ONE OF the region’s oldest amateur theatre groups is preparing to take to the stage to raise money for the armed forces.
The Sunderland Theatre Company (STCo) is staging a four-day performance of Sunshine on Leith, a production that features the songs of Scottish music makers ‘The Proclaimers’ and centres around the story of ex-soldiers who have to re-learn how to live in Edinburgh after coming home from Afghanistan.
The performance, which will run from March 2 to March 5, is one of two major shows that the group organises each year, as well as a variety of concerts, musicals and one off productions held at venues across the city. The company – which is run entirely by volunteers – is hoping that a special collection at the end of the performance will raise much needed funds for the ‘Help for Heroes’ charity. The money collected will be used to fund a Help for Heroes rehabilitation centre – Phoenix House in Catterick.
Graeme Smith, chairman of the company, which has more than 25 members, said: “We hope this performance will bring to light the importance of supporting our servicemen and women while also delivering a thoroughly entertaining show for all who come to see it.
“As well as the charitable element of the evening, the show itself allows us to raise money that sustains the theatre group, allowing us to carry on with a 120 year legacy that makes a huge difference to the lives of its members.
“The actors in the production are all members of the Sunderland Theatre Company and therefore volunteers, who invest a huge amount of time to deliver a show that will wow everyone who comes to see it. As well as being their passion, acting gives so many of our members the chance to grow their confidence, and to support each other. It really does add so much to the community and we hope people get behind our show, and come and support us.”
Sunderland Theatre Company is a not for profit organisation, based in Millfield. It was first established in the early 1890s and is thought to be among the oldest amateur theatre companies in the country.
Graeme added: “The fact this group has been going for so long shows that people in Sunderland really do have a longstanding love for the arts, and through shows like this, we keep alive a company that adds a huge amount of vibrancy to Sunderland.”
Tickets for Sunshine On Leith are currently on sale for £10, with all money raised from the performance reinvested to allow the theatre company to hire space from which to hold their rehearsals and groups across the year. The show will be held at Sunderland College’s new Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) centre at its Bede Campus.
Jane Reed, head of visual and performing arts at Sunderland College, said: “As home to the next generation of performers, it’s quite fitting that this event is taking place at Sunderland College’s cutting-edge Arts Academy building. Groups like STCo are often the inspiration that fires people up to pursue studies in performing arts, so it’s great to support them with this production.”
STCo aims to involve people from all walks of life in the dramatic arts – whether as performers or audience members – in a bid to spread the benefits of community theatre far and wide. A number of the group’s former members have gone on to enjoy professional theatre careers, while others have become influential in the amateur sector on a local and national level. New members are always welcome.
Gary Hutchinson, chair of the Sunderland Business Group, noted that the group was one of a number of theatre companies in the city helping to grow the city’s grassroots arts and culture scene. He said: “Music, art and culture are a huge part of Sunderland’s identity. The fact we are home to one of the oldest amateur theatre groups in the country only serves to prove that this is a city that has long held a great appreciation for performing arts – it is fantastic to see this tradition being kept alive by STCo.
“Groups like STCo can only be sustained if they are backed by the community, so I really do hope that people in the city show their support and get along to the college to watch some of the city’s amateur actors in action.”
For more information about Sunderland Theatre Company, or to book tickets for Sunshine on Leith, visit www.sunderlandtheatre.co.uk. Tickets are £10 each, with shows running between March 2 and 5, 2016, 7:30pmnightly and at 4pm on Saturday, at Sunderland College’s Bede Campus.