Sunday, 20 August 2017

NEWS: opportunity for 2 Children and 2 Adults to help bring the story of the Pitman Painters to life

North East Dance Company offers exciting opportunity for 2 Children and 2 Adults to help bring the story of the Pitman Painters to life through dance!
ESC, the Newcastle based contemporary dance company, could hardly have expected the public reaction to their latest Spring Tour which included PITMAN. Choreographed by the Company’s Artistic Director and Dance City’s Associate Artist, Eliot Smith, it tells the story of the miners and their community through dance interpretations of six of the paintings of the Pitmen Painters that are on permanent exhibition at Woodhorn Museum.

An image from PITMAN by Eliot Smith Company.
Performing Jazz Band Parade at Northumberland
Miners Picnic 2017 at Woodhorn Museum.
Photo credit: Rich Kenworthy.
PITMAN was premièred at Newbiggin Maritime Centre in November 2016.  It played to a sell-out audience, and the same happened the following evening when the performances moved to the Laing Gallery in Newcastle.  Earlier this year, in April and May 2017, PITMAN toured successfully across the North-East as part of the Company’s Double Bill.

What was particularly moving was the reaction of relatives of miners, who found the work emotionally charged, and there were tears.  The work of the Pitmen Painters has been the subject of a successful play by Lee Hall, a definitive academic study by William Feaver, and is featured in Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island, but this is the first time that a dance company has offered their interpretation of the paintings.

The Xmas Tree by Harry Wilson. 1950.
The Ashington Group Trustees.
Following on from what has been a particularly eventful year for the Company, Eliot Smith is to choreograph three new sections for PITMAN in Autumn 2017 – supported and funded by Arts Council England, Northumberland Arts Development and with support from Woodhorn Museum.

And there will be a unique opportunity for two children and two adults who live in Newcastle upon Tyne (or the surrounding areas) to take part in one of the new sections, ‘The Xmas Tree’, dancing their own contribution to the story as they join ESC dancers in this affectionate tribute to the Ashington Group.
The lucky four participants will rehearse alongside Eliot Smith and his dancers and be supported by the Company’s Education and Beyond Co-ordinator April Martin.  Those involved will receive an appropriate food and travel allowance.

No stage or dance experience is required, but prospective participants must be comfortable performing in front of an audience.  The role will involve some physical effort, and Eliot Smith and April Martin will work with everyone’s individual needs and abilities.
Anyone interested in finding out more about the production and the involvement needed should apply to attend a “taster” session on Saturday 2nd September from 2.00 pm to 3.00 pm at The Barre Studios, Newcastle Quayside.  This session will provide an opportunity to meet Eliot Smith and April Martin, find out more about the production, ask questions and discuss some ideas for the show.  Following the session two children (one male and one female) and two adults (one male and one female) will be selected to take part in the première performance on 15th, 16th & 17th November 2017 at The Holy Biscuit, Newcastle upon Tyne.

This is an opportunity not to be missed!

If you require any further information, or wish to register interest in a taster session, please e-mail or call:

April Martin
Education and Beyond Co-ordinator
Call: 07974 582 973

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Preview: And the Cow Jumped into the Woods at South Shields Customs House


…And the Cow Jumped into the Woods
South Shields Customs House
Wednesday 30th August 2017 - Saturday 2nd September 2017

If you go down to the woods today … you might bump into Doddington the Cow!

David John Hopper as Arbuthnot,
Doddington and Bethan Amber Carr Brown as Peggy.
The Customs House panto favourite is stealing the limelight in her own show once again in …And the Cow Jumped into the Woods.

The loveable dancing cow – affectionately known as Dodders - stars alongside David John Hopper, who reprises his panto role as Arbuthnot.

The duo have proved a hit with audiences since their appearance in Jack and the Beanstalk last year and …And the Cow Jumped Over the Moon at February half-term.

This time, their all-new adventure takes them deep into the woods, where they stumble across some fairytale favourites.

Everything seems to be going well on Dame Trott's farm, but Doddington longs for another adventure and decides to jump into the woods! 

Arbuthnot and Peggy follow and come across Little Red Riding Hood, a wolf and Merlin the Magician. However, Little Red has lost her hood, the wolf has lost his howl and Merlin has lost his magic wand! 

How will the gang solve this mystery? Through singing and dancing of course! 

The 60-minute show will delight children aged seven and under and their families.

