Off to the Prague Fringe

Cloud Nine Theatre Company at Prague Fringe Festival-

Blog by Carole Wears, Prague Fringe Organiser

We at Cloud Nine Theatre Company are continuing our 20th Anniversary celebrations with a visit to 17th Prague Fringe with our show “A Parcel for Mr Smith”!

I say “we” as a member of the advisory panel of Cloud Nine but also as co-founder and part of the programming team of the festival.  No co-incidence here!  When Peter asked me to join the panel I had no hesitation in saying yes.  He and the ever supportive other members of the team have been making theatre happen in my home in North Tyneside for 20 years as well as nurturing new talent through workshops and events.  What perfect serendipity to add an international excursion to their 20th Birthday celebrations and something I could help make happen.

Prague Fringe Festival is a heady mix of theatre, comedy, music, dance, storytelling and good times at venues across the Malá Strana district of Prague – the annual Fringe Festival extravaganza is an experience you will never forget whether performer, volunteer, audience member. You can find lots and lots of details about the event at The nine-day event showcases 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 from late afternoon into the night, so still plenty of time for sightseeing too…

What it’s also known for is its supportive and inclusive atmosphere. Artists supporting artists, future collaborations being born and friends ships forged, audience members, technical staff, artists, festival assistants, sponsors all coming together for a fantastic event.  There is a proud history of North East companies performing at the event, Bruvvers Theatre Company, Poetry Vandals, Live Theatre, Mr Drayton, Rascally Scoundrels, Monkfish, Middlesborough College, Gateshead College to name and its fabulous that Cloud Nine will now add its name to that list. There is also a very proud tradition of North East audience members returning year on year for a feast of culture and theatre provided by the city of Prague and the festival.  Long may it continue.

If we can’t see you there this year, perhaps somewhere down the line (the festival always spans the late May Bank Holiday in the UK), but in the meantime see in the Czech Republic Team Cloud Nine…flying out there myself today to help make sure it’s all tickety boo for you and the other artists flying in from across the Globe!

 Best, Carole x

Rainbird Review

Photo shows Jamie Brown (Rainbird), Dale Jewitt (Gerald Brockhurst) and Michael Carruthers (Augustus John)
Credit: Paul Irving

Hot off the press-or certainly the internet!  This review is by Peter Lathan and appeared in The British Theatre Guide on 25th April.

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.

Peter Lathan




The man responsible for this Rainbird play ever coming into being is without doubt Dave Young. OK. I wrote it, but without Dave it is unlikely it would ever have happened.

I went to hear his lecture on the artist almost three years ago and was hooked.

Dave was also responsible raising the £6,500 which meant the impoverished pauper’s grave where the painter had resided for 80 years in Preston Cemetery could be given a proper headstone.  And the details he gave me on Rainbird’s life have proved invaluable.

This Tuesday (April 17) Dave Young is repeating his lecture on The Life of Rainbird at 7.30pm at the Exchange, Howard Street North Shields, where the play will take place next week.  After the talk, me and Dave will be engaged in discussing the play itself.  Nor does the association end there.  The production of the play employs eight professional actors and two support actors one of whom is–Dave Young.

Anyway, Tuesday’s event (which includes many projected slides of Rainbird’s paintings)

costs a fiver, but is free if you’ve bought tickets to the play, so you’d be daft not to go.

North Shields doesn’t boast of many cultural heroes or heroines and for Rainbird the recognition has been a long time coming.  He was brought up less than a mile from where the lecture and the play take place, it’s a North Tyneside theatre company and a North Tyneside based writer, so you might say this is truly a home-grown creation.

Peter Mortimer

An abundance of Interesting Items at the Rainbird Auction

What enormous fun to collect together the work of North East artists for our forthcoming art auction. This will help the funding of our Cloud Nine play Rainbird, The Tragedy of an Artist and the artists have been incredibly generous supporting a piece of theatre about one of their own.

Someone has donated a Rainbird original, another has created his own portraits of the North Shields painter – one in acrylic, one in pencil, while a third has offered up an actual ‘rain bird’ – a mobile-cum-hanging of a wooden bird with inlaid broken china and glass bead raindrops falling alongside.

Some donations are extraordinary – Liz Maynard’s work is seven foot long and needs two to carry; nine rows each of three large ceramic tiles mounted on wood and recreating scenes from the Bayeux Tapestry. Dave Young, who is acting in the play has given us probably the most unusual item, a genuine Brazil football shirt, signed by Pele and beautifully framed and mounted. It is said to be worth £500.

Somewhat culturally different, but no less interesting is a full cartoon strip donated by the graphic artist Davey Jones who works for the famous, at times scurrilous North East Magazine Viz. One of Davey’s Viz characters is Johnnie Fartpants (little further explanation required) and this original strip, hand drawn in ink, is signed by its creator.

We have had enquiries from would-be bidders from as far away as Bristol, on of whom wants to bid over the phone while the auction takes place – you could almost think you were in Sotherby’s.

The auction promises to be a colourful affair, run as it is by the inimitable auctioneer Bertie Foster, a flamboyant highly entertaining character known to break off suddenly to play the spoons.

There’s a licensed bar, nibbles, plus live music from singer Dave Robson. And entry is free. More than 30 auction lots and a rare chance both to pick up a real bargain and support the play.

The Rainbird Auction is at The Exchange, North Shields, 7.30pm on Sunday Feb 25th.








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