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Cardiff's leading musical youth theatre /young people's theatre group

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the Wales-award-winning Cotton Girls Updated 1st April 2013

The Unknown Theatre Company was formed in February 1997 as a non-profit making association. It was founded by a group of four parents who decided that there weren't enough opportunities for young people to perform in the area.

Two of those original parents have now moved on, but the Company continues to expand and develop with an ever-eager group of volunteers to help with the daily running of the company.

People

It all began with our first production of Peter Pan (The Musical) in 1997. The talented David Lawrence, who later went on to study opera in London, was both MD and Director, with Jane Donoghue, who produced this and subsequent shows for the Company. David was succeeded as Director by Vic Atkins and as Musical Director by Matt Brind

Directors/choreographers

Vic Atkins
's first show with the Company was Dazzle when he joined us as Choreographer, moving on to become director when adam king as ariel in Return to the Forbidden PlanetDavid Lawrence left to pursue his career. He has directed almost all our major productions, including our first forays into the Wales Millennium Centre, Dance of the Dragon (2005) and Just So. Alongside directing and choreographing most of the Company's musical shows he continues to develop his own skills by performing and directing regularly with other local companies.

Other directors who have worked with the Company so far include Philip Michell and Greg Ashton, who came back to work with the Company on the first production of the musical he wrote with Matthew Brind, Life, Actually, which we performed in July 2010.

Long-standing friend of the company, and sometime Musical Director (see below) James Williams came to work with the Company to direct The Amazing Adventures of Little Red (which he also co-wrote) for our Edinburgh Festival production in August 2010 and has stayed with us, directing West Side Story in April 2011; A Night's Tale, Spring Awakening and Sweeney Todd in 2011. In 2012 he directed Assassins for Cardiff, and Naked Dictators (in Edinburgh) and Our House to round off 2012. Further projects are lined up for 2013.

Lon David joined us in 2003 to direct Eat Your Heart Out! Lon directed our first serious drama: the double-bill, Changing Lives, in early 2006, and our first show especially for younger members, How to Eat Like a Child in February 2007. The group for younger members has become known as the Unknown YoYos (YOunger YOuth) and is now a flourishing group in its own right. It has its own page on this site.

Since 2006, One-Act plays have been entered annually into the Glamorgan Drama League's One-Act Play Festival, and the Company reached the Wales Final Festival of One-Act Plays for the first time in in 2009 with Ghost City, but then topped this in 2010 with Cotton Girls, which won the Wales Final Festival and went on to represent Wales in the British Final Festival in East Kilbride in July 2010.

In 2008, the Company presented its first full-length play The Oedipus Plays, also directed by Lon. 2011 saw Lon direct At First Sight, which was performed by The Unknown Outcasts (Older Unknown Theatre casts), our special group for members too old to enter youth-based competitions - which qualified to perform at the Wales Final Festival in 2012 with Future Shock. Lon also created and has written and maintained this website from the outset, in 2004.

Musical Directors

Matt Brind
was encouraged by the Company to develop his music-writing skills, when we commissioned him to one of our younger members in Rose and the Wicked Wolfeewrite two musicals. One of these, Dance of the Dragon, received funding from the Millennium Commission, whilst the other, Gold Woman, was funded by the committee and cast members. Dance of the Dragon (Philip Michell/Matt Brind) went on to be one of the winners of the Sony Global Search for New Musicals as part of The International Festival for Musical Theatre in Cardiff, when it was entered by the Company. 

Eventually, work took Matt to London (though he did return to Cardiff to run our highly successful 2004 Summer School), and two very talented sixth form students from Whitchurch High School took over - Jonathan Mann and Joe Hood - developing their expertise through working with the company, and only leaving us to study music in London. From Nell's Belles in 2005, Ben Davies, a music graduate from Cardiff University, and latterly a full-time music teacher, was our Musical Director, joining us on our 2005 tour to Monaco Hannah Murphy as the Elephant Queen in Just Sowith Dance of the Dragon and accompanying us to St Avertin for our 2006 tour, staying with us until our joint celebration of Sondheim/Lloyd Webber in March 2010. Dave Winterbottom, who sometimes performs as an actor with the company, also plays for us when needed, joining us for How To Eat Like a Child in 2007. Since mid-2010, we have drawn on the services of Cardiff-based composer and MD James Williams, who has also written some of our shows (The Amazing Adventures of Little Red) and with whom the company has had a relationship over some years. Chris Fossey also joined us in 2010, as Musical Director for our newly commissioned show Life, Actually, and stayed with us unitl 2012.

Technical and Stage Management
The Company has benefitted from excellent technical support, particularly from Lucy Chiplin, who joined us as follow spot operator with Dracula Spectacular, has stayed with us ever since and who now does much of our lighting and makes many of our main technical decisions. In 2010 Martin Davies found us and has worked with us, particularly on the plays, starting with DNA and Cotton Girls, as part of the team which went to the British Final of One-Act Plays. 2010 also brought Laizan Fung and her extraordinary facility for creating props and set dressing which greatly enhanced the year's productions.

