Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Showstopper! The improvised musical -review - Northern stage 

Showstopper! The improvised musical @ Northern stage February 17th 2018

Showstopper! the improvised musical is an improvised show with a musical theme, made up of a collective of musicians. Improvisers and a director. This five star Olivier award winning act were making their début performance in Newcastle having toured the country in addition to their annual Edinburgh festival run. Tonight's performance consisted of five performers, two musicians and a director as an eight piece act from over twenty players in their overall collective.  

The stage was quite minimal, but used effectively. The show started subtly with a telephone ringing on stage, which was reminiscent of a scene from 60s classic batman and dealt with in a similar way. The director then had a pretend conversation with his boss about needing to write a musical by nine thirty (which ended up finishing at ten, due to unforeseeable circumstances explained below) It was at this point the director offers the audience the chance to make suggestions that will help create the show. Two guys called Ben made suggestions that received luke warm support in the end the location selected by the audience was Greggs, another suggestion of Whitley Bay (not Whiby bay which was mistakenly heard by one of the cast) was also used. Various musicals were selected to inspire scenes, such as the rocky horror picture show, sunshine on Leith, the book of Mormon, Hamilton and South Pacific. 

Once all the suggestions were taken the play began. The costumes looked believable as Greggs attire, as we met two sisters working at Greggs, longing to meet the Gregg of Greggs, double g. The girls wrote him a letter inviting him to come and see them in Whitley Bay. There was great chemistry between the two sisters, we then saw another scene with Gregg of Greggs the baker double g and his two sons with an amusing song about how disappointed Gregg was in his two sons. One son good at icing the other a fondue fancy expert. It was at this point, the play needed to be halted due to illness of a member of the packed crowd, who seems to have fainted . After a short delay and checking the lady got the attention she needed the play resumed. 

In the next scene the girls were at Whitley Bay arcade playing hook a duck and eating hot dogs and candy floss. Whitby bay was mistakenly said by one improviser and this was used as a game and played upon many times in further scenes , which is something I love about improv, making the mistakes an important part of the show. Gregg enters with his two sons and after flirting with Gregg, the girls turn their attention to the two sons. After some more songs the girls and boys bond and both of the men propose before we head into the half time break. 

After the break more suggestions were made by the crowd including making it more Geordie (even having the girls teach the boys how to be more Geordie using hilarious songs to illustrate being more Geordie, including phrases such as “away pet” and references to PJ and Duncan) other suggestions were made such as going to Byker, this show was very heavy on North east references. The story progressed with the couples falling out due to one of them being already married to the others fiancée. We then see the couples fighting (a great fight scene) splitting up and inevitably getting back together at the end of the play. Susan Harrison had two main parts, as well as being one of the Greggs workers sisters, she also played Greggs wife, who seemed one minute to be dead and the next just estranged, but that’s improv for you, changing your mind about what’s important in the scene is a good way to make it more interesting. My favourite quote from the show being From Lucy’s character one of the sisters “This was suppose to be the bay of dreams, not the bay of shit.” 

Overall this was a great show, professionalism all the way through, even after the show had been paused due to illness in the crowd. The acting, singing, improvising and even dancing were top notch. All the Showstopper’s were on their A game, Susan Harrison and Lucy Trodd particularly on great form and I would thoroughly recommend this show when it comes back to the north east on it’s never ending tour.   

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rabbit Hole - Review - Royalty Theatre

Rabbit Hole
Royalty Theatre
19th Feb 2018

David Lindsey-Adair's Rabbit Hole won the 2007 Pulitzer prize for Drama. The synopsis sounds a little bleak. A couple coming to terms with the death of their son are faced with the news that the wife's sister is pregnant, and the teenager who caused the accident that killed their son wants to meet them. You might expect therefore a rather grim exploration of a family in freefall, trying, and probably failing, to come to terms with their grief. You'd be wrong. This is a sensitive and sympathetic portrayal of a family on the verge of disintegration, each member floundering in their grief, desperate to find a way through. It is a story told with compassion and gentle humour, with characters who are carefully observed and drawn.

