Anna Soden turns love of grumpy magical creature into streamed Five Children And It show on Explore York’s YouTube channel

Anna Soden in rehearsal for her children’s show Five Children And It

YORK company Strawberry Lion will premiere its streamed production of E Nesbit’s Five Children And It on Explore York libraries’  YouTube channel on Wednesday (7/4/2021) at 6pm.

Written and performed by York actor, musician, writer, theatre-maker and company founder Anna Soden, the show will be available online for free until 5pm on April 14.

Directed by Theatre Royal youth theatre director Kate Veysey, with music and lyrics by Jim Harbourne, the show is presented in association with Scarborough community producing company Arcade.

Suitable for family audiences aged five and upwards, this adaptation of Nesbit’s 1902 children’s novel is set on a Scarborough beach, as Anna invites you to “join Anthea as she tells her magical story through music, story-telling and puppetry,” promising that “sometimes the best adventures can happen on your doorstep”.

Anna was last seen on a York stage, or, rather, myriad stages in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime, touring the city wards as a rapping, funky, blue and pink-haired, multi-tasking Fairy, more likely to hit the bass line than wave a wand, as flashy as her lit-up boots, with guitar in hand or trumpet between her lips.

In the summer, she had popped up in the Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio season in York company Cosmic Collective Theatre’s rain-sodden afternoon performance of Heaven’s Gate, Joe Feeney’s ‌intergalactic‌ ‌pitch‌-black‌ comedy.

Strawberry Lion’s show poster for Five Children And It

There is no need to book for Strawberry Lion’s Five Children And It; simply head to @yorkexplore’s YouTube channel.

Here, Anna answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions on Strawberry Lion, E Nesbit’s book, Scarborough beach, Cosmic Collective Theatre and York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime.

When and why did you form Strawberry Lion?

“I made Strawberry Lion in September 2020. I’d had a great time re-staging Heaven’s Gate with Cosmic Collective Theatre over the summer, and was keen to continue making my own work, and expand my practice outside of just acting into writing/making.

“I’d never had time to do it before, but when theatres shut and acting work dried up last year, I knew that was my opportunity.”


Why did you choose the name Strawberry Lion?

“I remember a conversation with a friend when I was really young about words that shouldn’t go together, but when they do, they evoke a really strong tactile taste/ texture/mood, like Strawberry, Lion.

Strawberry Lion’s logo

“That’s always stuck in my brain. I essentially love those two words together, and it somehow represents the work I want to make quite well.”

Who else is involved in the company?

“Kate Veysey, from York Theatre Royal, is directing this project, and Sophie Drury Bradey, of Arcade, has been a monumental help as a consultant producer.”

What shows have you done so far?
“My play Mad For Our Daughters is being developed with [York-born, Manchester-based] singer-songwriter Harriet Forgan, and we performed an extract of the piece at the Belgrade Music Hall in Leeds in September, but Five Children and It will be Strawberry Lion’s first full-length show.”

Why adapt Five Children And It? Was this a story you read as a child?
“Yes! My mum introduced me to it. I had a very, very old, battered copy as a child that I used to take on holidays and read.

“So, when I was on the look-out for the perfect family story to adapt, I couldn’t believe Five Children And It wasn’t more widely done. It’s such a magical story, and I love how the magical creature in it is so grumpy. There’s a lot of fun in that!”

“I couldn’t believe Five Children And It wasn’t more widely done,” says Anna. “It’s such a magical story, and I love how the magical creature in it is so grumpy”

What age group will you be aiming the show at?
“It’s billed as ‘5+’, but I hope there’s something there for every age!”

Why set the story on Scarborough beach?
“Despite living in London for six years, I feel like Yorkshire and the North is always present in my writing, so I really wanted to embrace that. I love Scarborough – Scarbados!

“A huge theme in my adaptation is about finding adventure where you are: a reflection of what we all have to do while we can’t travel outside of our local area. It’s also about learning to appreciate your home, and we certainly are lucky to have a prehistoric coastline here in North Yorkshire.”

Where and how did you record the streamed performance?

“We recorded the performance in February in York Theatre Royal’s Billiard Room, with a fantastic team: filmed by Wayne Sables and Stan Gaskell and audio mixed by Oliver Ibbotson.”

How did Kate Veysey become involved as director?  Does your link go back to York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre days?
“Yes, I grew up in the youth theatre and adored my time there. I worked closely with Kate when I was playing Lyra in His Dark Materials as a teenager, and Kate also gave me support watching my audition speeches for drama school.

Director Kate Veysey in rehearsal for Five Children And It

“I’ve always come back to see the main-house shows and am constantly in awe of her Theatre Royal Youth Theatre productions. I think she’s an absolutely fantastic director, and I needed someone who knows theatre for young audiences inside out, so it was a no-brainer for me to ask her to direct. It’s a lovely full circle to be working with her as an adult.”

Jim Harbourne has written the music and lyrics. Have you worked with him before?
“No, I met Jim in the Summerhall courtyard in Edinburgh in 2018. I was in a Fringe show there, and Jim’s show, Myth Of A Singular Moment, was on in the same venue.

“I went to see it and adored it, and I couldn’t get over how gorgeous his music was. I’ve been itching to work with him ever since. I’m so thrilled he said ‘yes’ as his work in Five Children And It is MAGICAL.”

How did Explore York Libraries become involved?
“I approached them when I was putting in my Arts Council England project grant bid last autumn. Since it’s such a classic book, I felt the library was the perfect home for the show.”

Joe Feeney and Anna Soden in Cosmic Collective Theatre’s Heaven’s Gate

Any news on upcoming Cosmic Collective Theatre projects?
“I know Joe [Feeney] has been writing non-stop over lockdown, so we’ll be looking forward to starting new projects once the world gets a bit safer.”

The ground-breaking Travelling Pantomime went so well. What did you learn from that performance experience?

“It was a glorious experience! I guess I learnt that we can find a safe way through all this: live theatre is possible, and can be super safe, even at the height of the pandemic!

