Christmas isn’t Christmas without a trip to the Pantomime… and Huddersfields’ favourite Panto is back at the Lawrence Batley Theatre for the 4th year running. This year’s Christmas panto is Sleeping Beauty, Oh yes it is and, they just keep getting bigger and better with sumptuous costumes, brilliant foot-stomping tunes and an outrageous Dame, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
With just a week left until Christmas, things are really getting busy and between the school plays, festive parties and gift shopping it’s easy to forget to have some fun with your family!
So, I was grateful for the opportunity to attend the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s production of Sleeping Beauty last week. My little boy is 3 years old, so I wasn’t sure if he is old enough yet for the evening performances and much-loved storyline, but there really was something for all of us to enjoy.
Harry was engrossed by the songs and the dragon, 3-month-old James by the lights and colours and Mummy and Daddy couldn’t help but chuckle at ‘Nanny Fanny’ (Robin Simpson). When my other half laughs at a joke, you know you’ve hit the nail on the head with the Dad jokes.
Director Joyce Branagh has written four pantomimes and lives in West Yorkshire, while playwright Andrew Pollard specialises in writing for families (he also appeared as John Bune in Emmerdale!). Henry Filoux-Bennett, Chief Executive and Artistic Director oat the theatre said of the duo:
‘I’ve heard so much about our audiences’ fantastic reaction to previous productions and this is set to build and excel upon their previous triumphs.’
The opening performance from the cast of Sleeping Beauty was stunning.
From the moment the curtain lifted there was a proud Yorkshire theme which helps set this story apart from the huge offering of pantos that we have on offer every year. From Hester the Jester (Nicola Jayne Ingram) with her thick local accent to the references of nearby towns and suburbs.
The songs too made this a high-quality show, from amazing routines choreographed around well-known hits like Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’, to originals by like ‘When We Grow Up’ and ‘I’m Stuck on You.’
Nanny Fanny’s ‘Yorkshire Haka was the highlight of the show for me!
Finally, pantos are known for their corny jokes, but my inner feminist is all too often prickled by the uncomfortable stereotyping of larger women, the transgender community and ‘damsels in distress’. Happily, Sleeping Beauty defied this with a cast of strong female leads who stole the show and a challenge to typical parenting roles.
King Herbert the Hesitant (Richard Hand), who was left as Princess Aurora’s primary caregiver after her mother passed away, was dishing out parenting jokes, Aurora (Alyce Liburd) was seen practicing football in between her lessons, and Hayley Russell was sensational and strong as the evil Belladonna Bile.
Luke, Harry, Baby James and I had a wonderful family evening which got our Christmas celebrations off to a fun start.
We walked out into the rain with smiles on our faces and festive cheer in our hearts, chuffed to have made memories to add to our first Christmas as a family of four. Nanny Fanny will always be a part of that!
So, if you’re looking for something to do with your kids over the next few weeks, this panto is on until Sunday 5th January. The perfect Christmas gift for you all to share is some time together to remember forever.
With thanks to The Lawrence Batley Theatre and Bonner and Hindley for the gifted family ticket.
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Leeds Playhouse with its fun festive family show, The Night BeforeChristmas, perfect for young children.
Yorkshire Families went along to the Courtyard Theatre in Leeds Playhouse for the latest production at the new facilities.
After marching through the hustle and bustle of Leeds City Centre at Rush Hour, we were relieved to be able to escape into the stunning purpose-built building that is Leeds Playhouse’s new home. The city facing entrance helps to make the theatre feel more accessible. The bright lights were a welcome aim in the darkness.
We made our wait into the Courtyard Theatre to review The Night Before Christmas, perfect for 3-6 year olds (there’s also Snow Mouse on at the moment for 0-3 year olds and The Wizard of Oz for older children).
My friend and I had brought along our there kids straight from school, so we were all a bit stressed and rushed as we took to our seats.
