Spandau Ballet Review

Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield – 5 March 2015

Spandau Ballet hold a lot of firsts for me.  True was my first slow dance and my first kiss, at a school disco in December 1984. And they were my first concert in the mid 80’s in Manchester with my friend Mel.  And 30 years later I was in Sheffield with my friend Mel to watch The Soul Boys of the Western World perform again.

The film on the backdrop proves that in the last 30 years nothing has changed.  Tony Hadley still has a voice of velvet richness like melted chocolate with honey poured over.  And, although Martin Kemp rocks the sexy silver fox look, no-one has aged at all.

There were all the classic hits intermingled with some new ones.  A nice touch was the medley of very early new romantic hits, set in the Blitz nightclub in homage to the late Steve Strange.

It was a very visual feast with a fabulous light show, nostalgic projections and wonderful close ups on the big screen of all 5 of the Soul Boys clearly enjoying themselves.  And the sound was excellent too, still managing to be heard over the noise of thousands of screaming fans, all the boys shined.  From Steve Norman’s sax to John Keebles drums via Martin and Gary Kemp’s guitars and Tony Hadley’s vocals.

And all too soon it was over, the last song being the iconic True and then an emotional and poignant version of Through The Barricades where they made mention of the huge falling out and court case, which is thankfully now behind them.  But, of course, it had to end with Gold

If you can grab a ticket, then go and see the tour, its a wonderful night out, lots wonderful songs with thought provoking good memories

Sat 07-March Liverpool Echo Arena
Sun 08-March Glasgow SSE Hydro
Tue 10-March Nottingham Capital FM Arena
Wed 11-March Brighton Centre
Fri 13-March Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Sat 14-March Manchester Phones 4 U Arena
Sun 15-March Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
Tue 17-March London O2 Arena
Thu 19-March Birmingham LG Arena

20 Questions with ….. Alistair Barron


Up and coming musical theatre star, Alistair Barron, answered 20 questions

As always we start with some favourites

Favourite show (whether you have been in it or not)?

My favourite shows when I first became interested in becoming an actor were Phantom and Les Miserables and they inspired me to become a professional. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen has to be Newsies on Broadway. Those Kids are ridiculously talented!!!! I could give them a tip or two on their Backflips though!!!

Favourite book?

One of my favourite books has to be “Year of the of the king” Written by Sir Antony Sher, must read for all actors.

Favourite theatre?

I’ve been lucky to have performed in most of the Theatres in the UK!! Tough question… The Royal Albert Hall is amazing.

Favourite song?

Off the top of my head, She’s Always a Woman – Billy Joel.

Favourite music?

I Love classical music, musical theatre (of course), Loving Fleetwood Mac at the moment.

Favourite food?

Roast beef dinner, there has to be yorkshire puddings involved though.

Favourite line from any show?

Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics cannot be beaten. Two lyrics in the song stay with me from Into The Woods, it’s a song about a mother teaching her child the dangers of the world when she is eager to explore it, I feel that children are growing up too quickly nowadays. The lyrics are “Princes wait there in the world it’s true, Princes yes but wolves and humans too, stay with me” “Stay with me the world is dark and wild, stay a child while you can be a child, with me.”

What was your favourite role?

I loved playing Aslan in the world premiere of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. I had an amazing costume, and the music was beautiful, written by Stephen Luke Walker.

What role would you really love to play?

Valjean is the dream, getting closer to getting it.  Each year I audition for Les Mis, so I hope I’ll get it one day, Still a bit young at moment.

What was your first role?

Jean Valjean in the school edition of Les Mis at the York Grand Opera House 8 years ago now.

If you could be anyone else for the day, who would it be?

A Casting Director, if you know what happens in their head you are onto a winner.

If you weren’t a brilliant singer what would you be?

I’d love to be an architect. I am awestruck by architecture especially in London, old and new, I find it exciting that Londons skyline is completely transforming, lots of new skyscrapers.

What advice would you give 16 year old Alistair?

When you get a good job save money for when you don’t have a good job.

What was the last stage show you saw and really enjoyed?

I saw Memphis recently and I loved it! Great performances, great music and and all round amazing cast, got an invite to press night party as well which is always a bonus.

What are the nicest/weirdest things you have ever received from fans?

I have a lovely fan called Karen and she would bring me a single red rose and chocolate every time she came to see the show. She is a lovely lady.

