Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Preview - Wind in the Willows - Royalty Theatre


Sunderland's Royalty Theatre will close their 2017/18 season with the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows.

Kenneth Grahame’s most famous work has been a family favourite for over a century.  This fantastic new adaptation by Mike Kenny follows the adventures of Ratty, Mole and Badger as they explore the Wild Wood and try to keep Toad of Toad Hall out of trouble.

Ratty (Lee Wilkins) and Mole (Rose Whittle) Credit: Royalty Theatre

A superb cast includes Lee Wilkins as Ratty, Royalty newcomer Rose Whittle as Mole and Billy Towers as Mr Toad. 

The show runs from 25th to 30th June with 7.30pm starts, and a matinée has been included in the run, at 2.15pm on Saturday 30th June. Doors open 45 mins before curtain up.

Tickets can be booked in advance via www.ticketsource.co.uk/royaltytheatre or on 0333 666 3366, and are priced at £8 (£6.50 concessions).

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Northern Stage - Autumn Season Launch

Season Launch
Northern Stage
Autumn 2018

Northern Stage launched their autumn season with comedian and poet Kate Fox. Kate gave us a taste of what was to come in a series of interviews, video clips and snippets of performances. Her chirpy, upbeat commentary and infectious enthusiasm kept the evening moving along at a cracking pace - as well it needed to, there was a lot to pack in!

Before we get to the Autumn there is a great programme of events over the summer with Northern Stage's involvement with the Great Exhibition of the North. There are plans for Self Build Utopias - a series of exhibitions, installations and performances re-imagining the future. Lorne Campbell and Annie Rigby talked about the inspiration behind the projects and the hope to produce an interactive and engaging series of activities to recreate landscapes and reconnect communities. Watch out for the many different activities around the Great Exhibition of the North from June 22nd till 9th September.

But what can we expect at Northern Stage in the Autumn? 

As always there is a stunning array of diverse and original theatre.
If you missed last season's production of  Laura Lindow's adaptation of H G Wells' War of the Worlds then you have another chance to see it in September.

After the Last Ship and Launch Day, remembering the shipyards, this coming season sees  The Last Seam pays tribute to the mining heritage of the north with a play based on stories and voices of the miners during the last deep seem colliery closure. There's limited availability so be sue to book your seat for this one! (27th Sept).

October brings the stage premier of Alice Seebold's bestselling selling novel The Lovely Bones (9th-20th). This much loved, uplifting tale of love, loss and redemption has been adapted by Bryony Lavery.
While on Stage 2 there is drama in The Mountaintop - an intimate look into the life of Martin Luther King on the eve of his assassination (9th - 13th).

In November we have two powerful, but different pieces of  from classic literature - Dylan Thomas's lyrical observations of life in the small, imaginary Welsh village of Llareggub in Under milk Wood (2nd -17th), while the English Touring Theatre bring us Richard Twyman's vital production of Shakespeare's Othello (13th-17th).
Both these productions give a fresh and innovative look at a classic piece of literature.

The Christmas show this year is also a classic from English literature - Dicken's A Christmas Carol. Adapted by Neil Bartlett and directed by mark Calvert it promises to another imaginative and original Christmas production. (Dec 1st - Jan 5th)

And of course we have dance:  Tangomotion is a virtuoso display of traditional and contemporary interpretations of this passionate dance, while Ballet Lorent's After Dark is a cabaret style celebration of the 25 years of the company. Then there is more Dickens with Fagin's Twist - Avante Guarde Dance Company's hip-hop style re-imagining of five of Dicken's familiar characters (13th-20th Dec).

This really just scratches the surface of what is on at Northern Stage - there is quite literally something for all ages and interests, whether you love dance, drama, poetry or puppetry there is a show for you next season. If  you want to be more involved than a spectator then check out their youth theatre - Open Stages (ages 5-15) and Young Company (ages 16-21) - they gave a breath-taking, assured performance of part of their own work at the launch.
If you're at the other end of the spectrum you might like to join in with Read Through - a script reading group for the over 60s.

Check the website www.northernstage.co.uk to see the full programme of productions and activities and book your place.

Denise Sparrowhawk

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pricks - Alphabetti Theatre - Review

Pricks by Jade Byrne

Thursday 14th June, 2018

I wasn't sure what to expect from this play, all I knew was its core subject was diabetes type one. None of that 'type two reversible with a balanced diet' nonsense, this was the real deal. Jade starts at the very beginning when she contracted a virus that caused her diabetes at just age 4.  She acts out various incidents between then and now which were affected by her diabetes, all acted with help from her Dennis the menace doll.

The story telling flows and is impressively acted. This show is very informative and covers many misconceptions people make about type one diabetes, such as it bankrupting the NHS, or it being a sexually transmitted disease. It's heartfelt throughout and also explores other people's stories involved with type one as well as her own.  There's a semi immersive aspect to the show which comes in at the end (you’ll have to catch the show to experience that).

The show clocks in just shy of an hour and can be seen in Darlington at Jabberwocky Market Sat 23 4.30pm. Also at Pleasance Courtyard at 2:15 throughout the Edinburgh Fringe in August

Frank Cromartie Murphy

Friday, June 8, 2018

Count Arthur Strong is Alive and Unplugged
Gala Theatre Durham
Wednesday 6 June 2018

It was with a homage to the late Bruce Forsyth that Count Arthur Strong came onstage and we were treat to the brilliance of the character created by Steve Delaney

Count Arthur Strong, an elderly pompous easily confused and distracted, mainly out of work old variety star and thespian from Doncaster was created in the 1980’s, he was introduced to the comedy circuit in the late 90’s which saw him make numerous appearances at Edinburgh Fringe. He had his own Radio 4 show for 7 years and then the character was reimagined for the BBC tv series’ which followed.

