REVIEW: Hello And Goodbye, York Theatre Royal Studio ****

Family wreckage: Jo Mousley as Hester in Athol Fugard’s Hello And Goodbye at York Theatre Royal Studio. Picture: Jane Hobson

Hello And Goodbye, York Theatre Royal Studio, until November 30. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

HELLO again to in-house productions in the York Theatre Royal Studio with this revival of Athol Fugard’s 1965 South African play Hello And Goodbye.

Associate artist John R Wilkinson had lamented the hiatus since the fading away of such Studio works as Blackbird, Blue/Orange and The White Crow and his own show, Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down, six years ago, as he spoke of the pride and spirit engendered by this resurrection: the very last word uttered in Fugard’s “biting yet beautiful parable”, by the way.

“The blue magic of that space has always given rise to intense, intimate storytelling,” said Wilkinson, whose production is exactly that: intense and intimate.

Hello And Goodbye is a two-hander, albeit with the “presence” of a third family member, the father to Johnnie (Emilio Iannucci) and Hester (Jo Mousley).

God fearing: Emilio Iannucci’s Johnnie seeking resurrection in Hello And Goodbye, with Jo Mousley’s Hester in the doorway

Hester is making an unexpected, unannounced visit to the family home at 57A Valley Road, Port Elizabeth, after an absence stretching back longer than the aforementioned Studio hiatus.

Iannucci’s Johnnie already has delivered a restless, psychologically fevered monologue, one that establishes both the dysfunctional state of the family and the unnerving dark, even gothic, humour at play in Fugard’s writing.

Chatting afterwards with Iannucci, he said audiences had laughed at some performances, not at others, but the play had worked both ways.

The way it goes may well depend on how you react to Johnnie telling Hester that he and their disabled Dad have been getting on well enough, but she cannot disturb him because he is asleep in the room next door. Put bluntly, his sleep could not be deeper.

Director John R Wilkinson: re-awakening the “blue magic” of the Theatre Royal Studio space

If Johnnie is nervy, neurotic, repeatedly reaching for biblical quotes, Mousley’s Hester is frenetic in her desperate search for the £500 that she believes their father has squirrelled away somewhere in the house.

Johnnie can keep the house if he lets her find and keep the money, a task that involves him bringing through case after case that trigger traumatic memories of their past. Their already fractured relationship only worsens as Fugard meditates on family, selfishness and redemption, set against the social upheaval in South Africa at large.

Hello And Goodbye brings to mind the discomfiting Sixties’ plays of Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter, not least in a set design that mirrors the frayed, wounded state of mind of the sparring siblings, as designer Laura Ann Price scatters the stage with debris from the crumbling, smashed-out back wall.

Wilkinson has cast superbly: after his Studio debut in the children’s show E Nesbit’s The Book Of Dragons in December 2017 and his Romeo in Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre’s Romeo And Juliet at Blenheim Palace this summer, Iannucci has hit new heights here, calling on his physical theatre skills, his feel for black comedy and his relish for a surprise.

Mousley is a brilliant pick too, making her Theatre Royal debut after a year of outstanding performances in the Leeds Playhouse Pop-Up Theatre Ensemble. Her Hester has the disruptive force of an Ibsen, Chekhov or Greek tragedian female lead, and together with Iannucci, they settle on a mutual South African accent that is another impressive feature of Wilkinson’s intriguing, fascinating production.

In conversation, he called Hello And Goodbye “weird”, smiling impishly as he said it. Make that weird good, not weird bad.

Charles Hutchinson

REVIEW: Nigel Slater’s Toast, York Theatre Royal *****

Flour power: Katy Federman as Mum and Giles Cooper as Nigel in Nigel Slater’s Toast. Picture: Piers Foley

Nigel Slater’s Toast, York Theatre Royal, until Saturday, November 23. Box office: 01904 623568 or at

HERE is the challenge facing director Jonnie Riordan. “Think about how long it takes to actually make a piece of toast, and then how do you do that on stage when you’re trying to keep the audience engaged?” he says.

It brings a new meaning to pop-up theatre in York after the summer Elizabeth version at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, and Riordan and writer Henry Filloux-Bennett have made a wonderful job of adapting cookery writer Nigel Slater’s coming-of-age memoir for the stage.

Like Jonathan Watkins for Matt Haig’s Reasons To Stay Alive, on tour at the Theatre Royal only two weeks ago, Riordan is both director and choreographer. However, whereas Watkins’s show took time to find its footing on a somewhat strange-looking set – was it a crater or a cracked cloud egg? – Toast is sure footed, even light on its feet from the start.

Nigel, meet Nigel!: Cookery writer Nigel Slater meets Giles Cooper, who plays his younger self on stage. Picture: Simon Annand

Nigel, our narrator, guides us through his story like Slater’s lovely writing leads you through his recipes and epicurean thoughts in his mellifluous books. Played by the delightful Giles Cooper in schoolboy tank top and short trousers, Nigel is nine and already drawn to the one cookery book in the Slaters’ Wolverhampton home: Marguerite Patten’s ground-breaking Cookery In Colour, a full-colour Sixties’ bolt out of the cordon bleu after the grey gravy of before.

