Tuesday, 28 February 2017

REVIEW: Leaving at Newcastle Northern Stage

A Production That Shows There Is Hope

By Paddy Campbell
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Saturday 4th March 2017

Director Amy Golding
Designer Katherina Radeva
Composition & Sound Design Roma Yagnik
Lighting Design Simon Cole

Photo: Mark Slater
Jackie Lye
Rosie Stancliffe
Kate Okello
Luke Maddison
Matt Howdon

Photo: Mark Slater
The care system is an important and complex issue for society. Writer Paddy Campbell, who has worked in the care system himself, has written a passionate piece that gives a 360o view of the current way in which we deal with children in care. By using interviews, that both he and director Amy Golding conducted with those involved, he has constructed some theatre that exposes the audience to the issues.

Photo: Mark Slater
The method used to deliver the show is verbatim theatre. In other words, each line delivered by the actors was said in actual interview.  In order to ensure the um’s and ah’s, as well as the pauses and repetitions are preserved, each actor has a pair of headphones through which the interview is relayed as they speak it. The hope is that this ‘recorded delivery’, as the programme notes inform us the technique is called, ensures the speech patterns are true to the original person. This results in the first girl’s story being delivered rapidly whilst some of the older care workers have their words spoken in a slow drawl.

Photo: Mark Slater
The overall effect is that the show is a cross between a t.v. documentary and a reconstruction, with theatrical dance elements thrown in. The audience are also supplied with headphones, although these only have sound during those more theatrical moments such as the recreation of a child’s case meeting.

Photo: Mark Slater
Back to the tale being told… As a result of the interviews, we get to hear about 10 young people who have been through the care system as well as 9 adults who are behind it. From the kids there are tales about settling in and dealing with the adults. The adults range from the care workers and their managers through to other agencies such as teachers and an MP. It is startling how big the discrepancy is between the official interpretation of what should be happening on the ground and the description of what does actually happen.

Photo: Mark Slater
The production is called Leaving and there is a focus on that moment when a child leaves the care system, how they are prepared and the barriers facing their integration into the bigger, unsupported, world. This is when, in my opinion, the audience is exposed to the more shocking revelations. Theatre is more than entertainment and, just like a great documentary on TV, you can find yourself chewing over the issues long after the show finishes. In this respect it is a moving piece.

Photo: Mark Slater
The cast of five keep changing roles and they often have a box with a name nearby in order to let you know whose story they are presenting. They work hard to convey the personality behind the voice.

Photo: Mark Slater
In conclusion I am split in two by the show. The actual content is well worth hearing; the actors are passionate and the subject matter leaves an impression upon you. Certainly Leaving is worth seeing. However, I have an issue with the headphones, especially the ones given to the audience. Whilst we, in the audience, are supposed to share in the recorded delivery verbatim experience, I couldn’t help thinking that the experience would be improved by simply playing that sound feed through the theatre speakers. Others may disagree.

Photo: Mark Slater
The kid’s recollections of their experience in the care system should be heard. The production is certainly worth going to see as the cast show there is a human spirit, even in the darkest moments of one’s life. But be ready to leave disappointed at the treatment of our most vulnerable citizens by the system.

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Tour Details & Tickets:
Tickets: £15.50 / £13.50 concessions
Box office 0191 230 5151

Photo: Mark Slater
MON 13 MARCH 7pm
Tickets: £8.50 / £7.50 children
Box Office: 01225 823409

WED 15 MARCH - SAT 18 MARCH 7.30pm
Tickets: £12 / £10 concessions
Box Office: 01392 434169

Preview: Tempest at Newcastle People’s Theatre

AVON Special Online Offer - Spend £25 and get 50p delivery.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on ...”

The Tempest
by William Shakespeare
Newcastle People’s Theatre
Tuesday 7th to Saturday 11th March 2017

Marooned on a remote island, Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan, lives with his daughter Miranda and their two servants: the flighty spirit Ariel, and Caliban, the downtrodden witch-spawned drudge.

Prospero uses his magic powers to conjure up a storm, shipwrecking his wicked brother and his court on the island, placing them at his mercy. But Shakespeare’s classic is no simple tale of revenge. The political intrigue and sibling rivalry at the heart of the tale are counterpointed by one of Jacobean theatre’s greatest evocations of love at first sight.

Romance and reconciliation win the day, with much roistering high-jinks, melodramatic sorcery, and knockabout comic interludes along the way.

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises; Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.”

