Peter Mortimer’s dramatic new play for Cloud Nine is inspired by the life of the North Shields artist, Victor Noble Rainbird.
Pre-World War One, Rainbird looked set to be a leading light in the art world. A winner of numerous prizes and awards and the only northern artist to be accepted by the Royal Academy in 1911, his future looked assured. But the experiences of the war, his exposure to gas and the onset of shell shock took its toll on the talented painter.
Back in his native North East, though he continued to paint at a prodigious rate, Rainbird slid into poverty and alcoholism, forced to sell his work for liquor in the Shields hostelries. His marriage fell apart, he developed cancer and for 80 years he was buried in a pauper’s grave in Preston Cemetery until a recent appeal raised £6,500 for a proper headstone.
As Rainbird’s reputation is slowly re-established, this play, which spans both the painter’s lifetime and the present day, puts into context the life of an artist about whom it was said: ‘He was a born artist with all the faults and qualities of those possessed of the artistic mind – a race apart, not understood by ordinary folk.’
‘Rainbird’ has a cast of ten actors tackling 25 roles and though based mainly on the life of the artist himself, a part of the play is linked to the modern-day, focussing on the consequences when a modern Tyneside couple come across a self-portrait of the painter (none so far has been discovered).
The production marks the 20th anniversary of Cloud Nine Theatre, which only does new commissioned work and only from northern writers.
‘Rainbird’ runs from Monday 23rd to Saturday 28th April at The Exchange, North Shields. Tickets, priced at £10.00 (£8.00 for concessions), are available from ticketsource.co.uk/theexchange.