“It was also a nice reminder to not take performing for granted. When it’s your job, and I’ve been lucky to have worked quite consistently, there’s a danger you can get into a routine – but with this scenario, and restrictions changing all the time, we were performing every show like it could have been our last!”

When and where might you perform Five Children And It once live performances are feasible?

“It hasn’t been announced yet, so I don’t think I can say, but there will be a performance next month.” [A cursory inspection of the Strawberry Lion website reveals a show date of May 29 at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, but watch this space for confirmation of the exact details.]  

It’s all about the bass: Anna Soden’s funky Fairy in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime last December

York Theatre Royal takes Youth Theatre online for new term of interactive sessions

Harvey Harrison, aged eight, taking part in a York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre online session at home in York

YORK Theatre Royal’s Youth Theatre is back in action…online, complete with scavenger hunts and kitchen discos.

The St Leonard’s Place building remains closed under Lockdown 3 strictures, ruling out the usual face-to-face sessions there, but here comes Zoom to lift any feelings of doom and gloom for participants in one of the North’s largest youth theatres.

Youth Theatre membership takes in 150 children and young people from across York and the surrounding areas, divided into ten age groups spanning five to 19, with each group working towards developing skills and experience in a variety of theatre disciplines.

Five groups for the older members began in November but had to be moved online after the first session in response to the second lockdown.

“These proved really successful,” says Julian Ollive, head of creative engagement.  “Face-to-face contact with our young people, being in the same space, working collaboratively and creatively, is really what we’re about and what we value. Unfortunately, this new lockdown has thwarted our ability to go live but we’re going ahead with running our classes online again.”

Julian continues: “In a time of great uncertainty, we believe it’s important to begin the process of coming back to a ‘normal’, which, for us, is working directly with children and young people in our community.

Martha and Wilf in an age five to eight group session on Zoom with practitioner Fiona Baistow, assistant Fiona and mentor Katherine

“Although we would have loved to welcome back our members face to face, we’re  excited by the creative challenges and opportunities that working online will bring.”

Youth Theatre director Kate Veysey says: “Offering youth theatre online gives us new opportunities to connect with the young people in different ways. We feel this is even more important at a time when they have additional pressures on them.

“The chance to connect, to work with their friends and make new ones, and be creative together, is fantastic.

“It’s been really wonderful welcoming back our young people to youth theatre, as well as some new members. In our first week back, we’ve had scavenger hunts, kitchen discos and props and costumes from everyone’s homes. It’s a joy to work together. 

“Our practitioners are relishing the challenge of making our online delivery as exciting and vibrant as our live sessions have been in the past until we can safely offer these again.”

The 14 to 19 age group is rehearsing the play Tuesday for NT Connections, a digital festival that brings together groups from around the country, this year remotely. In light of the festival going online, rehearsals are applying options within this format, such as breakout rooms to work on separate scenes, using props and making sound effects from home sources to support the text.

York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre’s 14 to 19 company working on the play Tuesday for the NT Connections festival

Among those joining in the new 2021 sessions from home in York is eight-year-old Harvey Harrison, pictured above, whose mother Hayley says: “Harvey has been a member of Youth Theatre for just over two years and in that time the activity has brought him a huge amount of pleasure.

“It’s been a fantastic creative outlet for a child who is often, socially anyway, quite reserved and he has developed a new-found bravery and sense of poise. The physical thrill he gets from the performance opportunities is perfectly complemented by his quiet and growing confidence.”

In part inspired by the impact of taking the York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime to community venues last month, the Theatre Royal is planning to move the Youth Theatre further out into the community once restrictions allow.

Friargate Meeting House and New Earswick Folk Hall will then host groups throughout the week, as well as the Youth Theatre continuing to work in spaces at the Theatre Royal.

“We’re excited by the prospect of continuing the reach into our community, so positively felt and received through the Travelling Pantomime,” said Julian.

Visit yorktheatreroyal.co.uk for more information on joining York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre and applying online for a Y card, the new youth membership scheme. The card costs £5 and provides notifications when spaces in the youth theatre become available, invitations to games sessions and tasters, discounted membership rates on tickets, events and much more.

Go to: https://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/be-part-of-it/children-and-young-people/youth-theatre/ or email youththeatre@yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

 

Sunday is Fun Day all day online for bored Travelling Pantomime comic Josh Benson

Josh Benson: Ready to entertain you online all day on Sunday

JOSH Benson, “Just Joshing” comic star of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime, is bored in Lockdown 3.

“Anyone up for Josh Day?” asks the York magician, actor, children’s entertainer, music hall act and Corntroller of Entertainment at York Maze, on his Facebook feed.

The online day in question is “Funday Sunday”, January 24.  “Several different lil’ shows/workshops/general front room daftness, throughout the day and into the evening on Facebook Live,” he promises. “Various content/times TBC. I’m open to suggestions…!”

To make those suggestions for his full day of virtual live shows, contact Josh via facebook.com/JoshBensonEntertainer

Joshing around: Josh Benson in the comic’s role in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime in December. Picture: Ant Robling

What did we learn from York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime roadshow?

Robin Simpson’s dame and Reuben Johnson’s villain in far-from-subtle disguise in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

YORK Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime has been brought to a sudden stop by the Spectre of Christmas Present: the rapid rise in Covid cases in York.

Nevertheless, despite the loss of four post-Christmas shows this week, the decision to go on the road to as many of York’s 21 wards as possible has been vindicated.

Creative director Juliet Forster’s cast of Josh Benson’s rubber-bodied comic turn, Reuben Johnson’s Meerkat-accented villain, Anna Soden’s bass-playing funky fairy, Faye Campbell’s assertive hero and Robin Simpson’s droll dame played to full house after full house.

Despite no recorded transmission of the virus at any performance from December 2 to 23, the Theatre Royal has ruled the show must not go on, foregoing the resumption of its 70-minutes-straight-through, socially distanced touring production, having initially added a handful of post-Christmas shows.

