Spring 2020 at Northern Stage

Published: 11 October 2019
Reporter: Peter Lathan

The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff
The Talented Mr Ripley
Black Water

Northern Stage has announced its spring 2020 season, the start of its 50th anniversary year, with in-house productions and visiting shows from February through to June.

In-house and co-productions

The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff, a new theatrical version of the album by Teesside folk trio The Young'uns, directed by Northern stage Artistic Director Lorne Campbell and co-produced with Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, runs 4 to 22 February. It's a musical celebration of northern working class activism, the true story of one man’s journey from poverty and unemployment in Stockton on Tees, through the Hunger Marches of the 1930s, the mass trespass movement and the Battle of Cable Street, to fighting fascism in the Spanish Civil War.

“The Young’uns have created something both traditional and utterly contemporary,” said Campbell. “This story of a young man from the North East forced to leave his home town to find work and undergoing a profound political awakening as he fights for social justice, opposes fascism, racism and the vested interests of a global capitalist system run amok, could as easily be set today as in the run up to the Second World War.”

From 19 to 28 March, NS Associate Artist Curious Monkey presents Here, a new play by Lindsay Rodden about finding sanctuary in the unlikeliest of places. It stars, Curious Monkey Artistic Director Amy Golding explained, “professional refugee actors and is about four characters from Albania, Angola, Kurdistan / Syria and Glasgow who have ended up living in Byker in 2019. Full of hope and challenges about unlikely friendships and activism and set against the backdrop of austerity in a struggling library, it is also about the power of books. It gives an insight into the city beneath the city that many people exist in, a place many of us are completely unaware of.”

Following on from their sell-out shows Where Do We Stand? and Where Do We Belong?, Northern Stage Young Company presents the third part of their kaleidoscopic view of the state of our nation and asks Where Do We Go Now? from 29 April to 2 May.

Shandyland by Gareth Farr, a Northern Stage co-production with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Oldham Coliseum and York Theatre Royal in association with Echo Presents, Matthew Schmolle Productions and Greyscale, runs 12 to 23 May. It is a story of life, love, death and drink at the heart of a small, northern, family-run pub, and a shout of frustration from an abandoned working class community.

“The play deals with the divisions of a community,” Farr explained, “and shines a light on what is happening within our often-overlooked working class towns.”

Visiting Productions

Highlights include:

The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel, presented by Told By An Idiot (11–15 February), is a nostalgic bio-drama and a hilarious homage to two men who changed the world of comedy forever.

Playing Up, short new plays by emerging NE writers, returns on 14 and 15 February.

The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson (18 to 22 February) broke box office records during its run at London’s Park Theatre. As befits the fastest-moving story of our time, the script will be updated—nightly if necessary—to reflect events.

The Faction revives (14 to 17 March) its sell-out production of Patricia Highsmith’s psychological thriller about ambition, escapism, and murder, The Talented Mr Ripley.

Laurie Sansom’s directorial debut for Northern Broadsides is a rare revival of J M Barrie’s Quality Street (24 to 28 March) which features a commentary from the Halifax Quality Street factory workers, whose own stories of hapless romance and growing old disgracefully give the show a playful Yorkshire twist.

From 31 March to 4 April, Headlong Theatre presents Faustus: That Damned Woman, a radical new reimagining of the Faust myth from award-winning playwright Chris Bush and director Caroline Byrne in a Lyric Hammersmith Theatre and Headlong co-production in association with Birmingham Rep Theatre.

From 21 to 25 April, Frantic Assembly presents the world première of a play about our fragility, resilience and our need for love and forgiveness, I Think We Are Alone, written by Sally Abbott and co-directed by Kathy Burke and Scott Graham.

Rhum & Clay’s The War of the Worlds (16 to 20 June) wrestles with the boundaries of truth in a broadcast of the end of the world, inspired by H G Wells’s sci-fi novel and Orson Welles’s radio adaptation.


On 25 and 26 February, Phoenix Dance Theatre returns with Black Waters which explores the birth of an Indo-Caribbean diaspora for whom 'home' always remained a contested space.

BLKDOG (10 March) is a blend of hip hop dance and physical theatre, exploring the inner battlefield of an ageing artist trying to retain his youth in this Olivier Award-winning commentary on surviving adulthood as a childlike artist.

Northern Ballet presents Little Red Riding Hood (for age 3+) on 15 April at 12:30 and 2:30 and its adult programme (suitable for age 5+) of Amaury Lebrun's new work For An Instant, Morgann Runacre-Temple’s The Kingdom of Back and David Nixon OBE’s Powerhouse Rhumba.

Fierce new moves from fierce new dancers, Rambert2 brings its latest creations to Northern Stage, combining technical virtuosity with raw energy on 9 and 10 June.

The season also includes children’s shows, stand-up comedy and work by Queer artists.