Theatre in the North East

Reporter: Peter Lathan

Dateline: 6th January, 2014

Receiving Houses

The region's big receiving houses—Newcastle Theatre Royal and Sunderland Empire, along with the very much smaller Darlington Civic—continued to follow their established patterns during the year.

The Theatre Royal presented its usual mix of plays (including the RSC with All's Well That Ends Well, As You Like It and Hamlet), opera from Opera North, which included its Benjamin Britten season of Peter Grimes, Death in Venice and a Midsummer Night's Dream, and musicals. Dance was less represented than in the past, with only two major productions, Northern Ballet's Ugly Duckling and Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty. Contemporary dance, formerly one of the theatre's strengths, was conspicuous by its absence.

Its studio space played host to a number of local companies with offerings as varied as Gaslight on Grey Street, a new historical play by local actors' agent Janet Plater, and Chekhov's The Seagull by Black Coffee Theatre.

As always the main focus of the Empire was on musicals, welcoming nine touring productions during the year, including Ghost the Musical, Cats and Priscilla - Queen of the Desert. There were also four operas from Ellen Kent and two visits from Birmingham Royal Ballet. Two plays also appeared during the year: The Mousetrap and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show.

One-night stands—primarily musical—continued to be a prominent feature of the theatre's programme.

Darlington Civic hosted five musicals and thirteen plays during the year. The plays, in particular, were very diverse, ranging from Mansfield Park through The Importance of Being Earnest to To Sir, With Love and 51 Shades of Maggie. Like the other two, a varied programme of one-nighters featured strongly.

Most of the other theatres in the region, from the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond to The Maltings in Berwick, are also primarily receiving houses, with many showing films as well as live shows.

But the best indication of the health of theatre in a region is the amount of home-grown producing that goes on, and that is the subject of the next page.

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