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Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Preview: Bedroom Farce at Newcastle People’s Theatre

Bedroom Farce by Alan Ayckbourn
Newcastle People’s Theatre
Tuesday 10 – Saturday 14 March 2020

Three bedrooms. Four couples. One endless Saturday night of co-dependence and dysfunction, bad tempers and misunderstandings.

This is the third time the People's Theatre has produced Alan Ayckbourn favourite Bedroom Farce. It was first staged here in 1991 and then again in 2009. 

Photo: Jules Dash
Actors Maggie Childs and Roger Liddle who appeared in that first production thirty years ago, return – this time as older couple Delia and Ernest whose comfortable routine is disrupted by a leaky roof and their son's disintegrating marriage. Maggie (who played Kate in the 1991 production) comments “30 years ago I tried to recall those feelings I had as a young wife in her first home, now I just think of my mother! It’s a great play and still hugely enjoyable to be involved in.” 

Set in the late 1970s this is a world of autumn colours and electric blankets, of landlines, eiderdowns and cruet sets.

We meet the four couples over the course of one night. As well as Delia and Ernest, there’s Malcolm and Kate aka ‘love’s young dream’ who are looking forward to their housewarming party. Nick’s laid up with a bad back and wife Jan’s just heard her ex’s relationship on the rocks, while Trevor and Susannah … well, they’re that exhausting couple whose imploding relationship could well take a few others down with it.

The action takes place across three of these couples most private and telling of spaces - the bedroom.

As Delia comments "you can tell a great deal about a person from their bedroom" and she’s right.  Each of the rooms is as distinct and unique as the marriages that formed them - but will the decor outlive the relationships?

Snowballing sexual mishaps collide with mundane domestic questions: does the ceiling need painting? Is it okay to stash porn in the sock drawer? This lively romp is as enduringly popular as it is hilariously funny, but beware: this is no light comedy. Director Steve Hewitt comments “there’s a dark and cynical edge to this play that might make you question a few things that you always believed were true.”

Box Office: 0191 265 5020
Online ticket sales:

Monday, 24 February 2020

News: Young people given a fun and insightful experience into the exciting world of ballet

Young people given a fun and insightful experience into the exciting world of ballet

Sunderland Empire’s Creative Learning & Community Partnerships team have been working in collaboration with local cultural organisations - Sunderland Music Hub and Sunderland Culture, giving young people from Usworth Primary School a unique first step introduction into the world of ballet.

Through drama, movement, costume design, technical design and sound - the pupils worked alongside professional artists at Arts Centre Washington ahead of their visit to see Birmingham Royal Ballet - First Steps - Swan Lake in March.

The project involved a back stage tour of the Sunderland Empire, where students were able to explore costume design and lighting, whilst exploring the story of Swan Lake through shadow puppetry and drama. Pupils were also given the opportunity to work with talented local musicians - to help understand the art of storytelling through the power of music. 

The project, aimed ultimately to inspire young people in all aspects of what is required to create and deliver a ballet production, while learning to appreciate the many disciplines required. The project also showcased the many and varied, important careers available in the Creative Industry.

Anthony Hope, Creative Learning & Community Partnerships Manager said: “We are so thrilled to be working with Usworth Colliery and to be able to introduce the children there to the ballet, most of which for the first time. We’ve explored the production in all of its exciting facets including music, costume, and puppetry and lightening with local partners and artist to bring the world of Swan Lake to life. The young people involved have really bought into the story and will be joining us to see the Frist Steps performance (a 1 hour version of the 4 act ballet) at Sunderland Empire.”

Lizzie Nixon, Music Education Hub added: “At Sunderland Music Hub we are passionate about making sure children and young people across the city have access to high-quality music-making, regardless of their background or experience, as we think creativity is essential to living a happy and fulfilling life. This project is really special for us as it has allowed the children at Usworth to have a taste of lots of creative activities by working with partners who are experts in their field, and has demonstrated the many skills and creative career opportunities that exist within any one show, such as Swan Lake. We hope we’ve peaked interest in music-making in the children that we have worked with, but more than anything we hope the children have enjoyed the opportunity to be creative across many art forms.”

Vicki Kennedy Great Place Producer, Sunderland Culture explains “Working together in creative partnerships means that children get to experience some of the best artists, cultural organisations and venues that the City has to offer. Children deserve rich and memorable creative experiences and the learning from this pilot programme will ensure that not just one school can benefit from this partnership, but many schools across Sunderland.”