How did you get involved with The Three Phantoms?

Earl Carpenter and Anthony Gabrielle asked me to do it! It was an amazing surprise. I am very grateful to both of them for the opportunity I learned so much from them, and the rest of the cast.

Have you considered doing a play or straight acting with no singing?

I would love to. I love cinema and it would be nice to do a film and get to go to the Oscars. But I did straight acting at school. I couldn’t sing whilst my voice was breaking.

What made you decide to be a performer?

I love performing so much. At the end of a performance there is no better feeling than knowing you have entertained people. I think a lot of people in the business forget it’s just about entertaining the audience but that’s why I was inspired to do it.

Will you be producing a CD of your songs?

There’s nothing planned in terms of doing a recording at all. I don’t really like working in a recording studio I prefer singing as a character in a musical.

Can you tell us what you will be up to next?

I am waiting to hear on a few things but nothing is coming up for definite yet.

Return To The Forbidden Planet Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 2 March 2015

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Return To The Forbidden Planet, the anniversary tour arrives at Darlington this week.  And what a celebration it is.

Billed as Shakespeare’s forgotten rock n roll masterpiece, RTTFP is based on The Tempest.  Now futuristically set on a spaceship under the command of Captain Tempest, played by pipe smoking Sean Needham.  The ship’s new Science Officer (Christine Holman), is a woman, causing an argument with Tempest about the importance of men and women. During their argument, the ship gets caught in a meteor shower. Captain Tempest insists on flying through the storm,but the Science Officer escapes the ship via shuttle craft. Drawn mysteriously to the planet D’Illyria the crew meet mad scientist Doctor Prospero (Jonathan Markwood), who has been marooned on the planet since his wife and science partner Gloria sent him and their daughter Miranda (Sarah Scowen) into space. Prospero offers to help repair the broken starship and he, his daughter, and their robot Ariel (Joseph Mann)come aboard. The ship’s cook, Cookie (Mark Newnham), falls in love with Miranda, but she has fallen in love with Captain Tempest, against her father wishes. During discussions about locating the missing Science Officer, Ariel reveals information about Doctor Prospero’s new formula ‘X Factor’, which can enhance the brain and mind. After an argument with his daughter Prospero takes the draught of ‘X Factor’. immediately, the ship is attacked by a tentacled space monster, but Ariel is in the airlock with the missing Science Officer. To save them both, Captain Tempest orders the airlock opened, which allows the monster to gain access to the ship. During the confusion of the attack it is revealed that the Science Officer is Doctor Prospero’s wife Gloria.

But ‘alls well that ends well’ and love’s labours are both lost and found in this incredible mishmash of Shakespeare, rock and roll and some psychedelic hippie-ness

The cast are incredibly talented, acting, singing and playing a myriad of different musical instruments whilst, at times, battling zero gravity.  In the midst of the spoken shakespearean prose and blank verse we are treated to cleverly linked songs and fabulous instrumentals.  Mark Newnhams epic guitar solo, linking The Zombies 1964 hit “She’s Not There” to Nirvana’s 1991 “Teen Spirit”was phenomenal . Worthy of narrator, Brian May’s, legendary guitar solo’s indeed.

It’s in a similar vein to Rocky Horror, not taking itself seriously and having great fun at the same time.  The audience have to play their part too, battling of ‘great balls of fire’ and protecting themselves from the reversal of the polarity of the neutron flow.  It plays  on every cheesy sci-fi cliche and draws on the classics of Star Trek, Dr Who and Phantom of the Opera. Don’t be put off by the Shakespeare, its very clever and a mismatch of some of the more famous quotes mismatched in between.  Its witty, clever and well written and a fitting tribute for its 25th year



Return to the Forbidden Planet Review

Return To The Forbidden Planet – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East


Writer &Director: Bob Carlton


Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Return To The Forbidden Planet, the anniversary tour arrives at Darlington this week. And what a celebration it is.

Billed as Shakespeare’s ‘forgotten rock n roll masterpiece’, Return to the Forbidden Planet has roots with The Tempest. Futuristically set on a spaceship under the command of pipe smoking Captain Tempest (Sean Needham), the ship’s new female Science Officer (Christine Holman) causes an argument with the Captain over the importance of men and women. A meteor shower mid argument sees the pair parting ways – the Captain intent on navigating through the storm, while the Science Officer has other ideas, escaping via shuttle craft.

