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Review: The Savage at Newcastle Live Theatre

Are you sitting comfortably,
Then we shall begin…

A Live Theatre Production: World Premiere
The Savage
Newcastle Live Theatre
Until Saturday 23rd July 2016

Written by David Almond
Directed by Max Roberts
Associate Director Jamie Jackson
Designed by Alison Ashton
Original music by Beth Brennan
Choreography by Lee Proud
Audio Visuals by NOVAK

Carnegie Medal winning author David Almond has turned his children’s short story into an intimate, intense and compassionate play. Max Roberts combines a striking story and clever set design by Alison Ashton to bring a fabulous performance out of the 4 strong cast.

As a parent of a 13 year old I know there is a lack of plays written with the 9 to 15 year old in mind. It seems that whilst the pre-schoolers are well catered for, the assumption is that 9 year olds are not interested in theatre. Hence I can only welcome the move by Live Theatre to not only bring about this substantial production but also to launch Live Tales. Live Tales will try to engage with young people and to explore their ideas to produce stories. In turn this will only do wonders for the participants confidence and communication skills.

But back to The Savage.

Blue is a lad who is in personal turmoil. His Dad has just died unexpectedly and he is being tormented by a lad called Hopper. Hopper himself is struggling too with his Dad serving time in prison.  Blue’s mum is, naturally, also coming to terms with raising a family on her own. Whilst his sister Jess is seemingly coping, she too is having nightmares.

It is down to Blue’s teacher Mrs. Malloy to try to encourage him to put down some ideas onto paper.  She asks him just to be creative, to write about what he wants to discuss. The open ended task leads to a tale about the Savage who strolls around the banks of the Tyne observing the likes of Blue and Hopper. Blue’s classmate Elaine is supportive as he tries to put his ideas on paper. Whilst elaborate descriptions come easy to her, Blue finds it much more of a challenge. Blue’s solution to this lack of confidence is to hide his work as much as he can.

Dean Bone is really engaging as the charming Blue. He doesn’t over play the insecurities of the teenager. The rest of the cast have to play a variety of roles and there are no problems in picking out the different characters. It is easy to have empathy for Mum thanks to Dani Arlington’s performance. Kate Okello alternates skillfully between Blues younger sister, his classmate and his friend. Adam Welsh has the tricky job of not making Hopper into a soulless thug and he succeeds in humanizing Blue’s foe.

David Almond has creative a clever tale that both older children and adults will relate to. As for the suitability for children, there are small number of swear words but the use is not gratuitous. Perhaps the most shocking moment was spitting which really went through me.

Wrapped around the action is a score by Beth Brennan that helps to draw the audience in. On the walls of the well designed set are some visuals that help to reinforce Blue’s communications.

The Savage is a really impressive production of a thought provoking tale. It looks at both family & friendships and the difficulties of getting teenage lads to express their feelings. An enjoyable play, it is well worth the trip to the Newcastle’s Quayside venue to watch.

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

Forthcoming Events That Are Linked To This Production

A series of events accompany the play including two free talks for audiences. In Live Tales Introduction, David Almond will discuss the importance of children’s writing and creativity, with Christina Castling from Live Theatre’s Education & Participation team, and discuss the plans for children’s writing centre Live Tales, of which he is a champion, following the 2pm performance of the play on Saturday 9 July. 
In a Meet the Writer Event David Almond and Director Max Roberts discuss the making of the play, and transforming the story for the stage, after the 7.30pm show on Tuesday 12 July. David will also be available for book-signing after this talk. Both events are free but booking is essential

Free 90 minute Telling Tales Workshopare available for educational groups visiting daytime performances of the Savage at 2pm on Wednesday 6 July, 10.30pm on Tuesday 12 July, 1.30pm at Tuesday 19 July (also a captioned performance) and 10.30pm on Thursday 21 July (which is also designated as a relaxed performance for young people with special educational needs). Workshops have limited places and must be booked in advance.

Read the original North East Theatre Guide preview: REVIEW LINK

The Savage is a family friendly play suitable for ages 9+ and is at Live Theatre,
Newcastlefrom Thursday 30 June to Saturday 23 July. Tickets for The Savage cost £22-£10 full price, £16-£12 over 60s concessions and £15-£6 for other concessions. For more information or to book tickets visit or contact Live Theatre’s box office on (0191) 232 1232.

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