Double award-winning Newcastle Theatre Royal has officially unveiled its £600,000 backstage refurbishment by inviting ‘the Queen’ along to perform an official ribbon cutting ceremony.


The grand unveiling comes just as the theatre is celebrating a double national award win for its welcoming atmosphere. Newcastle Theatre Royal was named the My Theatre Matters! UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre of 2015 in the UK Theatre Awards, in association with Smooth Radio and was also presented with the Technical Theatre Awards’ ‘Receiving Venue Team of the Year’ just this month.


Staff at the theatre, decided that having ‘the Queen’ on stage all week in hit comedy Handbagged was too good an opportunity to miss and asked actress Susie Blake, who plays the role, if she would pop along in costume to officially unveil the newly refurbished facilities.


Susie Blake, posing as ‘the Queen’ said: “It is particularly lovely to be performing the official opening of the backstage refurbishment following the recent announcement that Newcastle Theatre Royal has been crowned the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre 2015. Looking at these marvellous new facilities for the visiting actors it is clear to see why that accolade has been awarded.”


The backstage refurbishment has seen the theatre invest £600,000 in improved Dressing Room facilities, stripping out and renewing all the Dressing Rooms, the Band Rooms for musicians, the laundry, wardrobe and wigs rooms, and improved access and facilities for disabled performers. The ground floor has also been reconfigured with a striking new Stage Door area, and a brand new Green Room, with TV, wi-fi and a football table, and a kitchenette so visiting actors eat and relax in comfort.


Newcastle Theatre Royal’s Chief Executive, Philip Bernays, added: “It’s great fun to have ‘the Queen’ here for our official opening ceremony today, but on a serious note the investment in our backstage facilities plays an important part in being able to attract the finest companies to the Theatre Royal so that our audiences can enjoy top quality theatre.


“Visiting actors regularly comment on how wonderful the team is here at Newcastle Theatre Royal and we are very proud of that reputation as a friendly and welcoming place for them to come; this is now backed up by our recent double award win, which is wonderful. Now our first class personal welcome is matched by our facilities and we hope that all of our visiting companies will enjoy the comfort of the new surroundings we provide for them.”


‘The Queen’ was joined at the official ceremony by ‘Margaret Thatcher’ played by fellow actress Kate Fahy and the pair posed for comedy shots in the new Green Room at Newcastle Theatre Royal while putting the new facilities to the test.


The two actors, who play the lead roles in the award-winning comedy Handbagged, will be using the facilities for real all week as the hit comedy plays to Newcastle audiences. Handbagged is Moira Buffini’s celebrated new comedy, which speculates on what the Queen and Margaret Thatcher really talked about behind closed palace doors. When the stiff upper lip softened and the gloves came off, which one had the upper hand?


Handbagged plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal until Saturday 31 October. Tickets are from £12 (save 50p per ticket when you book online) and can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (calls cost 7ppm plus your phone company’s access charge) or book online at


Rat - Cat - Steve Arnott - Pete Peverley- Theatre Royal pantoNewcastle Theatre Royal has today announced that Washington-born Pete Peverley will play the role of ‘Little Bobby the Cat’ in its spectacular 2015/16 pantomime Dick Whittington (24 November 2015 – 17 January 2016).


Peter made his panto debut last year in the Theatre Royal’s box office-busting Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and had audiences in stitches playing ‘Little Bobby the Dwarf’ – an ode to his Bobby Thompson comedy routine.  The role followed the huge success of his one-man show about the North East’s favourite comedian at the Theatre in 2013.


Pete will join the purr-fect pantomime team of Danny Adams, Clive Webb and Chris Hayward who have delighted Newcastle audiences for over a decade and broken box office records every year, alongside recently announced award-winning soap star Charlie Hardwick, who will play ‘Spirit of the Tyne’.


Pete is one of the region’s most celebrated entertainers.  Trained at Newcastle College, he is a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and performed for many years as part of the Northern Stage ensemble.  His TV credits are extensive and include Byker Grove, Emmerdale and Spender.


Danny Adams and Clive Webb make their eleventh consecutive pantomime appearance at the Theatre Royal in Dick Whittington. With their much-loved and hilarious slapstick, physical comedy and slosh routines, the award-winning father and son duo have become a veritable North East institution. Danny plays the title role of Dick Whittington, while Clive plays Councillor Fitzfenwick.


