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Gateshead International Festival of Theatre launches digital, tenth edition programme of performance

(MAIN IMAGE: IT DON'T WORRY ME, by ATRESBANDES, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas: Credit: Berta Vicente/Richard Perryman)

Press release

Date: Wednesday 1 April, 2020.

Contacts: Kate Redway,



Gateshead International Festival of Theatre launches digital, tenth edition programme of performance art and interactive events- to connect artists and audiences to share, and inspire creativity.

Today Gateshead International Festival of Theatre, (GIFT) announces a fully digital, thought-provoking ten year anniversary programme of contemporary theatre, dance, talks and workshops; featuring Jonathan Burrows, Matteo Fargion, Wendy Houstoun, Tania El Khoury, Action Hero, Greg Wohead, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas, from Friday 1- Sunday 3 May 2020.

(AS FAR AS ISOLATION GOES, by Tania El Khoury and Basel Zaraa. Credit: Basel Zaraa)

Aiming to entertain, inspire and reaffirm the importance of artistic and cultural communities throughout the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s festival features exciting UK premieres and an eclectic programme exploring human connection, surveillance, resilience through crisis and international identity. GIFT creates a vibrant, curated space for self-isolating artists and audiences to harness domestic technology to encounter bold new works, share human stories, build networks and discuss ideas. Over 30 performances and events will be presented in real time, online at, and tickets are available to book, from Friday 10 April.

GIFT was created to make extraordinary things happen across Gateshead, and this year’s tenth edition will transport global artists and audiences at home on sensory journeys to virtual locations, ranging from a radio studio campervan in Europe and a detention centre, to a rock band escape, a tropical getaway, and a kids catwalk birthday party.

Contemporary artists are once again invited to participate in GIFT by pushing the parameters of their practice and performance genres; showing their work, co-creating new pieces in response to the pandemic and other urgent modern day issues, and meeting other artists at digital social events. Alongside the main programme, a community of North East artists who regularly engage with GIFT, including Unfolding Theatre, Gillie Kleiman and Rosa Postlethwaite, will be offering bite-size online opportunities to welcome new audiences, and facilitate conversations across the festival community.

GIFT 2020 performance highlights includd

  • The UK online premiere of thrilling performance collaboration, IT DON’T WORRY ME, by ATRESBANDES, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas, interrogating the tension between art and political correctness. Audiences will find themselves at the heart of a supposedly ‘empty space’ analysed by two commentators, but as they become ‘the commented-on’, theories and visual associations spiral the show out of control, meaning, and context. After the show audiences are invited to join the artists in a virtual cocktail lounge for small talk and martinis (Friday 1 May).

  • Crack of Dawn: Online premiere of Texan writer, performer and live artist, Greg Wohead’s improvised durational, sunrise to sunset performance featuring four artists simultaneously performing from different UK locations. In January 2009, Greg and his partner found themselves in rural Illinois sitting at the kitchen table of a traditional Amish couple. Secret thoughts, differing perspectives and apple butter recipes are shared over a distance as one afternoon turns into a strange, kaleidoscopic examination of empathy, assumptions, and the possibility or impossibility of ever really understanding one another. Jokes recur, facades slip and there might be Time After Time karaoke (Saturday 2 May).

  • RadiOh Europa- artists Gemma Paintin and James Stenhouse of Action Hero create a 24 hour international homage to love, in a new digital translation of their continent-spanning work, Oh Europa, where they travel through Europe in a motorhome recording strangers’ love songs. Audiences can tune in live to enjoy all the love songs recorded to date by global performers, and newly recorded songs from North East artists including Ross Millard of The Futureheads and actor Charlie Hardwick. Since 2005, Action Hero have created performances spanning theatre, live art, installation, multimedia and site-specific practice, touring to over 30 countries across five continents (Saturday 2 May, 9pm through to Sunday 3 May, 9pm).

  • As Far as Isolation Goes (Online). Lebanese artist Tania El Khoury and Basel Zaraa invite audience members to individually take part in this thought-provoking performance installation, using touch, sound and interactivity, to experience the personal journey of one man’s detention centre inhumanity (Friday 1 May- Sunday 3rd May, performances for one audience member at a time).

  • World premiere of soundscape, Music For Lectures/ Get lost, written and spoken by Wendy Houstoun with music by Jonathan Burrows, Francesca Fargion and Matteo Fargion. A funny and deeply moving podcast show, a new commission by GIFT, which invites audiences to listen to a short piece on lostness through the medium of a rock band, while walking or running in a moment of escape from the house, colliding travels with a virtual journey that goes nowhere. Music for Lectures: Get Lost is the third of an ongoing series conceived by Burrows and Fargion, inviting artists to deliver a talk, alongside band accompaniment (available across the festival, for download- Friday 1 May- Sunday 3 May).

  • Elision, by Icelandic artist Gudrun Soley Sigurdardottir - In a climate of division and disconnection, this live performance piece explores national identity through an attempt to stay warm in a fake tropical set. A funny and tender show, which invites the audience to work with materials and objects at home in the same way as planned for a live theatre space, and draws on autobiography, pop culture and ice in its many forms (Saturday 2 May, broadcast live from the artist’s home).

