Play Hard

10 free, outdoor events to get us Out on the Toon

They’ll be in a North East neighbourhood near you in June…

Written by High Life North
Published 26.05.2021

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, local theatre and performing arts stalwart Northern Stage is inviting us all to get back Out on the Toon this summer – with a series of free outdoor events aiming to reconnect artists and audiences in their local neighbourhoods throughout June.

‘At Northern Stage, we’re nothing without independent artists and makers,’ says Northern Stage Artistic Director, Natalie Ibu. ‘So they’re at the heart of our programme as we go Out on the Toon to meet audiences where they are, as many of us step out of our bubbles back into public life.


‘The region offers the most exciting stage in the North East – a diverse range of places and spaces, from the many green parks in Newcastle and Gateshead to the residential suburbs of Sunderland and North Tyneside; from rural County Durham and Northumberland to the beautiful beaches in South Shields – and our neighbourhood artist commissions take their inspiration from those very spaces. We want audiences to know they can rely on Northern Stage to bring them stories, no matter what.’

Following an open call, 10 North East theatre makers have been selected to create work in nine of the region’s 12 local authorities – breathing new life into the places and spaces that have been the backdrop to their lockdown, celebrating the diversity of our region and bringing communities together.

‘We were bowled over by the response to the open call,’ admits Independent Producer Michael Barrass, who led the artist call out and selection process for the Neighbourhood programme. ‘There were so many brilliant ideas, it was difficult to whittle it down to just 10. We were really impressed by the range and the quality of the applications and we’re excited to see what these North East theatre makers create for audiences to experience in their local neighbourhoods this summer, right across the region.’

In Consett, County Durham, Tracy Gillman will write and direct Mam Tackles the Climate Crisis – a site-specific show performed by Jackie Lye. ‘Mam’ shares stories with passers by about her frustrated attempts to recycle everything… including her relationship with her daughter.

In North Tyneside, Rachel Stockdale performs an intimate piece of theatre created in response to her favourite pastime of FaceTiming in the bath. Directed by Jake Smith, Tub Time: Unplugged, is an ode to the nation’s favourite lockdown pastimes and a look to the future.

In South Shields, director Mark Maughan will work with award-winning playwright Lee Mattinson to create talking points around Juan Munoz’s Conversation Piece at Littlehaven Beach – 22 sculptures known locally as ‘The Weebles’. After a year inside our own houses (and heads), audiences will be invited to eavesdrop into conversations about what we’ve missed most and what we want to change post-pandemic.

In the residential streets of Heaton in Newcastle, What’s That Dance co-creators Megan Brown and Jenny Chrisp will lead a dance performance for local women of all ages to take part in, to highlight inequality and celebrate the strength and resilience women have shown throughout the pandemic.

In Sunderland, Theatre Space NE will create a collection of short stories and films based on the lived experiences of local residents during the pandemic. Expressing moments of sadness, humour and hope, Thanks for the Chat will capture the mood of the city just before the first national lockdown, hopefully helping people to reconnect with their community as restrictions ease.

Back in Newcastle, Georgina Lance will perform Black Femme Priority – exploring how movement can be used for healing and liberation, inspired by her own experience during lockdown and the Black Lives Matter protests.

In Gateshead, Kitchen Zoo will create Story Trails – an audio adventure for 3-7 year olds and their grown-ups that takes audiences for a stroll through some well-known stories, all the while reimagining the local landscape.

In Stockton, award-winning actor Scott Turnbull will perform Chewin’ on a Brick – a series of semi-autobiographical short stories, handmade animations and loving anecdotes about growing up in Stockton on Tees in the style of a guided tour, with moments of magic realism and dark humour.

By the River Tyne in Hexham, the Tees in Middlesbrough and the Wear in Durham, Teesside-based Queer arts group Bordello Collective weave together spoken word, live music and song in Verto – immersive theatrical performances along three different North East riverside walkways, reminding us to reconnect with ourselves and the world around us.

Children aged 3–5 years (and their grown-ups) will help Orville the anxious owl take his first flight on a family story trail around Bill Quay Farm in Gateshead – written by children’s playwright Danielle Slade, performed by Charlotte Ryder with puppets by Georgia Hill.

Northern Stage’s 2021 season, This Is Us, is a response to the world we live in and is centred around making culture more accessible to more people through a programme of work that reflects diverse stories and communities. The rest of the programme will be announced shortly, including the first show Natalie Ibu will direct for Northern Stage when the theatre reopens in the autumn.

For more details, including where and when to see Neighbourhood events for free throughout June as part of Northern Stage’s Out on the Toon programme, visit here  



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