05 April 2018

Associate companies programme – the story so far

The Exeter Northcott Theatre returned to producing its own work in 2015.

The following year, a new programme to stage exciting new plays was launched, making Le Navet Bête, Metta Theatre and PaddleBoat Theatre associate companies .

This year sees the addition of the latest partner when Ara, the newly formed company led by stage and TV star Tom Burke, premieres Don Carlos which is hoped to be the first of many classical dramas.

The associate programme, which was designed to support young companies with a strong local connection into the midscale, provides artistic mentorship, production management support, tour booking, education support, marketing and sales planning and support with bid writing.

It has already led to a string of unique productions since its launch in 2016 and more are in the pipeline.

The award-winning Le Navet Bête are an Exeter-based troupe of clowns whose high energy, spectacular and hilarious shows have wowed audiences globally.

Photography by Mark Dawson

They have staged Dick Tracey at the Northtcott and opened Dracula: The Bloody Truth, a riotous show which went on a national tour and is now licensed worldwide.

A new adaptation of the Three Musketeers is currently being commissioned as a coproduction with the theatre and is set to open in 2019.

The inventive and ground-breaking Metta have also made an impact, fusing street-dance, skateboards and rap to bring an acclaimed version of Kipling’s Jungle Book to the Northcott in 2016.

The innovative company then added a 21st century twist to another children’s classic in April 2018 with a circus version of Little Mermaid, which casts a strong female lead and a handsome prince in touch with his feminine side.

Little Mermaid, Metta Theatre. Photo by Robert Day
Little Mermaid, Metta Theatre. Photo by Robert Day

A forthcoming adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows takes the riverbank to the ‘hood in 2019 with the radical In the Willows – The Hip-Hop Musical, a co-production with the Northcott.

The imaginative children’s theatre company, PaddleBoat – a key player in the theatre’s education and outreach programme – stage its delightful tale of imaginary friendship, Margo & Mr Whatsit, in May 2018.

A new and immersive co-production of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, for young children and those with additional needs, is in the early stages and will hopefully be performed around the Christmas pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk.

Paul Jepson, the theatre’s artistic and executive director, said: “We launched this scheme as an investment in the future and it is already paying dividends.

“These bright young companies are committed to the South West and we’re helping them to flourish in the midscale.

“The partnership with Ara is quite a coup for the theatre and makes us the focus point for Tom Burke’s stage work.”

Poppy Burton-Morgan, of Metta Theatre, which will leave the programme next year, said: “Our time as Associates at the Northcott has been instrumental in cementing our reputation across the sector as a midscale touring company making exceptional and original work.

“As we ‘graduate’ from the scheme in 2019 to make space for other companies to benefit from the incredible support the Northcott offers you can be sure Metta will still return to the theatre for many more years to come.

“We remain indebted to Paul and the organisation for everything they’ve helped us to achieve and create together, over these three years.”