Exit stage left too early, but we still learnt that Josh “Just Joshing” Benson, pocket-dynamo York magician, clown, comic, actor and children’s entertainer, is a natural fit for the silly billy/daft lad role. No magic tricks this time, but that skill is up his sleeve for the future.

Likewise, Robin Simpson’s dame, less outwardly demonstrative but more subtly sophisticated than the average panto man in a dress, is utterly comfortable, cheekily conspiratorial and joyful in the most revered of all pantomime parts.

Victory: Faye Campbell’s hero in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

So far, so good, but the still-blossoming Josh is tied into a contract as the Viaduct Theatre’s pantomime comic turn in Halifax, after making his debut there in Beauty And The Beast last winter, while Robin lives in Huddersfield, where he is bedded in as the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s dame. Both are set to return to fruitful past pastures next winter.

Johnson, York actor Soden and Campbell all made their mark too in shows blessed with terrific scripts by Paul Hendy, the award-winning co-founder of Evolution Productions, the Theatre Royal’s new partner in pantomime.

The handing-over of the panto baton after last winter’s toxic severance from Berwick Kaler’s 41-year venerated damehood should have seen the triumvirate of Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird, creative director Juliet Forster and Evolution director, producer and writer Paul Hendy presenting Cinderella on the main-house stage.

However, the pestilent Coronavirus pandemic cancelled invitations to the ball, after the St Leonard’s Place building was cast into darkness on March 16. Lockdown 1 and ever-changing rules ensued but in mid-September, the panto trio made the decision to take theatre to the people in the form of the pop-up Travelling Pantomime.

Each location, ranging from church halls to community centres, the Theatre Royal pop-up stage to social clubs and sports halls, had to be Covid-secure, adhering to Government guidance for staging socially distanced performances with capacities ranging from 35 to 50.

At each show, the audience members could vote for whether they wanted to see Dick Whittington, Jack And The Beanstalk or Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs.

“The one thing I always want to do is bring joy,” says Evolution Productions’ Paul Hendy, writer of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

Hendy switched smoothly to this new writing task, for a cast of five, with no dance ensemble and no house band: just another challenge faced by Evolution Productions, who have still been involved in seven pantomime productions in this Covid-compromised year.

“In a strange way, I quite enjoyed Lockdown, time with the kids, and not the constant pressure of putting on shows; just the contrast of going out and listening to the birds,” says Paul.

Once the path ahead became clearer, although still shrouded in uncertainty, he and Evolution set to work on co-producing six shows, along with Paul providing the York scripts and directing Dick Whittington, The Pompey Panto at the Kings Theatre, Portsmouth.

From Operation Sleeping Beauty to Nurse Nanny Saves Panto to Damian Saves Panto, Paul penned a series of one-off new shows attuned to Covid times, while his York scripts sought to bottle and preserve the essence of pantomime.

“Awaiting the Government pandemic update on December 16, all we could do was roll with it, go ahead and start rehearsals – which qualified as ‘going to work’ and set about our aim to save pantomime,” says Paul.

“It doesn’t feel fair that the Government can say, ‘No, you can’t go ahead’, when there’s no evidence there’s been an outburst of Covid after theatres reopened with social distancing, especially as a lot of theatres have spent a lot of money on the infrastructure to make theatres a safe place to go, but what can we do?

Travelling players: Robin Simpson’s dame, Faye Campbell’s hero, Reuben Johnson’s villain, Anna Soden’s fairy and Josh Benson’s comic in the York Theatre Royal pantomime roadshow

“But then the pandemic is not fair on anyone in all sorts of industries, and that’s why, at this time, people needed pantomime more than ever.”

Thankfully, York’s Tier 2 status ensured that the Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime could roll out across York with Hendy’s scripts built around the baddie trying to steal the essence of pantomime. “The shows had to be full of laughter, community spirit and topical gags, as there’s so much material there this year,” he says.

Paul relished the opportunity to take pantomime into all manner of venues. “I’ve always said that pantomime can work in a black-box setting with just five actors because of that compact configuration and connection with the audience, and this year that’s what’s happened,” he says.

“It still works because pantomime is an interactive theatre genre – and how many other forms of theatre can you say appeal to five year olds and 95 year olds alike?”

One emotion above all others permeated through Paul’s pantos. “The one thing I always want to do is bring joy, make it funny of course, but ultimately make it a show driven by joy – and we did that,” he says. 

Josh Benson and Robin Simpson may not be back in Theatre Royal colours next winter, but Paul Hendy most definitely will, when Cinderella and York alike will have a ball.

Copyright of The Press, York

York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime stopped in its tracks by rise in Covid cases

Why the glum face, Dame Trott (Robin Simpson)? Blame the pandemic yet again as York Theatre Royal calls off the last week of performances of the Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

THE wheels have come off York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime within touching distance of the final curtain.

The rapid rise in York’s Coronavirus cases has brought the runaway success of the sold-out show to a shuddering halt as the Covid curse strikes yet again.

Despite no recorded transmission of the virus at any performance so far, the Theatre Royal has decided the show must not go on, foregoing the resumption its 70-minutes-straight-through, socially distanced, Covid-secure touring production, having initially added a handful of post-Christmas shows.

The rolling seven-day Covid rate for the City of York Council area in the week to December 23 was 218.4 per 100,000 population, higher than the regional average of 189.1 for Yorkshire and The Humber, and the big-city rates of 172.4 in Sheffield, 190.6 in Bradford and 184.8 in Leeds, but still much lower than the national average for England of 401.9.

The figure is higher than the average of 174.7 for North Yorkshire and 179.1 for East Yorkshire. Most disturbingly, York’s rate his risen steeply since a figure of 65 cases per 100,000 population a fortnight ago, an acceleration to which the influx of rule-breaking Tier 3 visitors and Christmas shoppers is thought likely to have contributed.

Travelling Pantomime director Juliet Forster with writer Paul Hendy, right, and York Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird. Picture: Ant Robling

Explaining the decision, Theatre Royal chief executive Tom Bird says: “It is with great regret we have decided that the pantomime will not resume for its post-Christmas performances. This has been a tough decision to make, but we feel it is the right one.

