Following last year’s smash hit production of The Secret Garden, we’re going to take a fresh look at another children’s classic in our summer family show, Arthur Ransome’s Swallows & Amazons,.
Damian Cruden, in his final production after 22 years as York Theatre Royal’s Artistic Director, co-directs the production with Artistic Associate John R. Wilkinson.
“I’m looking forward to working on this script with a talented group of artists, that my last show for YTR is for families seems appropriate,” says Damian, whose past family shows for YTR include The Railway Children, The Wind in the Willows and Peter Pan.
The story tells of the Walker and Blackett children’s adventurous school holiday in the Lake District as they set sail for adventure. The Swallows – John, Susan, Titty and Roger – sail to Wildcat Island and meet Nancy and Peggy, the self-proclaimed Amazon Pirates, and the dastardly Captain Flint.
Ransome’s story has been adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson whose other literary adaptations include Anna Karenina, Mill On the Floss, War and Peace, Coram Boy and Therese Raquin.
The production features music by Neil Hannon, from The Divine Comedy. His original demos for Swallows & Amazons are being released for the first time on the limited edition deluxe CD of The Divine Comedy’s new album Office Politics.
The production marks a homecoming for cast member Laura Soper, a former member of YTR Youth Theatre who has appeared in main house productions The Legend of King Arthur and Peter Pan, both directed by Damian Cruden. She played Eve in the 2012 York Mystery Plays and Viola in Twelfth Night for York Shakespeare Project.
She trained at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Swallows & Amazons marks her debut at York Theatre Royal as a professional actor.
Laura said: “Being in Swallows & Amazons feels really special – it’s my first professional role at the theatre. The book is one of my absolute favourites which is one reason I am so excited to being doing it. I just love everything about it. We go to the Lake District every year on holiday with my family so I just feel so connected to the story.
“I really like how it doesn’t patronise children. It gives them the time and space to tell their story and I love how Arthur Ransome takes it so seriously. For them it’s a big deal, a proper adventure however childish and silly it may seem from an adult point of view.”
Laura will also appear in the YTR Youth Theatre production of Jacqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather, from 30 August to 1 September in the main house. She has already started learning aerial skills for the circus-themed story.
Also returning to York in Swallows & Amazons are Ed Thorpe, who played in Robin Hood: The Arrow of Destiny in 2017, and Clara Darcy, last seen at York Theatre Royal as Gloria in Brassed Off in 2014. Musical director Kieran Buckeridge has composed for theatre companies including York Theatre Royal, Northern Broadsides and Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
Completing the cast are William Pennington, Alex Wingfield, Hannah Khogali, Ellen Chivers and Anne-Marie Piazza.
Other Swallows & Amazons events include a Swallows vs Amazons Challenge every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday from 1 to 2pm in the Studio from 31 July. Are you a Swallow? Or an Amazon? Pick your tribe and pit your wits, skills and creativity against each other in a drama challenge. There will be dressing up, theatre games and a chance to learn more about the Swallows & Amazons story. The workshop is for 7 to 11 year olds.