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Preview: Romeo and Juliet at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Young Dance Talent From The North East To Star In World Premiere Of Matthew Bourne’s Romeo And Juliet

Matthew Bourne's Romeo and Juliet
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Wednesday 9 - Saturday 12 October 2019

Matthew Bourne’s pioneering dance company New Adventures has cast six young dancers from the North East in its world premiere production of Romeo and Juliet which will appear at Newcastle Theatre Royal in October 2019.

Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet is a passionate and contemporary re-imagining of Shakespeare’s classic love story. Bursting with youth, vitality and Matthew Bourne’s trademark storytelling, Britain’s brightest young dance talent join the New Adventures company for this World Premiere production.

As part of New Adventures’ ambition to support the next generation of on-stage talent the Romeo and Juliet UK tour will feature the finest emerging male and female dancers from each UK region. The search began in April 2018 with a call-out for young dancers currently in training aged between 16 and 19. Attracting over 1000 applications and following a UK-wide audition tour, local Young Cast members will perform at each venue alongside the New Adventures company.

During the show’s run at Newcastle Theatre Royal, the six Young Cast members will include: Louis Baxter from Bishop Auckland, Sam Curruthers from Whitley Bay, Kayleigh Oborka-Letman from Germany but now living in Newcastle, Lisa Robinson from Durham, Andrew Scott from  Sunderland and Chloe Shutt from Darlington.

Matthew Bourne said today: New Adventures’ Romeo and Juliet will be a celebration of youthful energy, talent and creativity both on and off-stage and, uniquely, in all aspects of Choreography, Design and Music through the appointment of a series of “Young Associate Artists”.   As we enter our fourth decade as a company I’m finding the development of young talent ever more important and fulfilling. Our new company of Romeo and Juliet features a staggering 97 young dancers making their debuts with us; some are joining us as part of their third year of training, others have come through our Company initiatives such as ‘Swan School’, ‘A Summer Adventure’ and of course, our production of Lord of the Flies which inspired so many young men to seek careers in dance. This time we have focused on nurturing young male and female dancers, and I have been overwhelmed by the talent that we have had to choose from throughout the UK. I’m particularly happy to be working alongside my Young Associate Choreographer, Arielle Smith, an exceptional young dancemaker of great maturity and vision. In turn, after 30 years as a professional choreographer, I look forward to being refreshed and inspired by what this team of young artists will bring to Shakespeare’s classic tale of tragic conflict and young love”. 

The title roles of ‘Romeo’ and ‘Juliet’ will be played by six New Adventures rising stars and two exciting new dancers making their professional debuts.

Creating the role of Juliet will be Cordelia Braithwaite, currently performing as ‘Cinderella’ on the international tour; Seren Williams, who joined New Adventures in 2016 with Matthew Bourne’s award-winning production of The Red Shoes and Bryony Harrison who is making her debut with New Adventures on tour with Matthew Bourne’s legendary production of Swan Lake.

The role of Romeo will be created by Andrew Monaghan, currently ‘The Pilot’ in Cinderella, Paris Fitzpatrick who is playing the ‘Angel’ in Cinderella and João Carolino who joined the company in 2017 with Early Adventures.

Making their professional debuts with the company are Harrison Dowzell, as ‘Romeo’, who auditioned for the Young Cast in Nottingham, and Bryony Wood, as ‘Juliet’, discovered during the Young Cast auditions in Southampton. Both are in their graduate years at Performers College and Tring Park School for the Performing Arts respectively.

They are joined by leading New Adventures artists, Madelaine Brennan, Daisy May Kemp, Danny Reubens and Daniel Wright who will create the ‘adult’ world of Romeo and Juliet.

Ben Brown, Reece Causton, Jackson Fisch, Kate Lyons, Stephen Murray and Mark Samaras will come to this production direct from our USA Tour of Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella.

New Adventures is committed to finding and developing diverse young talent from across the UK. Since Lord of the Flies in 2014 New Adventures has been supporting young dancers from this production on their journey into training and professional work.  The company have delivered various initiatives, including ‘Swan School’, two week-long intensives designed to prepare graduate level dancers for the audition process.

Continuing New Adventures’ commitment to developing off-stage talent, a team of Young Associate Artists have been recruited to work alongside the Artistic team in the creation of this world premiere production. Arielle Smith joins as Young Associate Choreographer; Elin Steele as Young Associate Set & Costume Designer and Ali Hunter as Young Associate Lighting Designer.

