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Exeter Northcott to present the world premiere of The Commotion Time

The Commotion Time artwork: A young woman wearing historical clothing (white shirt under a yellow dress) is seen from neck to waist. In her outstretched hands she holds a miniature Gildhouse, set atop a mound of grassy earth. The earth falls through her fingers.

We are delighted to announce the world premiere of The Commotion Time, a compelling tale of insurrection, love, and desperation by South West-based playwright Sarah Dickenson.

The Play

It’s February 1547, soon after the death of Henry VIII. On the Cornwall/Devon border, the people of Poundstock are looking forward to completing their biggest ever community project: the Gildhouse, a state-of-the-art building for brewing, fundraising and feasting. But there are dangerous clouds on the horizon as the authorities in Exeter force through an array of reforms set to drive division into the heart of the community.

As bellies empty, society fractures and the Gildhouse’s key is taken away, the people take action in the only way left to them; marching to Exeter in their thousands to challenge the king and finally be heard.

An important local story, The Commotion Time celebrates the extraordinary coming together of people, both past and present, and will be told by a large ensemble of local performers, alongside seven professional actors.


The landmark production represents both the welcome return of Exeter Northcott’s professional, home-produced drama, and the first production directed for our theatre by our new Creative Director, Martin Berry; both a reclaiming of past tradition, and a decisive step into the future. Martin will bring extensive experience, having directed forty-nine different productions across the UK.

We are beyond thrilled to present this world premiere of Sarah’s wonderful play. It speaks to today, through an incredible moment in our history. It is both about the community and for the community. We hope very much that people from all over Exeter and the South West will take part through the very many ways to get directly involved.

Martin Berry, Creative Director and Joint Chief Executive of Exeter Northcott

The Playwright

Martin will be working alongside Sarah Dickenson, a writer and dramaturg from North Cornwall with over two decades of experience developing new plays nationally and internationally.

Much of Sarah’s work has a strong sense of place. Her playwriting credits include PowerPlay, a propulsive historical dramatization of the Tudor court performed at Hampton Court Palace, in the very rooms where its characters once lived. Her radio play, North Ealing, was produced by Theatre503 as part of their Urban Scrawl project – a series of plays inspired by each stop on the Piccadilly Line.

As a dramaturg, she has worked with the Minack Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Theatre Bristol, Hall for Cornwall, Plymouth Theatre Royal, Shakespeare North, Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, the Royal National Theatre, Liverpool Everyman, Theatre Royal Bath, the Almeida Theatre, Shakespeare’s Globe and many more.

She has worked with such generation-defining writers as Chris Bush (Standing at the Sky’s Edge), Duncan Macmillan (Lungs; People, Places and Things), Charlotte Josephine (Cowbois; I, Joan), Lucinda Coxon (The Danish Girl; Alys Always), Phil Porter (The Boy with Two Hearts), Alice Birch (Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.; Anatomy of a Suicide), Beth Steel (The House of Shades; Labyrinth), Fin Kennedy (How to Disappear Completely and Never Be Found), to name but a few.

While building her illustrious career nurturing the voices of up-and-coming creatives, Sarah has been working on The Commotion Time, giving voice to the women at the centre of a story that still shapes our city and region today.

Discount for Local Residents

As well as inviting local performers to audition, we are proud to offer all Devon and Cornwall residents 25% off tickets for the opening night on Fri 18 Oct.

We invite you to support and experience this remarkable local story of love, passion, murder, kings, queens, battles and more, told with humour and live music, for all.

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