But within moments, we were transported to the gentle land of Carol and Elf at home on Christmas Eve.
The show is all in sign language and rather than it be an addition it is an integral part of the characters;’ communication on stage, which was great to see.
All the stresses of Christmas seemed to whirl away into the twinkling stars above Carol’s house.
The setting is simple and the show features two main characters who communicate through sign language, speech and “Elvish.” I wasn’t sure how the kids would react to such a calm production but surprisingly they were engulfed into the beautiful friendship between Carol and elf.
There were nice touches of dancing and costume changes too as well as lovely parts where the characters came into the audience.
As the snow settled on Carol’s house ready for Christmas Day, we too felt relaxed and in the Christmas Spirit for the big day.
The Official Lowdown
Production imagesgive a glimpse of the twinkly Christmas Eve sky above the small, neat home of Carol (Alexandra James) as she prepares for another ordinary day in her ordinary life. But then something extraordinary happens. Elf (Lladel Bryant) drops in – literally – and turns her world upside down, leading to rooftop adventures, ice dancing, a search for Santa and, best of all, a firm festive friendship.
The NightBeforeChristmas by Robert Alan Evans(Crumble’s Search for Christmas, Kes, Leeds Playhouse) proved a big hit with audiences of all ages when it was first staged at Leeds Playhouse in 2015. Now, director Amy Leach (A ChristmasCarol, Kes, Leeds Playhouse) has added a dynamic new dimension for Christmas 2019, introducing creative use of sign language to make every performance D/deaf friendly, while giving Carol the perfect tool to communicate with Elf, who only speaks Elvish.
Indoor-meets-outdoor adventure attraction William’s Den has launched a brand-new sundae and shakes menu using their home-made William’s Den ice cream. Den Millionaire, Raspberry River and Mud Pie are just a few of the new and exciting scrumptious ice cream sundaes that are now available. Visitors can enjoy Marvellous Mint, Muddy Chocolate and Award-winning Vanilla shakes too.
EVERYDAY IS A SUNDAE FUN DAY AT WILLIAM’S DEN!
Produced with locally sourced, Yorkshire ingredients, the ice cream is made on site at William’s Den with delicious ingredients to create the delectable array of flavours on offer. The milk and cream used to make the ice-cream come from just down the road – the only creamery in East Yorkshire, St Quintin’s Creamery – meaning William’s Den have met the very cows who are helping to deliver their newest venture!
Creating homemade ice cream was a given for co-owner Tor Carver, who believes food memories are a huge part of childhood and family experiences. Channelling her own fond reminiscences of summer days gone by with her siblings and cousins, Tor knew from the inception of the attraction two years ago, that ice cream would be an integral part of the offer.
Tor said: “I have wonderful childhood memories of running down our lane on Sunday mornings to meet the ice cream van. For me, food memories are an important part of childhood, so it is because of this that we made sure the food offering at William’s Den can provide those memories and experiences for families who want a great day out to remember.
I was also adamant that we needed to be able to use local ingredients where we can. When I realised that there is only one creamery in East Yorkshire – St Quintin’s Creamery. William and I visited Pete & Sarah Burdass’s much loved Fresian cows at their creamery and it is a fantastic feeling knowing which cows produced the milk, where they live and how well they are looked after.
So, after two years of testing and tasting, creating and perfecting the science of making ice cream, we are proud to announce that we make ice cream and to celebrate we decided to launch a new sundae and shakes menu. I hope our visitors enjoy our ice cream and can feel the love that went in to creating it.”
What is William’s Den?
William’s Den is an award-winning indoor-meets-outdoor adventure attraction that gives families the freedom to play and experience a day out, whatever the weather.
William’s Den was created to enable big and little kids alike to play together in a unique indoor and outdoor space that has all the delights you would expect in a wild landscape such as mud kitchens, water play, den making, tyre swings, and zip lines. The Den has been designed and handcrafted by a team of highly skilled play experts. From the Tree House to the Forest Glade and the Eagles Nest to the Rainmaker, it is sure to thrill!
