National Event on Collaboration: Cultural Sector Are Stronger Together

Six arts organisations will team up to host one national event about collaboration entitled “Stronger Together”.

Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse) and Pilot Theatre, with support of Arts Council England, will host the event at Northern Stage, Newcastle on Wednesday 29 June 1.30pm – 6pm.  Innovatively, three national venues – Cornerhouse, Manchester, Watershed in Bristol and Lyric Hammersmith – will live stream the event to more delegates across the country.  Some of the best thinkers and leaders from the cultural sector and beyond will be sharing their thoughts and provoking conversation all across the UK.

Erica Whyman, Chief Executive of Northern Stage, said: “This is a very exciting opportunity to bring together artists, producers, strategic thinkers and funders from across the country to celebrate existing collaborations, and challenge each other to be bolder, more generous and clearer about why and how we want to work together.  The day is an experiment to see how creative we can be in talking to one another across four cities and a chance to meet new collaborators from all the cultural forms.”

Alison Clark-Jenkins, Regional Director, Arts Council England said, “Stronger Together will bring the sector together to develop a critical debate. This event reflects our aspirations to use the real experiences of the sector to work together in partnership to build our collective knowledge.”

The unique national event will explode the myth that conferences are all about sitting listening to examples.  Northern Stage has transformed its main auditorium into a giant living room (removing all 450 seats) and delegates will be encouraged to talk about what they want to collaborate on and their own experiences of partnerships.  There will be some curated conversations in the theatre’s studio looking at the limits of collaboration and the challenges of working internationally and a chance to see some case studies of excellent strategic collaborations across the building.

The day will also see collaboration in action in a speed-dating event, SOUP, where artists, producers, funders and policy-makers get to chat to each other for three minutes each about an idea they have, or simply to make a new connection.

And there is tapas, entertainment and excellent company for those who can stay in Newcastle into the evening.

Audiences in Manchester, London and Bristol have a chance to participate in the day without travelling to Newcastle.  The conversations and provocations will be available through live streaming, blogging and a twitter feed #artstogether, downloadable case studies and presentations and live Skype-based interaction with Newcastle throughout the day.  The three venues will be running their own conversations and discussions in their venues and sending details back to the main event in Newcastle.

Marcus Romer, Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre, said: “Pilot Theatre are delighted to be able to be part of this project- which enables the sector to join, connect and engage in a number of cross platform ways across the country, and to discover and discuss the ideas that can make us stronger and work more collaboratively as an industry.”

For further details:  www.northernstage.co.uk

Northern Stage: Title Pending – the future of theatre is in good hands…

Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse) has welcomed this year’s Title Pending winner, writer-director Kirsty Housley, into its city centre venue. Kirsty won the opportunity to embark upon an intensive two week residency, where she has a free reign over using Northern Stage’s facilities to create a new piece of exciting theatre.

Kirsty Housley beat off national competition from over 75 other creative professionals who applied for Title Pending.  The unique annual residency, currently in its 2nd year, searches for innovative, thoughtful and intriguing ideas for new theatre.  Kirsty’s project is called She Stood at the Window and it will be developed, nurtured and supported by Northern Stage’s creative and technical team. 

“It’s really rare to get this level of support when writing a new piece of work, as you normally have to go a long way on your own before you reach this stage.  Title Pending has totally met my expectations – it has been an incredible experience!” said Kirsty Housley.

Kirsty is impressed by the way Title Pending has been tailored to her needs and how it’s a really good ‘fit’ to what she’s trying to create. 

Kirsty (aged 33) is originally from Southampton but currently lives in Haringey, London with her husband. She studied at the University of Warwick and on the National Theatre Studio’s ‘Director’s Course’.  This is Kirsty’s second visit to the North East, her first being to take part in the Great North Run in 2008. 

Kirsty added: “Normally at this stage of the writing process, you have to imagine what a scene will be like; but with Title Pending you can actually explore all of the possibilities and get professional actors to ‘road test’ the work. This is a very immediate and priceless function to have at your disposal.” 

Kirsty concludes: “The whole fortnight has been massively useful for me; especially being able to collaborate from the very beginning… it has been fantastic.” 

