Reviews NationalNewcastle Published 28 March 2019

Review: West End Girls/Wank Buddies at Live Theatre, Newcastle

26-30 March

Privatisation and private moments: Tracey Sinclair reviews a double bill of plays addressing hot social issues as part of Live Theatre’s Elevator Festival for new work.

Tracey Sinclair
Jake Jarratt and Cameron Sharp in Wank Buddies at Live Theatre, Newcastle. Photo: Rich Kenworthy

Jake Jarratt and Cameron Sharp in Wank Buddies at Live Theatre, Newcastle. Photo: Rich Kenworthy

Shown as part of Live’s Elevator Festival, West End Girls and Wank Buddies are two new plays that examine gender, class and sexuality.

Written by Adam Hughes and directed by Jake Smith, West End Girls addresses the history of the boom and decline of social housing in Newcastle through the interwoven stories of three generations of women: from its optimistic, hope-filled origins in the 50s and 60s and its decline into neglected squalor in the 70s and 80s, through to its privatised present.

Amy Allen, Patricia Jones and Leah Mains are engaging, sympathetic and often very funny as they juggle multiple roles and the zigzagging chronology to put human faces to the clichés of council housing: pregnant women stuck in the top floor flats of lift-less buildings, single mothers doomed to the dole because their very address scares off prospective employers.

Although it doesn’t shy away from these realities, there’s enough humour to stop the production feeling too much like a polemic. And in a city that has wiped out much of its social housing and where whole neighbourhoods have been transformed as developers chase a lucrative student accommodation market that caters to disproportionately wealthy incomers, it couldn’t feel more timely or apt.

West End Girls at Live Theatre, Newcastle. Design, Amy Watts. Photo: Rich Kenworthy.

West End Girls at Live Theatre, Newcastle. Design, Amy Watts. Photo: Rich Kenworthy.

The second half of the double bill, Wank Buddies, is much lighter fare, though no less heartfelt. A perfect pop song of a piece, it’s short, sharp and surprisingly sweet, with a genuine emotional kick.

Jake Jarratt and Cameron Sharp are two semi-strangers thrown together at a student houseparty, both keen to stake a claim to the last unoccupied bed. As the night – and the struggle for the duvet – progresses, the pair face up to their own preconceptions and prejudices about masculinity and sexuality, and what it means to be a modern man.

Jarratt and Sharp – who also created the piece – have an easy, compelling chemistry, and the show combines smartly-written jokes and deft physical comedy to great effect, with some corking tunes thrown in for good measure (Britney!). Movement director Alicia Meehan deserves special praise, as the production uses the actors’ bodies in some genuinely interesting and surprising ways. Crammed full of laugh out loud moments and with a smattering of pleasingly playful touches, it’s a compact crowd-pleaser of a show.

West End Girls and Wank Buddies are on at Theatre Live Newcastle until Saturday 30th March. More info and tickets here

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Tracey Sinclair

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance editor and writer, a published author and performed playwright. She writes for a number of print and online magazines and most recently has focused on the Dark Dates series of books, including A Vampire in Edinburgh. You can follow her on Twitter under the profoundly misleading name @thriftygal

Review: West End Girls/Wank Buddies at Live Theatre, Newcastle Show Info


Directed by Jake Smith (West End Girls)

Written by Adam Hughes (West End Girls); Jake Jarratt, Cameron Sharp (Wank Buddies)

Cast includes Amy Allen, Patricia Jones, Leah Mains (West End Girls); Jake Jarratt, Cameron Sharp (Wank Buddies)

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