Highlighting the best

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A scheme which brings a true variety of art forms to rural villages, churches and community halls across Northumberland has released a new line-up of shows.

The Highlights Rural Touring Scheme will present entertainment at a range of venues, from Spittal in the north to Seaton Delaval in the south of the county.

Some of the country’s best small-scale touring companies will be reaching out to parts of Northumberland and making sure that rural audiences don’t miss out on top class productions.

From a menu of more than 20 different shows, reflecting a variety of art forms, each village has chosen performances to suit their community, with local promoters organising the events and bringing fellow residents together for a night out.

The programme will showcase new work alongside firm favourites, including some family comedy adventure, folk tales, fairy tales for grown ups, poetry, a re-telling of Macbeth and even a play where you can eat fish and chips during the performance.

The season starts at the end of this month, but the nearest local showing isn’t until Friday, February 11, when Hepscott Parish Hall will play host to a solo performance entitled Muse, focusing on the inspiration for Christopher Isherwood’s Sally Bowles. It explores the woman behind the story of Cabaret.

The following week, Wingates Village Institute will welcome a new adaption of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Two actors will play more than 30 characters in an 80-minute long adaption.

In April, Woody Holler and his orchestra will be appearing at Middleton and Todridge Village Hall.

The Canadian Western will be bringing his influenced styles of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, as well as the rustic blue yodeling of Jimmy Rodgers and danceable swing of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.

Also in that month, Jonny and The Baptists will be bringing a musical comedy show about family and friendship to Hepscott Parish Hall, and on Sunday, June 5, Canadian singer/songwriter Ian Sherwood will be playing at Wingates Village Institute.

A highlight for this season will be in the form of Booth and Son’s Fish and Chip Shop.

Box of Tricks Theatre Company is presenting the production, which sees the audience take a step back to the time of chippy teas and Northern soul.

You can sit back and watch the performance whilst tucking in to some fish and chips.

The event will be staged at Felton Village Hall on Saturday, February 27. It is the first time this venue has been involved with the Highlights Touring Scheme.

Working across Northumberland, Cumbria and Durham, Highlights is one of the largest of the rural touring schemes in England and Wales.

Each year it brings more than 150 performances from national touring companies into the heart of rural villages — 50 of these are performed across Northumberland.

The scheme is able to subsidise performances, making them affordable for smaller communities, and the intimacy of the village hall puts the connection between artist and audience at the heart of the experience.

For further information on each production visit www.highlightsnorth.co.uk

Alternatively, you can contact the scheme’s main office in Appleby on 01768 353954.