  • Audiences can enjoy two intimate Scratch performances by UK theatre makers Luca Rutherford and Greg Wohead, over lunch, followed by a facilitated feedback session, in a Scratch n’ Scran. Luca Rutherford presents a new work in progress performance about discovering quiet power in a moment of making a lot of noise. It is about the stories we tell, the ones that get retold and the ones we hide behind. The ones we have the power to re-make, re-mould and disrupt. It is an ARC Stockton Production co-commissioned by the Albany, Cambridge Junction and Theatre in the Mill. Greg Wohead’s In Floods is an early-stage reading of new material outlining the strange things that can happen when you unexpectedly return to where you came from, for two back-to-back funerals. The lump in your throat grows until there is no room for it (Saturday 2 May).

  • Intimate live performance installation ships-ov-fool, by writer-performer-artist and former Sage Gateshead summer studio resident, gobscure international, followed by a post-show conversation. In this new playful work, Newcastle-based gobscure weaves together storytelling, soundscapes and objects inspired by Hieronymous Bosch’s painting ‘Ship of Fools’, in which the artist once found temporary peace. This playful performance questions those currently shouting their sanity the loudest (Friday 1 May).

GIFT audiences will once again be at the forefront of the action this year, from the comfort of their own homes. They can book to be the sole participant in intimate interactive shows; workshop performance ideas; air and share views in lively talks and debates and enjoy drinks and chats with artists in GIFT’s virtual post show festival bar, from their own kitchens. Families can take a break from entertaining children with a fun-filled, Little GIFT House Party, offering hours of games and activities and the creative use of household items, run by family-focused company Chalk.

Interactive art works, events, talks, debates and workshops include:

  • MANIFESTOS FROM TIMES OF CRISIS - Scottish Artist Rosanna Irvine poses provocative questions about our responses to the current global pandemic, in a new participatory public art work, where groups of people connect across distances and differences to come up with their own collective future manifesto. Conceived during the current COVID19 outbreak, MANIFESTOS FROM TIMES OF CRISIS creates a virtual gathering space to reflect on what is happening, how we are living - and how we want to continue. Lively audience interaction guaranteed (Friday 1 May-Sunday 3 May).

  • International Working and Sustainability- GIFT Festival Director, Kate Craddock, joins a panel of guest speakers from arts venues and festivals across the world for a lively debate about working internationally, its environmental impact and how to create artistic projects more sustainably (Sunday 3 May).

  • The Atresbandes, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas post-show cocktail lounge- hold on to that Friday night theatre feeling, with a post-show cocktail party in GIFT’s online festival bar, hosted by Bert, Nasi and Atresbandes. Join the makers of IT DON”T WORRY ME for a post show cocktail, curated playlists and chat. Audiences are asked to bring their a-game small talk, internet connection, burning questions, sincere and insincere reactions to the show. The place to hang out for discerning theatre goers (Friday 1 May).

  • Making Intergenerational Stories: Where have I been, where am I now, where am I going?- CINAGE Live Director, Teresa Brayshaw, and performer and facilitator, Hannah Butterfield, host a talk, film screening and accompanying workshop designed to get people reflecting on their own experience of ageing. Based on two innovative and ongoing practice-based research projects, CINAGE: Film & CINAGE: Live, the session will encourage the telling of personal stories by older people through the creative practice of film writing and theatre making. The workshop will involve movement, speech and writing and is open to people of all ages, with priority booking for people in Gateshead (Saturday 2 May).

  • Exploring Process: A lively workshop led by Atresbandes, Bertrand Lesca and Nasi Voutsas, for theatre makers and artists working across performance disciplines, which sees the artists explore their own distinct methods for theatre making and the processes they encountered coming together to create ‘IT DON’T WORRY ME’ (Saturday 2 May).

GIFT Festival Director, Kate Craddock, said: “Amidst the devastating and hugely uncertain times that we face, we’re delighted to still be able to deliver GIFT as a digital experience for artists and audiences this May. Packed with new and experimental shows, sensory installations, practitioner workshops, provocative talks and plenty of fun social events, we aim to make GIFT as powerful as ever, and celebrate our tenth edition in style.

“The festival was created to remove barriers between artists and audiences, nurture creative communities and have fun together in the process. It gives a crucial platform to otherwise underrepresented North East contemporary artists and shares big ideas and creative responses to Gateshead, as a site of regeneration and transition.This year, more than ever before, we’re using GIFT’s spirit and energy as a vehicle for artistic communities, and the millions of people impacted by this pandemic, to come together, to inspire and encourage each other, maintain vital artistic conversations and champion our human resilience and creativity.

“To keep the buzz of an ephemeral real-time festival, events will be presented with their usual scheduled starts, audiences will have digital tickets and can enjoy after-show virtual drinks and chats in the festival bar. We’d love to see you this May for a very special GIFT 2020.”

All events will be hosted on Tickets are available to book, from Friday 10 April and audiences can make a Pay What You Decide donation to support this year’s festival here.

GIFT is supported by artists, funders and partners including Arts Council England, Gateshead Council and BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Join the GIFT conversation @GIFTfest


Notes to editor:

About GIFT:

Founded by Kate Craddock, GIFT was first established in 2011 to provide a platform for performance work which is not normally programmed in the region, and to offer professional development for contemporary theatre makers. GIFT serves as a creative and cultural response to the ongoing redevelopment of Gateshead, with activities connecting the regenerated Gateshead Quayside with the more commercially redeveloped town centre. It is the only festival dedicated to contemporary theatre in the North East. Organisers and participants see it as an important opportunity to bring high quality cultural activity to the area and to offer a showcase for North East artists.



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