I attended the dress rehearsal for brand new musical Beyond the End of the Road presented by Morpeth-based performing arts company, November Club.  The performance took place at Hexham Auction Mart which is certainly a unique venue for an evening of theatre but added such charm to the experience! Touring Northumberland, the musical is bound for many a village hall but will also make a stop at Sage Gateshead in July.

Sat on the rustic wooden benches of the Auction Mart, I could hear the sound of swifts who, we had been warned, had taken up residence in the roof.  With the summer evenings drawing out and midsummer on the horizon, this was the perfect venue at the perfect time to be immersed in the fictional lives of Northumberland villagers whose complicated lives were about to unravel through this clever, funny and brilliantly performed musical.

The story begins with the arrival of three out-of-towners to Place, the fictional village that masterfully embodies the breadth of character and tradition familiar to the homesteads, villages and communities across rural Northumberland. November Club actually travelled across Northumberland, listening to local residents and collecting their stories and anecdotes to create this unique, site-specific musical which explores rural life. The musical cleverly weaves the true stories, anecdotes, myths and legends often told and retold throughout rural communities into this new, musical interpretation. The rustic setting for the play; the inclusion of real-life (!) locals scattered amongst the audience who also relay their own tales of the countryside and the local choir – different at each venue – who join the cast to perform, adds real depth and authenticity to Beyond the End of the Road.

Meanwhile – back to the play - it’s approaching midsummer in Place and the air is bristling with mystery – this forms the ominous backdrop to the storytelling rabble as their stories of love, loss, pain, fears and deepest secrets unfold. Thousands of years of stories, lives lived, folk legend and secrets seem to be straining at the very fabric of the countryside. There is a mysterious, unidentified sound coming from the soil which incomer Sula cannot let lie – haunted by the secrets she has tried to run away from, she cannot sleep until she’s put a stop to the infernal din. Sula is not the only one to be wrestling with secrets. As the performance progresses we learn that other characters each have their own demons including Alec, a local and rather stubborn farmer, is struggling to make ends meet or deal with the loss of his wife.

Energetic and funny, immersive and moving – Beyond the End of the Road is a lively musical full of heart and rural charm. The performance was fantastic from the live folk music to the singing, the storytelling to the clever use of props and staging in the unconventional surroundings. I felt the connection with years of tradition; I enjoyed the way storytelling and music revealed the pain, frustrations and friendship of the characters - ultimately bringing a community together to celebrate its heritage. Fiction seamlessly slips into reality as a real-life ceilidh takes place immediately after the show, compered by renowned caller Alistair Anderson.

You don’t have to imagine you are in the depths of Northumberland as this performance tours across the countryside with events at local village halls so you too can be fully immersed in this rural tale.

The musical even makes a stop at Sage Gateshead in July (Tickets available here) for the Townies amongst us who want a slice of the countryside on our doorstep! I recommend that you find out what’s beyond the end of your road this summer.

Music and Lyrics by:

Katie Doherty, Music Associate, November Club

Written by: 

Laura Lindow

Directed By:

Cinzia Hardy – Artistic Director, November Club.

Designer:

Imogen Cloet

Supporters: 

Public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, The Joicey Trust, Northumberland County Council, Northumberland National Park and the Community Foundation for Tyne and Wear.

Supported by:

Queen’s Hall Arts, Hexham and Hexham Auction Mart

In Collaboration with:

Highlights Rural Touring Scheme    

TOUR DATES:            

*SOLD OUT* Friday 16 June 7:30pm Kirknewton Village Hall (£4.00 - £8.00)

Box Office: 01890 850285

Sunday 18 June 7pm Norham Village Hall (£4.00 - £7.50)

Box Office: 01289 382366 www.highlightsnorth.co.uk

Friday 23 June 7pm Shilbottle Village Hall (£4.00 - £7.50)

Box Office: 01665 575196 www.highlightsnorth.co.uk

Sunday 25 June 6:30pm Bardon Mill Village Hall (£6.00 - £24.00)  

Box Office: 01434 344424 www.highlightsnorth.co.uk

Tuesday 27 June 7.30pm Sage Gateshead, Sage Two (£13.10 - £15.30)

Box Office: 0191 443 4661 www.sagegateshead.com

Friday 30 June 7:30pm Whalton Village Hall  (£3.00 - £7.00)

Box Office: 01670 77541

Saturday 1 July 4pm  Crossman Village Hall, part of Holy Island Festival (£10.00)

Box Office: www.holyislandfestival.org

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