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Thursday, 29 June 2017

REVIEW: Beyond The End Of The Road at Gateshead Sage





A love song to Northumberland

Beyond The End Of The Road
Tuesday 27th June 2017    Sage Gateshead, Sage Two
Friday 30th June 2017        Whalton Village Hall        
Saturday 1st July 2017       Crossman Village Hall, part of Holy Island Festival

Before we begin, a disclaimer. I am born and bred in the North East and have been surrounded by the songs, stories and history of Northumberland my whole life. I grew up exploring the hills and coastlines so a production that promises to bring a place I love so much to life is…daunting. What if it misses the mark, or worse, makes fun of all the brilliant (and sometimes brilliantly eccentric) people that call Northumberland home?
Beyond the End of the Road is set in P L A C E. A rural Northumberland village that is easily recognisable as any and all small communities stretching up the coastline. The narrator, played by the wonderfully charismatic, Kevin Bacon-esq PeterPeverley promises us love, sex, violence, death and betrayal and reminds us that every stone, every star holds a memory; that here there is life
The cast of 10 make up the storytelling rabble and they weave their midsummer tale about the residents of P L A C E, their loves, their losses and their deepest secrets. The show is inspired by folk and traditional music and as well as the musicians and actors on stage, there are special appearances from local talent at each venue.
The show begins with ‘Northumberland Sky’; a love song to Northumberland. The song perfectly captures the essence of the endless skies, mountains and valleys of the region and the history that they have absorbed; there was a tear in my eye before the 10 minute mark. After all, it is the start of midsummer and anything can happen…
From there it is a winding road of laughs (a quip about an old, mouldy canvas tent passed down from grandfather to father to son particularly tickled me, much to the surprise of the gentleman next to me) and maybe a few more tears as you are transported to the auction mart, to the village hall and to the ‘top field’ where a mysterious, unidentified sound is coming from the soil…
The secrets of the village intertwine as Sula, a newcomer, tries to escape her past while pining for her young daughter, feuding brothers grapple for control of their farm and Evie tries her best to prepare for the midsummer ceilidh. All while the ground appears to be straining under the weight of all the lives, secrets and history that it has absorbed.
After a short interval, there is just time to grab a drink before you are invited to the ceilidh that Evie has been preparing so hard for. Grab a partner to dozy doe or just sit back and enjoy the music and comparing from renowned caller Alistair Anderson.
I experienced Beyond the End of the Road on the day that November Club, Sage Gateshead and a host of other invaluable arts venues and organisations in the North East received confirmation of their NPO Arts Council Funding, enabling them to continue bringing stories and songs to life across our region. Songs that haven’t even been written yet and stories that might not have been lived. There was so much joy in the foyer as people hugged and congratulated each other for their hard work and I can’t think of a more appropriate day to smile and laugh and cry and celebrate the North East in all its weird and wonderful glory.
Beyond the End of the Road is perfect, balancing the right amount of humour with people and stories that will seem almost familiar to everyone who has ever set foot in a rural Northumberland town. There may be tears, and by god, there WILL be dancing.

Review by Lauren Regan
Website: www.novemberclub.org.uk/musical        


REMAINING TOUR DATES:             
Friday 30th June 7:30pm   Whalton Village Hall         (£3.00 - £7.00)
                                                Box Office: 01670 775411
Saturday 1st July 4.00pm  Crossman Village Hall, part of Holy IslandFestival (£10.00)                      Box Office: www.holyislandfestival.org



Monday, 26 June 2017

REVIEW: Dirty Dancing at Sunderland Empire



THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE

Dirty Dancing
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 1st July 2017
Photo: Alistair Muir

Photo: Alistair Muir
Fans of the 1987 classic movie will not be disappointed. This is not one of those musicals in which you expect to see the film live on stage and they change the music and the memorable parts of the dialogue. You want watermelons, you’ve got it. You want sexy dancing, you’ve got it. You want to cheer when Baby’s location in the corner is brought into question? This week’s show at Sunderland Empire has got that too.

