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Preview: Falstaff at Newcastle Theatre Royal


Five Reasons We Think Opera North’s Falstaff Is Perfect For Everyone...


Opera North

Verdi’s Falstaff

Newcastle Theatre Royal

Tuesday 31 October – Saturday 4 November 2023

Expect charm, cunning and comeuppance as Opera North bring Verdi’s Falstaff to Newcastle Theatre Royal during their week of performances as part of their Green Season this Autumn.

 Caddish knight Sir John Falstaff has fallen on hard times, and now plans to get his hands on some cash by seducing two wealthy wives of Windsor: Alice Ford and Meg Page. However, when the ladies find he has sent them both an identical love letter, they suss out what’s going on and plan to teach Falstaff a lesson…

Here are our top five reasons why we think this show’s perfect for everyone...

1.  For fashionistas:
Flares, shoulder pads, and glamour all the way! For this production, director Olivia Fuchs chose to transport audiences back to the 1980’s, much to the delight of costume designer Gabrielle Dalton. Falstaff promises to be a treat for the eyes as much as the ears! 

2.    For booklovers:
After a career in which he had composed some of opera’s greatest tragedies, Verdi turned to Shakespeare’s great comic rogue, drawing inspiration from Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor to produce the rich, surprising score of his final masterpiece, Falstaff. 

3.    For drama queens:
Arrogant, vain and larger than life, Sir John Falstaff is the archetypal lovable rogue with his witty repartee and outrageous plans to win back his lost fortune. Opera’s trademark big emotions and dramatic scenes are no surprise to Henry Waddington who will be singing the role as he suggests “To Verdi, the character of Falstaff must have been so obviously operatic. So full of joy, so huge!”

4.    For music lovers:
Verdi’s compelling score is as unforgettable as the action on stage; it bursts with energy and wicked humour. Director Garry Walker, who conducts the opera, says: “It’s an absolute joy to explore the wit, humour and genius of this score.” Henry Waddington adds, “The score is utter joy …. The music bubbles and laughs along to the unfolding drama.” 

5.    For environmentalists:
All using shared scenic elements, designed by Leslie Travers, to create three interlinked yet distinctive designs, Falstaff is being performed alongside La rondine and Masque of Might as part of Opera North’s Green Season, enabling the company to reduce its use of materials and its carbon footprint. Audiences can join Opera North on their green journey by opting for an e-ticket or by choosing to travel to the theatre using their free metro ticket.

With its unforgettable score, outrageous characters and unexpected twists, Falstaff promises to be a riot! Opera North visit Newcastle Theatre Royal performing Falstaff, along with Masque of Might, a world premiere, repurposing the music of Purcell into a celebration of the natural world, as well as a stunning new production of Puccini’s romantic masterpiece La rondine.

Those who have never been to an opera can take advantage of the Try it ON offer and book up to two great seats in the stalls for just £20 each. Newcastle Theatre Royal also offer £10 tickets in the upper circle for those in full-time education.



Tuesday 31 October & Thursday 2 November 2023

New to Opera, Under 30s and package discounts available

Evenings: 7pm

Audio Described perf: Thu 2 Nov, 7pm

Running time: 2hrs 20mins (including interval)

Sung in English with English titles

Preview: Disciples at Newcastle Northern Stage

 Stellar Quines present


Newcastle Northern Stage

Tuesday 7 - Wednesday 8  November 2023

Disciples is a brand-new production from Scotland’s leading intersectional feminist theatre company Stellar Quines. The show is devised in collaboration with five women and non binary performers who identify as D/deaf and disabled, led by director Rachel Drazek (Movement Director - My Left Right Foot) and poet/playwright and performer Ellen Renton (Within Sight). 

Disciples is a joyful, dynamic performance that comes to life through a blend of music, movement, text and image - led by poetry. Themes in the piece include finding joy, finding faith, finding power and what happens to the parts of ourselves that we are asked to hide. 

Questioning who gets to be the storytellers of our experiences, Disciples joins the voices of those working to break down these barriers, in the arts and beyond.  

Ellen Renton said: “It’s a rare and beautiful thing to be able to build a creative space with so many D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people across the cast and team. This is not a show about disability, but it will challenge preconceptions.”

The show will open at the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh in October, before transferring to Northern Stage, Newcastle in November. The cast includes Emma McCaffrey, Irina Vartopeanu, Laura Fisher, Rana Bader and Sally Clay. Each location will see the cast joined onstage by a community choir performing a new composition by Marie-Gabrielle Koumenda, allowing new voices to add to the performance, sharing their own experiences. 

