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Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Preview: Tommy Tiernan at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre

Tommy Tiernan brings new, no holds barred stand-up show to
Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre and Opera House
Saturday 21st March 2020
General sale tickets are available from 10:00am on Thursday 19thth September online from #Ad
One of the world’s most respected comic performers, Tommy Tiernan, returns to the Tyne Theatre & Opera House with his brand-new stand-up show, Tomfoolery, on Saturday 21st March 2020.

The star of hit show Derry Girls (Channel 4), Live at the Apollo (BBC) and his own critically praised improvised chat show on Ireland’s RTE 1, is renowned for his no holds barred approach to the art of stand-up. His legendary record-breaking ticket sales extend across the world.

‘Tommy Tiernan: Tomfoolery’ sees the now 50 year old comedian back onstage with an exhilarating mix of the highly personal and flamboyant storytelling that audiences have come to love.

Age has not dulled him, in fact he seems more full of fire and mischief now than he ever was. He wonders aloud about God, sex and family in a way that seems equally sacred and profane at the same time. His stories and ideas are as full of drama as they are of wit and fun.
A feral philosopher king.” – The Scotsman
Tiernan can drop in turns of phrase so exquisite that you could call them a sound installation and enter them for the Turner prize.” – The Times

Tommy Tiernan is the latest addition to a jam-packed programme of comedy shows at Tyne Theatre & Opera House. Other upcoming names include; Josh Widdicombe, Ben Elton, Daniel Sloss, John Robins, Alexander Armstrong, Ardal O’Hanlon and Ed Byrne.

Tickets are priced: £21.50 (recommended age 15+)
General sale tickets are available from 10:00am on Thursday 19thth September online from #Ad

Preview: Mark Billingham at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

‘An Audience with Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham’ brings SAS leader to
Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre and Opera House.
Friday 20th March 2020
General sale tickets are available from 10:00am on Wednesday 18th September at #Ad

TV’s most experienced, highest ranking and most decorated SAS leader and sniper comes to Tyne Theatre and Opera House with his show An Audience with Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham on Friday 20th March 2020.
Billy is a former SAS Sergeant Major Class 1 and Bodyguard to the Stars including Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Russell Crowe, Sir Michael Caine, Tom Cruise and many others.

Billy is also known for his role on SAS: Who Dares Wins, which sees ex-special forces soldiers put recruits through a recreation of the SAS selection process. The chief instructor of the show is Ant Middleton, who sold out his Tyne Theatre & Opera House ‘Audience with’ show in 2018.
This ‘in conversation’ event will be an evening of fascinating stories from Billy’s time in the SAS and as a bodyguard, hosted and produced by endurance (running) world record breaker Mark Llewhellin. There will also be a Q & A and a chance to meet Billy.

Mark Billingham joins an exciting list of inspirational guests looking to share their experiences with an audience at Tyne Theatre and Opera House. Other upcoming events at the theatre include Ben Fogle: Tales of the Wilderness and Bradley Wiggins: An Evening With.

Tickets are priced: £24

General sale tickets are available from 10:00am on Wednesday 18th September at #Ad

Saturday, 14 September 2019

REVIEW: When The Boat Comes In Part 2 at South Shields Customs House

When The Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hungry Years
South Shields Customs House
Until Saturday 28th September 2019

The Customs House continues to create shows about its local community. A bright star in the South Shields cultural scene, they have taken the brave step to create a sequel to their successful 2018 reboot of the TV show which ran from 1976 and 1981. While sequels are a major money spinner in the film industry, they occur less frequently on the stage. So, the first question is “did you need to see the first show?”

“Part 2” is intended to be a stand alone show so that you can start following the show from this stage. The programme has a brief summary of the last show which helps provide a context to the new show. Indeed, without buying a programme the performance does just about enough to introduce each character and the reasons why they are interacting with one another in a particular way. Steve Byron, as Bill Seaton, quickly sets his stall out when he finds lead character Jack Ford in the bar. The history between most of the characters is re-revealed over the next 20 minutes, as would be normal in a stand-alone play – thus this show has probably done enough for someone to see this instalment without seeing the first one.

