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Review: The Season Ticket at Newcastle Northern Stage

Newcastle play is Purely Belter

The Season Ticket
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Saturday 8th October 2016

The Season Ticket is an emotional rollercoaster about 2 young friends how would love to see their footballing heroes play on the hallowed turf of St James’ Park. They use their cunning to try to raise the necessary funds for a pair of season tickets. However life is tough for these Gateshead lads in this powerful production that is a modern kitchen sink drama. The show does much more for flagging up the reality on our doorsteps than an evening watching Channel 5’s exploitative so-called documentaries on the poor.

The cast of The Season Ticket at St James' Park
Photo: North News & Pictures
Whilst adverts say it is based on Mark Herman’s 2000 film Purely Belter there are a number of significant changes to the plot. Writer Lee Mattinson has gone back to Gateshead-based English teacher Jonathan Tulloch’s original book (also called The Season Ticket) and created an updated play that works well on the stage.

It is May 2015, Steve McClaren is manager of Newcastle United and lifelong best mates Gerry and Sewell have an ambition to own season tickets to see their team in the following season. Gerry is still 15 and is a school refuser, seeing his future in attending the “University of Life” rather than working hard on his GCSEs. This viewpoint is reinforced by the bullying antics of his teacher when he does try to attend school. 

Cast of The Season Ticket
l-r Niek Versteeg Kevin Wathen
Victoria Elliott and Laila Zaidi
Photo: Topher McGrillis
Gerry’s sister Claire is in sixth form and is worried about her A level mocks as she’d like to study English Literature at university. Trying to hold their family together is mum Dee. The family keep having to move house in order to keep away from their estranged father. Claire’s twin Bridget has also fled the family nest. The children are not universally welcoming when locksmith Dan walks into their life and becomes Dee’s friend with benefits.

Laila Zaidi as Gemma and
Niek Versteeg as Gerry
Photo: Topher McGrillis
Gerry’s best mate Sewell has taken to eating lots of comfort food since a family tragedy. He fancies a girl called Gemma from Gerry’s school but she seems more interested in a fitter sportier lad at the school.

Cast of The Season Ticket
l-r Niek Versteeg Kevin Wathen
Victoria Elliott and Will Graham
Photo: Topher McGrillis
The lad’s money making schemes seem to rely on ‘twocing’(taking without consent). So they try to burgle a house to find cash and steal from shops in order to get goods to sell in order to raise funds for their scheme. Perhaps their most audacious scheme is to steal Gerry’s father’s football memorabilia in order to try to pass it off as former Newcastle United star Paul Gascoigne’s.

Director Katie Posner and
Writer Lee Mattinson at St James' Park
Photo: North News & Pictures
Director Katie Posner has created a lively show that does not condone the poor behaviour of the characters. The audience will struggle not to feel empathy for the predicament that the families find themselves in.  In a number of funny moments, the audience laugh with the characters rather than at them most of the time. By the time the play finishes it is difficult not to be moved by what you’ve just witnessed.

Will Graham as Sewell and
Niek Versteeg as Gerry
Photo: Topher McGrillis
The roles of Gerry and Sewell are well cast. Will Graham is loveable as Sewell and it is easy to see why Dee looks after him almost as much as her own family.  Niek Vesteeg has to combine much of the narration with playing the lead character. Like Michael Caine in the film Alfie, he has mastered the skill of talking to each member of the audience as an individual before snapping back into dialogue with the rest of the cast.  It is easy to like Gerry the person, even though his behaviour is often criminal.

Victoria Elliott and Kevin Wathen appeared together in Northern Stage’s production of Get Carter (NETG Review: their chemistry works well together again as matriarchal Dee and her partner Dan.

Playing both sister Claire and school friend Gemma is Laila Zaidi. She is convincing as the older sister who is struggling to achieve something for herself against the odds.

Joe Caffrey as Terry McCarten +
Niek Versteeg as Gerry McCarten
Photo: Topher McGrillis

Joe Caffrey, who was phenomenal as the hopeless drunk Dinger in the award winning Live Theatre production of Wet House(NETG Review: returns as numerous characters. Joe is highly versatile as he appears as the helpful member of staff at Waterstones bookshop, the Education Welfare Officer trying to bribe Gerry to return to school and the Fenwicks department store security officer. It is in his devastating role as Gerry’s father that one will remember him most.

A minor concern with the production that, on occasions, it sometimes took a while to realise that the same actor was now playing a different character rather than appearing in a different outfit as it is another day.

Will Graham as Sewell
Photo: Topher McGrillis
The set, designed by Jean Chan, was clever and worked well in helping the story to unfold. The combination of Alexandra Stafford’s lighting and use by sound designer James Frewer of the wonderful Dance of the Knights by Sergei Prokofiev meant it was easy for the audience to realise the action had moved to the Stadium of Light.

Renny Krupinski has put together a number of tight fight sequences that often left one flinching as one character attacked the other.

Will Graham as Sewell and
Niek Versteeg as Gerry at St James' Park
Photo: North News & Pictures
The Season Ticket is a great drama. Coving friendship, hardship, love and the need for hope, it explores the human condition. A great cast deliver a striking show that leaves a lasting impression.

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

The Season Ticket comes to Newcastle Northern Stage from Until Saturday 8th October 2016. Tickets from £15.50
Recommended age: 14+
Book online at call 0191 230 5151.

The show then goes on tour:
Winchester Theatre Royal 20th – 22nd October 2016
Dundee Rep 25th – 27th October 2016


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