Families can also stop by to refuel at The Kitchen Table. A beautifully restored stone and brick barn offering something scrumptious to eat for the whole family. Free to enter, visitors to William’s Den do not have to buy a ticket to enjoy the restaurant. Families can expect wholesome and delicious food including wood-fired pizzas, award-winning home-made ice cream or a cup of coffee served by fully-trained baristas.
William’s Den is set on a hill in the Yorkshire Wolds, within easy reach of the M62. www.williamsden.co.uk / @williamsdenplay #williamsden #wdplay
Ice Cream time
The new ice cream sundaes and shakes menu is available at The Kitchen Table in William’s Den now and will be available all year round with new flavours and seasonal specials every month. For more information about William’s Den and their ice cream visit www.williamsden.co.uk.
All-female ensemble company perform in final production in Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up Theatre which tells a story of a maternity home for young, unmarried women who have ‘made one mistake.’
Anna Gray who stars in the show is a resident artist with Mind the Gap theatre company – one of the country’s largest learning disability theatre companies that has championed learning-disabled arts for 30 years. The production is presented in association with Mind the Gap and this project is a continuation of a longstanding relationship between them and Leeds Playhouse.
In 2018 Leeds Playhouse took part in Staging Change, a Mind the Gap initiative that encourages access for learning disabled actors, creatives, and audiences.
“As a direct result of Staging Change Anna was asked to audition for BeMyBaby – we knew immediately that we wanted to work with her. She’s a skilled actor and in casting her we highlight the contemporary approach to the play.”
Director, Jacqui Honess-Martin said: “For the final production in the Pop-Up theatre our ensemble is joined by Anna Gray who plays Norma. Anna is an actor with learning disabilities, and sometimes learning names is a challenge, to help her not feel too much like the new girl we are all wearing named t-shirts (as pictured in featured photo) – we’ve had a great time personalising them!”
What’s the show about?
19-year old Mary is seven months pregnant when her mother delivers her into the charge of St Saviours. As Mary, Dolores, Queenie and Norma bond over records and romance, they begin to understand what it means to give their children to the Welfare Service and Mary realises she must fight to take her baby home.
Whilst there are nods to the 1960s by use of key props and snippets of song, Jacqui and the creative team have shaped a piece that comes without an era thus opting for a contemporary and resonant approach. The set is stark, the costumes unspecific in fashion, and the piece is fully captioned at every performance.
The female Ensemble Company is Tessa Parr fresh from her role in the critically acclaimed Hamlet, she is joined by Anna Gray as Norma Jo Mousley as Mrs Adams, Crystal Condie as Queenie, Simona Bitmate as Mary and Susan Twist as Matron.
Review By Mel Neale, CoActive Charity which supports adults with learning difficulties.
Good things about this play; the cast, the performances were all strong and there was a clear affinity between the performers, I got the impression they had enjoyed working together. Susan Twist who played Matron was a touch of class. Anna Gray, who has previously trained and performed with ‘Mind the Gap’, is a strong addition to the company. The use of live singing throughout the piece was engaging and tender.
Unfortunately, despite these elements, overall, I was disappointed. Stories of abortion practices in the 1960’s are poignant and important to tell, however, I found this play told the story without managing to evoke investment in the characters stories, or even in their relationships to each other. I felt distant from them, and at times confused by their stories, and even bored. I found Norma’s story, played by Anna Gray, very confusing, I did not know if a central part of the character was that she had a learning difficulty or not. Whichever the case there was a missed opportunity in clearly representing the additional challenges faced by a woman with a learning difficulty at this time.
The main problem I had with the central story of Mary Adams, played by Simona Bitmate, was that I thought the pacing of the play stripped her story of drama. There was a part of the play in which Mary and her room mate Queenie plan to leave together and move to the coast, but no sooner than the plan is made, it is abandoned and given no time for the audience to invest in the plan or to feel the loss of it.
