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Review: Turning Pages at Newcastle Live Theatre

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Six exciting short plays by young writers from Gateshead & Sunderland
Turning Pages
Newcastle Live Theatre
Saturday 5th December 2015

The Live Theatre Write Stuff project has produced six little gems that show how creative young people can be. Professional actors perform in an eclectic mix of stories. This is the generation that plays games consoles, use their mobiles as torches and watch the likes of the Hostel and Saw movies.

An inventive set and great lighting design provide a number of tricks of the theatre trade to bring these stories alive. The real power though, is in the scripts themselves, as each play ultimately looks into relationships.

Photo: Chris Auld.
Memories Of The Sea by Amy Connor from Sunderland’s Red House Academy sets out the stall well for the evening. Adam Donaldson plays a lad who is looking for work. He has applied for many jobs but he is struggling to get his foot on the first rung of the ladder. He meets up with his Nan in one of his favourite spots, a bench with a sea view. Nan shares the contents of her box of memories whilst he is disturbed by the idea that Nan was once also a young passionate person in love. There is a genuinely natural reaction by the grandson to the concept of the grandparent dating. The script makes mature use of a third offstage character- the lad’s Mam. Judi Earl shows the tenderness of a loving family relationship whilst staying in alpha position in the relation. Memories Of The Sea was a delightful start to proceedings and, like many of the evenings stories, it has the potential to be expanded into a full length play.

Photo: Chris Auld.
Scary House by Reece Weightman from Gateshead’s Furrowfield School was a change in direction and pace. A lad, played by Chris Foley, breaks into a house for a dare. He uses a mobile phone for light. The audience can only see what he sees as he decides to vandalise the place. This production really benefited from the clever lighting design. But what is that in the corner? Is it a clown? We know from Wet House (Review: that Chris Connel does scary very well and tonight he did not disappoint as the somewhat unhinged clown. Reece’s play has a sense of dark comedy about it and the audience were frequently in stitches about the situation as it unfolded.

Photo: Chris Auld.
Could It Be A Tuna? By Red House Academy’s Nathan Beckett showed the how a young playwright can sensitively handle a tough situation.  A 4 year old lad has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. The NHS has run out of funding and so his parents have just 2 options: raise the funds to get him to America for treatment or watch him die before he turns 6. Christina Berriman Dawson plays the egocentric mum who is loving the attention that is being drawn to her family by the media campaign. Tom Booth is the poor 4 year old who idolises his parents. He gets his phrases wrong – as a 4 year old does. The tumour is referred to as a “tuna” and the USA becomes “United of America”. Nathan’s dialogue accepts the perception of a young child about his future.  One could feel empathy for the poor friendless lad who relies totally on his parents. The young parent too, at times, is also childish in her attitude. This was another show in which the audience clearly enjoyed the lighter moments in an interesting study of the human condition.

Photo: Chris Auld.
Furrowfield School’s Leonnie Lartey wrote Soulless and Goalless in which 18 year old Pamela Kingsley has moved into a new house.  Natalie Golightly plays the self obsessed teenager who feels that she will have a career as a singer. Once again, much to the audience’s surprise, a great trick of the lighting reveals Natalie Jamieson as the ghost of the house. The make up on the mischievous 7 year is stunning. The characters show a real mismatch in the expectations and attitude of Victorian children with their modern counterparts. The dark humour comes from the careful handling of the characters. Leonnie’s play finished the first half on a high. The ending shows a real creative flair that would have not been out of place in Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected.

Photo: Chris Auld.
The second set opened with Doctor Death from Furrowfield School’s Lee Harrison. Matt Jamie plays the game loving first aider on the building site of a new hospital. He is busy playing on his X-box when his boss comes in. The boss is on the search for a couple of employees that seem to have disappeared recently. Michael Lockhart’s character is then led into a game by Matt’s menacing character. Lee’s play has a number of surprises which unfold as the game proceeds. Certainly it has put this reviewer off mint tea.

Photo: Chris Auld.
Finishing the show was Never Never Land by Lauren Dickson. The Red House Academy student makes references to J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan as she explores the desire to stay youthful. Set in 2071, Chris Foley is a 14 year old who is too grown up to listen to bed-time stories. But Donald McBride’s Grandad character is keen to give him a warning from the past as he recalls how everyone was willing to make sacrifices to stay young back in 2020. Both actors have a field day as they explore the ridiculous pursuit of the perfect body image.  Lauren’s cautionary tale is timely and heart-felt.

Credit must go to everyone who has had a hand in putting these shows on the stage. The team of professionals at Live Theatre, as well as the families and schools of the young creators of the plays must be justifiably proud.

Designer Alison Ashton, lighting designer Drummond Orr, costume designer Lou Duffy and sound designer Dave Flynn have each added their polish to a great evening. The show has the most creative use of a bed in the set design as it took part in numerous ways.

Each play has the potential for development into a longer piece. They show a much broader outlook, by the young writers, on the world than older observers may give them credit for. Their voice is authentically young whilst their observations and wit are sharply focussed. The Live Theatre continues, successfully, to develop the writers of the future. The world of culture is a better place for it.

The plays written by students from Furrowfield School in
Gateshead are Doctor Death by Lee Harrison, Soulless and Goalless by Leonnie Lartey and Scary House by Reece Weightman. The plays written by students from Red House Academy in Sunderland are Could It Be A Tuna? by Nathan Beckett, Memories Of The Sea by Amy Connor, and Never Never Land by Lauren Dickson. 

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

Coming up at Live Theatre:
Next season Live Theatre has a selection of productions suitable for families and young people. You can see the next set of plays by young writers, as they are performed for the first time as script-in-hand performances in the Studio Theatre at 7.30pm on Friday 4 March as pupils from The Northumberland Church of England Academy take part in Write Stuff. In The Media Circus at 7.30pm on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 March, members of Live's Youth Theatre present imagainative short plays about the good, the bad and the ugly side of media presence in young people's lives. Find out more.

For more information and to buy tickets costing £8 and £6 concessions call Live Theatre’s box office on (0191) 232 1232 or see

North East Theatre Guide Preview of the new season at Live Theatre:


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