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The Jowheretogo Theatre Year 2014

The Jowheretogo Theatre Year

So what were the productions that made the Jowheretogo team smile, laugh and/or cry the most this year? Stephen Oliver looks back at an exciting 2014.

Funny play of the year: The Play That Goes Wrong which we saw at the Darlington Civic Theatre. This play had us laughing from start to finish – memories of watching Airplane! the movie at the cinema when we were very young. The show is still on in the London West End and a sequel Peter Pan Goes Wrong reaches Darlington Civic and Newcastle Theatre Royal in 2015.

Musical of the year: Urinetown which we saw at the St James Theatre in London and became the play we love to quote thereafter. Great memorable songs, coupled with a cracking storyline – a feature that was missing on a number of musicals this year. We would love to see it tour to the North East.

Moving Play of the Year: the revival of Wet House at Live Theatre was superb. Joe Caffrey was in great form as one of the trouble souls in Paddy Campbell’s debut play.

Small scale show of the year: Thirsty from The Paper Birds which we saw at The Arts Centre Washington was a rollercoaster of emotions as Jemma McDonnell and Kylie Walsh consumed large amounts of liquid whilst exploring friendship and the demon alcohol.

Whodunnit of the year was Jason Durr’s portrayal of Agatha Christie’s Poirot in Black Coffee which had us guessing to the end at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal. We saw a number of murders of stage this year but this show was a cut above the rest.

Amateurs showing the professionals how it is done play of the year has to be the moving Duet For One at the People’s Theatre in Newcastle. A fabulous look into some really difficult questions.

Kids show of the year is one we hand over to the wee-man of the team.  Robert loved Get Santa! at Newcastle’s Northern Stage. A funny show that wasn’t afraid to connect with the young audience. It was funny and heart warming without any unnecessary innuendo.

Dance show of the year was the incredible The Five & The Prophecy of Prana from Boy Blue Entertainment. The mix of manga style characters and strong storyline had the Northern Stage audience captivated.

Wedding of the year? Well we see a lot of coupling on stage and the great farce that was Perfect Wedding at South Shields Customs House was very funny and showed that the North East produces entertaining theatre.

A massive thank you goes to the actors, producers, directors and theatres that have invited us along to the shows this year. Theatre remains a great night out and is not just about the Panto at Christmas. We have never seen a broadcast of a West End Show at a cinema because we now there is plenty of live entertainment out there in our wonderful theatres.

Looking ahead – 2015 is going to be another cracking year too!


News: Sunderland Empire to hold 'Relaxed Performance' of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

SunderlandEmpire to hold 'Relaxed Performance' of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Friday 2 January 2015

Special effects will be tuned down and lights will dimmed at Sunderland Empire this festive season to ensure families and people with learning or behavioural disorders such as ASD and ADHD have a more relaxed theatre experience.

Following a successful and popular Relaxed Performance of Cinderella last year, Sunderland Empire will once again hold a performance for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at 2pm, on Friday 2 January 2015. Families will have the chance to see panto legend and star of stage and screen Su Pollard as the dastardly Wicked Queen, alongside Eastenders and Dancing on Ice star, Matt Lapinskas as the Prince and children's TV favourite Andrew Agnew (PC Plum, ex-Balamory) as the side-splitting Muddles the Jester.

Andrew Agnew
Photo: Robert Workman
Ahead of the Relaxed Performance a pre-show familiarisation visit will be available, where groups, families and individuals can come along and explore the venue. This helps audiences prepare for their visit also allowing the opportunity to ask any questions about their visit. Available Tuesdays and Thursdays 10:30am - 11.00am until 30 December available at point of booking (subject to availability)

Su Pollard Photo: Robert Workman
A visual story will be provided to support the familiarisation visit and will be offered as a resource to inform audiences about what to expect when coming to the theatre. The visual story has been created in partnership with the North East Autism Society, a registered charity providing personalised services for children, young people and adults with an Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC).

Hollie Coxon, Creative Learning Manager, Sunderland Empire commented:  "The Relaxed Performances are a real team effort in the planning and delivery on the day. We're incredibly lucky to have such brilliant support from the team in general, the Snow White production and the North East Autism Society. For us, it's a real pleasure to work with organisations and families in the preparation for their visit, and to then see so many smiling faces and families at ease at the Relaxed Performance. This year, we have incorporated audience preparation tools, such as Widgit symbol resources specific to the Sunderland Empires production of Snow White.

