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Review: Manifesto for a New City at Newcastle Northern Stage

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A City Hijacked By Entrepreneurs?

Manifesto for a New City
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Saturday 17th October 2015

Photo: Topher McGrillis

A conversation that has happened recently is that of the gentrification of the city of Newcastle. The arrival of the money people who are pushing the natives out. Established music venues are having to close due to complaints about noise from those in new flats nearby. Do the venues with the modern art resonate with the local residents or are they simply a good viewpoint? Are these new concerns?

Photo: Topher McGrillis

2015 represents the tenth anniversary since the untimely passing of playwright Julia Darling. Her 2005 play Manifesto for a New City is still fresh and relevant. It shows that much of what is currently discussed has been a concern for over a decade.

A strong vibrant cast of 14 discuss the problems of the much loved city and then propose a solution.  Linking these ideas are 18 songs, many of which are sung in brilliant a-cappella arrangements that take full advantage of the variety of voices on stage. Jim Kitson and Steve Morton have enabled a rich musical overlay to a poignant show. Julia’s writing is highly relevant to the Newcastle of 2015 and has sharp wit that frequently had the audience laughing.

Whilst Savannah Betts narrates as the poet, Phil Corbitt gives a non-creative angle to our cities problems as a bus driver that crosses from east to west.  Amongst the many clever ideas in the script are the different backgrounds of the characters. The positive primary school teacher (Colette Conlin) contrasts with the curses of the taxi driver (Steve Halliday) and the waitress (Bethan Carr). The issues for Leah Goldie’s lonely business woman are unlike the issues for the auxiliary nurse (Kerry Green) on the low wage. 

Photo: Topher McGrillis

The lighting design helps highlight aspects of the large cast. In particular reducing the light when the blind man (Sandy Davidson) was describing the sounds and smells of the city. 

The music had great lyrics – especially when thefemale cast members sung about Don’t Feel Sorry For Men before the male cast members reciprocated with We Are Reasonable Men.

Photo: Topher McGrillis

In a play that points out that Newcastle is more than stones and roads, but more about hearts and flames, there is plenty of passion.  There is an interesting view of the utopian vision, though it is willing to show some of the short comings. Perhaps we will always complain about our leaders and our area no matter what is done for us.

Director Emma Roxburgh and producer Kylie Llloyd are to be congratulated for the latest production of Manifesto.   It is a vibrant celebration of Newcastle’s spirit which raises questions about the future for the region. Manifesto for a New City is a fabulous show that deserves a longer run.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Photo: Topher McGrillis

Read the original North East Theatre Guide preview:

Manifesto for a New City by Julia Darling comes to Newcastle’s Northern Stage from Thursday 15th– Saturday 17th October 2015, 7.30pm - £10 / £8 concs. 

Photo: Topher McGrillis

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