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Preview: Broke from The Paper Birds

Where Has The Wealth Gone?

Newcastle Live Theatre Tuesday 10–Wednesday 11 February
Arts Centre Washington Thursday 12 March

Broke is a new play by The Paper Birds coming to the region visiting Live Theatre on the 10thand 11th February and Arts Centre Washington on Thursday 12 March as part of a national tour.

What does it mean to be broke in 2014, as a person and as a country? Based on personal testimonies from nationwide interviews The Paper Birds return to their celebrated verbatim form of theatre to consider pennilessness in an age of personal (and national) debt

There are 13 million people in poverty in the UK and over half of these people are from working families. At Christmas 2013 the Red Cross started asking for food donations for the first time since World War II. What happens when you have to resort to sex work to pay the bills, or try to give up dealing drugs only to end up at a food bank when the money dries up, too? What happens when you have to sell everything you own to buy enough petrol for a journey across the country to visit your parents, or when at 28 you can’t buy anything more than cheap white bread to eat in the supermarket?

From the team behind last year’s celebrated Thirsty, this UK tour of Broke follows its sell-out success at the Edinburgh Fringe 2014. Sharing real life stories from the front line of poverty and debt in the UK, this new piece of verbatim theatre is a heartfelt and urgent look at the debt of a nation from displaced families and gambling addictions to beans on toast and blind leaps of faith onto the property ladder. Based on interviews taken across the UK in 2014, multi award winners The Paper Birds explore what it means to be broke, from ‘feeling the pinch’ to finding yourself penniless, in this visually stunning new production.

The Paper Birds Artistic Director Jemma McDonnell said:  “Broke is the first show we are making in a trilogy about class.  Armed with the statistic that the richest 1% of British people have as much as the bottom 55%, we started as we often do; by going out and speaking to people in food banks, in hostels, in charity and betting shops. As the 2015 Election approaches we are reminded that politics should not belong to the experts, it belongs to us all. Broke opens up a dialogue about austerity, inequality, about poverty and debt and shares some of the real stories and voices behind these shocking statistics.”

Company co-founder, devisor and performer Kylie Walsh said: “When making a new piece of political work, it’s always about what matters to me. I asked that question of myself, ‘what’s relevant to me, my life, my situation’? The answer was a four letter word: debt. I’m in debt. I owe thousands of pounds to credit card companies: and I’m not the only one. There are millions of us racking up huge bills that we can’t afford to pay back, that we can barely afford the interest on. And if I find myself in this situation, in full time work, what other stories can we unearth from across our culture? And crucially, how does the larger deficit, our nation’s debt crisis, filter down to me?”

The Paper Birds strive to create devised work that is culturally, socially and politically observational and conversationally urgent. Their productions emerge from a female perspective, and aim to address and evoke discussion, thought, and emotion when and where it is most needed, whilst retaining the company's signature visual and physical approach. Their past work includes In A Thousand Pieces (Fringe First and Fringe Review award winner, 2008), the highly celebrated sell-out Thirsty (2011) and 2013’s On the One Hand, with Northern Stage at St. Stephen’s. The company has also been shortlisted for Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award, The Stage’s Best Ensemble and Total Theatre’s Best Young Company.


Broke  comes to Live Theatre, Newcastle on Tuesday 10thand Wednesday 11the February. Tickets cost £14-£10 (£12-£10 over 60s, £5 concs) and can be bought online at or from the box office on 0191 232 1232

Broke returns to the region and visits Arts Centre Washington on Thursday 12thMarch. Tickets cost £8.50/ £6 (conessions) and are available from the Arts Centre Washingtonbox office on 0191 219 3455 or visit

Company Information

Devised by The Paper Birds        
Directed by Jemma McDonnell
Composer Shane Durrant 
Audio Visual design by The Media Workshop
Lighting design by Kylie Walsh   
Set design by Fiametta Horvat and The Media Workshop 
Produced by Bonnie Mitchell
Performed by Jemma McDonnell, Kylie Walsh and Shane Durrant                
Broke is co-commissioned by and developed at West Yorkshire Playhouse and Greenwich Theatre. Funded by Arts Council England.

Tour Information

4 – 6 Feb                               West Yorkshire Playhouse
                                                Playhouse Square, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS2 7UP
                                                £14 | 7.30pm, Thurs and Fri matinees 2pm
                                        | 0113 213 7700

9 Feb                                     Guildhall Arts Centre, Grantham
                                                Saint Peter's Hill, Grantham NG31 6PZ
                                                £12 (£10 concs, £5 U25s) | 7.30pm
                                        | 01476 406158

10 – 11 Feb                          Live Theatre, Newcastle
                                                Broad Chare, Quayside, Newcastle upon TyneNE1 3DQ
                                                £14-£10 (£12-£10 over 60s, £5 concs) | 7.30pm
                                        | 0191 232 1232

12 Feb                                   Lincoln Drill Hall
                                                Free School Ln, Lincoln LN2 1EY
                                                £12 (£9 concs, £5 students) | 8pm
                                         | 01522 873894 

13 Feb                                   StamfordArts Centre, Lincolnshire
                                                27 Saint Mary's Street, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 2DL        
                                                £12 (£10 concs, £5 U25s) | 7.30pm
                                        | 01780 763203

23 Feb                                   Richard Whitely Theatre, Giggleswick
                                                Gigglesworth School, Settle, North Yorkshire BD24 0DE
                                                £10 (£8 for under 18s) | 7.30pm
                                        | 01729 893180

24 Feb                                   The Core at Corby Cube
                                                The Corby Cube Parkland Gateway George Street, Corby, Northamptonshire NN17 1QG
                                                Tickets from £8.50 + booking fee | 7.30pm
                                        | 01536 470470

25 Feb                                   Brewhouse Arts Centre, Burton-upon-Trent
                                                Duke St, Burton-upon-Trent DE14 1EB
                                                £10 (£8)  Students and schools £6 | 8pm
                                         | 01283 508100

26 Feb                                   mac birmingham
                                                Cannon Hill ParkBirminghamB12 9QH
                                                £14 (£12). Schools £12 (buy 10 get 1 free) | 8pm
                                        | 0121 446 3232

27 Feb                                   Uppingham Theatre
                                                32 Stockerston Road, Uppingham, Oakham, Leicestershire LE15 9UD
                                                £10 (£8.50). Schools £9.50 | 7.30pm
                                        | 01572 820820

3 – 7 Mar                               Theatre Royal, Plymouth
                                                Royal Parade, Plymouth PL1 2TR 
                                                £14.70 (£10.70) | 7.45pm                                                               
                                        | 01752 267 222                

10 Mar                                   Waterside Arts Centre, Sale
                                                1 Waterside, SaleM33 7ZF
                                                £12 (£10). Schools £6 | 7.30pm
                                        | 0161 912 5616

11 Mar                                   The Met, Bury
                                                Market Street, Bury, Lancashire BL9 0BW
                                                £10 (£8). Schools £6 | 7.30pm
                                        | 0161 761 2216

12 Mar                                   Arts Centre, Washington
                                                Biddick Lane, Washington, Tyne and Wear NE38 8AB
                                                £8.50 (£6). Schools £5 | 7.30pm
                                       | 0191 219 3455

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