Spring 2020 at Northern Stage
Celebrating 50 years of Northern Stage with bold new productions made in Newcastle, transformational work with young people, support for North East theatre makers and new shows from some of the UK’s most exciting touring companies
Spring 2020 marks the start of Northern Stage’s 50th anniversary year; featuring ambitious new productions made in Newcastle including stage premieres of Shandyland - originally developed through The Old Vic 12 scheme, written by Bruntwood Prize winning playwright Gareth Farr; a new theatrical version of The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff by Teesside folk trio The Young’uns, directed by Northern Stage Artistic Director Lorne Campbell; HERE - a co-production with Northern Stage associate artists Curious Monkey written by Lindsay Rodden; Northern Stage’s Young Company presents the third part of their kaleidoscopic view of the state of our nation, asking Where Do We Go Now? ; plus new shows from some of the UK’s most exciting and innovative touring companies including Frantic Assembly, Headlong and Told By An Idiot.
Opening the season, Teesside folk trio The Young’uns perform a new theatrical version of The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff (4-22 February). Directed by Lorne Campbell, Northern Stage and Harbourfront Centre Toronto present a musical celebration of northern working class activism, following the smash-hit success of The Last Ship, with songs from the original album alongside new material and stunning animation. Director Lorne Campbell said, “The Young’uns have created something both traditional and utterly contemporary with The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff . This story of a young man from the north east forced to leave his home town to find work and undergoing a profound political awakening as he fights for social justice, opposes fascism, racism and the vested interests of a global capitalist system run amok, could as easily be set today as in the run up to the second world war. Johnny’s story reminds us emphatically that change always rises up from ordinary people. This is the perfect show to encapsulate Northern Stage as the first show of our 50th anniversary. Local in its context, global in its ambition, accessible in its form, innovative in its style. Just like the North East. ”
Spanning twenty years, Shandyland (12-23 May) is a story of life, love, death and drink at the heart of a small, northern, family-run pub, and a shout of frustration from an abandoned working class community. Writer Gareth Farr explains, “Shandyland deals with the divisions of a community and shines a light on what is happening within our often-overlooked working class towns. It is both a drama with charm and a comedy with punch. It has the heart of the working class running all the way through it. It celebrates a cast of lively, loveable and recognisable characters and asks what has happened over the past twenty years to make them feel so angry, unheard and forgotten “I am so very proud of Shandyland . To have it produced by and premiered at Northern Stage and then performed at Liverpool Everyman, York Theatre Royal and Oldham Coliseum Theatre feels just totally perfect. I hope their audiences enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed writing it. ” A Northern Stage co-production with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Oldham Coliseum Theatre and York Theatre Royal, in association with Echo Presents, Matthew Schmolle Productions and Greyscale. Originally developed by The Old Vic through The Old Vic 12 scheme which aims to nurture and develop the next generation of theatre practitioners. After its Newcastle premiere Shandyland will tour to Liverpool Everyman Theatre from 27 May - 6 June, Oldham from 9-20 June and York from 23 June - 4 July.
A powerful new play by Lindsay Rodden, HERE (19-28 March) is about finding sanctuary in the unlikeliest of places. Curious Monkey Artistic Director Amy Golding explains, ““HERE is a new play starring professional refugee actors about four characters from Albania, Angola, Kurdistan/Syria and Glasgow who have ended up living in Byker in 2019. It is a beautiful story full of hope and challenges about unlikely friendships and activism. Set against the backdrop of austerity in a struggling library - it is also about the power of books. It gives an insight into the city beneath the city that many people exist in, a place many of us are completely unaware of.” HERE is part of Curious Monkey’s Arriving project which has been running for 18 months, and writer Lindsay Rodden has been working very closely with 80+ people from all over the world who are now settling in the North East and in Derby to create authentic characters. Curious Monkey is also in the process of becoming the first theatre company of sanctuary in North East England, working across the city to make sure people coming to the region feel the theatre is somewhere they feel welcome.
Following on from their smash hit, sell out shows Where Do We Stand? and Where Do We Belong? Northern Stage Young Company presents the third part of their kaleidoscopic view of the state of our nation, and ask Where Do We Go Now? (29 April – 2 May). Associate Director Louie Ingham explains the process of making a new show with Young Company, “We're interested in the world around us. The one we live in now. We start in the autumn with a diverse range of people, experiences and ideologies. We ask big questions, and work together each week to explore the answers. How do we talk about what matters to us? How do we understand our place in the world? This new show will express our collective thinking and ideas about those questions we've asked in a shared space with a live audience. There will be loud music and laughter. We hope it will tear the house down.”
