Saturday, 16 March 2013

Steptoe and Son

Northern Stage 15/3/12


Adapted & Directed by Emma Rice

A Co-production between Kneehigh and West Yorkshire Playhouse


Ray Galton & Alan Simpson’s scripts have been adapted for the stage to create a loving play about a father and his son who both fought in different world wars. The pair wrote 8 tv series over 12 years and 5 radio series which are firmly etched in British entertainment history. What makes this production work, though, is that they have not tried to recreate the television programmes. Albert (Mike Shepherd) is still a dirty old man who will feign death when Harold (Dean Nolan) has another plan to fly the family nest. There is no attempt to play the role as Wilfrid Brambell would have done.


We find the useful addition of a female role played by Kirsty Woodward, who alternates between being the unseen guardian angel trying to point out what could have been and the female companions in a couple of the stories. Along with a choice of music from Cliff Richard’s “The Young Ones”, Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over” to Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” we are given a vehicle to segue one story into another.

The set was designed by the Northern Stage legend Neil Murray and involved a movable cart which could also double as a house and a rocking horse that needed feeding. The clever design help the actors deliver the physical interactive theatre that Kneehigh are famous for.


The show therefore gives us 4 stories which explore the relationships between a father and his son.  It is an opportunity to explore the chemistry that builds up in close family relationships.  At time the humour is dark but it is always suggested that this is due to the strong bond between the title characters. The play has got its funny moments and some show pieces – from juggling to doing the splits. The occasional interaction when the audience reacted to an event was a nice touch. 


The play made for a pleasant evenings entertainment and it brings a fresh interpretation of a familiar situation.


The play continues at the Northern Stage until the 16th March and then continues its tour:


Tue 19 March 2013 - Sat 06 April 2013         Lyric, Hammersmith  

Tue 09 April 2013 - Sat 13 April 2013           Sherman Cymru




Director & Adaptor   Emma Rice

Set & Costume Designer   Neil Murray

Lighting Designer   Malcolm Rippeth

Score & Sound Designer   Simon Baker

Projection Designer   Mic Pool

Choreographer   Etta Murfitt

Casting Director   Sam Jones

Assistant Director   Simon Harvey

Producer   Paul Crewes

Stage Manager for Spring Tour   Ali Gray


Friday, 15 March 2013

Theatre Review: The Bobby Thompson Story at the Theatre Royal

Faithful Portrayal of a Northern Comedy Legend by Pete Peverley 25 Years After Bobby's Death.

Bobby Thompson had a colourful life. Born into a mining family in Fatfield, he lost his mum and dad when he was 8 and was brought up by his sister, He went down the pit at age 15 and supplemented his earnings by playing harmonica, playing domino tournaments and soon discovered his talent for stand-up.
With  a rise in popularity, then a decline as he failed to manage his own bookings and his fondness for drink threatened his career, Bobby wasn't the best at keeping himself in gainful employment. But  new manager and a new outlook gave him a comedy career revival in the 70's but again, drink and health problems hampered any sustained success. With 3 marriages under his belt Bobby had a growing source of material for "her indoors" and "mother in-law" jokes. He was famously bad at looking after his financial affairs with his onstage persona expressing a "pay nowt" attitude and famously saying "You believe Bobby Thompson. If yu pays what yu owe yu'll never have nowt." His Northeast pit accent was one you rarely find these days, with local accents being gradually diluted by neighbouring county accents. Bobby passed away in 1988 after breathing problems, at the age of 77, with a massive crowd turning up for his funeral.
Despite his ups and downs, Bobby was a well-loved character is still remembered fondly by people north of Middlesbrough and over the age of 40. He had some radio and TV work, but the TV programme uncovered the inability of some comedy material to travel. He parodied northeast working class life of a very specific era. He is part of our local history and should never be forgotten.
Pete Peverley is a long established actor in the northeast. I remembered his face and realised several years ago I had seen him in "A Clockwork Orange" at what was the Playhouse, now Northern Stage.
Pete began playing the role of Bobby way back in 1988, 6 months after Bobby's death. The theatre group (in Washington) he was involved in wanted to create a production based upon the Working Men's Club scene in Sunderland. This had to involve Bobby as he was such a famous part of the local entertainment. Pete was only 19 when he played 76 year old Bobby, he had to get the character bang-on or there would be complaints of a lack of respect for the great man's memory. The production was a success and with further funding a new company was formed, and the musical "The Little Waster" was born. Pete had a lot of contact with Bobby's family and associates such as his manager in the 70's, Brian Shelley and got a great deal of help getting the story right. In developing his Bobby character, Pete was in demand to play Bobby on stage for various situations, for visiting politicians, at Roker Park for the Black Cats' crowd, and at St James.
"The Bobby Thompson Story" was played as a one man show. With Pete not only playing Bobby, but the narrator and at one point a hilariously familiar portrayal of social club entertainment, that would have been on the same bill as Bobby.The set was simply a small stage upon the Theatre Royal stage and a selection of Bobby's stage outfits, Pete simply filled the production. Nothing else was needed. His mimicry of Bobby's accent and onstage style was so good, there were geordies around me having trouble understanding. Some of those words died decades ago! The years that Pete has been playing Bobby, including making a TV documentary about the man's life, show in his faithful (uncannily some say) mirroring of the character of the man.
I enjoyed this show, and it taught me about Bobby's life and a bit about social change in the Northeast. Pete did a fabulous job of keeping the whole thing flowing, flitting from Bobby to narrator to the other people in Bobby's life, with apparent ease and a comic flair.
If you get a chance to catch this show, get yersel doon there!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Zendeh's "Flock" Coming to Washington Arts Centre: A few words from the Composer

