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Culture Awards Performance of the Year finalists: Death at Dawn, I Left My Heart in Roker Park and Mamela

It's all about the theatre this year. Three very different productions caught the eye of the judges

This award, sponsored by Barbour, is for an individual, group or company who have been seen or heard in 2014; for a performance in the North East which has raised hairs on the back of necks, moved or inspired its audience. Examples could include dance, music, stage/theatre or comedy productions.

Death at Dawn

Death at Dawn was performed in 2014 at the Linskill Centre in North Shields. It was a play commissioned by the Tynemouth World War One commemoration project and re-examined the 100-year-old controversy of British soldiers being executed during the First World War for military offences, including desertion or cowardice.

Directed by the late and much-missed Jackie Fielding, Peter Mortimer wrote the play for Cloud Nine Theatre, and he is also up for the Writer of the Year award for this piece.

Final dress rehearsal for Death at Dawn by Peter Mortimer at the Linkskill centre North Shields
Final dress rehearsal for Death at Dawn by Peter Mortimer at the Linkskill centre North Shields

Focusing on the real case of North Shields man, William Hunter, who was shot by his own battalion for desertion in 1916, the audience were able to emotionally engage with the issue through the narrative of his short life.

Hunter was one of more than 300 members of the British Army to face the firing squad in World War One and his case was specially significant due to the doubt cast on his age.

With a mix of both comedy and tragedy, the play’s action moved from North Shields, to Montreal, to Merseyside and finally to the Western Front.

The six-strong professional cast, including Newcomer of the Year nominee Heather Carroll, were supported by a group of young student actors from North Tyneside.

Plans are in place to stage further performances in 2016.

Website: www.cloudninetheatre.co.uk

I Left My Heart in Roker Park

I Left My Heart in Roker Park was an updated one-man play produced by theatre company Cranked Anvil. The new version was performed at Customs House in South Shields during September 2014.

Written by Jarrow-born playwright Tom Kelly, the original play was set outside the old Sunderland AFC football ground during its demolition in 1997.

Paul Dunn, pictured, as Kevin Halliday outside the Stadium of Light which features in Tom Kelly's play I Left My Heart in Roker Park & Extra Time at the Stadium Of Light, on a mini tour of the region.

It was staged and staged in 1997, 1998 and again in 2004. The most recent production incorporated the League Cup Final and ‘that man Di Canio’.

Set in the present day, with the setting changed to Roker Park Close, the play stars Paul Dunn, who put in an much-acclaimed performance, and follows Kevin Halliday as he compares his life and loves with the fortunes of Sunderland Football Club.


Mamela (meaning ‘listen’ in isiXhosa) was a passionate and inspirational piece of verbatim theatre telling the true stories of young women from the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

It was presented at Live Theatre, Newcastle by Curious Monkey theatre company, as part of Afrovibes Festival in 2014, marking the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa.


Using dialogue direct from interviews, the production powerfully told of the experiences, opinions and aspirations of the female participants, some born at the end of the Apartheid era and others representing the ‘Born Free’ generation of democratic South Africa.

Their stories mixed moving personal testimonies about their lives, reflections on religion, politics and men, culminating in the ultimately uplifting dreams for both themselves and their country.

The project was a truly international collaboration between artists from the UK and South Africa fusing new writing with traditional African song and dance, and the resulting performance was lived up to it.

Website: curiousmonkeytheatre.com

Twitter: @Curiousmonkey_


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