Topher McGrillis

I’ve always loved stories by Roald Dahl, I wish I could have jumped into his brain and listened to the whirring of the inventive musings. We are all so lucky that he put down on paper his thoughts and generously shared them with the world.  I simply can’t wait to share one of my favorites stories with Emily my six year old daughter.

My lovely little lady can watch Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (Gene Wilder or Johnny Depp) and Matilda on loop but this is her first experience of the grasshopper, centipede, earthworm, spider, ladybug, silkworm and glow-worm of James and the Giant Peach. What’s even better is that it’s on stage rather then screen at one of Emily and my favorite places, Northern Stage.

Dahl’s first novel for children tells the story of a lonely little boy named James. He escapes in a giant peach after a magical encounter and finds he’s capable of much more than he ever imagined.

Director Mark Calvert says,

James and the Giant Peach is a massive show which deserves to be on a massive stage, so for the first time in Northern Stage’s history we’re using both of our stages combined into one huge space to tell one story. It’s so exciting to be working on this scale, taking the audience on an epic adventure that deals with being lonely and discovering how important friends and family are, which is not a bad tale to tell at Christmas time.

Adapted for the stage by David Wood OBE and directed by Mark Calvert (who first introduced me to Northern Stage with 40 Babies back in 2009/2010), this new Northern Stage production has been designed by the ever-inventive Rhys Jarman (Institute, Gecko£), with original music inspired by big bands and swinging Broadway musicals of the 1940s and 50s.

 

Recommended ages 5-11 years with a running time of two hours (including interval). The production runs until Sat 31 Dec so why not book your ticket here . We’ll be posting our review soon but keep an eye on twitter and instagram for photos of our evening.

james

This week 6 to 12 June

Hello everyone. How is your week looking? 

This week our stories are coming from Central Healthcare, Northern Stage, and Il Mulino.

Monday I’m heading to Central Healthcare in Newcastle to see what colonic irrigation is all about. This treatment doesn’t seem to be talked about as much as it once was. It’s something I’ve NEVER tried but I’m happy to put myself in the capable hands of Gill.

Tuesday we have a double bill. Nicola will be sparkling at her networking evening for the ladies of Derwentside! I went along to the first one and I often feel uncomfortable networking but I felt right at home here. I also found my much wanted cleaner in Reliant Robson and it was Claire’s first networking event. So get your #SparkleON! and click here for more information.

Also on Tuesday I will be heading to Northern Stage to watch Julie. Julie is the young and complicated mistress of the estate and is drawn into a dangerous tryst with her father’s butler, John. In the oppressive heat of Midsummer’s night, the couple hurtle towards an explosive conclusion that will shake them and the existing order to its core.

We’ll keep you updated with everything.

Suzanne x

@RobertDay

Northern Stage has been part of my life for six and a half years now and each and every time I go I’m looking forward to the next performance.

We’ve visited twice this year already. Both times my daughter Emily and I nabbed the tickets and had our breathes taken away by balletLORENT thoroughly beautiful depiction of Snow White (albeit being a little miffed that Snow White’s suitor wasn’t a handsome prince) and Need A Little Help  a gorgeously intimate production. This time though it’s time for the big girls to head out for a girls night out to see, Noises Off.

I loved Carla Mendonca in ‘My Parents Are Aliens’ so as soon as I saw her wielding an axe I knew it could be a go to show for us.

How it’s described,

Riotous, raucous, hilarious, tears-rolling down the face, can’t breathe- it’s so funny, perfectly glorious comedy bliss’

Now that’s definitely something to live up to Michael Frayn!

A little about the show, as a touring troupe desperately try to hold their shambolic production of ‘Nothing On’ together, and with under 24 hours to go before curtain-up, it’s downhill all the way through their dress rehearsal. Backstage antics, forgotten lines, not-so secret romances, hilarious malfunctions and a tin of sardines threaten to result in a disastrous first performance.

With both an Olivier and Evening Standard awards under it’s belt we are definitely looking forward to a great night out.

Director, Blanche McIntyre said:

Noises Off is the greatest farce ever written and one of the great classics of modern theatre. I couldn’t be more excited to have the opportunity to direct it – it’s something I’ve wanted to do for years.

Tour dates 
Northern Stage, Newcastle – 11 – 28 May
Nuffield Theatre, Southampton- 1 – 25 June

Stay tuned to find out what we thought of the play and our dinner at McKenna’s beforehand.

 

 

Need a Little Help: Half MoonIt’s week two of the Easter holidays for one half of the Sofa Stories team and the other half has a lovely birthday coming up. Here’s how I’m spending my week.

Monday: Pirates and Princesses: Crook Hall & Gardens, Frankland Lane, Sidegate, Durham, DH1 5SZ

Visitors are invited to follow a quest for treasure around the gardens and join in swashbuckling activities led by the Crook Hall Pirate. There will be treasure hunts, pirate games and pirate ship designing.

