REVIEW: Live theatre at last in a York pub garden after a long winter of disconnection

Mandy Newby: Stand-out turn in Weirdo in Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios. Picture: James Drury

Review: Next Door But One in Yorkshire Trios, The Gillygate pub, Gillygate, York, April 23 and 24 2021

LIVE theatre has returned to York. Yes, you read that right.

For the first time since York Stage brought a Covid-enforced early end to their pantomime run of Jack And The Beanstalk on December 30 at Theatre @41, Monkgate, actors have taken to a York stage for two nights of pub theatre…in the spring open air.

Where once a tent would suffice for shows by Alexander Flanagan Wright’s company, now The Gillygate publican Brian Furey has installed a wooden-framed outdoor performance area in the beer garden.

Socially distanced tables with allocated seating and an outdoor bar were complemented by Covid-secure measures: pub staff in face masks to take and deliver drink and food orders; Next Doors But One organisers in black and red masks designed in company livery; the programme in e-programme mode, available online only.

Next Door But One, the York community arts collective directed by Matt Harper-Hardcastle, with input from associate and project manager Kate Veysey and creative producer El Stannage, originally hoped to present Yorkshire Trios: 15 Local Creatives, 5 Short Performances, 1 City, inside The Gillygate in early January until Lockdown 3 put a red pen through those plans.

Instead, backed by Arts Council England funding, NDB1 kept the creatives busy with two months of online professional skill- development sessions and mentoring until the Step 2 reopening of pubs’ outdoor hospitality provided the opportunity to perform.

Project manager Kate Veysey, Next Door But One director Matt Harper-Hardcastle and creative producer El Stannage at the Friday night performance of Yorkshire Trios

A day’s warm weather added to the weekend mood as the Friday audience settled in. Behind them were those who were only here for the beer, but rather than putting up a To Beer Or Not To Beer dividing line, and asking anyone to pipe down, everyone just raised a glass to being allowed to gather in a pub garden after the long winter’s hibernation.

Today, Next Door But One have issued a Let Us Know What You Thought email, asking attendees for Audience Feedback by “sparing a few minutes to complete our short survey so we can build and improve on the event”.

CharlesHutchPress is happy to oblige in the analysis of an evening “themed around Moments Yet To Happen, wherein trios of actors, directors and writers brought theatre-starved York a fistful of short stories of laughter, strength, dreams and everything in between: an optimistic carousel operator; a neighbour with a secret; a poet inviting us into her world; a Jane McDonald fan on a soapbox, and a delivery driver full of wanderlust;.

Taking part were the quintet of trios: actor Miles Kinsley, director Nicolette Hobson and writer, Anna Johnston, staging One More Time We Go; Christie Barnes, Fiona Baistow and Jenna Drury, unmasking Kelly Unmasked; Mandy Newby, Joe Feeney and Dan Norman presenting Weirdo; Emily Chattle, Libby Pearson and Lydia Crosland, making a point in Motormouth, and Nicki Davy, Becky Lennon and Rachel Price, asking And How Are Your Goats Keeping?.

On Friday night, one actor, Nicki Davy, from Leeds, had to be elsewhere (for acting work reasons, hurrah), meaning we missed out on answering the goat welfare question.

The poster for Yorkshire Trios at The Gillygate pub as live theatre sparked into life again

Anyway, here is the survey. Question 1: What did you think of the quality of the performances you saw? Rate from 1 for Poor to 5 for Excellent.

One play, Weirdo, was indeed excellent in darkly humorous, unpredictable, intriguing writing by Norman (the discovery of Yorkshire Trios), offbeat direction by Cosmic Collective Theatre’s Brighton-bound Feeney and deadpan execution by Mandy Newby, the most experienced actor on view, as the weird woman with the even weirder smell emanating from her home.

Kingsley, newly back north from completing his training at the Central School of Speech and Drama, had the difficult task of opening the show, not as the warm-up act but straight in at the deep end, side on under a flat cap, in Johnston’s lingering memory play, One More Time We Go, that demanded more assertiveness in performance under Hobson’s direction.

The most resonant piece in Covid times was Kelly Unmasked, Drury’s study of a woman, newly diagnosed in her 30s as autistic, trying to come to her own terms with a lockdown being experienced by unaware, socially distanced others all around her. It was stressful, as much as distressing watching Barnes’s on-the-wire poet Kelly, when director Baistow needed to extract more variety in her acting tropes.

Friday night ended with Abba dance moves, Jane McDonald cheerleading, a very northern no-nonsense feminist ultra and a soapbox that just didn’t quite wash. Not Macbeth’s tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, so much as a torrid tale told by a “Motormouth” devoid of self-awareness and an off-switch, signifying not enough, for all the energy of writer Crosland, director Pearson and actor Chattle.

