“The Egg Theatre isn’t just a theatre you go to to watch plays”, says James Moore, Head of Creative Learning at the Egg. “It’s a new campus for a new way of learning.” Melissa Blease talks to the movers and shakers at this innovative hub of theatrical activity and uncovers all the opportunities available for our youngsters.
T he backstory of Hamelin’s infamous Piper is set to be revealed on a Bath stage this month. Later on in April, we’re all invited to bring our parents, children, friends and lovers to The Family Sex Show, described by the show’s designer Josie Dale-Jones as “a series of artistic responses and conversations to help make it easier for anyone, of any age, to talk about certain sticky, tricky topics.” Elsewhere…
There’s glorious gelato and the coolest cocktails in town on the menu at the stylish Brozen cafe, and a flurry of activity around the imaginative, immersive experience The Living Tree (produced in partnership with the Forest of Imagination) which returns to Bath by popular demand in June. Meanwhile, it’s just been announced that the Wonderfund – a uniquely bold initiative – has garnered enough traction and support to extend its remit beyond the realms of original possibility.
All this and much more is going on at The Egg Theatre, which first opened its doors on St John’s Place in October 2005 and has since become an established, internationally recognised centre for creativity and innovation. “The Egg isn’t just a theatre you go to to watch plays,” says James Moore, Head of Creative Learning. “It’s a new campus for a new way of learning, and our doors are open to people of all ages.”
Alongside all manner of ambitious, innovative ongoing initiatives to deepen the quality of art that’s available to young people and make engagement accessible to all, The Egg is also home to The Bath Theatre Academy (a working partnership with Bath College to deliver the two-year Level 3 Performing Arts course) and the Theatre Royal Bath Theatre School (TRBTS), which offers an inclusive program of workshops for those aged between 5–25, covering all disciplines of theatre-making including a backstage programme that’s unique to the South West.
Are The Egg team a merry band of modern-day Pied Pipers, wooing the creative industry superstars of the future and offering them the kind of experiences, skills, inspiration, self-belief and empowerment that shapes limitless possibilities?
…we’re witnessing a happiness deficit and we want theatre to top that up
“One of our key ambitions at TRBTS is to offer our members exceptional experiences,” says the School’s Director Sophie Jacobs-Wyburn. “For some, this is the opportunity to work alongside specialist industry professionals; for others, it’s being offered opportunities to perform in our venues, or using our support and contacts to seek out ways in which we can present their work in other venues – or simply just make friends and memories. For me, no experience is as exceptional as seeing our young people empowered, joyful, and invested in their own creative lives.”
The TRBTS’s latest production is entirely devised by company members aged between 14–16, and features 22 cast members supported by 10 of the school’s backstage crew. “Hamelin is a theatrical investigation into the many theories around the truth behind the Pied Piper story,” says Sophie, who started to plan the production last autumn. Working collaboratively, the company pulled the disparate threads of the multiple historical theories woven into the fable together, incorporating fairy-tale whispers and mischievous humour into their version of the story and resulting in a kind of love letter to the elements of folk horror that runs through traditional tales right up to the Grimm brothers. In Sophie’s words, “Hamelin is a kaleidoscopic experience of a story we all think we remember well. It shows not only a remarkable level of maturity in the young people who created the show, but the curiosity and playfulness which they employ to engage their audience is an absolute joy. We couldn’t be prouder of the results.” And yes, Hamelin offers broad appeal across multiple generations – no grown ups are too grown up to enjoy it. Back to The Egg’s overall ethos:
“The notion that you have to bring – or ‘borrow’ – a child to enjoy The Egg is a constant challenge for me,” says Kate Cross MBE, Director of The Egg. “The Egg is a creative hub that’s open to all ages, at all times. Why would you not give children the same quality of experience that theatres offer to adults? To my mind, that sends a message to both children and parents that children don’t really matter. And we must never forget that a trip to the theatre can change someone’s life forever. It can mould a career or define leisure time. It can help them in their exams or in their relationships. At The Egg we’re so sure of this, through testament, data, instinct and years of experience, that we urgently want to give this opportunity to as many young people as possible. In our young communities, we’re witnessing a happiness deficit and we want theatre to top that up. But resources are needed to take a child to the theatre.” And so…
Established in autumn 2021, The Egg’s Wonderfund campaign originally aimed to help schools come back to The Egg in the post-Covid climate. In February of this year, the Theatre hosted a magical event to celebrate the initiative and acknowledge the charities, trusts and individuals who have supported the Wonderfund journey. But looking back, nobody could have predicted just how much there would be to celebrate.
“We started to see that, with ongoing support, we could extend The Wonderfund programme beyond 2022,” says Andrea Harris, Head of Development at Theatre Royal Bath. “New partners are emerging all the time, and we’re looking at ways that we can work with community-minded corporates, the local authority and fellow charities to layer up opportunities that give the best impact for children and teachers.”
To date, the Wonderfund has raised the funds needed to offer up to 4,000 Egg Theatre tickets to state schools over the next 12 months and alleviate barriers such as transport and teacher cover for the schools facing the greatest hardship. A schedule of Wonderfund activities will soon be announced, starting with The Living Tree installation and including details of a dance tour designed for school playgrounds alongside wonderful opportunities for school groups to see live performance.
“A full theatre programme and enhanced support to teachers has become a tangible goal,” says Kate Cross. “Thanks to the hugely positive reception and support that our local community has so readily offered us, our aim is to establish the Wonderfund as an ongoing feature of Bath life, making sure that every school is supported to embrace the arts and bring their children to the theatre.”
Why wouldn’t you want to support the Wonderfund? Who wouldn’t want to meet the Pied Piper, or take the family along to a family-friendly show that takes the guilt out of talking about sex… or just sit at a table in the sunshine on a historic, traffic-free lane at the heart of Bath, sipping a cool cocktail?
“We never condescend to children,” says Kate Cross. “People think that children don’t have taste, but they do.” People think that they know all there is to know about The Egg… but unless you can say that you visited just yesterday, you really don’t.