Photo: Alistair Muir
It’s the summer of 1963, and 17 year- old Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman is about to grow up on a holiday she won’t forget. The holiday in New York’s Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents will involve more than a performance from her sister. Thanks to some personal dance lessons she will find out there’s more to life, thanks to Johnny Castle.

Photo: Alistair Muir
The script was written by Eleanor Bergstein, script writer of the 1987 film. The action concentrates on the central pair of Baby (Katie Eccles) and Johnny (Lewis Griffiths) whilst the other characters are very much on the periphery. Federico Bellone’s direction keeps a very tight ship. This is helped, in no small part, by Roberto Comotti’s set design that relies on three revolving stages in order to keep the action running from scene to scene.
Photo: Alistair Muir
The real selling point from my point of view was the stunning choreography from Gillian Bruce. The dancing ensemble filled the stage with a real positive energy. Carlie Milner pulls of some amazing sequences as Johnny’s dance partner Penny Johnson.  Katie Eccles and Lewis Griffiths themselves are fabulous dancers. They made the lifts in the final sequence look so easy which is a tribute to their own talent and dedication.
Photo: Alistair Muir

Photo: Alistair Muir
It is difficult to describe this as a musical as such though. Yes there is music - lots of it in fact - but it is mainly in the background or there for the dancing. The handful of sung numbers, including (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life, is handled by just 4 singers. Jo Servi, when not playing piano, handles one early number. Sophia MacKay gets a number of chances to show the power of her voice whilst Michael Kent was in charge of a couple of crowd pleasers. Lizzie Ottley, of course, as Baby’s sister Lisa gets a  number in the final scene.  The live music is delivered by up to 3 musicians on stage and drums of stage. Our only niggle was that lack of a full live band on stage which seems to be a missed opportunity.


Photo: Alistair Muir
Dirty Dancing - The Classic Story On Stageis a real feel good show that concentrates on vibrant dance routines and the memorable dialogue from the film. Whilst it isn’t going to deliver many surprises to the fans of the film, the staging is very effective. There are a few nice tricks during the dance training scenes. The music is there but we don’t get the big solo numbers in which each principal character states their desires and dreams. Perhaps it is refreshing because of that.  We’ve seen a production of Dirty Dancing before but we prefer this one - it is going to be a hit for the fans of the film.

Review by Stephen Oliver


Tickets:

Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or www.atgtickets.com/sunderland *calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.


   
 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

#Kynren from @ElevenArches ..truly the Story of Us. #review #photographs


The Story of Us Continues –

The celebration of our culture and heritage has become a lot bigger

Kynren

Flatts Farm, Bishop Auckland DL14 7SF
Saturday 1st July- Saturday 16th September 2017

Jonathan Ruffer

More than 100,000 vistors experienced the Kynren specatacle last year. Creative director Steve Boyd had the task of making this year's show a new, bigger and even better experience for the audience.
The crowd of friends, locals, family and press filed into the "Tribune", the grandstand seating area that provides a good view of the performance area.
Steven Boyd
Introductions from the cheery philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer and Steve Boyd confirmed the aims of this year's show were: more people,more animals, more pyro and more choreography. 

This is what we got, starting with a boy breaking a window at the home of the retired Bishop with a football. Young Arthur meets the Bishop's manservant, "old" Arthur. This begins a tale of time travel from the time of the Holy Grail until WW2. Young Arthur is warned of the dangers of interfering with history, but does that stop him getting involved with key historical events? Of course not! 




The lake was the source of many of the effects and set changes. Fountains, projections, buildings rising and falling, and more appeared from the watery depths.








With, this year, 1500 “archers” (volunteer performers) the cast is definitely larger than last year. New for this year is the battle of Boudicca’s rebels against the Roman army. The equestrianism in the show shone through the whole performance. Horses racing around the site, knights jousting in the Middle Ages, also surprisingly well-trained farm animals all added positively to the experience.

The huge cast were not just standing around, everyone was choreographed, dancing, fighting, playing out the lives of people in our shared history.

