My Inspiration: Jake Murray – Reiver – Tales From The Borders | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Elysium Theatre Company is bringing their original production of Reiver – Tales From The Borders on a tour of the North throughout October. Written by Newcastle-based, Northumberland-born playwright Steve Byron, the play is set in the 1500s, when Reivers ‘raiders’ terrorized the ungoverned Anglo-Scottish border. It focuses on three characters, in three separate but interwoven acts, Blackmail, Godforsaken Place and The Widow’s Path that together paint a portrait of a world not unlike our own, in which ordinary people stand up against corruption and injustice.

Ahead of the performances, we catch up with Jake Murray, the artistic director and founder of Elysium Theatre Company, to find out what inspired the production…

Reiver – Tales From The Borders by Steve Byron is Elysium TC’s first piece of new writing to hit the stage. We never intended to do new writing, our original policy was only to do revivals of modern plays and classics, so what made us change our mind?

Two things: first, the Reivers themselves. When I first moved up to the North East my wife told me that the Reivers, the violent, lawless families that terrified the Borders for 400 years and did so much to shape the English-speaking world with their criminal ways. I read about them, was hooked, and became obsessed with bringing them to life. I then worked with North East writer Gary Kitching, who, it turned out, was also obsessed with them. He introduced me to his friend and co-writer Steve Byron, and the three of us started to cook up plans for plays and films about the Reiver era.

Second was Covid. Pushed off the stage by lockdown we at Elysium went online. We produced ‘The Covid-19 Monologues’, 15 new plays rehearsed and filmed online over Zoom. I went to Steve Byron and asked him to write one based on the Reivers. So ‘Blackmail’ was born, which would go on to become a massive hit.

So popular was it that various North East theatres, especially in Northumberland, grabbed at it & asked us to turn it into a stage play. So ‘Reivers – Tales From The Borders’ toured the region last year and to our surprise and delight sold out. Here it is again for its second outing.

What is it about the plays that is exciting? Steve brings the North’s Reiver history to vivid life in all its swashbuckling violence and horror, but sets against it three people who try to stand for right and honour against it. The stories of a farmer, an exiled lawman and a young widow who refuse to be broken by the Reivers don’t just speak of our collective history but also capture the feeling in the country now, of being betrayed by the authorities and having to take our destinies into our own hands. Steve has provided a visceral, thrilling drama that shows how the past speaks to the present and the present speaks to the past, and how the endless battle between good and evil has never gone away.

You can catch Reiver – Tales From The Borders at the following venues:
5 Oct – Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham
6-7 Oct – Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham
11 Oct – Theatre@41, York
12 Oct – Ushaw House, Durham
13 Oct – Amerdale Hall, Arncliffe
19 Oct – Bishop Auckland Town Hall
20 Oct – Alnwick Playhouse
21 Oct – Alnwick Playhouse
24-25 Oct – Newcastle Keep
26 Oct – Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond
27 Oct – The Maltings, Berwick
28 Oct – Grey Village Hall, Sutton on the Forest

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