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Joe Douglas on returning to direct Clear White Light, one year on

Clear White Light was a great success with our audiences last year - so much so that we thought we should bring it back. Being new to the region, I had no idea how much Lindisfarne and Alan Hull’s songs meant to people in Newcastle but by the end of our first performance, I understood. Audience members would mouth along to lyrics or even sing along in their seats, it felt to me like this music was somehow in the Geordie DNA. Charlie Hardwick singing the vocals gave a new, female interpretation to the music and the context that Paul Sirett’s play puts the songs into affected how the lyrics were received. Returning to the play a year on, we have tried to approach it afresh, drawing out ideas and moments that needed greater clarity. 

As a play it is hard to pin down, the narrative unfurling over different time periods. Much of it is seen through the eyes of Alison, as reality, memory and the imaginary blur with the story of The Fall of The House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe. The underlying theme of the love that underpins the NHS came through strongly by the end, especially from the nurses, working in increasingly difficult conditions to care for the most vulnerable members of our society. I was always struck by the lyric from the end of January Song: “you need me, need you, need him, need everyone”. It felt like a call to collective action.  

I can’t imagine a better show to begin my time at Live Theatre and I’ll forever be grateful to Max Roberts for handing it to me to direct. Learning about the theatre company, the history and culture of the North East has been made so much easier with his help. And thanks to Alan Hull - remembering to follow the Clear White Light, especially when times are hard, has kept me going. Looking around the audience as the final chord faded, I wasn’t the only one.

Joe Douglas

Artistic Director, Live Theatre

Clear White Light plays at Live Theatre from Thurs 19 Sep - Sat 12 Oct 2019.  Find out more and book at

  • Arts Council England
  • Community Foundation
  • European Regional Development Fund


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