Yorkshire Theatre Newsletter: What's On This Week (Sep 24-30)

Gothic! The undead are stalking Yorkshire. Plus Sylvia Pankhurst, a Scrabble sleuth and John Godber's take on how the climate emergency will play out in Hull.

Is it possible to write about Yorkshire without invoking the Gothic? From the moment The Demeter arrived in Whitby, the county’s fate in the popular imagination was sealed. And even before that we had Cathy and Heathcliffe roaming the moors as undead in Wuthering Heights, and crazed Bertha Mason running her fingers along the wooden panelling to terrify Jane Eyre at Thornfield Hall….

So this week we have the battle of the two Draculas. Dracula: The Untold Story is an imitating the dog and Leeds Playhouse co-production and uses advanced digital technology to retell Bram Stoker’s chiller in the style of a graphic novel. Their gruelling 2019 show Heart Of Darkness de-colonised Conrad’s novel in the light of acerbic comments made by Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, so I expect something similar will happen here. Sep 25-Oct 9, £14-£32

And over at York Theatre Royal there’s Dracula: The Bloody Truth presented by the Devonian touring company Le Navet Bete. This five-star production plays it for physical comedy, with four actors tackling over 40 characters with blood-thirsty aplomb and ridiculous foreign accents. Far be it from me to suggest that YTR’s programmers are throwing shade…. Sep 24 & 25, £15-£27.

Meanwhile, between writing up my interview with Typical Girls star Eddy Queens (Sheffield Theatres, Sep 24-Oct 16, £15-£29) and campaigning to save our local GP branch surgery (BBC Look North, possibly some time next week1), I’ve been working on some exciting new ideas for Yorkshire Theatre Newsletter’s content.

My first newsletter ‘takeover’ is planned for early October, when Stan Skinny from Sheffield’s Fish Pie Cabaret (Theatre Deli, Oct 9, £11.19-£13.31) shares insights into the art of sketch comedy. I approached Stan to do this for no better (or worse) reason than that his press release made me laugh.

One of the best — if slightly daunting — things about this newsletter is that it goes out not just to ‘civilian’ theatregoers who want to connect with the scene, but also to the region’s theatre-makers. So if anyone else would like to create some exclusive content for my lovely audience of knowledgeable theatre geeks, get in touch!

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What’s On This Week (Sep 24-30)

Meanwhile I’ve been hearing good reports of the East Riding Theatre’s production of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter. It’s directed by Martin Hutson and you can catch it until Saturday. To Sep 25, £15.50 & £16.50

You’ll also have to be quick off the mark to catch Sylvia Vs The Fascists at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield tomorrow night. Sylvia Pankhurst was the most troublesome of the Pankhurst clan and they held her at arm’s length for fear her socialism would bring Votes For Women into disrepute. But she called it right in the 1930s about fascism and Rob Johnston’s drama (starring Emmerdale actress Emma Laidlaw) tells the story. Sep 24, £7.50 & £8.50.

And for the hardy of disposition there’s Quandary Collective’s Richard II at Stage@TheDock beside the Marina in Hull. I’m unsure what to make of this. It’s not the best known of Shakespeare’s history plays, and this female-led radical young company are mining it for all kinds of contemporary relevance from global ecological collapse to toxic masculinity.

It sounds potentially interesting — but wrap up warm and smuggle in some alcoholic sustenance, just in case it gets really dire. That’s my advice. Sep 24 & 25, £16 & £18.

We All Wobble is a clown show for families. Acá Theatre is an award-winning Kent-based company on a mission to remind everyone over four years old that life has its tricky bits. Sep 25, £5

For a big, uncomplicated night out, Waitress arrives at Sheffield Theatres (Lyceum) later this week to remind us that love, friendship and a well-made pie between them will solve everything — especially the pie. Lucie Jones takes on the role of Jenna, with Busted’s Matt Willis as Dr Pomatter. Sep 28-Oct 2, £15-£55, New Theatre Hull, Jan 31-Feb 5, £20-£49.50).

Mischief Theatre’s The Play That Goes Wrong at the Grand Opera House, York, performs a similar function, in this case riffing on the very British scenario of an amateur drama group tackling a sub-Agatha Christie stately home murder mystery of non-existent relevance to anything that has ever happened in the actual world ever. Oh, and the set falls down. In theory I hate this stuff but it is, genuinely, hilarious. Sep 28-Oct 3, £13-£38.50.

And at St George’s Hall in Bradford we have Dirty Dusting. I must admit to a sneaky fascination with these ultra-commercial ‘girls-night-out’ shows. They exist almost entirely beneath the critical radar, occupying a zone delineated by minus two stars if that was allowed. This one’s vintage. It tells the story of three elderly cleaners facing redundancy who set up a telephone sex line, and stars Geordie favourite Leah Bell alongside Vicky Entwhistle (Coronation Street) and Vicki Michelle (‘Allo ‘Allo). Sep 28, £25.

Returning to the Gothic (we can’t get away from it right now!) the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough gets in on the act as well, with The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde adapted by Nick Lane from Robert Louis Stevenson’s tale. Nick Lane also directs the durable Blackeyed Theatre production. Sep 30-Oct 2, £10-£28

Turning to the smaller shows, stages and venues, Nick Lane is at it again with a staged reading by professional actors of selected extracts from John Godber’s environmental satire Crown Prince. Set in Hull, it tells of how a small residential area, Beech Hill, becomes the most desirable part of town when the sea level rises. (Central Hull really was inundated with seawater a few years ago but, since this event unfortunately coincided with the death of Nelson Mandela, very few people outside the region got to hear about it.) The performance is part the theatre’s A Climate Emergency programme strand. Sep 29, free, ticketed

There’s more seriousness with A Manhood Project: Big Strong Man in Doncaster Market Place on Thursday night. The Growth House, a contemporary theatre company based in Doncaster, Manchester and Newcastle, is concerned about the sky-high suicide rate amongst Northern men under 50. This is a sharing of their work with Doncaster men’s groups to explore why. Sep 30, £3.

And finally (so we don’t end on a real downer):

  • Troy Hawke’s Tiles Of The Unexpected up at the Georgian Theatre, Richmond, is one for Scrabble buffs. There’s more to 1930s supersleuth Troy Hawke (actually character comedian Milo McCabe) than meets the eye. Sep 25, £12.

  • Lovefool at Sheffield’s Theatre Deli is Rachel E Thorne’s nostalgic return to the baffling 1990s dating scene, 25 years on and (in theory) 25 years wiser. Sep 29, £13.31-£15.43

Booking Now:

Anyone can write a farce about a pair of identical twins. It took Shakespeare’s genius to realise the mayhem wrought by two pairs of identical twins, separated at birth, and now (due to one of those shipwrecks he was so fond of) operating in ignorence of each other in a small community. That’s The Comedy Of Errors, Shakespeare’s lightest and funniest comedy, and surely the right choice for a nation attempting to shrug off a difficult time. See the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Alhambra, Bradford, Nov 2-6, £17.50-£33.50.

Liz x

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— always assuming a Royal hat doesn’t blow off somewhere pushing it down the running order