The Love Season: Love Bites at York Theatre Royal

I can’t actually believe that theatres will be able to reopen very soon! I’ll be right there cheering York Theatre Royal on as it reopens on 17th May and 18th May with Love Bites, a love letter to live performance by York artists. More than 200 local artists applied for the £1,000 love letter commissions to be staged, but just 22 short pieces have made it to the stage.

If, like me, you’ve had a cheeky look on Twitter you’re sure to be delighted and impressed by the colossal amounts of talent heading to the stage.

York Theatre Royal Creative Director Juliet Forster said: “Love Bites is really a love letter to live performance, put together by York artists. It’s a celebration of what we have been missing for over a year now: the chance to come together under one roof and share our stories and experiences. 

“The selection of short pieces that you will see on our stage represent a wide range of voices, artforms and approaches to the theme of love, created by both well-established artists and those who are newer to the scene. We hope Love Bites will turn out to be ‘a many-splendored thing’!”

Love Bites will be introduced by local broadcaster Harry Gration and is the first production in the theatre’s Love Season. The line up is BEYOND impressive, so if you’re looking to get a flavour of what’s coming up please see below…

Vanessa Simmons: Reverie. Vanessa is a composer, pianist and piano teacher who lives just outside York in the countryside, where she finds a lot of inspiration. Reverie is the retelling of a dream. It captures falling in love, the soaring emotions of being in love and remembering a love that is lost. It is a rejoicing of the beauty, sorrow and power of real love in musical form. It uses some elements of the classic piano sonata with added impressionist colours and tones. Reverie is a journey, one that is universal and timeless. 

James Lewis-Knight: Staying Connected. is an actor and the Artistic Director of Clown Space, a York-based company specialising in clowning, mask work and physical theatre. As a clown, James has missed the joy that comes from connecting with a live audience and he cannot wait to find that again with ‘Staying Connected’.

Richard Kay: For the Love of Singing. Richard is an actor and writer; creating shows for local festivals and attractions as well as writing/directing/performing for Badapple Theatre. Over the last year he has led four local choirs over Zoom and has composed new music as well as creating ‘virtual choir’ tracks. 

Kitty Greenbrown, Robert Powell, Ben Pugh: The Angels of Lendal Bridge. Kitty, Robert and Ben are a York-based trio of artist-producers. Ben is a creative practitioner with over 25 years experience working across disciplines. Robert has published four collections of poetry, an artist’s book, and two short films. Kitty is a spoken word poet with a keen interest in telling stories and collaborating with artists and musicians.

Story Craft Theatre: She Can Go Anywhere. Story Craft Theatre is a children’s theatre company created by Cassie Vallance and Janet-Emily Bruce. After setting up in 2018 they have hosted parties, events and classes throughout the UK. Partnerships have included National Trust, Goose of Harrogate, Rural Arts, Castle Howard, Rowntree Park and York Theatre Royal. 

Bridget Foreman: 5 Minute Call. Bridgethas written over 30 plays, ranging from one-person shows to large-scale community productions. Recent work includes Clay Fever for York Theatre Royal, Surprise Ending for Riding Lights, and YTR/Pilot Theatre’s Everything is Possible. Her new play, My Place will tour…sometime soon! She also lectures in playwriting at York University.

Claire Spooner and Richard Stephenson: Mise en aby-me. Passionate about theatre and costume, Claire works creatively across several Arts Sectors as a freelance Life Model, Milliner, a Costumier for York Theatre Royal and occasional Background Artist for Film and TV. In each role Claire explores and develops ways to tell a story through the human form. Richard Stephenson is a professional illustrator, painter, storyteller and music writer living in Leeds. He works predominantly in ink and considers himself more of an image maker always searching creatively for the next happy accident. 

Gus Gowland: The Streets of York. Gus is a musical theatre writer/composer based in York. For his first musical Pieces of String (Mercury Theatre, 2018) Gus won The Stage Debut Award for Best Composer/Lyricist. Other projects include Subway: an audio short, Copyright Christmas at the Barbican Centre and an upcoming EP of original songs, In Motion

Hannah Davies: Love Song to Spring. Hannah is a writer, theatre-maker and multi-slam winning poet. She is Associate Artist at Say Owt, York’s leading spoken word night and has performed at leading spoken word nights across the UK. She is Artistic Director of Common Ground Theatre and teaches playwriting at the University of York.

