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Preview: Dead Cats at Stockton Arc


New show DEAD CATS coming to Stockton


The latest witty and entertaining instalment in Proto-type’s provocative Truth to Power project takes you into the room where the lies begin.


Dead Cats

Stockton Arc

Thursday 3 November 2022


© tProto-type Theatre & Ingo Solms

Contemporary politics is a game without defined rules, where artifice and spin are the tools of choice, and where the moves are made across the boardroom table. When one side wins it almost inevitably profits only a select and privileged few.

In Proto-type’s new show Dead Cats (coming to ARC, Stockton on Tees on 3 November before visiting Sheffield and Harrogate), two characters are in the kind of room where they use phrases like collateral damage, like extraordinary rendition, and like perception management. They cover up their dirty words with clean ones, in rooms like this. In rooms like this the language is laundered, and they redact the names.

Focussing on media manipulation, governmental lies, political protest, secrecy, democracy, power, and influence, Dead Cats blends new writing, performance, film-making, and an obvious plant. It shows, rather than tells, the truths behind the fictions. In the witty script by Andrew Westerside, the conversation between unnamed character A (Gillian Lees) and character B (Rachel Baynton) sees them, spar, argue and banter – papering unsavoury truths over with more palatable interpretations. 

Following its premiére at Köln’s Theatreszene Europa Festival, Dead Cats tours Britain in October and November before picking up again in January, March, April and May.

Gillian Lees said ‘In Dead Cats we are investigating the narratives of modern politics and the hierarchies of control that occur through the manipulation of language. That manipulation, of language, of 'truth', allows for the manipulation of reality and in turn, how we form our world view’.

‘As recent government announcements and retractions have so clearly (if clumsily) illustrated, it’s all about the game - all about the winning - for our politicians, and they’ll redefine anything and everything to meet their ever-changing agenda’ added Rachel Baynton.

Writer and Director Andrew Westerside explained ‘Cronyism is at the root of much political influence, and the route to political influence is corruption and spin, utilising various mechanisms for presenting alternative truths. Or lies if you prefer’.

Dead Cats is the third contemporary stage-play in Proto-type’s critically acclaimed Truth to Power Project, their socially-engaged exploration of power, democracy, truth-telling, protest, privacy, conspiracy, and control, and firmly embedded in the present day international political arena.

The previous plays in the series were A Machine they’re Secretly Building, which exposed facts behind secret government surveillance ‘a smartly intelligent hour-long whizz through the world of surveillance’ (Lyn Gardner, The Guardian) and The Audit which examined the human cost of the corporate and personal greed. Both received acclaim from critics and audience alike, ‘It made me want to headbutt a bank’ (Audience Response).

Dead Cats is written and directed by Andrew Westerside, devised and performed by Rachel Baynton and Gillian Lees, with film and design by Adam York Gregory and an original soundtrack by Paul J. Rogers. It has been made possible through funding from Arts Council England as well as through the continued support of ARC (Stockton), Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, The Lowry (Salford), Theatre-in-the- Mill (Bradford) & hAb/Word of Warning (Manchester).

Proto-type are a company of multi-disciplinary artists led by Rachel Baynton, Gillian Lees, and Andrew Westerside. The company has been making work and supporting young artists in the US, the Netherlands, Russia, China, Armenia, France, Zimbabwe and the UK since 1997. Critics have described their work as ‘an intriguing brush with altered reality’, (New York Times), ‘Smartly intelligent... coolly reasoned theatre’ (The Guardian) and ‘enthralling’ (Zambezi News).

On The Web:



Runs 75 minutes, no interval. Suitable for ages 14+

Thursday 3 November 7pm

Presented with BSL interpretation.

Stockton on Tees, ARC, Stockton Arts Centre Dovecot Street TS18 1LL

£ Pay What You Decide

Box Office: 01642 525199  


Preview: Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist at Newcastle Live Theatre


Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist 

Newcastle Live Theatre

Thursday 27 – Sunday 30 October 2022

The spookiest time of year is fast approaching and to celebrate Live Theatre is presenting a mesmerising live reading of David Almond’s graphic novel Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30 October.  Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist is a spine-chilling and deeply personal tale of haunting and grief, written by David Almond and illustrated by Dave McKean.


