Theatre Company telling Tales to great aplomb on their latest tour

Louis Roberts, Eleanor Dennison, Luke MacGregor, and Umar Ahmed appearing in Northumberland Theatre Company 'Grimm Tales'
Louis Roberts, Eleanor Dennison, Luke MacGregor, and Umar Ahmed appearing in Northumberland Theatre Company 'Grimm Tales'

NORTHUMBERLAND Theatre Company have been spinning many a yarn over the festive season and there’s no let up as we enter 2013 with the travelling group of talented performers descending on Westruther and Longformacus village halls with Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptation, ‘Grimm Tales’.

This time last year it looked like the company might not see another year after a drastic cut in funding but thanks to their hard work and the generous donations of the audience members they’ve entertained they have raised a staggering £88,000 in the past six months.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen to us in 2012 so to have toured with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Grimm Tales’ and to receive Arts Council funding for a third show- 4Scene- which we’ll be performing in the spring is fantastic,” said NTC’s artistic director Gillian Hambleton.

“We’re hugely proud of what we’ve achieved given that this time last year we were still coming to terms with the huge funding blow we were dealt.

“We received £1,800 from the donation pots we passed round during our performances of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and in hard economic times when everyone is struggling it was tremendous to get so much support from our audiences.

“It does also mean of course that going into next year we will always be exploring different avenues of funding as well as trying to perform shows and put together new ones.

Since premiering in Melrose at the start of December ‘Grimm Tales’ has delighted crowds in rural venues right across the UK.

The two main stories dealt with in the show which arrives at Westruther tomorrow night, Friday, January 4 and Longformacus next Friday are ‘The Golden Goose’ about a boy who is rewarded for his generosity toward a starving old man with a goose but soon finds out that others want to steal it and ‘The Musicians of Bremen’ about a donkey, cat and rooster who are all past their prime and after being discarded by their owners set out together to find happiness.

A lot of Grimm Tales have been watered down for cinema audiences over the years but Gillian said that Carol Ann Duffy’s adaptations sail a lot closer to the originals.

“So many of the brothers Grimm’s tales have been Disney-fied,” she continued.

“They’ve became very sweet and saccharine with all of their nastiness taken out but the fact is that the hearts of most of the stories are actually very dark.

“We’ve stayed true to this while giving them our own shape and flavour. We have a really beautiful set and so many different costumes which gave our design team of two a very interesting challenge!

“Our cast only consists of four which means there is a lot of demand placed on them too. But our actors enjoy the range of characters they get to play and love trying out roles that they wouldn’t really get to play elsewhere.”

For their production NTC have recruited 18 year old Luke MacGregor from Middlesbrough as an acting apprentice, after he wowed the company at the auditions.

Thanks to support from the Golsoncott Foundation, the theatre company have been able to give Luke the opportunity to learn and develop his craft whilst embarking on his first ever theatre tour.

Gillian commented: “Originally we were only auditioning female performers as there was a specific role we were hoping to fill, but when we saw Luke’s performance we were so blown away we all agreed it was worthwhile shuffling the whole play around rather than passing him by.”

After spending a year on NTC’S InterACT Scheme in 2010 and being part of their acclaimed production of ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, Umar Ahmed has rejoined the cast for ‘Grimm Tales’ after appearing at high profile events such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Also returning for this production are NTC regulars Eleanor Dennison and Louis Roberts.

Gillian said it was great to get back on the road and to the venues and audiences that had stayed with them through the tough times.

“Places like Longformacus Village Hall have taken every single show we’ve done so we’re thrilled to be able to go back when it looked at one point like it wouldn’t be possible.”

Tickets for Westruther are available from 01578 740265 and Longformacus from 01361 890648.