Romeo And Juliet is directed and choreographed by Matthew Bourne, collaborating with his entire New Adventures Associate Artistic team; Etta Murfitt, Associate Artistic Director, set and costume design by Lez Brotherston; lighting by Paule Constable; sound by Paul Groothuis; and new orchestrations of the Prokofiev score by Terry Davies, played live at every venue by The New Adventures Orchestra conducted by Brett Morris.

The six North East dancers:

Louis Baxter was born in Bishop Auckland and lives in Newton Aycliffe.  He is training at Dance City CAT for the Dance City BTEC. Having seen “Lord of the Flies” in 2014 he thought being part of the Young Cast for “Romeo and Juliet” would be an amazing experience and opportunity to work with a professional team of dancers along with other dancers of his own age.

Sam Curruthers was born in Carlisle and lives in Whitley Bay. He returns to the Theatre Royal having been part of the Young Cast for “Lord of the Flies” in 2014. He wanted to be part of the Young Cast for “Romeo and Juliet” to continue to improve his skills and challenge himself in a professional production.

Kayleigh Oborka-Letman was born in Germany and lives in Newcastle. She is training at Trinity Laban Conservatoire for Music and Dance. She is an aspiring choreographer and this production felt like a great opportunity to learn from the best.

Lisa Robinson was born in Bishop Auckland and lives in Durham.  She is training at Dance City Newcastle and Nadines Dance Company. From a young age she has had an ardent passion for dance and performance. She respects and adores how refreshing, unique, inspiring and ground-breaking New Adventures productions continue to be and couldn’t let the opportunity to grow and learn pass her by.

Andrew Scott was born in Sunderland and lives in London training at the London Contemporary School of Dance.    He has always been a massive fan of Matthew Bourne’s work.  He loves the twists he puts on the original storyline.  It is an amazing opportunity to be part of one of his productions and is looking forward to the whole process, topped off by the chance to perform at the Theatre Royal alongside New Adventures.

Chloe Shutt was born in Darlington and lives in Newton Aycliffe.  She is training at Dance City, Newcastle.  She wanted to be part of the Young Cast for “Romeo and Juliet” because as an emerging dancer in training the opportunity provides a great insight into the professional world on such a huge scale with an amazingly creative and world-renowned company.

On The Web:

Romeo and Juliet is at Newcastle Theatre Royal for four nights only between Wednesday 9 and Saturday 12 October 2019 playing evenings at 7.30pm and matinees on Weds & Thurs at 2pm and Sat at 2.30pm.  Early booking is advisable.  Tickets from £17.50 can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (Calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at

Preview: Smack That (a conversation) at Newcastle Gosforth Civic Theatre

Smack That on Tyneside

Smack That (a conversation)
Newcastle Gosforth Civic Theatre
Friday 24th May 2019

Original, accessible and empowering Barbican hit from endlessly inventive choreographer Rhiannon Faith coming to Gosforth, 24 May. ‘I only make shows if something makes me angry’

Meet Beverly. You’re invited to her party. Like most parties there’ll be fun and games, drinks, shared conversations, popcorn and energetic dancing. But this party has a darker side and genuine heartbreaking moments as Beverly bravely gives a raw and honest account of surviving an abusive relationship.

One in four women experience domestic abuse in their lives. Smack That (a conversation) by theatremaker and choreographer Rhiannon Faith shines a light on this complex subject. In 2018 the show sold out a week long run at The Barbican and a short UK tour, and was recently shortlisted for the Innovation in Dance category in the inaugural One Dance UK Awards. The show is coming to Gosforth Civic Theatre on Friday 24 May as part of a UK tour.

Smack That (a conversation) features a female cast of seven, all of whom play Beverly. They are a close-knit group made up of non-performers and experienced dance and theatre artists. Each has their own personal experience of domestic abuse and they convey the turbulent, real life experiences of domestic abuse that Beverly, and they, have endured and survived. The party setting creates a safe space for them to reveal the challenges they have faced and to celebrate their resilience with the audience.