Whereas part one was looking at the effects of returning from the First World War, writer Peter Mitchell now looks at the “Hunger Years” that followed. Peter is the son of the original TV series screenwriter and he continues to be faithful to the original source material.
Jack Ford’s (Jamie Brown) story here starts with him now married to Dolly (Anna Bolton), the mother of his unborn baby.  He may be missing meals and out of work but he is doing well when compared to his neighbours. TB and consumption are claiming lives leaving widows like Carrie (Sarah Balfour) with kids to feed and no means to pay the rent. Indeed, the show begins with a funeral at the Seaton family. Jack had previously dated Jessie (Alice Stokoe) and her dad (Steve Byron) has not forgiven him for his later indiscretion. Her mother Bella (Janine Birkett) and brother Tom (Matthew Howdon) are more forgiving towards Jack.
The Cast
But the thing is: Jack is all about Jack. He is a survivor and adapts to whatever situation he finds himself in. Jack finds work thanks to Horatio Manners (Steve Byron) which involves using his cunning against Lord Calderbeck (Charlie Richmond) and his irritating nephew Leslie (Adam Donaldson). At times Jack has few allies but using his guile he plots his way in a Britain with no employment rights and no welfare state that we’d recognise today.

This show has short musical interludes that crop up occasionally. Some of these feature Luke Maddison singing as a suave waiter. In one such moment during a change of scenery his version of Mack The Knife turns into Jack The Knife which become a real earworm on the way home and it was still going on in my head at the end of the night. Luke should consider doing a big band swing album – he really has the voice for it. He is also a great versatile actor, that we’ve seen on many occasions in a wide variety of roles, and he was different again later in the show when he appears as the political agitator Sidney Poskett.

Talking of adaptive actors, Alice Stokoe, Adam Donaldson, Steve Byron and Charlie Richmond are playing contrasting roles at different points of the show. They pull off being super rich and entitled characters in some scenes and scraping the barrel whilst living a poor person’s existence below the breadline in other scenes. Unlike some shows, it is clear by the costumes (Alison Ashton) and accents that different people are being portrayed.

Alison Ashton is also responsible for a set design exposes more parts of the theatre stage than normal. This does help create an atmosphere of the stripped-down existence for the ship building community. The set and lighting (Kev Tweedy) keep the action rolling whilst reminding you of characters that have just left the action as they walk behind the main screens.

The show has a pleasing array of strong female characters and director Katy Weir gives each one a chance to show their mettle when coping with survival and the sometimes, hopeless men. The characters that Alice Stokoe, Janine Birkett, Anna Bolton and Sarah Balfour perform show strength, compassion and a greater ability to forgive but not to forget the wrongdoing around them in each of their own situations. Janine’s Bella for example, as wife of the hard-done-by Seaton, does not welcome Jack’s wife but recognises a woman in distress and supports her at her moment of need. By contrast Steve Byron’s Seaton doesn’t get off his high moral standing and is willing to let the pregnant woman suffer alone. In another situation it is Anna Bolton’s Dolly who shows compassion for a neighbour who has starving kids next door. All it would need is for one of them to be a bookie’s runner and it would be very close to my grandma’s stories of living next to the docks in Hull.

I cannot write a review without mentioning the tour de force that is Jamie Brown who adds Jack Ford to his extensive repertoire of characters that he has entertained us with. A good actor makes you believe they are the person they portray and Jamie has that ability to do this. This is another success for the versatile North East actor.

This is a continuation of the story but there is a different feel to the first instalment. Here, the effects of WW1 are now more limited to people remembering the conscientious objectors. After all, that generation tended not to talk about their roles in the war. This show is about how the nation failed to create a home fit for heroes, how the class structure remained in place and those without were allowed to perish. Homelessness, no welfare state support and the lack of access to health care are issues facing workers on short term or long periods out of work. There are powerful issues on show here but no lectures are delivered.

The Customs House has created another production that reflects the DNA of its local community. Strong acting, an interesting script and intelligent direction couple together to make for a pleasing evening in the theatre. There is also a feeling that there could be a part 3. Same again next year?

When the Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hungry Years runs from Thursday 12th September to Saturday 28th September with evening performances at 7.30pm and a 2.30pm matinee on Thursdays and Sundays. There will be no shows on September 16 and 23.
Tickets, priced from £16, are available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online at

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Preview: Only Fools and Boycie at Hexham Queen’s Hall

Boycie (John Challis) comes to the Queen’s Hall Arts Centre in Hexham

Only Fools and Boycie
Hexham Queen’s Hall Arts Centre
Tuesday 24 September 2019

Only Fools and Horses star John Challis, a household name for his portrayal of used car dealer Boycie in the hit TV show, is coming to Hexham with his one-man theatre show, on tour nationally this autumn.

John, who has also appeared in ITV comedy Benidorm, and headlined the Only Fools spin-off comedy The Green Green Grass, will be visiting more than 30 theatres between September 12 and November 11 and is stopping off in Hexham on Tuesday 24 September.

The show draws on anecdotes and behind-the scenes secrets from John’s colourful career which spans more than 50 years, in theatre, on television, and in several movies.

