Tynewear actors

They are both theatre, but there really is a massive difference between working in a receiving house like the Empire and a subsidised producing house as Newcastle Playhouse was.

One of the differences is the actors / performers you work with. Generally, working at the Empire meant I came into contact with national and international stars, or people who, for the most part, were well established in their careers, whereas the actors who worked with this new producing theatre company, Tynewear TC, were mainly (although not entirely) young and unknown.

That's not to say they were in any way inferior. In fact, most were bloody good—and very hungry to make progress in the business.

And many certainly didn't stay unknown. There were three who appeared in two of the company's Shakespeare productions when they were in their mid-twenties who have since gone on to become nationally known.

In Romeo and Juliet, Hexham-born Kevin Whately appeared as Benvolio, and of course he went on to appear in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet as the youngster Neville, and then as DS (later DI) Lewis in Inspector Morse and Lewis. He's a regular in Sunday for Sammy, a biennial show in Newcastle which raises money to help develop the careers of young performing artists from the North East, held in memory of Sammy Johnson, the Gateshead actor who collapsed and died while out jogging in 1998 at the age of 49.

Incidentally, one of Sammy Johnson's earliest jobs (in the mid-70s) was with the Wearabout Theatre Company of Sunderland when I was Chairman of the management committee. He was always Ronnie—his real name—to his friends.

Kevin Whately was joined in that production by Christopher Fairbank who played Mercutio. He too went on to appear in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet as Moxie. He's from Hertfordshire but can do a brilliant NE accent, as his appearances in TV shows like Vera show. He too has taken part in many of the Sunday for Sammy gigs.

The other Shakespeare was a production of Julius Caesar, directed by Bill Alexander, which featured Anton Lesser as Mark Antony.

Lesser, who comes from Birmingham, is now known for—among others—Qyburn in Game of Thrones, Thomas More in Wolf Hall, Harold Macmillan in The Crown and Chief Superintendent Bright in Endeavour.

These are the ones who stick in my mind, partially because they made a huge impression on me at the time—they are all fine actors—and partially, it has to be said, because Shakespeare does stick with me longer than most.