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NEWS: Alphabetti Theatre awarded Fringe Theatre of the Year at The Stage Awards 2023

Alphabetti Theatre awarded Fringe Theatre of the Year at The Stage Awards 2023

Photo: Stephen Oliver
Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre has been awarded Fringe Theatre of the Year at The Stage Awards 2023, in association with Tysers Insurance Brokers. The annual awards celebrate excellence in British theatre and this year’s shortlist features theatres and organisations across the UK.

The Fringe Theatre of the Year category, sponsored by Encore Insure, saw Alphabetti Theatre compete against Little Angel Theatre, London and Omnibus Theatre, London. Alphabetti is recognised as an award-winning, artist-led performance space for the North East. Based in Newcastle upon Tyne, Alphabetti was formed by Ali Pritchard in 2012 to meet the demand for a fringe venue in Newcastle and the North East, ensuring the development of the performing arts in the region and improving opportunities for Newcastle’s emerging artists.

Photo: Stephen Oliver
Despite being the city’s smallest producing house – it has a main 80-seat space and a new similar-capacity cabaret stage – the independent venue punches above its weight, both in terms of its artist-led programming and its extensive offstage work, which ranges from mental-health support for staff to becoming a warm space for its community this winter.

The Stage Awards in association with Tysers Insurance Brokers celebrate the very best achievements in UK theatre during the past 12 months. The awards recognise performing arts organisations and teams who have been making fantastic work and those helping to shape and rebuild the sector for the better.


REVIEW: Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of)

Newcastle Theatre Royal

Until Saturday 28 January 2023

Every now and then a show starts at a smaller level and then becomes a phenomenon. After a regional tour or a season at Edinburgh Fringe, the show finds itself on the West End or touring our bigger theatres. Those in the know ensure that they get tickets. They want to be a part of it. This week one such phenomenon arrived at Newcastle's Theatre Royal for just a week. A clear sign of success is that, not only did it open on a Monday - but it had no tickets left in the Grand Circle. Once word gets out then the last few tickets will be hard to obtain. Snooze and you'll miss out on one of the cultural highlights of the year.

But you're not a fan of Jane Austen? Neither am I. I have had no interest in reading the book or watching any screen adaptation. But with this show my interest with piqued - and I was not disappointed. This production features a great ensemble cast cleverly playing multiple roles with comic timing using a well devised script by Isobel McArthur. Yes, the story is based upon Jane Austen's popular novel but there are those anachronistic touches that jar away from the regency period with hilarious effect.  

For starters there is the impromptu musical interludes. Sometimes by accompanying a piano, other times by belting it out on a karaoke machine. The choice of songs is inspired. Lady In Red, Holding Out For A Hero and Pulp's Something Changed are inspired choices but Young Hearts Run Free was, in addition, cathartic for the audience.

The show begins before the lights go down. The cast begin as servants cleaning the theatre, responding to the bells from the masters. They interact with the audience who are taking their seats. Once they make it to the stage the cast: Lucy Gray, Dannie Harris, Leah Jamieson, Emmy Stonelake and Megan Louise Wilson are keen to point out that servants are the heroes behind. After all they are the ones who deliver the message, our the wine or ensure that there is crisp fresh linen on the beds.

The cast then start one of many costume changes. Dannie Harris, for example begins as Mrs Bennet, a mother of 3 daughters who hopes that they will get married - otherwise (as this is Regency Times) her husband's estate will not pass on to her and she will become destitute. We have witty Elizabeth (Emmy Stonelake), beautiful yet naïve Jane (Megan Louise Wilson) and serious Mary Bennet (Leah Jamieson).

A ball is announced when the wealthy Charles Bingley (Lucy Gray) leases Netherfield Park and it is rumoured that his rich friend Fitzwilliam Darcy (Dannie Harris again) will be present. The mother tries to get her daughters coupled off regardless of their own wishes and thus the fun begins.

