North East theatre company stages world premiere of play focusing on North East history
A dynamic theatre company is set to stage its first ever world premiere in the North East with an original production set in the region during the 14th century.
Elysium Theatre Company, based in Durham, will bring ‘Reiver – Tales from the Borders’, to eleven venues across the region during November and December.
During the first Covid-19 lockdown, Elysium had to cancel all of its live dates, so the forward-thinking theatre company instead began producing a revolutionary series of one-person ‘Covid-19 Monolgues’ which were streamed online.
These were a huge success, so much so that one production was expanded and rewritten into ‘Reiver – Tales from the Borders’; a three-person play set during the 1500s, when Reivers ‘raiders’ terrorized the Anglo-Scottish border.
Written by Newcastle-based, Northumberland-born playwright Steve Byron, three interlocking stories – ‘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 a North East cast of 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, ‘Reiver – Tales From The Borders’ will visit a mixture of historical sites, rural communities and major theatres across the North East and Cumbria:
Steve Byron said: “This all started when director Jake Murray asked me to submit a piece as part of the Covid-19 Monologues project.
“For a long time I had been dabbling with idea of writing something historical. I was always intrigued about that part of history in Northumberland and Jake said I could write whatever I want so thought would have a go at it.
“That became Blackmail, and it was a real success when it was streamed online. When it came to what I wanted to do next I decided to write two further stories, and these have now been brought together and are touring theatres and community venues.
“I wanted to create something that would have people on the edge of their seats, three thrilling stories where people care for the characters and are itching to know what’s going to happen next!
“This is me testing the waters to see if I can write in this way and see if audience will enjoy it, then will look at developing even bigger pieces and hopefully eventually get it on to the screen.”
The Reivers were an area of Northumberland that, for 400 years between the 14th and 17th centuries, were owned by neither Scotland or England. This gave way to lawlessness, with families and clans battling for supremacy.
Steve revealed he wanted to focus on this period because of his love of the past, and to help bring a slice of local history to North East communities.
He added: “A lot of people don’t know about the Reivers and what they were about. This was the 14th century equivalent of the Wild West!
“They were very dark and dangerous times and if you were not part of those powerful clans it must have been very terrifying.
“I am a huge fan of westerns and gangster movies and that was what was basically going on at that time in the North East!
“It is entirely fiction but everything I have written is based on fact, and is all still valid today – it is about powerlessness and helplessness, and I hope people who come and see it can feel for the characters and relate to them in some way.”
The full tour details are:
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)
‘Reiver’ comes fresh on the back of Elysium’s biggest tour to date – a successful ten-venue tour of A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen, which received rave reviews from audiences.
It has also just released its third volume of Covid-19 Monologues, available here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs7xL1Azzgnu0VkU1odZ5Qw, which are racking up thousands of views.
‘Revier’ is the first of three original plays that Elysium plans to produce over the next 18 months.
It is also part of The Reiver Project – an ambitious rolling programme of work which will eventually take in the whole of the Border Region, bringing the Reivers to life with plays, audio-dramas, full scale productions with community involvement and even short films.
Elysium founder Jake Murray, who has directed all of the theatre company’s live productions, said he believed ‘Revier’could be the start of something huge for his theatre company.
He said: “’We are incredibly excited about ‘Reiver’. It’s our first ever piece of new writing, making it a first for us as artistically as well as a world premiere.
“When we started out in 2017 we never intended to do new work, but the Covid-19 Monologues changed all that. This is the first of three of them that have been adapted and expanded for stage which we will be performing over the next 18 months.
“I love Steve’s work, and am incredibly proud that his is the first of the three we are producing. Steve has written a piece of theatre with Shakespearean dimensions. He has managed to conjure up the Northumberland, Cumbria and Scotland of the past, but also made his stories feel incredibly modern.
“It’s a joy to be doing something that is so rooted in the history of this region. It is also exciting to be performing in non-traditional spaces like Newcastle Keep, Hatfield College Chapel in Durham and Ushaw Historic House. We hope this is going to be just the first of many projects surrounding the Reivers we produce over the next few years.”
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.
For more information on Elysium, its work and history, see www.elysiumtc.co.uk.
- JUNKYARD GOLF CLUB LAUNCHES ‘ELVES ON THE RUN’ CRAZY CHRISTMAS FUN THIS DECEMBER - 4 December 2023
- This is England actor and UK Britpop band to perform epic Christmas special on Tyneside - 4 December 2023
- WHERE TO CELEBRATE NEW YEAR IN STYLE: SIX BALTIC - 4 December 2023