Work starts on brand new script for September production

Thursday 19 January 2017

After a non-stop 5 months working as an actor in Seriously Dead and Jack and the Beanstalk, I’m now putting on my writer’s hat again.

Today I had a meeting with Jeff Brown from BBC’s Look North, who has written a one-act one-man play, Cornered, about an ex-Sunderland AFC player (based on Jeff’s experiences as a sports journalist/reporter over the past couple of decades.)  I first saw Jeff read an excerpt from the piece at a scratch night, and immediately offered to produce it under my company Cranked Anvil.  It’s all systems go, and we have set a date for a number of performances in various venues around Sunderland in September this year.

We will present it as part of a double-bill of one act plays based around the football club, and I am now starting work on the companion piece.  It’s working title is ‘Wise Men Say’ (if you ever go to a Sunderland match you’ll hear the fans singing it loud and proud on the terraces) and it will be a humerous but heartfelt homage to the club and its fans.

After the success we had a couple of years ago with our production of I Left My Heart In Roker Park, and with 2017 being the 20th anniversary of the Stadium of Light AND the 25th anniversary of Sunderland’s last FA Cup final appearance, Cornered / Wise Men Say is likely to be the hottest ticket in Sunderland this year!

Shakespeare adaptations win in North East Theatre awards

July 2016

This has been a very busy year so far, with three adaptations of Shakespeare plays under my belt. (Plus directing and performing in them too.)

Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet, and Henry V all received excellent reviews and superb audience feedback.

The icing on the cake has been that my production of Romeo + Juliet was awarded Best Shakespeare by the North East Theatre Guide. This couldn’t have been achieved without the hard work and support of everyone involved, so thank you to all the cast and crew at Craned Anvil, and all the venues we played at, for making this season of Shakespeare such a success.  As an extra added bonus, my Henry V was placed third!

Sunderland’s SAFC Museum opening

Thursday 17 March 2016

I was approached recently by Michael Ganley, lifelong Sunderland AFC fan and owner of the Sunderland Fans Museum, to write a piece and perform it at tonight’s official opening of his new space in the city’s library.

SAFC Fans Museum is a private collection that Michael has ammased over the years – at huge personal expense – and is an unrivalled collection of SAFC memorabilia.  He has everything, from old programmes right up to the actual boardroom table from the old Roker Park, Kevin Phillips’ Golden Boot, and even Ian Porterfield’s tracksuit from the 1973 FA Cup Final.  (All of which you will appreciate the true magnitude of if you’re a Sunderland fan!)

The launch was a huge success, with many city dignitaries and VIPs attending, along with ex-SAFC players from the 1973 Cup winning side.

The monologue I wrote and performed was geared towards taking a longer piece into local schools, and focussing on the educational side that Michael wants to set up in conjuction with his fans museum.  It proved a huge success, and I look forward to working on the project with him further in the future.

Filmed by the BBC

Thursday 17 March 2016

I’m currently adapting 3 Shakespeare scripts which we’re producing this year with Cranked Anvil, as part of the Shakespeare400 celebrations.

The first of our productions is Romeo and Juliet, and today I was interviewed by Dawn Thewlis, for BBC Look North and Radio Newcastle, to talk about my adaptation.

It’s gained a lot of interest because of the very local and contemporary spin I’m putting on it: the fueding Montagues and Capulets are transported to modern-day South Shields where their deep distrust and dislike for each other comes from being supporters of rival football teams, Sunderland AFC and Newcastle United.

Welcome to Paul & Nessa’s Happy Hour!

Tuesday 28 July 2015

I’ve been writing and performing sketch comedy on stage for as long as I can remember – professionally since 2010 when I founded sketch comedy group Don’t Trust Salmon.

Today saw a new medium for my sketches, as the first radio edition of Paul & Nessa’s Happy Hour was broadcast live on Spark FM.

The show is produced by my company Cranked Anvil, and was conceived, written and performed by myself and Nessa Karon.

You can listen to today’s and all future episodes on the Cranked Anvil website here.

The Cinder Path performance workshop in South Shields

Sunday 19 April 2015

After many weeks of writing, and meetings with director and producer Jackie Fielding and Gareth Hunter, today we presented a script-in-hand workshop of the latest draft of The Cinder Path.

An invited audience came to the Seafarers Mission building, on the South Shields docks, to see eight actors (including myself) bring to life some of the scenes from the play, and then give feedback afterwards.

