A Brixham woman has become a member of Equity’s designers and directors national committee – but missed the message to congratulate her because she was busy trying to help a seagull chick!.
Laura Jury, a trustee of Brixham Theatre and director with South Devon Players, was looking headfirst down a 5ft-deep hole, trying to save a seagull chick, when her phone pinged with the message.
She was so focused on getting a photograph of the bird to send to the wildlife rescue that she ignored it, deciding to read it later.
Laura says she still feels in a bit of a dream. She has been suffering from a severe case of imposter syndrome: “Why will anybody listen to me from Brixham?”
It would seem there are many people happy to give her a hearing.
The Facebook group for the Bristol Equity branch and the group for the South Devon branch shared posts encouraging members to vote for Laura. In particular, they were keen to see greater representation from the South West.
The committee work is voluntary and members are located all over the country and will carry out their work, usually online.
Laura will have her hands full -as well as her Equity duties, she is always busy with the demands of South Devon Players and has recently signed up to a new London-based acting agent, the Wintersmith Agency. Auditions are coming along thick and fast.
Fortunately, Equity committee meetings are somewhat flexible. They take the form of group discussions organised around committee members’ availability. Members are all working actors and directors with busy schedules.
Laura feels she can bring a different perspective to the designers and directors committee.
While many of the other members are based in and around the big cities and have a perspective founded on a wider arts’ culture with more funding and larger venues, Laura comes from quite a different angle – a regional aspect, traditionally boasting fewer resources.
Her main concern is that regional theatre is often seen by people in the wider business of entertainment as less serious.
She has often heard it said that theatre taking place outside the big cities is ‘not real theatre’ and that it won’t be worth going to see because it is of ‘lower quality’. She has also heard it said that ‘culture ends at Bristol’.
On one occasion when she was backstage preparing for a project at the London Palladium, a stagehand expressed amazement that she was from Devon, saying: “But Devon is all just farmers and Druids!”
It is often difficult to foster collaborations in the South West as there are fewer resources and companies tend to strictly guard their established patches. This, along with misunderstandings and unfounded assumptions, can have a seriously negative affect on funding for regional theatre companies.
This, naturally, restricts what they can do and who they can afford to employ. Big, well-heeled companies come in to recruit staff from regional organisations because they feel they will not need to pay as much for their services as they may not have been working regularly in major urban venues.
Fairly recently a large, international production company was paying the people they had brought in for filming near Exeter but refused to offer payment to any South Devon Players because they were local and after all, they might get to see themselves on television.
Laura is on a mission. She has a vision. She believes there are serious misconceptions that must be challenged.
She said: “Regional theatre is a hotbed of amazing, talent, skills, innovation, and venues. These resources should be tapped and developed. They should be respected on a par with those of the big cities.
“Attitudes are slowly changing, getting better, but there is still a long way to go.”
Theatres and the performing arts are, like many industry sectors, experiencing extreme hardship as a result of Covid-19.
With Theatres closed, The South Devon Players Theatre & Film Company, from Brixham have put together a programme of streamed productions which for the cost of a theatre ticket, people can view on their TV, computer or mobile device.
In the summer, the company was lucky enough to receive Arts Council England funding, via the Create To Recover initiative (spearheaded in Torbay, by Torbay Culture) for a project celebrating the folklore of Brixham. With a planned completion date of the end of October, it was decided that exploring the more ghostly, and spooky side of Brixham’s past would be a seasonal piece for Halloween. Four of the many local stories and histories were selected, and brought to life by some of the company’s actors in pieces written and directed by company founder Laura Jury. These were recorded for a stream to go live over Halloween.
Feedback from viewers was wholeheartedly positive:
“I’ve just watched the production, and really enjoyed it, well done! I didn’t realise virtual theatre would be so fantastic. “(S.L.)
“What an ingeniously devised and wonderfully performed piece. It really made our Halloween. Looking forward to the next one. ” ( I.K )
One of the ghostly tales in the broadcast told of John Slater, a well known British actor, who saved the theatre from closure in the 1970s, and whose ghost is often said to appear in the theatre to this day, watching shows and rehearsals. As the actors and crew were paid from the Arts Council funding, the company decided that the ticket sales should be donated to Brixham Theatre to help their home-town venue with ongoing improvements.
Brixham-based South Devon Players Theatre & Film Company were thrilled to find out, in the early hours of June 11th 2019, (late evening June 10th New York time) that they had won a theatre award in the Long Island Theatre Awards ceremony for their production of Shakespeare’s classic drama of ambition, power and fate; Macbeth.
The show, first performed by the Players in January and February 2019, was not without its own share of drama, when the title role for the show needed to be recast ten days before the first performances. Christophe Lombardi, a friend of the Players, took up the mantle, learning the role and arriving from Ireland, in Devon for the final two rehearsals, to star alongside Ryanna-Mae Lloyd as Lady Macbeth and a team of dedicated local actors.
The show, performed at Brixham Theatre, the South Devon Players home performance venue, and then at Torquay Museum, attracted record positive feedback from audience and critics, with feedback such as that it surpassed productions by the Globe in London, and the RSC.
