Theatre Review: Catch-22 at The Northern Stage


From the moment you walk into Stage 1 in Northern Stage Theatre you are immersed in the Spirit of WWII and Catch-22. On the stage sits a large, generic decrepit plane surrounded by debris. It immediately grabs your attention and foreshadows the spectacular and nightmarish nature of the show. For those who haven’t read the book the beginning of the play seems somewhat confusing, adiposity with quick transformations from flight scenes to hospital beds. As the play evolves we understand the plight of lead bombardier Yossarian who wants nothing else than to stay alive, plagued by the death of his former comrade. The decisions of the promotion-seeking Colonol Cathcart prevent this by continuously increasing the number of missions the men need to fly, compromising Yossarian’s and his comrades attempts to stay alive.

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Whilst the show is quite complex with a long second act this is the unavoidable nature of the writing of Joseph Heller. The cast triumphantly take up this challenge and come out on top. Philip Arditti astounds the audience with his portrayal of the half-crazed and incredibly desperate Yossarian. He is supported by the rich talent of David Webber and Michael Hodgson who provide comedic relief throughout the show in their roles as Major Major and Colonel Cathcart respectively. However great praise must be given to Daniel Ainsworth, Geoff Arnold, Victoria Bewick, Simon Darwen, Liz Kettle and Christopher Price in their effortless transformations in the split of a second from one character to another.

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The show is a perfect mixture of hedonism, shown through the surprising dancing talent of the cast through a mix of 1940s dancing, and despair as the second act delves into the mental stress of warfare. The set is inspired, supporting the comedic talent of Major Major who constantly escapes through his window only to be captured by the CID men. The sound and lighting really engender the nightmarish sense of warfare. Whilst the complex time frame adds confusion this is evidently due to the Heller’s script. Overall this is a great performance by the cast and crew and definitely one worth seeing.


Words: Annie Preston

Photography credited to  Topher McGrillis


Catch-22 is showing at The Northern Stage 29th April- 2nd May 2014


Theatre Review: Fabulous Beast return to Northern Stage with a double bill of Rite of Spring and Petrushka.

Michael Keegan-Dolan reinterprets two of Russian composer Igor Stravinsky’s most famous ballets with a double bill of modern dance, here which is presented beautifully by the Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre.

The Rite of Spring was written on the eve of the First World War and the Russian revolution. Its debut performance in Paris 1913 caused a riot in the theatre. Keegan-Dolan’s composition succeeds in shocking its audience as much as the original performance. It is dark, decease violent and savage, click yet beautiful to behold simultaneously.

The men revert to animalistic instincts and a stark contrast between hard masculinity and soft femininity is conjured. The three young girls are dressed in delicate floral dresses and become timidly moving hares, outnumbered by the men on stage. The men become an intimidating force as they don dog’s heads to hunt the three hares and brandish metal blades. Their overpowering presence and murderous intent is made more menacing by their aggressive sexuality. One of the girls is chosen to be stripped down to her underwear by the gang of men and forced to dance herself to death as a sacrifice to the God of spring. The pounding notes of Stravinsky’s score were always meant to be carried out in scenes of a pagan fertility ritual.









The Fabulous Beast dancers consistently capture the energy of Stravinsky’s battering, irregular rhythms. The music at times moves from beat to beat with such impeccable speed that you have no choice but to be carried along and witness the raw violence; as Stravinsky put it himself, “there are simply no regions for soul-searching in The Rite of Spring.”

However, Keegan-Dolan’s vision is a reinterpretation in more than dance style. His work is a feminisation of the original ballet and becomes a story of female empowerment as the sacrificial victim triumphs and lives to dance another say, the hare escapes the ravages of the hunting dogs. It is a bold choice to defy tradition and makes for startling viewing as the men remove all their cloths and pull on their own floral dresses.




Petrushka is a light and airy diversion from the first act. It is a more uplifting story and the characters are ten times more endearing. They develop from puppets simply trying to please their ancestors to become individual humans with their own characters. The atmosphere is more playful and contained. It feels safe and allows the audience to relax in their seats after the fervour of the first half.

However, the contrasting white light, white costumes and white face paint at times seems too blindingly obvious and simplistic. There is not even a little correlation between the two dances that could provide even a tenuous link. They become standalone pieces which you could have viewed on different nights in different theatres. Despite this I left the theatre overwhelmed and impressed by the magic of the two performances.


Keegan-Dolan manages to seamlessly apply a 100 year old dance score to modern dance choreography and create two unique and provocative performances, guiding the audience through a dark, violent storm to emerge into the light.

