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Our Team

There is a rich wealth of professional artists and makers in Newcastle and the North East and we engage these skilled specialists to deliver upon every module of the Project A course. We also engage artists from outside of the region, where that person is regarded as a leader in their field within the Industry.

Resident Team

Phil Hoffmann

Phil is Talent Development Producer at Newcastle Theatre Royal and leads on the delivery of the Project A course.

Phil has worked extensively as a Director, Actor and Theatre Practitioner with over 30 years experience.

Work as an actor includes A Clockwork Orange, 1984, The Collection and Edmund with the Northern Stage Ensemble, First Draft at Live Theatre, Goregeous Avaatar at the Traverse Theatre, Project B at The Work and Seesaw with Quarantine Theatre. Phil was a founding member of Foolsyard Theatre, co-creating After 6am, Lunch, Neil’s House Party, Party Piece and The Ghost of Federico Garcia Lorca, which can Also be Used as a Table.

He has toured nationally and internationally as well as working in Film, TV and Radio.

As a Director he has worked on numerous productions at Live Theatre, including The Heights by Lisa McGee, taking this work to Newcastle for the first time and Newcastle Theatre Royal, directing large scale work Unspoken which toured the UK twice following a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, before closing in parliament. Phil has worked across  Universities and Colleges directing final year productions.

Phil has worked extensively with a wide range of community groups to produce theatre and film with performances and screenings of this work taking place across Europe and South Africa.


Gary Kitching

Gary was born in Darlington County Durham and has lived in Newcastle for the last 30 years. During his career he has worked in various aspects of performance including Theatre, Improvised comedy, Long form improvisation, Devised Theatre, Film, TV and Corporate Training, He has also worked as a Stand-up and MC. As well as working as a performer he was a lecturer in Performing Arts for 3 years demonstrating a wide knowledge of teaching styles, delivering curriculum, and writing course material.

He has been involved in numerous community projects as a theatre practitioner, facilitator and writer.

In 2014 he wrote his first piece for theatre: Dead to Me followed by The Sisters Grimm, Wor Stories, Wilfred, A Mediocre Christmas, Bacon Knees & Sausage Fingers, Unspoken, Isolations, Deornorths People, Sunset on Tantobie, A Viking Christmas, Tree, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Beauty and The Beast. He has written three short films:  Falling Down, Hypocrisy/ Democracy and Things To Come (currently in post-production) and an animation Through Soldiers Eyes. He is proud that all his plays and screenplays have been performed and produced and that he has been commissioned by companies he has built strong relationships with, which demonstrate his ability to deliver quality work consistently. Gary’s work has been positively reviewed by the national press.


Associate Team

Michael Corbidge

Michael is a director, teacher and writer and for many years has been a Senior Voice and Text Associate and Senior Associate Education Practitioner with the Royal Shakespeare Company working across a number of projects, both in-reach an out-reach.

He supports a number of UK Theatre Companies the length and breadth of the British Isles as Patron/Associate/Mentor. Many of these were associated with the RSC’s original Open Stages Project 2011-16.  

He is guest practitioner, visiting lecturer and coach in Acting for Performance, Voice and Classical Text at The Rose Bruford College of the Arts and teaches across a wide variety of programs including 2 M.A. courses: Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) and Actor Musicianship. Also, with the American Theatre Arts – BA, European Theatre Arts – BA, Foundation and BA Acting/Acting Musicianship. I am also a guest Director often across the Shakespeare Season and with the MA programs.  

He is keen to support all forms of training and regularly attend many Studio Programs including Project A at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal and Belfast’s Lyric Studio Program helping students to access quality training who might be challenged by economics and geography.  

He is a regular visitor to Paris and to A.R.T.A. –  The Actor’s Traditions Research Association (Association de Recherche des Traditions de l’Acteur) in the magnificent Bois de Vincennes. For 8 years he has delivered workshops and directed projects with Christina Batman, supported and hosted by Jean-Francois Dusigne and his team at ARTA. They have welcomed the opportunity to share rehearsal room techniques set up originally by RSC Voice Director Cicely Berry. 

Alex Elliott

Alex is a performer, writer and director who has been based in the Northeast for over twenty years.

He was a founder member of Northern Stage Ensemble (1998-2005), playing major roles in productions including A Clockwork Orange, Edmond, Homage To Catalonia and Manifesto for a New City.

During his time with the Ensemble, he created film for a production of “V” by Tony Harrison and performed in co-productions with Styx Théâtre, Paris touring internationally with “One Day 49” and “L’Homme Craie” and Teatre Romea, Barcelona.

He has worked with Quarantine, Kneehigh, Leeds Playhouse, Mind the Gap and is a long-standing Associate of Unfolding Theatre.

