A contemporary new production of Amanda Whittington’s Be My Baby has opened at Leeds Playhouse. Playing now until Saturday 1 June, Be My Baby marks the end of the Pop-Up Season at the Playhouse, created whilst the main theatre building undergoes a capital redevelopment.
Production images reveal the all-female ensemble company of Leeds Playhouse performing the touching production. Designed by the award-winning Amanda Stoodley (Europe, Around The World in 80 Days, Leeds Playhouse), the production gives a nod to the 1960s weaving in a well-known soundtrack to a story of innocence and hope set in a maternity home for unmarried young, pregnant women.
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 music, 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.
The female Ensemble Company is Tessa Parr fresh from her role in the critically acclaimedHamlet. She’s joined by Anna Gray as Norma, Jo Mousley as Mrs Adams, Crystal Condie as Queenie, Simona Bitmate as Mary and Susan Twist as Matron.
Be My Baby is produced in association with Mind the Gap Theatre Company and plays in Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre, in association with SOYO Leeds, until 1 June.
The last show in Leeds Playhouse’s pop-up theatre is almost defined by missed opportunities. On its surface a story about young women being pressured into giving up their children for adoption against their will due to the societal pressures of the early 60s could really have had some real emotional weight; but this particular production never really gets there.
The story uses the slightly tired trope of placing a middle class protagonist into a setting that would be unusual for them, as though a theatre audience couldn’t possibly understand the point of view of anyone else. We follow Mary (Simona Bitmate) a 19 year old from a “good family” who has managed to hide her pregnancy from her family for 7 months and after confessing to her mother has been secretly placed in a home for unmarried women. Under the care of The Matron (Susan Twist) she will work in the laundry with 3 other young women; Queenie (Crystal Condie ), a working class lass who longs to be a singer; Dolores (Tessa Parr), a kind but naive and girl who holds onto her Romantic ideals; and Nora (Anna Gray), a young woman with learning disabilities who doesn’t like to talk about her past. As they all wait for the secret birth of, and separation from, their children.
The production is clearly intended to be mix of high drama, humour and musical nostalgia; but it just comes off as being tonally confused. Never committing hard enough to any of these elements for them to pay off that well. I just couldn't provide either gut wrenching emotional scenes, or a particularly memorable laugh out loud moment. Overly relying on a joke at our characters expense whereby they don’t really know what childbirth entails, a lot of the humour didn’t really land for me.
This show is visually and stylistically very sparse. Amanda Stoodley’s design offering up a grey aesthetic evoking the austere, puritan surroundings of the home that these young women inhabit. Hard cubic slab-like “beds” dominate the stage, but rather than working as a symbol for the overall discomfort of the situation they have been decked out in LED lights that make them reminiscent of a boy racer’s dream car. A somewhat peculiar decision that undercuts the severity of the of overall look. Needless to say I was longing for some sort of visual flair that could cut through and heighten a key moment in some way. The closest we got to this was during the climactic moments of the show where Mary is giving birth. There’s a bizarre sequence in which the action stops, she is positioned in a stark spotlight and slowly reaches up toward the light - then matter of factly removes her prosthetic pregnancy bump, sits down and is handed her “baby”. It doesn’t reference any other part of the show, it didn’t tell me anything about how she was feeling, it was just jarring and odd.
Jarring and odd sums up a lot of the decisions made in this show. Chiefly the use of music. Very clearly the characters talk about music as escapism and a lifeline, especially for the character of Queenie who becomes very distressed at one point at the thought of losing access to a record player; but in the show these saccharine pop songs from the early 60s about love and marriage seem to just bookend scenes. The cast perform them well, but I never felt like this was a ray of light in our characters lives, in fact those characters were just dropped for a bit to indulge in a musical interlude.
Which is all a shame because this cast is clearly capable of a lot more if they had been given the opportunity. For example Susan Twist has a towering and imposing presence as The Matron, whose control could have been felt throughout the show a lot more. Offering an austere, Nurse Ratched-esque antagonist whose control we all hope that our cast of young women can break free from; but the show doesn’t really portray that. In fact for much of the show they seem to have relative autonomy and freedom which runs counter to the story that’s being told. Similarly Anna Gray, an actor with learning disabilities herself, was brought into the Playhouse’s ensemble to lend authenticity to the portrayal of Norma. Throughout the show she shows really striking emotional range in her performance but for some reason she is introduced to the audience in a manner that is almost tailor made not to play to any of her strengths: reading from a medical textbook, where the dense language was an unwelcome barrier to her portrayal of the character.
