A Night at the Theatre – Blithe Spirit

Escape into another world with Noel Coward’s comedy classic, Blithe Spirit running this week at Middlesbrough Theatre. Enter the country house set of the early twentieth century, a world of faltering servants, clipped accents, cocktails and it is formal dress code for dinner parties. It is all frightfully correct but there are frightening things bubbling beneath the surface. This particular dinner party thrown by socialite and novelist Charles and his wife Ruth serves up far, far more than the hosts bargained for with hilarious consequences.

Charles is researching for his latest book and decides to invite the marvellously over the top medium Madame Arcati over to conduct a séance. Maybe he ought to have thought twice before the flamboyant spiritualist asked if there was anyone there. Charles’ troublesome first wife Elvira seemed only too keen to return and cause all sorts of trouble and mayhem between Charles and second wife Ruth.

We are so lucky to have Middlesbrough Theatre. The unassuming post-war theatre sits amongst the foliage of leafy Linthorpe. The theatre has so many pluses, from the ample car parking right outside to the attentive staff. There are the home comforts of proper theatre seats and the rake affords superb viewing. Yet it has that intimacy of a small theatre but with a stage big enough to allow the elaborate country house set. In fact the last time I attended a play here we were all actually seated in the round on the stage itself.

Blithe Spirit is regarded as one of Noel Coward’s masterpieces, breaking all records for a West End run with nearly 2000 performances through the 1940s, records then smashed by The Mousetrap. Yet Coward went out of fashion, his plays about upper class England were something of an anathema to the aspiring post war generations. Latterly we fell in love with Noel Coward all over again as he made notable appearances on the screen, who can forget him as the criminal godfather, Mr Bridger, in The Italian Job.

This show is co-presented with Less is More Productions. They are a local company aiming to create theatre in Tees Valley area. Less is More like to work with and nurture emerging artists from Middlesbrough and the north east. That is certainly the case with the actress fulfilling the role of the ghostly presence of Elvira. South Shields Natasha Haws still known to many as the ridiculously talented teenage singer songwriter. She is also a ridiculously talented actor on the stage.

Only Charles can see Natasha/Elvira’s ghostly presence but while the results are hilarious for us they are certainly no laughing matter for the hen pecked husband. He is suddenly trapped between his high maintenance first wife Elvira and equally domineering second spouse, Ruth. Charles doesn’t know which way to turn. Maybe he could enjoy the best of both worlds. Yet secretly and certainly not silently Elvira is plotting, plotting, plotting.

Really funny, superb acting and a great opportunity to revel in a real treasure of 20th century theatre.

You can see Blithe Spirit – Friday and Saturday evening 7.30pm

£14/ Concessions £12

Middlesbrough Theatre, The Avenue, Middlesbrough, TS5 6SA.
T. 01642 81 51 81 | Website: www.middlesbroughtheatre.co.uk

Blithe Spirit poster

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James Kruman – Twitch Album Launch

Tomorrow night (Saturday 10th December) is a proud night for Teesside troubadour, James Kruman, it marks the launch of his debut album, Twitch at The Westgarth Social Club. If ever there was an album launch worthy of your support then this is it. An outstanding singer songwriter on the local scene and beyond over the last few years James has released one of the albums of the year in Twitch.

james-krumanThey say to never judge a book by its cover he cover of the album but from its enigmatic scientific diagram drawn on a black surround it is quite clear that Twitch is no ordinary affair. This is a debut full of dark mystery and rare beauty. It demands your full attention. There are shades and layers of meaning here contained within songs that almost entice you in and trap you with deadly venus fly trap barbs. Either the songs devour you whole or you are caught up in their spell. I haven’t put the thing down since it arrived through the post a couple of weeks back.

I was so intrigued that I contacted James to ask him a few questions regarding the album, his music and what we might expect from this weekend’s launch. He is always a compelling performer, with his distinct look, and a voice that harks back to 60s folk and psychedelia and yet is very much of the here and now.

Backed up by the irresistible Broken Broadcast and Hartlepool’s Bob Dylan, Danny Devon this should be an amazing show to end the year.

You  can a preview of the album here on James bandcamp account.

