Extraordinary Adventures in a Re-imagined North

‘Imagine the North…not the grim up North, the gritty up North, the cloth cap and cobblestone or ugly grey concrete North…

Imagine the true North, the now North, the fantastical North, the North that’s a brilliant idea…’

sally wp

In Northern Spirit’s theatre production A Wondrous Place, four outstanding young writers challenge the ‘it’s grim up North’ clichés and offer four fresh and vibrant perspectives on four amazing contemporary Northern cities: Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Manchester:

A Wondrous Place brings these four brand new short-dramas together within one dramatic story sequence. It’s about celebrating all that’s unique about these North of England cities. It’s about discovering what they share.

It’s about seeing this part of the world differently and experiencing it with new eyes.

The 'A Wondrous Place' cast: L-R Josh Hayes, Kathryn Beaumont, Adam Search, Sally Hodgkiss.

The ‘A Wondrous Place’ cast: L-R Josh Hayes, Kathryn Beaumont, Adam Search, Sally Hodgkiss.









What People Are Saying About A Wondrous Place

‘A trans-Pennine voyage of regional re-discovery.’ - The Stage.
‘Four short dramas with an emphatically original sense of place.’ - The Guardian.


More audience responses to the A Wondrous Place production here.


The Guardian Review   * * * * 

Review by Alfred Hickling – Tue 28th May

‘Northern Spirit is a new company that aims to redefine the concept of northern-ness, beginning with the curious tale of a rocket in Gateshead. Admittedly, the Dunston Rocket was a 1970s high-rise housing development rather than a vehicle of space exploration. But Alison Carr has written a tenderly observed ode to the redrawing of the Tyneside skyline that happened when the building was finally demolished in January last year. Carr’s contribution sets the tone for this collection of four short dramas with an emphatically original sense of place. Chris Meads’s production has a likable lightness of touch, with witty animated graphics, quirky music and engaging performances from a quartet of actors who demonstrate an impressive facility for sharing each other’s accents. And it’s big enough to admit that some northern cliches may actually be true. As McDonald Hughes states on the company blog: “Yes, it rains. But it rains too in London, though the rain here is better.’

Read the full review here.


The Stage Review

Review by Martin Tomasson

Northern Spirit is on wondrous mission: to counter corny cliches about life in the north of England by celebrating life as it is lived. Instead of an everyday existence of gritty grimness, the northern worlds explored in four mini-dramas, elegantly crafted by a quartet of rising new writers, is far more diverse, each story beginning in a recognisable locality but ending deep in the northern soul. Skilfully staged by director Chris Meads, employing discrete digital projections as backcloths to Lois Maskell’s multifunctional white-painted setting, the overall effect is of a trans-Pennine voyage of regional re-discovery by way of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Tyneside. In these cities the central characters find unexpected organic connections with their hometown roots. With superb pin-drop acting and smart production values…this utterly compelling production certainly delivers fresh thinking about true north – and it certainly isn’t grim.’

Read the full review here. 


British Theatre Guide Review

Review by Roger Foss – Fri 17th May

‘It’s a neat idea: commission four young writers, each to write a piece about her or his home city, aimed at countering that old cliché ‘it’s grim up North’, and then tour the production to the cities in question—Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle and Manchester. This commendable new writing project, produced by Northern Spirit, is given its clearest expression in Adam’s closing realisation about his home town [within Matt Hartley’s ‘Porter’s Brook’] : ‘I always felt happier arriving at the station than I ever did leaving it.’

Read the full review here


The Good Review   * * * *

Review by Margaret Manning – Wed 19th June

‘This production of “four extraordinary adventures in a re-imagined North” certainly lives up to its publicity. The performances from Kathryn Beaumont, Sally Hodges, Adam Search and Joshua Hayes were superb… writers Alison Carr, Sarah McDonald, Luke Barnes and Matt Hartley achieved their aim to challenge the “it’s grim up north” cliches and delivered thoughtful, emotionally charged pieces.’

Read the full review here.

The A Wondrous Place theatre production has been nominated for ‘Best Studio Production’ in the 2014 Manchester Theatre Awards.


The A Wondrous Place Story Sequence

'What Space Between' What Space Between by Alison Carr (Can Cause Death, Forward Theatre Project, National Theatre, Northern Stage, Latitude Festival)

Eme has an extraordinary encounter with Gateshead’s Dunston Rocket: ‘Its smells, its feel, its colours, its joys, its losses – they are in my bones, my blood, my teeth, my sweat, my nails.’





Electricity by Sarah McDonald Hughes  (Once In A House On Fire, Monkeywood Theatre, The Lowry)

Angel discovers that Manchester can be as glamorous as New York and as romantic as Paris:  ‘The cobbles round here are like stepping stones into a new world.’




Dog by Luke Barnes  (Bottleneck, High Tide Festival, Soho Theatre)

Haunted by a terrible event, Jonny seeks redemption and forgiveness within the midnight streets of Liverpool: ‘This moment is everything…where I sink or swim, where the tide takes me or I learn to fight the tide…Everything depends on this.’


'Porter's Brook'

Porters Brook by Matt Hartley   (Sixty Five Miles, Paines Plough, Hull Truck)  

Adam’s life is saved by the spirit of Sheffield’s people:  ‘We’re pioneers, up here, chucking sense out of the window. We’re an experiment.’



Listen to music from the A Wondrous Place story sequence soundtrack, composed for the production by Caro C and played by contributing musicians from across the north, here.

See visual storyboards that inspired the A Wondrous Place story sequence, created by A Wondrous Place designer Lois Maskell, here.

We thought we’d ask lots of different people, “What’s fantastic about Liverpool…Manchester…Newcastle…Sheffield…?” You can listen to what they said, in this collage of north of England voices created by Caro C for A Wondrous Place, here.

Discover how Twitter and Facebook responses were integrated into the show here.

The A Wondrous Place story sequence was created by a large number of multi-disciplinary artists, actors and writers from across the north in collaboration. Learn more about who they are, and how they see this part of the world, here.


Wondrous Cities Bloggers

Sheffield AmpitheatreNorthern Spirit wanted to be inspired by as many different ideas and perspectives as possible while creating A Wondrous Place, so each week from September 2012 to February 2013 we handed over this space to a different guest blogger from either Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield or Tyne and Wear. They were amazing, and came up with endless surprising ways to illuminate the wondrous places that they live within and love.

Their Wondrous Cities grew, day-by-day, week-by-week, into a compelling, evolving archive of all that’s extraordinary about this part of the world, seen from numerous unexpected angles. Find out who they were, read their fantastic posts and discover the great blogs they write here.


The A Wondrous Place Tour

Liverpool Unity Theatre
15th-18th May
Box office

Sheffield Crucible Studio Theatre
23rd May – 1st June
Box office

Newcastle Northern Stage 2
4th-6th June
Box office

Manchester Royal Exchange Studio
11th-22nd June
Box office

Poster at the RET










A Wondrous Place is produced by Northern Spirit in assocation with the following partners: