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Shock of the new

Not all new writing is great, but all great writing was once new.

Not all new writing is great, but all great writing was once new. That encapsulates the spirit of optimism that underpins the New Writing Festival at the Customs House, South Shields.

The sixth festival gets under way this week with Off The Shelf, a comedy by 82-year-old actress Helen Russell, who lives in the town.

She has appeared in plenty of plays (and also on screen in Emmerdale and the film Billy Elliot) but this is the first she has written.

As one of the stars of hit play Dirty Dusting, by Trevor Wood and Ed Waugh, it was written for herself and co-stars Jean Southern and Gwen Doran to perform.

The play shows how three widows strive to have the best of all worlds.

The play runs from Thursday to Saturday and already more than 1,400 tickets have been sold.

Next up in the festival is The Unattended which is at the Customs House from June 6-9.

Written by Daniel Maier, it is set in a Newcastle shopping centre and features two security guards who are shaken from their routine by a strange new workmate and a suspect package.

Last but not least comes another comedy, Slipping The Net by Newcastle writer Dick Curran.

It centres on a man who, 30 years ago, saw The Sex Pistols and regarded it as a life-changing experience. Now middle-aged and in middle management, he can ask whether it changed for the better. June 13-16.

For tickets for all three shows, tel. (0191) 454-1234.

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