Flock is a production in which human feelings like , sadness, joy, fear, foreboding, are expressed not only by the actors but brought further to life by the music of Gateshead Composer Mariam Rezaei. A story of searching for oneself, and of family and hope.Three siblings set out to find what their late mother needed to discover. A magical tale of migration in a politically troubled 1920's Iran.

Jowheretogo's Jo Oliver was curious where all this creativity came from had a few questions for Mariam

JO: You draw upon a wide range of influences for the score for "Flock". Have you always been surrounded by an eclectic mix of music? Did your parents encourage listening to a wide range of music....or did you rebel?

MR: I am interested in a great variety of music and arts.  I believe that there is always something to learn from all art, even if its 'don't do this!"  
My parents have always encouraged me to explore the world and listen, taste and be part of other cultures.  I had a very strong classical music upbringing (my first instrument is the piano) which naturally evolved into learning about more about experimental music through the radio and working with different music teachers.  My home life was a real mixture of traditional Iranian music, western classical and plenty pop and Hiphop sounds.  My parents have always been very generous in encouraging me to flourish as a musician, even in this tough economic climate.

JO: "Flock" is all about migration and flight. What kind of musical backdrop were you aiming to create? 

MR: Flock has been a really collaborative process, working with Steven, writer, Nazli, Director, Rosie, Associate Director and working hands on with the actors.  The music is a mixture of songs, soundscapes, acousmatic and instrumental composition.  Working closely with the actors, writers and directors as the script and story evolved, the music aims to enhance the characters and illuminate the scenery.  There are very distinct settings throughout the story;  the Caspian rainforest, an Iranian rose garden, travelling different terrains across Iran.  Collaborating with choreography, text and acting, the soundworld is one more ingredient contributing to the energy of the show, moving through the story and at times, moving through time.

JO: What feelings were you hoping to evoke?

MR: There are moments of nostalgia, magic and bereavement in the story, unique to Zendeh's stories.  Using gestures from modern and traditional sound palettes, I have created a mixture of tracks to further evoke emotions set in the story.   At time I am explicitly extending the metaphor of the characters as birds, and at other times, bird song is intricately woven in the the composition of the music. 

JO: You're a very busy lady I know...I've benefited from your skills as a choirmistress for the Singing Stellas and and seen you as a keyboardist for Peculiar Disco Moves, and you've been doing all that amazing stuff with turntable ensemble Noisestra and your performance at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms. What next?