‘raw, eloquent with a final note of hope’ Luke Jennings, The Observer

Stories of abuse intertwine with party games and energetic dance routines to create a powerful, moving and unashamedly entertaining piece of theatre. The fun, upbeat party setting allows these voices to be heard without prejudice and where marshmallows and party poppers readily mix with refuge contact information.

dance, participatory theatre and awareness-raising in one welcoming package,… a party game to help change the world’ ★★★★ The Guardian

Rhiannon said ‘The idea for the show has been with me for years from seeing the experiences and hearing the stories from friends and family and others who felt OK talking privately but lacked the confidence to talk publicly about what they had been (or still were) going through. A lot of dance is there to decorate the world, which is lovely but I am more there to change the world. I only make shows if something makes me feel angry.’

‘Inventive and demanding immersive dance-theatre … a work of urgent importance.’ ★★★★ The Stage

Crucially, Smack That (a conversation) is based on authentic stories told through the voices of survivors of domestic violence and abuse. It seeks to raise awareness of domestic abuse and move the conversations from private to public.
The show is designed to support women and encourage them to talk openly about their experiences. It is underpinned by Rhiannon’s work with a support group at Safer Places, the independent charity that provides services to adults and children affected by domestic and sexual abuse.

Reported instances of domestic abuse throughout the UK are said to have almost doubled in recent years.
In the UK police receive a complaint about domestic violence every 60 seconds.
One in four women experience domestic abuse in their lives.
On average a woman is assaulted 35 times before she receives help.
750,000 UK children witness domestic abuse or violence each year.
The impact of domestic violence costs the UK £15.7 billion annually.
In England and Wales one woman is killed by their partner, or ex-partner, every three days.

‘The creative process required a great deal of vulnerability and trust’ added Rhiannon ‘I knew that before I could create this show I had to be totally sure that we would be able provide proper care and support for my Bevs’. During the creation process there was regular support for the team from psychologist Joy Griffiths, who is also available to the audience during and after all performances.

‘treats its subject matter with huge sensitivity and honesty’ ★★★★ DanceTabs

Smack That (a conversation) has a lasting legacy and impact. All venues that it’s staged in are encouraged to become J9 centres. ​This national initiative aims to provide​ safe and secure opportunities for victims to disclose domestic abuse and access a full support system. J9 venues display pink J9 stickers in their windows, signalling to the public that it is safe to talk. Staff at each J9 contact point are provided with training to raise awareness and increase understanding of domestic abuse. They are trained to signpost, advise and spot the signs of domestic abuse. Each venue has a safe place where victims can access information and use a phone to call for further help. Following the 2018 performances The Barbican, with 600 staff is now a J9 venue.

Smack That (a conversation) has been published by Oberon Books as an Instructional dance theatre play. To mark the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women the rights to the play will be available each November free to groups around the world to enable them to perform it and raise money for their local refuge/women’s group.

Photos: Foteini Christofilopoulou

On The Web:

Smack That (a conversation)
Age 16+ The show raises themes of an adult nature, sexual violence and domestic abuse.
Runs 80 minutes (no interval).
Newcastle upon Tyne, Gosforth Civic Theatre, Regent Farm Road, Gosforth NE3 3HD
Box office: 0191 284 3700 – online:

Interview: Diary of an Expat at Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre

Paper Smokers/Fumatori di Carta presents:
Diary of an Expat
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre
Tuesday 2nd – Friday 5th April 2019

Performed by Cecilia Gragnani
Directed by Katharina Reinthaller
Written by Cecilia Gragnani, Jvan Sica and Loredana de Michelis

Coming to Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle from 2 – 5 April, Diary of an Expat is a funny and provocative look at what it means to live abroad. Cecilia Gragnani is an Italian expat sharing her personal experience and testimonials from amusing miscommunications to bewildering legal technicalities. Cecilia became a British citizen less than a year ago, and the show brings aspects of the process that are confusing, infuriating, or just plain funny; did you know that Scotland has five ski resorts? Expats who have passed the citizenship test do!

Cecilia has lived in the UK for ten years. She learned very early on how to make a proper round of tea, adopted the British queueing system as gospel, and developed a deep and abiding love for sausage rolls (far more than any Brit she knows). On the other hand, she still supports AC Milan. But aside from the humour in the show, it also explores what it means to be too Italian to be considered British, and too British to be considered Italian.

Ahead of her show arriving this week in Newcastle, we had a chance to ask Cecilia all about Diary of an Expat.

What is Diary of an Expat about?

Diary of an Expat is a semi autobiographic comedy about an immigrant’s journey towards full Britishness while a funny little thing called Brexit threatens the European dream of life abroad. It’s based on personal experiences as well as testimonies collected over the past years. It is a love letter to the UK as well as an attempt to create a more honest portrait of European immigrants.

