Special screening of film about ‘forgetten’ city artist

A CRITICALLY-acclaimed film about a forgotten Sunderland artist is to get a special showing at The Fire Station later this month.

Typist Artist Pirate King will be screened at the venue on Tuesday, November 28, when the film’s director Carol Morley will take part in a Q&A session. The film is a fictionalised portrait of Audrey Amiss, an avant garde artist who studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in the 1950s,but was unable to finish her course after being hospitalised with mental illness.

Audrey was born to shopkeeper parents, attended Bede Grammar, and was in and out of psychiatric institutions throughout her life. She created art while also working as a typist for the Ministry of Labour and then at a dole office in London. She spent 30 years in the Civil Service and lived in Clapham for 50 years, 30 of which were with her mother Belle. Audrey never married.

Most of her artwork remained unseen until after her death, but she did occasionally submit work for exhibitions. Her work, which she invariably dated and explained, was mostly raw impressionistic impressions of her daily life, in oil, pastel or gouache.

Audrey, who died in 2013, left a large collection of art and writing that were discovered after her death and donated to the Wellcome Collection.

Typist Artist Pirate King focuses on a road trip Audrey (played by Monica Dolan) takes with her psychiatric nurse Sandra (Kelly McDonald) from London to her home city. Gina McKee plays Audrey’s sister Dorothy.

The film also features Sunderland ukulele players Dennis O’Brien and Charlie Lalley. The pair were spotted playing their instruments by Carol Morley at the bottom of the cat and dog steps while she was researching film locations, and the director wrote them into her script.

“It was an amazing experience, we spent a day on set and got to meet Monica and Kelly, who was an absolute diamond. I’d not heard about Audrey Amiss before Carol approached us, but I’ve seen the film and it’s fascinating,” said Dennis, who lives in Whitburn.

Dennis and Charlie played with the Sea Road- based Bojangles Ukulele group and the pair played when Typist Artist Pirate King was screened recently at the Tyneside Cinema.

“Carol has asked us to play again at The Fire Station on November 28, and of course, we said yes. I’ve played several times at the venue, and I’m looking forward to playing there again,” added Dennis.

Much of the movie was filmed in Sunderland and Seaham. The film’s title comes from Audrey’s passport listing for her occupation, and is inspired by the Wellcome Collection’s extensive archive of diaries, letters and art.

Typist Artist Pirate King is a dark and funny exploration of the growing friendship between Audrey and Sandra and is filled with adventure, humour and passion. The film had its world premiere last November at the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival and its UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival in March.

Sunderland Culture is presenting the November 28 screening, and the organisation’s Chief Executive Rebecca Ball said: “We’re delighted to be bringing the film – and its director – to Sunderland and to celebrate an overlooked artist who needs to be recognised for her talent.

“The film has a great cast and has had rave reviews – Sunderland film-goers will recognise many of its settings.”

The Q&A session with acclaimed British director Carol Morley will take place in The Fire Station auditorium after the screening of the film.

She said about the film: “I became obsessed by Audrey Amiss’s uncatalogued archive of paintings, sketches, scrapbooks and diaries. I vowed to make a film about her that would pay homage to her unique art and to her life, much of it spent with the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia.

“Audrey described her occupation in her passport as ‘Typist Artist Pirate King’. It seemed the absolutely appropriate title for the film. In a very contemporary way, Audrey was skilled in applying multiple identities to herself as well as others. And she often saw people as other people she had once known.

“This experience, referred to in psychiatry as ‘Delusional Misidentification Syndrome’, seemed a perfect way to replace typical film flashbacks: so the people that Audrey meets on the road become the people from her past.”

Tickets for the screening cost £11, and to book, go to https://sunderlandculture.org.uk/events/typist-artist-pirate-king/

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