Monday, January 15, 2018

Preview - Five Kinds of Silence - Royalty Theatre

ROYALTY THEATRE TO OPEN 2018 WITH FIVE KINDS OF SILENCE

The Royalty Theatre will begin 2018 with hard-hitting drama, Five Kinds of Silence.

Written by north-east writer Shelagh Stephenson, whose plays include The Memory of Water and An Experiment with an Air Pump, the play portrays a family living in fear of abusive husband and father Billy.  His wife Mary, and daughters Susan and Janet, have suffered his abuse for years, but have remained silent – until events take a tragic turn.

Director James Errington says, “I fell in love with this show the first time I read it; it’s dark, gritty and very powerful.  It's a pleasure to be able to direct such a play”.

Originally a radio play, the production will take place in the Royalty’s studio theatre, their first studio production since the sell-out The Vagina Monologues in 2015.


A strong cast includes Lorna Breeze, Helen Bowie and newcomer Becky Watson as the women of the family, and Andrew Barella as Billy.  Emma McLeary and Sean Landless, another Royalty debutante, also star.

Due to the play’s candid discussion of sexual abuse, the Royalty do not recommend the play for anybody 16 or under, though this is purely advisory and not a strict limit.


Five Kinds of Silence runs from 24-27th Jan. Tickets can be booked via www.ticketsource.co.uk/royaltytheatre or on 0333 666 3366, and are priced at £6.50 plus booking fee.   



Plays remaining this season are Rabbit Hole (19-24 Feb), Jeeves and Wooster in ‘Perfect Nonsense’ (19-24 Mar), Temple (25-28 April), Move Over Mrs Markham (21-26 May) and The Wind in the Willows (25-30 June). Tickets for these shows are £8 (£6.50 conc) plus booking fee. 

Preview - Go Back For Murder - People's Theatre


The People's Theatre are set to start the New Year with the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie! Their January whodunnits always prove popular, and last year’s The Unexpected Guest delighted audiences with its gripping twists and turns. 

In GO BACK FOR MURDER, Carla le Merchant is determined to find out the truth about who murdered her father. It’ll keep you guessing until the end, and promises to be lots of fun along the way!

 
So who is in the frame for the murder of Amyas Crale? Only six people were present when he was poisoned. It must have been one of them.






Caroline Crale? The wife he cheated on, who was found guilty of poisoning him. However, in a letter from her prison deathbed she told her daughter Carla that she was innocent of the crime. Was she telling the truth?






Meredith Blake? An old friend of the family who harboured a secret passion. He was an amateur herbalist and distilled his own poisons. Did he administer the deadly hemlock?




Philip Blake? A confirmed bachelor and best friend of Amyas. He was once briefly in love with Caroline but she rejected him in favour of Amyas.  Did long-standing jealousies finally lead to revenge? 





Elsa Greer? The lover of Amyas and model for his final painting. They were having a passionate relationship - did that passion boil over into murder?




Warren? The 14-year old stepsister of Caroline Crale. She was jealous of Amyas’ relationship with her sister and was being sent away to school. Is that a motive for murder in a teenager’s mind?






Miss Williams? The governess to Angela who disapproved of Amyas’ affairs. She was strongly protective of Angela and Caroline. Could that make her a killer? 




PHOTOS: Paula Smart

LISTINGS INFORMATION –
Go Back For Murder by Agatha Christie
DATE:   Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 January 2018
TIME:   7.30pm
VENUE: People’s Theatre, Stephenson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5QF
TICKETS:  £13.50 (Concessions £11)
BOX OFFICE:  0191 265 5020
WEBSITE:  www.peoplestheatre.co.uk

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Grinch-Review-Starset Theatre

Starset Theatre
The Grinch Christmas Adventure 
Saturday 16th December 2017  2.00pm

Boldon Theatre, Boldon School

Based on “The Grinch- The Panto” by Limelight Scripts adapted by Starset Theatre



I love all things Christmas, the story of The Grinch and the film adaptation starring Jim Carrey, so it was with great excitement that I awaited the curtain to go up and the show to start.

