Theatre has an important role to play as we begin to emerge from the pandemic, so in 2022 we will hold space for collective recovery, reﬂection and processing the personal and global trauma of the last two years. Following our Housewarming programme – open hearted work that celebrated connection and community, This is Now invites artists and audiences to join a year long conversation about who we are and who we want to be; to think deeply about the important questions of our time, and to ﬁnd refuge in coming together to imagine our way through the world we live in, right now.
The UK and European premiere of Claudia Rankine’s first published play The White Card (29 April – 14 May) will be directed by our Artistic Director Natalie Ibu. Written in 2019 during an increasingly racially divided America, and before the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests rippled across the globe, the play poses the question: can society progress when whiteness remains invisible? Through a conversation between a wealthy, privileged white couple and a talented Black artist, the play explores uncomfortable truths about white privilege, cultural appropriation and representation. Claudia Rankine said,
“I am honoured that the incredible Natalie Ibu will direct The White Card. It is a relief to know that both the said and the unsaid in the play will be in such capable hands.”
Natalie Ibu said
“Claudia Rankine is an amazing thinker and writer and, as a Black woman, she has given me a language for my own experiences. The White Card is a really courageous and clever debate/play about the privilege of whiteness and the consuming of black trauma as art. Choosing to direct it feels like a provocation – to this building, this sector, this place. Northern Stage is a place to debate ideas, so I’m delighted that we can introduce an internationally renowned writer to the North East.”
A co-production between Northern Stage, Birmingham Rep, Leeds Playhouse and Soho Theatre, in association with HOME Manchester, The White Card premieres here in May before touring to London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham.
A new play from Caroline Bird, Red Ellen (25 March – 9 April) tells the remarkable story of Ellen Wilkinson, the revolutionary Labour MP who led the Jarrow Crusade, served as a vital member of Churchill’s cabinet and battled to save Jewish refugees in Nazi Germany. Caroline Bird says,
“I’ve been living with Ellen Wilkinson in my head for about six years now. Ellen was a complex person by anyone’s standards and she never stopped, but despite her herculean efforts, she is largely forgotten by history. The irony, of course, about ‘forgotten women of history’ is invariably the facts of their lives turn out to be acutely memorable: they’re not forgotten because they’re forgettable. And I can honestly say, after writing this play, Ellen has done the impossible: she has given me back a glimmer of faith in politics. We need politicians like Ellen… and we also need to look after them, and support them. She failed at so many things, and yet she was a total, stonking, miraculous, life-affirming, bloody wonderful triumph. A bright and particular star. I hope that some of Ellen’s light can still reach us all the way down here, and that this play might reignite a spark or two.”
Directed by Wils Wilson (Life is a Dream/Royal Lyceum Theatre), Red Ellen is a Northern Stage, Nottingham Playhouse and Royal Lyceum Theatre co-production and will tour to Edinburgh, Nottingham and York after its premiere here.
A new take on one of the most iconic characters in horror fiction, we presents an electrifying new production adapted from H.G. Wells’ science fiction classic The Invisible Man (1-19 February). Adapted by North East actor and writer Philip Correia (Othello/English Touring Theatre) and directed by Newcastle born director Anna Girvan (Twelfth Night/Southwark Playhouse), this new production investigates themes of exploitation, establishment power over truth and the conflict between power and morality, asking the question: who is really invisible in Great Britain 2022? Four emerging North East actors have been cast – Izzy Ions, Jack Fairley, Kate Okello and Daniel Watson – and after opening in Newcastle, the show will tour to theatres and community venues across the North of England from The Maltings in Berwick-in-Tweed to The Dukes in Lancaster.
Set against the backdrop of the Byker estate in the east end of Newcastle, HERE (4-12 March) by Lindsay Rodden is a powerful new play about finding sanctuary in the unlikeliest of places and is part of Curious Monkey’s Arriving project – ongoing work with people who have come from all over the world to seek sanctuary in the UK. A co-production between Theatre of Sanctuary Curious Monkey, Northern Stage and Newcastle University, HERE was due to open at Northern Stage in March 2020 before touring.
