Mixing the excitement of Circus, Shakespeare and a commitment to make Theatre accessible to everyone and you begin to understand the ethos of Footsbarn Travelling Theatre.
Students were offered the opportunity to sit down and talk with the new Artistic Director of Footsbarn Theatre company Sadie Jemmett, as she shared the 51-year history of “Theatre with no rules” as it transitions into new and exciting times post-Covid.
The Company, now in its fifth decade, began their journey in 1971 within the four walls where this industry talk took place, the DSL building. Having graduated from the school, Paddy Hayter and Oliver Foot decided to set up a theatre company in Foot’s family barn in Cornwall, hence the company name.
They performed in a circus tent and advertised using megaphones attracting audiences with unusual events such as a “giraffe that can swim”. As time went on, the big top circus tent was sent all around the globe travelling as far as India and Australia. For the last 25 years, Footsbarn have made their base in central France where to this day they provide shows which blend masks, acrobatics, dance, theatre, song and a lot of stage smoke into a unique theatrical experience in one big top tent. Twenty petrol swigging trucks driving all around the country wasn’t quite as cool anymore.
The aim of the theatre company was to provide the thing we all need a bit more of in our lives... Entertainment.
Sadie described the post Covid transition as an opportunity to retain all the special things which make Footsbarn so iconic yet expand into new and exciting projects. This includes hitting the road again performing shows outside of France, but this time in a slightly more environmentally friendly way.
After performing at Glastonbury, Footsbarn decided to create their own festival. At this festival, which continues to this day, they welcome visitors to watch new writing, music, theatre and all that comes with it.
Sadie also described the importance they place on sharing the wealth of knowledge that exists within the company. Footsbarn provide ten-day long workshops of voice, movement and acting. These courses take place on-site in France and include accommodation and I’ve been told, excellent food. The workshops allow the individual to create ground-breaking theatre, including the use of masks and puppetry. Participants also must face the challenges of performing in a circus tent. Having done that there would be no more excuses for not being heard in Grange Court Theatre.
Sadie’s advice on getting involved? was to…. “Get involved”, to embrace all the different aspects of the company that make Footsbarn iconic with a high reputation in the industry. And one other thing, you don’t even have to speak French to perform in French. When they say there are no barriers, they mean, no barriers.
Sadie gave great advice about setting up your own theatre company. Firstly, to have a collective goal. Make sure the vision is the same, even if this vision changes as time goes on, make sure it’s clear for everyone involved. Secondly, have a communal understanding within the company about how to go about things and navigate what at times can be a very tricky journey. And thirdly…don’t do it to please people, not every show will work. The satisfaction and joy should come from the passion in the craft rather than the review.
Once again thanks to Sadie for sharing the inspiring story of Footsbarn and her own personal journey and giving us the chance to ask her so many questions.
Written by Peter Hadfield, BA (Hons) in Professional Acting