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Wet House by Paddy Campbell to mark 40th anniversary of Newcastle's Live Theatre

A first full-length play by Paddy Campbell will help to mark Live Theatre’s 40th anniversary. David Whetstone reports

Playwright Paddy Campbell
Playwright Paddy Campbell

In its 40-year history Newcastle’s Live Theatre has provided a platform for many new writing talents – Lee Hall, Peter Straughan, Tom Hadaway and Julia Darling among them.

Now they have found another, it seems.

The first full-length play by Paddy Campbell is called Wet House and it will be premiered at the Newcastle Quayside theatre in September.

The Live Theatre premiere is announced – along with a new production of Lee Hall’s black comedy, Cooking with Elvis – as part of the company’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

A wet house, we learn, is a homeless hostel where the residents are allowed to drink alcohol. In that word ‘allowed’, perhaps, is a sense of the inevitable, of resignation. Even alcoholics need a roof over their heads.

Paddy Campbell’s play, we are told, is based on first-hand experience, its fundamental question being: “Who will look after the people that no one else will look after?”

Andy, an idealistic young graduate, gets a job at the wet house and is plunged into a twilight world where the rules about what is right and what is normal have become blurred – and that’s just among the other staff.

That’s the essence of it, according to Live Theatre, which has built its reputation on plays relating to real life – largely in the North East but increasingly across contemporary Britain. Paddy Campbell, the new playwriting kid on the block, is 33 and originally from Northern Ireland. In 2007 he completed Live Theatre’s Introduction to Playwriting course and he has worked extensively with the company ever since, writing short pieces and helping to run projects for young writers.

In the play, which will run at Live Theatre from September 18 to October 5, Andy will be played by actor Riley Jones who was recently in the touring production of The Pitmen Painters – another play originally commissioned by Live.

Joe Caffrey will play hostel resident Dinger and the cast will also feature Chris Connel, Jackie Lye, David Nellist and Eva Quinn.

This is a cast steeped in the Live Theatre philosophy. Jackie Lye made her professional debut at the theatre more than 30 years ago in CP Taylor’s And A Nightingale Sang while Eva Quinn will be appearing in her first full-length Live production.

The playwright himself has been mentored by Lee Hall whose Live Theatre grounding has resulted in his name being writ large in cities around the world. Lee said: “It’s fitting that in its 40th birthday year Live Theatre have unearthed and commissioned yet another exciting new writing talent.

“Paddy’s play possesses a subject matter that is important and prescient. His characters smack of authenticity and there’s a searing emotional depth to the piece that is both arresting and heartbreaking. He’s also seriously funny. This marks a highly impressive debut.”

Joe Caffrey, who began rehearsals this week, said he was looking forward to the challenge of playing one of the unruly residents of the wet house.

Wet House – and Cooking With Elvis, in which Joe will reprise his role as the paralysed Elvis impersonator – will be directed by Live’s artistic director, Max Roberts.

He said of Wet House: “The play addresses head on and honestly a really important issue that affects our lives and culture but in an incredibly accessible way.

“Including tragedy and sadness, Wet House is also quite beautiful and hilarious. Being able to use comedy to address important and significant issues is a wonderful gift. Lee Hall has that skill in spades but Paddy also has that ability and that’s why I am looking forward to directing his play.”

More information about both productions can be found on www.live.org.uk . For tickets tel. 0191 232 1232.

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