'We are delighted that Cloud Nine will be presenting A Parcel for Mr Smith at Prague Fringe Festival this Year with Dylan Mortimer reprising his role as the eponymous hero.
Taking place annually in May/Jane, Prague Fringe is a nine-day performance festival showcasing the work of hundreds of artists from all over the globe in a variety of traditional, and some not-so-traditional(!), venues in the historical centre of one of the world's most beautiful cities.
Artistic Director of Cloud Nine Theatre Company, Peter Mortimer will be reviewing shows at the festival on behalf of the British Theatre Guide.
So, if you haven't booked your Summer holiday there are regular flights to Prague from Newcastle Airport. Why not combine sightseeing with culture? The event now attracts around 6000 keen and satisfied attendees each year - of all ages and from all walks of life - who spend their days sightseeing and their evenings watching one of the 200 performances of around 40 different shows are on offer. The Fringe Club - the meeting point for audience members, performers and festival staff - continues into the early hours for those who have the stamina!
'The Fringe in Prague is just like Edinburgh in the 60s: intimate, friendly and fun. It is a wonderful festival' Jim Haynes, Fringe Guru.
The 17th Prague Fringe takes place from 25th May - 2nd June 2018
A Parcel for Mr Smith will play Tuesday 29th May - Saturday June 2nd.
British Theatre Guide's review of Cloud Nine's latest production, Rainbird
by Peter Lathan.
Creating a biographical play is fraught with difficulties: what do you leave out? what do you keep in? If it’s historical, do you try to make it relevant to today or leave it firmly in its historical context? If it’s about an artist, how much should be about the art and how much about the man? Do you focus on one significant part of his life or try to tell his whole story? We could fill a page or more simply listing these problems.
Victor Noble Rainbird was born in North Shields in 1887, studied at the Royal Academy of Art where he won prizes, and had a successful career as an artist, painting all over the world. He was a good friend of Augustus John and knew—but would not, I think, call himself a friend of—Gerald Brockhurst.
He volunteered for and served in the Great War where he was exposed to mustard gas and suffered shellshock. The army used his artistic skills by sending him out into no-man’s land to make accurate drawings of German defences, an extremely dangerous and traumatic job. Badly damaged by the War, he took to drink, his marriage broke up and he died penniless, lying in a pauper’s grave for 80 years until, in 2016, a public fund-raising campaign led to a specially sculpted headstone being placed on his grave.
This is not a spoiler! These are facts known to anyone who knows of Rainbird—or who reads the writer’s prologue in the programme.
What Peter Mortimer has chosen to do is to take selected, significant incidents in his life and stage them (with occasional direct addressing of the audience), interspersed with a modern story based around the rediscovery of one of his paintings in a junk shop in Newcastle, a painting which was significant in his relationship with his wife Liz.
Inevitably, the piece is very episodic and Mortimer makes events which may be separated by days, weeks, months or even years slide into each other, which puts a lot of pressure on the actors who, it has to be said, rise to the challenge.
As Rainbird, Jamie Brown conveys the fierce passion and dedication he has for his art, the central focus of his life. As he says frequently, he lives and breathes painting. Even in the heart of battle, he finds beauty and magnificence. Brown’s Rainbird is totally convincing, even to the point of annoying us with his almost monomania and his inability to see anyone else's point of view.
Heather Carroll’s Liz Rainbird engages our sympathies throughout as she goes from the first joys of love, through desperately clinging to what she had, to final acceptance of her loss and moving on to a new stage in her life.
Sarah Boulter and Jacob Anderton convincingly play their 21st century counterparts, Hayley and Clive, whose characters and relationship echo—although do not reproduce—those of Rainbird and Liz.
The rest of the cast—Lawrence Neal, Dale Jewitt, Michael Carruthers, Sean Kenney, Dave Young and Kyle Morley—play 18 parts altogether, switching effortlessly between them.
I do find it strange, however, that in the entire play we only see one painting. Given that his passion for painting was what drove his life, I would have expected more, perhaps the Angel of Mons, representing his often mentioned “Guardian Angel”, which he is seen actually working on feverishly towards the end of the play. Designer Alison Ashton’s slightly dirty blank canvas backdrop seems tailor-made for such a projection.
Director Neil Armstrong has been directing plays for Cloud Nine for many years and, as usual, approaches his characters with sympathy and understanding whilst keeping the piece tight and smooth-moving.
If the first night audience? reaction is anything to go by, the people of North Shields will be well pleased with this portrayal of one of their famous forebears.
Rainbird-Review by Terry Jones
‘Rainbird, The Tragedy of an Artist,’ Peter Mortimer’s latest play, directed by Neil Armstrong charts the life of North Shields born Victor Noble Rainbird.
Rainbird’s short life–he died aged 47–was indelibly changed by the ’14-’18 war where he served as a reconnaissance artist and Peter’s play pulls no punches in highlighting the insensitivity shown to sufferers of shellshock.
Very much a play of two halves, we see Rainbird who is initially brash, super-confident in his own creative ability and driven to paint, descend into the grip of despair as he returns to his native North East after the horrors of war.
Although a fine ensemble piece, the play is carried by Jamie Brown’s sensitive portrayal of Rainbird–especially as he increasingly depends on alcohol to survive day to day.
The play is imaginatively set in two timelines and seamlessly moves from the past to the present.
The device of Rainbird’s self-portrait links the past and present and provides a dramatic, emotional and truly believable ending.
Everyone connected with this fine production should feel justifiably proud of what they have created.
The play serves a fitting tribute to Rainbird and the body of work which is his legacy.
'North Tyneside's superb Cloud Nine Theatre Company' - The Crack
Council England has awarded Cloud Nine Theatre Company £13,500 towards
the production of the play, Rainbird in the Spring of 2018 at the
Exchange, North Shields. The proposed play by our artistic director
Peter Mortimer has already been guaranteed support by Heritage Lottery
Fund, Peggy Ramsey Foundation and North Tyneside Council.
commented, 'This is really great news in these days of such tight
funding. Arts Council England was our major bid. Small companies such
as Cloud Nine based so far away from the capital often get overlooked.
This is a really important large-scale project for us in our new home.'
Rainbird will be directed by Neil Armstrong and concerns the tragic life of painter Victor Noble Rainbird, who died in 1937.
Cloud Nine has been the recipient of funding from Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund, Peggy Ramsey Foundation and North Tyneside Council. In 2015, Artistic Director of Cloud Nine, Peter Mortimer was named a finalist in the Journal Culture Awards Writer of the Year for his play, 'Death at Dawn.'