Making his ninth appearance in Newcastle alongside Danny and Clive, Chris Hayward also returns, complete with his glittering array of costumes and wigs, all of which he designs himself. Playing the role of Dame Rita Fitzfenwick, Chris will provide all of the glamour and sparkle Newcastle theatregoers have come to expect from the North East’s premiere pantomime.


Legendary panto villain and Whitley Bay-lad Steve Arnott is back again – this time playing the dastardly King Rat.  This will be his seventh season at the Theatre Royal and follows his triumphant turn as the evil Queen Lucretia in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs last year.


Dick Whittington is the only pantomime believed to be based on a true story, and one of the few of truly British origin. There actually was a Richard Whittington, and he did become (Lord) Mayor of London in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.  The legend says that Whittington was a poor boy who travelled to London to seek his fame and fortune, but arrived penniless, and without a friend in the world – until he was introduced to a rather amazing cat. Newcastle audiences can expect a distinctly local twist on the traditional tale!


Audiences can also expect breathtaking special effects, once again provided by The Twins FX (the award-winning company behind previous years’ looping reindeer sleigh, flying helicopter and magic carpet), hilarious comedy routines, spectacular sets and sensational music and dance.  Plus, returning again in 2015/16 due to popular demand – incredible 3D special effects!


Pete Peverley said: “I’m really excited to be playing Little Bobby the Cat – it’s a great honour and a real treat.  Theatre Royal pantomimes are like no other pantos on the planet – they are truly spectacular, and year on year keep blowing their box office targets as word travels further afield.  I loved playing Little Bobby the Dwarf last year and I have no doubt that this year’s show will be another unforgettable experience.”


Already 74,000 tickets have been sold for the panto, a full month before opening – a new record best for the region’s favourite Christmas show. Audiences are encouraged to book soon to avoid disappointment.

Dick Whittington is produced by Qdos Entertainment, the world’s largest pantomime producer, which will stage 24 productions throughout the UK this Christmas. With ticket prices to suit all pockets, audiences won’t have to head to London to seek their fortune in order to enjoy spectacular pantomime at Newcastle Theatre Royal this Christmas!

Dick Whittington appears at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tuesday 24 November 2015 until Sunday 17 January 2016. Tickets are available from £12.50, (save 50p per ticket by booking online). Tickets can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (all calls are charged at 7p a minute plus your phone company’s access charge, calls from mobiles may vary, please contact your operator for details) or select your own seat and book online at







27 October 2015, London, UK

The Theatres Trust releases its 38th Annual Report: ‘Empowering communities to protect theatres’’ which highlights its achievements from April 2014 to March 2015.

As the National Advisory Body for Theatres we provide advice and support to secure a better and more sustainable future for the nation’s valued theatres. We champion all theatres and provide expert knowledge and an authoritative voice on the significance and value of theatres.

Mhora Samuel, Director of The Theatres Trust said “The Trust’s focus this year was our work with local communities and we worked with more theatres than ever, helped more projects with advice as well as financial resources, and developed our new workshop programme to inject new skills into organisations – helping communities and theatre owners to find innovative solutions to ensure no city, town or community is without access to a theatre.

Tim Eyles, appointed as Chair of The Theatres Trust in February 2015 said “The Trust has a vital role in protecting theatres for everyone, and I intend to continue the great work of my predecessor Rob Dickens CBE and ensure that the Trust’s role as an advisor, a champion and a resource for theatres grows. In the next three to five years you will hear the Trust’s voice more often and loudly, and we are already starting to plot a clear path.”

In 2014/15 the Trust published its annual Theatre Buildings at Risk Register 2014 at Brighton Theatre Royal, highlighting the challenges facing top theatre at risk Brighton Hippodrome. We awarded ten grants totalling £50,000 from our Small Grants Scheme supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and Judy Craymer MBE to theatres across the nation, helped develop guidance on plaster ceilings in theatres and celebrated initiatives that empowered communities to own and manage their theatres at Conference 14: Community Theatres.

