Launching today, 14 October 2013, Upstairs at The Dog & Parrot, Newcastle…
The Brolly Season by Alphabetti Spaghetti Theatre.
It may be wet, it may be cold, but there’s no need to be miserable. Shake off the rain and come and watch some of the finest emerging talent in Newcastle newest venue – Upstairs at The Dog & Parrot that’s dedicated to the helping upcoming artists.
Alphabetti Spaghetti’s artistic director Ali Prichard said: “Six months ago the room Upstairs at The Dog & Parrot was dark and dilapidated, occasionally used for the odd music gig and the weekly comedy club.
"The owner then gave Alphabetti residency in the 50 seater or 100 standing space, giving it a new lease of life.
"As of the 14 October Alphabetti will be launching their second season – The Brolly Season, running till the 18 December. It is now the first venue of it’s kind in the city, dedicated to supporting emerging talent providing a professional and affordable space for upcoming artists to perform."
The Brolly Season is Alphabetti Spaghetti Theatre’s busiest season yet with:
Plus the already regular nights: Saturday night music, Tuesday’s comedy club and the free fortnightly open stage.
The Brolly Seasons launches tonight Upstairs at The Dog and Parrot, Clayton Street, Newcastle, and runs until 18 December.
For tickets and more information go to: www.alphabettispaghettitheatre.co.uk
Northern Stage, Newcastle
Review by Steve Erdal, 9 October 2013
What can you hear from where you are now? The whirr of your laptop? The pointless high-pitched beeping of the new Metro trains? The hubbub of your excellent colleagues as you sneak a look at The Bleed from work? There’s almost certainly some form of noise pollution seeping into your life as you read this. Showing at the Northern Stage until Saturday, The Noise will make you all the more aware of it.
The atmosphere is close and oppressive, both the set and the setting of the play are beautifully conceived. We’re on an island, remote and rugged, the people huddling together or losing themselves in booze. Everything is cold and dark. And loud. There is a constant, ever-changing noise. Nobody knows where it comes from, and teenager Charlie makes it her business to find out.
The cast is eager and skilful, with Rachel Gay portraying the threshold between plucky kid and terrified woman beautifully. Jerry Killick shapeshifted between two diametrically different roles, and made them both feel like the part that he was born to play.
Then there’s the Noise, a cast member in itself, and one that’s always onstage. It buzzes at your peripherals, it pounds you between scenes, and when it stops, you find yourself trying to remember the last time the world was this quiet.
As a thriller, it creaks in places. At one point the villain finds a stranger snooping around his top secret lair, and his reaction is to explain the full extent of his nefarious plan in prolonged and specific detail. The guy starts ‘monologuing’ all over the shop. If you’re an eye-rolling cynic, you may strain an eyeball here.
But what the show does have going for it, is that it has something to say. Strangely in a show that boasts two consultant scientists (yes, two) it is nature that trumps the steady march of human progress here. An iceberg, rendered in scaffolding, looms over the stage, unchanging in the face of all the cruelty and the love the cast throw at each other.
Remember to turn your mobile phone off before it starts. And after The Noise, there’s a good chance you won’t want to turn it straight back on again.
The Noise is a co-production between Northern Stage and Unlimited Theatre writers Clare Duffy, Jon Spooner and Chris Thorpe. It is at Northern Stage, Newcastle, until Saturday October 12. For tickets or more info ring: (0191) 230 5151.
Wet House by Paddy Campbell
Live Theatre, Newcastle, until 5 October
Review by @forbesspeaks
There’s a Wet House over yonder… It’s at the Live Theatre, to be precise, and it’s leaving audiences punch drunk, in more ways than one.
The bleakly comic Wet House puts social care, alcoholism and addiction under the microscope and does so with a deft touch. We join the three staff and three ‘patients’ of a hostel for society’s drunken no-hopers. A kind of government-funded last chance saloon for the underclass nobody wants to handle.
The play is intimate. You can sense the hopelessness, see every stained piece of clothing and almost smell the stale booze. It warms you with diffusing, blue humour then turns on you faster than a pitbull on a toddler.
