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Review: Petrification at Newcastle Live Theatre

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The Bonds and Broken Bridges Between Brothers

NewcastleLive Theatre
Until Saturday 28th May 2016and then on tour

Zoe Cooper’s Petrification receives its world premiere at Newcastle’s Live Theatre this weekend. It is an intense drama about two brothers exploring their mutual history and all of the issues that comes with sibling rivalry.

Simon is sat waiting in the pub that he has used so many times before with his brother and father. On this occasion however, the Gatesheadvenue is where he will meet his brother on the eve of his father’s funeral. Sean, as usual is late even though he has to only walk around the corner from their Mam’s house. When Sean appears he has his boyfriend Aidan in tow and after greetings Sean heads of to the bar.

In that initial conversation it is revealed that Simon has completed his thesis for his PhD on micropaleontology in London and he is awaiting his viva. Aidan, who works for the family bakery firm, is keen to get Simon to explain what his research is about when Sean returns with the beers. 

The lads then reminisce about how they spent time in this very bar with their father and a photo is brought up. The snap shows the lads on holiday in Whitby and clearly there are strong memories and emotions about their annual holidays to the seaside. The evening continues and the drinks flow.

The TellTale Theatre Company is a partnership between playwright Zoe and director Mark Maughan. If this show is anything to go by it will be worth keeping an eye out for future projects.

As the story develops, the conversation appears to rewind back and is repeated with different details. In this way it feels that memories can be modified and corrupted, especially as the alcohol flows. The alcohol also helps increase the mood changes and makes the arguments seem more poignant than, perhaps, they ought to be.

Emma Bailey’s design has involved ripping out the stage and turning the former stage and cabaret seating area into the Gatesheadpub with the audience on three sides of the brother’s table.  Indeed the actors will often break the fourth wall by letting on to the audience members on the surrounding tables like there are regulars at the pub.

Petrification is blessed with a strong cast. Neil Grainger plays the London based student Simon and James Baxter appears as the Gateshead based Sean. Together they appear to understand the complex relationships that even currently distant brothers have. Jamie Quinn is the sharp boyfriend Aidan, and the character quickly reveals himself to have become like family, in a skillful portrayal.

At times the story is a little confusing to follow as the alcohol soaked reminiscing continues and old wounds are opened up. The story cleverly handles the complexities of families.

Petrification is a powerful drama that reflects that everyone’s families have favourites and strained relationships.

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

Running time: 75mins / Suitable for ages 14+


Written by Zoe Cooper
Directed by Mark Maughan
Design by Emma Bailey
Lighting Design by Josh Pharo
Sound Design by Guy Connelly
Produced by LittleMighty

Development supported by Live Theatre, Northern Stage, GIFT and the Kevin Spacey Foundation.

Petrification comes to Newcastle’s Live Theatre from Thursday 26 – Saturday 28 May, 7.30pm
Saturday 28 May, 2pm
£18 - £10 full, £16 -£12 over 60s, £10 - £6 other concessions
Box Office: (0191) 232 1232

Future Tour Dates

2 June: The Victorian Craft Beer Cafe
In Association with Halifax Square Chapel Centre for the Arts Plays in Pubs

3 June: Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal

15 June: Customs House, South Shields

16 June: CAST, Doncaster

18 June: The Lowry, Salford Quays

20 - 22 June: Pub gigs with 2’s Company Festival in association with Harrogate Theatre
20 June - The Mitre Inn, Knaresborough
21 June – Pub gig (tbc), Ripon
22 June - Tap and Spile, Harrogate

26 June: The HUB, Leeds

28 June – 2 July: The Shaftesbury Club, London, in association with Theatre 503

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