INTERVIEW: Elevator Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Reece Connolly

Marking Live Theatre’s 50th year, Elevator Festival returns this month for a three-week celebration of the freshest theatrical talent in the North East. Offering a diverse programme of live performance, workshops, readings and talks, the festival showcases the best of theatre arts in our region.

I spoke to two of the creatives involved in the festival about their work, and how art can bring us together and give us hope for the future. “I try and write stuff that we’re not used to seeing onstage,” says writer Reece Connolly. “As long as folks have a good time and leave thinking about things a bit differently, then I’m happy.”

Running from Thursday 6thSaturday 8th July, Connolly’s Ghosts of Metroland follows two teenagers as they find themselves caught up in a mysterious adventure. Set against a backdrop of a hazy 90s summer at the iconic North East theme park, the play explores the kaleidoscopic emotions and experiences that populate our teen years.

It’s a period in our lives that fundamentally changes us, and informs most of what comes next,” says Connolly. “It’s constantly present, precisely because it’s so formative.”

Though we tend to take a nostalgic view of our formative years, and the places that shaped them, Connolly wanted the play to be thought-provoking too. “Doing the research, crafting the world of the play and its inhabitants, has been a joyous, surprising and often revelatory experience. But I hope people are challenged too. I didn’t want it to just be a rose-tinted jaunt down memory lane. There’s definitely some darker stuff amongst the hot dogs and candyfloss. It’s a theme-park, it’s got to include a roller-coaster of emotions. I promise the jokes in the play are better than that. But only slightly.”

Art is about giving people permission to tell a different story, to question

Festival-goers will also have the chance to experience a collection of work from Live Theatre’s Associate Artist gobscure, including live performance, audio and visual arts, which takes place from Saturday 1st-Saturday 8th July. “It’s not about the art form,” says gobscure. “It’s about love and rage – rewriting the future. We’re told to think in a certain way and art is about saying ‘here’s another way of thinking’.”

Their installation entitled ‘housing contains the word sing’ invites audiences to think, question and talk about issues that are so often misunderstood or hidden. “We’re all born with a voice but most of us have it taken away from us. Art is about giving people permission to tell a different story, to question. You are allowed to question things if they don’t make sense!”

gobscure hopes that this will continue long after the festival ends. “You will be invited to take a piece of crime scene tape when you leave so if you see something you think is wrong, you can do an alternative selfie asking ‘is this ok? Should we do something about this?’”

Their intention though is not to provoke action through panic or fear. It’s about hope. “You might laugh, question, get angry, but I want it to be hopeful. Hearing about things that others are doing around the world to make it better is a reminder of the things you can do. You don’t have to wait for someone else, for money, or for permission.”

In addition to these productions, catch a Scratch Night on Friday 30th June; Associate Artists Kemi-Bo Jacobs and Cameron Sharp read some of their work alongside gobscure on Saturday 1st July; and there’s readings, workshops and events for all ages across the fortnight.

Elevator Festival takes place at Live Theatre, Newcastle from Wednesday 28th June to Saturday 18th July.


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