Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Open-Air Venue Will Be Just Perfect for Mr Stink; Shakespeare and Austen Are Outdoor Favourites, but What about Mr Stink? DAVID WHETSTONE Looks at a Pungent Addition to the Summer's Theatre Line-Up

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Open-Air Venue Will Be Just Perfect for Mr Stink; Shakespeare and Austen Are Outdoor Favourites, but What about Mr Stink? DAVID WHETSTONE Looks at a Pungent Addition to the Summer's Theatre Line-Up

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID WHETSTONE

IF there's a funny smell in Jesmond Dene this weekend, it could be Mr Stink. David Walliams's popular children's story is one of this year's touring shows from Heartbreak Productions.

Heartbreak has been coming to the Newcastle beauty spot since 2004, performing plays on Coleman's Field next to Pets' Corner. Previously it had set up its stage at Blackfriars in the city centre but were drawn to the dene's pleasant greenery.

Company founder Peter Mimmack spent the first seven years of his life in Gosforth, Newcastle, where his father was a Methodist minister.

The family moved away but Peter returned to study geography at Newcastle University in the 1980s and got bitten by the acting bug. He joined the theatre society and saw Jeremy Irons in a Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Winter's Tale.

After graduating he worked in surveying for a while but decided a theatrical life was for him.

After signing up for an acting course, he established Heartbreak Productions in 1991.

It is still based in Leamington Spa, where he runs it with his actress wife, Maddy Kerr. Every summer they orchestrate a complex system of touring theatre, with different productions snaking across the country to perform at various outdoor locations.

This summer the company has revamped its production of Emma, based on Jane Austen's novel, and created a new musical version of Love's Labour's Lost, the Shakespeare play, setting it in an Oxford college.

Both of these, to be performed by the same company of six actors, sound like fairly traditional fare for a company which finds many of its audiences at heritage sites.

They will, in fact, be staged at Gibside, the National Trust property near Rowlands Gill, and Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens, Northumberland, in August and also in Jesmond Dene in July.

But Mr Stink, with a different cast of five, is new. It is an adaptation of the Walliams tale, first published in 2009, telling of the friendship between a young girl, Chloe Crumb, and Mr Stink, a "stinky gentleman" with a dirty dog called Duchess.

Peter says he directed Peter Pan for the company last year and took time to scrutinise audiences around the country.

"It was interesting to see the number of grandparents who had brought their grandchildren, perhaps thinking that this was something they remembered from their childhood.

"Like Alice in Wonderland, it's a nice Edwardian tale with magic and elaborate costumes. But it got me wondering what we could do to get the parents, or the whole family, to come.

"David Walliams is popular and has written some really great books for kids - and the illustrations (by Quentin Blake) are the same as appear in the Roald Dahl books, which are what I grew up with. …

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