Saturday, 21 October 2017

Preview: Blue Remembered Hills at Sunderland Royalty Theatre


Blue Remembered Hills
Sunderland Royalty Theatre
Monday 30th October to Saturday 4th November 2017

The Royalty Theatre continue their 2017/18 season with a production of Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills.

Abbi Laidler, Peter Kelly and Nikki Slack
Photo: Royalty Theatre
Written for the BBC’s Play for Today series in 1979, the play follows a group of seven-year-olds, playing together on a summer’s day in 1943 in the Forest of Dean.  As with the television production, the children are all played by adults – magnifying the innocent, joyful and indeed darker aspects of childhood.

Director Lorna Breeze says, “When approached to direct Blue Remembered Hills I was very excited at the prospect.  Originally written for TV, bringing it to the stage could have been tricky but it’s been a delight to see it develop in rehearsals.  The cast have been marvellous and have enjoyed releasing their inner child – maybe a little too much!”

Abbi Laidler, Peter Kelly and Nikki Slack are among a cast following in the footsteps of such actors as Helen Mirren, Michael Elphick and John Bird, who starred in the original TV production.  Now a standard text for GCSE Drama, the play runs from Monday 30th October to Saturday 4th November 2017.

Tickets: can be booked via or on 0333 666 3366, and are priced at £8 (£6.50 concessions).

Preview: Ian Waite & Oti Mabuse: Rhythm of the Night at Whitley Bay Playhouse

Ian Waite & Oti Mabuse: Rhythm of the Night
Whitley Bay Playhouse
Saturday 16th June 2018

Strictly Come Dancing dance professionals Ian Waite and 2016 finalist Oti Mabuse are joining forces to embark on a 60-date tour of the UK with their new stage show.

An Audience With Ian Waite & Oti Mabuse – Rhythm of the Night promises dance fans an extravaganza of high intensity Latin and Ballroom favourites in one thrilling evening designed to dazzle.

Ian and Oti always push the boundaries of dance to bring the best out of their celebrity partner, with both reaching the final of the hit BBC Saturday night show. Last season it was Oti who almost waltzed off with the Glitterball with her partner, Hollyoaks’ Danny Mac.

An Audience With is brought to audiences by the same team who presented the popular Somewhere In Time tour earlier this year, and during the evening dance enthusiasts will be transported away to a place packed with wonderful moments, with both fun-filled, fleet-footed entertainment and a chance to learn more about Ian and Oti and their lives.

And in addition to the stunning performances themselves, there are a limited number of 30 higher-priced tickets which include a meet-and- greet before the show where there is the chance to have your photograph taken with the stars and have your special souvenir programme signed.

Since hanging up his competitive Strictly dance shoes, Ian has become a firm favourite behind the scenes on Strictly Come Dancing’s It Takes Two programme with his own slot, Waite’s
Wednesday Warm-Up – during which he casts his expert eye over the weekly progress of the celebrities and their professional partners.
Ian began dancing aged 10 when he accompanied his younger brother to Saturday dance lessons at home in Reading, and was enticed onto the dancefloor for the very first time. Even then, it was clear to all that despite being in his school rugby and football teams, he was a born performer and dancer.

He went on to make it to the European Professional Latin Championships finals in 2003. His celebrity dance partners on Strictly Come Dancing have included singer Mica Paris, Olympian Denise Lewis, model Penny Lancaster-Stewart, model Jodie Kidd, and radio personality and television presenter Zoe Ball.

South African Oti is known for her breath-taking choreography, sparkling personality and amazing talent for creating fresh new pieces both on stage and television. She started dancing at the tender age of four, and made a name for herself as the undefeated
eight-times South African Latin American Champion, while at the same time studying civil engineering at university.
Oti then moved to Germany to start her International career as a professional dancer, becoming German Champion, Bronze Medallist at The World Championships and Vice European Champion - making her one of the most successful South African dancers in the world. Taking her talents to the world of TV, she started on Let’s Dance – the German version of Strictly, before being invited to join the flagship BBC show where over two series she has cemented her place as one of the UK’s favourite professional dancers.

Tickets costing £27, £25.50 conc. (Rows F-X), £25, £23.50 conc. (Rows A-E, Y-Z), £20 Meet and Greet Upgrade are on sale now.
Tickets are available from the Box Office open Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm, Saturday 10.30am – 2.30pm plus until show start on event days. Tickets can also be purchased on the booking hotline 0844 248 1588* or online at

*Calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.

Preview: Dracula at Newcastle People’s Theatre

“The dead travel fast”

Dracula by Bram Stoker
adapted by Jane Thornton and John Godber
Newcastle People’s Theatre
Tuesday 31st October – Saturday 4th November 2017
A sudden and mysterious storm whips the Yorkshire coast, wrecking a strange ship with a cargo of grave dust.