“I pay tribute to the whole of the York Theatre Royal team for producing so many performances under such extraordinary conditions, and their diligence and hard work is borne out by the fact that we have no recorded transmission of the virus at the pantomime.”

After two previews at the Theatre Royal, the Travelling Pantomime team took the show to community venues in Tang Hall, Dunnington, Wigginton, Holgate, Clifton Moor, Elvington, Poppleton, Acomb, Carr Lane, Strensall, Copmanthorpe, Fulford, Heworth and Guildhall, to meet the aim of visiting all 21 wards in the city.

This week’s performances by Josh Benson’s comic turn, Robin Simpson’s dame, Anna Soden’s fairy, Faye Campbell’s hero and Reuben Johnson’s villain would have taken the company close to that target by the December 31 finale.

Well travelled: York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime cast and crew for performances across a multitude of York wards this month

“The theatre wants to thank the brilliant audiences, who have supported the pantomime in their local venues, and City of York Council, who have helped to distribute over 200 free tickets to families in need on the run-up to Christmas.”

Box-office staff will be in touch with ticket holders for cancelled performances in the next few days. Those shows would have taken place at Moor Lane Youth Centre, Dringhouses, last night; Southlands Methodist Church Hall, Bishopthorpe Road, tonight, and York Theatre Royal, tomorrow and Thursday.

The York Theatre Royal pantomime, co-produced with 2020 pantomime partners Evolution Productioms, will return to the main house for Cinderella from December 3 to January 2 2022.

Now that the Traveling Pantomime van has parked up for the last time, CharlesHutchPress can reveal that each audience’s vote to pick a panto from Dick Whittington, Jack And The Beanstalk and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs in reality came down to a choice of two.

Courtesy of writer Paul Hendy, each show’s early gag about the Rule of Six ruled out the Seven Dwarfs. “We had to lose one of the dwarfs,” said Robin Simpson’s dame. “Wasn’t Happy!” Boom! Boom!

Brought to its knees: York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime loses out to the city’s rising Coronavirus cases. No joke for comic turn Josh “Just Joshing” Benson et al. Picture: Ant Robling

YORK’S other pantomime, York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, will continue to run at Theatre @41 Monkgate, unless the Government’s Covid briefing tomorrow pronounces a change in York’s Tier 2 status.

Writer-director Nik Briggs’s show has upcoming performances until January 3 2021 with full details at yorkstagepanto.com. Watch this space for an update tomorrow.

More Things To Do in and around Tier 2 York at little merry Christmas time and beyond. List No. 22, from The Press, York

Blending into the scenery: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Nanna Trott in an anything-but-smoothie moment in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk. Picture: Kirkpatrick Photography

CHRISTMAS is on the way, in whatever form the Government allows you to wrap it up, but tiers will not be shed in the world of entertainment.

Charles Hutchinson picks his way through what’s on in the days ahead and in 2021 too.

Jessa Liversidge: Celebrating her favourite musical icons of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s at Sunday’s concert

Nostalgic concert of the week: Jessa Liversidge, Songbirds, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, Sunday, 7.30pm

YORK’S unstoppable force for the joy of singing, Jessa Liversidge, will present her celebration of female icons at the reopened JoRo this weekend, accompanied by pianist Malcolm Maddock.

Expect an eclectic mix of vintage pop, musical theatre and comedy from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. “One minute I may be in full, high-energy Victoria Wood flow,” she says. “Moments later, I could be totally still, lost in a Kate Bush or Karen Carpenter song, and then I’ll go straight into theatrical mode for Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns.”

Have yourself a medley little Christmas: York Guildhall Orchestra musicians box up their musical gift for you

Home comfort and joy: York Guildhall Orchestra’s Lockdown Christmas Medley, on YouTube

PERFORMED by more than 50 amateur York musicians, all playing in their own home, then seamlessly stitched together for YouTube by John Guy’s technical wizardry, here comes York Guildhall Orchestra’s Christmas Medley.

Arranged by conductor Simon Wright, they keep to the Wright time as they “play together” for the first time since February’s York Barbican concert, medleying their way through Hark!, The Herald Angels Sing, Ding Dong!, Silent Night And We Wish You A Merry Christmas. View their four-minute smile at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuoW6gvkGxk.

Elf and safety: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, the Covid-secure drive-in cinema, parks up at Elvington Airfield tomorrow

Drive-in home for Christmas: Daisy Dukes Winter Wonderland, Elvington Airfield, near York, December 18 to 20

NOT only have Vue York at Clifton Moor and Everyman York, in Blossom Street, reopened but 2020’s socially distanced, car-contained drive-in boom hits the Christmas movie market from tomorrow too.

The apostrophe-shy Daisy Dukes Drive-in Cinema takes over Elvington Airfield for three days to show: December 18, from 12 noon, Frozen 2, Home Alone, Edward Scissorhands and Die Hard; December 19, from 12 noon, Elf, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins and Bad Santa; December 20, from 11am, The Polar Express, Home Alone 2, Batman Returns and Love Actually.

Clowning around: Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Circus

Children’s virtual show of the week outside York: Pocklington Arts Centre presents Magic Carpet Theatre in Magic Circus, from Saturday

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre is to stream Magic Carpet Theatre’s show Magic Circus from 2.30pm on December 19, available on YouTube for up to seven days.

Directed by Jon Marshall with music by Geoff Hardisty and effects by Theatrical Pyrotechnics, this fast-moving hour-long show, full of magical illusions, comedy, circus skills and puppets, tells the humorous tale of what happens to the ringmaster’s extravaganza after the artistes and elephants fail to arrive and everything has to be left in the hands of the clowns. Disaster!

