FEATURE: When The Boat Comes In Part 2 – The Hungry Years @ The Customs House | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Jamie Brown as Jack Ford, in When The Boat Comes In Part 2

The eagerly anticipated sequel to the popular stage adaption of 70’s TV classic When The Boat Comes In will be premiered at South Shields’ Customs House from Thursday 12th-Saturday 28th September. Peter Mitchell, who is the son of the show’s original creator James Mitchell, has written the script and been joined once again by director Katy Weir and the cast of last year’s successful production.

The play returns to Tyneside and the fictional town of Gallowshield during the inter-war period and to the troubled life of flawed protagonist Jack Ford, who is portrayed brilliantly by local actor Jamie Brown. Ford, who finds himself faced with unemployment, financial hardship and personal tragedy, must find a way to survive in the no longer roaring twenties while also dealing with the aftermath of war.

Despite being set over a hundred years ago, the uncanny parallels with the lives of many in the region today and the themes of class divide, economic crisis and political unrest have meant this powerful story of ambition has remained as relevant and poignant for today’s audience.

When The Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hunger Years is at The Customs House, South Shields from Thursday 12th-Saturday 28th September

Q&A with Katy Weir, Director

The strong female characters we were introduced to within the first production are forged as a result of their experiences during the First World War and the campaign for women’s suffrage, what does the 1920’s bring for the women of Tyneside?

In this instalment it feels like there are tough times for everyone. We leave the First World War and enter a social war, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Maybe nothing has changed! The women in When The Boat Comes In Part 2: The Hungry Years support themselves and each other, we see many moments of empathy, generosity and selflessness. The women seem able to put their differences aside in order to fight the societal war they have landed in.

Despite some major advances in the rights of women things were still far from equal at this point in time, was it difficult to get the balance as a director between showing the attitudes and behaviours of the post-war male characters whilst considering the modern values of a 2019 audience?

I think, naturally, as we look to our history there are many things as a woman that I find uncomfortable. However, I do think When The Boat Comes In was ahead of its time in terms of the female characters the show portrayed. You will see in this production that many of the women are at the centre of keeping their families going and I hope that we have the heart of the story and the celebration that we ALL need to join together to succeed.

Was it difficult to pay homage to such an Iconic British TV series whilst putting your own stamp on it?

Yes, I must confess it doesn’t feel as difficult second time around. The TV show has a fond place in people’s hearts, so it is always scary that your interpretation may not be what is in their heads. However, I think with this being the second production we have a theatrical language that works and share the heart of the story in a new and innovative manner.

Q&A with Peter Mitchell, writer

What was it that inspired you to rework When The Boat Comes In now? And do you feel that the story can still be relevant for a contemporary audience?

I don’t think my Dad ever considered adapting When The Boat Comes In for theatre because it had been such a success as a television series. My own feeling was that the characters were so well-defined that it would be an ideal project to bring to the stage. It forged a place in the heart of TV audiences in the 1970s and the Customs House offered us an opportunity to rekindle those memories for those already familiar with it and also to bring the show to an entirely new audience.

This is fundamentally a story of survival; do you see any parallels between the lives of the main character Jack Ford and the Seaton family and those of families in Tyneside today? 

The story essentially revolves around the ‘Haves’ and ‘Have Nots’ and the ability of the protagonist to glide seamlessly between the two in order to achieve what he wants. Economically, the gap between rich and poor is wider now than it has ever been. Politically, the Left and Far Left are still coming to terms with their differences and the country is divided over attitudes to Europe. Technologically, the world is unrecognisable, but there are many of the socio-political parallels remain.

Was it important to you to have the play premiere in South Shields?

South Shields is the natural home for When The Boat Comes In. My Dad was born here and learned about life, work and struggle in the town. This is where When The Boat Comes In was born.



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