Above buzzy tapas bar Laurels Whitley Bay, Laurels Theatre is a wee place to tell big stories and where everyone on the NE coast will be going to see the most exciting work before it breaks the big time. Partnered with the amazing tapas and bar downstairs, this venue offers a chilled out accessible space to bring live theatre, visual arts and comedy together.
Founded by award-winning theatre producer Jamie Eastlake and writer and filmmaker Stephen Robertson, Laurels aims to provide a hub for artists and tapas lovers alike. It’s named after and in honour of Stan Laurel, whose father ran theatres on the Northeast coast, where he first read the boards.
It’s been a rollercoaster to get to the opening of Laurels: when Theatre N16 Ltd was founded in 2015 it was designed with a simple premise – no frills, no hire fees and loads of support. Over 300 productions came through its doors across three different venues with the company forming a producing arm (Eastlake Productions) whose shows included the Olivier award-winning Flesh and Bone at Soho Theatre. However, the company was plagued with challenges including losing two different leases and the sad passing of their Executive Producer. With 40k of debt and many bills to pay, Jamie Eastlake fought on determined to uphold the N16 model and support the artists he cared about. And, even with a worldwide pandemic, he did it! Working several jobs Eastlake knew he wanted to reinvent the company to not rely on other people’s buildings. In September 2020, he opened Laurences in Blythe – a little Geordie and Mexican tapas bar with different artists performing on its small stage every Friday and Saturday. And now, Laurels heralds the start of his new full-time theatre space.
Opening Laurels’ first season is critically acclaimed Geordie artist Serena Ramsey (New Diorama Theatre’s emerging Artist of 2019) with Waxa Belta Helta Skelta (14th – 24th September) – a solo show offering a surreal look at abandonment, cults and Mammy issues. Combining live soundscapes, playful storytelling, dark humour and experimental electro-music for support, this absurd true story engulfs us in the explosive world of one Geordie girl with a missing mum. Ramsey brings emotions to the stage that will resonate heavily with anyone who has ever experienced loss, love and the need for answers. With her unique brand of comedic storytelling, drawing on cabaret and drag background the audience will leave laughing, crying and craving a sausage roll.
Following this will be:
The Psychedelic Fox by Charlotte Fox
6th – 8th October
A new show from the chameleonic sassy sorceress, Charlotte Fox!
Dracula by Northumberland Theatre Company
26th – 27th October
Join us this Halloween as we follow the adventures of Mina and the hapless Jonathan Harker who are joined by Dr Van Hesling (yes you read that right!) as they face a race against time to stop Count Dracula! Silly, spooky storytelling with a touch of gothic glee!
The Bon Bons Cabaret
Step through the doors and who knows who you will meet. Will it be your hosts, drag trio Bonnie and The Bonnettes? Will it be our starlet on the rise singer/songwriter MXYM? Will it be the lip-syncing, burlesque babe that is Mama Rhi? Or will it be the appetising queen Vol-Au-Vent Love? Who knows? But there is one thing you can be sure of and that is a glitter-fuelled, foot stomping, pant wetting cabaret riot!
Antichristmas by Reece Connolly
8th – 11th December
Jo and Maz need cash. As young millennials with useless degrees living in a shitty flat with a leaky roof during one of the most tumultuous times in modern history, there’s not a lot of opportunities going begging. And Christmas is coming. Until – that is – one snowy Christmas Eve. On the way back from the offie, under a flickering neon Newkie Brown star, they meet a man. Old-looking, sparkly eyes, red suit, and well-groomed facial hair. It could very well be Santa. It could also be the Devil himself. Or an eldritch warlord from outer space. The jury’s still out.
He cuts them a deal. A suitcase full of money – more than they’ve ever seen, and no matter how much they take out, will always magically replenish – if they help deliver a very important little baby into the world that very night. They reckon he’s off his rocker. But they take the deal anyway. Wouldn’t you? What follows is a Christmas neither of them will ever forget…
Wink – a new version – by Phoebe Éclair Powell
25th January – 5th February
A new version of Phoebe Éclair Powell’s ground-breaking play, set in Whitley Bay. Directed by Live Theatre’s executive producer, Graeme Thompson.
Jerry & Sewell, an adaptation of Jonathan Tulloch’s ‘The Season Ticket’ by Jamie Eastlake.
29th March – 10th April
Antony Gormley’s angel looked down on the lads, “She’ll see us through, she’ll help us. The guardian angel of fucking toe rags.” Two lads. One mission. Belta. Based on Jonathan Tulloch’s ‘The Season Ticket’, adapted by Jamie Eastlake. Sewell and Gerry live in Gateshead. Theirs seems the perfect partnership. Sewell is physically strong; Gerry is small but crafty. Neither has attended school for a long time. Both are broke, and both love one thing, Newcastle United. An exciting adaptation featuring puppetry, live music and a purely belter tale of epic proportions.
Eng-er-land by Hannah Kumari
5th – 6th March
1997. Last year England made it to the semi-finals of Euro 96, Gina G came third in Eurovision and 13-year-old Lizzie went to her first in-person football game: Coventry vs. Manchester City. Not the Man City of today, oil and superstars, but the old Man City – a bit rubbish, but with good fans. Lizzie fell in love with the beautiful game that day, and she’s been obsessed ever since. But then something happens to make her question her place in the stands. ENG-ER-LAND is an energetic play about who’s really on your team.
Plus, Laurels will present stand-up comedy from Felt Nowt every Friday and Saturday night!
Founder Jamie Eastlake comments, ‘Laurences was born during the pandemic – but that was only phase one. Phase two was about doing the same but slightly bigger. Find another building down the Northeast coast, one that could fit a restaurant and a bar and a full-time theatre space in it. We’re not sure how we’ve done it, but we’ve built it. It’s cost six figures and it’s beautiful and we can’t wait to welcome you all through our doors!’
NEW SEASON STARTING FROM 14 SEPTEMBER.
For more information visit https://www.laurelswhitley.co.uk/theatre