Students were equally enthusiastic and inspired by the project, for many it was an insight into a world they knew nothing about. Feedback from students was overwhelmingly positive:

“I really enjoyed it. At first I didn’t know much about Swan Lake, but now I know much more about it”
“I used to go to a dance class, but I found it really hard and I didn’t think it was for me so I stopped going. After coming to the theatre and after finding more about Swan Lake, I felt inspired to try ballet again”
Birmingham Royal Ballet bring First Steps - Swan Lake, Thursday 12 March (an interactive one hour show for children aged 3+) and the full scale production of Swan Lake to the Sunderland Empire Thursday 12 - Saturday 14 March.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake comes to the Sunderland Empire from Thursday 12 - Saturday 14 March. Tickets: #Ad

Swan Lake - First Steps: Thursday 12 March, 2.30pm #Ad

* Booking fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Preview: Waitress at Sunderland Empire

The first ever tour of the smash hit musical Waitress
Sunderland Empire
Monday 1st – Saturday 6th February 2021

Barry & Fran Weissler and David Ian present the first ever UK and Ireland tour of the smash hit Broadway and West End musical Waitress, arriving in the North East in February 2021. Full casting to be announced soon.

Waitress is based on the 2007 movie written by Adrienne Shelley. Music and lyrics are written by GRAMMY award-winning, singer-songwriter sensation Sara Bareilles, who recently appeared on the Graham Norton TV show, performing the hit song from the show She Used To Be Mine. With a book by Jessie Nelson, direction by Tony-award winner Diane Paulus and choreography by Lorin Latarro, Waitress has garnered multiple awards and nominations in both America and the UK, receiving acclaim from both audiences and critics alike.

Waitress opened on Broadway on 24th April 2016 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where it ran until 5th January 2020. Waitress celebrated its official opening night at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End on 7 March 2019. In addition to London, Waitress is currently on a North American tour, and is set to open in Australia, Holland and Japan.

Waitress tells the story of Jenna, an expert pie maker in a small town, who dreams of a way out of her loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a new life, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes to happiness. But Jenna must find the courage and strength within herself to rebuild her life. This beautiful musical celebrates friendship, motherhood, and the magic of a wellmade pie.

Book by Jessie Nelson

Music and lyrics by Grammy Award-winner Sara Bareilles

Based upon the motion picture written by Adrienne Shelley

Directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus

Waitress was originally produced by Barry & Fran Weissler and Norton & Elayne Herrick. The tour is produced by Barry & Fran Weissler and David Ian Productions.

Photos: Jeremy Daniel

Waitress comes to Sunderland Empire from Monday 1 - Saturday 6 February 2021.

On sale information:
ATG Theatre card on sale: Fri 21 Feb - 10am
General on sale: Fri 21 Feb - 2pm

Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West, or online from our affiliates ATG Tickets: #Ad
*Calls cost up to 7p per minute plus your standard network charge. Booking fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

News: Free Experience Opera Taster Day at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

Wearside singers wanted!

Free Experience Opera Taster Day
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens
Sunday 8 March 2020, 10am – 3pm

Opera Sunderland are offering Wearside singers the chance to take part in a Free Experience Opera Taster Day at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens on Sunday 8 March.

No previous experience is necessary and the workshop will be led by a professional opera team to immerse participants in a day of singing, drama and music.

The free taster day is part of a project inspired by local veterans. The Soldier’s Return is a brand new opera based on present day veterans’ real life experiences, premiering at The Point in Sunderland in June 2020. Drawn from interviews with local people involved in past, recent and ongoing combat situations, it explores the impact of conflict when soldiers return home.

As with all of Opera Sunderland’s work, The Soldier’s Return is about local people taking part – from sharing their stories, to workshops and performance opportunities. The company plans to involve as many local residents as possible, including offering free singing roadshows in partnership with The Cultural Spring, and schools workshops.

Sunderland-born opera singer and Opera Sunderland Artistic Director Alison Barton said, “We have tonnes of talent here in Sunderland so we hope lots of people will sign up to give opera a go. I really believe anyone can sing, so even if you don’t have any formal training or experience our friendly team of experts can teach you. What I’d say to anyone who thinks opera’s not for them or that they ‘can’t sing’ is, ‘if you can chant at the Stadium of Light on match day or sing along to the radio in the car, then come and have a go!’”

Sandra, a local resident who took part in Opera Sunderland’s last project, described the experience as "A complete privilege. Being part of a totally original piece of work, being coached, mentored, cajoled, encouraged by a massive team of high quality professionals is such a thrill." Pauline from Sunderland added, "It was life enhancing – the best thing I’ve done all year."

The Soldier’s Return follows the success of MIRACLE! An Opera of Two Halves which premiered in Sunderland in 2015 and Opera Sunderland has brought together many of the same artistic team for this new project, including Sunderland-born Artistic Director Alison Barton, international award-winning composer Marcos Fernandez-Barrero, Director Annie Rigby and Musical Director Marco Romano, alongside T.S. Eliot Prize award-winning poet Jacob Polley who has written the libretto.