This show relies less of the set and more on the cast and dialogue. The simplicity in the set up adds to the level of humour. The fourth wall occasionally comes crashing down - with audience members being asked if they came by carriage or still enjoy fishing. But as simple as it seems, just as the cast point out that there are servants underpinning every historical romance novel, there must be a team of hardworking crew behind the stage making this show tick over seamlessly.

This is a comedy. I laughed and laughed regularly. The Austen styled dialogue is occasionally peppered with the modern vernacular - and some of the rude curse words may raise an eyebrow if you were expecting a more traditional show. Directors Isobel McCarthy and Simon Harvey have given the show pace and vitality.

For a show that was appearing at producing theatres such as Northern Stage as Covid started to wreck plans, this show has been successfully scaled up. 

I really enjoyed it. I got the impression that the audience did too.

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Matt Crockett



Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Monday 23 – Saturday 28 January 2023. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 0191 232 7010.


Preview: Tiny Fragments of Beautiful Light at Newcastle Alphabetti

Cast announced for Alphabetti Theatre's Tiny Fragments of Beautiful Light

Tiny Fragments of Beautiful Light

Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre 

Tuesday 31 January – Saturday 18 February 2023

Tiny Fragments of Beautiful Light at Alphabetti Theatre is an immersive, interactive exploration of one woman’s journey of self-discovery. From 31st January – 18th February, this funny, joyful play is a celebration of our individuality and the joy and freedom that comes when we live as we truly are, and not as the world thinks we should.

Hannah Genesius 

Hannah Genesius will play the lead role of Elsa. Quirky, kind and clever, Elsa’s life has never been boring, though it’s often been a struggle. Genesius’ previous projects include A Noble Truth (BFI Network) and Homefront (BBC Radio 4). She is best known for the role of Rosa in The Great Divide at Finborough Theatre, The Times commented this is richly informative theatre — with a passion that’s almost incendiary. Yemisi Oyinloye will portray Carmen, who seems to hold the key to who Elsa really is. Oyinloye is an actor from the North West of England who has previously appeared in Emmerdale (ITV), Cold Feet (ITV) and Bancroft (ITV). She can currently be seen in The Teacher on Netflix. Completing the cast as Mam and other roles is Zoe Lambert. Her acting credits include Sugar (Open Clasp) and The Comedy of Errors and The Winter's Tale (RSC). She has also appeared on Coronation Street (ITV).

Zoe Lambert

Elsa has always wondered why she never fit in. School was always a nightmare and romance was a mystery; until now. Elsa meets Carmen who just seems to ‘get’ her and just might have the answers to why it feels like there’s an octopus living inside her head. 

The show explores the autistic experience through a female lens, inspired by writer Allison Davies’ own diagnosis of autism. More men and boys are diagnosed as autistic than women and girls, so Davies felt it was time that space was made to hear from different voices. Attitudes towards autism and gender are changing, although there is still a long way to go, as many autistic women and girls struggle to get the support they need. Historically, far more attention has been given to males on the spectrum, and as a neurodivergent woman this show is Davies’s response.


Writer Allison Davies

Producers Chloe Stott & Alphabetti Theatre

Director Karen Traynor

Designer Verity Quinn

Composer & Sound Designer Roma Yagnik

AV & Lighting Designer Si Cole

Production & Stage Manager Rachel Glover


Tickets Pay What You Feel (31st January – 4th February)

£3-£15 (7th February – 18th February)

Running Time 60 minutes

Age Restrictions 16+

Access Captioned performance Wednesday 23rd November

Audio Described performance Wednesday 30th November

Relaxed performances each Saturday matinee.

Box Office Booking essential. Tickets range from Pay What You Feel to £15 and 

are available from


News: Durham Gala's Sleeping Beauty is a spellbinding success


Durham Gala's Sleeping Beauty is a spellbinding success


After a successful festive period, a County Durham theatre is now looking ahead to its next Christmas performance.

