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Saturday, 4 April 2020

Preview: Gateshead International Festival of Theatre Goes Digital in May

Gateshead International Festival of Theatre Goes Digital in May

Gateshead International Festival of Theatre
Friday 1- Sunday 3 May 2020

Gateshead International Festival of Theatre launches digital, tenth edition programme of performance art and interactive events- to connect artists and audiences to share, and inspire creativity.

This week the Gateshead International Festival of Theatre, (GIFT) announced a fully digital, thought-provoking programme of contemporary theatre, dance, talks and workshops; featuring Jonathan Burrows, Matteo Fargion, Wendy Houstoun,Tania El Khoury, Action Hero, Greg Wohead, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas, from Friday 1- Sunday 3 May 2020.

Aiming to entertain, inspire and reaffirm the importance of artistic and cultural communities throughout the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s festival features exciting UK premieres and an eclectic programme exploring human connection, surveillance, resilience through crisis and international identity. GIFT creates a vibrant, curated space for self-isolating artists and audiences to harness domestic technology to encounter bold new works, share human stories, build networks and discuss ideas. Over 30 performances and events will be presented in real time, online at, and tickets are available to book, from Friday 10 April.

GIFT was created to make extraordinary things happen across Gateshead, and this year’s tenth edition will transport global artists and audiences at home on sensory journeys to virtual locations, ranging from a radio studio campervan in Europe and a detention centre, to a rock band escape, a tropical getaway, and a kids catwalk birthday party.

Contemporary artists are once again invited to participate in GIFT by pushing the parameters of their practice and performance genres; showing their work, co-creating new pieces in response to the pandemic and other urgent modern day issues, and meeting other artists at digital social events. Alongside the main programme, a community of North East artists who regularly engage with GIFT, including Unfolding Theatre, Gillie Kleiman and Rosa Postlethwaite, will be offering bite-size online opportunities to welcome new audiences, and facilitate conversations across the festival community. 

GIFT 2020 performance highlights include:

Don't Worry Me By Atresbandes
Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas
Photo: Berta Vicente & Richard Perryman
The UK online premiere of thrilling performance collaboration, IT DON’T WORRY ME, by ATRESBANDES, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas, interrogating the tension between art and political correctness. Audiences will find themselves at the heart of a supposedly ‘empty space’ analysed by two commentators, but as they become ‘the commented-on’, theories and visual associations spiral the show out of control, meaning, and context. After the show audiences are invited to join the artists in a virtual cocktail lounge for small talk and martinis (Friday 1 May). 

Crack Of Dawn by Greg Wohead. 
Photo: Paul Blakemore
Crack of Dawn: Online premiere of Texan writer, performer and live artist, Greg Wohead’s improvised durational, sunrise to sunset performance featuring four artists simultaneously performing from different UK locations. In January 2009, Greg and his partner found themselves in rural Illinois sitting at the kitchen table of a traditional Amish couple. Secret thoughts, differing perspectives and apple butter recipes are shared over a distance as one afternoon turns into a strange, kaleidoscopic examination of empathy, assumptions, and the possibility or impossibility of ever really understanding one another. Jokes recur, facades slip and there might be Time After Time karaoke (Saturday 2 May).
Radioh Europa by Action Hero
Photo JMA Photography
RadiOh Europa- artists Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse of Action 
Hero create a 24 hour international homage to love, in a new digital translation of their continent-spanning work, Oh Europa, where they travel through Europe in a motorhome recording strangers’ love songs. Audiences can tune in live to enjoy all the love songs recorded to date by global performers, and newly recorded songs from North East artists including Ross Millard of The Futureheads and actor Charlie Hardwick. Since 2005, Action Hero have created performances spanning theatre, live art, installation, multimedia and site-specific practice, touring to over 30 countries across five continents (Saturday 2 May, 9pm through to Sunday 3 May, 9pm).  

As Far As Isolation Goes by Tania El Khoury & Basel Zaraa.
Photo: Basel Zaraa
 As Far as Isolation Goes (Online). Lebanese artist Tania El Khoury and Basel Zaraa invite audience members to individually take part in this thought-provoking performance installation, using touch, sound and interactivity, to experience the personal journey of one man’s detention centre inhumanity (Friday 1 May- Sunday 3rd May, performances for one audience member at a time).

