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Kneehigh Theatre

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Amy Goodwin

on 10 January 2016

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Transcript of Kneehigh Theatre

What is Kneehigh's style?
The company's productions are often based around myths or legends, and therefore have a strong emphasis on visual imagery. They also use elements like puppetry, live music, dance and physical theatre. Their pieces are usually very abstract, as they enjoy a certain wildness in how they perform, and the director says the group doesn't work well with "conventional actors".
An example of Kneehigh's style...
What is the Kneehigh theatre company?
Kneehigh Theatre is a company based in Cornwall and founded by Mike Shepard in 1980. The group began as workshops for schoolchildren, but in due course the company expanded. They create their pieces in a barn on the Cornish south coast. Kneehigh performs almost anywhere- in village halls, quarries, marquees, cliff-tops, up trees and on conventional stages-and have toured around the world with several performances. They seek to inspire "pride of place" to Cornish audiences.
Past performances
The Red Shoes (2003)
The Bacchae (won the TMA Award for best touring production, 2004)
Tristan and Yseult (2004, toured internationally)
Nights at the Circus (2006)
Brief Encounter (2008)
Hansel and Gretel (2009/10)
Steptoe and Son (2012)
Dead Dog in a Suitcase (2014)
Rebecca (2015)
What are Kneehigh's visions for theatre?
The director of Kneehigh says a lot of what they perform is to do with freedom, and using that freedom to create eclectic pieces, showing that they can feature whatever elements they want. In their rehearsal space, they have a wall wih key words stencilled on it: generosity, wonder, irreverence, anarchy, naughtiness. These words are the Kneehigh manifesto in a nutshell, and they use this to create unique performances. They consistantly try to keep Kneehigh's past "alive in it's future".
What techniques do they use to devise?
"We gaze at books and films, sketch and begin to form a concept; an environment in which the story can live, in which the actors can play." Kneehigh uses existing worlds and stories as stimuli to create a physical narration; they create a visual representation of the words. Artistic Director Emma Rice says theatre is "as much a story telling tool as the written word". They also take a lot of inspiration from their environment and what they see happening around them. Rather than analysing characters, Kneehigh focuses on connecting with the character and understanding them from a personal level. In a rehearsal process, they try many different things to see what a character fits e.g. different music, costumes and props that feel appropriate. Having the actor decide on elements creates a genuine character.
Kneehigh Theatre
a trailer of thier production 'Rebecca' (2015)
Rebecca (
A Brief Encounter
Steptoe and Son
From watching and researching Kneehigh's pieces, I have learned a lot. I think the most important thing you can learn from this company's style and visions is that you shouldn't limit yourself when devising. Any elements of theatre can be included to create a performance and you can take inspiration from all around. I have also learnt that the only way to know what looks or sounds best is to try everything, even the less conventional ideas may give really good results.
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