‘Touching’ Great War Play Excuse for Massive Explosions

Sam & Isla Forever, July 2014, playing at The Maltings Theatre, Berwick-upon-TweedA touching new play by the Tideline Runners Theatre Company commissioned to commemorate the outbreak of the Great War is a cover to showcase the biggest on-stage explosion since pyrotechnics went badly wrong during the 1945 performance of Run for your Wife at The Confucius Theatre, Nagasaki, that left 73,000 dead and Neil Morrissey’s acting career uncertain, it has emerged.

Author of Sam & Isla Forever, Robert Wilkinson, is marketing the play much as a blockbusting holiday read:

“The incredible love story that is born in The Great War and spans six decades.
Set locally in Berwick upon Tweed between 1914 and 1974,
Sam & Isla Forever is the tale of a boy and a girl torn apart by war, whose story would go on to inspire three lonely souls to aim impossibly high in the name of justice.”

However, a source close to the writer/director has revealed that his motives may not be as pure as those of popular novelist, Ken Follett.

“Well, Bob has to say that, doesn’t he? Ever since PTSD was made up, loud detonations are seen as a little outré, vulgar even. People can be very judge-y if you suggest that bombs are actually very good fun and the perfect foundation for a two-hour play.”

This sentiment is echoed by most of the male cast – a cast whose average age is 19, poignantly representative of the doomed youth of 1914 and commensurate with joy found in loud, surprising noises.

“I think when people see Sam & Isla Forever,” said veteran actor, David Simpson, 22, “they’ll realise that there was, like, actually some real romance? People didn’t know if they were going to live or die because of all the explosions and blowing stuff up, so this play is like honouring the truth of explosions… in that they’re, y’know, intense?”

So the bombs are a metaphor for love set against the backdrop of an uncertain future?

“No. They’re explosions. Big fuck-off ones to make your nose bleed. Lovely.”

And it seems that retinal afterimage isn’t the only thing the show’s production team are hoping will draw in audiences for the show’s three-night run.

“If I don’t receive complaints of at  least 11 perforated ear-drums, then my name’s not Enola Gay,” declared the Technical Manager. “Which it isn’t. It’s Steve, but anyway.”

Featuring 20 originally composed songs ranging between folk, rock and ballad, Sam & Isla Forever is billed as the theatre event of the summer. Matthew Rooke, Maltings’ Chief Executive and Artistic Director, believes this is the sort of groundbreaking theatre that will put Berwick-upon-Tweed firmly on the cultural map.

“I’m very excited about the future of The Maltings and its place in bringing top quality blasts to the stage. It’s an area of theatre very much neglected and I plan to rewrite the percussive element of supersonic shock waves for a string quartet so as to suggest the generation of high temperatures and the release of gases. It’s very exciting – certainly something worth wearing heels for.”

Sam & Isla Forever, The Maltings Theatre & Cinema, Berwick-upon-Tweed, 31st July to 2nd August 2014. Really not to be missed! (Bring earplugs. And a first aid kit.) 


Caffè Nero Scene of Racist Incident

Caffe Nero, Berwick-upon-TweedPolice were called to popular coffee outlet Caffè Nero on Marygate earlier today when it became the scene of what appeared to be a vicious hate crime, ahead of the organised racism already crayoned in for Saturday afternoon by the Twottish Defence League and the North East Imbecils.

A 42-year-old woman in ugly shoes has subsequently been arrested and is being questioned over the incident believed to involve a confrontation with the coffee shop’s assistant manager, Ryan Reay. Eye-witness reports suggest language of a culturally insensitive nature came into play more than once, causing one barista to cover his ears and retch over the sink.

“It was really frightening,” said Zac Richardson, 33, a dog demonstrator from Wark. “I was waiting for my chicken panini to be flattened into transparency when I overheard the guy behind the counter asking this woman to repeat herself, like he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. She did, and then it all kicked off − before we knew where we were the poor guy was replaying his breakfast into one of the jugs reserved for soya milk .”

Mr Richardson broke off, clearly distressed, before adding, “Soya milk is just so wrong.”

Mr Reay, who intervened in an attempt to defuse the situation, explained:

“I heard raised voices and looked across to see a woman in ugly shoes violently gesticulating at Sammy, one of our baristas. I heard Sammy say, ‘Do you mean grande?’ to which this woman replied, ‘No, just a l**ge one, please.’ Sammy repeated ‘Grande?’ as per the training manual, but this just seemed to aggravate the woman further. ‘L**ge!’ she shrieked. ‘L**ge, l**ge, l**ge!'”

