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Dramatic start to year as Queen's Hall springs into action

Dance, drama, film and music are all on offer in the Tyne Valley. Barbara Hodgson looks at the Queen's Hall's new season

Alex Harvey-Brown - Savannah Photographic 2013 Dracula: upcoming production at Queen's Hall Arts Centre in Hexham, Northumberland
Dracula: upcoming production at Queen's Hall Arts Centre in Hexham, Northumberland

Bite-size chunks of drama are on offer to satisfy the most demanding of theatrical tastes at the Queen’s Hall in Hexham as the arts centre unveils its spring programme.

Among the highlights is a series of five new short plays, three of them produced by the Hexham venue.

They include The Next Train to Depart by North East writer John Challis who received a Northern Writer’s Award from New Writing North in 2012.

Billed as a Brief Encounter for the 21st Century, it tells of a call centre worker and a would-be poet who bond over cold coffee in a railway station.

It opens in Hexham on January 24 before a tour of the region. Look out for an interview with John Challis in The Journal next week.

Geof Keys, artistic director of Queen’s Hall Arts, said: “It’s been great discovering such a wealth of writing talent in the North East.

“John Challis has delivered to us one of the best scripts I’ve read in ages and I’m looking forward to seeing it on stage for the first time.”

The Bite-Size idea comprises short pieces of drama to be enjoyed while dining in the Victorian venue’s new Little Angel Café with a £10 ticket covering the show (there’s also a matinee on January 28) plus food and a drink.

Others in the run are A Dog’s Heart (February 7-8), based on a novel by Mikhail Bulgakov, Love and Red Tape (February 21), a satire about a health and safety crisis aimed at those aged 15-plus; Wishbone (March 7 and 11) about a meeting between Meryl, 40, and Jamie, who’s reeling from a Christmas party; and Never Forget (March 25 and 27) about a woman offered a donor face after an accident.

The Bite-Size plays, each about 40 minutes long, result from an Arts Council-funded project with emerging writers who also include Lee Mattinson, author of Never Forget, and Laura Lindow (Wishbone).

Also destined for the Queen’s Hall’s 350-seat theatre are M for Medea, Half Moon’s retelling of the Greek tragedy about jealousy and betrayal; Dracula, by Blackeyed Theatre, who blend Bram Stoker’s Victorian Gothic horror with contemporary touches; Kidnapped, from Greenwich-based Sell a Door Theatre, a family adventure about a shipwreck survivor in the Scottish Highlands; and Reform Theatre’s award-winning My Romantic History about a couple who click at an office party but can’t escape the ghosts of past relationships.

Musical offerings cover a broad spectrum. Community and traditional nights, including North Pennines Young Voices and Hexham & District Music Society, sit alongside classical, jazz and opera. Opera della Luna’s high fashion-inspired version of The Mikado rubs shoulders with a gig by Celtic band The Outside Track.

The upcoming Young Farmers’ Entertainment Competition will no doubt reveal some hidden local talent while the Queen’s Hall’s film programme will include the seventh D’Oscars Open Film Festival, featuring shorts from the North East and Cumbria made by people with learning disabilities

Besides shows for children, there will be dance for all, from flamenco courtesy of Juan Martin to Northumberland Pulse Dance Platform, a showcase for local talent, and ultra-modern Riots, a Dance City commission.

Queen’s Hall itself manages the Northumberland Dance Hub, a programme of community and after-school dance, as well as delivering workshops and performances to local communities via its outreach programme.

It is also home to international touring company Théâtre Sans Frontières and two galleries whose new season exhibitions include Scanning Falstone Show (January 18 to March 1), resulting from a project using 3D scanning technology and, running concurrently, The Allenheads Moving Image Archive, a sample of films made by local people.

On Valentine’s Day, Gallery One will host World Sound for Peace Day, a noon drop-in session inviting visitors to create a Sound Lounge using gongs, Tibetan bowls, cellos and voices.

In March the Hexham branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild will be celebrating its 20th year with an exhibition called Colours of Northumberland and the 110th Tynedale Music Festival, which is free but ticketed, will take place.

For ticket details call 01434 652 477, email boxoffice@queenshall.co.uk or log on to at www.queenshall.co.uk

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