STAGE REVIEW: Limelight @ Theatre Royal, Newcastle (10.04.24) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photographs taken at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Charming, relatable and polished, Janet Plater’s Limelight is a wonderful piece of theatre, engaging a nostalgic tone throughout (yes, Newcastle is definitely better than London). Yet it delivers well beyond that, with a charismatic cast providing the engine to a Newcastle centred chassis.    

As with all special things, this was conceived by accident. Playwright Janet Plater shared with us that she had discovered the story of a Miss Julia St George whilst researching for another play in a popular North East bookshop.

Miss Julia, a talented Geordie vocalist and actress ‘of the highest order’ stalked the stage in the 1850’s, and she returns to the Theatre Royal in Plater’s conception.

Immaculately embodied by Rebecca Withers – who glides with the ease of someone who has been performing for the last 170 years – Julia meets her supporting actors Emily (Danya Dixon) and Fanny (Caitlin Fairlamb), as they prepare for her performance.

Together they sing, they dance, they gossip and they cry. It’s an endearing watch, driven along by the razor-sharp definition each actor gives to their character. Fairlamb provides an endearing sweetness and comedic undertone throughout, whilst Dixon explores her own (real life character) with punchiness and aplomb. There may be “an actor under every hedge”, but these ones need no alternates.

The burgeoning chemistry between the trio is a treat to witness as the play flows on. This peaks with their excellent vocal harmonies during the play’s musical pieces, which far from feeling clunky or out of step, feel organic and well crafted. Of course, significant credit must also be given to director Christine Berriman Dawson and the composer Wilf Stone in this regard.

Debuting to a star-studded North East audience, Plater’s Limelight shines brightly as it explores the themes of 1854 as well as those that feel face-slappingly relevant today (as any opportunity-deprived North East artist or performer will attest to). Hopefully the next 170 years will be different, but in the meantime, Limelight makes an empowering start.

Limelight is performed at Theatre Royal, Newcastle until Saturday 13th April, then Gala Theatre, Durham on Tuesday 16th April; Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham on Wednesday 24th April; Arts Centre Washington on Thursday 25th April; Saltburn Community Theatre on Saturday 27th April; The Exchange 1856, North Shields on Wednesday 1st May, Alnwick Playhouse on Thursday 2nd May and Gosforth Civic Theatre, Newcastle on Saturday 4th May.

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