Walk the Plank (theatre company)

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Part of the side of the Fitzcarraldo

Walk the Plank are a British group of artists, theatre makers, pyrotechnicians and event engineers who specialise in outdoor arts/theatre, touring performance and pyrotechnics.

Their shows are on land and on water and often mix performance, music, lighting, visual images, fire, and fireworks. The company was established by John Wassell and Liz Pugh in 1991, who identified a niche market for a touring theatre ship, and other aquatic shows on the waterways. The company's work began when the pair purchased a touring theatre ship, the MV Fitzcarraldo.[citation needed] The company's work has now extended far beyond the ship and they work on delivering shows and events, varying in scale from intimate to epic. Walk the Plank have produced work for Toronto’s Wintercity Festival, Singapore Festival, Euro 2004, Tall Ships 2005, Centerparcs, Sir Paul McCartney, the Commonwealth Games, as well as multiple city and local councils. Perhaps their most well known credit are the opening and closing ceremonies for Liverpool's Capital of Culture celebrations.

Their administrative base is in Salford, Greater Manchester and they have workshop facilities in Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall.

Their work often involves community engagement and they are known for scheduling and leading participation elements which fit the context of the event they are organising.

Event management and consultancy[edit]

The company's Senior Management Team (including co-founders John Wassell and Liz Pugh and Project Directors Andy Stratford and Billie Klinger) are trusted advisers in the areas of outdoor arts and cultural events.

MV Fitzcarraldo[edit]

The Fitzcarraldo [1] was built in 1971 in Sandnessjøen, Norway for TFDS as the MV Bjarkøj. She was 20 years a general cargo and passenger ferry working the islands around Tromsø in north Norway.[citation needed]

In December 1991 Walk the Plank purchased the ship, renaming it the Fitzcarraldo. The ship was registered British in 1992, the same year of its first British national tour. Its hold was adapted as a theatre.[citation needed]

Each summer, from 1992 to 2006 the Fitzcarraldo set sail from the Albert Dock, Liverpool and toured ports and harbours in Scotland, Ireland, England and Wales. Audiences of up to 125 people can sit the aft deck to watch as the hatches rise and the cargo holds are craned open.[citation needed]

In 2000, 's co-production (with Company) of "Moby Dick" won Best Fringe Production at the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards. Jim Burke also won the Best New Play award for this adaptation.

In 2003 the ship went on a national tour to 19 ports with a stage adaption of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, to positive reviews.[1][2] At first the audience sits on the quayside, and the Fitzcarraldo represents the Abraham Lincoln; later they sit in the Fitzcarraldo's hold, which represents the inside of the Nautilus, or occasionally the seabed.

Currently, due to mechanical deterioration to some of its driving components the ship resides in the Canning Dock, which is part of Liverpool's Albert Dock complex, and is used as a static venue for many events including parties, cabaret evenings, live music, and drama.[citation needed]

Walk the Plank are currently making plans to sell the Fitzcarraldo, in order to focus on delivering large scale outdoor events, creating touring performance and continue to provide pyrotechnics elements and firework displays to both public sector and private corporate organisations.

WTP Pyrotechnics[edit]

WTP Pyrotechnics is a limited company who donate all their profits to Walk the Plank. This is a major source of income for Walk the Plank other than arts grants and donations. WTP Pyrotechnics creates fireshows, firework displays, site-specific work, and outdoor spectacles – producing work in landlocked and waterside locations. They have created shows on canals and rivers, in harbours and parks and town centres in the UK and abroad.[citation needed]

Past projects include site-specific events, fireshows and aquatic spectacle, working with pyrotechnics, machines, music, large images, and mobile structures, performance, and fire; usually, one-off specially-commissioned pieces created for a particular site or occasion. The work is often on, near, or by water, but they work inland also.[citation needed]


  1. ^ The Dorset Echo, 23 May 2003.
  2. ^ Manchester Evening News, 2 May 2003.

External links[edit]