Hopper, who has also written the script, said: “It was so clear that everyone loved Doddington in the pantomime that we brought her back in February and sold out, so I’m thrilled to bring Dodders back for a third time in another fun show. Expects lots of laughter, shouting out and singing along!”

Hopper and Dodders will be joined on stage by Bethan Amber Carr Brown, from South Shields, as Peggy, Dale Jewitt, from Rowlands Gill, as Mac and David McCarthy, from Alnwick, as Mr Twiddles, with the role of Little Red Riding Hood yet to be cast.

…And the Cow Jumped into the Woods runs from Wednesday, August 30, until Saturday, September 2, at 11am and 2pm (no 2pm show on Saturday, September 2).
Tickets are priced from £7.50 and are available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online at
Families will also get the chance to meet Doddington and her friends after the show.

Pic caption:

Friday, 18 August 2017

Preview: The Night Pirates at Whitley Bay Playhouse

The Night Pirates

Whitley Bay Playhouse

Monday 6th & 7th November 2017

Rough, tough little girl pirates.
With their own pirate ship.
A ship set for sailing.
A ship off on adventures.

Nick Brooke Ltd and Rose Theatre Kingston present The Night Pirates.
Adapted from the best-selling children’s book by Peter Harris and Deborah Allwright, The Night Pirates tells the tale of a group of little girl pirates who descend on a young boy called Tom at bedtime. Eager to join the pirate adventure, Tom uses his house as a pirate ship and sets sail to retrieve stolen treasure from Captain Patch and the bumbling grown-up pirates. Adapted and directed by Miranda Larson, this show combines original songs and swashbuckling adventures, suitable for any budding young pirate!

Running time: 55mins no interval, Ages: families with children 3 and up


The Night Pirates comes to the Whitley Bay Playhouse on Monday 6th & 7th November 2017 at 1.30 pm & 4.30 pm (Mon) & 10.30 am & 4.30 pm (Tue) Tickets costing £12, £10 Groups (10+) 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.



The Customs House has unveiled a new look for its brochure ahead of its latest season.

The format has changed from an A5 booklet to a fold-out programme, packed with the usual mix of drama, music, comedy, variety and children’s shows. The number of issues has also increased from three to six per year, to bring people more information on the most current shows.

The new brochure covers September and October, with highlights including Gyles Brandreth’s award-winning show Zipp!, One Hundred Musicals for Less than the Price of One, the Sunderland AFC-themed double-bill of Wise Men Say and Cornered, Men of the Tyne and Forgotten Broadway.

Dick and Dom
Several tribute acts to leading music stars are back by popular demand, including Big O and the Travelling Wilburys, Shine On (Pink Floyd), The Simon and Garfunkel Story, And Finally … Phil Collins and Beatlemania in Pepper Again.

There’s also The Searchers, The Whitney Houston Show, The Manfreds, Memories Are Made of This, Faith: The George Michael Legacy, Thank Abba for the Music and Formerly of Bucks Fizz, who recently announced their first album in three decades.

Men of the Tyne
Composer Jason Singh – artist in residence in Hull as part of its City of Culture 2017 – also brings Following the Fleet: Drifters to The Customs House as part of its UK tour of former fishing communities, with support from South Shields singer/songwriter Eve Simpson.

Wendy the Witch makes a welcome return for little ones during the October half-term in Wendy the Witch and the Long Lost Spell, along with shows Dick and Dom Live! and Harry Panto and the Chamber Pot of Secrets. 

The Book of Darkness and Light
There’s also Sing-a-Long-a Beauty and the Beast, where the lyrics appear on screen to the songs in the live adaptation of the Disney classic, starring Emma Watson as Belle. The interactive experience also includes dancing and props and fancy dress is a must!

Jason Cook
Following the success of the South Tyneside Comedy Festival, Jason Cook is also back with his Comedy Club on the first Saturday of the month.

Ray Spencer, Executive Director of The Customs House said: “We work very hard to make sure we have an exciting programme with something for everyone and I think this brochure reflects that well.  This brochure also sees a new format and more frequent publications, which we hope will give our valued customers more opportunities to snap up tickets for the shows they want to see, as well as taking advantage of more comprehensive future listings.”

Zipp! was conceived by Gyles Brandreth and Stewart Nicholls and whizzes through over a century of Broadway and West End musicals, including the complete works of Andrew Lloyd Webber in 60 seconds.

