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Review: Five Dead No Bodies at South Shields Customs House

Hold The Front Page!

Five Dead No Bodies
South Shields Customs House
Until Saturday 18th February 2017

Written by Susan Wear and Rob Lawson
Directed by Scott Young

The Customs House continues to support new writing with this tale of newspaper circulation, false news and local campaigning. Funny moments regularly feature in this story which has a strong cast and, perhaps, the most well behaved dog in Tyneside.

This tale takes place in the fictional town of South Peel. Editor Max (Micky Cochrane) is highly stressed about the lack of readers and is keen to get something into print that will improve circulation. His team consists of Dan (Gary Goodyear) who has just returned after cancer treatment; the reliable Janet (Christina Berriman Dawson) and the new, social media-savvy, lad Tom (Andy Berriman). Sorting out the calls and visitors is Steph (Kylie Ann Ford). Janet arrives with a wonderful greyhound called Murdoch and insists on checking her sources. Tom is less worried about the formalities of verifying facts and this leads to a natural friction in the office.  

Numerous opportunities are taken to see the light-hearted side of the story. Some dodgy characters appear in the press room and these roles are also played by the cast. In particular Gary Goodyear has more costume changes than Lady Gaga and he didn’t break sweat as he confidently went from owner to policeman and back to journalist.

The cast help make this an entertaining night out. Director Scott Young keeps the action flowing in the 2 hour show. Alison Ashton’s set of the news room also enables the action to flow. The script from Susan Wear and Rob Lawson doesn’t dwell on darker side of the human condition. As the narrative reveals the lengths people will go to there is always a positive or humorous message that can be taken from it.

In the 1990s we had Drop The Dead Donkeyon TV to illustrate both the chaos that was to be found in the press room and with current affairs. In this tale, co-written by former local newspaper editor Rob Lawson, the scenario has been updated: the circulation of the paper has virtually disappeared and most of the staff have been made redundant. The stark reality of local journalism is clear as the paper has let their last photographer go and the paper is on the verge of closure. Perhaps it is Twitter and Facebook that has precipitated the situation. It may surprise the public to discover how small the press teams often are in local press rooms.

Five Dead – No Bodies is an entertaining story which is well acted. Upon reflection it felt like an obituary to the printed newspaper, as papers follow VHS tapes and steam engines into the history books. The Customs House should be praised for their continued support of new writing – this show is another one which is well worth putting your smart phone down for a couple of hours and going to watch it. 

Review by Stephen Oliver

The play will be on at The Customs House from Wednesday 15th February to Saturday 18th February. Tickets are available priced £18, or £15 for concessions, from the box office on 0191 454 1234 or by logging on to The Customs House’s new website at

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