North East Theatre Company Emerges Stronger From Pandemic as it Conquers North of England

Posted on September 5th 2022 by Whats on Northeast

During lockdown, Elysium Theatre Company cancelled its live performances and instead streamed a series of ground-breaking ‘Covid-19 Monologues’ – one-person performances reaching tens of thousands of people online and receiving awards and accolades in the process.

Elysium will be releasing another six original monologues online on September 5, written by and starring some top talent from across the country.

It will follow this series with a tour of ‘A Doll’s House’, by Henrik Ibsen, which will visit TEN Northern theatres later in September and October.

The company will then tour another NINE venues in November with ‘Reiver – Tales from the Borders’ – an original production adapted from one of Elysium’s original Covid Monologues, by North East playwright Steve Byron. This will be Elysium’s first newly-written stage play.

Elysium’s co-founder Jake Murray, who is directing all of the company’s productions, believes this proves that, if anything, the pandemic has made Elysium stronger than ever.

Jake said: “A lot of theatre companies have closed during Covid but the pandemic hasn’t killed us, we have emerged stronger than ever.

“We have come out of the starting blocks at full speed, with two live tours and an online series of productions.

“When we went into the pandemic we were taking shows to maybe three or four venues, and now we are touring two shows to up to ten venues at a time!

“We had some amazing responses to the online content we put out over the past two years – so much so that we have decided to continue our series of award-winning Covid-19 Monologues despite theatres being open again.

“If anything, by producing online and live content we can reach even more people than ever before – we hope to continue to bring the best of live theatre to the North of England, while pushing boundaries with our online content too.

“I feel like Covid has helped get us to where we want to be. Our aim pre-pandemic was to bring the best of theatre to the North and these tours show we can do that.

“Now we want to grow even more and reach more people across the North and beyond with even bigger tours and more streamed shows.

“We are so excited to be embarking on these live tours, and seeing audiences’ responses to both these and our latest set of Monologues.”

The Covid-19 Monologues, released on September 12, present an array of stories written by a group of writers from diverse backgrounds, including three from the North East. Several look back on people’s experience of the pandemic or take place during it, others look forward to the future.

Both comic and tragic, they include ‘Blue Bin Day’,  ‘Dandelion’ and ‘Ask me Anything’ by Phil Meeks, Elijah Young and Chris Neville-Smith – which present powerful portraits of North Eastern characters from very different backgrounds – and ‘Cyberspace Dreams’, ‘Pass Over Me’ & ‘Skin Deep’ by Rayna Campbell, Rachel Creeger and Hamza Rafique which are drawn from Afro-Caribbean, Jewish and Muslim communities.

The Monologues will be released the week beginning September 12, and will be found alongside previous releases on Elysium’s YouTube channel, here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs7xL1Azzgnu0VkU1odZ5Qw

 

A Doll’s House is regarded as one of the greatest plays of all time, and is said to have ‘fired the starting gun’ on modern theatre.

Focusing on the self-discovery of central character Nora Helmer, a woman who goes against conventions and rules of a patriarchal society, by defying her husband, ‘A Doll’s House’ was one of the first plays to put modern marriage under the spotlight, and look at the institution from a woman’s point of view.

Its message that a woman’s right to freedom and dignity was equal to a man’s was revolutionary at the time, and made playwright Ibsen an icon for the Women’s Movement. The play continues to provoke debate today.

The show stars two of Elysium’s founding members – Hannah Ellis Ryan, who shot to fame as villain Hannah Gilmore in Coronation Street in 2018, and Danny Solomon – and will visit the following theatres on these dates:

28 & 29 Sept – Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham (https://www.queenshall.co.uk/)
30 Sept – The Witham, Barnard Castle (https://thewitham.org.uk/)
1 Oct – The Exchange, North Shields (https://www.attheexchange.info/)
3 Oct  – Alnwick Playhouse, Alnwick (https://www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk/)
5 – 8 Oct – Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham (https://www.theassemblyroomstheatre.org/)
11 Oct – Princess Alexandria, Yarm (https://www.thepaaonline.org/)
12 Oct – Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond (https://www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk/)
13 Oct – Fire Station, Sunderland (https://sunderlandculture.org.uk/our-venues/the-fire-station/)
14 Oct  – Town Hall, Bishop Auckland (https://bishopaucklandtownhall.org.uk/)
15 Oct – Civic Theatre, Gosforth (https://www.gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk/)

Reiver – Tales from the Borders – will takes North Eastern audiences back 400 years  to when the Reivers, lawless families who lived off violence and extortion terrorised the Anglo-Scottish borders.

Three interlocking stories by Northumberland playwright Steve Byron – ‘Blackmail’, ‘Godforsaken Place’ and ‘The Widow’s Path’ – paint a portrait of a world not unlike our own, in which corruption and evil force ordinary people to take a stand.

With Micky Cochrane, Steven Stobbs and Karen Traynor as an innocent farmer, an exiled lawman and a young woman sold into slavery who defy the Reivers, ‘Tales From The Borders’ will visit a mixture of historical sites, rural communities and major theatres across the North East and Cumbria:

16 & 17 Nov – Alnwick Playhouse, Alnwick (https://www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk/)
18 Nov – The Exchange, North Shields (https://www.attheexchange.info/)
19 Nov – Ushaw Historic House, Durham County (https://ushaw.org/)
23 Nov
– Hatfield College, Durham City (www.eventbrite.com)
24 Nov
– Dufton Village Hall, Appleby (https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/)
25 Nov
– Mickleton Village Hall, Mickleton (https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/)
26 Nov
– Wark Town Hall & Mechanics Institute, Wark (https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/)
27 Nov – Allendale Village Hall, Allendale (https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/)
29 Nov
– Newcastle Castle, Newcastle-On-Tyne (https://www.newcastlecastle.co.uk/)
30 Nov – Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham (https://www.queenshall.co.uk/)
1 Dec – Dovecote Centre, Amble (www.thedovecotecentre.com)

Elysium was formed in Durham in 2017 and has gone from strength to strength. It is currently the only theatre company in the North East touring a mixture of NE premieres, classics and new writing.

Elysium has produced seven stage and 11 online plays, including one live streamed production, Hello And Goodbye. Its dedication to championing new writing through the Covid-19 Monologues earned it the prestigious Olwen Wymark Award from the Writers Guild of Great Britain in 2021.

One of the Monologues, ‘The Moth’, has been selected for 24 international film festivals, and three, grouped together into the Covid-19 Trilogy, won Best Monologue in the Thornhill Theatre Space Online Festival 2021.

The company’s growth has also enabled it to reach out further into the community, appointing an Engagement Officer to reach out to schools, colleges, universities, special needs groups, refugee groups and other organisations to help bring theatre to young people and communities that might not otherwise have access to it.

Elysium will also be offering live interactive workshops, Q&As and online resources for both of its upcoming tours. For further information contact Amy Mitchell at elysiumtcengagement@gmail.com

For more information on Elysium, its work and history, see www.elysiumtc.co.uk.


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