Kirsty was able to use her first week as an exploratory writing and directing exercise and then the second week has been allocated as an extended technical rehearsal – where the work comes to life onstage with help from the acting and technical teams. 

By the end of the fortnight She Stood at the Window should be close to a finished piece, with all of the layers in place. It will enable Kirsty to later put the finishing touches to the production. 

The local actors Kirsty has been working with during Title Pending have been: Gary Kitching, Ruth Johnson, Karen Traynor and Jemma McDonnell. 

Mark Calvert, Northern Stage’s Creative Associate, said: “We are really proud of Title Pending as it allows for somebody to explore and push the boundaries of new writing. Giving them the freedom to take a germ of an idea and create something special.” 

“Northern Stage looks to provide a unique theatre experience that can help nurture the very best in UK writing and directing talent.” 

Northern Stage is recognised for its innovative and engaging approach towards programming new writing on a regional, national and international platform.  The Newcastle-based city centre venue allows audiences to be treated to top theatre performances and gives up and coming and experienced creative professionals the stage they require to showcase their work. 

Last year’s winners of Title Pending were Greyscale (www.greyscale.org.uk) the scheme allowed them to develop and create a series of ideas that in turn made it to the stage; this just shows how invaluable the theatre programme can be when encouraging new writing. 

For further information about the work programmed by Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse) or to learn more about schemes like Title Pending please visit www.northernstage.co.uk.

Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre

Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse) and Sheffield Theatres today announce their first collaboration, a new production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”.  The production will be directed by Northern Stage’s Artistic Director Erica Whyman“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” will play at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre (Wednesday 16 March – Thursday 7 April) and then continue to Northern Stage (Tuesday 12 April – Saturday 30 April).

Northern Stage’s Artistic Director Erica Whyman said: “The characters in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? are real people; both flawed and fascinating – it is a very passionate and compelling evening at the theatre.  Daniel Evans and I think in quite a similar way about our theatres and our audiences.  I’ve been very inspired by Daniel’s programming and his commitment to developing ambitious new work in Sheffield, and we wanted instinctively to work together.”

Sheffield Theatres’ Artistic Director Daniel Evans said: “I’m delighted that we have established a co-producing partnership with Northern Stage. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a great American classic, will be an explosive addition to the Crucible season. I’m a great admirer of Erica Whyman’s work and I’m really looking forward to welcoming her and the team to our building.”

Award-winning and Olivier nominated actress Sian Thomas plays Martha, Lorna Beckett plays Honey, Jasper Britton plays George and John Hopkins plays Nick.

For more information, please visit: www.northernstage.co.uk

Underneath the Floorboards – A balletLORENT and Northern Stage Co-Production

Underneath The Floorboards is a new work from balletLORENT’s award-winning choreographer Liv Lorent. Co-produced by Northern Stage and in association with Gateshead Council, Liv is working with a compelling range of collaborators to create this enchanting production for under 5s with costumes designed and realised by Paul Shriek, story and songs written by Ben Crompton, music and songs composed by Kit Haigh, set designed and realised by Andy Stephenson (of Northern Stage), lighting designed by Matt Britten, and four amazing balletLORENT dancers: Jon Beney, Gavin Clarke, Gwen Berwick and Phillipa White.

Underneath The Floorboards premieres at Northern Stage on 25th January with further performances on the 26th January before the company moves over to Gateshead Old Town for a further three performances on the 27th & 28th January.

Long gone are the days when young children are taken to the theatre by their parents or school to watch a show they’ve been told they might like.  Award winning choreographer Liv Lorent (balletLORENT) and Northern Stage have turned the tables on the whole process by creating a production that puts the young person at the heart of the work.

‘Underneath the Floorboards’ is brimming with original songs, colourful costumes and beautiful movement that allows the children to interact with the performers and storyline.

“There’s currently a lot of good theatre around for this youthful age group but there isn’t so much dance.  Therefore as a company, we want to deliver daytime productions that will captivate our young audience,” said Liv Lorent.

