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Review: Chernobyl@30 at Newcastle Alphabetti

Landmark Production Arrives in the North East


Monday 26th – Wednesday 28th September 2016 - Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

Thursday 29th September 2016 - Arts Centre Washington 7.30pm

Friday 30th September and Saturday 1st October 2016 - Queen's Hall Arts Centre, Hexham

30 years ago, on the 26th April 1986, reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power station exploded. The effect of that accident in the Ukraine was felt across Europe and even in the UK. Hexham based Theatre Sans Frontiéres has collaborated with the Ukrainian Arabesky Theatre to bring an updated version of their show to the region.

A significant part of the production is a film which includes eye witness accounts from Serhly Myrnyj, a writer/researcher at Kylv-Mohyla Academy. Like many students at the time, he was sent in to the area as a poorly trained liquidator with the job of cleaning up the mess.  Testament also comes from the US journalist Mary Myclo, who has Ukranian parents, and visited the region ten years later and was amazed at how nature had flourished.

The fascinating film describes much of the effects of the aftermath of the disaster. A number of interviews with Cumbrian residents have been woven in thanks to Nick May’s 1989 film The Hills Are Alive.

In front of the film, director Svitlana Oleshko has added a number of live action sequences. These are delivered by Mykhaylo Barbara and Nataliia Tsymbal from the Ukraine and the UK’s John Cobb, Sarah Kemp amd Robert Nicholson. These sequences helped illustrate the experience of the army reservists. From the limited training and testing of radioactivity, through to the actual cleaning up and decontamination tasks.  There is a sense of hopelessness to the tasks at times, though they are shovelling apples rather than radioactive fragments.

The show also features a lot of water from the showers and the rain. Perhaps the moment when one of the cast is slowly soaked through is symbolic of the rain that landed on the UK afterwards and people did not know if it was safe. For a small scale show, the water effects are highly effective.

As we are about to restart the UK nuclear power station building programme, the show comes at a timely point in the debate over our nations energy policy. Chernobyl@ 30 is not your average theatre production. Striking film combines with live action to mark the 30th anniversary of one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents. Tonight’s sell out audience was informed as much as they were entertained. The worrying after effect of seeing the show is a feeling of “it couldn’t happen here, could it?” If the show starts a debate amongst the audience then that is a positive reaction.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver the North East Theatre Guide – follow Stephen at @panic_c_button

The show lasts about one hour, is performed in English and features video mainly in English with some scenes in Ukrainian with English subtitles and is suitable for ages 16+ years (some nudity).
TSF is grateful to the following for their support: Arts Council England, The British Council, Queen’s Hall Arts, Active Northumberland and Northumberland County Council.
Chernobyl@30 Tour 2016:
Until Wednesday 28th September, 7.30pm - Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne
Tuesday 27th & Wednesday 28th: £7 Full Price/£5 Concession BOOK ONLINE HERE
Venue: Alphabetti Theatre, The Basement, 18 New Bridge Street West, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8AW Website:

Thursday 29thSeptember, 7.30pm- Arts Centre Washington 7.30pm
Tickets £8.50 / £6.00 (conc)

Details and tickets:

Friday 30th September,
8pm and Saturday 1st October, 2.30pm & 8pm - Queen's Hall Arts Centre, Hexham.  Tickets: Bitesize £12.50; play only £7.50 


Review: Rich Hall at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

Sharp Rich Hall Is A Big Hit

Rich Hall
Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Thursday 29th September 2016

American Rich Hall has a deep understanding of the British sense of humour. We like comedy to be dry and unsentimental. A packed Tyne Theatre enjoyed the well observed wit about life on both sides of the Atlantic.

Rich opened up with an apparently honest view of the current political election campaign stateside – however he is not party political. Whenever he starts to talk about political figures, it is usually in the context of their country’s problems. His sharp satire gets frequent laughs from the appreciative audience. He plugged his upcoming BBC4 documentary on the presidential race and suggests that the unsuccessful candidates were an eye opener.

Later he would touch on British topics but only in context of how a number of films seemed to be based upon “Thatcher ruined our town”. Like the vast bulk of the show, which ran over 2 hours, it is based on sharp observation about our behaviours and attitudes.

