Friday, 2 December 2016



Darlington Civic Theatre will be hosting a talk exploring the rich heritage of the theatre on Thursday 15th December at 7pm in The Pease Suite, The Dolphin Centre, Darlington.

Darlington Civic Theatre is hosting a special, illustrated talk exploring the rich heritage of the theatre, some of the key architectural and design features, as well as the challenge of preserving and restoring the building throughout its redevelopment.

Before the work started - Photo: Stephen Oliver
The evening will feature guest speakers David Wilmore, lead heritage consultant from Theatresearch and Sean McNicholas, on site Operations Manager from the Civic Theatre’s restoration building contractors, Willmott Dixon, who will share their own experiences in restoring the theatre and embracing its Edwardian heritage.

The evening will also include a question and answer session with the speakers.

The Changing Face of Darlington’s Hippodrome will be the first of a wide variety of public talks and lectures over 2017, leading up to the reopening of the theatre.

Tickets are priced at £2.50

To book contact the Box Office on 01325 486 555 or for more information visit

All proceeds to go directly to the Civic Theatre’s restoration fund. Darlington Civic Theatre Foundation,

Registered Charity Number 147625.


Preview: Jack and the Beanstalk at Newcastle People’s Theatre

The People’s Theatre Christmas Panto

Jack and the Beanstalk
by Philip Meeks
Newcastle People’s Theatre
Saturday 10th – Sunday 18th December 2016

If you’ve been wondering what all of the recent building work at People’s Theatre is for, all can now be revealed …

They have had to get our theatre enlarged for the huge giant who’s taking up residence here for their Christmas Panto! Now the scaffolding’s gone and we’ve got a massive magic beanstalk inside.

“Magic beans, Jack?
Now, what are we supposed to do with those?!”

Who’d be a mother? You send your son out to the shops and he comes back with a handful of magic beans!

Yes, it’s the festive season once more and our Jack And The Beanstalk explodes onto the stage in a colourful, all-singing, all-dancing spectacular.

We’ve got a lavishly costumed wisecracking Dame Nelly (played once again by People’s Theatre favourite Steve Robertson), her cheeky, chirpy lad Jack, and a whole host of friends to take you on a thrilling trip up the beanstalk!

Joe Robson as Jack. Photo: Paula Smart
This fun-filled and hilarious take on the classic tale is written by award-winning playwright Philip Meeks, who is himself a professional pantomime dame of many years standing.

Like the beanstalk, The People’s Panto has grown and grown in scale and popularity over recent years and shows sell out quicker and quicker. Book soon to avoid disappointment - some performances are full-to-bursting already.

And if you’re looking ahead to the new year, we’ve got Agatha Christie whodunit The Unexpected Guest to chase away the January blues and Greek tragedy Antigone in February. Tickets are on sale now – they’d made the ideal Christmas present for a theatre-loving friend or relative.

Dates & Times:  Saturday 10 – 2pm & 7pm
                             Sunday 11 – 1pm & 6pm
                             Monday 10 – no performance
                             Tuesday 11 to Friday 16 – 7pm
                             Saturday 17 – 2pm & 7pm
                             Sunday 18 – 2pm
The People’s Theatre, Stephenson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5QF
Tickets:     £14 adults / £11.50 concessions & children
Box Office: 0191 265 5020 and

Preview: Santa’s Naughty Elf at South Shields Customs House

Christmas Panto for Little Ones is a Big Success

Santa’s Naughty Elf
South Shields Customs House
Saturday 3rd – Saturday 24th December 2016

Santa’s Naughty Elf is back and it’s bigger than ever. After a record-breaking year last Christmas, Elfluent the Elf is returning in a new adventure.

Craig Richardson as Elfredo & Wayne Miller as Elfluent
Santa’s Naughty Elf and the Frozen Christmas runs at The Customs House from Saturday 3rd December until Christmas Eve. An additional five shows have had to be added to the under sevens panto to cope with demand.