Reay went on to say: “We don’t expect to hear language like that in this day and age; I had to send Sammy home, he was so distraught. I gave the woman a chance to apologise but she was beyond reason, embarking on a fury of mime indicating what appeared to be a  grande one-shot cappuccino while all the time unleashing a torrent of  the ‘l’ word. That’s when I called the police.”

While at face value this seems a straightforward case of hateful intolerance, Professor Jonty Hardcastle from the Department of Applied Culturology at the University of Strathclyde believes that the whole incident is directly linked to a phenomenon known as the ‘Embarrassment Cascade’. First observed in the late 70s among working class men unable to pronounce ‘Quiche Lorraine’ with the correct Gallic inflection, the Embarrassment Cascade is defined as “negative escalating behaviour stemming from an inner awareness of sounding like a tit”.

“It’s actually a very understandable – and therefore treatable – condition,” asserts Dr Hardcastle. “The brain knows when something is vaguely foreign and seeks to reject it, not from fear of catching anything like TB or French, but from the awareness that it is unbelievably poncy. By rigidly sticking to the correct – that is to say, English – term, the brain is preserving dignity and self-respect.

“Of course, while we humans have evolved on a superficial level to embrace anything that smacks of European café culture in the hope that it makes us appear sexually liberated and interested in art, our animal brain still registers attempts at speaking foreign as a complete and utter waste of energy. This woman should be treated with compassion and understanding, perhaps starting with supervised screenings of Wallander. The Kenneth Branagh version, of course, not the one with pretentious subtitles.”

Kenneth Branagh wiping mouth

Kenneth Branagh, regretting the chocolate sprinkles

But outraged mother of dragons, Genevieve Fitzroy, had this to say:

“It was a complete disgrace. That woman should have her tongue cut out. No one should have to listen to language like that; it’s offensive and unnecessary. Caffè Nero may be improbably spelt, but it is still the linchpin of multicultural life here in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Only last week, I was sipping my soya latte – grande, naturellement – and I saw a noble man of colour drive past in a car that looked like his own with James Blunt thumping out of the stereo. Don’t tell me that happens in Eyemouth.”






Conchita Wurst Drafted in to Rescue Town Council

Conchita Wurst Saves Berwick Town CouncilEurovision winner Conchita Wurst has been drafted in by Northumberland County Council to steer beleaguered Berwick Town Council back from the brink of self-destruction as name-calling reached critical mass at 3.15pm last Thursday afternoon.

A statement issued by Northumberland County Council Leader Grant Davey, Labour, stated:

“Owing to the ongoing dispute between several Berwick Town Councillors, we feel we have no choice but to call upon the services of one who has him/her/whatever-self faced adversity and who will understand the particular concerns of small-minded people who can’t bear to be in close proximity with each other.

We would, of course, have preferred to have dealt with this internally, but we’re far too busy doing important things like stopping the over-16s in rural Northumberland from having an education, education, education.”

On hearing of her first major appointment since winning the Eurovision Song Contest, bearded beauty Conchita, 25, declared:

“For me, my dream came true. But for Berwick it showed me that people want to move on, to look to the future. Wish for the moon and you’ll reach at least the stars. The gutter is no place for dreams. Neither is Bonmarché. This is what I will be teaching Berwick Council in our workshops on fabulosity – dare to dream. And wear lamé. The world is a better place in lamé.”

The first stage of Conchita’s strategy will be getting the Town Council to sit quietly at their desks after lunch with their heads on their arms. This will be followed by a stint sitting cross-legged on the storytelling carpet as Conchita teaches them about how it’s nicer to get on with people.

However, not everyone is convinced her methods will work. A supporter of Councillor Hill, Genevieve Fitzroy, who did not wish to be named, has reservations:

“Look, it’s a nice idea but really how practical is it? There are a lot of people exercising their right to get wound up about stuff. You can’t silence us.”

But in view of all council dealings now taking the form of a prolonged and ugly game of so’s-your-mum, does she not think that dignity is being lost on all sides which might alienate the public even further?

After thinking about this for a moment or two with her lips moving, Fitzroy requested that we shut up because we smelled and she didn’t like us any more.

Jonty Hardcastle, professor at the Berwick Institute of Thinking and author of the seminal coffee table book, The Origins of Axe-Grinding as a Form of Self-Comfort, is not surprised.

“In scientific circles it’s called ‘closure by proxy’, but it’s more commonly known as ‘I’ll hold your coat’. It’s a condition affecting people boiling with rage about some person or event in their past for which they’ve been unable to achieve closure. Their sense of corrosive fury redirects itself towards another focal point, usually one with merit and legitimacy, which then acts as a lightening rod for their thwarted hopes and desires. So, by urging a punch-up in a car park between others, they feel they are receiving satisfaction for past hurts. It’s all terribly Jungian and fucked up.”

