Friday, October 13, 2017

Goth Weekend -review- Live Theatre

Goth Weekend – Thursday 12th of  October  2017
 – Live Theatre

Written by Ali Taylor
Directed by Paul Robinson assisted by Alice Kynman

This is my second show in two days and I have been so looking forward to seeing it ever since I first noticed the flyer outside the Live Theatre
Goth Weekend is about two families brought together by fate who are polar opposites to each other.

Belinda who is a goth singer / songwriter or an artist as she likes to be known (played extremely well by Jessica Johnson), if I met Belinda in real life then I would be scared of her and Jess is perfect for the role.
Belinda’s son Simon played by Gurjeet Singh is deeply distraught by his parents break up and will stop at nothing to get his parents back together again

Ken, or Kenneth as he’s also known (played by Sean McKenzie) is a boring man who is still getting over the death of his wife, he has been on many dates with other equally boring people which his teenage daughter, Anna (played by Amy Trigg) has set him up with, though the medium of Tinder
It’s on one of these dates where Belinda and Ken meet.

They start the strangest relationship ever!! They are very much polar opposites in compatibility and style
The play is set around the Whitby Goth Weekend.
The weekend is something of a dynasty to goths and you can’t move without seeing people dressed up in black.
Belinda fits in but Ken doesn’t,but she soon changes that and gives him a great makeover, which makes him standout like a sore thumb.

Belinda manages to get a gig at Whitby because of a Toyah Wilcox injury, but Toyah makes a fantastic recovey,the agent gets a lot of abuse from Belinda but her ex offers her a chance to perform on the main stage at the Weekend.

The second half starts with the guys close enough to Whitby but not quite there and the atmosphere can be cut by a knife with the tensions brewing in the air between everyone.
But the real action comes later !!

Love is patient, Love is kind and Love is strange but True love is great and when you find it you don’t want to lose it and you can’t help who you fall in love with can you?
I will say that the cast had great chemistry and you could see that from the off and it made the show enjoyable from the start.

Goth Weekend is a great play with some of the best lines in it like “I’m the queen of darkness I can’t be seen in a Costa coffee"
The whole team can be proud of themselves with this production,  it’s been written really well and it will have you laughing and sometimes nearly credit to Ali Taylo, he should bring more shows to Newcastle.
Helen Coyston made the design work and some of the costumes were fantastic, the stage was adapted well for every scene.
The lighting and sound design was fantastic but as a sound engineer myself you need longer XLR cables on stage (Health and Safety and all that).
Tiger Johnson was the lighting designer and he makes and uses light in ways that are truly inspirational and definitely understands Goth music, Paul Stear did a fabulous job with the sound and there was always something catching my ear and in between the scenes he uses music extremely well.

Both Director and Assistant Director (Paul Robinson and Alice Kynman) deserve a lot of credit for all their hard work with this play.

The play is fantastic, amazing and funny and a show that everyone could enjoy.
It has a 14+ age limit as there is some mild nudity throughout the play.

But what happens to Belinda and Ken do they fall in love and live happily ever after? You will just have to go and watch the show if you want to find out.

The show runs  on till Saturday 28th of Oct

Reuben Hiles

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Geordie the Musical -Review- Tyne Theatre

Geordie The Musical
Wednesday 11th of October 2017
Tyne and Opera Theatre.

Written by Tom Kelly
From a story by Andy Bogle
Directed by Jamie Brown
Musical Direction by Mike Turnbull

Geordie The Musical takes us back in time to 1890 at The Wheatsheaf Pub,  a place where a good pint and a sing song are guaranteed on the banks of the River Tyne.

James Melia is the landlord of the pub and is played by Dale Meeks. He has just recovered from a nasty injury that he received after a pit accident which made him unable to go back to his job. His wife, Bella Melia is the real boss of the family and is played by Viktoria Kay, she is feisty and doesn’t take any prisoners but is well liked. Their daughter is played by Eleanor Chaganis who is extremely bright and is hopefully off to Durham University.

The pub has its regulars including Michael Cumisky who is played by Luke Maddison, he is a good old Irish boy who has come to the North East to look for work and finds it. Another is Robert, played by Cullercoats’ very own Phil Corbett.  Micky Cochrane plays iconic Geordie songwriter Tommy Armstrong and Donald Mcbride plays Oliver Heslop, another North East legend. Adam Donaldson plays John Thompson, an Oxford University student that comes to Newcastle to further his studies.

