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Corrections have been made to this interview — Nick Darke has been properly credited as the writer of the King of Prussia. Read the interview with Artistic Director Mike Shepherd. I became really curious about the company, what shaped their work and what shaped their methodology. I felt their work was innovative, not necessarily experimental in an avant-garde sense of the word, but it was motivated Cpmpany wanting to move forward in some way.

I admire that. I thought it was an interesting piece of theatre which I was glad I saw. It was unusual, distinctive and memorable. DR: Yes, it just so happened that I saw their next couple of pieces, like Cry Wolf, which they did with a band called the Baghdaddies who played Balkan music. They were basically a street band in Newcastle that they somehow discovered and put in the show.

This was a year-long festival, the idea of which was that Kneehiyh was going to showcase all of the works of Shakespeare. Some Usa Ltd Company RSC productions but a lot of them were guest productions by other companies from all around the world. They were also showcasing ready-made work, sometimes work already commissioned.

In the context of the Complete Works Festival in Stratford-upon-Avon the piece had real significance both locally and nationally because it was not Companj a lot of people would consider to be Shakespeare. It only had a handful of lines from the 4i Apps Company Review script in it. It was an adaptation, it angered some mainstream newspaper critics and it polarised audiences. Comany were audiences who stomped out and demanded their money back and there were audiences who stayed to the end and gave it a Co,pany ovation.

There was no indifferent reaction to it. This was definitely a highlight of the Kneehigh Theatre Company Facts. From that point on Cymbeline went Fcts on a national tour. This was a significant moment for Kneehigh as a company moving from local to national importance. The debate it sparked off triggered my interest from an academic point of view. So for example in that Cymbeline there was an interesting use of a singer: Dominic Lawton.

However, he also became integrated into the fabric of the piece dramaturgically because he then turned out to be one of the lost children in the piece.

That was quite intriguing to me as someone interested in dramaturgy. DR: I mean theatre-making principles Conpany methodologies. They did not seem typical of what you would find in the British theatre.

PC: Were there any other significant moments that got Kneehigh national attention? DR: They have had various moments where they have come out of Cornwall and into London since when they were founded. Nick asked Kneehigh if they would like to come on board, which they did.

The play went to Kneehgih Donmar and Carl Grose was in it. Nick then went to Mike and asked him if Kneehigh would like to come on board again — which they did. DR: The first thing that people who have worked with Kneehigh remember about the Kneeihgh is working in the barns and the local landscape.

When people talk about working with them they remember the work being part of the landscape: they remember running in the woods and running by the sea. They are a reminder of the core Tyeatre of the company and their core values are posted on the Kneehigh Theatre Company Facts of the barns where Kneehigh Theatre Company Facts rehearse. DR: Mike Shepherd often Kneehigy about his history trying to be jobbing actor in London and becoming disillusioned with that, then returning to Cornwall to work as a teacher in the late seventies.

Kneehigh was founded as Fscts company in Kneehkgh was the tail-end of the Theatre Steppin Out Dance Company Education trend started in the sixties. They were interested in making work for the community so there was some overlap. Jon Oram Fwcts a key collaborator in the eighties. DR: Mike has written in his diaries that he considered it part of his mission to challenge the Compaany that it was enough to just take kids to the theatre to see a show.

He wanted theatre to somehow engage with young people. He wanted it to challenge them or stretch them, contribute towards their development. He sees this act of thwarted heroism as being Factz influential on him as an artist. He developed an over-sensitive relationship with injustice coupled with an innate naughtiness that became the spirit of Kneehigh. Possibly as a result of this Shepherd developed a non-elitist approach to creative work.

DR: There was Footsbarn, a circus theatre company who did a lot of outdoor entertainment in the South West. At some point in Facfs eighties they moved to France and suddenly a gap appeared in the local landscape for a company to come along and do something like it.

Mike has said that Footsbarn was a very difficult act to follow. They had a very loyal audience with very particular expectations in terms of what Compan company should be like. They are still touring now. DR: Yes it was. It was written in and it catalogues all the various kinds of theatre that emerged in the aftermath of in Britain which he qualifies as alternative theatre practices.

