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Preview: Lord Of The Flies at Durham Gala Theatre

Lord of the Flies cast share excitement ahead of opening night

Lord Of The Flies
Durham Gala Theatre
Monday 30 September to Saturday 5 October.

Young actors set to captivate audiences in an upcoming stage adaptation of Lord of the Flies have spoken of their excitement at starring in a professional production.

The Gala Theatre has joined forces with Durham University’s Durham Student Theatre for the play which runs from Monday 30 September to Saturday 5 October.

It will see a cast of ten talented young actors take on William Golding’s modern masterpiece, which follows a group of schoolchildren who become stranded on a desert island. At first, they celebrate their new found freedom and set about forging their own society. However, as splinter groups emerge their attempts to govern themselves descend into savagery.

Directed by Annie Rigby, of Newcastle-based Unfolding Theatre, and designed by experienced theatre designer Andrew Stephenson, Lord of the Flies marks the first time the Durham city venue has co-produced a play with Durham University Student Theatre.

For the show’s stars, Durham University students Cameron Ashplant, Martha Dean, John Broadhead and Layla Chowdhury the project has been a rewarding experience so far.

Nineteen-year-old Cameron, from Guernsey, is portraying the lead character of Ralph, having recently performed in the West End tour of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat.

Cameron, who is studying human geography and has been acting since he was five, said: “Lord of the Flies is an amazing story with characters of great depth that still retain room for interpretation. Playing around with the characters has made the process extremely enjoyable and I’m excited to star in a show with such an incredible set.”

He added: “I feel lucky to be studying at Durham at a time where theatre collaborations are taking place and I will always appreciate this chance to work in the professional North East theatre scene.”

Martha, from South London, is embarking on her second year at Durham University, where she is studying for a BA in music. The 20-year-old can usually be found playing the trumpet in the university orchestra, big bands and a student funk group called OddSocks. However, she is also a gifted actress and is taking on the role of Simon in the production.

Martha said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed rehearsing for Lord of the Flies in professional workspace and I cannot wait for show week to commence.”

John, from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, is studying computer science but his dream is to become an actor.  The 22-year-old, who is playing Piggy, said: “This is a huge opportunity for me. I’m beyond excited – and fairly nervous – to be able to bring this famous role to life, and to hopefully do justice to one of the most important books published in the last century.”

Twenty-two-year-old Layla, from London, meanwhile, is taking on the role of Jack and is thoroughly enjoying the challenge.  The English and education student said: “I am thrilled to be a part of the Lord of the Flies cast. This is such an exciting opportunity to portray a villainous character, which is something I rarely get to do.”

Robin Byers, Gala Theatre manager, said: “I have been incredibly impressed by the talent and dedication these young actors have demonstrated during the rehearsals. Lord of the Flies looks set to be a powerful and enthralling production and builds upon the Gala’s reputation of producing high quality theatre here in County Durham.”

Performances will take place at 7.30pm each night from Monday 30 September to Saturday 5 October, apart from Wednesday when the show begins at 6pm. There are additional performances at 1pm on Tuesday and Thursday.

To book, visit or call 03000 266 600.


REVIEW: Blokes, Fellas, Geezers at Arts Centre Washington

Blokes, Fellas, Geezers
By Jake Jarratt
Arts Centre Washington
Thursday 26 September 2019

A fine debut from Jake Jarratt about being raised in the insular town of Crook, County Durham, began its tour around the region in Washington.

This is a single-handed show in which Jake is accompanied by a number of white boxes which he starts the show by building a wall, occasionally turning the box around to show a caricature of one of his Dad’s legends from the pub. Crook is one of those towns in which people know each other. A place in which the cheap ale and familiar company keeps the regulars from straying to Newcastle or Durham for a Friday night session.  But it is also described as the sort of place in which disputes can be quickly sorted with a punch.

This show is sharply focussed on the bond between a father and his son from the son’s perspective. We see the six year old who looks up to his Dad, idolises him and wants forgiveness when a mistake makes life disagreeable for the old man. But we also see the young man who is going out drinking or going fly fishing himself and views his father in a different light.

Like a television programme such as The Royale Family, this production works best if you recognise the references. From a family using a paddling pool in order to keep the BBQ beers cold as they don’t have a freezer box through to the sense of achievement when the Dad says he is proud of his son’s achievement. The humour too comes from the conversations that happen between mates and between drinking partners.