Amongst all the humour the tone is brought down by Joshua Adams. He is played by James Hedley who always seems to be a bad person in anything I see him in!

The pub is where most of the action takes place, and a community is built within this pub, which I do think is lacking in everyday life these days. Something which I think needs to change. Using the talents of both Tommy Armstrong and Oliver Heslop to convey what it was like back in the 1890s, it deals with issues such as job satisfaction, death, gender equality and class inequality... problems which are still ongoing today.

I believe they understood it better back in those days and that's why a sense of community was stronger then. What happens now is that people requiring help look mainly to the government. I think the church needs to help people (and I'm a Christian myself) We need to stop being so focused on ourselves in general and help others. To me, this musical showed what can happen if people come together.

The Set is fantastic and is designed by Kate Unwin. It is complemented extremely well by the lighting and sound design of Chris Miller and the duo Chris Allen and Reece Lyons. Lou Duffy was the costume designer for the show and they were fantastic.

Two people who were on stage but in a non speaking role were Adam Nyberg and Peter Morris. They played the violin and double bass respectively and it just added the final great touches to the play.

The show was in memory of Jackie Fielding who was due to direct it. She unfortunately was taken far too soon and Jamie Brown stepped in. I have to say the whole cast and crew of the show should be so proud. I’m sure Jackie would be pleased if she was still with us.

With great songs such as Keep Your Feet Still Geordie Hinny, The Water of Tyne and Byker Hill and Walker Shore (which I have to say was the best song of the night, MD Mike Turnbull has to take the credit there) and not forgetting Blaydon Races, which sent shivers down my back it was that good.

I'd brush up on your Geordie dialect if I were you or you may not understand much.

But, it’s a great play full of North East pride and values that should never be lost.

Reuben Hiles

The Hartlepool Monkey -Review- Northern Stage

We all know the tail of the Hartlepool Monkey, but if we are unsure how Fuel Theatres magical
production will end, and perhaps as a warning to the younger audience members, the actors reveal the ending at the very beginning. A monkey will be hung.

It’s the beginning of the 19th century in a small northern coastal town. The villagers look after their own, but are fearful of French invasion and starvation as their one and only fishing boat is sank by the French. The village elders, pillocks of the community, try to dissuade the villagers seeking help from as far away as Middlesbrough, for fear that their self serving tax plans will be figured out. The landlord is struggling to make ends meet himself as his stores are bled dry, but refuses help from his son, dismissing him as young and daft.

Meanwhile a young French girl Clemence, has stowed away on a battleship to fight the English and kill King George. She finds a mischievous creature in the bowels of the ship, and they find themselves the only survivors of their wrecked ship, washed up on the Hartlepool shore.

The small ensemble jump between roles at breakneck speed and with boundless enthusiasm. A cleverly designed set by Samual Wyre and lighting design by Matt Daws help transport us from Battleship to shore to Tavern in an instant. There is never a dull moment.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Gyre and Gimble’s puppet monkey, Napoleon. Operated with breathtaking skill by Fred Davis, and the rest of the ensemble, the acrobatic Napoleon jumps and swings around the stage. Including a hilarious set piece as the playful primate causes havoc in the sleeping town.

This really is a show that younger theatre goers should love. There is however a disturbing torture scene that is just about as full on as puppet violence can get, more so even than the plays climax. However the 8 year old girl near me seemed more entranced than distressed.

The fear and xenophobia of the villagers, miss-information in the press and self interest of the leaders, brings this play to its inevitable conclusion. Whilst something much more sinister is going on under their noses.

It’s a story that is pertinent to our time. With 70% of Hartlepudlians voting leave in the EU Referendum last year, we are left asking has anything changed? The play explores the themes around the referendum result in a very human way. Self serving elders, ‘Fake news’, the old disrespecting the young, ‘economic anxiety’, fear of outsiders and looking after our own. It’s a lesson that a 10 year old can easily understand, that sometimes you can get so scared you forget to be kind. It’s also a lesson that 51% of the electorate need to understand.