Joe Quinn tells everyone about the poltergeist in his house but no one believes him. No one, that is, except Davie! He’s felt the inexplicable presence in the rooms and seen random objects fly through the air. And there’s something else…a memory of Davie’s beloved sister, and a feeling deep down that it might just be possible for ghosts to exist. 


Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist will be read by rising North East talent Ryan Nolan, who featured as Private Malky in Sam Mendes’ Hollywood epic 1917 and recently in internationally acclaimed Becoming Elizabeth (Starz). On stage, Ryan was most recently in the 35th anniversary production of Road at Northern Stage and will join the cast on One Off, Live Theatres major autumn production.  The performance will be accompanied with live music from the sensational Me Lost Me, who according to The Guardian ‘strips folk back to its bones while letting its future echoes bleed out’. 


David Almond OBE is a much-loved multi-award winning author of SkelligKit’s WildernessBone MusicThe DamMy Name is NinaThe Tightrope WalkersThe SavageA Song for Ella Grey, and many more novels, stories, picture books, plays and songs. His work is published in over 40 languages and is a welcome return to Lives Theatre’s stage since the adaptation of The Savage (**** The Guardian) in 2016.  


David Almond said: “Live Theatre is the perfect venue for the reading of this tale. Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist, like most of my work, is set right here in the North East, and is very close to my heart. The rehearsal readings sound just wonderful. And I’m also looking forward to my writing workshop. I love to work with and inspire other writers. We all have the roots of fine stories within us and all around us. I aim to show how we can discover and nourish these stories, how to create an authentic sense of place, how to develop a true writing voice, how to grow in confidence and to cope with self-doubt.” 


Grab your tickets before they disappear from or from Box Office on (0191) 232 1232.  

Preview: Zog at Newcastle Tyne Theatre




Beloved children's book Zog brought to life at Tyne Theatre and Opera House



Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House

Monday 20th – Wednesday 22nd June 2023


Freckle Productions in association with Rose Theatre presents ZOG, a wonderful stage performance based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, coming to the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in 2023.

Large in size and keen in nature, Zog is eager to win a golden star at Madam Dragon’s school, where dragons learn all the things that dragons need to know.  Zog tries so very hard, perhaps too hard, and he bumps, burns and roars his way through years one, two and three.  Luckily, the plucky Princess Pearl patches him up ready to face his biggest challenge yet…a duel with knight, Sir Gadabout the Great!

The smash-hit stage adaptation from Freckle Productions (the team behind Zog and the Flying Doctors and Stick Man) is back and promises to be bigger, brighter and more roar-some than ever before! With lively songs from Joe Stilgoe and directed by Emma Kilbey, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much-loved Zog is a magical production for all ages.

★★★★ ‘A rip-roaring, song-filled fun-fest. My three-year-old sat utterly rapt through the entire performance’ South Wales Echo

★★★★★ ‘A bright colourful musical to capture the magic of theatre’ What’s Good to Do

★★★★ ‘Zog and its five-strong cast are a delight. A roaring success!’ Reviewsphere

Zog © 2010 Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Published by Alison Green Books, an imprint of Scholastic Children’s Books

Theatre Director Jo Johnson said: We have so many wonderful family shows coming to our Theatre, including many based on other Julia Donaldson books, like Room on the Broom. Children love to see their favourite books come to life on the stage and we can’t wait to welcome audiences for this great production of Zog.”

Tickets are priced at £16 - £14 and can be bought at:

Preview: Foil, Arms and Hog at Newcastle Tyne Theatre




Comedy trio Foil, Arms and Hog 

head to the Tyne

Foil, Arms and Hog

Newcastle Tyne Theatre and Opera House

Wednesday 11th October 2023


With over 1 billion views online, Foil arms and Hog are one of the internet’s most renowned comedy sketch groups, but it’s live performance where they thrive. Sean Finegan, Connor McKenna and Sean Flanagan comprise the group, who release a new sketch video every week. Their most successful sketches include ‘How to Speak Dublin’ and ‘The Ryanair Song’.

Back in the UK, following sell out performances from New York to Berlin and Vancouver to Helsinki, they present ‘Hogwash’; a fast-paced mix of sketches, improvisation, audience participation and talking suitcases.

