FEATURE: ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular


Reece Connolly’s Antichristmas at Laurel’s in Whitley Bay sees two down-on-their-luck millennials cut a deal with a shifty looking fella in a red suit and beard, who offers them a pile of never-ending cash in return for helping to deliver a very special baby into the world…what follows is a “very weird and pretty dark comedy” which takes in the impending apocalypse and the true meaning of the season (8-11 Dec). There’s further unusual tales of the Big Man himself at Alphabetti, as store worker Nadia copes with demanding customers, minimum wage, no time off, zero hours contracts and a terrible boss on Christmas Eve. As the elves stage a riot, Santa Must Die! is a show about finding joy in unexpected places and how it’s really shit when Christmas is all work and no play (16-31 Dec).

If it’s a lavish production you’re after, look no further than Northern Stage’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a magical new adaptation by Laura Lindow of the classic tale; set on the streets of Newcastle, audiences will be wowed by puppetry, live music written by Katie Doherty, magic and illusion as they follow the adventures of Hatty Rabbit who has been invited to interview for a sorcerer’s apprentice (until 31 Dec). It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Scrooge or two, and Arts Centre Washington oblige with their take on A Christmas Carol, created by live storytelling duo The Book of Darkness & Light (16 Dec).

For some adult-themed fun, get yourself to Bonnie & Fanny’s gaff (otherwise known as Live Theatre) for a collaboration like no other as comedy troupe Your Aunt Fanny and drag trio Bonnie & The Bonnettes team up for their legendary Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular. Prepare for the unexpected, with sketches, lip-sync, dancing and a fair amount of raucous bad behaviour (1-23 Dec).


There’s festive fun for all ages as Sammy Dobson, Lee Kyle and Hannah Walker offer up a family variety show at The Stand, which promises songs, stand-up and sketches with an alternative twist (18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 29, 30 & 31 Dec). Another regional comedy favourite comes in the form of The Suggestibles’ Impro Pantso at Northern Stage; proudly proclaiming ‘no script, no score, no kids’, the legendary improv troupe will take a hilarious epic misadventure on the venue’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice set (16-17 Dec).

South Shields’ Customs House plays host to the much loved Jason Cook’s Christmas Comedy Club, where you could expect to see huge TV names, daft guests and a few surprises along the way (20 Dec). Comedian Aidan Goatley presents a heart-warming stroll through his 12 Films of Christmas at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, which have helped to shape his love of the festive season. Certain to warm the heart of even the toughest Grinch (13 Dec).

New comedy kids on the block Felt Nowt have shows popping up all over the North East throughout December which would make a perfect Christmas night out, of particular note are the New Act of the Year Competitions at Laurel’s in Whitley Bay (30 Nov, 7, 12 Dec); their new club at Sunderland’s Dun Cow features superb line-ups including Nick Cranston, Kelly Edgar, David Hadingham and host Si Beckwith (10-11 Dec); South Causey Inn in Stanley welcome Mike Milligan, Julie Grady Thomas, Ben Van Der Velde and Gavin Webster (17 Dec) and Carnival Inn in Southwick’s show features Simon Donald, John Whale, Julie Grady Thomas and host Lee Kyle (18 Dec). There’s plenty more on their website too.

Loveable Mackem Matt Reed is as busy as Santa himself this year, hosting several high profile nights across the region. First up is ARC Stockton’s Beat The Gong Christmas Special, where twelve brand new acts go up against the gong and win over the audience (3 Dec); Matt takes on compere duties for Big Mouth Comedy Club’s shows at Middlesbrough Town Hall, where he’ll be joined by musical comedian Christian Reilly and comedy powerhouse Mark Nelson (4 Dec), and award-winning raconteur Larry Dean and one-liner supremo Mark Simmons (18 Dec); while back at ARC he’s at the helm of Catch 22 Comedy Club’s Christmas Special, alongside the twisted comedy of Omar Abid and cocky banter from John Fothergill (10 Dec).

Over at Play Brew Co in Middlesbrough, Ace Comedy Club’s Christmas Night Out sees Teesside-based Irish-Iranian funnyman Patrick Monahan take the headline spot, with supports from Tom Taylor, host James Kilvington and more (17 Dec).


Tyneside Cinema provides a full month of festive flicks. Top of the tree are screenings of old school classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, Meet Me In St. Louis, The Bishop’s Wife, The Apartment, The Shop Around The Corner and White Christmas; there’s family favourites including How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Elf, Gremlins, Home Alone, The Polar Express, Frozen, The Nightmare Before Christmas, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Scrooged, Jingle All The Way, Batman Returns, The Muppet Christmas Carol and, of course, Die Hard. If you’re looking for a gift for that person you don’t really like, you can also buy tickets to The Holiday Popcorn and Prosecco event.

For those looking for a chilled out experience, head to Whitley Bay’s Jam Jar Cinema, where the usual suspects – Arthur Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, Polar Express, White Christmas, Jingle All The Way, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Scrooged – are accompanied by ‘pay as you please’ ticketing options, affordable snacks and a bevy or two.

Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle’s bastion of indie cinema, choose to forgo the cheesy classics and instead offers up a series of socially distanced and subtitled flicks which include Christmas In Tokyo, a festive adventure from celebrated anime director, Satoshi Kon (12 Dec); a relaxed adaptation of CS Lewis’ beloved book, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (18 Dec); and zombie apocalypse singalong Anna And The Apocalypse (19 Dec).