Formerly known as Music in the Minster, Opera Sunderland is a registered charity that knows opera is for everyone, and makes it available, attractive and accessible by creating exciting opportunities for the people of Sunderland. The commission is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the Foyle Foundation, Hays Travel, Sir James Knott Trust and The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust.

Photos: Dan Brady

To sign up for the free Experience Opera Taster Day, email

To find out more about The Soldier’s Return or to book tickets visit

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

News: Live Theatre’s March to August 2020 season now on sale

Live Theatre’s March to August 2020 season now on sale

Highlights include Elevator Festival 5, Braids + Cheer Up Slug, a double bill of plays set in County Durham, and the world premiere of Children of the Night, a new play set in Byker and featuring the Music of QFX.

Joe Douglas, Live Theatre’s Artistic Director said: Belonging, home and identity are strong themes this season weaving through some of the finest new writing and new stories that the North East has to offer in 2020. At Live Theatre we aim to entertain and give audiences a fresh take on the world around them, so come join us by the Quayside, where Theatre is Live!”

March 2020 marks the fifth year of Elevator Festival and showcases seven brand new plays. A key part of Live Elevator (Live Theatre’s Talent Development Programme), Elevator Festival 5 from Wednesday 11 to Saturday 21 March is an unmissable opportunity to share a first look at the future theatre makers of tomorrow. There’s a terrific trio of double bills including Last Seen Bensham Road + Redcoat, Getting Away With It + Dawn and Snatched + Magic Bus. The line-up also features a reading of Faster Than Bolt as well as a great programme of events and workshops.

Live Theatre’s own production Braids + Cheer Up Slug from Thursday 16 to Saturday 25 April is a double bill of debut plays from former Live Theatre Associate Artists, about growing up in County Durham. Braids by Olivia Hannah is about a new friendship that ignites a search for belonging and Cheer Up Slug by Tamsin Daisy Rees is about a childhood friendship tested by the pressures of growing up.

This summer, Live Theatre are proud to bring their World premiere of Children of the Night, a new play set in 1990’s Byker and featuring new music from happy hardcore legends QFX. Children of the Night is written by Lee Mattinson from an original idea by local actress Christina Berriman Dawson.  Christina has brought QFX onboard to write brand new music for the production and will co-direct and star in the show. The story is a quest through the streets of the Wall, as two kids knock door to door and try to find their best mate, who has gone missing. Originally showcased at Elevator Festival in 2018 and featuring choreography from Southpaw Dance Company’s Robby Graham, this production showing from Thursday 18 June to Saturday 11 July will celebrate community and get the party started.

The season showcases North East talent on Sunday 17 May with a selection of ten-minute plays in 10 Minutes to…Call Home. A vital part of Live Elevator, Live Theatre’s artist development programme, the plays presented will be from an open call out. The following month on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 June brings A Way Home, a new play written by Christina Castling, rooted in the stories and memories of people living in Category D villages in County Durham. With humour, tenderness and not a small amount of grit it tells a story just as relevant today as it was 70 years ago.

Shortlisted for the Emerge Performance Prize, Where to Belong on Tuesday 23 & Wednesday 24 June asks what makes a home and what belonging means in a tender moving hour of storytelling, multimedia and future planning.

Live Theatre also has some cracking comedy shows to enjoy too. New stand up show, Slutty Little Goldfish on Friday 29 May, stars award winning actress and comedian Rachel Jackson. Rachel is the star of films such as Beats and The Party’s Just Beginning, and the Sunday Mail have hailed her as ‘Light years beyond other comedians’.  All-female theatre company Your Aunt Fanny are back from Thursday 23 to Saturday 25 July with what promises to be another sell out hit, Muff Said. This comedy sketch show celebrates all things fabulous, ridiculous and thoroughly inappropriate.

Members of Live Youth Theatre showcase their incredible talents this season as they share untold stories in a chaotic three-day weekender of performances celebrating the climax of Live Youth Theatre’s 21st birthday in Time to Take a Stand from Friday 3 to Sunday 5 April. Their improv comedy show Whose Live is it Anyway? promises an hour of long stop laughs – unplanned, unscripted and hilarious.

The achievements of graduating students from Northumbria University’s Drama degree are celebrated in the BA Showcase Performance on Thursday 21 and Saturday 23 May. 