Written by Dr Seuss, The Grinch is a much loved and well known tale of a furry green grumpy recluse (The Grinch) who lives on a cliff which overlooks the town of Whoville where the cheery and ever optimistic residents (the Whos) annoy him with their Christmas spirit and joyful  preparations. So what does he decide to do?…try and ruin Christmas for them of course 

This production follows the original story and then adds its own stamp throughout with singing and dancing, the jokes and the panto moments (oh yes they did)
I was delightfully entertained with the solo and the choir of singers in a great mix of classic Christmas songs (including the favourite Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade)  Pop songs (Bad by Michael Jackson and Go West by Pet Shop Boys to name a few) and Let It Go from the film Frozen. A warm glow was felt when I heard Golden Slumbers (originally by The Beatles and sung recently by Elbow and heard on the John Lewis Christmas advert)

It was heartwarming to see the many young cast members of all ages as they sang, danced and performed on the stage taking parts such as Buddy The Elf, The Snow Queen, The Spirit of Christmas, Nora, Santa Claus and not forgetting…. The Grinch himself.
There was plenty of both intentionally groan inducing jokes and funny moments,  both in the writing and also the delivery from very naturally talented students. Within the story a few references to local places added to making the story their own (Marios Pizza and Colmans restaurant were a few)

The costumes and wigs were very well done and added such brilliant colour and brightness to the stage,  along with the images displayed on the screen behind. As the story continued I particularly liked the flow of the change from singing dancing and storytelling.
Just in case there's anyone who doesn't know the story of The Grinch I won't spoil the ending (does he succeed in his quest to ruin Christmas for everyone or can the act of a kind heart and good spirit win him over) 

I thoroughly enjoyed watching this, and found myself singing along with gusto several times too. A sense of feelgood permeated throughout the theatre. I could see and hear proud relatives and friends as they pointed out and watched their loved ones on stage. It was a perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon in the run up to Christmas, especially with the addition of the snowflakes drifting down from above on to the stage 

The show is also on Sunday 17th December at 2.00pm and 5.00pm


Production Team 

Director                Elissa Hudson
Musical Director  John Hudson
Choreographer    Katie Pugh
Choreographer    Helen Wilson 

