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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

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