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REVIEW: Filleting Machine at North Shields Low Lights Tavern

Debut Success

The Filleting Machine
North Shields Low Lights Tavern
and then on tour
Thursday 1st June 2017

In a week of seeing theatre in places that don’t normally host it, tonight’s show is held in the snug of a pub adjacent to the very Fish Quay that the play was written about a number of decades ago. It is a very intimate place. So intimate in fact, you can smell the food that the cast are eating. This is a perfect setting for a fly-on-the-wall kitchen sink drama about the fish industry.

Photo: Steve Conlan
BlowinA Hooley is a new theatre group that has been conceived to bring shows about our region and deliver them to locations that don’t normally get the chance. This show will be touring to community centres, social clubs and the occasional conventional theatre.

Tom Hadaway was born in North Shields and, before he found himself writing for shows like When The Boat Comes In, he found himself in 1937, aged 14, working on the Fish Quay.  This writing has a feeling of authenticity, helped in no small part, by the actors authentic accents. This is no Billy Elliott-gate moment. You could tell that it resonated with the audience too as they reacted to what was said and what happened.

The Filleting Machine is focuses the action around the kitchen table of the Rutter family.  They live in the Ridges Estate (now, of course, known as the Meadow Well estate). Director Catherine Scott has put the action in the round, with the audience sat around watching the action.

Photo: Steve Conlan
Alice (Erin Mullen) is sat reading a comic listening to ELO on her tape recorder as Ma (Harriet Ghost) is preparing the evening meal. Her son Davy (William Wyn Davies) wonders in and announces Da (Micky McGregor) has found himself in a lock in at the local pub and will be down later. Ma is not impressed as she can smell fish on her son so she knows he’s been down the fish quay. Davy has been offered a job there but Ma wants him to go to an interview as a town clerk. The conflict between the apparent riches to be found in casual work and bettering oneself in a clerical job are already there when Da lands through the door tanked up with ale.

Photo: Steve Conlan
Tom Hadaway’s script is less about some battle between the classes and more to do with the conflict found in the working class. How does someone encourage a child to get an education when you partner feels a lack of one has been no barrier to their future? The script makes it clear there is another family upstairs and multiple other children elsewhere. Perhaps they have their meal at another sitting?

In the close confines of the room you can feel the anger of the parents, the hostility to each other’s values. You can see the pleasure of the younger sibling getting the older one into bother.

Photo: Steve Conlan
The show is well acted and developed though, at under 40 minutes, it is on the short side. It has been a Channel 4 play and perhaps the running time suited that format. It is a shame there is no second act to find the consequences of their actions.

The Filleting Machine is a promising start for a new theatre company. The authentic feel of both the writing and its delivery is a credit to those involved. It’s worth checking out and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.   

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Tour Dates:

Wednesday 7th June 2017, 2.30pm & 7.30pm – The Exchange
Friday 9th June 2017, 7.30pm – Wallsend Memorial Hall
Saturday 10th June 2017, 7.30pm – Wallsend Memorial Hall
Friday 16th June 2017, 7pmSouth Shields Customs House
Saturday 24th June 2017, 7.30pm – Byker & Heaton Union Club
Friday 4th August 2017, 7.30pm – Old Low Light Heritage Centre
Saturday 5th Aug 2017, 2.30pm & 7.30pm – Old Low Light Heritage Centre

Tickets are available at each venue and online at:  (The Exchange performances)

and  for all other performances

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