So, here are a few questions and some amazingly insightful answers from James.

Q: You go for a very big start with Barrel Bomb – did you want to take us into the deep end straight away?

JK: I identified Barrel Bomb as being the biggest indicator of how my music has evolved over the last few years, and it seemed important to let the audience know this from the start. I think the mood in Barrel bomb encapsulates the overall mood of the album and I too think that this was important to let the audience know.

Q: I hear hints of Dylan, Donovan and maybe Syd Barrett and psychedelia in your work – are you drawn to great and maybe off the wall song writers?

JK: Bob Dylan was probably the catalyst in my need and obsession to first write music. I have always been drawn to the abstract images portrayed by those artists.

Q: There is a dark beauty to the album Twitch – even the cover – do you feel drawn to a darkside?

JK: I have always been drawn more to the macabre, depressive elements of the human existence. I feel I write more fluently about the dark existence that one can feel.

Q: Your songs draw the listener into great ideas, words and stories. Do you enjoy storytelling in your work?

JK: It’s great that I have been asked this again, because I feel like my songs are far too abstract and narratively warped to tell a story. I genuinely love the way that people take a story from them as it breads another dimension in the song that even I did not realise..

Q: You are hard to pigeon hole but I would say that you like to take an oblique, unusual angle on things, maybe from a long way above the ground. Is that fair?

JK: I think that is fair indeed. I have always felt like an outsider, and I wish to stay an outsider! I do indeed prefer to create the more unusual angle on themes. If I think a particular lyric is too straight and literal I try my best to distort it. I guess it’s like throwing a tin of paint over a blue print.

Q: This is a departure at times from your acoustic live persona did you enjoy working with different instruments and production?

JK: I indeed enjoyed the departure from my conventional set up, but more so, this departure was overtly necessary to create the soundscapes and propel the intended moods to the level that fit the content of each song.

Q: What was the process like of writing, recording etc?

JK: I knew it was time to make the album, I had been toying with ideas of sounds and lyrics for a while and these are the bulk of Twitch. The whole album was recorded in my damp spare bedroom. It used to get so cold in there you could see my breath bouncing off the microphone. I hope this can be imagined in many of the songs, its certainly a winter album! I discovered a new approach to writing music for this album in that in some of the songs on Twitch the music came first and they were left baron and without lyrics for a great while. I have never previously considered myself a musician before as I felt my lyrics were the real fundamental of the song, and the music came second.

Q: There are diagrams and gadgetry on the cover and in the songs, are batteries included in this package?

JK: The Diagrams were re-designed from an old book I found in my parents attic. It was called something like ‘The Young Engineer’, and it was presented to my father in the 1950’s for an achievement at school. I was fascinated by the beauty of the line drawings and how archaic the language was.

Q: Please say anything you want about the album and your recorded work in general, I think you should be very proud of such a great piece of work. Tell us a bit about your album launch and what we might expect from you and the other artists?

JK: The ‘Twitch’ album if nothing else is a mirror image of where I am now in my creative life. I am truly excited for the album launch, it has been a work in progress for the last 9 months, and it is the cause of a worsening insomnia that I have developed recently! I feel privileged to have the Broken Broadcast on the same bill. The Broken Broadcast have a sound and atmosphere that I have not heard elsewhere, they are my favourite band in Teesside, after Journey South. Danny Devon is opening the show, and I have become close with Danny over the last couple of years. His raw live energy coupled with his real life poignant folk songs will be the perfect start to the evening.

James Kruman releases his debut Album called Twitch on Saturday (10th December) at Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough.
Ably supporting James are
The Broken Broadcast and Danny Devon

Tickets £5.50/5.00

Buy Tickets seetickets

twitch

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GEORGIE at The Empire

Exciting, emerging rock’n’soul singer-songwriter Georgie is heading to Middlesbrough Empire tomorrow evening (Wednesday 7th December) supporting the wonderful Blossoms.