Alix Pickles


NUTS Presents Laura Wade’s Alice – Northern Stage – 26th February 2014

As the Cheshire Cat cries, “We’re all made here!” the audience are catapulted into the crazy world of wonderland in this excellent interpretation of the classic tale. Alice combines the old and the new to create a show filled with odd and extravagant characters.

In a both hilarious and moving tale, Alice is a perfect show for Newcastle University’s Theatre Society with a cast throwing themselves into their roles.

A brilliant performance lasting the whole show came from Esther Fearn as the title character, giving a new attitude to the original Alice and conveyed a roller-coaster of emotion from the mix of anger and silence at a funeral to self-discovery, providing a poignant end to the show.

A notable mention must go to the fantastic Megan Hindle who showed superb energy as the crazy Duchess and also the Mock Turtle keeping the audience laughing the whole way through.

Also, Christopher Owen gave a flawless performance as the Cheshire Cat, striking a great balance between charm and menace as he crawled onto stage with elegance.

The wonderful partnership of Rachel Smith and Kate Beckwith as Tweedledum and Tweedledee offered another energetic scene that had the audience in stitches.

With a fantastic final night, Dan Galvin and Lexy Phillips should be proud of a cast who brought some extremely complex characters to life and got another semester for NUTS off to a flying start.

Emil Franchi

Theatre Review: The Tiger Lillies at The Northern Stage

“Writing the songs for Lulu was hard; I was drawn into a very dark place. All the characters around her are grotesque, pharm so you have to breathe this putrid air. All I can say is, viagra I developed a profound sympathy for Lulu herself – she has very little choice in what happens to her.” Martyn Jacques

You are not here to simply sit comfortably and feel warm, sildenafil fluffy feelings. That much is clear from the moment you are handed a program with the blunt warning that “It is not a happy or nice story.”  But what else can we expect from The Tiger Lillies who have become known for their cruel black humour. They are a band which seeks to shock, amuse and entertain us with their twisted songs about prostitution, drug-addiction, violence, despair and in this case a brutal murder.

Lulu: A Murder Ballad is based on the story of Lulu, originating in the plays of Frank Wedekind. Lulu is a prostitute who rises through the ranks of society, travelling from Berlin to Cairo to Paris and gradually descending back into prostitution on the streets of London. This Opera North, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Warwick Arts Centre co-production challenges us to question ourselves and ask why we are sat in the audience ready to watch Lulu be used and abused. We are told upfront that she is going to be killed at the hand of Jack the Ripper and throughout the show we feel as though we are being asked if we dare to tap our feet along to the music and be entertained by such a story of squalor and despair.

The Tiger Lillies take centre stage with their array of strange instruments. They manage to create a unique sound perfectly befitting the seedy underbelly of the Victorian streets where Lulu’s story takes place. The haunting soundtrack is created by compiling together the captivating melodies of an accordion, piano, ukulele, Theremin, musical saw and percussion. This hypnotic sound combined with frontman Martyn Jacques’s falsetto narration and heavily-painted, contorted face makes The Tiger Lillies performance irresistible to watch. It is their show and they do a wonderful job of being the puppet-masters who weave Lulu’s story through a theatrical song-cycle of 20 songs and interludes.

The only drawback to this approach is that dancer Laura Caldow (Royal Ballet, ROH, ENO) as Lulu is relegated to the back of the stage for most of the performance. Perhaps this is a perfect metaphor for the dominating male psyche and patriarchal possession pervading the Victorian streets which they are musically narrating. Caldow’s performance in itself was convincing as we watch her be corrupted from innocent little doll to a poised and controlled creature who is educated in attracting the custom of men. As Lulu silently dances and displays her limbs clearly, as if she is a good to be purchased we feel almost guilty and perverted to be watching enthusiastically. She is the all-round performer who can transition from ballet to quickstep and is there to entertain us all.

However, despite the grotesque nature of the story the show feels all too sanitary at its conclusion. Lulu’s murder happens, as the rest of her story has, at the back of the stage. The boundaries could have been pushed further and by the end of the performance we have warmed to The Tiger Lillies as performers and have reclined in our seats perhaps just a little too comfortably.

Alix Pickles 

STOMP! – Sunderland Empire Review

If the theatre starts trembling and people around you suddenly appear to have developed performance abilities by banging their feet and clapping their hands in unison, case there’s one thing for certain: you are watching STOMP!

