Image from Give Me Your Love
Having received praise for their innovative approach to staging theatre in unusual spaces (picking up a Best Event award from the British Theatre Guide for last year’s production of Faust at St Mary’s car park), Sunderland Stages will once again present a superb line-up of events for their third season in the city, kicking off from Tuesday 24th January right up until Friday 30th June.
The aim is to celebrate the very best theatrical performances, providing varied opportunities for audiences in Sunderland to see shows they may not usually have access to, as programme director Helen Ferguson explains. “We use different spaces across Sunderland to put on events so that audiences can see things on their doorstep rather than having to travel further afield and we strive to attract more artists, performers and companies to choose Sunderland as a stop on their tour schedule.”
The key to Sunderland Stages is diversity, and the programme offers a melting pot of subject matters. Music is a strong focus this year: The Six Twenty’s successful Mixtape show fuses bite-sized theatre with comedy and quiz elements (Dun Cow on Friday 10th February, Friday 28th April and Friday 30th June); From Ibiza To The Norfolk Broads is a powerful solo show about a troubled young boy, featuring a stunning David Bowie soundtrack (Royalty Theatre, Tuesday 14th February); a special ‘In Conversation’ event between punk royalty Viv Albertine (The Slits) and the region’s very own Marie Nixon (Kenickie, The Cornshed Sisters) will no doubt prove popular, as they discuss the image of women in rock (Sunderland City Library, Saturday 25th February); while on a more comedic note, musical comedy act Jonny & The Baptists explore the gap between rich and poor at their show, Eat The Poor (Pop Recs, Wednesday 5th April).
“We try to work with companies and performers that have really high artistic values but can really relate to audiences, so we look for shows that are special, exciting and innovative, tell a good story, and are appealing to lots of different people.” Says Helen.
Unusual performances abound too, with The Paper Birds’ caravan-based show popping up at the Market Place on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th May. “The show is about the class system and social mobility, but tells the story in a really extraordinary way with real life stories, special effects and a talking kettle! I love unusual theatre that can take you to another place entirely but in a way that you still feel comfortable and able to enjoy it.”
Add to all this Indian classical dance getting a modern overhaul in Gods & Mortals (Sunderland Minster, Friday 12th May), which features some of the country’s finest Odissi artists; a restaged cycle race in Ventoux (Arts Centre Washington, Thursday 16th March); a compassionate look at mental health and a war veteran’s struggle to shake the horrors of his past in Give Me Your Love (Sunderland College, Tuesday 14th March); plus Spirits of the Sea (National Glass Centre, Wednesday 22nd February) a maritime adventure for theatre fans aged six and above, and there’s something for everyone to enjoy.