Radical new talent takes centre stage for Live Theatre's 50th Birthday Year
Live Theatre celebrates its 50th birthday with a year that puts new cutting edge talent at the heart of its programme. With major commissions going to writers and artists entirely new to Live Theatre, the Quayside theatre reaffirms its founding commitment to encourage new talent to take big steps. Four major productions will play out over the year to offer a changing picture of the North East.
The 2023 season kicked off on Thursday 2 March with Love It If We Beat Them, a knockout new play by Rob Ward (Gypsy Queen) about football, politics and the labour of love. Set against the backdrop of the infamous 1995/1996 Premier League season when Newcastle almost won under Kevin Keegan, and Tony Blair’s New Labour were set for victory. An urgent and gripping drama that perfectly captures a moment in recent history that led us to where we are today and hints at what may come. The play began life as an emerging artist piece as part of Live Theatre’s Elevator Festival and is now launching the theatre’s anniversary with local Regional Theatre Young Director's Scheme director Bex Bowsher at the helm.
In May, Nadine Shah, one of the most important figures in contemporary music, makes her stunning playwriting and Live Theatre stage debut in To Be A Young Man. Co-written with acclaimed writer Jackie Thompson (The Girl is Mime), and starring Nadine Shah herself, this new play is a haunting and hilarious story of grief and mental health, the complexities of friendship and the power of creativity. Diving into the themes and influences of Shah’s remarkable album, Love Your Dum and Mad that turns ten this year, this gritty and poetic tale will be saturated with a mesmerising soundtrack. It will run at Live Theatre from Thursday 4 – Saturday 20 May before venturing to the Brighton Festival (24 May) and London’s Southbank Centre (26 May).
Epic comedy The Cold Buffet, by up and coming star playwright Elijah Young from Thursday 5 to Saturday 28 October serves up a delicious North East family saga with a generous helping of interpersonal tension. Young’s epic play observes a family over a wedding, a wake and a birthday party over several years, always with the same cold buffet selection at its centre.
Three Acts Of Love is a genuine feast of a show for the festive season, full of glorious music and drama from Thursday 30 November to Saturday 16 December. Three ground-breaking female playwrights Laura Lindow, Naomi Obeng and Vici Wreford-Sinnott explore love in all its sticky complexity – from the warm hum of a social club to the endless maze of internet fandom.
Elevator Festival returns in the summer with a thrilling showcase of exciting new work from writers on the rise plus workshops, scratches, talks and socials. Your Voice Your World North East flings the doors open to artists at the very beginning of their career with an invitation to share their unique visions on Live Theatre’s stage for the very first time.
Live Theatre is also thrilled to announce two new Associate Artists: Durham based writer and performer Kemi-Bo Jacobs (winner of a North East Culture Award 2022) and formally radical artist gobscure whose body of work exploring their lived experience of homelessness will be gathered for an installation in Live Theatre’s studio for Elevator Festival titled housing contains the word sing.
As well as the four standout productions Live Theatre’s triumphant family Christmas show Wintry Tales returns with a brand new outrageous treat, written by acclaimed children’s author and disability activist Lisette Auton (The Secret of Haven Point) in collaboration with primary school children from across the region. Wintry Tales: Snow Covered Maps and Mountainous Mayhem promises to take audiences on a wild ride with delightful stories and ideas as fresh as new snow.
Throughout April Live Theatre will present very special readings and events celebrating the theatre’s past while pointing to the future. Lee Hall comes to Live for a rare reading of his play Wittgenstein On Tyne, Shelagh Stephenson shares a reading of Experiment With An Air Pump, Ishy Din returns to his first breakthrough play Snookered and Live Encounters feature very special guests, including Jimmy Nail and Sting.
Live Theatre is committed to showcasing and supporting the amazing talent from across the region, especially in a year where cuts and reduced funding has impacted on so many. The Lawnmowers return to Live Theatre in June with Without Us, Curious Monkey in their tenth year bring Penguin in September, a show created with the Syrian refugee Hamzeh Al Hussein, Open Clasp bring Lasagna and Laurels at Whitley Bay transfer their hit production Gerry & Sewell in November.
Brand new is the announcement of the first North East Playwriting Award, supported by The Catherine Cookson Charitable Trust. The award will offer a winning playwright a full commission and production on Live Theatre’s main stage plus a second studio commission for a writer aged 16-25. The winners will be announced in January 2024.
Artistic Director Jack McNamara said: “For our 50th birthday, Live Theatre could have spent time looking back and bathing in past glories. Instead, we have decided to focus on what we were founded to do: trust new people to do new things. From asking Nadine Shah to create a play inspired by her debut album to asking Elijah Young to tell a huge family story set around a selection of cold sandwiches, each of the works we are putting on are epic in their own way. We aim to disprove the fact that new artists think small, while the major works are all in the past. Our 50th programme marks the start of us setting out to tell a new story about our region and to give proper elevation to the unexpected voices telling it.”
Live Theatre's packed 50th birthday season is now on sale at www.live.org.uk and from Box Office on (0191) 232 1232.