TWO new plays by North East writers are to be performed in the region.

The productions are part of inaugural First Play Club programme at The Customs House, in South Shields, which - supported by Arts Council England - aims to give new or emerging writers the opportunity to have their work staged. The programme also aims to provide work for local actors and directors.

The First Play Club’s first productions will be Wearmouth, written by Ben Gettins, a young writer from Pennywell in Sunderland, and Grown Up Writin’, by Middlesbrough writer Louise Powell.

Ben and Louise were joint winners of last year’s Peter Lathan Prize for New Writing, awards launched by The Customs House in memory of writer, director and reviewer Peter Lathan, to find new voices for drama in the region. Louise also won this year’s Sid Chaplin’s Northern Writers Award.

Wearmouth explores the struggles of two men who meet on Sunderland’s Wearmouth Bridge every SAFC match day. There they navigate their way through their own mental health struggles, the ever-changing world around them and the trials and tribulations of Sunderland Football Club.

But will their friendship and mutual support be sufficient to prevent either or both from jumping from the bridge?

Fiona Martin, deputy director of The Customs House, said: “Although it explores some really serious issues, Wearmouth is a warm, redemptive and humourous piece with very recognisable characters.

"Ben spent a great deal of time with Sunderland supporters, listening to their tales and stories, some of which have made their way into the play.”

Ben, 23, is an actor and writer and has been working professionally for just over a year. His acting credits include Down the Lines at The Customs House and Sugar Baby at Alphabetti Theatre.

Wearmouth will be at The Customs House from Monday, September 4 to Wednesday, September 6 and will be performed by actors Joe Caffrey and Jake Jarratt. It will be directed by Michael Blair, an actor making his directorial debut.

The Northern Echo: Wearmouth actors Joe Caffrey, left, and Jake JarrattWearmouth actors Joe Caffrey, left, and Jake Jarratt (Image: SUNDERLAND CULTURE)

Meanwhile, set in a Teesside school in 2007, Grown Up Writin’ follows two schoolgirls navigating the chaos of Year 11.

Kayleigh has her GCSEs to worry about, but also on her mind is her depressed mam – and a deep longing for chicken and sweetcorn pizza. She relies on the support of her best friend Ruth, who is applying for a scholarship at a private school nearby.

When Kayleigh catches the eye of 21-year-old delivery driver Sam, she sets in motion a chain of events which endangers her friendship – and their very futures.

Fiona added: “Grown Up Writin’ is a clever, witty and insightful piece – a coming-of-age story which explores relationships and growing up. The girls, their lives and their dilemmas will be instantly recognisable to North East audiences, and Louise has a wonderfully authentic voice and talent for dialogue.”

Louise, who has a doctorate in English from Sheffield Hallam University, has had scripts broadcast on BBC Radio and has written for three commissioned short films and a podcast.

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Her other current commissions include pieces for Redhills in Durham and the Tees Valley Combined Authority. Louise is also a writer-in-residence at Josephine Butler College, Durham University.

Grown Up Writin’ will be directed by experienced actor Christina Dawson in her first professional role as a director and will be performed at The Customs House on Friday, September 8 to Sunday, September 10. Sophie Mai will play the role of Kayleigh and Alfreya Bell will play Ruth.

The Northern Echo: Grown Up Writin’ will be directed by Christina DawsonGrown Up Writin’ will be directed by Christina Dawson (Image: SUNDERLAND CULTURE)

Both plays are suitable for audiences of 14 or over and for more information, or to book tickets, go to