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News: It’s On With The Show At Darlington Hippodrome


It’s On With The Show At Darlington Hippodrome


Following an extended period of closure due to the Covid pandemic, staff at Darlington Hippodrome are gearing up to re-open the doors in May.


It is hard to believe that it’s been over a year since Darlington Hippodrome released a major season brochure. Like everyone else the venue was looking at 2020 with a great sense of anticipation for what promised to be one of their strongest line-up of events for some time. That sense of anticipation was turned on its head with the announcement that all theatres in the country were to close.

Over the last twelve months Darlington Hippodrome has done a tremendous amount of work to keep the theatre viable through the pandemic and to ensure the venue’s future success. Arts Council England’s Cultural Recovery Fund have supported the Hippodrome with grants totalling almost £1.5 million allowing the theatre to navigate what has been one of the most difficult periods in the venue’s 114 year history.

But now the theatre has launched a brand new season brochure and the staff are working tirelessly towards a grand re-opening on Monday 17 May.

Along with a full schedule of classic cinema screenings, West-End screenings, theatre tours, fitness and dance sessions and heritage workshops, Darlington Hippodrome’s stage will once again host live theatre with a fabulous mix of block-buster musicals, stand-up comedy, tribute acts and household names. 

The return of live theatre will be marked by a Come Back Home concert presented by Darlington Operatic Society who seem to be making a habit of re-opening the venue after periods of closure. This will be followed by a diverse programme including comedians Carl Hutchinson, Jason Manford and Chris Ramsey, family shows including the Horrible Histories team with Barmy Britain, In The Night Garden, Dragons and Mythical Beasts and Milkshake Live and one-night-only tributes to the music of The Temptations, Carole King, Fleetwood Mac, The Rat Pack, Queen and Tina Turner.

You can spend an evening with Sir Michael Parkinson or maybe you’ll choose Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Band? Jason Donovan will tread the boards and the theatre will also play host to Dick and Angel as they take a break from renovating their French Chateau.

Drama lovers will have plenty to choose from including Helen Forrester’s By The Waters of Liverpool, a solve-a-long-a Murder She Wrote and a new stage adaptation of the Gothic chiller The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Fans of musical theatre will not be disappointed. The smash-hit musical Rock of Ages will raise the roof whilst Craig Revel Horwood’s Strictly Ballroom will set the stage alight. And don’t forget the fabulous, festive, family pantomime which this year is the all-time favourite, Cinderella.

With more and more shows being booked on a daily basis the theatre is slowly returning to a sense of normality.

Heather Tarran-Jones, Programming and Development Director of Darlington Hippodrome said: “We are so excited to launch a new season brochure of this nature. We are all set to welcome audiences back to enjoy the thrill of live theatre or just to pop in to soak up the atmosphere. Naturally the health and wellbeing of our audiences will be uppermost in our plans, we have introduced special ticket scanners and a brand new app so people can order food and drinks from the comfort of their seats in the auditorium. I would encourage everyone to ‘come back home’ by purchasing tickets for the fabulous selection of shows we have on offer at Darlington Hippodrome.”


For full details of all the shows on offer or to book, visit or call the Box Office on 01325 405405


News: Live Theatre announces the appointment of Jack McNamara as new Artistic Director/Joint CEO.

 Live Theatre announces the appointment of Jack McNamara as new Artistic Director/Joint CEO. 


Live Theatre have announced the appointment of new Artistic Director/Joint CEO, Jack McNamara. Jack will join the Newcastle based theatre in late August 2021, and will share the CEO role with Jacqui Kell, Executive Director.  

Jack McNamara

Jack has been Artistic Director of Nottingham-based touring company New Perspectives since 2012. His critically acclaimed productions, known for their boldness and internationalism, have won numerous awards, transferred abroad and toured to major theatres, as well as to some of the most remote regions of the country. He has staged world premieres by major international artists from Lars Von Trier to Chigozie Obioma and regional premieres by writers ranging from debbie tucker green to Athol Fugard. His recent production of The Fishermen won a Stage Award and a Black British Theatre Award for Best Actor, following sold out runs at Home Manchester, The British Council Showcase in Edinburgh and The West End.  He recently redirected it for BBC Radio 3.  His work with radical Belgian artist Thibault Delferiere won a MESS Award at BE Festival. Over the pandemic, his programming for New Perspectives has been described by Lyn Gardner as “pioneering” with theatre productions delivered to audiences via postcard, down telephones, via WhatsApp, through VR and on cassette tape. He has a deep passion for place and the stories within them and recently launched a fiction podcast PlacePrints as well as an upcoming major audiobook with Alan Moore about Northampton starring Maxine Peake.  


