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Northern Stage - Switch on to Theatre

  • Date: 9 January 2009
  • Area: North

Newcastle’s Northern Stage has never been the theatre to shy away from controversy. This season, they tackle racism, angry young men, unrequited love, the moon landings, mental health, murdering passion and the poisoning of a Russian spy. It’s never been more affordable (and if you’re 18 – 25, free) to switch on to theatre.

Look Back in Anger
Northern Stage’s own production for Spring is John Osborne’s 1956 masterpiece Look Back in Anger. The story of Jimmy Porter, a disillusioned graduate who spends his days ranting and railing his furies against the world that let him down, much to the suffering of his wife Alison, Osborne’s play rocked the establishment when it first appeared. Regarded as a turning point of modern drama and coining the original phrase ‘angry young man’, Look Back in Anger is directed by Erica Whyman and designed by Soutra Gilmour, opening on 6 March before commencing a six week national tour.

The theatre will be a hive of activity in the coming season. In June, Northern Stage will be part of the national Paris Calling Festival. Working with the National Studio Theatre and the French Embassy, the theatre will present rehearsed readings of some of the best in contemporary French plays. The company is also co-producing a double bill of 20th century music-theatre works – Trouble in Tahiti and Mahagonny Songspiel with students from the International Centre for Musical Studies at Newcastle University; supporting a new InterACT and New Writing North ‘lunch & theatre’ series called 4Play; continuing the successful First in Three nights; and, to help counterbalance some of the tragedy in the season, the season climaxes with a large-scale participatory production on themes of Happiness.

This season, Northern Stage is also part of the Arts Council England Free Theatre Initiative providing free tickets for 18-26 year olds. As part of a consortium with Theatre Royal Newcastle and Live Theatre, the initiative will remove financial barriers for a new generation to encourage them to attend performances across the city. The free tickets scheme will begin in February.

Alison Clark-Jenkins, Director, Arts and Development, Arts Council England, North East, said, 'Northern Stage continues to produce excellent work and to bring the best national and international theatre to the region. We are delighted that this great art will be accessible to more people through their participation in the Free Theatre Initiative supported by the Arts Council.'

The Free Theatre Initiative follows the company’s decision, in light of the recent VAT reductions, not to reduce each ticket by a few pence but to increase the number of £5.50 seats across Stage 1 and Stage 2 to allow anyone to go to the theatre in a difficult financial climate. With the theatre’s commitment to 2 for 1 on Stage 1 first nights and a money back guarantee on productions in Stage 2, Northern Stage continues to be one of the most affordable theatre experiences in the North East.

Welcome Returns
The season opens with Kneehigh Theatre’s bold reimagining of Don Giovanni, Don John, which transfers straight from The Courtyard in Stratford where it has been an RSC Christmas offering. Last at Northern Stage in 2006 with Cymbeline, Don John promises sex, death and disco as Artistic Director Emma Rice relocates the Mozart opera to 1978s Winter of Discontent. The Royal Shakespeare Company return to Northern Stage in February with the Bard’s classic tragedy, Othello directed by Kathryn Hunter. Cheek by Jowl (last at Northern Stage in 2007 with their phenomenal Russian language version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters) bring Racine’s subtle and ironic tragedy, Andromaque. Unlimited Theatre’s The Moon The Moon (the work in progress of which previewed at Northern Stage last February) return in April. And Oxford Playhouse present a very different production to the engrossing Molora of 2007; an action-packed family show celebrating the 40th anniversary of the moon landings, One Small Step.

Some of the biggest newcomers to the theatres bill include Peepolykus with their spy spoof Spyski! Whilst in rehearsals for The Importance of Being Earnest a groups of actors become entangled in an international espionage of farcical proportions, all stemming from the (very topical) poisoning of a Russian dissident in England. Plus 15 year old duo Ridiculusmus with Tough Time, nice time, Queer Up North in a superhero tale with a difference, The Adventures of Woundman and Shirley, and Tanja Liedtke’s Twelfth Floor (featuring dancers from DV8) make their North East debuts.

The theatre continues to programme a variety of work all year round. First up is the charming Baa Moo Yellow Dog for children aged 2 to 5, innovatively combining spoken English and British Sign Language. Boy Blue Entertainment’s Pied Piper, an edgy hip-hop reworking of The Pied Piper of Hamlin, is out on its first national tour since winning the Oliver Award for Best Newcomer and arrives in May. And leading British-Asian company Tamasha (who were responsible for East is East) swap North Yorkshire moors for the scorched deserts of Rajasthan in a Bollywood-inspired version of Emily Bronte’s classic, Wuthering Heights.

Spring/Summer 09 season is booking Now. Audiences can buy tickets in person, by telephone on 0191 230 5151 or by booking online at