Yorkshire Theatre Newsletter: What's On This Week (Nov 5-11)

This Machine Kills Fascists: Folk singer Rowan Rheingans celebrates small acts of resistance. Plus The Offing (Review) and a spooky audio-drama set in Whitby.

I prefer the North Bay.

Anyone who knows Yorkshire can now place me exactly in the poisonous etiology of the British class system. There are good and bad hotels right across this historic seaside town (which was arguably the UK’s first bathing resort), but to prefer Scarborough’s North Bay is to opt for peaceful gentility over the more raucous amusements of the South.

The upper-middle-classes meanwhile — and I’ve met a few — are up on the North York Moors inflicting purgatory on their adolescent children in the form of leaky, old camper vans. “It’s the school fees… ”

And so, being upper-lower-middle class in my very bones, I slogged up the Ravine to the Stephen Joseph Theatre in the centre of town. I was there to watch The Offing, a play adapted by Janice Okoh (with additional material by director Paul Robinson) from Benjamin Myers’s successful novel.

Set during a nameless summer just after the Second World War, it’s the story of Robert, a young man from a Durham mining community, who sets out on foot to escape his likely destiny down t’pit and gets as far as the old smuggling village of Robin Hood’s Bay. There he encounters Dulcie, an elderly aristocrat half crazed with grief.

One can only imagine what a French writer or director would have made of it; a transgressive encounter between a wise, sad, older woman battered by life’s experience and a 16-year-old boy yearning for manhood. But — since this is England — it’s about class.

And so, in place of a love that dare not speak its name, we get food. Lots of it. And it’s all very posh — Dulcie has an Elizabeth David-style mania for cooking and an unaccountably well-stocked wine cellar. Robert’s first meal under her crumbling roof is fresh lobster.

And the love that does dare speak its name is lesbianism. Dulcie is grieving for her former partner, an inspired German poetess. And because Romy is (or was) The Enemy, and because Robert is working class, he’s beastly about it. And Ducie has to put him straight about nationalism and prejudice.

Never mind that members of the highly organised and politicised mining communities of the 1930s, with their international trade union links, may well have been more aware of the Nazi menace, and how it made itself felt on some sections of the German people, than the Friends Of Oswald that populated the upper classes. Never mind that mining communities gave rise to brass bands, male-voice choirs, art societies and evening classes. This is a post-Brexit English cultural story and there’s only one way it can go. Dulcie opens the young Northerner’s eyes to the evils of racism and the healing Power Of Art And Literature.

It sounds as if I hated it. But I absolutely didn’t hate it. Watching the play, with its reassuring (some would say complacent?) cultural values, was like stepping into a hot bath. James Gleddon as Robert and Cate Hamer as Dulcie both delivered energetic performances that were full of physical comedy. The beautiful Ingvild Lakou had less to do as Romy, being required only to waft around and throw a mega artistic tantrum.

I would have liked to have seen a more abrasive interrogation of Dulcie’s intercontinental bohemianism — oh, so aspirational to the toiling middle classes — and the family wealth her insoucient lifestyle must have depended upon, but it wasn’t that kind of drama.

And then, at the interval, I was handed a glass of red wine at my seat. It proved my undoing. On the go, and working, since 6am, I may have nodded off briefly during the second act. It didn’t matter. When I came round the story was still unfolding just as it should.

The Offing now tours to Newcastle’s Live Theatre, Nov 3-27, £12-£28

What’s On This Week (Nov 5-11)

Once again, it’s a short one this week, as my return to full-time employment has coincided with the need to put together a cogent response to the closure of our village GP branch surgery. The consultation deadline is imminent and, so far this week, my Parish Council work on this matter has taken up the better part of three evenings.

Things will get better but in the meantime, here’s some things:

Dispatches On The Red Dress, at The Carriageworks in Leeds, is Rowan Rheingans’s solo show telling the story of her grandmother’s youth in 1940s Germany. Rowan is a two-times BBC Radio Two Folk Award-winner and the performance (co-created with dramaturg Liam Hurley) interweaves immersive storytelling with live fiddle, banjo and original songs. Nov 5, £12 & £14

Final call for Jitney, at Leeds Playhouse. Directed by Tinuke Craig, it’s a stirring story of people power set in the neglected black neighbourhood of Hill District in 1970s Pittsburgh. Author August Wilson is now recognised as one of America’s greatest dramatists. To Nov 6, £14-£32

Also at the Playhouse is How To Be A Better Human. Performed by Chris Singleton and directed by Tom Wright as part of the Furnace Festival, it uses powerpoint comedy, poetry, autobiographical storytelling, original music by Reece Jacob and animation by Huckleberry Films to encourage accessible conversations about grief and loss. Nov 11, £2-£12.50

Northern Ballet’s Merlin, choreographed by Drew McOnie and with music by Grant Olding, tours to Sheffield Theatres (to Nov 6, £10-£50) and then Leeds Grand (Nov 9-20, £20-£50).

The RSC venture north as far as Bradford to present Shakespeare’s The Comedy Of Errors at the Alhambra. To Nov 6, £17.50-£33.50

Medea/Duende/Douglass is a trio of solo shows from Anna-Maria Nabirye (Medea), Amelia Donkor (Duende) and Jude Owusu (Douglass). Each show lasts about 30 minutes and the triple bill is presented by SJT Associate Company The Faction after a short run at Wilton’s Music Hall in London. Nov 11-13, £10-£22

And whilst you’re on the East Coast, you might also check out In The Footsteps Of Bram Stoker, an audio drama which takes the listener round Whitby in spooky fashion courtesy of GPS Technology. Supported by Creative England, Diva are developing the GeoStories project in collaboration with fellow Yorkshire-based creative company, Vanitas Arts. You can find the app at App Stores or Google Play.

News

Opera North have appointed a Kay Salomon to the company’s new female conductor traineeship, in a scheme which addresses the difficulties woman face getting high-quality conducting experiences in the industry.

And Unlimited Theatre, who recently advertised for a new Artistic Director to replace departing co-founder Clare Duffy, have appointed five people instead to act as Core Artists. Unlimited’s Jon Spooner explains the process and the reasoning here.

Here’s the list:

Rachael Abbey - Co-Artistic Director of The Roaring Girls
Jamie Fletcher - Artistic Director at Jamie Fletcher & Company
Tyrrell Jones - Artistic Director at Knaive Theatre
Ali Pidsley - Co-Company Director at Barrel Organ
Lauren Nicole Whitter - Artistic Director of Anansi Theatre Company

Goodnight!

Liz x