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REVIEW: Gavin Webster, Hal Branson and Matt Reed at Newburn Route 72 Café

Comedy night
With Gavin Webster, Hal Branson and Matt Reed
Newburn Route 72 Café
Friday 31st July 2020

Was it really the 14th March when I was last at a live performance? A lot has happened since then. By the same token – not a lot of live comedy has happened. We have had enjoyed the Stand Comedy Club and Tyne Theatre live streams on a Saturday night but they were not a substitute for being part of an audience and sharing the experience of a live show. In the last few weeks a venue has started operating outside in an industrial estate on the edge of Newburn. They started with live music at the weekend and tonight they began a regular Friday night comedy show. We were invited along to see three wonderful local comics in action and to try the new place out.

For £10 per person you are allocated a socially distanced booth. Most of these, around the edge are covered and give the venue an overall impression of the shed section of a large B&Q store. A few spots are out in the open in the middle. The area for your group is reserved from 4pm until 8pm, which is when the show ends. A one way system operates to go past a hatch/open window through which food can be ordered – this was toasties and paninis before the show and hot dogs at the interval. This path leads into the building which has the bar and the toilets. 
On the night we were there we had a choice of wine, beer, coffee, lager, spirits and Tyneside Blonde real ale from the adjacent Hadrian Border brewery. You can pay by contactless card and the whole venue has plenty of hand sanitisers everywhere. The venue advertises as being child and dog friendly. The kids will like the live music events but I’d leave kids under 16 at home from the comedy night as the material will be different to what is aired on tv. A number of dogs were in tonight – all were well behaved and some especially loved the interval hot dogs it seemed.

We had a toastie and a panini before the show started and these were delivered to our booth. Along with our drinks, these hit the spot. The three drinks and two food items came to £11.75 so the prices are reasonable once we were in

Matt Reed
Onto the entertainment. Not only have we missed going to shows, the entertainers have missed putting on a show too. Open air venues, like this, are essential if acts are able to get paid work. Tonight’s crowd were up for a laugh and compere Matt Reed warmed the crowd up nicely. It looks easy when a compere works his way around the room, asking what they do for a living or what their dog is called and then turning that quickly into humorous material but Matt took it in his stride. He has a naturally personable side that makes the audience quickly warm to him and they were happy to be a part of the entertainment. Indeed, for a new comedy night, it appeared to be a good room/audience for comedy.

Hal Branson
Hal Branson is one of the stars of the Stand Panto, which we rated as the funniest panto of 2019, and he appeared as the posh lad from Heaton which married someone from Byker. He has had some highs and lows during lockdown with his wife and daughter.  It is funny how simple stuff like teachers names can make us laugh.

Gavin Webster
After the interval we had another slice of comedy from Matt Reed before Gavin Webster took to the stage. He suggested he was a little rusty after not performing for a while but he quickly got into his stride. He is an accomplished comic who understands how to read a room and the timing necessary to deliver the punch in his material. After some new material we were given a treat of the classic Webster’s greatest hits. We love pandas and the brother Kenny routines. After several months of lockdown it was a treat to hear then again.  He is great at the delivery and, even though the North East has many great comics, he is up there with the best that this region has to offer. Gavin has lined up a show at the Tyne Theatre next year (Gavin Webster Plays Live To Actual People - Saturday, 06/03/2021 - Tickets:  #Ad).

This was a good evening out. Three funny comics, nice food and cold beer. It was wonderful to see a live show again. The three acts were a pleasure to watch and we’ve already booked to go again next week.

Next week: Britain’s Got Talent winner ‘Lost Voice Guy’ will appear with a North East Theatre Guide favourite Lee Kyle. Matt Reed will compere again. To book go to the venue website:

Review by Stephen Oliver

On the web:

Address: Route 72 Café, Preserving Works, Newburn Industrial Estate, Newcastle upon Tyne NE15 9RT

Preview: A Geordie Sing-Alang at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

Tyne Theatre & Opera House live-stream Geordie Sing-Alang event this Saturday

The Tyne Theatre and Opera House have announced their next Live from the Tyne event – the fourth in a series of free comedy and music events streamed live from the theatre’s auditorium.

The recently announced show, A Geordie Sing-Alang, promises to be a fun night of Geordie nostalgia including; songs, sketches and jokes from the region. The show will be streamed on Saturday 1st August from 7:30pm, with viewers being able to tune in and join the live chat via YouTube, Twitch or Facebook Live. Although encouraged to watch live, the event will remain online until the evening of Thursday 6th August, for those that missed out.