Alex is a performer and filmmaker for Unfolding Theatre helping devise works such as Hold On Let Go, Putting The Band Back Together, A Street Like This, solo show Best in the World, What If? and Building Palaces. He also produced visuals for Let Me Tell You, co-created with people in active recovery.

Alex is Artistic Director of Operating Theatre, creating thought-provoking theatre and film on health and social issues. He created Squirrels, a piece about young people and Mental Health and Making for the Light for CANDO; a pioneering treatment for focal epilepsy. Operating Theatre has partnered with the Royal College of Surgeons (Ed) co-creating a training programme for surgeons around shared decision- making and consent, as well as being commissioned by The Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University and supporting research teams culminating in the films, Lockdown Life and Deep Mind. Operating Theatre is working with Sunderland Medical School creating work to support their GP training programme.

Laura Lindow

Laura Lindow is a Scottish Writer/Director who has lived and worked in the North East for over 20 years. In 2019 she received Journal Culture Award for Writer of the Year and became a member of The Royal Court’s Writers’ Group North. She regularly performs as Dr Lulu McDoo, lead Clown Doctor for TIN Arts. Laura has been Associate Director with Open Clasp Theatre Company since 2014.

Writing credits include: The Ultimate Pickle (Paines Plough, Roundabout 2022); The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Snow Queen, The Emperor’s New Clothes, HG Wells’ The War Of The WorldsUp and Out Christmas Sprout (Northern Stage); Pause (Alphabetti Theatre); Writer/Director The Christmas Tree (TIN Arts/Gala Theatre); Credit, Woven Bones (Cap-a-Pie); Beyond The End of the Road (November Club – Journal Culture Awards’ Performance of The Year 2018); Baba Yaga (Theatre Hullabaloo). Writer/Director Heartbreak Soup (Laura Lindow/The Empty Space). Currently 3 Acts Of Love (Live Theatre)

Directing Credits include: (for Open Clasp)  Lasagna, Sugar, Key Change (Carol Tambor ‘Best of Edinburgh Award’ 2015 with New York Transfer, New York Times Critics’ Pick, Best Overall Event Journal Culture Awards 2017) & Don’t Forget The Birds (Open Clasp/Live Theatre – Journal Culture Awards’ Performance of The Year 2019). Currently Mycelial for 2023/24 National tour.



Pady O’Connor

Pady O’Connor is an Actor, Director, teacher of Theatre and, the Artistic Director of MeeMee Theatre.

Pady is originally from Manchester and has performed nationally and internationally in theatres such as: the New Victory Theatre, Broadway in New York; the Market Theatre in Johannesburg South Africa; Edinburgh Festival Theatre Edinburgh Fringe; Northern Stage Newcastle-Upon-Tyne; Wimbledon Theatre and; Greenwich Theatre London.

A huge part of Pady’s work philosophy is about nurturing and sharing the skills that he has learnt through his training and performing. As such Pady has been a mentor, director and trainer for creative companies and organisations regionally, nationally and internationally such as Northern Stage, Newcastle Theatre Royal, Sage Gateshead, Live Theatre, alongside schools, colleges, universities and, drama schools. He has created and directed theatre collaborations with countries such as Brazil, South Africa, Sweden and, France bringing MeeMee Theatres unique and playful theatre approaches to people all around the world.

Pady has trained in with some of the worlds most renowned Theatre teachers and companies:

  • Commedia dell’Arte, Mask and, Comic Acting at the Scuola Internazionale Dell’Attore   Comico in Italy with Maestro Antonio Fava.
  • Mime at the Desmond Jones School of Mime and Physical Theatre, London.
  • Clown and Le Jeu (The game and play of theatre) with Philippe Gaulier, Paris.
  • Clown and “the gentle nature of idiocy” with Pierre Byland, Footsbarn theatre, France.
  • Mask, Horse and Bamboo Theatre.
  • Clown in the Real World, Complicite Theatre Company.
  • Clown and Play, John Nicholson (Peepolykus).
  • Mick Barnfather (Clown).
  • The Role of the Director in the Devising Process and, ‘Our Cool Cousin’ Film and Theatre, Paul Hunter (Told By An Idiot).
  • Exploring in Devising Theatre and Directing, David Glass (David Glass Ensemble).

Debbi Purtill

Debbi is Creative Partner at balletLORENT, the North East England’s leading Dance Theatre company dedicated to creating ambitious, inclusive, high quality work, touring to the UK’s most prestigious theatres.

Debbi has been performing with the company since 2000. She is rehearsal director and has collaborated closely with Liv and the team on all their inter-generational community programmes and apprenticeships, performing in the company’s flagship work, through motherhood (Rapunzel, 2012) to menopause (She Weathers the Change, 2020). She has had the opportunity, with the company to continue to explore and develop her class practice with the inspiring and dynamically diverse company of dancers over 20 years.

