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REVIEW: Clear White Light at Newcastle Live Theatre

Clear White Light
Newcastle Live Theatre
Until Saturday 10th November 2018

Written by Paul Sirett
With the songs of Alan Hull of Lindisfarne
Musical Direction and performed live by Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell

Clear White Light follows in the long tradition for new writing at Newcastle’s Live Theatre. It marks the first production at Live for the new artistic director Joe Douglas. Local themes combine with Alan Hull’s music to produce a show that is certainly different.  

Bryony Corrigan appears as Alison, a second year Mental Health Nursing degree student on her first night shift at St Nicholas Hospital.  She meets Rod (Joe Caffrey) who is the only experienced nurse on the under-staffed ward.  He sets out the schedule for the next 12 hours: go through the hand over from the day shift then do the rounds, sort out tea, issue meds and then get the patients to bed before 10.

Rod gives Ali three of the 16 cases to look after. This includes Barry (Billy Mitchell), a car mechanic had a breakdown when his garage was set on fire by kids. Aaron (Phil Adรจle) who is a patient with depression who was referred from Stockton as they had no places there. Finally there is Charlie (Dale Jewitt), a mathematics student who has a personality disorder.

We don’t do spoilers here, but I should mention the other performers on stage is Alice Blundell as Jo, a nurse on nearby ward, and Charlie Hardwick as Maddie, a lady whose role becomes more apparent as the show goes on. The bulk of the performers get involved with their instruments during each musical number.

Off stage and parked near the seats with the low numbers is Ray Laidlaw adding percussion to the variety of numbers that proliferate the show.

We are not ones for pigeonholing a show but this show falls between a number of genres.  The show features some great music, with Charlie Hardwick performing the bulk of the vocal duties. This show is not a musical though. More a drama that stops for 11 musical numbers by Lindisfarne’s Alan Hull. Likewise the show may be inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Fall of the House of Usher but it isn’t a straight horror show.  The show also has a few digs at the current government’s health policy but it isn’t a play about mental health.  Clear White Light features elements of each of these tropes but lands somewhere between them all, missing many an opportunity to have a much stronger narrative.

The central performances by the reliable Joe Caffrey and the unswerving Bryony Corrigan are both fine. The music fits in well too, though sitting near the drum kit meant I was struggling to hear the lyrics over the percussion.

Clear White Light feels like a missed opportunity. The 3 patients could have been developed further – we are thinking about the successful Live Theatre production Wet House here. Instead, in the second act, the story takes a change in an almost surreal direction. 

I had been looking forward to this show but, somehow, it failed to deliver as either a piece about mental health or as an exciting horror or mystery story. I may be the only one who feels it, but it is a rare Live misfire: a real shame.

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Written by Paul Sirett
With the songs of Alan Hull of Lindisfarne
Musical Direction and performed live by Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell
Directed by Joe Douglas
Designed by Neil Warmington
Dramaturgy by Max Roberts
Lighting Design by Ali Hunter
Sound Design by Dave Flynn


Clear White Light is at Live Theatre from Thursday 18 October to Saturday 10 November.

Writer Paul Sirett will give a free post show talk after the 2pm show on Saturday 20 October and Musical Directors Ray Laidlaw and Billy Mitchell will take part in a post show talk after the 7.30pm performance on Wednesday 24 October. Both talks are free for ticket holders for that performance and will be recorded and available to listen again at

There will also be a number of additional talks and events linked to the play.


For more information or to book tickets which are between £12 and £26, and concessions from £10 call Live Theatre’s Box Office on(0191) 232 1232 or see

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