• Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

North East Connected

Hopping Across The North East From Hub To Hub

Residents enjoy the taste of bite-size theatre

CS St Marks 2MILK, TWO SUGARS … Woven Nest’s Poppy Crawshaw (kneeling) and Elliot Mann (left) and St Mark’s activities co-ordinator Denise Horsburgh (second left) with residents at the workshop
A THEATRE company specialising in working with older people has been developing its next show through workshops in three Sunderland nursing homes.

Woven Theatre was one of four companies commissioned by award-winning arts project The Cultural Spring to produce ‘bite-size’ performances in non-traditional theatre spaces.

Their piece, Milk, Two Sugars, is an immersive, multi-sensory show for older adults in care homes, hospices or community centres. The show is built around the tea trolley, a popular feature in such settings.

Over the last few weeks Woven Theatre has been developing the show through visits to three Sunderland care homes – St Mark’s Nursing Home, Primrose Care Home and The Laurels Care Home.

Using a drinks trolley to dispense non-alcoholic cocktails, the Woven Theatre spoke to residents to hear their stories and understand what characters they’d like to see in the show. The tea trolley then opened out into a shadow puppetry theatre set, complete with a glitter ball and lights.

Speaking at St Mark’s Nursing Home, Woven Theatre’s co-artistic director Poppy Crawshaw said: “We’ve been experimenting with character parts at the workshops, particularly as bartenders from a prohibition-themed secret bar in downtown New York.

“After handing out the drinks menus and serving cocktails from our secret ‘bar’ the tea trolley opened out into a shadow puppetry theatre set which provided the setting for our stories.

“We’ve been looking at different types of puppets each week and taking a multisensory approach to workshops to activate one or more of the senses including taste, smell, vision, hearing and touch. We used a group creative storytelling approach throughout the workshops, so that residents were able to collaborate with us, and each other, to create the stories and characters that they wanted to see. All of the ideas generated in this workshop, and in the other care homes that are taking part will impact the development of the final show.”

Denise Horsburgh, activities co-ordinator at St Mark’s, added: “Our residents have really enjoyed and benefitted from taking part in the Milk, Two Sugars project so far. Woven Nest Theatre’s sensory storytelling and puppetry workshops had our residents laughing and talking about the sessions for days after.

“The residents all made unique teabag puppets which they now keep in their rooms and have been showing off to their families when they visit – they’ve provided an excellent talking point.

“The residents and I are excited to take part in each of the workshops as they come up and have even been inspired to think of other activities that we’d like to do ourselves, like tea tasting afternoon. It’s exciting to know that we are working alongside other care homes and that residents and local people within the community will get to see the show when it’s finished.”

Two performances of Milk, Two Sugars have already been confirmed. They will be at The Old Rectory in Houghton-le-Spring on Friday, June 2 (2pm) and Pallion Action Group’s Kayll Road premises on Wednesday, May 31 (2pm). Other venues and dates are to be confirmed.

Woven Theatre’s Milk, Two Sugars workshops have been supported by The Sir James Knott Trust. Woven Trust are also partnering with University of Sunderland to measure whether the show has an impact on level of hydration in the care homes, as well as measuring the overall benefits to health and wellbeing.

The other three Cultural Spring commissions are:

·      Sweet Caroline and the Football Boots: We Make Culture are producing an interactive, music-led performance for children and families based on Sweet Caroline, a young girl desperate to be a footballer. Laura Brewis and her team at We Make Culture are meeting with sporting organisations and girls’ football teams to develop the piece.

·      The Foodbank Generation Game: Theatre Space North are working closely with Sunderland Community Food Bank to highlight the huge problem of food poverty through a ‘game show’ theatrical performance. Theatre Space North East have are currently meeting with people who use the food bank to understand their experiences.

·      Redcoat: Theatre group The Six Twenty is working with Sunderland College based Cozmic 3piphany a group that gives young LGBTQ+ people in the city a voice. Together they’re working to develop and adapt Redcoat, Lewis Jobson’s one-man show about identity and belonging.