In our unique role as a statutory consultee in the planning system we advised local authorities on 117 theatre-related planning applications and 57 theatre-related listed building consultations, and contributed to 292 local plan consultations securing stronger cultural policies to protect theatres.

Our successful Building Better Theatres Workshop programme provided specialist knowledge to 34 theatres from across the nations, and we provided bespoke one-to-one advice to a further 56 theatres on their capital project development, future viability, conservation, and maintenance.

We also helped 212 researchers access our valuable Archives and Collections to further their studies on the history, design and development of theatres.

The Theatres Trust is the National Advisory Public Body for Theatres. The Trust was established by The Theatres Trust Act 1976, ‘to promote the better protection of theatres’. It is a statutory consultee on theatre buildings in the planning system, provides expert advice on the sustainable development of theatre buildings and helps promote awareness and solutions for theatres at risk. It champions all theatres, historic, contemporary and new in theatre use, in other uses or disused. The Theatres Trust’s central London Theatreland-based Resource Centre provides access to a specialist theatre buildings Reference Library including books and architectural plans.

Download The Theatres Trust’s 38th Annual Report 14/15

The Theatres Trust
Protecting theatres for everyone
T 020 7836 8591

Join Jack Dee for I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue

image006 (3)presents

image007at 7.30pm on Thursday 12th November 2015

at the Grand Opera House York

Tickets £8.00

Doors open: 7pm  Show starts: 7.30pm

The multi award-winning antidote to panel games will be recording part of its 64th series for the BBC at the Grand Opera House York.  Join chairman Jack Dee, and regulars Barry Cryer, Graeme Garden, Tim Brooke-Taylor and Colin Sell for an unmissable evening of inspired nonsense.

Whether the teams are singing the words of one song to the tune of another, making up serial rhymes or entering the mythic maze of Mornington Crescent, they have now become the National Theatre of fun”

Gillian Reynolds, Daily Telegraph

The evening will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and will finish no later than 10.30pm




The English Gents star in La Soiree. Image by Olivia Rutherford (3).jpg / @LaSoireeLive / #LaSoiree





The wait is finally over and the stage is now set for La Soirée to make its triumphant return to London this evening. Featuring world class performers from across the globe, leave all troubles at the door and get ready to be transported once again to the seductive world of La Soirée


The crowned winner of this year’s prestigious Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and fresh from a magnificent world tour, the awe-inspiring cabaret sensation are returning home to London for a sixth season in the capital. From 27 October 2015 until 17 January 2016, the little show with a big heart will make its triumphant return to the Southbank Centre, taking up residency in the deliciously decadent La Soirée Spiegeltent.

The irresistible theatrical phenomenon has now seen more than 75 artists take their place on the iconic red stage across five continents, with over 150 acts between them. Audiences and critics alike have been wooed by La Soirée’s ever-expanding, fabulously dysfunctional family in more than 25 cities, from Darwin to Manila, stopping off at Hong Kong, Melbourne, Montreal, Paris and New York along the way.

To extend a heartfelt thanks to their London supporters, an Early Bird Deal has been concocted to offer £10 off all seats for shows in October and November if booked before 31 October. Full details can be found below.

So dust off the cobwebs and sashay on over to the La Soirée Spiegeltent, a velvet draped salon of carved wood, polished mirrors, crystal and leadlight. Prepare to be amazed, astonished and aroused by the very crème de la crème of the cabaret world:

The English Gents. Image by Sean Young (5).jpg (2)THE ENGLISH GENTS

Denis Lock and Hamish McCann are two delightfully devilish and cordial “English” gentlemen who perform inconceivable feats of acrobatic skill, strength and balance, whilst casually puffing a pipe, reading the newspaper and sporting the stiffest of British upper lips. The act mixes their highly skilled feats with a dry English wit, unexpectedly climaxing with the two hilariously baring near-all for Queen and country and in the process displaying more pure sex appeal than ever before seen under a bowler hat.

Mooky 1.jpg (1)MOOKY

La Soirée is proud to welcome back Canadian-born Mooky Cornish into the bosom of its unconventional family. Mooky is one of the funniest ladies working on the international circuit today. Renowned for her impeccable timing and knock your socks off slapstick, her illustrious background includes creator and lead clown for Cirque du Soleil’s box office triumph Varekai.This quirky comedienne has delighted over three million spectators worldwide with her astonishing talents which are as diverse as they are impressive – from puppeteer to mask maker, and from pianist to her most recent feat – an orange belt in Tae Kwon Do!


