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Preview: Tempest at Newcastle People’s Theatre

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“We are such stuff as dreams are made on ...”

The Tempest
by William Shakespeare
Newcastle People’s Theatre
Tuesday 7th to Saturday 11th March 2017

Marooned on a remote island, Prospero, the usurped Duke of Milan, lives with his daughter Miranda and their two servants: the flighty spirit Ariel, and Caliban, the downtrodden witch-spawned drudge.

Prospero uses his magic powers to conjure up a storm, shipwrecking his wicked brother and his court on the island, placing them at his mercy. But Shakespeare’s classic is no simple tale of revenge. The political intrigue and sibling rivalry at the heart of the tale are counterpointed by one of Jacobean theatre’s greatest evocations of love at first sight.

Romance and reconciliation win the day, with much roistering high-jinks, melodramatic sorcery, and knockabout comic interludes along the way.

“Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises; Sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.”

Tony Childs as Prospero
Photo: Paula Smart
The Tempest is famously the most musical of the Bard’s dramas, with haunting songs and an enchanted masque.  The director, Anna Dobson, is no stranger to extravaganza, having produced our very successful Pantos in recent years. Her take on Shakespeare’s late masterpiece is of course much more subtle, but no less engaging, so look out for some weird and wonderful spectacle!


Photo: Paula Smart
The Tempest comes to The People’s Theatre, Stephenson Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 5QF on Tuesday 7th to Saturday 11th March 2017 at 7:30pm
Tickets cost: £13.50 (Concessions £11) and can be obtained from the box office on 0191 265 5020 or from the website:




Work has this month completed on the new on-site bistro, alongside renovation and refurbishment to the Dress Circle Bar areas at Sunderland Empire as part of a £500,000 investment at the North East theatre.

Photo: David Allan Photography
The luxurious new Garden Place Bistro is situated in the former Dress Circle back bar and will open for walk up bookings to coincide with One Night of Elvis on Wednesday 1 March. Walk up bookings will continue until The Full Monty on Monday 20 March, when advance bookings can be made in person at the box office or via

New Bistro - Photo: David Allan Photography
Garden Place Bistro will offer pre-theatre dining on performance nights from 5.30pm and on matinee days from 12.30pm, with early arrival is recommended to experience the full 3-course menu. The 45 seater bistro will treat customers to a selection of light bites as well as a delicious two course menu for only £12.95, or three course menu for £16.95, alongside a special children’s menu. The stylish bistro will be the perfect place to enjoy relaxed pre-theatre dining, safe in the knowledge you won’t miss a moment of the show.

Dress Circle Bar -Photo: David Allan Photography
The Dress Circle front bar area has also undergone extensive refurbishment which has included refreshed décor, new seating and exposure and restoration of the original parquet flooring.

New Bistro - Photo: David Allan Photography
The Grade 2 listed Edwardian theatre is managed by the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), the largest owner/operator of theatres in the UK, internationally recognised theatre producer and leader in theatre ticketing services, on behalf of the Sunderland Empire Trust and is supported by Sunderland City Council.

The front of house renovations compliment a range of work and initiatives already completed at the theatre which have included the Ambassador Lounge and box refurbishment and the rolling out of the successful Ordertorium facility,

Terpsichore - Photo: David Allan Photography
Externally, the reinstallation of the iconic Terpsichore statue took place last month, following dislodgement during high winds. All were delighted to see the statue return to her rightful place on top of the 90ft tower. General Façade repairs have also been completed to showcase a refreshed tower in addition to a new advanced lighting system, which allows lighting changes linked to a productions arrival.

Dress Circle Bar - Photo: David Allan Photography
Ben Phillips, General Manager, Sunderland Empire said: “2017 signals an exciting time for Sunderland Empire as we embrace the substantial capital improvement plan for the venue. We continue to attract audiences from across the region especially with North East debuts gracing our stage such as The Lion King, Wicked and the homecoming of Billy Elliot the Musical.  We don’t just see ourselves as a Sunderland venue, but as a North East venue. 

