Yorkshire Theatre Newsletter: What's On This Week (Jun 18-24)
Dog days, Southern dramas and twilight in Imperial Hong Kong... Theatre critic Liz Ryan considers the best of this week's shows.
Last weekend was enlivened by a trip to Scarcroft Allotments in York to watch Mikron Theatre perform A Dog’s Tale. I wasn’t entirely without nerves. Living in the Lower Derwent Valley, just north of the Humberhead Levels, I'm rarely called upon to do either a parallel reverse park or a hill start — and I suspected that parking in Scarcroft would involve both.
It did! I managed fine but I bet I’m not the only one who’s lost driving confidence over the past year.
As for A Dog’s Tale, written by Mikron mentee Poppy Hollman — it was definitely worth lugging a cooler bag and one of my mother’s old picnic chairs down fashionable Scarcroft Road to see. It was a well-judged show, robust enough to withstand the random interventions of distant traffic, teenagers on bikes and even (briefly at the start) an electric strimmer. Yet it was presented without any kind of technical support except what the actor-musicians could achieve themselves with the non-amplified sounds of a violin, a trombone, a guitar and their own bodies.
Throw in a potted history of Crufts, some gentle class-war observations about pampered pedigree dogs versus affectionate care-home mongrels, some mild dog-napping jeopardy, and the result was perfect, undemanding fare for a warm summer evening.
There are a lot of cultural expectations around ‘being a critic’ and ‘writing a theatre review’. But when a show works — when it broadly achieves what it sets out to do — I'm always a little in awe of the multi-faceted creativity it takes to pull it together.
What’s On (Jun 18-24)
Daniel Ward’s Everything I Own is at Hull Truck Theatre and stars Gabriel Paul as a bereaved man sorting through his late father’s possessions and musing on his Dad’s journey from Jamaica to Hull via the Brixton Riots of 1981. If you catch the livestream you’ll be in the ‘virtual’ company of Gabriel’s real parents, who will be watching from the West Indies. To Jun 26, £13.50-£24.50, livestream Jun 18, £10-£26, on demand Jun 19-26, £10-£26.
And don’t forget, Alan Ayckbourn’s time-travelling romance The Girl Next Door is still going strong at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough (details in previous editions). To Jul 3, from £10.
As you would expect for late June, there are plenty of outdoor shows you can see this week.
Three Inch Fools present a musical version of Romeo And Juliet at Wentworth Woodhouse, a much neglected and overlooked Grade I stately home near Rotherham in South Yorkshire. At the core of this motley troupe of players are brothers James and Stephen Hyde — it is Stephen who pens the music. Jun 18, £10-£16 (under 10s free).
They’re also at Middleton Lodge Estate near Richmond later in the week (with the added advantage that because it’s a posh spa retreat you can choose to eat there and stay overnight), Jun 23, £11-£17.50, and Helmsley Walled Garden on Jun 24, £10-£16.
More out of interest than expectation that you’ll succeed in getting a ticket, here’s a real treasure. Helmsley Arts Centre in association with Duncombe Park (yes, another stately home) present In The Footsteps of “Hank” Haydock, a performed walk through the 450-acre estate’s Park, which during the Second World War was a tank encampment.
Hank was a real soldier — a member of the Second Battalion Coldstream Guards who took part in the Normandy Campaign, and after two of the performances you can meet the last three remaining York Normandy Veterans. How special is that? Jun 19, free (tickets very limited and adv booking essential — good luck!).
You might have more success with the Wartime Concert at Lotherton Hall, Leeds, as Miss Marina Mae pays tribute to the 1940s in song and dance. It’s a family-friendly concert in the Walled Garden. Jun 19 & 20, £2.25-£9.
Whistlestop Opera’s mini-version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (see last week’s newsletter) is at Gateway East Leeds. Jun 19, £5.
Heartbreak Productions (the company behind The Great Gatsby) present children’s puppet show Wonder With Grimm at Sheffield Botanical Gardens. Ancient tales are given altered endings and a modern twist as the company explores what happens if someone or something tries to take away your voice. Jun 19, £11.50-£62.