Hosted in Sunderland Empire Theatre from the 18th – 22nd of February, unhealthy the performance was a great success, showing why this revered show has flourished worldwide. For those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to attend one of the performances, the “Stomps” are a group of actors who share one simple thing: a striking sense of rhythm – combining childlike fantasy with the energy of a million soldiers to deliver the ultimate show!

By experimenting with new and revolutionary techniques and instruments, the Stomps have been refining their performance over the last 20 years since they premiered in Brighton in 1991. The final product is an irresistible combination of sounds and rhythms generated by the use of discarded, daily items: brooms, tubes, lighters, bin lids, helmets, hands, newspapers, oil cans or anything else they can get their hands on!

The whole show demands and grabs your attention thanks to the perfect fusion and alternation of moments of relaxed melodies with ones of explosive beats. This enchantment culminates in the very last 8 minutes, where the real magic plays: the Stomps actively engage the audience in their performance, and the theatre turns into a perfectly coordinated hands choir.

Coordination, rhythm, engagement and spontaneity are their keywords; nevertheless, speaking about “words” may seem redundant when we consider that in 100 minutes of show the actors speak no more than 4 or 5 times!

And while you may think that a non-spoken play may feel long or boring, I can confirm that STOMP! is the most engaging, overwhelming and captivating show of the last two decades!

Review by: Federica Bevilacqua

A night at The Stand with WitTank: The School.

I recently went to the Stand Comedy club in Newcastle and saw the amazing WitTank presenting a sketch called The School. I have to admit that I had never been to see a sketch show before and this one was excellent. It was based on events from boarding schools and although my knowledge on boarding schools is limited, the performance didn’t fail to entertain me.

The comedy was so random but was performed seamlessly. There was also some very humourous improvisation when the performers sometimes forgot their lines and when they brought some of the audience members onstage. I would thoroughly recommend this sketch to anyone who loves a bit of eccentric humour.
The stand comedy club itself was a perfect venue to host the show. Upstairs in the main area, there was a bar where you could enjoy a few drinks and perhaps order some food before the show.  The venue downstairs, where the performance was held, was small but it was the best setting for the show. You were really near the stage so there was no need for microphones and there was no problems with regards to actually seeing what was on stage.

All in all, it was a great night and I would gladly venture there again.

Danielle Nicholl

Competition: Andy Parsons!

He’s a familiar face from appearances on Mock the Week, and now you have a chance to WIN a pair of tickets to see Andy Parsons live at the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre on Saturday 26th October!
Check out the NSR Facebook page to find out how.
Competition closes midday Friday 25th October.  The prize is two tickets to Andy Parsons – I’ve Got a Shed at the Mill Volvo Tyne Theatre, 26th October 2013. The tickets are non-transferable and no cash alternative can be offered. The winner of the tickets must be an enrolled student at Newcastle or Northumbria University. Please see our full competition terms for more details.

The Noise at The Northern Stage

A sci-conspiracy thriller which simultaneously bombards the characters and the audience with not the one noise but a multitude of relentless noises. Made all the more effective as there is no interval.


In their latest strand of work, check that anchors science at the centre of its theatrical plots, illness Unlimited Theatre explores the physical, emotional and psychological effects of sound on human beings. The Noise is penned by Clare Duffy, Jon Spooner and Chris Thorpe.


A boxy stage of dull, wooden planks with sloping sides creates the island of Whitley. A large geometric hanging frame, lit with cold blue lights, juts out to the side of the stage and represents the arrival of a huge iceberg; an iceberg that is to play a part in unveiling a long hidden conspiracy.


The cast of five seamlessly creates the feeling of a small, isolated community where residents are noticeably tense and irritable.


Rachel Gay carries the enthusiasm of 17- year old Charlie well throughout the play. She perfectly portrays the ambition of a young girl determined to find the source of the noise, whilst all those around her are content to drink away the day in the pub and be driven half-mad by the noise.


The only other inhabitant to share her curiosity is her friend and scientist Harry. This scruffy, happy chap is wonderfully played by Jerry Killick who effortlessly transforms himself to take on another role as well. Killick is almost unrecognisable when he switches to represent the smart, aggressive undercover agent who has a tendency to point a gun at anyone who ticks him off.


The production would not be the same without the music which absorbs the audience into a world where your ears are assaulted with an unpredictable rang of noises. Ranging from metallic crashing, eerie whistling to short lived rhythmic thumping notes. Credit to the collaboration with electronic musician Minotaur Shock and UK sound designer Gareth Fry.


The show will continue on after its premiere at The Northern Stage, Newcastle.


Alix Pickles