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Preview: Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing at Newcastle Live Theatre
A talented North East cast and creative team assembled for the World Premiere of Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing, a new play set in Tynemouth 1844 at Live Theatre, Newcastle
A Live Theatre Production. World Premiere
Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing
Newcastle Live Theatre
Thursday 10th November to Saturday 3rd December 2016
Written byShelagh Stephenson
Directed by Max Roberts
Designed by Alison Ashton
Music by The Unthanks
Choreography by Lee Proud
Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing, a new play set in Tynemouth 1844 written by Olivier Award-winning writer Shelagh Stephenson has its World Premiere at Live Theatre, Newcastle from Thursday 10 November to Saturday 3 December 2016.
The play, which is based on the time spent in Tynemouth in the 1840s of real life radical thinker, feminist and anti-slavery campaigner Harriet Martineau, draws together a talented and experienced cast and creative team from across the region.
Playwright Shelagh Stephenson, was born in WhitleyBay, and has previously brought to life another historical figure Homer Winslow and his time with the artists’ community in Cullercoats in her previous play at Live Theatre, A Northern Odyssey. Shelagh has also written extensively for stage, film and TV including The Memory of Waterfor which she won an Olivier Award in 2000 for Best New Comedy, Five Kinds of Silence, and How Does That Make You Feel for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
Music is provided Northumbrian folk group The Unthanks, who have re-arranged songs from their Mount the Air album. Tyneside based sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank also provided music for A Northern Odyssey and for Songs from the Shipyards, and were Mercury Music Prize nominees in 2008 and the only British folk representation in The Guardian and Uncut’s best Album of the decade.
The play stars long-time Live Theatre collaborator Deka Walmsley who started his career in the Wallsend People’s Theatre also has appeared in Live Theatre’s The Pitmen Painters and A Northern Odyssey. Also re-united from A Northern Odysseycast are actorsLizzy McInnernyandAmy McAllister. They are joined by Newcastle born Kate Okello originally from Gosforth who made her Live Theatre debut in The Savage earlier this year, Matt Jamie who has appeared in Lee Hall’s Live Screenplays, and Laura Jane Matthewson originally from Sunderland, attended Newcastle College’s Musical Theatre course and won the 2014 Evening Standard Award for Best Emerging Talent and Living North’s Promise and Potential Award 2015.
The play is directed by Live Theatre’s Artistic Director Max Roberts, who said:“I am delighted to welcome Shelagh Stephenson back to Live Theatre and thrilled that she has created another play set in Tynemouth where she grew up. Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing is a superbly witty and engaging story underpinned with a sharply focused feminist tract. Although the action of the play is set in Tynemouth, 1844, the plays relevance to today’s post-Brexit Britain is remarkably salient. As with A Northern Odyssey the production includes music and dance inspired by the traditions of Northumberland.”
In the play Harriet Martineau seeks refuge from the claustrophobic demands of London society, with her needlepoint and a telescope in an attic room on Front Street, Tynemouth. Instead of escape, Harriet finds an unequal world in need of her attention. This is a world of racial intolerance and gender imbalance, of eccentric scientific practices such as mesmerism and phrenology. A world where a negligent husband may die from a pig falling on his head in the street.
Following on from the critically acclaimed 2010 production of A Northern Odyssey (The Guardian), Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancingis the second in Shelagh Stephenson’s trilogy of plays at Live Theatre exploring the contemporary relevance of Tyneside’s political and cultural heritage.
A series of free talks accompany the play, in Meet the Writer after the 2pmperformance on Saturday 12 November writer Shelagh Stephenson discusses the making of the play. Phrenology, mesmersism and other Victorian beliefs mentioned in the play are discussed by researchers and academics from NewcastleUniversity and SunderlandUniversity in Harriet Martineau and Victorian Pseudoscienceafter the 4pmshow on Sunday 20 November. And in Harriet Martineau In and Beyond Tynemouth after the performance at 7.30pm on Tuesday 22 November, Dr Joe Hardwick, lecturer in History at NorthumbriaUniversity and organiser of the Mapping Radical Tyneside website talks about Martineau’s significance for Victorian radicalism and the emergence of the professional woman writer. The talks are free but must be pre-booked.
Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing is at Live Theatre from Thursday 10 November to Saturday 3 December 2016. For more information and tickets which cost between £12-£26, concs from £10 ring Live Theatre’s box office on (0191) 232 1232 or see www.live.org.uk.
Meet the Writer Saturday 12 November (after the 2pm show)
Shelagh Stephenson discusses the writing of the play.
Harriet Martineau and Victorian Pseudoscience
Sunday 20 November (after the 4pm show so approx 6.30pm)
Harriet Martineau and Victorian beliefs in practices such as mesmerism and phrenology, are discussed by Dr Ella Dzelzainis, Lecturer in Nineteenth-Century Literature at Newcastle University and co-author of Harriet Martineau: Authorship, Society and Empire (2010), Pat Beesley, PhD candidate in English Literature at Newcastle University and recent convener of The Pseudo/Sciences of the Long Nineteenth Century Research Group and Patrick Low, PhD student of History at Sunderland University researching Capital Punishment in the North East of England (1752-1878).
Harriet Martineau In and Beyond Tynemouth Tuesday 22 November (after 7.30pm show so approx 10pm)
Dr. Joe Hardwick, lecturer in History at NorthumbriaUniversity and organiser of the Mapping Radical Tyneside website talks about Martineau’s significance for Victorian radicalism and the emergence of the professional woman writer. The talk connects her domestic life in Tynemouth with the powerful voice that she developed on issues as wide ranging as slavery, empire, politics, economics and the rights of women.