So far, 2023 has been marked by some exceptional theatre visits. There have been four so far; two iterations of Neil Gaiman’s Ocean At The End of the Lane, then there’s been SIX, and the Ghosts of Metroland. I have even planned some more over the course of the rest of the year.
I’ll go through the premise of each show briefly.
First was the arrival of the Ocean at The End of the Lane at Sunderland Empire. Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, the play follows a man who returns to his childhood home and encounters the family of a long-lost friend. Through his memories, he is transported to his twelfth birthday when his friend Lettie claimed that the pond in the back garden of her home was not a pond but rather an ocean. Through this friendship, they are plunged into a magical world full of powerful forces and consequences, with their survival depending on their ability to rely on one another.
This play shows what it is like to have that first childhood friend, all whilst playing with lighting and mystery to build a fantastical and awe-inspiring cinematic play. So inspiring, in fact, that I saw it twice to try and figure out all the different tricks they used to transport characters from one side of the stage to the other (surprise, surprise, I still haven’t entirely figured it out).
SIX is a musical based on Henry the Eighth’s six wives. In this iteration, the wives tell their side of the tale (albeit in a more modern way) through song and humour. In celebration of 21st-century female power, five hundred years of heartbreak and female injustice are wrapped into a 90-minute musical rendition, and the songs are very catchy. With both powerful voices and powerful stories, this play keeps you hooked while the story touches on female rights and gender equality.
While the previous plays were in iconic theatres such as Sunderland Empire and the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, the next play was in a more indie setting. The Ghosts of Metroland grabbed my attention straight away due to the nostalgia. I’m just old enough to remember Metroland before it closed, and this play capitalised on that, all in tune with a cheesy ’80s and early 2000s musical soundtrack. At the Live Theatre, a smaller theatre on Newcastle’s quayside, no matter where you sat you could get a good view of the play. Two teens who worked at Metroland become stuck there when the apocalypse strikes. The rides are now alive, and management – nicknamed the White Shirts – has become insane. They must rely on one another to survive while going through all the intricacies and complications of being teenage retail workers.
I found myself laughing hysterically throughout this play at all the nuances. It may have been a bit whacky for some, but if you suspend your belief for a while, you can sit back and enjoy the ride.
Theatre brings people together for a single purpose: to make them laugh, cry, or even get angry at what they see on the stage.
Some other reasons why you should go to theatres include:
- Theatre allows us to escape reality.
Reality can be cruel, and sometimes you need a break from it. Stepping into a theatre and letting the lights go down around you means that you can immerse yourself in a different world and story, completely erasing what’s happening outside for an hour or two.
- It allows the chance to connect with our fellow humans.
What is life without the connections we have with other people? Theatre allows us to form connections with other audience members who are all experiencing the same thing at that moment. It is a wonderful and easy way to bond with people. For example, during an intermission, the two women sitting next to me asked me if I’d seen the play before, and we got chatting about theatre and drama in general. It turned out that one of the women used to teach at the college I went to. Sometimes it is a small world.
- Theatre gives us a new appreciation for the arts.
I believe that the world would not be the same if it wasn’t for the Arts. These forms of expression are vital to the self and can instantly transform something into a beautiful depiction. Seeing a show allows us to open our eyes while exposing us to influential works and new ideas.
- It offers us new perspectives.
In life, we must challenge ourselves and expand our horizons. Theatre offers many different perspectives, which can help us with that and change how we look at life. There are so many stories to be told through plays, from what life is like in war-torn countries to what fantastical worlds may look like. It all expands our imaginations and inspires us.
- Theatre can bring out the best in us.
It is easy to see the negative effects, such as sadness or anger; however, theatre performances can also bring out the best in us. By allowing us to take in the words and actions of the performers, we are given the chance to feel empowered and inspired.
Even on the stage, drama, in general, uses a lot of the same practices that we use to get through life – imagination, memory, improvisation, and emotion. Theatres prove almost vital to human expression.
It’s important to keep protecting these spaces, so show your local theatres some love. There are the three mentioned here, but also Northern Stage in Newcastle, Tyne Theatre and Opera House, Playhouse Whitley Bay, Queens Hall Hexham and many more. There’s also Mortal Fools in Northumberland, which uses drama and creative interventions to support the well-being and personal development of young people and their communities. They have many initiatives to get young people involved in drama and have many interesting performances. They even put on Fools Fest in Hexham and the Tyne Valley, which they hope to bring back later this year.
With so much to choose from, in theatres and performances, maybe I’ll see you at my next theatre visit.