I would have enjoyed this play significantly more if I could have seen a stronger development of the characters throughout the play.
BeMyBaby plays in Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre, in association with SOYO Leeds, from 11 May – 1 June.
Rod Campbell’s best-selling classic lift-the- flap book DearZoo, has been brought to life in a new stage production which is coming to Yorkshire.
DearZoo live on stage! will be coming to theatres in Bridlington, Rotherham, Harrogate and Wakefield this year. So Yorkshire Families will get to make the most of the classic children’s book live on stage.
As we’re so excited for the show (we’ll be heading to Theatre Royal Wakefield to see it), we wanted to share this rare interview with Dear Zoo Author Rod Campbell….
“I wrote to the zoo
to send me a pet.
They sent me an …”
And so begins Rod Campbell’s famous book, Dear Zoo.
However, it is my solemn duty to inform you that we were almost living in a world without Dear Zoo! Rod Campbell’s immensely successful children’s book, which has sold an eye-watering eight million copies in twenty different languages, nearly failed to see the light of day.
If that had happened, we would also have been deprived of the very exciting prospect of the first ever stage show of Dear Zoo. The bestselling book has been adapted by Rod into a play, entitled Dear Zoo Live on Stage, which is touring the country this spring – more of which anon.
When we meet at his publishers, Macmillan Children’s Books, Rod, who is as charming and as likeable as his most famous book, takes up the story. “When I was younger, I tried to make it as a painter.
“I had no money. I lived in friends’ attics, and moved ten times in eight years. I made ends meet by doing painting and decorating. It was like La Boheme.”
For the decade before the book’s publication in 1982, Rod did a very passable impersonation of a starving artist. Determined to make it as a painter, he had no thought of being a children’s author.
“Then someone whose sister worked at a children’s publishing house saw some of my drawings. I was introduced to them and asked to illustrate some simple books for the under fives. This act of kindness started me on a career in children’s books – serendipity, one could say.”
Rod recalls that, at the time, “One voice in my head was saying, ‘But you’re an artist with a capital A. You can’t possibly do that.’ But another voice in my head was saying, ‘Why not? It looks like great fun.’ The second voice prevailed, thank goodness.”
Thank goodness, indeed. Soon afterwards, the publishers Blackie expressed an interest in his work, and the rest is children’s-book history.
The delightful story of Dear Zoo – in which a child writes to the zoo asking to be sent a pet – has become a publishing phenomenon and celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2017 with a unique partnership with London Zoo.
Now, having established himself as one of the best-loved and most successful children’s authors in the UK, at the age of 72 Rod is entering a brave new world.
Produced by Norwell Lapley Productions and directed by Michael Gattrell, Dear Zoo Live on Stage will appeal particularly to children aged between 2 and 6 years.
Realised through wonderfully child-engaging puppets, original music and lots of audience interaction, it will immediately attract families and children who are already fans of the book. But it will also act as a splendid introduction to those discovering the story for the first time.
The show which toured successfully in 2018 will be touring the country once again in 2019 tis spring, opening on Sunday 3 February at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn. The tour features more than 72 scheduled dates around the UK, with more to come. Full details are available at http://www.dearzooandfriends.com/dear-zoo-live
Dear Zoo Live on Stage will bring the timeless magic of the book to life in an unforgettable way. Children – and of course their parents – will be able to experience the wonder of…
Dear Zoo live for the first time.
Rod has found the process of writing a play quite an eye-opener. He admits that the job of transferring his story to the stage was, at times, challenging.
But the author emerged from the process with a tremendous sense of pleasure at having mastered an entirely new skill. Rod declares that, “It’s been a wonderful experience.
“I have really enjoyed solving problems, and it’s been a great delight to learn something new. I’ve learned a whole new language, including phrases as simple as ‘upstage’ and ‘downstage’. When I wrote, ‘exit stage left’, a frisson ran down my spine!”