MR: I am working with NOISESTRA on new works and looking forward to an EP launch with Peculiar Disco Moves, April 12 at the Star and Shadow Cinema.  I have concerts throughout the year, including performing with Posset as WAX MAGNETIC in April as part of the MOPOMOSO tour and a performance of JigHop with Kathryn Tickell and Folkestra at the Sage Gateshead in the summer.  I am currently working in the studio on new material and new commissions for experimental audiovisual works around the country. Working with Zendeh has been a great pleasure and the unique collaborative process has been a joy to be a part of.  I am looking forward to hearing FLOCK in full at Northern Stage, around the North East and hopefully, around the country in the near future.

Thank you to Mariam for her insights and new about her exciting musical career. Flock was a very touching piece of work and the atmosphere was filled with the moods created by Mariam's music.

"Flock" is at the Washington Arts Centre on Thursday 14th March and soon to be at other venues in the region. You can buy the tickets online for the Washington date here. And look out for further chances to see "Flock" on Zendeh's Facebook Page.

You can the sounds of "Flock" on Soundcloud.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Theatre Review: Flock at Northern Stage

Magic amongst the turmoil
"Flock" tells a fairy story of 3 siblings that came into being through magical circumstances and then, as they grew up forgot about their origins and became occupied with the serious matters involved in being an adult. Their mother never lost her belief, after all she was still being watched over by the fairy she had rescued from a cage in the rainforest and had blessed her with the three children..from a pomegranate. After her death they honour her wish that they journey to the Caspian Sea, guided by the acrobatic fairy, to find what their purpose in life will be. The legendary bird, the Simorgh would appear to them an bring them enlightenment. Like in the story, "The Conference of the Birds" enlightenment does not come from a magical external source but from within oneself. The 3 siblings realise what they were looking for was right before their eyes. And all this against a backdrop of political unrest in 1920's Iran.

The story is told using dance, movements, songs, rope dancing, puppetry and the eclectically constructed music of Mariam Rezaei giving the whole show a magical feel. Expressed often in a childlike way, as for much of the play the siblings are children, I am quite surprised the play was recommended for 12 years and above. My 9 year old enjoyed it immensely and he was gripped by  the whole performance.

The clever use of lighting and the subtle puppetry worked really well with the set up of the props. The set was very attractive but did not detract from the performances.

The actors expressed the feelings and desires of very different people. There was a lot of energy on that stage, and the audience were very close to the action in the studio theatre. This was a fun play.

I did have a feeling of watching the story unfold rather like a child would. But I did want to know what they would find at the edge of the Caspian Sea. I thought the whole thing was executed really well, brought to life and creating an other-worldly Iran quite apart from the politics and religious differences. It was good to see a production set in Iran without a political edge...its a fairy story.

Christina Berriman-Dawson, Ruth Johnson, Carl Kennedy, Rosa Macreery and Nazli Tabatabai-Katambakhsh create a very warm and engaging family story with occasional threats from the demons of the dark. All of this is bolstered further by the colours and moods of the music and lighting.
It seems that all nights at Newcastle sold out, in fact tonight a few people had trouble finding seats. It was great to see a production fill up at Northern Stage. It is a versatile and pleasant venue for theatre. I'm getting quite fond of it!
Zendeh are planning to take Flock on tour in the autumn.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Theatre Review "Abigail's Party" at the Theatre Royal Newcastle

Welcome to the 70's

Walking into the auditorium of the Theatre Royal I was hit by a faint odour. I recognised it as the smell of the 70's. The smell you may encounter if you open a drawer in an old dresser that once contained polyester blouses. The smell of an uncomfortable brown leather 3 piece suite that forces the occupants into an unnatural slouch. The stage was a sea of beige, no, "camel". Not a plain surface anywhere and always shades of brown, fawn or "camel". Luurvely!

An excruciatingly funny look at a suburban "soiree" hosted by the insecure, frustrated, exhibitionist housewife Beverly. Grasping desperately at her and her estate agent husband's wealth relative to their neighbours', Beverly, played by Hannah Waterman, tries unsuccessfully to steer the gathering into the "sophisticated" cocktail party she wants it to be. Instead, the situation becomes increasing uncomfortable as drinks are pressed on the guests Susan (the neighbour there to escape the unseen party in her house hosted by her 15 year old daughter Abigail) and married couple Tony and Angela.

