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Review: Donna Disco at Newcastle Live Theatre

Dancing With A Whoosh

Donna Disco
Newcastle Live Theatre
Until 28th February 2015 and then on tour

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

The lively packed Friday night Live Theatre crowd were in for a treat in Chicken Pox Fox’s latest production. Each member of the audience was offered a party popper and a large pair of glasses to wear during the show. This immediate interaction sets the show apart from the rest.

Donna is not the most popular member of her class but the 14 year old sees the positives in the world. This attitude helps the audience feel empathy for the character as she reveals her obsession with her neighbour Stuart. Donna is loyal to her father and her Gran, though she doesn’t fully understand her Mother. She loves alphabetti spaghetti and cream crackers between drinking plenty of sugary drinks.

Donna is given the opportunity to present her school project at the Christmas Pageant.  She interviews Stuart and finds out about someone with a different lifestyle to her. The project has the aim to find out how to make a dance go whoosh too and it helps that Stuart loves The Carpenters a much as she does.

It is clear that she is accepting of an unacceptable situation at school. To that end the play uses the fourteen year old eyes to show how our most vulnerable children can fail to get the support that they need. Paula Penman does a superb job as Donna. She is engaging and delightful in equal measure. From the first entry onstage, the brief puppetry interludes through to final enlightenment Paula had the audience captivated.

Donna Disco is a charming play, centred around a powerful performance by Paula Penman, which enraptures the audience in its celebration of the human condition.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR ( ). Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

The show was originally previewed here: JoWhereToGo Preview

On Tour:

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


Preview: The Palace of Varieties Special at Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre

The Palace of Varieties Special
Alphabetti Theatre
Saturday 11th April

A phantasmagorical evening of spoken word comes to one of Newcastle’s newest venues.
CHris Stewart previews his Edinburgh 2015 spoken word show The Palace of Varieties. A one off special at Alphabetti Theatre's new venue from three of the northeast's most unique voices.

CHris Stewart - The Big H
Kirsten Luckins - The Silent K
John-Clovis Morden - The Double Barrel

CHris Stewart
The Palace of Varieties is a latter day danse macabre telling the tale of Millennials trapped in the revolving door of nightlife games.
CHris has toured on Apples and Snakes' Public Address II, and performed his one person game-show Meta-Reprogramming at the Edinburgh PBH Free Fringe. 
On The Web:
Youtube: Chris Stewart in Subcutaneous: Video Link
"Awkward, off-beat and probably the funniest performance of the night." - UoB Blogfest @DanielMoroney

Kirsten Luckins
A versatile and dynamic performer who can make audiences laugh and cry.  Kirsten's first solo show, The Moon Cannot Be Stolen, came second in the Saboteur Awards 2014.  She was also a finalist in the BBC National Slam, and longlisted for the York Literature Prize.  Her first collection will be published by Burning Eye in 2016. 
On The Web:
Video: BBC Slam Final 2014: BBC Video Link
"Intense lyrical talent." - Sabotage Reviews

John-Clovis Morden 

Born fighter and Teesside legend.  Morden has a message for the good people of England. He can be seen in action in his silent short 'Bunny': Video Clip

Alphabetti Theatre @The Basement, 16 New Bridge St West, Newcastle, NE1 8AW.
Saturday 11th April  Doors 18.30 Begins 20.00
£5 - Box office online: 
Age recommendation: 16+

Preview: Schlock! at Newcastle Live Theatre

with performance poet Hannah Silva

Newcastle Live Theatre 
Saturday 21 March

Hannah Silva, a writer and theatre-maker known for her playful exploration of language, performs her one-woman show Shlock! at Newcastle’s Live Theatre on Saturday 21 March at 7.30pm.

Schlock! is a powerful feminist satire made for the cut and paste generation. In the grand tradition of literary terrorism, Hannah has ripped up her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey and now, surrounded by the crumpled pages and with the help of radical punk-pirate Kathy Acker, she attempts to put the female body back together. 

Join them on a journey through texts and voices pregnant with pain and pleasure, mothers and babies, domination and submission. In a performance as strange as it is beautiful. There are no safe words here.
As writer, director and performer Chris Goode explained, on seeing a preview performance of Schlock! at the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, "Schlock! is a whip-smart but irresistibly seductive tour de force from the always astonishing Hannah Silva: a high-risk entanglement of limbs and lines, a restless toss-and-turn of tongue meeting text in the heat of strangeness and the dark heart of desire." 

After her performance of Schlock!, audiences can join Hannah for an informal pre-show Q&A session about her innovative creative process.