John says: “In the show, I talk about my Only Fools and Horses co-stars like Sir David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst, my memorable encounter with The Beatles, and recall tales from my time in Dr Who, Coronation Street and other TV classics. And afterwards, I stop to sign autographs and pose for selfies.  I’ve been so lucky to be part of something like Only Fools and Horses, and I never forget that it’s the people who turned their tellies on, who put us where we are.“

“It’s great to get the chance to go out on the road and meet the people who have been following us for so long. Even after all this time there is still such a huge love for the show, and it’s rarely off our TV screens.  I have also been lucky enough to appear in Benidorm, which has turned into another cult show, and one of my fondest TV memories was appearing alongside Tom Baker in what has become one of the famous Doctor Who stories.  So there are no shortage of tales to tell from my career – but I also like to open up part of the second half of the show to the audience, so they can ask me questions.”

The show also includes a chance to meet and greet John at the end of the performance, for autographs and pictures. 

Only Fools and Boycie will be at the Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham on Tuesday 24 September at 7.30pm. Tickets are £18.00 and available from the Box Office 01434  652477 or online at   

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Preview: I Have Met the Enemy (and the enemy is us) at Byker Community Centre

What if we said that Britain (this tiny island) is the second biggest arms dealer in the world?

Common Wealth and Northern Stage present:
I Have Met the Enemy (and the enemy is us)
Byker Community Centre, Newcastle
Wednesday 16 - Saturday 26 October 2019

Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award-winning company Common Wealth takes on the UK arms trade as the topic under scrutiny in its latest site-specific production. Delivered by a former British soldier, a Palestinian citizen and a Yemeni artist, I Have Met the Enemy (and the enemy is us) examines the personal perspectives of two people with lived experience of war, against the backdrop of global politics; asking audiences to take a close look at the UK defence industry and the role we play, as both a nation and as individuals, in wars that are seemingly far away. 

Alexander Eley, a former British soldier, and Mo’min Swaitat, a Palestinian citizen, meet in an intimate and powerful exchange, in a joint attempt to understand the UK arms trade and its    impact around the world. Through differing perspectives and a shared love of techno (both are techno DJs - an unlikely common ground discovered early in the rehearsal process), they take us on a personal and political journey into the darkest corners of what makes Britain tick. Sharing a stage with 72 electronic metronomes (representing the 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets sold to Saudi Arabia this year by the UK) and a community cast in Byker, Common Wealth will transform these spaces into worlds for audiences to explore freely - a world charged with light, sound and robotic installation. Audiences will be allowed agency and decision-making about when they want to participate, intervene, or simply observe - but they are always complicit in the action. 

The performers will guide audiences through the complex landscape of the arms trade, at times taking on the role of arms dealers, politicians and action heroes; at other times being completely themselves, sharing stories, thoughts and feelings based on their own lived experiences - including the discovery of their shared love of techno music, which acts as a coping mechanism and form of release for them both. 

In collaboration with Yemen-based Comra Films, I Have Met the Enemy will feature a third  character, Shatha Altowai, a Yemeni painter whose artwork and materials were lost when her neighbour's house was hit by an air strike. Shatha will join Alex and Mo'min on stage through video footage filmed in Yemen to share her own experiences with the audience, highlighting the impact of British arms used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen today. Britain’s role arming Saudi Arabia in the ongoing war in Yemen is the focus of many national and international campaigns, and earlier this year the Court of Appeal declared the UK government’s licensing of these arms sales unlawful. As Common Wealth start rehearsals for I Have Met the Enemy, DSEI, the biggest arms fair in the world, exhibits in London to over 35,000 attendees, from 50+ countries around the world.

A co-production with Northern Stage, the show will have its world premiere at Byker Community Centre, Newcastle; building on a long term partnership between the city-centre theatre and the local community of Byker. Common Wealth will work with a community cast of seven local people who will add another layer to the show by offering their own experiences and understanding of the arms trade. They will play an important role in helping the audience to understand how the arms trade affects people living in the UK. The local cast will share their personal experiences and help to build the world that transforms Byker Community Centre.

Ahead of its Byker premiere, I Have Met the Enemy will preview at TFD Youth Centre in Holmewood, Bradford - an area, like many others that are socially and economically deprived, whose demographic is typically targeted by the British Army, according to a briefing document for the army’s ‘This Is Belonging’ campaign.

Evie Manning and Rhiannon White, Co-Artistic Directors of Common Wealth said “We have been inspired by friends and family members who have experienced war directly, hearing firsthand accounts of what it means to live through conflict. The show will be told by two performers who have lived experience of war – a former British Solider and a Palestinian Citizen. I Have Met the Enemy is an attempt to understand someone who has been positioned as your enemy. 