K. Katurian

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Exit Routes - Review - The Theatre Upstairs

Exit Routes
The Theatre Upstairs
10th October 2017

Presented by The Billingham Players
Written by Liz Turner
Directed by Denise Philips

The Theatre Upstairs is a quirky little theatre on Billingham Green. A former dance hall, the auditorium has tiered seating but no stage which makes it feel like an indoor amphitheatre. it makes for a versatile and interesting performance space. It is the home of the Billingham Players, and from the moment you enter and climb the stairs there is a sense of  community here. The walls are decorated hand painted theatrical images, and a stair lift waits patiently to help anyone who can't manage the climb. You are welcomed with a smile and a greeting at the desk, and counted for the all important visitor stats. Tonight there is a very pleasing buzz of conversation as people take their seats, calling greetings across the seats as obvious regulars arrive and spot friends in the audience. . The atmosphere is relaxed, warm and friendly.

As the house lights go down however, the chatter stops instantly and the show begins. The setting is a factory canteen, complete with plastic chairs, Formica tables, a service counter offering an array of snack food and a tea urn. The cast enter to the strains of "Here come the girls"  - an ironic, yet apt musical choice as it very quickly becomes clear that these are no kick-ass girl-power divas, but downtrodden, bored factory workers. They have just had the joy of a lottery win, swiftly followed by the disappointment of the size of the pay-out. The women talk about what they will do with the money: Laura, the youngest, has already spent most of hers, the older women will save theirs and put it towards Christmas. The amount of the win is enough to make the present a little easier, but not enough to help them escape the drudgery of factory working. And as the play progresses we learn that they all have other reasons to want to escape, and for some, reasons why escape is unlikely.

This is a funny play. The women dream of a better life, they joke, and carp, and push boundaries, sometimes over stepping the mark, but never entirely falling out - until one of them does the unthinkable. The women spark off each other as only a close knit group can do. It reminds me of Shakers, and The Rag Trade.

For me the two stand out performances come from Hanna Smith and Carol Daley. Hanna as the youngster Laura, struggling to understand the older women, living for the moment, and refusing to see life beyond 30. The scene in the pub where she drinks herself almost under the table is classic. (Yet another example of convincing drunken acting, I am beginning to wonder if it is a speciality of North East amateur dramatics!) And Carol is completely convincing as the Lithuanian Halina, from the accent that never falters to the facial expressions and gestures, she is decidedly Eastern European!

This was my first time at the Theatre Upstairs, all in all it was an enjoyable and entertaining evening.
Theatre right on your doorstep, and they have a bar and ice creams. What more could you need?
Exit Routes plays until Saturday, tickets are just £11/£9 and you can pay on the door.

Denise Sparrowhawk

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Wipers Times -review- Northern Stage

Event:     The Wipers Times 
Image: Alastair Muir
Location: Northern Stage Newcastle 
Date:       4.10.17, 2pm (matinee performance)

Sometimes you just know something is going to be good before it happens. As I went to sit down before the start of the performance I noticed that the seat allocated to me had a small plaque on the back bearing the name of much loved local broadcaster and presenter Mike Neville MBE.

The Wipers Times by Ian Heslop & Nick Newman is based on a true story. Set during the First World War, amidst life in the trenches, two officers decide to create a newspaper  upon the discovery of a printing press. No ordinary newspaper was this to be though, instead a satirical funny and subversive paper was to be produced  to entertain the troops. The Wipers Times (named because of the mispronunciation by British soldiers of the Belgian town of Ypres where they were based) has been described as laugh a minute whilst maintaining the sensitivity and the respect that the subject warrants.

The stage was on the right side of dark and with sounds of enemy bombardment overhead and dust and debris coming from above it creating the eerie atmosphere of the ever present danger of what life in the trenches must have been like.
Peppered with music hall style song  dancing and singing and with jokes coming through thick and fast it certainly lived up to its very theatrical description.

From laughing along with the problems they had with the  publication, ranging from not having enough letter E’s to print the words they wanted to and the top Brass venting their disapproval of it all (they were of course the butt of many of the papers jokes) to the lump in my throat at the poignant moments, we followed  The Wipers Times journey as it's popularity and readership increased even reaching outside of the trenches and people back home. It was published for two years, had 23 issues and only stopped shortly after the news came through of the amnesty, the war and the paper was over.