Debbi’s career has included work across dance, theatre and visual art with a continued long-term collaboration with Simon Birch Dance based in Cornwall. Her professional development includes completing her MA in Professional Dance Practice at Teesside University and most recently her teacher training in Vinyasa Yoga with Falmouth Yoga Space.

Sean Bingham

Sean was Born in the North East of England and considers himself a working class northerner through and through.

Early in life he discovered a passion for adventure and the outdoors. Initially was going to follow in his Dad’s footsteps and join the military, but he found a love for performing and Acting especially inspired from the film, GLADIATOR. He studied Acting at college and then got a place at EAST 15 Acting school, where he graduated with a Degree in Acting and Stage Combat.

Upon entering the Performing industry he started to venture into stunt work as well as acting and managed to work on independent films whilst getting acting parts along the way. He got his big break into the industry when he got the chance to perform in MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS. He has gone on to work on VIKINGS, GAME OF THRONES, WITCHER, Netflix’s VIKINGS VALHALLA and many more action packed films and projects.

His work so far has taken him all around the world and he continues to be passionate and strive to learn and work as much as possible. He loves the energy that comes from film, television and Theatre, to the sets and the crew that make the magic happen, and its his privilege to be apart of something so creative.

Kelly Rickard

Kelly Rickard is an actor, singer, and comedian. She was classically trained at the London Academy of Performing Arts. She has gone on to perform in various musicals and plays, in No.1 Theatre tours across the UK and Europe. Notably, Kelly created the role of Julie Alcock in the serial musical production of ‘Uncle Eric’ at the New Vic Theatre, Gemma in ‘Concrete Fairgrounds’ (Royal Court Collaboration) and played Monteen in the critically acclaimed British premiere of ‘Parade.’

She has performed at Newcastle Arena in a number of the Sunday for Sammy productions, singing in a band with members of Lindisfarne, Dire Straits and the 1975, performing backing vocals for Joe McElderry, Jimmy Nail, Jill Halfpenny, Tim Healy and more.

Kelly has written comedy songs that have been played on Capital Radio and BBC Radio.

She is an award-winning Stand Up Comic (Felt Nowt New Act of the Year 2022, Best in Class 2024)

Kelly has facilitated at the Theatre Royal for 15 years, leading sessions in improvisation to Shakespeare to Musical Theatre. In 2023 she was associate musical director for the community choir in the RSC’s production of Julius Caesar.

Steve Byron

Steve is a professional actor, writer, and theatre practitioner from the North-East. Steve has worked in the industry for over thirty-five years with recent acting credits in Mr Punch (also written by Steve), Whale Of A Time, both at Alphabetti Theatre. Macbeth and Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sleeping Beauty at Gala Durham and When the Boat Come at The Customs House. His writing credits include “Reiver” for Elysium Theatre, Tree, Sucking Eggs, Walter, Floorboards and Bacon Knees and Sausage Finger. Steve has had ten plays produced since 2016.

As a practitioner, Steve currently works with Theatre Royal, Northern School of Art, SA Performance Academy and Northumbria University.

Jonathan Ackley

Jonathan is a filmmaker, writer and photographer working freelance and for his own company, Hype Film Ltd. He studied filmmaking at the London Film Academy and has a rich academic background in Psychology, often bringing social psychological and behavioral theories and concepts into his personal work. As a director and filmmaker, Jonathan has worked for, among others, The Royal British Legion, Theatre Royal Newcastle, The Ailey Project, Zyler and Hit the Ground Running Theatre Company. His personal and commercial work have been shown across the UK as well as internationally and have seen him pick up nominations at the Royal Television Society and the British Short Film Festival along the way. Jonathan has taught filmmaking and acting for screen at The Theatre Royal Newcastle and Peanuts Talent as well as being a visiting lecturer at Durham University and University of Sunderland.

Steven Arran

Steven Arran is an actor and theatre maker based in the Northeast of England.

He has been fortunate enough to work at Shakespeare’s Globe and with the RSC, and it is through this that he developed a love of Shakespeare.

After attending the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, he worked in Canada and the USA for several years, before returning to his native Newcastle and founding Shakespeare’s Speakeasy. The company aims to make entertaining, irreverent, and relatable productions that reflect the communities that they are performed in. Now in its sixth year and with thirteen productions under their belt, the Shakespeasy has branched out to York, Manchester, and Glasgow- with more on the way. Recently Steven has been involved with the Heaton Shakespeare Festival; a scheme which helps schools in the Newcastle area mount Shakespearean productions in order to better understand the texts. He also works with International House language school, helping non-native English speakers learn the language through acting in mini-Shakespeare productions.