Tony Childs as Prospero
Photo: Paula Smart
The Tempest is famously the most musical of the Bard’s dramas, with haunting songs and an enchanted masque.  The director, Anna Dobson, is no stranger to extravaganza, having produced our very successful Pantos in recent years. Her take on Shakespeare’s late masterpiece is of course much more subtle, but no less engaging, so look out for some weird and wonderful spectacle!


Photo: Paula Smart
The Tempest comes to The People’s Theatre, Stephenson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5QF on Tuesday 7th to Saturday 11th March 2017 at 7:30pm
Tickets cost: £13.50 (Concessions £11) and can be obtained from the box office on 0191 265 5020 or from the website:  www.peoplestheatre.co.uk

Monday, 27 February 2017



Work has this month completed on the new on-site bistro, alongside renovation and refurbishment to the Dress Circle Bar areas at Sunderland Empire as part of a £500,000 investment at the North East theatre.

Photo: David Allan Photography
The luxurious new Garden Place Bistro is situated in the former Dress Circle back bar and will open for walk up bookings to coincide with One Night of Elvis on Wednesday 1 March. Walk up bookings will continue until The Full Monty on Monday 20 March, when advance bookings can be made in person at the box office or via www.atgtickets.com/Sunderland

New Bistro - Photo: David Allan Photography
Garden Place Bistro will offer pre-theatre dining on performance nights from 5.30pm and on matinee days from 12.30pm, with early arrival is recommended to experience the full 3-course menu. The 45 seater bistro will treat customers to a selection of light bites as well as a delicious two course menu for only £12.95, or three course menu for £16.95, alongside a special children’s menu. The stylish bistro will be the perfect place to enjoy relaxed pre-theatre dining, safe in the knowledge you won’t miss a moment of the show.

Dress Circle Bar -Photo: David Allan Photography
The Dress Circle front bar area has also undergone extensive refurbishment which has included refreshed décor, new seating and exposure and restoration of the original parquet flooring.

New Bistro - Photo: David Allan Photography
The Grade 2 listed Edwardian theatre is managed by the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), the largest owner/operator of theatres in the UK, internationally recognised theatre producer and leader in theatre ticketing services, on behalf of the Sunderland Empire Trust and is supported by Sunderland City Council.

The front of house renovations compliment a range of work and initiatives already completed at the theatre which have included the Ambassador Lounge and box refurbishment and the rolling out of the successful Ordertorium facility,

Terpsichore - Photo: David Allan Photography
Externally, the reinstallation of the iconic Terpsichore statue took place last month, following dislodgement during high winds. All were delighted to see the statue return to her rightful place on top of the 90ft tower. General Façade repairs have also been completed to showcase a refreshed tower in addition to a new advanced lighting system, which allows lighting changes linked to a productions arrival.

Dress Circle Bar - Photo: David Allan Photography
Ben Phillips, General Manager, Sunderland Empire said: “2017 signals an exciting time for Sunderland Empire as we embrace the substantial capital improvement plan for the venue. We continue to attract audiences from across the region especially with North East debuts gracing our stage such as The Lion King, Wicked and the homecoming of Billy Elliot the Musical.  We don’t just see ourselves as a Sunderland venue, but as a North East venue. 

The renovation work ties in with the developments of our new neighbours at the Old Fire Station in the creation of a cultural hub around the theatre. It’s important to continually attract people into the city via the cultural offer, especially as we work towards the City of Culture 2021 title. Sunderland Empire is just one cultural element of the offer available across the City, but we believe these new developments at the theatre will help drive footfall and people into our city, which is instrumental.”

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Preview: Not Dead Enough at Newcastle Theatre Royal


Not Dead Enough
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Monday 20th – Saturday 25th March 2017

Leading television presenter Laura Whitmore will star in the next thrilling stage adaptation of multi-million selling author Peter James’ Not Dead Enough.

Laura Whitmore
Following Peter James’ 11th consecutive Sunday Times No.1 in the UK Book Charts and the huge sell-out success of The Perfect Murder and Dead Simple on stage Not Dead Enough receives its world stage premiere in January 2017.

No stranger to theatre, Laura Whitmore’s acting career began at a young age with the Leinster School of Music and Drama in Dublin. In the very same year that she completed her Diploma in Performance with a special honour for her final performance she was chosen as the new face of MTV Europe. Laura is best known for her work as a presenter for MTV, The Brits and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Here Now. She is currently gracing our screens on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and is excited about her imminent return to acting.

