Live Theatre holds a prominent place on the Quayside’s Broad Chare and takes a strong part in promoting the dynamics of Newcastle and Gateshead. Established as a radical travelling theatre company, the intentions of Live Theatre have always centralised lives of individuals in the character of their plays. The working class attitudes of characters are very relatable.
The community-focused ideals of the company extend to their interest in developing the art of playwriting. This is what brings me in front of six short plays written by thirteen-fifteen year olds. On a school night.
The evening began with Amy Connor’s “Memories Of The Sea”. Exported to Tynemouth, or maybe even as far as South Shields, the two characters (all plays held this pattern) fully captured me in their park bench reflection on life. The play was complexly penetrated with issues of unemployment, ageing, and the modern family. These are serious scenarios surrounding fourteen year olds. This dramatic existence of the world situated within a gentle conversation (between a Geordie boy with his feral grandmother) had a powerful position.
Nathan Beckett followed with a similar use of everyday tragedy that, in actual fact, should not be so commonplace that we are typically oblivious to them. “Could It Be A Tuna” assesses the relationship of a mother with her tumour-ridden four year old (depicted by Tom Booth who is a full grown man which makes his jumping up onto furniture more hilarious than cute). The absorption of this illness is fantastically portrayed by Christina Berriman Dawson’s spectrum of emotional distress. The raw honesty of the script has an observational quality that I would be surprised to hear that it has been totally invented. The plot, which could easily be glossed, brings life to the characters.
My emotional volatility was thankfully grounded by the comedy of Reece Weightman’s “Scary House” and Lee Harrison’s “Doctor Death” which were comparable in that I am still not sure whether I was more frightened than humoured by the story of the misunderstood clown who lives in an abandoned house or the serial killer who always wanted to be a doctor. The china-doll-like ghost of Leonnie Lartey’s “Souless and Goalless” was decidedly menacing.
This conflict of fears, throughout the six plays, readdress my consideration of stereotypes in relation to reality. The evening was closed with Lauren Dickinson’s “Never Never Land” which drew more tangible grandparent relationships and the favourite tokens of Peter Pan. This dreamy swirl of images reminded me of a utopia.
There was a slightly institutional manner to both the double bow of actors to mark the end of each instalment and to the fable-like lessons saturated in the occasional line. However, this simplistic approach to weaving the stories brought the audience closer to the actors and the script. I felt as if this could have been set up in my living room and the characters were expressing the issues of people who I have known.
These six creations are the result of Live Theatre’s active involvement in generating the arts of Newcastle, and the fantastic ability for young people to assimilate the world around us, in its pure state.