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July 2, 2013 11:00 am

Live Theatre, Newcastle
27 June 2013- 20 July 2013

tyne-slides-byTyne is part of Live Theatre’s celebration of its 40th birthday and of the North East in general. As a pioneer for new northern talent throughout its four decades; including Lee Hall, Tom Hadaway and Alan Plater, the theatre certainly has a lot to celebrate.

Even before the play begins there is a warm, expectant glow from the audience. Although the intimate stage of the Live Theatre always creates a pleasant atmosphere, with this play the audience seem especially assured of a good night ahead. This is hardly surprising as the play they are here to see have been crafted by such a well-known creative team; amongst them the director of ‘The Pitmen Painters’, Max Roberts.

The play is a collection of stories and traditional songs, held together by pulsating images of the river. Most of the short pieces have a  haunting effect; projecting mixed themes of tragedy and hope. It’s not all gloomy though, and is also scattered with in-jokes and moments of intense humanity.

All of the stories are distinctly Geordie in flavour. There are harsh tales of industry, showing how the river works as an artery, providing life-blood to the region. There are also questions raised as to whether industry can be brought back, or begin again in modern times. The tone of the reply is mostly hopeful, although at times the play does often feel very nostalgic.

The fragmented scenes of the play allow a number of perspectives to be represented. Young and old both have a say. The short piece by Julia Darling, ‘The Women Who Painted Ships’ provides a uniquely female perspective. A crowd of other characters are also represented, including writers, engineers, entrepreneurs and inventors.

On a larger scale, the protagonists who hold the play together are extended metaphors for the message of the play. A ghost father stands in for the haunting history of war and conditions working in industry; his son represents the cautious predictions for a future of industry; and his pregnant daughter represents the on-going potential for new beginnings. Their relationships underline the warmth and humanity of the people of the region, and the importance of its people. It is, after all, the people of Newcastle who have created its stories and songs.

So were the expectations of the audience fulfilled? There is no better way to put it than ‘why aye pet’. The play is a multi-media celebration of the Tyne, full of humour and hope, even in its darker moments. It looks forwards as well as backwards. It is also worth noting that the harmonies of the singers, which make the traditional songs even more beautiful, wouldn’t echo as eerily well in any space other than the Live Theatre.

Tyne is presented as part of the Festival of the North East which runs throughout June. To see what will be coming up, check here:


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