The boxes act as a prop to enable the story telling. However, this show relies heavily on the storytelling capabilities of Jake Jarratt, with the occasional sound effect. It is easy to warm to Jake and to accept the persona of both the young man and young child.

I’m not sure if the intro music was meant to sound like a warped vinyl record but it was a little distracting at the start.

The debut show is well crafted and will resonate amongst audiences on the fringe circuit. Jake is an actor to keep an eye on as his likable on stage persona and believable characterisation make for a good experience for the audience.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Written & Performed by Jake Jarratt
Directed by Scott Young
Producer by Erin Connor
Sound Design by Nick John Williams
Lighting Design by Louise Gregory
Dramaturgy by Ruth Johnson
Stage Management by Andrea Scrimshaw

Tour Dates 
Arts Centre Washington – 26th September 2019
Harrogate Theatre – 27th September 2019
Theatre Deli Sheffield – 2nd October 2019
Byker Community Centre – 4th October 2019
Durham Gala (Durham Book Festival) – 5th October 2019
Waddington Street Centre – 8th October 2019
Trimdon Station Community Centre – 19th October 2019


REVIEW: Wasteland at Newcastle Northern Stage

Gary Clarke Company presents:
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Thursday 26th September 2019

Gary Clarke has created a sequel to COAL that tells a story about how the young generation coped with the closure of the pits that employed their fathers. This is a rarely covered examination of one aspect of how the youth took over the empty factory spaces in order to create their own culture back in the 1990s. The biggest shame is that the show is only in Newcastle for two shows.

The largest hall in Northern Stage was packed. The majority of the attendees around us were younger people who were here to experience live dance theatre. They were not alive during the timeframe of this production and hence the show had a need to explain the context around these events. It is pleasing to say that it did so in a clever way using members of our local community.

As for the young members of the audience – they provided a real buzz in the room. You could feel genuine excitement and the hall lights going down was met with a youthful vocal acknowledgement. We were in for a treat.

Proceedings started calmly. Alistair Goldsmith staggered on, swigging from a bottle, clearly unable to accept the position as he eventually sat and waited for his turn at the dole office. On his way to his seat he gave a very physical performance of the anguish and the effects. He was joined by members of a North East Community Choir that had been convened for the show. John Armstrong, Peter Curran, Steve Dodds and Ken Richardson sang a version of The Red Flag on the theme of Coal not Dole.  Backing these singers were members of our local NASUWT Riverside Band: Fiona Taylor on the Flugelhorn and Jamie Beeston on the Euphonium. Coupled with the video footage of the final hours at the pit followed by watching the demolition of the site helped set the tone as Alistair moved to the armchair in front of the tv to watch time go by.

The action moves on as the next generation moved onto the stage with their hoods up on their coats. Starting with the miner’s own son (Reece Calver) listening to dance music on his bed, the set up quickly expands as a shopping trolley delivers speakers and decks to a former industrial space. Thus follows a high tempo, closely choreographed set on the style of mid-90s rave culture. The ravers Robert Anderson, Jake Evans, Elena Thomas Volquin and Emily Thompson Smith joined Reece in a face paced and energetic display in moves that were a common sight in places like Manchester’s Hacienda club. Charles Webber’s lighting design accompanied the music, which includes What Time Is Love by KLF, in building up the tension and the size of the event. Northern Stage provides a big platform on which to perform and this ensemble were able to fill it with their moves.

The real surprise comes at the end. No spoilers here… but the show of compassion between the miner and his son raised the show above that of a simple celebration of youth.

Musically, the transformation from the traditional music of the pits to the emerging dance culture is as jarring as it was at the time. Generations don’t need to understand the music of the previous generation.

Unlike The Full Monty, the reality of the destruction of the traditional industries was rarely a laugh. The removal of the livelihood for future groups would have an effect that lasted decades, and arguably explains the despondency in some communities today.

This was an energetic and tight dance performance. Wasteland is, however, much more than just a dance show. The show succeeds in delivering a clear narrative which may help explain the situation that we find ourselves in today. The use of a talented group of community singers and band members made for a memorable performance.

This is quite special.

Review by Stephen Oliver.

Recommended age – 14+
Photography: Joe Armitage

Tickets from £10 are available at or call the Northern Stage box office on
0191 230 5151.