Her stunning debut single Company of Thieves has certainly been turning heads and ears inside out. Tipped to be a new soul sensation, Georgie has been snapped up by Columbia records where she has been working with the excellent Matthew E White – surely one to watch for 2017! You can watch her tomorrow night at The Empire supporting Blossoms.

georgieStockport indie band Blossoms were on the BBC’s Sound Of new music list for 2016. They supported Stone Roses in their gig at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, being hand picked by Roses singer Ian Brown, a fan of the band. Cover stars of the NME in August this tour was pretty much sold out as soon as it was announced. That is how red hot they are at present.

Back to Georgie, she is a twenty-one year old singer-songwriter, a distinctly new and unique talent with an incredibly rich, dynamic and expressive voice. She hails from Mansfield, home of former Charlton’s Champions Boro skipper, Stuart Boam, 6 foot 2, eyes of blue…

Please have a look as well as listen to this “striking” video to Georgie’s debut single Company of Thieves HERE

“Company of Thieves” was produced by studio wizard Matthew E White at Spacebomb studios in Virginia. He originally heard Georgie on a trip to the UK and instantly wanted to work with her. A few phone calls later and Georgie was on her way to Virginia and came back with four stunning tracks, with “Company Of Thieves” the first to emerge.
Georgie’s gritty northern sensibility with its searingly honest and fiery songwriting perfectly complement the brilliant, soulful production that comes from Spacebomb’s in-house band on “Company Of Thieves.”

With more from this session to come, it sets Georgie apart from the crowd instantly. Matthew E White has himself said that the production on “Company of Thieves” owes a debt to “There’s A Riot Goin’ On”. His label Spacebomb will be releasing the track in the US.
Live, Georgie has already got a performance at Glastonbury under her belt, with the BBC marking her out as one of the acts to watch over the weekend. She also appeared at the Great Escape in Brighton earlier this year.

Georgie has been touring throughout the UK with Jake Bugg and Blossoms, two of the outstanding gig tours of the autumn.

Georgie returns to Spacebomb in the New Year to finish what will become her debut album.

“With a voice like a cup of freshly brewed black coffee, Georgie is an inebriating presence, backed here by devious basslines and subtle electronic nuances.” – STEREOGUM

“A BBC Introducing artist not to be missed.” BBC INTRODUCING

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7 Hours With Cattle and Cane

I didn’t quite spend 7 hours in the company of Cattle and Cane singer and songwriter, Joe Hammill but after listening to the latest single I messaged him with a few questions for the band. With a big Christmas concert in the offing and the single taster for a new album next year I wondered how the band looked back on the last twelve months and how they were looking forward to big times ahead. Oh and you know me I couldn’t resist dropping a Boro question in there as well.

Led by siblings Joe and Helen Hammill, Cattle & Cane’s new single 7 Hours is the first taste of what’s to come from the band’s brand new album, which is all set for release in early Spring 2017. You can place a pre-order here via PledgeMusic:

www.pledgemusic.com/projects/cattle-and-cane-album-two

The second album has been produced and mixed by Luuk Cox at ICP Studios in Brussels and mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road Studios in London.

7 Hours showcases Helen and Joe’s finely crafted indie-pop and provides the perfect platform for the kind of soaring harmonies which are truly synonymous with family.

In between studio sessions, Cattle & Cane have spent the past few months performing at acclaimed tastemaker events such as Reeperbahn Festival, Live At Leeds and Evolution Emerging, as well as at some of the UK’s finest boutique festivals including Cornbury, Deer Shed and Lindisfarne. 2016 has also seen the band tour abroad for the first time, with shows in Germany, Malta and Belgium.

The band’s final gig of the year is also their biggest headline show to date – at the 1200 capacity Middlesbrough Empire on Thursday 22nd December. Support comes from Cape Cub and tickets are on-sale now from See Tickets:

www.seetickets.com/event/cattle-cane/the-empire/966439

cattle-and-cane-16Q: It is a great strident pop sound to the new single 7 Hours – you have moved a long way from the early folk roots – but you have kept the energy and invention – are we seeing a glimpse of a new direction here?

Joe: Cheers Rob. We made the decision to make a different sounding album. It came about by a lot of co-writing with people over the last year or so, which has changed how I approach and write songs. Sometimes I get sent backing tracks from DJ’s or artists that need a top-line writing for it. That really helps open up the whole process for me as writer. So I’ve been learning many different approaches to writing songs rather than just sitting down with an acoustic guitar (which still works by the way).

