INTERVIEW: LIVE THEATRE AUTUMN SEASON | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Kema Sikazwe in Shine

Live theatre is what Live Theatre is all about. So an exciting ‘Back to Live!’ programme is a big deal for the theatre’s Interim Executive Producer Graeme Thompson: “To open our doors again and welcome audiences back is so important because that is what this building is about – people. People together in one space enjoying a show. To get back to Live is to bring life back into this building.”

This exclusive season of Live Theatre productions kicks off on Thursday 2nd September with a new updated version of Live Theatre Associate Kema Sikazwe’s ground-breaking debut play Shine. This critically acclaimed bittersweet coming of age story features an electrifying soundtrack and heartfelt words, and runs until Saturday 18th. From Thursday 23rdSunday 26th September Your Voice North East is a unique collection of seven ten-minute short plays by writers and artists that reflect contemporary life in our region.

Graeme Thompson recognises how important it is for writers and artists like Kema to get back to performing – not just financially, but mentally and emotionally too. “Not being able to do your job is a really difficult thing for anyone to handle,” explains Thompson. “When your ability to work is taken away, and as suddenly as it was in March 2020, it can have a profound effect on your wellbeing and sense of purpose. You’re not able to contribute the thing you do best.”

We may have been away for a while but the determination to bring world class theatre to audiences in the North East is stronger than ever

Next in the programme, from Thursday 7th-Saturday 23rd October is a double bill of debut plays by Live Associate Artists Olivia Hannah and Tamsin Daisy Rees which reflect young female experience in the North East. Braids is a play about a new friendship that ignites a search for belonging and Cheer Up Slug explores boundaries and behaviour. Following that from Wednesday 27th-Saturday 30th October, Lewis Jobson returns with Redcoat, which was first performed as a work-in-progress show as part of Elevator Festival 2020. Expect banging tunes, dance routines, balloon modelling and that extra special Redcoat sparkle.

While many theatre makers took to the internet during lockdown and audiences got used to accessing performances online (which is a good thing and important to continue for those unable to access live performance), Graeme Thompson believes that the live experience is such a powerful event that it’s hard to replicate online. “We have all experienced a great show, gig or football match – to be there in the moment makes you feel part of something. Even if it’s for an hour or two, you, the artists and the audience were all part of something unique. Something no one else has experienced.”

The season continues with a brand new adaptation of Benjamin Myers’ best-selling book The Offing, by award winning playwright Janice Okoh from Wednesday 3rdSaturday 27th November. Paul Robinson directs this unforgettable story of a friendship that conquers the barriers of age, gender and class. 2021 rounds off with the much-anticipated return of the sell-out hit Bonnie & Fanny’s Christmas Spectacular starring sketch troupe Your Aunt Fanny and drag trio Bonnie and The Bonnettes. A celebration of all things cabaret and comedy, it’s the perfect Christmas night out (Wednesday 1stThursday 23rd December).

There’s excitement in the air as Live prepares to open its doors again, a confidence that Graeme Thompson expresses simply:We may have been away for a while but the determination to bring world class theatre to audiences in the North East is stronger than ever.”

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