Play Hard

Your ultimate autumn show guide for theatres in Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham and Northumberland

What’s on at the theatre, you ask? We run down the season’s big hitters across the North East at local institutions like Theatre Royal Newcastle, Sunderland Empire Theatre and Durham Gala Theatre.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 16.09.2023
You Heard Me Stockton ARC Theatre

You Heard Me

20th – 21st September

ARC Stockton

You Heard Me is for anyone who has been underestimated. Anyone who has been told to shut up. Anyone who has been afraid to walk home.

It’s a true story about the power to re-make, re-mould and disrupt. A celebration of a single moment of noise that freed Luca from an attack. This is a show about refusing to stay quiet.

This show exists because, without using her voice, Luca wouldn’t. 

Content warning: this show at ARC Stockton contains references to sexual violence.

Tickets: Pay what you feel

I, Daniel Blake Northern Stage

I, Daniel Blake

26th – 30th September

Gala Theatre Durham

Dan is a carpenter. A Geordie through and through. Just on the mend after a heart attack. Katie has just arrived from London. Finally got a council house for her and the kids. A fresh start.

Adapted from Ken Loach’s award-winning film by Dave Johns, who actually played Daniel Blake in that film, I, Daniel Blake is one of the most important stories of a generation. Head to Gala Theatre Durham to get a glimpse behind the headlines and the stark reality of what happens when the political system is stacked against you.

With 14.5 million* people living in poverty in the UK, this is not fiction. It is reality.

Tickets: from £25.00

Macbeth Northern Stage Newcastle upon Tyne Theatre Shakespeare


27th September – 7th October

Northern Stage Newcastle

This visceral, contemporary co-production between Northern Stage Newcastle, English Touring Theatre, Shakespeare North Playhouse and Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg promises to be one of the season’s pinnacles of Newcastle theatre as it reimagines the classic tale of a divided nation tearing itself apart.

When the Macbeths see their chance at the crown, why shouldn’t they take it? But, of course, things don’t go to plan. Dreams quickly turn to nightmares, humanity erodes and nature stirs….

Tickets: from £10.00

Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London Alnwick Playhouse Theatre

Mrs Roosevelt Flies to London

28th September

Alnwick Playhouse

In October 1942, Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President, takes a dangerous trip to wartime London to visit US troops and see how to British – most importantly, the British women – are coping.

In her last days, as the Cuban Missile Crisis pushes the world to the brink of final catastrophe, Eleanor relieves her journey from bomb-damaged Buckingham Palace to midnight factories, but also recalls her life: from unhappy child to unconventional wife, to becoming, in President Truman’s words, ‘First Lady of the World.’

Alison Skilbeck’s critically acclaimed one-woman show is a fine example of the sensitivity of North East theatre, revealing the public and private life of one of the most extraordinary women of the 20th century.

Tickets: from £18.00

Annie The Musical Sunderland Empire


2nd – 7th October

Sunderland Empire Theatre

The smash-hit West End production of Annie – starring strictly judge Craig Revel-Horwood as Miss Hannigan – comes to Sunderland Empire theatre for one week only this October.

With its Tony Award-winning book and score, including the unforgettable songs ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’, ‘Easy Street’, ‘I Don’t Need Anything But You’ and ‘Tomorrow’, you can bet your bottom dollar you’re going to fall in love with this childhood classic all over again.

Tickets: from £13.00

The Cold Buffet Live Theatre Newcastle upon Tyne

The Cold Buffet

5th – 28th October

Live Theatre Newcastle

Making an appearance at family get-togethers is the only time Ellis can muster the strength to visit home. The awkward small talk, the underlying tension, avoiding conversation and slighting comments are a few things he prepares himself for.

When it begins to become tradition at these occasions for true feelings to be unearthed, is it time for Ellis to cut ties?

A delicious North East family saga at Live Theatre Newcastle – one of the most inventive theatres in Newcastle – laced with dry humour and a good dose of interpersonal tension.

Tickets: from £10.00

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare Much Ado About Nothing Tyne Theatre and Opera House Newcastle

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing

7th October

Tyne Theatre & Opera House Newcastle

Stumbling out of their London local (Leicester Square Theatre) and straight onto the stage of one of the most iconic theatres in Newcastle – hoping to not get, erm, bard along the way – Sh!t-faced Shakespeare go on tour with an all new production of their hit show, Much Ado About Nothing.

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare is the classic combination of a hacked-to-bits Shakespeare script, half a dozen professional actors and a bucket load of booze. Sounds classical to us…

Warning: Sh!t-faced Shakespeare is an adult show for big sensible grown ups and therefore contains rude stuff!

Tickets: from £25.00

Do You Believe in Ghosts? Middlesbrough Town Hall

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

8th October

Middlesbrough Town Hall

This experiential ghost story is guaranteed to be unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. Are you feeling brave?

This haunting night of North East theatre will reveal all the secrets of what goes on when the spotlights go dark. Follow the rules: keep your hands inside the car (so to speak) and you’ll be safe, as Middlesbrough Town Hall reveal all the tales that every theatre has to tell.

So, book tickets – go on, we dare you.

Tickets: from £32.50

42nd Street Theatre Royal Newcastle upon Tyne

42nd Street

10th – 14th October

Theatre Royal Newcastle

It’s big. It’s bright. It’s a brand, spanking new production of ‘the original showbiz musical,’ 42nd Street coming to the Theatre Royal Newcastle this autumn.