The cast of ten (some playing more than one character) filled the stage wonderfully at all times with their individual personality, particularly the very expressive faces which kept the feeling of warmth and humour throughout 

Near the end of the show I heard a kerfuffle in the row behind me and a woman's voice could be heard loudly shouting expletives and getting angrier and angrier. I got the impression that she was unhappy with someone sitting behind or in front of her. It got to the point that I thought we may have to leave our seats and take cover but the staff soon came over and handled the situation very well with minimal disruption to the audience and the actors on stage seemed unaware of what was happening.

I really enjoyed this show. It was a story that I'd not come across before so as well as being extremely interesting it was a great mix of fun and entertainment all round whilst never forgetting the human side...that these men chose and managed to maintain humour and mirth during such harrowing and worrying times

The Wipers Arms is currently touring the UK directly from a record breaking West End run. It runs at Northern Stage until 7th October. If you can, go see it, you won't be disappointed 

Belinda Bekki-Winter 

Cast (in alphabetical order) 

Kevin Brewer 

Nurse/Madame Fifi/Lady Somersby
Clio Davies 

Lieutenant Colonel Howfield 
Sam Ducane 

Captain Roberts 
James Dutton 

Lieutenant Pearson 
George Kemp 

Chris Levens 

Deputy Editor/General Mitford/Sergeant Tyler
Dan Mersh 

Jake Morgan 

Smith/Bobbing Bobby/Chaplain 
Joseph Reed 

Kate Roberts 
Emilia Williams 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hi-De-Hi! - People's Theatre - Review


Photographs by Paula Smart
People's Theatre
3rd Oct 2017

It's 1956 and holiday camps are the place to go for a fun filled family holiday. We are at Maplins, Crimpton-on-Sea, all set to be entertained by the team of Yellowcoats - under the watchful eye of Gladys Pugh.
The evening's entertainment starts even before we reach the auditorium, as smiling Yellowcoats greet us in the foyer bar and welcome us to Maplins, handing out "Guess the Baby" competition sheets and encouraging us to join in the games and activities later. On the tables there are invitations to  ballroom dancing demonstrations with Yvonne and Barry. It is all very nicely done and sets the mood for the play that is to come.

The stage is set on two levels - at the back, raised up, is Mr Fairbrother's office, business-like with its desk and telephones, while at the front we have holiday camp itself, complete with striped beach hut style entrances leading off stage to "staff only" areas. This area is transformed from staff room to Hawaiian Ballroom with a roll of a tea-trolley or Peggy's cleaning cart. And of course in one corner we have Gladys's office, complete with microphone for the P A system and the glockenspiel. As we settle into our seats the music starts and the Yellowcoats enter. Gladys takes her seat, picks up the sticks, hits those three notes and says "Hello campers, Hi-de-Hi!" our half hearted Ho-de-Ho! is chastised in lilting welsh, "Oh, come on now, you can do better than that! Let's try again..."
This is it, the holiday has begun.

The play is a joy to watch, recreating on stage the characters so expertly drawn for television by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Rye Mattick is perfect as the simpering and smouldering Gladys Pugh, trying to attract the attention of Jeff Fairbrother, and the haughtiness as she bosses the other Yellowcoats - her body language and facial expressions are classic and will have you laughing out loud! Sean Burnside is equally perfect as the gauche and self conscious Jeffrey Fairbrother, like a fish out of water trying to cope with the demands of both his job as Entertainments Manager and as the object of Gladys's affections. His halting, stuttering delivery is quite brilliant. These two are the stars of the show, aided and abetted by the rest of the cast.

The Yellowcoats sparkle and smile, Barry and Yvonne (Gordon and Val Russell) snipe and carp their way gracefully across the dance floor, Fred Quilly (Andrew De'ath) and Mr Partridge (Mike Smith) grumble and argue, while Ted and Spike (Jack Thompson and Paul Gaitsell) keep us entertained with bad jokes and terrible contests, and Peggy (Alison Carr) cleans the chalets and dreams of becoming a Yellowcoat.

It's funny, warm, lighthearted comedy in a production that is true to the original in every sense - the only thing missing is the Olympic sized swimming pool.

It runs until Sat 7th October and is perfect light entertainment.

