Preview: The man with the donkey, Customs House, South Shields

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THE world premiere of a play about a North East hero is taking place at The Customs House next month.

 The Man and The Donkey is the incredible story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick who served in the Anzacs as a stretcher bearer in the First World War.

Written by Valerie Laws, the play looks at the life of South Shields’ greatest hero and his marathon rescue effort on the shores of Gallipoli which has made him an Australian war hero.

However, efforts to award him the Victoria Cross have proved controversial as at the time of his heroics he was a deserter from the British Navy – joining the Anzacs was Kirkpatrick’s way of trying to get home.

Taking on the lead role of Kirkpatrick will be Jamie Brown, who previously starred at The Customs House in The Machine Gunners.

He said: “The story of Kirkpatrick is just incredible and it is an honour to bring it to life.”

Joining him in the cast will be Viktoria Kay, Gary Kitching, James Hedley, Jackie Phillips and Russell Floyd who will all take on multiple roles.

Former Eastenders star Floyd is returning the South Shields following his role in Ed Waugh and Trevor Wood’s play Photo Finish in October.

Customs House executive director Ray Spencer said: “The story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick is one of immense bravery that is not as well known as it perhaps should be. Kirkpatrick remains one of South Shields greatest heroes but I also think he is one of the finest men to come from the region.”

Tickets cost £15, £14 concessions. Tel. 454 1234.