.

“This is a play about power and love – who has it, who gives it, who takes it, and who suffers for it,” says Tony. “For this production, we began by exploring the play through creative workshops, editing a script that reflects the people in the room. No characters were cast until after this process.”

Strasz’s cast will be led by Jack Downey as Edward II, James Lee as Gaveston and Danae Arteaga Hernandez as Isabel. Joining them will be Emma Scott as Young Mortimer; Effie Warboys, Princess Edie; Adam Kadow, Spenser; Cassi Roberts, Kent; Alan Sharp, Warwick, and James Tyler as Lancaster/Gurvey.

So too will be Stuart Lindsay as The Bishop; Elizabeth Painter, Margaret de Clare; Charlie Barrs, Maltravers; Harry Summers, Mortimer Senior; Tom Jennings, Lightborn; Emily Hansen, Pembroke, and Robyn Jankel, Philippa of Hainault.

Drawing on personal responses to the script and their own experiences, Strasz’s cast members bring a fresh and modern perspective to Marlowe’s 1592 work. “Like Marlowe himself, we wanted to focus less on historical accuracy or psychological realism, and instead as a fantasia of power and love. This is a fearful England,” says the director, who was at the helm of York Mystery Plays productions in 2018 and 2022.

Cassi Roberts, left, back, as Kent, Emma Scott as Young Mortimer, James Lee as Gaveston, Thomas Jennings as Lightborn, Stuart Lindsay as the Bishop, Emily Hansen as Pembroke and Alan Sharp as Warwick

“Edward, his court and his child all try to protect themselves, but without uniting together they’re vulnerable. Edward is usually portrayed as a weak king, but we found this to be untrue:  Marlowe presents him as somebody who fights fiercely to protect his loved ones, despite his hatred of war and the devastation it brings.

When his lover, Gaveston, is brutally murdered, he finally becomes the king the medieval nobles want him to be – warmongering, merciless, elitist – and it’s to everybody’s cost.”

For James Lee (Gaveston), the play touches on contemporary issues of cancel culture, celebrity and social mobility, with his character destroyed for daring to reach above his station.

“I think Marlowe would get a real kick out of how relevant his characters are. In a world of tabloids and gossip, characters like Gaveston rise and fall every day,” he says. “Social mobility is championed and demonised. We’re never allowed to forget the roles we are supposed to play, regardless of our dreams.”

To aid accessibility for deaf and hard-of-hearing audience members, all performances will include closed captions.

Tickets are available at or by emailing the box office at

The poster for York Shakespeare Project’s Edward II