Monday 17th May 2021. The day, some form of normality returned to the City of York as the city institution that is York Theatre Royal, reopened it’s doors. Love Bites kicked things off and Juliet Foster, Creative Director said it best in the programme, “I cannot think of a better way to kick off our next phase of York Theatre Royal’s artistic journey than by showcasing the amazing local talent that is right here in York”. She was right.
Arriving, it was enthralling walking through the doors of the great theatre, into a crowd of people, distanced, but clearly connected by the overwhelming sense of excitement and hope. To briefly address the safety element for those thinking about attending but unsure, masks were worn throughout, with two seats between parties, it felt safe, assured, and wholly professional from arrival to, reluctantly, leaving the venue.
The show, split in two halves of eleven performers, featured “Love Bites”; five minute performances ranging from spoken word through to interpretive dance. It’d be a lengthy piece to write about each of the acts, but there were a number of performances that genuinely touched or moved me that deserve highlighting from a personal perspective.
The beauty of this show was that across the 22 performances, hosted effortlessly by Harry Gration, every audience member will have left with different highlights, based on the type of theatre that touches them most. It was a genius production and the perfect way to kick things back off and remind us why we love the theatre so much.
THE ANGELS OF LENDAL BRIDGE
The Angels of Lendal Bridge, the standout piece of the entire performance for me, was beautiful. A film-poem based on newly-created writing by Robert Powell and Kitty Greenbrown, with film and soundscape by artist-producer Ben Pugh. It’s set on a bridge over York’s River Ouse, where two
150-year-old angels watch, listen, and converse.
The story told was infectious, complemented by the soundscape and video clips that made it hard not to be lost in the tale. I’ll not see the angels the same again, thinking about how they watch over the city, both up and down the river.
EKHAYA, LOVE THEM BOTH?
Some of my favourite lines throughout the entire night came from Butshilo Nleya’s performance. “Streets are gates, gates are bars and bars are pubs” was the standout when talking about his love for York. Combining humour, power and cultural references, this was one of the most enjoyable but emotionla pieces of the evening.
Butshilo is a Zimbabwean playwright living in York whose work centres on place, home and the multiplicity of cultures. Using words, music, dance and since 2002, he has worked in Africa, Europe and USA exploring the language of cultures, migration, identity and diversity.
This was just brilliant, infectious, catchy. Tom Nightingale’s song for his wife Elaine was so simplistic in style but lovely in substance.
‘This song is to show everyone my gratitude to the only lady who has ever helped me.’
Tom’s motivation is a therapeutic outlet, in order to make sense of the life he has experienced, and his challenge is to shape his creations into something objectively understandable to the general public and as soon as he left the stage, people carried on singing the track. Lovely stuff.
Part humorous history lesson, part love story… York’s favourite
musical comedy duo explore the different ways we communicate
This was one that really hit home most after the past 14 months. Zoom calls have connected families and loved ones across the world this year and whilst I’m sick of them for work purposes, some of my favourite evenings since lockdown one kicked in have been virtual with friends and family. This was again, infectious and humorous and I imagine this one stuck with a lot of people heading into the interval.
FOR THE LOVE OF SINGING
Richard Kay knocked this one out of the metaphoric park with his “Why do you like to sing?” performance.
Members of the York Philharmonic Male Voice Choir, the Ryedale Voices and Harrogate Male Voice Choir were asked two simple questions; how
and why do you like to sing? Their responses have informed this song,
written and performed by Richard Kay with vocal support from choir
members and projection animation by David Todd.
The visuals had me hooked, looking for each new word that popped up, each one meaning something, not necessarily why I like to sing, but why I like things day-to-day. It was a fun performance that had the audience in the palm of Kay’s hands.
5 MINUTE CALL
I’ve missed this theatre, that I know. It’s so important to me and my life and every word Laura Pyper spoke from Bridget Foreman’s work had me thinking about the memories and times spent within the walls of York Theatre Royal.
Members of the audience would have been associating the words and sentences with loved ones, family, people who they love, but for me, I couldn’t help but think of the theatre. The laughing, the crying, the drama, the humour – everything a great relationship gives you, this theatre does too and by the end of Pyper’s performance I was quite emotional, as was Gration coming back out to end the show. This was a fitting way to end, and built on Maurice Crichton’s piece a few acts prior.
Love Bites was a great return, and absolute credit to Tom Bird, Juliet Foster and the full stage and creative team behind the show.