‘Flaming Nora, how did they do that’, I said to my friend as the talented troupe from Southpaw Dance Company leapt through fire without so much as a flinch.
The third floor of St Mary’s Carpark isn’t where I usually choose to spend my evenings, but for this performance of Faust it was transformed into a hellish 1920s speakeasy.
Despite its day job, the site actually made for a striking stage as the six performers head-spinned, break-danced and did the Charleston in a flame-filled show which flickered against the backdrop of Wearmouth Bridge and the Stadium of Light.
In keeping with the legend of Faust, which tells the tale of a man who makes a pact with the devil, this interpretation takes you to the dark side where a b-boying barman serves flaming liquor.
As the protagonist battles for his soul, the sinful gamblers and bootleggers who frequent the bar flip and twirl over the carpark concrete as if they were carrying empty tumblers - not ones filled with flames. (Gulp)
If that isn’t enough to make you fear for the safety of the performers’ eyebrows, the roar of the fire only intensifies as the brooding devil makes a blazing trail through the bar creating an intense inferno. Intoxicated by his powers, his followers move around him as though they were feline familiars with beautiful fluidity.
As he dominates the dancers, the care-free flapper and slapstick moves of the early scenes soon make way for a testosterone-fuelled dance battle.
A rope is set alight and strung around four chairs to create a makeshift boxing ring for a death-defying duel. This is dance, but not as we know it.
I held my breath on more than one occasion as the daring dancers flipped through the licking flames and spun on their heads. Don’t try this at home kids!
It’s a stunning spectacle, one quite unlike any other I’ve seen in the city, and it’s thanks to the Sunderland Stages programme, which is bringing theatre to more unusual settings. There’s no denying this show certainly turned up the heat.
Read more about the Sunderland Stages programme here