Over 30,000 people booked tickets for Gala Durham’s pantomime, Sleeping Beauty.  The production, which ran for 73 performances at the Durham County Council venue over the festive period, was written by Gary Kitching and directed by Rachel Glover.  And tickets are already on sale for Gala’s next pantomime, Cinderella, with an early bird offer running until Tuesday 31 January.


Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We had a fantastic festive season at Gala Durham and we are delighted that so many people enjoyed our production of Sleeping Beauty. Our talented cast and creative team did an amazing job, bringing lots of music, mayhem and magic for our audiences. We are committed to delivering a range of exciting cultural opportunities as part of our ambitions for Durham as the culture county, and our pantomimes are a key part of our Christmas programme. We are already looking ahead to our next production of Cinderella, which is set to be full of fun and festive spirit.”

Sleeping Beauty featured a North East based cast, including familiar faces Jacob Anderton and Lauren Waine, playing King Archibald of Durham-ion and Hester the Jester respectively, who returned to the stage after starring in previous Gala pantomimes. They were joined by County Durham actress Jude Nelson playing Sammie The Dog, Zoe Lambert as the Evil Witch Karen, Steve Byron as Nanny Fartoften, Benjamin Storey as Prince Chad of Middles-boroughly and Chloe Jane Millar as Briar Rose.


Over the festive period, the venue spread some festive cheer to children at the Treetops Ward at the University of North Durham hospital by recording a special performance for them and their families to watch together.  In supporting the council’s aim to make theatre accessible for all audiences, the venue also hosted relaxed and integrated British Sign Language (BSL) and captioned performances.

The team behind Sleeping Beauty are readying themselves for a ball as they return later this year to produce Gala’s next pantomime, Cinderella.




Running from Thursday 23 November 2023 to Saturday 6 January 2024, with relaxed, BSL and captioned performances available, tickets for Cinderella are on sale now.

Audiences can save up to £5 per ticket on shows between Saturday 25 November and Sunday 17 December, as well as select January 2024 performances, with an early bird ticket offer.

But don’t let the clock strike midnight on Tuesday 31 January 2023 as tickets need to be purchased by this date to take advantage of the offer.

Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling the Gala Durham Box Office on 03000 266 600.


REVIEW: Shawshank Redemption at Newcastle Theatre Royal

The Shawshank Redemption

Newcastle Theatre Royal

Until Saturday 21 January 2023

Stephen King's short novel, that became a 1994 sleeper movie hit has been adapted by Owen O'Neill and Dave Johns into a fine stage production. It has landed in Newcastle this week and the tale of a small group of men in an old overcrowded Maine penitentiary went down well on opening night.

(L-R) Ben Onwukwe, Kieran Garland, Joe Absolom, Jules Brown, Jay Marsh

Andy Dufresne finds himself in the prison serving 2 life terms for murdering his wife and her tennis coach lover. King's story doesn't head down the well trodden path showing the struggle to adapt in the transition from life as a professional banker to a confined criminal. Joe Absolom's representation of Dufresne is a confident assured man who is focussed on his destiny. An individual who has hope.

(L-R) Joe Absolom, Leigh Jones, Jay Marsh

Support in his survival comes from Ellis "Red" Redding, a man who struggles with probation panels as he is known as the man how can, within reason, get you any supplies. Normally dealing with smokes and toothbrushes Red is surprised at Dusfresne's interest in geology and he duly supplies him with a small rock hammer. In this production Ben Onwukwe, as Red, also acts occasionally as narrator  - though the level of exposition in kept to the minimum as the pair survive 20 years in a prison. A strong clue that the world outside is changing is derived from the music clips that are slotted in.

(L-R) Joe Absolom, Leigh Jones, Jay Marsh, Ben Onwukwe

There are a range of other characters: prison warden Stammas (Mark Heenehan) and prison guard Hadley (Joe Reisig) who want to exploit Dufresne's book keeping experience; Librarian Brooksie (Kenneth Jay) who initially has very few resources and people like Tommy (Coulter Dittman) - who hopes to pass his school exams. 

