North East PhD play tours this week

Published: 11 July 2015
Reporter: Peter Lathan

DieHard Gateshead

A women's group is closing. Leslie, the leader, is under pressure. She wants to tell them but things keep getting in the way. Time is running out. If Geordie Bruce Willis can't help, and Noel Edmonds is no good either, who will save the day?

Ruth Raynor’s play DieHard Gateshead is about finding light through the rubble and the mess; it's about avoiding promises of a better life that actually makes things worse and searching for moments of laughter and understanding in the noise and confusion—and it's touring to three venues in the region this week.

Directed by Neil Armstrong, its cast features some of the most experienced actresses in the region: Judi Earl, Zoe Lambert, Arabella Arnott, Jessica Johnson and Christina Berriman Dawson.

“I began this project with an interest in the kind of north east plays I loved, plays like Alan Plater’s Close the Coal House Door, Tom Hadaway’s The Filleting Machine, Lee Hall’s The Pitmen Painters,” said writer Ruth Raynor.

“They were all about work and industry, us and them, when you knew which side you were on and experiences were shared. But I wondered why revive those old plays? And if not, how to make stories about the ways things are now; when people’s experiences of being in work / being out of work often don’t play out in quite the same way?

“A broader research project grew out of those questions. It seeks to understand and communicate women’s lived experiences of austerity in the north east of England.

“While austerity might seem coherent,” she went on, “it affects people differently: it surfaces as a woman is moved from income support to Jobseekers' Allowance, as flowers in a public space are allowed to die, in an empty room and the bedroom tax, in many other places, at many other times, with different degrees of violence.

“This play was developed as part of a PhD in human geography at the University of Durham. It was built with the kindness of a Tyneside women’s group. Participants took part in a range of workshops and interviews and gave feedback on two drafts of the script. Because of cuts and changes to the terms of funding the group is no longer running.”

DieHard Gateshead opens at Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre on Tuesday 14 July at 8PM, moves to Arts Centre Washington at 7:30 on Wednesday and then to the Caedmon Hall in Gateshead at 7:30 on Thursday.

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