 Come and see why the Irish trio have become the top selling act at the Edinburgh fringe festival for three consecutive years. Their show has welcomed some excellent reviews and ratings so far:

 “They’re just fantastically funny” (The Times)

 “Very funny show” Rowan Atkinson

 “Hilarious” Kevin Bridges

 ‘An effervescent hour of fast-paced gags, fizzing with energy, invention and great lines’ (

 ★★★★ (Times) 

★★★★★ (Examiner) 

★★★★★  (Broadway Baby) 

★★★★★ (Metro) 

★★★★★ (Ed Fest Mag).

 Theatre Director Jo Johnson said: “We’re really excited for Foil, Arms and Hog to come back to Tyne Theatre to join our wonderful line up of comedy shows in 2023. Audiences can look forward to a hilarious night with this trio!”

Tickets are priced at £26 and £24 and can be bought from the theatre and online from our affiliates Eventim UK:



Preview: Rocky Horror Show at Newcastle Theatre Royal


The Rocky Horror Show is coming to town

An interview with Richard O’Brien

The Rocky Horror Show

Newcastle Theatre Royal

Tuesday 15 – Saturday 19 November 2022

It’s just a jump to the left! The Rocky Horror Show comes to Newcastle Theatre Royal this Autumn and we caught up with writer Richard O’Brien ahead of its arrival in the North East. 

How does it feel to see the incredible success The Rocky Horror Show has had?

I hope what I’ve done professionally on stage has entertained and made people feel a little bit better when they leave the theatre. I’ve never done anything for back-slapping purposes, to make myself feel elevated in any kind of way. I'm just so grateful that I've been part of something that has so uniquely left its mark.

I remember a director once told me, ‘There’s only one thing you should do in your life, Richard, and that’s realise your dreams. A lot of people will try and stop you achieving those dreams but the only real person who can stop you is yourself.’ I was young and he was old and it was the first time a grown-up had ever said anything so joyous to me, so wonderfully liberating. Everybody else said, ‘Be careful, get a proper job, get your degree as a plumber. Don’t get these lofty ideas.’ As it says in the show, “Don’t dream it, be it.” 

Richard O'Brien

Why do you think Rocky Horror is still so popular?

It's very inclusive, it's very easy to watch. It's not rocket science as far as narrative is concerned - Brad and Janet are a couple that we kind of recognise as Adam and Eve or Romeo and Juliet, like a stereotypical couple - we can all relate to them. It is a fairytale - we even like the nasty characters, we love the Cruella De Vil kind of character, Frank N Furter. The fact that it is such light-hearted naughtiness, combined with root fairy tales has a lot to do with its longevity.

What was happening in your life at the time you wrote The Rocky Horror Show? 

I was a recent father of my first child and out of work when I wrote the show. 1972-73 was a moment of change. Glamrock and overt sexuality was around, gay people were coming out and there was a ‘buzz’ in the air. There are certain parts of the world where we are a little bit more free to be ourselves. London is certainly one of them. Back in the Seventies you had gay bars, but now you don’t need to because if you walk into most bars in London there will be a gay man behind the bar. That is rather nice.

What was your inspiration when writing the show?

I have a very low-brow approach to life, I like Populist kinds of themes - comics and rock’n’roll and B movies. The plot and dialogue for The Rocky Horror Show are raids on populist things: from advertising, from comics, from B movies, from sci-fi. It’s a complete and utter raid upon all those elements; a joyous raid.

Do you have a favourite character?

I would have loved to have played Rocky, that would have been cool, wouldn't it? But one thing is essential, you have to be rather handsome and you know, muscular, and that ain't going to work. I could have played Janet. They're all so stupidly wonderful these characters, they're iconographic. 

How do you think the live shows compare to the film?

The live show has an energy that the movie doesn't have - it wasn't intentional, but the film was very slow. Once some fans came up to me and said, "did you leave the gaps between the lines so that we the audience could say our lines?". I said, "Well, ok yes". But no we didn't. The movie is a very surreal, almost dreamlike journey, the live show is far more rock and roll. 

What advice do you have for anyone that is new to Rocky Horror?

None - just come with an open heart and a good will or not at all. I always worry that maybe the fans might steal the evening. I don't ever want the show to be just a few people having fun and the rest of the audience thinking that they've arrived at a party that they weren't invited to, so that's important.

What’s your favourite part of the show?

The noise at the end of Rocky is wonderful – it is empowering and exhilarating at the same time it is quite joyous. Rocky never fails to deliver. Each performance lifts the heart and the nightly laughter and roars of approval leave the whole cast with a sense of wellbeing and accomplishment that you rarely get from any other shows. 