REVIEW: Clear White Light at Newcastle Live Theatre

Live Musical Shines Again

Clear White Light
Newcastle Live Theatre
Until Saturday 12 October 2019

Live Theatre bring back their successful show Clear White Light which played to sell out crowds last year. With just a single change in the cast, the show gets another chance to shine at the Quayside venue. 

New cast member Elizabeth Carter appears as Ali, the student nurse who appears at St Nicholas Hospital for her first shift on the all male mental health ward. She is met by Rod (Joe Caffrey) who will be running the shift single-handedly as the others have not turned up and Ali doesn’t count as she is not yet qualified. After a quick briefing Ali is introduced to bright Maths University student Charlie (Dale Jewitt) who has had a breakdown, former garage owner Barry (Billy Mitchell) and struggling Aaron (Phil Adele). She is asked to look after these patients in order to give Rod a hand. Rod also has his sister Maddie (Charlie Hardwick) staying at the hospital and fellow nurse Jo (Alice Blundell) keeps popping across from Maddie’s ward with progress reports.

Charlie Hardwick, Joe Caffrey & Elizabeth Carter
So Clear White Light is a musical that explores some of the crazy events that can occur overnight in a hospital ward. It features the music of local band Lindisfarne - the connection being that their former band mate and song writer Alan Hull worked at St Nicks himself and would write these songs whilst working the night shift. On stage are Billy Mitchell as one of the cast as well as the guitarist, whilst Ray Laidlaw fills the room with the sound of his drumming.

The songs are sung by Charlie Hardwick who gives a really passionate performance as she breathes new life into these classic songs.  The rest of the cast help out with the other instrumentation, as well as backing vocals. Live Theatre may not be known as a musical theatre venue but it is fabulous to see them both supporting new writing with a musical based on local themes. That said, this doesn’t feel like a standard jukebox musical - perhaps it is the higher level of empathy with that source material.

Elizabeth Carter & Dale Jewitt
The show also has really strong performances from Joe Caffrey, Elizabeth Carter and the patients. Joe does not come across as acting as he offers advice to the novice nurse. He plays the father figure with consummate ease. Likewise Elizabeth takes the lead as the narrator and young nurse who isn’t totally naive with the trouble that initially confronts her. This must be the first show we’ve seen her in in which she doesn’t handle a large amount of the singing duties, but she shows her versatility as a ‘straight’ actor.

Paul Sirett’s script has plenty of twist and turns, coupled with humour, to keep the show interesting.  The show features some great lighting that is able to pick out action at the fringes of the set as well as arrivals in the lift.  

This was Joe Douglas’s directorial debut at Live last year and he has created a lively well paced show that has enough tension, pathos and fun to lift the show.

If I was to compare the show with last year then I’d say I appreciated being sat further away from the loud drums so I was able to appreciate the wonderful singing. It made a real difference to me and I was in a much happier mood when we got to the final scenes. Live Theatre is one of those intimate venues in which the last row upstairs still leaves you close to the action.

Clear White Light is a great musical that puts both the North East and mental health care in a positive light. It reflects the dedication of both dedicated healthcare professionals and the cast & creatives representing them. Indeed, it is a canny little show.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Clear White Light is at Live Theatre from Thursday 19 September to Saturday 12 October.  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


Preview: Blokes, Fellas, Geezers

Blokes, Fellas, Geezers
By Jake Jarratt
On Tour

Blokes, Fellas, Geezers is the debut show of Jake Jarratt, a talented emerging theatre maker and performer born and bred in the North of England. Inspired by personal experiences of growing up in a rural Northern town, and dealing with his father’s expectations of what a man should be, Blokes, Fellas, Geezers tackles the concept of inherited working-class masculinity. Combining story telling and comedy to the backdrop of Eye of the Tiger, Blokes, Fellas, Geezers delves into the story of a young man battling a toxic system that doesn’t want to be changed, in order to experience more than the men around him have.  The hour long show is fast paced and laugh out loud funny as we watch Jake jump from one character to the next, bringing us to the heart of Durham in the 1990’s.

Crook, a market town located somewhere between Bishop Auckland and the city of Durham. Often referred to as “The Gateway to the Weardale” by some ponce in a shirt and tie that works in the council offices.
You’ve got Crazy Jakes, where you can buy anything from fag papers and vape juice to crisps, pop, rags, clothes and plant pots. Or you’ve got little coop were you’ll have your eyes ripped out for everything in there.
Few bookies if you want a punt, you’ve got a choice between three of them. Right in the middle of Crook lives Jake and his Fatha. Jake’s Fatha always told him “If someone hits you, hit them back twice as hard.” And then one day Jake asked “Why?”