Mysteriously drawn to the planet D’Illyria, the crew meet mad scientist Doctor Prospero (Jonathan Markwood), who has been marooned on the planet since his wife and science partner Gloria sent him and their daughter Miranda (Sarah Scowen) into space.

Potions, tentacled space monsters, love triangles and secrets make for a fun and thoroughly enjoyable evening of rock ‘roll madness. As the old saying goes – ‘all’s well that ends well’ and love’s labours are both lost and found in this incredible mishmash of Shakespeare, music and some psychedelic hippie-ness.

The cast are incredibly talented; acting, singing and playing a myriad of different musical instruments while at times, battling zero gravity. In the midst of the spoken Shakespearean prose and blank verse we are treated to cleverly linked songs and fabulous instrumentals. Mark Newnhams epic guitar solo, linking The Zombies 64 hit ‘She’s Not There’ to Nirvana’s 91 ‘Teen Spirit’ is phenomenal. Worthy of narrator, Brian May’s, legendary guitar solo’s indeed.

Return to the Forbidden Planet is in a similar vein to Rocky Horror, not taking itself seriously and having great fun at the same time. The audience also have to play their part, battling ‘great balls of fire’ and protecting themselves from the reversal of the polarity of the neutron flow. The show plays on every cheesy sci-fi cliché, drawing on classics such as Star TrekDr Who and Phantom of the Opera. Don’t be put off by the Shakespeare, it’s very clever and a mismatch of some of the more famous quotes in between. The show is witty, clever and hugely enjoyable – a fitting tribute for its 25th year.

Celebrating 25 years and a vibrant future for the Playhouse

Built to house exceptional theatre and to be rooted in the heart of Leeds’ communities, this March West Yorkshire Playhouse celebrates 25 years of inspirational work on Quarry Hill. In 1964 a group of 23 passionate drama lovers, headed by Doreen Newlyn, began a campaign to secure a permanent and professional producing theatre for the city. In 1969 the then ‘Leeds Playhouse’ moved into a temporary home at the University of Leeds. Determined to find something more lasting they continued to battle for a resident theatre in the city centre. On 8 March 1990 West Yorkshire Playhouse threw open its doors to the people of Leeds and since then more than 4 million people have seen a show on one of the Playhouse stages.  322 productions have been staged, and a far-reaching programme of education and outreach work has been created and delivered across the city and beyond.


25 years on and the Playhouse is a vital cultural hub for the city, a compelling creative force driven by the city’s desire to see original drama in Leeds. Today Artistic Director James Brining continues to challenge with a diverse programme of arresting theatre that reflects society today. Reworking classic texts for the 21st century such as the award-winning contemporary production of Sweeney Todd set in 1980s Thatcher Britain and his inventive take on Bennett’s Enjoy, which scrutinised reality TV, sit in tandem with new initiatives such as A Play, A Pie and A Pint performed in the bar and brand new plays which inspire and excite, such as Maxine Peake’s critically acclaimed Beryl which will tour the UK later this year and Zodwa Nyoni’s Boi Boi is Dead.


Collaboration has always been important and the Playhouse continues to partner innovative and exciting organisations across the country. On-going relationships with The Royal Exchange Theatre, Kneehigh, Headlong, Birmingham Rep and new associations with companies such as the egg in Bath and Tiata Fahodzi allow the work of the Playhouse to be seen outside of Yorkshire widening the reach of our own productions.


Artistic Director James Brining comments…

The significance of this theatre being built close to the city centre 25 years ago was huge. Moving the Playhouse from the intellectual grounds of Leeds University right into the heart of the city’s communities suddenly opened it up like never before. Cementing the relationship between great drama, accessibility and community outreach work has always been a driving force for West Yorkshire Playhouse. It is my vision as Artistic Director to open up what we do even further.  New initiatives include a Youth Theatre, a Community Ambassadors Scheme, Dementia Friendly productions, touring our work to community venues, establishing a third production space and a raft of artist development opportunities to sit alongside our programme of world class, cutting edge and popular theatre.