World premiere of soundscape, Music For Lectures/ Get lost, written and spoken by Wendy Houstoun with music by Jonathan Burrows, Francesca Fargion and Matteo Fargion. A funny and deeply moving podcast show, a new commission by GIFT, which invites audiences to listen to a short piece on lostness through the medium of a rock band, while walking or running in a moment of escape from the house, colliding travels with a virtual journey that goes nowhere. Music for Lectures: Get Lost is the third of an ongoing series conceived by Burrows and Fargion, inviting artists to deliver a talk, alongside band accompaniment (available across the festival, for download- Friday 1 May- Sunday 3 May).

Elision by Gudrun Soley Sigurdardottir
Elision, by Icelandic artist Gudrun Soley Sigurdardottir - In a climate of division and disconnection, this live performance piece explores national identity through an attempt to stay warm in a fake tropical set. A funny and tender show, which invites the audience to work with materials and objects at home in the same way as planned for a live theatre space, and draws on autobiography, pop culture and ice in its many forms (Saturday 2 May, broadcast live from the artist’s home).

Audiences can enjoy two intimate Scratch performances by UK theatre makers Luca Rutherford and Greg Wohead, over lunch, followed by a facilitated feedback session, in a Scratch n’ Scran. SQUAWK is an ARC Stockton Production co-commissioned by the Albany, Cambridge Junction and Theatre in the Mill, presented by Luca Rutherford. A story of discovering quiet power in a moment of making a lot of noise, SQUAWK is about the stories we tell, the ones that get retold and the ones we hide behind. The ones we have the power to re-make, re-mould and disrupt. Greg Wohead’s In Floods is an early-stage reading of new material outlining the strange things that can happen when you unexpectedly return to where you came from, for two back-to-back funerals. The lump in your throat grows until there is no room for it (Saturday 2 May).

Ships-Ov-Fool by Gobscure.
Photo: Liz Rose Ridley
Intimate live performance installation ships-ov-fool, by writer-performer-artist and former Sage Gateshead summer studio resident, gobscure international, followed by a post-show conversation. In this new playful work, Newcastle-based gobscure (Sean Burn) weaves together storytelling, soundscapes and objects inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’s painting ‘Ship of Fools’, in which the artist once found temporary peace. This playful performance questions those currently shouting their sanity the loudest (Friday 1 May).

GIFT audiences will once again be at the forefront of the action this year, from the comfort of their own homes. They can book to be the sole participant in intimate interactive shows; workshop performance ideas; air and share views in lively talks and debates and enjoy drinks and chats with artists in GIFT’s virtual post show festival bar, from their own kitchens. Families can take a break from entertaining children with a fun-filled, Little GIFT House Party, offering hours of games and activities and the creative use of household items, run by family-focused company Chalk.

Interactive art works, events, talks, debates and workshops include: 

Manifestos From Times Of Crisis  - Scottish Artist Rosanna Irvine poses provocative questions about our responses to the current global pandemic, in a new participatory public art work, where groups of people connect across distances and differences to come up with their own collective future manifesto. Conceived during the current COVID19 outbreak, Manifestos From Times Of Crisis  creates a virtual gathering space to reflect on what is happening, how we are living - and how we want to continue. Lively audience interaction guaranteed (Friday 1 May-Sunday 3 May). 

International Working and Sustainability- GIFT Festival Director, Kate Craddock, joins a panel of guest speakers from arts venues and festivals across the world for a lively debate about working internationally, its environmental impact and how to create artistic projects more sustainably (Sunday 3 May).

The Atresbandes, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas post-show cocktail lounge- hold on to that Friday night theatre feeling, with a post-show cocktail party in GIFT’s online festival bar, hosted by Bert, Nasi and Atresbandes. Join the makers of It Don”T Worry Me E for a post show cocktail, curated playlists and chat. Audiences are asked to bring their a-game small talk, internet connection, burning questions, sincere and insincere reactions to the show. The place to hang out for discerning theatre goers (Friday 1 May).

Making Intergenerational Stories: Where have I been, where am I now, where am I going?- CINAGE Live Director, Teresa Brayshaw, and performer and facilitator, Hannah Butterfield, host a talk, film screening and accompanying workshop designed to get people reflecting on their own experience of ageing. Based on two innovative and ongoing practice-based research projects, CINAGE: Film & CINAGE: Live, the session will encourage the telling of personal stories by older people through the creative practice of film writing and theatre making. The workshop will involve movement, speech and writing and is open to people of all ages, with priority booking for people in Gateshead (Saturday 2 May).

