Jarrow woman inspired to write her first play by real-life art heist

Susan Wear has written her first ever play, The Duke in the Cupboard,� which is to be staged at the Customs House.
Susan Wear has written her first ever play, The Duke in the Cupboard,� which is to be staged at the Customs House.

A mother is following her daughter into the theatre as she prepares to stage her first-ever play.

Susan Wear, who lives in Jarrow, was inspired by the true story of an audacious art theft which shocked the nation to write The Duke in the Cupboard.

Susan Wear with husband Jeff Brown and daughter Alice Stokoe.

Susan Wear with husband Jeff Brown and daughter Alice Stokoe.

The show is set to run at the Customs House, in South Shields, from Wednesday, October 7, to Saturday, October 10.

Susan and her husband, Look North presenter Jeff Brown, are no strangers to sitting in the audience at the Mill Dam theatre, having watched their daughter Alice Stokoe star in its annual pantomime.

Alice, 23, recently completed a year-long run in London’s West End where she was starring in the leading role of Mamma Mia!

But now, it’s her mum’s turn to put on a show.

I think it was the journalist in me that got so excited about this story and I couldn’t believe it when it turned out to be a man from Newcastle, named Kempton Bunton, who had stolen the painting.

Susan Wear

Susan, 58, who now works as director of corporate affairs at the Port of Tyne, but started her career on The Shields Gazette, said: “I’ve always loved theatre as a way of telling stories and Alice has always wanted to be on the stage.

“I remember taking her to see a show when she was about five and she told me that she didn’t want to watch the show, she wanted to be on the stage.

“I’m also on the board at the Live Theatre, in Newcastle and have a great interest in new writing.”

The Duke in the Cupboard tells the story of an art theft in 1961, when a portrait by Goya of the Duke of Wellington, idolised for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, was snatched from under the noses of security guards at the National Portrait Gallery.

Susan Wear has written her first ever play, The Duke in the Cupboard,� which is to be staged at the Customs House.

Susan Wear has written her first ever play, The Duke in the Cupboard,� which is to be staged at the Customs House.

For four years the police were tormented, calling in forensic scientists, criminal psychologists and even a medium. Little did they know they needed to look no further than Benwell, Newcastle.

Susan became fascinated with the story after reading secret Director of Public Prosecution papers relating to the case when they were released to the public.

She said: “I think it was the journalist in me that got so excited about this story and I couldn’t believe it when it turned out to be a man from Newcastle, named Kempton Bunton, who had stolen the painting.

“I researched the case and it’s based on a true story, but I did let my imagination run when thinking about who he was as a person.

“But since writing the play, I’ve managed to get in touch with some of his relatives and they said I’ve captured the way he was as a man very well.

“Obviously I’m not condoning the theft, but the reasons behind it and the story that unfolded because of it is very interesting and I hope other people find it as intriguing as I do.”

Tickets for the 7.45pm shows cost £13 with an £11 concession. To book, go to www.customshouse.co.uk or call the box office on 0191 454 1234.