The next few years promise much as Brining and his team secure a dynamic future for the theatre. The implementation of a comprehensive talent development programme which includes supporting directors, writers, actors, designers, technicians and theatre makers to hone their practice, helps to discover upcoming creative talent. From simple initiatives such as free space to experiment to longer residencies in which artists are supported on all levels from grant applications to professional research & development advice. Alongside this a Capital Development project is planned in which the theatre would turn to face the city it continues to be inspired by.  Together with revamping the iconic stages, new spaces will be created for rehearsal and performance, as well as vibrant spaces for workshops, meetings and creative thinking. This significant redevelopment mirrors the determination set out 25 years ago for vibrant, forward thinking and accessible theatre in the city.


Alongside the on-stage work the Playhouse continues to offer an extraordinary programme of unique outreach work with communities from across Yorkshire. Year on year the theatre’s engagement programme has grown, from its pioneering access work to its inclusive creative arts projects for older and young participants (including the creation in 2009 of the award-winning First Floor, a space dedicated to work for young people), to the development of a brand new strand of work for people living with dementia, their families and carers.


Committed to deepening the Playhouse’s engagement across communities Brining continues to introduce and support new initiatives that cement relationships in the community. He began by introducing a Youth Theatre; now with over 160 attendees it is about to enter its 3rd year. Members have developed their own devised work, worked with professional writers to create and stage two new plays, they have performed and worked alongside  professional casts as well as regularly performing for friends and family. Last year a new community ambassador programme was created to cement the theatre’s relationships with its surrounding communities. Brining’s production of Talking Heads by Alan Bennett toured seven community venues playing to audiences who may not ordinarily engage with the Playhouse, championed by ambassadors from each community. This spring the second community tour will begin; Little Sure Shot is a family show full of theatrical magic found in a live theatre performance.


Community attendees commented,
Bringing theatre to the inner-city – Brilliant idea!’ ‘…this gives us all a chance to see plays on our own doorsteps’


From vast Quarry stage productions of major texts like James Brining’s The Crucible to individually tailored community projects like First Floor’s Buzz Art Awards West Yorkshire Playhouse at 25 is a vital artistic, a community hub for Leeds to be proud of with a vibrant and vital future ahead.


Playhouse Chairman Sir Rodney Brooke said,

The Playhouse has a long history of creating excellent theatre which stretches back to its days in its temporary home on the Leeds University campus. It was championed by the people of Leeds, and built out of a desire for access to great plays right here in the city centre. Today the Playhouse has even more to offer. It is a vibrant, exciting and endlessly creative company which champions everything from great classic drama to new writing, talent development to education and outreach work. It is full of vitality and we are looking forward to a bright and entertaining future.


Vampires Rock Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 26 February 2015

Vampires Rock finally made it to Darlington Civic after lead singer, Steve Steinman, had to postpone due to ill health in January.

And it was worth the wait, playing to an Army of fans in a packed house, the show, in it’s 13 year and last incarnation,  was one of the best versions ever.

Set in the Live and Let Die club in the year 2030, Vampires Rock tells the story of Baron Von Rockula (Steinman) searching for a new singer for the club and new virgin bride for himself.  Enter sweet and innocent Pandora (Hayley Russell) and a love story is played out before our eyes.  With a background of some rock classics.  Starting with Welcome to the Jungle, followed by Highway to Hell and with many others in between; Total Eclipse, Since You’ve Been Gone, Bat out of Hell amongst the many.

Totally spectacular this year is the vocally outstanding Victoria Jones and her amazing version of China in your Hand, even better than the T’Pau original.

Comedy comes in the form of deviant janitor Bossley (John Evans) the perfect foil for Von Rockula.  Although in the second half, in a Freddie Mercury-esque jump suit, Evan’s raises the audience and the roof with the start of the rock n roll party at the end of the show.

The musicians belt out the numbers, and proving not only can they play but they can sing,  Richie Barlow, Mary Marcia Garner in particular.  And a circus like performance with fire dancing displays some  breath taking aerial dancing from Chloe Bass.

Yes it’s cheesy, it’s pantomime, with lots of audience interaction and breaking of the fourth wall.  But its a winning formula that works.  But now with a new ending which leads into the new story of Vampires Rock – The Ghost Train, the original is having a rest and I for one can’t wait to see the new show when it begins touring later on this year


20 Questions with ….. John Owen-Jones


In a special treat this week, to help with the launch of his new CD “RISE”, we have a second set of 20 questions.  I’m delighted to introduce singer, writer, director and welsh wonder … John Owen-Jones

Lets start with a few favourites

1. Favourite show (whether you have been in it or not)? 


2. Favourite book? 


3. Favourite theatre? 


4. Favourite song? 


5. Favourite music? 


6. Favourite food? 


7. Favourite line from any show? 


8. What was your favourite role? 


9. What role would you really love to play? 


10. What was your first role? 


11. If you could be anyone else for the day, who would it be? 


12. If you weren’t a brilliant singer what would you be? 


13. What advice would you give 16 year old John? 


14. What was the last stage show you saw and really enjoyed? 


15. I’ve been lucky enough to see you live a few times and I’ve seen the excitement at Stage Door. What are the nicest/weirdest things you’ve ever received from fans? 