To sum up Be My Baby is a bit of a drab, lifeless production, that leans on nostalgic music to carry people’s attention. It never feels like anyone involved in making it really got to grips with why they were telling this story right now. So it ended up feeling like it wasn’t really about anything.
Be My Baby, Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre
11 May – Sat 1 June, Press Night Thursday 16th May, 7.30pm
Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk
Recycled plastic flowers, preloved bridalwear and an upcycled icecream trike?
Lisa Bourne tells us how Yorkshire wedding suppliers wowed with their bright & rustic eco-inspired photoshoot.
Photos above: Jenny Milner Photography
It’s not often you get chance as a self-employed mummy to network in such a fun environment with a great bunch of people, but I did just that last week.
I am a humanist naming and wedding celebrant and I gathered a bunch of fellow Yorkshire wedding suppliers together to work on a relaxed styled shoot at Chilli Barn in Otley, Leeds.
It was a perfect opportunity for them to showcase their businesses and for me to get some photos of myself not talking!
I wanted it to be themed as much as possible around eco-friendly/recycled/upcycled/handmade options and I was amazed at what local suppliers could provide and I am pretty sure you will be too. We also opted for bright and rustic and I think you’ll agree it is an amazingly beautiful combination.
Chilli Barn, Otley, Leeds: a set of converted family farm buildings set in beautiful countryside along the Otley Chevin. Chilli Barn is really easy to dress to your liking. It is perfect for those wanting a smaller barn wedding but there’s also room for marquees to extend the capacity. It is adjacent to The Cheerful Chilli which provides vegan food, locally sourced where possible.
Flowers & styling: The gorgeous flowers and props were provided by EcoBlooms. Sylvia makes flowers from recycled plastic. Yes, they are all plastic, even the bridal bouquets! Sylvia also created a makeshift backdrop from some second-hand lace. It gave us that rustic but quirky look we were after.
The Bridal models
Cruelty free makeup: It was a 9.30am start with hair and makeup. Chrys Chapman used cruelty free products on myself and the two bridal models Tara Bailey (owner of Dreamee Teepees) and Chloe Markham (owner of The Yoga Revolution).
Preloved bridalwear: The bridal models wore preloved bridalwear from Bridal Reloved YorK; a relaxed and friendly boutique owned by Elizabeth Matfin. The dresses were altered by Once Upon A Dress and you can see they looked stunning. I would never have thought second-hand wedding dresses could look so good.
Jewellery: Tara also wore a necklace and haircomb made by Working Clasp. I too, joined in with the Working Clasp gorgeousness and wore their Grace earrings. Working Clasp source factory offcuts for their lasercut acrylic designs and any material pieces leftover are donated to community art projects.
Foliage crown: We did have a fresh foliage crown for Chloe, made by Hare and Howl. The foliage was all UK grown. In fact, most of the items were foraged by owner Elichia or taken from her own garden.
Catering: Set up upstairs were Hodge Podge Catering Co – I can absolutely recommend their food, it was scrummy. They had brought sharing boards; such a fun idea for weddings to get your guests chatting but also reduces food waste. They dressed the tables really simply with white linen, edible flowers and a sprig of herbs. Hodge Podge are a family business and they donate leftover food to a homeless charity. I think that is a lovely touch to know that on your special day, you won’t be wasting lots of food and those in need will be benefitting.
Cake: The Sugar Florist, based in York, worked wonders on the cake. Her brief was simply “bright and rustic” and although it was outside of her usual repertoire, she nailed it!
Icecream: To set the bright summery mood we had A Taste Of Italy providing award-winning local icecream in their upcycled icecream trike. The trike’s charm is not the only lovely thing about this unique service – the trike runs without needing electricity so you’ll be doing the environment a favour. And yes, I can confirm that the banana icecream was good.
