July 2019

31 July 2019

Northcott brings D/deaf and disabled writers together to create new plays

Three playwrights came together at the Northcott to create new 60-minute plays as part of a programme to develop D/deaf and disabled writing talent.

Daisy Higman, Kellan Frankland and Anita MacCallum were selected to take part in Graeae’s renowned Write to Play initiative after a call for artists last summer.

Over the course of one year, the programme will help five South West artists to each write and develop a full-length play through collaboration with some of the most creative minds in the industry.

The trio have completed an intensive three-day workshop in a Northcott studio space this week, turning ideas into draft scripts.

Josh Elliot, who has been running the workshop, said it had been the most successful in his time since joining Graeae.

“Giving people the time and space to write is really valuable,” he added.

“Writing can be quite lonely so the fact that everyone is from the South West encourages people to make alliances. It is a tough industry but if we help each other we can amplify each other’s voices.”

Left to right: writers Daisy Higman, Anita MacCallum, Kellan Frankland and facilitator Paula B Stanic.

Daisy Higman, from Plymouth, who is writing about the way atheists process grief around the loss of loved ones, said Graeae’s support was invaluable.

“Writing can be quite an isolating experience, particularly being a disabled artist, so it is really good to be part of a network of people with which to share your passion and experience,” she explained.

“My piece, which has a working title Nest, is about two people who are experiencing grief and how we process the loss of someone as an atheist without belief in the afterlife.

“There are a lot of birds in it.”

Fellow writer Kellan Frankland has been working on her own idea about two long-time friends who fall out completely over the Brexit vote while Anita MacCallum is producing a play about teenagers and social media.

“We have outlined ten scenes and spent our time speed writing through them to see what works and what doesn’t,” Anita added.

“I have got two teens so having space and time and being around who understand what I am talking about is really valuable.”

This is the sixth year of Graeae’s renowned Write to Play programme, run in partnership with Bristol Old Vic, Exeter Northcott Theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Wiltshire Creative, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Ustinov Studio at Theatre Royal Bath.

The first five years have developed the skills of twenty-five playwrights, many of whom have gone on to have work produced professionally.

In August 2017, Graeae and the Royal Exchange Theatre produced for the first time a full length play from a Write to Play graduate.

Cosmic Scallies by Jackie Hagan (from year 2 of the programme) premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017, followed by a run at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

Both runs played to sell-out houses, 4-star reviews and audience acclaim.

The year-long programme includes Playwriting 101 (an intensive craft-focused playwriting course), specialist workshops, mentoring sessions and opportunities to have short pieces of work performed in front of an audience.

The programme will not only provide the writers with the opportunity to develop their skills, it will also introduce a new generation of D/deaf and disabled playwrights to the wider theatre landscape.

Click here to read more about the other writers and partners from the previous five years of the programme.

The Write to Play programme (incorporating Play Labs and Play Chats) is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Arts Council England and Backstage Trust.

03 July 2019

Young actors get masterclass from Sir Ian McKellen after generous donor buys five tickets for Exeter show

Five lucky teenagers were handed the chance to meet acting legend Sir Ian McKellen after a regular theatregoer offered free tickets to his sold-out show at Exeter Northcott Theatre.

The celebrated actor announced he was bringing his 80th birthday tour to raise money to help support emerging artists and the show sold out almost immediately.

Exeter solicitor Endurance Arthur managed to secure tickets for the Exeter date and – inspired by Sir Ian’s mission to help the next generation of performers – decided to buy five extra tickets and give them to young people.

Three members of the Northcott Young Company had their names drawn from a hat and two students from Exeter College’s Performance Academy were hand-picked for their hard work and dedication.

Endurance, a partner at Tozers who also leads her firm’s charity and social responsibility team, said it was a spur of the moment decision as she was booking her family’s seats for the July 1 charity performance.

She said: “At that moment I realised I had the opportunity to make a real difference to young people who might not be able to experience the sort of things my own children can.”

The gesture came as the Northcott launched a ‘pay it forward’ appeal to give away 1,000 free panto tickets to families who would not otherwise be able to go to the theatre.

Sir Ian took to the stage on Monday, July 1 to announce the initiative, which match funds every £1 donated and provides one free ticket for each £7.50 paid forward.

He then personally collected more than £1,100 in bucket donations as the audience left the theatre – enough to pay for almost 150 panto tickets.

Endurance hopes that her “pay it forward” act will inspire others to do something similar by calling call the Box Office on 01392 72 63 63 or visiting www.exeternorthcott.co.uk/christmas-giving.

