Review of Wor Bella, penned by South Shields playwright Ed Waugh, as it is staged across the North East

Review Alan Dunn gives his view on Wor Bella.

Thursday, 31st March 2022, 12:27 pm
Alan Shearer (left) and Bella Reay.
Alan Shearer (left) and Bella Reay.

This one-actor piece was mesmerising, with Lauren Waine (playing Bella Reay aka Wor Bella) holding the capacity audience throughout.

It runs the whole gamut of senses from euphoria and laughter to tears and anger.

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We are familiar with playwright Ed Waugh's love of forgotten working-class Geordie heroes that include Harry Clasper (Hadaway Harry), Glenn McCrory (Carrying David), Joe Wilson (The Great Joe Wilson) and Ned Corvan (Mr Corvan's Music Hall) which are themselves incredible pieces of theatre and have embedded themselves in the Geordie canon, but this one is, unbelievably, even more special.

Directed by Waugh's long-time collaborator Russell Floyd, Wor Bella takes their work to new heights while celebrating the million or so WW1 munitionettes who flocked into industry once conscription for men was introduced for the war effort in 1916.

The difficulties of being on stage alone and holding an audience for around 90 minutes are a challenge for any team but the shining star of this production is

Waine. From the second she hits the stage the audience is captivated. She becomes Bella Reay and the enthralling performance means we are with her as she talks about her life in the Port of Blyth loading and unloading spent cartridges, going for nights out with workmates and, of course, playing competitive football.

Who knew that these women not only worked 60 hours a week in dangerous conditions and at weekends still found the energy to play football in front of crowds of up to 22.000 to raise money for wartime charities?

Waine commands the sparse stage from beginning to end and never stops moving as she recalls the high-tension football matches and the ultimate betrayal of these women who saved the WW1 war effort only to be forgotten by history. It's emotional.

Well worth the effort to see Wor Bella for the fantastic story, this is doubly worth your attention to see Lauren Waine. Remember the name.

Wor Bella is touring the region and plays Playhouse Whitley Bay on April 1 at 7.30pm and the Westovian Theatre in South Shields on April 2, with performances at 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

For further details visit www.worbella.co.uk