Belinda Bekki-Winter





Saturday, December 16, 2017

Snow White - Alun Armstrong Theatre - Review




Snow White
Alun Armstrong Theatre
15th Dec 2017

Directed by Lee Brannigan
My second foray into Pantoland this year took me to Stanley to the Alun Armstrong Theatre, for their in-house production of Snow White (the fairest panto of them all!).
At curtain up we meet the villain (villainess?), Queen Morgana of Cannyville. Once the boos have died down she sets the scene: you know the score, her kingdom is skint, the lucrative diamond mine is protected by magical dwarves and she can’t get her hands on the treasure, her step daughter is more beautiful than she, and the wealthy prince falls for her instead of the Queen. It’s the age old struggle, of good versus evil, true beauty versus vanity, greed versus generosity of spirit.
Will goodness and beauty prevail? Of course they will. But in order for that to happen we, the audience must be subjected to the gruelling ordeal of bad puns and awful jokes that is panto. And there are plenty of them! They come thick and fast from Nurse Bella and her son Muggles, and from the evil Morgana and her sidekick Seymour Snarl. There are puns to make you groan and jokes so bad your toes will curl - but of course this is what we expect, and the punchlines are eagerly anticipated and are cheered for and groaned at in equal measure.
As always Philip Meeks’ script is adapted to include local references - Beamish and Consett come under fire as does Stanley itself with references to The Big Asda and The Aldi that’s not even built yet (you can see both as you come into town). These local jokes always resonate with the audiences. We Brits are nothing if not willing to laugh at ourselves.
It’s not all about the jokes though - there is also the singing and dancing, the set and the costumes. The set is impressive - from the painted scenery of the castle, the forest and the dwarves’ cottage to the special effects with lighting and pyrotechnics, it creates a land of magic and mystery. Costumes are sumptuous - from Morgana’s dark and dramatic glamour, and Nurse Bella’s array of frocks for all occasions to the simplicity of Snow White and the villagers outfits, and the smart elegance of Charlie’s princley attire.
There are plenty of musical numbers to show off the singing talents of the cast, Sara Lumley has a fresh, light voice well suited to the character of Snow White, while Jon Dylan Brown’s solo shows why he graduated with a distinction in musical theatre! For me the showstopper is Andrea Atkinson’s rendition of Get the Party Started! She is fabulous, evil, but fabulous!
The dance routines, choreographed by Kathleen Knox are fresh and fun, and the ensemble and three principle dancers (Beth Shannon, Rachael Ward and Rhiane Finlay) work hard throughout the production. There must be some impressive fast changes going on back stage as they swap back and forth from village girl dirndls to skintight lycra and leotards.
Pantos are always full of over the top characters and this one is no exception. Lee Kyle is the archetypal best buddy, fall guy Muggles who garners the sympathy of the audience, while Martin Anderson as Seymour Snarl is the antithesis of this - he is brilliantly over the top with his shambling gate, gurning expression and elaborately obsequious grovelling. Neither of these can beat Bella Bluebell as Nurse Bella however, as she appears in an array of glorious frocks, hats and wigs. I think she must be the most glamorous Pantomine Dame ever, she certainly has better legs than most!
Interaction with the audience is great throughout but especially in the hilarious 12 Days of Christmas number. You have to experience it to beleive it. All I will say is, maybe take an umbrella or wear a mackintosh for the second act.
The programme says this is the theatre’s first pantomime and it’s a corker! The small cast work their socks off to create a panto that has more sparkle than Mr Sheen! And it has the voice of Alun Armstrong himself as The Mirror! It deserves a bigger audience so if you are looking for an outing this Christmas and are within driving distance of Stanley then book a ticket for this show. I came up from Hartlepool and it was worth every mile.
Snow White plays until 24th Dec. Tickets can be booked online at www.civichallstanley.co.uk or by phone on 01207 299110. It’s just £14 (£12 conc) or £38 for a family ticket.
Denise Sparrowhawk

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Aladdin – People’s Theatre Newcastle - Review


Aladdin - People’s Theatre, Newcastle - 13th December 2017

Now having gone to see Jack and the Beanstalk last year at the same theatre and not being overly impressed,  I was hoping for a better experience with Aladdin.
I will always think of Robin William’s portrayal of Genie in the Disney version and ‘A Whole New World’ but this is panto and I admit I’m a pantophobe but I decided to come and see if this was any good.
Let’s start with the positives; Leon Gill (the guy’s an absolute legend) played Genie, He doesn’t have too much to do in the show but he is great and his singing is excellent. The other great singer that I went “wow” to is the princess, played by Madeline Carter. I have never seen her perform before but I do think that musical theatre is what she should go into.
The Princess is aptly named for this panto written by a Geordie - Philip Meeks - and performed in a Heaton theatre, and who could that be? Why Cheryl, of course!
Wishee Washee is played by Joe Robson - I think he’s found a role that suits him well - alongside the beautiful Widow Twanky, played by Steve Robertson. I think these two are great comedians and their comedic talent balances out their singing!
PC Tickle and PC Slap were played Nathan Hussain and Emma Cockburn. I would have liked to hear and see more of them as I couldn’t really see what the point of them is, and so I wasn’t really invested in their characters. 
Empress Ezmeanie played Sara Jo Harrison. She plays an evil person well (she must have needed lots of acting lessons as I’ve heard she’s actually really nice). Her on stage husband Emperor Jor-di who really only came to life in the 2nd half of the show has a great voice, and when Steve and Stephen sing a duet it is the latter who carries the song.
The real baddy in the story is Abanazar. Paul Gaitskell is absolutely fantastic. He plays to the crowd and his comedy timing is just on point. He is great even though sometimes the techie guys let him down, (more on that soon).
In the scene where they sing a song and someone disappears each time, the Mummy was played briefly by James Lane.
Have I missed anyone out?? Oh Yes I have!
The lead was played by Laurence Hussain and unfortunately I’m not 100% sure that he is one, in most of his songs he is overshadowed by more accomplished singers.
There is a large ensemble made up of many different people from the Chorus, Tap Dancers, Dancers from Newcastle High School and lots of little people who all did well.
The Lighting was amazing especially the final scene of the first act which you need to go and see for yourself. Designed by Scott Sweeting and crewed by Martin Collins, Dave Harvey and Amy Hardman.
The Choreography was fantastic and praise needs to go to Julie Bowman, Jill Taylor and Ruth Gibson and Joe Butcher for this.
But - here goes nothing!! As someone who is hard of hearing and a sound engineer, I have to say at times it sounded terrible. As last year, the music is played through a computer and it would be so much better live!
Directed by Emma Jane Richards and Assisted by Craig Fairbairn. 
The production is okay. Some things are amazing but there are some parts of it that let it down so much unfortunately, hopefully they will get better.
On until 17th of December 2017.  
Reuben Hiles