The show has an intimate setting to ensure a comfortable viewing experience for both children and adults; with ‘ease of access’ to encourage the young people to freely interact.  The theatre space will be kitted out with a soft floor, cushions and a seated area.  This approach continues to champion the defined methodology delivered by balletLORENT and Northern Stage intended to entertain and inform this age group.

balletLORENT is an established contemporary dance company based in Newcastle upon Tyne.

For more information, go visit: www.northernstage.co.uk

Northern Stage – Spring 2011 Season

NORTHERN STAGE HAS A SPRING IN ITS STEP!

Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse) would like to shout from the snowy rooftops about its spring 2011 season.

If people are looking to make a New Year’s resolution of experiencing more internationally recognised and entertaining theatre, they should look no further than Northern Stage. Then pitch a tent in the foyer and, tell their friends, family and work colleagues not to expect them back until around… May!

Across Northern Stage’s three stages audiences can expect a hint of Chekhov, a Twisted Tale or two from Roald Dahl, a sprinkling of international dance (first UK tour by acclaimed Danish Dance Theatre), an actor from the Hollywood blockbuster Harry Potter films and even a Mission to Mars.

As ever the programme is accompanied by a selection of interactive and participation events that are aimed at people of all ages.

“A new year signifies new energy and vision,” said Erica Whyman, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse).

Erica continues: “Given the kind of changes we are all facing this year, the Northern Stage team have been gloriously undaunted in seeking out and bringing to Newcastle the hottest and most thrilling experiences from the worlds of theatre, dance, comedy and storytelling for our audiences to enjoy.

“The programme is brought to life and kept fresh by the balance of classic tales and new approaches – continuing our mission to provide a contemporary stage for innovative minds.”

Here are some spring 2011 highlights (not in order of performance). This isn’t the full spring season and further announcements will be made in January:

Drama:

Roald Dahl’s Twisted Tales 
16–26 March / Stage 1 / recommended 14+
Northern Stage, Lyric Hammersmith and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse present 
the best loved author’s renowned short stories for adults. Adapted by The League of Gentlemen’s Jeremy Dyson and directed by the exciting young talent Polly Findlay.  

Exposing the twisted imagination and black humour of Roald Dahl, Dyson brings a wonderfully dark and dangerous world to the stage; created from some of his most macabre stories including William and Mary and The Landlady. In Roald Dahl’s Twisted Tales nothing is quite as it seems; sweet old landladies have suspicious hobbies, widows seek sweet revenge and gambling requires more than just money. Expect the unexpected…starring Selina Griffiths (Benidorm and Drop the Dead Donkey).

On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco / Can Cause Death 
by Forward Theatre Project
16–17 February / Stage 2 / … David Bradley [Argus Filch – the caretaker of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films] plays both husband and wife in this one man double-bill of Chekhov and New Writing. Funny, disarming and beautifully acted.

Mission to Mars 
By Clare Duffy, Jon Spooner and Chris Thorpe
Unlimited Theatre and Polka Theatre in association with Curve Leicester
24–26 February / Stage 2 / Recommended 7+
…it’s 2035, and we’re ready to send the first humans to Mars.  Unlimited return to Northern Stage following hits Tangle and The Moon The Moon.

The Summer House 
Devised by Will Adamsdale, Neil Haigh, Matthew Steer and John Wright (founder member of Trestle and Told By An Idiot)
Presented by Fuel
31 March–2 April / Stage 2 / recommended 14+ / …a comedy thriller about men, myths and the weather.

And The Horse You Rode In On
Told by an Idiot and Drum Theatre Plymouth production
19 –21 April / Stage 2 / recommended 12+ /  …examining extreme acts of violence, this sinister comedy of ineptitude is a funny and disturbing look at the lengths people will go for their beliefs and how powerless we are to stop them.

4Play
26 & 27 May / Stage 3 
Performed and directed by InterACT – The Northern Regions Theatre Training Ensemble managed by Northumberland Theatre Company / …4 new plays by 4 talented new writers projecting the absurdity of life, love, truth and hope.