Laura Whitmore said: “I'm a huge fan of Peter James' books and so honoured to be cast as his Cleo for her first theatrical outing. Peter has created a strong character in Cleo Morely and I can't wait to sink my teeth into the role. I'm also unbelievably excited to work with Producer Joshua Andrews and Director Ian Talbot. Before I trained in Journalism, I studied Drama and played some great roles including Lady Macbeth and Annie in All My Sons! I have been waiting a long time to return to acting and for a great role like this to come along, so I can’t wait to get on stage around the UK and of course Dublin with Not Dead Enough.”

Peter James said; “The characters in my Roy Grace novels are very precious to me and I have a very clear image of each of them in my mind.  In bringing my work to the stage, I’ve tried hard in the casting, masterminded by Josh Andrews, to find brilliant performers who bear a strong resemblance to my vision of the characters - to lift them truly off the page.  The moment I met Laura Whitmore and she began reading a scene from the play I had that deep thrill of knowing we had found my absolutely perfect Cleo - the way she looks and the warmth and energy she radiates - just perfect in every way.”

Not Dead Enough is the third novel in the award winning Roy Grace series and now becomes the third play in his box office smash hit and critically acclaimed stage franchise. James has been acclaimed as ‘one of the most fiendishly clever crime fiction plotters’ (Daily Mail) and his brilliant international bestselling Roy Grace novels have been published in 37 languages and sold over 18 million copies worldwide. His latest novel, Love You Dead, enjoyed 3 consecutive weeks at No.1 in the Fiction hardback charts, a new record for Peter who is also the 2016 recipient of crime writing’s highest honour, the Diamond Dagger.

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed. At least that’s what he claims. But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace continues to deal with the mysterious disappearance of his own wife, he starts to dig a little deeper into the chilling murder case and it soon becomes clear that love can be a dangerous thing.

Following the nationwide success of The Perfect Murder with Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace earlier this year, Not Dead Enough reunites Peter James with theatre producer Joshua Andrews, the Olivier award winning director Ian Talbot and award winning playwright Shaun McKenna.


Not Dead Enough is at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Monday 20th until Saturday 25th March 2017, playing evenings at 7.30pm, matinees on Thu 2pm and Sat 2.30pm. Tickets from £14.50 and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21.  Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge or book online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk   

Friday, 24 February 2017

REVIEW: Hadaway Harry at Newcastle Theatre Royal

A Celebration of Tyneside hero

Hadaway Harry
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 25th February 2017

Written by Ed Waugh
Directed by Russell Floyd
Stage and Scene Design by Steve Arnott

Hadaway Harry: Jamie Brown
Additional Characters: Wayne Miller

Newcastle United was founded just 124 years ago in 1892. This raises the question “Which sport did people follow before football?” 

Hadaway Harry is a tale about the 19th century passion for rowing, or ‘aquatics’ as it was known. Each North East river had numerous clubs and a race meeting between rival rivers, say Wear vs Tyne, could attract not just tens of thousands but sometimes over 100 000 spectators. The oarsmen were the ‘Alan Shearers’ of their time with monuments and songs produced in their honour.

We had heard on the grapevine that this was a must-see show that celebrates the grit and determination of the North East people. It is pleasing to say they were right as this is indeed a fine production that celebrates a true Geordie Hero. Well written, superbly acted and very engaging, it is no surprise that many of the Theatre Royal audience were on their feet at the end.  Indeed, dear reader, this was one of those rare shows in which we found ourselves on our feet too.

The production is about the legendary Harry Clasper. He was a working class hero who had spent time down the pit, working in shipbuilding and feeding the coke ovens. Harry also was a member of a large family which ended up being a ready made crew of 5 – 4 rowers and a coxswain. Over 90 minutes, plus interval, Ed Waugh’s writing describes how the young Harry overcame obstacles to be become the leader of a successful team.

Jamie Brown shows his versatility as he both narrates and acts his way through Harry’s life. It takes real skill to have the Theatre Royal hanging on to your every word as you describe a rowing race. The applause that follows was as much a spontaneous appreciation of his performance as it was in recognition of Harry Clasper’s achievement.

Jamie is supported by follow North Eastern actor Wayne Miller who plays a variety of charismatic characters. Often breaking the fourth wall and drawing the audience in, he helped create many of the funny moments in the story.

The story is a celebration of what make the region special. The accent, the sayings, the strength of character and the individuals who overcome adversity in order to succeed. Engaging and informative, it never leaves the audience behind in a wall of rowing jargon. It is a fabulous performance about a real Geordie Hero. No wonder the song “Blaydon Races” was written in his honour.

2017 is already off to a great start in North East Theatre!

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Tickets cost from £10. Contact the box office on 08448 112121 or https://www.theatreroyal.co.uk/whats-on/hadaway-harry