Paul Dunn, star of I Left My Heart In Roker Park, returns in Wise Men Say, marking 20 years of the Stadium of Light, while Cornered, by BBC Look North’s Jeff Brown, tells the story of the 1985 Milk Cup Final and the moment that changed Dave Corner’s life and career.

Men of the Tyne, featuring Tom Kelly, Ian Ravenscroft and Ted Cuskin, is a heart-warming show capturing the stories of the men who worked in the Tyne shipyards from the 1950s to the 1980s, through film, stories and song.

Forgotten Broadway celebrates the magic of forgotten musical theatre songs, performed by West End star Jamie Birkett, The Voice’s Melissa Cavanagh, Encore and Jen Stevens, to name a few, in aid of The Customs House Trust and The Jackie Fielding Trust.

Dirty Dusting, written by Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood, also makes a welcome return, starring Crissy Rock (Benidorm), Leah Bell and Dolores Poretta Brown as three cleaning ladies who start up a chat line.

The Book of Darkness and Light, Austen the Musical, The Red Room, the Best of South Tyneside Young Performer evening and Filmmaking at The Customs House Third Anniversary complete the theatre line-up.

For full details of forthcoming shows and ticket information, contact the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or visit

Preview: From The Sky To Your Hands at Newcastle Live Theatre

Rehearsal start at Live Theatre for the World Premiere of From The Sky To Your Hands, a true story of a young mum’s search for refuge and belonging

From The Sky To Your Hands
Newcastle Live Theatre
Wednesday 8th - Saturday 11th November 2017

Told by Joana Geronimo
Written by Juliana Mensah
Directed by Paul James
Designed by Alison Ashton
Dramaturgy by Gez Casey
Musical Direction by Mariam Razaei

“I tell him that you don’t know what I have been through… for us to be here. You have to work hard. Nothing comes from the sky to your hands…”

Rehearsals started this week for From the Sky to Your Hands which is at Live Theatre from Wednesday 8 to Saturday 11 November. Telling the story of Joana Geronimo who came to Newcastle with her baby son Osvaldo as refugees from Angola in 2003, the play is performed by Joana herself, and tells, in her own words, with music and humour, her story of parenthood, longing and belonging.

Joana is supported by young actors from Live’s Youth Theatre including her now teenage son Osvaldo. Youth Theatre Members Finn Armstrong, Isobel Donkin, Paul Gaitskell, Elizabeth Guariento, Monica Hardcastle, Dawn Hardcastle and Ore Olajide, aged between 13 and 21 provide a dramatic and musical chorus to the performance.

In 2008 Joana took part in From Home To Newcastle, a Live Theatre verbatim piece about asylum seekers and refugees. Following that project Joana joined Live’s Youth Theatre, and has since become a drama worker and actress. Almost ten years later this new play catches up with Joana – how things have changed for her and her family, including Osvaldo, now a typical Geordie teenager.

Joana Geronimo said: “I want to use the voice I have to show the audience that not everything the press says about refugees is true. There is a story behind every refugee. I’m just telling mine.”

From The Sky To Your Hands is part of Freedom City 2017 (, a city-wide programme marking the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. receiving an honorary degree from Newcastle University. Freedom City 2017 takes place at venues and public spaces across Newcastle and Gateshead throughout the year.

Paul James, Senior Creative Associate at Live Theatre said: Through her own words From The Sky to Your Hands contrasts Joana’s experiences arriving and settling in North East, with that of her son, brought up in Newcastle. The cast of talented young people drawn from Live’s Youth Theatre provide a poignant and musical chorus to the play. Reflecting the Freedom City festival themes of racism, poverty and freedom it promises to be a thought-provoking and moving play.”

Original music and vocal arrangements of soul and gospel songs performed by the chorus are by Mariam Rezaei whose previous musical direction includes Your Aunt Fanny at Live Theatre and Cinema by Zendeh.

Freedom City 2017 features a large-scale outdoor event, thought-provoking theatre, inspiring exhibitions, uplifting musical performances, world-class academic research and more. Inspired by the themes of Dr King’s acceptance speech at Newcastle University, Freedom City 2017 brings international artists, musicians, filmmakers, academics and community groups together to inspire them to help tackle the three ‘urgent and great problems’ highlighted in Dr King’s speech ‘the problem of racism, the problem of poverty and the problem of war’.