What a Carr-y on: Alan Carr rearranges York Barbican gigs for 2021…and 2022

Who should have been in York this week? Alan Carr: Not Again, Alan!, York Barbican, now re-scheduled

ALAN Carr, comic son of former York City footballer Graham Carr, had been booked in to perform Not Again, Alan! at York Barbican again and again this week, four nights in fact, from Wednesday to Saturday, on his first tour in four years.

Covid kicked all that into touch, but all tickets remain valid for the new dates. December 16 2020 is now in the diary for January 14 2022; December 17 for January 15 2022; December 18 for December 18 2021, and December 19 for the same day next year.

TV and radio presenter Carr will muse on the things that make his life weird and wonderful, from his star-studded wedding day to becoming an accidental anarchist; from fearing for his life at border control to becoming a reluctant farmer. “Three words spring to mind,” he says. “Not again, Alan!”

Crystal clear: Fairfax House raises a glass to a Georgian Christmas in A Season For Giving

Exhibition for the winter: A Season For Giving, Fairfax House, York, running until February 7

THE Christmas installation at the Georgian home of the Terry family, Fairfax House, ironically will not be open from December 21 to January 5, so catch it before then or afterwards (Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am to 4pm).

On a festive journey through the townhouse collections, room by room, magical scene by magical scene, meet Noel Terry for a 1940s’ family Christmas, join a raucous Georgian Christmas dinner party, and much more besides. Visits must be pre-booked.

Having a ball: Amy J Payne, Julia Mariko Smith and Marie Claire Breen in Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella for Opera North

Opera North at Christmas:  Whistle Stop Opera: Cinderella, ONDemand from today

OPERA North’s Whistle Stop Opera version of Cinderella was booked into the NCEM in York and Pocklington Arts Centre but Covid ruled No Show. Instead, parents and children aged five upwards can enjoy it online at home over the school holidays.

Filmed at Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, John Savournin’s magical musical production stars Marie Claire Breen as Cinderella, Amy J Payne as Prince/Stepmother and Julia Mariko Smith as Fairy Godmother, drawing on various versions of the rags-to-riches tale, such as Rossini’s La Cenerentola, Massenet’s Cendrillon, Pauline Viardot’s operetta Cendrillon and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical Cinderella. For more details on how to watch, go to operanorth.co.uk

Braced for it: Van Morrison will play two nights at York Barbican next May

Big-name Irish signings for York Barbican in 2021: Van Morrison, May 25 and 26, and Chris De Burgh and Band, October 15

NORTHERN Irishman Van Morrison, 75, has booked a brace of Barbican gigs for the spring; Southern Irishman Chris De Burgh, will follow him to York next autumn.

In September, Morrison launched three protest songs, one every two weeks, railing against safety measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19: Born To Be Free, As I Walked Out and No More Lockdown. Will he unmask any of them next May? Wait and see.

De Burgh & Band’s only Yorkshire date of The Legend Of Robin Hood & Other Hits tour will support his upcoming album of the same name (except for the Other Hits part, obviously).

Arrowing experience: Chris De Burgh & Band will perform his 2021 tour show, The Legend Of Robin Hood & Other Hits, at York Barbican

And what about?

JUST a reminder, York has two pantomimes on the go: York Theatre Royal’s newly extended Travelling Pantomime tour of the city and York Stage’s “musical with pantomime braces on”, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41 Monkgate.

You’ve got to fight for your right to panto: Faye Campbell’s hero takes on Reuben Johnson’s villain in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

REVIEW: Theatre Royal’s travelling show for the people rescues the essence of panto

Switched on at all times: Robin Simpson’s joke-generation dame lights up York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime. All pictures: Ant Robling

REVIEW: York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, New Earswick Folk Hall, York, 5/12/2020

NO Rolling Stones show goes by without rock’n’roll’s greatest paleontological survivor, Keith Richards, leaning into his microphone to mumble: “It’s good to be here…it’s good to be anywhere”.

Lo and behold, “It’s great to be here…it’s kind of great to be anywhere,” says York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime’s comic turn, Josh “Just Joshing” Benson, at the outset of Saturday evening’s Covid-secure, socially distanced, temperature-tested, bubble-seated pantomime.

How right he is. Saturday was day four of the new dawn of the York Theatre Royal pantomime, the  first after 40 years in the wildness of the Dame Berwick Kaler era. Until Covid-19 became the joyless new villain, out to destroy the land of theatre, Cinderella was to have marked the transition from Kaler capers to a new partnership with regular Great British Pantomime Award winners Evolution Productions.

On his knees but not for long: York Theatre Royal’s inexhaustible pantomime comic turn Josh Benson

When invitations to the ball turned to cinders, chief executive Tom Bird, creative director Juliet Forster and Evolution writer-director Paul Hendy decided to tear up the script and compose three new ones instead to take the panto to the people.

Hence it is indeed great to be here, there and everywhere, because, while the Theatre Royal main stage awaits resuscitation in 2021, the Travelling Pantomime will definitely be pitching up at 16 of York’s 21 wards, possibly more if Covid-safe passage can yet be guaranteed to others. At least four more shows are being lined up for after Christmas and a recording of the second-night preview will be made available for streaming soon too.

On Saturday, New Earswick Folk Hall was transformed into a theatre for the first time, creating an impromptu stage with Hannah Sibai’s red-curtained, green-framed travelling theatre frontage and a traditional pantomime backdrop.

It’s all about the bass: York Theatre Royal’s multi-tasking fairy, singing captain and musician Anna Soden

Everything is slimmed down – a cast of five, no ensemble, no live band, no interval, no panto cow, but less just means being more inventive and cramming so much into what we are told will be an hour but stretches gladly well beyond.

Edinburgh Fringe shows work to tight running times, and quality, not quantity, rules here too. To Paul Hendy, that means bottling up the “the essence of panto” and right now, in Covid-19 2020, that essence is Joy.

Once we are introduced not just to Just Josh’s rubber-bodied comic, but also Robin Simpson’s classic dame, Faye Campbell’s modern hero, super-tall Reuben Johnson’s villain and Anna Soden’s trumpet/guitar/bass-playing fairy, we must vote for our choice of show: Dick Whittington, Jack And The Beanstalk or Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. Seven dwarves, note; there is a knock-out joke a’coming.

Hitting the Jack-pot: Faye Campbell’s super hero in Jack And The Beanstalk

Jack won out on Saturday: Josh becoming, well, Josh, with the daftest streak of blond in his hair since Kevin Petersen pummelled 158 against Australia with a skunk plonked on his bonce in 2005. He is a lovably daft ball of energy, cheeky but not saucy, and if he kept his magic tricks up his sleeve this time, what an asset for the future.

Simpson, on loan from Huddersfield’s  Lawrence Batley Theatre, is the penniless but pun-full, mirthful Dame Trott, reaching for both a cuppa and the gin; Johnson, all in black with a dash of red to match his Russian accent, is a Flesh Creep with an amusingly dismissive air and a mischievous hint of Borat.

Campbell’s Jack must fight the old prejudices against girls being fit for purpose for heroic tasks while keeping the name Jack. Soden’s rapping, funky, blue and pink-haired Fairy is more likely to hit the bass line than wave a wand, as flashy as her lit-up boots.

Kill-joy: Reuben Johnson’s Flesh Creep in Jack And The Beanstalk

Juliet Forster directs with momentum, brio and thrills rather than frills, complemented by Hayley Del Harrison’s fun, compact choreography and musical director James Harrison’s rapid-fire bursts of high-energy songs.

Yes, there is a beanstalk and a Giant called Pundemic. Above all, York Theatre Royal have hit the jackpot with Paul Hendy’s script-writing prowess, love of a double-act routine and a knowingly contrived, convoluted path to a pay-off line.

He handles the pandemic crisis with a success rate to make the Government jealous, throwing in topical references galore with witty, often unpredictable Pandemime punchlines, but nothing insensitive in such traumatic times.

Writer Paul Hendy: Bottling the essence of pantomime, labelled with joy

A magazine title slapstick to-and-fro between Benson and Simpson is already a contender for panto scene of the year, and if there are jokes for adults, Hendy favours a Gilbert O’Sullivan song title, rather than adult material or in-jokes.

Pantomime 1, Pandemic 0, the Travelling Pantomime triumphs on its already sold-out run to December 23. Hendy will be back next winter for the full Evolution to roll out; Benson is due to return to the Victoria Theatre panto in Halifax next Christmas, alas, but his Theatre Royal day will surely come, even if he can’t magic his way out of that one.

Review by Charles Hutchinson

Travelling Pantomime is ready to roll. Next step, York Theatre Royal’s reopening will follow by springtime, confirms chief exec

YES, YES, YES! York children’s entertainer, magician and actor Josh Benson celebrates the opening of York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime, wherein he plays the comic’s role. Picture: Ant Robling

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.

Time for a cuppa: Josh Benson, the comic, and Robin Simpson, the new York Theatre Royal dame, in the Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Ant Robling

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.

York Theatre Royal creative director and Travelling Pantomime director Juliet Forster, chief executive Tom Bird and Evolution Productions director and pantomime writer Paul Hendy

“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.”

Lights on again at last: York Theatre Royal prepares for last night’s first preview of the Travelling Pantomime. Picture: Livy Potter

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.

Ready to travel: York Theatre Royal Travelling Pantomime players Robin Simpson (the dame), Faye Williams (the hero), Reuben Johnson (the villain), Anna Soden (the fairy) and Josh Benson (the comic). Picture: Ant Robling

“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.”

“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,” says chief executive Tom Bird

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.

Copyright of The Press, York

Post-Lockdown 2, lights on for More Things To Do in and around York and at home. List No 20, courtesy of The Press, York

Travelling players: York Theatre Royal pantomime stars Robin Simpson’s dame, Faye Williams’ hero, Reuben Johnson’s villain, Anna Soden’s fairy and Josh Benson’s comic. Picture: Ant Robling

EXIT LOCKDOWN 2, enter Tier 2 for York and North Yorkshire, Tier 3 for next-door neighbours The Humber and West Yorkshire.

That means plenty of openings and re-openings for Charles Hutchinson to highlight, but no roads leading to Leeds, Hull or…Pocklington.

The pantomime season in York

NO Dame Berwick Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the still-closed Grand Opera House, alas, but after two nights at the Theatre Royal this week, York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime will be making its way around York’s wards until December 23.

Dame for a laugh: Alex Weatherhill’s Dame Trott in York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York. Picture: Charlie Kirkpatrick

Audience members will vote for whether they want to see Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington or Snow White. All performances have sold out but more may yet be added.

Tickets are still available for York Stage’s Jack And The Beanstalk, directed by Nik Briggs and choreographed by West End hotshot Gary Lloyd at Theatre @41 Monkgate from December 11 to January 3. Fans of York drag diva Velma Celli should look out for creator Ian Stroughair’s transformation into baddie Flesh Creep.

The Marian Consort: Live at the NCEM for the York Early Music Christmas Festival and online for York Christmas At Home

Festival at the double for 2020: York Early Christmas Music Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4 to 12 and York Christmas At Home, December 11 to 13

THE 2020 York Early Music Christmas Festival will be not one, but two festivals, one at the NCEM, the other online. Festive concerts will be performed with Covid-secure safety measures and cabaret-style seating at St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, York, complemented by a new digital weekend festival.

York Christmas At Home will be streamed from December 11 to 13, with the Yuletide music concerts available on demand throughout the Christmas period until January 6 2021.

Performing live will be Palisander, The Marian Consort, Illyria Consort, Joglaresa, The York Waits and Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston, Frederick Long and Peter Seymour. Add The Chiaroscuro Quartet, Matthew Wadsworth and Kate Bennett Wadsworth, Spiritato!, Steven Devine and Stile Antico to that list for the At Home programme.

On your mask, get set, go: Susan Bower’s Christmas Party 2020, newly on show at Kentmere House Gallery, York

Post-Lockdown 2 gallery re-opening: Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, from this evening (3/12/2020)

NEW work by Susan Bower, John Thornton and Rosie Dean has arrived at Kentmere House Gallery in good time for Christmas. Ann Petherick will re-open her home art-space tomorrow evening from 6pm to 9pm, followed by weekend opening each Saturday and Sunday until December 20 from 11am to 5pm.

Oils, watercolours, pastels and original prints by 70 British artists are on display, along with books, greetings cards and Christmas cards exclusive to the gallery.

Visits arranged by appointment will be resuming too, on 01904 656507 or 07801 810825 or by emailing ann@kentmerehouse.co.uk.

Climate change: Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham in Badapple Theatre Company’s The Snow Dancer

Christmas snow: Badapple Theatre Company, in The Snow Dancer, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, December 5, 2.30pm, 7.30pm; December 6, 1pm, 6pm

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre revive their 2019 Christmas hit, 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.

Welcome back: Stu Freestone wants a word with you at Say Owt’s December 11 return to live performance

Owt and about again: Say Owt word weavers at The Crescent, York, December 11, 7pm

SAY Owt, York’s loveable gang of performance poets, are back in live action for the first time since the summer for a night of socially distanced spoken word at The Crescent, re-opening that night with Covid-secure measures and a seated capacity of 60.

Stepping up to the mic will be Say Owt’s A-team of Henry Raby, Hannah Davies, Stu Freestone and Dave Jarman, joined by special guest poets Katie Greenbrown and Ruth Awolola.

“The night will feature a set of banging poems, full of wit and humour to warm your soul this December,” says artistic director Raby. “Expect some brand-new pieces, improv poetry and a few silly surprises hiding up our spoken-word sleeves.”

A guided quest with Potions Professor, magical spells and afternoon tea add up to A Very Magical Christmas on the streets of York

New children’s attraction of the week in York: A Very Magical Christmas, York city centre, until January 5

FROM the creators of A Very Magical Adventure comes A Very Magical Christmas: a live interactive theatrical quest with magical spell-casting and a fun, festive afternoon tea with special effects to knock your socks off. Even a visit from old St Nicholas is promised.

The quest will begin at St Michael le Belfrey, where you will meet your guide, the Potions Professor from Old Jacob’s School of Magic, who will teach you how to cast spells and find clues that will lead you to the secret location of the wizard school. For more details, go to averymagicaladventure.co.uk.

A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail: Solve clues at Beningbrough Hall on various dates in December

Children’s attraction of the week outside York: A Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Activity Trail, Beninbrough Hall, Beningbrough, near York, December 5 and eight other open days, 10am to 3pm

GRAB a £2 goody bag per child while stocks last, complete with an activity sheet, pencil, certificate, badge and play pack, to embark on a family-friendly Peter Rabbit Winter Adventure Trail in the Beningbrough Hall gardens and grounds.

The task is to solve the clues to help Peter and his friends prepare for the winter ahead, while spotting nature in all its seasonal glory. Expect to find Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Jeremy Fisher, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-tail before having your photograph taken beside the Peter Rabbit board.

Do check availability of the goody bags before setting off at nationaltrust.org.uk/beningbrough-hall-gallery-and-gardens

Ghost story for Christmas: Alan Ayckbourn has voiced all the roles for the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s audio version of his 1994 play Haunting Julia. Picture: Tony Bartholomew

And what about?

TUNE into Alan Ayckbourn’s ghost story for a winter chill, his 1994 play Haunting Julia, in an audio version for the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, with all three roles voiced by Ayckbourn, at  sjt.uk.com/event/1078/haunting_julia until January 5.

Don’t miss the SJT’s Christmas show, Nick Lane’s one-woman version of The Snow Queen, starring Polly Lister at some shows, Jacoba Williams at others, from December 7 to 31.

York Barbican has been busy booking shows for 2021: artist and TV presenter Grayson Perry’s existentialist distraction from the very meaningless of life, A Show For Normal People, September 6;  London indie-pop trio Scouting For Girls, October 10; astronaut Tim Peake’s Journey Into The Unknown, November 2, and comedian Sarah Millican’s Bobby Dazzler, November 12 and 13.

“You’ll leave safe and warm in the knowledge that nothing really matters anyway,” promises Grayson Perry

More Things To Do in York and at home in what’s left of Lockdown 2020 and beyond. List No. 18, courtesy of The Press, York

We face the second wave…but somewhere on the horizon….

AFTER the tiers of a clown, now comes the even greater frustration of Lockdown 2 from today, knocking the growing revival of arts, culture and life in general back into hibernation.

Nevertheless, in one chink of light, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has decreed that theatre companies can continue rehearsing shows in Covid-secure workspaces, behind closed doors, with a view to lockdown being lifted in early December.

Whether that turns out to be a mere fairytale, only time will tell, so please forgive the unpredictability of what may or may not be happening.

Charles Hutchinson picks through the debris of Lockdown 2 to find signs of artistic life for now and the months ahead.

Films, films and yet more films: Aesthetica Short Film Festival has a feast of film to enjoy while being stuck at home in lockdown

It’s started and it won’t finish until November 30: Aesthetica Short Film Festival online

YORK’S tenth anniversary Aesthetica Short Film Festival opened on Tuesday, switching from a spread of historic and modern locations to a digital and live-streamed festival for home entertainment, enlightenment and education on phones, TV sets, tablets and computers.

Films in competition at ASFF 2020 will span animation, documentary, drama, dance, fashion and thriller. This year they will be released in six strands this week, with no fewer than ten programmes per day under the strand titles of Just Another Day On Earth; Humans And Their Environment; Connections: People, Places and Identity; Breaking Down Barriers; Reclaiming Space: Universal And Personal and Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life.

Masterclasses, guest speakers, panel discussions, guest film programmes and an industry market are further highlights of an online festival unimpeded by the new lockdown. Go to asff.co.uk for tickets and to download the full programme.

