Play Hard

What’s on in the North East this May

The return of the RSC, plenty of Coronation parties, the secrets of serial killers, Newcastle after hours, the North East’s first Comic Con and a drag extravaganza… here’s what May has in store.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 03.05.2023


The Official RuPaul’s Drag Race UK Series Four Tour

4th May – O2 City Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne

Indulge in an evening with drag royalty, as all 12 queens – including Black Peppa, Cheddar Gorgeous and Dakota Schiffer – werk their way to Newcastle for a drag extravaganza to remember.



RSC Julius Caesar

9th – 13th May – Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne

A story of control, power and chaos, brought to life by the inimitable RSC, this new adaptation of Shakespeare’s timeless story poses the question: how far would you go for your political principles?


The Sunderland Story

17th – 27th May – Sunderland Empire

This feel-good show revolves around the Carter and Thompson families who, at their beloved grandfather’s wake, realise just how much their family history links back to Sunderland AFC. The story takes you back through the decades and unravels the story of the football team through the songs of its supporters.



Crime Viral: Serial Killers & Psychopaths Night

19th May – The Customs House, South Shields

Hosted by serial killer expert and research psychologist, Cheish Merryweather, this talk examines the darkest minds and most shocking crimes – including the likes of Dennis Nilsen, Jeffrey Dahmer and Mary Ann Cotton – through psychiatric evaluations, courtroom transcripts, witness testimonies and crime scene evidence.



Swiftogeddon: The Taylor Swift Club Night

20th May – Boiler Shop, Newcastle upon Tyne

This night is dedicated to worshipping Taylor Swift – run by fans, for fans. Dance the night away to non-stop Swifty classics, extended mixes, fan favourites and all the greatest hits.


Chastity Brown

25th May – The Cluny, Newcastle upon Tyne

After experiencing the isolation of the 2020 lockdown, as well as the global racial reckoning that led to the riots just blocks from her home in South Minneapolis, Chastity Brown turned inward and created song after song – all reflecting her roots in Americana, folk, and soul music.



Candlelight Concerts: The Music of Adele

26th May – York Minster

Rolling in the Deep, Someone Like You, Chasing Pavements, Hello, Easy On Me… reimagine all of Adele’s chart-topping hits in this immersive live experience in York’s majestic Minster – we think you’ll rediscover this ballad queen’s Love in the Dark.



Steve Lyon-Bowes: Lockdown Portraits

Until 27th May – Newcastle Arts Centre

Based on real-life testimonials, these carefully crafted portraits were created in response to the Covid-19 lockdowns, capturing the internal journey from wanting to be outside to emerging from lockdown.



The Power of Image: Versailles & The Sun King

Until 25th June – Ushaw: Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, County Durham

This world-first exhibition explores Louis XIV’s relationship with Versailles through the Cabinet du Roi – a series of printed 17th-century engravings produced to reflect the glory of his reign – bringing to life the opulence of the palace in the 1600s.



Russell Howard

13th – 14th May – O2 City Hall, Newcastle upon Tyne

One of the UK’s favourite comedians – dubbed “the uplifting Comedy King” – Russell Howard promises to bring a Newcastle audience some much-needed comedy relief in his distinctly hilarious style.




Rapunzel After Dark: BalletLorent

17th May – Darlington Hippodrome

This adults-only retelling of the classic fairy tale – written by former Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy – centres around a Wife, her Husband and a solitary gardening Witch, who all share a grief-stricken longing for a child.



Coronation Celebration

6th – 8th May – Preston Park Museum, Stockton-on-Tees

Celebrate the King’s coronation at Preston Park Museum this celebratory weekend, and take part in exciting activities like The Big Lunch Victorian Street Party, some royal arts and crafts, and The Big Help Out bluebell community planting event.



‘Best of British’ Dance Festival

7th May – Darlington Market Square

You won’t be able to stop yourself tapping your toes as you watch incredible performances by professional groups, local schools, showgirls and live DJs at this dance extravaganza. Don’t miss the mass dance in the square, when everyone comes together for one big, feel-good boogie.



Newcastle Poetry Festival

11th – 13th May – Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne

Shining a spotlight on Northern writing and talented poets across the UK and beyond, the theme for this year’s Newcastle Poetry Festival is ‘Community’: with the aim of exploring poetry’s contribution to different communities through workshops, lectures and performances.

Actor James Marsters stands against a blue and red pop art background. Below him are the comic book style words, Special Guest, James Marsters at Comic Con North East.

The Late Shows

19th – 20th May – Venues across Newcastle and Gateshead

Newcastle and Gateshead’s famous, late-night culture crawl is back for another year – bringing with it a renewed opportunity for us to step inside museums, galleries and private workshops after-hours for special activities, behind-the-scenes tours, performances and parties.


Comic Con: North East

27th – 28th May – Utilita Arena, Newcastle upon Tyne

The first ever Comic Con: North East will be stopping at the Utilita Arena to celebrate comic book culture and the best comic books around. You’ll get to meet creators, experts, characters and likeminded people across the two days, which will involve a range of activities, cosplay, panels, collectables and special guests…


For more events listings across the North East, check out our What’s On calendar

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