Natalie Ibu photo credt Mathieu Ajan.jpg
New Artistic Director, Natalie Ibu has promised a new season at Northern Stage. THIS IS US is set to bring audiences stories, no matter what, through a bold programme of collaborations, commissions and curated work that celebrates the collective, connection and community.
Natalie joined Northern Stage as Artistic Director and Joint Chief Executive in November 2020. She says, “I think it’s fair to say that none of us – me, the organisation, artists and audiences alike – thought I’d be announcing my very first season so soon into the role. But – whilst a surprise twist – it’s provided a brilliant opportunity to hit the ground running, collaborating with artists, with place, with the personal and the political to meet audiences wherever they are and then lead them back to our building when it’s safe to do so.”
This Is Us is a response to the world we live in, making culture more accessible to more people through a programme of work that reflects diverse stories and communities.
It has three strands, designed with enough flexibility built in to allow for adaptions to the latest restrictions: from January, Can We Come In? will take audiences on a journey from their homes, into the city for Out on the Toon from March, and then back into the theatre when it reopens for Housewarming from April.
Can We Come In? is an at home experience as it has been specially commissioned digital micro-stories, plus the very best digital capture of plays, streamed on demand.
It launches on 27 January with Scroll, offering audiences an antidote to ‘doom scrolling’ in a series of digital story interventions commissioned by Northern Stage to replace the moments of mindless scrolling with tiny stories about us to be experienced in the moments in-between, e.g. while waiting for the kettle to boil, standing in a queue, or just after turning the morning alarm off. Scroll features new work by Adam Lenson, Bridget Minamore, Chris Sonnex, and Daniel Bye, .
A partnership with Actors Touring Company for Dear Tomorrow – Hope From Home six writers have been commissioned to write letters of hope, as a way of finding optimism in uncertain times. These pieces will be performed to camera by actors from across the UK and available to stream for free from 22 February.
ATC Artistic Director Matthew Xia said, “Dear Tomorrow was ATC’s ‘letter writing’ contribution to last Autumn’s Signal Fires project, we wanted to find a way to deliver theatrical experiences to people in their homes across the UK. We were blown away by the response to the project, and are now delighted to join forces with Northern Stage to extend and develop the idea. Dear Tomorrow – Hope From Home aims to deliver uplifting and galvanising online experiences, at a time when hope is very much needed.”
After the 2020 premiere and tour of Gareth Farr’s Shandyland couldn’t go ahead due to the pandemic, Shandyland: Pint Size offers audiences a chance to meet some of the characters, feel the spirit of the pub where the play is set and get a taste of the humour and energy that makes Shandyland so special. Directed by Hannah Bannister and Zak Harney, this short film – being launched on Valentine’s weekend – is a love letter to the northern boozer.
Out on the Toon will see the city become a canvas, creating cultural experiences for audiences to connect with as they wander through their local streets. Part performance, part installation, Milk Presents’ High Vis is landing on the streets of Newcastle. High queer, high camp and high volume, members of the LGBTQIA+ community will be invited to anonymously record celebratory declarations of queerness in one part of Newcastle, and have these broadcast via Milk’s loud and proud hailer on the other side of the city.
Milk’s Executive Producer Ruby Glaskin explains, “The pandemic has forced LGBTQIA+ spaces to close and Pride events to cancel, leaving the community isolated from each other. With many missing their queer fam High Vis is an opportunity to shout out to Newcastle’s LGBTQIA+ community and also be heard by those who haven’t stopped to listen before.”
Housewarming will welcome audiences and artists back into the theatre once it’s safe to reopen, starting with a new adaptation of H.G. Wells’ sci-fi classic, The Invisible Man adapted by Phil Correia and directed by Anna Girvan. It will premiere at Northern Stage before touring to rural venues across the North East, restrictions permitting. More shows and new commissions will be announced shortly, including the first show Natalie Ibu will direct for Northern Stage in autumn 2021.
Northern Stage is working with Vici Wreford-Sinnott from disabled-led theatre company Little Cog to make the new programme as accessible as possible. This will include captions, audio description, BSL at live events, content warnings and relaxed approaches to the programme and time frames for workshops.
Natalie says, “This is Us is an experiment – demanded by the moment. We’re still here and we’re going to get through this together. You can rely on us to bring you stories, no matter what.”
Ticketed shows go on general sale from 27 January and to Northern Stage members and supporters from 25 January. For more details and updated listings visit northernstage.co.uk