Jake Jarratt is an emerging theatre maker and performer based in the North East of England. His work explores his experience of being a working-class, Northern lad, and is made for audiences who may or may not have shared the same experience. Jake graduated with a Masters degree in Theatre & Performance from Northumbria University in 2017. He is supported by Northern Stage’s NORTH Company Development Scheme and was a recipient of NEAD funding in 2018. His work has received support from Live Theatre, Northern Stage and Arts Centre Washington. 

Written & Performed by Jake Jarratt
Directed by Scott Young
Producer by Erin Connor
Sound Design by Nick John Williams
Lighting Design by Louise Gregory
Dramaturgy by Ruth Johnson
Stage Management by Andrea Scrimshaw

Tour Dates 
Arts Centre Washington – 26th September 2019
Harrogate Theatre – 27th September 2019
Theatre Deli Sheffield – 2nd October 2019
Byker Community Centre – 4th October 2019
Durham Gala (Durham Book Festival) – 5th October 2019
Waddington Street Centre – 8th October 2019
Trimdon Station Community Centre – 19th October 2019


Preview: Jekyll & Hyde at Darlington Hippodrome


Jekyll & Hyde
Darlington Hippodrome
Wednesday 23 October - Saturday 2 November 2019

Local theatre company Darlington Operatic Society is just weeks away from curtain up on their next blockbuster musical, Jekyll & Hyde.

Directed and choreographed by Joanne Hand (Top Hat, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Side Story) alongside Musical Director Steven Hood (Chitty Chity Bang Bang, Strictly Musicals 2), Jekyll & Hyde will run at Darlington Hippodrome for 11 performances only from Wednesday 23 October to Saturday 2 November.

The title role of Dr Henry Jekyll (who transforms into the evil Mr Edward Hyde) will be shared between Julian Cound and Luke Oldfield who play the role on alternate dates. It is widely known that this is possibly one of the toughest musical theatre roles for any male performer to undertake. Beth Hopper will take the role of Emma Carew with Rhiannon Walker and Jessica Harrison sharing the role of Lucy Harris on alternate dates.

Talking about his role in the show, Julian Cound said “This has been one of the hardest rehearsal periods I have been through in a very long time. Vocally the role of Jekyll and Hyde is immense, requiring the soft, loving nature of Dr Jekyll and then the angst-ridden frustration of Mr Hyde.”

“This show very rarely gets performed by amateur groups due to the difficult nature of the vocals and the demands it places on the leading actors. The entire cast are loving the darker, gritty nature of the show – it’s just so different from shows we have presented most recently. If you don’t know the show you have to give it a try – audiences will not be disappointed, they will get the usual high standard of performance values audiences expect from a DarlingtonOS show – it’s Les Miserables meets Sweeney Todd.”

Jekyll & Hyde will run at Darlington Hippodrome from Wednesday 23 October to Saturday 2 November. Thursday 31 October is a BSL Interpreted performance and both Friday performances will be audio described.

Tickets are on sale now by calling the Ticket Hotline on 01325 244659 or online at 

Recommended age 12+

Preview: The Book of Mormon at Newcastle Theatre Royal

The Mormons Are Coming To Newcastle!

The Book of Mormon
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Wednesday 30th September – Saturday 24th October 2020

The Book of Mormon, Broadway’s smash-hit musical written by Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, is coming to Newcastle Theatre Royal next year from 30th September 2020.

Following a hugely successful run at the Sunderland Empire, the Tony®, Olivier® and Grammy® award-winning show will make a triumphant return to the region for a four week run. Tickets go on sale next week and you can sign up for a pre-sale waitlist at to secure the best seats

Trey Parker and Matt Stone are the creators of the Emmy and Peabody award-winning television show, South Park, now in its twenty second season, and the feature films South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and Team America: World Police.

Robert Lopez co-created the Broadway musical Avenue Q and co-wrote the songs for Disney’s Frozen and Coco. He is one of only fifteen artists to win all four major entertainment awards - Emmy®, Grammy®, Oscar® and Tony® Awards.   

