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
















Sunday, November 26, 2017

Robinson Crusoe - Review - Gala Theatre

Robinson Crusoe
Gala Theatre
25th Nov 2017


We launch straight in to the action with the flamboyant Capt Blackheart casting his crew off the plank into the sea! Rolling waves and crashing music give way to the siren's song and the appearance of Aquamarina, Queen of the Sea, fabulous in her watery fountain. She sets the task for Capt Blackheart - to find the Pearl of Wisdom on the Island of Flames he must first recruit a young lad Robinson Crusoe. Only he has the secret to finding the island and the pearl. And so it begins...

This panto is packed full of terrible puns, and awful jokes; poop-decks and parrots are an abundant source, obviously! But it is lifted up a notch by the preponderance of positively perilous tongue twisting alliteration scattered throughout. None of the characters escape this and they deserve a medal for getting through them without tripping up or
corpsing! The song and dance routines upbeat and the choreography by Amanda Woods has a refreshing originality.

The cast do a tremendous job throughout - Neil Armstrong as Horatio "Hooray" Blackheart is a mean but rather understated baddie - he secretly longs for us to join in the "Hoorays" rather than the boos? Lauren Waine's Percy/Polly Perkins has more than a touch of Blackadder in her thigh-slapping delivery. Paul Hartley is completely over the top as Billy Bob, the (ahem) younger brother to Robinson, as he his gurns and flounces his way through the play. Jamie Brown is an engaging hero with just the right amount of innocent naivety. Glamour comes in the form of Jayne Mackenzie as Aquamarina and Paul Dunn as Dame Connie. It's a toss up as to who has the best frock, but Jayne wins hands down on the singing! The youngsters in the cast are all great - stepping up to their moment in the spotlight and delivering with confidence and a good deal of stage presence.
And finally there is John Murdoch as Pecky the Parrot - who saves the day! My one disappointment is that he doesn't get to go through the Cave of Diminishing Returns but I suppose that would have spoiled the ending - I can't explain that any further without spoiling it myself, so you'll have to buy a ticket to see what I mean!

The set is quite fabulous and there are lots of special effects with lighting and props, dry ice and water (watch out if you sit in the front stalls). The scene changes are quick and slick. Costumes are colourful and fun from Blackheart's dandy captain's coat to Dame Connie's ludicrous outfits (my favourite is the shipwrecked barrel and seagull).

This version of Robinson Crusoe bears little (none at all, actually) resemblance to the story by Defoe - there's a desert island and some marooned people and a passing reference to Man Friday but that's about it. Not that that matters at all because this is pantoland and anything goes! The plot is a quest for the Pearl of Wisdom - the baddy (Captain Blackheart) wants it and it will be a bad thing if he succeeds so the goody (Robinson Crusoe) is sent in (unknowingly) to the save the day and redress the balance of good and evil. And isn't that what panto is all about?

Despite having  all the right ingredients the cast had a hard job keeping the audience on board last night, though I don't know what more they could have done. It's an early start to a long run for Robinson Crusoe and I'm sure as the season progresses the audience participation will only get better.

Robinson Crusoe is fun, flamboyant and makes a interesting change from the usual fairy-tale panto fayre.

Denise Sparrowhawk

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Terminal Velocity Of Snowflakes -Review- Live Theatre

The Terminal Velocity Of Snowflakes 
Live Theatre Newcastle 
Thursday 23rd November 2017

Written by      Nina Berry
Directed by    Graeme Thompson 
Designed by  Luke W. Robson 

Such was the emotive power and magic of The Terminal Velocity of Snowflakes that when leaving the theatre last night I felt that I hadn't just watched a play, but instead had witnessed and been part of a spiritual existential event. 

It describes itself as a story of fate friendship and snowflakes, what it means to grow up, fall in love and how the tiniest seemingly insignificant detail can change eternity, or maybe not.

Taking my seat before the show started was like walking into a beautiful winter wonderland, the stage a semicircle of pure white background and a ceiling made up of gorgeous big snowflakes with lights in the middle of each. They was used to great effect when all the lights first shone. Such a strong bright warm glow that felt as though it was sucking you in and transporting you to a different world for a moment 

The tale is of a boy and a girl. Charlie (played by Daniel Watson) and Rosie (played by Heather Carroll) Two years separates their ages and tells of their lives from youth to old age and from Trafalgar Square to Chillingham Road. Through brilliantly delivered dialogue throughout,  the story starts from them being young children in a local park in the snow. They have not met each other yet and are playing at catching snowflakes on the tongue and sledging. We hear them talk of innocence and wonder. Then to their teens where topics turn to alcohol and alcoholism, loneliness, swearing,  fingering (or not as the case may be) what's their place in the world?

In their 20s the world of work and constantly being late for, university and lectures. Clubbing, one night stand, lots of sex or none for months, friendships and being let down.

The stories of Charlie and Rosie are told with elements of realism, poignancy and at times great humour I could see people nodding their heads in a yes I know all about that as the ups and downs of life are mentioned. Their lives are in parallel to each other even when they aren't together, as well as the occasions that their paths cross. First time as children in the park, and in their 20s when once again their eyes meet. They recognise each other and they share their first kiss….. and more. Afterwards Rosie goes to walk away, starts having doubts. What if no other moment can ever be as perfect as the one they just shared. What if…?


….Love, getting engaged, married, having children, becoming grandparents, divorce, jealousy getting old, hip replacements. Different ages and stages of their lives are thrown into their conversation in a series of what ifs? What would...could their paths be?

This play draws you in immediately and doesn't let go. It is a credit to the writer and the two actors who for a solid 80 minutes take us on this wonderful journey to the point that I, along with the people I went to see this with, felt like we’d been through an emotional mangle by the end. Could see the audience wiping their eyes afterwards it was that powerful.

Of course to the snowflake in the title. The awesome theory that no two snowflakes can ever be identical. That they are formed and shaped by external factors and influences on their journey 

This play is not to be missed. It is truly brilliant, life affirming and life wondering. It will certainly stay with me for a long time 

It runs until Saturday 16th December 

Belinda Bekki-Winter





Thursday, November 16, 2017

Season's Greetings -review- People's Theatre

Season's Greetings By Alan Ayckbourn
People's Theatre

Presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Ltd

Season's Greetings dates from 1980 and combines the highly comical powers of farce with the bleak view of families, marriages and ‘Christmas togetherness’

As I walked into the theatre I instantly notice the set, which was most impressive and looked very much like how you would expect a middle class family house to look like at Christmas in the early eighties. The attention to detail is quite special. The only thing missing was the television, which was mimed. This stood out to me as everything else was present, except the children who were always off screen. Some productions have included the children and while I didn't think that was particularly necessary, some sound effects would have helped create the illusion that  they were there in the background somewhere.   

"I'll tell you what I've bought them all for Christmas - a gun" 
This gem of dialogue is delivered in the very first scene in which we encounter Harvey and Bernard at Christmas Eve. Harvey, a paranoid,  cantankerous, grumpy and violence obsessed man is Neville and Phillis’s uncle, and is played excellently by Tony Neale. We see him amused by the violent and cathartic Christmas film he's engrossed in throughout the first few scenes. 
Bernard however (played by Phil Hodes) is not amused by this and isn't a fan of sex and
violence. He is a failed doctor who is obsessed with putting on a puppet show that everyone hates.
Belinda, the lady of the house (played by Anna Dobson) is married to long suffering husband Neville (played by Sam Hinton), who seems to have an OCD like obsession with fiddling and fixing things. Flirtatious Belinda, isn't exactly the typical happily married wife and the couple bicker throughout, in fact they all do.

Our second couple is Pattie (played by Kate Reilly) and Eddie (played by Reg White) Pattie is heavily pregnant and Eddie is extremely lazy and seems to want to do the bare minimum (reminds me of one of my relatives!)  I think everyone can relate to this family predicament on some level, which is a good part of the appeal. 

Rachel (played by Ellie Pullen) is Belinda's sister and has invited her potential partner Clive (played by Ben Ostell) over. He is a writer, with a solitary novel under his belt, which no one seems to have read or heard of. This queues lots of writing jokes and stereotypes about writers, one of which is a hilarious drunken misunderstanding about train drivers, which should be dated in modern times, but easily got the biggest laugh of the night. The misunderstanding is from Phyllis (played by Alison Carr) Bernard's wife, who he quit his role as a doctor to look after. She seems, amongst other problems, to have a dependency on alcohol, but then who doesn't at Christmas time, and with a family like
this.    

The play takes place over four days Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and the 27th December. For some reason they still haven't opened their presents by midnight on Christmas Day, rule of funny I guess, as this leads to a funny scene before the break, involving the unwrapped presents. 

Regarded as one of Alan's best works, all the acting is of a good standard and you believe in all of the characters and their intricacies. It's very middle class and I'm sure we can all recognise a fair few of these characters from our own Christmas gatherings. There are funny slapstick moments throughout and the soundtrack that plays before scenes is that perfect blend of misery and joy at Christmas. I found it amusing, which is not always a given for a farce, especially one written with the humour of 1980s theatre taken into consideration. If you hate Christmas you will get as much, if not more,out of this, than all those fans of yuletide. Merry Christmas everyone, only thirty nine sleeps till Christmas day!

Frank Cromartie Murphy                                              *photo credit Jim Mohan

Seasons Greetings - People's Theatre- Review

Season's Greetings
People's Theatre 
14th Nov 2017

Written by Alan Ayckbourn
Directed by Hugh Keegan


The first thing that strikes you as you take your seat for the People's Theatre's current production is the set. It is a mini reproduction of a beautiful, well-to-do home; living room with leather armchair, dining room with impressive dining suite and drinks cabinet, a hall with Christmas Tree and presents at the foot of stairs leading to a landing. Two low walls delineate the boundaries between the downstairs rooms, and two doors can be seen leading - we will discover - outside to the front of the house, and to the kitchen and the back of the house. At the top of the stairs a door leads to the out-of-sight bedrooms. As we will soon discover much of the important drama happens offstage in the rooms that cannot be seen by the audience.