16. You’ve acted on tv a few times, would you like to do a straight play on stage rather than a musical? 


17. Have you considered doing a full performance of Phantom or Les Mis in Welsh? 


18. Madonna once said she gets bored singing “Like a Virgin” but knows she owes the song for her career. So she always changes it to a different type of performance. Do you ever want to change “Bring Him Home” or “Music of the Night” to a reggae version or maybe rap? Or maybe a beatbox version? 


19. Do you fancy moving into directing or producing? Or maybe writing your own musical? 


20. Can you tell us what you will be up to next? 


John’s CD “RISE” is available from Monday March 2nd and would make an ideal present for Mother’s Day

20 Questions with ….. Simon Naylor


Actor, Director and Writer Simon Naylor answered 20 questions

Some favourites

  1. Favourite show (whether you have been in it or not)?

There’s so many and I think it depends what mood I’m in but the one show that left me speechless was ‘Chicken Shop’ by Anna Jordan. She’s written some incredible things and this one was simply outstanding. I can’t wait to see her latest work, ‘Yen’ at the Royal Exchange!

  1. Favourite book?

Another tough one! I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to books – I’m all about my vikings and gladiators and knights – Game of Thrones and anything by Bernard Cornwell. As a bit of an ‘off-piste’ one, I loved ‘Brand New Friend’ by Mike Gayle – really needs to be made into a film!

  1. Favourite theatre?

Well, I think I’ve got to say the Wyndhams because it’s the first theatre I’ve performed in in the West End. There’s something pretty special about getting off the tube at Leicester Square and heading to work at one of the big ones! I do also love The Landor – it’s so intimate that it’s almost like TV.

  1. Favourite song?

Erm….again, it’s all about what mood I’m in. I sometimes love a bit of old school dance, anything by Oasis (obviously!) and right now my running tune is Carry On by Fun – when the drums kick in I can’t help but speed up!

  1. Favourite music?

I’m afraid I’m going to annoy a lot of people, but I really do like a lot of stuff. It all depends where I am and what I’m doing. From Cafe Del Mar to Robbie Williams I’m a bit eclectic. It can be embarrassing having my iPhone on shuffle! What you won’t find on there is anything that Radio 1 play after 6pm on a Friday night – rubbish!

  1. Favourite food?

Well, when I’m eating out, it’s going to take a strong menu to tear me away from a burger. I’m definitely a man of simple tastes when it comes to food. SoLita is a new discovery to me and the burgers there are bloody marvellous! (Can I swear?!)

  1. Favourite line from any show?

haha Well, ‘Joey doesn’t share food’ has always rang true with me but I guess until Friends is made into a stage show I can’t have that one. Proctor from ‘The Crucible’ has so many amazing quotes – everything he says is epic! ‘I will fall like an ocean on that court’ is maybe one of the best. So so many….

  1. What is your favourite role?

My favourite role without question is my last role. I played Harper in The Glasshouse at The Tristan Bates Theatre. It was a character that I’d worked with on and off for over a year and I was incredibly fortunate that the writer, Max Saunders-Singer wrote it for me. He is a brilliant writer and allowed me to bring in so many of my own ideas – it was a delight to play him. He was unlike any other character I’ve played before and I’d love the producers, Grindstone, to bring it back!

  1. What was your first role?

My first role I think was a moonbeam in a pantomime – I don’t remember it at all! My first professional job on stage was in Bouncers at the Lichfield Garrick – a great piece. Godber is a genius! My first TV role was Primeval where I was a Security Guard that was eaten by a dinosaur! Glamorous!

  1. And what role would you really like to play?

Well obviously John Proctor. I played him at Drama School and would love to do it again. He’s brilliant. Also, I’d love to Play Eddie in A View from the Bridge – I guess I’m a fan of Arthur Miller! On TV, I’d just love to do anything that is meaty… Broadchurch was sensational. Chris Chibnall writes such amazing stuff – I’d love to be in something he’d written.