Wayne Miller, the show’s writer and director, who also plays Elfluent the Elf, said: “As always I’m loving the chance to return to such a loved character. Santa’s Naughty Elf is an important part of people’s Christmas, which is something that means a great deal to me. We are working hard to bring our loyal audiences the best show we can possibly can.”

Hazel Pude at Fairy Snowflakes
Elfluent is back to being the naughtiest elf in the North Pole. Trying to get out of making any toys, he finds Fairy Snowflakes spell book to cast a spell that will do all the work for him. Only he casts the wrong spell, freezing everything in the workshop!

He must find the only Elf who can withstand such freezing temperatures to help get Christmas back on track. Will he find Snowy The Elf and be able to get all the toys ready for Santa on Christmas Eve? Come find out in this frozen adventure!

Steven Stobbs as Snowy the Elf
Wayne has cast a whole bunch of familiar faces in the show alongside him including Customs House panto regular Craig Richardson, as Elfredo, Made in Tyne and Wear’s Hazel Pude as Fairy Snowflakes and Steven Stobbs, returning to Santa’s Naughty Elf as Snowy the Elf.

Craig said: “It’s nice to be returning to the cast of Santa’s Naughty Elf, it is always so much fun to be part of and there is nothing quite like bringing magic and laughter to children of all ages in my home town at Christmas time.  I am always proud to be part of a Customs House show, said Steven, “Even more so when its one like this, that is so interactive for the audiences. We make them feel part of it, like they are with us through the whole adventure side by side.”

Wayne Miller as Elfluent
Hazel added: “Santa’s Naughty Elf is a great way to introduce young children to theatre in the North East and it is a joy to be able to spread magic to those young and old.  The cast are all so strong and I can’t wait to get started. It is certainly a show not to be missed. If you go to see anything this Christmas, this is the one to see.”

The cast are now ready for their first show.

Wayne added: “We are having a blast in rehearsals, this cast are at the top of their game. I’m so pleased to have them returning to the show and bringing so much talent for all at The Customs House to see.”

Tickets for Santa’s Naughty Elf and the Frozen Christmas are £10 and include a special gift from Santa Claus. For tickets call the box office on 0191 454 1234 or visit

Preview: Aladdin at Whickham Pantodrome


Whickham Pantodrome
Thursday 15th – Saturday 24th December 2016

Gateshead’s biggest pantomime is returning to the Pantodrome this Christmas. NS Pantomimes are once again behind the exciting high-flying adventure, Aladdin which is hoped to top last year’s recording breaking production in the specially constructed theatre venue in Whickham, Gateshead. The theatre setup is being created within a sports venue in which will allow over 9,000 local residents, schools and groups to enjoy festive entertainment on their doorstep this December. The richest pantomime of them all will run from Thursday 15th December until Christmas Eve with a number of scheduled performances for public and schools.

Daniel Mawston as Widow Twankey
The show is being produced by local lad Jamie Owen Gray who recently produced a new live stand up show for Boulevard’s hostess with mostest Miss Rory – One Woman which played to a sell out audience at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in September. He is also the brains behind an exciting adult pantomime concept which will be staged in the North East in January.  Jamie explains “We’re going new and different with Aladdin this year! Everyone does the same old story over and over again - it’s good to keep tradition there but with this I’m adding in some extra surprises along the way – we’ve sacked off the traditional laundry…the Twankey’s run a different kind of business which fits with the plot perfectly and is messy! Oh and Metro Radio’s Alan Robson is going from Night Owls to Arabian Nights providing the voice for a very special character which is exciting! ”

Sean Gray as Wishee Washee
Jamie is creating the show in collaboration with local writer and composer Thomas Whalley. Thomas, trained at Associated Studios in London, and his recent theatre credits on Londons West End include She Loves Me at the Landor Theatre and Carnival of Dreams at Fairfield Halls. Tom will be putting pen to paper writing this years story which takes us on an exciting new adventure from Peking to Egypt. Tom stresses "Panto is in my blood, my grandma used to produce pantomimes back in the good old days! I relocated to London last year but I am delighted to be able to be writing this years show. Its great writing for your home town - Geordies have their own sense of humour which is different to anywhere else in the country so its great having an amazing local cast of performers and dancers who we know will deliver and the audience will love."