Exploring Process: A lively workshop led by Atresbandes, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas, for theatre makers and artists working across performance disciplines, which sees the artists explore their own distinct methods for theatre making and the processes they encountered coming together to create ‘IT DON’T WORRY ME’ (Saturday 2 May).

GIFT Festival Director, Kate Craddock, said: “Amidst the devastating and hugely uncertain times that we face, we’re delighted to still be able to deliver GIFT as a digital experience for artists and audiences this May. Packed with new and experimental shows, sensory installations, practitioner workshops, provocative talks and plenty of fun social events, we aim to make GIFT as powerful as ever, and celebrate our tenth edition in style. 

Little Gift House Party by Chalk
Photo: Dan McCourt for Chalk
“The festival was created to remove barriers between artists and audiences, nurture creative communities and have fun together in the process. It gives a crucial platform to otherwise underrepresented North East contemporary artists and shares big ideas and creative responses to Gateshead, as a site of regeneration and transition.This year, more than ever before, we’re using GIFT’s spirit and energy as a vehicle for artistic communities, and the millions of people impacted by this pandemic, to come together, to inspire and encourage each other, maintain vital artistic conversations and champion our human resilience and creativity. 

“To keep the buzz of an ephemeral real-time festival, events will be presented with their usual scheduled starts, audiences will have digital tickets and can enjoy after-show virtual drinks and chats in the festival bar. We’d love to see you this May for a very special GIFT 2020.”

All events will be hosted on Tickets are available to book, from Friday 10 April and audiences can make a Pay What You Decide donation to support this year’s festival here.

GIFT is supported by artists, funders and partners including Arts Council England, Gateshead Council and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

News: Darlington Hippodrome to offer free online dance classes for children and young people


Darlington Hippodrome to offer free online dance classes for children and young people

Darlington Hippodrome, in association with the D Project, will run three free interactive online dance classes each week for the next three weeks, prior to the beginning of the summer term when the venue’s regular programme of Youth Theatre and Youth Dance classes will move online.

The first sessions will take place on Thursday 2 and Friday 3 April. The session at 10am on Thursday will be a Contemporary class – a mix of contemporary centre exercises (including floor work). You will learn phrases with restricted space in mind and also get creative with choreographic tasks.

On Friday 3 April there will be two sessions, At 10am, young people of all ages can join a Dance Fitness class –  exercise to music with fun movement , that will keep spirits up and maintain stamina, strength and flexibility. At 2pm Debbie will teach the Mass Dance routine due to be performed at this year’s Darlington Dance Festival.

As well as being aimed at existing members of the Hippodrome’s Youth Dance, April’s free online classes are also open to new participants! If your child would like to give it a go, simply email up to an hour before the start of each class and you’ll be sent a link to join the session on Zoom.

NEWS: Newcastle Theatre Royal Delay Search For New Chief Executive

Newcastle Theatre Royal Delay Search For New Chief Executive

Newcastle Theatre Royal Chief Executive Philip Bernays has today announced that he is to postpone his planned retirement.

Newcastle Theatre Royal Chief Executive Philip Bernays
In light of the unprecedented challenges the Theatre Royal is facing, in common with all other theatres, the Board of Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust has taken the decision to postpone the recruitment of their new Chief Executive while they focus on managing this crisis.   The current Chief Executive, Philip Bernays, has kindly agreed to stay on to lead the organisation through this difficult time.  

Whilst it remains their intention to hire a new Chief Executive in due course, the Board recognises that many potential candidates will also be fully engaged on working through these issues with their own organisations for the foreseeable future.

Philip Bernays said: “These are extraordinary times and we face extraordinary challenges. I care deeply about the Theatre Royal and couldn’t not continue to support it and the incredible team of people who make it happen. We will come through this crisis; we look forward to bringing entertainment to many generations of theatregoers to come.”

Newcastle Theatre Royal closed its doors on Mon 16 Mar 2020 and has cancelled a number of upcoming performances as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Affected customers are being contacted directly and as a registered charity that receives no funding and relies on ticket sales for the majority of its income, it has launched a donations campaign to help support the venue – further information can be found at

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Preview: Cinderella at Darlington Hippodrome

Tickets Now On Sale For The Fairy Godmother Of All Pantomimes, Darlington’s Cinderella

Tickets for Cinderella, this year’s spectacular festive family pantomime at Darlington Hippodrome, are on sale now!