Tuesday: Need A Little Help: Northern Stage,  Barras Bridge, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE1 7RH *

Joe and Ella are a great team – they make each other laugh, help each other out and tackle all the chores their busy lives throw at them. But one morning things begin to change when Joe gets all tangled up and Ella has to do things alone. What will Ella do now? Will she be able to continue as before, or will it all get too much? If only she had a little help.

Wednesday: Surprise date with Momar Red for Emily and work hat for mummy (yes I’ve returned from maternity leave and yes I hate it!!!!)

Thursday: Hall Hill FarmLanchester, Durham, DH7 0TA

We have an annual pass for Hall Hill farm which was £106. It’s a great way to spend the day, petting animals, tractor rides, donkey rides, indoor play barn, crazy gold and bouncy castle too.

WWT

Friday: Washington Wetland Centre , Pattinson, Washington, Tyne and Wear, NE38 8LE

We are going to head to the WWC to take a look at The LEGO® brick animal trail. The awesome models include a gigantic otter, super-sized crane and humongous goose and will form a fun trail for children (and big kids!) to take part in; inspiring them to build a better future for nature.

Discover just how many LEGO bricks have been used to make the massive creatures and enter a competition to win your very own LEGO kit.

Saturday: Miss Nicola Little’s birthday celebrations possibly at Wheelbirks or just at her delightful love filled home!

Sunday: No plans yet.

Suz x

*Reviewing for Northern Stage Newcastle

Image: Kit Haigh
Date day with daughter we headed to the theatre for a production of ‘Snow White’.

Rewind to 2010 and Emily and I were involved with Northern Stage’s anniversary project #40babies where a living book was created and captured from bump to three years old so Northern Stage Newcastle always holds fond memories.

Fast forward to 2016, When I asked Emily if she’d like to go and see a ballet and that it was Snow White she bounced around the room shouting, ‘yes please mummy’.

Image: Bill Cooper

The production is by balletLORENT a leading UK contemporary dance company based in Newcastle upon Tyne, which regularly tours the UK. This version of was very far removed from the Disney version Emily is used to and akin to the darker side of the tale by Brothers Grimm which I’ve always preferred. So it was familiar to one of us but completely foreign to the other which led to lots of questions.

The set was simply beautiful and yet simplistic and was so adaptable throughout the whole production and was moved this way and that with what seemed like ease. The words by ‘Poet Laureate’ Carol Ann Duffy and a score by Murray Gold accompanied by balletLorent dancers and children from local primary schools took us to a magical place throughout the show. The score moved me lots and really hooked the emotion and the narration was fitting, dark in some parts and light and funny in others.

Here’s a snapshot of the story;

The Queen (Caroline Reece) creates a doll and she wanted to make a child in it’s likeness and the King was happy to oblige and baby Snow White is born (first divination from Disney as the Queen in Snow White’s Disney is ‘Evil Stepmother’ rather then Snow Whites mother). Children and adults alike come and greet the child. Alas soon after the King dies. The beautifully vain Queen is deeply saddened as well as the rest of the kingdom.

As the child turns from a baby (depicted by a doll) into a little girl (we loved how this was shown in the set but don’t want to give it away) then into a young woman (Natalie Trewinnard) the Queen shows her daughter the good things in life until she starts to see that the beauty of her daughter is now over taking her own. The modern dialogue mentioning hair dye and facelift made Emily and I laugh lots.

Here enters the magic mirror depicted by an exceptionally flexible dancer (Gwen Berwick) mirroring every move and told the Queen that her daughter was more beautiful. Her vanity could not cope with this at all and even though she had brought her daughter up in love she now could not bare for her to be on the planet.

The huntsman was sent to kill Snow White, the Queen is shown to eat what she thought to be heart of Snow White was a little intense.

No dwarfs but seven ‘stunted’ miners who like the dwarfs where in play and disliked the presence of Snow White at first but grew to love her.   With many more twists and turns along the way this is definitely a story worth telling.

Caroline Reece had me captivated and conveyed the part of a withering beauty with aplomb where as Emily loved Natalie (Snow White) although she was less than impressed that she ended up with the Huntsman and not, ‘a handsome prince’, whoops maybe I shouldn’t have said that?

The main actors where perfect but my eyes were continually drawn to one of the female dancers named Giulia Coti Zelati and the young girl partnered with her, their connection was lovely and it reminded me of Emily and I which made me smile on the inside.

We really enjoyed our our time and can’t wait to see what is next in store with  balletLORENT and Northern Stage.

Over the years we have seen many fabulous productions and can’t wait to see many more in the future too, infact our next visit is on Tuesday 5 April to see ‘Need A Little Help’.