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The Very Popular Theatre Company storms into 2022

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Shaking off the lockdown challenges thrown at the industry by COVID-19, Newcastle’s premier theatrical production company, The Very Popular Theatre Company, has launched its 2022 season.

And, it’s the group’s largest to date.

Very Pop executive and artistic director Daniel Stoddart said, given the rollercoaster ride of the past 20 months, he was happy to not be announcing the closure of the company.

“When it came time to plan this season, I seriously reflected on why I was even bothering,” he admitted.

“The new norm with planning seems to be, step one: make plans, step two: hope to hell they come to fruition.

“There has certainly been lots of lost sleep, but the overriding motivation has been the knowledge of how important theatre is to our lives.

“Especially in times of crisis, when we are feeling so isolated and alone, theatre reminds us we are part of a community and, when we are together, magic, happiness and that intrinsic feeling of togetherness permeates.

“That’s what has kept us fighting.

“For 2022, we have deliberately curated a season, which is uplifting, entertaining and, in many instances, laugh out loud funny.

“We hope it helps audiences laugh away the anxiety of a world overrun by a pandemic (whose name shall not be uttered) but we also hope it allows them to grapple with some of the more serious issues concerning our time.”

In a first for the company, 2022 sees the launch of the first Very Pop Season Ticket, whereby patrons who purchase tickets to a minimum of three of the four shows receive a generous 20% discount off the price – and a range of other subscriber benefits.

Those who purchase before the end of the year will also go into the draw to win the ultimate night out – dinner for two and overnight accommodation at the new five-star Crystalbrook Kingsley Hotel across from the theatre.

“We are tremendously proud of the 2022 season,” Mr Stoddart said.

“Each show is under a different director – from Samuel Jenkins making his directorial debut in March to Nicholas Christo bringing his extensive industry experience to deliver the sensational Jersey Boys to Newcastle for the first time in October.

“We look forward to full theatres and full hearts in the new year.”

HIR

16 to 19 March

Civic Playhouse

Making its Newcastle debut, Hir is a play about transition — a nation, a town, a family, and one teenager, all being transformed, whether deliberately or not.

Somewhere in the suburbs, after a dishonourable discharge from the military, Isaac has returned home from the horrific and bloody war in Afghanistan, to help take care of his ailing father, only to discover a household in revolt. The insurgent: his mum. Liberated from an oppressive marriage, with Isaac’s newly out transgender sibling as her ally, she’s on a crusade to dismantle the patriarchy.

Domestic abuse, the trauma of war, and the acceptance of gender neutrality explode on an emotionally gripping, intensely real and absurdly dark battlefield.

Under the direction of Samuel Jenkins (Assistant Director, Things I Know To Be True), Hir shows that blowing up your past doesn’t necessarily set you free.

Taylor Mac’s hilarious and terrifying Hir is a dysfunctional family dramedy for a new era, a highly intelligent, tenderly heartfelt, and deeply, darkly humorous portrayal of a family in crisis.

PUFFS

6 to 14 May

Civic Playhouse

For seven years, a certain boy wizard went to a certain Wizard School and conquered evil. This, however, is not his story. This is the story of the Puffs . . . who just happened to be there too.

In true Very Popular spirit, this clever and inventive play never goes more than a minute without a laugh, giving you a new look at a familiar adventure from the perspective of three potential heroes, just trying to make it through a magic school which proves to be very dangerous for children.

Alongside them are the Puffs, a group of well-meaning, loyal outsiders who are so lovable and relatable, you’ll leave the theater wishing they were in the stories all along.

Making its Newcastle debut under the expert direction of Daniel Stoddart, this hilarious and heartfelt journey takes the classic story to new places and reimagines what a boy wizard hero can be. A tale for anyone who has never been destined to save the world.

“A fast paced romp for POTTERphiliacs who grew up alongside Potter and are eager to revisit that world, PUFFS exudes a jovial, winking fondness for all things Harry!” The New York Times

WHAT THE BUTLER SAW

5 to 13 August

Civic Playhouse

A psychiatric doctor in an exclusive, private clinic, attempts to interview an attractive would-be secretary in this savage, sexually-charged satire which is arguably more relevant now than in 1969.

One of the greatest stage comedies of all time, more than 50 years after its premiere, Orton’s completely anarchic final farce deserves to be recognised as a play in tune with today’s #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. It is excoriating satire on a society which elides, minimises, normalises and even romanticises rape. Orton thoughtfully uses this theme to amplify his central concerns: hypocrisy, corruption, misogyny and the limits of sexual revolution.

Alex Emeljanow brings Orton’s provocative attack on hypocrisy somersaulting into 2022, with this darkest of farces. It is stuffed full of twists and turns, mishaps and changes of fortune, coincidences and lunatic logic, in which six characters gradually lose the plot, their wits and/or their clothes.

Whether you see it as a black satire on the abuse of power, a savage assault on ‘respectability’, a post-Freudian dark night of the sexual soul or simply as a work of profound mischief, Orton’s wit and invention are as dazzling and fresh as ever.

“Hilarious, outrageous . . . It dazzles! Wonderfully verbal, toying with words as if they were firecrackers.” New York Times

JERSEY BOYS

8 to 22 October

Civic Playhouse

Jersey Boys tells the true-life story of four guys from the wrong side of the tracks, the rise to stardom of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, one of the most successful bands in pop music history. The band sold more than 175 million records and were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame for their worldwide hits, including Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Walk Like a Man, Bye Bye Baby, Sherry and Big Girl’s Don’t Cry, which all feature in the musical.

Upbeat, slickly produced and fast-paced, Jersey Boys appeals to diehard fans of the Four Seasons and audience members less familiar with the group’s extensive catalogue of hits.

“Jersey Boys isn’t just a cut above most musicals; it’s in a different league.” Sunday Telegraph

“The crowd goes wild.” The New York Times

“Too good to be true!” New York Post

Tickets to The Very Popular Theatre Company’s 2022 season are available through the Civic Theatre website https://bit.ly/nph-vptc2022

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