Dance:

Danish Dance Theatre 
25–26 February / Stage 1
Dance Triple bill – Enigma / CaDance / Kridt (Chalk) 
…combining the classical lines of ballet with the power of modern dance.

Phoenix Dance Theatre: Reflected
Works by Ben Duke and Raquel Meseguer, Philip Taylor, Sharon Watson and Richard Wherlock  
19–20 May / Stage 1
‘What It Is’ is a sultry, playful take on love and sexuality set to a mesmerising Amy Winehouse soundtrack.  Audience favourite ‘Pave Up Paradise’ is a tongue-in-cheek retelling of Adam and Eve. The show also features two new dance works; the sensual and vibrant ‘Switch’ and ‘Melt’, an innovative blend of aerial dance and contemporary choreography.

Underneath the Floorboards 
balletLORENT and Northern Stage co-production (recommended for under 5s) 
25–26 January / Stage 3 / Newcastle-based choreographer Liv Lorent premieres her new work for children under 5.   Have you ever wondered what’s underneath the floorboards? Dance, original song, music and curious creatures can all be found there.

And everything in between: (storytelling / spoken word / new writing)

The Crick Crack Club 
Stage 2 / performance storytelling 
Fairytales for Grownups: The Grateful & the Dead by Ben Haggarty (2 Feb)
Metamorphoses by Daniel Morden & Hugh Lupton (4 May)

Sometimes I Laugh Like My Sister
Written by Rebecca Peyton and Martin M. Bartelt / Directed by Martin M. Bartelt
12–13 April / Stage 3 / recommend 12+
Since her big sister, BBC journalist Kate Peyton, was murdered in Somalia, Rebecca has had rather a strange time. Crafting a moving and often comic tapestry of private moments from a public tragedy, she welcomes us to her world in a passionately political, sharply comical and painfully personal account of life after Kate.

First in 3 
10 February & 24 May / Stage 3 / …showcasing the best in new writing, comedy, theatre, dance and music

For further information, please visit: www.northernstage.co.uk

Northern Stage: Life begins at 40.!

For most of us, turning 40 starts alarm bells ringing with the symptoms of a midlife crisis waiting to provide a sudden reality check and wakeup call… not at Northern Stage.

This November, the bricks and mortar of Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse) celebrates four decades of bringing inventive, innovative and inspiring theatre to audiences, young and old.

To mark this momentous landmark, Northern Stage has taken the theme of 40 and fired it out of the stratosphere, by creating 40 memorable ‘global conversations’ around the theme of northernness.

This has included an atmospheric art installation by the Scandinavian pairing of Peter Norrman (filmmaker) and Leif Jordansson (composer); hilarious comedy by welsh funny man Hugh Hughes; a national tour of an award-winning play about the life and times of young people from Middlesbrough (Apples by Richard Milward and directed by John Retallack); newly penned poetry by T S Eliot Prize winner Sean O’Brien; and a Russian Shakespeare Exhibition by the Moscow Arts Theatre School.

The 40th anniversary also gave birth to a fascinating project called 40 Babies. This 3 year project has seen Northern Stage work with 40 newborn babies and their families. The aim of the primary year has been to capture hopes, fears and pearls of wisdom about the imminent arrival with new parents and create a ‘living book’ of the babies’ first year. It’s hoped the project will provide Northern Stage with the chance to research the possibilities of creating work with and for this very young audience (0-3 year olds).

The full annual programme surrounding northernness can be viewed by clicking the following website link: www.northernstages.co.uk/programme

A birthday just wouldn’t be a birthday without a party; and Northern Stage has the mother of all celebrations planned. The city centre venue has come up with the novel idea of inviting anyone in the North-East who’s also celebrating their 40th birthday – along to the ultimate knees up.

And in time honoured Northern Stage tradition, a new performance has been commissioned to bring the project back home and celebrate the North of England.  “Northern Spirit: A Pop Art Anthology about Growing Up in the North” directed by Chris Meads asks the questions “…how does it feel to grow up in the North?  What do we share? Which artists most express the youthful northern experience?”  A collage of great writing by youthful Northern voices from the last 40 years Northern Spirit is an entertaining and moving tribute to the North’s contribution to Britain’s pop-cultural landscape.

