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Preview: When the Boat Comes In at South Shields Customs House


When the Boat Comes In
South Shields Customs House
Thursday 15th - Saturday 25th August 2018

The Customs House announces the highly-skilled cast that will anchor its production of When the Boat Comes In this summer.

Writer Peter Mitchell 
The iconic hit TV show has been adapted for the stage for the first time by Peter Mitchell, the son of the original writer, James Mitchell. The play was commissioned by The Customs House to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War and will run from Thursday 15th to Saturday 25th August 2018.

The gritty drama explores the struggles of life during the inter-war years in the fictional Tyneside town of Gallowshield – based on Mitchell’s birthplace, South Shields. 

Jamie Brown has been cast in the lead role of Sergeant Jack Ford, originally played by James Bolam in the BBC drama, who returns home from active service to find the place he left is still battling against poverty, ill-health, unemployment and discrimination.  But Jack hasn’t endured the horrors of war to live a life of misery - he has set his sights on the high life and is determined to get what he wants, whatever the cost.  Jamie is known throughout the north east for his roles in The Machine Gunners, The Man and the Donkey, The Fifteen Streets, The Cinder Path and Hadaway Harry, among others.  He also directed Geordie the Musical at The Customs House and Tyne Theatre last year and The Butcher’s Bill at several north east venues last month.

Jessie Seaton will be played by Alice Stokoe, who made her West End debut in Mamma Mia in 2014 and has since starred in touring productions of American Idiot and Sister Act.

Bill Seaton will be played by Steve Byron, an actor/drama practitioner with 25 years’ experience of working within community theatre in the north east.

Bella Seaton will be played by Janine Birkett, whose film and TV credits include Billy Elliot, Coronation Street, Inspector George Gently, Emmerdale, Badger and Byker Grove.

The rest of the cast is made up of well-known north east stage stars.  Tom Seaton will be played by Matthew Howdon (Leaving), Billie Seaton by Luke Maddison (Leaving, Geordie theMusical), 
Matt Headley by Charlie Richmond (The Last Ship, The Machine Gunners) and Dolly Mather by Anna Bolton (Emmerdale, Doctors).

Mary Routledge/Mrs Scrimgour will be played by Sarah Balfour, from South Shields, who graduated from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts (ALRA) last year and has since appeared in Hyem at Northern Stage.

Director Katy Weir said: “I am over the moon with the cast we have in place for When the Boat Comes In. Such an iconic piece of work requires an incredibly strong cast to take on the challenge and I believe that is what we have. I can’t wait to get started.”

When the Boat Comes In was the first mainstream TV drama to be set in the north east and at its peak, attracted 15 million viewers and received national acclaim. It ran for four series between 1976 and 1981. Series creator James Mitchell also wrote three tie-in books, When the Boat Comes In, When the Boat Comes In: The Hungry Years and When the Boat Comes In: Upwards and Onwards.

The play has been generously supported by Colmans of South Shields.  Ray Spencer, Executive Director of The Customs House, said: “We’re so excited for this show. Don’t miss the boat, book your tickets now!”

Tickets for When the Boat Comes In are priced from £15 and performances start at 7.30pm, with 2.30pm matinees on Saturday, August 18, Thursday, August 23 and Saturday, August 25. To book, contact the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or visit

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