Above all, in creating the play, Rod was anxious to remain as faithful as possible to the essence of his widely adored book. To that end, Dear Zoo Live on Stage elicits the same excitement as the book.
The author explains that, “The stage show will play on the thrill of opening the crates.”
“Children up to the age of six love the animals and they also love the guesswork – ‘What’s in the box?’”
It is that curiosity, Rod believes, which has ensured that the book has remained so popular. “Children have a great curiosity about what’s behind the flap. They love to open the flaps again and again.
“Of course, they know what’s behind each one, but every time they approach it as though they don’t. For every child each time is like the first time. The payoff in the play is that inside each crate is an animal that speaks.”
“The other thing children adore about Dear Zoo”, Rod adds, is that, “After the first time, they know that the book is
completely safe. There is nothing in it that will bite them. So they can luxuriate in pretending to be scared by it.
“And of course, it ends with a puppy. That is the present at the end. You’ve gone through several unsuitable animals, and then you get to the perfect animal at the end. It’s a reward.”
Rod is hopeful that audiences will leave the theatre having had a very happy experience at Dear Zoo Live on Stage and that the show will bring many children into the theatre for the first time.
Even today, 35 years after it was first published, people still rush up to tell Rod how much Dear Zoo means to them. The author says, “I remember one parent telling me, ‘My 18-month-old daughter loves it. She walks around all the time with the book under her arm.’ Or they say, and this is the killer, ‘My child loves this book – and I loved it when I was a child, too.’ That sort of reaction is deeply touching and you’re forced to think that Dear Zoo is something that connects.”
So I think we can safely conclude that at least 8 million of us remain very grateful that three and a half decades ago, Rod chose to write books for young children over his love of fine art.
“I’m absolutely delighted that DearZoo is being brought to life on stage for the very first time!” Rod Campbell, author and illustrator
DearZoo live on stage! will continue to delight audiences when it opens on 4 February at Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn. With 73 scheduled dates around the UK, full details are available at: www.dearzooandfriends.com/dear–zoo-live
Celebrating 35 years in 2017, DearZoo, published by Macmillan Children’s Books, the story of a child who writes to the zooasking them to send a pet, continues to delight each new generation of children as they lift the flaps in search of the perfect animal.
“The whole production was full of energy and cleverly pitched at its audience…” Bury Free Times
Written by Rod Campbell, produced by Norwell Lapley Productions and directed by Michael Gattrell, DearZoo live on stage! is suitable for children aged 2 – 6 years. Brought to life through child-engaging puppets, original music and lots of audience interaction, the show immediately appeals to families and children who already love the book and will serve as a wonderful introduction to those coming to the story for the first time.
Rod Campbell is the master of interactive storytelling and an expert in early learning for pre-schoolers. As a trusted household name, his books have stood the test of time and continue to be a staple addition to the family bookshelf and a popular choice for early years’ teachers. The creator of more than 200 books for children, Rod Campbell’s unique ability to be both fun and reassuring encourages children to discover and delight in the world around them.
Commenting on DearZoo live on stage! Rod Campbell said “I can hardly believe that DearZoo has celebrated its 35th anniversary and I really am enormously touched and delighted that successive generations of young children continue to love DearZoo – their obvious pleasure when interacting with it is so gratifying to see, and for me is the very greatest of compliments!”
Benidorm Live is the follow on from the hit TV show Benidorm. Set in the hotel Solana, the plot of the show is based around the lovable characters that people have come to know and love, when they hear that they are at risk of losing their jobs if they don’t impress an undercover inspector. I won’t go into the plot too much because I don’t want to ruin any surprises, but needless to say, hilarity ensues as they try to impress whoever the inspector might be.