The production will give a personal perspective on the experience of war; encouraging us to understand how the UK’s sales of military arms affects people and nations. Our hope is for us all to understand how close war is to us, be it through those we know or by the knowledge that weapons are made just down the road from us. The show will be a very visceral experience, it will encourage audiences to confront themselves and the wider world and imagine something new.”

I Have Met the Enemy (and the enemy is us) is co-directed by Evie Manning and Rhiannon White, and devised by Common Wealth in collaboration with writer Hassan Mahamdallie (playwright and campaigning journalist for race equality) and performers, Alex Eley and Mo’min Swaitat. Robbie Thompson (award winning Glasgow-based visual artist) will create a kinetic, sonic and visual environment that will underscore, disrupt and punctuate the world, with lighting design by Andy Purves (Hang, Sheffield Crucible; Radical Acts, Common Wealth).

I Have Met the Enemy (and the enemy is us) is a Common Wealth and Northern Stage co-production, in association with Chapter and Southbank Centre. 

The show previews at TFD Youth Centre, Bradford, from 27 September to 5 October before its world premiere at Byker Community Centre, Newcastle, from 16 to 26 October; with further UK touring dates to be announced for Cardiff, London and Edinburgh in 2020.

Funded by Arts Council England, Bradford Council and Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Photo: Jon Pountney & Ronnie Macdonald

Cast & Creatives
Devised by Common Wealth in collaboration with writer Hassan Mahamdallie
Co-Directors Evie Manning and Rhiannon White
Performers & Co-Devisors Alexander Eley, Mo’min Swaitat & Shatha Altowai
International Collaborators Comra
Films Designer Robbie Thomson
Lighting Designer Andy Purves
Digital Designer Matt Wright
Joining the performances at Byker Community Centre will be cast members from the local community.

On The Web
Web and social media links: @Common_WealthHQ

I Have Met the Enemy (and the enemy is us) appears on Wednesday 16 - Saturday 26 October 2019. Performance times:  7pm, 6pm on Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 October, with matinees on Saturday 19, Wednesday 23 and Saturday 26 October at 2pm
Byker Community Centre, Headlam St, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2DX £10 and £2 for Byker residents Tickets via and on 0191 230 5151
Running Time: Approx. 75 minutes
Suitable for ages 12+

Monday, 9 September 2019

Preview: When The Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hungry Years

Cast Announcement

When The Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hungry Years
South Shields Customs House
Thursday 12th - Saturday 28th September 2019

Rehearsals are well underway for the next big production in The Customs House calendar – the sequel to the smash-hit When The Boat Comes In.

When The Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hungry Years picks up where the first instalment, which premiered at The Customs House last year, left off and continues the story of life in the fictional Tyneside town of Gallowshield during the inter-war years.

Based on the acclaimed BBC TV drama, which ran from 1976 to 1981, and subsequent books, the stage adaptation is written by Peter Mitchell, the son of the original creator, James Mitchell, and focuses on former Army sergeant Jack Ford.

(Top l-r) Charlie Richmond, Matt Howdon, Steve Byron, Jamie Brown and Janine Birkett 
(bottom l-r) Sarah Balfour, Anna Bolton, Adam Donaldson, Alice Stokoe and Luke Maddison.

Now married to Dolly and with a baby on the way, the Twenties are no longer roaring on Tyneside and with no job, no prospects and no hope of escape, the ever-resourceful Jack identifies a way out - and a way up.

Jamie Brown as Jack Ford 
Award-winning actor Jamie Brown (The Machine Gunners, The Man and the Donkey, Hadaway Harry) returns to the role of Jack, while West End performer Alice Stokoe (Mamma Mia, American Idiot, Sister Act) returns as Jessie Seaton.

Steve Byron, an actor/drama practitioner with 25 years’ experience of working within community theatre in the north east, will play Bill Seaton/Horatio Manners and Janine Birkett, whose film and TV credits include Billy Elliott, Coronation Street and Inspector George Gently, will play Bella Seaton.

Tom Seaton will be played by Matt Howdon (Leaving), Matt Headley/Lord Calderbeck by Charlie Richmond (The Last Ship, My Uncle Freddie, Bobby Robson Saved My Life) and Dolly Ford by Anna Bolton (Emmerdale, Doctors).

Mrs Downey will be played by Academy of Live and Recorded Arts graduate Sarah Balfour (Hyem), Sidney Poskett by Luke Maddison (Leaving, Geordie the Musical) and Leslie Calderbeck/Les Mallow by Adam Donaldson (Geordie the Musical).

