Friday, 27 November 2015

On Stage at the York Theatre Royal

I persuaded my husband to watch this on iPlayer with me last night only to find him appearing in it - there he was, a blurry stooge, lurking at the back of the stalls. And then goodness me, some blink-and-you-miss-them shots of our daughter too, flitting across the stage in her pink coat and running between the seats. I had completely forgotten that there was a camera crew present when we went to the York Theatre Royal open day in March. The theatre threw open its doors to the public the weekend before it closed for a multi-million pound refurbishment. We had a fun afternoon trying on costumes, playing with panto props, seeing the Green Room, chatting to the stage door manager and standing on the stage seeing an actor's view of the world.

My husband released his inner David Leonard...
The Dreaded Lurgi?

And our daughter enjoyed being the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg...

Back then, they expected that the work would be finished and the theatre open again by now. But unfortunately, as soon as you take up a floor up in York you inevitably find archaeological remains, if not a Roman legion or two, and the Theatre Royal was no exception. Once the excavators had dug through several tons of panto sequins and 1930s cigarette packets, they unearthed the medieval foundations of the St Leonard's Hospital. It was previously thought that these had been demolished by the Victorians. So archaeologists had to have their field day, and the theatre refurbishment was delayed by several months.

So for one year only, the famous York Christmas panto has had to move to the National Railway Museum. Dick Whittington And His Meerkat is about to open, and it's going to be an interesting one. Berwick Kaler will have had to rethink his standard routines in order to stage them on what is basically a long railway platform. The NRM has been hosting the Theatre Royal all year, but only for train-related plays like The Railway Children and In Fog And Falling Snow. Hence the set design, as both involved, er, trains. Real, proper, live, huffing, puffing engines. In Fog And Falling Snow, which told the story of railwayman George Hudson, also featured in this BBC On Stage documentary. The only professional in the cast was George Costigan - the 200 others were all members of the community. Playing Mrs Hudson was none other than Rosie Rainbow, one of York's stalwart children's party entertainers, who does an excellent line in bubble and snow discos.

Now that our daughter has started school, we no longer go to the Railway Museum every other week. I kind of miss it, and I kind of don't. It's an amazing place, with free entry, and the streamlined Duchess of Hamilton is still my favourite train in the whole world - a thing of great beauty. But, truth be told, over the past five years I have probably run up and down the ramps beside the Bullet Train just a few times too many. It's been nice to see my daughter not only grow taller (so I don't have to lift her up to see the model railway or inside the Royal Carriages any more) but actually grow interested in trains. At first it was all about the ramps. Then the Thomas Ride-On machines. Then the wooden Mallards for sale in the shop. Then riding on the Road Train to the Minster and back. And then one day, it was about the real Mallard. And the gigantic engine transported home from China. And the operation of the turntable. And the fact that the Queen could have a bath between stations whenever she felt like it.

Thomas Ride-on



Model Railway

The big engine from China
 (never paid enough attention to learn its name, sorry)

So we have all grown up a little, and learned a lot. Stripey the Monkey usually stays at home these days too. (Apologies for him blocking the view of the trains there.) He is as dirty as an old firebox these days anyway, and I doubt he'd be allowed in.

The next episode of On Stage was about the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. I half wondered if my husband and daughter would appear in this too, since we usually end up on the beach outside the theatre every time we go to the Lake District, feeding the ducks or skimming stones. Although never with a film crew behind us, so no, they didn't. We don't get to go in to the theatre and watch a play, since our daughter doesn't really do Tennessee Williams or Shakespeare yet. But I am glad that, thanks to this series of documentaries, our unique but cash-strapped northern theatres are getting some much deserved screen time.

The beach outside The Theatre By The Lake, Keswick

No comments:

Post a Comment