What inspired you to write it?

The “Life in the UK” book that future citizen have to study to pass the exam and access the citizenship. It was full of comedy gold I couldn’t ignore. I also wanted to tell a story about European citizens. Despite the classics literature and plays there’s not much on stage, at least in London, that talks to and about us. I believe theatre is a precious environment where a society can come together and reflect on what happens in the world at a given time and I wanted to tell a story about how the tectonic shift that Brexit is and will be affects people and their lives.

You’ve also performed the show in Italy, which came first?

The UK version came first. The original idea was for an Italian audience, to share a story of emigration with my countrymen. Soon after Brexit started to unfold and I realised that it was a story that could resonate in the UK as well. Funding wise, it was easier and smoother to work on the UK production first. At the end of 2018 I started developing the Italian version (which will end up being a very different show as in it I will be the native, flipping the perspective) which will open in Italy before the end of the year.

Do you consider yourself British or Italian?

Despite being now a British citizen as well, I still feel predominantly Italian. However I’ve noticed that my ten years in the UK have had a strong impact on my customs. I do struggle to accept forms of queuing that don’t follow the British way of doing it, I love sausage rolls (which I think makes me more British than the Brits themselves) and I noticed I talk much more about the weather than before. Jokes aside, I have acquired habits that have certainly come from my life in the UK and my process of integration inside the community I live in.

What do you think audiences will leave feeling?

I hope they will be entertained and feel like they spent an hour mostly laughing and partly crying or being moved. They will hopefully leave more curious about immigrants and the citizenship process. My biggest goal is for Europeans to feel less lonely, to have their story heard, and for British people to feel less scared.

What’s the funniest miscommunication you’ve had since coming to England?
The first that comes to mind is linguistic and was a few months after I arrived in 2008. I was at drama school and we were working on some scenes, I had a line which was something like “Would you like another pot?”. It was an acting for camera session and I was very focused on the technical side of the scene so instead I said “Would you like some pot?”. The whole class started laughing and explained that I had just offered drugs…
Another big miscommunication happened around tea. I offered to make some tea to a bunch of British colleagues and it didn’t go well. I would advise non British people to never be so daring. I came back with tea without milk and it didn’t go well. My colleagues were annoyed and outraged, that’s not how you make tea. But I learnt the lesson and never did it again.

The show arrives at Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre on Tuesday and performs until Friday – details of this “Pay What You Feel” show are below.
On The Web:

Cast & Creatives:
Performed by Cecilia Gragnani and Steve Wickenden (voice over)
Directed by Katharina Reinthaller 
Written by Cecilia Gragnani, Jvan Sica and Loredana de Michelis
Set design by Rasa Selemonavičiūtė     
Sound design by Neil McKeown

Movement director Mala Cherga Theatre

Running Time: 60 mins
Suitable for ages 14+
Tickets are ‘Pay What You Feel’

Preview: Darlington Hippodrome Summer 2019 season.

Darlington Hippodrome Launches Exciting Summer 2019 Season 

Darlington Hippodrome has lifted the lid on a selection of new shows for its Summer 2019 season.

