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

The Boro Phallacy

Crime has a new enemy… and it never saw him coming.

“When Robert Jones awoke with yet another monster hangover in his house in Teesside, he could never have imagined that within just a few hours his life would change forever.”

This is The Boro Phallacy, the debut novel by Boro fan and indeed scout, Michael Richardson. It is launched this Friday (at Southern Cross, Marton after 6pm)  through locally based publishers, Sixth Element. I had to ask Michael a few questions to let us get to know more about the author and his first book.

boro phallacy“Kidnappings, the murderous attentions of a midget set on revenge and the world’s largest bank heist are just the beginning. But, the pandemonium all around, Rob is oblivious, his focus fixed firmly on his blossoming relationship with an extremely seductive vacuum cleaner.
However, there’s one small problem, Rob is a robot and he’s missing a vital component.”

Can I ask you about how the book came about. Have you ever written before?

This is my first ever attempt at writing and had I have known that the project would take three years to finish, I may never have even started it ha ha.

Seriously though, writing a book was something I had been wanting to do for a number of years but never got round to starting. It was something to tick off the bucket list, a lasting legacy. That was the dream anyway. I just never imagined I would write a work of fiction. I had dreams of writing about all those Boro away days I’d attended and the antics I’d seen up and down the country on various forms on transport and pubs. You never know, I still might, look out for that one.

Working offshore do you have periods where you have time on your hands to think and plan etc?

I work twelve hour shifts offshore and the work is pretty intense but to answer your question yes, I do get a few hours to myself which has allowed me to progress the book. It’s actually created a bit of a following out here, with people asking what it’s about, or when is it released. I believe it’s the first time somebody on the 3Bravo has ever written one.

Can you tell us a little about your background. Are you a Teessider etc?

Born at Middlesbrough General hospital, a goal kick away from Ayresome Park, I’ve lived in Middlesbrough all my life. Initially raised on Sutton estate where I attended Beechwood school. I then moved around a bit to Linthorpe where I attended Green Lane and then Hustler schools before moving again to Marton Manor and now Nunthorpe.

This has meant I’ve worked in and around Industrial Teesside in places such as Seal Sands and Wilton site as a chemical process worker, before moving offshore about 11 years ago.

The title might suggest you tap into local humour?

Very much so. The book relies heavily on local humour and lists many of the famous Teesside landmarks. It’s also written with Teesside dialect in mind and mentions the mighty Boro, the parmo, our town centres with its infamous nightclubs as well as a few local celebrities.

Feedback I’ve received has been excellent, though I have had to explain a few things to those people who are not from this neck of the woods.

Please could you give us a very brief introduction about your book? And where and how did you get that idea?

When a Thornaby hippy’s partner walks out on him without explanation, his life spirals into loneliness and despair. But he soon remedies it, by creating a robot from the ICI stores. It’s a shambolic start for the young cyborg but over time he inherits artificial intelligence and becomes an almost perfect, 6ft 4” dreamboat of pure wow. Only there’s a problem. His father never built him a penis and he’s none too happy about it. What follows next is a hilarious slap stick journey through Teesside, that not only sees him try and reach his dream, but also sees them get unwittingly tangled in the biggest bank heist the UK has ever seen. Will Rob get his penis? Will it play a pivotal part in saving Middlesbrough? Probably.

It is a big and brave step to take from having an idea and developing it and then publishing. Did you have support from friends, workmates and Sixth Element Publishing?

I don’t think any writer can claim to have written a book without any support. Whether it’s your wife and kids waiting patiently for you to finish your next chapter. Or friends encouraging you not give up; you simply need that support around you.

Many of my ideas for this book came whilst I was in the pub with friends and the fact that it took more than a few pints to come up with any funny gags should hopefully tell you what type of a book you’re buying.

I seriously wouldn’t have finished it had it not been for my friends. Sixth Element were different. They’re the professionals. They took my book, liked the idea and turned it into a paperback, I owe them a lot. So you may not be able to polish a turd, but seemingly, you can roll it in glitter.

How exciting will it be to see the book printed and published? What are your hopes for The Boro Phallacy?

To see the book finally printed, wow. So much hard work has gone into it that a printed copy will signal the end. Its then trying to find out what to do with all the extra spare time I’m going to have although I have left it open for a sequel. Although that all depends on how this one goes. What are my hopes? See the book on the shelves in WH Smith, be contacted by a Hollywood film director before finally world domination. Providing it doesn’t interfere with the Boro match of course.

Are you a Boro fan by the way and if so what are your thoughts on what we achieved last season and are you looking forward to the season ahead?

I’m a massive Boro fan. Have been for 30 years now. I’ve also introduced my son to the Boro family and we are both season ticket holders, although he’s too cool to sit with me these days. He’s embedded in the Red Faction family while I prefer the quieter North Stand. My mate Darren and I have had the same seat since the Riverside opened. They don’t provide the best view in the house but they’re ours and I’ve got a feeling that’s how it will stay.

I’m also lucky enough to work for the club. I scout for them on weekends when I’m on leave. That means I’m out every weekend searching for the next Juninho and recommending him to our academy staff. You’ll never know how proud I was to be asked to show new players around Hurworth one time, Unbelievable. My dream as a kid was always to play for Boro one day and at 41 I still haven’t give that up, but to be asked to scout for them is the next best thing. Imagine in 15 years’ time if one of my recommendations runs out in a Boro shirt. Now that would be awesome.

Oh and one more thing, if you take the first letter of every chapter in this book, it spells out… ‘EVERYBODY ROUND MY HOUSE FOR A PARMO.’ Michael’s own little tribute to Ali Brownlee.

The Boro Phallacy is a frenetic, fast-paced and funny crime thriller told through the eyes of two unlikely heroes whose love of Crocodile Dundee knows no bounds.

Paperback, 276 pages, RRP £9.99
ISBN 978-1-908299-94-9
Published by Sixth Element Publishing, September 2016