Starring Samantha Womack, Michael Praed, Faye Tozer, Les Dennis and Nicole-Lily Baisden, this iconic song-and-dance spectacular promises to be a highlight in the Newcastle theatre calendar, featuring a hit parade of toe-tapping songs, including ‘42nd Street’, ‘We’re In The Money’, ‘Lullaby of Broadway’, ‘Shuffle Off To Buffalo’ and ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’.

Tickets: from £20.00

FLIP! Alphabetti Theatre Newcastle upon Tyne


10th – 28th October

Alphabetti Theatre Newcastle

This powerful new satire at arguably one of the bravest theatres in Newcastle probes what it means to live freely under the shadow of social media.

Carleen and Crystal are influencers with cultural commentary that will have you in stitches. Love them or hate them, there’s no stopping their fast-growing online following.

Offline, Carleen has her reservations about their cyber personas, but she idolises Crystal and would follow her anywhere – even to FLIP!, the new social media giant that has everyone hooked. Superstardom, followers, fame, influence, money: it’s all just one click away. FLIP! is the answer to everything they’ve ever dreamed of. But is it too good to be true?

Tickets: from £10.00

Go Back For Murder by Agatha Christie Middlesbrough Theatre

Go Back For Murder by Agatha Christie

11th – 14th October

Middlesbrough Theatre

Sixteen years ago, Carla’s mother was convicted of murdering her husband and died in prison.

When Carla receives a letter from her mother beyond the grave, protesting her innocence, she makes a passionate attempt to clear her mother’s name…

Tickets: from £12.20

Death on the Mile The Durham Revue Sir Thomas Allen Assembly Rooms Theatre Durham

Death on the Mile

14th October

Sir Thomas Allen Assembly Rooms Theatre Durham

Following their successful Edinburgh Fringe run, the Revue 2022/23 troupe are back for one final demonstration of peak Durham theatre – and one final mystery.

The troupe is set to perform at an old Manor House – what could possibly go wrong? A murder, that’s what. They must keep performing their sketches whilst the investigation ensues. But will they figure out whodunnit, or will the killer get the last laugh?

Content Warning: Strong language/adult themes

Tickets: from £6.00

Frankenstein Darlington Hippodrome


17th – 21st October

Darlington Hippodrome

This new story, inspired by Mary Shelley’s classic gothic novel, takes place at what feels like the very end of the world, whilst Europe is tearing itself apart. As two women hide from their past, one has a terrifying story to tell…

“I created life. You don’t believe me but it’s true. I didn’t start from scratch of course, but out of portions and odd ends I made something – alive. But what I created… it wasn’t a superhuman. It was a monster.”

Tickets: from £16.50

Beyond Caring The Customs House, South Shields

Beyond Caring

18th October

The Customs House South Shields

Meet Queenie, Elaine and Alex: resident, relative and carer at Cedar Point Care Home. A place where the corridors roar with laughter and ache with sadness and where outrageous antics mingle with tough conversations.

Beyond Caring is a powerful new piece of North East theatre that takes a frank, humorous and heart-breaking look at life behind the doors of a care home. Based on interviews with residents, relatives and staff, this play uncovers the reality of caring for others, looking after ourselves and getting older.

Tickets: from £10.00

Private Lives Peoples Theatre, Newcastle

Private Lives

24th – 28th October

Peoples Theatre Newcastle

Divorced couple Elyot and Amanda find themselves reunited while honeymooning with their new partners. Their unexpected meeting on adjoining hotel balconies reignites old passions … and problems.

This classic comedy of manners is packed with Noel Coward’s trademark wit and wordplay, and is sprinkled with some Newcastle theatre magic. A sublimely funny and high-spirited romp that fizzes with sophistication, fun and sexual chemistry. 

Tickets: from £16.00

Reiver: Tales from the Borders Elysium Theatre Maltings Theatre, Berwick upon Tweed

Reiver – Tales from the Borders

27th October

Maltings Theatre Berwick

The Reivers: lawless families who terrorised the Anglo-Scottish border for 400 years from Newcastle to Edinburgh, Carlisle to Dumfries, until King James I broke their power.

Living by blackmail, extortion, protection and theft, they grew to become some of the most powerful families of their time, with names we still recognise today: the Nixons, the Armstrongs, the Robsons and the Charltons.

This deft example of North East theatre weaves three tales of ordinary people caught in the Reivers’ web, who take a stand against their murderous ways.

Tickets: from £15.00

Pretty Woman The Musical UK Stockton Globe

Pretty Woman: The Musical

14th – 30th December

Stockton Globe

Ok, so we know December doesn’t technically qualify as ‘autumn’, but we figured you wouldn’t want to miss the chance to nab tickets to this blockbuster in the Durham theatre calendar – because it’s sure to be a big night out. Big. Huge.

Pretty Woman: The Musical is finally embarking on a UK tour, so make a date to see Hollywood’s ultimate rom-com live on stage. Expect the iconic ‘80s love story as told by Julia and Richard in the classic film, but with added rock stardust thanks to songs written by Grammy winners Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance.

Tickets: from £13.00


For even more events listings this autumn and beyond, visit our What’s On calendar.

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