The secret of saints when they were young

NORTHERN LIGHTS ... children's show Cuddy & His Mates is coming to the Customs House.
NORTHERN LIGHTS ... children's show Cuddy & His Mates is coming to the Customs House.

A NEW play explores the early lives of three of the northern saints.

Children’s play Cuddy & His Mates looks at Cuthbert, Bede and Godric from a perspective of a child and how they ran their mothers ragged.

This new co–production between two leading North East companies – Jack Drum Arts & Mad Alice Theatre Company – was commissioned by Queens Hall Arts, Hexham and plays at the Customs House in Mill Dam, South Shields on Saturday.

Aimed at children aged between seven and 12 and their families, Cuddy & His Mates introduces the audience to Cuthbert the country lad, Bede the bookish one and Godric a daredevil who later became a pirate-adventurer. Cuthbert is always bringing home pet snakes and injured eaglets, Bede is obsessed with history and never stops asking questions, Godric loves dressing up and having mock sword fights!

Customs House executive director, Ray Spencer, said: “Saints are remembered because of their adult lives and revered for their holiness.

“This play shows that they were once young like all of us and creates an accessible way for us all to learn about them.”

Cuddy & His Mates was created in response to the return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the region this summer.

The play is touring churches and schools.

Renowned veteran piper Matt Seattle has been invited to compose for the play while Northumbrian piper Alice Burn, Radio 2 Young Folk Award Finalist 2008, will also be playing live as part of the tour at selected venues.

The team behind the play also includes Trevor MacFarlane, who will direct, co-producer Julie Ward, and designer Donald Marshall.

Trevor won the Fenton Arts Trust Award for directing in 2012. He has directed shows for the Lowry in Salford, Royal Exchange and Library Theatres in Manchester and Harrogate Theatre.

Julie has been a Writer in Residence on Holy Island and has also worked for English Heritage at Finchale Priory.

Her knowledge and love of the special people and places in the region inspired the initial idea.

Donald has created an innovative set for the production which will complement the special quality of many of the church venues being visited.

Shelley O’Brien, who stars in the play and is the artist director of Mad Alice Theatre Company, said: “The play has been extremely well received in venues where we have performed so far, which include schools, churches, community venues and cathedrals and minsters!

“The play has received an excellent reaction from children, teachers and adultsr.

“It is unique as it is a new piece of writing which looks at the lives of three of our Northern Saints from a child’s perspective, which allows a great amount of humour to be had but without being disrespectful to the subject matter. A great balance has been achieved.

“The play’s message is really that we all have saintly qualities and that these saints as children had some of the many qualities as we all did as children, and some quite mischievous ones too.”

The performance will last around 50 minutes without an interval. Tickets cost £6.50 for adults and £5 children and students. Family tickets cost £20.

Entry is free for Tommy’s Gang members with an accompanying adult.

The production was due to take place in the new Harton Quays Amphitheatre but will now be performed in Daltons, the venue’s community room.

To book tickets, go to or call the box office on 454 1234.

n We’ve got a family ticket, which admits four people including at least one adult, to give away for the show.

To be in with a chance of winning, just tell us which of the three saints has a dedicated museum in Jarrow. Fill out the coupon and send it to Vicki Newman, Cuddy & His Mates, Shields Gazette, Northeast Press, Pennywell Industrial Estate, Sunderland, SR4 9ER.

Entries must be in by noon on Friday, when a winner will be chosen.

Twitter: @shieldsgazvicki