New NE play about Universal Credit to be streamed in September

Published: 4 August 2020
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Laura Lindow Credit: Chris Bishop - picturesbybish
Christina Berriman Dawson
Cooper McDonough

Newcastle-based theatre company Cap-a-Pie will stream Credit, a new play by Laura Lindow based on groundbreaking research into Universal Credit, the latest and biggest change to the benefits system, in September. The play, based on the stories and experiences of people living on Universal Credit which was due to open in Newcastle in April, will now be streamed online. A rehearsed reading will be recorded at Alphabetti Theatre and streamed on 16 September, followed by two online Q&A events.

With many more people moving onto Universal Credit as a result of COVID-19, the issues highlighted in Credit are now more relevant. The panel will include Guardian social policy editor Patrick Butler, Gateshead’s Director of Public Health Alice Wiseman and writer Laura Lindow.

The in-depth study into the rollout of Universal Credit in Gateshead and Newcastle, commissioned by Gateshead Council in partnership with Fuse, the Centre for Translational Research in Public Health, was published in 2018 and is now part of a growing body of research, among the first to focus on the experiences of vulnerable people and advice and support staff in an area where Universal Credit had been rolled out.

Cap-a-Pie has a reputation for creative collaborations with universities and schools and working with academics and experts alongside their local communities. The company's last touring production, Woven Bones, was developed in partnership with archaeologists from Durham University and offered audiences the chance to walk in the shoes of the long lost 'Scottish Soldiers', prisoners of war from the 1650 Battle of Dunbar whose remains were discovered in Durham in 2013. Credit is made in collaboration with Newcastle University, Teesside University, Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, Citizens Advice Gateshead, Your Voice Counts, Oasis Community Housing, Women's Health in South Tyneside, Changing Lives, Larkspur House and Fuse.

“As part of the process for making this show,” director Brad McCormick explained, “we were able to speak to many people who either claim Universal Credit or who work with people who are claiming. Alongside the research, this gave us such a clear picture of the situation that people in the North East are facing under this welfare system and was invaluable in grounding the show in truth. You will see elements of these people's stories in Credit and they are a mixture of fascinating, darkly funny and heart-breaking.”

Credit is written by Laura Lindow (Woven Bones for Cap-a-Pie), designed by Anna Reid (Rattle Snake for Open Clasp & Live Theatre) with sound design by Roma Yagnik (Leaving for Curious Monkey at Northern Stage). The cast are Christina Berriman Dawson (Key Change and Rattle Snake for Open Clasp) and Cooper McDonough, a member of Northern Stage's Young Company and an associate artist with Cardboard Citizens.

The preview and discussions will take place on the Cap-a-Pie web site on 16 September at 14:00 and 19:00.