The Book of Mormon follows a pair of Mormon boys sent on a mission to a place that’s a long way from their home in Salt Lake City.

Since making its world premiere in March 2011 at New York’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre, where it won nine Tony® Awards, including Best Musical, The Book of Mormon has been performed on three continents and won over thirty international awards. The musical has smashed long-standing box office records in New York, London, Melbourne, Sydney and cities across the U.S.

The London production opened in February 2013, winning four Olivier Awards® including Best New Musical, and breaking the record for the highest single day of sales in West End history. It has sold out every one of its 2735 performances to date at the Prince of Wales Theatre.

Book, Music and Lyrics are by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone.  Directed by Casey Nicholaw and Trey Parker, The Book of Mormon has choreography by Casey Nicholaw, set design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt, sound design by Brian Ronan, orchestrations by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus and music supervision and vocal arrangements by Stephen Oremus.

The Book of Mormon is produced by Anne Garefino, Scott Rudin, Important Musicals and Sonia Friedman Productions.

Tickets for The Book of Mormon go on general sale at 10am on Friday 27 September 2019 and 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


News: Countdown Begins To Panto Season As Customs House Cast Unveiled

Countdown Begins To Panto Season As Customs House Cast Unveiled  

The Customs House is dusting off a very special panto to provide a fitting finale to its 25th anniversary celebrations.

Snow White was the first panto – and one of the first shows – to be performed at The Customs House when it opened in 1994, sparking a long tradition of panto at the theatre. The traditional tale is being brought back for the first time since then and has become the fastest-selling panto in the history of the venue.

Executive Director of The Customs House, Ray Spencer, has been involved in The Customs House panto since 1995, as writer, director and most recently as panto dame. He will once again star as Dame Bella Ballcock, alongside Davey Hopper as her hapless son, Arbuthnot – a popular partnership that is now in its fourth year.

They will be joined by Annie Guy as Snow White, Steven Lee Hamilton as the Evil Queen, Dale Jewitt as Prince of the North, Bethan Amber Carr-Brown as Mirror and Charlie Raine and Luke Maddison as skunks Sniffy and Whiffy.

In this year of celebration, it also marks costume designer Paul Shriek’s 10th anniversary of working on The Customs House panto. Paul and design partner Matt Fox return to create their unique and award-wining costumes and set.
Ray said: “We are looking forward to staging the much-love tale, Snow White, which is completely new to me as a performer and although I am concerned I might be too tall, I am sure I will be dwarfed by the mountain of talent displayed by our cast members.”

Annie, 25, from County Durham, returns to The Customs House panto having made her debut last year as Beauty in Beauty and the BeastA graduate of Arts Educational Schools London, she has appeared in tours of Thoroughly Modern Millie in the US, Canada and UK and West Side Story in the UK and in the BAFTA award-winning CBBC series Dixi.

Steven, who was The Prince/Beast in last year’s panto, has played both heroes and villains in The Customs House panto and is an audience favourite. This year he will be taking on his most wicked role yet.

Dale, 29, from Newcastle and Bethan, 25, from South Shields, are newcomers to ‘The Little Panto with the Big Heart’, but no strangers to The Customs House, or indeed the regional stage. Northumbria University graduate Dale has appeared in panto spin-off shows And the Cow Jumped over the Moon, And the Cow Jumped into the Woods, Puddles’ Pirate Adventure, Puddles’ Adventure and Arbuthnot and Pals’ Detective Agency. Other theatre credits include The Cinder Path, Clear White Light and Christmas Crackers at Newcastle’s Live Theatre and various shows with Theatre Space North East.
Bethan also appeared in And the Cow Jumped into the Woods and other theatre credits include My Mental Breakdown: A Musical at Northern Stage and The Cinder Path at The Customs House.

Charlie, 27, from Sunderland, who is hearing impaired, won Best Pantomime Animal at The Great British Panto Awards 2019 for her role as signing sheep Cutlet in Beauty and the Beast and will be using her sign language skills again this year.

Luke, 26, from South Shields, has appeared in panto at The Customs House five times, in Dick Whittington, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Alice in Wonderland and Jack and the Beanstalk, of which two were animal roles and firm favourites with the kids.

Tickets: Members of South Tyneside Dance Workshop are also returning to the show.
Snow White runs from Wednesday, November 27, to Sunday, January 5, with tickets priced from £9.99. Contact the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or visit