There’s also festive screenings at Gosforth Civic Theatre, including the ubiquitous Holy Trinity of festive movies: Die Hard, Muppet Christmas Carol and Home Alone, among others. Check individual venue websites for all the screening dates.


If it’s a sing-along you’re looking for, there’s a great variety of events looking to bring some festive cheer. Great North Museum: Hancock provide traditional entertainment in the form of their Christmas Ceilidh featuring renowned ceilidh band The Shipsters (10 Dec); it wouldn’t be Christmas without a Baghdaddies Xmas Blow Out at Cobalt Studios – expect a radgy party, lashings of booze and silly hats (17 Dec); while The Cluny welcomes more local favourites in the form of Archie Brown & The Young Bucks (18 Dec) and Martin Stephenson and his musical frolics in that awkward in-between Christmas and New Year time (28 Dec).

If you’re looking for something funky to strut your stuff to, Smoove & Turrell’s Xmas Party at the Boiler Shop also sees sets from Voices of Virtue Gospel Choir and King Bee, making it a must for funk, soul and blues fans (18 Dec). The Smoove & Turrell lads also take their show to the Spiegeltent on Stockton High Street (4 Dec), which also hosts a festive feast of cabaret and variety from Black Cat Cabaret (3 Dec). Over the road at The Georgian Theatre, Andy Jones & Chris’s Christmas Party will feature a piano-based sing-along and acoustic 80s tunes providing a rousing soundtrack (18 Dec); while ARC’s offering sees The Wildcats of Kilkenny celebrate 30 years of Irish-infused Christmas cheer, jam packed with dance and song (16-18 Dec). Also making Stockton the place to be is a lovely gig at the brand new Globe venue featuring Teesside treasures Cattle & Cane, who present a Christmas show which promises to sparkle with their incredible songwriting and magical sound (18 Dec).

Sage Gateshead’s Here For Christmas season includes the rescheduled date for folk singer Kate Rusby (9 Dec); songs and festive cheer from celebrated songwriter Jez Lowe and his intrepid band for a part folk concert, part music-hall revue (17 Dec); or maybe it’s A Jazzy Christmas you’re after? Brilliant local pianist Paul Edis and friends can oblige (22 Dec).

Coming from left-field, expect wonky vintage synths, doo-wop and a bit of rockabilly from Teesside oddballs Old Muggins at Eaglescliffe’s Waiting Room (22 Dec); there’s more odd-pop from Head of Light Entertainment at Tynemouth Social Club, at a gig which also features local songwriter Sarah Holmes (17 Dec); sounds of the electronic underground come courtesy of the Method Radio crew and their Christmas Party at The Tanners Arms, which also features live art and fire dancing (11 Dec). Bursting with local talent, Middlesbrough’s Base Camp usher in a Xmas Nightmare, put together by post-punks Casual Threats, and also featuring The Shakin’ Nightmares, Marines, Rudi Beatamax and Mally (17 Dec); and at Westgarth Social Club the annual Idiot Savant Christmas Band return for their annual pageant with support from fellow Teesside legends Pellethead, Nel Unlit and Faithful Johannes (17 Dec). After the Big Day has been and gone, there’s still the 15th anniversary of the Boxing Day Big One at The Studio in Hartlepool to look forward to, with sets from respected local artists including Leopard Rays, Marines, The Warrens, Ocean Floor, Market Place and Giraffes (26 Dec). Also containing a selection box full of regional goodies, Little Buildings are raising money for neighbours St. Vincent’s Community Centre, with sets from stoner rockers Dunes, surf band Milk Lizards, noisy upstarts Ballpeen and quirky Hives tribute The B-Hives (9 Dec).

For something entirely different head to Jonny Lee’s Cumbo Christmas Lounge at The Cumberland Arms for an evening of music, drag, dance, poetry, storytelling and advanced silliness from the likes of The Velvet Snatch, Melody Sproates, Ms. Martha Maudlin, Shipcote, Nev Clay, Mushi Mushi, Koo & Co and more, with funds raised in aid of East End Women (19 Dec); if you’re itching to put on your dancing shoes, The Old Coal Yard welcome a queer celebration as Rock n Doris present their Camp Vamps Christmas Party (18 Dec).


There’s a handful of great opportunities to bag some unique gifts at alternative Christmas markets across the region. Of particular note is Sister Shack’s Christmas Market at The Cumberland Arms, which welcomes all kinds of fab indie makers (12 Dec); the Vinyl & Vintage Christmas Market at Tyne Bank Brewery mixes excellent booze with live music, street food and tonnes of records and vintage gear (11 Dec); The Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle features artisan makers and small local businesses at their annual event (17-19 Dec); and the much-loved Orange Pip Market return with their festive edition at Middlesbrough Town Hall, which is certain to contain their usual brand of indie stall holders and live music (18 Dec).

Liven up your work’s Christmas party by shimmying down to Dance City for their Dance-Along Christmas Party, where dance teachers will lead willing participants through beginner-friendly moves to pop classics (11 Dec); or if testing your knowledge of obscure festive tunes is more your bag, head along to Middlesbrough’s Play Brew Co for the Rewind Big Daft Christmas Quiz, complete with Heffe Mojo Street Food and that all important well-stocked bar (23 Dec). Alphabetti Theatre’s Festive Fundraiser Auction may provide one lucky bidder with a gift they can’t refuse, as Gary Kitching and Steve Byron host a festive auction of props, memorabilia and all kinds of weirdness (11 Dec).

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