Author: Peter Lathan

Peter Lathan first appeared on stage in a school play at the age of 13 in 1956 when he played Marion in Sean O’Casey’s Cock-a-Doodle-Dandy. He first directed a play – Chekhov’s The Anniversary – in 1966. He has been involved in theatre ever since. He has taught Drama in schools, youth theatres and stage schools, whilst also running drama classes for recovering addicts and adults with severe learning disabilities. He has written more than 35 plays and directed over 70 from site-specific Shakespeare to touring pantos, from new writing to classic plays, from Theatre in Education to corporate productions. He is the author of It’s Behind You: The Story of Panto. He has been, variously, artistic director of theatre company KG Productions (2000 – 2016), chairman of the board of the Wearabout Theatre Company of Sunderland, and a Trustee of the Customs House in South Shields (9 years) and of No Limits Theatre Company, a professional company for adults with a learning disability In 2001 he founded the online British Theatre Guide which he edited for 11 years. He remains its North East editor.

Escape by TV

Peter Lathan

It’s like comfort food, I suppose. It’s safe, doesn’t create any anxiety, and that’s what you want in what are anxious times.

Opinion

Is England racist?

Peter Lathan

Of course it is, and it’s not something new. On the contrary, it goes back a long time. Look at the early 20th century and the common use of that dismissive phrase “Johnny Foreigner” who had better learn his place or we’ll teach him what it is, probably by giving him a good kicking. And […]

Opinion

We talk too much

Peter Lathan

We live in a society in which all opinions are treated as being equally valid, in which ignorance of a subject is thought to be no bar to having an opinion on it, in which facts are what someone chooses to believe rather than something that has objective reality, in which everyone knows everything about everything and believes that everyone else knows nothing about anything.

Theatre

Culture Recovery Fund grants (round 2)

Peter Lathan

Arts Council England has announced 2,272 grants totalling £261,582,823 to arts organisations to help them recover from the ravages of the pandemic. Distribution across England w

Opinion

No more shielding

Peter Lathan

Will the streets, parks and other open spaces be filled with released detainees celebrating their re-acquired freedom, running and singing and dancing in glee? Will there be parties and will joy be unconfined? Will bliss reign and the Kingdom of Heaven appear among the people of England?

North East People

Getting old: the reality

Peter Lathan

Or I’m sitting and suddenly realise that for the last five, ten, fifteen or even more minutes, I haven’t been there. My lungs had continued to inflate and deflate, my heart to beat, my blood to circulate, my stomach acids to carry out their natural alchemy, but I hadn’t been there. No mental activity of any kind. A body functioning but a mind stilled.

The memories that make me me

Peter Lathan

I’m standing below High Force on the River Tees, looking up at the most impressive waterfall in the North of England. It’s in full spate, crashing down both sides. I’ve followed the river down from Cow Green Reservoir, alongside the water as it races down Cauldron Snout, and I’m on my way to Middleton-in-Teesdale. A great riverside walk.

A tale of two cousins

Peter Lathan

In 1989 my Uncle Jack (only known as Jack in Sunderland; it was John down south) died and Alan inherited some family papers which inspired what he described as a “dormant interest” and he set about inquiring into the family history. He searched through parish records, census returns, even visited graveyards and gradually drew together, not just a family tree but details of the lives of our Dent ancestors.

An isolated Christmas

Peter Lathan

t’s going to be seven-ish at the earliest before I’m ready to eat again. I always find Christmas Pudding too heavy, so perhaps a classic Panettone (dried fruit rather than the chocolate variety) would make a good replacement. I had considered making a Panettone bread and butter pudding but I think I’ll have it with custard. Not very Italian, I know, but I love custard and as I’m cooking for me and me alone, custard it shall be!

For your entertainment!

Peter Lathan

The company – five actors and me – met up at 8am, shared themselves between the van and the one car (the producers would only pay expenses for one car) and off we went. By 9am we’re getting the set, costumes, sound system and everything else necessary into the venue, then we fit it all up and at 10am the show goes up. It comes down at 12 noon, when we take down, get out and drive to the next venue, which was Darlington. We get in, fit up, the show goes up at 2pm, comes down at 4pm, when we take down, get out and drive to the third venue, which just happened to be in Prudhoe.

I miss panto

Peter Lathan

It was out of the Harlequinade that pantomime developed, with all the character types we know today – but no Dame! She came into panto from the English tradition of women not being allowed to appear on stage. Her first appearance was not in panto at all but in the Mystery Plays of the 15th and 16th centuries. I always think that the first panto Dame was Mrs Noah from the Noah and the Flood story of The Mysteries.

A writer in Covid times

Peter Lathan

There’s very little happening in theatre – but just wait five minutes for that could change at any time as the government keeps changing its mind, knee-jerking to everything that catches our masters’ attention – so news and reviews are very thin on the ground, and as for writing new plays…

Join the Multiverse Lab!

Peter Lathan

People who live north of the Tyne are being invited to help shape the future of health research in the North East by taking part in a new interactive, online experience called Multiverse Lab which aims to gather the opinions of 2,000 people about what matters to them when it comes to their health. Visitors […]

Opinion

I’ve got those lazy crazy lockdown blues

Peter Lathan

I’m also beginning to think that I am suffering from some bizarre form of Stockholm Syndrome. I put my shoes on this morning (first time I’ve worn shoes or socks for months) and went out to start the car. Guess what? The battery is flat, not the teeniest, weeniest, tiniest suggestion of the smallest scintilla of a little sparklet, and, you know, I feel almost relieved at finding another reason not to go out.

Theatre after Covid

Peter Lathan

After the longest theatre closures in English history (1642 – 1660 by Cromwell), theatre was revitalised.

Is Sunak leaving you out?

Peter Lathan

When, before the Chancellor’s statement, the Bylines editor suggested I wrote a commentary piece on government policy (i.e. change your mind every few minutes) as it related to theatre I said, “I wouldn’t dare write a political article – I suspect only every tenth word would be publishable!”

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore!”

Peter Lathan

I have great memories of climbing this wonderful hill by what I think is the best route of all the seven I’ve tried. That’s Hall’s Fell, the most central of the five buttresses which make up the southern face of the mountain. Starting with a wide swathe of grass and heather, it soon becomes a narrow rocky ridge which leads unerringly straight to Blencathra summit.

Opinion

No good news ever goes unpunished

Peter Lathan

Billingham Forum plans to go ahead with its panto this year…Cause, you may think, for celebration. A little bit of good news amid the theatrical gloom. ..

Opinion

I don’t know what I am

Peter Lathan

Now, perhaps, there are just two classes – the public school, wealthy, grouse shooting, hunting, power-hungry class and their wannabes – and the rest of us, the shopkeepers and civil servants, barristers and baristas, blue-collar workers and teachers, doctors and lawyers et al.

Opinion

Happy days!

Peter Lathan

Those were the days when the only heating in the house was the fire – and someone had to clean out the previous day’s ashes before laying and lighting it. And if the only hot water in the house came from the boiler behind the fire, then some poor soul – usually the mother – had to get up before everyone else to get that fire started.

England 2020

Peter Lathan

There is a play – in fact, there are, no doubt, many plays – to be written about England during the pandemic but writing something now would be a bit like ending Romeo and Juliet with the balcony scene. Sadly there is so much more to play out.

Toon! Toon! Toon!

Peter Lathan

I used to work with a guy who was a fanatical NUFC supporter. So fanatical was he that he claimed to get more pleasure out of Sunderland losing a match than Newcastle winning one. Now we’re not just talking Newcastle v Sunderland games – haven’t had many of those in recent years! – but any […]