In a nutshell, this was a night that swung erratically between 2 and 5 on the scorecard, but with consistently good-quality sound and lighting.

Kinsley amiss: Miles KInsley needed more assertiveness in his show-opening performance. Picture: James Drury

Question 2. Did you enjoy the performances being outdoors in a pub setting? Rate from 1 for Not At All to 5 for Very Much.

Yes and no. It was good to feel alive again in the company of actors, but noises off from the tables at the back, while entirely tolerable under present circumstances of outdoors being the only place to drink right now, would be distracting at future performances if the beer garden is to become a garden of artistic delights. So, 3 out of five for now.

Question 3: Do you feel the bitesize performance pieces suited the pub setting? Again, 1 for Not At All; 5 for Very Much.

Yes, because, like the next round, there was always another one coming down the line pretty pronto. That said, the original idea of promenade performances around the interior of the pub would have worked that much better. So, another 3 out of 5.

Question 4: How did you find the quality of the food and drink available during the performance. Same score grades.

Excellent, attentive service. Genial welcomes from Brian and Matt. White wine for the ladies went down very well. Blackcurrant cordial for the teetotal reviewer was totally entente cordial indeed. Didn’t nibble, so no quibble on that score. 5/5

Poet cornered: Christie Barnes as Kelly in Kelly Unmasked. Picture: James Drury

How did you find the COVID safety measures put in place for the performance? Same score grades.

As with last summer’s Park Bench Theatre at Rowntree Park, last autumn’s socially distanced shows in The Round at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, York Stage’s pantomime at Theatre @41, Monkgate, and York Theatre Royal’s Travelling Pantomime, the Covid-safety measures were meticulously carried out. 

As before, the message to the Government is, yes, the arts needs your support, but you should trust the arts to run events with the utmost professionalism, whatever the circumstances. The Gillygate, 5/5. The Government: could do better.

Would you be interested in attending a similar performance to Yorkshire Trios in the future?

Outdoors? Yes, but with the provisos mentioned above. Indoors, yes. The Gillygate has always been a good home to theatre.

As for the content, there is promise here and further opportunities should be encouraged.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your experience that might help us shape future events?

This review has run to 1,207 words already. Enough said, surely?!

Plenty to say for herself: Emily Chattle’s Motormouth in Yorkshire Trios at The Gillygate pub beer garden. Picture: James Drury

More Things To Do in York and beyond, and not still bedded down in the home bunker. List No. 31, courtesy of The Press, York

Let Ian Massie take you to Another Place in his Northern Soul show at Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole from May 17

NO mention of home entertainment here, as Charles Hutchinson decides to cast fears aside – albeit while acting responsibly – as he looks forward to theatres, bars, galleries, museums and music venues opening their doors once more.

Cupid, draw back your bow and let the beer flow, straight to the York Theatre Royal patio

LOVE is in the Step 2 air, and soon on the York Theatre Royal stage too for The Love Season from May 17.

Cupid’s Bar: Follow the arrow to the York Theatre Royal patio. Picture: Livy Potter

Perfect timing to launch Cupid’s Bar for five weeks on the Theatre Royal patio, where the bar will run from midday to 9.30pm every Thursday to Sunday, providing an outdoor space in the heart of the city for residents and visitors to socialise safely.

Working with regional suppliers, Cupid’s Bar will offer a range of drink options, such as draught beer from Black Sheep Brewery, Masham, and York Gin from, er, York.

Ian Scott Massie: Finding Northern Soul in his landscape watercolours and screenprints. Picture: Steve Christian

Exhibition of the month ahead outside York: Ian Scott Massie, Northern Soul, Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton-le-Hole, North York Moors National Park, May 17 to July 11

MASHAM artist Ian Scott Massie’s Northern Soul show of 50 watercolours and screenprints represents his personal journey of living in the north for 45 years.

“The north is the truth of England, where all things are seen clearly,” he says. “The incomparable beauty of the landscape; the harsh ugliness left by industry; the great wealth of the aristocracy; the miserable housing of the poor; the civic pride of the mill towns and a people as likely to be mobilised by political oratory as by a comedian with a ukulele.”

The Waterfall Of Nikko-Zan In Shimotsuke Province, by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1853, from York Art Gallery’s show of rarely seen Japanese prints, Pictures Of The Floating World. Image courtesy of York Museums Trust

Reopening exhibition of the month ahead in York: Pictures Of The Floating World: Japanese Ukiyo-e Prints, York Art Gallery, from May 28

YORK Art Gallery’s display of rarely seen Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, complemented by much-loved paintings from the gallery collection, will go on show in a new Spotlight Series.