Producer and the rest of the team

Jane Donoghue, our Producer, is the person whose passion, vision and tenacity are behind the Company's breadth of activities. Jane was one of the founder members of the Company, and has worked tirelessly to find money and other resources to ensure that Company members are offered opportunities they are unlikely to find elsewhere. As is the case in all the Company's work, it was Jane's imagination and determination that gave the Company the opportunity to work with the Japanese Kawagachi Youth Musical Company when they co-presented Cinderella with us in Cardiff in 2001, and then took us to Japan in 2002 for the Quest Gate performance. One of Jane's latest projects has meant that the Company has been involved with the Cultural Olympiad (connected with the 2012 Olympics) from the outset of the cultural activities, starting in 2009.

Jane is more than ably supported by Annette Littlechild who concentrates on our Front of House activities, but Richard Hibbert as the Elephant King in Just So also supports the Company's work in countless - and vital - ways. Annette has been involved with the Company since it began, but became more formally involved as a committee member in 1998. Her support and input is to be found in every Company production.

The Unknown Theatre Company is extremely fortunate to have our own in-house photographer, Jenny Hibbert, whose work can be seen on many of the photoalbum pages for the later shows on this site. Jenny has been an Associate member of the Welsh Photographic Federation since November 2007, and in April 2008 received her CPAGB (Credit Photography Associated Great Britain). Her work has also recently been featured in the industry magazine Photography Monthly after she won a competition. Jenny was also one of the founder members of the Company.

The Company has also benefitted enormously from the input and commitment of committee member Geraldine Roberts, who sewed. And then some.

Kelly Littlechild's expertise at stage makeup is also regularly drawn upon by the company.

In 2008, Jenni Phillips joined the team as Patrons Secretary and Corporate Sponsorship Manager, seeking external support for the work of the company.

To see photos of the current committee, go to our About Us page.

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Venues

Steve Donoghue & Claire Batchelor in Just SoThe Company has performed in a number of venues across Cardiff, ranging from the more intimate spaces, such as the Sherman Studio Theatre, to our most regular venue: the 250-seater Howardian Centre. We have also taken two productions to the Weston Studio of the Wales Millennium Centre, as well as performing on its Tesco Stage. In 2007 we performed our special 10th anniversary concert at Duffryn Gardens as part of the summer festival. We also perform at Roath Church House and at various venues across Cardiff as part of our charity activities. In 2012, we performed for the first time at Llanover Hall in Canton, with our production of Unga Bunga.

We have performed in other theatres, such as the Dylan Thomas Theatre in Swansea, where the Glamorgan One-Act Play Festivals are held, as well as other theatres across the world: in Japan, Monaco, France and Edinburgh.

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Shows

the wolf in The Amazing Adventures of Little RedThe Unknown Theatre has produced a large number of shows. Details of each production can be found by clicking on our Past Shows link.

It has always been part of The Unknown Theatre Company's aims to allow its members to experience other forms and types of performance, beyond conventional musical theatre shows.

As a result, Company members have:

  • represented the UK at the World Festival of Amateur Theatre held in Monaco
  • taken 8 shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - the most recent in 2012, with another planned for 2013
  • toured to Japan, and then played host to a Japanese company in return
  • forged links with and twice visited the High School for the Performing Arts in New York
  • taken a show to a French drama festival and hosted the French home company's return visit and performance in Cardiff
  • qualified for and performed a play at the Wales Final Festival of One-Act Plays (three times) and at the British Final Festival.
  • performed regularly at The Glamorgan Drama League's annual 'Glammies' ceremony (see the photos from the 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 or from the 2004 evenings)
  • performed for Senior Citizens in homes and clubs such as
    • Penylan Home
    • St Albans Nursing Home
    • Other residential homes in Cardiff Bay, Ely, Roath
  • participated in Community productions for
    • Alzheimer's Association Christmas Parties (twice)
    • 'Make a Difference Day' charity performance for LATCH/BARNARDO's
  • entered musical competitions, such as the
    • 21 years and under, Stage Musical section at the Miners' Eisteddfod (which we won)
    • BBC Radio 3 Choir of the year (see the page for the event)
  • staged informal concerts and musical entertainments for a variety of causes and in a number of locations such as
    • Roath Church House
    • St Philip Evans Church
    • St Margaret's Church
  • participated in a highly successful summer school.  Read all about it here.

DazzleThe committee is always looking out for opportunities to stretch the Company through new experiences, such as tours, exchanges and concerts etc.   Please do contact us if you have an idea you think might be of interest to the Company.



     

17 January 2017
© The Unknown Theatre Company

 

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