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REVIEW: Limelight - on tour

CaroleW Productions, with support from Newcastle Theatre Royal, presents

Limelight by Janet Plater

The tour has launched in Newcastle Theatre Royal’s newly refurbished Studio Theatre, Until Saturday 13 April 2024, before touring the North East & Cumbria until Saturday 4 May 2024

Direction Christina Berriman Dawson

Composer Wilf Stone

Design Consultant Lee Ward

A new tale about life backstage at Newcastle's Theatre Royal, by local writer Janet Plater, digs into the social conventions of the time whilst sharing a number of heart-warming moments with the audience at the newly refurbished studio theatre before heading off on tour around the region.

It is October 1854 and a big star is about to arrive backstage before her appearance on the stage. Most of the action takes place in the dressing room that the three actors will share. Dayna Dixon appears as the more experienced and confident rep actor Emily. Gossiping with her is the slightly more naïve Fanny who is more star struck. Caitlin Fairlamb ensures that her character is more star struck and they assume others must know better about what they are talking about.

In this changing room the audience is let into a safe oasis that they can share and freely talk about societal expectations. Whilst Fanny feels that she is only there as her mother works in the costume department, Emily has clearly been around for a while.

Eventually a big entrance is made by the Geordie star Julia St George, who has arrived direct from London in the company of an unseen male star. When I say a big entrance, Julia is in need of the loo though this is quickly sorted. Rebecca Withers delivers a performance that has the assured confidence that one would expect from a big name. Having said that - this is 1854 and Christina Berriman Dawson's direction ensures that the lead rehearses her lines with over exaggerated poise and actions. There is going to be nothing naturalistic about her delivery.

From a theatrical point of view - 1854 is clearly an era of learn your lines and don't worry about rehearsing with others - or considering how their onstage character feels. This leads to a number of lighter moments that the modern audience react to.

Julia, though, is a gossip. On her way to the theatre she became aware that the Newcastle coroner was investigating reports of a dead baby dumped in the pit next to Eldon Square. She is alarmed by these facts and women's place in mid 19th century England is laid out to bare. The three ladies also discuss their relationships and acknowledge the freedoms that they get as actors - especially when Fanny announces that she is meeting someone after the show.

Composer Wilf Stone has added a number of short songs to punctuate the action. The combination of voices in these acapella moments is delightful to hear.

The lighting helps set up the atmosphere in this space. From the "candlelit" beginning through to the quayside fire - the audience get the right impression. After all this is an era when people thought that bad smells where the vectors of disease.

Press night ran at about 90 minutes including an interval. I did finding myself wanting to find out more about the characters. Most of act 2 acts more like a post script in which some loose ends are tied up. The show could probably run for an hour straight through if it was put on the fringe.

Limelight was an entertaining show that I can warmly recommend. Three talented actors help make the characters relatable. The mixture of funny moments and harsh reality checks gives the story texture. Dawson's direction makes effective use of the space available. I also look forward to seeing more shows in the studio theatre too.

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos taken at Theatre Royal studio theatre


For more details and to book tickets, visit

Suitability: 12+ 

Limelight Tour Dates & Venues

Tuesday 9 & Friday 12 April, 7pm - Newcastle Theatre Royal Studio

Wednesday 10, Thursday 11 & Saturday 13 April, 1pm & 7pm - Newcastle Theatre Royal Studio

Tuesday 16 April, 7.30pm - Gala Durham

Wednesday 17 April, 6pm - Blyth Library

Thursday 18 April, 7.30pm - Middleton & Todridge Village Hall *

Friday 19 April, 7.30pm - Newton & Bywell Village Hall *

Saturday 20 April, 7.30pm - Arnside Educational Institute *

Sunday 21 April, 7.30pm - Helsington & Brigsteer Village Hall *

Tuesday 23 April, 6.30pm - Cramlington Library

Wednesday 24 April, 7.30pm - Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham

Thursday 25 April 7.30pm - Arts Centre Washington

Friday 26 April, 7.30pm - Hamsteels Community Centre

Saturday 27 April 7.30pm - Saltburn Community Theatre

Sunday 28 April 3pm - St John's Hall, Meadowfield

Tuesday 30 April, 7.30pm - Coundon & Leeholme Community Centre

Wednesday 1 May 1pm & 7.30pm - North Shields The Exchange 1856

Thursday 2 May 7.30pm - Alnwick Playhouse

Friday 3 May 7.30pm - Trimdon Grange Community Centre

Saturday 4 May 1pm & 7pm - Gosforth Civic Theatre

* These dates are part of the Highlights Rural Touring Scheme.

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