Marking next month’s gallery reopening with Covid-secure measures, Pictures Of The Floating World will feature prints by prominent Ukiyo-e artists such as Utagawa Hiroshige, along with works by those influenced by Japanese art, York artist Albert Moore and Walter Greaves among them.

This free-to-visit exhibition will highlight the significant impact of Japanese art on the western world and the consequential rise of the artistic movements of Aestheticism and Art Nouveau.”

Van the manoeuvre: Morrison’s York Barbican gigs put back to July

On the move: Van Morrison’s York Barbican shows

NO reopening date has yet been announced for York Barbican, but Irish veteran Van Morrison’s shows are being moved from May 25 and 26 to July 20 and 21.

“Please keep hold of your tickets as they will be valid for the new date,” says the Barbican website, where seats for Van The Man are on sale without social distancing, in line with Step 4 of the Government’s pandemic Roadmap to Recovery, whereby all legal limits on social contact are potentially to be removed from June 21.

Morrison, 75, will release his 42nd album, Latest Record Project: Volume 1, a 28-track delve into his ongoing love of blues, R&B, jazz and soul, on May 7 on Exile/BMG.

Lockdown love story: The taster poster for Alan Ayckbourn’s new play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre

New play of the summer: Alan Ayckbourn’s The Girl Next Door, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, June 4 to July 3

AFTER the 2020 world premiere of his virus play Truth Will Out lost out to the Covid pandemic restrictions, director emeritus Alan Ayckbourn returns to the Stephen Joseph Theatre to direct his 85th play, The Girl Next Door, in the summer season.

“I wrote it back in Spring 2020. I like to think of it as a lockdown love story,” says Ayckbourn, introducing his touching, tender and funny reflection on the ability of love to rise above adversity and reach across the years.

Influenced by his own experiences in two “lockdowns”, one in wartime London in childhood, the other in the on-going pandemic in Scarborough, Ayckbourn will play with time in a plot moving back and forth between 2021 and 1941. Box office: sjt.uk.com.

May and April in tandem: York Barbican date for Imelda next spring on her first tour in five years

Gig announcement of the week in York: Imelda May, York Barbican, April 6 2022

IRISH singer-songwriter Imelda May will play York Barbican next April in the only Yorkshire show of her Made To Love tour, her first in more than five years.

“I cannot wait to see you all again, to dance and sing together, to connect and feel the sparkle in a room where music makes us feel alive and elevated for a while,” says May. “Let’s go!”

Last Friday, the 46-year-old Dubliner released her sixth studio album, 11 Past The Hour. The box office opens tomorrow at 10am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.

Dance like Fred Astaire…or more likely like Tim Booth as James end the summer at Scarborough Open Air Theatre

Gig announcement of the week outside York: James, Scarborough Open Air Theatre, September 9

WHERE better for James to announce a summer show in the week they release new single Beautiful Beaches than at Scarborough Open Air Theatre?

The Manchester legends will play on the East Coast in the wake of launching their new album, All The Colours Of You, on June 4. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (23/4/2021) at 9am at scarboroughopenairtheatre.com.

This will be the third that James, led by Clifford-born Tim Booth, have played Scarborough OAT after shows in 2015 and 2018.

The writers, actors, directors and organisers in a Zoom gathering for Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios at The Gillygate pub, York

And what about?

GOOD news: Live theatre bursts into life in York for the first time since December 30 when York community arts collective Next Door But One presents Yorkshire Trios in The Gillygate pub’s new outdoor seating area tomorrow and on Saturday.

Themed around Moments Yet To Happen, trios of actors, directors and writers will bring to theatre-starved York a quintet of short stories of laughter, strength, dreams and everything in between: a neighbour with a secret; a delivery driver full of wanderlust; an optimistic carousel operator; a poet inviting us into her world and a Jane McDonald fan on a soapbox.

Bad news for tardy readers? The 7.30pm shows have sold out.

When three’s a crowd in a good way as Next Door But One’s Yorkshire Trios marks the return of open-air live theatre at York pub

Three cheers: Yorkshire Trios actors, writers, directors and project organisers are all smiles as they gather for a Zoom session

LIVE theatre will burst into life in York for the first time since December 30 when Next Door But One presents Yorkshire Trios in The Gillygate pub’s new outdoor seating area on April 23 and 24.

“The sun is beginning to shine, the days are getting longer, and lockdown restrictions are easing, so we’re inviting you to a production that brings you everything 2021 has been missing so far,” says Matt Harper-Hardcastle, the York community arts collective’s artistic director, who had to postpone the original “mini-promenade” shows planned for inside Brian Furey’s pub in Gillygate in January.

