IT’S a long way from Tyneside to Prague, but former Live Theatre house manager Carole Wears is now using Czech Republic contacts to launch a new Newcastle theatre season from this month.

“I’ve worked a long time at Live, but also co-founded the Prague Fringe Festival 17 years ago. I did that concurrently with working at Live, and the event became a passion because I fell in love with the Edinburgh Fringe when I was at university,” says Wears, who is from Cullercoats.

She became well-known on the festival circuit as the two Scots (Angus Coull and Steve Gove) and the Geordie who took the enormous gamble of staging theatre and comedy in the Czech Republic. “We based it on the grandmother of all fringe festivals in Edinburgh and created an event that was highly esteemed on the international circuit,” she says.

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Things changed when Wears stepped down from Live in March, after 22 years, and decided to launch her own company bringing the best of Prague to the North-East. A decision by Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre to relocate to St James Boulevard gave her CaroleW Productions an ideal venue to create a series of five shows involving the best British creatives on her Prague books.

“I selected five shows from companies who I have built up a relationship with and who tour internationally. I asked if they wanted to be part of the Newcastle debut season and the reason I called my company CaroleW is not out of any sense of hubris, but because I wanted this season to be about trust. I want audiences to trust my judgement. I’m not independently wealthy, so this has to work.

“All the shows are about an hour long and are from different genres, but I want people to know they are in for a good night out whatever you think you like. That means I want artists to also trust me to show them the best of the North-East. I’ve had 25 years working at other venues, so I know about regional audiences and how generous they are.”

Ali Pritchard, Alphabetti ‘s artistic director, says of his decision to support CaroleW’s season:

“Like all great plans the seed for Carole to launch CaroleW Productions with Alphabetti's new venue was firmly planted over a pint of beer in a sunny/rainy beer garden. Carole's work with Live Theatre and setting up Prague Fringe Festival has been invaluable to not only the North East, but the UK's art scene - Alphabetti and I are honoured to be part of her next chapter.”

Wears is delighted to be part of the theatre’s 12-year “prolific plans that are a match made in heaven. There is only going to be one first season and my aim is to bring shows here from all over the world.”

Kicking off the season will be energetic duo Dan Lees and Neil Frost, who make up Honky Bonk Theatre, with their show The Establishment: Eton Mess from Tuesday, November 7 to Friday, November 10. The pair has had critically-acclaimed runs at Edinburgh, Brighton and Prague.

Next is young international company Tooth+Nail with award-winning physical theatre production Hummingbird (Tuesday, Nov 21 to Friday, Nov 24) based on the infamous Lonely Hearts Killers Ralph Conti and Edith.

From Tuesday, December 5 to Friday, Dec 8, Newcastle comic Roisin Crowley Linton stages her own unique take on love. Audiences are invited to join her as she talks about Love with a capital L, how annoying Love is, and ultimately how much she wishes we could talk about anything else in her debut one woman show Be More, Do Better But Don’t Change.

Alternative Christmas entertainment (Wednesday, Dec 13 to Friday, Dec 15) features improvised comedy troupe The Men With Coconuts with their show Improvised Bond, with Steve Worsley, Charles Hindley, Colin Bramwell and Will Naameh.

Then UK Improv Smackdown Champion, MC Hammersmith (the skinny one in Men with Coconuts aka Will Naameh), will be treating audiences to his Magical Freestyle Factory on Thursday, Dec 14, at 9.30pm after Improvised Bond.

As co-founder of Prague Fringe Festival, Wears has welcomed more than 600 companies from far-flung countries including Japan, Norway, USA, Holland, Serbia, India and Canada. This year’s event ran for nine days in late May/early June, presenting 160 performances of 50 shows across nine venues.

“With our experience in Edinburgh we decided that Prague needed a fringe festival and the city’s council were incredibly supportive. So real it all began with a great concept, the three of us a translator and an A4 sheet of paper.

“I haven’t made it easy for myself in Newcastle because I’ve booked clown and satire events from emerging people, plus poetry and a sexy physical noir piece from America. I positioned the improve Bond at Christmas because people will be seeking a good night out, particularly those that like to get glammed up. It could be part of the best Christmas party ever,” says Wears.

Roisin Crowley Linton took up an invitation from Wears to create a show that could be presented in Prague. “She just took the bull by the horns and did it. She performed last year in Prague and nailed it... and sold out every night. She’s a real force of nature and it was fantastic to see her blossom like that. The show is really intimate stuff. Then I said, ‘Come and do it in your home town’. It’s a very different experience for her and quite personal if she’s discussing her lovelife in Newcastle,” says Wears.

All of the companies presenting work via CaroleW Productions are also offering a series of accompanying workshops for schools/students.

  • For more information or to book tickets visit alphabettitheatre.co.uk or contact the Alphabetti Theatre box office on 0191-261-9125 to reserve tickets. Tickets range from “Pay what you like” to £8.