Kate Bramley’s latest podcast: “Some strange and wonderful goings on at the allotment”

Fighting off the new lockdown blues: Badapple Theatre’s Theatre On Your Desktop podcast

GREEN Hammerton’s Badapple Theatre Company has added a new Kate Bramley play to its Theatre On Your Desktop series as it extends its lockdown season of free podcasts. 

Click on https://badappletheatreonyourdesktop.podbean.com/ for The World Is Still Next Door, artistic director Bramley’s account of some strange and wonderful goings on at the allotment as Mo and her young son search for a place to fight off the lockdown blues.

Set during four sunny days in May in deep lockdown, Bramley’s play seeks to capture the power of soundscapes to inspire imagination. “I got really interested in the idea of creating a new short piece with many voices of varying ages and accents, as well as delving into sound montages that evoke settings from our local Yorkshire all the way to Watamu Beach in Kenya,” says Kate. “With a bit of Badapple signature magic-realism thrown in for good measure.”

All roads lead to…21 York wards for York magician and entertainer Josh Benson in York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime next month

Travelling Pantomime, not travailing pantomime, as the show must go on…hopefully: York Theatre Royal’s alternative neighbourhood watch

YORK Theatre Royal began rehearsals in the billiards room on Tuesday for associate director Juliet Forster’s Travelling Pantomime production.

It could still be pot luck whether the first collaboration between Evolution Pantomimes and the Theatre Royal will go ahead, everything hanging on Lockdown 2’s fate, but plans are taking rapid shape to cement the itinerary for a tour of 21 York wards from December 3, plus York Theatre Royal performances too.

Just Josh magician and entertainer Josh Benson, Robin Simpson’s Dame Dolly, Anna Soden’s Fairy/Singing Captain, Faye Campbell’s Jack/Dick and Reuben Johnson’s villainous Fleshcreep/Ratticus Flinch will rehearse three pantomimes, Jack And The Beanstalk, Dick Whittington and Snow White, all scripted by Evolution’s Paul Hendy, for each show’s audience to vote for which panto they want to see.  

Bean team: top row, from left, Jordan Fox, May Tether, Ian Stroughair and Livvy Evans; bottom row, Alex Weatherhill, Emily Taylor, Matthew Ives and Danielle Mullan

The other Jack And The Beanstalk in York this Christmas: York Stage at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, December 11 to 30

YORK Stage are going full team ahead with their inaugural pantomime, to be staged in the Covid-secure John Cooper Studio, where Perspex screens will be in place for the first time for the traverse staging.

Writer-director Nik Briggs has added West End choreographer Gary Lloyd to his production team, proclaiming: We’re taking our West End-worthy panto to the next level with the addition of Gary to our company.”

Jordan Fox, May Tether, Livvy Evans, Alex Weatherhill, Ian Stroughair, Danielle Mullan, Emily Taylor and Matthew Ives will be the cast bringing life to Briggs’s debut panto script.

Yorkshire Pudding Song: Martin Barrass will lead the Song Sheet singing at Bev Jones Music Company’s Strictly Xmas In The Park concert

Barrass is back: Bev Jones Music Company in Strictly Xmas In The Park, Rowntree Park, Amphitheatre, York, December 13, 2pm

MARTIN Barrass will be starring in a York pantomime after all this winter. Dame Berwick’s perennial comic stooge may be missing out on the Covid-cancelled Kaler comeback in Dick Turpin Rides Again at the Grand Opera House, but now he will lead the pantomime section of Strictly Xmas Live In The Park.

As part of Bev Jones Music Company’s Covid-secure, socially distanced, open-air performance, Barrass will tell a few jokes and orchestrate the song-sheet rendition of You Can’t Put A Better Bit Of Batter On Your Platter Than A Good Old Yorkshire Pud.

Barrass will wear black and pink to honour the late Bev’s favourite colour combination.

Helen Charlston: Performing at the York Early Music Christmas Festival

Early notice: York Early Music Christmas Festival, National Centre for Early Music, York, December 4 to 13

AS the NCEM website states: “We are planning for these concerts to go ahead and are still selling tickets. If the situation changes, we will of course be in touch.”

Fingers crossed, then, for a socially distanced festival in St Margaret’s Church, Walmgate, featuring Palisander, The Marian Consort, Illyria Consort, Joglaresa, The York Waits and Bethany Seymour, Helen Charlston, Frederick Long and Peter Seymour.

Among the highlights, on December 9, festival favourites The York Waits will present The Waits’ Wassail: Music for Advent and Christmas: Carols, songs and dance from across medieval and renaissance England and Europe, played on shawms and sackbuts by York’s Renaissance town band.

Duran Duran: Making their Scarborough Open Air Theatre debut next summer

A hat-trick of new shows on the East Coast: Duran Duran, Lewis Capaldi and Snow Patrol at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

IN quick succession, Duran Duran, Lewis Capaldi and Snow Patrol have been confirmed for Cuffe and Taylor’s ever-expanding programme at Britain’s biggest purpose-built outdoor concert arena.

Booked in for July 7, Birmingham glam pop band Duran Duran will introduce their first new material since 2015, alongside such favourites as Save A Prayer, Rio, Girls On Film and The Reflex.

Lewis Capaldi: “Buzzing” to be back at Scarborough Open Air Theatre in 2021

Glaswegian singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi sold out two nights at Scarborough OAT in 2019 and says he is “buzzing” to be returning on July 25 next summer. “It’s a great venue, the crowds there are always unreal and so here’s to another unforgettable night,” he says.

Snow Patrol’s sold-out 2020 Scarborough show had to be scrapped under Covid restrictions but Gary Lightbody’s band are now booked in for July 3 2021. Tickets for all three shows go on sale tomorrow morning at 9am via scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

Kate Rusby at Christmas…now online

And what about?

THE 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 Days on December 12 at 7.30pm (GMT). Expect all the usual Rusby Christmas ingredients: sparkly dress, twinkling lights, her regular folk band, her “brass boys”, Ruby the reindeer and a fancy-dress finale.

Tickets go on sale on Friday (6/11/2020) via https://katerusby.com/happy-holly-day/