Each performance will have captions and audio description built in, as well as creative use of BSL performed by a member of the cast. Disciples will be an intimate and tender experience for cast and audience members alike, and looks to welcome those with their own experience of visual impairment, deafness and disability into the space to share in stories that are too often overlooked by theatre and dance. 

Stellar Quines is an intersectional feminist theatre company based in Scotland. They believe theatre is a force for change, for collaborating with others and building inclusive coalitions. 

Stellar Quines create shows and provide opportunities and support for career development both on stage and backstage, for creatives at all levels. They commission research and join forces with others to campaign for change. They take our work out into the community with projects that nurture creativity and invite action, all with the aim of achieving greater equality.

Photos: Mihaela Bodlovic


Northern Stage, Newcastle

Tuesday 7 - Wednesday 8 November at 7:30pm

Run Time: 80 minutes

Age Recommendation: 14+

Box office: or call 0191 230 5151

Access info

All shows will be captioned and audio described. 

Creative use of BSL performed by a member of the cast.  

Relaxed performances: Saturday 08 October 2.30pm & Wednesday 07 November. The relaxed performances are for anyone who would benefit from watching the show in a more informal and laid-back environment. More information can be found at


Interview: Samuel Wyn-Morris, Beauty and the Beast, Sunderland Empire


Les Miserables’ Samuel Wyn-Morris will appear

as the Beast in Beauty and the Beast


Samuel hails from Llanelli, South Wales, and is a first language Welsh speaker. Most recently Samuel has starred as Enjolras in the Les Misérables UK Tour which visited Sunderland Empire in November 2022.  He will be appearing in the Empire’s pantomime, Beauty and the Beast, which runs from Friday 8 – Sunday 31 December 2023. He reveals how he feels about doing panto in the North East.



Sam, you recently starred as Enjolras in the tour of Les Misérables which visited Sunderland for the first time last November. Are you looking forward to coming back to the Empire’s stage? 


“Absolutely! It’s a beautiful theatre and they’re proper people in the North East, they remind me of home (Wales) so anytime I get the chance to go to the North East I'm happy.” 


What did you like about performing in the North East?  


“The crowds. Especially in Les Mis, the crowds love a rebellious one. Playing Enjolras was great fun. Proper singing, great theatre to perform in and a good night out, which is always important.”  


Have you performed in a panto before or is this your first?  

“This is my first, I’m breaking the panto duck. I can’t wait, I’m really looking forward to it.”  


The Beast is known for being a bit of a prickly character, are you looking forward to taking on the iconic role and what will you be bringing to it? 


“Absolutely! Well, I’m hoping to bring a bit of Welsh thunder, you know? Like open the organ up and go for gold. A bit of Tom Jones may be involved.”  


Les Misérables is one of the most famous musicals the World has seen, is there anything you’ll be bringing from your West End experience to panto this year?  


“Always arrive on time. That’s probably it. The rest is the same. Theatre is theatre it’s a great start and so I kind of do panto, which was kind of my introduction to theatre, having done my dream job and doing this now it’s fabulous and I can’t wait. I’m just dead chuffed.”  


Have you grown up watching pantomime? If so, what’s your favourite memory? 


“I have grown up watching pantomime. Panto is Denny Twp. Denny Twp which translates to silly Denny in English. Absolute legend of the game Denys Jenkins in Llanelli and watching his pantos growing up was second to none and it inspired an entire generation of theatre goers in Llanelli and theatre performers.”  


What do you love the most about performing on stage?  


“I just enjoy the rush. There’s an adrenaline buzz that you get from it that you don’t get from anything else. There’s this little part of your engine that just starts ticking when you get up on stage and you know that once you’re on the train there’s no getting off. I can’t wait for it. Just to feel it again. To feel alive!”  


Do you have any Christmas traditions? 


“So, the one that we kind of went through for a long time as a family was curry on Christmas Day. So, we’d have curry basically so dad could see us on Christmas Day, otherwise it’s just like you know his one true love is the turkey for the entire day. So that’s probably the biggest one. Or we go and do carols by candlelight on Christmas Eve, which is my favourite one. You just turn up and sing carol after carol. I always get a shout out. My brother doesn’t and it really annoys him. The Rev always gives me a shout out and a little wave like I’m Bill Clinton.”