This English Gent has been seducing audiences across the globe with his jaw-dropping pole act since 2009. His late night cabaret version of Singing in the Rain has acquired a worldwide cult reputation with this extremely skilled, stylish and oh so sexy routine which is sure to leave you ‘feeling good’…


From sheer strength to daring delicacy, what this English Gent puffs out of his pipe defies belief. An act where science steps away from the chalkboard and reveals its beauty and mystique through a bubble, La Soirée can’t wait to introduce you to Denis Lock’s newest act. Think you’ve seen it all with bubble-blowing? Prepare to hold your breath and gaze on in wonder.

Asher Treleaven. Image by Matt Hoyle.jpg (1)ASHER TRELEAVEN

La Soirée is proud to welcome Asher Treleaven, sexual gentleman and overall bon vivant. One of Australia’s most critically acclaimed comedians, the former drama school dropout but accomplished circus school graduate has travelled the world over with his unique blend of physical comedy, socially responsible rhetoric and overenthusiastic sexual patter, racking up awards and nominations on his winding path. Not sure whether to laugh or blush? Have no fear – sit back, try to relax and enjoy this indescribable ride!

Mario Queen of the Circus. Image by Perou (2).JPGMARIO QUEEN OF THE CIRCUS

A showman of exceptional talents, Clarke McFarlane’s Mario is a leather-bursting reincarnation of Freddie Mercury – that’s if you can imagine a Freddie who had been able to juggle, ride a unicycle and if indeed he had ever run away to join the circus. Mario’s greatest skill, however, is to make even the most intimate of venues into a rocking arena spectacle, and to unite even the largest venues into one arm-waving excuse for a crowd-surf.


Miss Frisky is one of the biggest voices in the international cabaret scene – she has belted her way from London’s West End to the Sydney Opera House, via Singapore, Berlin and New York City. Best known for her exploits with partner Mannish, this diva is taking centre stage with La Soirée. Gird whatever needs girding, there will be full-frontal fabulousness.
[email protected]


The son of a famous Norse magician, this wunderkind has graced the stage since he was four. Possessed of an utterly beguiling charm, and famed the world over for bending, contorting and manipulating his body into shapes that are as astonishing as they are unnatural, Frodo is one of a kind. You will never look at a tennis racquet the same way again.

Bret Pfister at Sydney Opera House Photo. Image by Prudence Upton.jpg (1)BRET PFISTER

Supple, sexy, skilful and stunningly handsome, Bret Pfister brings the finest of Montreal’s circus talent to La Soirée.

Equally inspired by the neo-cabaret movement and the baroque indie-pop sound, he blends awesome physical skill and a cool insouciance into his exquisite punked-up aerial ballet.

Yammel Rodriguez. Image by Richard Blouin.jpgYAMMEL RODRIGUEZ

General Yammel, notoriously known for her love of the finest Cuban cigars, has been drafted in to whip our army of circus fans into shape. Rapidly becoming an infamous siren of the cabaret scene, with her innovative performance on a single strap, she will soon be dominating the stages of the world.


Roaring on to the La Soirée stage is the heartstoppingly talented Melanie Chy. A third generation performer of Swiss, Italian and Chinese descent, Melanie has been astounding audiences across the globe since the age of six. Combining the mental rigor of a martial master, the agility of an Olympic gymnast and the performance panache of a modern dancer, Melanie Chy revives the ancient art of hand balancing in a jaw-dropping routine never before seen in the United Kingdom!

La Soirée is presented in London by Brett Haylock, Mark Rubinstein and Mick Perrin.



La Soirée
La Soirée’s Spiegeltent at Southbank Centre
27 October 2015 – 17 January 2016
PRESS NIGHT: 6 November 

Box office: 0844 847 9910
Tickets from £15
For VIP Packages and party options please call 020 7021 0787.


Until 31 October bookers can enjoy £10 off all ticket prices (except standing) for shows in October and November.

