First published in The Times, Thursday May 5 2022
The dinner table has been laid, the first bottle has been opened and the audience is about to be served chewy questions of race and white privilege. We are guests in the tastefully appointed, austere home of Charles and Virginia (Matthew Pidgeon and Kate Copeland), a liberal white couple whose wealth has found focus in a foundation for emerging artists. The guest of honour is Charlotte (Estella Daniels), a talented photographer who specialises in images of aggression towards African-Americans.
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First published in The Times, Thursday April 7 2022
Ellen Wilkinson — one of the first female members of parliament — may not have the name recognition of some of her male counterparts, but her life and political career were no less eventful. As the Labour MP for Middlesbrough East from 1924-31, then Jarrow in Tyne and Wear between 1935-47, she organised and participated in the most famous of the “hunger marches” of the 1930s. She rubbed shoulders with Ernest Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War, and later served as a minister in Churchill’s wartime coalition and in the postwar Attlee government.
Continue reading “Theatre review: Red Ellen – Northern Stage, Newcastle”
First published in The Times, Monday February 7 2022
Anna Girvan’s production for Northern Stage features a protagonist named Griffin, a character called Herbert George and another with a bandaged face, but the nods to HG Wells and his science fiction classic end there. The 1897 novella is only a jumping-off point for a contemporary meditation on social invisibility in its various forms.
Continue reading “Theatre review: The Invisible Man – Northern Stage, Newcastle”
First published in The Times, Friday October 15 2021
Natalie Ibu’s revival of Road is an ambitious calling card for the new artistic director of Northern Stage. Jim Cartwright’s theatrical tapestry, first staged in the mid-1980s, famously weaves together the lives of some 35 characters: residents of a single street in a run-down working-class pocket of Lancashire.
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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.
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First published in The Times, Monday December 16 2019
Stage adaptations of The Snow Queen are a staple of the festive season, but Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of friendship overcoming adversity is almost unrecognisable in Mark Calvert’s production for Northern Stage. Even the title character (played by Elizabeth Carter) is reduced to a cameo appearance.
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First published in The Times, Wednesday September 18 2019
There is a certain irony in how Sherlock Holmes barely appears in his most famous literary adventure. His near-absence is indicative of the ambivalence his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, felt towards the character. Indeed, The Hound of the Baskervilles marked Holmes’s resurrection eight years after Doyle tried to kill off his fictional detective.
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First published in The Times, Monday December 10 2018
The transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge from “tight-fisted hand at the grindstone” to a man who “knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge” is as much a fixture of the season as advent calendars and fairy lights. Neil Bartlett’s stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’s tale is a perennial favourite because it so perfectly captures the blend of melancholy and compassion in the story, without recourse to sentimentality.
Continue reading “Review: A Christmas Carol”
First published in The Times, Friday March 23
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.
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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.
Continue reading “Review: Alice in Wonderland – Northern Stage, Newcastle”