Why should people book to see Beauty and the Beast at Sunderland Empire?


“Because it’s going to be brilliant. It’s going to be the best pantomime the North East has ever seen. In fact, all of England has ever seen. I go that far.” 


Photos: Barry Pells


#ad Tickets are available from the theatre box office and online from ATG Tickets:


Preview: Ailey 2 at Newcastle Theatre Royal


Francesca Harper On Bringing Ailey 2 To The UK


Ailey 2

Newcastle Theatre Royal

Tuesday 24 & Wednesday 25 October 2023

Ailey 2 – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's second company – is back in the UK for the first time in over a decade and will play Newcastle Theatre Royal on Tuesday 24 & Wednesday 25 October 2023 as part of a much-anticipated 12-venue tour.

Ailey 2, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this season, is known for bringing together the creative vision of exceptional choreographers with the spirit, energy and talent of the next generation of dance artists, offering the exceptional dancers from The Ailey School their first professional roles.

This tour, says Ailey 2 Artistic Director Francesca Harper, is a rare chance for UK audiences to see this next generation of performers, “we are catching the enthusiasm and raw talent of the dancers at the beginning of their careers” she says. “There's such a rich history to the company of fostering and nourishing young artists. They are so talented, and Ailey 2 gives them the opportunity for that talent to flourish,” she adds.

The programme for 12 dancers features four works; excerpts from Francesca’s Freedom Series and William Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure, along with Robert Battle’s The Hunt and Alvin Ailey’s Revelations which is a signature work of all the Ailey companies.

Revelations is Mr Ailey’s most famous work and it’s a masterpiece,” says Francesca. “It reflects the cultural heritage of the African American community and Mr Ailey’s blood memories. It embodies this reverent grace and spiritual elation.”

Ailey 2 has also adapted The Hunt which was originally created for six male dancers by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Artistic Director, Robert Battle.  “I asked Robert if we could have women perform in it as well so we are the first company within the Ailey organisation to have The Hunt performed by an all-female cast,” says Francesca. “It’s a very athletic work and is set to really powerful music by French percussion band Les Tambours du Bronx. Robert was inspired by modern sports and the rituals of gladiators so it has this very ominous and threatening energy. For the women to be as ferocious and athletic as the men is really exciting and an important statement.”

Francesca also brings her own stamp to the programme in the shape of William Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure. From 1991 to 1999, she was a dancer in Forsythe’s hugely influential Ballett Frankfurt, rising to principal for the last five years.  “I thought it was so important to bring Forsythe’s work into the company because he was one of my mentors when I left New York and it helps the dancers understand who I am as an artist,” she says.

Enemy in the Figure was inspired by Thom Willems’ percussive and electronic score. William [Forsythe] had this sense of abstract storytelling where he would take his personal stories and deconstruct them. It’s a powerful work and will leave the audience on the edge of their seats.”

Francesca’s own work, Freedom Series, was inspired by her taking up the post of Ailey 2 artistic director and her emotional responses to returning to the Alvin Ailey family – she trained at The Ailey School where her mother Denise Jefferson was director.  “This is my home, it has always had that familial feeling,” says Francesca who has also choreographed for Broadway shows and was the ballet consultant for the film Black Swan. “It grounded me to see all of these people of colour and diverse representation living their dreams, following their passions and feeling empowered. And to see them transform and develop and flourish. Over the years I feel so fortunate to have witnessed that and for it to have been an integral part of my development. When I'm back here I feel the power that is in that kind of cyclical journey.”

Freedom Series carries so much weight for me. I have so many memories that live in the building and this organisation. I created a series of vignettes that imagine this hybridity where these memories strive to influence my vision of the future. It examines identity and community and being an African American woman as well as the diversity that Alvin embraced.”

Francesca is looking forward to sharing the programme with audiences in the tour presented by Dance Consortium, a group of large-scale theatres which aims to bring the best international dance to venues across the UK and Ireland.

The tour also features an extensive community outreach project for young dancers with workshops, masterclasses and open rehearsals. This forms part of the Ailey Project UK which was launched in 2021 with Dance Consortium member venues.

“We’ve established this wonderful relationship through the Ailey Project UK,” Francesca explains. “It really falls in alignment with spreading the message of an inclusive voice so it's exciting to bring those two worlds together with this tour.