Games: Upstairs we also had Cards or Die Boardgaming. Now, we have all seen the massive outdoor games which look loads of fun but what if it is typical Yorkshire weather and it is wet outside? Well Ann can bring an array of different games that will entertain the big kids as well as the little kids indoors. She stays on hand to help with rules. She can bring traditional, logical, quirky – you name it, Ann has got something to suit. Most of Ann’s games are second hand. She even has a game from the 1940s.
Music: We also had with us singer-songwriter Lynz Crichton. I loved how she could just rock up with a couple of instruments and set the mood. For a low-key small barn wedding you really wouldn’t need anything else and Lynz got that right away. A really friendly lady, she can create bespoke songs that can even be made into favours for guests to take home – totally personal and no wasted money on sugared almonds folks can’t eat because they’re too hard ha!
Last but not least of course was me. As I said, I’m a humanist celebrant and I used a snippet (names changed) from a previous wedding, to show other suppliers just how bespoke and personal the scripts that I write are.
One humanist principle is to look at the impact we have as individuals on our planet and take responsibility for what legacies we are leaving behind for future generations. I am very proud of what all the suppliers were trying to achieve and I can highly recommend any of them for your big day. Big thanks to Darren Sanderson Photography and Jenny Milner Photography for allowing us to use the shots from the shoot.
Written by Lisa Bourne – Lisa Bourne Ceremonies
Instagram – lisa_bourne_celebrant
Photos below by Darren Sanderson Photography
Itâs never appealing stepping out of a car in to a cold and gloomy evening when your dressed up for a night out in Sheffield.
My step-dad / childminder had dropped me off on Ecclesall Rd and I was determined to discover the botanical bar-cum-restaurant that is The Lost and Found.
Fortunately, I managed to navigate my way inside out of the rain to meet my friends Nik and Rochelle (who are also journalists but at The Star, Sheffield).
As I entered the warm and stylish haven decorated with plants I thought how much the place fits the location of being close to the Botanical Gardens, where I have fond memories of many walks, picnics and dare I say it, sunbathing sessions.
My friends had just ordered beautiful-looking cocktails which are a large part of the offering at The Lost and Found with a whole guide to what cocktail suits you.
Fellow Vegetarian Rochelle went for the Spinach and Ricotta ravioli which she said was one of the best sheâd ever had.
And Nik couldnât resist an old favourite of hers - Meatball Tagliatelle Carbonara.
The food was rich and homely, so we didnât have any room for dessert but it was the perfect excuse for a cocktail.
The waiter kindly helped the indecisive me navigate the elaborate cocktail menu and I couldnât resist the Espresso Martini (there were many more exciting concoctions which Rochelle and Nik tried but this is my all time favourite drink).
It was the perfect place to catch up as friends, take plenty of selfies, eat and drink. You could have a full night out all under one roofâ¦ so no need to venture back out into the cold until closing time.
Read more about The Lost and Found here: https://www.blogupnorth.co.uk/blog/the-lost-and-found-ecclesall-rd-sheffield-botanical-cocktail-bar-and-restaurant-review
DISCLOSURE: We received two meals complimentary for the purpose of this review.
5/6/2019 0 Comments
‘THE SHADES OF THE 60S’ is a musical stage show that celebrates some of the best known names in pop music from the 60s. In a fabulous two hour pop song extravaganza which stars the young tenor, Dan Chettoe with 60s vocal group The Shades, this show will take audiences on a trip down musical memory lane. Dan and the Shades will perform a catalogue of hit songs that started the pop music explosion in the 1960s and made stars out of thousands of names from the Beatles to the Supremes, from Tom Jones to Lulu and from Gerry and the Pacemakers to Chubby Checker.
Here’s a mouth-watering snapshot of some of the songs the cast will be performing to get the party started:
It’s Not Unusual/Tom Jones;
I Only Wanna Be With You/Dusty Springfield
Twist and Shout/The Beatles
Da Do Ron Ron/The Crystals
What’s New Pussycat/Tom Jones
You Can’t Hurry Love/The Supremes
Do You Love Me/The Contours
You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me/Dusty Springfield
Green Green Grass of Home/Tom Jones
A Shot of Rhythm and Blues/Gerry and the Pacemakers
Let’s Twist Again/Chubby Checker
And Shout which became Lulu’s first smash hit when she performed it on TV’s ‘Ready Steady Go’ in 1965…aged 15!
