Reflections On: Northcott Work Experience Week

Over five days, five talented students immersed themselves in the world of theatre at the Northcott and Barnfield.

They explored every part of the theatre creation process, from learning about production financing to gaining hands-on insights into the technical wizardry that happens behind the scenes, with the support of the Northcott team and an exciting range of industry professionals.

We caught up with work experience participants Evie and Harry about what they discovered and enjoyed during the week.

What was work experience week at the Northcott like?

Evie: “The week at the Northcott Theatre was a lot of fun. We met professionals from all sides of the theatre and in groups worked together to create a pitch on Dennis Kelly’s DNA. We had a workshop with Katy Dash from Paddleboat, an Exeter theatre group, and she talked about budgeting and funding. We also had workshops with staff from the Northcott and Barnfield Theatres employed in tech, design, and marketing.”

Harry: “My work experience week at the Northcott involved meeting those in and around the theatres and visualising how their input allows the creative side of the theatre to be run.”

Exeter Northcott Work Experience Week 2023 photo. White-walled dressing room. A mixed group of young people and adult tutors take part in a model theatre set building workshop.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead
Exeter Northcott Work Experience Week 2023 photo. Theatre stage. Black backdrop. A young boy wearing a black Adidas tracksuit lowers a steel ladder covered with yellow fabric onto another young person wearing a black and white-pattered hoodie. The other young person is holding onto a sheet of white fabric, attached to a steel pole held by a young woman wearing a grey hoodie.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead

What did you work on through the week?

Evie: “Throughout the week we worked in groups to produce and design a performance of Dennis Kelly’s DNA. We had to decide on matters such as: whether we wanted to tour or not; how much we were going to spend; costume, set, lighting and sound; marketing strategies. We used the guidance from our workshops to help us make good decisions when working on our pitches.”

Harry: “Throughout the week we applied what we were learning about the different departments to an overall project where we had to plan and account for all aspects of putting on our own performance on a given script – in this case we were given Dennis Kelly’s DNA script and we were split into two groups to plan and devise all practical, technical, financial and creative aspects of the performance.”

Which part of the week did you enjoy the most?

Evie: “Being able to have a go at using the industry-level lighting desk was one of my most enjoyable moments from the week. As a group we had to set the transition from shipwreck to island from The Tempest, and as the group was on stage, I was able to design the lighting states for this transition. Technician Sam helped me programme the states, he let me use the control keypad to type in commands to programme the lights myself.”

Harry: “For me, the most enjoyable aspects of the week was seeing and learning about everything more behind the scenes and hidden from the audience – including everything from our talks with those in a position of particular interest to our close-up inspection of the technical aspects such as hands-on attempts at the flys and looking at the lights and soundboard.”

Exeter Northcott Work Experience Week 2023 photo. White wall backdrop. A young woman wearing a brown T-shirt smiles while controlling a theatre lighting mixing desk. To their right, a Dell desktop monitor.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead
Exeter Northcott Work Experience Week 2023 photo. White-walled dressing room. A black radiator. A young boy wearing a black Adidas tracksuit jacket with three white stripes on each sleeve smiles as they organise clothes pegs onto a green sheet of paper, in preparation for building a model theatre set. To their right, another young boy wearing a black T-shirt watches them.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead
Did you learn anything new?

Evie: “From the week I learnt so much about how the theatre runs, and how shows market, budget and design appropriately for their performances. Learning about the Audience Spectrum, and how to advertise to your preferred audience, was hugely important for us to learn how to market to different groups. Learning about finding the money to fund our performances was also important; we had to come up with many workshops, community events and private events to raise the money.”

Harry: “I learnt a lot of new things during my work experience placement, such as in-depth looks at how shows can be made on large and small budgets and how these can differ and how all involved may put in more work to see their performance become a success. Similarly, I learnt a lot about how the different types of lighting and sound are used and the rules that surround them.”

Would you recommend the Northcott’s work experience week?

Evie: “Listening to and learning from professionals at the Northcott and Barnfield theatres, and collaborating with new-found friends was a bunch of fun. I would definitely recommend the programme to anyone who wants to learn about what’s involved in the theatre industry.”

Harry: “Yes, I certainly would recommend the Northcott work experience programme to others as not only was it thoroughly enjoyable, but it also actually gave us a chance to feel involved in the theatre and gave us something to work on for the entirety of the week that was fun, and encouraged us to work together and apply what we had learnt.”

Exeter Northcott Work Experience Week 2023 photo. Theatre stage. Black backdrop. A young boy wearing a black T-shirt smiles. Behind him, another young boy wearing a black Adidas tracksuit watches the smiling boy in amazement while holding onto a metal bar. The metal bar is holding up a white curtain attached to a steel ladder.
Photo by Ralph Whitehead

We will announce more information about our 2024 Work Experience Programme in September.

Read more about our work experience opportunities

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Our specialised programmes transform the lives of young people in Devon, supporting their creativity and helping them to explore and understand issues that are relevant to them. Please support us to continue this vital work.

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