Q: I love the harmony/fusion between your voices on this single – is this something you arrived at in the studio?

Joe: It’s definitely a mixture. Helen has a great knack of being able to follow my melody lines (even if it’s the first time she’s heard the song) – some weird sibling telepathy thing! But in the studio, working with Luuk, we will come up with harmonies too.

Q: You record in Belgium now and mix in Malta I think – it must have been amazing expanding your musical outlook like that?

Joe: Yeah, we signed a publishing deal in Belgium which has put us in touch with a lot of great writers and producers out here. It’s nice to base yourself in a different country for a while. It definitely helps the creative process!

Q: 7 Hours is really catchy but has a tension in the sound and lyrics – instant then but also leaves an after taste, so to speak. Are you pleased by just how well it has been received critically and by the listeners?

Joe: Yeah we’re really pleased with the reception for the track. I suppose it’s a very different sounding song than our previous stuff. Dermot O’Leary and Janice Long at Radio 2 are supporting it, which is always good! And there’s been a lot of good blog coverage for it too which is nice.

Q: UK tour, Festivals and European tours and recording – 2016 has been a big year for Cattle and Cane hasn’t it?

Joe: I’ve loved 2016 (apart from the referendums/elections and the passing of loads of legends). We’ve played some great festivals, some shows in Belgium and Germany, and a UK tour. I suppose that’s helped gain new fans. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the writing and recording most of all – that’s what I enjoy most. The new album sees Helen singing 4 or 5 lead songs, and 2 of them are going to be singles. Writing songs knowing other people are going to sing them is a much more relaxing process I find!

cattle-and-cane-7-hoursQ: Crowd funding your music releases must really allow you to get closer to your fans as well as so importantly providing the money upfront?

Joe: Yeah absolutely. Lots of bands are doing it – and I think it’s kind of necessary in the music industry today for a lot of bands and artists. I think survival is so heavily centred on a good fan-base. It’s the crux of it all really – if you can you get people out the house and come to a gig then you’re winning.

Pledge has helped us so much with our second album. Bloody legends.

Q: When are you looking at for the 2nd album release?

Joe: TBC but sometime in the spring I’d imagine!

Q: Are you looking forward to the Christmas show at the Empire – should be a great atmosphere – you enjoy those special shows don’t you?

Joe: Can’t wait for the Christmas show. I think the Empire is the best venue in Teesside. When I was going out on Saturday nights a few years ago I never really appreciated that it’s actually a really beautiful place. The sound in there is great and I love that it’s tiered. I’m sure we’ll have some Christmas themes up our sleeves!

Q: How about Boro? – it was dodgy for a while but some great results at Arsenal and Bournemouth – are you enjoying the season so far?

Joe: I think it’s mad how many ups and downs there have been already. After the Watford game people are talking about relegation then all of a sudden we’ve gained 2 points from arguably the two hardest games you’ll face all season.

Personally, I’m absolutely loving this Boro era. I was too young to appreciate the Juninho years properly so grew up with Boro as an established Prem team. You take it for granted then all of a sudden you’re in the Championship and it’s such a slog to get out of. You realise there are loads of clubs who can argue they ‘should’ be in the Prem that currently aren’t. So I think we’ve done great to be here, we’re not in the relegation zone and we’ve played some really hard games. So I’m a happy and optimistic Boro fan. I think we’ll be okay.

Q: What new music are you in to and would recommend at present?

Joe: I’m listening to a Norwegian artist called Paal Flaata at the moment. His voice is like a cross between Richard Hawley and Roy Orbison and his song-writing is brilliant. Michael Kiwanaku’s latest album is also brilliant.

Listen to the new single 7 Hours through their Soundcloud

https://soundcloud.com/cattleandcanemusic/7hours

Many thanks to Joe Hammill and best of luck to Cattle and Cane. Everyone go out buy the single, pledge for the album and whatever your plans this festive season make sure you do not miss the big Cattle and Cane Christmas show at the Empire, Middlesbrough on Thursday 22nd December.

