Introducing… The Haunted Season at York Theatre Royal

York Theatre Royal are always innovating, always coming up with exciting events to keep theatre-goers intrigued and The Haunted Season will be no different.

With world premiers by Emma Rice, Matthew Bourne and Tonderai Munyevu plus classic stories retold in dramatic adaptations, there’ll be something for everyone to get their teeth stuck into.

York Theatre Royal is filling its stage with spirits and shadows in The Haunted Season which follows the highly successful and much-loved Love Season.

Emma Rice’s Wise Children have already wowed audiences with Angela Carter’s Wise Children and Malory Towers and now they’re back with Wuthering Heights (9th-20th November) in a York Theatre Royal co-production with the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic. Lucy McCormick plays Cathy in this epic story of love, revenge and redemption as Rice’s celebrated musical and visual style brings new life to the classic story.

Emma Rice said: “It is with an earthy spring in my step and epic twinkle in my eye that I announce our new plans for Wuthering Heights. So many projects have fallen by the wayside during lockdown that there were times when I lost hope – but there was no need! Wise Children are back; stronger, wiser and grateful for the chance to sing and dance again. The exceptional cast, crew, administrative and creative teams are ready to go and we are fizzing with ideas, dreams and anticipation.”

The second world premiere in the Haunted Season presents “intoxicated tales from darkest Soho” in Matthew Bourne’s The Midnight Bell (30th Sept-2nd Oct) inspired by English novelist Patrick Hamilton and exploring the underbelly of 1930s London life. New Adventures invite audiences to step inside The Midnight Bell, a tavern where one particular lonely hearts club gather to play out their lovelorn affairs of the heart. It’ll be an interesting show and will certainly be unique! I love experimenting with my own experiences by trying to see more exciting new works – why not give it a go?

Tonderai Munyevu is writer and performer of the season’s third world premiere Mugabe, My Dad & Me (9th-I8th Sept). The one man show charts the rise and fall of one of the most controversial politicians of the 20th century through the personal story of Tonderai’s family and his relationship with his father.

Philip Meeks – whose play Murder, Margaret and Me proved a big hit at York Theatre Royal – has adapted  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (5th-9th October), Washington Irving’s classic tale of the Headless Horseman, for the stage. A pair of familiar TV faces, Wendi Peters and Bill Ward, lead the cast of a production featuring illusions by Filipe J Carvalho. It’s great to see some prestigeous acting talent coming to the stage. The show is an adaptation of one of the greatest horror stories ever told so it’s going to be an important and interesting adaptation.

Two familiar figures from the world of horror put in appearances although not quite as you might expect. Award-winning kings of comedy La Navet Bete sink their teeth into Dracula: The Bloody Truth (24th-25th Sept) which mixes slapstick with carefully-crafted comedy and a healthy dose of things going wrong as the action moves from dark and sinister Transylvania to the ‘awkwardly charming seaside town of Whitby’. Sounds awesome, right?

Another literary classic is getting a dramatic makeover. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (19th -23rd Oct) gets a farcical overhaul in Lotte Wakeham’s twisty production that promises an ‘exhilarating collision of farce, theatrical invention and wonderfully comic performances’.

We’re on a literary roll, aren’t we? Pride and Prejudice’s most roguish gentleman George Wickham is ready to set the record straight as Adrian Lukis performs in Being Mr Wickham (14th-16th Oct). Lukis, who played Mr Wickham in the BBC TV adaptation, will reveal what really happened with Darcy, how he felt about Lizzie and, of course, what happened at Waterloo.

Two popular dance companies return to the Theatre Royal stage. Cassa Pancho’s Ballet Black Double Bill (26th October) features Then and Now, in which Olivier award-winning choreographer Will Tuckett blends classical ballet, poetry and music to explore ideas of home and belonging. The second piece finds another Olivier award-winning choreographer Mthuthuzeli November contemplating the purpose of life in The Waiting Game.

Next up, Leeds-based Phoenix Dance celebrate 40 Years of Phoenix (23rd-24th Nov) with a birthday programme  featuring a selection of work by internationally acclaimed and award-winning choreographers, including former artistic directors and collaborators. Phoenix Dance is a fab company and most from Leeds will know their work, but perhaps it will be a fresh new audience of those from further afield.

A new theatrical version of The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff (28rd-30th Oct) is performed by BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners The Young ‘uns. I’ve seen The Young’uns perform before and they really are spectacularly talented – full of charisma, charming banter and beautiful vocals. This musical celebration of northern working class activism features songs from the original album alongside new material and animation. It’s the true story of one man’s journey from poverty and unemployment in Stockton-on-Tees through the Hunger Marches of the 1930s, the mass trespass movement and the Battle of Cable Street  to fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

English Touring Opera returns with Handel’s Amadigi (11th-12th Oct) based on a chivalric romance about three young people imprisoned by a sorceress. York Opera also present The Magic Flute (2nd-6th Nov), Mozart’s magical and last great opera sung in English with an orchestra. It’s a very complicated piece so it will certainly be a challenge, but one I’m sure York Opera are very much up to!

For younger audiences, Rod Campbell’s much-loved lift-the-flap book leaps off the page in Dear Zoo Live! (28th-29th Sept), a show packed full of puppetry, songs and, of course, all the animals from the zoo.

Which show are you most looking forward to seeing? I expect these shows will sell out fast as we all rush back to the wonderful theatre so make sure you book your tickets quick!

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