Tag Archives: Preview

Review: The Mai

16 Mar
“It’s not fair they teach us desperation so young, or if they do, they should never mention hope.”
Desperation, dejection, and disappointment seem to be the order of the day in Marina Carr’s 1995 play The Mai about a year in the life of a large Irish family full of brilliant but flawed women. Despite being a long and wordy play, with Carr displaying a flair for lyrical as well as naturalistic language, the plot is not the draw here; rather it is the characters and their inner lives that are so interesting and relatable, and the actors, without exception, skilfully bring them to life.
mai 3

Beth Sharrock as Millie (all photos by Michael J Oakes)

“I wanted my life to be so huge and heroic and pure.”
The title role of The Mai is a fantastic and exposing part for actor Beryl Nairn, which she clearly relishes and excels in, squeezing every last inch of emotion from this challenging and changeable character. The Mai’s daughter, Millie is our ‘narrator’ throughout, yet her speeches tend to be more poetic than expositional, which sometimes left the timeline of the story confused. However, Beth Sharrock (who plays Millie) shines in her myriad of metaphorical monologues and handles them sensitively and with genuine emotion, never overplayed. Millie, and her son, stand at the end of a long line of generations of wilful women who seem to have passed unfulfillment down through the ages like a dusty heirloom, and we are left wondering what her fate will be. At the top of this line is old Grandma Fraochlan, who gets all the best one-liners and is expertly played by Elizabeth Elsworth, with sparkling wit and expression. The family relationships are all nicely drawn, from that of The Mai and her husband Robert (Damian Fynes in a fine YSCP debut), to the three sisters The Mai, Connie (Helen Sant) and Beck (Jessica Murray), to the aunts Agnes (Vivienne Clare) and  Julie (an eminently watchable Sophie Buckley).

Elizabeth Elsworth as Grandma Fraochlan

“I’m not drunk, I’m trapped!”
This sort of play is exposing for an actor and the cast have obviously been sensitively directed by Jan Kirk to bring the best of themselves to their roles, their performances also aided by Helen Taylor and Maggie Smales’ costume design and Natalie Heijm’s make-up. Despite a slow start at the preview performance, the drama soon began to fizz and, particularly in the second half, the rapport between the actors was evident as the quick wit sparked between them and the tension grew to its foreshadowed conclusion.
mai 2

Beryl Nairn as The Mai

The Mai is a fantastic example of the talent York has to offer, both on stage and off, with set, costume, sound and lighting all playing their part, and you should take the chance to see this little performed claustrophobic and distinctly Chekhovian play.

BLU – Love Arts Festival. Friargate Theatre, York, 4-5th July.

29 Jun

“I thought love was black and white.

But with you it can be red and orange and yellow and green,

and sometimes…

just sometimes…”

Embedded image permalink

I originally wrote Blu for a Script Yorkshire Script Factor heat earlier this year. The theme was, unsurprisingly, ‘Blue’ and I immediately thought of writing something to do with mental health, “blue” sometimes being used as a euphemism for mental health problems such as Depression. I don’t mention a specific issue in the play, but my own past experiences with Anxiety did have an influence on the writing.

Embedded image permalink

“It was a Saturday. That Saturday. Meeting you for the first time.”

Blu begins with an awkward meet cute at a party between a man (played by David Phillipps) and a woman (played by Emma Dubruel). They are very different people but they are intrigued by each other and, over two different time frames, we see that actually maybe they are just what each other needs at this particular time in their lives.

Embedded image permalink

“I think I noticed some kind of, lemon kind of, might be some elderflower crap. Posh bastards, everything’s from Waitrose.”

Coming to watch Blu will take the maximum of 10 minutes of your precious time and for just £5 you can also get in to watch other Love Arts performances at Friargate Theatre. On Saturday 4th July, we are on at 5pm and at 6pm you can watch Are You Taking the Mick by Conquer and, at 7pm Do you Mind? by Beardog. On Sunday 5th July, we are on at 4.30pm and at 6pm you can watch Headaches by Enso. For an extra £5 each you can also see Anonymous Bosh’s The Knot of the Heart and Hedgepig’s The Maids the same weekend!

Love Arts York festival is a festival with the simple aim of using the arts to get people to think about and talk about mental health and wellbeing. www.loveartsyork.co.uk

Blu production updates are posted on twitter, follow @birdonhead for more information.

I will also be entering a play in the Script Factor Final, also at Friargate, later in July. Tickets for both events can be booked at www.ridinglights.org.uk/friargate

Drums in the Night

18 Apr

Again, another months’ long silence!