“The plan was that people could get a drink and move around the pub to see the five solo performances, but once lockdown was announced, we thought we’d wait to see what transpired, keeping it on a low heat, but still wanting to do it as soon as possible, when it could be a springboard for the 15 creatives involved to get back out there working again.

“Then Brian [Furey] got in touch to say he’d been building a gazebo structure to make it feasible for him to reopen the pub, but if we could put lighting in, it could double as a performance space too.

15 Local Creatives, 5 Short Performances, I City: Next Door But One’s poster for Yorkshire Trios at The Gillygate

“We could have waited to June, but this felt a brilliant opportunity to come back together now. It feels a really big step now, when two years ago, rocking up to a pub for a show would have felt perfectly normal.”  

Themed around Moments Yet To Happen, trios of actors, directors and writers will bring to theatre-starved York a quintet of short stories of laughter, strength, dreams and everything in between: a neighbour with a secret; a delivery driver full of wanderlust; an optimistic carousel operator; a poet inviting us into her world and a Jane McDonald fan on a soapbox.

Actor Mandy Newby, director Joe Feeney and writer Dan Norman will stage Weirdo; Nicki Davy, Becky Lennon and Rachel Price, And How Are Your Goats Keeping?; Emily Chattle, Libby Pearson and Lydia Crosland, Motormouth; Christie Barnes, Fiona Baistow and Jenna Drury, Kelly Unmasked, and Miles Kinsley, Nicolette Hobson, Anna Johnston, One More Time We Go.

“From the hearts of Yorkshire creatives, told in the heart of the city and into yours, Yorkshire Trios is here to remind you of the talent and stories that our community holds,” says Matt, ahead of next week’s 7.30pm performances, supported by Arts Council England funding.

Next Door But One artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle and Anna Johnston, writer of the Yorkshire Trios short play One More Time We Go, pictured in pre-pandemic times

“From humour to drama, sentimentality to the bizarre, an evening of Yorkshire Trios will have something for everyone…and there’s a drink included in the price!

“We all know the feelings of being stuck indoors, longing to go to the pub and catch up with our friends. Well, Yorkshire Trios has all of that and more. What better way to mark the latest phase of the Government’s Roadmap than being sat with your friends and family in The Gillygate pub’s beer garden, watching five original, locally produced and completely relatable short performances?”

Yorkshire Trios underpins the values of Next Door But One (NDB1) as a theatre company. “Buying a ticket to attend Yorkshire Trios is about more than watching theatre, it’s about our local community” says associate and project manager Kate Veysey, York Theatre Royal’s youth theatre director.

“It’s backing the wealth of creative talent in York, it’s supporting a local hospitality business at the centre of the city and it’s taking those small but manageable steps to reconnect people with one another and the wider community.”

“Yorkshire Trios is taking those small but manageable steps to reconnect people with one another and the wider community,” says project manager Kate Veysey

The 15 Yorkshire creatives at the heart of this NDB1’s project were recruited at the end of 2020, but after the imposition of Lockdown 3 from January 5 put a stop to that month’s performances, the collective talents of Newby, Feeney, Norman, Davy, Price, Lennon, Crosland, Pearson, Chattle, Drury, Barnes, Baistow, Johnston, Kinsley and Hobson have been kept busy and creative through a series of online professional development sessions.

“We know how difficult it has been for many professionals in the arts to stay engaged in their creative practice during lockdown, with many feeling disconnected from the industry and in need of opportunities to stretch themselves and keep them going” says creative producer El Stannage.

“For more than two months, we’ve provided skills development and mentoring sessions, meaning that now our 15 creatives are even more equipped to bring their best to the performances within Yorkshire Trios, and we cannot wait to share that with audiences.”

Matt emphasises the importance of Yorkshire Trios to all those involved. “It’s had that feeling of ‘this is what was needed’: someone saying, ‘we believe in you, and, yes, we want to use your talents’,” he says.

Trio-mendous! When three’s a crowd…in a good way for York writers, actors and directors

“It’s been wonderful having 15 people sharing their skills and having that belief that ‘you belong, you haven’t been forgotten; there’s still a place for you when you’ve been told your work is not viable’.”

Looking ahead, Matt says: “We’ll be recording the performances too, so that anyone who still doesn’t feel safe to attend or has any vulnerabilities stopping them, we can stream it to them at a later date, with more info on that following the live performances.” 

Next Door But One presents Yorkshire Trios outside at The Gillygate pub, Gillygate, York, on April 23 and 24 at 7.30pm. The performances are Covid safe and therefore with a socially distanced limited capacity, with tickets being sold as ‘tables’ of up to six individuals from a maximum of two households.

For more information and ticket details, go to: nextdoorbutone.co.uk/Yorkshire-Trios.php.

Copyright of The Press, York