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Cast and Creative Team Announced for I, Daniel Blake

The world premiere stage adaptation of I, Daniel Blake that exposes the stark reality behind the cost-of-living crisis headlines will open at Northern Stage (25 May – 10 June) before touring.

The first stage adaptation of Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or and BAFTA award-winning film will be written by actor and comedian Dave Johns who won the Best Actor award at the British Independent Film Awards and Best Newcomer at the EMPIRE Awards for his role in the film. Ken Loach said, “This story is more relevant now than ever. And who better to put it on stage than Dave Johns, the original Daniel Blake?

David Nellist will play Daniel. Originally from Wallsend in Newcastle, he appeared as Mike Stamford in Sherlock on BBC ONE with Benedict Cumberbatch and was recently in Stonehouse opposite Matthew Macfadyen on ITV. His theatre credits include West End productions Billy Elliott, War Horse, The Pitmen Painters and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and closer to home A Midsummer Nights Dream (Not Too Tame, Shakespeare North Playhouse, Northern Stage), and Close the Coalhouse Door (Northern Stage).

Bryony Corrigan will play Katie. Inspired to become an actor after doing work experience at Northern Stage aged 15, Bryony is best known as series regular Vanessa in Mischief Theatre’s The Goes Wrong Show on BBC ONE. Her theatre credits include the recent stage adaptation of Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island (Watermill Theatre) and My Romantic History at Live Theatre, which she won Performing Artist of the Year for at the Journal Culture Awards.

Kema Sikazwe (also known as Kema Kay) will play China, a role he played in the film after being spotted by Ken Loach on a visit to Newcastle. The actor, rapper and singer wrote and starred in the critically acclaimed Shine at Live Theatre – a show about his experience of moving to Newcastle aged three which is about to be adapted for a TV musical drama.

The rest of the cast are Janine Leigh who appeared alongside Joanne Froggatt in Channel 4 film In Our Name, Micky Cochrane (Billy Elliot the Musical, Curve), and former Northern Stage Young Company member Jodie Wild making her professional stage debut.

Dave Johns is a multi-award-winning film actor, stage actor and stand-up comic who has written for theatre and radio, including the stage adaptation of The Shawshank Redemption. He says,

I was thrilled to be asked to adapt Paul Lavertys screenplay. But I didnt just want to put the film on stage, I wanted to update the story for 2023, making it contemporary and exploring more of single mum Katies journey and the family unit she forms with Daniel. To show the kindness, compassion, humour, and hope that can help us through the toughest of times. Sadly, during my research it was disheartening to find not much had changed since the film’s release. The story is still as relevant as it was in 2016; maybe even more so now with the cost-of-living crisis making it even harder for those who are already struggling. Daniel and Katies story could be anyones.

With 14.5m people in the UK now living in poverty*, and more people than ever relying on food banks** Director Mark Calvert says,

Its a big responsibility to honour the film but also to find ways to raise awareness of the hardship huge numbers of people in our country are facing right now. I’ve spent months volunteering at local food banks, and I can tell you that this is not fiction. It is reality. And the cost-of-living crisis affects even more people now than when the film was released in 2016. For me I, Daniel Blake frames the working-class experience in modern Britain – there’s hope, humour and humanity in the story, but audiences should feel angry and outraged; I know I am.

I, Daniel Blake will be designed by Rhys Jarman (Gecko), lighting design by Simisola Majekodunmi (Is God Is/Royal Court Theatre and winner of the 2022 Light Recognition Award at the Black British Theatre Awards), original music by Ross Millard (The Futureheads, Putting the Band Back Together/Unfolding Theatre), sound design by Roma Yagnik (Mare of Easttown/HBO), movement direction by Martin Hylton (Gateway Studio and Phoenix Dance) and AV design by Matthew Brown for PixelLux (Bonnie & Clyde/West End) incorporating creative captioning for all performances.


Composer Ross Millard says,

I vividly remember seeing the film at Tyneside Cinema when it came out – how profoundly moving it was, and how relevant it still feels now. The film has no music, no soundtrack, which means composing for the show has a weight of responsibility but is hugely appealing, too. Presenting the story to an audience in a new context has the potential to be extremely powerful.

I, Daniel Blake is a Northern Stage, Birmingham Rep, Oldham Coliseum, English Touring Theatre, and tiny dragon Productions co-production, in association with Cardboard Citizens who make theatre for social change with and for homeless people who are working with Northern Stage on a programme of wraparound events.

After its Newcastle premiere at Northern Stage (25 May – 10 June), the production will tour to Birmingham Rep (13 – 25 June), HOME Manchester (27 June – 1 July) and Exeter Northcott Theatre (5-8 July). Confirmed venues for the autumn include Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, Leeds Playhouse and the Belgrade Theatre Coventry and a full autumn 2023 tour will be announced soon.