Under the direction of Lee Stewart this small cast don't put a foot wrong. Corinne Kilvington is utterly believable as the grief-stricken mother Becca, struggling to live in a house full of memories. A homemaker in a home that has had its heart ripped from it, she tries to cling on to normality by baking for and nurturing other members of the family, while slowly removing the too painful evidence of her son - taking his drawings down from the fridge, sending his dog to her mother, giving his clothes to charity. In contrast her husband Howie (Ryan Rowntree) clings to the memories, watching the last video of Danny at the park, reliving the day over and over. Rowntree gives a very natural and unforced performance.

As the two try to cope in their own way they find themselves pushed apart, unable to accept the other's way of grieving. Emotions naturally run high and cracks begin to appear in their relationship. Will they manage to repair themselves and each other, or will their life together fall apart?

Into this come Becca's sister and mother. Izzy (Abbi Laidler) is the younger sister: irresponsible, a little wayward, and pregnant. We see her gradually become the voice of reason in the play. Nat (Anna Snell) the girls' mother, drawing on her own experience but causes only more pain and anger with her well meaning but untimely advice. These two actors perfectly capture the difficult relationships between mother and daughter, and older and younger siblings.
Finally we meet Jason - the teenager who caused the death of their child. Ben Gettins gives a heartfelt performance as this young man on the cusp of adulthood, trying to come to terms with the consequences of his actions.

The set is clean and uncluttered, changes in lighting mark the end of each scene with precision, and carefully chosen music adds to the overall feel of the play. The cast give incredibly assured and moving performances.

This an impressive production and one of the best I have seen here. The buzz of conversation at the interval and as people were leaving the theatre suggests I am not the only person to thinks so.

Rabbit Hole runs until Sat 24th February and is definitely one to see. Tickets are just £8.00 and available on the ticket hotline 0333 666 3366 or online at or at the box office before the show.

Denise Sparrowhawk

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Preview - Blue Electric Wind - People's Theatre

The Blue Electric Wind 
by Brad Birch 

“First you just forget things, little things, things you’ve done, things you’ve said. 
Then you forget who you are. 
And then …” 

When people at school start forgetting things, Scott wonders if he’s the only one who’s noticed. He and some of the school’s misfits seem to be the only ones who can see what’s happening.  

The weather is weird, football is cancelled and everyone gets detention because the teachers keep forgetting what they’re doing.  

The pupils must join forces to try and work out what is causing everyone in town to lose all sense of who they are. Should they hide and save themselves, save the ones they love or risk it all and tell everyone what is really going on? 

THE BLUE ELECTRIC WIND is play about why we remember what we do; about bravery and growing up. 
This is the third time the talented Young People’s Theatre have participated in the National Theatre Connections Festival and they are excited to share with you this funny, dramatic and entertaining story especially written for teenage performers. 

The fifteen young actors in the play are aged 13-17 and for some of them this is the biggest role they have ever taken on. With director Sarah McLane, everyone is working hard in rehearsals ahead of bringing this new play to the main stage in February and to Northern Stage on 10th May.

Writer Brad Birch’s previous plays include Black Mountain, which recently opened at the Orange Tree Theatre in London after premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe, The Brink and Even Stillness Breathes Softly Against A Brick Wall. Last year he was awarded the Harold Pinter Commission and recently completed the Channel 4 Writers’ Scheme. 

The Young People's Theatre is a youth theatre for 11-17 year olds where weekly drama workshops enable  youngsters to take part in, and discover more about, all aspects of theatre, staging three or four productions each year, giving all of the members the opportunity to take part both on and off stage.

