Historic Wor Bella Blyth women's football play is coming to the Theatre Royal in Newcastle

A play that puts the story of footballing ‘munitionettes’ from Blyth in the spotlight is going to be performed at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle.
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‘Wor’ Bella Reay netted 133 goals in 30 unbeaten matches for Blyth Spartans Ladies.

She was the ‘Alan Shearer of her day’ and in solidarity with Bella, the Geordie superstar has recorded a to-camera cameo for the staging of the ‘Wor Bella’ play by Ed Waugh in the city theatre on April 27 and 28. It first toured in 2022 to huge acclaim.

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Women’s football started following the major losses and more men being seriously injured on the First World War battlefield between 1916 and 1917.

The actress playing Bella Reay is Catherine Dryden.The actress playing Bella Reay is Catherine Dryden.
The actress playing Bella Reay is Catherine Dryden.

Conscription was introduced and more than one million women nationally moved into the munitions industries, taking over from the drafted men.

North Tyneside was the cradle of First World War women’s football, with the first all-women match in February 1917 between Wallsend Slipway and North Eastern Marine, but it was Blyth Spartans Ladies from Northumberland who became the region’s undisputed top dogs in 1918.

In their lunch breaks the women played football and soon – all over the country – teams played for charitable purposes.

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Ed said: “The North East was different because we had a cup to play for and Blyth took on Bolckow Vaughan from Middlesbrough at St James’ Park in March 1918. There were 18,000 in attendance.

“The replay, in May, was at Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough, and 22,000 people attended. Incredible!”

The actress playing Bella Reay is Catherine Dryden, who was the teenage lead actress in another of Ed Waugh (and Trevor Wood’s) plays about Grace Darling in 2012.

Since then the Chester-le-Street-born actress has trained at the prestigious RADA and has BBC radio and London’s West End credits to her name. She was part of the Pitman Painters and The Play That Goes Wrong national tours and recently sang with Jimmy Nail at the Live Theatre.

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Catherine, whose father lives in Ashington, said: “To play such a fantastic, strong, heroine like Bella Reay is tremendous.

“In addition to her phenomenal goal-scoring achievements, Bella won cup medals and represented England.”

For further details and to buy tickets, go to www.worbella.co.uk