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, Tuesday December 5 2017
In true Wonderland style, the sign above the bar at Northern Stage reads: “We’re all mad here!” Yet the young audience members who have gone to the trouble of dressing up in spotless pinafores and Alice bands look out of step with what’s happening onstage. This festive show may share its title with the enduring classic but its raucous tone is a world away from Lewis Carroll.
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, Monday August 14 2017
The writer and performer Daniel Bye has a track record for staging performance lectures that wear their hefty subjects and the depth of his research admirably lightly. He is best known for Going Viral, his award-winning exploration of viruses (in every sense of the word) and his multi-layered look at the idea of value, called The Price of Everything.
Bye’s performance style, which combines affable audience interaction with elements of multimedia, has always been something of an onstage juggling act, with lots of ideas thrown up in the air at once. His new piece, which deals with border crossings, in all their menace and absurdity, feels stylistically overstuffed, befuddling his message.
First published in The Times, Thursday August 10 2017
At the start of Salt, Selina Thompson, the writer and performer, tells us about the year she spent at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, mostly listening to “white, men talking about their pain.” It is one of the lighter moments in the powerful, 70-minute monologue, eliciting a rush of relieved laughter from the (largely white) audience, but it is important because it forms part of the litany of incidents, serious and trivial, that led this young black woman from Birmingham to embark on the amazing journey she describes.
First published in The Times, Thursday April 27 2017
Theatre directors are always faced with a dilemma when reviving a play whose reputation has been eclipsed by a successful film adaptation. To what degree should they acknowledge the iconic imagery of the movie while seeking to remind audiences of the story’s theatrical origins?
This new immersive piece from Paddy Campbell isn’t so much a play as an impressive marshalling of research and investigation. Produced by Curious Monkey in association with Northern Stage, the script is built exclusively upon verbatim accounts from young people embarking on life outside of care, and professionals who have worked in and around the care system in the northeast. The resulting show is compelling – often grimly so – even if at times it does highlight the drawbacks of the first-person approach.