Janet Plater
CaroleW Productions
Newcastle Theatre Royal Studio

Listing details and ticket info...

Dayna Dixon, Caitlin Fairlamb, Rebecca Withers

It’s not often I review theatre rather than dance, so I was excited to attend Wednesday’s performance of a completely new play, Limelight, written by Janet Plater (Haddock and Chips) and directed by Christina Berriman Dawson.

The small but atmospheric stage is lit by candles, a woman leans sadly against an iron girder, part of the theatre itself. She calls out the name Emily and we transition to backstage at the theatre—it's October 1854, Newcastle. Actresses Emily Saunders, played by Dayna Dixon, and fledging actress Fanny Young, played by Caitlin Fairlamb, await the arrival of Julia St George, a Newcastle actress, now a London star, played by Rebecca Withers.

The lead-up full of local chatter, a dead baby, the actors and so on and Fanny’s palpable excitement is interrupted by Julia’s arrival, tired from the long London journey. There’s much banter, storytelling, some ‘rehearsal’ and some wonderful original songs with music composed by Wilf Stone.

This is a fast-paced script, well directed with good movement and great songs. Plater’s knowledge of local history is formidable, and there’s a strong sense of camaraderie and shared dreams. Real people and places fill the script, creating a wonderful backdrop of late 19th century Newcastle and women’s position in it. The scene after the 'performance' when Fanny's been splattered by the audience resonates, as does the story of the Kemble couple!

The first act includes a dark revelation and culminates with the terrible Quayside fire, again a real event shown through a lighting change and Emily and Julia’s fear for Fanny, who has gone to meet her admirer there.

The 2nd act starts with the aftermath of the fire and the many tragic deaths; then the play shifts to some years later, probably ten, where Emily’s dream to work in America has come true. The fate and lives of Fanny and Julia are revealed, although I won’t reveal their futures!

Then, abruptly, it’s all over.

Limelight is well written, well-paced and enjoyable; the set works well, creating atmosphere, as does the simple but effective lighting. It’s funny and heart-warming. However the darker, sadder, more tragic aspects could have had more performance and directorial guts and depth, taking us further into the difficulties and sorrows of these women’s lives.

I wondered too if it could be played without an interval. But an enjoyable night out in a great location. We are lucky indeed to have the beautiful Theatre Royal on Grey Street.

Limelight was sold out, and you can catch it on its North East tour, which ends on 4 May 2024.

Reviewer: Dora Frankel

*Some links, including Amazon,,, ATG Tickets, LOVEtheatre, BTG Tickets, Ticketmaster, LW Theatres and QuayTickets, are affiliate links for which BTG may earn a small fee at no extra cost to the purchaser.

Are you sure?