I must say that going in to it, I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect. I had no idea how well it would translate from screen to stage. I was definitely very pleasantly surprised by how well it all came together, and what an amazing show it was. It was well written, well acted, and from start to finish it was extremely funny. In fact it was so funny, that at times even that cast had a hard time keeping a straight face, especially during a small but spectacular wardrobe malfunction when one person’s trousers just wouldn’t stay closed.
The sets and costumes were absolutely perfect, and so in keeping with the show that it really helped to create the feeling of an amazingly, wonderfully, terrible hotel that you can’t help but want to visit. The writing by Derren Litten was funny, dirty, and of course without it, none of the amazing actors would have been able to deliver such a funny and heartwarming show.
As fans of the programme will already know, it definitely isn’t suitable for the whole family. It’s fairly racy, with some crass and extremely adult jokes, but honestly, they are what made it so funny. It’s unapologetic in it’s humour, and I absolutely love that. It isn’t high brow theatre, but it doesn’t try to be. It’s a show for people who perhaps wouldn’t usually consider going to the theatre. My mum has never been one to go see a play or a musical, but I would definitely take her to see this, because it’s so funny and accessible, even if you didn’t watch the TV show.
The entire cast was absolutely amazing, and I’ll go more into that in a moment, but I just want to take a second to mention my personal highlight of the show. That was the interactions between Kenneth, the flamboyant hairdresser played by Tony Maudsley, and Liam his assistant, played by Adam Gillen. Both of them played their roles perfectly, and the relationship between the two characters was equal parts hilarious and sweet. They have some touching moments interspersed between a whole host of comedy, and I found the pair to be such a joy to watch.
Another great pairing in the show was Janine Duvitski as Jacqueline, and her friend Gay Derek played by Damian Williams. An extremely unlikely pairing admittedly, but the characters were as similar as they were different, and they worked incredibly well together, creating some truly unforgettable moments. Some of the innuendo and saucy conversations between the pair, especially when they’re talking to unsuspecting holiday makers Ben and Sophie.
Tricia Adele-Turner and Bradley Clarkson played the accidental guests of the hotel, Sophie and Ben. They were absolutely amazing as the uptight wife and her potentially fun loving Husband who just doesn’t really get to have fun. They are at the centre of the plot at times and do have some moments with all of the hotel staff members and other guests, which, were it a real hotel might give you pause, but in the show were a cause of some fantastic jokes at their expense.
One scene between Ben and and Jacqueline is particularly funny, and leads to even more laughs later on as a misunderstanding leads to the joke being very much at Sophie’s expense.
Jake Canuso delivered in fine form as lothario Mateo. From seducing wives to flamenco, he was absolutely great, and no, I’m not just saying that because he was wearing budgie smugglers, although it certainly didn’t hurt. Sam and Ricky were also great characters, played by Shelley Longsworth and Will Jennings, their parts were funny but understated in the first half; however by the second half they were definitely more in the limelight and they were both wonderful. As were the ensemble cast of Solana staff and holiday makers, dancing between scenes and singing with Asa in the musical numbers.
And of course last but by no means least, the wonderful Sherrie Newson as the slightly less wonderful (but extremely funny), Joyce Temple-Savage. Giving orders to staff to impress the undercover inspector by whatever means necessary, constantly calling a staff member Diego when his name is actually Ricky, and being generally slightly offensive to everyone around her. She may not have been the one to make all of the dirty jokes, but she was certainly the one who set things in motion to bring them about.
The second half of the show was much more music focussed than the first as it centred around karaoke in Neptune’s bar, including the wonderful Asa Elliott. The karaoke was ‘interesting’ to say the least, and even throughout the night of entertainment at Neptune’s there were still plenty of laughs to be had. The whole thing ended to a well earned standing ovation after a fantastic finale of Viva Espana, which definitely left me wanting to head to sunny Spain, and of course the whole crowd joined in.
Overall, I had an amazing night of fun in the sun, it was hilarious from the first line to the final bow.