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Autumn at Northern Stage

Published: 1 May 2019
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Northern Stage has announced its programme for the autumn 2019 season. As well as in-house productions, there are co-productions, visiting companies (including dance companies) and work for children, as well as some evenings of stand-up.

In-house Productions

From 11 to 23 September, following the success of The War of the Worlds in 2018 and revived earlier this year, Northern Stage is to present another new stage adaptation of a literary classic, Douglas Maxwell’s version of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, one of Sherlock Holmes’s best known cases. It will be directed by Jake Smith and performed by four emerging actors from the North East as part of Northern Stage’s talent development programme, NORTH.

This year’s Stage 1 Christmas show, created by the team behind such recent successes as A Christmas Carol, James and the Giant Peach and Alice in Wonderland, will be Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, adapted by Laura Lindow (The War of the Worlds and, most recently for Cap-a-Pie at Alphabetti, Woven Bones). It will run from 30 November to 4 January 2020.


The Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, has partnered with Northern Stage, Bristol Old Vic, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Oxford Playhouse and Nuffield Theatres Southampton to remount Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) in close collaboration with partners of the original production, Tron Theatre (Glasgow) and Blood of the Young. It comes to Northern Stage from 2 to 12 October as part of a national tour.

Six young women have a story to tell. You might have seen them, emptying the chamber pots and sweeping ash from the grate; they are the overlooked and the undervalued making sure those above stairs find their happy ending. Of course, they’ve always been running the show—after all "you can’t have a whirlwind romance without clean bedding"—but tonight, the servants are also playing every part.

“I’d encourage anybody put off by the associated stuffiness or frilly corsetry of the Austen legacy to give this a go—and I’d tell those who love Austen not to worry because we do, too,” said writer-performer Isobel McArthur. “This is a deeply affectionate re-telling of her brilliant, enduring story. This adaptation has gags a-plenty and, of course, karaoke.”

The second co-production, I Have Met the Enemy (and the enemy is us), will be created by site-specific theatre company Common Wealth in collaboration with Hassan Mahamdallie (playwright and campaigning journalist for race equality) and Robbie Thompson (Glasgow-based visual artist) who will create a kinetic, sonic and visual environment that will underscore, disrupt and punctuate the world of the performers.

The performers, Palestinian actor Mo’min Swaitat and former British Soldier Alex Eley, will be joined by a local cast from Byker where Northern Stage is developing a long-term partnership with the local community.

Byker Community Centre will be transformed into a world for the audience to explore, a world charged with light, sound and robotic sculpture, an unpredictable place inhabited by those who have experienced war first-hand. A former soldier and a citizen meet in an intimate and powerful exchange, an attempt to understand each other, questioning whether we can truly understand another person and whether we even want to. I Have Met the Enemy asks us to consider the UK's role in the arms trade and how we are all connected to wars seemingly far away.

This Common Wealth and Northern Stage co-production, in association with Chapter and Southbank Centre, will première at Byker Community Centre from 16 to 26 October before touring in 2020.

At Christmas, for the under 4s and their families, North East company Kitchen Zoo follows up its sell-out 2018 festive production of The Three Bears at Christmas with Wolf! (23 November to 4 January 2020), a wintery adventure to find out what happens when Jack cries "WOLF!"


The major dance show of the season will be Northern Stage associate artist balletLORENT’s The Lost Happy Endings (31 October to 2 November), featuring an original story by Carol Ann Duffy and music composed by Murray Gold (Dr Who, BBC), narrated by Joanna Lumley, with set design by Neil Murray.

Before that, Gracefool Collective returns with This is Not a Wedding (13 and 14 September) in which four bridal-clad women attempt to entertain and maintain their dignity in a last ditch effort to work out what the hell it all means. The company last visited Northern Stage in 2018 with This Really Is Too Much.

Next is choreographer Gary Clarke’s sequel to Coal, Wasteland (25 and 26 September), a story of loss, hope, escapism and survival featuring a community cast of male singers, brass musicians, archive film footage, a powerful rave soundscore and artwork by Jimmy Cauty (co-founder of The KLF).

Visiting Productions

North East artists and theatre-makers include Bonnie and Bonnettes with a brand new show And She (6 and 7 September), Rosa Postlethwaite investigating social conventions in Composed (17 September) and on 3 October in Stage 3 Playing Up 11 presents new writing from the region.

Visiting productions from outside the region include:

  • The UK tour of the parody musical Friendsical written by Miranda Larson (3 to 7 September) fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe. A huge fan of the TV show which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, Miranda Larson is a writer-director for TV and theatre whose recent credits include the adaptation of Tom Fletcher’s Christmasaurus for the Hammersmith Apollo.
  • The Watermill Ensemble's A Midsummer Night’s Dream (11 to 14 September) fuses the sounds of Nina Simone and Billie Holiday with Shakespeare’s comedy
  • From 15 to 19 October, the stage première of Matt Haig’s number one bestseller Reasons to Stay Alive, adapted by April de Angelis and directed by Jonathan Watkins, part of a national tour in a Sheffield Theatres and English Touring Theatre co-production, comes to Newcastle.
  • Status (21 September), written by Chris Thorpe and directed by Rachel Chavkin, is a show about someone who doesn’t want his nationality any more.
  • Pioneering New York theatre-maker Split Britches explores ageing, anxiety, hidden desires and how to look forward when the future is uncertain in Unexploded Ordinances (24 and 25 September).

The programme of children’s shows will be listed separately, as will the list of productions in Stage 3 when it is announced.