The renovation work ties in with the developments of our new neighbours at the Old Fire Station in the creation of a cultural hub around the theatre. It’s important to continually attract people into the city via the cultural offer, especially as we work towards the City of Culture 2021 title. Sunderland Empire is just one cultural element of the offer available across the City, but we believe these new developments at the theatre will help drive footfall and people into our city, which is instrumental.”


Preview: Not Dead Enough at Newcastle Theatre Royal


Not Dead Enough
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Monday 20th– Saturday 25th March 2017

Leading television presenter Laura Whitmore will star in the next thrilling stage adaptation of multi-million selling author PeterJames’ Not Dead Enough.

Laura Whitmore
Following PeterJames’ 11th consecutive Sunday Times No.1 in the UK Book Charts and the huge sell-out success of The Perfect Murderand Dead Simple on stage Not Dead Enough receives its world stage premiere in January 2017.

No stranger to theatre, Laura Whitmore’s acting career began at a young age with the Leinster School of Music and Drama in Dublin. In the very same year that she completed her Diploma in Performance with a special honour for her final performance she was chosen as the new face of MTV Europe. Laura is best known for her work as a presenter for MTV, The Brits and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Here Now. She is currently gracing our screens on BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and is excited about her imminent return to acting.

Laura Whitmore said: “I'm a huge fan of PeterJames' books and so honoured to be cast as his Cleo for her first theatrical outing. Peterhas created a strong character in Cleo Morely and I can't wait to sink my teeth into the role. I'm also unbelievably excited to work with Producer Joshua Andrews and Director Ian Talbot. Before I trained in Journalism, I studied Drama and played some great roles including Lady Macbeth and Annie in All My Sons! I have been waiting a long time to return to acting and for a great role like this to come along, so I can’t wait to get on stage around the UK and of course Dublin with Not Dead Enough.”

PeterJames said; “The characters in my Roy Grace novels are very precious to me and I have a very clear image of each of them in my mind.  In bringing my work to the stage, I’ve tried hard in the casting, masterminded by Josh Andrews, to find brilliant performers who bear a strong resemblance to my vision of the characters - to lift them truly off the page.  The moment I met Laura Whitmore and she began reading a scene from the play I had that deep thrill of knowing we had found my absolutely perfect Cleo - the way she looks and the warmth and energy she radiates - just perfect in every way.”

Not Dead Enough is the third novel in the award winning Roy Grace series and now becomes the third play in his box office smash hit and critically acclaimed stage franchise. James has been acclaimed as ‘one of the most fiendishly clever crime fiction plotters’ (Daily Mail) and his brilliant international bestselling Roy Grace novels have been published in 37 languages and sold over 18 million copies worldwide. His latest novel, Love You Dead, enjoyed 3 consecutive weeks at No.1 in the Fiction hardback charts, a new record for Peterwho is also the 2016 recipient of crime writing’s highest honour, the Diamond Dagger.

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife, he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed. At least that’s what he claims. But as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace continues to deal with the mysterious disappearance of his own wife, he starts to dig a little deeper into the chilling murder case and it soon becomes clear that love can be a dangerous thing.

Following the nationwide success of The Perfect Murder with Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace earlier this year, Not Dead Enough reunites PeterJames with theatre producer Joshua Andrews, the Olivier award winning director Ian Talbot and award winning playwright Shaun McKenna.


Not Dead Enough is at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Monday 20thuntil Saturday 25th March 2017, playing evenings at 7.30pm, matinees on Thu 2pm and Sat 2.30pm. Tickets from £14.50 and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21.  Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge or book online at   

REVIEW: Hadaway Harry at Newcastle Theatre Royal

A Celebration of Tyneside hero

Hadaway Harry
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Until Saturday 25th February 2017

Written by Ed Waugh
Directed by Russell Floyd
Stage and Scene Design by Steve Arnott

Hadaway Harry: Jamie Brown
Additional Characters: Wayne Miller

Newcastle United was founded just 124 years ago in 1892. This raises the question “Which sport did people follow before football?” 

