The wealth of heritage found in Cornwall offers a unique gift in the form of community theatre. When there are such rich, dramatic, playful and powerful stories to tell from the collected history and culture of a place, the creativity that stems from it is distinctive and powerful.
Cornwall has long been a place that has drawn and inspired artists and creatives. The drama of the landscape, the pride and the strong identity of Cornish culture make compelling material for any artist. Whether a painting studio at Porthmeor, the concrete slabs of the Minack Theatre, The Mine Shafts at Heartlands or the fields and streets of Cornwall – the artist backdrop and scenery is already there and waiting.
When the world of publishing changed and the giant spectres of Amazon, Kindle and E-Book looked likely to extinguish the physical book trade, a remarkable thing happened. Instead of turning into the grey ash of an extinguished fire, books became things of beauty once again. Attention and budgets were spent on making books with covers, editions, page leaves and sleeves so decorated, gilded and skillfully illustrated, that the world remembered what treasures they held in books.
When a community is changed, expanded and altered, the desire to capture and embrace a heritage and culture results in both a need and celebration of storytelling. In sharing the stories of communities, incorporating the voices, characters, memories and people of a place, you can hold onto it once more. Museums curate the stories and theatre companies tell them with the imagination and creativity of great art. It is a moment of beauty in the fear and tension, it is a celebration of those communities past, present and to come – Community Theatre in Cornwall can be the pearls, cushioned in the protective crags and sharp edges of the murkiest oyster shells.
Here are some of the companies who have done it best and the ones to watch.
Golden Tree Productions
The Man Engine
Awarded ‘Best Arts Project 2016’ by The National Lottery, this production saw the largest mechanical puppet ever constructed in Britain and a ‘pilgrimage through the mining landscape and communities of Cornwall’. Conceptualised by Will Coleman, The Man Engine brought the highest drama to the streets of uk and united communities with its heart, laments and exaltation. A true wonder to behold and spectacular modern legacy to a powerful history.
A landscape theatre company that truly works the wild locations and landscapes for its stage. From creating theatre that is immersive to the space it is set in to integrating communities in their stories retold. Wildworks do not just take inspiration from the drama of the landscape it works in but brings it into the stories themselves. As a theatre company, they do not shy away from the scale of the setting but instead, audiences can follow the story far and wide across the fields, cliffs and sea.
Meet Me At The Edge is Wildworks current evolving production since lockdown.
A Cornish Company focused on storytelling and theatre for families and young audiences, this company is passionate about sharing Cornish stories. Playful and beautiful productions such as The Mousehole Cat, established the company’s place in the heart of Cornwall’s creative community.
Although not strictly a theatre company in the traditional sense, this company will be producing some of the most important theatre work in a post Covid-19 Cornwall. Created in response to the pandemic and the opportunity it provided to reflect and rethink how theatre is made and run, this company will be working with artists and creatives to generate new work. Community focus is at the heart of this company and with the calibre of the team behind imPOSSIBLE, this is an exciting time for the future of theatre.