Rumpelstiltskin Screening -Review- balletLORENT Tyneside Cinema

Rumpelstiltskin Screening
balletLORENT
Tyneside Cinema

Tonight was something that I was really looking forward to.
I had originally been invited by Northern Stage to review this production on the stage rather than the screen, unfortunately I couldn't get along myself, but I did send my trusty minion Reuben to see it 'live'.. your eyes can be feasted upon his words here.

An email popped up two weeks after the review was published, inviting me to a remarkable event in London, showcasing the talents of balletLORENT, The Space and Director Jonathon Haswell at the premiere of this 'stage to cinema to small screen' adaptation of the Ballet. Again our diaries weren't in sync, so was again disappointed at missing out on it.
An email a few day later alerted me to this screening at Tyneside Cinema and as I had never been to this type of adaptation before (I had always wanted to see The RSC when it has been either recorded live or streamed at the cinema, but never tied up the old diary again), so was eager to attend.

As the audience gathered in the cinema, the air was full of chitter chatter of friends meeting friends, actors meeting actors and the sense of something really exciting about to be unveiled.

The night got underway by founder and artistic director of balletLORENT, Liv Lorent, taking the mic, introducing herself and her esteemed team. She spoke of the stages of the transformation, between stage to screen, the film score and the real hard work but fun that was gained from this project.
She also quite correctly informed the cheery children in the audience that when they see themselves on the big screen not to shout out, or more importantly not to be disappointed if THEIR best bit, or best angle wasn't shown.
The cutting room floor is a heartbreaker at times, so to be forewarned was a nice touch.

The child actors amongst the audience were in for the first treat of the night.
Each child during the rehearsal and performance period all filled in a log book to describe what they had learned and discovered about art and dance forms.
This log book was entered as part of an Arts Award,the air changed to the sound of the children present on the night excitedly realising that they would be getting their certificates.
All gladly passed with flying colours.

As soon as the opening scenes of the film came bursting through the screen with the Soundtrack by Bafta nominated Murray Gold, haunting and twisting along with the opening ballet dancer steps, I knew then that this WOULD be really exciting.
The film really does capture the words that Reuben wrote.
All of the excitement of 'the live' was there, the soundtrack mixes the foot/floor noises that squeak out, so as to make 'that live' even better, more realistic.
I soon forgot that I was in the cinema, could have been there.
This film really captures what a fantastic stage showing was given by balletLORENT
I sooo wanted to see the stage version, Reuben's words then, made me want to see it even more.
This screening in 2D has definitely made me want to see it in its 3D variety

The night itself was a total celebration of the craft of the production, the actors and the dedication of the dream of creation.
The production was filmed at one of the Northern Stage dates and has been released on December 8th.



