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Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Preview: Oh No It Isn’t at South Shields Customs House

Award nominated London Theatre company comes to the Customs House!

Oh No It Isn’t
South Shields Customs House
Friday 26th April 2019

LKT Productions were nominated for two prestigious Off West End Awards for their recent London production of Th’Importance of Bein’ Earnest that saw the Oscar Wilde classic relocated to a Yorkshire Council estate with hilarious results. They are now delighted to be visiting Customs House as they take their critically acclaimed production Oh No It Isn’t! on tour.

They’re the best of sisters onstage but the worst of friends off it.

It’s the final performance of Cinderella in a moth-eaten, regional theatre and backstage tensions threaten to boil over onstage.  Will the egotism, oneupmanship and sexual politics remain confined to the dressing room?  Will the ugly sisters keep the professional professional and the personal personal?  Will we ever find out what happened during Babes In The Wood?

Oh No It Isn’t! is written by and stars Great British Pantomime Award nominee Luke Adamson. His new play is a reflection on his 20 years in the theatre, how the business has changed and the challenges that actors and theatres face in the 21st century.   The hilarious and moving new play combines scenes and routines from pantomime with the backstage dramas of the two actors playing the ugly sisters in Cinderella. Adamson says “a lot of the anecdotes and stories featured in the show have actually happened to, or been retold to me while working in theatre. Some are genuinely unbelievable but very true. Pantomime is probably the single most popular show in a theatre’s calendar and Oh No It Isn’t provides a chance for the audience to enjoy some of their favourite scenes from panto outside of the festive season, but also a unique opportunity to see behind the curtain and appreciate the hard work, the sacrifices and the real lows that can affect those involved in creating their Christmas treat.”  

Luke is delighted to be returning to Customs House after his critically acclaimed Alzheimer’s play One Last Waltz played there in 2015: “Customs House is a brilliant venue that does brilliant work for its community, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit in 2015 and I can’t wait to come back. I’m also very excited to be playing at a venue that has such a renowned pantomime! The style and quality of the Customs House panto is revered all over pantoland.”

This show is not suitable for children 

Oh No It Isn’t plays South Shields Customs House on Friday 26th April 2019

News: One Night Only At Sunderland Empire!

One Night Only At Sunderland Empire!

A host of one night music spectaculars are set to hit Sunderland Empire stage over the coming weeks! 

The Solid Silver 60s Show (31 March) is the original and premier sixties show, bringing you classic hits performed by the original hit makers. For over 30 years, The Solid Silver 60s Show has entertained the nation and celebrated the world's most loved music. This year 60s favourites Peter Noone, Brian Poole and Dave Berry with Vanity Fare unite for what could be the last ever The Solid Silver 60s Show. Don’t miss your chance to see this slice of sixties history as The Solid Silver 60s Show tours the UK, bringing together the decades’ biggest artists singing their greatest hits and relive some of your fondest memories.

Next up, re-live the sights and sounds of the sixties with The Bootleg Beatles (7 April) as the band returns with their spectacular two hour multi-media stage production featuring all the classic Beatles hits. Using film footage of the period and 'with a little help from' their regular brass and string ensemble the show traces the history of the Fab Four from Liverpool's Cavern Club through Sgt Pepper to The Apple Rooftop in what has now become one of the 'not to miss' annual traditions of the seasons calendar.

Following continued public demand, the World’s Official No.1 tribute to the legendary rock band The Illegal Eagles (28 April) return on tour. The Illegal Eagles are internationally renowned for their outstanding ability to recreate the Eagles’ distinctive sound with both flare and incredible authenticity. Featuring all of the Eagles’ classic hits including Hotel California, Take it to the Limit, Life in the Fast Lane, Take It Easy, Lyin’ Eyes, Desperado and many more! Don't miss stunning vocals, tight harmonies and awesome guitar riffs!

Prepare to be transported on a musical journey through the history of Country, featuring songs from its biggest stars in country music, both past and present when A Country Night in Nashville (1 May) recreates the scene of a buzzing Honky Tonk in downtown Nashville.

A Country Night in Nashville perfectly captures the energy and atmosphere of an evening in the home of Country Music. Hits from Johnny Cash to Alan Jackson, Dolly to the Dixie Chicks, Willie Nelson to Kacey Musgraves, are showcased by the amazing vocals of Dominic Halpin, Shelly Quarmby and their fabulous backing band, the Hurricanes. With songs including Ring Of Fire, Crazy, Sweet Home Alabama, Don’t Rock The Jukebox, Need you Now, 9-5 and Don’t Worry Baby, this incredible celebration of Country music is a night not to be missed.