Live performances will come from the show’s host, actor, comedian and panto star, Charlie Richmond, as well as Matt Pagan (Collabro), Pete Peverley (The Little Waster), panto favourite Lewis Denny & a host of other North East performers. There will also be live music from The Moonbeats and video contributions from some very familiar faces including Sting, Tim Healy, Bob Fox, Chelsea Halfpenny, Francis McNamee, Joe Caffery & more!

The event is free to stream but the theatre will be asking for donations on the night to support them during this difficult time.

Theatre Director Jo Johnson explains “This has been an incredibly difficult time for venues who are desperate to be able to welcome back audiences, but only when it is completely safe to do so. It has been great to be able to provide entertainment for audiences again, even though our auditorium has remained empty. We’ve had such positive feedback from our ‘Live from the Tyne’ events - the support from the local and wider community has been amazing. We can’t wait to deliver an evening of classic Geordie entertainment, streamed straight to your living rooms.”
As an independent venue, the Tyne Theatre and Opera House relies entirely on ticket sales and donations to survive and keep the theatre’s 150+ year heritage alive. Having seen a dramatic loss of income, in addition to streaming their Live from the Tyne events, you can also support the theatre directly by donating, joining their Friends’ Club or naming a seat.
More information on LIVE from the Tyne – A Geordie Sing-Alang:

More information on how to support the theatre at:

Obituary: JACK DIXON

Obituary: Jack Dixon

A founding member of Newcastle's Tyne Theatre and Opera House Preservation Trust,

Words by Heather Ging, Deputy Chairman of the Tyne Theatre & Opera House Preservation Trust

The death of Jack Dixon, founder member, leading man, musical theatre director and former Chairman of the Tyne Theatre and Opera House Trust,  has come as a severe blow.

Trustees and staff, as well as the hundreds of performers Jack has directed in many musical theatre shows, know how much the theatre owes its survival to the phenomenal drive he displayed in saving the theatre for the people of Newcastle.

It was in the 1970s that Jack and friends discovered the old derelict theatre built in 1867, empty for three years after the demise of the theatre’s cinema years.  On a wing, a prayer and a lot of guts, they took it on.

Through a number of years, the volunteers, led by Jack, cleaned and repaired the theatre. In the same day, the same volunteers were getting into character, make up and costume to perform in the scores of musical theatre shows that were much loved by Jack.  Completely unsubsidized, they raised money too and eventually through Jack’s insistence, a preservation order was obtained which would save the theatre from destruction. 

Many people learned their theatre craft at the theatre, otherwise impossible without going to London and young members went on to become famous names, never forgetting the Tyne Theatre or Jack Dixon.  Meanwhile, Jack Dixon fulfilled his own ambitions by going on being a leading man and a show director in his own theatre.

Early traditions of the Opera House were not forgotten and such stars as Placido Domingo, Carlo Bergonzi and Joan Sutherland performed and delighted in the theatre’s unparalleled acoustics.

On Christmas Day 1985, whilst most people were worrying about the turkey in the oven, the hard-working volunteers of the Tyne Theatre were back inside fighting a devastating fire. Although the iron curtain was down, ensuring that the beautiful auditorium only suffered from smoke discolouration, the backstage area and precious Victorian understage machinery were severely damaged.

In less than a year following the fire, Jack had led his determined group of volunteers in rebuilding and reopening the Tyne Theatre.

The current Tyne Theatre and Opera House Preservation Trust took over the running of the theatre in 2015, with Jack continuing to make his voice heard at Trust meetings right up until the present.  His crusade continued to be the preservation of the Tyne Theatre, alongside his other wish to see ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ produced once again, a show in  which Jack had directed and played the lead. 

Seated at his bedside, Karyn, Tania and Julia, his three daughters, talked to him and played music from his favourite shows.  Tania said “just as he left us, the music was ‘Sunrise Sunset’ from ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ - it felt just right.”

Jack was leading man again.

Jack Dixon, died in hospital, on Saturday 25th July 2020.


Preview: Sound of Springsteen at Sunderland Empire

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The Sound of Springsteen
Sunderland Empire
Sunday 11 April 2021

The Sound of Springsteen take to the stage for the second year of touring in 2021. After two years of getting the show together, and one year of touring in 2019, crowds, fans and theatres have given such high reviews from all over the UK.

With a passion for the work of "The Boss", the eight piece tribute The Sound Of Springsteen brings their years of live performances and recording to rock you with Bruce Springsteen's greatest hits and deep cuts. With songs like, Born In The USA, Glory Days, Streets of Philadelphia and many more, this is a night of passion for Springsteen, and we are back in year two, Bigger and Better.