A family and friends have gathered in this beautiful house to celebrate Christmas together. They all know each other well and it is clear that this is a ritual Christmas gathering. The hostess Belinda, (Anna Dobson) decorates the tree while her sister-in-law, Phyllis (Alison Carr) is in the kitchen preparing the Christmas Eve supper. Uncle Harvey (Tony Neale) watches a film on TV, drawing each member of the household in to share the action at different points: "Oh this is a good bit this, watch! There he goes! Ha ha ha!" This becomes a refrain through scene one.
It looks at first like a perfect Christmas scene, but the cracks gradually begin to show. Other than Harvey the men are no-where to be seen. Pregnant Patty (Kate Reilly) is upstairs trying to settle the overexcited children and calls for her husband, Eddie (Reg White) to come up to their son, who won't settle till he sees his father. Belinda's husband Neville (Sam Hinton) appears and is reprimanded for not serving drinks that were asked for over an hour earlier, and he and Belinda spat while Eddie finds excuses not to go upstairs. Bernard (PhilHodes) appears, flustered from the kitchen where Phyllis, a little the worse for drink has had a mishap. And so it goes...as the festive season progresses the jealousies and resentments are revealed. The only one who seems happy is Harvey as he gleefully pokes and prods at the weak spots like a boy prodding a sleeping bear with a stick.

Into this dysfunctional group comes Clive, (Ben Ostell) the new blood. The "sort of" new boyfriend
of youngest sister Rachel (Ellie Pullen). He is good looking and interesting - a writer, a divorcee -
and he has an impact on the women, and the balance, of the house. There is an immediate attraction between him and Belinda - which will lead to the hilarious climax of Act 1. There is a sense that this Christmas story has played along the same lines for several years and that this year Clive will prove to be a catalyst that changes the direction of the usual holiday bickering. Throughout the play Ayckbourn drops little hints and clues to the plot - if you are paying attention you will be able to see how the action will unfold and you just know it is not going to end well! The idea of the family Christmas from hell has become something of a stereotype, but Ayckbourn's observation of character is incisive, and he gives the situation enough of a twist to avoid the stereotype. He shows us the fragility and the strength of family relationships and he does it with immense humour - from the dancing reindeer and erratic alarm clock, to Bernard's painfully funny and farcical puppet show.

The cast performances are excellent - the timing and delivery under the direction of Hugh Keegan, are spot on. The puppet show is a tour de force as Patty confuses the pig puppets and causes chaos with her bump in the confined space, and Harvey gives a running commentary of sarcasm on Bernard's excruciatingly tedious show.

This is a great seasonal show - a perfect antidote to the tinsel and twee-ness of Christmas adverts and perfect preparation for the cut and thrust of the season of Christmas shopping!

Season's Greetings plays until 18th November.

Denise Sparrowhawk                                                                      *photo credit: Jim Mohan

Friday, November 10, 2017

From The Sky To Your Hands -Review- Live Theatre

From The Sky To Your Hands 

Live Theatre Newcastle

9th November 2017 

Joana Geronimos incredible story is being bought to life and what a story it is.

Live Theatre in Newcastle continues to create great shows and this one was just as good- f not better, but who am I to judge?

From The Sky To Your Hands is  about Joana and her son Osvaldo(who was one year old at this stage) when they came over in 2003, and who have now have proper Geordie accents !!
Osvaldo is also starring in the play.
Joana is an actor and commanded the stage and she told her story from her time in Angola to coming to Newcastle.
She’s an adopted Geordie like myself and is a credit to the city and the play tackles some personal issues that she has had to face which include issues with poverty, asylum seekers and the theme of belonging. These issues are common and especially since Brexit.

Not only was Joana great but she had many great young actors from Live Theatre's Youth Theatre and they are Finn Armstrong, Elizabeth Guariento, Ore Olajidr, Isobel Donkin, Dawn Hardcastle, Wambui Hardcastle, Kalem Patterson and Osvaldo Geronimo. They were a great support and helped Joana tell her story, this was a great idea and the mix was perfect and is something that Live should continue to do.

Written by Juliana Mensah who helped make this play after an extensive audition process, she has written a fantastic play.
Paul James once again did an amazing job as Director with Michael Lockhart as Assistant Director.

The set was designed by Alison Ashton, was simple but effective, one of our most famous iconic Geordie symbols is in the background (you’ll have to go to find out which one it is).
Musical Director was Mariam Rezaei and she did a fantastic job and even made old style Christian songs sound cool and I’m a Christian!!
Nick Rogerson was Lighting Designer, he did a did a great job helping the story unfold, Craig Spence was Sound Designer, he also did a grand job.

This show while short in length is fantastic, everyone involved should be so pleased with themselves with this production... and it’s a show that will live long in my memory (hopefully, as  I can’t remember much) but it’s a show that everyone needs to see and has many different issues that it addresses and a play that everyone can enjoy no matter who they are.

On until Saturday 11th of November so go and see this play it will leave you with pause for thought and possibly leave you with a few tear stains.



Reuben Hiles