New theatre, new opportunities

Published: 7 May 2021
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Laurel's Theatre

In 2018, Blyth-born Jamie Eastlake produced Flesh and Bone at the Soho Theatre, a play which went on to win Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre at the 2019 Olivier Awards; now, in 2021, he is opening Laurel’s, a new theatre in Whitley Bay, which will bring “the best of the Off-West End and fringe scene up North and wow the audiences of Whitley Bay and the North East.”

But Laurel's (named after and in honour of Stan Laurel, whose father ran theatres on the North East coast) will do more than bring shows to the region; along with Eastlake’s other new venue in Blyth, Laurence’s Tapas and Entertainment Bar, it aims, he says, “to kickstart careers and create work that launches artists and propels careers. We want to be the first professional paid job for an actor, a playwright’s first commission, a poet's first book launch.

“We will create our own streets paved with gold. Between our space in Blyth Valley and our full operational small-scale theatre in Whitley Bay, we intend to develop the artistic professionals of tomorrow.”

There will be five new programmes:

  • Haway To Do It
    An opportunity for entry level North Easterners to take part in conversation with professional theatre-makers. This introductory step will open up a door in order for those lacking professional credits to take part in conversation with theatre-makers in a Q&A session with Luke Barnes, Sara Joyce, Natalie Ann Jameson & Jamie Eastlake.
    Apply at mailto:[email protected], let them know who you are and what you do.
  • ANY NE Coast
    To launch the theatre space, Laurels wants short plays, no longer than 15 minutes, centred around the idea on the coast to celebrate the North East coast, coastal living and "how we coast through life's troubles". Between 6 and 10 pieces will be chosen to be produced in-house and staged in the summer. There will be a small commission fee, with the potential for further development of the piece. Submissions are open until 24 May.
  • Laurence’s Leveler
    A development opportunity offering cold hard cash and mentorship to several up-and-coming artists within Blyth Valley to support them with an idea, whether that be for screen or stage. Whether you are a writer, an actor, a poet, all artistic disciplines are welcome. Apply via the Laurel's web site.

Two other programmes will be introduced in late 2021 / early 2022:

  • First Credit
    A flagship development programme offers the first paid gig to a full cast and production team. It will provide artists with a two-week run of a brand new piece of theatre with industry and press exposure, as well as their first professional fee. All involved will receive advice, hands-on experience and the opportunity to earn their first-ever professional theatre credit. The application process will open July 2022.
  • Laurel’s Lab
    Laurel’s Lab will be taking open submissions for three strands of development: plays, musicals and comedy. It offers full use of Laurel’s for rehearsals and performances, funding and support from the in-house producing team.
    “We’re particularly keen to hear about work relating to the North East,” Eastlake said, “but if you have any kind of idea unrelated to the North East that you think is great, we still want to hear it!”

Applications should be made via the web site from September 2021.