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Students tackle suicide and dementia on stage

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Published on 20 March 2019

Arts Centre Washington
Arts Centre Washington

They’re topics many of us will avoid discussing, but a group Sunderland students are bringing suicide and dementia to the stage in powerful performances designed to enlighten.

Final year Performing Arts and Drama students from our University will perform their double-bill at Arts Centre Washington, on Wednesday, March 27, at 7.30pm, as part of the Sunderland Festival.

Sunderland Festival showcases students’ work across a range of Performing arts modules in venues throughout the North East, including Arts Centre Washington and The Custom's House in South Shields. 

While the subject matter will challenge the audiences, students and lecturers hope they will offer information and support for those who may find themselves having to deal with the connected issues.

For their first act Hidden in Plain Sight, the students worked with specialist counsellors in Sunderland, gaining an insight of their work around suicide, what behaviours they’d expect to see and ensuring the correct terms of reference are used. Above all, they have ensured that the subject matter is sensitively dealt as the students focus on one man’s story.

The second act, Forget me Not, uses real-life stories, interviews and accounts which deal with the life and struggles of living with someone who has dementia. Featuring scenes of a medical nature asking questions of the dementia patient about their condition, the voices of their friends and family, interspersed throughout with physical theatre, depicting the emotions of the piece.

The students chose the subjects as part of their final-year mark for their contemporary performance module. 

Adelle Hulsmeier, Senior Lecturer in Drama and Performing Arts, explained: “The students are looking at the kind of behaviours that come with both of those issues, so that someone can move from being a passive bystander to an active bystander, so if they see the behaviours and want to help make a change.

“The performances are episodes of different scenes that depict the issues, which the students have thoroughly researched from previously published interviews, case studies and stories. Working with Sunderland City Council has also been an invaluable source of information.”

Adelle added: “Both performances have an educational element to them, it’s important the students did their research to make sure it was honest but also truthful in terms of how professionals deal with these situations in a more encompassing way.”

Matthew Blyth, Audience Development Officer at Arts Centre Washington, said: “We are delighted to welcome back the drama students from the University to take over Arts Centre Washington for a night of contemporary theatre. 

“Arts Centre Washington and Sunderland Culture are committed to supporting young and emerging artists living and working in our city, so that’s why it’s so exciting to see these students creating two brand new pieces which take on two poignant, emotive and extremely relevant subjects.”

To book tickets got to: https://sunderlandculture.org.uk/events/hidden-in-plain-sight-10/ (link is external)

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