A YOUNG Sunderland writer’s first play is to be performed in South Shields next month.
Ben Gettins, from Penny well, has spent months writing Wearmouth and it will be performed at The Customs House from Monday, September 4 to Wednesday, September 6.
Ben, 23, completed a BTEC in drama at Sunderland College before going on to complete the prestigious Project an acting course at The Theatre Royal. His acting credits include Down the Lines at The Customs House and the critically acclaimed one-man show Sugar Baby at the Alphabetic Theatre.
“Since completing my training I’ve had a couple of great roles and I’ve also worked on the Creative Learning programme at the Sunderland Empire. It was while I was working at the Empire that I came up with the idea of Wearmouth and started writing the play,” Ben said.
He submitted a few pages and a synopsis of Wearmouth to The Customs House’s PLAY2, an initiative to support new writing. Through PLAY2 Ben and fellow writer Louise Powell were chosen as winners of the Peter Latham Prize for New Writing, which gave them both the support they needed to develop their extracts to full productions.
Once Ben had finished a first draft of the play, The Customs House asked vastly experienced playwright and poet Tom Kelly to mentor the young writer.
Wearmouth explores the struggles of two Sunderland supporters who meet on Wearmouth Bridge every SAFC match day. There they navigate their way through their own mental health struggles, the ever-changing world around them and the trials and tribulations of Sunderland Football Club.
“I wanted to mix the two worlds of football and theatre, both of which mean a lot to me. Wearmouth features two characters that I think people will recognise and relate to – they’re an amalgam of characters I know or have met.
“Wearmouth also features stories and anecdotes I’ve heard and been told. My dad told me so many great stories,” he added.
To help give Wearmouth an authentic voice, Ben met a group of older Sunderland fans at The Customs House who gave him another supply of SAFC-related stories.
“About 60 per cent of the stories told in Wearmouth are based on stories I’ve been told. The Customs House meeting I had also hugely helped with my dialogue for the play,” Ben explained.
“Tom Kelly was also hugely helpful, I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. We were chatting one day and I was telling him I was on the way to the match. Tom asked if I’d see my two characters Luke and Steven there – and it really made me think and helped bring them to life.
“I hope Wearmouth will be a bridge to the theatre for some who may not think of going – I hope it’s accessible and has a subject matter that will interest people. I want the play to lift the rug on the type of lads who I know and grew up with Pennywell. Even if you don’t like football or if you’re not an SAFC fan, then Wearmouth represents who I am and a demographic not represented on the stage. There’s no agenda, I just present them and ask people what do you think?”
Wearmouth will be directed by Michael Blair, an actor making his directorial debut and will feature experienced regional actor Joe Jaffrey as Steven, and Jake Jarrett as Luke.
Wearmouth is one of two new plays produced for The Customs House’s inaugural First Play Club programme, which, supported by Arts Council England, aims to give new or emerging writers the opportunity to have their work staged. The programme also aims to provide work for local actors and directors.
Louise Powell’s Grown Up Writing’ is the other play being produced, and will be performed from Friday, September 8 to Sunday, September 10. The play will be directed by experienced actor Christina Dawson in her first professional role as a director and Sophie Mai will play the role of Kayleigh and Alfreya Bell will play Ruth.
Both plays are suitable for audiences of 14 or over and for more information, or to book tickets, go to www.thecustomshouse.co.uk