Yorkshire Theatre Newsletter: What's On (Feb 11-17)
Irita At The Pantomime. Plus Girls Behaving Badly and a bunch of stuff we all wish never happened
I’m back! It’s three weeks later than planned, but I was ill in the run-up to Christmas and then… life happened. I’m now working full-time in a stressful — but very worthwhile — ‘key worker’ role that’s likely to go permanent. Does this make me any less committed to Yorkshire Theatre Newsletter? Well, no. It makes me appreciate, more than ever, the glamour and sparkle of live performance.
What’s On This Week (Feb 11-17)
Genuinely working class perspectives are rare in British theatre — and working class female voices are as rare as hen’s teeth. That’s why The Indecent Musings Of Miss Doncaster 2007 is such a gem. Written and performed by Annabel York, and directed by Rebecca Louden, this solo show tells the story of a good-looking Donny lass who sets out to make something of herself. The only trouble is… her beloved Dad might be dying. Stephen Joseph Theatre, Feb 11, £10-£18, CAST, Doncaster, Feb 17 & 18, £10 &£12.50
Covering some of the same territory, but from an American perspective, is the touring musical 9-5. I loved the film, which starred Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, when it was released in 1980 — but in those days its message of female empowerment was still slightly ahead of its time. Screenwriter Patricia Resnick’s comic tale of three office workers plotting revenge on their sexist boss has stood up magnificently over the decades and adapts well to the contemporary stage as 9 to 5 The Musical starring Claire Sweeney. Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, to Feb 12, £15-£55.
And Buzzing, written and performed by Debbie Bird, is an exploration of the middle-aged dating scene through the eyes of a recent divorcee. A palpable hit at the last proper Edinburgh Festival in 2019, it’s directed by Mark Farrelly. Theatre Royal, Wakefield, Feb 17, phone for returns.
Elsewhere, it’s the Gothic and the supernatural that takes centre stage. Blackeyed Theatre are touring a couple of their reliable old war horses — Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough to Feb 12 (£10-£28) and The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde at the Theatre Royal, Wakefield, Feb 15 & 16, (£15-£22). Both chillers have been ably adapted by Nick Lane.
And Corrie star James Gaddas is claiming a new take on the Dracula legend as a result of his discovery (perhaps) of Bram Stoker’s original, handwritten manuscript. Behind him he has a heavyweight creative team — director Pip Minnithorpe, composer Jeremy Swift and Olivier Award-winning designer John Bulleid. Feb 17 & 18, £20.
Horror of an unsupernatural kind is the theme of John Rwothomack’s Far Gone. Working as a copytaker at the Press Association, I learned to take in my stride all kinds of distressing events. (Weirdly, both the Omagh and the Admiral Duncan bombs are lodged in the ‘I was there’ part of my brain.) But it was the reportage from West Africa that drove me into therapy — in particular, a vivid first-hand account of a young Sierra Leone boy being deliberately, and with horrid ingenuity, burned alive.
Things were scarcely better in East Africa, where the child soldiers of the Lord’s Resistence Army rampaged across Northern Uganda committing any number of atrocities. Far Gone is a Sheffield Theatres and Roots Mbili Theatre co-production which tells a story based on historical events close to the writer’s experience. It runs in the Studio at Sheffield Feb 17-26 (£15 & £20) before travelling to York Theatre Royal (Mar 3 & 4, £10 & £16) and Hull Truck (Apr 14-16, £13.30).
And if that’s too much to stomach, there’s always the contemporary dance piece Donuts at the Riley Theatre in Leeds. This is a happy tale of a group of friends choreographed by one-to-watch Jamaal Burkmar and featuring music from Jameszoo. Feb 17, £10 & £15
Finally, several aeons ago — when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, etc — I promised you my Latvian friend Irita’s account of her first trip to a British pantomime — Cinderella at York Theatre Royal. Irita is a talented photographer and couldn’t resist taking an illicit snap inside the auditorium. This was very naughty of her — theatres have good reason to control their publicity images — and we won’t do it again.
This is what she had to say:
Irita At The Pantomime
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to see this play. I would never choose to go to it but…Wow! Thank you!
When you invited me, I did a little research. I found that it’s very traditional here. It’s very popular here and it has a lot to do with interaction with audience. But I didn’t know much more really. The things I remember in Latvia were very childish. Maybe for a child this play as well was childish but for me now being an adult and seeing it -- I saw all the very grown-up jokes. So, I don’t remember having anything like it in Latvia, no.
That day it was actually pretty grey and it was windy. The weather wasn’t the nicest at all — and because I thought that it was going to be very childish, I was not very excited really to go there. But: “Okay, I’m open for experience. I’ll go and I’ll see what it brings.” And… you know, York’s theatre, the Royal Theatre, it’s a very beautiful building itself, you know, and all the Christmas lights they are beautifully dressed. And just when we entered the… it was live music, live Christmas carol singers, so there were like 30 people singing carols.
And straight away it made such a difference from the really dark and grey mood outdoors to this very warm and very magical… It really was magical, the atmosphere in the theatre. It was beautiful place. The stage was all gold and glittery. Oh, just the decoration alone, oh my God.
L. What did you think of the Ugly Sisters?
I. They were significant people of the production because they were so beautifully bad. Gorgeously bad. Every time they came onstage, they had a different costume. The costumes were amazingly bright and interesting with an emphasis on their female features like their breasts and bottom. And it was just hilarious.
And they would come onto the stage and the first sentence they say every time was: “Aren’t we gorgeous?” Incredible, or gorgeous, or amazing. And all the children and everybody would shout: “No!” And they would be like: “Oh, shut up!” “No, you shut up!” And there would be this argument between them and the audience.
L. I have pictures of the Ugly Sisters. Particularly on the motorbike. That must have been amazing.
I. But the motorbike wasn’t the coolest thing in the creation. Did you see the flying horse?
L. Tell me about the flying horse.
I. Oh my God. They made this huge… Because in the story they had this pumpkin that turns into a… a coach. But I was thinking to myself: “How you going to do it? How you going to make this transition to happen?”
So when Cinderella was at home they put this pumpkin on a table, with lids as the wheels on the table. And then … I think the curtain closed or somehow… just for a moment… And suddenly from the back of the stage appeared a horse and a huge coach.
And then it would turn around and it was flying so it was like they were holding it by a rope to the ceiling. And it was just beautiful, all golden and shiny and… Ah! It was a magical moment. I was like a kid. I was just clapping and shouting. I’m amazed I was like… For such a childish you know kind of play you feel… I don’t know. They make you believe in this fairy tale.
Cinderella at York Theatre Royal ran from Dec 3, 2021 to Jan 2, 2022. It was written by Paul Hendy and directed by Juliet Forster.
Booking for this year’s offering, All New Adventures Of Peter Pan, (Dec 2-Jan 2, 2022) has already opened.