Michael Hunter







Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Preview - Dick Whittington - Royalty Theatre


ROYALTY THEATRE’S 2017 PANTOMIME IS  DICK WHITTINGTON 

The Royalty Theatre will see out 2017 with their annual family pantomime, and this year it is  Dick Whittington.



The much-loved family classic follows the story of Dick Whittington and his cat, who travel to London in the hope of seeking Dick’s fortune.  Along the way he meets the beautiful Alice, but also the evil King Rat – whose villainous plans soon cause trouble for Him. 


Helen Bowie writes and directs the pantomime, following her overwhelming success last year with  Aladdin.  She says, “I love everything about panto and, after the success of last year, the Royalty have very kindly asked me back, which is another dream come true. We are having a riot in rehearsals and I hope that the audience enjoy watching it as much as we enjoy performing it!” 
Award-winning panto actor Andrew Barella is once again in the comedy role as Idle Jack, and he’s joined this year by David Armstrong as Dame Sarah, Olivia Bowern as Dick, Lauren Hawkes as Alice and James Errington as Dick’s cat. 
The pantomime runs from 7th to 17th December, with evening performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.15pm, and afternoon shows on Saturdays and Sundays at 2.15pm.

Tickets can be purchased in advance from the theatre website www.royaltytheatre.co.uk

Rumplestilskin 'from stage to film' -preview

RUMPELSTILTSKIN

INNOVATIVE STAGE SHOW CAPTURED ON FILM
RELEASED ONLINE THIS DECEMBER

STAGE SHOW DIRECTED AND CHOREOGRAPHED BY LIV LORENT
STORY RETOLD BY POET LAUREATE DAME CAROL ANN DUFFY 
COMPOSER MURRAY GOLD (DR WHO)
COSTUMES DESIGNED BY MICHELE CLAPTON (GAME OF THRONES; THE CROWN)
NARRATED BY BEN CROMPTON (GAME OF THRONES)
SCREEN VERSION DIRECTED BY JONATHAN HASWELL

