REVIEW: 4Thoughts by Northumberland Theatre Company

The Northumberland Theatre Company shares four unique plays which will resonate across the region.

As part of its first 2015 tour, the Alnwick Playhouse-based group will be exciting village halls and theatres across Northumberland, Newcastle and Yorkshire with four plays, which, having seen the dress rehearsal, I’m positive you will enjoy.

Northumberland Theatre Company's 'Hedging Your Bets. Picture by Jane Coltman

Northumberland Theatre Company's 'Hedging Your Bets. Picture by Jane Coltman

4Thoughts is four half-an-hour bursts of very well-thought-out performances of which Gillian Hambleton and her team should be proud.

The first is Yan Tan Tethera, written by Alice Dobie. The play centres on a farming family in a rural cottage caught in a ferocious storm.

Robin (played by Stewart Howson) is visited in the night by a woman (Laura Jayne Ayres) who gives him a mysterious riddle to solve. The play focuses on the struggles of the lowly farmer who is also trying to convince his son Cal (Sam Gannon) to keep on his dad’s farm.

The second play is a shift to Undercover, written by Patrick Hughes.

Here, Howson becomes Yorkshireman Grandpa Joe, reclining to watch the snooker with his grandson (Gannon).

The grandson asks how his grandparents met. They then give a very oversized white-lie on how they met, much to the entertainment of their afternoon guest.

The third story was surprisingly my favourite of the four.

Alan Bell’s The Arrangement is a more satirical piece on what the system would class as a failing school. New headteacher (Helen Vinter) is shaking things up in a traditional school.

This took the honours because it makes very light comedy of very serious issues. It allows the actors to enjoy their performance but, at the same time, has some meaty subjects at its heart.

The play turns darker as the headteacher keeps hearing music coming from the school hall but is reassured by the caretaker (Louis Roberts) that there is nothing to worry about, or is there?

The final play follows on very nicely and is set in a betting shop. Hedging Your Bets, by Becky Smith, is a mini-musical with songs by Foz Foster.

Betting shop owner Karen (Ayres) Lines is bored of her ordinary day-to-day life. As the regulars enter, a stranger tells her of a chance to win big-time but it all seems a bit too good to be true.

In this performance, watch out for Ayres who holds the musical piece together. She gave a great performance and has a very raw low range, which works nicely when she sings the higher notes. She has clearly had the right amount of training to control her voice with such a raspy tone.

Howson also gives stand-out performances. In the plays, he is a farmer, teacher, grandad and a betting loon. He manages to give four very different and distinct performances in some challenging roles.

NTC’s 4Thoughts is at Alnwick Playhouse tonight and tomorrow, at 7.30pm, then embarks on a tour for the next month, including peformances at Glanton Memorial Hall on March 10 and Bamburgh Pavilion on March 14.

To check the show dates, visit