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Putting the ‘i’ in Tyneside– new play explores Irish identity


The voices of three generations of Irish men on Tyneside will be brought to life in a new play based on Newcastle University research.

Under Us All has been created from interviews carried out by PhD student Michael Richardson for his thesis.

The one-man play will be performed by actor Gordon Poad and is based on the testimonies of three members of one South Tyneside family - an 80-year-old grandfather, a 50-year-old father and a 20-year-old son. It has been produced by the Cap-a-Pie theatre company and directed by Gwilym Lawrence.

Michael has been researching the lives and experiences of men of Irish descent on Tyneside and the idea to turn their interviews into a piece of theatre came to him last year.

“I’d worked with cap-a-pie on another project and when I started writing up the interviews I’d carried out for my thesis, I found myself thinking that a play rather than a research paper could be a better way to communicate what I’d found.

“The play is based on interviews I carried out with three members of the same family and it looks at issues such as ageing and identity. While it is based on their stories, the tale it tells is universal. What is really nice is that it shows the differences in experience between the generations but it also shows the things that still link them together and make their family Irish.”

The family involved have helped to edit the script and will be attending the performance. “I think they’re really pleased and it’s been a good experience for everyone. I think it has also been interesting for cap-a-pie to work with them as they interpret their words into a play,” said Michael.

He became interested in finding out more about what it means to be a man of Irish descent while studying for his geography degree at Newcastle University. “My dad’s family are of Irish descent but he grew up in the North East and I grew up in Scotland, so I’ve never considered myself Irish, “ said Michael. “But the interest must have been there because one day I’d gone to St James’s Park with my dad and I saw the Tyneside Irish Centre and I thought ‘there’s something there I want to find out more about’.”

He has interviewed 38 men from across Tyneside for his thesis and hopes to expand the play to include more of their stories so it can be updated for October’s Tyneside Irish Festival.

Under Us All will be performed at 8pm, on Thursday 2 May 2013, at Sanctuary Artspace, St Edmunds Chapel, Gateshead High Street. Tickets are £5 and available here or by calling 07796 478024.

Photo - Gordon Poad in Under Us All, courtesy of

published on: 30 April 2013