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Mission Statement We are the nation’s rural theatre company. We tour new plays to village halls and theatres, telling stories with local relevance and national impact.

Table of Contents 03

The Year in Numbers


Chair’s Statement


Artistic Director’s Statement


2015/16 Programme


The Lone Pine Club


Red Sky At Night


This Land


Every Brilliant Thing


Young Writers


Channel 4 Playwright


Pentabus Studio


Our Audience




Environmental Policy


Our Partners and Funders

03 National tours

01 Festival of new writing

The year in numbers





Site responsive tour


Audience members






Facebook followers

Twitter followers

Youtube visits

Website visits

“Pentabus are one of British theatre’s many unsung treasures: not flashy or fashionable but quietly nurturing a steady stream of talented writers and directors, and offering rural audiences superb touring shows.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

Chair’s Report

In my first year as Chair at Pentabus it gives me great pleasure to report on yet another successful year which has seen the company touring throughout the UK and reaching more audiences than ever before, over 18,000 in 2015/16, an increase of over 1,000 people on the previous year. The range of the company’s work has been extensive with partnerships with different organisations enabling the company to perform in different locations and across the world: The Lone Pine Club for example, adapted by Alice Birch, toured to outside locations across the UK in partnership with the National Trust whilst Every Brilliant Thing a co-production with Paines Plough, continued to attract enthusiastic responses from audiences as far afield as Australia and New Zealand. We continue to build on the success of our Young Writers initiative with Red Sky at Night being performed at Ludlow Fringe and the Latitude Festival; in addition to the live performances, a further 400 audience members have listened to the podcasts online. Support for writers continues to be at the heart of Pentabus’ work and we were delighted to welcome Tim Foley as our third Channel 4 Writer in Residence. Receiving this grant for the third year in a row was a very welcome surprise and a successful hat trick, demonstrating recognition of our expertise in and support for emerging playwrights. 2015–16 was the first year of our current round of funding under Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Scheme. As ever we acknowledge the significant support that the company receives from Arts Council

England as well as from a range of Trusts and Foundations. In 2015–16 three year core funding was received from the Monument Trust to extend the company’s touring activity; from the Elmley Foundation to establish a promoter group, engaging promoters in writing and play development, whilst funding was also achieved from the Garfield Weston Trust for the second time. Individual supporters were also generous, donating almost £2,000 through a Crowd Funding Initiative towards the Lone Pine tour. The year saw some changes at Board level with Diane Lennan stepping down as Acting Chair. Our thanks go to Diane who has been an excellent Chair over the past year providing extensive support and advice to both board members and the staff. Kate Organ resigned from the Board during the year and our thanks must also go to her as a Board member and former Chair for helping steer the company in recent years. Francesca Spickernell took maternity leave during the year and was replaced by Kitty Ross. All the Pentabus team have worked tirelessly and with their customary commitment and skill during the year and on behalf of the Board I would like to thank them for ensuring the continued success of the company. Finally our thanks must go as ever to all our funders and supporters: Arts Council England, Esmee Fairbairn, Garfield Weston, Millichope Foundation, The Monument Trust, The Elmley Foundation, the Garrick Charitable Trust, Golsoncott Foundation, The Weinstock Fund, Shropshire Council and Channel 4.

Artistic Director’s Report “We received overwhelmingly positive audience feedback over the year, as we worked with our partners, team and funders to develop and deliver fantastic new plays to all four corners of the country.” Elizabeth Freestone Artistic Director

The year saw us travel further than ever before, clocking up the miles as we set about our mission to reach people in rural communities with exciting, challenging new theatre made especially for them. We considerably expanded both the range and footprint of our work, touring new plays to new venues, new counties and even new countries. After last year’s looking back for the company’s 40th birthday, this year was about looking forward. Alongside this we also embedded the ideas that will be the mainstay of the company’s work for years to come – nationwide village hall touring, visiting new areas with each tour. Giving young writers their first ever professional productions through our now annual Young Writers Programme. And developing new audiences in rural areas by pairing artists and audiences right from the beginning of the creative process. We received overwhelmingly positive audience feedback over the year, as we worked with our partners, team and funders to develop and deliver fantastic new plays to all four corners of the country. Thank you to everyone who came to our shows and supports our work. The best new plays are made in the countryside.

