Production Companies

In these desperately straitened financial times (where have I heard these words before recently?), it is surprising how many venues there are now for very small-scale productions from (usually) young companies.

We’ve already mentioned Alphabetti in Newcastle and ARC in Stockton but there’s also South Shields’ Customs House with its Studio and Community Room, Hartlepool Town Hall Theatre, the Henry Travers Studio at The Maltings in Berwick, Arts Centre Washington and a few others, along with, of course, Stage3 at Northern Stage, the area which was the foyer, box office and bar in the original building but is now host to a wide range of small productions, some of which are really pushing the drama envelope. And it would be wrong not to mention the Studio at Live, which, through Live Lab, plays (and has played for many years) an important role in the development of new theatre in the region.

There have been so many of these home-grown small productions that it has been impossible to see them all. Some, in fact, I don’t hear about until afterwards, which is sad.

The most prolific of the small companies has been Whitley Bay-based Cloud Nine which presented no less than three productions during the year: The Sisters / The Battling Ettricks in January; A Parcel for Mr Smith (May) and The Stolen Rubber Band (October). These were all performed in the Low Lights Tavern, a tiny pub in North Shields, at the Surf Café in Tynemouth and in other venues in Whitley Bay.

This year Open Clasp collaborated with Frantic Assembly on their latest production, Jumping Puddles, which, as usual, dealt movingly and effectively with women’s and girls’ issues and toured to eighteen venues across the region.

The company’s 2014 production, Key Change, was revived for the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe where it not only got four and five star reviews but was also awarded the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award, which involves a transfer to the off-Broadway New York Theatre Workshop from 6 to 31 January 2016.

In fact a number of NE companies made their way to Edinburgh in 2015, mainly to Northern Stage’s Summerhall venue. Most only stayed for a week but some managed to find the money to stay for the full festival. They included Button Box Theatre, Mixtape, Zendeh, Tartan Socks Theatre and The Letter Room.