Northern Stage re-opens: the road to recovery

Natalie Ibu, Artistic Director
Photo by Christopher Owens

As it prepares to reopen for the first time since March 2020, Northern Stage plans to reunite audiences and artists through a bold, inclusive programme that celebrates connection and community. This is happening at a time when the Prime Minister has just confirmed a delay to the easing of restrictions. However, it demonstrates the commitment of local theatre to engage with the community and help to bring about recovery.

Free events in local neighbourhoods across the North East throughout June will be followed by two new pop-up venues in July and August. It will then reopen the theatre from 25 August with a Housewarming programme. This starts with a new Unfolding Theatre show co-created with children, and includes the first production Artistic Director Natalie Ibu will direct for Northern Stage.

From Artistic Director, Natalie Ibu

Natalie Ibu has pledged to bring audiences stories no matter what, meeting them wherever they are, and at every step of the recovery roadmap.

Housewarming is Natalie Ibu’s debut season in the building. Audiences and artists will be welcomed back into the theatre with a programme that reflects diverse stories and communities.

Housewarming celebrates local freelance artists, independent companies and Northern Stage’s own team. They come together to make work in the North East, about the North East, with North East artists, for North East audiences, with productions that reach beyond the ordinary, and where nobody is left behind.

Natalie says, “The pandemic has affected us all in different ways but the one thing that cuts across all our experiences is the sense of isolation and disconnection. To me, theatre is about stories that help us make sense of ourselves, each other and the world.

“Theatre can help us to process trauma, collectively, so live theatre is essential as we make our way into recovery. Our job is to stand with our community and make space for that to happen, which is why we can’t wait to meet audiences and artists in their local neighbourhoods this summer before welcoming everyone back to ours with a Housewarming programme where all are welcome.

I have been met with such warmth in the region and I’m thrilled to be able to return the favour, throwing a season long party with some incredible local female artists breathing life back into our auditoria.”

The shows

Shows include

Free School Meals (25-28 Aug)

The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff (7-18 Sept)

Jim Cartwright’s Road (8-30 Oct) in its 35th year, directed by Natalie Ibu

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (27 Nov – 31 Dec)

The road to recovery

On directing her first Northern Stage show, Natalie says:

“Road is so perfectly fitted to the spirit of our Housewarming season and is the perfect post-pandemic celebration of community and resilience – the narrator introduces us to residents on the road, who then make their way out of their own houses to their local pub.

“It’s the dream play for me to direct as my first show for Northern Stage – I directed a scene when I was at university and it has really stayed with me for 17 years. It’s with Road that I found my vision as a director. It helped me articulate that I wanted to tell stories about the blood, sweat and tears it takes to live life, and that I wanted to fill stages with loud, vivid expressions of what it means to be alive.

Originally set in Lancashire, we’re relocating it to a small town in the North East – a working class community dealing with poverty, unemployment, disappointment and a thirst for change whilst also making the most of who and what they have. It is about what it is to live, in all of its complexities. There’s an incredible resilience in this community, a charm; they’re a hoot to be around.”

The creative team includes Designer Amelia Jane Hankin, Lighting Designer Zoe Spurr and Movement Director Nadia Iftkhar; casting will be announced in early September.

Pop up theatre

In July, Northern Stage and English Touring Theatre present Trailer Story – designed by Jon Bausor and Tina Torbey. This pop-up venue in Newcastle city centre will offer audiences a free taster of the kinds of shows they can expect to see at Northern Stage.

Then from 12-15 August, Paines Plough’s Roundabout comes to Byker as part of Northern Stage’s ongoing work with the local community. There is a packed programme in Byker.

As well as continuing to make its work more accessible, Northern Stage understands that coming to see a show in person isn’t always possible, so will continue to offer digital access to its shows. Northern Stage at Home will mean that people can watch Northern Stage productions at a time or place that better suits them.

There will also be a number of socially distanced performances across the season for audiences who would prefer some space, even if social distancing is no longer legally required.

Tickets for shows start from £10 and go on general sale from 1 July, with pre-sale tickets available to North[1]ern Stage members and supporters from 24 June. For more details and full listings visit northernstage.com

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