Tickets are available from the Sunderland Empire box office and online from ATG Tickets: http://bit.ly/ATGSundEMPIRE #Ad

Monday, 18 March 2019

Preview: Miss Julie on tour

Theatre director Jake Murray brings play Miss Julie to the North East, 24 years after seeing his famous father’s version on stage

Miss Julie
Durham Gala Theatre March 23rd,
North Shields The Exchange March 28th – 30th,
Darlington Majestic Theatre April 3rd - 4th.

A theatre director is following in his famous father’s footsteps by bringing the classic play Miss Julie to the stage, almost 25 years after seeing his dad’s version.

Jake Murray grew up in a theatrical household, with director dad Braham Murray who received an OBE for his work in 2010, and theatre designer mum Johanna Bryant.

In 1995 he watched Braham’s take on Miss Julie, which starred Amanda Donohoe at the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and vowed to stage his own version one day.  Fast-forward a quarter of a century and Jake’s vision of Miss Julie, which focuses on the relationship between the daughter of a Lord and his head butler/valet, is finally being brought to life.

He has adapted the historic play, which was written by August Strindberg in Sweden in 1888, to set it in the North East of England and it will be performed at stages across the region when it tours from March 13th – April 4th.

Jake said: “Having a theatre director dad and a theatre designer mum, I grew up with talks about playwrights and productions at the dinner table, when most people would be discussing TV soaps.  I was reading Strindberg’s plays when I was a teenager and fell in love with them. The man who translated his plays into English Michael Meyer was a friend of the family, and he became a mentor to me.  I want to show my enthusiasm for Strindberg Miss Julie is one of the most transformative plays of all time, all working-class drama has a debt to the play – even shows like Coronation Street and EastEnders. Miss Julie was the first play to have working class characters taken seriously.”

Miss Julie will visit The Queens Hall, Hexham March 13th – 14th, the Gala Theatre, Durham March 23rd, The Exchange, North Shields March 28th – 30th and The Majestic Theatre, Darlington April 3rd-4th. The production will also feature local amateur actors and students from each of the areas it is being performed, as part of the cast.

The play will be particularly poignant as Braham, who worked on hundreds of plays in his lifetime and was awarded an OBE for his services to drama, died just last year aged 75.  Jake added: “I think my father would be delighted that I was doing this. There was always a mix of pride and competition whenever we did the same play. When I watched my father’s version it looked too pretty, it just wasn’t gritty enough. It didn’t get close to the sexiness of how Strindberg wanted it to be. The actors who are playing Miss Julie and John in my production have known each other for years and the chemistry between them is amazing. I want people to come away thinking ‘I want to read and see more of his stuff’.”

Jake set up Durham-based theatre company Elysium in 2017 with Danny Solomon, who will play the male lead, John, in the production.  Local, amateur actors from each of the locations that the play is being performed (Hexham, Durham, North Shields and Darlington) have also been cast to be part of the ensemble.  The company aims to bring the best in theatre to the North East and sets its plays in various locations across the region.

Rehearsal Photos: Ed Rees

To buy tickets, head to www.elysiumtc.co.uk.

News: Funding Boost For Youth Arts Festival

Funding Boost For Youth Arts Festival

The Takeover at The Customs House in South Shields is ready for take-off as preparations get underway for its fifth year. The youth arts festival, held during the May half-term holiday, has received a funding boost of £31,000 from the Scottish Power Foundation. It is one of 25 organisations to share in £1.25m in the foundation’s annual awards.  

The Takeover is a week-long arts festival that is produced by, with and for young people to develop and showcase their leadership skills. It features music performances, theatre shows, visual art exhibitions and workshops.  t is led, planned, marketed, delivered and evaluated by the Takeover Team, a group of 14 to 25-year-olds who are recruited from diverse backgrounds and have varying leadership and arts experiences.
Izzy Finch (left), Learning and Participation Officer
at The Customs House, with rapper Kay Greyson
and young people taking part in Takeover 2018.
Izzy Finch, Learning and Participation Officer at The Customs House, said: “This is our second year receiving funding from the Scottish Power Foundation for our annual youth festival Takeover. We are absolutely thrilled to be one of the 25 projects selected and are committed to making sure Takeover 2019 is our most diverse festival yet.”  She added: “For many young people there are few clear and visible pathways into the arts as a professional career route. Takeover is one of the only opportunities young people south of the Tyne will encounter to be trusted and empowered to take over arts programming, take risks and work alongside professional mentors to deliver arts provision developed by young people for young people.”

