Yorkshire Theatre Newsletter: What's On This Week (Nov 19-25)

Third Generation Single Mum: Is That Okay? Hull Truck Theatre Unveil Their Full 50th Anniversary Programme. Plus the first Christmas shows.

Hull Truck Theatre have just unveiled their 50th Anniversary programme. World premieres by playwrights John Godber, Richard Bean and Amanda Whittington are at the heart of it.

Godber, who built his international profile at Hull Truck, has written another instalment of Teechers, which in 1987 blasted the lack of support for potentially transformative drama-in-education at the level of ‘bog-standard’ comprehensive schools. The post-Covid version, Teechers Leavers ‘22, has exam chaos, tech poverty, isolation, absenteeism and lost school hours in its sights. May 19-Jun 11, £10-£28.50

Remember the year that the super-posh annual Royal Ascot meeting came to York Racecourse because the stands at Ascot were out of action? Amanda Whittington’s Ladies Day was the tale of four Hull fish-filleters who won some tickets to the big-hat jamboree. To celebrate Hull Truck’s anniversary she’s writing a third installment of the Ladies trilogy, Ladies Unleashed. This one’s set on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne off the Northumberland coast. Sep 29-Oct 22, £10-£28.50

West End playwright Richard Bean’s contribution was announced a couple of weeks ago. 71 Coltman Street tells the story of how Hull Truck founder Mike Bradwell, and a motley group of unemployed actors, set out to revolutionise British theatre by telling stories about real people living real lives — a tradition Hull Truck maintains to this day. Feb 17-Mar 12, £10-£28.50

There will be Christmas shows in 2022 from Deborah McAndrew and Sam Caseley, but the most intriguing contribution is from Hull native Lydia Marchant. Lydia emerged through Hull Truck’s Grow Artist Development Programme, and Mumsy (tickets not yet on sale) is a warm comedy telling the story of a third-generation single mum who is terrifield by all that implies. With social commentators such as Dr Dr Tony Sewell CBE, Chair of the Race And Ethnic Disparities Commission, putting family breakdown and single parenthood at the heart of his analysis of working class deprivation (and he’s got a point) Marchant’s take on the subject couldn’t be more overdue. Are traditional marriage and women’s rights compatible? Do women really have to put their lives on hold until they find a ‘responsible’ man? I can’t wait to see this production — the only problem is that I’ll have to wait until Mar 2-25, 2023.

What’s On This Week:

And so, like the first snowflakes settling on the cold, winter ground, the Christmas shows begin to open. Beauty And The Beast is up and running at Theatre Royal, Wakefield. An in-house production, it stars Chris Hannon as The Dame and pretty much ticks all the traditional boxes for pantomime. The only thing that’s missing is a female Principal Boy. Remember the days when a tall woman with good legs got bored dads’ hearts racing as she slapped her thigh in her skin-tight doublet and hose? Alas, no more, it seems, though I’m sure Edward Leigh as Prince Pierre/The Beast fills the role admirably. To Jan 3, £14-£30.

Also quick to the starting line are Harrogate Theatre with Cinderella. It, too, is an in-house production — co-written with Phil Lowe by Chief Executive David Bown. They aren’t making a fuss about the cast — which means they’ve gone for people who can act, dance and sing rather than celebrities. As always, you get hilarious double trouble with the Ugly Sisters but I’m left wondering (genuine question) — what is the theatrical point of Dandini? He must have one, he’s such a fixture. Nov 24-Jan 16, £18-£32

Not a pantomime exactly (they’re too high-minded) but Leeds Playhouse is staging Wendy And Peter Pan. What? Run that by me again… It’s a retelling of JM Barrie’s classic story which puts Wendy, rather than the feckless Peter, centre-stage.

I’ve had some fun harrumphing but it’s a good idea. In Ella Hickson’s adaptation, Wendy takes on the villainous Captain Hook herself and quite right too! Nov 24-Jan 22, £14-£55

And the Grand Opera House, York, has Elf The Musical. This Broadway show based on a Hollywood film is presented by York Stage Ltd, a local outfit in which professional and amateur theatre-makers combine to create big shows with high production values. Nov 25-Dec 3, £16.40-£16.90

Nevertheless, late Autumn can be a drab time for play-lovers. Apart from early-opening Christmas shows, you won’t find much in-house creativity on display at the moment. The major activity is out of sight as theatres gear themselves up for the Yuletide onslaught. Your best bet might be the touring production of the ever-reliable Rocky Horror Show, with Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba as Brad. The Rocky Horror Show, with its armies of devoted fans, is always huge fun. Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, to Nov 20, £20-£40, Hull New Theatre, £15-£43.50.