Leading dance theatre companyballetLORENTs emotional take on the classic fairytale, Rumpelstiltskin, performed this October at Northern Stage Newcastle, has been captured for screen, and the film will be released online in time for Christmas family viewing this December.
balletLORENT’s Rumpelstiltskin is the last of the company’s trilogy of Brothers Grimm fairytales, following the award winning and critically acclaimed productions of Rapunzeland Snow White, and was filmed live with support from digital commissioning body The Space. 
The dark tale, retold by Poet Laureate Dame Carol Ann Duffy (Whitbread, T.S Eliot and Pinter Prize winner), and narrated by Ben Crompton, celebrates the underdog, the outcast, in a tale of a man’s desperate longing for love and belonging, brought to live in a rural world of a shepherd, his flock of sheep and his beautiful daughter. 
With a cast of twenty-four dancers in extraordinary costumes designed by the Emmy award winning Michele Clapton, this new take on a classic fairytale explores themes of love, obsession, childhood, grief and reconciliation. The 80-minute film is packed with beautiful imagery of gold, straw, sheep and sunsets over landscape and a stunning score of music, by the BAFTA nominated cinematic composer Murray Gold.
The Rumpelstiltskin stage show was directed and choreographed by balletLORENT founder and artistic director Liv Lorent, and the screen version is directed by Jonathan Haswell (The Royal Opera: The Tales of Hoffmann, Don Giovanni). 
Rumpelstiltskin is performed by eight of balletLORENT’s core dancers and two apprentices from London Contemporary Dance School who have been central to the choreographic development of the fairytales, with an age range of 22-53 years.  The professional ensemble is also joined by a cast of local children, aged 4-9 years old, found through creative workshops in six Newcastle primary schools, and older people (68+) who have come from a Knit and Natter community group in Benwell, Newcastle.
balletLORENT Brothers Grimm trilogy has consistently adopted this trailblazing approach to age in casting, starting with the production ofRapunzel in 2012. The company’s inclusive approach works with its innovative storytelling, to create ballet theatre that appeals to a wider audience, and the release of the screen version is a further step in the goal of bringing dance to all.
Liv Lorent, Artistic Director and Founder of balletLORENT comments: ‘The children and older people who feature in our production of Rumpelstiltskin add an authenticity to the fairytale world we are creating. The wide age span - from 4-79 - of these guest performers comes closer to the reality of the communities we all inhabit.
‘The children bring their own dynamic physicality, and the older cast are all dexterous knitters. All of the community cast from the East and West Ends of Newcastle upon Tyne have shared their creativity with us with great generosity, and have enhanced our work with their individuality. Our guest cast can tell stories of humanity with a deeper truth, and they offer the impressions of what our bodies once were, and what they may become.’
 Fiona Morris, Chief Executive and Creative Director of The Space, said: “The Space is delighted to be working with balletLORENT, a highly creative dance company, known for inclusive productions that appeal to all ages and backgrounds. This heart-warming new show now has life outside of its recent run and can be seen by a range of new audiences.”
Rumpelstiltskin, scenario writer Carol Ann Duffy, (Poet Laureate) ‘It’s a joy and a thrill to be collaborating once again with Liv Lorent and her creative team and to be bringing to life another seminal fairytale to family audiences who love dance or who have yet to discover it. 
Rumpelstiltskin reunites a team of world renowned collaborators, with a stirring score from five time BAFTA nominated composer Murray Gold (Dr Who) and sumptuous costume design from BAFTA and Emmy Award winning Michele Clapton, responsible for the memorable costumes in Game of Thrones and Netflix original series The Crown.
The team also includes set designer Phil Eddolls (joint TMA award winner for Improbable’s The Hanging Man) and OBIE and Outer Critics Circle award-winning lighting designer Malcolm Rippeth.
The stage version was co-produced by Northern Stage and commissioned by Sadler’s Wells.

For more information please contact:
Fi Gales
Sundae Communications
0161 711 0517 / 07791 670 924
Fi.gales@todayissundae.co.uk
   
---- ENDS ----

Notes to Editor

About balletLORENT

Founded in 1993 by Artistic Director Liv Lorent (MBE), balletLORENT is a leading UK contemporary dance theatre company based in Newcastle upon Tyne, creating memorable and beautiful dance experiences. The company champions inclusivity by creating dance that has narrative content teamed with high aesthetic values and predominantly values the people we connect with including our diverse range of audiences, participants, performers and collaborators.

In 2018, balletLORENT will celebrate 25 years of diversity having delivered a high quality artistic programme offering distinctive family work that has increased from small scale (Angelmoth) to middle and large scale theatres across the UK (Rapunzel, Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin); site-specific works that have appealed to adult audiences (Designer Body, la nuit intime, Blood, Sweat & Tears, The Night Ball and LOVE STRUCK) of which have been performed in landmark locations including: Trafalgar Square, Tyne Bridge Tower (Newcastle), The Spitz (London), Latitude Festival, Hull City Hall and internationally at Koninklijke Stadsschouwburg, Brugge.

Our 25th anniversary will also celebrate the decades of presenting large scale inter-generational (0-80+ yrs) works with 20-80 people (PassAge to Passionla famille, Strange Glitter, life stories). We will champion the development of raw talent; remembering the children and young people from areas of low engagement we have worked with involving them in the creative process and enabling them to share world class stages (Sadler’s Wells, Northern Stage, Edinburgh Festival Theatre) with our professional ensemble, as well as a full production with 20 pregnant women (MaEternal).

