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Geordie the Musical
South Shields Customs House
Until Saturday 5th September 2015
The Westoe Brass Band were playing delightful music on Mill Dam as the audience arrived to see a production about the proud songs and history of the region. Based upon a story by Andy Bogle and written by Tom Kelly, the show is proud of its roots.
Bella (Viktoria Kay) and her husband James (Shaun Prendergast) run The Wheatsheaf pub. It is a popular hostelry which serves good beer and has the regulars singing. Such regulars include a young Irish lad, Michael (Luke Maddison), who fancies their daughter Maggie (Eleanor Chaganis).
Woven into the story are a number of hints about the harsh nature of life in 1890. Michael had to leave Ireland and his family as he was literally starving and puts up with killing bugs in his lodgings. James was a victim of the Trimdon Grange mine gas explosion which has left him as a cripple. In a world without a welfare state or much education for the working class it is easy to be downhearted. This production, however, captures a spirit of the times during which good causes were fought if they were worth fighting for.
Other regulars included Tommy, a role that gave the former front man of This Ground Moves Micky Cochrane plenty of opportunity to show his singing and acting skills. His frequent singing partner in crime was Robert, which gave Phil Corbitt plenty of chance to show his versatility as both a singer and an actor. Completing the Wheatsheaf is the experienced Donald McBride as the Geordie language expert Oliver. The pub regulars frequently added amusing skits to go along with the music and brought frequent laughs with their antics.
The arrival of developer Joshua (James Hedley) and Oxford University’s John (Adam Donaldson) add texture to a story that covers some of the issues of the day. As Newcastle was a true Northern powerhouse producing more coal than Russia, the need for compliant workers was necessary.
The play covers serious issues such as the high rate of infant mortality but is not morbid. Through the classic music of the time it captures a spirit and a love of life for which the region is celebrated. For the duration of the performance the stage has the very talented band comprising of musical director Mike Turnbull, Adam Nyberg on Fiddle and Dan Rogers on the Double Bass. At the back of the set, designed by Kate Unwin and lighting design by James Henshaw, which represents a rustic pub, they provided the pulse that kept the show animated.
The show has a wonderful mix of strong acting, great music and a moving story. Director Jamie Brown and Assistant Director Viktoria Kay should be proud of a show which acts as a fitting tribute to the late Jackie Fielding. Eleanor, Shaun and Viktoria make a loving family that the audience take to their heart. The audience were on their feet for the final song during a well deserved standing ovation.
Geordie The Musical is a superb, well produced, proud and heart-warming story.
Geordie the Musical runs at South Shields Customs House from Friday 21st August to Saturday 5th September 2015.
Tickets for Geordie the Musical, from £10, are available from The Customs House box office on 0191 454 1234 or visit www.customshouse.co.uk.
Photographs by Adrian Jackson Photography (www.adrianjacksonphotography.org.uk)