Denise Sparrowhawk

Friday, September 29, 2017

Hi-De-Hi - Peoples Theatre - Preview

The People's Theatre presents Hi-De-Hi!
adapted by Paul Carpenter and Ian Gower
from the original TV series by Jimmy Perry and David Croft

“Good morning, campers!”

Next week the People's Theatre is inviting audiences to join them along the chalet lines as their theatre in Heaton is transformed into 1950s holiday camp Maplins!

This adaptation of the hugely popular TV series sees its host of colourful characters brought to the stage. Will Gladys capture her boss's heart? Will chalet maid Peggy achieve her burning ambition to become a Yellowcoat? Will that rogue Ted ever stop trying to scam the campers? Whatever happens, don't be late for the knobbly knees contest in the Hawaiian Ballroom!

HI-DE-HI! by Jimmy Perry and David Croft (who also penned Dad's Army) ran for an incredible 58 episodes between 1980-1988, scooping a BAFTA along the way for Best Comedy.

Based on Perry's own experiences as a Butlins Redcoat, the show charts the exploits of the Camp entertainment staff led by bumbling ex-professor Jeffrey Fairbrother.

The nights may be closing in, but it's eternal summer at this holiday resort in Crimpton-on-Sea where the Yellowcoats are always on hand with a smile and a joke.
Fast, funny and warm-hearted, HI-DE-HI! promises to be a fun-packed night out full of comedy, laughter and music. There are even prizes to be won, with Camp competitions including ‘Guess the Baby' and a dance contest. Unfortunately health and safety no longer allows them to recreate the infamous Blindfold Bicycle Competition! 

So don't hang about and be sure to reserve your deckchair by the Olympic-sized swimming pool. And when those Yellowcoats shout “hi-de-hi” remember to come back with a nice loud “ho-de-ho”!

Also showing ‘Born With A Darker Tan' by Jayamini de Silva, presented in association with the Biscuit Factory a this stunning exhibition in the newly decked out foyer. 

DATE: Tuesday 3 to Saturday 7 October 2017
TIME: 7.30pm
VENUE: People's Theatre, Stephenson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5QF
TICKETS: £13.50 (Concessions £11)
BOX OFFICE: 0191 265 5020

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Private Lives - Gala Theatre - Review

Private Lives
Gala Theatre
28th Sept 2017

Presented by London Classic Theatre
Written by Noel Coward
Directed by Michael Cabot

The stage is set  - matching verandas in a hotel in the south of France. Louvred shutters, leading into unseen rooms. Two honeymoon suites with two newly married couples. A band plays below in the hotel grounds. A familiar tune to one half of each couple and the catalyst that sets the drama in motion as they realise that their ex-spouse in the room next door.

Olivia Beardsley as Sybil Chase hits just the right level of ingenuous innocence as she gushes over the hotel, the view, her new husband - but quickly reveals a knowing waspishness when asking about his ex-wife.  She is not so na├»ve as she makes out. Elyot (Jack Hardwick) is louche and sardonic, but quickly loses his temper as the questions and comments about his first wife come thick and fast.

Amanda (Helen Keeley) and Victor Prynne (Kieran Buckeridge)  in the neighbouring suite play out a mirror image of the Chases' conversation - all is not as it seems in their newly wed relationships. Helen Keeley plays the glamorous socialite with flare, slipping from vampish teasing to sardonic boredom and back again with ease. While Kieran Buckeridge carries off the bluff, utterly smitten husband, the archetypal gentleman, prepared to defend the honour of his lady. What he discovers is his lady may not have any honour to be defended.

The joy of the play is that the audience sees the situation unfolding - we are in the know and can anticipate what will happen. Although written in 1930 and set very much in the sophisticated world of the elite upper classes, Coward's observation of human nature is such that the story can still be enjoyed today by a very different audience. The plot - a story of a couple who love with a passion, who cannot bear to be apart but cannot live together is a perennial one. Written today it would perhaps be a darker, grittier play. but this is Noel Coward, and it is a light, frothy battle of the sexes.

A sumptuous set, fabulous frocks for the girls, great timing and sharp acting make this a perfect night out.
Private Lives is at the Gala till Saturday before continuing its national tour. Dates and venues here:

Denise Sparrowhawk