As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, Northern Stage is inviting people to get Out on the Toon this summer, starting with a series of free outdoor events to reconnect artists and audiences in their local neighbourhoods throughout June.
Artistic Director Natalie Ibu says, “At Northern Stage, we’re nothing without independent artists and makers so they’re at the heart of our programme as we go Out on the Toon to meet audiences where they are as many of us step out of our bubbles back into public life. The region offers the most exciting stage in the North East – a diverse range of places and spaces from the many green parks in Newcastle and Gateshead to the residential suburbs of Sunderland and North Tyneside, from rural County Durham and Northumberland to the beautiful beaches in South Shields – and our neighbourhood artist commissions take their inspiration from those very spaces. We want audiences to know they can rely on Northern Stage to bring them stories, no matter what.”
Following an open call, ten North East theatre makers have been selected to create work in 9 of the region’s 12 local authorities, breathing new life into the places and spaces that have been the backdrop to their lockdown, celebrating the diversity of our region and bringing communities together.
In Consett, County Durham, Tracy Gillman will write and direct Mam Tackles the Climate Crisis – a site-specific show performed by Jackie Lye (Wet House/Live Theatre). Mam shares stories with passersby about her frustrated attempts to recycle everything, including her relationship with her daughter.
In North Tyneside, Rachel Stockdale performs an intimate piece of theatre created in response to her favourite pastime of FaceTiming in the bath. Directed by Jake Smith (The Hound of the Baskervilles/Northern Stage), Tub Time: Unplugged is an ode to the nation’s favourite lockdown pastimes and a look to the future.
In South Shields, director Mark Maughan will work with award-winning playwright Lee Mattinson to create talking points around Juan Munoz’s Conversation Piece at Littlehaven Beach – 22 sculptures locally known as ‘The Weebles’. After a year inside our own houses and heads, audiences will be invited to eavesdrop into conversations about what we’ve missed most and what we want to change post-pandemic.
In the residential streets of Heaton in Newcastle, What‘s That Dance co-creators Megan Brown and Jenny Chrisp will lead a dance performance for local women of all ages to take part in to highlight inequality and celebrate the strength and resilience women have shown throughout the pandemic.
In Sunderland, Theatre Space NE will create a collection of short stories and films based on the lived experiences of local residents during the pandemic. Expressing moments of sadness, humour and hope, Thanks for the Chat will capture the mood of the city just before the first national lockdown, helping people to reconnect with their community as restrictions ease.
In Newcastle, Georgina Lance will perform Black Femme Priority, exploring how movement can be used for healing and liberation inspired by her own experience during lockdown and the Black Lives Matter protests.
In Gateshead, Kitchen Zoo will create Story Trails – an audio adventure for 3-7 year olds and their grown-ups that takes audiences for a stroll through some well-known stories and reimagines the local landscape.
In Stockton, award-winning actor Scott Turnbull will perform Chewin’ on a Brick – a series of semi-autobiographical short stories, handmade animations and loving anecdotes about growing up in Stockton on Tees, in the style of a guided tour with moments of magic realism and dark humour.
By the River Tyne in Hexham, the Tees in Middlesbrough and the Wear in Durham, Teesside-based Queer arts group Bordello Collective weave together spoken word, live music and song in Verto – immersive theatrical performances along three different North East riverside walkways reminding us to reconnect with ourselves and the world around us.
Children aged 3-5 years and their grown-ups will help Orville the anxious owl take his first flight on a family story trail around Bill Quay Farm in Gateshead, written by children’s playwright Danielle Slade, performed by Charlotte Ryder with puppets by Georgia Hill.
Independent producer Michael Barrass, who led the artist call out and selection process for the Neighbourhood programme, said, “We were bowled over by the response to the open call – there were so many brilliant ideas it was difficult to whittle it down to just 10. We were really impressed by the range and the quality of the applications and we’re excited to see what these North East theatre makers create for audiences to experience in their local neighbourhoods this summer right across the region.”
Northern Stage’s 2021 season, This Is Us, is a response to the world we live in, making culture more accessible to more people through a programme of work that reflects diverse stories and communities. The rest of the programme will be announced shortly, including the first show Natalie Ibu will direct for Northern Stage when the theatre reopens in the autumn.
Northern Stage’s free digital programme is still available to watch online and will also be screening at venues around the region in May, including Newcastle City Library and selected library branches across the city, anti-food waste cafe, The Magic Hat Cafe, and Wallsend community charity, Kid’s Kabin, with more venues to be confirmed.
For more details, including where and when to see Neighbourhood events for free throughout June as part of Northern Stage’s Out on the Toon programme, visit northernstage.co.uk