Bishop Auckland-born playwright Paul Charlton is a busy man.

As well as writing and directing, he’s also teaching and, as he explains to Steve Pratt, appearing on stage in Edinburgh in his underpants.

PAUL CHARLTON wears so many hats that, metaphorically speaking, he could open a milliner’s shop. He’s even wearing a form of headgear – a beanie – in the picture advertising his appearance at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He’s wearing little else.

Only his underpants.

The two men flanking him are similarly underdressed.

Collectively, they’re known as G3 – The Ginge, The Geordie and The Geek. And, if the pants don’t give it away, they do comedy.

The name isn’t strictly accurate as 27-yearold Charlton comes from Bishop Auckland, which means he’s not a Geordie. “I have a Bishop Auckland accent, but I’m a Geordie to everyone, so I play along with it,” he says.

His hats are many and varied – actor, writer, director, teacher. No wonder he arrives for our meeting at a pub-restaurant on a roundabout outside Bishop Auckland (ah, the glamorous showbusiness life) with a list of things to do in his hand.

He has been teaching in Bishop in between dashing up to Scotland to rehearse with G3 and down to London to work on his play, Crush.

“I just live out of a suitcase and the car, but that seems to be the way it is for now,” he says.

His schedule will be as packed as ever during his month in Edinburgh. Crush is on stage at 3.15pm, while the G3 show begins at another venue at 4.10pm. The time clash means he’ll only be able to see the production of his play on his day off.

The last time he did the world-famous Edinburgh festival, in 2003, his play, Love, Sex And Cider, won a Fringe First Award. That was a full-length version of a play he’d written as a 16-year-old, although his interest in the stage date back even earlier.

He was 13 when he joined Bath – Bishop Auckland Theatre Hooligans. “It was acting to start with and I always used to go as a hobby,”

he recalls.

“Then I co-wrote one of Bath’s Christmas The Northern Echo Your campaigning newspaper Founded 1870 No 42,909 COMMENT Editor: Peter Barron Deputy editor: Chris Lloyd Head of advertising and marketing: Chris Moore Regional newspaper sales manager: Vickie Henderson Customer services: 01325-381313 Subscriptions: 01274-705248 or Newspaper sales: Head office: Priestgate, Darlington, Co Durham, DL1 1NF ■ The Northern Echo (price 45p) is published by Newsquest (North East) Ltd – a Gannett company – at Priestgate, Darlington, DL1 1NF.

12 LEADER AND COMMENT The Northern Echo MONDAY, AUGUST 3, 2009 May G-force be with you PANTS MEN: G3 – The Ginge, The Geordie and The Geek, Graeme Rooney, Paul Charlton and Kevin O’Loughlin Bishop Auckland-born playwright Paul Charlton is a busy man.

As well as writing and directing, he’s also teaching and, as he explains to Steve Pratt, appearing on stage in Edinburgh in his underpants Tears, but comfort too EVEN though they had been expecting it for some time, Sir Bobby Robson’s loved ones will be finding it hard to cope with his loss.

There will, of course, be a sense of relief that he is no longer suffering, but heartache too that such a special husband, father and grandfather has passed away.

And yet there is so much to console Sir Bobby’s family. They have their own treasured memories, but they also have an extraordinary public reaction to lift their spirits.

Over the weekend, thousands of people came to St James’ Park in Newcastle to pay their respects and lay flowers.

It has been an overwhelming outpouring of affection which has clearly been a great consolation to Sir Bobby’s widow, Elsie, and her sons.

So much so that they visited the stadium yesterday afternoon to see how one end has been turned into a shrine.

And, more importantly still, there is further comfort amid the grief in the knowledge that Sir Bobby’s wonderful fundraising for cancer research is continuing even after his death.

The total raised by his inspirational foundation has shot up by hundreds of thousands of pounds and now tops £1.63m.

With an autumn memorial service planned – hopefully at the most fitting of venues, Durham Cathedral, – the appeal will surely have broken through the £2m mark by the end of the year.

Indeed, so united is the North-East in its respect for this wonderful man, that his name will keep money flowing into cancer research for a long time to come.

And that will be a very great comfort indeed to all those who loved him.

shows and really enjoyed it. Someone said there was a writing competition I should go in for. Most of the writers were 18, but I was only 16. That was for the Paines Plough company. I was one of the ten writers commissioned to write a short play. Then I went back to acting and, while at drama school, discovered that burning passion for writing.”

He has musical theatre to thank for that. He’s not a fan of that sort of stage work and used to skive musical theatre appreciation classes.

“We’d have them once a week, where you had to listen to all these old musicals, and I hated it. So I skived off and started writing. That’s when I wrote the play that won a Fringe First,”

he says.

“That opens a lot of doors, gets me into meetings, especially TV meetings. It allows me to pitch different ideas and people listen to me a little bit more.”

Crush is being produced by a Middlesbroughbased new writing company, Iron Shoes, in association with the Tristan Bates Theatre, in London, which is supporting his writing work this year.

As a writer, he’s keen to appeal to a wide audience.

Charlton likes the idea of marrying good writing and a populist appeal. “I’ve got to strive to make things accessible so they appeal to a working class audience as well. I like to get people in who wouldn’t normally go to the theatre,” he says.

Crush features Middlesbrough actor Neil Grainger as a travelling book salesman caught up in the world of internet and online gambling.

The piece is set against the backdrop of his fractured relationship with his wife and his obsession with a younger woman on Facebook.

“There’s a lot more at stake this time at Edinburgh because I didn’t expect to win a Fringe First that time,” he says.

He took a deliberate decision not to appear in Crush. “I’ve been in quite a few of my own things in the past and the feedback is that it’s harder to be subjective. So I made a decision a couple of years ago to stop being in my own work,” he says.

He hopes that post-festival, Crush can tour in the North-East and be staged in London.

Charlton will be on stage with Graeme Rooney and Kevin O’Loughlin, whom he met at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, in the G3 sketch show. They end up in their pants which, hopefully, won’t sum up the critical appraisal of their work.

The three of them have written the show, which is billed as being jam-packed with “great characters, surrealism, Eighties power ballads and Nineties icons”.

Two years ago, Charlton was one of the ten writers on a BBC comedy pilot, which made him think about getting back into comedy writing.

His G3 co-performers are both Scottish.

“The Ginge has been my flatmate for six years and the Geek spends time on our couch wherever we’re living,” he says.

‘THE Comedy Unit were doing open auditions and we asked if we could go along as a sketch group, rather than solo. They liked our stuff and asked us to go into one of their comedy nights in Glasgow.

“It went really well, we started working with them and did a few sketches, then, basically, started putting the show together this year. It’s taken about nine months.

“In Edinburgh, it’s predominantly Southern, English, middle class, private school groups.

That’s not bad, just that the majority of the people are from that background and you do get a lot of public school humour. Our mantra is short sketches – get in there, make them laugh, big belly laugh, big punchline.”

He’d like to bring the G3 show back home too, perhaps to a comedy club in Newcastle, or Bishop Auckland Town Hall. Whatever happens, his family will be going up to see him in Edinburgh.

He has some travelling to do himself, as part of Live Theatre in Newcastle’s 24-hour plays session. He’ll be allotted two actors and an object, have to write a play overnight and drive down the next day between performances to see the result. Another day, another hat.