What sets Rocky Horror apart from other musicals?

When it was written, it didn’t follow any kind of formula. The songs aren’t showbizzy. So many new musical numbers you hear now, if you didn’t know what song it was you would instantly know it was a Broadway song. I find that a bit annoying. If you’re going to spend a bit of money on a night out it’s good to know that you’re spending it on something you’re going to enjoy. It’s a rock’n’roll show with a storyline on one level, it’s a fairy tale on another level, and it’s as enjoyable and silly as a Carry On on another. 

How different do you think your life might have been without Rocky?

I have no idea but I would have had a good life because I am made that way. My journey has been a different one than others. I guess some people have a game plan. I would imagine they’re rather humourless. Most of us get an opportunity and we wing it. Luck plays an awfully big part in our lives. You should never underestimate that. I am the luckiest person on the planet. I shall be happy as long as I can keep singing. 


The Rocky Horror Show plays Newcastle Theatre Royal Tuesday 15 – Saturday 19 November 2022. Tickets are priced from £15.00 and can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.


REVIEW: Redcoat at North Shields The Exchange

“You’re never fully dressed without a smile - but if you see someone without one, give them one of yours”


Fri 21 October 2022, North Shields The Exchange
Thu 27 October 2022, Hull Truck
Sat 29 October 2022, Alnwick Playhouse
Fri 11 November 2022, Saltburn Arts Centre
Thursday 17 - Saturday 19 November, Edinburgh Traverse Theatre
Thu 24 November 2022, Arts Centre Washington 

Written & performed by Lewis Jobson
Directed by Melanie Rashbrooke
Created & devised by Lewis Jobson & Melanie Rashbrooke
Produced by Emma Biggins & Steven Blackshaw

The energetic tour de force one man show about a recent graduate's experience as a Butlin's Redcoat is heading out on tour from Hull to Edinburgh. We caught the show on opening night in North Shields.

As the programme explains, this show began in a bar at Edinburgh Fringe as Lewis Jobson was recalling what it was like to leave Fenham in Newcastle and to head for a season as a Redcoat in Bognor Regis. As he described coping with the very long days in which he was expected to be an always smiling entertainer from breakfast until the end of the evening's show it become apparent that they had material for a show. There is humour in a tale of disobedient kids and pushy parents. A world in which making balloon animals and sweating in huge character costumes is considered an asset. 

This is a world that is familiar to us as we found ourselves working in the British holiday industry in 1992. A season of long days and alternating between customers having a great time and those who want to have their say about an issue. I still remember watching someone's grandmother totally losing their shit over the fact that the last roast beef Sunday dinner had just gone and they were going to have to choose an alternative. Watching Redcoat Lewis brought those memories flooding back.

The show begins in Fenham in Lewis's bedroom. The removal men are due and he is having to decide what to bin and what to keep. Amongst the stuff is a suitcase for "Redcoat Lewis". Naturally, he starts to recall what it was like. His journey begins at an audition in Newcastle and before he knew it Lewis was heading off for what the employer called an "experience of a lifetime".

Training included rules that I recognised (I was unable to do normal stuff like drink whilst wearing the uniform and yet I was expected to be social on the evenings - a paradox they never properly explained).

Once the season begins Lewis turns in to a high energy performer. The theatre audience becomes the Butlins audience. You don't have to join in with the clapping but if you do you will enjoy the experience much more. 

The energy of the show is infectious. This 70 minute performance keeps building up the pressure. Each time the audience join in there is more enthusiasm as Lewis describes policing the children at shows and photo opportunities before describing the evening shows. Then he exposes the audience to the debauchery of the night off in Chichester. Some of his flat mates go home for the weekend and don't return. The dream job is in actual fact a lot of hard work. It is not a job for everyone.

Lewis Jobson is an entertaining raconteur who precipitates a high level of energetic credibility in this role. You do not question the veracity of the narrative. Thus when the pace changes it is quite an event.    

Redcoat is a special piece of theatre that is well worth seeking out. Producers The Six Twenty have another hit on their hands.

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: © Iam Burn, The Six Twenty 

Fri 21 Oct, 8pm at The Exchange (North Shields)
Thu 27 Oct, 8pm at Hull Truck (Kingston upon Hull)
Sat 29 Oct, 7:30pm at Alnwick Playhouse (Alnwick)
Fri 11 November, 7:30pm at Saltburn Arts Centre (Saltburn)
Thu 17 - Sat 19 November, 8pm at The Traverse Theatre (Edinburgh)
Thu 24 November, 7:30pm at Arts Centre Washington


Preview: Meggie Magicia on tour

 Heart-warming family show Meggie Magicia, by North East playwright Wendy Errington, on first regional tour.

