EXECUTIVE director Tom Bird is looking forward to live theatre returning to York Theatre Royal from tomorrow.

Not only theatre but dance, music, magic, puppetry, improvised comedy, storytelling and slam poetry too.

Not inside – as Tuesday’s Red Alert day and night of drawing attention to the plight of those who work in theatre, music and comedy, off stage as well as on – but outdoors with social distancing measures in place.

Each Friday evening and Saturday for the next three weeks, starting tomorrow, “Yorkshire’s finest theatre and dance makers” will be participating in York Theatre Royal’s Pop-Up On The Patio festival on a terrace stage designed by Hannah Sibai.

“It’s been a short but intense preparation period: we wanted to go hyper-local with the festival, to give a platform to York artists, and we’re absolutely delighted at getting a very local, highly skilled bunch across so many genres,” says Tom.

Explaining the decision to focus the festival on Friday evenings and Saturdays, Bird says: “We are easing our way back from a total stop, turning everything off in March, so we’re feeling our way in, so we want to make sure that everything is safe, for the audience, performers and staff.

“The world is changing all the time, so we wanted to give ourselves breathing space in what we’re doing by restricting ourselves to three weekends for the festival, but who’s to say we won’t do more patio shows.”

Put together by Theatre Royal producer Thom Freeth, the festival will present York Dance Space; Mud Pie Arts; Crafty Tales; Fool(ish) Improv; The Flanagan Collective and Gobbledigook Theatre; puppeteer Freddie Hayes; Cosmic Collective Theatre; performance poet Henry Raby; Say Owt, the York outlet for slam poets; magician Josh Benson and singer Jess Gardham.

They will perform at one end of the patio, decorated with “Glastonbury-style bunting”, playing to audiences of a maximum of 35 in demarcated bubbles.

“Our building may still be closed, but we didn’t want that to stand in the way of entertaining the

people of York during this difficult time,” says Tom Freeth. “Pop-Up On The Patio gives us the opportunity to showcase the work of brilliant home-grown performers, many of whom are part of our freelance family, who have been disproportionally affected by this pandemic.”

The festival opens at 7pm tomorrow with Dance // Shorts, an evening of contemporary dance theatre curated by York Dance Space, featuring Alethia Antonia, Coalesce Dance Theatre, Daisy Howell, Namiuki Dance and Doorstep Dances.

Mud Pie Arts’ Jenna and Nicolette Hobson tell Silly Summer Stories for four to 11 year olds on August 15, 22 and 29 at 11am, and Story Craft Theatre’s Cassie Vallance and Janet Bruce combine a story with a picture book, songs, games and dancing in the interactive Crafty Tales for two to six year olds on August 15 and 22 at 1pm.

York writer and director Paul Birch presents Fool(ish) Improv, an hour of bite-sized spontaneous comedy, on August 15 at 4pm, when the audience provides the suggestions for the actors to make stuff happen. Instantly.

On August 21, The Flanagan Collective’s Alexander Flanagan-Wright and Gobbledigook Theatre’s Phil Grainger follow up last week’s At The Mill festival at Stillington Mill by reprising their modern-day twists on the Greek tales of Orpheus at 6pm and Eurydice at 8pm.

Freddie Does Puppets puppeteer Freddie Hayes presents Fred’s Microbrewery, the world’s first Puppet-in-a-Pub theatrical experience, a Punch and Judy story for today with grouchy pub guvnor Fred and bitter wife Sharon, on August 22 at 4pm.

York company Cosmic Collective Theatre – satirical writer Joe Feeney, Anna Soden, Lewes Roberts and Kate Cresswell – imagine the final hour of four fictionalised members of the real-life UFO-theistic group Heaven’s Gate in their 4pm pitch-black comedy with adult themes and strong language on August 28.

“2010-2019. What was going on?” asks York-grown punk performance poet, activist and Say Owt artistic director Henry Raby as puts the word into sword to slice up the past decade with attitude, humour and insight in Apps & Austerity on August 28 at 6.30pm.

Slam champ and Deer Shed resident poet Raby then hosts an assortment of noisy slam-winning performance poets, word-weavers and gobheads in the Say Owt Showcase on August 28 at 8pm.

Josh Benson, Corntroller of Entertainments at York Maze and regular pantomime silly billy, is hugely excited to be performing once more in Just Josh’s Ultimate Family Show, his magic, juggling and balloon show, on August 29 at 1pm.

York pop, soul, blues and acoustic singer-songwriter, musical actress and 2018 MasterChef quarter finalist Jess Gardham closes Pop-Up On The Patio with an afternoon live set on August 29 at 4pm.

Change only one letter and the Pop-Up “Patio” could be the Pop-Up Panto, a winter possibility already being considered by other theatres in the face of the continuing uncertainty over when and how theatres can re-open.

What is the latest Theatre Royal position on the 2020 pantomime, Cinderella, still in the diary for the main house from December 4 to January 10 2021? “Looking at the panto landscape across the country, we’re waiting to see the collective wisdom because all panto producers will make decisions together,” says Bird.

“Our new panto partners, Evolution, have talked about pop-up pantos, and we’re keeping our options open as we really want to do something, and we basically just want to fit in with Government guidance and whatever people want to do.

“But no-one can swan in and spend £400,000 on a panto and then cancel it. We just have to react to whatever scenario emerges, so we’re taking each day as it comes.”

Tickets for Pop-Up On The Patio are on sale at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk and must be bought in advance.