Hippos fighting, like members of the Berwick Town Council

An artist’s impression of hard-working Berwick Town Councillors.

With such behaviour evident in both councillors and supporters alike, Professor Hardcastle is doubtful of a reconciliation.

“These poor creatures are even known to turn on their own, like hippopotamuses at a family get-together. They’re now so blinded by emotion that logic has become another bitter casualty, like my wish for a market without three stalls of hi-vis work wear. ”

But sultry songstress Conchita remains upbeat.

“I really dream of a council where it’s not about your political persuasion or personal antipathies. I will really show that we are all part of the same family, not of separate communities. I know it sounds cheesy but we are one! Let’s make Berwick more like me, more fabulous! Let’s all rise like a phoenix!”


Party Atmosphere Greets Free Parking in Berwick-upon-Tweed

A party atmosphere descended on the Border town of Berwick-upon-Tweed this week as parking became free for the first time since King James III ceded the town to Edward IV after losing a game of Nine Men’s Morris to him in 1482.

Riot police managing a crowd with tear gas and batons

Even the omnipresent North Sea haar didn’t spoil the fun.

Revellers congregated at Palace Green before parading Mardi-Gras-style down Walkergate and Church Street in a pincer movement of liberated parking delight. Spirits were high as the crowd swept beneath Scots Gate and urinated good-naturedly against the now defunct tariff notice situated in the Co-Op car park.

“I’m not one easily given over to public displays of micturition,” admitted Zac Richardson, a contemporary kazoo player from Cockburnspath. “But I see it as a way of expressing both my optimism for the town’s bright new future and contempt for the cretinous councillors who thought parking charges were a way to boost trade and tourism. Plus, I had quite a large cup of tea before I left the house.”

Grieves, Home Bargains and W H Smith all reported a shortage of whistles, hula skirts and steel drums, while Greggs announced a run on their special edition “Reverse Parking” sausage roll. This is the same as a normal sausage roll only placed in the bag at a slightly awkward angle and a fair distance from the edge.

However, some people remain to be convinced by Northumberland County Council’s act of apparent largesse. Henna artist and part-time chemical traveller Genevieve Fitzroy believes that the abolition of parking charges signals a move by the council to open negotiations with Scotland about taking Berwick off their hands once more.

“Look, I’m not saying that’s what they [the council] are doing, right?” she giggled. “Totally not. But what I am saying is, like, beware Greeks carrying gifts in the mouth. F**k me, but this doobie’s strong.”

According to Dr Jonty Hardcastle, Professor of Speculative History at Glasgow University, this idea isn’t as wild as it first appears:

“Free parking is an obvious way to tempt Scotland to relieve England of the responsibility it has towards Berwick,” he said. “Historically, Scotland loves free stuff — whether it be prescriptions, bus travel or a university education. Faced with the prospect of offering something for nothing that it can’t afford, Scotland is going to find Northumberland County Council’s flirty overtures difficult to resist.”

Dr Hardcastle went on to say: “From the council’s perspective, Berwick has always been the unwanted child from a first marriage. Sure, they make all the right noises about promising to love and look after it just like their real kids, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty they’d rather chain it to a bedstead and feed it Chappie.”

Berwick Mayor and Lib Dem Councillor Isabel Hunter vehemently denied the allegation. “I haven’t heard anything so ridiculous since Councillor Hill suggested that Berwick Town Council should be more open and transparent. Don’t write that down. Are you record… no, don’t take my picture, give me that…”

Spare change requisitioner Claire Strong, 22, reacted with delight at the news of free parking, declaring the new policy would at last reverse the effects of psychic damage wrought by charges on residents and visitors alike.

“When people need to find fifty-pee for the ticket machine rather than for throwing at someone sitting on a square of cardboard with a dog wearing a jaunty neckerchief, it damages them inside,” she explained. “Hopefully, free parking will enable people to reflect on the impermanence of life and the futility of material attachment. I’ve taught Exocet a new trick to help them with that.”

Dogs begging holding little baskets


Vampire Deputy Mayor Georgina Hill Savaged by Tory Clan Overlord

John Stephenson, Tory councillor, Berwick-upon-TweedBerwick Deputy Mayor and first-generation vampire Georgina Hill has been fiercely criticised by clan elder, the powerful Lord Viktor of House Halidon. Lord Viktor, who prefers to go by the name Councillor John Stephenson, is reportedly furious that Hill has failed in her Conservative duty to be sly, secretive, untrustworthy and altogether wrong.

