A North East theater company has revealed its schedule of upcoming and highly anticipated productions after turning the national tide by emerging from the coronavirus pandemic stronger than ever.
Elysium Theater Company canceled live performances during lockdown and instead aired a series of groundbreaking ‘Covid-19 monologues’. Individual performances have reached tens of thousands of people online and have received numerous awards and accolades.
The company will now release six more original monologues online on September 5, written by and featuring some of the best talent from across the country. This will be followed by a tour of “A Doll’s House”, by Henrik Ibsen, which will visit ten theaters in the North later in September and October.
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He will then tour nine other venues in November, including Newcastle and Northumberland with ‘Reiver – Tales from the Borders’ – an original production adapted from one of Elysium’s original Covid monologues, by playwright North- Is Steve Byron. This will be Elysium’s first newly written play.
Elysium co-founder Jake Murray, who heads up all of the company’s productions, believes this proves the pandemic has made Elysium stronger than ever. He said: “A lot of theater companies closed during Covid but the pandemic didn’t kill us, we came out stronger than ever. We came out of the starting blocks full speed ahead, with two live tours and a series production line.
“When we went into the pandemic, we were doing shows in maybe three or four venues, and now we’re shooting two shows in up to ten venues at a time! We’ve had incredible responses to the online content that we have released over the past two years – so much so that we have decided to continue our series of award-winning Covid-19 monologues despite the reopening of theaters.
“If anything, by producing live, online content we can reach even more people than ever before – we hope to continue to bring the best of live theater to the North of England, while pushing back limits with our online content as well.
“I feel like Covid has helped us get to where we want to be. Our goal before the pandemic was to bring the best of theater to the North and these tours show we can do that. Now we want to expand even further and reach more people across the North and beyond with even bigger tours and more streaming shows.
“We’re excited to embark on these live tours and see audience responses to these two series and our latest series of monologues.”
The Covid-19 Monologues, released on September 12, features a range of stories written by a group of writers from diverse backgrounds, including three from the North East. Several reflect on people’s experience of the pandemic or take place during it, others look to the future.
Both comedic and tragic, they include “Blue Bin Day”, “Dandelion” and “Ask me Anything” by Phil Meeks, Elijah Young and Chris Neville-Smith – which feature powerful portrayals of Northeastern characters from very different backgrounds – and ‘Cyberspace Dreams’, ‘Pass Over Me’ and ‘Skin Deep’ by Rayna Campbell, Rachel Creeger and Hamza Rafique who hail from Afro-Caribbean, Jewish and Muslim communities.
The monologues will be released the week of September 12 and can be found alongside previous releases on Elysium’s YouTube channel here.
A Doll’s House is considered one of the greatest plays of all time and is said to have “kicked off” modern theatre.
Focusing on the self-discovery of central character Nora Helmer, a woman who goes against the conventions and rules of a patriarchal society, by challenging her husband, “A Doll’s House” was one of the first plays to put modern marriage in the spotlight, and look at the institution from a woman’s point of view.
Her message that a woman’s right to freedom and dignity was equal to a man’s was groundbreaking at the time and made playwright Ibsen an icon of the women’s movement. The play continues to spark debate today.
The show stars two of Elysium’s founding members – Hannah Ellis Ryan, who rose to fame as the villainous Hannah Gilmore on Coronation Street in 2018, and Danny Solomon – and will visit the following theaters on these dates:
- September 28 & 29 – Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham (https://www.queenshall.co.uk/)
- September 30 – The Witham, Barnard Castle (https://thewitham.org.uk/)
- October 1 – The Exchange, North Shields (https://www.attheexchange.info/)
- October 3 – Alnwick Playhouse, Alnwick (https://www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk/)
- October 5 – 8 – Assembly Rooms Theatre, Durham (https://www.theassemblyroomstheatre.org/)
- October 11 – Princess Alexandria, Yarm (https://www.thepaaonline.org/)
- October 12 – Georgian Theater Royal, Richmond (https://www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk/)
- October 13 – Fire Station, Sunderland (https://sunderlandculture.org.uk/our-venues/the-fire-station/)
- October 14 – Town Hall, Bishop Auckland (https://bishopaucklandtownhall.org.uk/)
- 15 October – Civic Theatre, Gosforth (https://www.gosforthcivictheatre.co.uk/)
Reiver – Tales from the Borders – will take North East audiences back 400 years to when the Reivers, lawless families who lived on violence and extortion terrorized 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 compel ordinary people to take a stand.
Starring Micky Cochrane, Steven Stobbs and Karen Traynor as an innocent farmer, an exiled lawman and a young woman sold into slavery who challenges the Reivers, “Tales From The Borders” will visit a mix of historic sites, rural communities and major theaters across the North East and Cumbria:
- November 16 and 17 – Alnwick Playhouse, Alnwick (https://www.alnwickplayhouse.co.uk/)
- November 18 – The Exchange, North Shields (https://www.attheexchange.info/)
- November 19 – Ushaw Historic House, County Durham (https://ushaw.org/)
- November 23 – Hatfield College, Durham City (www.eventbrite.com)
- November 24 – Dufton Village Hall, Appleby (https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/)
- November 25 – Mickleton Village Hall, Mickleton (https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/)
- November 26 – Wark Town Hall & Mechanics Institute, Wark (https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/)
- November 27 – Allendale Village Hall, Allendale (https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/)
- November 29 – Newcastle Castle, Newcastle-On-Tyne (https://www.newcastlecastle.co.uk/)
- November 30 – Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham (https://www.queenshall.co.uk/)
- December 1 – Dovecote Centre, Amble (www.thedovecotecentre.com)
Elysium was formed in Durham in 2017 and is currently the only theater company in the North East offering a mix of NE premieres, classics and new writing. He has produced seven plays and 11 online plays, including a live-streamed production, Hello And Goodbye.
His dedication to championing new writing through the Covid-19 monologues won him the prestigious Olwen Wymark Award from the Writers Guild of Great Britain in 2021. One of the monologues, ‘The Moth’, has been shortlisted for 24 festivals in international films, and three, grouped together in the Covid-19 trilogy, won the Thornhill Theater Space Online Festival 2021 Best Monologue award.
The company’s growth has also allowed it to reach further into the community, appointing an engagement officer to reach out to schools, colleges, universities, special needs groups, refugee groups and communities. other organizations to help bring theater to young people and communities that might not otherwise have access to it.
Elysium will also offer live interactive workshops, Q&As and online resources for its next two tours. For more information, contact Amy Mitchell at [email protected] For more information about Elysium, its work and its history, see www.elysiumtc.co.uk.