The People's Theatre believe that theatre helps young people develop confidence as well as theatrical skills, and is a great way to make new friends from across the region. For more information on the group and if you’d like to join, please head to 

Last year the Young People’s Theatre celebrated its 50th year and some of members have gone on to work professionally in theatre and the arts, including comedian Ross Noble who is currently starring in Young Frankenstein in the West End. 

Photos by Paula Smart
The Blue Electric Wind 
DATE: Thursday 22 – Saturday 24 February 2018 
TIME: 7.30pm 
VENUE: People’s Theatre, Stephenson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5QF 
TICKETS: £10 (Concessions £7) 
TELE: 0191 265 5020  

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bankers - Alphabetti Theatre - Review

Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle
15th February 2018 7PM

“As a company, Write On Tap aim to make work that is culturally aware and politically relevant” writes producer Becci Sharrock of Bankers.

Ten years after the Northern Rock collapse this theatre production, written by 4 emerging North East playwrights, looks at the issues, the aftermath (including the ever increasing usage of food banks), and even the possibilities beyond the present day. 

The theatre was packed (some people had to stand it was so well attended) as the show began. For research and inspiration, they had spoken to food bank volunteers and clients, ex Northern Rock employees and academics - some of whose words could be heard playing through the speakers. Statistics, both informative and more tongue in cheek, were displayed on a screen behind. This changed and updated throughout the different scenes.

The f
our stories performed by local actors, ranged from an unapologetic banker looking to expand on his social portfolio, a couple caught in the crisis when Northern Rock crumbled, to 2 families' first hand experience of food banks. They gave an informative and entertaining look at one of today's very current and real facts of life. I found it very interesting and informative and whilst certainly the subject matter is a serious one, it was written and told in a realistic and believable way, that got the message across without being patronising or preachy in any way. There was lots of topical humour interspersed throughout. 
I found this a great balance of telling a story and giving information.

Alongside the show Write On Tap are also running a special campaign in partnership with Alphabetti Theatre and Newcastle’s West End Foodbank, encouraging audiences to support the foodbank. It aims to fill Alphabetti’s lift with donations from Tuesday 13th February to Saturday 24th February. Donations can be dropped off during the theatre's opening times.

The following items are requested for donation *tea bags *instant coffee *sugar (500g) *cereal *pasta *milk (UHT or powdered) *fruit juice (long life) *tinned tomatoes *tinned vegetables *tinned fish *biscuits/snacks *tinned rice pudding *rice *tinned fruit

Alternatively if you wish to make a financial donation via a regular direct debit go to

Belinda Bekki-Winter

Bankers showed for two nights on Thursday 15th and Friday 16th February at 7.00pm as Pay What You Feel shows. Hopefully people felt a lot. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Breaking the Code - Review - People's Theatre

Breaking the Code
13th Feb 2018

The impact of this show begins as soon as you take your seat – the stage is set with box shelves with typewriters and other paraphernalia each side of the stage, in perfect symmetry against a backdrop of oversized dials, dramatically lit, and at the front a single bare table and chair.

As the play starts a man – Alan Turing - enters, sits at the table and positions himself prone, one arm outstretched across the table, his head resting on the arm, he rests motionless as broken sentences, music, and electronic noise blare out in a cacophony of sound. This sound, harsh and abrasive will mark change of each scene as time switches between each flashback of Turing’s life.
The scene changes are swift and almost clinical as the cast and crew move props swiftly and silently in almost choreographed movements.  

From the very first line uttered Richard Jack holds us spellbound with his sympathetic, compassionate portrayal of Turing. The first scene is his interview with the police officer Mick Ross, reporting a burglary in which very little of worth has been taken. It becomes increasingly obvious that there is more to the burglary than Turing is admitting, and Detective Ross grows increasingly suspicious. You can feel the undercurrents of distrust and anxiety between Turing and Ross as the questions become more pointed and the answers unsatisfactorily vague. And yet it is also filled with humour – as is the whole play. It deals with such heart-breaking injustices and yet it is not at all self-pitying. It portrays Turing as a bright, intelligent, passionate, and compassionate man. A truthful and principled man. Lacking social skills, he appears gauche and awkward at times and yet is transformed when he speaks of his work, of the love of mathematics and philosophy.  Jack’s delivery is impeccable. From the young, adolescent Alan to the older, jaded man he is utterly believable.

