Kneehigh Theatre

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Kneehigh Theatre is an international touring theatre company founded by Mike Shepherd and based in Cornwall, England. The company are based in barns on the southern Cornish coast.


Kneehigh was started in 1980 by Mike Shepherd. Early productions were performed in village halls, marquees, cliff-tops and quarries. Their productions are often based around mythological tales such as the Hans Christian Andersen fairy-tale The Red Shoes, The Bacchae and the Cornish legend Tristan and Yseult. Their artistic director Emma Rice won Best Director 2002, Barclays Theatre Awards.[1]

Their productions have been performed outside in locations such as Restormel Castle, the Minack Theatre and the Eden Project as well as their award winning[2] Asylum Season. They use a variety of theatrical elements including puppetry, live music (often played with folk instruments such as ukuleles and dulcimers) and an emphasis on visual imagery.

Between 1989 and 2006, Sue Hill and Bill Mitchell were working as part of Kneehigh on work that was happening outdoors and on site, influenced heavily by such groups as Footsbarn Theatre and Welfare State International. However, feeling that Kneehigh was pulling in 2 different directions, one based in studios and theatres, and the other based in the landscape, Hill and Mitchell formed their own company Wildworks. The first Wildworks productions were initially co-productions with Kneehigh until 2006 when they made Souterrain, their first independent production.[3]

In the autumn of 2007, Kneehigh toured village halls in Cornwall with Blast! A Cornish Expose Performed by 3 Complete Idiots! and presented Noël Coward's Brief Encounter in Birmingham and at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. After finishing a run of Brief Encounter at the Cinema Haymarket in the West End, the show toured the UK before going overseas to Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley, St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

Since then, Kneehigh have taken their work across the world, with performances in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, China and Syria among others whilst continuing to tour work in the UK.

Kneehigh Asylum[edit]

Whilst primarily being a touring theatre company, Kneehigh have their own home performance space called The Asylum. The Asylum is a purpose-built tent that can be configured in 5 ways and pitched in 1 day on any surface.[4] The company have performed at the Asylum since 2010, using it a venue for their own work as well as housing associate artists in what they describe as being '[a] place of fun, playfulness and sanctuary'.[5]

Kneehigh Rambles[edit]

In 2010, Kneehigh launched their Rambles programme. The Kneehigh Rambles allow the company to work with communities by providing greater access to their work in Cornwall and further afield. They engage with those who otherwise would be unable to access our work due to financial or social barriers. Working with a variety of community, voluntary and social organisations, Kneehigh have reached out to people from all walks of life by providing free tickets, running workshops and offering opportunities to work with artists.[6]


  • The Red Shoes – 2003
  • The Wooden Frock – 2004, nominated for the TMA Award for Best Touring Production 2004
  • Tristan and Yseult – 2004, toured internationally in conjunction with the National Theatre (The Stage review [1])
  • Nights at the Circus – 2006, tour co-produced with the Lyric Hammersmith and Bristol Old Vic. (The Stage review [2])
  • Blast! – 2007
  • Brief Encounter toured England before opening in 2008 on the Haymarket, London.
  • Blast!, The Red Shoes, The King of Prussia – Summer 2010, First Asylum Season in Blackwater, Cornwall
  • The Wild Bride – 2011, The Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, London
  • Steptoe And Son – 2012, Oxford Playhouse, Oxford
  • Dead Dog in a Suitcase – 2014, The Asylum, Bristol Old Vic & Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse

The Company[edit]

Although the company does vary between productions, there are a number of associate artists who are repeatedly involved with Kneehigh including:

  • Simon Baker, sound designer. Brief Encounter, Don John, The Wild Bride
  • Stu Barker, performer, composer & musical director. A Matter of Life and Death, Tristan & Yseult, Cubeline, Brief Encounter, Nights at the Circus, Rapunzel, The Bacchae, The Wooden Frock, Pandora's Box, The Red Shoes, The Itch, Roger Salmon, Don John, The Wild Bride
  • Jim Carey, performer & musical director. "The Riot, Strange Cargo, The King of Prussia, Tregeagle, Ship of Fools, Peer Gynt, Windfall, Ting Tang Mine, The Bogus, Ravenheart, The Lost Stories of Don Quixote, The Arabian Nights"
  • Dominic Bilkey, sound designer. The Bacchae, Tristan & Yseult, Cymbeline, Rapunzel
  • Paul Crewes, producer. The Bacchae, The Wooden Frock, Cymbeline, Rapunzel, Don John, The Wild Bride
  • Gisli Orn Gardarsson, performer. A Matter of Life and Death, Nights at the Circus, Don John
  • Carl Grose, performer & writer. Performer: The King of Prussia, Strange Cargo, Wagstaffe the Wind-up Boy, Chucky Vs Alien, Nights at the Circus, Cymbeline, Blast!, Don John, Hansel & Gretel Writer: Quicksilver, Tristan & Yseult, The Bacchae, Cymbeline, Hansel & Gretel, The Wild Bride
  • Craig Johnson, performer. Cry Wolf, Quicksilver, Skulduggery, Tristan & Yseult, The Bacchae, Cymbeline, A Matter of Life and Death, Blast!, Journey to the Centre of the Earth (which he also directed), Don John, Hansel & Gretel
  • Amanda Lawrence, performer. Tristan & Yseult, Knights at the Circus, Brief Encounter
  • Dom Lawton, performer & musician. A Matter of Life and Death, Annabelle Lee, Cymbeline, Hanging Around, Don John
  • Robert Luckay, performer. The Bacchae, Cymbeline
  • Anna Maria Murphy, writer. Tristan & Yseult, The Bacchae, The Red Shoes, Skulduggery, Doubtful Island, Ghost Nets, Women Who Threw the Day Away, Telling Tales
  • Jack Morrison. "The Wooden Frock, Wagstaffe the Wind up Boy, The Bacchae, ,Journey to the Centre of the Earth, A Matter of Life and Death, Cymbeline, Rapunzel, Blast!, Don John, Tristan & Yseult"
  • Dave Mynne, performer & founder member. Don John
  • Emma Rice, artistic director and performer. The Red Shoes, The Wooden Frock, The Bacchae, Tristan & Yseult, Nights at the Circus, Cymbeline, A Matter of Life and Death, Rapunzel, Brief Encounter, Don John, The Wild Bride
  • Malcolm Rippeth, lighting designer. Brief Encounter, Cymbeline, Nights at the Circus, The Bacchae, Pandora's Box, Don John, The Wild Bride
  • Mike Shepherd, performer and founder. The Red Shoes, The Wooden Frock, The Bacchae, A Matter of Life and Death, Cymbeline, Rapunzel, Blast!, Don John, Tristan & Yseult
  • Tristan Sturrock, performer. Brief Encounter, A Matter of Life and Death, The Riot, Tristan and Yseult, The King of Prussia, Tregeagle, Ship of Fools, Peer Gynt, The Ashmaid, Danger My Ally, Windfall, Don John
  • Ian Ross, musician. Brief Encounter, Don John, The Wild Bride
  • Michael Vale, designer. Rapunzel, Cymbeline
  • Alex Vann, musician. Tristan & Yseult, Cymbeline, A Matter of Life and Death, Brief Encounter, Don John
  • Alex Wardle, lighting designer. Tristan & Yseult, Rapunzel, The Wooden Frock, The Riot, The Red Shoes
  • Mary Woodvine, performer. The Young Man of Cury, Windfall, King of Prussia, The Riot, Fishboy, Skullduggery, Don John'


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