Schlock! was originally commissioned for the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, where it premiered in a Saturday afternoon slot to an audience of over 250 people. A risk-taking piece of programming for a major poetry festival, Schlock! left audiences stunned, energised and, in the post-show discussion, deep in debate about sex, power, contemporary feminism, and the role of theatre to unsettle conventions.

As Maddy Costa, from The Guardian, explains “I can’t wait to see Schlock! in its next iteration, there was a moment (well, several) watching when I just felt dazzled by how assured Hannah is as maker/performer/person on stage, it’s really exciting but also properly impressive to watch." 

Schlock! was created for both hearing and d/Deaf audiences, and incorporates British Sign Language. Hannah was supported by Daryl Jackson (Dazzy Jacko), an expert on signed theatre who has advised companies and artists including Graeae and Caroline Parker.

A trailer is online at

Written & performed by Hannah Silva. Collaborators: Rachel Mars, David Lane & Daryl Jackson (BSL translation). Produced by Penned in the Margins. Commissioned by The Poetry Trust. Development supported by Birmingham Repertory Theatre Foundry and mac Birmingham. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Tickets cost £10 full price and £8for concessions and include admission to the pre-show Q&A event with Hannah Silva. Tickets can be booked now by contacting Live Theatre’s box office on (0191) 232 1232or by visiting Schlock! is currently enjoying a national tour.


Preview: Fertile Ground On Tour

There’ll be dancing in the streets!
And the museums
Shields of Bone by Eleesha Drennan
Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Fertile Ground
On Tour across the North East

New programme from the North East’s first graduate dance company includes performances at the Bowes Museum, Trinity Square and Bede’s World

Fertile Ground, the North East’s first professional graduate dance company, is to partner up with some of the region’s leading cultural and heritage venues on an exciting new programme. Fertile Ground will bring dance to new and unusual settings, including Bede’s World in Jarrow, The Bowes Museum in County Durham, and the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.

Holly Bellamy and Alys North in 
A New Chimera by Tom Dale
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Hannah Jackson, Assistant Curator, The Bowes Museum saidThis collaboration is breaking new ground for The Bowes Museum. It is a unique opportunity to showcase contemporary dance and costumes inspired by the Birds of Paradise – Plumes and Feathers in Fashion exhibition. Working with costume students and dance graduates is a really exciting partnership, which we hope to continue.”

Dora Frankel’s work is already known to visitors to the Bowes Museum from The Unfolding Sky: Turner In The North, which was performed in the museum grounds in June 2013. This new work is titled On the Darkened Wing. Fertile Ground four graduate dancers - Alicia Meehan (Northern School of Ballet), Alys North (Northern School of Contemporary Dance), Kayleigh Fisk (University of Sunderland) and Holly Bellamy (Teesside University) - will work with second year BA (Hons) Costume Interpretation & Design students from Cleveland College of Art and Design and course leader Jane Havakin (best known for her designs for Topshop, Harrods and John Lewis) to explore the beauty and dark romance of feathers and plumes.

Alys North and Alicia Meehan in Land
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
The students are collaborating closely with the dancers, meeting with the Bowes Museum team in the exhibition to develop designs and ideas based on pieces that have inspired them - Alys North is working with Rebecca Purvis and Catherine McMurray; Holly Bellamy with Rebecca Collinson and Hayley Stuart; Kayleigh Fisk with Angela Harrop; and Alicia Meehan with Nikki Wilson and Jennifer Lamb. Recent work the students have been involved in includes working on costumes for BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, the Lion King musical and ITV’s Downton Abbey.

Today it was announced that Wayne Sleep OBE has agreed to become a patron, saying. " Fertile Ground helps young dancers to develop professionally. I know that this company will inspire everyone, and wish them great success as they embark on the region-wide tour."

Alicia Meehan and Alys North 
in A New Chimera 
by Tom Dale
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Dora Frankel, Fertile Ground Artistic Director remarked: “I am really delighted and moved that Wayne Sleep has offered his support - it means a great deal to me and to the whole company that someone of Wayne's reputation has spoken so warmly about our work. His help and patronage ensures that our work can be seen more widely and that our collaboration with The Bowes Museum and Cleveland College of Art and Design can be realised.”

Alongside these new cultural and heritage partnerships, Fertile Ground will work closely with education partners to offer dynamic performance and participation experiences for young people across the region. Residencies already confirmed include Northumbria, Teesside and Sunderland Universities and with Newcastle and Sunderland Colleges, and a number of schools across the region.

