A passionate theatre group who’ve won awards for bringing The Bard to the masses have suffered their own Shakespearean tragedy.
Since 2012 Theatre Space North East have brought theatre to the city’s green spaces as part of their popular Plays in the Parks series.
Over the years, thousands have attended their performances, which have included everything from The Tempest in Barnes Park and Macbeth in Roker to original children’s theatre such as George and the Dragon in Mowbray Park.
Though the annual series was popular with audiences, the group has had to announce they will not be able to stage the plays this year because of a lack of funding.
Corinne Kilvington, artistic director at Theatre Space North East, which is based at studio space in Nile Street, Sunniside, said: “In line with union rules, it would usually cost around £40,000 a year to stage the productions, but in previous years we have been able to do it for around £20,000-£25,000 based on the good will of our actors and volunteer stewards.
“We’ve been able to raise that previously through small pots of funding from various different places and trusts, so it was a patchwork of funding. But this year those pots were not available to us and without any funding we simply can’t afford to stage the productions.”
The group had also applied to Arts Council England, but again weren’t successful in their application.
Corinne says at a time when the city is undergoing a cultural renaissance it’s a shame to lose a project which managed to capture the imaginations of many.
She explained: “We’ve been working for years on audience development and though it’s great to see so much else happening in the city now, those cultural events also cost money.”
Corinne added: “Depending on the show and the weather, we would attract around 150-400 people for a performance. They would range from theatre-goers to people who were using the park, like cyclists and dog walkers. There was always a real mix of people and that was always the point in the Plays in the Parks series: to bring theatre to people at a price they could afford.”
Each performance was free, but the group would ask for a donation to help cover costs. Plans were in place to return this summer but after their various funding applications were denied, they decided to make a statement to say this year’s events could not take place.
Corinne said: “We already had the scripts, which had been edited, and we were ready to audition actors but at the weekend we sat down and realised we just couldn’t afford to pay them, which is really upsetting for us all. We made a statement on our Facebook and it was really heart-warming to read the messages from people, it shows we have the support, if not the funding.”
Though Plays in the Parks is not taking place this year, Theatre Space North East’s other work, which includes workshops, theatre education and other performances, will continue.