Visiting work includes Sorry you’re not a winner (5-9 April) – a striking new play from Samuel Bailey, whose debut play Shook won him the 2019 Papatango Prize and Times Breakthrough Award in 2021. His new play for Paines Plough and Theatre Royal Plymouth is about aspiration, social mobility and getting caught between class. Rice (1-2 April) is a wickedly humorous observation on globalisation, politics and family by award-winning East Asian/Australian writer Michele Lee, winner of the Australian Writers’ Guild Award for Best Original Stage Play, directed by Actors Touring Company Artistic Director Matthew Xia. From the creator of the hit show Black is the Color of My Voice, Woke (10-11 February) by Apphia Campbell and Meredith Yarbrough is the Fringe First award-winning story of two women, 42 years apart, who become involved in the struggle for civil rights and is set to a powerful soundtrack of original music and traditional gospel and blues. Written by award-winning Nessah Muthy and directed by Stef O’Driscoll, Boundless Theatre’s How To Save The Planet When You’re A Young Carer and Broke (18 March) peeks into the life of a young working-class carer having to make decisions between life-saving responsibilities at home and being dedicated to save the planet in times of climate emergency. Frozen Light’s 2065 (22-23 March) is a futuristic extravaganza for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities. Y’MAM (25-26 March) an electric autobiographical solo-show from Majid Mehdizadeh (aka Luke Jerdy from Hollyoaks) takes on Toxic Masculinity in an inspiring, uplifting story about love, appreciation and letting things go. A fast-paced uplifting show written and performed by disabled actor Melissa Johns, Snatched (21-22 June) is a humorous show championing female sexuality and fighting body shaming and the taboo of sex and disability, accompanied by a live 90s and 00s soundtrack.
New shows from North East theatre makers include Luca Rutherford’s You Heard Me (18-19 February) – a true story about refusing to stay quiet, produced by ARC Stockton and co-commissioned by Northern Stage, the Albany, Battersea Arts Centre, Cambridge Junction and Theatre in the Mill. Written by Lee Mattinson whose most recent play Hares was shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize, and performed by one of our NORTH supported artists, Sam Bell, Happy Meal (17 June) is a story about an actor determined to find the comedy in her own tragic life by staging a musical in the Guantanamo Bay branch of McDonalds… NORTH supported theatre company BRASH tackle the victim-blaming culture in Ankles (9-11 June) – using poetry, movement and music to ask when we will stop teaching kids that it’s girls’ responsibility to keep themselves safe from sexual violence. And Hannah Walker’s Gamble (19-21 May) is a bittersweet multimedia show about addiction and its effect on families, friendships and communities informed by compulsive gamblers’ personal experiences and interviews with industry experts.
Dance shows include the return of award-winning BalletBoyz with new show, Deluxe (11-12 March) showcases six extraordinary young dancers in an explosion of mesmeric dance, fused with the company’s witty and distinctive use of film and behind the scenes content. Featuring an eclectic selection of work by internationally acclaimed, award-winning choreographers, including former Artistic Directors and collaborators, 40 Years of Phoenix Dance (20 May) celebrates the company’s milestone 40th birthday. And Infinite (24-25 June) is a brand new dance theatre meditation by Humanhood Dance Company.
Family shows include Zog and the Flying Doctors (3-6 March) – based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s bestselling book, Freckle Productions present a modern take on the classic fairy tale, for age 3+. Pinocchio (25 February) is an original retelling of the classic children’s story for age 3+ from Northern Ballet. Oi Frog and Friends (21-24 April) is an Olivier Award-nominated action packed stage adaption of Kes Gray and Jim Field’s bestselling books for children age 3+. And stunning aerial theatre show Aidy the Awesome (4-5 June) from the Gramaphones Theatre Company is for children age 8+ and their families.
We remains committed to making our programme as accessible as possible, including captions, audio description, BSL at live events and relaxed approaches to the programme and time frames for workshops, plus Northern Stage at Home allows people to watch our own productions at a time or place that better suits them.
Alongside work on stage, the participation offer will include an extension of our UK Theatre award-winning work experience programme introducing young people to non-acting careers in theatre, virtual tours made with and by young people aimed at both primary and secondary schools, and the launch of Cultural Encounters – a yearlong programme to develop a community programmers group in Byker, where we have continued to work closely with the local community throughout the pandemic.