The panto project will once again involve the construction of a full size stage and auditorium within a building which is currently a number of indoor sports courts.  Jamie states We‘ve done it once, it was difficult, I‘m not going to lie but second time round it’s always easier- we cant just turn up to the theatre with our set and costume rails and do the show - everything has to be constructed from scratch. Its difficult to envisage what a show will look like in an empty space, but its exciting. Normally Id go into a theatre auditorium and sit and look at the stage for hours but with this its all drawings on paper. I have a fantastic team behind me so I have no doubt that this years show will be our best yet

Jacob Anderton as Aladdin
Aladdin will be an exciting new version of the well loved story with side splitting humour, stunning sets and a range of beautiful costumes created especially for the show. Jamie adds The public are going crazy for pantomime here, its unbelievable the amount of excitement it is creating between young and old - Gateshead doesnt have its own large theatre so its amazing to be able to offer an affordable family show so close to home that will have the same production standards as some city centre venues.

Tickets: Tickets for Aladdin are on sale now and are available online at or by calling the booking line 0333 666 3366 or for local/group/school sales call 07741 477660. From £10.50. Group and school discounts available. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Review: Jack & The Beanstalk at South Shields Customs House

Panto is Going For Gold in Tyneside

Jack & The Beanstalk
South Shields Customs House
Until Saturday 7th January 2017

The Little Panto With A Big Heart is a highlight of our reviewing calendar. It is full of big laughs and has a real feeling of community. It is growing in stature and should no longer consider itself to be a poor relation to the region’s bigger shows. Jack & The Beanstalk is another cracker for the South Tyneside venue.

The show begins with some introductions: we have a glamorous Fairy Arachis (Eleanor Chaganis) representing good and wonderfully flamboyant Fleshcreep (Steven Lee Hamilton), who is the giant’s servant, representing evil. Holding the show together once again is superb Ray Spencer MBE, who also directs and co-wrote the show with Graeme Thompson, as Dame Trott. Unlike some shows, this one involves its audience whenever possible.

Dame Trott is in debt and owes rent to her landlord, the Mayor of Cooksonville (Gareth Hunter). Her son, Jack (Luke Maddison) is in love with the Mayor’s daughter Eloise (Natasha Haws). Her other son, Arbuthnot (David John Hopper), is as daft as a brush and he often gets the wrong end of the stick. Dame Trott decides the only solution to their financial situation is to sell their cow called, in this version, Doddington the cow. Fleshcreep has other ideas for the people of Cooksonville as he has to keep his master, the Giant (voiced by Jason Cook), happy.

Scattered through the show are numerous songs which seemed different to the usual platter and they’re well sung.  Musical director Dave Bintley has produced a tight soundtrack.

The show looks glamorous. The set and costumes, from Matt Fox and Paul Shriek, are all bright and creative.  Adding to the glamour are the great dancers from the South Tyneside Dace Workshop.    

At the centre of the action is Dame Trott. Ray Spencer knows how to control both the action on stage and the audience watching it. His ability to handle each situation as it arises is unique.  The one liners flow but nothing feels harsh or nasty. He is the consummate professional.

This is a great ensemble piece. There are no weak links in the cast as they work hard for each other and the audience.

The record ticket sales suggest a large number who saw last year’s show have booked again. They will not be disappointed as the Customs House panto goes from strength to strength. It isn’t afraid to talk to the audience, if fact there is active encouragement of a reaction. From calls of “its behind you” to the community singing towards the end, there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to feel a part of the show.

