Newcastle Playhouse and Tynewear TC

It opened in 1970 as the University Theatre (with the Gulbenkian Studio) and was home to the Tyneside Theatre Company which was originally (from 1968) based at the Flora Robson Playhouse in Jesmond (Newcastle) which was demolished in a road-widening scheme.

In 1978, it became the Newcastle Playhouse and the Tyneside Theatre Company was dissolved and instead we had the Tynewear Theatre Company.

Got all that?

Right. Now let’s make it even more complicated, shall we? In 1987, the Tynewear Theatre Company became the Tyne Theatre Company and moved out of the Playhouse to the Tyne Theatre and Opera House—and you know what?

I’ll tell you what!

At that point I give up! More name changes, a move back to the Playhouse, the Tyne Theatre changes hands…

This is almost as complicated as the causes of World War I!

It was the Newcastle Playhouse housing the Tynewear TC when I came into the picture. John Blackmore was appointed as Artistic Director and the company's remit was to be regional rather than simply Newcastle's local producing theatre, but I don't think that ever really happened. That was nothing to do with John or the efforts of the company but was down almost entirely (or so I believe) to the rivalry between Newcastle and Sunderland (or, more broadly, between Tyneside and Wearside).

(The "Newcastle gets everything and we get nowt" syndrome.)

Anyway, I was appointed as their photographer and so did the publicity stills for their first production, Ken Hill's version of The Three Musketeers. The word "lacklustre" was used by one reviewer to describe that production and I have to say that, boy, that show did have a hard birth!

The dress rehearsal, which, of course, was when I did the pics, finished at one in the morning, leaving everybody shattered and hurrying home to bed—except for the poor old photographer who had to drive back to Sunderland, develop all ten 35mm films, produce contact prints and deliver them to John at 10 that same morning.

Fortunately, he was living in Sunderland so it was easy for me to get to his home, take his order and then get back home to produce and mount the 20x16in prints which had to be delivered to the company's PR at the theatre by midday the following day.

That was to be the pattern for the rest of the time I worked for the company—except for the late running of the dress. That never happened again. Thank God!