Matt Lapkinskas Photo: Robert Workman
It's fantastic to offer such an incredible assisted performance, which enables people with a range to needs to engage as an audience at our fabulous festive Pantomime. We are working with ASD groups, people with a range of learning needs, and groups and families with Dementia - and would encourage anyone who requires a more relaxed theatre experience to consider and to get in touch with us.

Audiences will also have the flexibility to leave the auditorium and come and go as they please. There are no latecomer's rules and no one will be asked to be quiet. Quiet space will be available during the performance with activities for anyone who wishes to leave the auditorium."

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a timeless tale and a delightful chance for all the family to enjoy another magical pantomime full of excitement at Sunderland Empire. Audiences can expect exquisite costumes, enchanting sets, music, dance, fun, laughter and of course poisoned apples, a Magic Mirror and the most fabulous Seven Dwarfs you've ever seen!

The Creative Learning Team are available on 0191 5661056 to discuss how we can help support a visit to the Relaxed Performance and to answer any questions.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is at the Sunderland Empire from
Friday 12 December 2014 to Sunday 4 January 2015.

Tickets priced £10 - £29.50* are on sale now from the Box Office on High Street West, Sunderland,
the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* and online at*
*Booking/transaction fees apply to telephone and online sales.
Groups 10+ 0844 8713042 and online at*
Group Tickets: 10+ £16*pp, Groups 20+ £15*pp and Groups 50*+ £13pp.
Booking Information:
Box Office: 0844 871 3022*
Groups 10+: 0844 871 3042
*Booking fee applies
*Discounts apply to prices A-C and are available at certain shows on the performance schedule. All discounts subject to availability and terms and conditions apply.


News: Auditions for A Chorus Line

A Chorus Line - early release auditions
A Chorus Line
Newcastle Tyne Theatre
27th – 30thMay 2015
Nice Swan Theatre Company - a North East platform for performing arts - are bringing the legendary Broadway musical A Chorus Line to Newcastle for a strictly limited run in May.
The company, who recently produced the premiere of The Addams Family musical in the region are staging the show which is now the longest running musical in New York theatre history, breaking records, winning nine Tony Awards, seven Drama Desk Awards, the New York Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
A Chorus Line is based on auditions for a new Broadway musical. For everyone present, its the chance of a lifetime. Its the one opportunity to do what theyve always dreamed of to have the chance to dance. Told through captivating song, riveting drama and stunning choreography, the auditionees describe the events that have shaped their lives and their decisions to become dancers. The show boasts classic songs  including One (Singular Sensation), What I Did For Love and At The Ballet.
Local producer, Jamie Gray, from Whickham in Gateshead, is giving budding performers in the region the opportunity to perform as part of this fantastic show at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House in May 2015. Jamie, who is also Managing Director of Nice Swan Theatre Company is auditioning for musical theatre performers in January "There's so much talent here in the North East and i think it deserves to be shown off on a professional stage - I really cant encourage people enough to get involved - this is a fantastic company to be part of, not just for the performance experience but the people are so friendly and supportive - its like a big family and we welcome any like-minded young performers into it. It really is amazing what it can do for you.
Nice Swan Theatre Company are one of the most reputable theatre companies in the North East  and well known throughout the region for producing affordable high standard theatre and giving fantastic opportunities to performers age 16-30. Nice Swan are excited to be visiting the Tyne Theatre in May after it recently changed management back to the original Tyne Theatre Trust who are now in control of the grade 1 listed building on Westgate Road. "I've wanted to produce this show in Newcastle for a long time now, it's a while since its been in our area and i couldn't think of a more perfect theatre to be staging it in. The Tyne Theatre & Opera House is the oldest working Victorian theatre in the world and one of my favourite, it really fascinates me".
The show is being directed by Ben Hunt - a local director who studied at East 15 Acting School. Ben was one of the original founders of Nice Swan Theatre Company over five years ago when he directed RENT the Musical before transferring to study in London. A Chorus Line is being choreographed by Stephanie Smith also from Gateshead. Stephanie attended Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and has recently worked with stars of Strictly Come Dancing Katya Virshillas and Pasha Kovalev.
The theatre company is seen as a stepping stone for students with interests in the theatre industry whether it is singing, dancing, acting or lighting design, costume and stage management. The company works in a constant cycle where by budding performers from the North East get involved, learn, rehearse, achieve and get the experience that is required to progress further in education or into the performance industry and move on to the next step to success. "We’ve had some great success stories in recent years. Some students have gone onto professional work across the world, others are continuing their training in London. It's great to see them progress, knowing that one day they will no doubt be on the West End stage and we helped them by giving that 'stepping stone'."