Northern Stage has been the springboard for aspiring actors, giving them their first taste of treading the boards in front a live audience. Down the years, the building has housed a collection of first-rate productions including Animal Farm (1993), A Clockwork Orange (1998), 1984 (2001), Our Friends in the North (2007) and A Doll’s House (2008).

A handful of named actors and writers to grace productions at Northern Stage include: Kevin Whately, Wendy Craig, Robson Green, Peter Flannery, Charlie Hardwick, Craig Conway, Tim Healy, Denise Welch, David Roper and Roger Lloyd Pack.

The venue prides itself in nurturing fresh, new theatrical talent and giving it a platform to be seen and heard (for example – this years’ new Title Pending Award).  Northern Stage also offers thousands of children and young people across the North-East the opportunity to make and enjoy theatre – providing them priceless access to creative practitioners and offering them unforgettable experiences.

Erica Whyman, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Northern Stage, said: “I am so very proud to be leading the company in its 40th year. Northern Stage has long been a beacon of theatrical creativity in the North East. After our ambitious redevelopment in 2006 the team here has worked tirelessly and inventively to breathe new life into our amazing building and introduce many new people to our work.

“The next few years will bring new challenges but I am confident we will continue to make and invite to the region the most exciting and relevant contemporary theatre for the audiences of the next 40 years. Happy Birthday to us!”

Overall, 2010 has been a wonderful year for Northern Stage with Apples winning a prestigious Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh Fringe and Joan Littlewood’s Musical Entertainment Oh What A Lovely War directed by Erica Whyman and Sam Kenyon being nominated for two TMA (Theatrical Management Association) Awards in the categories of Best Musical Production’ and Best Performance in a Musical.

The forty staff at Northern Stage are getting ready to fill their lungs in preparation of blowing out the candle inferno on top of the birthday cake… a healthy quest that should be no problem to them as they walked 40 miles to raise money for the theatre earlier in the year.

The year will end with an enchanting portrayal of the classic “The Wind in the Willows” adapted for the stage by Alan Bennett and starring comedic actor Mark Benton as Mr Toad (29 November – 8 January) and directed by Erica Whyman.

Further information about the work of Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse) can be found by visiting www.northernstage.co.uk

Northern Stage nominated for two national awards

Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse) has been nominated for two prestigious national TMA Awards (Theatrical Management Association) for its touring production of Joan Littlewood’s Musical Entertainment Oh What A Lovely War directed by Erica Whyman and Sam Kenyon.

The TMA Awards celebrate the best of British theatre from around the United Kingdom.

The satirical musical has been nominated in the categories of ‘Best Musical Production’ and ‘Best Performance in a Musical’.  This second nomination is particularly special as it is for the entire ensemble of actor-musicians who created the show.  The production opened in Newcastle in March 2010 and was then seen by 24,000 people on its national tour.

Erica Whyman, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Northern Stage, said: “This is a fabulous achievement for Northern Stage and the icing on the cake during our 40th anniversary year. It acknowledges the company’s commitment of making and touring very high-calibre work that audiences really want to come and see.”

The success of Oh What A Lovely War comes hot on the heels of Apples, the company’s other big smash of 2010, which also enjoyed a well received national tour and a critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe – winning a Herald Angel Award.

Erica continues: “Northern Stage is very proud of Oh What A Lovely War, as it is a great example of our commitment to making ambitious, intelligent theatre at our base in Newcastle and touring it nationally. The TMA Award nominations are a great reminder of how healthy theatre production is in North East England.”

Alison Clark-Jenkins, Regional Director, Arts Council England said, “Northern Stage produces challenging and high quality theatre in the north east. It is right that this great art has been professionally acknowledged by the TMA, and enjoyed by audiences. The nominations are duly deserved.”

Northern Stage (formerly Newcastle Playhouse) is supported by Arts Council England North East and Newcastle City Council. 

The award ceremony will be held at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith on Sunday 7 November.

For a full list of the 2010 TMA Award nominees please visit the following website www.tmauk.org

For further information, please visit www.northernstage.co.uk