Hot on the heels of this success, came requests for a second larger show tour, including from Ireland and the USA, and a request from the Long Island Theatre Awards to enter the production for their 2019 awards. They were happy to accept a video submission of the show filmed at Brixham Theatre.
Months later came the news, that the Players were among the award nominees, and a request from the Theatre Awards administrators to send a representative to New York. The Players were by this time working hard on their scheduled production of Les Miserables, with the plans underway for an autumn tour reprising Macbeth. Laura Jury, the South Devon Players founder and director of both Macbeth and Les Miserables, was unable to attend, but Christophe once more took up the mantle and travelled to New York, collecting the award on behalf of the Players, which will be brought back to Devon during the next week or so, as he travels back from the USA.
Brixham Theatre was saved from closure in 2018 by a team of local volunteers, and it provides a critical base for local creativity, without which, successes like this, would not be possible for local people in their hometown. The Players owe this success to the continued existence of Brixham Theatre.
The Players are now also beginning rehearsals for the second tour of Macbeth; keeping most of the original cast, including Ryanna-Mae Lloyd and Christophe Lombardi as the Macbeths; although also excited to welcome new performers as well. The tour is currently booked into Brixham, Ivybridge, Exeter and Bristol, with discussions underway to bring the show to London, and further venues, during the autumn of 2019. While plans for touring abroad had to be put on hold due to being unable to find funding to do so, this has no way dampened the team’s desire to bring the show to regular and new venues here in the UK, and to revisit attempts to tour abroad in the future.
Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s best known dramas, alongside King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, and Romeo & Juliet. It tells the tale of a Scottish war hero, who, tempted by ambition, power, and supernatural whisperings, begins a series of murders, to take and hold the throne. Returning home from war, Macbeth encounters three mysterious women, whose prophecy of kingship, sets in motion his ambition, and ultimately his fall into madness and blood…
The Players perform the original, uncut Shakespearian text, set in the dark aftermath of a nuclear WW3, in a post-apocalyptic design, with the exotic of the supernatural, and immersive soundscapes, to create Macbeths world in a new vision of the drama.
The South Devon Players, founded in 2005/6 on the proceeds of a carboot sale, and still funded in much the same way, are winners of the national Epic Award 2017 for England, a national arts award celebrating creativity and innovation in grassroots arts, and international nominations for past productions. Based in Brixham, the Players primarily specialise in researched historical theatre productions and old “Classics”.
Following a hugely successful production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth this winter, The South Devon Players have been nominated for a theatre award in New York’s Long Island Lighthouse Theatre Awards.
During January and February 2019, the South Devon Players performed a post-apocalyptic set production of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Completely unabridged and unchanged from the original text, other than being set in a post World War 3 near-future, this production attracted such audience feedback as
“The power of the final scene was such that the audience sat transfixed in silence, barely able to comprehend the beauty of what they’d just witnessed. “
“Easily on a par with the production of Macbeth we saw at the Globe”
The show was almost called off, after the lead role needed to be recast with less than 10 days before opening night. French/Irish actor Christophe Lombardi stepped in, learned the role in a matter of days and travelled to the UK to take the role, alongside Ryanna-Mae Lloyd as Lady Macbeth, with a powerful team of actors and techs.
Despite this crisis, the show attracted fantastic audience feedback, from the shows at both Brixham Theatre & Torquay Museum, swiftly followed by invitations for more shows in the UK, and abroad. While work continues to get the team out to the venues abroad, the team are taking up the show invitations in the UK, at Ivybridge’s Watermark theatre, and Exeter’s Barnfield Theatre and are also booking additional dates at the end of the summer and during the autumn of 2019.
The show was filmed at Brixham Theatre by a local filmmaker and submitted to the 2019 Long Island Community Theatre Awards. The Awards will be announced on June 10th in the evening, New York time.
The South Devon Players, founded in 2005/6 on the proceeds of a carboot sale, and funded in much the same way, are already winners of the national Epic Award 2017 for England, a national arts award celebrating creativity and innovation in grassroots arts, and international nominations for past productions. Based in Brixham, the Players pride themselves on supportive, friendly, and ambitious grassroots team of professional and aspiring professional actors at all stages of their careers, who primarily specialise in researched historical theatre productions and Classics, to provide an opportunity for local people to develop their skills in creating shows to a national standard, in order to develop internationally recognised professional skills, portfolios and credits.
They always welcome new performers and creatives who would like to get involved. The Players are working hard to be able to offer more education, steady employment, and more regular shows at an international standard.
Laura Jury (Director) studied performing arts at South Devon College, then a Bachelors degree in film & TV production from the University of Plymouth, before progressing to a Masters in teaching theatre from Exeter University With a history of performing since 1996, and directing since 2000, in between her training she has also pursued a career as a professional performer, and in 2006 founded the now multi award-winning South Devon Players Theatre & Film Company with three others, to create new projects in Torbay.
CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION OR FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Facebook & Twitter: @sdevonplayers