Fertile Ground aims to nurture, challenge and inspire a new generation of dance artists to develop and present inspirational and accessible dance opportunities. As Anthony Baker, who is the Dance City Artistic Director commented “As the North East’s first professional graduate dance company, Fertile Ground offers a much-needed bridge between University study and the professional dance industry for some of the region’s most talented young dancers, while at the same time offering audiences the chance to see
new, high quality work made right here in the North East.”

Shields of Bone by Eleesha Drennan
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Dora Frankel adds, “We offer dance opportunities to some of the region’s most talented young dancers to work, train and perform intensively with outstanding guest teachers and choreographers. By developing our dancers and choreographers we hope to see a real increase in the number of artists staying in the region over the next five years, forming new artistic constellations, inspiring children and young people and increasing appreciation and understanding of contemporary dance in the North East.”

High profile guest choreographers include Tom Dale and Eleesha Drennan. Tom’s work for youth companies include The Rite of Spring and leading a Professional dancers’ Choreographic Residency in Cuba in 2012 with support from the British Council, while his performance career includes working with Matthew Bourne in the Adventures in Motion Pictures production of Swan Lake and in dancer roles with English National Opera and Opera North.

Alys North and Alicia Meehan in Shields of Bone by Eleesha Drennan
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Eleesha Drennan is a recipient of this year’s Sky Academy Arts Scholarship, out of over 1,000 applicants. In 2012 Eleesha was awarded 1st prize at the 16th International Solo-Dance-Theatre Festival Stuttgart resulting in a tour of in Germany, China, Brazil and UK. She then undertook a choreographic residency with North Netherlands Dance 2012 and was House Choreographer of National Dance Company Wales from 2011 to 2013.

Jane Tarr, Director North, Arts Council England said, “Fertile Ground helps to inspire a new generation of dance artists as well as offering opportunities for children and young people through its learning programme. I am pleased that we have been able to fund its work through our National Lottery funded Grants for the arts programme and I look forward to seeing some exciting new performances in the North East.”

The tour opens at The Maltings in Berwick upon Tweed on Thursday 12 February 2015 and finishes with a gala performance at The Customs House in South Shieldson Sunday 22 March. For more information or to book tickets visit

Photos: Camilla Greenwell

Tour dates

Friday 27 February 2015 / 19.00
Something Beautiful: a performance in response to FERTILE GROUND’s work with Epinay School for special educational needs at Bede's World

Wednesday 4 March 2015 / 19:00
Sunderland College

Saturday 7 March 2015 / 19:30
Peter Sarah Theatre, Newcastle College

Thursday 12 March 2015 / 12:30 & 17:00
Fertile Ground Outdoor performance, Trinity Square Gateshead

Friday 13 March 2015 / 19:00
On the Darkened Wing, in collaboration with The Bowes Museum, Witham Public Hall

Friday 20 March 2015 / 17:00
Arts Centre Washington school performance

Sunday 22 March 2015 / 19:30
The Customs House

News: Theatre Cloud brings back successful young reporter scheme


Theatre Cloud brings back successful young reporter scheme for its second year to report on Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge ( ), the new UK touring theatre website, is launching a new search for budding young arts journalists in Darlington.

After a successful pilot scheme centered on last autumn’s world premiere stage adaptation of Pat Barker’s Regeneration, the search is now on for aspiring reporters to cover the behind-the-scenes action on Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge, on tour this spring to mark the centenary of the renowned American playwright’s birth.

Miller’s 1956 classic is set in the dangerous world of New York’s Brooklyn harbor, where Eddie Carbone lives with his wife and niece in a tight-knit Italian immigrant community bound by strong moral codes of justice and loyalty and a fevered pursuit of “The American Dream”.

This brand new production of Miller’s 1956 classic, directed by Stephen Unwin, opens at Nottingham Theatre Royal on 4 March and then tours until 11 April 2015. A View from the Bridge is produced by the Touring Consortium Theatre Company.

As part of its new Young Reporters Scheme, Theatre Cloud is recruiting would-be journalists, aged 17-30 years old, to report on the production’s run at Darlington Civic Theatre from March 17 – 21.

In the week that A View From The Bridge hits Darlington, Young Reporters will not only see the show, they’ll be granted special access at Darlington Civic Theatre to carry out a variety of A View From The Bridge media assignments, including: interview features with the cast and related experts, video blogs, audience vox pops, crew diaries and backstage tour reports. All articles will be published, with bylines, on

Theatre Cloud’s Young Reporters Scheme is approved as part of the Arts Council-funded national Arts Award ( Participation will prove invaluable for those gaining experience and credits while working towards their bronze, silver or gold level Arts Award.