Are you brave enough to spend Halloween with Count Dracula?

Do you laugh when you’re afraid? Do you hide behind a cushion? Or do you scream? Time to find out!

As the high moral values of Victorian England come up against the dark underside of human nature, you’ll be on the edge of your seat as Jonathan Harker races to end Dracula’s lustful power.

Join them. If you dare …

Also showing, the new exhibition ‘Chiaroscuro’ by Simon J Hall, presented in association with the Biscuit Factory. This latest exhibition of paintings have been inspired by the landscape and buildings of the region and elsewhere and an interest in history and the environment.

Photos: Paula Smart

Tickets: - Dracula 
TICKETS:           £13.50 (Concessions £11)
BOX OFFICE:    0191 265 5020 WEBSITE:

News: Hullabaloo Funding Boost

Creative Play on the Way for New Children’s Theatre in Darlington Following £50,000 Funding Boost

A new theatre venue for families, children and young people in Darlington has welcomed another funding boost this week.

The Hullabaloo, a new theatre dedicated to audiences of children, young people and their families, has received a grant of £50,000 from the Gillian Dickinson Trust to fund its creative play space within the child-centred theatre.

The Gillian Dickinson Creative Play space will house mind-blowing creative play installations where leading artists will collaborate with local children to develop ideas for fully immersive, sensory play installations themed to the artistic programme. These will be free for families to play in when they visit the building and will support the development of harder-to-reach audiences.

Alexander Dickinson, Trustee of the Gillian Dickinson Trust, said: “The Gillian Dickinson Trust is delighted to be able to support Theatre Hullabaloo as it works to inspire children and young people from across the North East to play and learn. “It’s going to be inspiring to have the only specialist theatre of its kind north of
London open in the region, with both the theatre and the creative play installations offering the whole community a very valuable resource. "
Due to open in December this year, The Hullabaloo will be the only specialist theatre of its type north of London. The flagship venue, which is being built within an Edwardian Fire Station on a site next to Darlington's Civic Theatre, will include a 150-seat studio theatre, café area, workshop/ rehearsal space, dressing rooms, toilets, external play space and the creative play installation space which will be funded by this grant.

Not just a theatre, The Hullabaloo as a national centre of excellence will also be an inspiring place to play and learn. As well as world-class performances for children, it will also house mind-blowing creative play installations and offer a wide range of creative opportunities and classes for families becoming a focal point for creative education in the region.

“We are delighted that the Gillian Dickinson Trust is supporting us in the development of The Hullabaloo and to be supporting such an integral space in the venue. The children that we consulted throughout the design process wanted play to be at the heart of the building, and so that is where we have placed the Gillian Dickinson Creative Play," said Laura Case, Development Director at Theatre Hullabaloo. "The space will include a curated programme of exciting play installations created by leading artists, developed in a collaborative way with children. The artist-led Installations will create immersive experiences for children and families to access for free."

The Hullabaloo is a partnership between Theatre Hullabaloo and Darlington Borough Council. The total cost for the capital development is £2.8m and is funded mainly through grants from Arts Council England and Darlington Borough Council.

Work began on site in June 2016 for an 18 month build period, alongside the restoration of Darlington Hippodrome and The Hullabaloo will open to the public on
December 12, 2017. The first performance will be Bear and Butterfly, a Theatre Hullabaloo production, which is a charming tale of changing friendship for everyone aged 4 and above.

Theatre Hullabaloo is still actively fundraising in order to make the building itself everything we’ve dreamed of and still have more than £200,000 to raise. If you are a business or individual that would like to hear more about the Capital fundraising opportunities, please contact Laura Case, Development Director at Theatre Hullabaloo.

For more information visit

REVIEW: Jane Austen the Musical at South Shields Customs House

Manners and Misogyny

Jane Austen the Musical
South Shields Customs House
Friday 20th October 2017

200 years after her death, Jane Austen is still a popular author whose work appears in films and on TV. Jane Austen The Musical tries to look at the woman behind the novels. Her family, her suitors and her difficulties getting her work into print against a society in which a woman was regarded as a male possession. After appearing at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Jane Austen Festival and York New Musical Festival it heads off on a UK tour.

Edith Kirkwood plays the enigmatic and charming Jane Austen. A precocious young lady whose father served as the rector of the Anglican parishes at Steventon and was connected locally. This ensured that Jane was able to circulate in the social circles in which meeting people revolved around organised dances and social etiquette had to be observed. This would give her the material for her novels Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

The strong headed Jane refuses to be defined by the men who want to be in her life. The men include a trainee barrister who departed from the scene when his family became worried about their liaison, a vicar, a landowner straight back from university and a doctor. We see the courtship ritual, similar to that in her novels, being observed which may look out of place in modern society. Thomas Hewitt does a great job of playing each of these suitors in a different way.
The era is also defined by a lack of understanding of medicine and the simple fact that people can drop dead suddenly for ailments that would be dealt with today. Tragedy is regularly around the corner it seems though the play doesn’t dwell on these. It is interesting to note that what we know about Austen comes from a handful of surviving letters that she wrote to her sister Cassandra plus some written accounts made after her death by her family.

