Yorkshire Theatre Newsletter: What's On This Week: Sep 10-16

Bradford petrol-heads are revving their motors! Plus a sideways look at an African dictator -- and a forgotten island near Shipley.

I haven’t gone soft. In January and February my lockdown was enlivened (if that’s the correct word) by a deluge of speeding tickets and bus lane violations. Some of them had muzzy photographs attached of my beloved little Agila buzzing round Bradford at breakneck speed.

It was nothing to do with me. I replaced her just after Christmas and, due to a software blip, the DVLA in Swansea failed to record the change of keeper.

It’s all sorted out now. Or rather, it possibly isn’t. I wrote to the vehicle licensing authority by snail mail and, after a few weeks, they acknowledged the error by the same 19th-century method. The tickets stopped arriving. Whether the perpetrator stopped perpetrating is a matter for the West Yorkshire Police and Bradford Council but not, thank goodness, for me any more.

I’m not, therefore, convinced that police attention to car crime in the city is without merit. Nor do I believe the main issue facing Muslim youth in Bradford is ‘rising Islamophobia around the world’. I think their difficulties are local and (as per the Sewell Report) mostly rooted in class, poverty, low educational attainment and having the misfortune to grow up in a city which lacks a thriving economy.

But an extra layer of alienation — however derived — probably doesn’t make anyone feel better about their lives. Peacophobia, a play about Bradford’s lively Asian petrol-head community, came into being because the young women of arts collective Speakers Corner wanted to tackle perceptions around young Pakistani Muslim men. The resulting story, written by Zia Ahmed with the participation of Bradford Modified Club, tells of Ali, Sohail and Casper, and their love for their souped-up vehicles.

Set aside the dreary victimhood ideology that threatens, if the advance publicity is any guide, to saturate the piece; the central impulse of this show — that shared hobbies bring people together without preconceptions — is a good one.

So lighten up. Have fun. Enjoy the cars.

Peacophobia, Oastler Market Car Park, Bradford City Centre, Sep 10-18, £5 & £10

What’s On Sep 10-16

Steve Scott-Bottoms’s unusual drama This Island’s Mine is set in Dockfield — a little-known strip of land sandwiched between the River Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal at Shipley. Performed aboard The Ribble, an original 1930s canal boat, the play explores the heritage of West Yorkshire’s waterways, with audience members helping the characters to build a kind of map. (This will ultimately be displayed at Leeds Industrial Museum in Armley.)

The play was commissioned by the Aire Rivers Trust in collaboration with Canal Connections and Shipley-based community arts group Multi-Storey Water and will be performed at locations along the canal. To Sep 26, £3.

Meanwhile Operation Crucible is still going strong at The Studio in Sheffield, telling the iconic Sheffield story of four steelworkers trapped beneath the rubble of the old Marples Hotel during an air raid. To Sep 25, £18 & £20, see previous newsletters for details.

Several big shows are opening tonight (Thursday). Notably:

  • Mugabe, My Dad & Me at York Theatre Royal. Unfortunately, I can no longer think of the internally exiled Zimbabwean dictator without remembering that hilarious photograph of him in which he appears to be wearing his wife's earrings. This York Theatre Royal-English Touring Theatre co-production stars Tonderai Munyevu in his autobiographical account of growing up under the regime. Acclaimed mbira-player Millie Chapanda also features. To Sep 18, £15 & £19. An Audible version based on the stage production is also available, £3.69.

  • Over at the other Theatre Royal, in Wakefield, John Godber’s latest comedy-drama Sunny Side Up! is a John Godber Company production and tells the story of a struggling Yorkshire Coast B&B and the people who run it. Expect a timely analysis of “levelling up, leaving home and never forgetting where you come from”. To Sep 18, £17-£23. Also: Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, Oct 7-9, £10-£28, Viaduct Theatre, Halifax, £19-£21, Hull Truck Theatre, Nov 1-6, £15-£28.50.

  • And in Beverley, there’s Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. This is East Riding Theatre’s re-opening production — their first in-house production since 2019 — and naturally they’re very excited about it. The classic drama, a quasi-thriller which descends into sinister comedy, is directed by Martin Hutson, and stars Frazer Hammill and Nick Figgis. To Sep 25, £15.50 & £16.50

Later in the week…

Many years ago, working for PA Media, I used to take audio-dictation over the telephone from Boris Johnson. Yes. That Boris Johnson. The pro-cycling, bus-loving newspaper columnist who became our Prime Minister. I could a tale unfold -- but won’t because I signed a confidentiality agreement. (Though to be fair, anything I’d say is already in the public domain because those fine people at The Independent have already blabbed about it.) He was always civil, in that familiar, blustery, faux-English way.

Blowfish Theatre attempt to out-satire reality with Boris The Musical 3: The Johnson Supremacy, “the next tragi-comic instalment in Britain’s political nervous breakdown” at CAST, Doncaster, Sep 10 & 11, £10 & £14.

And as a reminder that the nights are drawing in, CAST also host Alan Ayckbourn’s bittersweet Christmas play Absurd Person Singular in a touring production from London Classic Theatre. (For those from elsewhere who have just come on board, Ayckbourn is a world-class playwright who has lived and worked in Yorkshire for many decades.) I’m loving the 1970s aesthetic. Sep 14 & 15, £10 & £17.50

Staying in South Yorkshire, The Academy Theatre in Barnsley is staging a homegrown offering — That’s The Spirit, a spooky comedy-drama by Lee Pollard and Paul Athorne. Lee is a poet and spoken-word performer who made his debut in a sole performance on the Crucible stage in Sheffield in the first week it reopened after lockdown. Paul as a member of The Barnsley Central Writers has just published a book short stories. Sep 11 & 12, £10.

And then there’s Undermined by Danny Mellor. Sigh. What can I say? There are ex-miners living in my village, in my street. In some moods I’m just an old-fashioned, socially-conservative leftie who believes in class struggle.

Red Ladder position themselves as “Britain’s leading radical theatre company” and have cannily taken this one-man show about the lasting bonds forged during the ruinous 1980s Miners’ Strike under their wing. Gipton WMC Leeds, Sep 14, Queens Mill, Castleford, Sep 15, The Grove Hall, South Kirkby, Sep 16, Cluntergate Centre, Horbury, Oct 3, HOPS, Leeds, Oct 14, £5-£5.98

Booking Now:

Who invented the typical girl?/Who's bringing out the new improved model?/And there's another marketing ploy/Typical girl gets the typical boy. (Typical Girls, The Slits)

The Slits didn’t come completely out of nowhere. Ari Up’s mother was a German media heiress married to a record company executive, which must have helped. But all the same — to have this chaotic, rebellious, incompetent, feminist and bloody brilliant girl band there at the very inception of punk, informing its spirit of sexual equality, is cheering.

Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s drama Typical Girls at Sheffield Crucible invokes the anarchy of The Slits in her tale of a group of female prison inmates in a mental health unit who fight back against the oppressiveness of the system by forming their own group. The play is directed by Clean Break’s Roisin McBrinn. Sep 24-Oct 16, £15-£29

That’s it for this week, folks. Loads of good things left out — Simon Evans at Otley Courthouse, Sep 14, £15, Fascinating Aida at Sheffield City Hall, Sep 14, £31.20 and Nick Cave and Warren Ellis at the Alhambra, Bradford, Sep 15, £37-87. But time’s fleet foot has caught up with me.

Liz x