From within the cream and brown Sixties’ kitchen of Libby Watson’s design, Cooper’s Nigel likes to orchestrate all the storytelling, stepping in and out of a scene to converse with the audience, but such is the skill of Filloux-Bennett’s writing that the events of his young life have a habit of pulling the rug from under him. At one point, his mother stops him in his tracks and tells him to re-trace his steps to relate the true, darker version of events.

There is abundant humour, absolutely true to Slater’s own tone in his books, but the darkness has to break through too, given what happened to Slater in his childhood and teenage years.

Table manners: Blair Plant’s Dad, left, Stefan Edwards’ waiter, Giles Cooper’s Nigel, Samantha Hopkins’ waitress and Katy Federman’s Mum in Toast

His love of food is omnipresent, and yes, we see toast popping up in real time and later Nigel making mushrooms on toast with a chef’s flair and precision in one so young. We enjoy the culinary sensations, and when Nigel is regaling us with the delights of sweets – amid his father’s insistence that certain sweets are for boys, others for girls – bags of sweets are passed around the audience. The real Nigel Slater had a bag by his feet as he sat in the dress circle, by the way!

Food is at the heart of Toast, glorious food and not so glorious food in the case of Nigel’s father’s first attempt at making spaghetti bolognaise, mountains of “sick-smelling” Parmesan dust et al. Part of the joy here  is having our own recollections of mishaps around our own kitchen tables.

Through food too, we see the difference between Nigel’s relationship with his Mum (Katy Federman), pretty much tied to the apron strings, such is their bond, and his abusive Dad (Blair Plant, back at his old Theatre Royal stamping ground).

What’s that on the plate? Nigel (Giles Cooper) nervously scans the spaghetti bolognaise served up by Dad (Blair Plant) as Mum (Katy Federman) looks on

Into the story comes the dreadful Joan (Samantha Hopkins) and assorted characters played by Stefan Edwards, as the first stirrings of Nigel’s sexuality play out.

Brilliant performances, a superb choice of soundtrack from La Mer to Dusty, and a finale as warm and toasty as toast make Toast a five-star treat, both measured and deeply flavoured like a Nigel Slater recipe.

Charles Hutchinson

Copyright of The Press, York

Iranian musicians join Northern Broadsides’ Christmas fundraiser for refugee support

Amir Beymanesh and Kamran Hoss: Iranian musicians now settled in Yorkshire . Picture: Jess Rooney

NORTHERN Broadsides will stage a festive fundraiser, Christmas Broadsides, at The Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough. Halifax, from December 13 to 15.

This concert is based around Broadside Ballads; song lyrics published from the 1600s onwards, featuring popular songs of scurrilous dealings, thwarted love and ginormous geese.

For this combination of folk song and storytelling, Amir Beymanesh and Kamran Hoss, two Iranian musicians who arrived in Yorkshire recently, will join Ripponden folk musician and multi-instrumentalist Alice Jones.

West Yorkshire actors Catherine Kinsella and Tom Shaw complete the Halifax company’s line-up for this celebration of festive cheer and reflection on Christmases past, present and future.

Alice Jones: taking part in Northern Broadsides’ festive fundraiser

Broadsides’ artistic director, Laurie Sansom, says: “We are thrilled to be celebrating this Christmas with old friends and new, welcoming Amir and Kamaran to Halifax in this extraordinary collaboration with the multi-talented Alice Jones.

“It’s a chance to share together ridiculous festive songs of comic extravagance, whilst also thinking of those who may be far from home this Christmas.

“We look forward to welcoming regular supporters and new friends who want to support the work of their local theatre company, and our collaborators at St Augustine’s Centre, who support refugees and asylum seekers.”

Looking ahead to 2020, Sansom’s debut production as Broadsides’ artistic director, a new take on J.M. Barrie’s regency romantic comedy Quality Street, will open at Dean Clough from February 14 to 22.

Catherine Kinsella: performing at Christmas Broadsides

Broadsides will collaborate with workers from the Halifax Quality Street chocolates factory by developing contemporary tales of hapless love that will frame the action of Barrie’s tale.

Barrie’s play was so popular in its day that it gave the chocolates their name. Its story revolves around Phoebe Throssel, who lives on Quality Street, the bustling hub of a quaint northern town where she runs a school for unruly children.

Ten years since a tearful goodbye, an old flame returns from fighting Napoleon, but the look of disappointment on Captain Valentine’s face when he greets a more mature, less glamorous Phoebe, spurs the determined heroine to action.

She becomes the wild and sparkling Miss Livy, a younger alter-ego who soon entraps the clueless Captain. As their romance is rekindled, can she juggle both personas? Or will her deception scandalise the town and wreck any future with the man she loves?

Tom Shaw: part of the company for Christmas Broadsides

Now, as well as providing a modern lens through which to view Barrie’s story, Broadsides also aims to build long-lasting relationships between the Halifax employees and their local theatre company.

Broadsides’ tour of Quality Street will take in Leeds Playhouse from April 21 to 25; Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, May 12 to 16; Harrogate Theatre, May 19 to 23; Hull Truck Theatre, June 2 to 6, and last stop York Theatre Royal, June 9 to 13.

Christmas Broadsides will be performed at The Viaduct Theatre, Dean Clough, Halifax, at 7pm on December 13 and 3pm and 6pm on December 14 and 15. Tickets are on sale on 01422 849227 or at

Charles Hutchinson