The Takeover Team meet every Monday at The Customs House, between 4.30pm and 6.30pm, to plan the festival with Takeover Team co-ordinator Natasha Haws. If you are aged 11 to 25 and are interested in joining the Takeover Team, or would like to find out more, please e-mail izzy@customshouse.co.uk.

The Scottish Power Foundation was established in 2013 with the aim of making a significant and lasting contribution to society, enhancing the lives of people living in communities throughout the UK. It provides funding to registered charities involved in the advancement of education, environmental protection, citizenship and community development, science, the arts, heritage or culture, as well as the prevention of poverty and relief of disability and other disadvantages.

Mike Thornton, foundation chairman, said: “Each year it is incredible to see the applications received from projects across the UK that are making life-changing differences to people in their communities.  We’re so pleased to announce this year’s funding package for 25 projects across the UK, which are all doing incredible work to make a real difference to their communities and the people living in them.”

Saturday, 16 March 2019

News: Shirley Ballas To Star In Darlington Hippodrome’s Jack And The Beanstalk

Shirley Ballas To Star In Darlington Hippodrome’s Jack And The Beanstalk

Shirley Ballas will be swapping the Strictly dancefloor for the Hippodrome stage later this year to star in the theatre’s annual pantomime.

Darlington Hippodrome are delighted to announce Shirley Ballas will star in the festive family pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk as Mother Nature, helping Jack outwit the evil giant and win fame, fortune and the hand of the girl he loves.

Having danced since the age of seven, Shirley has taken the dancing world by storm. She is 3 time ‘British Open to the World’ Latin American Champion, 10-time US Latin American Champion, and multiple-times British National Champion.  By 21, Shirley had won nearly every major title she competed in worldwide. She is the only person to have ever won the 'British Open to the World' Latin American Championships in Blackpool with two different partners and reached the finals an impressive 17 times. Shirley still remains the youngest ever female to reach the 'British Open to the World' Dance Championship finals.

Since hanging up her competition heels twenty years ago, Shirley has gone on to forge a hugely successful career as one of the top Ballroom and Latin teachers and adjudicators in the world. She brings her immense expertise and experience to the judging panel of BBC’s primetime show Strictly Come Dancing, where she has been Head Judge since 2017.  In addition to her role on Strictly, Shirley has been seen giving masterclasses and commentating on the American series Dancing with the Stars, is a frequent panellist on Loose Women, was the subject of BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are?, joined ITV's This Morning team presenting the feature Matchmaker Mountain, and climbed Kilimanjaro for Comic Relief’s Return to Kili. Last year Shirley made her pantomime debut for producers Qdos Entertainment in Liverpool, winning acclaim from audiences and critics alike.

Jack and the Beanstalk will be produced by Qdos Entertainment, the world’s biggest pantomime producer, and the team behind Darlington’s annual pantomime, who guarantee another must-see production packed with audience participation, sensational music and dancing, jaw-dropping special effects and fantastic festive entertainment suitable for all ages.

Jake Hine, Executive Producer for Qdos Entertainment, said: “I’m thrilled that we have managed to tempt Shirley out from behind the Strictly judging desk to show Darlington audiences just why she’s considered one of the world’s finest dancers. After her debut in pantomime for us last year I know Hippodrome audiences will enjoy yet another fantastic show this festive season.”

Darlington Hippodrome Director Lynda Winstanley said: “Strictly Come Dancing is one of the most popular programmes on television so who better to star in Darlington’s best pantomime than head judge Shirley Ballas. I’m sure Darlington audiences will be as excited as we are to see Shirley tripping the light fantastic on the Hippodrome stage.”

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Friday 6 December 2019 to Sunday 5 January 2020. For full details and to book visit www.darlingtonhippodrome.co.uk or call 01325 405405.

Preview: Strangers on a Train Set at South Shields Customs House

 Crime Fiction Forms Basis Of Murder Mystery Spoof

Strangers on a Train Set
South Shields Customs House
Tuesday 26th March 2019

A murder mystery set on a model train is calling into The Customs House on a whistle-stop tour of the UK.

