PaddleBoat Theatre Company



PaddleBoat Theatre Company is a South-West based theatre company specialising in work for children and families. Founded in 2014 after its four members – Katy Dash, Michael Smith, Hattie Brown and Stuart Cottrell – graduated from Exeter University, the company devise and perform work collaboratively, combining their individual skills in performing, producing, writing, directing, puppetry, storytelling and live music to develop shows and tell stories that inspire the imagination and celebrate creativity. We are developing our own practice of making work in direct collaboration with our audiences – Theatre With, not theatre for: we run residency programs in local primary schools where we trial new material whilst delivering drama skills-based workshops; we deliver sensory storytelling workshops in local libraries to engage with local communities in familiar, accessible places; we tour our shows across the country at schools, theatres and festivals.

Over the past two years, we have developed and toured three shows. ‘A Little Man’s Holiday’ and ‘According to Arthur…’ were both developed through schools residency and toured nationally, achieving 5 Star reviews at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We are still touring ‘According to Arthur…’ throughout 2016, now with an accompanying storybook, the first to be published by our independent publishing house PaddleBoat Theatre Press. ‘A Little Man’s Holiday’ has been in re-development to make it accessible for families with additional complex needs – a process we call ‘Enriching’. We have worked closely with the Exeter Royal Academy for Deaf Education and special schools in Devon to enhance the visual storytelling and sensory elements and to incorporate sign-supported dialogue into an Enriched performance at the Phoenix in February half-term. Our third show, ‘Christmas Chaos’, was commissioned by White Rock Primary School for Christmas 2014, and performed at the Barnfield Theatre, Exeter in 2015.

We are completely thrilled to be Associate Artists of the Exeter Phoenix. The Phoenix is such an accessible and family-friendly space for children to come and engage with the arts, and we are excited about the opportunities that presents us. Early 2016 has been devoted to enriching our practice for families with complex needs, learning sign language and researching a variety of practices used to make the theatre experience safer and more welcoming for young audiences – we look forward to seeing this practice continue. As Associates of the Phoenix, we are excited to develop our next show – ‘Margo and Mr. Whatsit’ – with guidance and mentorship we continue our Theatre With model by opening up our rehearsal process. We would also love to see the schools that we work with regularly to have sustained contact with the Phoenix, giving them the opportunity to express themselves in a professional working theatre. For PaddleBoat, 2016 is the year that we consolidate what we have learnt into a strong foundation to build on in the future, and we are delighted to be building that foundation at the Exeter Phoenix.

‘As a company we found the use of space for rehearsals and performance an amazing asset. This has drastically helped us to grow our audience base in the heart of Exeter. As an individual I have found the courses to be brilliant. I took part in both the photography for beginners, and photoshop course. Both were brilliant ways to grow individual skills that I could utilise for PaddleBoat.’ 

‘Our work has scaled up in size of shows and audience numbers. We have embedded ourselves more within the city as our home, and also within the South West as a region. We have grown an audience base, and learnt how to better capture our audience information. We have also gained a better understanding of targeted marketing, and personal i’ve developed skills that better assist PaddleBoats marketing, which allows us to keep more funding within the company.’

‘The best part of being an Associate Artist was the easy and open access to members of the Phoenix team, who were genuinely willing and especially generous with their time, experience and support.’

Twitter: @PaddleBoatTCo