Director Katy Weir said: “First and foremost, When the Boat Comes In is a story about family and love. With characters we can relate to and situations many have been through, we tell a story that we hope will touch people’s hearts.  I knew Part 1 was going to be a big show that would have a strong following because of its history, but I wanted us to put our own slant on it and I kept my fingers crossed that our audience would go with us. They did. It took a long time to assemble the cast as you have to make sure not only that the actors are right for the part, but that all the characters fit together. The cast is back - with one new addition - and we’re looking forward to seeing what we can create.” 

When the Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hungry Years runs from Thursday 12th September to Saturday 28th September with evening performances at 7.30pm and a 2.30pm matinee on Thursdays and Sundays. There will be no shows on September 16 and 23.
Tickets, priced from £16, are available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online at 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

REVIEW: Carrie The Musical at Long Eaton Duchess Theatre

Carrie The Musical
Long Eaton Duchess Theatre
Saturday 7th September 2019

The folk here at the North East Theatre Guide are big fans of Carrie. It is one musical that has made us clock up the miles. A run down to London to witness the show’s first appearance in the capital and a cast recording that is a regular on our playlist is not enough. Thus, we headed down to Derbyshire to witness another rare appearance for the Stephen King character. We were not disappointed. This may have been an amateur performance but, in many ways, it understood the source material much better than the 1988 RSC debut just up the road in Stratford.

No, we weren’t planning on writing about this show. No. This was a night off. But when Anna McAuley nailed her big opening solo number Carrie it was obvious that we were going to have to write something. Trust me – as we ate post show pizza in the hotel afterwards it is the first time that I was told “You have to cover this one”. Jo loved the relationship between Carrie (Anna McAuley) and her mother Margaret (Kathryn McAuley). They did not come across as strangers who had just met at the start of rehearsals and you actually cared for them. Director Ollie Turner actually made you feel for them. Wee-man loved the live band which was out of sight in London. He wants a copy of the score now. Charlotte Daniel led a tight band that, somehow, brought life to that cast recording. So… on with that review.

I’ll skip the history lesson – read our last review if you want to know why so many people are fascinated about a musical that rarely gets performed in the UK. I will add though that a new generation are discovering the show after an episode of Riverdale featured the musical – though some fans of the Netflix show did not clock that the musical had not just been written for the show. The downside for us is that a simple internet search for Carrie now gets lots of Riverdale links. I’ll also add that Carrie survived 21 performances on Broadway, not just the 5, including opening night, that some reviewers are quoting. Hey – some of us actively seek those precious recordings.

Carrie White is that girl in the final year of High School that everyone picks on. She is the one that gets abused when the other kids are having a bad day. Raised by her strict Christian mother Margaret, her life falls apart even more when she is embarrassed by having her first period in the school showers and not knowing what is happening to her body. Two girls, narrator Sue Snell (Ruth Kniveton) and head strong Chris (Lucy Castle) lead taunting of Carrie and are punished by their gym teacher Miss Gardner (Emma Collins). Sue is repentant and wants her boyfriend Tommy Ross (Andrew Bould) to take Carrie to prom. Chris is having none of it and she wants her prom date Billy (Kheenan Jones) to help her get revenge on “scary White”. Carrie’s mother, likewise, is not sympathetic when Carrie recalls the story of her day at school and punishes her for “becoming a woman”. The story proceeds towards Prom Night – the night they’ll never forget.

The musical has two strands that overlap: Carrie and her mother perform mainly operatic-style numbers in their humble home. It was pleasing to see the songs performed with strength, emotions and a certain fragility. Meanwhile, the schoolkids try to survive the remaining days at school with numbers that are more pop/rock in genre. They have the confidence of youth coupled with the uncertainties for the future. Lucy Castle comes across as the confident leader during Do Me A Favour, Ruth Kniveton, by comparison is able to show compassion with Once You See. We also have Reverend Bliss (Adam Guest)  and his choir performing Open Your Heart rather than just pumped through on the radio which was a nice touch.

The show was an emotional rollercoaster. We were not the only ones feeling it as there was an audible gasp from the audience when Margaret performed her last scene with Carrie. Clearly not everyone has seen the movie and/or read Stephen King’s book as it seemed to be a genuine surprise for them how it all ends.

The young cast worked well as a unit and the ensemble coped well with some difficult material. This production showed that the musical can be produced effectively with a much smaller budget than the original attempt in 1988. This was a great evening at the theatre and we wish everyone involved success in the future. Now we await someone who’ll finally do the show in the North East…

Review by Stephen Oliver.