The new season includes some thrilling new drama, a hand-picked selection of the world’s most dazzling musicals and some truly magical family shows.
For drama lovers, there are thriller spectaculars in store with powerful new productions on the horizon.
The Mousetrap
Agatha Christie lovers are in for a treat as The Mousetrap, starring Gwyneth Strong (April 29 – May 4) and the classic Miss Marple tale A Murder is Announced will keep audiences on the edge of their seats (September 10 – 14) with The Lady Vanishes hot on their tail (October 15 – 19) a new stage adaptation based on the classic Hitchcock film.
For less thrills and more laughs there is Stones in His Pockets (July 15 – 20) and Stephen Tompkinson stars in Educating Rita (August 12 – 17).
Musical fans will be delighted to hear that some major musical blockbusters are heading this way.
Jason Manford as 'Frank Cioffi' in Curtains
Jaymi Hensley (UnionJ) will be pulling on that coat of many colours as he stars in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (May 21 – 25). Celebrating 30 terrific years, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story will have you dancing in the aisles (September 17 – 21). The entire family will simply love Madagascar The Musical (October 9 – 13) and there will be chills abound when DarlingtonOS presents Jekyll & Hyde The Musical (October 23 – November 2). Jason Manford stars in the musical comedy / murder mystery Curtains (November 12 – 16).
For younger visitors and families there is a whole host of shows to entertain.
Jaymi Hensley (UnionJ)  in
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
That larger-than-life dragon Zog is on his way to Darlington (May 17 – 19), you can get an hilarious history lesson with the team from Horrible Histories as they present Terrible Tudors and Awful Egyptians (June 20 – 23). A brand new stage show of In The Night Garden will enthral young visitors to the Hippodrome (September 29 & 29) and the David Walliams classic story Billionaire Boy will hit the stage later in the year (November 6 – 10).
Operetta and Song & Dance fans have a selection of productions which will appeal to all tastes and ages.
Jack and the Beanstalk starring Shirley Ballas
The National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company present three G&S classics – The Gondoliers, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado (August 1 – 3). For a little more glamour and glitz Puttin’ On The Ritz will bring to life the music of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin (August 6 – 8). Celebrating the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons is New Jersey Nights (August 22 – 24).
Also on sale is the festive family pantomime – Jack and the Beanstalk starring Strictly judge Shirley Ballas.

Comedy lovers will have no shortage of laughs over the coming months.
Alexander Armstrong
Dave Spikey will grace the stage (May 16), there is an afternoon of fun with The Good Old Days of Variety (June 6), Adam Kay is back by popular demand (June 7), La Voix offers her own unique style of entertainment (June 18) while Frank Skinner (October 6) and Alexander Armstrong (November 4) will certainly pull in the crowds.
In The Hullabaloo more intimate comedy can be found with Tom Stade (May 3), Sophie Willan & Jonny Pelham (May 12), and Jan Ravens (May 29).
Frank Skinner
There are a number of fabulous ‘one night only’ productions including Sing-A-Long-A The Greatest Showman (May 11), Elkie Brooks (May 29), Rhythm of the Dance (July 23), The Best of Wham! (September 1), T.Rextacy (October 2) and many, many more.
Additional shows are regularly being added to the Darlington Hippodrome schedule. To ensure you keep up to date please visit the website.

For further information and to book contact the box office on 01325 405405, or visit to choose your own seats online.


Preview: Pricks On Tour

Pricks: A Play
By Jade Byrne

Sunday 28 April 2019    Darlington Pennyweight
Friday 10 May 2019        Hexham Queens Hall Arts Centre
Tuesday 21 May 2019    Newcastle Northern Stage

I've had over 70,000 pricks… of the medical kind.
This is my chance to set the record straight about Type 1 diabetics like me.
Despite what people say, I'm not bankrupting the NHS. And I can eat cake – a whole bloody cake – if I want to.

Darlington actress, Jade Byrne, heads off on a special UK tour this year as Pricks, a medical play with a difference about Type 1 Diabetes, takes in a dozen dates from Hexham to Exeter and a few in-between.

At 33-years-old, Jade has been an actress for nine years, appearing in the likes of Inspector George Gently, Casualty and Mount Pleasant, and a Type 1 diabetic for the past 30.

An urgent, yet funny, new, one-woman show sees Jade tell a warm, engaging and uplifting story with poetry, original soundscape about families and learning to care for others better.

Looking ahead to the tour Jade said: “I want everyone to experience Pricks and be affected by it, in a good way. I want to be able to educate through entertainment about what it (Type 1 Diabetes) actually is and I want the entire world to see it. I love seeing the reaction from the audience at shows and it is a great night out. It’s funny, but will make a lot of people cry, happy tears as it’s everything I’d like myself from a theatre show.”

Beginning on April 25 Jade will take in Cheltenham, Leeds, Darlington, Halifax, Hexham, Exeter, Hemel Hempstead, Newcastle, Harrogate, Derby, and Doncaster before finishing at the Pulse Festival, Ipswich, on June 4.

Plaudits for Pricks include the following: -
 “…educational, heart-wrenching and heart-warming” - The List
“A revelatory piece of theatre” – The Stage
“…a polished, warm-hearted performance” – The Scotsman

Information About Type 1 Diabetes

On The Web:
Instagram: @PricksPlay
(Edinburgh Fringe 2018) Promo Video –


April 28      Pennyweight; Darlington
May 10       Queens Hall Arts Centre; Hexham
May 21       Northern Stage; Newcastle