 Lucy Winskell, Chair of Live Theatre’s Board said: “We’re delighted to welcome Jack to the Live Theatre team following a rigorous recruitment and interview process. He stood out from a pool of high quality candidates thanks to his impressive experience and clear understanding and respect for the organisation’s roots and achievements on the national stage. He has great vision, a commitment to talent development and an inclusive leadership style which is a perfect fit with joint CEO, Jacqui Kell. Together they will take Live Theatre forward, delivering our strategic goals and bringing new stories to the stage that shine and connect with our audiences.” 


Jack said: “I am totally thrilled to be joining such an incredible organisation at this time and to have the chance to work with artists, audiences and communities in such a dynamic region. Everything about Live Theatre inspires me, from its unique space to its deep commitment to breaking down cultural barriers. It’s been a hard year for live arts to say the least, but now is the time for us to radically reimagine how theatre and creativity can really thrive in our society going forward, becoming braver, better and truly for everyone.”  


Celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2023, Live Theatre is the only new writing theatre in England outside of London, with an international reputation as a theatre for new work. Recent acclaimed productions include the Olivier Award winning Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, written by Lee Hall, The Red LionHarriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing and The Terminal Velocity of Snowflakes. Live Theatre is dedicated to talent development, supporting and commissioning freelance and early-career theatre-workers. The exceptional programme for children and young people including Live Youth Theatre and Live Tales is a seminal part of Live Theatre’s artistic programme, impacting positively on local communities.  


The new leadership team of Jack McNamara and Jacqui Kell take over from Jim Beirne MBE, who stood down as Chief Executive at the end of March 2021 after 21 years at the helm. The last 13 months have been a challenging time for the creative sector with venues across the country closed. Throughout this time Live Theatre has continued to produce and share work across digital platforms through the Live Wired programme, engaged online with children and young people and have commissioned freelance theatre makers to develop stories which will be brought to the Live Theatre stage in due course. For further information and updates from Live Theatre go to 

News: The Customs House Summer School Set To Rock


The Customs House Summer School Set To Rock  

Young stars can go Radio Ga-Ga for The Customs House Summer School. We Will Rock You Young@Part was due to be performed at The Customs House last year but was postponed due to the pandemic. The 70-minute adaptation of the West End show follows two young rebels as they restore rock ‘n’ roll to ‘the iPlanet’ in a post-apocalyptic world.

It features a plethora of chart-topping Queen songs, including Another One Bites the Dust, Bohemian Rhapsody, Killer Queen, We Will Rock You, Somebody to Love and We Are The Champions.

Director Gareth Hunter
Director Gareth Hunter said: “After a wait of over a year we are so excited to get started on this fantastic show. This is going to be one of the first major musical projects that young performers will be able to take part in, and it promises to be a stunning and fun show, all we need to make it the best one yet is you. We Will Rock You Young@Part is a musical for our time: a fist-pumping, foot-stomping anthem to individuality.

“If you’re aged between eight and 19, want to get up on stage and spend the summer holidays doing something fun and creative, then come and join us!”

The Customs House Summer School runs for three weeks, from Monday, July 26, to Sunday, August 15, for those who are cast in a principal role or as a principal dancer. Ensemble will commence on Monday, Aug 2.

Rehearsals will take place between 10am and 5pm each day and the production will conclude with five performances over three days. The cost is £200 per person for principal roles and £150 per person for ensemble. Sibling discounts are available.

Applications forms can be downloaded from The Customs House website and should be returned with two passport-sized photographs to Kelly Anders at The Customs House no later than Wednesday 12th May.

Auditions take place Sunday 23rd May at The Customs House from 10am.