Twitter: @LaSoireeLive
Instagram: LaSoireeLive
You Tube:

Last Chance to see Tooting Arts Club’s acclaimed production of Barrie Keeffe’s Barbarians


824cc31714282981_800x800arBy Barrie Keeffe

Produced by Rachel Edwards for Tooting Arts Club
In association with Soho Theatre and Jagged Fence Theatre
With kind support from Soho Estates

Last chance to see Tooting Arts Club’s acclaimed production of Barrie Keeffe’s Barbarians at the Former Central Saint Martins School of Art in Soho

The show must close on 7 November 2015

There are only two weeks left for audiences to catch Tooting Arts Club’s acclaimed revival of Barbarians by Barrie Keeffe. Staged in the birthplace of UK punk, this hard-hitting production has been widely praised, not least for the performances of its three young actors. The final performance will be on Saturday 7 November 2015, at the former Central Saint Martin’s School of Art in Soho.

There are a limited number of tickets available at £10 for under-26s, students and the unemployed.

In 1977, Britain had just emerged from a worldwide recession. It was the Queen’s silver jubilee year but Paul, Jan and Louis had little to celebrate. With widespread youth unemployment and little opportunity on the horizon, there was anarchy in the air. Barbarians follows the fluctuating fortunes of its three male characters on a journey that is as humorous as it is brutal, to the soundtrack of The Clash, the Sex Pistols and The Jam. This venue provides the perfect setting, steeped in the punk culture of that time, to revive this acclaimed production which is as relevant now as it was then.

“I have mixed feelings about seeing it again in two new productions: proud that the play is on in London for the first time in twenty years but also a sadness that it’s a tale of a generation without hope or prospects who leave school only to join the dole queues” Barrie Keeffe.

The production is directed by Bill Buckhurst (Sweeney Todd) with design by Simon Kenny, sound design by Joshua Richardson and lighting design by Rob Youngson.

Cast: Thomas Coombes (The Father, ITV series Jekyll and Hyde), Jake Davies (Yen, X+Y) andJosh Williams (Lord of the Flies, Love and Information).

Tooting Arts Club’s most recent production was the acclaimed revival of Stephen Sondheim’sSweeney Todd in Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop, Tooting, transferring to a found space on Shaftesbury Avenue.

Barrie Keeffe, who wrote the film The Long Good Friday, and whose other works for the stage include Sus, Not Fade Away, A Mad World My Masters, Only A Game, My Girl and King of England, was born and brought up in the East End of London. He was an actor with the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and worked as a journalist before becoming a playwright.

Barbarians is directed by Bill Buckhurst, who also directed Sweeney Todd for Tooting Arts Club (Harrington’s Pie and Mash Shop and West End). He previously co-directed the international touring production of Shakespeare’s Globe’s Hamlet alongside Dominic Dromgoole. Also for Tooting Arts Club, Bill has directed Tinderbox in 2011, Barbarians in 2012 and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2014. His other directing credits include The Vegemite Tales in the West End and numerous touring productions for Shakespeare’s Globe.

Barbarians is produced by Rachel Edwards for Tooting Arts Club.


by Barrie Keeffe
Venue: Former Central St Martins School of Art, 111 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H ODU
Dates: Tuesday 29th September – 7th November 2015
Monday-Saturday, 7.30pm; Saturday and Thursday matinees 3pm
Press nights: Saturday 3rd October, Monday 5th, Tuesday 6th
Tickets: £10 (under-26s, students and unemployed), £26 and £32 (plus booking fees)

Book via Soho Theatre
Phone 020 7478 0100
In person Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE

Paul: Thomas Coombes
Jan: Jake Davies
Louis: Josh Williams

Producer: Rachel Edwards (for Tooting Arts Club)
Co- Producer: Hilary Williams
Director:  Bill Buckhurst
Designer: Simon Kenny
Sound Designer: Joshua Richardson
Lighting Designer: Rob Youngson
Casting: Marc Frankum


Roosevelvis Review  

Royal Court Theatre 21st October – 14th November. Reviewed by Claire Roderick

The Team’s Roosevelvis is billed as a hallucinatory road trip from the Badlands to Graceland – and what a trip it is!