Visiting companies include Frantic Assembly who celebrate their 25th Anniversary with a brand-new production, I Think We Are Alone by Sally Abbott, co-directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham. A delicate and uplifting play about our fragility, resilience and our need for love and forgiveness, the production will be designed by Morgan Large ( Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat/ London Palladium, Wonderland/ Nottingham Playhouse) with lighting by Paul Keogan ( Lady Windermere’s Fan/ Vaudeville Theatre, London], The Plough and The Stars/ Lyric Hammersmith/Abbey Theatre Dublin) and sound design by Ella Wahlström ( Peter Pan Goes Wrong/ Apollo, Jellyfish/ The Bush). I Think We Are Alone is a Frantic Assembly and Theatre Royal Plymouth Production, co-produced with Curve. Co-director Kathy Burke said: " Having been a fan of Frantic Assembly for many years I'm really looking forward to working with them as a co-director as it's something I've not done before. It's good to try new things when you're a groovy oldie."
Told By An Idiot’s The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel (11-15 February) is a nostalgic bio-drama and a hilarious homage to two men who changed the world of comedy with an original piano score composed by Mercury Award nominee Zoe Rahman played live each night. Written by Jonathan Maitland ( Dead Sheep and An Audience With Jimmy Savile), uniquely timely comedy drama The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson (18-22 February) broke box office records during its run at London’s Park Theatre. As befits the fastest moving story of our time, the script will be updated - nightly if necessary - to reflect events.
Jonathan Maitland said, “It’s nice to have written something which unites Leavers and Remainers; the audiences so far have laughed, gasped and occasionally cried throughout! It’s quite a brew: politics, power, sex, sovereignty and more re-writes than any withdrawal agreement! But it seems to work. Who’d have thought?” Multi award-winning The Faction revive their critically acclaimed, sell out production of Patricia Highsmith’s extraordinary psychological thriller about ambition, escapism, and murder - The Talented Mr Ripley (14-7 March). Laurie Sansom’s directorial debut for Northern Broadsides is a rare revival of J.M. Barrie’s Quality Street (24-28 March) - featuring a commentary from the Halifax Quality Street factory workers, whose own stories of hapless romance and growing old disgracefully give the show a playful Yorkshire twist. And Headlong Theatre present Faustus: That Damned Woman (31 March - 4 April) - a radical new reimagining of the Faust myth from award-winning playwright Chris Bush and director Caroline Byrne in a Lyric Hammersmith Theatre and Headlong co-production in association with Birmingham Rep Theatre.
For families and young people Lost in Translation Circus presents Hotel Paradiso (8-9 April) – thrillingly spectacular circus skills blend seamlessly with physical comedy, clowning, juggling, theatrical storytelling and slapstick with plenty for both adults and children to enjoy; Dig! (29 February) is a gentle first theatre experience, perfect for the very young (recommended age 6 months to 2 years); after last year’s sold out Puss In Boots and with a string of hugely successful CBeebies TV adaptations, Northern Ballet are back with Little Red Riding Hood (15 April); Lyngo Theatre return with two new shows - Jack & the Beanstalk (24-25 April) is for age 3+ and What A Wonderful World (30 May) is for children aged 2-5; and on the first Saturday each month The Storyteller Chris Bostock shares stories from all over the world with under 5s at 10.30am and stories for 5-8 year olds at 1.30pm (starting 8 February).
Dance shows includes Northern Ballet: Three Short Ballets (17-18 April); a brand new programme from Rambert2 (9-10 June); Far From the Norm’s BLKDOG (10 March) - a genre-defying blend of hip hop dance and free form antics; and the return of Phoenix Dance with Black Waters (25-26 February) - a poignant new contemporary dance piece born out of a multicultural collaboration.
Comedy and spoken word shows include Lost Voice Guy (7 March) - an evening of laughs with North East comedian and winner of Britain’s Got Talent 2018, Lee Ridley; Kerry Godliman: Bosh (3 April) - as seen on Mock the Week, Live At The Apollo, After Life and Call the Midwife; and Richard Cameron’s celebrated hit play The Glee Club (28 April - 2 May) - a raucous and exhilarating comedy featuring live music.
Supporting and developing North East talent continues to be a priority for Northern Stage, including the return of NORTH Festival in June 2020. NORTH Festival is for artists, theatre-makers and producers both early-career and more established. Led by artists and industry professionals from across the performing arts sector and beyond - the 2019 line up included speakers from the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, Battersea Arts Centre, Audible and the British Film Institute - NORTH Festival is a jam-packed week of industry focused talks, practical workshops and professional development sessions, all pay what you feel. Northern Stage Associate Director Mark Calvert said, “Plans are already underway to put work produced by North East artists at the heart of the Festival in 2020 and w e’re looking to build on last year’s Festival by offering more performative workshops based on feedback from the artists that attended this year. We're also planning to make it a much bigger offer across all of our three stages, with evening performances in Stage 3.”
Tickets for most shows start at £10. Priority booking for members opened on 3 October and tickets go on general sale on 14 October, including season passes offering savings of 20% when booking three or 25%
when booking five selected new season dramas. For full details or to book tickets see northernstage.co.uk or call the box office on 0191 230 5151.