Scene from the 2019 Panto
You shall go to the ball this Christmas with the spectacular family pantomime Cinderella at Darlington Hippodrome. Packed with all of the traditional pantomime ingredients audiences expect, Cinderella features laugh out loud comedy, stunning scenery, beautiful costumes and plenty of boos and hisses.

Scene from the 2019 Panto
Join Cinders as she goes from rags to riches, outwits her ugly sisters with help from her best friend Buttons and meets her dashing Prince. This Christmas bring your family to the most magical of all pantomimes where you can make festive memories as precious as a glass slipper.

Cinderella 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.

Star casting to be announced soon!

Cinderella runs at Darlington Hippodrome from Saturday 5 December 2020 to Sunday 3 January 2021. For full details and to book visit or call 01325 405405.

News: Theatre Hosts Online Quiz

Theatre Hosts Online Quiz

Darlington Hippodrome will be engaging with the community with an arts and entertainment online quiz on Friday 27 March at 7.30pm to help celebrate World Theatre Day.

With the entire country adopting social distancing measures people have looked to the internet to keep engaged with family, to keep fit, to remain mentally active or just to learn new skills.

Through the power of Zoom – an online meetings app – Darlington Hippodrome will be engaging with theatre lovers with an online arts and entertainment online quiz which will take place on Friday 27 March at 7.30pm. There will be rounds on music, art, literature, films and more. Homes can take part as a small team or you can take part as an individual – there will be no ‘winning’ prize – just the fun of joining in a large social online event to help pass the time.

Rebecca Howarth from Darlington Hippodrome told us “This way of engaging with the community is all very new to us and it may be a little rough around the edges, but the theatre is looking at new and exciting ways we can engage with the community to keep spirits up, have some fun and allow people some social interaction in these difficult times.”

Rebecca continued “Over the last couple of weeks Zoom has become the go-to app to allow large groups of people to engage in activities such as keep fit classes, singing classes, drama classes and even learning how to knit. It’s a great way to meet friends and make new ones as well.”

If you are interested in taking part in the online quiz simply go to the Darlington Hippodrome Facebookpage and ‘attend’ the Virtual Quiz Night event. Further details will be posted in the event on Friday evening. All you need to take part is internet access, a phone or laptop with a camera, pen and paper for your answers, an open mind and a sense of humour.

The quiz will be open to the first 100 participants who access the Zoom event on the night, but don’t be disappointed if you miss out on this occasion as there will be future theatre events to get involved in.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Preview: Strictly Ballroom The Musical on tour

Strictly Come Dancing’s Kevin Clifton
To Star As Scott Hastings In
Baz Luhrmann’s
Strictly Ballroom The Musical
2020/2021 UK & Ireland Tour
Directed By Craig Revel Horwood

26/10/2020 – 31/11/2020      Sunderland Empire
08/02/2021 – 13/02/2021      Darlington Hippodrome
15/02/2021 – 20/02/2021      Newcastle Theatre Royal

Former Strictly Come Dancing champion Kevin Clifton is to star in the 2020/2021 UK & Ireland tour of Baz Luhrmann’s smash hit Strictly Ballroom The Musical, playing the lead role of Scott Hastings. After seven glorious years on Strictly Come Dancing, last week Kevin announced his departure from the series and now he makes a full-time move into the world of musical theatre in a role that couldn’t be more perfectly suited.

Kevin Clifton
Kevin Clifton said: “I’m beyond excited to be finally fulfilling a lifelong ambition to play Scott Hastings in Strictly Ballroom The Musical.  When I was 10 years old I first watched the movie that would become my favourite film of all time. This is my dream role.  Plus I get to work with Craig Revel Horwood again!  I really can’t wait to don the golden jacket and waltz all over the UK from September this year in what’s set to be an incredible show!”

The musical is based on the award-winning global film phenomenon, ‘Strictly Ballroom’, which inspired the world to dance. Directed by Craig Revel Horwood, this all-singing, all-dancing and all-glittering show is set to dazzle audiences once more with the new 2020/21 tour.  Kicking off in Nottingham on 26 September, the musical will then waltz around the UK & Ireland before culminating in Reading in June 2021. Tickets are on sale now from the ticket links below.