There’s also The Addams Family musical, which is on at Sheffield Lyceum Nov 23-27 (£15-£45.50) and then doesn’t return to Yorkshire until next year (Alhambra, Bradford, Feb 1-5, £25-£44.50, Hull New Theatre, Mar 15-19, £18-£45). Strictly Come Dancing’s Joanne Clifton stars as Morticia.

Turning to the smaller venues, there’s some interesting stuff around that’s distinctly devoid of tinsel. Jacaranda by Lorna French is a co-production between Pentabus and Keswick’s Theatre By The Lake. It’s an intimate, two-handed piece which is as much about the mutual incomprehension of city and rural dwellers as it is about more obvious themes of prejudice. And — a recurring theme of 2021 — it’s also about grief. Kirkby Stephen Sports & Social Club, Nov 21, £0-£12, The Courthouse, Thirsk (Rural Arts) Nov 24, £0-£10 (both venues have limited free tickets for under 25s)

And stage@leeds, part of Leeds University, has the experimental sci-fi piece Welcome To Europa by Daniel Morris which is set amongst the founder-members of a new space colony. “Listen to the final testimonies of your loved ones, the shadows of your former life; as they navigate political instability, climate emergency and the mortality of human civilization.”

I don’t know, it might be awful, or it might be really good, but it’s cheap. To Nov 20, £7.50 & £10

And then, into the darkness at a dark time of year, there’s Lucy Kirkwood’s Mary Land, “a howl, a way of expressing what I feel about a culture of violence against women”. This piece, performed as a rehearsed reading at Ilkley Playhouse in aid of Bradford Rape Crisis Centre, was written over two days in response to the murders of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa. To Fri 19, £5, donations welcome

See that and then, to cheer youself up, you might watch Woman Who Gave No F*cks at the Square Chapel, Halifax. This is a storytelling slam night themed around the inspiring super-women of myth and legend — not just the obvious ones but Magyar warriors and a Sumerian sword-weilders via female pirates and sun goddesses. Nov 23, £12

Finally, a couple of good ballet things. Awakenings at Hull New Theatre is a mixed programme of new ballets created by Andrew McNicol. It includes a reimagined version of Firebird on the 50th anniversary of Stravinsky’s death. Nov 21, £15-£26.50

And 40 Years Of Phoenix at York Theatre Royal is a celebration of the ground-breaking Phoenix Dance Theatre which was started in 1981 by three British black men from Harehills in Leeds. It brings together work from across the company’s history including Heart Of Chaos which was inspired by the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson. That’s the one I’m looking forward to this week, so if you’re going too — see you there! Nov 23 & 24, £33.

News And Resources

Sheffield’s Third Angel have made available another season of The Distraction Agents, a game for one or multiple players to be played at home. Sign up to receive a package through the post, with instructions via email and online films — I’ve already purchased a ticket as a Christmas present for my favourite ‘you’re so sharp you’ll cut yourself’ 14-year-old. £15 + £2 postage, UK only.

And Opera North are supporting a Handel opera restaged with moths. Weather, Whether Radar: Plume of the Volants is Redell Olsen‘s DARE Art Prize-winning commission inspired by discarded data from weather radar which scientists subsequently realised was mapping insect diversity. The prize is funded by the University of Leeds and Opera North in association with the National Science and Media Museum and The Tetley

Booking Now:

Two shows stand out as being different this Christmas. The Georgian Theatre Royal at Richmond, in the Yorkshire Dales, is one of the oldest theatres in the land. Seeing panto there, in a style of building where the form originated, is really special and the Richmond offering regularly appears in Top 10 pantomime lists. This year it’s Beauty And The Beast. Dec 3-Jan 9, £11-£21.

And the Stanley And Audrey Burton Theatre in Leeds has The Nutcracker And I, a multi-media event consisting of one pianist, one ballerina and an exquisite spectacle of digital projections. It has been created by pianist Alexandra Dariescu, who performs the music. Dec 22 & 23, £10 & £20.

That’s it for this week. It dropped a bit late this week — blame my tendency to get migraines at inconvenient moments! Liz x