This two-hander tells the story of Ann, a shy, gay worker in a meat-processing plant, sleepwalking through her life, and only becoming truly animated when talking to her hero – Elvis Presley. After a disastrous blind date involving a RV trip to Mount Rushmore, Elvis and his hero, Teddy Roosevelt intervene and, together with Ann, they embark on a journey to Graceland.

Libby King plays Ann as a truly lost soul, full of despair and loneliness. When she morphs into Elvis, with just a wig and a vocal twist, she is a revelation. Kristen Sieh is Brenda, Ann’s taxidermist date – hugely disappointed in the real Ann after meeting her online – and Roosevelt. Sieh is tiny, so her posturing and aggression as Roosevelt makes a funny character even better. But although there are lots of laughs to be had from the two American icons, the play celebrates rather than mocks them. Even though they are being played by women, they do not come across as a drag act, simply androgynous versions of their personas. The Team’s script is slick and confident. There is an underlying warmth and respect for these flawed men, and the relationship that builds between them on the road trip is simply wonderful. They have very different ideas about what Ann should do, and their reasoning is slowly and sympathetically unpicked as they reveal more and more of their history. Roosevelt’s coping method whenever he gets a little emotional is hysterical, and his pronunciation of Elvis’ name keeps you giggling throughout – and that ending!

The staging is so well thought out – while props are being moved around, the action continues on various screens, and the use of rowing machines is a stroke of genius. There are some dark and quiet moments, expertly portrayed by the actors on stage and on the screens. The screens are used to continue the story on location, showing action in shops, motels and scenery on the road. The sequence showing Ann at work starkly portrays her mundane life, although I must admit that the diner waitress film was a step too far for me – the sound and colour effects brought to mind dodgy art installations I have suffered through and made me twitch a little.

The play’s publicity states that this is a work about gender, appetite and the multitudes we contain – which worried me a little. But these themes are not sledgehammered into the play, they are allowed to breathe and take form gradually and subtly – allowing the audience to think for themselves and take what they want from the performance, which is exactly what a great play should do

Mirror Mirror, Charles Court Opera Panto, King’s Head

unnamed (29)The King’s Head Theatre and Charles Court Opera present:

3 December – 9 January

The King’s Head Theatre present Charles Court Opera’s legendary annual ’boutique panto’, now in its new home for 2015 after eight glorious years at the Rosemary Branch Theatre.

“a refreshingly different spin on the traditional panto that remains true to its spirit” Time Out on Billy the Kid, 2014

A terrifically evil Queen has all she could wish for – including an equally evil magic mirror.  Enter a dashing Prince from a far off kingdom, more interested in a certain young filly in the town who spends her days playing housekeeper to seven dwarfs… cue disguises, booby traps, magic spells, and even murder by apple pie, all dunked in a delicious cocktail of jaw-dropping musical numbers, terrible puns and top drawer singers, and you’re all set for Charles Court Opera’s 9th boutique panto – a legendary part of North London’s Christmas (Time Out Critic’s Choice 2014).

“the future of panto is boutique… a must-see” Michael White, The Telegraph on Buttons, 2013

This year sees their uniquely alternative, inventive take on the tale of Snow White, and anyone who has seen any of their 8 boutique pantos to date knows to expect the unexpected! The cast will feature regular Charles Court Opera compatriots, including founder and resident dame (“Outrageously funny” Time Out) John Savournin. Charles Court Opera became an associate company at the King’s Head Theatre this year, which is also their 10th anniversary.

“If there is a better pantomime in London this winter I will eat my critic’s hat” Reviewsgate on Buttons, 2013

From adults-only performances through to children’s matinees, Charles Court Opera’s boutique pantos are perfect for families, couples, groups of friends or office parties, with this year’s promising to be bigger, better, and a glittering treat for all. Join them in their new home this year – don’t miss out!

Now in its 45th year, The King’s Head Theatre is celebrating this anniversary with an exciting new artistic policy after the departure of OperaUpClose, becoming a crucible for new writing and critical rediscoveries. Work from Irvine Welsh, Richard Cameron, Richard O’Brien and Arthur Miller, as well as Mike Bradwell directing for the first time since the 1970s, guarantees that if it’s on here, you won’t see it anywhere else. Led by Adam Spreadbury-Maher, second artistic director following Dan Crawford (who set up the King’s Head as the first pub theatre in 1970), the theatre is the first unfunded venue to have an Equity agreement to pay theatre-makers fair wages since 2011, and continues to do so despite receiving no public funding.