To apply for scheme consideration, young people should tell us in no more than 250 words, why they would like to be a Theatre Cloud young reporter, plus give us one story idea around A View From The Bridge at their local theatre, along with their name, age, address and contact details to Please note that this is unpaid work experience however contribution towards expenses will be provided. Deadline for applications from Darlington is Thursday 5th March 2015.

Preview: Peter Pan at Seaton Deleval Arts Centre

Peter Pan
Seaton Deleval Arts Centre
Saturday 7th March 2015

A modern twist on the classic tale of Peter Pan comes to Seaton Delaval this month presented by Duckegg Theatre Company, a Social Enterprise with its roots in North Lincolnshire, dedicated to the creation of brand-spanking new writing with young people at its heart.  Their family musical, ‘Peter Pan’, adapted from the J.M. Barrie classic by award winning playwright Haley Cox with music by Phil Collingwood, comes to the Seaton Delaval Arts Centre for two performances on Saturday 7thMarch.  The production deals with themes of small town mentality, youth aspiration and the challenges of following your dreams, developed in workshop with 120 young people aged 12-19.

Photo: Mark Kensett
It’s five minutes until closing time at Priceland. Join A Level student and cashier Wendy Darling as she takes us into the timeless story of Peter Pan – second star to the left and straight on ’til morning!  Throw in a misunderstood Captain Hook, a hot guitarist Peter Pan, a Tinker Bell straight out of ‘TOWIE’ and a sprinkle of fairy dust (oh, and an awesome soundtrack!) and you get a sparkling show guaranteed to get your toes tapping.

The cast merges four professional actors (including Newsrevue’s Sean Keating, ex ‘The Mousetrap’ actress Eve Pearson and Spotlight Award finalist James Mountain) with young people from Duckegg’s youth theatre.  Young people are the company’s lifeblood and they rightfully place them at the heart of everything they do.  The youth members are valued in every area of the company and have tangible input into the performance and touring work.


Peter Pan takes to the stage on Saturday 7th March at 1.00pm and 6.00pm. Tickets are priced at £8.00 with concessions at £7.00 and family tickets at £26.00 available from the Box Office on 0191 237 5460 or book online at


Preview: The Picture of Doreen Gray at South Shields Customs House

Classic Gets a New Spin
At South Tyneside Theatre

The Picture of Doreen Gray
South ShieldsCustoms House
Tuesday 24th & Wednesday 25th February

An award-winning comedy duo are returning to The Customs House next with a new take on an old favourite. LipService and Oldham Coliseum are presenting The Picture of Doreen Gray at the Mill Dam venue in South Shields on February 24 and 25.

Maggie Fox as Doreen
The show is a new version of Oscar Wilde’s fantasy thriller The Picture of Dorian Gray.  It stars the wonderfully funny Maggie Fox and Sue Ryding together with a supporting cast of local actors in an exciting mix of filmed and live action acting. The local cast includes members of Customs Voices who were last seen in the ensemble of Get Up and Tie Your Fingers last summer.

Doreen Gray has it all: a drive time radio show and a high ratings lifestyle programme on Even More 4, but hitting 50, Doreen finds her face no longer fits the bill. At a school reunion she stumbles across a youthful portrait of herself and makes a dark and dreadful pact with the picture.

Sue, who is artistic director of LipService along with Maggie, said: “LipService is a comedy duo and we do genre spoofs. This is loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s novel but obviously that has a grim outcome but we’re comedians so ours has a happy outcome. It’s about Doreen Gray; she’s a radio presenter and she has a show a bit like Top Gear meets Antiques Roadshow. The producers decide she’s looking jaded and want a younger model. It’s then she goes to a school reunion. It celebrates age and experience, women and life. It’s very funny, there’s lots of brilliant songs and dances and very funny visual gags – which I won’t give away!”

LipService have already brought the successful Inspector Norse, Move over Moriarty and Withering Looks to The Customs House.
The show is directed by Gwenda Hughes who also directed Inspector Norse and Move Over Moriarty with music by Tayo Akinbode.

Customs House Executive Director Ray Spencer, MBE, said: “We’re thrilled LipService are returning to The Customs House and delighted Maggie and Sue will be working with local budding actors too. They have been working together and touring shows for almost 30 years and create truly funny theatre. There shows are a must-see for anyone who loves the classics or comedy plays.”

Tickets are £14, £13 concession or £25 for a ticket to the show and a two-course meal in the theatre.
To book or for more information visit contact the box office on 0191 454 1234.