The third in a trilogy of ’This is…’ seasons of curated cultural spotlights on big ideas from Northern Stage Artistic Director Natalie Ibu, This is Family is about doing life together. A yearlong programme that captures the spirit of the here and now, packed with sparky, political, of-the-moment productions and carefully curated visiting shows exploring what family means to us now - how we connect and organise ourselves, for support, for good times, for better or worse.
Natalie Ibu explains, “This is Family is about community, tribes; how we gather and how we define ourselves. Whether that’s celebrating youth activism and uniting to take a stand against racial prejudice, the patriarchy and the climate crisis in Hannah Lavery’s Protest; the unlikely bond an ailing Geordie carpenter and a struggling single mum from London form to take on a system that’s stacked against them in I, Daniel Blake; or an intimate new show created by our Young Company that delves into connection and the ways in which the world we are living in can make us feel lonely; it’s about doing life together. And as a producing theatre company, a venue, and a charity that collaborates on creative projects in our communities, that’s exactly what we’re here for.”
A vital new adaptation of I, Daniel Blake that exposes the reality behind the cost-of-living crisis headlines, the first stage adaptation of Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or and BAFTA award-winning film will premiere at Northern Stage (26 May - 10 June) before touring. A brand-new adaptation by actor and comedian Dave Johns who won the Best Actor award at the British Independent Film Awards and Best Newcomer at the EMPIRE Awards for his role in the film, Ken Loach said, “This story is more relevant now than ever. And who better to put it onstage than Dave Johns, the original Daniel Blake?”
Dave Johns says, “I was thrilled to be asked to adapt Paul Laverty’s screenplay. But I didn’t just want to put the film on stage, I wanted to update the story for 2022, making it contemporary and exploring more of single mum Katie’s journey and the family unit she forms with Daniel. To show the kindness, compassion, humour, and hope that can help us through the toughest of times. Sadly, during my research it was disheartening to find not much had changed at all since the film's release. The story is still as relevant as it was in 2016; maybe even more so now with the cost-of-living crisis making it even harder for those who are already struggling to find a way out of poverty. Daniel and Katie’s story could be anyone’s.”
Director Mark Calvert adds, “When we first started to think about how to adapt I, Daniel Blake for the stage we knew that we needed to honour the film while giving audiences a fresh perspective on the ramifications of the last 12 years of government on people's lives. This is one of the most extraordinary moments in the history of the country and I, Daniel Blake frames the working-class experience in modern Britain. Inspired by activists Led By Donkeys, Cold War Steve and Cassette Boy, the production will feature factual interviews, speeches and social media output showing the impact of government decisions on real people’s lives. Because with 14.5 million* people now living in poverty in the UK, this is not fiction. It is reality. And it’s a story that affects even more people than when the film was released in 2016.”
Designed by Rhys Jarman (Gecko) with movement direction by Martin Hylton (Gateway Studio and Phoenix Dance), I, Daniel Blake is a co-production between Northern Stage, Birmingham Rep, Oldham Coliseum, English Touring Theatre, and tiny dragon Productions, in association with Cardboard Citizens who make theatre for social change with and for homeless people, and will tour after its Newcastle premiere; dates to be announced in the New Year.
A new play by award-winning poet and playwright Hannah Lavery, Protest explores what it takes to make a difference, the power of friendship and the importance of believing in your own voice. Directed by Northern Stage Artistic Director Natalie Ibu who was nominated for a UK Theatre Award for directing the UK and European premiere of Claudia Rankine’s The White Card, three girls prepare to stand up for what they believe in, determined to make a change despite the prejudices they face and the looming environmental crisis. Hannah Lavery says, “Making change in our communities, and in our wider society, can often feel impossible; we often feel powerless in the face of the problems we are all facing. When I was growing up, my mother would often take me to demonstrations and protests. She taught me that we when we come together within our communities, within our workplaces and in solidarity with people across the world, we can be part of the change we want to see. I hope this play offers young people the same hope and inspiration, it is said by many that we are living in such divisive times, and this is in many ways true, but there are many of us are looking and desiring ways to come together, to show solidarity, to make change within our communities. Protest was written in response to that desire, to create a town that chooses hope and kindness. A play which shows too, an intergenerational coming together. Three girls holding the hands of their grandmothers making a stand for their community, for their town, for all of us.” Co-produced by Fuel, Imaginate and Northern Stage, in association with the National Theatre of Scotland, Protest will premiere at Northern Stage (27 April - 6 May) before touring.
