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Building Palaces

  • Date: 13 October 2010
  • Artform: Theatre
  • Area: North
Building Palaces Building Palaces, Unfolding Theatre, Reed Ingram Weir

Unfolding Theatre, a producing theatre company, based in Gateshead developed a large-scale, site-specific theatre performance in one of Newcastle's hidden architectural gems, The Stephenson Works.

Building Palaces was a fantastical, music-filled event which took audiences on a journey through palaces created by some of the north east's most inventive performers.

Building Palaces drew on the history of The Stephenson Works, Robert Stephenson's own palace of invention where he designed and built the original locomotives.

Unfolding Theatre worked with 100 community participants as part of the creative process, from children to residents in an old people's home, asking them, 'If you could build your own palace, what would it be?' Their individual and original responses were represented as part of the production.

Singer, Beccy Owen, invited audiences to choose to dwell in one of her 'song palaces', while percussionist, Brendan Murphy gave audiences the chance to participate in a 'gong bath'. Other experiences included being blindfolded to visit Jane Arnfield's palace of contemplation, enjoying Pady O'Connor's palace of play, filled with commedia dell'arte masks and theatrical props, and being asked by Alex Elliott, to consider the principles that should be the foundations of a place where we no longer need palaces.

Arts Council England supported Building Palaces with £25,000 from our National Lottery funded Grants for the arts scheme, as well as funding a research and development phase in 2009 with an award of £5,000. Other partners included Newcastle City Council, The Sir James Knott Trust, South Tyneside Council, NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), Silverlink Holdings Ltd and Northern Stage.

The main aims of the project were to launch Unfolding Theatre regionally and to begin developing their national profile. This was successfully achieved with the production selling out nearly half of its performances, and receiving exceptionally positive audience feedback.

The production also attracted national media coverage, gaining four stars in The Guardian's review and being picked out several times in 'Pick of the Week' lists. The Guardian described Building Palaces as 'an evening spent being introduced to some thrillingly talented people in a fascinating environment'.

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