The autumn season at Northern Stage features brand new takes on familiar favourites including a riotous new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a contemporary spin on The Importance of Being Earnest.
Powerful new dramas explore race, the climate crisis, disability, queer politics, and the experience of refugees, alongside family shows and great nights out for fans of dance, comedy and cabaret. Plus another chance to see award-winning and critically acclaimed shows audiences might have missed the first time around, including Pilot Theatre’s stage adaption of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses, balletLORENT’s family ballet Rapunzel and Northern Stage’s magical adventure set on the streets of Newcastle, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Northern Stage Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive Natalie Ibu says, “We’re inviting audiences and artists to Northern Stage to figure out ways through this messy, confusing and ever-changing world we live in, together, with bold new productions about the things everyone is talking about – the climate crisis, race, class, queer politics, disability and the experience of refugees. And because, sometimes, all you can do in the face of the tough stuff, is laugh, we’ve got events that offer pure escapism and a great night out. For anyone who thinks Shakespeare isn’t for them, there is literally no better company than Not Too Tame to make you reconsider – I fully expect to fall back in love with the Bard and I am hyped to be co-producing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with them and Shakespeare North Playhouse. It’s going to be wild! And I can’t wait to see Denzel Westley-Sanderson’s thrilling new take on The Importance of Being Earnest for English Touring Theatre.”
A trio of proudly Northern working-class organisations come together for the first time to present a riotous new production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (29 October-12 November), directed by Matthew Dunster and Jimmy Fairhurst. Not Too Tame is an award-winning theatre company that makes plays for people who feel theatre isn’t for them, and this anarchic new staging takes over the epic space at Northern Stage after premiering at the newly opened Shakespeare North Playhouse in September. The creators promise a show that’s to be experienced, not just watched. Not Too Tame Artistic Director Jimmy Fairhurst explains, “Most people have seen a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but this is a refresh of the real bones, the warts and all of the play. It really speaks to me as a working class person – think Shameless meets Shakespeare; a full-tilt, full-on night out. We want to see how dark we can go, like Nick Cave dark – imagine a music festival at Banksy’s Dismaland bemusement park – and still maintain all the playfulness and celebration, that sense of fun, excitement and entertainment. It’s anarchic, raucous, great night out theatre and we can’t wait to welcome North East audiences into our world.”
English Touring Theatre and award-winning director Denzel Westley-Sanderson breath fresh new life into Oscar Wilde’s sharpest and wittiest comedy, The Importance of Being Earnest (4-8 October). This new retelling brings warmth, relevance and unique insight to Wilde’s classic satire about dysfunctional families, class, gender and sexuality. Following the recent announcement that Denzel Westley-Sanderson had won the Royal Theatrical Support Trust Sir Peter Hall Director’s Award, ETT Artistic Director Richard Twyman said, “We’re delighted to be working with Denzel on his production, in partnership with Leeds Playhouse and the Rose Theatre. He’s an intuitive, playful, and visionary director and we can’t wait to see what he will do with this iconic text.” Denzel Westley-Sanderson added, “I’m honoured to have received the RTST Sir Peter Hall Director Award. Touring is such a vital part of the theatre industry, and I’m excited to be a part of that with The Importance of Being Earnest. Expect all the sass, shade, and wit this play has to offer.”
Visiting companies include multi-award winning Fat Rascal Theatre with their hit parody musical Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch (20-24 September) – the untold story of legendary queer queen, Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid. Pilot Theatre return with their critically acclaimed stage adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s award-winning novel for young adults, Noughts & Crosses (18-22 October) – a gripping Romeo and Juliet story about growing up in a racially and socially divided world. All the Beds I Have Slept In (8-9 September) from Phosphoros Theatre explores the kindness and care experienced by a company of performers who have left their homelands to seek asylum. How to Save the Planet When You’re a Young Carer and Broke (30 September) is a refreshingly loud solo show with loads of fun, music, raw emotions and the rush of taking climate-positive actions into your own hands, from Boundless Theatre. Based on her book, I Am [Not] Kanye West (1 October) by Natasha Brown asks how much of ourselves we are willing to lose in order to win. The final autobiographical show from award-winning artist Scottee, Class (4-5 October) uncovers what it is to be embarrassed about where you’re from, how you can pretend to be posher than you are and why you should never answer the door. Downs With Love (2 November) from Cutting Edge Theatre is a ground-breaking new show described by the Scotsman as “a powerful step forward for people with Down’s Syndrome in Theatre”.
Dance shows include the return of award-winning contemporary dance company balletLORENT with their family-friendly retelling of Rapunzel (29 Sept-2 Oct) by Carol Ann Duffy, and Rapunzel After Dark (30 Sept-1 Oct) – a brand new adaptation exclusively for adult audiences, choreographed and directed by the company’s artistic director, Liv Lorent MBE. International touring company Aakash Odedra Company present Samsara (14 October) – inspired by the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, Kathak, Chinese folk, ballet and contemporary dance come together in a spellbinding dance piece, fresh from its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival, co-presented by Dance City and Gem Arts.
Family shows include The Bird in the Window (15 October) – a joyous energetic rollercoaster of a show, co-written and directed by Umar Butt and Jameela Khan for for age 5+. The Gingerbread Man (25-30 October) is a spooky Halloween treat for under 7s and their families featuring live music and puppets. An immersive, multi-sensory journey of friendship and fun from Toucan Theatre, The Naughty Fox (10 November) is for young audiences with profound, multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). Family theatre specialists Kitchen Zoo (WOLF!, The Three Bears) are back with a brand new festive show especially for little ones – Hey Diddle Diddle: A Christmas Spectacular (19 November-8 January) brings together all your favourite nursery rhyme characters. And The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (3 December-7 January) returns to cast its magic this Christmas, putting a modern Northern Stage spin on a classic tale written by Laura Lindow, directed by Maria Crocker and with original music by Katie Doherty.
Comedy includes five-star, award-winning, all-female improvised musical comedy show Notflix (1 October), Edinburgh Comedy Award-winner Sofie Hagen with her new show, Fat Jokes (11 October), and North East improv legends The Suggestibles return with their Christmas night out, Impro Pantso (15-16 December) – performed on the set of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
New shows from North East theatre makers include Mother’s Ruin (16 September) – a funny, heart-warming, gin-soaked exploration of modern-day motherhood, full of original live music from Northern Stage NORTH supported artist, Jenni Winter. Blowin’ a Hooley present Notice to Move (12 November) – a new show created with North East Armed Forces community, accompanied by a panel discussion and an exhibition of veterans’ writing and artwork. And Curious Arts are back with Northern Stage is Curious (15 October) – an evening of comedy, theatre and performance from established and emerging Queer Northern talent.
Northern Stage remains committed to making its programme as accessible as possible, including captions, audio description, BSL at live events and relaxed approaches to the programme and time frames for workshops, plus Northern Stage at Home allows people to watch Northern Stage productions at a time or place that better suits them.
Tickets for shows start from £10 and go on general sale from 6 June, with pre-sale tickets available to Northern Stage members and supporters from 23 May. For more details and full listings visit northernstage.co.uk