Win tickets to Miracle Theatre's Life's a Dream
PUBLISHED: 13:23 06 June 2016
It's been 38 years, 50 productions and an audience of 223,000 since Miracle Theatre was born. On the eve of their latest tour, we catch up with its founder Bill Scott
When Bill Scott got a place on one of the very first university drama courses – he admits the dry academic experience of studying theatre almost put him off acting for life; but happily for the tens of thousands of people who have watched and loved Miracle Theatre, its founder was re-inspired by a trip to the theatre.
“it nearly put me off theatre for life,” he admits of his drama course. “Then I saw a Footsbarn show on a village green in a tent on The Lizard and it was so direct, dynamic and funny – I thought, that’s what theatre should be.”
Bill wanted to build on the formula of taking theatre out to the community and within a few years, Miracle Theatre put on its first production: an adaptation of the Ordinalia, the medieval Cornish drama, which was seen by around 2,000 people during its run in 1979. Today a typical Miracle tour will visit more than 45 venues, including many outdoor spaces. The company has stayed close to its roots, determined to make theatre accessible – not only by using familiar community spaces, but also by keeping ticket prices as low as possible. Last year the theatre company played to around 15,000 people. Bill explains: “The ethos is also about creating an environment that is familiar and nonthreatening – to attract those people who might think they have to put on a suit to go and see a play – by performing in places that people are used to visiting.”
He continues: “When you are trying to attract an audience you are having to compete with the latest boxset on Netflix – so the show needs to be genuinely entertaining and enjoyable.”
Bill Scott received a BEM (British Empire Medal) this year for services to the arts in Cornwall – something that Bill was as surprised by as he was flattered. “It’s just really nice to be recognised,” he admits. “What we do isn’t the most glamorous type of theatre, but it’s unique: taking big shows to little rural venues.”
This year, as we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare, Miracle have taken a different perspective on the festivities and are putting on an adaptation of a Spanish contemporary of Shakespeare, Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Life’s a Dream is philosophical allegory about the human situation and the mystery of life. “It’s a really interesting play and has the epic qualities that are ideally suited to an outdoor production,” promises Bill.
But after more than 50 productions, Bill has some favourites: “The Case of the Frightened Lady was set in a living room which is quite bizarre when you see it on top of a cliff. It was one of those shows that clicked from the off. It had a clever premise and a talented cast who worked brilliantly together. We have revived it a couple of times.
“One of the measures of our shows is whether we have a crowd of enthralled kids at the front of the audience. They are a good barometer – if they are enjoying the show and are fully engaged, know you’ve got it right.”
For many, the cocktail of South West weather and outdoor theatre has become quite a tradition. “We always say the show will go on, whatever the weather, because it can change so quickly. Sometimes on stage you can’t hear each other because the wind and the rain are so loud, but the audience will insist that we carry on.
“Of course there’s nothing like a still, balmy summer night. And it’s always fun when the local wildlife tries to get in on the act!” Although it can mean long hours and heavy work, for Bill, it’s about bringing theatre into the great outdoors.
Win theatre tickets
We have two pairs of tickets up for grabs to see Miracle Theatre’s Life’s a Dream at Life’s a Dream is at Hearn Field, Combeinteignhead, South Devon on Saturday 16 July, 7pm.
Simply answer the following question: Which playright is celebrating his 400th birthday this year?
b) Sean O’Casey
c) Harold Pinter
To enter email your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org putting Miracle Theatre in the subject line. Closing date is 10 June 2016.
South West holiday experts Classic Cottages have been adding their touch of magic to Miracle’s tour throughout the summer, with the Classic Couch, a super comfy inflatable sofa. Each night someone in the audience wins the chance to watch the show from the comfort of the couch – it’s the best seat in the house.