For more information, e-mail

Tickets for We Will Rock You Young@Part are priced from £12 and are available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online at


Preview: Dreamgirls at Sunderland Empire



The Dazzling, Multi-award Winning West End Production Arrives In Sunderland On Its First Ever UK Tour



Sunderland Empire

Wednesday 23rd - Saturday 5th March 2022


Sonia Friedman Productions has announced that the first ever UK tour of hit musical Dreamgirls, with performances at the Sunderland Empire from Wednesday 23 February with public on sale at 10am Tuesday 27 April from


Featuring the classic songs ‘And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going’, ‘Listen’ and ‘One Night Only’, this sensational, multi-award winning 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.


As previously announced, Nicole Raquel Dennis will play the role of Effie White in the UK tour of Dreamgirls. Her London stage credits include Alana Beck in the original West End cast of Dear Evan Hansen (BBTA winner – Best Supporting Actress in a Musical), the original West End cast of Waitress (Adelphi Theatre), The Book Of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre) and Dreamgirls (Savoy Theatre).


A finalist on ITV’s The Voice in 2019, Nicole Raquel Dennis wowed viewers and judges at her blind audition, performing Dreamgirls mega-hit ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ alongside team mentor Jennifer Hudson. Hudson won an Oscar (Best Supporting Actress) for her portrayal of Effie White in the 2006 Oscar-winning motion picture adaptation of Dreamgirls which also starred Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx.


Nicole Raquel Dennis will play the role of Effie White in the Dreamgirls UK tour at certain performances with further casting to 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 was Directed by Michael Bennett who Co-Choreographed the show with Michael Peters. The production opened in 1981 and subsequently won six Tony® Awards with the original cast recording winning 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 and Ireland tour of Dreamgirls is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, Greenleaf Productions, Fakston Productions, Rupert Gavin/Mallory Factor, Tulchin Bartner Productions, Griffin Dohr in association with 1001 Nights Productions, Steven Rivellino


The show’s opening is subject to the government allowing indoor performances to begin with sufficient notice, understanding what restrictions on social distancing and audience attendance caps are imposed, the public health status, and the availability of insurance cover either from the market or more likely from a government indemnity scheme.

Photos: Matt Crockett

On The Web:


Twitter: @Dreamgirls_UK



Dreamgirls tickets will go on general sale at 10am Tuesday 27 April. They are available from our affiliates ATG Tickets: #Ad


News: Newcastle Theatre Royal Announces Appointment of New Chief Executive

Newcastle Theatre Royal Announces Appointment of New Chief Executive

Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust has announced the appointment of a new Chief Executive following a nationwide search.

Marianne Locatori will join the prestigious Grey Street theatre from Theatre Royal Plymouth - where she is currently Director of Strategic Projects – at the beginning of October and will succeed Philip Bernays who is retiring after 16 years at the helm.

Marianne Locatori

During her time at Theatre Royal Plymouth, Ms Locatori has implemented a number of innovative commercial and artistic strategies, which - alongside responsibility for programming a broad spectrum of high calibre productions - have been instrumental in firmly establishing the theatre as one of the most prominent regional venues in the country.

A committed advocate of regional theatre, Ms Locatori is passionate about the important role that arts and culture plays in generating positive change and community engagement.

Prior to joining Theatre Royal Plymouth in 2003, she spent a number of years at Ambassador Theatre Group. Earlier this year she was appointed as a Director of the Dance Consortium, a group of UK theatres dedicated to bringing the best of contemporary dance to audiences across the country.

Marianne Locatori said: “Newcastle Theatre Royal is one of the most highly regarded theatres in the country; it is an organisation that I have long admired and I am delighted to be appointed as Chief Executive. It will be a privilege to lead this successful and important cultural organisation in what is such a fantastic and vibrant city. I’m very much looking forward to working with the board, the team and the wider community and developing a vision that takes the organisation to its next stage of success.”

Nick Swales, Chair of the Board of Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust added: “We are delighted to have someone with Marianne’s impressive track record in regional theatre on board; she brings a wealth of valuable experience, which, alongside with her drive, passion and determination makes her absolutely the right person to take Newcastle Theatre Royal forward and deliver upon our strategic ambitions.”

Philip Bernays joined Newcastle Theatre Royal in 2005 and in early 2020 announced his plans to retire later that same year. As a result of the unprecedented challenges facing the arts and culture sector due to COVID-19, he subsequently delayed his plans to step down in order to continue to lead the organisation as it focused on managing the crisis. Philip will leave at the end of September.