On The Web:


Preview: Room on the Broom at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

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Room on the Broom
Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Tuesday 9 & Wednesday 10 February 2021
Timings: 4:30pm Tues, 10:30am & 1:30pm Wed


Jump on board the broom with the witch and her cat in Tall Stories’ fun-filled adaptation of Room on the Broom, the best-selling picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

The witch and her cat are travelling on their broomstick when they pick up some hitch-hikers – a friendly dog, a beautiful green bird and a frantic frog. But this broomstick’s not meant for five and – CRACK – it snaps in two… just as the hungry dragon appears!

Will there ever be room on the broom for everyone? Find out in the magical Olivier Award nominated show for everyone aged 3 and up.

Running time 60 minutes (no interval)

On The Web:


Covid-19 update:

‘Room on the Broom, due to take place on 2nd & 3rd June 2020, will be rescheduled to 9th & 10th February 2021. Tickets for the original dates will remain valid for the rescheduled date that falls on the same day.
We do encourage ticket holders to hold onto their tickets where possible in this turbulent time for the events industry – which needs your support now, more than ever. However, if you are unable to attend the rescheduled date, refunds will be available from your point of purchase.’

Lee Kyle | Abra Macabre: An Hour Of Stand Up From My House About Human Fascination With Dark Things and Being Mistaken for a Magician

Lee Kyle: Abra Macabre
Tuesday 21st July 2020 at 8pm

Comedian, compere, story teller and ad libber Lee Kyle ("Glorious" - The i) is trying to do something unprecedented as he performs a brand new hour long show each month for the whole of lockdown.

Having entertained audiences up and down the country for the past 10 years, Lee has suddenly found himself performing alone in his own front room because of, you know… The Rules. With his regular Edinburgh Fringe show cancelled this year, he's bringing the festival to you! On 21st July he presents the third of his full length 'Isolation Tour' shows, written in a month and filmed the day before at home, set up to seem as much like a comedy club as possible. This show is about the weird fascination humans have with dark things. Graveyards, horror movies, serial killers... Why is this? It's also about a time that lots of people in an airport thought Lee was a magician. I mean, how do you get past something like that?

Lee has performed all over the UK as well as in Australia and the Middle East, and is a particular favourite in his native Northeast and Scotland, which he has toured with solo shows for the last few years.

It's free to watch but if you can support Lee Kyle then donations can be made through the following channels::

Video link for Abra Macabre:


Preview: Dreamgirls at Sunderland Empire

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The Dazzling, Multi-Award Winning West End Production Of Dreamgirls Is Heading To Sunderland

Sunderland Empire
Tuesday 12 – Saturday 23 January 2021
Tickets: #Ad

Sonia Friedman Productions is delighted to announce further venues and dates for Dreamgirls’ first ever UK tour. Following on from performances in 2020 in Bristol, Milton Keynes, Blackpool, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Birmingham, Dreamgirls will continue to tour in 2021 to Sunderland, Hull, Nottingham, Liverpool, Norwich, Canterbury and Leeds. Featuring the classic songs ‘And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going’, ‘Listen’ and ‘One Night Only’, this sensational, multi-award winning new production of Dreamgirls had its critically acclaimed West End Premiere in December 2016 at London’s Savoy Theatre, 35 years on from opening on Broadway.

Meet The Dreams - Effie, Lorrell and Deena - three talented young singers in the turbulent 1960s, a revolutionary time in American music history. Join the three friends as they embark upon a musical rollercoaster ride through a world of fame, fortune and the ruthless realities of show business, testing their friendships to the very limit.

In 2006, Dreamgirls was adapted into an Oscar® winning motion picture starring Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx.

Casting for the Dreamgirls UK tour will be announced soon. This award winning production is directed and choreographed by Olivier® and Tony® Award winning Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Mean Girls, Disney’s Aladdin and Something Rotten!), with Set and Costume Design by Tim Hatley, Lighting Design by Hugh Vanstone, Sound Design by Richard Brooker, Hair Design by Josh Marquette and Music Supervision by Nick Finlow.

With Book and Lyrics by Tom Eyen and Music by Henry Krieger, with Additional Material by Willie Reale, the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls, Directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, opened in 1981 and subsequently won six Tony® Awards. The original cast recording won two Grammy® Awards for Best Musical Album and Best Vocal Performance for Jennifer Holliday’s ‘And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.’ The Original London Cast Recording of hit West End musical Dreamgirls is available via Sony Masterworks Broadway.