Emily Craig, for the Northern Echo, writes:

THE fascinating journey to bring The Cinder Path by South Shields’ Dame Catherine Cookson to the stage has begun.

Founder and artistic director of Ion Productions Gareth Hunter is bringing a decade of experience to bear on the latest, and first, cast to venture down the stage route to re-visit the tale of 1978 tale of young farmer’s boy Charlie MacFell, who is under the thumb of his controlling father. When something terrible happens to Charlie’s father, he is forced to keep a dark secret to save a friendship. The young man is destined to marry another farmer’s daughter, Victoria Chapman, but her younger sister, Nellie, is secretly in love with Charlie. Joining the Army to fight in the First World War might be one way out of Charlie’s problems, but the past returns to haunt him.

What better way to remind the region of Cookson’s charismatic books than launch a workshop to a selected audience involving the cast of James Hedley (Charlie), Lawrence Neale (Ginger/Hal Chapman), Paul Dunn (Edward MacFell), Sarah Boulter (Nellie/Mrs Dimple), Jessica Johnson (Polly/ Florence Chapman), Christina Dawson (Victoria Chapman) and Dean Logan (Arthur).

Cleverly, the talented array of actors performed a selection of scenes without giving too much away of the plot.  Stripped back in style, the chapel of the Mission to Seafarer at Mill Dam made an appealing backdrop for cast members in casual clothes.  The performance was instantly engaging and the decision to show scenes adapted from the early part of the novel left the audience wanting to know what happens to Charlie – and who he ends up with.

The final production will be staged at The Customs House in September 2015.

Being Stan Laurel

Laurel-and-Hardy-tynemouthMonday 23 February 2015

Today was a pretty special day – these jobs don’t come along that often…

In 1932, Laurel and Hardy toured the UK, and one of the places they came to was The Grand Hotel in Tynemouth.  Stan Laurel had been brought up in the area from around the ages of 5 to 15, and he was keen to come ‘back home’.

Cloud Nine Theatre Company are planning to produce a play, called ‘Laurel and Hardy In Tynemouth’ in the Autumn of 2015, and today – at a special celebration of Laurel – we performed a 25 minute script-in-hand rehearsed reading of the work in progress.  Here’s what Cloud Nine say about the play, on their own website:

We hope to stage the premiere of Laurel & Hardy in Tynemouth in Autumn 2015. This is the final uncompleted play of the late, great Tom Hadaway and 2015 sees the tenth anniversary of his death.

Tom was born in North Shields, lived in Whitley Bay and is generally acknowledged as the best North East dramatist of his generation with a whole string of successful stage and TV plays often based around the fishing community of Shields. Hadaway’s was one of the best-known wet fish shops in North Shields. Many of his plays were premiered by Live Theatre, Newcastle.

We have asked Tom’s daughter, Pauline Hadaway, if she would rejig and complete her father’s dramatic work. Pauline is an acknowledged playwright, both in collaboration with her father and in her own right. The play will be credited as co-written.

The rehearsed reading went extremely well, with the following cast:

Stan Laurel  Paul Dunn
Oliver Hardy  Harry Gallagher
Skivington  Peter Mortimer
Betty  Zoe Hakin
Audrey  Pauline Hadaway

It was directed by the brilliant Teddy Kiendl (former artistic director of Newcastle’s Live Theatre) who is also down to direct the full play in the Autumn.

PD in the real Stan Laurel's hat, with Harry as Ollie

PD in the real Stan Laurel’s hat, with Harry as Ollie

The job itself was a great thrill, but you can imagine my excitement when, half way through the day, we found out that when Stan and Ollie had stayed at the hotel, Stan had actually left his hat with them.  A few minutes later the manager brought it back for us to have a look at, and I was allowed to try it on – just for a short time!



The rehearsed reading was part of a whole evening which celebrated Stan Laurel – being the 50th anniversary of his death.  It also included a very informative talk by local lad Danny Lawrence, author of a very informative biography on Stan and his years living in and around Tynemouth.

The evening ended with a showing of two of Laurel and Hardy’s best known short films: Towed In The Hole, and the Oscar-winning The Music Box.  The event was attended by Stan’s great great (and great great great) niece, and I was chuffed to meet them afterwards.

PD with Stan's direct decendants

PD with Stan’s direct descendants