Curtain up on creativity – Exeter’s Theatre Scene is buzzing

With acclaimed actress Dame Judi Dench agreeing to be Northcott Theatre’s patron for its fiftieth anniversary year. A hazy summer of theatre at Exeter’s latest venue, The Boat Shed under our belt and the ongoing debate about whether Exeter needs a new arts venue or swimming pool. It’s an exciting time for theatre lovers and creators in Exeter, and theatre seems to be at the forefront of many people’s minds.

The Bike Shed is just one of the venues in the city supporting local artists and theatre companies. Kelly Johnson, Deputy Director of says of the theatre scene in Exeter:

When I first moved to Exeter, many local theatre makers were having to move to London or Bristol to progress their careers… Then, seven years ago, The Bike Shed started to create a space for local artists to stage new work… We now have an open door policy meaning that any local theatre maker can get in touch and get support… Other organisations too, including Kaleider and Exeter Phoenix, have extended their artist support programmes and we’re seeing the pay off.  Some excellent work is now being produced in Exeter and going on to win awards all over the world.  There’s still challenges and lots of things we’d like to do better but we’re beginning to become a city artists are moving too rather than fleeing from…  Things are changing… watch this space!

Excited by the local theatre scene and inspired by some of the shows I’ve seen. I spoke to three of Exeter’s home grown theatre companies about their work, the links they have to local arts venues and their future plans.


Paddleboat Theatre Company

Curtain up on creativity - Exeter's Theatre Scene is buzzing Exeter's theatre companies: 'Paddleboat Theatre Company' in interview, pic by Pete Norris

Pic by Pete Norris

PaddleBoat Theatre is a collaborative company founded by five friends who met whilst studying Drama at the University of Exeter three years ago. Their work is firmly rooted in family theatre, performing in schools, libraries, museums, festivals and running interactive workshops, projects and community lead work.

Working closely with Exeter Phoenix on Exeter’s Unpacked children’s theatre festival, they are also associates with Exeter Northcott, Plymouth Barbican and do lots of work at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM).  I asked the guys what they thought of the theatre scene in Exeter:

We feel that the city is a very supportive space to be artists, to make theatre, and to be both creative and entrepreneurial. The fact that there are so many inspiring, open, and supportive National Portfolio Organisations in Exeter says a lot; Exeter is starting to get noticed nationally as a cultural hub.

Paddleboat have been busy over the summer with the festival and their tour of Rustle. They are currently organising their Christmas tour and looking to starting a new show in 2018.


The Young Pretenders Theatre Company 

Curtain up on creativity - Exeter's Theatre Scene is buzzing

From children’s theatre to youth theatre: During the summer, Exeter saw it’s first youth arts festival at Poltimore House which was created and curated by Lucy Hirst and her team at The Young Pretenders Theatre Company (TYP)

TYP is an Exeter-based grass roots organisation set up to “inspire young people aged 11-18 to pursue artistic futures through the creation of vibrant arts opportunities in the South West.” Focussing on original material, new writing and devised work, their multi-disciplinary youth arts festival set a precedent.  They also support young writers in Exeter.

They are lucky to have received lots of support from Kaleider, an artistic space in Exeter, which professes to bring people together to design, promote and produce extraordinary live experiences, products and services. TYP is also one, if not the only, purely acting-centred youth organisations in Exeter.  As well as bringing the festival to Exeter, they were also picked from 500 companies to perform at the National Theatre. 

Currently TYP are recruiting new members and working on performer training courses, it’s a good time to get involved!


In Bed With My Brother

Curtain up on creativity - Exeter's Theatre Scene is buzzing

As for theatre for grown ups: In bed with my brother’s Nora, Dora and Kat were supported by The bike Shed as part of their graduate scheme. Their last production WE ARE IAN (a huge success on the Edinburgh fringe) focusses on generation X’s acid house scene.

In bed with my brother’s work is as unconventional as their name, with many different influences: physical theatre, clown and mime work, dance, film and music, their show is storming, fast paced, immersive theatre.

I asked the girls what they think about Exeter’s theatre scene:

We think that there’s a bit of a buzz forming around Exeter at the moment, and hopefully we’ll start developing more of an artistic hub down here… There’s some really exciting Theatre being made and everyone should be supporting it.

The girls from In bed with my brother are busy working on a new show, and being a big fan of theirs, I’m looking forward to seeing whats next!


Read the full interviews here:

Paddleboat Theatre Company

The Young Pretenders

In bed with my brother

Why not book yourself some theatre tickets this Autumn and support the local theatre scene?


This article was first published in Exeter Life magazine.

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