Sir Ian returned to the Northcott 50 years after his first appearance as Marlowe’s Edward II in 1969.

Esther Kenig, aged 17, May Housego, 14, Natasha Pavey, 17, Bradley Swinbank, 16, and Noah Ricketts, 15, were among the packed house for the three-hour show.

Afterwards, Sir Ian he took time to chat to the young actors and pose for a photo.

Noah Ricketts, 15, said it had been inspirational to see such a big name and amazing to get acting tips.

“I really enjoyed the whole experience – seeing someone like Sir Ian gave a unique perspective and I felt I learned something just by watching him delivering lines,” he added.

“During the show, he talked about the element of luck in his career and how sometimes it is down to being in the right place at the right time as much as talent and experience.

“Afterwards when he told us about the learning from others – taking on techniques and incorporating them into your repertoire

“He also talked about the importance of regional theatre and the Young Company – lots of opportunities are in London and down here it can be hard to get involved at a high level

“We all found it inspirational and were a little bit awestruck – it was incredibly exciting, like meeting someone from fantasy.”

Artistic and Executive Director Daniel Buckroyd thanked Endurance for the kindness and said the group had been given a masterclass in performing.

“The show was a fascinating journey through an amazing career which has seen almost everything – from youth production to amateur dramatics, through repertory theatre, the RSC to panto and Hollywood blockbusters,” he added.

“To hear all that in one evening along with brilliantly performed Shakespearian monologues, songs and poetry is a rare experience and something to be treasured by everyone who was there.

“It was an extremely thoughtful and generous act by Endurance, and one that these young people will never forget.”


02 July 2019

Sir Ian McKellen launches ‘pay it forward’ appeal to give away 1,000 free panto tickets to families with bucket collection

Exeter Northcott Theatre has launched a campaign to help low-income families enjoy Christmas with free pantomime tickets.

The festive give-away aims to hand out 1,000 tickets for the ambitious new production of Beauty and the Beast, which opens on November 30.

Under the initiative, the public are asked to contribute towards a ticket for someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to go.

Every £1 donated will be match funded, so for every £7.50 raised, one £15 ticket will be given to families.

The offer was launched yesterday (July 1) by stage and screen star Sir Ian McKellen, as part of his nationwide charity tour.

Sir Ian McKellen collecting donations for ‘pay it forward’ at the Northcott

The actor, whose 80th birthday tour is raising money to help support emerging artists, announced the ‘pay it forward’ scheme from the stage at the end of his show.

Sir Ian kick-started the campaign by personally collecting more than £1,100 in donations as the audience left the theatre – enough to pay for almost 150 panto tickets.

Artistic and Executive Director Daniel Buckroyd is to write and direct Beauty and the Beast, the first time the show has been staged at the theatre.

He said: “I love the way that panto can bring families and friends together at Christmas and I am thrilled to be continuing the tradition of great Northcott pantos with Beauty and the Beast.

“However, we all know that the festive period can be hard for struggling families so we want to help as many people as possible to experience some theatrical magic

“I would urge anyone who feels able to afford it to donate a free ticket and we will make sure that generosity is doubled.”

Over the past few years, the Northcott – which is a registered charity – has worked with local organisations to allow families to take their children to the panto.

The latest plan doubles the numbers from the previous two years, when 500 tickets were given away through the housing association Live West and the community network Home Start.

Sir Ian is visiting small and large theatres with which he has personal connections, including amateur groups he knew as a child and notable playhouses he has played in as a professional actor.

He returned to the Northcott 50 years after his first appearance as Marlowe’s Edward II in 1969.

Proceeds from the performance will go to support young and emerging artists in Exeter – a cause which is championed by the Northcott’s Creative Learning and Associate programmes.

Sir Ian, who met a group from the Northcott’s Young Company after the show, said the donations would help some people experience the magic of theatre for the first time.

Salcombe Dairy, which has been now been producing ice cream in Devon for 40 years, returned to become the Northcott’s sole supplier in 2018.

Co-owner Dan Bly said: “We have supported the Northcott over many years but more recently have focussed our support on their charity works.

“We passionately believe in the virtuous circle of investing in the local community such that the local community will invest in you.

“This year we will be supporting the Northcott’s giving of tickets to low income families to enable their children to enjoy the magic of the pantomime, and have a number of further ventures planned into 2020.”

Anyone who wishes to donate a ticket can call the Box Office on 01392 72 63 63 or they can visit exeternorthcott.co.uk/christmas-giving and the theatre will add a second seat.