If you haven’t yet been to one of Theatre Space NE’s productions - or even heard of them - where have you been?!
Theatre Space NE is a community interest company that believes “any space is a theatre space”. Sunderland’s “Plays in the Park” season includes two Shakespeare plays and a family show throughout the summer in Roker, Mowbray and Barnes parks.
Scenes take place at various locations throughout the parks, all carefully chosen to complement the action. The audience is guided between the locations by the company’s staff, usually with a giant arrow, so you get entertained and exercised at the same time!
Through word of mouth, curious people out taking a walk and wondering what all the laughter is about, plus the odd innocent bystander getting caught up in the act (one poor fellow got hailed as the King of Scotland by the entire audience as he inadvertently passed through a key scene with his dog during Macbeth one year), the group have seen their audiences grow from a handful of people to hundreds and develop a loyal following on social media.
For a few evenings during the summer months, three of Sunderland’s parks host this dedicated troupe as they entertain families, couples and dog walkers with source material written over 400 years ago yet is still being enjoyed today.
I asked Theatre Space’s artistic director Corinne Kilvington for her thoughts on why their experience is so great for families, and why people who have not yet seen them perform should come along:
People should come because it’s a good way to see something new, whether that's theatre as a past-time or Shakespeare. There's no need to book tickets, you just put your cash in the bucket at the end - what you can afford or what you think it’s worth.
We do that so as many people as possible can give it a go, without money being an issue. It can be really expensive to take a family out to the theatre so this is an affordable way to do it.
Over the last five years (this will be our sixth!) we've gone from audiences of 20 to 30 people a night to a high of 450 in one night last year and an average of 300 per show for the season last year.
We get a real mix of people in our audiences, from families with young children to regular theatre-goers at the Shakespeare plays.
I love it when you're walking round and you hear parents chatting to their kids about what’s happening, who's who and what their favourite parts have been so far. It’s a great way to share an evening.
The family show in Mowbray Park is designed especially for families with kids up to 12 but it will entertain anyone who likes a good giggle.
We do this year after year without funding because we think people should have access to high quality theatre in a way they can afford and that has the flexibility needed for young children.
We're a lot of children's first experience of theatre and we're really proud of that and want it to be memorable and enjoyable. We also like to celebrate the beautiful settings Sunderland has to offer.
So, there you have it. If you are looking for something different and affordable to do with the kids that will entertain and inspire them as well as get them active, look no further than Theatre Space NE’s productions!
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE - SUNDERLAND
Henry IV Part 1
13th - 16th July - Roker Park
5th - 6th August - Mowbray Park
1pm & 3:30pm daily
Much Ado About Nothing
17th - 20th August - Barnes Park
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE - ALNWICK CASTLE
Henry IV Part 1
1st – 2nd August
29th July – 3rd August
12pm & 2:00pm daily