Ben Onwukwe, Joe Absolom
The audience are also aware of the violence inside, including rape. The conditions inside are poor and the description of solitary leaves you under no illusion that it is a pleasant experience.

Mark Heenehan, Joe Absolom

But the reason why the film picked up popularity on video is that it is very much a human story. This adaptation focusses on that human element.  Director David Esbjornson and designer Gary McCann strip away any unnecessary staging to leave an almost Shakespearean setting. A deceptively simple space overlooked by platform allows the characters to develop. Chris Davey's lighting picking out the action. 

The second act is when the action picked up. The script has a sense of dark humour which resonated with many in the audience.

This is a great start to the Theatre Royal's year. There was a a genuine warmth from the audience as they applauded at the end. The combination of a well written script and a talented ensemble cast combine to create a rewarding theatrical experience. I had been looking forward to this show and I wasn't disappointed. 

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: Jack Merriman


The Shawshank Redemption plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tuesday 17 – Saturday 21 January 2023. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 0191 232 7010.


Preview: Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) at Newcastle Theatre Royal


Let The Ruthless Matchmaking Begin!


Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of)

Newcastle Theatre Royal

Monday 23 – Saturday 28 January 2023


A unique and audacious retelling of Jane Austen’s most iconic love story is set to take Newcastle Theatre Royal by storm as the Oliver Award-winning comedy Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) plays later in the month.

It marks a triumphant return to the city for the multi-award-winning Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of)by Isobel McArthur after Jane Austen after its crowd-pleasing run at Northern Stage in 2019 where it attracted critical acclaimed and five star reviews.

Men, money and microphones will be fought over in this irreverent but affectionate adaptation where the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to romance.  The show features a string of pop classics including ‘Young Hearts Run Free’, ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow’ and ‘You’re So Vain’.  It’s the 1800s.  It’s party time.  Let the ruthless matchmaking begin.

The cast includes Leah Jamieson as Anne, Mary Bennet, Lydia Bennet and Mr Gardiner, Lucy Gray who reprises her role as Tillie, Charlotte Lucas, Charles Bingley and Miss Bingley, Emmy Stonelake as Effie and Elizabeth Bennet, Megan Louise Wilson as Clara, Jane Bennet, and Lady Catherine de Burgh, Dannie Harris as Flo, Mrs Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy,  Laura Soper and Ruth Brotherton).

Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) is directed by Olivier and Evening Standard Theatre Award Winner Isobel McArthur and Simon Harvey. Comedy staging is by Jos Houben, design by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita, lighting by Colin Grenfell, musical supervision by Michael John McCarthy, sound design by Michael John McCarthy and Luke Swaffield for Autograph and choreography by Emily Jane Boyle.

Photos: Matt Crockett



Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Monday 23 – Saturday 28 January 2023. Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 0191 232 7010.


Preview: Romesh Ranganathan: Hustle at Stockton Globe




Romesh Ranganathan: Hustle

is heading to Stockton in 2024


Romesh Ranganathan: Hustle

Stockton Globe

Thursday 7 and Saturday 9 March 2024



After a sell-out tour in 2019-22, Romesh Ranganathan is back with a brand-new show examining the human condition. Are people inherently good? Is charity always a positive thing? Is hustling the key to success? Or is all this a load of rubbish we've made up to keep people working hard for no reason?

Join Romesh as he examines all these issues and more, while providing no real answers in the upcoming Hustle 2024 tour, heading to Stockton Globe on Thursday 7th or Saturday 9th March 2024.

Romesh Ranganathan is best known for The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan, The Ranganation, Rob & Romesh Vs, A League of Their Own, Avoidance, Romantic Getaway, host of The Weakest Link and his own BBC Sounds and Radio 2 show For The Love of Hip Hop.

Described as  '...vivacious comedy' by The Guardian, Ranganathan is one of the best-known names in the UK stand-up comedy and TV worlds.