Strangers on a Train Set is the latest production from LipService Theatre, which has been creating original comedies from a distinctly female perspective since 1985, picking up a number of awards along the way.

Challenging a youth to turn down his music, Irene Sparrow, inventor of the left-handed crochet hook finds herself under suspicion of murder after the train emerges from a tunnel with the young man dead. 

But this is no ordinary train, each passenger is reading a book and each book is a portal into a parallel universe of train-related crime fiction, referencing the likes of Brief Encounter and Murder on the 4.50 from Paddington.

With clever use of projection and train sets, LipService give you a whistle stop tour that will leave you breathless and racing for the refreshment coach.

Ray Spencer, Executive Director of The Customs House, said: “LipService always bring a fresh take on stories we all know. They are funny and clever storytellers and bring great productions to the stage.”

LipService’s Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding specialise in literary spoofs and have been described as ‘the Laurel and Hardy of literary deconstruction’ (The Guardian).

Strangers on a Train Set is their 21st show, with previous productions including The Picture of Doreen Gray, Inspector Norse, Withering Looks, Very Little Women, Jane Bond, Move Over Moriarty and Mr Darcy Loses the Plot.  As well as their work on stage, they had their own series on Radio 4 – nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award – and have twice won the Critics Award for Comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Strangers on a Train Set is directed by Lawrence Till, whose TV credits include Shameless, Mr Selfridge, Love and Marriage and The Young Offenders. Michael Holt (The Woman in Black) is the designer and Oliver Vibrans the composer.

On The Web:
Video clip of the show: https://vimeo.com/295770189

Tickets, priced from £14.50, are available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online at www.customshouse.co.uk.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Preview: BalletBoyz: Them & Us at Newcastle Northern Stage

BalletBoyz are back with two brand new works, both set to original scores by world-class composers.

BalletBoyz: Them & Us
Newcastle Northern Stage
Friday 22nd - Saturday 23 March 2019

Photo: Hugo Glendinning

Hugo-GlendinningThis spring, the internationally lauded dance troupe BalletBoyz will bring their new show to Newcastle. Them/Us is an innovative double bill and a brand new collaboration from the company’s own critically acclaimed dancers and the Olivier Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.

BalletBoyz are known worldwide for their ground-breaking live performances, films and TV appearances. The new productions are both set to original scores by world-class composers and asks where we see ourselves in relation to the “other”.

Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Marking a first for BalletBoyz, Them is the work of the company’s very own in-house talent, and set to a score by emerging composer Charlotte Harding. Us is inspired by the critically acclaimed Christopher Wheeldon duet featured in the company’s last show, Fourteen Days. With an extended score by cult singer/songwriter, Keaton Henson, Christopher Wheeldon develops this new work which explores the possibilities of before, during and after. 

Christopher Wheeldon, choreographer for Us, said: “I’m relishing the opportunity to work with BalletBoyz again to create a new work that expands on my previous work with the company, Us. It’s a pleasure to be working with Keaton Henson once again after his music for Us inspired me to investigate a new style of movement.”

Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Charlotte Harding recently composed for Craig Revel Horwood’s The Indicator Line in BalletBoyz’ Fourteen Days. She graduated from the Royal College of Music, London with a first-class honours degree and won the prestigious Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother Rosebowl, presented by HRH Prince Charles. Charlotte is passionate about the role music can play in both health and education. She is also an accompanist with BalletBoyz, working for the Parkinson’s CAN Dance classes. Charlotte has also been involved in leading and assisting educational workshops for BBC Symphony Orchestra and Teenage Cancer Trust.

Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Keaton Henson is an English folk rock musician, visual artist and poet from London. Henson has released six studio albums. His music video for “Charon” was shortlisted for a UK MVA award in Best Budget Indie/Rock Category. “Small Hands” won Best Music Video at the Rushes Soho Shorts Film Festival in 2012. In November 2012, Henson designed a t-shirt for the Yellow Bird Project to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Henson also composed the score for the multiple Award-nominated film Young Men by BalletBoyz and BBC 2.

Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Christopher Wheeldon is a British choreographer who trained at The Royal Ballet School and danced with the Company between 1991 and 1993. With the New York City Ballet he performed as a soloist and became the company’s first-ever artist in residence and first resident choreographer. Christopher has created productions for all the world’s major ballet companies, and in 2007 he founded Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company and became the first British choreographer to create a new work for the Bolshoi Ballet. His awards include the Tony Award for Best Choreography for An American in Paris, and he was made an OBE in 2016. Christopher has worked with BalletBoyz on numerous occasions in the past, including Mesmerics.