Socially Distanced Indoor Theatre
Opening later this week, my Star Choice is Beyond These Walls in the Studio at Sheffield Theatres. Laurie Sansom directs Brianna Douglas in Northern Broadsides’ production of four rarely performed short plays by Tennessee Williams: The Lady of Larkspur Lotion, Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen, Every Twenty Minutes and The Case of the Crushed Petunias. Halifax-based Northern Broadsides are well known for delivering classic plays in a Yorkshire accent so this seems like a very good fit. Jun 24-26, £3-£10.
A play I’ve wanted to see for a long time is August Stridberg’s naturalistic drama Miss Julie. It was written in 1888, and a problem for modern directors is that the basic premise — the daughter of a Count copping off with a member of the lower orders — isn’t nearly as transgressive nowadays as it was in the 19th century. Amy Ng’s clever, politically literate adaptation for New Earth Theatre, relocated to the Governor’s House in the Imperial twilight of British-era Hong Kong, promises much. York Theatre Royal, Jun 22-26, £15-£20.
For new-writing mavens, 8x8x8: A Fresh Start at the Ilkley Playhouse is unmissable. Eight plays, eight minutes long, submitted by aspiring playwrights from around Britain and Europe. It’s both a festival and a competition, with post-performance opportunities to question authors, directors and members of the judging panels. Jun 23-26, £10.
My final selection for this week almost became my Star Choice. Tucked away at St Wilfrid’s Church, Harrogate, is The Silence Of Snow, a one-man show written and performed by Mark Farrelly and directed by Linda Marlowe. This tells the bleak story of writer Patrick Hamilton, the mid-20th century British playwright behind amdram staples Rope and Gaslight — both made into successful Hitchcock films. Hamilton’s reputation as both a playwright and novelist is faring well in the next century but for the writer himself there was a devil’s bargain with alcohol. Jun 24, £10 & £12.
News And Resources
Thanks to Unlimited Theatre for drawing my attention to the Kirklees Woven Festival, a celebration of the textile innovation for which the district is — in textile circles — famed (to Jun 27). Unlimited’s Space Shed will be playing host to inspirational storytelling shows, interviews with leading scientists and sets by guest DJs. Jun 19, free.
There are changes too at Sheffield’s Theatre Deli. New artistic directors Ryan Harston and Nathan Geering have been appointed to better serve under-represented artists from around the UK.
Delanté Détras Theatre Company from Cross Hall Academy in Doncaster have been selected as one of just 10 youth theatre companies from around the country to be profiled in the National Theatre’s digital Connections Festival 2021. They will perform Crusaders, a new piece of writing by Frances Poet, at Cast in Doncaster which will be recorded and shared with participating students, schools and youth groups across the UK as part of the digital celebration of youth theatre.
And two theatre touring guides have been released. One, created by ArtsAdmin, is a guide to touring across Europe for UK performing artists and companies. International touring has been woefully impacted by both Covid and Brexit.
The Anti Racism Touring Rider responds to personal testimonies and feedback from over 100 freelancers, co-ordinated by a group of 15 national touring theatre companies. Since it includes a recommendation for ‘anti-racism training’ that might, if clumsily executed, in my view as an experienced and qualified Board member create issues under the Equality Act 2010, I devoted some email-sign-up-only content to it earlier this week. Check your junk and spam folders if you’re a free sign up but don’t think you received it.
Comedian Victoria Wood was part of a generation of performers that spoke up for northern, working class women. In the 1970s they would expect to have a dead-end job, with one of the few routes of escape the chance to appear on a TV talent show like Opportunity Knocks. (And if you think this is an exaggeration, I really did have a talented working class writing friend who was advised to “write to Jim’ll Fix It”). Talent tells the story of 24-year-old Julie and life on the lowest rungs of the showbiz ladder. Jun 30-Jul 24, £15-£29.
That’s all for this week, folks!