£9m Northern Stage Opens First Newcastle SeasonDate: 30 August 2006
Northern Stage, formerly the Newcastle Playhouse, has reopened this week following a two-year, £9 million rebuild to create an Epic Space and Stage 2, the first free indoor theatre in the UK. Both theatres will be used for in-house and visiting productions. The schedule, which runs from tomorrow (Thursday 31 August 2006) through to January 2007, includes visiting productions from the Royal Shakespeare Company, Improbable, the National Theatre of Scotland and Kneehigh.
During the redevelopment, the company moved to a temporary home on the East Quayside of Newcastle. The redevelopment has given the theatre two new wings, new public spaces and state-of-the-art backstage facilities. Over this past August Bank Holiday weekend, Northern Stage joined with Tyneside organisations the Sage Gateshead, Dance City, Seven Stories, Live Theatre and Tyneside Cinema to lead a parade through Newcastle to the new complex, where attendees were treated to a fire and light show.
Two Northern Stage productions open the venue’s first season: On Top of the Town, an international co-production with Dutch company Noord Netherlands Tonnel, which runs from 31 August to 2 September; and Dennis Potter’s passionate and provocative Son of Man, charting the life of Jesus Christ from his 39th day in the desert to his crucifixion, directed by chief executive Erica Whyman in the theatre’s new Epic Space, from 8 to 23 September 2006.
Among the visiting autumn highlights are: Forced Entertainment presenting the UK premiere of The World in Pictures, Improbable and the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of The Wolves in the Wall, and Kneehigh’s staging of Cymbeline. The RSC’s annual season in Newcastle will launch at Northern Stage with two productions, King John and Much Ado About Nothing, direct from its year-long Complete Works Season in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Commenting on the new complex, Whyman said: “The most remarkable change is on stage. The old main house and studio have been joined together to create an Epic Space, which can be used in-the-round or in traverse. With the addition of a ground-breaking acoustic wall, these spaces can be separated into two independent stages. As well as having the largest stage in the north east, Northern Stage will be the most flexible, middle-scale theatre space in the UK.”
She added: “By making Stage 2 the first theatre space in the country which is free to come into, we want to give our audience the opportunity to try something new, to tell us what they think and to enjoy a very wide-range of the best and most imaginative work from the UK and beyond.”
- by Caroline Ansdell