Playwright Susan’s mum is at the art of her debut show

Margaret and Susan Wear with the Goya copy
Margaret and Susan Wear with the Goya copy

When South Tyneside writer Susan Wear needed the perfect prop for her debut play she knew straight away who would be in the frame – her mum.

Artist Margaret Wear was commissioned to reproduce an old master painting at the centre of art heist story The Duke in the Cupboard ahead of its run at the Customs House, in South Shields.

The haunted look on the Duke’s face, which says so much about his struggle with the need to win the battle but sadness at the loss of life, was very hard to recreate – but I hope I’ve captured it. 

Margaret Wear

Margaret, of Bill Quay, Gateshead, took on the job of making a realistic copy of a 200-year-old Goya portrait of the Duke of Wellington – an essential prop in the play.

An avid painter, she has created her own versions of other masterpieces, but never for a public performance. 

The mother-of-four and grandmother-of-seven said: “When Susan showed me the script of the play I knew straight away I’d get the job of copying the painting if ever the play was produced.  

“I’m really excited to play a part in it.” 

The play is about the theft of the world-famous painting, which disappeared from the National Gallery in London in 1961 only to be returned when a retired Geordie bus driver owned up to stealing it in protest against pensioners being made to pay for their TV licences. 

It was obvious the National Gallery would not let the painting out of their sight again so the Customs House asked Margaret to paint a copy for the production. 

Susan, who lives in Jarrow, said: “My mum’s a fantastic painter, she likes to copy great artists and there are one or two Picassos and Van Goghs around the house but her original paintings are wonderful as well. Finding this prop was no problem.” 

Margaret, who has painted all her life and had paintings commissioned and exhibited over the years, added: “It was a real pleasure to do as it’s a really interesting portrait. The haunted look on the Duke’s face, which says so much about his struggle with the need to win the battle but sadness at the loss of life, was very hard to recreate – but I hope I’ve captured it. 

“It’s especially poignant that it’s the 200th anniversary of the famous Battle of Waterloo, which the Duke won and saved Europe.”

The play has another family connection with Susan’s husband, BBC Look North presenter Jeff Brown, playing a cameo as the Newscaster. 

Margaret and husband Alan, who are Friends of the Customs House, and Jeff are all looking forward to seeing the show, which runs from October 7 to 10. 

Tickets cost from £10. To book, go to www.customshouse.co.uk or call the box office on 0191 454 1234.