All roads lead Northern
I’m still reeling at the sheer quality of the productions that Northern Stage have already hit us up with this autumn including ‘The Lovely Bones’ and ‘The War of the Worlds’ (which I somehow missed during its initial run earlier this year). But I’ve barely had time to gather my scattered energies before their November and December programme has arrived to snatch my breath clean away once more.
Where to begin? How about with a production from English Touring Theatre that has already won a raft of glittering reviews from the likes of The Observer, The Guardian and The Times: Othello (Tuesday 13-Saturday 17 November). A masterful depiction of a life torn apart by prejudice, it remains one of Shakespeare’s most startlingly contemporary plays. We’re in Venice and a western colonial power has employed the newly-married Othello, a Muslim general, to lead their army against the impending Turkish invasion. But the strain of fitting into a society riven by discrimination and fear soon take their toll. Manipulated by Iago, Othello’s life quickly unravels as he turns on everything he holds dear. The production is packed with seasoned actors such as Kitty Archer as Desdemona, Chris Bianchi as Brabantio and Philip Correia as Cassio, and will also feature Victor Oshin taking his professional bow as Othello (pictured).
Another stand-out of the November programme is sure to be Under Milk Wood (Friday 2-Saturday 17 November). Originally written as a BBC radio drama by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, this production is getting a contemporary, technological twist under the direction of ‘The War of the Worlds’ director Elayce Ismail. An enfolding, haunting and at times unsettling experience, this ‘play for voices’ offers a glimpse of a golden era that may never have existed. It follows 24 hours in the lives of a collection of characters who inhabit the fictional town of Llareggub. Ismail: “
The fabric of the play allows you to get a glimpse of people's secret stories - their desires, dreams, and disappointments – whilst conjuring a natural world that is rich, sensual and evocative. For me, the beauty of Thomas’ text lies in the surprising rhythms, tones and textures of his words: he delights in language, and through it creates characters that are surreal and yet reveal so much about human nature. In this new production, we're creating a dream-like space that invites you to listen: immersing the audience in a playful soundscape, beautiful layered visuals and imaginative storytelling.” The cast consists of Christina Berriman Dawson and David Kirkbride who will be taking on multiple roles including Captain Cat, the old blind sea captain who dreams of his drowned shipmates; Myfanwy Price, the sweetshop-keeper lusting after Mog Edwards; Organ Morgan, obsessed with his music; postman Willy Nilly who reads his neighbours’ letters; and Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard, relentlessly berating her two dead husbands.
balletlORENT are celebrating 25 years of breathtaking performances and they will be marking their silver anniversary in grand style with the eagerly awaited After Dark (Wednesday 7-Saturday 10 November). This will let audiences enjoy pieces from two of their most popular productions, ‘la nuit intime’ and ‘The Night Ball’, along with some original dances that have never been performed before. It will be presented cabaret style which will give you the chance to raise a complimentary glass as the dancers go through their paces. (Note: Northern Stage is also holding an exhibition of unseen photographs from the balletLORENT archive, celebrating the company’s heritage.)
I’ve heard a rumour that Christmas is on the horizon and, once again, Northern Stage are pushing the boat out for children. For under 5s The Three Bears at Christmas is going to be the one to go for (Tuesday 27 November-Saturday 5 January). Deep in the snowy forest, Mammy, Daddy and Baby Bear are preparing for winter. Each day the Three Bears head off into the wood to collect interesting things they can re-use for their house. As Christmas arrives, their cosy home is turned upside down as a colourful whirlwind threatens to knock over their Christmas tree, eat their Christmas puddings and fall asleep in their beds – it’s that ruddy Goldilocks!
Anyone aged 5 and over is just going to love AChristmasCarol (Saturday 1 December-Saturday 5 January). Ding, dong, the bells are ringing and the clock is ticking because Scrooge is coming to town – and, yep, he’s even meaner and greedier than ever. Bah humbug! But can some infectious songs and a wild ride through the uncertain landscapes of Christmas past, present and future help him to discover the true meaning of Christmas? (Spoilers: probably.) Being brought our way by the same team that pulled together the amazing ‘James and the Giant Peach’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ this classic tale is given boisterous new life in a thrilling production that comes with all the trimmings.
I think I’ve just got room to tell you about the Shakespeare’s Schools Festival (Monday 5-Saturday 10 November), which will feature an exhilarating evening of theatre, with a series of unique Shakespeare production staged by local schools; Blokes, Fellas, Geezers (Thursday 15 November) written and performed by Jake Jarratt this one-person show tells the story of what it’s like to inherit your working class masculinity; and The Suggestibles’ Impro Pantso (Thursday 13-Thursday 20 December), which is definitely panto, but definitely not as you know it.Northern Stage, Barras Bridge, Newcastle. Tickets from £10. Full progamme and ticket details from: northernstage.co.uk