PERHAPS son of South Shields Ed Waugh is the only playwright on earth ready to take on the songs and life story of unknown 19th Century Liverpool-born, Geordie-raised performer Ned Corvan... the region's first professional singer-songwriter.

Following on from the success of staging a drama tribute to world champion rower "Hadaway" Harry Clasper, Waugh agreed to enter the world of popular music hall of that time inspired by records and books of Corvan's work owned by Brian and Helen Mawson of Mawson & Wareham Music.

Waugh has used 22 of Corvan's120 songs - lyrics set to familiar music by regional folk artists - and wisely recruited top Geordie actor Chris Connel to play older Ned, confident young co-star Jamie Brown as young Ned and ex-Bellowhead violinist Rachael McShane to add the authentic sound of Corvan's famous violin.

Connel and Brown are magnificent foils for the short, self-destructive and talented life of Corvan, who died of TB in his mid-30s. Both play performer, narrator and the myriad of characters required to bring to life a man who entertained with everything from the folklore of Hartlepool fishermen hanging a French monkey to the heart-breaking plight of striking seaman and widowed mining wives.

Some will argue that basing the entire performance on “phonetic Tyneside vernacular” – the Geordie language of Astrilly, Howk and Puzzen * – is likely to prevent this emotion-charged production reaching the larger audiences in London... but there is no reason why it shouldn’t. Director Gareth Tudor-Price deserves great credit for unleashing Corvan’s voice from an unmarked Jesmond grave.

Viv Hardwick

* Australia, To dig, Poison