He doesn’t over use the front row for comedic laughs. Instead he finds a little bit about some of them in order to create an improvised musical interlude on the guitar.  His quickly thought up rhyming couplets frequently had the audience laughing. Whilst he admits not being a fan of social media or Ebay, he was able to create cutting, but not cruel, songs about both. In the second act he was joined by Rob Childs on the electric guitar. Memorable songs included retired greyhounds, why you don’t find love in a Wetherspoons and the deterioration of Bob Dylan’s live show. Each witty song was well received by the crowd.

The Tyne Theatre is well recognised as a great venue for comedy. The appreciative, well behaved audience knew their role in the performance.

Rich Hall is a really entertaining act that knows how to keep a British audience laughing. He doesn’t stick with any one topic or angle too long.  The songs were just the right length to get the laughs before moving on. He has created a really entertaining show which we really enjoyed.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver the North East Theatre Guide – follow Stephen at @panic_c_button

Future comedy events at Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre & Opera House include:

The Boy with Tape on his Face is Tape Face

Thursday 20th October 2016

Josh Widdicombe: What Do I do
Saturday 29th October 2016

Romesh Ranganathan
Sunday 6th November

Rob Beckett
Thursday 10th November 2016

Jerry Sadowitz
Friday 11th November 2016

Nina Conti - In Your Face
Saturday 19th November 2016

John Shuttleworth: My Last Will and Tasty Mint
Friday 20th January 2017

Miles Jupp
Monday 6th February 2017

Omid Djalili: Schmuck for a Night
Friday 17th February 2017

David O’Doherty: Big Time

Sat 18th February 2107

Pam Ann – Touch Trolley Run to Galley 20thAnniversary Tour
Saturday 17th June 2017


Preview: Being An Ultimate Warrior at South Shields Customs House

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New Play Helps Fight for Theatre’s Survival

Being An Ultimate Warrior
South ShieldsCustoms House
Thursday 13th October 2016

North East play Being An Ultimate Warrior has joined the battle to help Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre (  beat closure. The brand new play by South Shields writer & producer Wayne Miller will offer all profits made from the show to Alphabetti’s survival fund.

At the end of August the theatre’s Artistic Director Ali Pritchard announced the venue would face closure, stating on Facebook I've really not wanted to post a status like this but Alphabetti Theatre is facing closure, since opening we have had the odds stacked against us. I started Alphabetti to create a platform for emerging and experienced artists in the North East to experiment and evolve. Something Ali and his team have achieved with much success, from the critically acclaimed play The Frights to the many Write Back events offering local writers a place to preview their new works and ideas.

Upon reading the closure announcement Wayne like many others in the North East theatre scene felt like one of their children was being taken away. It has been a place nurtured by them and has become like one of their own. He said: “Reading that was a big blow, It’s a place where I have socialised, performed and had my work given a chance to evolve. So I was truly gutted by Ali’s announcement.”

Having performed as part of Cranked Anvils Shakespeare Season at the venue, he knew he wanted to get involved and offer his support, but how? What could he offer?

“I attended their first fund raising event and gave what money I could, but I felt that wasn't enough, I could do more. So that's when I thought about using my new play as a chance to gather some support” he added.

So that was it, he decided all profits for Being An Ultimate Warrior would go towards Alphabetti’s survival fund.

Being An Ultimate Warrior is Wayne’s fourth full length play after his critically acclaimed Big Trilogy. The play is the story of Karl, a life-long wrestling fan struggling with a life changing event. To help him, he looks back through his life growing up watching the in-ring battles, all while dealing with real life battles. Filled with laughter and tears, his journey reveals what it takes to be a real Ultimate Warrior!

This play will première at The Customs House in South Shields next month on Thursday 13th October before touring the North East in 2017. Ticket Price: £12 Standard £9 Friends
Tickets are available in person or by phone from the box office: 0191 454 1234 or online from


Preview: Professor Robert Winston at Whitley Bay Playhouse

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Professor Robert Winston

'Modifying Humans: Where does genetics stop?'