The visiting line-up of shows also includes: Seeds, a story of two mothers united in grief on Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 March; the powerful one-man performance Far Gone on Friday 1 and Saturday 2 May, bittersweet comedy One Jewish Boy on Thursday 14 and Friday 15 May and high voltage Mugabe, My Dad & Me on Tuesday 2 and Wednesday 3 June.

The new season provides a number of opportunities to get involved in Live Theatre through a number of creative opportunities including Live Youth Theatre, Live Tales workshops, bursaries and script submissions. Live Theatre makes new plays, develop artists and create great shows and look forward to welcoming new and existing audiences to some of the finest new writing and new stories that the North East has to offer in 2020.

The new season of shows and events at Live Theatre are now on sale. For more information on all the shows this season and tickets call Live Theatre’s Box Office on (0191) 232 1232 or see

REVIEW: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Sunderland Empire

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 22 February 2020

Tickets available online at * #Ad

Britain’s Got Talent finalist Mark McMullan heads the cast as Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat returns to Sunderland during the school half term holidays. Backed with a talented ensemble, the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical entertained the Empire audience.

As the venue filled up, there was a noticeable number of younger people in the audience. It was really pleasing to see kids taking advantage of it not being a school night. Now this is important for theatre. Tonight may possibly be the first show, that’s not a panto, for some of these families and if theatre is to survive then it has to spread its appeal for the other 11 months of the year. Family theatre isn’t just about panto and tonight they were in for a treat and hopefully they’ll be back soon.

Joseph is very family friendly production running in at 2 hours, including interval, at a good pace – it is unlikely to upset the little ones or lose their attention. Even the scene when a goat is used to cover Josephs coat in blood is handled in an almost comic way using a wooden goat.

This success of each production hangs on three main characters. The different actors covering the roles of Joseph, Narrator and the Pharaoh do change the feel each time it rolls into town. Tonight’s cast worked well together. Alexandra Doar, making her professional debut, starts proceedings in a confident way. This show is sung through – with very little dialogue between the songs. Alexandra thus has to set the show’s stall out whilst moving around the set and singing the story. That might sound easy, but she also has to perform with a large cast of children and some, occasionally misbehaving, inflatable sheep.

Of course, Joseph is a key role too. Now, as regular readers will be aware, we are not big viewers of television and hence we are often witnessing our first performance of anyone who made their name of the small box. Mark McMullan has made a really good first impression. He has a really good voice, which made his rendition of Any Dream Will Do a highlight. He was able to take ownership of these familiar songs and he is a great entertainer.

The third noticeable key character makes his appearance in Act 2. Given the reaction of the audience around us, the introduction of the Pharaoh was not what they expected. Even when a show has been doing the rounds, in some form or other, for over 50 years, it will always be someone’s first time. Henry Lawes lapped up the opportunity to take centre stage. There is some natural humour from the role which helps deliver the biblical tale. Funnily enough though, my son couldn’t make out what the dream was as the Elvis impression made it hard for him to follow.

A major element of the show comprises of an ensemble of adult actors – appearing as Joseph’s 11 brothers and as handmaidens amongst others, and a large choir of children. Two teams of 32 young people, from the Northern Star Theatre Arts, sit on the stairs at the sides of the stage providing backing for the vocal duties of the adults. They were perfectly still between songs and caused much less trouble than those inflatable sheep.

The adult members of the ensemble have their work cut out as they perform numerous costume changes as the action moves around.

The lighting design from Nick Richings was interesting as it was toggling between a focus on the action at the front and the much larger group across the stage. Dan Samson’s sound ensured we could all hear even the quietest song.

This is a great feel good musical. A real half term treat.

Photos: Pamela Raith

Tickets available in person at the Box Office on High Street West and online at * #Ad

* Booking fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Preview: Giovanni Pernice at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

Strictly Come Dancing star, Giovanni Pernice, brings brand new show to Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House

Strictly Come Dancing star Giovanni Pernice is set to light up the Tyne Theatre & Opera House stage with his brand new show on Sunday 21st June 2020. 

Giovanni Pernice – This is Me, pays homage to the music and dances that have inspired his career, from a competition dancer to one of the biggest names on the hit BBC show.

Along with his cast of professional dancers, Giovanni will be performing all of your favourite Ballroom and Latin dances and more… 

For his fourth year of touring, the showman will be bringing his natural Italian charm, combined with beautiful choreography and complemented by a fabulous soundtrack, to deliver a show of the same high standard that earnt him five-star reviews on his 2016, 2017 and 2018 tours.

VIP Meet and Greet tickets are available for this performance and VIP ticket holders will have the chance to meet Giovanni for photo and autograph opportunities, as well as each getting a signed print. 

Tickets & VIP tickets (includes meeting Giovanni for photo and autograph opportunities & a signed print): #Ad