Hadaway Harry is a tale about the 19th century passion for rowing, or ‘aquatics’ as it was known. Each North East river had numerous clubs and a race meeting between rival rivers, say Wear vs Tyne, could attract not just tens of thousands but sometimes over 100 000 spectators. The oarsmen were the ‘Alan Shearers’ of their time with monuments and songs produced in their honour.

We had heard on the grapevine that this was a must-see show that celebrates the grit and determination of the North East people. It is pleasing to say they were right as this is indeed a fine production that celebrates a true Geordie Hero. Well written, superbly acted and very engaging, it is no surprise that many of the Theatre Royal audience were on their feet at the end.  Indeed, dear reader, this was one of those rare shows in which we found ourselves on our feet too.

The production is about the legendary Harry Clasper. He was a working class hero who had spent time down the pit, working in shipbuilding and feeding the coke ovens. Harry also was a member of a large family which ended up being a ready made crew of 5 – 4 rowers and a coxswain. Over 90 minutes, plus interval, Ed Waugh’s writing describes how the young Harry overcame obstacles to be become the leader of a successful team.

Jamie Brown shows his versatility as he both narrates and acts his way through Harry’s life. It takes real skill to have the Theatre Royal hanging on to your every word as you describe a rowing race. The applause that follows was as much a spontaneous appreciation of his performance as it was in recognition of Harry Clasper’s achievement.

Jamie is supported by follow North Eastern actor Wayne Miller who plays a variety of charismatic characters. Often breaking the fourth wall and drawing the audience in, he helped create many of the funny moments in the story.

The story is a celebration of what make the region special. The accent, the sayings, the strength of character and the individuals who overcome adversity in order to succeed. Engaging and informative, it never leaves the audience behind in a wall of rowing jargon. It is a fabulous performance about a real Geordie Hero. No wonder the song “Blaydon Races” was written in his honour.

2017 is already off to a great start in North East Theatre!

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Tickets cost from £10. Contact the box office on 08448 112121 or


Preview: Hysteria at Durham Gala

Hysteria comes to Gala Theatre this Spring

Durham Gala
Thursday 2nd – Saturday 4th March 2017

What would happen if you took Sigmund Freud, Salvador Dali and added a leafy Swiss cottage and a naked woman in a wardrobe? Find out in Hysteria, the Olivier Award-winning play coming to Durham from Thursday, 2 March.

Ged McKenna as Sigmund Freud and
Summer Strallen as Jessica.
Described by the Daily Telegraph as a modern classic, the hilarious farce, written by Terry Johnson and staged by London Classic Theatre, follows Freud as he flees Nazi-occupied Austria to spend his last days in peaceful contemplation. This plan swiftly goes out of the window when he is visited by Dali and chaos ensues as two of the twentieth century’s most brilliant minds collide in a fictionalised account of the pair’s real-life 1938 meeting.

The exhausted Freud, trying to put his affairs in order in the last months of his illness, soon finds himself up to his neck explain both his life’s work and female undergarments in his garden.

The cast includes former Hollyoaks star Summer Strallen, who is joined by John Dorney as Dali, Ged McKenna as Freud and Moray Treadwell as Dr Yahuda.

London Classic Theatre is one of the UK’s leading touring theatre companies. It has previously brought Harold Pinter’s The Birthday Party and Alan Ayckbourn’s Absent Friends to Gala audiences in recent years.

Performances are at 7.30pm daily from Thursday, 2 March to Saturday, 4 March. Tickets are £15 (£13 concession and £12 for Gala members). Visit to book or call 03000 266 600 or visit the box office in person.


Whitley Bay Playhouse
Saturday 2nd December 2017Sunday 7th January 2018

Ray Quinn
X Factor Finalist and West End performer Ray Quinn will headline this year's Pantomime Cinderella at the Playhouse in Whitley Bay. Ray will play the part of Prince Charming the lovable prince who rescues Cinderella from her Ugly Sisters at
Hardup Hall.

Ray joins the hugely popular local funny guy Steve Walls who returns to the Playhouse for his eighth year in Panto playing the part of Buttons.