2015/16 Programme


We are determined to prove that living in the countryside should not be a barrier to accessing quality live theatre and so we toured new work to new places throughout the year. The artistic programme included many firsts – a first show made specifically for young people with The Lone Pine Club; a first co-production of a village hall tour with Salisbury Playhouse on This Land; a first international tour with Every Brilliant Thing; and a first podcast series (as we continue to develop our digital work) with Red Sky At Night. We examined serious issues such as fracking as well as playful ideas such as kids going wild in the great outdoors. We also continued the depth and range of our work with playwrights, commissioning new plays, developing new ideas and welcoming a new writer in residence for the year.

The Lone Pine Club Adapted by Alice Birch, A Pentabus Theatre Company production, in partnership with the National Trust, the Malcolm Saville Society and the Malcolm Saville Estate

We commissioned award winning playwright Alice Birch to create a new play based on the children’s books by Malcolm Saville about a group of children who have adventures in the countryside. A bespoke performance environment – a touring tent – popped up across the UK. Performed with high energy, a live soundscape, song and puppetry, there were 27 shows in 5 places to 1,337 people in some of the most beautiful and remote areas of the UK. 

“Made me cry with delight – it’s genuinely one of the best things I’ve ever seen … Made me want to go adventuring again!” Audience member, Northumberland “A treat for all ages … terrific and unexpectedly moving.” Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

Red Sky at Night By Ben Dale, Lucy Hayward, Erin O’Hanlon, Alex Guest, Jessica Lovett & Rowan Pritchard A Pentabus Theatre Company production

Our Young Writers’ Group worked with us over a year, taking part in workshops and learning playwrighting skills. For their first professional productions, they chose to write a monologue each, with all the characters linked by the central event of a fire in a barn. Collectively titled Red Sky At Night, this powerful show opened the Ludlow Fringe. Performed by an ensemble cast, it was a sell-out success. The show then toured to Latitude. In addition to the live shows, we recorded each monologue and released them as podcasts, one new monologue a day over the course of a week, culminating in the reveal of who started the fire. Hundreds of people around the world have listened to the podcasts, the work of these talented young people has reached well beyond their home turf.

“Fully fleshed out, complicated characters, who make you sympathise with them in one breath, then change your mind the next” A Younger Theatre, Latitude Review “It took me about 4 hours to ‘come down’. Congratulations to everyone involved.” Audience member, Ludlow Fringe

This Land By Sian Owen. A Pentabus Theatre Company and Salisbury Playhouse co-production

“The actors moved gracefully between accents, characters and costumes … Pentabus plays always include a touch of magic and This Land was no exception.” Audience member, Ledbury “Essential viewing … at its heart a humane and human story.” Damien Edgar, UTV, Northern Ireland’

Rural communities are on the frontline of climate change – and the many solutions being trialled to find new energy sources. With people divided over fracking, this was an important subject to tackle. Playwright Sian Owen created This Land, a bold, theatrical look at land and energy and how humans have needed to exploit the resources underneath our feet throughout history. We were delighted to partner with Salisbury Playhouse on the production. The tour was our longest to date, with 44 shows across many new areas – including Northern Ireland and Lancashire – played to over 2000 people. Alongside the show we hosted a number of post-show events and panel discussions and the show was live-streamed to the world as part of Battersea Arts Centre’s A Nation’s Theatre.

Every Brilliant Thing By Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe A Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre Company co-production

The show continues to reach new audiences, this time internationally with shows across Australia and New Zealand. Thousands of people have now seen this funny and moving play about depression and the lengths we go to for those we love. Every Brilliant Thing also played more dates across the UK as part of another tour visiting a mixture of rural and urban areas.

“Heart-wrenching, hilarious … possibly one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see, full stop.” The Guardian “Funny, clever, and surprisingly uplifting.” The Telegraph “A beautiful thing to witness … It reflected the basis of depression; the days filled with laughter that made your stomach hurt – but also the faint shadow of unhappiness that still lingered … This play got it rather perfectly.” Audience member, Oundle

Young Writers

Red Sky At Night marked the culmination of the second Young Writers Group at Pentabus. In September we recruited a third group – this time from slightly further afield. Our 8 new young writers took part in ten workshops throughout the year, led by tutors including professional actors, writers and directors. They saw plays, read scripts, and developed their work through a series of tailor-made exercises. Alongside this they received one on one feedback and notes on their writing. In Summer 2016 we will produce their short plays – they’ve chosen the theme of migration, the most important story of their generation – in the Ludlow Fringe and at Latitude in 2016–17. The 2015/16 Young Writers Group are: Hannah Adler, Billy Francis, Olivia Hennessy, Luke Horton, Kerala Irwin, Marietta Kirkbride, Amelia Wardle and Rumaanah Yasin.