Tickets including Stockton Globe, go on general sale at 9am on Monday 19th December 2022. Tickets can be purchased via




News: Live Theatre is thrilled to announce four highlight productions of its upcoming 50th birthday year.

 From Kevin Keegan to Nadine Shah, political fallouts to family mayhem,  Live Theatre’s 50th birthday year offers an epic picture of a changing North East.  


Live Theatre is thrilled to announce four highlight productions of its upcoming 50th birthday year.  

Live Theatre’s Artistic Director Jack McNamara


Standouts from one of the country’s premiere new writing theatres includes the political play Love It If We Beat Them, the music-inspired To Be A Young Man, the epic family saga The Cold Buffet and the three-playwright theatrical feast Three Acts of Love. Booking is now open for these shows with the full season to be announced in early 2023.  

Kicking off this special milestone season is Love It If We Beat Them by Rob Ward, a new play that sees politics and the beautiful game come together from Thursday 2 to Saturday 25 March 2023.  It’s Spring 1996, Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle United are riding high in the Premier League and Tony Blair’s New Labour are gathering pace. Len a long term, hard left activist, has decided to run as a candidate for local Labour MP, but the arrival of Victoria from Manchester as New Labour’s front runner throws a spanner in the works. With loyalties tested and tensions reaching fever pitch, the winning team will be decided in an explosive head-to-head challenge. This opening production will be directed by North East director Bex Bowsher.  


Nadine Shah

Nadine Shah is one of the most important figures in contemporary music, with a voice that captures the richness, depth and complexity of her Pakistani-Norwegian heritage and South Tyneside upbringing. As her game changing debut album Love Your Dum and Mad turns 10, Shah works with acclaimed writer Jackie Thompson to draw from one of the most profound moments of her life with a deeply personal story of rehabilitation, unlikely friendships and the endless power of creativity. Shah and Thompson have a long standing friendship that will inform this new play, To Be A Young Man, full of  haunting music and gallows humour, will run at Live Theatre from Thursday 4 to Saturday 20 May 2023 before heading to the Brighton Festival on May 23. There will be a number of select performances in which Shah will perform a very special sparse musical set after the show.  

In the autumn, we present the epic comedy  The Cold Buffet by up and coming star playwright Elijah Young. Set in a function room and following the same North East family through a wedding, a wake and a birthday party, Young’s play will combine the format of the classic family saga with the acidic comedy of a Martin Parr photograph. It will run at Live Theatre Thursday 5 to Saturday 28 October 2023.   

Elijah Young

To round off the year is Three Acts Of Love written by three radical female playwrights  Laura Lindow, Naomi Obeng and Vici Wreford-Sinnott. Three narratives bursting with politics and passion explore what love means today, in an evening of music and drama as a warm as a winter hug.  Immersive and subversive, political and playful, this will be a true banquet of an evening for the festive season, running from Thursday 30 November to Saturday 16 December 

Live Theatre’s Artistic Director Jack McNamara said: “Live Theatre has survived against so many odds to get to this point.  From our roots in community touring to our beautiful Quayside building today, the one constant has been a deep commitment to the voices and stories of our region. Throughout the year we will celebrate our past in all kinds of ways. But I wanted the main focus of our creative investment to be on the new, the unheard, the future. Taking risks is in our blood, so how better to mark our birthday than by asking artists to take bold new steps and giving audiences a genuine sense of event. With the hugely significant cuts to new writing theatres this year it feels more crucial than ever for us to fly the flag for the writers and dreamers who keep this art form current and alive.”  


The year round 50th birthday celebrations will also feature a host of visiting productions and Live Theatre premieres, some very special celebratory readings, special guests and events to mark the milestone anniversary with more details to be released in the New Year.  Theatre lovers can see more and save with Live Theatre’s multibuy offer – book two shows and save 10%, three shows to save 20% and book for all four to save  a generous 30% on full price tickets.  