Fancy the chance to be part of this one singular sensation? The producers of A Chorus Line are on the look out for a talented cast  to join this production next year. If you are a strong singer and outstanding dancer and aged between 16 -30 years old - you have the chance to get involved and audition for the show on Sunday 18th January at the Theatre Royal Studio in Newcastle. For further information visit www.niceswan.comor contact
A Chorus Line is on sale from January and runs at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House, Newcastle from 27 - 30 May.

Preview: The Only Way is Downton at Customs House

The Granthams come to The Customs House

The Only Way is Downton
South Shields Customs House
Tuesday 20th January 2015

Luke Kempner
The Only Way Is Downton
Photo Steve Ullathorne
Downton fans won’t have to wait to get their next fix thanks to a Tyneside theatre.  Following the Christmas special, the Granthams and co. aren’t expected back on TV screens until autumn but The Customs House in South Shields has just the thing. The Mill Dam venue is debuting the latest tour of smash hit show The Only Way is Downton on Tuesday 20th January.

Following critically acclaimed runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a national tour and a West End season, Luke Kempner brings his one-man impressions show to the Mill Dam theatre for one night only.

Luke Kempner
The Only Way Is Downton
Photo Steve Ullathorne
Customs House executive director Ray Spencer, MBE, said: “Downton is a hugely popular programme so it’s no surprise that this show has been a huge hit throughout the county. Any fan of Downton will be laughing in the aisle with Luke’s incredibly accurate impressions. We’re delighted that Luke is starting his tour at The Customs House and I’m sure our audiences will love this witty take on this TV favourite.”

Having made his name with YouTube hit Downstairs at Downton, and appearances in musicals including Les Mis and Avenue Q, Luke’s debut solo show won critical acclaim and sell-out audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013.  The show, presented by Seabright Productions, also introduces other popular culture figures.

As celebrities start appearing at the Abbey, cultures clash and eras hilariously collide in this brilliant new parody, which takes in many other popular TV shows and familiar modern voices to help the cast of Downton save the estate from financial ruin – again!


Tickets are £15 and are available from The Customs House box office on 0191 454 1234 or by visiting


Preview: Donna Disco - On Tour

Donna Disco

Chicken Pox Fox Productions

On Tour

‘A tour de force of writing, actingand directing’ *****Three Weeks

Written by                    Lee Mattinson  
Directed by                 Laura Lindow
Performed by              Paula Penman

For anyone who ever thought thatbeing fourteen was easy...
Donna is fourteen, clumsy and fat. She’s bland, bespectacled and, if she’d ever heard of The Beautiful South, she’d adore them.
She also has a new school project, to source a stranger’s story and present her findings at the annual Christmas Pageant. And so Donna takes it upon herself to befriend the colourful cross-dressing butcher from downstairs.
But when her mother goes AWOL and an innocent crush on a local pretty boy goes hideously wrong, Donna’s world begins to disband and the disco that plays in her heart is in danger of grinding to a glittering, gobsmacking halt.
Originally commissioned by Live Theatre and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England & supported by The Empty Space and Dance City through This Way up.
Chicken Pox Fox is a show and tell theatre company founded in 2010 by writer Lee Mattinson and performer Paula Penman.  Their first show Donna Disco was produced to critical acclaim in 2011 and our most recent one woman show premiered at the Bush Theatre’s RADAR Festival in 2013. They are currently working on a mockumentary film project, a country and western musical and a multi-narrative project for radio.

Running time      60mins
                             No Interval


26th-28th @ 7.30pm  Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne – 0191 232 1232 / bookonline
4th @ 7.30pm The Place Theatre, Bedford – 01234 354 321 / bookonline
5th @ 8pm Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury – 01743 281 281 / book online
10th@ 7.30pm Stage, Leeds – 0113 343 8730 / bookonline
13th @ 7.30pm Assembly Rooms, Tamworth – 01827 709 618 / book online
15th @ 7.30pm New Diorama Theatre, London -0207 383 9034 / bookonline
17th @ 7.30pm Capstone Theatre, Liverpool – 0844 8000 410 / book online
19th @ 7.45pm Cast, Doncaster – 01302 303 959 / book online
20th @ 8pm Hull Truck Theatre, Hull – 01482 323 638 / book online
24th-25th @ 8pm Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham – 01434 652 477 / bookonline
28th @ 7.30pm The Western, Leicester – bookonline

Preiew: I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue at Sunderland Empire

I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue
Thursday 8 January 2015
BBC Radio’s multi award-winning antidote to panel games returns to the stage in 2015 with its sell out touring show. The I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue Stage Show will be coming to the Sunderland Empire for one night only on Thursday 8 January 2015, starring Tim Brooke-Taylor, Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden and Jeremy Hardy.

