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REVIEW: Ned Corvan’s Music Hall at New Hartley Welfare Hall

The Lion of Tyneside Returns With A Roar

Ned Corvan’s Music Hall
New Hartley Welfare Hall
29th May 2017 and then on tour across the North East

Fresh on the heels of the success of Hadaway Harry, writer Ed Waugh celebrates another North East Hero Ned Corvan. It is another fast paced, fact filled, emotional rollercoaster. Ned Corvan is another crowd pleaser that deserves to play to packed houses as it tours around the North East.

Photo: Ewan Waugh
Today we have the means to record our musicians so their performances live with us for many years after they’re gone. Born in 1827, Ned Corvan’s time was before such a record could be made. As with many musical hall acts and stage actors, their popularity waned and they soon became forgotten heroes. Yet in the mid 19thcentury they would pack the new music halls. Literally thousands would flock to see them. Why are they relevant in 2017? In Ned Corvan’s case: his songs are a record of North East life at the time. He sang about the struggles of the working class and how they were oppressed by the ruling class. You could argue 2017 is a perfect time to re-visit these topics and compare them with our current society.

Ned was a political animal. He was not afraid to sing about the poor treatment of the bereaved families after a pit disaster or the need for sailors to strike for a living wage.  He argued no one should have to choose between feeding the children and paying the rent. He also protested about how town planners were ripping down Newcastle’s landmarks in order to build contemporary replacements.

Ned captured life in this region at the time. The downside to this was his songs lost their relevance outside of the area. Add the use of the Geordie vernacular and Ned was never going to make it big in London. However in the North East he crafted over 120 songs, which were published at the time, and 22 appear in this play.

Chris Connel
His material also reflects Tyneside’s humour. Ed Waugh has done well to draw out this engaging level of fun throughout the play making the show very accessible.

Two of Tyneside’s most engaging actors, Chris Connel and Jamie Brown play Ned through the ages. They are not afraid to break the fourth wall and get the audience involved, just like good folk music should.

Photo: Ewan Waugh
In the first act Jamie Brown plays Young Ned, with Chris in a mainly narrating role. In the second act Chris plays the older Ned with Jamie filling in the exposition. Whilst both gentleman are great performers and do well to fill the room with their songs, neither appears to be a fiddle player.  The Bellowhead’s Rachael McShane is an accomplished musician and she plays violin live on stage throughout the show.

Jamie Brown
We are fans of the previous work of Jamie, in for example Hadaway Harry and TestingTimes, and Chris in Wet House and Each Piece.  This show is another cracker that show the virtuosity of these two great actors. They work hard and bring the audience quickly on board.  When the lighting failed for a few moments, Chris stayed in character and kept the show going by ad-libbing and showing his professionalism. Rachael, too, kept playing in the dark.

Rachael McShane
Director Gareth Tudor-Price has ensured the tale is well paced as it goes from Ned’s youth to his eventual demise. There is sufficient explanation to make the story accessible. The idea of the factory owners hiring an armed militia to prevent the collective strength of the workers may seem foreign to us now. The struggles of keeping a relationship, or a business going, less so.

Ned now has a blue plaque on the central station, near the location of Ned’s many triumphs. At long last his body of work is receiving some recognition. Ed Waugh has already announced that 2018 will bring a show about the ‘Bard of Tyneside’ Joe Wilson. We look forward to that show too.

Ned Corvan’s Music Hall is a cracking, entertaining show which is still relevant today. Plenty of parallels can be drawn between this tale and modern life. Great acting and skilful musicianship combine to bring a fine story alive. This show is well worth catching as it continues to tour around the region.

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Tickets cost only £15. For regional dates and more information, including how to purchase Cat-Gut Jim  visit:

Tour schedule

May 2017

*additional 2.30pm matinee

Tuesday 30    Westovian Theatre,
South Shields  0191 424 7788
Wednesday 31*  Westovian Theatre,
South Shields  0191 424 7788

June 2017 

*additional 2.30pm matinee

Thursday 1    Sunderland Minster  0191 424 7788
Friday 2*       Sunderland Minster  0191 424 7788
Saturday 3*     Whitley Bay Playhouse 0844 248 1588
Tuesday 6    
Hartlepool Town Hall  01429 523 409
Wednesday 7    Alun Armstrong Theatre,
Stanley  01207 299 110
Thursday 8    The Maltings, Berwick   01289 330 999
Friday 9         The Sage,
Gateshead  0191 443 466
Saturday 10*   The Sage,
Gateshead  0191 443 466

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