stage beyond’s bryan is tailor-made for theatrical life

Bryan Sutherland is not only outstanding in his lead roles with Stage Beyond, the award-winning theatre company for adults with learning disabilities supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, he also has a few other creative strings to his bow.

The dedicated local thespian specialises in custom-made theatrical style cloaks­­ which are all hand-stitched with meticulous attention to detail in the chosen fabrics and sophisticated embellishments.

Bryan Sutherland of Stage Beyond wearing his theatrical opera cloak. Credit ©Lorcan Doherty Photography

SCOTTISH HERITAge

Bryan’s impressive sartorial collection includes his favourite black velvet opera cloak which has graced the Royal Opera House in London. A green woollen winter cloak inspired by his Scottish heritage is emblazoned with the family crest and worn at gatherings of the clan in the Highlands.

He recently also made a child’s Batman cloak and is currently completing another one for a young member of Centre Stage and Beyond Outreach programme which is funded by BBC Children in Need.

GAme of thrones

As well as being a member of Stage Beyond, the resident theatre company at the Millennium Forum in Derry~Londonderry, Bryan occasionally works as an ‘extra’ on popular TV shows including HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’, BBC crime drama ‘Bloodlands’ and Channel 4 hit comedy, ‘Derry Girls’.

During downtime on set, he also stays productive by doing some needlework. “I’ll do a bit of sewing or patchwork, it just passes the time. You don’t know how long you are going to be at these events. I love Game of Thrones, but as an extra you are basically just a corpse in a field,” he joked.

Bryan attributes his tailoring talents to his mum Ruby, a skilled knitter and crafter. “I learnt from her since a wee bairn. I would make anything from cloth, I started making wee stocking fillers and felt items and moved on to T-shirts and then cloaks over the past 20 years.”

Bryan Sutherland pictured with his well travelled trusty sewing kit. Credit ©Lorcan Doherty Photography

“Being Scottish, a lot of my inspiration comes from the traditional cloaks worn in the old days which were much more suited to harsh weather than a nice, fancy jacket.  If they get ripped on a tree branch you can still repair a cloak better than a plastic windbreaker.”

Bryan is suitably proud of his black crushed velvet cloak with red satin inlay and colourful jewelled embellishments down each side. “That is my theatre cloak”, explained Bryan who has worn it at such illustrious venues as the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Belfast’s Grand Opera House.

Bryan’s special cloak has also made appearances in Stage Beyond productions. He wore it proudly as part of his costume for Marcel Proust in ‘The Memory Detective’, one of the company’s annual productions which was staged at the Millennium Forum in June 2019.

Cloaks have been worn as far back as Roman, ancient Egyptian and Celtic times. Bryan enjoys templating his own patterns, sourcing fabrics locally, and importing carefully selected woollen material from his beloved native Scotland.

Bryan Sutherland (centre) pictured with Stage Beyond colleague Bernie Shiels (right) and Niamh McCarron, graduate intern with the theatre company, all wearing his impressive hand made cloaks.

12 bespoke cloaks

The dedicated thespian also enjoys whiling away the hours at home in the Waterside area of the city with his tailoring. There are now around 12 bespoke cloaks in Bryan’s unique collection. “I just sit down and put the music on and it’s like free flow. Let the needle and thread go together, don’t rush it, because that is where you make mistakes.”

Bryan also produces his own Sutherland tartan kilts with help from a kilt maker teaching him the necessary skills. “I enjoy researching and trying to learn the old-fashioned techniques that people are no longer using to make garments that can last 10 or 15 years. If something is broken or torn, they just bin it. My father passed away last year, and he had a kilt for 30 years, it had more patches than tartan.”

“I just sit down and put the music on and it’s like free flow…..”

Bryan Sutherland – Stage Beyond member

tartan

Bryan is noted for his dapper outfits both on and off stage, and he doesn’t think twice about wearing them out in public on special occasions, such as the recent National Tartan Day.

As for people’s reactions, he says: “I’m so used to it. People stop and take photos and I say it is just normal. People are just used to me now. I wear clothing for practicality, not for fashion. I’m proud of who I am, if you don’t know where you come from then you don’t know where you are going.”

Bryan Sutherland and Frank Nelis of Stage Beyond Theatre Company wearing two of the fabulous cloaks.

tHE great dictator

Bryan will be among the Stage Beyond cast starring in their next production, ‘The Great Dictator’ at the Millennium Forum on Wednesday, June 15th, 2022 at 7.30pm. Book your tickets here