“Georgina Hill condemns the lack of transparency in this [Berwick] council in a national newspaper,” Lord Viktor is alleged to have told the Disinterment & Regeneration Committee. “Well, if Councillor Hill can find any evidence of lack of transparency among councillors I would imagine they would resign. But she’s got to find it first. And as for corruption — du-ur, we’re the living dead; corruption is kind of what we do.

“Transparency is there, but obviously not when we want to hide stuff. Like the meeting I chaired back in September of the Finance Committee, where we secretly appropriated the Portas money. The gagging proposal put forward by Gavin Jones following Ms Hill’s demand that we desecretify that meeting is just a tremendous coincidence.

“To be honest, I’m disappointed that a member of my clan would act in such an honourable way. I blame Europe.”

Councillor Gavin Jones, Lib Dem councillor,  Berwick Town CouncilLycan councillor Jones, demonstrating the biddable nature of his species and why they’re so good around young children, had tabled a motion to give a subcommittee of three the power to reject “vexatious” requests for information, inquiry and review of council decisions. The proposal was subsequently passed as a result of several abstentions due to the national policy of Lycan castration.

Panting happily around a large Kong stuffed with Butcher’s Choice Select, Jones declared:

I’m just keen that the council doesn’t get bogged down with credibility; it would really affect the workflow now we only have two-and-a-half members of staff. There used to be three, but my time of the month took her unawares. Here,” he added. “You dropped this stick.”

Berwick residents have reacted angrily to the news that a majority of the town council is keen to implement a behind-closed-doors policy.

Flavia Petrescu, a Romanian dog-groomer based on Bridge Street, said:

“Is disappointing. I’m a Lycan-lover, always has been. They is just so cute and eager to please. But vampires is just so independent; they don’t need you or give no shit. I am not typical a fan of vampires. But, you know? It just shows you cannot always tell. Ms Hill might has made vampire person out of me.”

But would she still vote for Councillor Gavin Jones?

“Not so likely,” admitted Petrescu. “Least not until his glands has good squeeze.”

Zac Richardson, a traffic cone operator from Horncliffe, agreed that such actions will make decision-making difficult come election time.

“These days the only way I can tell whether a politician is up to the job is by reading about his or her sex life in The Daily Mail. With everything going on behind closed doors I’ll be forced to look at their policies, and we all know they’re made up.”

When routed from his 18th-century crypt Councillor Tom Forrester, clan brother of Ms Hill, had this to say:

“When I read the proposal by Councillor Jones I was stunned and surprised to find such an anti-democratic proposal from a Lycan. They don’t usually care who sees them dragging their arse across the carpet. I can only put it down to a growing campaign to stake the Deputy Mayor. It’s a sad state of affairs when a vampire has to point out the correct way to behave.”

Lord Viktor has so far failed to dispel the rumours of a council plot to dispense with Councillor Hill. Only last week the 450-year-old nightwalker was heard muttering over a half-conscious virgin, “Just because we share a nest, doesn’t mean we have to like each other,” before ripping out the still-beating heart and offering it to the bat god, Camazotz.

Dr Jonty Hardcastle, researcher at the Berwick Institute of Thinking, links Berwick Town Council’s behaviour to an inner ear infection particular to supernatural beings.

“The fact that Councillor Hill is talking with integrity yet being discounted by her colleagues is due to the higher pitch of the female voice,” he explains. “You have to remember that both Lycans and vampires have heightened hearing. For the male of these species, whenever an intelligent woman speaks it causes physical pain. In an attempt to lessen this auditory distress, the brain’s temporal lobe tries to minimise the impact of the words by stripping them of meaning and consequence.

Dr Hardcastle went on to say: “This condition — chronic otitis labyrinthica politica, or sexism as it’s more commonly known — tends to manifest in those with poor self-image, low intellect and entrenched mother issues.”

Councillor Hazel Bettison agrees:

“I tried to alleviate the effects of Councillor Jones’s proposal by suggesting that the whole staffing committee should be involved with ignoring information requests from the public. My very sensible compromise was knocked back. I can only put this down to my voice. It did rise a pitch or two, but then my brain was melting out of sheer incredulity.”

“I’m taking testosterone so it doesn’t happen again,” Bettison added.

Georgina Hill, Deputy Mayor of Berwick-upon-TweedWhile storm clouds continue to build, the Deputy Mayor remains unperturbed.

“As a vampire, I welcome darkness and the reputation of a slaughterer of innocents. It’s a concept I’m comfortable with. However, I draw the line at concealing things that have no business being concealed. That’s just well dodgy.”

What do you think? Has Councillor Hill got it right or are there some things better left behind closed doors when it comes to local politics?

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