York Theatre Royal bravely opened its doors to a buzzing audience to present Love Bites. Local artists across York were commissioned to write a love letter to celebrate the return of live theatre and it’s lovely to see so many artists taking part in a unique performance such as this one, though naturally the result is a little open mic night in style.
22 artists perform live to a grateful and excited audience. There’s something undeniably exciting about a bustling audience (albeit a reduced one) settling into seats and chattering about what to expect. Harry Gration is our wonderful host for the evening, and carries the introductions with complete charm. You can’t see it through my mask, but I’m grinning from ear to ear as the audience welcomes him with fond applause. It’s good to be back.
The show opens with a performance of W. H. Auden’s O Tell Me The Truth About Love by Toby Gordon. Toby has a charismatic presence and the audience is instantly hooked on his every word. The allure of his performance is only matched at the very end of the show as Laura Pyper delivers 5 Minute Call by Bridget Foreman. Both performers have us in the palm of their hands, each syllable spoken with care and attention to ensure not one moment of poignancy is missed.
Other stand-out performances of the evening, for me, include a touching monologue performed by Maurice Crichton and a humorous duet from Fladam who prove that you can be immensely talented whilst still having a bit of fun too! There’s an art in not taking yourself too seriously, and Fladam are a breath of fresh air in the first act. The same goes for the incredibly talented Richard Kay who performs an original song supported by a recorded local choir. Richard Kay can write and sing beautifully, but it’s his obvious love for singing and bringing people together through music that sparkles.
Amongst other musicians and actors the stage welcomes spoken word artists, dancers and more. It’s certainly an evening of variety!
The show has been curated by Juliet Forster, with a very obvious mission to ensure the programme is diverse, inclusive and thought-provoking. Most of the performances have an underlying moral message, which is interesting, except in some cases I feel like I’m watching a lecture rather than artistic work. That said, there are just enough light-hearted acts and stunning performances to deliver a nice range. As with any variety show or open mic, you’ll always enjoy a certain style of performance more than another and I’m sure each individual audience member found something different to enjoy from an eclectic mix.
The theatre is well organised and plenty of safety measures have been put in place (the usual sanitising stations, temperature checks etc). Some of the audience are eating and drinking throughout so mask-wearing is a little loose from some audience members but the stewards are simply delightful and do everything they can to enforce rules and make everyone feel safe. Huge hats off to the York Theatre Royal team for their dedication and professionalism. With social distancing still in place, I feel safe being in an auditorium again and feel encouraged to book for future productions.
To see what’s coming up next in York Theatre Royal’s Love Season, check out the website.
Photograph credited to Tom Arber