Photo: George Piper
Sarah Crompton, Writer & Broadcaster, met up with the choregrapher to discuss this production. “I have never found it hard to turn a corner and walk down a new pathway without a map,” says Christopher Wheeldon, with a grin.  “I know most people like to know where they are going, but I struggle with that notion.  It’s not who I am at all.  Maybe I will turn the corner and there will be a precipitous drop that I’ll step off, but the risk-taking and the potential for disaster in the end is actually quite good fuel for creativity.  And maybe too that’s why I enjoy working with the BalletBoyz because they’re that way too.”

Photo: George Piper
He laughs.  When you first meet him, Wheeldon is the man least likely to be branded a risk taker.  He is calm, polite and – despite years living in New York – still has the demeanour of the nice boy from Somerset that he is.  But in more than 20 years as a choreographer and a director, he has changed directions numerous times.  This means he has built a body of work that is essentially uncategorisable from the Broadway musical An American in Paris, to pure classical ballet works for the Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet among other companies, to more contemporary pieces such as Us for the BalletBoyz.

Photo: George Piper
It all started in 1993, when, at the age of 19, he defied his destiny. Having trained at the Royal Ballet school and seeming to be on track to spend his entire career with the company, he used the airline flight he won in a competition to go to New York and talk his way into NYCB.  Four years later, he became their first resident choreographer.  

Photo: George Piper
Since then he has been constantly busy, but his career has taken many twists and turns.  He has founded his own dance company and watched it fold due to lack of funds; he has won a Tony for best choreography, for his award-winning rethinking of An American in Paris, which he also directed and which has enjoyed worldwide success.  He is an Artistic Associate of the Royal Ballet, where he made the hugely popular The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, a three-act ballet, as well as numerous smaller works. 

Photo: George Piper
“I love doing such different things and being all over the place.  I have to use my brain in different ways, and I think that’s what’s stimulating about being able to jump between different forms of dance and theatre.  I think that is probably what allows me to work as much and as consistently as I do without getting exhausted.  I have quite a lot of belief in my ability to achieve things.”
Wheeldon is also capable of working at incredibly high speeds.  For his new piece for the BalletBoyz, Us, he is expanding a duet to the music of Keaton Henson, that took him 14 days to create.  Its expansion has taken 10 days.  “I have to say that there is a kind of excitement contained within that breathlessness. There’s no time to mess around.  You just have to get on with it.”

Photo: George Piper
He has known the company’s founders, Michael Nunn and William Trevitt, since they were all at the Royal Ballet School together.  “They were both seniors when I was a junior.  And I love being able to say that now,” the 45 year old says with another laugh.

Photo: George Piper
They bonded when Nunn and Trevitt accompanied him to Moscow in 2006, where Wheeldon was choreographing his first piece for the world-famous Bolshoi Ballet.  The commission turned into a saga of disaster, only retrieved at the last minute and the story was recorded in Strictly Bolshoi, an engrossing tale of triumph snatched from the jaws of defeat.  Since then Wheeldon has been a regular contributor to the Boyz’s endeavours.

Photo: George Piper
His latest piece will be presented in a double bill, alongside a piece called Them choreographed by the all-male company themselves.  “I love the way that they are always thinking a lot about how to make their programmes entertaining.  How can we make challenging, complex dance more accessible to a broader audience,” Wheeldon says. “They are very creative in the room and really hands on in a way that I think contemporary dancers tend to be more than ballet dancers anyway.  Ballet dancers wait to be told what to do, and there’s an etiquette and a politeness about rehearsals that doesn’t exist so much in the contemporary dance world and certainly doesn’t exist with the Boyz. Which is not to say they are impolite.  I think they are about the most polite group of gentlemen that I have ever worked with, but they’re hands on and they like to roll their sleeves up and be part of it.”
Photo: George Piper
The current BalletBoyz Company includes: Sean Flanagan, Benjamin Knapper, Harry Price, Liam Riddick, Matthew Sandiford and Bradley Waller.

On The Web:
Twitter: @BalletBoyz
Facebook: /BalletBoyz
Instagram: /BalletBoyz

Tickets are from £10 and can be booked from the theatre on 0191 230 5151 or online: https://www.northernstage.co.uk/Event/balletboyz-them-us