My last theatre trip of the year was, somewhat fittingly, to one of the theatres I have spent most time in since I got here, Live Theatre. Christmas Crackers is a portmanteau show – 4 short plays by the theatre’s associate artists – and though it was patchy in places, with some overdone performances, there were flashes of really great writing in there, and overall I enjoyed the warm-heartedness of the piece. Read my review here – and Merry Christmas!
One of the things I really love about my job is it allows me to go places I wouldn’t normally go. Last night was a great example, when I braved the cold to venture out to see a production of A Christmas Carol set in Newcastle’s castle itself.
The company had warned the castle keep was unheated, so to wrap up warm and bring a hot water bottle – a theatrical first for me. So, clad in my giant fake fur coat and a slightly incongruous bright blue woolly scarf celebrating both stormtroopers and a Japanese football team I have never heard of (shut up, it was a gift and I love it), carrying a hot water bottle tucked on my person, I headed into town.
The night started badly – apparently, my sense of direction is so poor I can lose an actual castle, so after wandering forlornly around several dark underpasses I finally accepted the castle wasn’t where I left it. (I was starting to get a bit nervous around all these tunnels, though I figured if I got mugged I could hit any assailants with my hot water bottle, which would at least have the benefit of being unexpected…)
Eventually I got my bearings and found the place, and after a quick pee in nearby pub the Bridge – which I haven’t been to in years! – was led up some steep stone stairs into the hall where the show was performed – an enjoyable mix of striking puppetry, movement and acting that, while not a classic take on the show, was a fun enough watch and certainly worth an hour of my evening, performed by an amiable, energetic company.
Plus, how often do you get to say you spent your Sunday night hanging out in a castle?
It’s been a busy work week for me, but I did manage to squeeze in some socialising (and shopping: I could have happily bought up the whole of Fenwick’s Christmas department…)
First up was A Christmas Carol at Northern Stage, a 20s set take on the story with a great jazz soundtrack. It took a little while to get going and was – as everything seems to be – a bit too long, but once it hit its stride it’s a delight of a show, with some really impressive physical theatre and I particularly enjoyed seeing a classic in my native accent. (Review here).
Next was Mixtape Xmas at Live Theatre. A raucous sorta pop quiz, I went with my friend L as a birthday celebration – although the show could have been much tighter, and some of the audience were frankly a bit twatty, it was good fun and for once my arcane knowledge of 80s and 90s pop lyrics came in handy…
Another week, another trip to Live! This time to see don’t forget the birds, a gorgeous wee play that centres around the relationship between a mother and daughter after the former gets out of prison. Based on a true story and featuring the real-like mother and daughter cast, it’s an absolute gem: catch it at Live or, London types, when it transfers to Battersea Arts Club.
Also it is an hour long, which you know I LOVE.
Back at Live yesterday, as this is a culture heavy week for me. I had really high hopes for the play – an all-woman production – but it ended up being pretty frustrating on a number of levels (see my review here). That said, I’ve had a pretty good run at Live so the occasional disappointment is to be expected, I suppose… and it’s always worth a visit. I did get to see the Christmas lights in town, though…
Back to Northern Stage! This time for a production of Under Milk Wood (and a sneaky portion of chips and garlic bread beforehand). I didn’t love the show as much as some critics seemed to – the video projection seemed gimmicky to me, and
reminded me of those ‘arty’ videos you used to get back in the 80s when bands couldn’t make it to Top of the Pops and video was so new that we would be excited about anything, even if it was just a close up of a boiling kettle – but the performances were a thing of loveliness.
Another day of theatre yesterday – I am rather loving the fact that I am seeing so much. I had a meeting at Northern Stage in the afternoon, where I got to do one of my favourite things (rant about theatre and class) in good company. I hadn’t, however, reckoned with the fact that the theatre is currently showing Dinosaur World Live, so was mobbed with excitable kids. I was actually quite jealous – not only would I love to see a show featuring ‘live’ dinosaurs – but it was only an hour long! I did at least get to see one of the dinos roaming wild in the cafe, which made up for some of the commotion.
Then after a quick stop at Pizza Express on Dean Street – a place I haven’t been since I went on a date there 25 years ago with a bloke who actually fancied my flatmate more than me (good times), I was back at Live Theatre for the press night of Clear White Light. It’s quite an odd concept – a retelling of the Fall of the House of Usher, set against a backdrop of NHS cuts and to a soundtrack of Alan Hull (of Lindisfarne fame) songs, and it took a while to find its feet – the first half dragged a bit (and you know I already think everything is 15 minutes too long), but it bounced back with a very strong second half that had some proper surprises, and the acting was strong throughout. The rousing finale, a song exhorting us to ‘bring down the government’ ended the evening on a high note. (“I think every play should end with an ode to revolution,” said one of my fellow audience members, as we were leaving.
It’s sold out now, so if you haven’t got a ticket you are probably out of luck, but if it does come back or you can get returns, it’s worth catching.