  1. If you could be anyone else for the day, who would it be?

Ooh…good question! I’m not sure. My first thought was someone who owns their own island but I think that just means I need a holiday; and it’s a waste! I’d probably be the Queen – I’ve always wondered what she gets up to!!

  1. You’re clearly very talented and had a varied career, do you prefer writing, directing or performing?

Thank you! I will always have performing at the top – or at least for the foreseeable future. As I get older, I get more excited by directing as I want to put my stamp on things. Writing is more of something that just happens. I’ve only written a few things and it tends to be quite by accident. I have just converted one of my short plays, ‘IF’ into a full length play so we’ll see what happens with that!

  1. So to follow on, do you prefer TV or Theatre?

I’m going to be boring again – I think it depends! Some days I like TV, others theatre. They both do different things. There’s nothing that can beat the buzz of standing in the wings before a show or walking on stage for a curtain call. In TV though, I love the subtleties that it allows you to use; cameras see everything in detail that you might not see in a theatre.

  1. How did you get into marathon running?

If I’m honest I’m not sure! When I was at school I’d do ANYTHING to get out of cross country. In 2007 (I think!?) my mate asked if I wanted to do a 5k fundraiser run with him and it grew from there – half marathons, Spartan Race, Trailwalker (which was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done!) and now 3in3!

  1. If you weren’t a performer what would you be?

Richer! Erm…I wanted to be a soldier originally but I couldn’t as I have asthma! I guess what’s becoming clear is my ability to organise so maybe a producer. Is that allowed – it’s still to do with acting?! Marketing maybe?!

  1. What advice would you give 16 year old Simon?

Great question! First I’d say ‘save some money you idiot!’. Having said that, I’ve been really lucky and enjoyed myself with this career. I don’t know – difficult because I don’t think I’d want him to do much different. I’ve made some huge errors in my life but I think that’s supposed to happen!?

  1. What was the last stage show you saw and really enjoyed?

I’ve seen lots recently but I’ve tended to get more picky as I get old and bitter! It was sometime ago but I cannot forget Chicken Shop. I’ve rarely been moved so much by theatre.

  1. You taught at Italia Conti, did you enjoy spotting new talent?

Teaching has been incredible; at Conti and elsewhere. I’ve been so lucky to be able to continue doing what I love every day – it’s impossible for a lot of actors. It’s also great to see the students move through 3 years. I’ve seen quite a few graduate now and I still remember a lot of their auditions or first work for me. Conti is really holding it’s own with the big guns right now and some of the work that the graduates are getting is amazing. It’s great to see them on stage at the Globe or National or in huge films and TV shows. Auditions are still a favourite part of the teaching though – you never know who’s coming through the door next.

  1. What is your advice for anyone hoping to survive the Edinburgh Festival?

​Edinburgh! Myself and the festival have had a short and bumpy relationship. I’ve been to the festival lots and it is awesome! It’s like a 24 hour party, every day, for a month. So much theatre! When I performed there however, I realised that it might be a little over saturated. I genuinely think that to go there and be ‘spotted’ is a thing of the past; so, my advice! Go there, soak it up, gain an invaluable experience but at the same time, know that you WILL leave with a lighter wallet and that you might not get out of it the ‘fame and glory’ that you wanted. It’s brilliant, with the right mindset!

  1. Can you tell us what you will be up to next?

Mainly training, panicking and fundraising! At least until April! I’ve just moved back to Manchester where I’m from and so I’m spending a lot of time meeting people and getting into the ‘crowd’ up there. It’s quite exciting to have a lot of new people to get to know. I have a play that someone has asked me to look at and do with them and of course, like every other actor, waiting for the phone to ring!

Thank you so much for helping me

If you would like to sponsor Simon for his 3 in 3 Marathon you can do so here



Shrek the Musical

A uniquely adapted version of the West End family favourite, Shrek The Musical, will be playing for one special performance at Newcastle Theatre Royal, which recently became the first theatre in the UK to be recognised for its work with autistic audience members.

The ‘relaxed performance’ of Shrek The Musical will take place on Tuesday 24 March at 2pm and is the first such performance since the Theatre was presented with its Autism Access Award from the National Autistic Society. Newcastle Theatre Royal is the first venue on Shrek The Musical UK and Ireland tour at which a relaxed performance is being held.

Dawn Taylor, Director of Operations at the Theatre said: “We were extremely proud to be presented with our AAA award last month and since then we’ve had more and more families and teachers getting in touch to find out about our relaxed performances. They are all so excited that we are providing a relaxed performance of Shrek The Musical, which will have all the same elements of the wonderful storyline but with the lighting, special effects and very loud noises reduced.”

Relaxed performances are specifically designed to welcome people with an Autistic Spectrum Condition, learning disability or sensory and communication disorder into the Theatre. They have a less formal, more supportive atmosphere in order to reduce anxiety levels and chill out zones are provided for any audience members feeling anxious.

Newcastle Theatre Royal also provides a ‘visual story’ to those attending the performance, to allow them to familiarise themselves with both the theatre and the themes of the show before arriving. And as a special one-off, face painters have been specially commissioned for the Shrek The Musical Relaxed Performance to help the children get into the spirit of the action both before the show and during the interval, for free.

Shrek The Musical is based on the story and characters from William Steig’s book Shrek! and the Academy Award®-winning DreamWorks Animations feature film, featuring all new songs as well as cult Shrek anthem I’m a Believer. Dean Chisnall stars as beloved swamp-dwelling ogre ‘Shrek’, the role he previously played in the West End, with Faye Brookes as damsel in distress ‘Princess Fiona’, Idriss Kargbo as Shrek’s wisecracking sidekick ‘Donkey’ and Gerard Carey as pint-sized villain ‘Lord Farquaad’.


The producers of Shrek The Musical UK and Ireland Tour said: “Following a highly successful relaxed performance at London’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane, we are delighted that the first relaxed performance of Shrek The Musical UK and Ireland Tour will take place at Newcastle Theatre Royal, especially following their recent Autism Access Award. These specially tailored performances welcome those audience members with autism or learning disabilities who might normally find it hard to attend and enjoy live theatre. We appreciate how important these performances are and we are committed to ensuring Shrek The Musical is a show the whole family can enjoy in a warm and inclusive environment, together.”

For more information about Shrek The Musical Relaxed Performance visit or call Group Bookings on 08448 11 21 22.

Tickets go on sale for Berwick Kaler’s 37th panto at York Theatre Royal

From the moment Berwick Kaler announced he will be returning to York Theatre Royal next Christmas for his 37th writing and starring role in Dick Whittington (and his Meerkat) theatre-goers have been desperate to get their hands on tickets.

Avid panto fans often queue through the night to secure their favourite seats, with queues winding round the corner of St Leonards Place and onto Duncombe Place. The York Theatre Royal Box Office will open an hour early on Monday 2 March, where staff will serve tea and coffee to the loyal fans in the queue. Tickets will be available online at approximately 6.00pm the same day, with phone booking opening on Tuesday 3 March at 9.00am.

The much-loved Dame Berwick Kaler said of the new title

Old Mother Goose has been a phenomenal success and will be a hard act to follow, but Dick Whittington and his Meerkat has all the ingredients to turn it into another unique Theatre Royal blockbuster. My heartfelt thanks go out to our audiences who bring love and a sense of humour with them to make every show a joyous occasion for all concerned.

The pantomime will be the first production to take place after the theatre’s £4.1 million re-development. Audiences won’t miss a bit of the crazy panto action from the brand new Stalls seating, with excellent views from all rows. There will be wider, roomier seats in the Dress Circle, with much better access throughout the whole building. The panto audience will be able to enjoy interval drinks and pre-theatre food in a newly renovated café bar and when Berwick’s caused a

little too much laughing sparkling new loos will be a pleasure to visit, with more facilities and shorter queues.

We close our doors on Tuesday 17 March but until then our Box Office and café will be open as normal so we wanted everyone to know they can still buy tickets in person just like they always have – though we do hope this exciting new title will bring some new faces too. Who knows? You might even spot Berwick, or the odd Meerkat while you are queueing.

Said Damian Cruden, Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal.

York Theatre Royal’s pantomime, Dick Whittington (and his Meerkat) will run from Thursday 10 December 2015 – Saturday 30 January 2016. Tickets are priced from £32.50 – £12 (£1 transaction fee per booking). Visit or call the theatre Box Office on 01904 623568 for more information.