Soft play & good play

Castle Soft Play, Hedgefield
Castle – Old Hedgfield Church

There were no new babies in our family for years, then like buses they all arrived at once. Heather and I were left in charge of two of them on Saturday afternoon, my niece Hannah and her brother Luke.  When I was a kid we would gravitate to the park and the swimming pool during the summer, but there wasn’t a great deal around during the winter months. We’ve discovered  It’s the soft play on Stella Bank that used to be St. Hilda’s church. It’s reasonably priced at under a tenner for the two children and we were in there for well over two hours.  It is also sells burgers, soup, and paninis.  There’s another soft play along at Barmoor but we haven’t tried that one yet. Next time we will.

I have a relation who is a successful and well known actor, and several weeks ago she advised us to see “Wet House”, at the Live Theatre, so we did.  I hadn’t been to Live for years, but since “Wet House” I’ve been back four times and I am kicking myself over all of the many wonderful things I must have missed.  As I’ve mentioned before Melanie Rashbrooke a director there has given me the opportunity to do some blogging for Live, and last night it was “Mixtape.”  I’d already been allowed to sit in on rehearsals and I was bursting to see the finished performance on Saturday evening. 

Like all the best ideas “Mixtape” is a simple concept. so why on earth didn’t anyone think of it before?   I’d tried several times to explain to Heather exactly what she could expect, but it’s one of those things you have to see for yourself.

The Mixtapers and their director Melanie take the lyrics of a song and use them to generate a short sketch. No new words can be added, though they can be repeated, and the final sketch can’t run for longer than the original track. The audience have to guess the song title and the name of the artist who had a hit with it. The theme on Saturday was number one hits from the past three years. Heather and I didn’t stand a chance because if a number isn’t played on Radio 2 then we won’t have heard it, but this didn’t spoil our enjoyment. Why would it? We were left with 19 mini plays of exceptional quality exploring greed, envy and downright silliness. Some are funny, others moving, and all are brilliantly delivered by the young team of Mixtapers; James Barton, Samantha Bell, Amy Foley, Chris Foley,  Zoë Hakin, and Steven Blackshaw I can’t really pick out a favourite sketch, but if pressed I would say “Buzz Off” and the Facebook updates. Heather loved “Fitting Room”, because like the character in the play, she will not be beaten by an item of clothing that doesn’t quite fit. The actors have to portray a diverse range of characters and ages, and they do it so well, slipping effortlessly out of being a Geordie charva in one play, and then a high society toff a minute later.

We had one niggle about the evening, and that is that we were both left wanting more, so we’ve booked up to see the next edition of Mixtape on Friday 7th November. The plays performed on that night will have been inspired by the work of north east artists, so Heather and I should find that more within our depth!image

It’s been unseasonably warm, but I know autumn is here because of three things. The clocks going back, my first head cold of the year, and my flu jab. Heather and I have also purchased gigantic pumpkins  from Hutchinson’s in Blaydon ready for carving later on this week.  They’re so big that I couldn’t carry them, I had to walk along and borrow a trolley from Morrison’s. We’re very competitive over it.  Photos soon!line6