Tuesday 25 October 2022 – Gosforth Civic Theatre – 10.30am & 1.30pm

Wednesday 26 October 2022– Gala Durham – 11am & BSL Interpreted Performance 2pm

Thursday 27 October 2022– Alnwick Playhouse - 1pm & 4pm

Friday 28 October 2022– Alnwick Playhouse – 10.30am & 1pm

Sunday 30 October 2022– The Customs House, South Shields – 2pm

Saturday 5 November 2022– Queen’s Hall, Hexham – 2pm

Sunday 6 November 2022- Saltburn Community Theatre – 2pm

Meggie Magicia is a playful show for 5-8 yr. olds and their families or school. It’s about a girl, magic tricks, and a penguin – what could possibly go wrong?

Following a sell-out run at Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle in Autumn 2021, Meggie Magicia comes to theatres around the North East, from October 25 to November 6 this year. One performance will be BSL interpreted by Jenna Johnson, at Gala Durham. It will also tour to three North East primary schools for free – it’s important that it can be enjoyed by some children who wouldn’t normally get to the theatre.

About the show: Meggie is newly moved to the seaside to live with her Gran, separated from her Dad who is working away. Meggie is desperate to fit in and impress the school bully, plus make her magician Dad proud. So, she sets about practising a spectacular magic trick, for the annual Lifeboat Festival’s talent show that day, with the aid of her toy penguin, but time is ticking away. Will she succeed?

Wendy Errington is a North East playwright who, over the past five years, has had plays performed at Alphabetti Theatre, Live Theatre, Theatre Space NE, and ARC Stockton Arts Centre. She has also had plays produced by Coracle Productions and Workie Ticket Theatre

Company. This is Wendy’s debut family show. Under the banner of Pen Gwyn Productions, she is also Producer. She is proud to say that the cast and team are from the North East and that the JJ Williams Fund is the generous benefactor of the show.

The production is directed by Natasha Haws, who has many years’ experience of theatre for young people. Among many other roles, she is Associate Director at The Customs House Pantomime. Charlotte Ryder, who performed in Northern Stage’s tour adaptation of War of

the Worlds, as well as numerous other NE productions, will reprise the role of Meggie Magicia.

Ziad Jabero is the Musical Director and is composing extra music for the show this year, while Claire Tustin wrote the song “Alakabam”. They both have composed songs for Christmas shows at The Duke’s Theatre, Lancaster. This year the show will have some new team members: Lee Ward of Hollow Productions is designing a new set; John Rainsforth, an esteemed Lighting Designer, is on board; and Becky Glendenning is Tour Stage Manager.

Young magician, Michael Grist, is Magic Consultant for the show, and he will be doing magic demos after the show, at weekday venues. And there’ll be free colouring-in penguin sheets and stickers. Finally, exciting news, there is going to be a picture book version of the show. It will be sold alongside the tour in foyers, and online. Proceeds this year from book sales to Children North East. South Shields MA Illustration student Lauren Osborne, is illustrating the book, while Fingermouse Books is the publishing services behind the book.

Photos: Matt Jamie

On The Web:

Cast and Creatives:

Writer/Producer: Wendy Errington

Director: Natasha Haws

Performer: Charlotte Ryder

Lighting Designer: John Rainsforth

Production Designer: Lee Ward

Musical Director: Ziad Jabero

Songwriter: Claire Tustin

Voiceover: Steve Byron

Magic Consultant: Michael Grist

BSL Interpreter: Jenna Johnson

Stage Manager: Becky Glendenning

Assistant Stage Manager: Matt Jamie

Photographer/Videographer: Matt Jamie Photography

Web Designer: Von Fox Promotions

Graphic Designer: Aimee J Design

PR & Social Media: Lucy Curry

Dramaturgy: Karen Traynor & Ali Pritchard

Illustrator: Lauren Osborne

Editor & Typesetter: Fingermouse Books

Producing Mentor: Carole Wears

Creative Consultant: Caroline Pearce

Producer: Pen Gwyn Productions

Funded by: JJ Williams Fund