The supporting cast all give excellent performances, but acknowledgements should go to Adam Kadow as Christopher, Richard Gardner upholding the law as Detective Ross, and  Eileen Davidson endearing as Turing’s mother. Steve Robertson is outstanding as Turing’s gruff, forgetful boss at Bletchley. While Nathan Hussain as Ron leaves us wondering whether he was a good guy or a bad guy – louche, charming, but dishonest.  

Breaking the Code is a funny, emotional, heartrending play. It seems horrific to us now that a man who was instrumental in helping end the Second World War should have been so hideously treated – act two really only hints at the difficulties that Turing encountered before and after his arrest. He is a national hero and yet was ostracised by the very people whose freedom he helped to win.

I wonder, did he take a bite of the poisoned apple to escape a life he felt was untenable,  hoping a charming prince would save him, or did he do it, knowing he had achieved all he could in the circumstances, and would finally join his prince, the boy he had loved, and who had inspired his entire life’s work?

This is the best performance yet from The People’s Theatre. It runs until Saturday. You should not miss it.

Denise Sparrowhawk

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Preview - Rabbit Hole - Royalty Theatre


Corinne Kilvington and Abbi Laidler
Credit: Royalty Theatre
The Royalty Theatre will continue their 2017/18 season with the award-winning drama, Rabbit Hole. 

David Lindsay-Abaire’s play, which won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, focuses on Becca and Howie, a couple who have lost their young child to a tragic accident.  As tension grows between the grieving couple, Becca’s sister Izzy announces that she is pregnant.  And the young driver involved in the accident is looking for forgiveness.

Director Lee Stewart says, “Ever since I read this play three years ago, I fell in love with its raw and emotional dialogue which surrounds such a devastating subject matter. My hat goes off to my fantastically gifted cast for perfectly honouring David Lindsay-Abaire's award-winning juggernaut."

Lee is himself a playwright of growing reputation at the Royalty Theatre – his play Too Faithed features in the Sunderland and Durham One-act Play Festival at Arts Centre Washington next month, and his own There’s Someone Coming Through is an out-of-season offering from the Royalty in July.

Rabbit Hole comes hot on the heels of another hard-hitting drama from the Royalty, Five Kinds of Silence, which received enormous praise over its four-night run last month.

A cast of new and experienced faces includes Corrinne Kilvington and Ryan Rowntree as the grieving couple, with Abbi Laidler as Izzy.  Anna Snell and Ben Gettins also star.

The play runs from 19th-24th February. Tickets can be booked via or on 0333 666 3366, and are priced at £8 (£6.50 concessions). 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Alphabetti theatre Season Launch

Alphabetti Theatre presents Season Launch / How To Take Over The World Party
This intreging event was to promote alphabetti’s new season launch with the so called fearless leader, Rex (alphabetti’s resident canine) and his human translator/ Alphabetti Artistic Director Ali Pritchard took to the stage, encouraging the casual and intimate “crowd”, whilst Rex snuffled about among the audience looking for treats on the floor, occasionally stopping to let his adoring followers pat him. Meanwhile, Ali enthused with the listeners with the plans for how Alphabetti are going to take over the world, Or something! So here’s a detailed list of What’s coming up at Alphabetti Theatre from today until April-ish :
Part one - What’s occurring @ Alphabetti Theatre in February :
Kicking off with
Write Faster :
When : Saturday February 3rd @ 7.30pm
What : A play written in front of your very eyes and performed at the end. What could possibly go wrong?
How much : Pay what you like, hopefully it will be great and you will shell out a shed load of cash!

