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REVIEW: Shine at Newcastle Live Theatre

Our kid has done alright…

A Live Theatre Production.
World Premiere
Newcastle Live Theatre
Until Saturday 11 May 2019

Script, music and lyrics written and performed by Kema Sikazwe
Directed by Graeme Thompson
Designed by Emma Bailey
Movement Direction by Alicia Meehan
Lighting Design by Nick Rogerson
Sound Design by Craig Spence

The music is always present, you just have to hear it.”

Kema Sikazwe, who performs his music as Kema Kay, writes and performs in a really moving one-man musical about his childhood. Combining his modern music styles, some R&B, some rap, with a vulnerable story about self-belief and acceptance, Kema held the Live Theatre audience in the palm of his hand for the entire 70 minute show. This is another example of why Live Theatre is so important to the region, presenting a real story of life in the North East.

Whilst the story is of a lad moving from his native Zambia to the west-end of Newcastle, when his Dad gets the opportunity to study at Newcastle University, it is much more universal than that. In the Zambia, Kema notes, education is highly prized. It is seen as the passport to greater prosperity. A way out of the trap of the gig economy and the labour exchange. This is in stark contrast to what he witnessed was the attitude of some of his Newcastle classmates who saw less value in learning.

Kema is very engaging. I remember how well he came across as the neighbour to Dave John’s character in Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake. That familiar approachability makes it very easy for the audience to want to hear his story. Surrounded by a set made up of lighting bars, that reminded me of the sets that Gary Numan used on his tours in the 1980s, 2 microphones and a small raised platform, the show is reliant on Kema’s ability to tell a story. No props are used to distract the audience and therefore you find yourself hanging on his every word. This leads to a powerful commitment by the audience in following the story.

The story is very personal to Kema, giving the narrative credibility. He doesn’t use tired clichés to describe his Newcastle neighbours and classmates. The very recognisable greetings and tribal groupings of the people at school led to the lighter moments in the show. The fact that he was able to integrate their music to the story helped the comedy-side along.

Kema also expressed a passion for family. The blood link that ties him to his parents and his older brother is strongly illustrated throughout the performance.

This is a really passionate show but it never preaches to the audience. Director Graeme Thompson has helped develop a well paced, free flowing show that pragmatically says how it is in the 21st century for a young lad arriving in the area. The sound design worked well, enabling the spoken parts to be heard between the louder music. The lighting conveyed the emotion of the piece.

2019 has been a great year for North East theatre and Shine is another example of the incredible stories about our region that our local producing theatres are currently producing. Live Theatre has always prided itself on nurturing and developing local talent to tell their story in a dramatic form. It is not afraid to deviate from the usual dramatic formats – this is like no other show I have seen at the venue. I am really pleased I spent my Saturday evening watching Shine. I will also keep an eye on what Kema does next, he has an exciting future ahead of him.

Highly recommended.

Review by Stephen Oliver
Photos by Richard Kenworthy

£10-£14, concs from £6
Approx. 1hr 10mins, no interval 
WARNING: Strobe lights are used in this production.
Thursday 2 – Saturday 11 May, 7.30pm
Matinees Thursday 9 & Saturday 11 May, 2pm
Suitable for ages 11+, contains some strong language
Tickets available online from or call Live Theatre’s Box Office on (0191) 232 1232. 

Shine premieres at Live Theatre, Newcastle from Thursday 2 to Saturday 11 May. There is the opportunity to meet writer and performer Kema Sikazwe in a free Post Show Talk after the 7.30pm performance on Tuesday 7 May. Two free pre-show events at 6pm on Saturday 11 May showcase work by local musicians and performers. The talk and showcase are free for ticket holders for the show on the same day.

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