Nick Swales added: “This has been an extremely challenging time for all those within the arts and culture sector and we are tremendously grateful to Philip for his ongoing support and leadership  during this extraordinary period.”

Newcastle Theatre Royal is a pioneer of arts and culture in the North East. One of only nine Grade 1 listed theatres in the country, it is home to the very best in touring theatre bringing world class musicals, drama, dance, ballet, comedy and opera performances to the region as well as staging the finest pantomime in the country.


Preview: Julie Grady Thomas: Bad Pancake - Online

 Julie Grady Thomas' debut solo hour, Bad Pancake to be livestreamed with Felt Nowt


Julie Grady Thomas: Bad Pancake

A livestream comedy show from her house to yours

Friday 7th May - 9:30pm

£5 tickets


The Covid-Safe Houseparty You Didn’t Know You Needed!


Adopted Geordie Julie Grady Thomas (BBC Radio 4extra; ElleUK) performs her hotly anticipated, first-ever solo show, Bad Pancake, with Felt Nowt. And it’s streaming live straight from her house to yours.

“This show was supposed to go to Edinburgh last year,” says Julie, “but everything has been reworked so it’s specifically engaging for a zoom audience.” What does that mean? “Think of it as a houseparty. You are virtually coming into my space, my home, so I’m going to show you some good, old fashioned, American hospitality.” There will be cocktails, party games, and a staple of any American shindig – the house tour.

Even though the conduit has changed, the soul of the show is much the same. This uplifting, silly, debut hour still explores failure and forgiveness—and perhaps more pertinent than ever—isolation and community.

There is a trigger warning, however, that includes domestic violence. In 2009, Julie was in a toxic relationship when her now ex tried to kill her. “But—spoiler alert—it didn't work out for him,” she reassures. “It's not about him or revenge, but, rather the isolation we tend to put ourselves in because of the tremendous pressure we all feel to obscure our mistakes and bury our shame.”

Affably charming, Julie has a host of experience on the circuit, and her captivating storytelling will take you places other comics can’t. She is most certainly one to watch as she beguiles in this wonderfully bonkers debut solo show.

The show starts at 9:30pm, over Zoom, on Friday, May 7th. Tickets are £5 from


Preview: Climate Change Catastrophe!

Climate Change Catastrophe!


Ø A new show about climate change, made by children, for grown-ups

Ø Free six part series starts 12 May 2021


Liam Scarth and Hannah Goudie-Hunter in Climate Change Catastrophe!
Photo: Lindsay Duncanson

Primary school children are working with Newcastle University climate scientists and engineers, singer-songwriter Katie Doherty and Cap-a-Pie theatre company on a new show about one of the biggest challenges of our time – climate change.

Liam Scarth & Hannah Goudie-Hunter
Photo: Lindsay Duncanson
Climate Change Catastrophe! is about what children think about climate change – their hopes, fears and ideas for the future. The result is a journey into the mind of an eight-year-old that will really make you think.

Liam Scarth & Hannah Goudie-Hunter
Photo: Lindsay Duncanson
Created in partnership with Newcastle University’s School of Engineering, the show offers inspiring perspectives on climate change from primary school children, with help from climate scientists and engineers, and will be performed by professional actors for an audience of all ages.

Liam Scarth & Hannah Goudie-Hunter
Photo: Lindsay Duncanson
Hayley Fowler, Professor of Climate Change Impacts at Newcastle University, said, "It's important that we all understand more about the climate change emergency and what we can do about it. It is refreshing to see this through the eyes of children, and to hear about their inventive solutions. We all need to wake up to what our children already know – a climate catastrophe is coming. This show effortlessly blends the enthusiasm and unconstrained ideas of youth with the science and engineering needed to build them. Hopefully the next generation will inspire us to reach for Net Zero, to make changes to our lifestyles to benefit us all, and leave a better world for them to inherit.”

Liam Scarth
Photo: Lindsay Duncanson

Cap-a-Pie has built a reputation for creative collaborations with universities and schools, working with academics and experts alongside their local communities. For Climate Change Catastrophe! the team has worked with hundreds of school children across the North of England - in classrooms before the pandemic, and remotely during lockdown, supporting teachers to deliver homeschooling and creative activities. Artistic Director Brad McCormick explains, "For some time now, we’ve wanted to do a project around climate change. It!s one of the biggest issues of our time and will affect us all, but it’s the younger generation who will bear the brunt so we felt it would be interesting and useful to get their perspectives and to broaden their understanding of climate science and engineering solutions from people with real expertise. Another reason we wanted to work with school children was to tap into their imagination and sense of logic - their input was invaluable and has really brought the show to life, as well as helping them to learn more about climate change and how they can make a difference.” 