“Our outreach programme is so important to us. It’s sharing and spreading our mission to these young aspiring artists. As a young African American girl, I just didn't see people like myself doing the things and performing the way that I dreamt of so for us to reach young people who may have dreams of dancing or becoming being involved in the arts in some other capacity, it’s so important. It can change lives.”

“One of the most exciting things is that this tour is launching our 50th anniversary season as 2024 marks 50 years since Ailey 2 was founded. Audiences to this tour can expect excellence and heart, they can expect innovation, they can expect cutting edge work and they can expect these young artists at the height of their expression.”

Photos: Nir Arieli


Ailey 2 plays Newcastle Theatre Royal on Tuesday 24 & Wednesday 25 October 2023. Tickets can be purchased at or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.


REVIEW: Beyond Caring at Hexham Queens Hall

A Gala Durham & Queen’s Hall Arts Centre co-production

Beyond Caring by Christina Castling 

Hexham Queens Hall,

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Now touring the North East of England 

from until Sunday 5 November 2023

Direction by Jonluke McKie

Design by Ellie Light

Based on interviews with residents, relatives and staff of care homes, Beyond Caring is a warm, well informed examination of life in care homes that remembers the funny and absurd side of life at the end of the age range.

A cast of three play multiple roles throughout the 75 minutes duration. Having said that 3 characters predominate. Judi Earl is Queenie the resident. At times challenging like a teenager, refusing to follow the details of her agreed care plan, she has her own will and is determined to make that point. Queenie will be recognisable to many.

Jacqueline Phillips is the middle aged daughter Elaine who is coping with an elderly mother who won't accept that she has gone from falling down to having falls. The dilemma of facing the need to changing the care arrangements is palpable. Again, if you have very elderly relatives in your life then you empathise with the situation.

Doing much of the work of representing the Care workforce, and narrating when necessary, is Rosie Stancliffe. She appears as Alex who has been at the care home 10 years but, whilst she loves much of the job, she sees a lot of staff turnover with new staff. In an industry screaming for staff, Rosie is able to elaborate on the reasons why recruitment is an issue without labouring on the point.

This is a really strong cast that deliver both a local flavour and authenticity to the tale. The key reason why this show works, why it successfully wins over the audience, is that you quickly care about the people. Talented actors representing recognisable people that are not just stereotypes. Their frustration is the audiences frustration.

The touring nature of this production means that the set is fairly simple, reliant heavily on costume and props changes. The cast segue between characters and situations fluidly and this helps keep the pace up,

Beyond Caring is a wonderful production thanks to the level of empathy with the subject matter. It does not fall into the trap of making judgement. It leaves that to the audience.

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photo: Matt Jamie


For more information about Beyond Caring and to book tickets visit 


Beyond Caring North East Tour Dates:

• Thursday 12 October, 2pm - Blackhall Community Centre

• Friday 13 October 7.30pm - Hamsteels Community Centre

• Saturday 14 October, 7.30pm - Clara Vale Village Hall

• Tuesday 17 October, 8pm - Hipp @ The Hullabaloo, Darlington Hippodrome

• Wednesday 18 October, 7.30pm - The Customs House, South Shields

• Thursday 19 October, 7.30pm- Arts Centre Washington

• Friday 20 October, 7.30pm - The Witham, Barnard Castle

• Saturday 21 October, 7.30pm - Trimdon Grange Community Centre

• Tuesday 24 October, 7.30pm - Coundon & Leeholme Community Centre

• Wednesday 25 October, 7.30pm - Hamsterley & Low Westwood Community Centre

• Thursday 26 October, 7.30pm - Witton Park Village Hall

• Friday 27 October, 6pm - Pelton Community Centre

• Saturday 28 October, 3pm - St John’s Hall, Meadowfield

• Tuesday 31 October, 7.30pm - Live Theatre, Newcastle

• Wednesday 1 November, 7.30pm - Live Theatre, Newcastle 

• Thursday 2 November, 7.30pm - Casterton Village Hall, Carnforth*

• Friday 3 November, 7.30pm - Kirkby Stephen Sports & Social Club*

• Saturday 4 November, 7.30pm - Frosterley Village Hall*

• Sunday 5 November, 7.30pm - Middleton & Todridge Village Hall, Morpeth*

*These dates are presented as part of the Highlights Rural Touring Scheme

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Previews and reviews of live music, comedy, theatre & more in Northeast England. New music, old music and a bit of what we fancy! Find out what's on in Northeast England: With Jo ; Northeast Music Guide , and Steve : Northeast Theatre Guide

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