Beverly's awful behaviour, flirting openly and physically with Tony is seemingly ignored by her husband Laurence and tolerated by Angela. Poor Susan is beside herself with worry about the party as she is wound up by Beverly over what might be going on in her house over the road. It all gets rather unpleasant, and it can only get worse.

Abigail's Party
"Abigail's Party" picture from the Theatre Royal Website
Hannah Waterman played a really awful woman really well. Of course any performance of Beverly will be compared with Alison Steadman's in the TV play from 1977. No need. Hannah was a cringe inducing she should be. The last time I saw Martin Marquez was as the wine waiter Gino in Hotel Babylon. He carried the role as the long suffering, highly strung, and tortured husband with apparent ease. Katie Lightfoot played Angela, smiling through the pain of another terrible marriage. Emily Raymond took the role of the slightly posh (and therefore resented by Beverly) divorcee Susan. She expressed all too well the uncomfortable feeling of being somewhere you don't want to be, with people you don't really like and being forced to drink too much alcohol, awful. And Tony, quietly succumbing to Beverly's dubious charms, was given life..(a very disappointing one, it seems) by Samuel James.

Mike Leigh's characters in "Abigail's Party" are, none of them, likeable, and the characters were presented superbly tonight. I loved the set, it took me back to my childhood, when I went to the houses of the better-off! We had woodchip on our walls..

Cheeseypineapple anyone?

Abigail's Party is on at The Theatre Royal until Saturday 9th March

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

"Flock" at Northern Stage

Zendeh Launches "Flock" at Northern Stage
6th-8th March
"Flock" picture from Northern Stage Website.

Gateshead Composer Spreads Her Wings

ZENDEH’s latest production, FLOCK  (click link for pictures, info and an audio clip) is a tale of migration and taking flight. A story of 3 siblings in Iran in 1921- a time of impending revolution. Inspired by The Conference of the Birds and the Arab uprisings of 2011.

The birdsong-inspired score has been composed by composer, DJ and performer Mariam Rezaei who works with multiple turntables, piano and electronics. The 28 year old musician – born in Gateshead but with Iranian family roots - has been on something of a journey herself. In 2012, she was invited to perform at the BBC Proms 47 by conductor Ilan Volkov for the John Cage Centenary celebration concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and she also performed on turntables with Kathryn Tickell and Folkestra in JigHop, part of the BT River of Music Festival for the Opening Ceremony of London 2012.

Mariam works regularly as a performer and DJ, competing in worldwide turntablist competitions, improvises and performs with turntables throughout the UK. She has DJd all over the UK and recently composed and directed music for a 14 turntable ensemble of young people, NOISESTRA, which premiered with experimental ensemble Apartment House at The Sage Gateshead in August 2012 for the Cultural Olympiad.

Mariam describes working on the project with the team at ZENDEH, “Writing the music for FLOCK has been an exciting journey, intricately bound to the development of a fantastic script and characters by Steven Gaythorpe. I’ve used a wide range of software, hardware, turntables, records, whistles, vocals and samples of bird song to make a unique sound. I’ve also been listening to works by Messiaen, Flying Lotus, John Cage, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Nick Cave, the Charleston dance, Michael Jackson and Billie Holiday – so a wide range of musical influences!”
Artistic Director Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh said, “The wonderful thing about collaborating with Mariam is her taste is so eclectic. The playlist is endless. It’s like having your own jukebox only better because she creates original tracks.”

Steven Gaythorpe, ZENDEH’s Associate Writer, said, “Whilst this is a magical tale set in Iran in 1921, it needs to resonate and connect here. The work we have been doing over the autumn has really helped highlight the universal and the timeless in the work we are creating.” Mariam adds, “I’ve collaborated with Nazli and in particular Steven, with the lyric writing for the songs throughout the play. It’s very important that the sonic landscape paints a strong visual image without distracting from the delicate and intricate on stage interactions - a real challenge when I'm used to being the soloist!”
Set design by Yvette Hawkins

At the time of writing, tickets are still still available for Thursday and Friday. Tickets can be booked online with Northern Stage.