To find out more and book tickets for these birthday year standouts and a great night of theatre go to or call Box Office on (0191) 232 1232. 


Preview: Legally Blonde at Newcastle Tyne Theatre


Legally Blonde 

Newcastle Tyne Theatre and Opera House

Friday 2 - Sunday 4 June 2023


A fabulously fun award-winning Broadway and West End musical based on the adored

movie, Legally Blonde The Musical, follows the transformation of Elle Woods as she

tackles stereotypes and scandal in pursuit of her dreams. Action-packed and exploding

with memorable songs and dynamic dances – this musical is so much fun, it should be


Elle Woods appears to have it all. Her life is turned upside down when her boyfriend

Warner dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law. Determined to get him back, Elle

ingeniously charms her way into the prestigious law school. While there, she struggles

with peers, professors and her ex. With the support of some new friends, though, Elle

quickly realizes her potential and sets out to prove herself to the world.

MTS is an exciting new chapter in the development of musical theatre training in the

North East offering a dynamic, electrifying and fulfilling West End college experience,

guided by the principles of self-development, discipline and fearlessness. MTS allows

and encourages students to excel in all areas of training, with expert industry coaches

helping develop the necessary skills, passion and mindset required for the business we

call “show”.

MTS was founded in October 2018 by West End star and Arts Educational Schools

London graduate Annie Guy and has gone on to become one of the leading Private

musical theatre academies in the North East.

In 2022, MTS partnered with Olivier Award-winning West End production company

DLAP Group and established a new 8-studio home at the Quayside Exchange building in

the heart of Sunderland with state-of-the-art facilities – A building that buzzes with

adventure, energy and hard work – this will be the start of many student’s exciting

journey into musical theatre training for years to come.

Theatre Director Jo Johnson commented: “We’re delighted that MTS is returning with a

new production, which we’re sure audiences will love! We can’t wait to welcome MTS to

our theatre and see the hard work of the cast come to fruition!”


Tickets are priced at £19 - £13 and can be bought from:

Preview: Deathtrap at Newcastle People’s Theatre

The People’s Theatre in Heaton are well-known for kicking the year off with pulse-quickening thrillers … and 2023 is no exception!

Newcastle People’s Theatre 
Tuesday 17 - Saturday 21 January 2023

Next week’s classic comedic thriller Deathtrap is a rollercoaster that alternately terrifies and amuses, packed full of dastardly deeds and plot twists you’ll never see coming!

When washed-up writer Sidney Bruhl meets an unknown playwright who gives him a copy of a thriller for some input, Sidney sees an opportunity to resurrect his career … but how far is he willing to go to get back on top?

A stage and screen success, Ira Levin’s play holds the record as the longest-running thriller on Broadway and was made into a Hollywood movie starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve.

Levin’s other credits include the iconic and genre-defining ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, which was the biggest selling horror novel of the 1960s, and suburban horror ‘The Stepford Wives’ which has lost none of its cultural impact over fifty years since its first publication.

Deathtrap promises to get your 2023 theatre-going off to a great start with gasp-inducing thrills and spontaneous laughter, all while keeping you guessing and on the edge of your seats!

Director Mark Buckley comments: "It's been a fantastic experience putting together this production of Deathtrap. With its twists and turns, laughs and scares, it's a great way to spend a cold January evening, watching a hugely enjoyable production on which the cast and crew have worked fantastically hard".

Cast: Pictured
Photo: Jess Chapman

Back row L-R
Clifford Anderson - Adam Cummins
Porter Ingram - Michael White
Front row L-R
Helga den Torp - Helga McNeil
Sidney Bruhl - Bill Harrington
Myra Bruhl - Liz Hack

Director: Mark Buckley

Deathtrap is playing at the People’s Theatre in Heaton from Tuesday 17th to Saturday 21st January 2023 at 7.30pm each evening. The run includes a reduced-capacity performance where mask-wearing is encouraged on Tuesday 17th. All details and booking at