Matt Brinkler, Executive Producer of Red Entertainment (photo left by Darren Bell) is the creator of the SHADES brand:
“Dan Chettoe is a hugely talented, youthful all-round star whose voice lives up to that of an international 60s pop legend, and one that has already blown away national TV audiences,” says Matt. “People are rarely born with the talent Dan Chettoe has, even less celebrated. In sharing with us his effortless singing ability and natural stage presence, I think audiences will be on their feet as soon as he opens his mouth.
“At Red Entertainment we’re extremely proud of the SHADES brand – Cilla and the Shades of the 60s has been touring successfully since 2017; our story of Dusty Springfield, Dusty and the Shades of the 60s, followed in 2018 and we’re planning more SHADES tours for 2020.
“Our goal is to tell the story of these iconic generation defining artists through a clear narrative with the music which is, of course, recognised around the world. At RED ENTERTAINMENT we are passionate about creating high quality, affordable live entertainment for audiences of all ages.”
‘The Shades of the 60s featuring Dan Chettoe’ UK tour dates 2019:
April 23rd Essex, Basildon Towngate Theatre www.towngatetheatre.co.uk
April 25th Glos, Tewkesbury, Roses Theatre www.rosestheatre.org
May 5th Chesterfield Winding Wheel Theatre www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk
May 6th Castleford Phoenix Theatre www.castlefordphoenixtheatre.co.uk
May 9th Aberdeen Arts Centre www.aberdeenartscentre.com
May 12th Arbroath, Webster Theatre www.webstertheatre.co.uk
May 14th Rotherham Civic Theatre www.rotherhamtheatres.co.uk
May 15th Bridlington Spa www.bridspa.com
May 16th Wellingborough Castle Theatre Castle Theatre
May 21st Birkenhead, Gladstone Theatre Gladstone Theatre
June 9th Peterborough Key Theatre Peterborough Key
June 12th Telford Oakengates Theatre www.theplacetelford.com
June 18th Worcester, Swan Theatre www.worcesterlive.co.uk
June 30th Lancaster Grand www.lancastergrand.co.uk
Review of House on the Cold Hill by Janet Hale
The play is a supernatural thriller written by the crime writer Peter James. Being a big fan of Peter James crime fiction I was concerned this wouldn't live up to his books, I didn't need to be, the drama and suspense ran right through to the very end.
The story, based on actual events that happened to him and his family, is set in a haunted gothic house. A young family move in and strange things start to happen. There is just one set used right through the play, but with the added twist of up to date technology. There is a very unpredictable twist at the end which I won't give away.
The acting is brilliant throughout and the characters are very believable.
I would highly recommend this play to people who enjoy an evening of drama and suspense.
Peter James’s spine-chilling stage play The House on Cold Hill comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Monday 29 April to Saturday 4 May 2019.
A modern-day ghostly thriller adapted fromthe best-selling 2015 novel and based on the author’s own real-life experience in a haunted house, the play will star BAFTA-nominated actor and winner of Strictly Come Dancing 2017, Joe McFadden(The Crow Road, Heartbeat, Holby City) as ‘Ollie Harcourt’. Joining him as his wife, ‘Caro Harcourt’, is award-winning actress Rita Simons (Roxy Mitchell in Eastenders), as well a saward-winning actors Charlie Clements (Bradley in EastEnders) as ‘Chris’ and Persephone Swales-Dawson(villainess Nico Blake in Hollyoaks) making her stage debut as ‘Jade’.
The Harcourt family move into the house of their dreams that has stood empty for the last 40 years. However, their dream home quickly turns into the stuff of nightmares as they begin to sense that they aren’t the only residents at Cold Hill…
Peter James reunites with two-time Olivier-nominated theatre producer Joshua Andrews, the Olivier award-winning director Ian Talbot and award-winning writer Shaun McKenna to bring audiences The House on Cold Hill. It becomes the fourth play in James’s box office smash hit and critically acclaimed stage franchise following the huge sell-out success of Not Dead Enough, The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple.
The House on Cold Hill is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Monday 29 April to Saturday 4 May 2019
Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call Box Office on 0844 848 2700
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