The production is penned by Irish-born, Newcastle-based Paddy Campbell with the Live’s veteran director Max Roberts at the helm. Campbell has been nurtured by the Live and mentored by Lee Hall (Billy Elliott). This is his first play and it will be staged along with Hall’s Cooking With Elvis as part of Roberts’s 40th Birthday celebrations with the Live.
Campbell’s characters each have their own unique impact. They’re a mix of the neurotic, the naive, the lost, the self-loathing and the positively malevolent.
Andy (Riley Jones) is the new recruit. An art graduate seeking temporary employment, still wet behind the ears and seriously out of his comfort zone. He’s anxious about his future, and it’s not going getting any brighter at the Wet House. He says goodbye to funky knitwear and embraces moral flexibility.
Helen (Jackie Lye) is at once an upbeat matronly type and a needy, ageing singleton. She is a comforting presence, but her vulnerability is exposed in an arresting scene with fellow key worker, Mike.
Twisted war vet Mike (Chris Connel) possesses the violent intent and moral void required to do what’s necessary in such grim circumstances. It’s his journey that becomes far more troubling than the people he ‘cares’ for. His control of the characters in his charge makes for humorous, but uneasy watching.
The three lost souls in residence would be familiar sights if you’ve ever waited for the last bus to the coast from the Haymarket.
Spencer (David Nellist), like Andy, is a vulnerable new arrival, but he’s on the other side of the fence. This man has sinned in the worst way and Mike is there to punish him.
Kerry (Eva Quinn) represents the classic junkie mother, dishing out a decent dose of sassy methadone madness. There is a sad sense of inevitability about Kerry, but can she be saved?
The star turn is Dinger (Joe Caffrey, on sublime form). His piss-soaked, drink-addled musings, dense delivery and disturbing shakes are a pleasure to behold. Dinger manages to generate rapturous applause and laughter (witness his version of Downtown) and also brings real pathos as he captures the frustrations of a failed man imprisoned by alcoholism.
I think knowing that Campbell is a first-timer sends you in with a degree of apprehension. In fact, the level of sophistication, in terms of the character interplay and transition between scenes, belies his lack of experience. His humour is pitched nicely on the knuckle too, and most one-liners sail home to good effect.
Gary McCann’s set has a classic care institution vibe to it, complete with CCTV, functional furniture and wipe-clean surfaces (the cast do a lot of brushing and mopping throughout). It’s a convincing and suitably bleak environment.
Campbell’s play successfully avoids heavy stereotypes. The boozing and the theatricality that goes with it is just as lurid as in real life and it’s a credit to the whole crew. In fact, the only borderline cliché is student Andy. It’s doubtful that such a naive, fretful, emasculated type would ever end up setting foot in a Wet House.
That said, I’m not an authority on such matters. Campbell has had first hand experience of this forsaken side of the care industry, so I bow to his knowledge. Maybe Andy represents us? The pampered and ignorant outsider. In that case, he pretty much looks as terrified as I’d be.
Wet House runs at the Live Theatre until 5 October and is an arresting experience. It’s a good opportunity to indulge in the humorous side of social tragedy and witness a home-grown cast on fine form.
The bar was busy at the Live, despite the subject matter. I guess that’s the power of the demon drink - a sobering thought.
Wet House runs until 5 October. For tickets and more information go to www.live.org.uk or call (0191) 232 1232.
Live Theatre, Newcastle
Until Saturday 20 July
The river that bends around Newcastle like the arm of a protective parent, the river that flows through the very heart of the North East, has always inspired an emotional response from the people who live and work in this region.
Perhaps it is for this reason that Live Theatre’s new production, Tyne, is already being described as one of the most emotional pieces of theatre to come out of the North East in years?
Or maybe it is simply because of the quality of Michael Chaplin’s play, which was commissioned as part of Live’s 40th birthday celebrations? I suspect it is a little bit of both.
Journeying along the banks of the River Tyne, in time and in space, this brand new play maps the epic history, atmosphere and soul of our famous river in story, music and images.
Created and edited by the aforementioned Michael Chaplin, Tyne features the stories of some of the greatest writers of the North East who have collaborated with Live Theatre since it began in 1973, including Tom Hadaway, Julia Darling, Alan Plater and Sid Chaplin, while dramatising extracts from Chaplin’s book Tyne View.
Illustrated with evocative imagery of the river, Tyne is accompanied by live songs and music inspired by the river and compiled by the show’s musical director, Kathryn Tickell. The title song from Sting’s new album The Last Ship, is also included as part of the play alongside one of his existing songs All This Time. Other traditional folk songs connected to the river have also been adapted and arranged for the play by Kathryn. These were sung and performed by the cast with live musical accompaniment, creating a genuinely spine-tingling atmosphere.
Tyne draws many of its stories from the people who Michael Chaplin, as Port of Tyne’s writer-in-residence, met alongside artist Birtley Aris, photographer Charles Bell and poet Christy Ducker, as they walked the length of the river in July 2011.
The play features strongly resonating performances from a talented cast of actors, including Zoe Lambert (Personal Belongings, Live Witness), Jane Holman (Live Witness, Lush Life), Victoria Elliott (Hebburn), and Phil Corbitt (Looking For Buddy) who have all made regular appearances at Live Theatre before. New to Live Theatre are George Irving (Holby City), Paul Dodds (Antigone, Timon of Athens, The National Theatre) and Newcastle born Assad Zaman making his theatrical debut.
One of the key strands of the play’s interwoven narrative was about the last generation of shipyard workers on the Tyne. My father was one of these very men and as he watched the play it unearthed details, memories, and emotions long buried. If this isn’t a testament to the power of theatre, then I don’t know what is. Tyne is more than just a tribute to a great river; it is a journey through the heart and soul.
Tickets: £22-£10, £15-£5 concessions.
Trashed Organ presents Mythsummer Sundae
Live Theatre, Newcastle
23 June 2013
Review by Steve Erdal
Somewhere, on any 14-year-old’s Twitter feed, you’ll find the following internet cliché - you may forget what someone says, but you’ll never forget how they made you feel. This is wisdom I live my life by, which is why I’ve developed such a varied and interesting collection of grudges.
Trashed Organ / Live Lab’s Mythsummer Sundae was on a mission to make you feel summery, and no amount of drizzle and Sunday night blues would get in their way. They crammed Live’s Studio Theatre with a cross section of the Funnest Things in Existence – Jenga, bubbles, reggae, and so many masks the place felt like an homage to our illustrious editor. All to get us in the mood for a midsummer festival of poetry, theatre and music.
Trashed Organ directors John Challis and Melanie Rashbrooke put their money where their mouths were by kicking off with their own work, a flimsy but sweet tale about a couple that fall for each other between portaloo queue and Coldplay set. (Let’s not belabour any parallels).
They left arm in arm, before Daniel Hardisty’s gentle Northern intonations washed over us. His lovelorn sincerity wasn’t a perfect fit amid the general giddiness, but he’s worth seeking out by spoken word fans. He was followed by Eva Quinn’s engaging security bod in Nicola Owen’s festival-set monologue.
Next up, Hannah Lowe, and may all the Pagan gods of solstice strike me down if she didn’t steal the show. Warm and witty, she’s the keeper of her family secrets, and her family is incredible. You wanted to buy her a pitcher of Live’s potent Midsummer Cup cocktail and listen to her stories until chucking out time.
Still, a mixed bag of a first half. But then we got to the interval.
We all know what the interval’s for. Physiological needs. Intaking and expelling fluids. Stretches and downtime. Not at Trashed Organ. Folks were hunched over pieces of paper, scribbling away, performers mingling with punters, playing Jenga (obviously), and fizzing and buzzing with ideas.
(Full disclosure – some people probably did still go for a pee.)
The second half was given over to Holy Moly and the Crackers, whose barnstorming folk boasted an accordionist that must have had 14 fingers and, in appealing little charisma-goblin Conrad Bird, possibly the best theatre of the night.
They ended, as is Trashed Organ’s wont, by reading out the fruits of the audience’s interval labours. They were funny, clever, overblown and befuddling, and when they were over, everybody had been a part of the show.
I really recommend these shows, and wish they were more frequent. You may forget some of the acts. Some of the acts may even be kind of forgettable. But you won’t forget how the evening makes you feel.
For more information go to: www.trashedorgan.co.uk
A Wondrous Place
Northern Stage, Newcastle
3 June 2013
Review by Steve Erdal
It started with a list. Angel Meadow, the Leadmill, the Liver Building. The Docks, Deansgate, Crooks. Meat, potatoes, bread and butter. Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester. Newcastle.
The Tyne Bridge. The Dunston Rocket. The Angel of the North.
When the four actors ran on stage, all bustling energy and haircuts, and rattled off a list of ‘Things About Northern Cities’ (Henderson’s Relish? Really?), you did wonder. How do you approach your feelings towards your hometown, without drifting into nostalgia? And in describing what you love about where you’re from, how do you avoid just listing things?
A tricky brief for the four writers, under the banner of Northern Spirit’s mission statement: to find a new way of imagining the North. And they all found ways of looking at the North anew, through death, love, amnesia, demolition, static electricity, drowning and dickhead bus drivers.
The home team kicked off, Kathryn Beaumont’s indecisive Geordie lass in a transforming city getting laughs of recognition and lumps in throats, settling the audience into Sally Hodgkiss’s lovely love story under Manchester flyovers.
Adam Search’s intense Scouser made for a more difficult watch, but retained the spiritual element - all the stories breathed magic into the stone and steel. None more so than the final piece, with a head injury separating Joshua Hayes from Sheffield, only for the people he loves to bring it flooding back.
It ended with a list. But suddenly you didn’t mind.
They were a strange foursome, not quite cohesive in places, but then how could they be: the four writers, Alison Carr, Sarah McDonald Hughes, Luke Barnes and Matt Hartley, were working straight from the heart and compromising nothing. The show isn’t called Wondrous Places. We each only get one.
And A Wondrous Place did what it set out to do, because we were all thinking about ours.
During the interval, the woman next to me told me about returning to Newcastle to be with her elderly mother, after thirty years away. Walking to the metro, my mate regaled me with stories of his hometown in the Lakes. Home to George Washington’s mother, he assured me. And on the train back to the coast, I found myself listing off the stations in my head. Byker, Wallsend, North Shields, Tynemouth. Cullercoats.
We’ve all got one.
A Wondrous Place is on at Northern Stage at 8pm tonight, 6 June 2013. Tickets: £14.50 / £12 conc. Tel: (0191) 230 5151.
For more info go to: www.northernstage.co.uk/whats-on/a-wondrous-place
May 2013, Live Theatre, Newcastle
Review by Vicky Blacklock
Michael Davies has the kind of voice usually ascribed to a villain in a Disney animation; deep, commanding and very British. His is the perfect tone to take you on the journey that is Live Witness, a celebration of Live Theatre’s 40th birthday.
The performance begins in the atrium, where Davies talks through a potted history of Live’s creation, both physical and creative. We meet the workmen who almost got buried in grain when they were renovating the former bonded warehouse into the theatre that it is today; the creatives who established the Live breeding ground for North East talent; as well as Davies’ own experiences working at the theatre.
Next stop is the bar where, in time honoured tradition, the birthday celebrations really begin…
Live Witness puts the audience at the centre of a performance full of anecdotes, heartfelt memories and life experiences. Most are funny, some are sad, and all thread together to create a fantastic tapestry of the lives at the heart of Live, from the performers on the stage, to the people in the audience and those behind the scenes.
You’ll see areas of the theatre not usually open to the public including the dressing rooms and the stage. You’ll be introduced to the recently renovated Schoolhouse and witness the musical talents of Jane Holman. But most of all you’ll be grateful that such a fantastic venue exists in the North East, which has the creativity and ambition to produce something as unique and enjoyable as Live Witness.
A fitting birthday celebration for a wonderful theatre.
Coming soon, Live Theatre launches the June to December season to mark its 40th birthday year, which includes two specially commissioned new plays Tyne and Wet House and the revival of one of its most successful plays, Cooking With Elvis.
For more information go to: www.live.org.uk
Captain Amazing by Alistair McDowall
Live Theatre, Newcastle
Wednesday 10 April
Review by Dean Forbes
Who is Captain Amazing? Is he the secret superhero at the centre of the Live Theatre’s latest bursary-winning play? Is he the actor Mark Weinman, who appears on stage as no less than eleven different characters? Or is he Middlesbrough playwright Alistair McDowall, the growing talent behind this challenging one-man show?
One thing’s for certain, this Captain Amazing is not a re-imagining of Greg Kinnear’s character in 1999’s Mystery Men. Disappointed? Thought not.
This intense comedy-drama showcases twenty-five year old Londoner Weinman in what he, unsurprisingly, calls his most challenging role to date. In order to bring the story of father-turned-superhero Captain Amazing to life, Weinman must inhabit a range of characters, including women, children and comic book legends. He is required to switch personalities and accents at breakneck speed to depict the hero’s bitter-sweet life, as seen through the imaginative eyes of his young daughter.
The coherence of Weinman’s delivery is a testament to Alistair McDowall’s script. There are threads of mental anguish, loneliness and inevitability running through the piece, yet it manages to switch between humour and poignancy faster than a speeding bullet, with minimal jarring.
Director Clive Judd has staged the play with a light touch, using the daughter’s illustrations to add colour and context. This works well, as do the multi-purpose cuboids, which get pushed around to add depth to the set.
Judd successfully keeps the focus on Weinman’s exhausting performance, but it gets clunky when the actor has to near-faint and stamp his feet to signpost changing scenes. I’m sure a tasteful sound effect and dimmed lighting might have felt less Legz Akimbo Theatre Company.
Of all the visuals in the play, I found Amazing’s lifeless red cape to be one of the most effective tragicomic touches. It represents both the fantasy world the father must inhabit and the pathetic domestic situation he struggles to face. Less is more does work here, but sometimes less becomes too little.
The 70-minute production hits Edinburgh Fringe festival in August. Critics can embrace McDowall’s retake on the superhero and dust off phrases like ‘tour-de-force’ in praise of Mark Weinman’s herculean efforts to prove he really has the range.
I’d commend Captain Amazing to lovers of minimalist theatre with a heavy message, but excitable superhero worshippers will have less to Marvel in.
Captain Amazing is at Live Theatre, Newcastle, until Saturday 13 April.
For more information go to: www.live.org.uk
Richard Herring’s Talking Cock: The Second Coming
Northern Stage, Newcastle
Review by The Bleed
If ever a show was aptly named it is Richard Herring’s Talking Cock.
Saying that, it isn’t a ventriloquist act, so don’t worry.
I simply meant that Talking Cock 2: The Second Coming is exactly the show you’d expect it to be.
Billed, somewhat misleadingly, as the male equivalent to The Vagina Monologues, Herring’s one-man show returned to the comedy circuit this year for a 10th Anniversary tour after first making its acclaimed debut in 2002 at the Edinburgh Festival.
Since then, the show has toured internationally and has been translated into several languages while Herring himself has published a book based on the show. He has also gone on to do several other one-man performances themed around similarly controversial topics, including Christianity, racism, turning 40, and even Hitler’s moustache.
Appearing at a sold-out Northern Stage in Newcastle, Herring walked confidently out in front of the audience, undaunted by a six-foot animated erection rising and falling on a screen behind him and the song ‘Evil Dick’ blasting out from the speaker system. He proceeded to set the tone (or so he claimed) for the rest of the night by listing every crude (and some quite clever) innuendo for a man’s bits and pieces he could think of. Not to say the show was low brow – it wasn’t. Well, not entirely anyway.
Talking Cock was generally funny, well-researched, interesting and occasionally eye-watering and was delivered through a combination of Herring’s subversive observations interspersed with real-life stories and statistics (newly updated for the 2013 tour) that were gathered anonymously via a questionnaire on the comedian’s own website.
Herring is arguably best known as one half of the comedy duo Lee and Herring (with comedian Stewart Lee) and for their successful TV shows Fist of Fun and This Morning with Richard Not Judy. However, as a writer and comedian in his own right, he may argue he has built up a more impressive resume in the years since he left TV thanks to his run of live one-man shows such as Christ on a Bike and the aforementioned Hitler Moustache. It was this combined body of work, although chiefly his work with Stewart Lee, that has led to Herring being described as ‘one of the leading hidden masters of British comedy’ – high praise indeed.
On stage, Herring is a likeable and mischievous presence, although I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that he was ever so slightly bored. He is such an experienced stand-up comedian these days that you get the impression he could do any one of his shows in his sleep, although that’s not necessarily a good thing to let on to your audience. Herring may know his material off by heart, he may have performed it up and down the country a thousand times, but for some members of the audience it might have been the first time they had ever seen him live and I think a performer should never lose sight of that. I’m not saying Herring did this or that his enthusiasm for what he does has waned. There was just a sense that, at times, he was going through the motions. He even made a couple of obligatory jokes at the expense of Sunderland – not necessarily what you’d expect from one of the ‘masters of British comedy’. Other gags throughout the night, while mostly funny, also strayed into predictable territory and the occasional attempts at pathos felt flat altogether (replace ‘flat’ with ‘limp’ or ‘flaccid’ if you’re in need of a pun here), but overall the show had enough going on to keep the audience entertained.
Herring began the second half by running through the books and DVDs he would be selling afterwards in what was admittedly a slightly unusual (and strangely commercial) way to resume after the interval. The moment was sadly lacking in irony, but in spite of this, the next hour was as entertaining and interesting as the first and led to a generally satisfying climax (sorry). It’s easy to see why Talking Cock has been so successful since its original debut – sex sells after all – but crucially the show is, for the most part, funny and well-written, if a little predictable. Maybe Herring was going through the motions a bit in his performance - this is definitely a potential danger for comedians who return to old material - but if a comedy show makes you laugh, then it’s a job (mostly) well done surely. A solid show that delivers exactly what its title suggests.
For more information go to: www.richardherring.com
European Psychedelia: The Surreal Side of Cult
At The Star and Shadow Cinema, Stepney Bank, Newcastle
Until March 28
This is a season of rarely-shown Psychedelic Cult European Films, made between 1969 and 1981. The films are made by the most famous cult European directors (Tinto Brass, Jesús Franco, Lucio Fulci, Fernando Arrabal, Harry Kümel and Andrezj Żuławski), and all have elements of the surreal: from horror to 1970s LSD-fused trippy dreams. Expect vampires, lesbians, blood, cannibalism and other strange happenings…
Cult film screenings abound in the country at the moment, but we wanted to screen the more obscure cult films that a lot of people would not know about. Europe produced a lot of films on the verge of being classed as erotic/porn in the 1970s, and going to extreme levels of violence. This selection shows films that are also all infused with a sense of the surreal, typically marking the decade of “experiments” of the 1970s. A few pretty amazing psychedelic and prog-rocky soundtracks, especially in Nerosubianco, for which members of the band Procol Harum composed the music, and in Vampyros Lesbos – Quentin Tarantino is a big fan and used a track from that film for Jackie Brown.
Some of these films have not been shown on a big screen for a long time – Possession (which was shown at The Star and Shadown on Saturday March 2) was originally banned in the UK – its full-length version was only released in 1999 in this country.
This season is being curated by Dr Jamie Sexton, film lecturer at Northumbria University, and is supported by Northumbria University.
The remaining line up:
At the Star & Shadow Cinema, Stepney Bank, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 2NP
Tickets: £5 / £3.50 (conc)
The Star & Shadow Cinema is a Community Interest Company run entirely by volunteers in a non-hierarchical structure. Only 2 cinemas run this way in the UK: the Star & Shadow and the Cube Cinema in Bristol. Due to government cuts, all our funding is threatened to disappear, and it makes it all the more important for us to collaborate with such a great institution as Northumbria University on this project.
For more information go to: www.starandshadow.org.uk