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Amateur dramatic societies ready for New Year

A NEW year dawns and the amateurs are preparing to slap on the greasepaint.

The cast of Dryburn Theatrical Workshops Aladdin
The cast of Dryburn Theatrical Workshops Aladdin

A new year dawns and the amateurs are preparing to slap on the greasepaint. DAVID WHETSTONE looks at what am dram societies have in store.


NORTH East writers David Cosgrove and Ray Lowry have crafted a new script for the company’s panto, Robinson Crusoe.

In Daniel Defoe’s classic tale, Crusoe sails from Queen’s Dock in Hull. In this version for Tynemouth’s panto cast, the action has been moved further up the coast.

This isn’t too far-fetched. After all, there’s a blue plaque commemorating Defoe’s time in the North East at Gateshead Quays.

It explains that the author, and also “prolific journalist, pamphleteer, author and sometime merchant adventurer and government spy”, lived in the town from 1706-10 and is believed to have lodged at Hillgate.

One thing Defoe didn’t give us was a character called Chrissie Crusoe (played by a bloke, Kevin Bradley) and oodles of slapstick.

It’s all there in the Priory Theatre panto which runs from January 11-20. Tickets: 0191 292 9292.


Also raising the curtain on a post-Christmas panto, Aladdin, is the company which was formed in 1978 by staff at the old Dryburn Hospital in Durham.

It now has nearly 50 members, aged 12 and upwards, and a hard-earned reputation for developing young talent and high production values.

Chairman Malcolm Quinn says: “Aladdin is one of those ‘bigger than life’ pantomimes which provides the chance for everyone to escape into the magical world of Arabian Nights.”

He adds that it is also a chance to have fun with a traditional story and an a new and exciting script.

The show opens tomorrow at the Park View Theatre Complex in Chester-le-Street and runs until Sunday. Tickets from 0191 388 3362 or general@dryburntheatricalworkshop.co.uk


The company enters its 65th year with open auditions for its next production, The Sound of Music, which is to be staged at the Theatre Royal from August 27-31.

The first, to find Maria and Baron Von Trapp, will take place at the Grey Street theatre on February 3 at 9.30am.

The second, to find six of the Von Trapp children, will be at the Robert Stewart Memorial Church, Wingrove Road, Fenham, on March 2 at 9.30am.

Details and application forms from www.newcastletheatreco.net

The Sound of Music was the last collaboration of Rodgers & Hammerstein. Oscar Hammerstein died a few months after the Broadway premiere in 1959.


The company begins 2013 with a production of The Day After The Fair, Frank Harvey’s adaptation of a Thomas Hardy short story.

A chance meeting at the fair between Anna Dunsford, a servant girl, and Charles Bradford, a young barrister, leads to serious consequences for them and others.

When Charles returns to London, semi-literate Anna asks her mistress, Edith Harnham, to carry on a correspondence with the young man on her behalf.

Perhaps you can guess the outcome.

The Royalty, which opened in 1925, stages seven productions each season.

This one runs from January 22-26. Tickets from Sunderland Tourist Information Centre on 0191 553 2000 or via www.royaltytheatre.co.uk


Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is the spring production due on stage at the Gala Theatre from February 5-9.

The story tells of Benjamin Barker, alias Sweeney Todd, who returns to Victorian London 15 years after being transported on trumped up charges.

When he finds his wife killed herself after being raped by the judge who transported him, he vows revenge. Teaming up with a pie-maker, Mrs Lovett, he opens a barber’s shop where the customers will provide the filling for the lady’s wares.

Anthony Smith, who first joined the company in 1976 and was in Sweeney Todd when the company last staged it in 1991, plays the demon barber while Eileen Glenton plays Mrs Lovett.

Fred Wharton directs the show and the musical director, striving to do justice to Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics, is Steven Hood, with choreography by Janet Dixon.

Tickets: 0191 332 4041.


In 1997 Gateshead-born playwright Peter Straughan won the annual People’s Play Award for A Rhyme for Orange.

He then went on to Hollywood and a Bafta for Tinker Tailor Solder Spy.

Peter has allowed the People’s to stage his black comedy Bones – first performed at Live Theatre – from June 18-22.

Set in the 1960s Gateshead underworld, it tells what happens when one of the Kray twins is accidentally kidnapped.

The People’s new season begins with an epic, King Lear, which opens on March 12.

After that come The Killing of Sister George, by Frank Marcus (April 16-20); Prisoner of Second Avenue, by Neil Simon (May 7-11) and the North East regional premiere of Joanna Murray-Smith’s Bombshells (May 21-25).

Riding in late on the Calendar Girls craze, the People’s present their production from July 16-20.


Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical is the spring challenge for the West Enders.

It’s an adaptation, of course, of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, published in 1886.

The show, with music by Frank Wildhorn and book and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, premiered in Houston, Texas, in 1990 and later ran for more than 1,500 performances on Broadway.

A revival is planned for 2013.

Playing the eponymous dual role in the Newcastle production is Liam Gilbert.

It is being directed by Martyn Knight and will run at the Theatre Royal from April 8-13. Tickets: 08448 112121.


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