“Thank you Pentabus for giving these young writers such a great real life, hard craft opportunity to shine. I am still so full of happy and proud emotions after seeing my daughter's first play.” Young Writer’s Parent, 2014/15 “Working with Pentabus has been nothing but enjoyable and I constantly feeI I am learning and being challenged in my perception of what theatre could be.” Young Writer, 2015/16

Channel 4 Playwright

“My year as the Pentabus Writer in Residence was, by far, the happiest of my career. I got the time and space to develop my writing, and the freedom to experiment with, and better understand, what sort of writer I am. After seeing the Pentabus Young Writers Festival in 2014, I knew this company thrived on an unrelenting enthusiasm to make brilliant, important work for and about rural communities, but I never quite understood how much Britain needs Pentabus until I was there. This company is truly remarkable. Their commitment to taking stories to places otherwise starved of new voices, big ideas, or the platform on which to hear them, is so refreshing, honest and infectious, that you can’t help but want to get into the van and go along with them.” Joe White, 2015 Writer in Residence

We were delighted to have Joe White with us during 2015 as our Writer in Residence, supported by a bursary from Channel 4. Joe spent the year working on his writing, including developing a new play called Mayfly. Alongside this he read plays, tutored the Young Writers’ Group, attended Artistic Planning meetings and played a full role in the life of the company. In autumn 2015 we applied for the bursary again with writer Tim Foley, who had come to our attention through his play The Dogs of War. We were thrilled for Tim to be awarded the bursary and he began with us in January 2016 as our new writer in residence. Tim has since won an award for Most Promising Playwright and we look forward to working with him over the year. It is a real achievement for a company to have the bursary for three years in a row, and we are very grateful to Channel 4 for supporting the company and our writers in this way. Our first Writer in Residence, Simon Longman, continues as our Associate Artist and has recently been commissioned by the Royal Court Theatre.

Pentabus Studio

We had a busy year developing new projects, offering writers a range of development opportunities and creating work specifically for rural audiences. We commissioned Bethan Marlow to interview working farmers about how they feel about the state of farming today. We intend to work with Bethan to create a piece that will tour agricultural shows over the summer in 2016. Matt Hartley and Hattie Naylor are both also under commission – Matt to write a play about village halls and changing village life, responding to the issue of ageing in rural communities; and Hattie to write about birds and migration – and what humans can learn from their ability to navigate through the world. In addition, we hosted a number of writers in our writer’s room – Aisha Zia, looking at rural/urban issues; Jonny Donahoe looking at poverty; and Ella Hickson writing about belonging. We read over 100 unsolicited scripts and fed back to all the playwrights who sent us their work.

Our Audience

This year our tours have taken us further afield than ever before from the Orkneys to Jersey and from Northern Ireland to Norfolk – we are truly the nation’s rural theatre company. Our audience is at the heart of everything we do. We bring audiences and artists together right from the beginning of the creative process not just on opening night. We want writers to listen more closely to what audiences want; and we want audiences to understand more about how theatre is created. Together, we’ll then be able to take more risks and make better work for more people. This year, in partnership with Live and Local, a rural touring scheme in the Midlands, we created the RUFF group – a group of village hall promoters who would work with playwright Hattie Naylor over the course of the year as she researched and created her new play. The group met regularly, sharing thoughts and ideas. Hattie is developing the piece through their feedback, and in turn the group are learning about the professional playwriting process. It is a wonderful opportunity for both. We plan to produce the play in spring 2017.

