As someone who loves Christmas and all its trimmings, I’m usually reluctant to look past Twelfth Night when it comes to planning ahead.
But the unveiling of Live Theatre’s January to June season has got me, and doubtless many others besides, opening our 2015 diaries early.
And while my late, lovely Nan would be telling me that this represents a cast iron route to bad luck, I would have to disagree.
Because not only has it given me lots to look forward to, it has also solved a number of ‘what can I buy?’ Christmas present problems too, so I’d like to offer a personal note of thanks for that.
Although there is much to get excited about in the upcoming programme, my eyes were immediately drawn to Paddy Campbell’s next project, Day of the Flymo.
Having enjoyed more than a year of award-winning success with his full-length debut, Wet House - a brilliant play set in a hostel for alcoholics which enjoyed two runs at Live and a critically-applauded residency at the Soho Theatre in London - Newcastle-based writer Paddy has written a play about the care system for the venue’s Youth Theatre.
It will be performed from April 8 to 11, 2015 by a five-strong cast.
“I’ve done quite a lot of work with Live’s Youth Theatre before in smaller projects, so I’m really looking forward to showing my first commission for the Youth Theatre,” says Paddy, who worked in a children’s home for eight years, but has recently decided to commit full time to his writing, thanks to the widespread success of Wet House and the associated opportunities it has thrown up.
There’s talk of a television adaptation of the play, which won three Culture Awards earlier this year, but Paddy is keen to talk about the next project and see what happens.
“I’ve had early conversations, but you never know...” he says before getting back to the Flymo.
“None of this play is set in a children’s home, but it’s looking at the point where social services start to get involved with families and the point where decisions are being made about whether a child should enter the care system.
“There’s things called Section 20 care orders,” he continues.
“I’ve worked with quite a lot of kids under those in the past where the parents still maintain parental responsibility, but they’ve agreed for the children to be looked after by the local authority in a children’s home. It can be quite confusing for everyone concerned.”
Having just delivered draft seven to the play’s director Paul James, Paddy says he hopes it is coming along OK.
“Mind you, Wet House was draft 19 when it was finished,” he laughs.
Paul, who is Live’s associate director of education and participation, says he hopes to bring together existing members of the Youth Theatre with those who have moved on into the professional arena in the cast.
“I just love that narrative and really hope we can make that happen,” he says.
“So we’d have young members acting alongside those who have graduated and are working. We’d like to bring them home like we’re kind of bringing Paddy back to where it all started.”
While Paddy is a writer returning to a familiar stage, a new political play, which will get its world premiere later in April will see Berwick-based playwright, Torben Betts make his Live Theatre debut.
What Falls Apart, which will run from April 22 to May 16 (the eagle eyes among will have realised that the general election will be taking place in the middle of this, which I don’t think is a scheduling coincidence) will be directed by Live’s artistic director Max Roberts.
Set in May 2015, audiences will be invited to meet Tom Savage, an ex-Labour minister parachuted into a safe North East constituency, trying to win hearts and minds as well as an election.
Wrestling with a heady cocktail of mid-life crisis, growing dependency on alcohol and the consequences of supporting his Government’s policies in Iraq, Tom finds himself in a Tyneside hotel bar at midnight with a newly-teetotal barman and a ‘criminally attractive’ woman.
Torben, who moved up to Berwick from London 10 years ago, says: “I came up with an idea and it chimed in with Max’s interest (in doing a political play to coincide with the election).
“It was one of those very rare moments as a writer when everything seems to come together - and people are looking for what you’re writing at the time you’re writing it.”
Max adds: “It was strange because someone had recommended that I see a play Torben had written and then his letter landed at my door. I think this is going to be something which is of huge interest to people.”
As will Rendezvous, a series of five new short plays which have been commissioned to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of novelist, poet and playwright Julia Darling.
All the plays, which will be performed from May 28 to June 6, have been inspired by the work of Julia, who was writer in residence at Live from 2001 to 2003.
Rendezvous 2 will be an evening of poetry, fiction, extracts from her plays and live music presented in association with New Writing North.
Still on the new writing - aren’t they always? - 2015 will see the relaunch of a new look Live Lab programme packed full of opportunities for budding writers, comedians, theatre makers and audiences to get involved.
In January new writing fans are being invited to take part in a week of events to celebrate the re-launch of the talent development element of the company’s work.
Literary manager Gez Casey explains: “Live Lab is an innovative and vital part of Live’s programme offering. Since its launch in 2011 it has attracted some of the most original theatre companies and artists creating work that is bold, ambitious and relevant.”
Celebrations will start on January 25, at 8pm when the popular 10 minutes to… returns with 10 minutes to... Take Off. Five playwrights will be tasked with creating five 10 minute plays responding to the theme of Take Off. Matched with five directors, they will be given just one adrenalin-fuelled weekend to get them rehearsed and ready to perform.
At the same time on January 29, the party continues with the first of this season’s two Scratch Nights, while the following night an official launch event will see some of the UK’s most exciting voices helping out in a night of cutting-edge theatre, spoken word, comedy and music.
Live Theatre’s flagship writing project for secondary schools, Write Stuff also gets a name check in the programme.
On March 5 plays by 13 to 15-year-old pupils from Furrowfield School in Gateshead will be performed for the first time as script-in-hand performances by a cast of professional actors and members of Live’s Youth Theatre.
Combining a healthy mix of comedy and drama this offers a chance for people to support young writers as they dip their toes into the world of playwriting.
Meanwhile on March 14 and 15 the Youth Theatre also get to create what they’re performing with Overload, a series of short imaginative pieces looking at some of the challenges and complexities that face young people in a rapidly changing world.
And in a seamless segue, three shows that were developed as part of Live Lab: Donna Disco by Newcastle writer Lee Mattinson (February 26-28), Fat Man (March 13 to 14) and We Can Be Heroes (April 23-24) all return to the main stage, with Donna Disco kicking off a national tour there.
Although of course best known for what they grow at home, Live has always been a place to see great visiting companies too, and the upcoming season continues this trend.
These include The Paper Birds with their Edinburgh Fringe hit show Broke (February 10-11); The Six Twenty with a double bill of new plays by Robin French: Breakfast Hearts, A Love Story and Choirplay (February 18-19); the multi award-winning Fleabag presented by DryWhite and Soho Theatre (March 3 to 4); the welcome return of Mixtape with two evenings of bite sized theatre inspired by music; writer and performer Hannah Silva with her new show Schlock! (March 21) as well as Open Clasp Theatre Company who have collaborated for the first time with Frantic Assembly on their new play Jumping Puddles (March 24 to 28).
Take a breath. We’re nearly there.
Last but not least, the Jumpin’ Hot Club will be celebrating its 30th birthday by presenting a series of toe-tapping gigs throughout the season as well as a special photo exhibition marking the company’s landmark year.
There will also be a series of comedy gigs including the Live Theatre debut of the Silly Billies (regular gigs starting on February 22) and the return of Gavin Webster’s Northumbrian Assembly Comedy Club, which kicks off on February 12.
You can see why I want Christmas out of the way, can’t you?
For more information about Live Theatre’s January to June 2015 season or to book tickets visit www.live.org.uk or contact the box office on 0191 232 1232.