Southpaw brings ACEDIA to Sunderland’s Athenaeum

Published: 17 August 2021
Reporter: Peter Lathan

ACEDIA in The Athenaeum
ACEDIA in The Athenaeum
ACEDIA in The Athenaeum

“ACEDIA is a word we’re using to describe the combination of listlessness, anxiety, and the inability to concentrate so many of us experienced during COVID lockdowns,” said Robbie Graham, Artistic Director of Southpaw Dance Company, explaining how the company has worked with digital artist Rupert Stamp on a bespoke ACEDIA app so as to use live performance and innovative technology to create a unique experience for the audience.

“In ACEDIA,” he continued, “we see many different versions of the same character, layered and overlapped, creating a sense of pandemic isolation. In a prolonged time-lapse of their time in lockdown, we see the contrasting versions of our performer and their means of coping in a confined environment. As the days and weeks pass and isolation sets in, our performer’s repetitive routine slips and further versions of our performer appear, evidently struggling with prolonged isolation.

“Our story, scripted by Lee Mattinson (Chalet Lines, No Miracles Here, Choir, Donna Disco), examines the possibilities and the optimism of reconnecting with friends and family, and finding ourselves once again as we emerge from lockdown restrictions.”

ACEDIA will start with one live dancer, and four other dancers, whose performances will feature on iPads provided for the audience, will then expand the show.

The performances will take place in one of Sunderland’s historic buildings, The Athenaeum, which was originally opened in 1843 to house the Sunderland Literary and Philosophical Society, where Joseph Swan, the Sunderland man who invented the lightbulb, attended lectures.

The performances will be from Friday to Sunday (27–29 August, various times) and runs for 20 minutes. Tickets (£8) are available from Sunderland Culture’s web site but are limited to 15 per show and are expected to sell out quickly. The performance space is only accessible by stairs (27 steps altogether).

The production is part of Unlocking The Doors Sunderland (see our news story of 18 July), a programme of live performance across the city commissioned by Sunderland Culture. Helen Green, Head of Performance at Sunderland Culture, said, “Sunderland audiences may remember Southpaw’s performance of Faust on top of the St Mary’s Car Park back in 2016. ACEDIA, using ground-breaking technology, promises to be just as special and tickets will go very quickly—Southpaw has a national reputation for its indoor and outdoor spectaculars.”