This is a well paced show full of comedic one liners, slapstick humour and a talented cast. Once again this is the panto that delivers all that it promises.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Jack and the Beanstalk is on from
November 29, 2016 to January 7, 2017.
Tickets start from £9.75 and are available from the box office on 0191 454 1234 or by visiting

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Preview: Making A Manuscript at Darlington Institute Room


Making A Manuscript
Darlington Institute Room
Wednesday 14th December 2016

An opportunity for budding writers to explore the world of Charles Dickens on Wednesday 14th December at 2.30pm.

As part of the Dickens in Darlington season, Darlington Civic Theatre is offering an exciting writing workshop, Making A Manuscript, where people can explore the world of Charles Dickens’ famous A Christmas Carol and be guided through Victorian London to consider the influence of Dickens’ own life within his works.

There will also be the opportunity to examine special editions of A Christmas Carol before writing your own Dickens-inspired Christmas tales using quill pens and ink.

This unique workshop will be led by Eleni Veltanioti from the Charles Dickens Museum in London.

Recommended age 16 and over.
Making A Manuscript is at the Institute Room, The Friends Meeting House, Skinnergate, Darlington on Wednesday 14 December at 2.30pm.
Tickets are priced at £5
To book contact the Box Office on 01325 486 555 or for more information visit
All proceeds to go directly to the Civic Theatre’s restoration fund. Darlington Civic Theatre Foundation, Registered Charity Number 147625.

News: Greyscale Theatre Company to take part in RTYDS

Greyscale Theatre Company to take part in Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS)

RTYDS announces successful applicants for its programmes starting in November 2016

Newcastle based Greyscale Theatre Company is one of just 5 theatre companies across England to join up with the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS), the country’s longest running and most influential training scheme for new directors. RTYDS helped launched the careers of Ken Loach, John Tiffany, Vicky Featherstone and Rupert Goold amongst others.

The Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS) was founded in 1960 by Howard Thomas, then Managing Director at ABC Television (subsequently part of Thames Television), to support aspiring theatre directors. It was his belief that television has a debt to live theatre for its supply of creative talent.

Many RTYDS alumni have enjoyed distinguished artistic careers in Britain’s theatre and film industry. They include Ken Loach, Roger Michell, Adrian Noble, Trevor Nunn and John Tiffany, many of whom have gone to lead organisations of their own including Michael Boyd (former RSC), Vicky Featherstone (Royal Court), Rupert Goold (Almeida), Dominic Hill (Glasgow Citizens Theatre), Jeremy Herrin (Headlong) and Natalie Ibu (Tiata Fahodzi). Last year RTYDS alumni Lorne Campbell, Nikolai Foster and James Dacre were appointed as first-time artistic directors to Northern Stage, Curve Theatre and Northampton Royal and Derngate respectively.

Local Director, Rebekah Bowsher will be joining Greyscale Theatre Company on a three-month placement where she will work alongside experienced theatre professionals gaining an invaluable insight into the work of a theatre director and developing her own career opportunities at the same time.

Rebekah Bowsher said “I am really excited to be working with Greyscale and Selma for this placement. I am looking forward to getting practical experience with a well respected theatre company and immersing myself in the North East theatre scene. “

Sue Emmas, RTYDS Artistic Director said “Through Introduction to Directing and Three-Month Placements, RTYDS creates pathways for talented directors from under-represented backgrounds to learn their craft, build networks and take the first step towards a career as a professional theatre director.  Directors should be reflective of the diversity of our towns and cities and RTYDS is working towards making this a reality.”

Selma Dimitrijevic, Greyscale Artistic Director said “I met Rebekah about a year ago through the fantastic Write To Play programme run by theatre company Graeae and have been a huge fan of her work since. She is exactly the kind of director – curious, determined and open minded – that we are very keen to support and work with in the future.”

On The Web:

RTYDS is funded by Arts Council England and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.