Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Light Hearted; A Host of Colourful Characters Are Shedding Light on Local History. Barbara Hodgson Finds out More

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Culture: Light Hearted; A Host of Colourful Characters Are Shedding Light on Local History. Barbara Hodgson Finds out More

Article excerpt

YOU may never have heard of Dr Katterfelto, but the rather mysterious 18th Century quack will be helping to bring to life a new play in Newcastle next month.

He is one of several real-life historical characters to feature in A Light In Westgate Street - the latest production from Threeovereden - who all have links to the Lit & Phil, where the play is due to open its run on September 4.

It's there, for instance, that Dr Katterfelto gave a series of lectures in 1798. A favourite subject, apparently, was his cure for flu, but whatever the subject, it was no doubt an entertaining one from a man described as "a professor and teacher of natural experimental philosophy, astronomy, natural history and other occult sciences".

Playwright and director Bill Martin, who founded Threeovereden nine years ago with actor Leslie Simpson, was inspired to write his play by a Lit & Phil local history book in which Dr Katterfelto made an appearance alongside local luminaries including Thomas Bewick, George Stephenson and Robert Spence Watson.

Bill also picked up some interesting gems from it. He says: "I never knew, for instance, that Jean-Paul Marat had lived in Newcastle." He found the French Revolution leader had written a revolutionary handbook, in English, here.

"The play is based on the book - Dr Katterfelto was a character in it who came to Newcastle to give lectures," he adds. "He is believed to have given lectures in pubs, too."

Bill picked out the most interesting snippets for A Light In Westgate Street . The result is a kind of play within a play, in which a cast of six local actors play thespians in a theatre troupe, who in turn take on several roles.

So far, so complicated. But I am assured that this is no heavyweight history lesson.

"It's a light-hearted, entertaining play rather than something sombre," says Bill.

And he has signed up just the people to keep things interesting.

The cast - including such well known faces as Tony Neilson, and Chris Connel, star of Lee Hall's hugely successful play The Pitmen Painters - play up to six characters apiece. …

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