Works have been performed to much acclaim receiving many awards, including the Jerwood Choreography Award 2001; the Arts Foundation Choreography Award 2005; Herald Angel Award  LUXURIA 2006 (a commissioned work by Scottish Dance Theatre); 3 Journal Culture Awards: Artist of the Year 2008; Performance of the Year (Rapunzel) 2012 and Finalist in the Arts Council of England category (Snow White) 2016; received Highly Commended in the Family Arts Festival Awards Family Eventscategory (Snow White); and Liv Lorent received her MBE for services to dance in 2014. 

balletLORENT has charitable status and is supported by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO).  The company was awarded a significant 67% uplift in June from Arts Council of England across a 4 year period 2018-2022.  This increase in funding will: enable the company to remain as a regular middle and large scale UK touring company, be crucial to the development of dance in the North East, continue to support the development of artistic talent and deeper engagement in communities where engagement with arts and culture is low. The company’s ambition for the future is to widen our reach for audiences, performers and participation, by continuing to create work that demystifies and broadens audiences, on a national and international scale.


About The Space

The Space is a commissioning and development organisation, established by Arts Council England and the BBC to support greater digital access to the arts. The Space is committed to supporting and facilitating the UK arts sector to realise its digital ambitions. The organisation commissions arts projects and provides a production and distribution pipeline to


Rumpelstiltskin Tour

The stage version of Rumpelstiltskin will tour to middle and large scale venues across the UK throughout the Spring and Autumn 2018. More information about the tour can be found at www.balletlorent.com

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Alice in Wonderland - Review - Northern Stage

Alice in Wonderland
Northern Stage
30th Nov 2017



On the coldest most wintery day of the year so far I made the journey up the A19 from Hartlepool to Newcastle to see Alice in Wonderland at Northern Stage. The sudden change in the weather made for a strange journey. The glaring headlights and fiery tail lights of queuing traffic refracted and distorted in reflections on the wet road as it snaked its way northward - not unlike the writhing, red eyed jabberwock I was soon to encounter.

Northern Theatre is transformed for the show, creating a huge space with audience on three sides of the stage. Ramps lead down from the stage bringing the action right out into the audience. Colourful, curious, clown like characters enter from side doors, from the rear of the auditorium, from the back of the stage. They appear on balconies high above and they pop up through trapdoors below the stage. It creates movement and excitement, a sense of the unexpected and a degree of disorientation, mirroring Alice's own experience of the bizarreness of Wonderland. The audience is swept along with Alice on a tide of music and song, as each new set of characters dance and prance across the stage, each bringing their stories and strange adventures. The music is live and jazzy, played by the band who are also characters in the play which makes it all the more fluid and dreamlike as the characters move in and out of the action.


The fact that other members of the cast play several parts adds to the surrealness and the confusion, and they all morph seamlessly and convincingly from one character to another - you are left feeling "just a minute - wasn't he/she just something else....?" It is brilliant! (have I said that already?)


Is it possible to pick out outstanding performances? They are all so good - but Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum (Michael Blair and Andrew Bleakley) get the most laughs for their contrariness. We love Chris Price as the White Rabbit, Great Blanco and the Mad Hatter, and Clara Darcy as The Cheshire Cat (unnerving and great use of parasols!), the Mad March Hare (I think, maybe, my favourite?) and Ma. The Ensemble. which included students from Newcastle College, are magnificent, keeping the action and the confusion and the laughter going throughout.

Alice herself is a very real character - a child with challenges of her own in life, she is tough and resourceful, inquisitive and curious. Alex Tahnee plays the part beautifully; her Alice is an entirely credible and engaging child and is the one point of sanity in this weird, wonderful, completely bonkers world!


Written by Theresa Heskins and directed by Mark Calvert this Alice in Wonderland is far removed from Disney's homogenised animation. Inspired by the Moulin Rouge, it takes Carroll's story and adds an extra element of fantasy. It has the feel of a circus with hints of clowns and acrobats and larger than life characters. It is a huge, energetic show bursting with colour and fun. Mark Calvert and Zoe Murtagh have excelled at producing a show that keeps both children and adults fully absorbed and entertained. The rapturous applause at the end of is completely and utterly deserved.

Alice in Wonderland plays until 6th Jan - if you see nothing else this festive season, see this! It's more than worth a trip through ice and snow.

*photo credit Pamela Raith


Denise Sparrowhawk

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Posh -Review- Northern Stage

Posh by Laura Wade
Presented by Newcastle University Theatre Society 
Northern Stage 3
Age recommended 16+
Monday 27th November 2017  7.00pm

I found myself in a surreal life imitating art moment, wondering is this still part of the play, when I went  outside during the interval last night and hearing a group of very well spoken people of college age talk not so quietly about how they all must go to an event, it's ONLY a hundred pounds a ticket, you get taken somewhere ending up who knows where and one time there was even a live sex show. They then went on to say how hilarious the play was, that they were loving the Eton references and it was reminding them of Harry...

Posh, written by Laura Wade originally started as a play in 2010 and was made into a film called The Riot Club in 2014. It tells of an exclusive and secret all boys dining club (The Riot Club) from Oxford University. When the play first came out it was likened to real clubs including Bullingdon Club and High Trees Society which the writer denies saying it is a work of fiction only.

It is set in a hired for the night private dining area in Oxford where ten young boys are preparing for a night of ‘debauchery, decadence and bloody good wine. Legends will be made and reputations will be damaged’ 

As the club members arrive in turn we start to see the rules initiations and longstanding traditions of the club (no one can take their seat until all members and the leader arrives, nor can they leave the room at all for anything until the end of the night for example)  The conversation is full of ribbing of each other, pomp, joviality excitement of what the night has in store also the bond that the club brings to its members. There is lots of talk of sex and swearing (including the c word) all of which provided me and the audience with lots of laugh out loud moments. I was in the front row and so close to the actors that I had to make sure I kept my feet tucked away for fear I might trip one of them up but that added to feeling almost that I was part of their merriment as they took to singing jumping on seats and poetry reading in between courses. 

Of course mixed in with this was the continuing theme of sense of entitlement that The Riot Club members felt. The scenes where the  owner of the establishment and his daughter entered the room to bring food and drink. The sneaked in through the window female escort (or as they thought a paid person who was going to provide oral sex to all under the table) displayed that they thought that anything can be bought with enough money, not just things but people. That their continued and ensuing behaviour could be justified because they were paying for it all. Social and class differences and divides are obviously very prominent in this and whatever your own take is it definitely makes you think about the subject.

As the night continues there is fun and frivolity, food, drinks flow and money gets thrown around  (being in the front row I ended up with some of the drink on me which I didn’t mind but be prepared for that possibility if sitting in the front)  behaviour becomes more wild until things start taking a gradual darker tone and the atmosphere turns heated leading to a tragic event.

The play is set in the one room,  around the table, but the different characters, the humour (I'm vegetarian but still found the 10 bird scene hilarious) the gusto and energy displayed gives this production a great flow as well as being thought provoking. At times it was uncomfortable to watch, which I think is the intent, because of the subject matter and at certain parts I wanted to shout ‘stop, leave them alone’  which is a good thing... that it provoked that kind of reaction. With some of the scenes and conversations at times, I welcomed the casting of half female actors to play male parts which they did superbly.

The music throughout and in between was very well chosen and apt including Common People by Pulp, The Smiths Panic and Boys Will be Boys by The Ordinary Boys.

Being in a smaller more intimate studio I found it lent itself to making the audience feel very much part of the show and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. Very well done to all involved. Even the money looked real, I'd not seen that many £50 notes thrown around before.

Posh runs until 29th November


Cast members 
Bea Hammerton 
Max Fosh
Conor O'Hara
Xander Kynoch 
Chris Whyte 
Elie Beach 
Eleanor Beattie 
Fiona Percival 
Edie Martin 
Ally Cloke 
Ruaidhri Johnston 
Tara Worthington 

Review by Belinda Bekki-Winter