His live theatre shows in the past have sometimes seen him performing with other actors but last night it was him alone. The show was a mix of a very Count Arthur Strong style 1950s sci fi B movie that he of course starred in (shown in installments throughout the evening) and during the night's performance very few props were needed (a glass of gin, erm water never far away) a live audition, some not very well thought out money making schemes and lots of storytelling ensued with lots of clever use of word play (I'm sure the word spoonerisms was invented was Count Arthur in mind)

It's his nuances, the mannerisms the facial expressions and the ability to stay in such a strong character superbly that makes his show so great. It never felt unbelievable or that a part was being played. It was very funny, hilarious often and warm. I smiled and laughed throughout along with the rest of the packed theatre.

Even though I felt a little eeeek when he brought out a ventriloquist dummy (those along with clowns I find unsettling, probably after watching too many horror films) I felt lucky in that I had front row tickets so could see up close all that makes Count Arthur Strong what he is and the character was certainly brought alive with great aplomb (not the dummy, but Count Arthur Strong)

The show is on throughout June at various locations in the UK. I strongly recommend going to see it if you are able.


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Rattlesnake - Live Theatre - Review

Live Theatre
05 June 2018

OMG!!! I don't know what to say about a show that we have already done a review of here at SpikeMike.

Open Clasp once again make the north east proud with this fantastic show.  Roma Yagnik needs a special mention for the music - when you walked in Sting was playing (Every Step You Take) but sometimes it skipped then continued from the same spot.

Set in a cube in the centre of the stage we meet Suzy, played by the much travelled but great local actor Christina Berriman Dawson, and Jen who is played by adopted Geordie Eilidh Talman.
The two women are connected by James (who is never seen).

The story takes us through the whirlwind romances that both girls have with him and what goes wrong.

It's hard for a man to watch, and to think this happens in real life makes me angry.
The story is a real one from real people and it does happen!

Anna Reid did a fantastic job with the set design and Ali Hunter used the lighting to great effect especially at the end.

Open Clasp's Artistic Director and Writer has once again created a play that brings feelings out of you that you didn't know existed.
Charlotte Bennett did a great job with this show taking the issue and bringing the page off the paper.

For me the thing that made it stand out wasn't what was said and done but what wasn't!!

As a member of the audience You had to create the image of James in your head and picture him to make him seem real.

The Boxing Scene was hard hitting and really packed a punch (pun intended) and Robby Graham who I forgot to include in the above bit deserves credit for this part and all the movement.

I don't think I will ever see a show like this again (and I would go see it again). I look forward to seeing the next show by Open Clasp.

On until Saturday 9th of June

Reuben Hiles

Friday, June 1, 2018

Preview - Hot Flush - Washington Theatre Group

 Naughtiest musical in town comes to Washington!

Take a deep breath and get ready to meet Myra, Sylvia, Helen and Jessica, a quartet of feisty menopausal women who get together at a local bar every Tuesday night. Affectionately named the ‘Hot Flush Club’ the ladies offer each other moral support, cry on each other’s shoulders and most importantly (of course), gossip and malign the many men in their lives! (Fifteen in fact, all played by one brave man!)

"HOT FLUSH!" takes us on an hilarious musical journey that follows the ups and downs of the friendship between four ordinary women. It delves into their laughter, tears, and secrets. When it comes to matters of the heart, the opposite sex, and the menopause, Myra, Sylvia, Helen and Jessica will leave no stone unturned, and no story untold. 
'HOT FLUSH!', has the music, the menopause and the men (well, the one man). The naughtiest musical in town really is the ultimate girl’s night out! There won’t be a dry eye in the house, because you'll be crying with laughter.
Performed by Washington Theatre Group, 28th – 30th June at Arts Centre Washington

Tickets are £10 (Group discount: £8 a ticket for groups of 5+) Book online or telephone Arts Centre Washington on 0191 561 3455. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Launch Day - Northern Stage - Review

Launch Day
Northern Stage
29th May 2018

Presented by Kelly-Abbott Dance Theatre
Choreography by Kristin Kelly-Abbott
Produced by Phil Hargreaves
Costume by Kim McDermottroe
Lighting by Mark Parry
Music by Breifne Holohan and Mark Knopfler

Inspired by the art of Alexander Millar, and featuring the haunting music of Breifne Holohan and Mark Knopfler, Launch Day tells the story of shipbuilding in the north.

It is peopled with the flat-capped, booted and overalled men, who shuffle their way to and from work, waved off by headscarfed wives and mothers. It sounds cliched, but it is not. It is a representation of a time, and a way of life that was very real. These are tough men and women. Their lives are hard, their work is hard, but there is pride in it.
The dances and the music echo the beat of the hammers, the flying sparks of the welders and riveters. he energy of the workers, and the bone-weariness at the end of the day.

But, it is not all hard work - there is also play. There is football, and there is the pub. They recreate the beautiful game, and the rivalry between neighbouring shipbuilding towns - the red and whites and the black and whites, fans chanting and cheering and jeering (you're not singing anymore!), players scoring and tackling and arguing with the Ref.
And after the match, of course, they go for a pint! I think only in the north east of England, could a Saturday night skinful, falling over and throwing up, be made into a dance and turned into a thing of beauty.

Launch Day combines dance, art, technology and music - the traditional and the modern, to tell a poignant tale. Images of Millar's art are projected onto the backdrop and we hear words spoken by the shipbuilders while throughout the piece there is the constant echo of the hammers, the gentle lapping of water, and the image of a ship's prow sliding slowly into the sea.

This evening was actually the final day of the Launch Day tour, returning to where it started for its last hurrah. I feel privileged to have seen it. 

Denise Sparrowhawk