Kevin joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2013, performing in the final five times and was crowned Strictly Champion in 2018.  He’s a world-class professional dancer, former Youth World Number One and four-time British Latin Champion and has won international open titles all over the world. After making his West End musical theatre debut in 2010 in Dirty Dancing, Kevin has starred in The Wedding Singer as Robbie Hart (Wembley Troubadour Park Theatre) as well as starring in the West End production of Rock of Ages as Stacie Jaxx.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical tells the beguiling story of Scott Hastings, a talented, arrogant and rebellious young ballroom dancer. When Scott’s radical dance moves see him fall out of favour with the Australian Federation, he finds himself dancing with Fran, a beginner with no moves at all. Inspired by one another, this unlikely pair gather the courage to defy both convention and their families – and discover that, to be winners, the steps don’t need to be strictly ballroom.

Featuring a show-stopping book by Baz Luhrmann & Craig Pearce, and bringing together a sublime cast of over 20 world class performers, Strictly Ballroom brings to life iconic songs, including Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time with dynamic and joyous verve. This tour will also feature some amazing new songs by internationally acclaimed artists including Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect. The show’s scintillating singing, dazzling dancing and eye-popping costumes will combine together to bring audiences a story of heart, comedy and drama, and promises to be an unforgettable night under the glitter ball.

This uplifting and courageous musical originated as a stage play that Baz Luhrmann devised with a group of classmates at Sydney’s National Institute of Dramatic Art in 1984. Eight years later he made his screen directorial debut with ‘Strictly Ballroom’, the first instalment in Luhrmann’s acclaimed Red Curtain Trilogy. The vibrant film enjoyed staggering success, winning three awards at the 1993 BAFTA awards and a 1994 Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture, going on to become one of the most successful Australian films of all time, earning more than $80 million at the box office. In April 2014 Strictly Ballroom The Musical had its world premiere at the Sydney Lyric Theatre.

Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical is a fabulous, feel-good evening full of sequins, singing and salsa. This unmissable kaleidoscope of glitz and glamour is a tonic for the soul and will send your heart soaring and toes tapping long after you leave the theatre!

26/10/2020 – 31/11/2020  Sunderland Empire

08/02/2021 – 13/02/2021  Darlington Hippodrome

15/02/2021 – 20/02/2021  Newcastle Theatre Royal

News: Chris Cross Adds Magic To Self-Isolation!

Chris Cross Adds Magic To Self-Isolation!

Free Online Magic Broadcast

Locally renowned Magician Extraordinaire, Chris Cross, is bringing his magic tricks to the comfort of homes around the World, this Wednesday Evening. Chris will be broadcasting live from his home in High Spen on Wednesday, where he will perform a few magic tricks and also teach everyone watching how to do some cool card tricks from his published book - The Geordie Book of Magic!

Chris says: ''This will be a fun online event for all ages to attend - all you need is a pack of cards! It's times like this, entertainment is needed more than ever and I'm pleased to be doing my bit for the local community and beyond to spread as much magical morale as possible. So come and forget about your troubles and cure your boredom for an hour and join me for some fun! After this virus has swept over and has gone, you'll have some great tricks to show your mates in the pub (once they re-open!) and the kids can impress their friends at school with their new Harry Potter skills! Most importantly, this broadcast will encourage people to stay in the house for its duration and not go wandering around! everyone needs to stay safe at the moment, to protect themselves and others. Unfortunately, not even I can make this thing disappear! ''

Newcastle native, Chris Cross has performed his multi-award winning sleight of hand all across the globe and has entertained at Mike Tyson's Sportsman's Dinner, Prince Charles's State Visit, Boy George's 50th Birthday Party, Alice Cooper's Press Conference and at many other Celebrity gatherings and events. Locally, he performs for lots of weddings and corporate events and hosts his annual 'Greatest Show on the Tyne' too. He made front page news in 2016, when he suspended himself upside-down from the roof of Newcastle's Castle Keep in a Straitjacket Escape Stunt, to provide a free public entertainment piece for everyone in the North-East who looked up at him that day. 

'Chris Cross Shows YOU How!' will be a free online magic broadcast. If you want to virtually attend this one-off event online via Chris's Official Facebook Page, more info can be found about the event and you can tune in at 6pm until 7pm this Wednesday 25th March, here: