First published in The Times, Thursday February 13 2020
There is enough material in the biography of this show’s real-life protagonist to fill several evenings of theatre. Johnny Longstaff hailed from Stockton-on-Tees, arrived in London as part of the hunger marches of the Great Depression, fought Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts at the Battle of Cable Street and took up arms against fascists in the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War.
Often, when rock stars turn their talents to musical theatre, the result is little more than an extended medley of their greatest hits, tenuously strung together by a nominal storyline. While the score for Sting’s Tyneside-set musical The Last Ship features several entries from the singer-songwriter’s discography, including songs from his 2013 concept album of the same name, there is nothing cynical or jaded about the deeply personal project.
First published in The Times, Friday September 8 2017
David Almond is one of the most prolific and highly acclaimed writers of novels for children and young adults to hail from the northeast of England. Known for his distinctive merging of realism with the fantastic, the author has adapted several of his best-known works of fiction for the stage, notably Heaven Eyes, which follows a trio of runaways from an orphanage, and The Savage, about a young boy’s grief following the death of his father.
First published in The Times, Friday February 10 2017
The iconic status of Mary Shelley’s creation is mainly thanks to a Hollywood makeup artist named Jack Pierce. He dreamt up the image of the flat-topped monster with bolts in his neck, made immortal by Boris Karloff in James Whale’s 1931 film adaption, that has long eclipsed the “shrivelled complexion and straight black lips” of the creature in the original novel.
First published in The Times, Monday February 22 2016
Get Carter, a gritty, cynical gangster film, in which Michael Caine’s antihero wanders Newcastle seeking vengeance for his brother’s murder, has grown in critical reputation since its release in 1971 and is considered by some to be a masterpiece of British cinema. The same cannot be said of the source novel, Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis, which languished out of print for many years until being republished under the film’s title in the early Nineties.