Writer and former police officer Arthur McKenzie has ventured off his normal beat with a new play being premiered next week.
It is called GSOH “Would Like to Meet” and it concerns the world of internet dating (GSOH being lonely hearts-speak for ‘great sense of humour’)
Arthur served for 31 years in the police, rising from bobby on the beat in Newcastle’s tough West End to detective inspector, and was also a top athlete, throwing the discus for his country.
Both long careers provided inspiration for his third, for which he is now best known, as a writer for stage and screen.
Arthur started writing in 1979 when on police duty in Hong Kong. His plays include Pickets and Pigs, set during the miners’ strike, and Gym Boy, set in a gym frequented by men of a certain age.
He wrote for long-running TV series The Bill and his film, Harrigan, starring Stephen Tompkinson as a hard-bitten detective sergeant on a North East sink estate, was released last year.
Arthur, who lives in Gosforth and is in his seventies, says of GSOH “Would Like to Meet”: “This play appears to be a step away from the norm but I don’t just write police dramas.
“It came about after I was working with an actress in one of my pieces who had met her husband at a speed dating event.
“It piqued my interest and I thought it was fantastic so I started looking at the subject closely and the more modern way people date and meet.
“The play certainly doesn’t look at the subject through rose-tinted glasses. It looks through the characters’ eyes.”
It contains, he says, a degree of cynicism but also a lot of humour. “But hard humour. I’m not known for simple jokes. I like to hit the nail on the head.
“As someone from another era, I find it fascinating how the internet works but there are also a lot of dangers which I do point out.”
The play, which opens next week at the Customs House, concerns a couple called Della and Guy who inhabit the internet dating world.
She is a supply teacher and actress, he a retired market porter. She doesn’t know quite what she is looking for by way of a partner, he’ll take anything he can get.
The couple are played by Steve Wraith and Sarah Martin.
Arthur adds: “I started writing this five years ago and I recently met up with Steve who I had worked with at the Young People’s Theatre (in Newcastle) and he asked me if I had anything he could perform in. After a few adjustments, I gave him GSOH “Would Like to Meet”.”
Ray Spencer, executive director of the Customs House, says: “We’re delighted to welcome Arthur back to the Customs House.
“Over the years we have been lucky to see some of his plays performed at our venue to rave reviews and great audience feedback.
“Arthur is a great writer and really gets to the bottom of what people are feeling.”
On Saturday, October 25, from 4pm, theatre-goers can get into the spirit of Arthur’s new work by trying their hand at speed dating with show sponsors Ditch or Date (tickets £5 from www.ditchordate.com) .
GSOH “Would Love to Meet” runs at the Customs House from October 22-25. For tickets call 0191 454 1234 or via www.customshouse.co.uk