Whitley Bay Playhouse

Monday 26th September 2016 at 7 pm

History shows that humans are obsessed with their genes. Does the sequencing of the human genome really herald a new opportunity for medicine or is there a darker side that we ignore? Moreover, humans have continuously attempted to favour certain characteristics that have been regarded as ‘desirable’. The history of eugenics, from the Supreme Court in the US to the camps in Nazi-occupied Europe, is a prominent stain on the scientific record. IVF treatments now mean we can treat apparently hopeless sterility, help 65 year-olds to conceive, store eggs and embryos in the deep freeze for several hundred years, and screen embryos for serious genetic disorders before a pregnancy has even really begun.

And advances in gene technology mean that we can not only select embryos for ‘desirable’ characteristics but we can now modify genes of animals with remarkable ease; so possibly very soon we may be able to enhance humans by genetic modification. Will ethical considerations prevent us from the next step - manufacturing stronger, more gifted and very intelligent children?  Or will our imperfect knowledge of how our abilities are inherited mean that they there are some major surprises in store?

Tickets costing £16 are available now from the Box Office open Monday – Friday 10am – 4pm, Saturday 10.30am – 2.30pm plus until show start on event days. Tickets can also be purchased on the booking hotline 0844 248 1588* or online at

*Calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge.

Preview: Dickens in Darlington launched by Darlington Civic Theatre

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Dickens in Darlington launched 
by Darlington Civic Theatre

Darlington Civic Theatre has launched Dickens in Darlington, a series of events telling the story of the strong connections Charles Dickens had to Darlington and to the world of theatre, music hall and the railways. Dickens in Darlington will include performances, workshops, talks, a book club, storytelling and an exhibition in Crown Street Art Gallery at Darlington’s Crown Street Library from Saturday 1 October through to Wednesday 21 December.

The Dickens in Darlington Exhibition will run from October 1 to November 3 in the Crown Street Gallery at Darlington’s Crown Street Library. The free exhibition will include images form the Charles Dickens Museum, a reconstruction of Dickens’ famous reading desk, footage from an early Dickens film as well as the display of an amazing dolls’ house based on Dickens’ home in Doughty Street, London, which is now the Charles Dickens Museum.

Join actor and storyteller Chris Connaughton on Saturday 8 October as he performs two spooky tales from the pen of Charles Dickens – a master of suspense. Chris will read The Signal-Man, an eerie tale of a railway worker haunted by a ghostly figure on the rail and The Trial for Murder, a ghost story with a chilling twist. The readings will take place at 2pm and 7pm in the Crown Street Art Gallery.

Tickets are £5 with discounts at £2.50 with a recommended age of 8+.

On Monday 17 October at 1.30pm Margaret Watson tells the fascinating story of how she made a lifelong dream come true, by creating and owning a dolls’ house – a 1:12 scale model of 48 Doughty Street, the London home of Charles Dickens, now the Charles Dickens Museum. The dolls’ house will be on permanent display throughout the Dickens in Darlington exhibition.

For avid readers there will be a book group on Tuesday 25 October with two sessions at 1.30pm and 7pm in the Crown Street Art Gallery. Here you will be able to discuss Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. The book group is intended to complement the community production of A Tale of Two Cities taking place in the Dolphin Centre in November and are open to people who have purchased a ticket for the production. Free copies of the book can be provided.

The Forum on Borough Road will be the venue for a showing of the classic Dickens tale Great Expectations on Monday 3 October at 8pm. Darlington Civic Theatre and Darlington Film Club will present a showing of the 1946 film directed by David Lean and starring John Mills, Valerie Hobson and Jean Simmons. Tickets are priced £3 and are available by emailing

The community cast production of A Tale of Two Cities will run on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 November in Central Hall, the Dolphin Centre in Darlington. In partnership with the Touring Consortium Theatre Company, this will be a promenade performance where the audience will follow, on foot, all of the action between the two cities of London and Paris (seating will be available for people if required). Dickens considered A Tale of Two Cities to be the best story he had ever written. Interweaving one family’s intensely personal drama with the terror and chaos of the French Revolution, it is an epic story of love, sacrifice and redemption amidst horrific violence and world changing events. This thrilling new adaptation by Mike Poulton will feature a community cast of 30 actors alongside a professional production team led by directing rising star, Eduard Lewis. Tickets* are £18, discounts £16, under 16s £10.