In my last post in January I mentioned some exciting news for 2015, well that exciting news was/is that I am back in the directing chair for Drums in the Night by Bertolt Brecht, performed by York Settlement Community Players who were also behind The Stepmother that I posted so much about.

A week today we will be getting ready to ‘get in’ at Friargate Theatre, where the play will be performed from 30th April – 2nd May.

In my whistle-stop tour of Brecht on my German course at university, I studied the play – Trommeln in der Nacht in German – and it is great to be able to revisit it now and to bring it to life with talented actors and a committed production team.

The play was written when Brecht was still in his early twenties, before his theories of Epic Theatre and Verfremdung, when he was a jobbing writer just wanting to make money! He chose the topical subject of the end of the First World War and the Spartacist Uprising – an uncertain time in Germany: many Berliners starving; soldiers returning with no homes to return to; an abdicated ruler etc etc- and placed a love-story in amongst this backdrop. All humanity is inside its 18 characters – good and bad, crude and innocent, funny and tragic. I think it’s great and I hope, if you come to see it, that you will too.

Emma Dubruel (Anna) and George Stagnell (Kragler). Credit Michael J Oakes (1)

The Stepmother Blog 2: Props, Posing and Publicity

14 Feb

A quick update by way of photos. See my previous post for some more background to the production of The Stepmother, and the bottom of this post for ways to get more information…

Hunting around the York Theatre Royal costume hire, we found a very sweet case complete with a beautiful little photo of two women. I’ll probably be using this as my cigarette case (Lois is a 20 a day kinda gal), pretending that the two women are my stepdaughters. It’d be lovely to know the story behind the case and who these people were.

This is one of my costumes (without the 1920s hair), found at the West Yorkshire Playhouse costume hire. This will be Lois’ work outfit, as she is a business woman. The dress itself luckily fits very well and I love the feel of it – it’s so silky! I quite like the 1920s style. Most people will think of the ‘flapper’ style dresses, but as Lois is a married woman in her late 20s, something like this is probably more suitable! One of the things I loved about this dress is that the back looks like it is done up by hundreds of buttons which look fantastic, but luckily, and in the spirit of the quick-change, the fastenings are actually clasps which will help when I have to quickly get out of it into another ‘frock’!

Yesterday our director Maggie and some of the cast popped into Radio York to record an interview about the play – here’s Simon who plays Peter Holland and Catherine who plays Mary. Hopefully you’ll be able to listen in on Sunday 2nd March.

York Settlement Community Players present Githa Sowerby’s The Stepmother at York Theatre Royal 5th-15th March

More The Stepmother blogs can be found here

A preview can be read here

More information about the production and information on tickets can be found here

Follow YSCP on twitter and receive updates about the production here

TakeOver June Week

28 May

As predicted TakeOver week one was exciting, successful and very very busy – hence how and why the preview and review section of this blog got left by the wayside.. so sorry..

But here’s the exciting news: week 2 of TakeOver 2013 is coming to York Theatre Royal next week! Yes, NEXT WEEK – 4th-8th June.

So, here’s what we’ve got planned…

Running from Thursday until 15th June – The Mercy Seat : Neil LaBute’s play following the aftermath of a national tragedy and how it affects two lovers and their life choices, asking the question, what would you do if you had the chance to start over? A gripping and powerful two-hander drama, I really recommend this!

Tuesday – Out of the Blue: a-capella like you’ve never seen it before. Or maybe you have, seeing as they were on Britain’s Got Talent! If you book your ticket in person or on the phone, ask for a free workshop ticket and the boys will teach you one of their songs and dance routines which you can perform with them in the evening show!

Wednesday- The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs : ever thought of the legality and morality behind Apple? This is a one man show which is bound to be thought provoking and leave you with questions.

Thursday- The Trench : a production filled with live music, puppetry, film and stunning physical performances, The Trench is set in World War One. watch a trailer here.

Friday- Chapel Street and Bitch Boxer : a double bill of stunning new writing, so more drama for your money. Chapel Street and Bitch Boxer have been touring the country and receiving some great reviews. Chapel Street follows Kirsty and Joe during one night in London and Bitch Boxer follows Chloe as she trains as a female boxer – come along and see them both in one night, and for only £8 for students.

Saturday – Enormous Turnip and Comedy Night : Turnip is an inventive and charming retelling of the traditional children’s tale and for the adults, we have another comedy night, featuring not one, not two but five hilarious stand-ups who will have you rolling in the aisles!


As ever, tweet us on @ytrtakeover13 like us on our facebook page visit the TakeOver website and book tickets at York Theatre Royal.

Hope to see you around next week!

