Community play aims to be a knock-out success

Written by on 26th February 2018

Rehearsals are in full swing for a community play written in celebration of South Tyneside’s greatest year.

The Day Muhammad Ali came to South Shields runs from Tuesday, March 6, to Saturday, March 10, at The Customs House in South Shields.

It has been written by David Cooke and Grahame Wright, the team behind the award-winning Dance to Your Daddy, and will be directed by Jamie Brown, who also directed the award-winning Geordie The Musical.

Jamie said: “Rehearsals are going really well. We are in really good shape and we have got a great cast of local talent telling a great story about one of the most extraordinary episodes in the area’s history.

“They are really committed and have been working really hard. It is an original score and an original script, so staging something of that scale for the first time is always a challenge, but they have been more than up to it.”

Open auditions were held to join the production and the cast ranges from people who have quite a bit of stage experience to those who have none at all. They are all from the local area.

Declan Marshall has been cast in the lead role of Joe Kelly, from whose point of view the story of Muhammad Ali’s visit to South Shields in 1977 is told. He has previously performed in All Together Like the Folks of Shields by The Westovian Theatre Society.

Jamie said: “Declan’s never appeared in a musical before, so he’s been relishing the challenge of that and really stepping up to it. Before the audition he had never sung in front of anyone before in his life! He’s a natural though.”

Leon McGuinness and Charlotte Wraith play the young trailblazers Aiden and Maya – one a glam rocker and one a wannabe punk, representing some of the social groups that were around in the 1970s.

Leon has also performed with The Westovian Theatre Society and has performed with The Customs House Summer School and The Customs House Youth Theatre.

Singer Darren Lynton plays Joe’s widowed father, Jack, while Carol Cooke, a writer and member of The Westovian Theatre Society, plays his nana.

John Doonan plays Irish, who Jamie says represents “the darker side of society at the time” with the rise of the National Front on Tyneside in the 1970s.

Alisair Hassanyeh plays Sabrieh, Maya’s mother, who is of Yemeni (Arabic) descent but has lived in South Shields for most of her life. A divorcee, she is keen for her daughter not to make the same mistakes she did.

Mike Foster plays Joseph, who is Joe but 40 years on and acts as the narrator, weaving the story together.

Jamie said: “The story itself follows Joe, who’s keen to make his mark on the world and idolises Muhammad Ali, so when he hears that his hero is coming to Tyneside, he tries to manufacture a way to meet the great man face-to-face, but things get in the way of him doing that, including his family and the Queen herself.”

Her Majesty the Queen also visited South Shields in 1977, as part of her Silver Jubilee celebrations, arriving the day before boxing legend Ali came to the town.

The music for The Day Muhammad Ali came to South Shields will be provided by a five-piece live band under the musical direction of Andrew Clarence.

Tickets for The Day Muhammad Ali came to South Shields are priced from £7 and available from the box office on (0191) 454 1234 or online at Performances start at 7.30pm, with a 2.30pm Saturday matinee.

Current track