LABOUR'S Andy McDonald is leading calls for an acclaimed new play about Middlesbrough's only ever woman MP to be performed in the town.

The story of of Ellen Wilkinson, one Labour movement's most iconic figures is to take centre stage with a nationwide tour of 'Red Ellen' this spring by the playwright Caroline Bird.

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However, the production, staged jointly by the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company and Newcastle-based Northern Stage, does not have any dates in Teesside.

Wilkinson served as a Labour MP for Middlesbrough East from 1924 to 1931, before going onto represent Jarrow at Westminster from the mid-1930s, until her death in 1947.

Campaigners have fought to secure the first female statue in Middlesbrough of Wilkinson, who played a leading role in the Jarrow march of the 1930s, and served as minister for education in Clement Attlee's postwar Labour government.

The Northern Echo: County Durham MPs after the May 1929 featuring diminutive Ellen Wilkinson, MP for Middlesbrough East. Newly-elected Hugh Dalton, Ruth's husband, is towering behind herCounty Durham MPs after the May 1929 featuring diminutive Ellen Wilkinson, MP for Middlesbrough East. Newly-elected Hugh Dalton, Ruth's husband, is towering behind her

'Red Ellen' opens for a fortnight-long run at Newcastle's Northern Stage in late March, before reparatory performances at Nottingham Playhouse, the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh, and the Theatre Royal in York, throughout April and May.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald has backed moves to explore the possibility of performing 'Red Ellen' at a venue in Middlesbrough for at least one night.

Mr McDonald said: "Against the backdrop of life under Boris Johnson's corrupt and incompetent Tory government, the timing of this production about one of the most inspiring and selfless figures in the history of the Labour Party could not be more appropriate.

"The telling of the story of Ellen Wilkinson's phenomenal life and public service, is long overdue, whether it was her courageous leadership role on the Jarrow march, her work in securing the expansion of free universal secondary education while serving as a minister, and many other achievements.

The Northern Echo: Andy McDonaldAndy McDonald

"It's wonderful that Ellen's story will now be brought to life in theatres up and down the country, and the production companies involved deserve nothing but praise.

"But I'd dearly love to see 'Red Ellen' performed before audiences in Middlesbrough, a town where she is quite rightly held in enormous esteem as the public vote for a statue in her honour shows.

"Even if it was for just one night at a venue in the town, it would be played to a packed house, and secure favourable publicity for the production.

"Given that there are performances relatively nearby in York and in Newcastle, I'd like to think that it would be possible to have a show in Middlesbrough.

"As the constituency MP, I'd be happy to work with others to see if we can help the theatre companies explore the possibility of bringing 'Red Ellen' home to Middlesbrough." 

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