Again, remember to check if there are more productions you want to see at Northern Stage, as their multibuy deal is an excellent way to plan a lot of great nights in advance and save a lot of your hard-earned cash. I've seen a lot of great theatre that way. I'm really looking forward to this show on Friday night, and will be sharing a review at the weekend.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The Gateshead Beer Festival 3rd-5th May 2013

A goat, some ale, fun time guaranteed.
Me and Beer

I do like beer. I'm a member of the Campaign for Real Ale but I don't limit myself to the strictly British definition of real ale. I love a good German weiss- or schwarzbier, a Belgian Ale or a lager brewed in the Gambia (very welcome in that heat!). I don't drink beer to get drunk, but to enjoy the different flavours of hops, malts and the odd guest ingredient that brewers like to play with.

I was pleased to hear about the Gateshead Beer Festival, and even more happy to see a great lineup of bands playing over the 3 days: the 3rd to the 5th May. Scratch The Surface, Jonny Boyle, the Dust Town Dogs, Superheat, Jen Stevens and the Hiccups, Skylark Song, Bessie and the Zinc Buckets, Claypath and many more.
After very successful festivals in 2011 and 2012 the festival will again be brightnening up your May Bank Holiday.

There will be over 140 different beers from all over the country and also featuring and supporting local breweries. There will be over 25 different ciders & perries as well as a Cava Bar.
A bar, some ale. Excellent.

As well as the clubhouse bar and lounge there will be a large marquee to cope with the demand. As last year there will be a varied food menu to help soak up the ale!
Last year saw a sell out in advance for the event so make sure you get your tickets ordered early. Tickets are on sale and as last year can be bought online, in person at the club or by post...check the website for details.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Theatre Review: Ladykillers at Hull New Theatre

Ladykillers, Hull New Theatre Feb 2013


This production of The Ladykillers is based on the 1955 Ealing black comedy film which was the last such British comedy to be directed by Alexander Mackendrick before he headed to Hollywood. This classic film still gets regular repeats on tv and hence the roles of Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Jack Warner and Katie Johnson will be well remembered by the audience.


This story is a classic tale of a heist gone wrong but it is in the reaction of the various characters after the event that leads to the most memorable moments. Mrs Wilberforce (Michele Dotrice) needs a source of extra income so she puts an advert for rooms to let in a local shop window. “Professor” Marcus (Paul Brown) calls around to view the rooms. He announces that he is a member of a small amateur musical group who wish to rehearse in the rooms. The musicians arrive in quick succession and quickly move upstairs where it is revealed to the audience that they are not musicians but crooks wanting to carry out a major heist. The plan is to involve Mrs Wilberforce without her knowledge.


After the heist, problems start to emerge and the members of the gang start to become suspicious of one another. This will leads to a number of comic scenes.


The story, like the film, still takes place in an era when steam trains regularly shake the house and slow freight trains to Newcastle rumble past like clockwork.  Graham Lineham, who wrote the script to Father Ted, has retained the best lines from the original film but has introduced others which have helped freshen up the show. It is interesting to read in the programme notes that Lineham feels that whilst changing a scene in a film can add suspense, the same change slows down the pace in a stage play. It is therefore pleasing to report that the production skips along at a steady cantor and kept everyone in our party, whose ages ranged from 9 to 75, happy.


Clive Mantle’s affable Major Courtney was, in some ways, similar to his recent TV role in the BBC3 Comedy White Van Man. William Troughton’s role as Harry was another source of regular laughs in the early stages of the show. The other members of the cast are not really given a chance to shine until the later stages of the performance which may be a lost opportunity.


The production takes place on a single well designed set showing several rooms of Mrs Wilberforce’s house. The owner is played by the engaging Michele Dotrice who gets the balance right between the loveable yet slightly crazy widow and the shrewd systematic character that made the film such a hit. The set serves to show what is happening in different areas of the house simultaneously. A number of special effects certainly add humour to the show.


Performing: Paul Brown (Professor Marcus), Clive Mantle (Major Courtney), Chris McCalphy (One-Round), William Troughton (Harry), Shaun Williamson (Louis), Michele Dotrice (Mrs Wilberforce).

Adapted by Graham Linehan.

Producer Edward Snape (for Fiery Angel in association with Stage Entertainment UK and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse).

Director Sean Folery.


Between 4th March 2013 and 13th April 2013 this tour will visit 6 venues in Norwich, Woking, Newcastle upon Tyne, Salford, Leeds and Cardiff. This production has already been seen in 17 venues since 14th September 2012

Mon, 4th March 2013 to Sat, 9th March 2013   Theatre Royal, Norwich

Mon, 11th March 2013 to Sat, 16th March 2013    New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Mon, 18th March 2013 to Sat, 23rd March 2013    Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne

Mon, 25th March 2013 to Sat, 30th March 2013    The Lowry, Salford

Tue, 2nd April 2013 to Sat, 6th April 2013    Grand Theatre and Opera House, Leeds

Tue, 9th April 2013 to Sat, 13th April 2013    New Theatre, Cardiff
Review by "Mr Jowheretogo" Stephen Oliver...what a star.
The Jowheretogo Show is on every Monday at noon on your community radio Station, NE1fm. Gigs, comedy theatre and random ways to entertain yourselves in the northeast. Tune in...or go on and listen there.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit


Live Theatre in association with Aurora Nova Productions


The introduction of this play by Nassim Soleimanpour reads “Imagine being 29 and unable to leave your country. Nassim Soleimanpour dissects the experience of a whole generation in a wild, utterly original play from Iran. Forbidden to travel, he turns his isolation to his own advantage with a play that requires no director, no set and a different actor for every performance.”


As part of the Live Theatre’s 40th birthday celebrations a different actor performs this play each night. On the stage is a step ladder, a chair and a table which has 2 glasses of water and a spoon. The script is delivered in a sealed envelope to the actor, who has never seen the script before, and they cold read it in front of the audience.


They have lined up a number of great actors who have links with the Theatre’s past. We had the pleasure of Donald McBride who had previously entertained us in Chalet Lines. His association with Live Theatre goes back to 1977 and he is currently rehearsing to go on tour with Pitmen Painters.


I have no intention of giving the game away – part of the pleasure of watching this play is that neither the actor nor the audience know how the evening will unravel. To state what happens would be like revealing the identity of a who-done-it play or pointing out the big mystery in a film like The Crying Game. However I can see that each night will be unique. Indeed the Theatre will sell you a chance to relive the experience for just £10 if you want to see another audience and another actor going through the contents of that envelope.


Nassim Soleimanpurs’ script reveals one side of the human condition and it makes for an interesting 70 minutes. Donald McBride played his part very well and the intimate surroundings of the Live Theatre makes it an ideal venue for such a show. It is easy to see how this show has gone on to be performed in more than 20 cities in 10 different languages.


The show continues until March 17 – the following details were correct 2.3.2013 – please confirm with the Theatre before booking:

Saturday 2 March Charlie Hardwick

Sunday 3 March Nitin Kundra

Wednesday 6 March: Stephen Tompkinson SOLD OUT

Thursday 7 March Daniel Bye

Friday 8 March Shelagh Stephenson

Saturday 9 March Amy McAllister

Sunday 10 March Kevin Whately SOLD OUT

Thursday 14 March Stella Duffy

Friday 15 March Tracy Whitwell

Saturday 16 March Hywel Morgan

Sunday 17 March Chris Connell
Review kindly provided by Stephen Oliver

Tune in to the Jowheretogo Show every Monday at 12 noon on NE1fm 102.5 for more theatre, comedy and live music events.

Friday, 1 March 2013

I'm still here! All Change!

Jowheretogo hasn't gone away!

So what's happening? Well a brand new website is on the way. This will put reviews, previews, events all in one place. There'll be news about local bands, their gigs, and their releases. I'll be telling you what's worth a visit to the theatre. It's all change for Jowheretogo...its outgrowing a blog.

Until then listen to NE1fm 102.5 at 12 noon every Monday.

Announcements about the new website will go out on the @jowheretogo twitterfeed.

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