South Pacific Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 26 October 2015

Darlington Operatic Society revisit the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic South Pcific for their winter show this year.

Julian Cound plays Emile. Bringing to the role a commanding presence, a sense of solitude and a burnished tone that almost stops the show in This Nearly Was Mine. While Kat Flynn plays Nellie, her portrayal of this inspiringly positive yet vulnerable woman is pitch perfect. Full of nervous energy and fine acting, vocally she is also top-dollar.

In contrast Zoe Kent gives a full-blooded performance as the polynesian pedlar, Bloody Mary, that brings out her character. Bali Hai is beautifully sung.  During Happy Talk, as she forces Liat, Zoe Birkbeck, to play up to the American Lieutenant, himself in a state of malarial delirium.  There is good work from Michael Hirst as a traumatised lieutenant Cable.  His sensitive portrayal reveals many sides to this multifaceted character while his smooth voice is tailor-made for Younger Than Springtime.

Star of the show though is Ben Connor and his wonderful portrayal of Luther Billis.  Clearly channelling the spirit of Paul Lynde, Connor offers terrific comic value particularly in his grass-skirted drag number, Honey Bun.

The production is outstanding and its ridiculous to call this Amateur Operatics when the show is of such a professional standard.  The performers and production staff are dedicated and accomplished and it shows all the way through the show

Full of melodic glories from the live band led by Michael Trotter, the show is beginning to show its age. In 1949 there was obviously a ground breaking liberalism to its premise: a racially blinkered nurse from Little Rock, having fallen in love with an exiled French planter in wartime. And the tension between the sexual imperialism of the American troops and the yearnings of the Pacific islanders in that Bloody Mary pimps out daughter Liat to the highest bidder.  But the story lines aside, there is no doubting the professionalism and talent that has gone into this production

In Darlington until 31 October this is a beautiful acted and tremendously sung show that all the family can enjoy.

BOAT Review

Theatre N16, 19th October – 5th November.  Reviewed by Claire Roderick

Oh. My. Word.

BOAT is one of those rare plays that leaves you feeling slightly grubby for having enjoyed human misery so much.

PIGDOG’s production of Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut play is simply stunning.  A girl is adrift on a boat on an endless ocean. The girl has forgotten her name. Her twin is also on the boat, but she hasn’t moved or spoken for a long time. Girl is adamant that she is just sleeping. Turtle repeatedly comes to visit the girl on her boat and talks about relativity and freedom. Then Gull finds the boat, and begins to contradict Turtle’s ideas. So far, so “Life of Pi”, but then sinister slips and hints begin to trickle into the conversations and Girl’s memories. Amidst the mythology of “The Leaving” and the “litterlands” ripples of fear and horror of “them” begin to emerge.

Pia Laborde Noguez is phenomenal as Girl – she captures the innocence and precociousness of the character perfectly, and breaks your heart in the final scenes. As Twin, Cristina Catalina excels in the seemingly less sympathetic role as the stronger, protective sibling who gives in to despair. Matthew Coulton’s Turtle is full of joy and love for Girl, but Coulton lets his true motives reveal themselves subtly and almost sympathetically. Gabriele Lombardo as Gull is full of energy and this makes his shame and fear in his final scene even more heartfelt.

The set design at first appears sweet and naïve, but as the story unfolds, you realise why these objects have been used. The sound effects are created on stage by the cast and the audience and recorded and manipulated for use throughout by the Jellyfish of Sound (Jethro Cooke). Again, the reasons for this became horrifyingly clear. This is such an intricate production – lines that seemed irrelevant come back to haunt you; everything on stage has a purpose. It is like putting together a jigsaw with no picture to guide you. Suddenly, fantasy is stripped away and stark reality is laid bare – and it is awful. But oh so relevant. There is no happy ending, just a fade to dark. “Regret is dark, dark is regret.”

This is a production you must see. PIGDOG have created a little piece of magic  – beautiful, horrible, dark magic.