The UK Tour of Dreamgirls is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Greenleaf Productions, Fakston Productions, Rupert Gavin, Griffin Dohr, Adam Blanshay Productions, in association with Glass Half Full Productions, 1001 Nights Productions, Eighth Sea Incorporated.

On  the Web:

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Preview: ALICE - A Virtual Theme Park - Online

“You’re Late! You’re Late! For A Very Important Date”

Creation Theatre, Big Telly Theatre Company
and Charisma.AI present
ALICE | A Virtual Theme Park
Saturday 1st – Sunday 30th August 2020

Adapted and directed by Zoe Seaton,
featuring award-winning writer Charlotte Keatley

Site-responsive and immersive theatre-makers Creation Theatre and Big Telly Theatre Company present an innovative and fresh take on Lewis Carrolls’ Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Teaming up with, ground-breakers in interactive and immersive storytelling technology, this digitally advanced production, blends live acting and the latest in AI and online video techniques.

Audiences will be invited to dive down the rabbit hole to experience a magical theatrical experience, meeting their favourite characters from this much-loved classic along the way. While venues remain in lockdown in the UK, the show bridges the worlds of theatre, art and technology and reunites the successful creative team behind The Tempest Live. Alice will be performed live each time across four weeks.

Director Zoe Seaton comments: “We wanted to be wildly ambitious and imaginative with this show and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is really freeing as a story. It’s so playful and already so surreal, mixing reality with illusion, a perfect combination for digital. The idea of setting the play in a theme park is also an ingenious, unconventional way to unlocking Alice’s adventures with the audience, and plays upon the skill of the actors, storytelling and drama.”

The creative team also includes playwright Charlotte Keatley, best known for her award-winning play My Mother Said I Never Should, described as one of the significant plays of the 20th century. Keatley has been part of the devising process and has guest written a scene from the Mad Hatter’s tea party. The set and costumes have been designed by Ryan Dawson Laight (Chichester Theatre Festival, Gary Clarke Company, Denada Dance Theatre, V&A).

The production features a seven strong cast and includes Leda Douglas as Alice (Soho Theatre); Vera Chok as the Queen of Hearts (National Theatre, Almeida, Regents Park Open Air Theatre); Dharmesh Patel as The Mad Hatter (RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe); Colm Gormley as the March Hare (RSC, Shakespeare’s Globe, Royal Court, Royal & Derngate); Tom Richardson as Tweedle Dee/Dum (New Vic Theatre, Watford Palace Theatre), Annabelle Terry as the Doormouse/Cook (Creation Theatre’s The Tempest Live) and Nicky Harley as the White Rabbit (Game Of Thrones, HBO)., whose work on ground-breaking creative technology includes creating narrative gaming experiences for Sky, BBC and other networks, are incorporating their artificial intelligence platform and trailblazing online video techniques to bring a new level of immersion to the Zoom platform.

Founder Guy Gadney said: “The past few months have seen digital platforms emerge as storytelling media in their own right. This production of Alice interweaves real-life and virtual environments to make a brilliantly immersive and playful version of Carroll’s magical story. This combination of theatre and technology presents a new and exciting opportunity for, building off our previous experience in television and publishing to help bring to life a new form of theatre.”

Background - Theatre in Lockdown
When lockdown happened, site-responsive and immersive theatre specialists Creation Theatre teamed up with Zoe Seaton’s Big Telly Theatre Company, and quickly moved its thinking to how live theatre could operate online. The Tempest Live, Interactive and In Your Living Room, was one of the first productions made for the digital stage utilising Zoom at the beginning of April 2020. The 20 live performances were watched by audiences in over 15 countries. Alice, reunites the successful creative team behind the critically-acclaimed and global hit production.

Praise for The Tempest Live
4 Stars “Magical…The stuff dreams are made on.”  The Guardian
Magical and awakens our imagination” Front Row, BBC Radio 4
Best Theatre to Watch List Time Out New York
Messy but in a good way” Lyn Gardner
You genuinely feel part of a shared experience” Rev Stan
Leaving us heart-warmed and smiling” A Younger Theatre

Director and adaptor: Zoe Seaton
Co-producer: Guy Gadney:
Set and Costume Designer: Ryan Dawson Laight
Charlotte Keatley, guest writer – The Mad Hatter scene
Paul McEneaney - Illusionist
Stage Manager: Sinead Owens