We have something to say twisting ducks & Gateshead people :
When : Tuesday 6th February @ 7.30pm
What : An evening of poetry and spoken word from people who experience disabilities or autism
How Much : Pay what you like!

Alphabetti Jam :
When : Wednesday 7th February @ 7.30pm
What : Alphabetti’s open mic night of sorts, get up do something and impress everyone. Even your friends!
How Much : Free

Jurrassic Park FILM NITE
When : Thursday 8th February @ 7.30pm
What : See Speilbergs classic Jurrassic park ripped apart and reconstructed in the form of jokes, poems , music theatre from a selection of artists, this sounds like an absolute ball.
How Much : £5

A Seventh Comedy night that passes the bachdel test with Hodes & Stone
When : Friday 9th February @ 7.30pm
What : Comedy galore with a female heavy line up, they count how many shows they have done and everything.
How Much : £5

Salvage Co Pop up show
When : Saturday 10th February , Saturday 17th March, Saturday 14th April 11am-4pm
What : pop up shop in the bar browse, play darts and eat things

Tandem Sounds Niall and Pais
When : Saturday 10th February 8pm-1am
What : club night at Alphabetti an ecelectic music mix including, but not limited to funk, raggae and drum and bass! From a DJs of all shapes and sizes
How Much : £4-£6

It’s no job for a nice jewish girl time2shine productions
When : Tuesday 13th February 7.30pm
What : Solo stand up with a touch of pop star class, this looks really interesting Do you want to fit in, or stand out?
How Much : £6.50-£8

So many reasons fuel & camden people’s theatre , created and performed by Rachael Ofori :
When : Wednesday 14th - Friday 16th February 7.30pm wed, 9.30pm Thursday and Friday
What : A story about mothers from the perpective of an award winning ghanaian woman, I was shown a clip of her performing, quite memorising

Bankers by Ben Dickenson, Stuart Henderson , Jo McCollock & Kim Spence - Write on tap :
When : Thursday 15th & Friday 16th 7.30pm
What : New writing that examines the increased use of food banks and the banking crisis of all the way back in good old 2008
How Much : Pay what you like

Scratch Tyne - Apples and snakes :
When : Saturday 17th February 12pm-3pm
What : Scratch tyne poetry and spoken word performance workshop. February focusses on developing hip hop and rap from your words / poems. With the help of Drop dead fred

Strictly Smokin ‘ Big band featuring Paul Booth :
When : Saturday 17th February @8pm
What : International saxophonist supreme Paul Booth Which I believe is sold out already, booooo
How Much : £10 if you are lucky to already have a ticket

Let Us Make It Up To You - Open Heart Theatre Improv fasinasia |With Your hosts Alex Fredera, Will Steele and Owen Scrivens
When : Tuesday 20th February @8pm
What : Improv, impro, improvised comedy how ever you want to say it this is sure to be a treat. With different improv groups local and from far away, guesting monthly starting with a great bunch of improvisers from Nottingham. Expect scenes, sketches, stories and songs all invented right infront of your eyes with help from your I’m sure excellent and totally clean-ish (I imagine) suggestions! To make you snort laugh a fist full no doubt.
How Much : £4-£6

The cult of Dave - Dave Alnwick
When : Wednesday 21st - Friday 23rd February
What : Magic, from the five star Edinburgh fringe sold out shows and not to mention three national tours and may even rock up in your living room to perform if you ask nicely (or happen to be a Newcastle United footy player) Local boy doing good, watch him amaze you as you try and fathom how the hell he just did what he just did!
How Much : £5-£7

4 1 Night only - The Suggestables School of Improv
When : Saturday 24th February @ 8.30pm
What : Suggestibles Ian McLaughling and Bev Fox have been running workshops since way back in 2012. This show is the latest showcase from them workshops and promises a mix of short and long form improvised comedy making it the second improv night of the month at Alphabetti. Taking your suggestions to inspire their students into some improvised comedy, all this for one night only folks, every show is completely different from the last.
How Much : £4-£5