Producer Gary Telfer said: “We can’t wait to produce Cinderella’ this year, it is without a doubt the most
popular and traditional pantomime of them all its every girl's dream to be like Cinderella. This year is going to be our biggest and best year ever and we are thrilled to have signed such a high-quality performer as Ray Quinn, Ray is extremely popular as well as being a fantastic performer he has performed in many musicals up and down the country including Greese in London’s West End”

Ray can currently be seen in a number 1 tour of the Wedding Singer, which is touring the UK and is at the Sunderland Empire this week (Read Wedding Singer preview LINK.). The Playhouse pantomime attracts more and more popular each year, in fact, most of the shows sold out last year. We are keen to continue building the reputation that we have built in Whitley Bay, which has grown dramatically over the last 5 years. Last year we catered for almost 5000 extra people than in 2015. Read the review of last year's show LINK.

This year’s run has been extended by a full week, there will be 67 action-packed performances of Cinderella’at the Playhouse, Whitley Bay from 2nd December 2017– 7th January 2018.


Tickets are on sale now and already selling fast. Call the Playhouse Box Office on 0844 248 1588 or book online at


Preview: Ventoux at Washington Arts Centre

Ventoux – Legendary Bike Race brought to the Stage
Washington Arts Centre
Thursday 16th March 2017

Ventoux, a restaging of the dramatic Tour de France race between Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani, comes to Arts Centre Washington on Thursday 16th March, 7.30pm as part of the Sunderland Stages programme.

In 2000, two giants of cycling climbed Mont Ventoux in a dramatic battle to win stage 12 of the Tour de France: Lance Armstrong, who went on to win the Tour and a further five in the years that followed before being stripped of his titles, and Marco Pantani, who never raced in the Tour again and died of an overdose four years later.

Performed with two road bikes, real race commentary and stunning film footage captured by the company as they cycled up Mont Ventoux, 2Magpies Theatre have recreate the 60 minute conflict with all the benefit of hindsight, charting the parallels of their early careers and the stark split in fortunes following the race.

Mont Ventoux has become legendary in the Tour de France as one of the most grueling climbs in the race and has a history which has inspired a solemn reverence of the ‘Giant of Provence’, from the death of English cyclist Tim Simpson 50 years ago to the spectacular crash last year which left eventual winner Chris Froome jogging several hundred yards until he could get a replacement bike. Tributes are still left to Tim Simpson on the mountain side.

Artistic director of 2Magpies Theatre Tom Barnes said, “I really got into cycling in a big way in 2012 when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France, and I began to look back through some of the greatest races and came across the 2000 Tour de France and Armstrong and Pantani. The way the story played out is so theatrical in itself that it seemed perfect for retelling on stage with this new angle of hindsight. We've had a lot of cycling fans come and see it – it's brilliant to see."

2Magpies Theatre is a Nottingham based company who explore topical and political issues. It was founded by Tom Barnes and Matt Wilks, who graduated with MAs in International Security and Terrorism in 2013. Their previous show, The Litvinenko Project explored the poisoning of the Russian dissident, and their next show, Last Resort about the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, will premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Ventoux comes to Arts Centre
Washington on Thursday 16 March, 7.30pm as part of the Sunderland Stages programme.  Tickets are from £6 and are available from by calling 0191 561 3455.

National Tour 2 Mar to 28 May
North East dates…

4 Mar                                     Seaton Delaval Arts Centre
                                                Blyth St, Seaton Delaval, Whitley Bay NE25 0DY
                                                Times and prices TBC
                                       | 0191 237 5460

10 Mar                                   Saltburn Community Theatre
                                                Albion Terrace, Saltburn-by-the-Sea TS12 1JW
                                                7.30pm | £10
                                        | 01287 624 997

16 Mar                                   Arts Centre Washington, Sunderland
                                                Biddick Ln, Washington NE38 8AB
                                                7.30pm | £8.50
                                       | 0191 219 3455

18 Apr                                   Alnwick Playhouse, Northumberland
                                                Bondgate Without, Alnwick NE66 1PQ
                                                7.30pm | Pay What You Decide
                                        | 01665 510 785

Supported by Arts Council England Strategic Touring funding, and made with support from Curve (Leicester), Nottingham Lakeside Arts, The Castle (Wellingborough) and New Perspectives