Review of 2014

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Review of 2014

Review of 2014

Posted: 29 Dec 2014

Theatre event of the year (TOTY)

The Pillowman – unquestionably the best thing I’ve seen at the theatre for many a year. I knew nothing about the play when I went to see Newcastle University Theatre Society perform Martin McDonagh’s black comedy of power and freedom at Northern Stage. Over the years I’ve seen so much theatre that it takes something really outstanding to blow my mind. This did made it explode, not least through stunning performances from Dan Lockett and Ruaidrhi Johnston. An intense and immense evening. RM

Dame Edna's Farewell Tour, Newcastle Theatre Royal. Incomparable and unique as ever, the Great Dame charmed and delighted the packed house as she said farewell for the last (and possibly not last?) time. Don't be surprised if she's seen again – by public demand. PT

As I’ve been in exile in London for much of 2014, I’m going to have to cheat and opt for Sunny Afternoon which I caught at the Harold Pinter Theatre in the west end. The show’s from the much-derided tradition of juke-box musicals but has much more soul than its counterparts, with the great Ray Davies shaping it behind the scenes. My favourite – all day and all of the night. AG


Concert of the year (COTY)

I loved Gretchen Peters at The Sage, Eliza Gilkyson at Live, and despite it not really working for me alongside the legendary Tom Paxton, I still loved Janis Ian at the Sage. However there’s only one winner here – The Lake Poets. I select the most recent performance at Independent in Sunderland in December. The Lake Poets, aka Martin Longstaffe, are about to go to Nashville where the singer-songwriter has been signed up by Wearside’s half of Eurythmics, Dave Stewart. For a while I’ve been thinking The Lake Poets is the best musician I’ve ever seen emerge from Sunderland. Given Tyneside’s great musical heritage my feeling that Martin could yet prove to be the most talented singer-songwriter to emerge from the region could be taken as outrageous. But if I’m right, you read it here first. RM

Elaine Paige at The Sage. Another `farewell' performance, with this Grand Lady of The Stage bringing back half a century of personal memories and peaks, blasting out some of musical theatre's finest blockbuster songs. PT

The evergreen troubadour Martin Stephenson – hailing from Wearside – has been popping up all over the region this year. I saw him at the Sage Gateshead and the Angel pub in Corbridge in 2014. Many of you may have no doubt had festive fun in the company of him and the band at the Cluny in December. I don’t know how he does it, but he turns out a brilliant performance night after night and is one of our region’s most talented and consistent artistes. AG


Pub of the year (POTY)

The Isis just outside Sunderland city centre. Proper pub with good beer and even better people. RM

Bridge Hotel, Newcastle. Although changed from its former halcyon days, this is still a cracking pub full of atmosphere and good ales. PT

Two strong contenders vie for the top spot for me: the Garden House in Durham and the Crown and Anchor in Holy Island. Durham was my home until October when I moved to the island and both places were havens during what has been a tumultuous year. Both serve great beer and excellent pub food and have friendly and welcoming staff. I can’t choose.  AG


Restaurant of the year (ROTY)

What used to be The Blue Cobra near the Empire in Sunderland is now an Italian called Casa Italia. Another Italian eh, more of them around than you once got lire to the pound. This is a good’un, though – nothing flash, just good food that doesn’t break the bank. What more do you want? RM

Lord Crewe Arms, Blanchland. A refurbished, reinvented and reopened eaterie which is garnering well-deserved praise from all quarters. Relaxing ambience and high-quality food with first-class service in a medieval setting makes this one of the North-East's true jewels. PT

Same as PT – the Lord Crewe Arms at Blanchland on the border of Northumberland and County Durham. The village is just magical and the newly-refurbished pub/restaurant/hotel which reopened in the spring has seamlessly slotted into place without stealing focus. It is an absolute gem. Everything about this place is classy but not in the least bit intimidating. It smokes its own meat and fish and grows much of its own veg. A model of provenance and self-reliance.


Sports event of the year (SOTY)

Almost a cut-and-paste for me this year. Replace last year’s 3-0 win at St. James’ for Sunderland with this year’s. Wembley was great as an event, but there’s nothing like winning and the Black Cats had to settle for being runners-up on that occasion. RM

North Shields v Scarborough, FA Cup. It may have been a small stage, but five penalties, four sendings-off and a 4-4 draw after extra time (with more pens in the shoot-out won by Scarborough) tells its own breathless tale of high drama. PT

Newcastle United breaking Chelsea’s unbeaten record this season with a 2-1 win at St James’ Park in December. A match I almost missed (owing to travel issues) and am eternally grateful to have made. Amidst yet another turbulent year – and a tragic one with the loss of two of the Toon’s most loyal supporters in an aeroplane tragedy – it’s a rare joyful memory to cling to. AG



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