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This gem highlights need for funds

Hansel and Gretel, Northumberland Theatre Company, on tour.

Hansel and Gretel, Northumberland Theatre Company, on tour.

For a company whose regular Arts Council funding comes to an end in the spring, there is little sense of pessimism at its Alnwick Playhouse headquarters.

“We are very positive and we’re determined to perform,” says Gillian Hambleton, NTC’s guiding light for 20 years.

“We are passionate about what we do and we believe in what we do. The support we have had from audiences has been astonishing.

“People have been telling us they can’t afford to lose this company.”

NTC reaches parts of the region other professional theatre doesn’t reach – places such as Kielder village, from where a trip into Newcastle is not undertaken lightly.

“If we stop going to places like Kielder, there will be children growing up who simply never see any professional theatre at all,” argues Gillian. So, despite the fact that NTC got £313,000 from the Arts Council this year – 65% of its income – and is set to get nothing next year, the mood is brave and breezy.

Applications are being submitted to trusts and foundations, a Friends organisation has been set up and any donations are gratefully received.

In fact, donations of around £2,500 have already been received from NTC’s many well wishers in a North East catchment area stretching from Berwick in the north, Greenhead in the south and Haltwhistle in the west.

And, as I write this, news comes from NTC that the Foyle Foundation is to donate £20,000 towards core costs.

What will we be losing if NTC goes under?

Well, shows like this one, for a start. I saw Hansel & Gretel with a class or infants – other school parties having pulled out due to the recent public sector day of action – and we all had a tremendous time.

This is a demonstration of what four talented actors can do with some colourful props and costumes, and a mountain of imagination.

Playwright Mike Kenney’s version of the famous story is slick and funny and the cast – Louis Roberts as Hansel, Rachel Gay as Gretel, Justine Adams as Mum and the witch and Marvyn Dickinson as Dad and the mouse (it is a large mouse) – expend a great deal of energy in its telling.

While the big theatre panto spectaculars tend to hog the limelight, I’m convinced that this sort of close-up physical storytelling is just what small children love – and what they love, their families love, too.

Hansel and Gretel is in Bamburgh tonight, Whalton tomorrow and all over the place. best check www.nothumberlandtheatre.co.uk

David Whetstone


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