Schools co-ordinator Ree Collins with Hotspur Primary children
Photo: Mark Savage

Alistair Ford of Newcastle University’s School of Engineering has worked on climate change research for over a decade, particularly looking at how our cities might change to reduce their carbon footprint and make themselves more resilient to extreme weather. Alistair said, “I’m really excited to be working with Cap-a-Pie on this project. It’s completely different to my day job and working with 8-year-olds will be a complete contrast to writing computer models for local and national governments.

Climate Scientist Ali Ford from Newcastle University with Hotspur Primary school children
Photo: Mark Savage
Thinking about making a complex subject like climate change accessible to school kids is a great experience, making me think differently about the work I do.”

Director Brad McCormick is joined by designer Verity Quinn and lighting designer Dan Saggars who both worked on the Young Vic’s tour of Seiriol Davies’ critically acclaimed show, How To Win Against History. Original music is by award-winning North East singer-songwriter Katie Doherty, who regularly composes for theatre companies including Northern Stage and Open Clasp. The cast are Hannah Goudie (The Emperor!s New Clothes/Northern Stage & Kitchen Zoo) and Liam Scarth, who works with Mortal Fools and Lawnmowers Independent Theatre Company with a guest performance from rapper Kema Kay (I, Daniel Blake).

Climate Change Catastrophe! will be available as a free six part series on YouTube from 12 May 2021. An accompanying education pack and creative activities will also be available. To find out more visit


Cast and creatives

Performed by Hannah Goudie and Liam Scarth

Guest performance by Kema Kay

Directed by Brad McCormick

Music by Katie Doherty

Set & Costume Design by Verity Quinn

Lighting Design by Dan Saggars

Production and Stage Management by Rachel Glover

Film and editing by Lindsay Duncanson

Sound Recording by Marek Gabrysch

Produced by Katy Vanden

Devised by the company in collaboration with Year 4 students and Dr Ali Ford and team at Newcastle University

School Engagement Liaison by Ree Collins


News: Newcastle's Tyne Theatre & Opera House highlight ways to support them following funding decision

Newcastle's Tyne Theatre & Opera House highlight ways to support them following funding decision

Newcastle’s Tyne Theatre and Opera House recently received the disappointing news that their application for the second round of Culture Recovery Funding was unsuccessful. A statement released from the Theatre following the funding decision said “We're pleased to see the news of many deserving recipients of the 2nd round of Culture Recovery Funding today. Unfortunately, the Tyne Theatre and Opera House's application for the funding to cover crucial outgoings while our doors remain closed, was unsuccessful on this occasion.”

The Government’s Culture Recovery Fund has seen venues, theatres, museums and cultural organisations receive grants and loans to help cover costs to ensure their survival whilst they have been unable to operate during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today, the Theatre has made an announcement pointing to the different ways people can choose to support the Theatre whilst their doors remain closed. There is a variety of ways that you can choose to help the independent venue, in addition to buying tickets for upcoming shows.  

You can follow the Tyne Theatre and Opera House on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as they continue with their campaign to highlight ways to support the venue.

These include joining their membership club, which gets you pre-sale access to tickets and other perks or you can name a seat in their auditorium alongside other theatre lovers and supporters (including local comedians Sarah Millican, Chris Ramsey, and Carl Hutchinson)! You can also donate directly to the Theatre, take a tour or, as a business, advertise with them.

Theatre Director Joanne Johnson says: “We’re so immensely grateful to everyone who has supported us over the last year which has been the most difficult we’ve faced since we became an independent venue in 2015. Since the pandemic hit the UK last year, we have done our best to adapt and overcome all the challenges thrown our way. Although we were disappointed that the Theatre’s application for the second round of CRF funding was unsuccessful, it’s just another obstacle that I know our team can overcome with the support of our incredible audiences.”

For full details on the different ways you can support the
Tyne Theatre and Opera House, please see their website: