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Our Tudor Shakespeare Festival is almost upon us! Fingers crossed for sun!

Our Tudor Festival kicks off this Saturday with myth and magic in The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream alongside living history, crafts, dance, music and duels from the Elizabethan age. On Sunday we continue the fun with As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing…

ImagePhotograph of Ariel (Emily Holyoake) and Alonso (James Bush), in rehearsal for The Tempest at Buckland Abbey. Photographer Joshua Irwandi.

After our rehearsals at Buckland Abbey on Wednesday we are looking forward to getting immersed in Shakespeare and history at the weekend. It was a challenging day, rehearsing all four plays and working in the heat almost non-stop for 11 hours! But great fun and a fantastic venue to work in: the magnificent Great Barn provides a beautiful setting for courtly scenes, we had fun staging the duping of Benedick (Much Ado about Nothing) and other scenes in the Knot Garden, and plenty of space to roam the woods in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It outside the Abbey in the grounds.


Rehearsing in the Elizabethan Knot Garden with cast members Tom Chadwick and Chris Harknett. Photographer Joshua Irwandi.

We are excited to be heading back to Buckland on Saturday morning for a weekend full of  sunshine (we hope) and Tudor merriment! Come and join us for this free event (normal National Trust admission charges apply, but there are no charges for any of the activities or performances) to see some energetic Shakespeare, meet some wonderful characters, try out a few Elizabethan dance moves, and learn about Tudor medicine, crafts and dueling. See you there!


Photo of Hermia (Melissa Barrett) rehearsing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Buckland Abbey’s Tithe Barn. Photographer Joshua Irwandi.


Gearing up for our Tudor Shakespeare Festival

In two week’s time Buckland Abbey will be filled with the sights and sounds of Tudor England as we perform four of Shakespeare’s comedies in our signature immersive style. Saturday will be a magical day as we venture into the world of sorcery and the fae with The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. On Sunday we’ll have a jolly time performing As You Like it followed by Much Ado about Nothing.

We are joined again this year by the wonderful Mock Hobby Horse who will be providing Tudor tunes, and we’ll also be welcoming the Renaissance Historical Dance Society to the event. The group covers the dances of the Medieval, Elizabethan, Stuart and Regency periods, with the aim of making history fun, interactive, educational and visually stunning. They perform in full, accurate period costume with contemporary craft and social activities: come and learn about Tudor medicine, lace-making and show us your Tudor moves by trying out a few dance steps!

We are also performing single plays at the Piazza and the Phoenix this week in Exeter…

Wednesday July 3rd – Great Hall Piazza, University of Exeter Campus

Much Ado About Nothing  1.30pm

The Tempest 5.30pm

Tickets available from Exeter Northcott Box Office (Tel. 01392 493493)

Friday July 5th – Exeter Phoenix

As You Like It  2pm

Much Ado About Nothing 7.30pm

Tickets available from Exeter Phoenix Box Office (Tel. 01392 667080)


Shows start a week tomorrow!

Blimey! Time is sure going fast! The show starts a week tomorrow!

Say what?

Say what?

So we thought we would give you an insight into how we are getting on at rehearsals with our beautiful slideshow below. Enjoy!

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Lend us a crown will you mate?

Here at the Elysium Theatre Company our crew and actors work endlessly trying to put on enjoyable and historical performances for the benefit of everyone. Our work provides training for young actors, workshops for schools and supports heritage sites. We are not publicly funded and in this day and age everything costs money!


If there is any way you, or someone you know, would be willing to donate some money to the Elysium Theatre Company we would be eternally grateful and gladly return the favour with a mention on our website and and a subscription to our mailing list, or if you wanted to donate more, there are a whole host of other thank you gifts, such as signed posters, programmes and free tickets to see one of our performances in Exeter.  

Click here to have a look on our sponsume page for more information about how we would like to use the money raised .


With your help we can make a difference to the arts scene: supporting talented young artists, breaking boundaries between student and professional theatre, and creating exciting theatrical experiences for modern audiences: giving life to classic texts. 

Thank you.

Come and work with us! Bursary-funded Acting Opportunity with The Elysium Theatre Company and The National Trust


The Elysium Theatre Company is looking for motivated, reliable and talented actors for their 2013 Shakespeare season. There are a variety of roles available within the Elysium ensemble: both male and female and all ages.

This season we will be presenting a selection of Shakespeare’s comedies for performance at Exeter venues and at our annual Shakespeare and Heritage Festival at the National Trust’s Buckland Abbey on 13th and 14th July. Rehearsals will be taking place through May and June in Exeter; you will need to be available throughout the rehearsal and production period.

For more information please see the person specification and production information below. If you are keen to apply, please email for an application form and more details about auditions.
(If you’re interested in being a part of the production team, we’d also love to hear from you.)