 


A touching reconstruction of the Christmas Day truce in the WW1 trenches was made more magical by the snow falling over the site. The Battle of Hastings had burning arrows fired, there were characters from Shakespeare stories depicted for the pleasure of Queen Elizabeth I, celebrations with dancing, a funeral for lost miners.

 


This is indeed the story of us. History is not just the famous figures in the history book, but the stories of ordinary folk and their struggles and triumphs. I feel this was reflected in Kynren. The cast, who are too numerous to name, deserve special credit for bringing these stories to life. The technical team created effects and sets that took the production to another level.




Anyone with a passion for Britain’s (and the local area’s) history or just the desire to enjoy a summer night spectacle like no other, you shouldn’t miss this.


The Practical Issues

Now that you’ve read what a wonderful  show Kynren is, we need to disclose some notes about the visitor experience.

This is an evening show that on our evening started on a lovely warm June day and we got to our car at 1145 at night. Tip one is wrap up warm as it will be a lot colder at the end of the show.  Our son had wished he’d worn his gloves and put another layer on.

We have been lucky: we have seen Kynren twice and enjoyed a “mild” dry night on both occasions. They state the show goes ahead whatever the weather so bring your waterproofs too. Umbrellas are not permitted in the seating area.

Wear comfortable footwear. There is a further 350 metres to walk after the security check in order to get to the seating area. This path is mainly level but you need to factor in this stretch when planning your arrival time but we’ll come back to that.

If you are coming by car then do read the website carefully https://elevenarches.org/your-visit/parking. We were in car park C which was described as “walk 15 to 20 minutes down a countryside path to reach the ticket and security check on the Kynren site. After the first sloped 100 yards, the rest of the path is a gently sloping gradient, but bear in mind the return walk back is up hill!”  Indeed it took 50 minutes after the show for us to climb that hill and we were over taking people. We wish that shuttle bus had been an option for us on preview night. The website states that it can only be used if it is pre booked. If, like us, you plan to walk then you might want to take a torch. On our night only the middle third of the route was properly lit and we could have done with more illumination of that final third of the walk through the trees and the field. There are some lights but they are more limited in their effectiveness at this point.

Do study the guidelines about when to arrive: https://elevenarches.org/your-visit. In these times of heightened security risks you will have to go through a security check and you need to factor that into your timing.  Talking of security: we will quote the website again “Please note that backpacks, rucksacks, suitcases, picnic hampers, shopping bags or any other bags exceeding 40cm x 30cm x 20cm are not permitted on site. Only handbags and fully transparent plastic bags are allowed, provided their dimensions do not exceed 40cm x 30cm x 20cm.
For a full list of items we cannot allow on site, click here. As there are no Left Luggage facilities in the grounds (except for pushchairs), we reserve the right to confiscate any forbidden item at security check.”

If you fancy buying a souvenir we have one final point to bring to your attention which you’ll need to consider before you leave home: “Please note that Kynren merchandise across the whole site may only be purchased by debit or credit card; we regret that cash payment for your souvenirs will not be accepted.” 

So arrive early in warm waterproofs and good footwear, leave the bags in your car and enjoy the show.

Review by Joanne Oliver and Stephen Oliver

Tickets:
For more information and to book tickets, visit www.kynren.co.uk

Performance dates and times
July 2017
Saturday 1 July, 9.30pm
Friday 7 July, 9.30pm
Saturday 8 July, 9.30pm
Friday 14 July, 9.30pm
Saturday 15 July, 9.30pm
Friday 21 July, 9.00pm
Saturday 22 July, 9.00pm
August 2017
Friday 11 August, 9.00pm
Saturday 12 August, 9.00pm
Friday 18 August, 8.30pm
Saturday 19 August, 8.30pm
Saturday 26 August, 8.00pm
Sunday 27 August, 8.00pm
September 2017
Friday 1 September, 8.00pm
Saturday 2 September, 8.00pm
Saturday 9 September, 8.00pm
Saturday 16 September, 8.00pm