Unlocking Sunderland's doors

Published: 18 July 2021
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Sunderland Culture
Lauren Waine as Officer Valentina Savitskaya
Luke Maddison as Captain Stefan Schwarz

Sunderland Culture has announced three performing arts commissions which are aimed at capturing the hopes and anticipation of audiences as pandemic restrictions are gradually eased.

“We’re very excited to be welcoming live audiences but we know we are not out of the clutches of COVID yet,” Helen Green, Head of Performance at Sunderland Culture, explained, “and the way we present the performances will reflect that.

“We are working hard to ensure audiences, artists and our own team feel able to take part safely and with confidence, so we will be encouraging our audiences to wear masks and maintain social distance where possible, particularly while we’re seeing such sharp rises in infection rates in the area.”

The first commission is Space Camp … Hylton, We Have a Problem, delivered by Tiny Dragon (conceptual artist Krista Benson) working with film company Candle and Bell. The 20-minute video performance will be delivered eight times a day in a shipping container based on Marine Walk, Roker (starting Tuesday 3 August).

The video was sparked by a bizarre contract detail from former SAFC player Stefan Schwarz—who was barred by the club from going into space—and features Sunderland actress Lauren Waine (The Snow Queen at Northern Stage) and Tyneside actor Luke Maddison (When the Boat Comes In at the Customs House).

Space Camp reflects a sense of relief at the thought of being able to travel wherever you want to go again,” Helen Green added. “It’s a quirky, imaginative piece, a 360-degree visual and sound experience that will get audiences reflecting on about what it has been like being constrained in the same place for so long.”

The second commission will be will be Club Six Twenty, a collaboration between theatre company The Six Twenty and artist Ronan Devlin. This will be a one-night-only event at Independent nightclub on Holmeside, Sunderland, on Thursday 26 August.

This will be a live, lovingly recreated homage to the '90s rave scene featuring popular band Picnic as the headliner. There will be other musicians, dancers and digital artists, including a digital installation from Sunderland artist Jo Howell and a chill-out room upstairs complete with a digital wall created by Ronan Devlin.

Friday 27 August will see the first of several Bank Holiday weekend performances of Acedia from Southpaw Dance Company and light artist Rupert Stamp at The Athenaeum in Fawcett Street.

Acedia will feature a single dancer performing in the Athenaeum space and the audience will be able to see the dancer multiply and perform a wider and wider piece through their phones and tablet devices.

It will also feature music, with lyrics streamed on to the venue’s walls. Audiences will be restricted to 35 each performance.

Southpaw had a huge hit in Sunderland in 2016 with its production of Faust on the top floor of a city centre car park.

Further details and booking will be available on the Sunderland Culture web site.