A Street Like This - The Fire Station Sunderland

One street. Three people. One massive sinkhole - and Community Theatre at its very best
Emma Chesworth
June 30, 2023

Every street has a story to tell. Residents make up the cast and the story unfolds. There are always the main players with others on the periphery, as the ebb and flow of ordinary life reveals extraordinary tales.

The minutiae of urban life is put under the spotlight in A Street Like This which premiered at one of Sunderland’s newest cultural venues, The Fire Station. And what a fitting venue to showcase the talent of Wearside residents who decided to tread the boards alongside professional actors for this brilliant piece of musical theatre.

This blend of community cast and seasoned actors culminated in a warm, life-affirming show for the packed out audience.

Written by award-winning playwright Alison Carr and featuring original music by Ross Millard of Sunderland indie rockers, The Futureheads, this production serves up a cracking array of one-liners interspersed with catchy tunes. Ross Millard plays the guitar throughout, supported by members of the community cast on bass, drums and keyboard.

Ross Millard and Unfolding Theatre Director Annie Rigby
Ross Millard and Unfolding Theatre Director Annie Rigby

In this play, we meet the residents of one street. We all have these characters, or versions of, in our own streets and estates. Here we glean snippets of what the residents think of each other and the observations they make about their neighbours. The massive TV screen with snooker usually on is spied through one lounge window, the unused bike chained up in a garden, the hanging baskets prettifying the house at the end and the Monster Munch crisp packet left for months stuck in a drain cover.

With disparate views and differing ways of seeing the world, the residents find themselves thrown together when a 15 feet sinkhole causes more than a ripple in the street. Alex Elliott, a performer and filmmaker, plays the street’s Neighbourhood Watch co-ordinator. The sinkhole drama plays straight into his desire to take control and he dons his high-vis jacket before the dust has even settled, instructing the residents to keep back from the abyss that has appeared in the road.

In the following days and weeks, forced to come together as one to tackle a crisis sees the residents realise they have much more in common than first thought. Individual circumstances are revealed.

Doreen, played by Karen Traynor, has always had a ‘just in case’ suitcase packed under her bed but she doesn’t know why. She feels tied down.

Kylie Ann Ford’s character lives with her hoarder father. All floor space is covered and rooms are packed full of bags and long-collected household items.

As residents talk and learn about each other. Doreen helps clear the crammed rooms at Number 25 with the sinkhole providing a perfect receptacle for the bin bags. She comes to see there is nothing tying her down - she is free to pursue what she wants.

Musicians at Pop Recs Working On 'A Street Like This'
Musicians at Pop Recs Working On 'A Street Like This'

Directed by Annie Rigby, Artistic Director at Unfolding Theatre, this hour-long show is a hilarious, and often poignant, snapshot into ordinary life. I am a huge believer that ‘ordinary people’ often have the most ‘extraordinary’ tales to tell. People just getting by, struggling to get by or living their best lives - each person has their individual story to intertwine with others. This is what A Street Like This highlighted.

Annie says: “It’s a joy to finally bring this show to life. The biggest joy has been seeing what our community company have brought to the creative process. When we started, we weren’t sure if they’d want to perform as characters or speak lines. But they’ve jumped at everything. Then, they started bringing their own lyrics and music to our workshops, inspired by our story and characters. It’s been a delight to see them collaborate with Ross and Alison to develop the music and words.”

In a small, intimate staging the audience lined the stage on each side. Credit to Imogen Cloët for the imaginative set design which drew the audience in so you felt you were in the street with the residents.

'A Street Like This' Community Cast On Stage At The Fire Station
'A Street Like This' Community Cast On Stage At The Fire Station

After two shows in one night at The Fire Station, A Street Like This will hit the road in September and October taking in venues such as Gosforth Civic Theatre, Thornley Village Centre, Jarrow Focus and The Tute Cambois.

Taking theatre out on tour provides the chance for more people to see great drama and it is only right that a show about the everyday folk of the North East is taken to the very people it showcases. Go and see it if you can. Details are HERE

Header Image: Cast of A Street Like This - Kylie Ann Ford Alex Elliott & Karen Traynor

Photo credits: Von Fox Promotions