Ashleigh J Mills: In Progress. Ashleigh is a Black, non-binary, and unapologetically autistic creator. Politically and poetically minded, their work seeks to explore and digest their lived experience of life on the margins. They believe that within resistance lies creation. They are a work in progress. [they/them]  

Alice Boddy and Leanne Hope: A Love Letter to Female Friendship. Alice and Leanne trained together at the Northern Ballet School, worked together on cruise ships and have spent the past year creating/dancing in our living rooms/kitchen! Through their love letter they hope to depict the power of female friendship – something which they’ve relied so heavily on this past year. 

Erika Noda: Ai. Erika is a Japanese English actor from York. She studied at East 15 and after graduating co-founded a theatre company that specialised in creating shows and workshops for children with complex needs. This is Erika’s first solo writing project; a semi-autobiographical account of what it can be like growing up dual heritage.  

Elena Skoreko Wagner, James Cave and Bethan Ellis: Magic. Elena Skoreyko Wagner is a York-based illustrator and papercut artist. Her work seeks to find magic and uncover meaning in the mundane. James Cave is a York-based composer and singer; he sings in York Minster choir and the Gavin Bryars Ensemble. Bethan Ellis is a writer and editor; she works at University of York.

Butshilo Nleya: Ekhaya, Love Them Both? 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.

Fladam (Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter): Love Bytes. Florence and Adam are ‘the most amazing hilarious musical comedy duo’ – Harry Whittaker, BBC Radio. Their heartfelt and humorous songs tackle the topical with witty wordplay, memorable melodies and a dash of the Carry On! Original songwriting at its finest, guaranteed to make you smile.

Harri Marshall: I Often Think of You. Harri is a deaf director based in York. She has received training from the Young Vic, RTYDS and the Bristol Old Vic. Harri has an affinity for contemporary theatre including new writing, adaptation and verbatim theatre and has directed nine shows. She is an advocate for D/deaf and disabled creatives and is a self-proclaimed proactive busy body!

Luella Rebbeck, Jamie Marshall-White and Isla Bowles: The Art of Losing. Luella, Jamie and Isla are three emerging dance artists currently studying dance full time at CAPA College alongside creating their own dance films and works. Their piece The Art of Losing portrays the loving relationships between themselves and what it means to have contact with one another. 

Paul Birch: Lost for Words. Paul is a Writer/Director. He is also Artistic Director of Out of Character, a company comprised of artists with experience of mental illness. Terence Stamp, Richard O’ Brien & George Lazenby have been kind enough to speak his words in performance. In real life his own words often fail him. 

Hannah Wintie-Hawkins: In the Beginning. Hannah was born and raised in York before moving to London to train professionally in dance. She then progressed her performance career and returned to York in 2016 to set up an independent dance organisation, York Dance Space. She now works as a dance artist and movement director in the city and across the UK.

Tom Nightingale: Elaine. Tomis a musician, performance writer and actor. His 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. One of his projects, Nightingales Game. Pretend To Be Like Me, was performed at Tang Hall Smart as a play in the community. He is very excited to be able to perform his song Elaine, which he wrote for his wife. 

Maurice Crichton: Where Are We Now, You and I? Maurice is an active member of York’s amateur theatre community. Recent credits include: The Duchess of Malfi, The Seagull (York Theatre Royal Studio); Colder Than Here (York Cemetery Chapel/St Nicks); Antony and Cleopatra (41 Monkgate). During this pandemic, he produced Sit-down Sonnets in the churchyard at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate.

Toby Gordon: O Tell Me the Truth About Love by W H Auden. Toby trained at LAMDA. Previous theatre credits include Two Planks & A Passion and As You Like It (York Theatre Royal and Takeover), The Great Gatsby (Guild of Misrule), The York Mystery Plays (York Minster) and Antigone (Barbican).

Don’t the artists all sound fantastic?

If you’re as excited as I am about getting back to the theatre, make sure you head to the York Theatre Royal website to book your tickets.

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