Yorkshire Theatre Newsletter (Apr 7 -Apr 14)
Big voices and small venues in the run-up to Easter.
If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.
Last week, I was all set to write and publish my newsletter. But then a minor medical emergency — involving my 90-year-old mother — saw both of us spending quality time in the Minor Injuries Unit of Selby War Memorial Hospital.
She’s fine, which is the main thing, but it does illustrate an important point about writing a newsletter whilst working full-time. There is no margin for error. This is why, for the time being, I’m shifting my production schedule to — well, I want to say “once every two weeks”. In reality, for the moment, it will be whenever I can pull one together.
And so we head into the Easter fortnight, traditionally a somewhat drab time for theatreland. But I will not grieve for the lovely shows that are past. Let’s look ahead with spring optimism to what’s ahead of us.
What’s On (Apr 7-14)
Let’s start at York Theatre Royal, where English Touring Opera open their Spring 2022 season with Puccini’s La Boheme on April 8. Sung in Italian, in period dress, it’s a restaging of the successful 2015 production and Francesca Chiejina has been widely praised as the fragile heroine Mimi. One night only, £15-£39, conducted by Iwan Davies.
The following night you can watch a new English-language production of Rimskey-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel. Based on a poem by Alexander Pushkin, the comic opera was in its day a daring satire on Russia’s disastrous 1904-5 war with Japan and the last days of the Romanov Empire. Conducted by ETO newcomer Gerry Cornelius and starring Grant Doyle as the Tsar. Apr 9, £15-£39
I’m tempted by The Golden Cockerel, which seems like a prescient choice of show for the times, but rather less so by the Leeds Playhouse’s current mainstage offering — Hedwig And The Angry Inch. At first I wasn’t even going to include it — the show itself, which tells the story of “a hedonistic genderqueer anti-heroine seemingly hellbent on destruction” has been around since the late 1990s and seems jarringly out of sync with the prevailing social mood. But this production is new, starring Yorkshire drag queen Davina Da Campo, and a Leeds friend whose theatrical judgement I respect says it’s terrific.
Go-see, by all means, and have fun. But before you get too carried away with that heartwarming “genderqueer” vision, try reading the NHS-commissioned and recently published Interim Report of the Cass Review into shortcomings at the Tavistock Gender Clinic. That’ll bring you down to Earth with a bump. To Apr 23, £14-£32
It is a shock to realise that the other big show in Leeds this week — a revival of the National Theatre’s commercial hit The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time — is actually younger than Hedwig. Mark Haddon’s novel about a neurologically diverse teenager who turns detective was first published in 2003 and Simon Stephens’s adaptation dates from 2012. And, yes, it’s the one where the roof fell in… Apr 12-16, £23-£42
What the sour and disenchanted eye of Charlotte Bronte would have made of these hypocritical end times, one can only speculate. My bedtime reading is currently her novel Shirley — and by God, she hated Anglican curates almost as much as she hated Catholics. The east coast resort of Scarborough is the final resting place of Anne, the least well-known of the Bronte sisters, so it’s fitting that this week the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough should launch a three-week long Bronte Festival to kick start their tourist season. The central offering is a musical adaptation of Jane Eyre (Apr 8-30, £10-£28) but there’s also that famous 1939 film of Wuthering Heights starring Merle Oberon and a slew of fascinating talks and lesser performances.
Turning to the smaller venues and performance spaces, the run-up to Easter is saved by a series of quirky gems. Frontera I Border - A Living Monument is a dance piece by Mexican-Chilean choreographer Amanda Piña. It is rooted in a dance style that emerged from the violent neighbourhood of El Ejido Veinte of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on the border between Mexico and the United States and will be performed on a rooftop location overlooking the city of Leeds. Apr 8 & 9, £2-£25
Eugene is an odd little show by comedian Daniel Nicholas which explores what might happen if we give away our power to artificial intelligence. It is partly delivered via smartphone and is deaf-friendly. Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, Apr 9, £12, Ropery Hall, Barton-on-Humber, Apr 14, £13 & £15.
How To Be A Better Human is at Theatre Royal, Wakefield, and is based on the true story of how poet Chris Singleton found the strength to go on after a double bereavement. It uses PowerPoint, comedy, poetry, autobiographical storytelling, original music by Reece Jacob and animation by Huckleberry Films to open accessible conversations about grief, loss and mental health. Apr 13, £12.
Mikron’s summer tour opens at Marsden Mechanics Hall, Huddersfield, on Apr 8, before travelling to Square Chapel For The Arts, Halifax on Apr 12 and Bingley Little Theatre on Apr 14. This year’s play is called Raising Agents and celebrates 100 years of the Women’s Institute. Prices vary.
I will leave you with a wise words of my distant relative (possibly), the writer Terence MacSwiney. Scarcely known in England, MacSwiney (1879-1920) was a poet, playwright and political activist who briefly became Lord Mayor of Cork before being arrested by the British, summarily tried, and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
Transfered from Ireland to South London’s Brixton Prison, he didn’t live to serve out his sentence. Instead he starved himself to death in a hunger strike that attracted worldwide attention. It’s said that when longshoremen along the Eastern seaboard of the Americas refused to unload British ships, the Government in London knew the gig was up and granted Irish Independence.
After MacSwiney’s death, WB Yeats staged his prophetic five-act play The Revolutionist at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. It met with popular success and broadly favourable reviews. But MacSwiney’s legacy didn’t end there. His collected journalism, published posthumously, influenced both Gandhi and Nehru. He also inspired the Vietnamese revolutionary Ho Chi Minh who was working in London at the time.
So it’s possible I’m sharing substantial genetic material with a man who dealt a decisive — if forgotten — blow against global imperialism. I’m not sure how I feel about this. But I have been thinking a lot recently about his most famous words — the words which particularly inspired Ho Chi Minh.
“It is not those who can inflict the most but those who can endure the most who will conquer.”
See you in a fortnight! Maybe.