 

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Discover Middlesbrough’s Rich History and Vibrant Present

Next weekend is lift off for the return of a popular festival that puts Middlesbrough’s history, heritage, arts and culture firmly in the spotlight.

And even if you think know Middlesbrough inside out, Discover Middlesbrough always has a few surprises in store.

The 2016 programme is officially launched this week, with a feast of events, shows and exhibitions getting under way on Friday, October 14.

It’s an annual open invitation to explore, experience and enjoy everything the town has to offer, and there really is something for everyone.

From the opening night until Monday, October 31, all are welcome to Discover Middlesbrough, from its well-known attractions to its hidden gems.

The festival will be launched in spectacular fashion with Nightfall in Centre Square, a family arts event commissioned by Middlesbrough Council and produced by Stellar Projects with support from Arts Council England.

Nightfall celebrates the theme of stars in the sky through installations, performances and workshops from 6pm on Friday, October 14.

Highlights of the fortnight include a talk by artist Ian Taylor on the final evening of his show at Pythongallery also on Friday, October 14, a walk around James Cook’s Marton (14th and 28th) and a Day School on life in the North East during the English Civil Wars the following day at the Dorman Museum.

Why not grab a breath of fresh air with historian-led walks with the Friends of Linthorpe Cemetery and Nature Reserve, or even join a 7km run to Larchfield Community on Thursday, October 20.

Treasures of the Town Hall will be the subject of a talk by the historic venue’s manager Rob Guest and heritage expert Tosh Warwick on October 21, and later the same day Streetwise Opera will give a lunchtime concert at Middlesbrough Central Library.

The ever-popular Magical History Bus Tour is back on Saturday, October 22 with a brand new route, and the following day there’s a rare chance for a ‘hard hat tour’ behind the scenes at Stewart Park’s Central Lodge.

Boro fans can find out all about their favourite fanzine from FMTTM editor Robert Nichols at Marton Library on Monday, October 24 and on October 27 there’s a walking tour linking the four grounds from the club’s early history.

There’s a 278th birthday celebration for Captain Cook on October 27, and the hugely popular Orange Pip Market returns to Baker and Bedford Streets on Saturday, October 29.

Discover Middlesbrough 2016 draws towards a close on Saturday, October 29 with a joint opening of poet and local historian PA Morbid’s first solo exhibition at the Pythongallery upstairs and downstairs the first ever Middlesbrough show of longterm Boro artist in residence, Dr Who illustrator and Hollywood collaborator, Richard Piers Rayner.

The festival finishes as it starts with a spectacular night time experience, a unique opportunity to experience Wilton industry at night on November 2nd.

Holiday Inn Express Sales Executive Tony Bainbridge said: “With our extension under way we are absolutely thrilled to see Middlesbrough developing and growing.

“We are very excited about the events surrounding Discover Middlesbrough, and cannot wait to kick the whole thing off with Nightfall!”

Councillor Lewis Young, Middlesbrough Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Leisure and Sport, said: “Discover Middlesbrough is a celebration of Middlesbrough’s fantastic history and heritage, as well as its thriving contemporary cultural scene.

“The festival has become a popular fixture on the town’s calendar, with an array of fascinating events exploring Middlesbrough’s past, present and future.

“Once again visitors and local residents can look forward to an eclectic and inspiring mix of events, exhibitions, talks and walks.

“I hope everyone will take the opportunity to have a closer look at the things we treasure about the town, and perhaps along the way discover some gems that may have passed them by.”

  • Discover Middlesbrough is presented by Middlesbrough Council’s Festival and Events Team and co-ordinated by Tracy Hyman and Robert Nichols.

Discover Middlesbrough festival programmes are now available from venues across Middlesbrough, including libraries, community hubs, museums, Middlesbrough Town Hall, Middlesbrough FC and the Transporter Bridge Visitor Centre.

Digital versions can also be viewed at

https://issuu.com/lovemiddlesbrough/docs/discover_middlesbrough_2016

Follow Discover Middlesbrough on Facebook at

https://www.facebook.com/Discovermiddlesbrough and on Twitter at @discovermbro

For more information, contact the Council’s Festivals and Events team on 01642 729085

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