Joana Geronimo
Osvaldo Geronimo
Finn Armstrong
Isobel Donkin
Paul Gaitskell
Elizabeth Guariento
Monica Hardcastle
Dawn Hardcastle
Ore Olajide

From The Sky To Your Hands is at Live Theatre from Wednesday 8 to Saturday 11 November, 7.30pm and Saturday 11 November, 2pm. A free Meet the Creative Team event will take place after the performance on Thursday 9 November in which the cast discuss issues raised in the play with representatives from charities that work with refugees in the region.  Tickets are £10-£14, over 60s £12 and other concessions £6.  For more information or to book tickets visit or contact Live Theatre’s Box Office on (0191) 232 1232.
Duration: Approx. 1hr, incl. interval
Suitabilty: Suitable for ages 13+, contains strong language

Preview: A Song for Ella Grey at Newcastle Northern Stage

Premiere of stage adaptation of David Almond’s award-winning novel

A Song for Ella Grey
Newcastle Northern Stage
Tuesday 5th – Saturday 16th September 2017

A brand new production of David Almond’s award-winning young adult novel A Song for Ella Grey will premiere at Northern Stage in Newcastle (5 – 16 September). Adapted for the stage by David Almond himself and directed by Northern Stage Artistic Director Lorne Campbell, the creative team will make the show with the help of young people from across the North East.

Creative team with young people at Ella Grey workshop
David Almond's story sets the Orpheus myth in teenage Tyneside, travelling from the beaches of Bamburgh to the bridges of Ouseburn. Hailed as one of the most important writers for this generation of young people, the Tyneside author is the winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award, Whitbread Book Award, Carnegie Medal and, most recently, the Guardian children’s fiction prize. Previous stage adaptations include Skellig at Sage Gateshead and Miracle! An Opera of Two Halves at Sunderland Minster.

David explains, “I'm so happy that this story is coming to life again at Northern Stage. It's based on an ancient tale but it's also very new. I've set it on Tyneside, the place where I live, the place of my birth. It’s about ordinary Tyneside teenagers with all their madness, joys and yearnings. At its heart is a simple tale of a girl and a boy falling in love. It asks the question, Can Love be stronger than Death?

Northern Stage's Young Company - Photo:
Von Fox Promotions
“Somehow we all know something about the tale of Orpheus, the wonderful musician who travels to the Underworld to bring back his lost love. We all know the simple scary line, ‘Don't look back! Don't look back!’ The story was often rather weird to write - sometimes I felt as if Orpheus had visited me, that his spirit was flowing through me; that his voice was singing underneath my words...”

Movement Director Martin Hylton - Photo Mark Savage
The creative team includes set and costume designer Jen McGinley – winner of the 2015 Linbury Prize; Movement Director Martin Hylton; film maker Kris Deedigan who is working with Northern Stage Young Company members to create film and projections for the production; and sound designer/composer Mariam Rezaei. Mariam works predominantly with turntables, piano, vocals and electronics and she is creating and recording an immersive soundscape for A Song for Ella Grey in collaboration with Young Company members aged 16-21.

David Almond joins vocal session with
Amy Cameron- Photo Mark Savage
Amy Cameron will play the lead role of Claire. Most recently seen at Northern Stage in the critically acclaimed Get Carter as Jack’s niece Doreen, Amy is originally from Sunderland and has appeared in ITV’s Vera alongside Brenda Blethyn as well as stage roles including Helene in A Doll’s House (Royal Exchange) and Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hallé).

David Almond in vocal session with
Mariam Rezaiel- Photo Mark Savage
Director Lorne Campbell says, “For me, David’s writing is everything fiction should be, magical and fantastical without ever letting go of an unvarnished and uncompromising reality. A Song for Ella Grey is an incredible book about growing up, it contains all of the passion and intensity of being a teenager while dealing with profound honesty and courage with death, grief and the reality of surviving tragedy. The chance to not only make this incredible book into a play but to do so working with the brilliant creativity of our Young Company is an incredible pleasure and privilege.”

A Song for Ella Grey opens in Newcastle in September 2017. Tickets start from £10 - for more information or to book tickets visit  or call 0191 230 5151.

Follow the #EllaGrey summer adventure on Instagram as our Young Company create the show @NSYoungCompany 
Running time: 1 hour 30 mins (no interval)
Recommended Age: 14+ (some strong language)
Post-show talk: Wednesday 13 September with David Almond and Lorne Campbell

Please note: a section of this play will be performed in complete darkness