TakeOver13 Festival Blog 1

30 Sep

What TakeOver is and how I came to be involved with it

I’m so excited to have been appointed Associate Director for the next TakeOver Festival at the York Theatre Royal which will be happening over three weeks next March, July and the Autumn. The first TakeOver festival was in 2009 and was a massive experiment. Nothing had been seen like it before on that scale. Essentially what happens is that for two or more weeks, the regular staff of the theatre hand over the reigns to a bunch of under 25 year olds who take over the running of the theatre. For these few weeks they are in charge. Each new member of TakeOver staff is given a mentor – so for example the theatre’s Associate Director will be mine – to keep them on the right track and to teach them the ins and outs of their job.

I was involved with the first TakeOver because I was in Equus performed by the theatre’s Young Actors Company and through that I heard about the other exciting things going on and decided to help front of house and a bit in marketing. You can even see me on the TakeOver page on YTR’s website http://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/page/takeover.php – fun times! Since then, I’ve wanted to be involved on a larger scale, especially because I have since decided that I would really like to have a career in the industry, but I have always been away at uni.. until now! I was aware that there may be another TakeOver coming up so during the end of my degree I checked the website to see if the Senior Management roles were being advertised. Luckily for me, they were, and the dates were perfect to fit in with my masters in York!

The Senior Management team roles are: Artistic Director, Producer, Associate Director, Communications Manager, Production Manager and General Manager. I was torn between a couple of the roles but I soon decided that Associate Director would be the right one for me to apply for. It is essentially heading up Creative Engagement (basically work in and with the local community and Education) with directing and programming thrown in as well. As I am interested in directing as well as education and young people I thought it would be perfect and (during finals.. oops..) I sat down to fill in the application form.


Having set my heart on being involved somehow I was really excited to hear I’d got an interview soon after I had finished university and come back to York. I was interviewed by the Associate Director of YTR, Juliet, and two lovely members of the TakeOver board (more about them in a moment). The interview was relaxed but challenging enough to make me really think what I wanted to get out of TakeOver and what I could offer them. I enjoyed it but as with exams and auditions, I never can tell how interviews have really gone until I know the verdict! I was amazed and thrilled when I heard the next day that I was hired!

Next Steps

It was a while until I heard anything else because the other members of the team had to be recruited and many of their interviews couldn’t be conducted until after the mystery plays frenzy had died down because of their mentors being involved with it. I was invited to a Board Meeting late August but unfortunately I couldn’t make it. As the Senior Management team came together we were given each others details and began to introduce ourselves and on 19th September we had our first big TakeOver day. Only four of the six SMT could make it but it was still good to put faces to names! Firstly we each individually had meetings with our mentors. We discussed my job description and what it meant and I met the rest of the Creative Engagement staff (some of whom I already knew) in their office. Next it was time for a meet and greet with tea and biscuits and members of YTR staff and TakeOver staff followed by a tour of the YTR buildings (so fun to stand on the stage again!). Finally we got to meet the TakeOver Board. There are about 15 members of the board, all under the age of 25 and headed up by a Chair and two Vice Chairs. They help oversee what the SMT do and give us advice with programming ideas etc. It was such an exciting atmosphere with a lot of ages and different levels of experiences and interests around the table and there was some great cake! We talked about the mission for TakeOver and what sort of things would be happening in the near future.

Programming time!

Apparently for the first TakeOver week in March, we have to have chosen what shows and workshops we want to book pretty soon (as in, imminently) for it to make the main YTR brochure. We can have our own print as well of course, but this is a really good way to reach the YTR’s usual audience to let them know what will be going on. As a team, we already have a lot of ideas, and we need more than enough because there’s a fair chance that a lot of it we won’t be able to get due to unavailability, budget etc. Straight after the board meeting, we had a quick pub brainstorm (the best kind) and then all our initial ideas and more were typed up so we could all google and youtube everything. On the 27th September, I was in the theatre in the morning helping with a schools workshop for a lively Year 3 class who were going to watch Tutti Frutti’s Rapunzel in the afternoon (I snuck in too and it was charming) and in the evening, three of the SMT met up to talk through the ideas. On 3rd Oct we have to present them to the board to see what they think and to get some feedback. I’m sure they’ll be very honest with their opinions and I’m looking forward to it!


Long post I know, but writing about TakeOver will help me as well – to order my thoughts and work out what’s to be done next! Any questions or ideas about what you’d like to see, just comment!

Press Preview: Kafka’s Dick

25 Nov

Last week I reviewed a preview of Alan Bennett’s ‘Kafka’s Dick’ which is on at the Burton Taylor Studio, Oxford 29th Nov- 3rd Dec.

You can read my review here:


From what I saw I’d probably give it 3*s. It was promising but needed a lot of polishing.