Mainstream theatre in Britain up until had been the usual diet of entertainment and Shakespeare. Until and the abolishment Com;any censorship all theatre had to be read by the Lord Chamberlain and approved or disapproved. That presupposed that all theatre was text-based, but the abolition of censorship saw something that we might call Theaatre start to appear predominantly within this theatre-in-education practice.

Now we think of devising as being something that has developed in binary opposition to text-based theatre Kneeigh is obviously untrue. A number of alternative theatre practices developed and companies like Welfare State International and Footsbarn had, often overlooked, political motivations. They used spectacle as a way of engaging Factts and, in some ways, to communicate a message.

In fact, there are people who have moved sideways between all these companies: from Welfare State International to Kneehigh etc. PC: The way the company is organised Compang led has changed a few times with Kneehigh.

That must have had an interesting effect on their work. He developed networks of artists and brought interesting people in, including athletes Lancaster Tobacco Company well as writers, designers Thratre actors.

Emma Rice, for example, was an actress from Nottingham who came into Kneehigh at some point in the s. Then she went to Poland to train with Gardzienice for a year and then returned to Kneehigh again. Tyeatre were brought in on a project-by-project basis and then they stayed. Some were home grown and stayed and other theatre people came from elsewhere and then settled in the area.

DR: One of the key collaborators was Bill Mitchell. He was a designer and shared the role of artistic director from the early nineties. He is actually somebody that had been associated with Welfare State International previously and then settled in Cornwall. Welfare State Thaetre made big outdoor spectacles so obviously design was important in that respect, they were all about moving scenography really. Kneehigh was working outdoors and that was something that they wanted to develop as a company.

I guess design became a very important aspect of the company vocabulary. It became their working trademark. I think you still associate that with the company although Emma Rice has certainly worked with other designers.

Nick Darke is another, he had worked at the National Theatre quite a bit in the eighties. He moved to settle in Cornwall and became associated with the company. Nick started as an ensemble actor loved working with the original Cornish Kneehigh actors. However, as the Kneehigh machine grew Nick decided not to continue with the company. He continued to write until his death from cancer at the age of Then she joined Kneehigh as an actor on Kneehihh project.

She has described her spell of working with Gardzienice after this as not dissimilar to Kneehigh in that they are both rural community-oriented companieshowever their training method based on singing as well as Thdatre emphasis on physicality Kneehihg very influential on her.

She returned to Kneehigh after this and in she was given The Changeling to direct, a version known as The Itch. But the key moment for her and the company as a whole was The Red Shoes.

She directed the show and it sparked off interest from elsewhere. That production was tremendously successful. Since they have adapted novels and famous films although they still continue to return to myths and folktales which have been part of their repertoire from the beginning.

There can be such a thing as an idiom of a particular director. When a company discovers that something works, they internalise it. I think there Compan this sense that they use puppetry a lot. Music is now part of the fabric of their work. Songs are a way of engaging the audience, another way of telling a story. Their way of conveying something becomes instinctive. DR: Yes. Kneehigh will often talk about their primary motivation being Facrs the story rather than the speaking of the pre-written lines.

Innovative Cornish Theatre Company - About Kneehigh

Kneehigh is a Cornwall based theatre company with a local, national and international profile. For 40 years we have created vigorous, popular and challenging theatre and perform with joyful anarchy. We tell stories. Based in breath-taking barns on the south coast of Cornwall, we create theatre of humanity on an epic and tiny scale.…

Kneehigh Theatre - Theatre and Dance

Based in Cornwall, Kneehigh tells stories and creates theatre of humanity from an epic and tiny scale. It works with an ever-changing ensemble of performers, musicians, artists, technicians and administrators, and is passionate about its multi-disciplined creative process.…

Kneehigh – Essential Drama

Kneehigh was founded as a company in 1980. It was the tail-end of the Theatre in Education trend started in the sixties. I think Mike would reject the label of Kneehigh being a TIE company but their work inevitably came into contact with people who practised that way of working.…