Feisty, fun, joyful and with some baddies you’ll love to hate, a new production of Sally Cookson’s Olivier award-nominated Cinderella: A Fairytale (2 December - 6 January) is a glorious girl-powered adventure codirected by Katy Weir and Jake Smith. Katy says, “When I was at school my mum, dad, and I used to travel the 120 mile round trip from Carlisle to watch Northern Stage's Christmas show. It was part of our tradition. Now, with children of my own I couldn't be more giddy to have the opportunity to bring the magic to such a wonderful space. Our Cinderella is about love, family, community, and kindness. This feels important in the current climate, everyday stories with a big dollop of Christmas and a Sprinkle of magic.” Jake says “I think this Cinderella will captivate audiences with its original take on one of the oldest and best loved fairy tales. There are no glass slippers here, instead you’ll find a pair of glitterball Doc Martin boots, ready to stomp into an adventure with Ella and discover the power and beauty of finding your family in life. It is extra special to me to return to direct this production at Northern Stage after being the Associate Director on The Last Ship and Director of The Hound of the Baskervilles. I am from the North East and working in the region is something that is very important to me. It means I get to stay at home for Christmas too!”
Northern Stage Young Company Creators explore loneliness and trying to find connection in a disconnected world in Am I Alone in This (13-15 April). Using play and exploration, the group of 14–21-year-olds make creative work that interacts with the world and young people’s place within it. Am I Alone in This is being co-created with writer and dramaturg Elijah Young (BBC Writers room North East Voices 2021), award-winning sound designer Roma Yagnik (The White Card/Northern Stage), and directed by Northern Stage Reinvent Resident Artist, Lindsey Nicholson.
A carefully curated programme of visiting shows will include new writing, drama, comedy, spoken word, dance and physical theatre from some of the UK’s most innovative companies alongside North East theatre makers and internationally acclaimed productions. The full programme will be announced in January.
Spring shows include Gecko’s Kin (1-4 March) - a provocative story of desperation and compassion from an extraordinary ensemble of international devising performers about the voyage a young girl and her family made from Yemen to Palestine in 1932 to escape persecution and build a better life. One of the UK’s leading visual theatre companies, Theatre Re bring their internationally acclaimed show The Nature of Forgetting (17-18 February) to Newcastle for the first time; a powerful, explosive, and joyous piece about what is left when memory is gone. Anders Lustgarten’s The City and the Town (15-17 February) is a funny, eclectic, and uniquely political piece of theatre that brings a fresh perspective to some of the political divides and problems facing our country today. A collaboration between Paula Varjack, Luca Rutherford and Catriona Jones, The Baby Question (18 March), is a theatrical film exploring the narratives of women who are child-free by choice or circumstance, set in the world of a seventies Top of the Pops-style chart tv show.
From the creative team behind Olivier Award-winning Pride and Prejudice* sort of and the National Theatre of Scotland, Kidnapped (9-14 May) is a swashbuckling new adaptation of Robert Stevenson’s classic adventure story about a boy who leaves home for the first time and has to solve a family mystery. Rifco Theatre Company creates ambitious new plays and musicals that reflect and celebrate British South Asian experiences - Happy Birthday Sunita (18-20 May) is a revival of their sell-out comedy, with a new cast and fresh script for 2023. A new co-production of Emily Brontë’s infamous love story Wuthering Heights (6-10 June) from China Plate, Inspector Sands, Royal & Derngate, Northampton and Oxford Playhouse promises violence, peril, social awkwardness, exhilarating music, high winds and mud.
Internationally acclaimed company Ad Infinitum who work with artists, activists and communities to create transformative theatre, present If You Fall (12-14 June), a moving, humorous and sensitive story based on real-life testimonies, with a capella singing, physical theatre, and an intergenerational ensemble exploring older people’s care in all its complexities. Bonewords (16 June) from North East company Surface Area Dance Theatre is a new multidisciplinary dance, theatre and spoken word performance, devised by award winning deaf dramaturg and writer Louise Stern and choreographer Wendy Houston.
Family shows include I Want My Hat Back (4-5 February) - the first ever tour of a trilogy of Jon Klassen’s beloved books from Little Angel Theatre, aimed at ages 3-6. A critically acclaimed adaptation of the Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks book The Singing Mermaid (21-23 February) from Watershed Productions for children aged 3-8. Super Power Panto (17-18 March) is a family adventure that comes flying off the comic bookpages from Extant, the UK's leading professional performing arts company of visually impaired theatre makers. A charming and cheeky story for little ones aged 2-6 and their grown-ups, Marty and the Party (5 April) from multi-award-winning Milk Presents and Derby Theatre. Northern Ballet return with The Ugly Duckling (14-15 April) - a perfect introduction to ballet for children. And Dinosaur World Live (23-25 June) - an interactive show for all the family.
Northern Stage is committed to making its programme as accessible as possible, including making £10 tickets available for all shows, offering captions, audio description and British Sign Language at live events, and relaxed approaches to the programme and time frames for workshops.
Tickets from £10 are on sale now, as are with pre-sale tickets available to Northern Stage members and supporters. More shows to be announced in January, for details and full listings visit NORTHERN STAGE
Header Image: Mark Calvert, Natalie Ibu, Dave Johns and Martin Hylton