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A varied and diverse new programme at Live

Published: 26 January 2019

Newcastle’s Live Theatre announces a wide ranging programme, the first from new Artistic Director Joe Douglas, which runs from February to October.

There are in-house productions (including a “by popular demand” revival), co-productions, visiting shows and special events. There’s work from new writers, from the Youth Theatre and from Northumbria University’s Acting and Performance course and a book launch, not just a book-signing but also a conversation between the (former politician) author of a post-Brexit political thriller and a playwright who is adapting his previous novel for the stage.

In-house productions

From 21 to 30 March, there’s the annual Elevator Festival of new writing. We previewed this, with full details, earlier this month.

Locker Room Talk (17 & 18 April) is a rehearsed reading of a new play by Gary McNair who interviewed hundreds of men across the UK and asked them to talk about women—locker room talk. Now, after #metoo and #TimesUp, his verbatim play is performed in public for the first time—by women.

Shine (2-11 May) tells the story of Kema Sikazwe, who writes the script, lyrics and music—and performs. He was three when his family moved from Zambia to the West End of Newcastle. He has an African heritage but he’s a Geordie. Who is he really? What makes us who we are? Are we in control? Or is our DNA?

28 July sees another 10 Minutes to…, in which writers are invited to submit 10-minute plays on a specific theme. For this session, the theme is “stake a claim”.

From 19 September to 12 October comes the revival of last year’s smash hit Clear White Light by Paul Sirett, inspired by the songs of Alan Hull and The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe.


The season opens (6-23 February) with Live Theatre, Tamasha and Kiln Theatre's co-production of Middlesbrough-born Ishy Din’s Approaching Empty. Set in the North of England in the aftermath of Margaret Thatcher’s death, the play lays bare the everyday struggles of a post-industrial generation of British men.

Land: Beating the Bounds (29 May – 1 June), a co-production between Live and Northumbria University Acting and Performance course, explores our relationship to land in the 21st century and beyond. It is written by Chinonyerem Odimba, writer in residence at both Live and Northumbria Uni.

Appropriately, the next co-production (12-22 June) is the National Theatre of Scotland, Dundee Rep and Live Theatre production of John McGrath’s The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil, the iconic 7:84 Theatre Company play built around the traditional Highland Ceilidh and looking at the history of Scotland from the Highland Clearances to the North Sea Oil boom. This production was originally directed by Joe Douglas in 2015 at Dundee Rep and is now revived by NTS for a further tour of the Highlands and Islands with its one and only English date at Live.

Ask Me Anything (11-13 July) is a co-production with The Paper Birds. It’s a “loud, live, love song to being a teenage girl. The Paper Birds asked young women of today to “ask us anything” and this is the result: an immersive theatre experience set in “myriad teenage girls’ bedrooms with music, movement and mayhem.” (These are preview performances.)


Our City Our Story (7 March between 1:00 and 6:00) is an event, organised by City of Dreams, which will fill the building with films, music, maps, poetry, Instagram soundwaves, theatre, art, virtual reality, and more—all made by young people, about young people.

There is something to see from every corner of NewcastleGateshead. Each tells a different story. Together they show what really matters to under-25s on Tyneside. There will be an exhibition in the rehearsal room, short films in the studio, installations in the Undercroft, and performances in the theatre. Guided tours are available throughout the afternoon from the Young Champions. This is a free, drop-in at any time event.

The Friends of Harry Perkins is a new political thriller novel by former Sunderland MP Chris Mullen, the sequel to his best-selling 1982 novel A Very British Coup which was made into a TV mini-series in 1988. At this launch event at 6:00 on 15 April, he will be in conversation with playwright Janet Plater, whose father Alan Plater did the original TV adaptation of A Very British Coup and who is herself working on a stage version for Live.

Live Theatre Is Curious on 30 June, short performances and presentations LGBTQ theses through the eyes of 14- to 25-year-olds.

The GemArts Masala Festival concludes with the Mini Mela on 21 July between 11:00 and 3:00 in the Live Garden. Admission is free.

Visiting Productions

There are seven visiting productions in the season between March and October:

  • Mark Thomas presents Check Up: Our NHS@70 (5-7 March)
  • Box of Tricks presents SparkPlug, an exploration of family, race, identity and love (14-16 March)
  • In DUPed, Ambergris explores the legacy of Rev Ian Paisley and the DUP (2-3 April)
  • Eclipse Theatre Company, Bristol Old Vic and Hull Truck present Princess and the Hustler by Chinonyerem Odimba, Live’s writer-in-residence. In 1963, 10-year-old Princess wants to win the Weston-super-Mare beauty contest and finds out what it means to be black and beautiful. (9-13 April at 5:00)
  • Drip, a one-man musical comedy. 15-year-old Liam signs up for a synchronised swimming team to help his best mate Caz. Unfortunately he can’t swim! (23-26 April)
  • Hope Theatre Company’s The Boy with the Deidre Tattoo (6-8 June) tells the story of Martyn Hett who was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017.
  • It’s True, It’s True, It’s True tells the story of the trial in 1612 of Agostino Tassi for the rape of painter Artemisia Gentileschi. (22-23 October)

Peter Lathan