Leda Douglas – Alice
Vera Chok – Queen of Hearts
Colm Gormley – March Hare
Dharmesh Patel – The Mad Hatter
Nicky Harley – The White Rabbit
Tom Richardson – Tweedle Dee/Dum
Annabelle Terry – Doormouse/Cook

Dates: 1 – 30 August
Ticket price: £20 per device
Times: 4pm and 7pm
Running Time: Approx 90 mins
Box Office 01865 766266 or online at

Preview: Mark Nelson at Newcastle Stand Comedy Club

Mark Nelson – New show just announced
Newcastle Stand Comedy Club
Sunday 21st March 2021

Lockdown has been a tough time for everyone. Fortunately for us, the Stand Comedy Club started streaming weekly comedy shows with the host Mark Nelson holding it all together. It has become a real highlight of the week to hear his rants about the news and holding the segments together when technology was struggling (especially in the early shows).

Mark Nelson
Photo: Trudy Stade
Armed with an MA in Politics from Glasgow University, his intelligent take on world affairs has had us in stiches. Through in a dark sense of humour and cutting delivery and you have a very good performer that finds keeping the attention of the audience pretty natural.

Mark Nelson has also been the host of BBC’s smash-hit show The Good, The Bad & The Unexpected as well as his viral creation “News at3” with its 180+ million views!.

Mark has now announced his first post-pandemic solo in March next year. We are expecting a hard hitting and very, very funny show.

An unquestionably talented writer and performer… knack for making people laugh about things they know they really shouldn’t… Pithy-but-charming delivery, great jokes, and lots of them.’ Telegraph

News: Duo use their Talents to help raise funds for The Customs House

Duo use their Talents to help raise funds for The Customs House

Two Lawe Top legends have joined forces to help their local arts centre.

Artist and animator Sheila Graber and writer Janis Blower have combined their talents to raise funds for The Customs House in South Shields.

Sheila has been selling her art in aid of The Customs House via an online exhibition and brought in long-time friend Janis to give her own insights into some of the sights Sheila has caught in her drawings of the Lawe Top over the years.

Dubbed Lowdown on the Lawe, Janis uses her much-loved style to tell the story of the ‘Victorian streets that criss-cross a substantial part of The Lawe’, feeding in facts and her own personal memories.

The original artworks range from £60 to £400 with all proceeds from the more expensive pieces and 50% of the others going to The Customs House charity. Sheila has also donated profits to Willow Cats Adoption Centre.  Sheila said: "When I started looking through my old art work of the Lawe Top, drawn when I lived there from the 1950s-60s, I thought... Aha, who knows more about the Lawe Top than anyone? Janis!  She kindly agreed to bring the whole 'online exhibition' alive with her vast knowledge that she condenses into stories full of information, humanity and humour. It has been a pleasure to work with her and her words again.”

Former Shields Gazette features writer Janis, best known for her columns Women’s World and Cookson Country, said: "The Lawe Top is a special place for Sheila and myself. Her beautiful paintings and drawings of it are, for me, instantly recognisable and evocative, and it's been lovely to have the opportunity to share some of the history and stories that I grew up with of what is still my home.  I hope folk enjoy these glimpses, in words and pictures, of this historic part of the town, while at the same time supporting a place that's close to both our hearts."

To view the work of Sheila and Janis go to:


News: Stephen steps up to raise funds for favourite place, the Custom’s House

Stephen steps up to raise funds for favourite place, the Custom’s House

A young theatre fan is stepping up to help raise funds for his favourite theatre.

Nine-year-old Stephen Idle was heart-broken when he found The Customs House had to close in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Bamburgh School pupil has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around most of the time but he has been using his walker to walk 200m every day to raise funds for the South Shields arts centre and charity.

His mum Helen Scott said: “Stephen was devastated when The Customs House had to close and when he got his walker home from school, he said he would walk 1000 miles for The Customs House to be open again. This gave us the idea for him to do a sponsored walk for The Customs House and also an incentive to use his walker.”

Stephen is well known to staff at The Customs House as he often attends pantomimes multiple times – sometimes even twice in one day and is regularly dressed as his favourite characters which his nana Sandra Scott recreates.

Stephen has called his challenge the ‘Walking Costume’ and it will end with one final walk outside The Customs House on Saturday 25 th July at 11.30am.

He has already smashed his target of £100 – so far raising more than £1400.

Customs House Executive Director Ray Spencer said: “In these the darkest of days there is always a light, a sign of better tomorrows, and Stephen is that sign! Despite his own considerable challenges, he wants The Customs House not just to survive but also thrive! With his support and the community of South Tyneside we will get through this!”