“Great as ever. Pentabus are unique: shows about REAL rural life, for people who live amongst it – all its challenges and contradictions, the aching beauty and the frozen boredom, the financial poverty and the wealth of nature.” Audience member


In 2015/16 we entered the first year of our three year core funding agreement with the Arts Council as a 2015–2018 National Portfolio Organisation. We received Revenue Client Funding from our Local Authority, Shropshire Council. We were awarded two major grants from Trusts, Garfield Weston and the Monument Trust, and project funding from the Elmley Foundation, the Garrick Charitable Trust, the Golsoncott Foundation, and the Weinstock Fund. We are grateful for continued support from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Millichope Foundation. We continued to diversify our funding streams, becoming less reliant on pubic funding. We entered into a co-production agreement with Salisbury Playhouse and raised over £9,000 in donations.


55% Public Funding

15% Earned income

3% Donations

0.7% Other

26% Trusts & Foundations


69% Artistic Programme

17% Organisational Staff

11% Overheads

3% Fundraising and Audience Development

Environmental Policy

We remain committed to ensuring environmental awareness is at the heart of our work and our appointed ‘green champion’, Audience Development & Marketing Officer – Crayg Ward, ensures that we constantly monitor and reduce our environmental impact in line with our environmental policy and action plan. We continue to be sector leaders in green theatre practice and this year were invited to present a case study of Pentabus’ work as a model of best practice at Julie’s Bicycle’s event ‘Sustainable Futures’ held at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham.

Thanks to all of the creatives and partners funders that we worked with, and who supported our work this year:

Arts Alive Battersea Arts Centre The Blue Boar Craven Arms Design and Print ITC (Independent Theatre Council) Julie’s Bicycle Latitude Festival Live & Local Ludlow Fringe Festival Lyric, Hammersmith Malcolm Saville Society National Rural Touring Forum National Trust Paines Plough Salisbury Playhouse The Royal Court

Playwrights: Alice Birch, Jonny Donahoe, Tim Foley, Matt Hartley, Millie Hayward, Ella Hickson, Joel Horwood, Simon Longman, Jess Lovett, Bethan Marlow, Rory Mullarkey, Hattie Naylor, Sian Owen, Joe White, Aisha Zia, Young Writers 2014/15: Ben Dale, Alex Guest, Lucy Hayward, Jess Lovett, Erin O’Hanlan, Rowan Pritchard Writers 2015/16: Hannah Adler, Billy Francis, Olivia Hennessy, Luke Horton, Kerala Irwin, Marietta Kirkbride, Amelia Wardle and Rumaanah Yasin. Directors: Tinuke Craig, Elizabeth Freestone, Jo Newman, George Perrin. Creatives: Stuart Angell, Jean Chan, James Frewer, Ben Glasstone, Katie Lias, James Mackenzie, Johanna Town Stage & Production Managers: Sam Eccles, Tammy Rose, Charlotte McBrearty, Alicia White Actors: Rosie Armstrong, Angie Bain, Katharine Carlton, Tom Cawte, Tom Child, Anya Collyer, Jonny Donahoe, Ed Hartland, Harry Long, Ged McKenna, Oliver Mott, Michael Quartey, Sakuntala Ramanee, Kama Roberts, Danielle Winter,

Board Ros Robins (Chair, March 2016–present) Diane Lennan (Acting Chair, Jan 2015–Mar 2016) Richard Burbidge OBE (Acting Deputy Chair) Maria Aberg (Joined September 2015) Sean Holmes Joanna Hughes Sue McCormick Karen McLellan (Resigned June 2015) Kate Organ (Resigned 1 April 2015) Lyndsey Turner Mary Wells


Pentabus are also supported by the Millichope Foundation

Artistic Director Elizabeth Freestone Managing Director Francesca Spickernell (Maternity Leave) Managing Director Kitty Ross (Maternity Cover) Projects Producer Jenny Pearce Audience Development & Marketing Officer Crayg Ward Technical Stage Manager Sam Eccles Bookkeeper Lynda Lynne Channel 4 Writer in Residence Joe White / Tim Foley Associate Artist Simon Longman Volunteers Mike Price, Stephen Abbott Thanks to: Jan Winter Development Consultant Verity Overs-Morrrell Producer

Pentabus Theatre Company Bromfield, Shropshire SY8 2JU 01584 856564 www.pentabus.co.uk

Profile for Pentabus Theatre Company

Pentabus Annual Report 2015/16  

Pentabus Annual Report 2015/16  

Profile for pentabus