In the chair for this special series of appearances will be the one and only Sandi Toksvig.  Here she answers some of our questions.

What have you done with regular Chairman Jack Dee?
I had him sent on a Herring awareness course in the Lofoten Islands.  It’s rather intense and he won’t be back for some time.

You've appeared as a guest on Clue in the past.  How do you feel about taking over the chair for this tour?
I think it was only a matter of time. The truth is I don’t really like sitting with the other panelists as some of their conditions are catching.

You're a brilliant host of The News Quiz, how will chairing Clue be different?
I’m going to be using a different chair.  It’s subtle but those of us who are in the chairing business know it can make for a marked variation in style.

What are your favourite rounds and are there any rounds you'd want to join in?
There are rounds?  I wonder if I ought to read the rules.

Will Samantha be on tour with the show?
I have spent many years leading up to this moment and I don’t believe it would be possible to manage without Samantha.  She is the ying to my yang, the crumble to my apple, the yodel to my Swiss holiday.

Was Samantha upset by the recent controversy or did she take it lying down?
She swallowed the whole thing with professionalism.

Will you be kind to Colin Sell at the piano?

How do you think radio comedy has changed over the 40 years that Clue has been running?
I’m not sure it has. Indeed I am fairly confident Tim has worn the same suit since 1967.

Scandinavian TV has made a great impact in re-shaping crime drama.  Do you see a flood of Scandinavian comedy coming our way soon?
I think there have been a lot of poorly translated subtitles. The Killing, The Bridge, Borgen, those are all comedies.

Have you played the Sunderland Empire before?
I have played here before and I love the Sunderland Empire.  Vesta Tilley performed here and they say Sid James’ ghost walks the halls.  How marvellous.  No wonder the audiences are so happy.

Tickets available in person at the Box Office from £21.50 or from £24.40 when calling 0844 871 3022* or booking online at a transaction fee applies.

Groups of 10+ can call: 0844 871 3042

*Booking fee applies


News: Panto Fans Snap Up Tickets For Next Year’s Show At The Customs House

Panto Fans Snap Up Tickets For
Next Year’s Show At The Customs House

Alice In Wonderland
South Shields Customs House
December 1 2015 to January 9 2016

Panto fans are in for a treat as they take a trip to Wonderland next Christmas. The Customs House in South Shields has unveiled its 2015/2016 pantomime will be Alice in Wonderland.

This year’s seasonal show Little Red Riding Hood is two weeks into its run and has already sold more than 22,000 tickets and despite Alice in Wonderland having only been on sale a matter of days more than 1,500 have already been snapped up – 12 months ahead of its opening.

Customs House Executive Director Ray Spencer, MBE, who is currently starring dame Granny Hood in Little Red Riding Hood, said: “Alice in Wonderland seemed an obvious choice as the novel and The Customs House are both celebrating 150 years in 2015. This is the first time Little Red Riding Hood has been performed at The Customs House and it has been getting great reviews and audience feedback so we’re all very excited to debut Alice in Wonderland next year.”

Join the Customs House gang as they follow Alice down the rabbit hole for an adventure you’ll never forget. Ray added: “We’ve obviously made a good choice for next year’s show as people are already booking up in their droves. More than half the available tickets have already been snapped up for Christmas Eve 2015. We’re thrilled Alice in Wonderland has struck a chord with our audiences. It may be something entirely new but it will have all the ingredients of a traditional Customs House panto – so expect great songs, hilarious comedy routines and lashings of fun. Don’t be late to celebrate – get your tickets now!”


Alice in Wonderland, sponsored by Hays Travel, is on from December 1, 2015 to January 9, 2016. Tickets start from £9 and are available from the box office on 0191 454 1234 or by visiting

Little Red Riding Hood runs until January 10 – and there are still tickets available to selected shows.