Congratulations to Travelling Light Theatre Company. This well-loved Bristol group, renowned for their original approach to theatre and youth work, is 30 years old. I spoke with some of the artists to hear their side of the story.
Set designer Katie Sykes speaks of ‘passion’ at the heart of the company and the importance of team work and the benefiting of community by taking theatre into schools. She has been involved in many productions over the last 3 decades. Having trained in theatre design, Katie’s role, working closely with the director, is to set the scene for the performance. Devising without a script is key to her work; this allows space for alchemy to occur. A fine example of this was in the last Christmas production (together with the Tobacco Factory Theatre) of 101 Dalmatians, where the energy of the actors helped form the shape of this very successful show.
Craig Edwards was drawn to Bristol by Katie. He is clearly proud of Travelling Light’s ‘incredible reputation’ and the way the company is ‘constantly feeding back into itself’. Craig’s first role came after a successful audition for Tir Na N’og (renamed Into the West) which went on to tour the world. He describes the transformation that occurs when Travelling Light visit schools; how children ‘walk into an area of the school that people know very well and see the space change; totally transformed’. Craig’s current project is directing Brad McCormick in Sammy and the Snow Leopard, which has just started to tour.
Jo Woodcock, production manager for Travelling Light Theatre Company, is part of the 6-strong team at the Barton Hill hub. For her, Travelling Light is ‘not just about education but giving children a chance to imagine, dream and feel new things’. There’s an impression of a huge sense of fun with the work. Jo feels ‘very privileged to work with people who care about what they do.’
This sense of nurture is one strongly echoed by musician and composer Benji Bower. Having come from a music background, he has been overwhelmed by the sense of family which nourishes the production team (and the audiences!). He describes the joy of devising by ‘getting into a room and feeding off what is going on’. Watching the musicians join with the cavorting puppy action, rolling around on the floor during the 101 Dalmatians production, it is easy to see the playfulness and the love at the heart of the company.
Here’s to the Travelling Light Theatre Company and many more wonderful years.
Written by Francesca Ward