In the final run up to Christmas, what better way to spend an evening than listening to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol – devised and performed by Chris Connaughton. Chris presents a thrilling, funny and imaginative re-telling of what is arguably Charles Dickens’ most popular tale, all in the atmospheric setting of St Cuthbert’s Church in Darlington on Wednesday 21 December at 7pm.

Join Tiny Tim, The Ghost of Jacob Marley, Bob Cratchit, and a trio of memorable ghosts as tight-fisted miser Scrooge learns kindness and generosity and fills his heart with the true spirit of Christmas. Chris will end the evening with a seasonal episode from The Pickwick Papers, (Mr Pickwick on the ice) and maybe even some carolling to send you on your way. Tickets are £10, under 16s £5 – recommended age 8+.

To book or for further information on any of the Dickens in Darlington events contact the Box Office on 01325 486 555 or visit
*Includes £1 restoration levy

Preview: Dean Strang & Jerry Buting at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

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Dean Strang & Jerry Buting: A Conversation on Making a Murderer
Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Wednesday 25th January 2017

Tyne Theatre & Opera House are thrilled to announce a highly anticipated new show for January 2017.

Following the overwhelming success of their UK tour this year with numerous sold-out venues, Dean Strang and Jerry Buting, defence attorneys for Steven Avery in the Netflix docuseries Making A Murderer,return to the UK in January 2017 for several very special dates, including Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre & Opera House.

The live tour showcases an evening of conversation with these two compelling figures featured in the docuseries. Buting and Strang will participate in a moderated discussion regarding the operations of the criminal justice system in the United States and abroad, as well as the broader implications of the Steven Avery case. The night will also feature a Q&A portion for audience members to address questions directly to Strang and Buting.

Making A Murderer debuted in December 2015 and showcases Avery and his multiple alleged criminal cases, particularly the 2005 murder case of Teresa Halbach. Avery was convicted in March 2007 and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Theatre Director Joanne Johnson says: “We are honoured to host this greatly anticipated discussion between these two key figures from Making A Murderer - it will no doubt be an absolutely fascinating evening. This is an incredible opportunity for Tyne Theatre & Opera House, with 2017s programme quickly filling up with incredible shows.”

Dean Strang Biography
Dean Strang practices in Madison, Wisconsin, as a shareholder in StrangBradley, LLC. He was Wisconsin’s first Federal Defender and has argued in the United States Supreme Court, five federal circuits, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Mr. Strang has been an adjunct professor at both the University of Wisconsin Law School and Marquette University Law School, and is a lecturer in legal history for the University of Wisconsin, Division of Continuing Studies. He is the author of several law review articles. His first book is WORSE THAN THE DEVIL: ANARCHISTS, CLARENCE DARROW, AND JUSTICE IN A TIME OF TERROR (U. Wisconsin Press 2013; rev. ed. 2016). His second book, about the mass trial of IWW members in federal court in 1918, will be published in 2018.
Jerry Buting Biography

Jerome F. Buting is a shareholder in the Brookfield, Wisconsinlaw firm of Buting, Williams & Stilling, S.C. He received his undergraduate degree in Forensic Studies from Indiana Universityand his law degree from the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. He is a past director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, a past president of the Wisconsin Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and chair of the Wisconsin State Bar Criminal Law Section from 2005 to 2007. His present private practice is entirely criminal defense, both trials and appeals. He has defended the citizen accused in many serious high profile trial cases, including the Steven Avery case as shown in the Netflix documentary, “Making a Murderer” and he obtained the reversal of convictions in State of Wisconsinv. Ted Oswald and State of Wisconsinv. Ralph Armstrong (reversing a 25 year old murder conviction). He lectures nationwide and is frequently sought after for his knowledge in the use of expert witnesses and DNA evidence.

For more information visit the tour’s pages on Twitter and Facebook.


Tickets from £28.50 (plus booking fees when booking online and over the phone)
The Tyne Theatre & Opera House Box Office is open 10am-3:30pm Monday to Friday and event days. Tickets available now from
Booking and Information Line: 0844 2491 000 (10am – 6pm Monday to Friday)
(Under 14s to be accompanied by an adult)