Published on October 4th, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
The Great Geordie Songbook
Singer/songwriter Simma previews an upcoming theatre production
Theatre and music lovers in the North East will be familiar with playwright Ed Waugh, not least for the brilliantly controversial Maggie’s End, written with Trevor Wood, which delighted and incensed in equal measure. Maggie’s End predicted the effect that the death of Margaret Thatcher would have on one Sunderland family.
More recently his sell-out shows celebrating the songwriting of Geordie pioneer Joe Wilson and world champion boxer Glenn McCrory played to packed houses and rave reviews.
I was delighted to find out that Ed’s latest production, The Great Geordie Songbook, honours the work of other North-East songwriters, delving into the past for some familiar works, as well as unearthing unjustly forgotten gems. The motivation behind this show is, for me, what makes it special.
“It’s like Punk,” he says. “I want young people to see it and realise that they can grab a guitar, perform these songs and write their own.”
Listening to Ed Waugh enthuse about the preservation of working-class culture is a joy. He rightly points out that many of the political songs in the show – even pieces from the late 1800s – still hold relevance today. In his previous shows, some songs were performed that hadn’t been heard in over 160 years.
The songs of struggle, triumph and day-to-day working-class life are extremely pertinent to a world in which working people are increasingly questioning those in power.
Ed’s shows have always been politically slanted and The Great Geordie Songbook is no exception. “It’s about preserving North East culture,” he says.
He’s particularly enthused by young people identifying as working class again. “It’s a renaissance. People who come to my shows know what they’re getting, they know it’s going to be absolutely anti-establishment.”
The Great Geordie Songbook features songs by Joe Wilson, Ned Corven and Geordie Ridley, among many others. If those names aren’t familiar, I can guarantee you’ve heard their songs. To paraphrase an old Crowded House advert; you know more Ned Corvan songs than you think you do.
The cast boasts some of the best and brightest in northern theatre – Mickey Cochrane, fresh from playing Joe Wilson, and Rachel McShane who many music lovers will recognise from legendary folk collective Bellowhead.
Having hugely enjoyed The Great Joe Wilson, I am personally very much looking forward to this next piece, not least for Cochrane’s performance. Even in a cast of huge talent, his turn as Wilson shone through, and I’m convinced that he is a star in waiting.
The Great Geordie Songbook has two performances on November 3 in Hall 2 at The Sage Gateshead, (4pm and 8pm). Tickets are £20 from The Sage and www.wisecrackproductions.co.uk