Reasonable doubt in Twelve Angry Men

Reginald Rose’s 1955 courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men ends its tour in York this week. Taking place in a single room across two hours, we follow the jurors in real time as they debate, argue, fight and vote their way towards their verdict in a juvenile homicide case – some finding that they can’t leave their past experiences and prejudices at the door. The verdict must be unanimous, with a ‘not guilty’ verdict encouraged if they have any ‘reasonable doubt’. Continue reading

Integrate and disintegrate: The Merchant of Venice 1936

Watford Palace Theatre brings its ground-breaking new production of one of Shakespeare’s most enduring classics to York Theatre Royal. Tracy-Ann Oberman (EastEnders, Doctor Who, Friday Night Dinner) makes history as the first British actress to play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice 1936 Continue reading

Blood will have blood: Verdi’s Macbeth by York Opera

Verdi’s Macbeth by York Opera, photo by Ben Lindley

Verdi’s first and most bloody, supernatural of his Shakespeare adaptations is in capable hands with York Opera, who revisit this dramatic chorus opera this autumn for the fourth time in their history. With Storm Babet rolling in as their external backdrop, the company’s confident production relies upon the clear skill of an impressive, experienced cast and crew. Uplifted by an equally adept orchestra, this is a truly striking rendition of the well-known tale of desperate ambition.

“Now the murderer creeps like a phantom through the shadows.”

John Soper’s set design evokes Celtic circles echoed by the Steampunk cogs of Maggie Soper’s witch costumes. Belaying a traditional red-and-black palette for more muted teals and purples, the set conjures up the family tartan of Sir Walter Scott, and perhaps vicariously his own curiosity in demonology and witchcraft. Sung in English (by way of early modern English, Italian and French) and featuring a variety of eras and styles in the costumes, this production crosses place and time to create a liminal, disorienting atmosphere as mists and mystical prophesies surround, fill and eventually choke the Macbeths, played by the impressive Sharon Nicholson-Skeggs and Ian Thomson-Smith.

“Open your mouth, hell, and swallow all creation in your womb.”

John Soper’s stage directrion gives weight to particular dramatic moments through stillness; Banquo (Adrian S. Cook) singing to his son Fleance (Noah Jackson), and the whole ensemble singing in soulful mourning around their murdered king. The simplicity of these arrangements adds a gravitas to the story that is often chased away in favour of busy depictions of madness, and a frenzied focus on the lead couple. Here, we are forced to sit with the deep grief felt by the court. The emotional force of this event, and of course the Macbeths’ hand in it, is palpable. When a stage full of people are belting out this requiem of woe directly around the body, you can’t help but feel it.

Leon Waksberg makes a memorable debut with the company as Malcolm, enriching some of the more beautiful harmonies arranged for the male characters. The night is ultimately in the hands of Nicholson-Skeggs, whose otherworldly voice and apparently self-sourced costumes are nothing short of iconic. Her whip-sharp lashes of Verdi’s more broken, violent lines for Lady Macbeth perfectly capture the urgent emasculation of her husband as they spiral out of power and control. The show is a must-see for a graceful, enlightening version of the play you think you know.

Macbeth is playing at 7pm on 20 and 4pm on 21 October, at York Theatre Royal, running at 3 hours including an interval. Tickets and further information available here.

Garth Marenghi’s TerrorTome: Book tour review

It’s a wet evening in York and Vikings are prowling the streets. For some men they might be a threat, but for Garth Marenghi, doom scriber and master of the macabre, they are but bearded weirdos. Why, dear reader is this review written in a manner of which the man himself might approve? Let me explicate. Continue reading

Ghost Stories for Christmas returns to York

Wrap up warm and ring up your rellies because it’s time for a festive treat for the whole family. In just a few nights’ time, York Medical Society will again open its doors to James Swanton – past winner of Outstanding Performing Artist in the York Culture Awards – and … Continue reading

Brutal and unapologetic celebration: Unkown by Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Chadwick Pywell

Unknown is a collection of twenty-seven poems by Anna Rose James and Elizabeth Cadwick Pywell. Over the past decade there has been a real movement towards centring women’s voices in poems and prose. Unknown belongs to this movement as it is inspired by women from myth and history who have been forgotten and neglected. Continue reading

Magic Goes Wrong goes down just right: Theatre review

Creators of well-loved The Play That Goes Wrong, Mischief Theatre, team up with the renowned magical duo Penn and Teller to bring us Magic Goes Wrong. Having recently ended its West End run, the show is on tour with a fresh cast of performers playing a motley gang of average magicians putting on a fundraiser to raise money for ‘Disasters in Magic’ charity in memory of Sophisticato’s (the compere’s) father, crushed to death by magical props. Continue reading

Feel-good love and friendship: Footloose the Musical

Sellardoor Productions opens its UK-wide tour of Footloose the Musical to an excitable audience in a packed house at York Theatre Royal. Essentially a feel-good story of love, friendship, and standing up for what you believe in, Footloose is clearly just the kind of toe-tapping tale that York theatre-goers have been craving post-restrictions. Continue reading

Here’s What She Said To Me: What do we pass on?

Utopia Theatre, a leading voice for African Theatre in the UK, presents Here’s What She Said To Me, a powerful piece of storytelling drama that follows three generations of proud African women connecting with each other across two continents, across time and space. Written by Oladipo Agbolaje and directed by Mojisola Elufowoju, this moving show demonstrates a rich cultural heritage and consciousness. Continue reading

Treasure Island: Swashbuckling Bouffonnery

Le Navet Bete bring a cast of four to their hilarious, audacious twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s legendary tale, featuring an unusual, motley crew of south-west-accented pirates, a parrot called Alexa (straight from ‘the’ Amazon), a certain white-bearded fish finger tycoon and a mermaid you’ll never forget. Signature joyful chaos ensues. Continue reading

Fences and dirt: The Bone Sparrow

Presented by Pilot Theatre in co-production with York Theatre Royal, Belgrade Theatre Coventry, Mercury Theatre Colchester and Derby Theatre, this world stage premiere of Zana Fraillon’s acclaimed book captures a painfully pertinent story of refugee experience. Continue reading