Away from the socials and balls it is clear that her parents had a strong influence. Jenni Lea Jones gives her mother the qualities of a strong woman who knew how to operate in society. Her father was supportive of Jane’s writing ambitions and he worked tirelessly until his death to get her work into print. Oliver Brooke completes the cast as the patriarchal figure. There was difficulty as a woman, not just with courtship, but also in acceptance as a literary figure too.
The simple set comprising of a few chairs, a writing desk and a grand piano is almost Shakespearean in its simplicity. The set doesn’t get in the way of the narrative. Playing the piano is Musical Director Arlene McNaught. Her accompaniment to the songs is confident and works well with the story. The show had no amplification; the sound effects were produced by simply walking off stage and singing behind the audience thus putting the audience in the round. The songs effectively helped with the emotions behind the story.

The writer, composer and lyricist behind Jane Austen The Musical is Rob Winlow. He has created a tale that will be magical for Austen’s many fans. Director Timothy Trimingham Lee has used the material to get fine performances from the talented cast. Edith Kirkwood, in particular, elicits empathy from the audience as Austen battles against the system.

This is a fun, yet gentle, musical frolic from a bygone age when manners and misogyny were apparently a feature of both business and the courtship ritual.

Review by Stephen Oliver

The show returns to the region:

17/11/2017 Saltburn Arts Saltburn-by-the-Sea CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

26/01/2018  19:30 East Riding Theatre Beverley, Hull CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS 

27/01/2018 14:00 East Riding Theatre Beverley, Hull CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS 

27/01/2018 19:30 East Riding Theatre Beverley, Hull CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Preview: The Little Mermaid at Newcastle Theatre Royal


Northern Ballet's The Little Mermaid
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Tuesday 31st October – Saturday 4th November 2017

Hans Christian Andersen’s mesmerising fairy tale The Little Mermaid is brought to life in a shimmering new production by Northern Ballet, visiting Newcastle Theatre Royal this Autumn. Prepare to be spellbound…

Abigail Prudames as Marilla in The Little Mermaid.
Photo Emma Kauldhar
A heart wrenching story of love, sacrifice and the search for immortality The Little Mermaid is a powerful tale which will stir the senses.  Dwelling in her underwater kingdom, the mermaid longs for a life on the shore and the love of a mortal prince. She defies advice and uses black magic to irreversibly take on a mortal form, but the sacrifices are great and the love and happiness she seeks on land may yet be beyond her reach….

Northern Ballet’s world première production of Andersen’s classic fable
is choreographed and directed by Northern Ballet’s Artistic Director David Nixon OBE whose most recent creations for the Company include hits Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast, which played the Theatre Royal in 2014 and ’16 respectively.

The Little Mermaid.
Photo Emma Kauldhar
Although darker and truer to tradition than the well-known Disney version, the show is perfect for families and young audiences who enjoy fairy tales.  A loveable seahorse friend creates moments of lightness and the super-sized fish puppets on Kimie Nakano’s silvery shimmering set immerse audiences in a mystical underwater world. David Nixon’s opulent costumes gleam, sparkle and wink with gemstones, sequins and multi-coloured skirts, while Tim Mitchell’s atmospheric lighting highlights dancers’ faces adorned with iridescent glitter.

The production also features an original score by Sally Beamish who lives in Scotland and has been heavily inspired by the Scottish landscape and folk culture (and its links to Scandinavia) as well as the ancient legend of the Selkie. 
David Nixon OBE, Artistic Director at Northern Ballet, said: ‘The Little Mermaid is an enchanting story and the fantastical underwater world of the mermaids evokes such beautiful imagery that it will be an excellent addition to our repertoire. So many people have grown up with this classic tale and so I am looking forward to reintroducing audiences to the world beyond the waves.’

The Little Mermaid is the last of an unprecedented three full-length World Premières held by Northern Ballet in 2017 following the World Premières of Casanova in March 2017 and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in May 2017.

Story Hans Christian Andersen
Choreography, Direction, Scenario & Costume Design David Nixon OBE
Music Sally Beamish
Set Design Kimie Nakano
Lighting Design Tim Mitchell

The Little Mermaid is at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tues 31 October until Sat 4 November 2017, playing evenings at 7.30pm, matinees on Thu 2pm and Sat 2.30pm. Tickets from £14.50.  Tickets 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