We visited Northern Stage in Newcastle to watch the ballet production of Rumpelstiltskin by balletLORENT and here’s our review story…..

A time upon once, is where this story starts, Rumpelstiltskin, Rumpelstiltskin, Rumpelstiltskin a name like no other, this once Grimm tale has been rewritten by another.

A golden Queen and a handsome King spend a lot of time caressing and kissing. Watching over their beautiful flock in a rural world of balletLORENT.

Frolicking and free from babies to grannies this idyllic world is one in which you would want to be.

Alas tragedy occurs at the birth of their son. The sun goes down and the golden love has gone. The King is now an angry man, denying the child, his only one. A raging man who blames his son for the loss of his wife, a boy desperate for love but shunned from the King’s life. Little lambs and mummy sheep playfully watch and keep a smile on our faces when the King’s actions are a disgrace.

Left to roam among the countryside the boy becomes one with nature; a little feral and wild. The children are kind beckoning him to play and a shepherd’s daughter brightens his day.

As the mourning continues the villagers embark to make the King happy and have a lark, but alas the King was now mean and dark; far from the passionate bright light that we saw at the start. The only thing that kept him going was the thought of gold which sets the scene for a story retold.

A shepherd not a miller be the boasting father of a little she. For the man gave up his daughter, a lie could lead his sheep to slaughter. As of course it can’t be true, to weave straw to gold…can you?

Three rooms filled with straw and a challenge with each one and Rumpelstiltskin was the hero elevating him from a position of zero. The gift of changing anything to gold was given by his mother; a gift like this can’t be squandered nor smothered. With each challenge, he won a prize. The Shepherd’s daughter had nothing to lose yet and agreed to a ring, a kiss and her first baby (she lies).

The marriage was quick and so was the baby as nine months later she was in labour. The gift of her baby was now long forgotten but Rumpelstiltskin still wanted the offering.

The distress that this caused to the Shepherd’s daughter, made him think of the past the games and laughter she’d taught him. Three days were given to find this youths name otherwise who knows what would be the baby’s demise?

The whole kingdom searched for the name but none were found true. But the shepherd didn’t give up and did all he could do. He heard a youth in a clearing dancing around a fire and suddenly heard the name of desire. The shepherd rushed back to his daughter and told of his news now a game with Rumpelstiltskin did infuse.

Upon finding his name memories of fondness came flooding back – this youth was boy she had loved in the past. The King saw it too and the hate turned to love and he was released from his life to be with his queen above.

Rumpelstiltskin and the shepherd’s daughter now became a happily ever after.

The venue:  Northern Stage Newcastle – big enough for impact and small enough for intimacy.
My plus 1:  Daughter aged 7 who has been connected with Northern Stage since she was a bump in the 40 year anniversary ’40 babies’.
The cast:  Aged 4 to 79 both professional and from local schools, care homes, day centres, community groups (including some people from a knit and natter group). Anne Mead (see the video I shared on Sofa Stories Facebook page), reminded me of my gran and that made me smile.
Rehearsal director: Caroline Reece sat directly behind us during the performance and it was lovely to speak to her during the interval about the performance.
The audience:  A truly eclectic mix spanning generations. Bring everyone you know!
Advice:  If you are taking children do stick to the seven plus guideline as there are some dark parts that may cause younger people a little distress although these scenes didn’t seem to bother the younger cast members).
In show highlight: There were so many moments for me and I found my breath taken away as Rumpelstiltskin is a beloved dark fairytale in our household the added parts and adaptions of the story worked. When the little childhood versions of Shepherd’s daughter and Rumpelstiltskin appear on the
edge of a scene with the adults my heart was ablaze as childhood memories of friendship always seem to be the most special.
Interval highlight:  An avid fan of Ben Crompton was gushing over him and wanting to nab my pen to get an autograph in her programme whilst I was still using it (I was completing the feedback form).
Unexpected:  The level of emotion felt by both myself and my daughter. balletLORENT you brought me to the edge of emotion, made my heart pound and my eyes weep. And I thank you for that.
Warning:  Moral dilemmas of abandonment of a child. Violence towards a child (no one was hurt in the performance – it was very strongly implied). Verbal and threatening abuse of a girl and her father and his livelihood.
Quirkiest moment:  The dancing sheep, mmmmmmm it lightened it a little too far for me but I’m sure it will be loved by most.
At the ballet:  The thought of ballet can often turn people off or bring connotations of a non-inclusive club with membership only given to the truly gifted and well off. balletLORENT are far from this. They are a company so progressive and all-encompassing and embracing that it may drive  many of us to try and partake in ballet again (Dance City here I come) or at least in a knit an natter group and hope that in years to come the production comes around again and I too could be one of those grannies.

Overall:  I simply adore watching my daughter being drawn in and absorbed in a story, searching for my hand and putting my arm around her to hold her closer in the darker parts. Her naivety is a breathe of fresh air and she pointed out the kissing and the naked top half of Rumpelstiltskin. Emily loved it and clapped until the last person left the stage. She underlined her love by popping her gold coin in the heart bestowed emoji feedback cup to prove it.

Dates:  Rumpelstiltskin productions run at Northern Stage Newcastle until 28 October. Tickets are available from £10 so be part of the next well deserved standing ovation.

Disclaimer: We received complimentary tickets for the production but all content and thoughts our own.

Images included are by Khara Pringle and Bill Cooper.

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.


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


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.


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