Person Specification

  • It is essential that you have a strong interest in Shakespeare and in immersive theatre.
  • Experience of acting Shakespeare is a bonus but not a strict requirement: we welcome applications from enthusiastic, talented people whether experienced or not.
  • Ability to work on own initiative and as part of a team.
  • Tact, diplomacy and excellent communication skills (both written and verbal).
  • Ability to work successfully with a range of student and professional artists.
  • Ability to work under pressure and to meet deadlines.
  • Enthusiasm for delivering workshops for school pupils and helping younger students learn about Shakespeare and heritage is a must.
  • You must be prepared to give this production your focus and commitment throughout the rehearsal and production period and will be required to sign a contract.

The role includes a bursary payment (minimum £100), payable at the close of the production. There will be opportunities to increase your bursary amount through dedication to the ensemble (e.g. through taking on extra responsibilities such as becoming a Marketing Assistant or Props Assistant).

Company Information:

Elysium Theatre was set up to make classic plays and historical material more accessible, exciting and appealing to modern audiences and young theatre practitioners.

We believe that the right mix of tradition and innovation can produce electrifying and exhilarating theatre.

We aim to reconnect hearts and minds with the power of the past: providing free training opportunities in classical theatre for young artists, promoting the use of ancient storytelling techniques alongside innovation and exploration, and illustrating the relevance of our heritage today.

For more information about The Elysium Theatre Company, see our 2012 Showreel  and our ‘Who We Are’ page


Production Information:

After the success of Elysium Theatre’s 2012 project, The Wars of the Roses, which toured Devon, Cornwall and the Midlands before giving a grande finale weekend-long performance at a National Trust site to around 1,000 people, the company is developing its connections with local heritage sites and organisations by setting up an annual Shakespeare project.

This year the National Trust have requested for us to deliver an Elizabethan-themed event. We will be rehearsing a selection of Shakespearean comedies including Much Ado about Nothing, giving performances of single plays at Exeter University Piazza and the Phoenix centre, before performing the whole collection in a multi-dimensional form at Buckland Abbey: combined with improvisation, promenade performance, and site-specific drama. The performance will be set against a colourful and interactive Elizabethan “Living History” backdrop, courtesy of participating groups: immersing audiences in the period and narrative in unique creative, dynamic and participatory ways.


Seeking feedback from young people aged 14-25

We are gathering feedback from young people (aged 14-25) based in/around Exeter for our next project!

Your comments will be invaluable to us as we start to put together our 2013 production.

Please visit our Facebook page for more info

Elysium goes Elizabethan and Edwardian in 2013

We are excited to announce that the Elysium Theatre Company will be returning to Buckland Abbey in July for another Shakespearean Heritage Weekend: this year we will be presenting several of Shakespeare’s most loved comedies in our signature immersive style, complete with living history activities, music, dance and more. This time we aim to recreate the sights and sounds of Elizabethan England, and hope to work with several re-enactment groups including the Renaissance Footnotes, who specialise in participatory dance from the Tudor period (so bring your dancing shoes)!

Later in the year we will be jumping into the Edwardian period with some new plays from our ensemble based around the early 1900s and the events taking place locally. We are due to perform at Castle Drogo in September for their Edwardian weekend event, and at Poltimore House in November.

As well as these events we will continue to offer training opportunities for young actors, workshops and free performances for local schools, and Shakespeare performances for the public in Exeter. Keep an eye out for dates and ticket info and we look forward to seeing you at some of our shows!

For more information about the Renaissance Footnotes visit their website at

For information about auditioning for our productions or becoming part of our 2013 team, please email

Renaissance FootnotesDSC00290

Tudor dancing with the Renaissance Footnotes

A sneaky peak at a potential new venue for 2013…

Elysium is hoping to bring theatre that combines tradition with innovation to Bedfordshire again with some new exciting projects and venues provisionally lined up for 2013. Can you guess the identity of the beautiful location shown in the picture?

Artists: If you’re based in Beds/Bucks and looking for new opportunities in theatre, why not drop us an email at ? 🙂

Audiences: We hope to have events in both Beds/Bucks and the South-West happening next year. Watch this space for more information about our 2013 plans, coming soon!


1 week to go! – A cast member reflects on the mental state of theatrical types

Are Actors Mental?

With a week to go until our final (and most challenging) performance. The pressure, one could say, is increasing to heavy levels. Now I don’t know about you, but when I brush my teeth in the morning, its like my brain decides then and there to try and solve world problems. On one such morning it decided to tackle this:

Why do actors put themselves through this?

Now by “this” I mean the creative process of creating theatre or film. Now if you think I’m talking twaddle, then listen to this interesting fact:

“The physical stresses an actor experiences whilst going on stage or screen is the same as one might expect to experience from a small car crash” was a conclusion from a British medical study. Even the most famous of actors have talked of the pressures of acting. Sir Laurence, who in his sixties considered retiring from the stage because of stage-fright, wrote it “is always waiting outside the door” (Confessions of an Actor): “you either battle or walk away”. So why do we do this?

I believe the answer can be put into one word. Addiction. Now before everyone starts yelling out “Addiction to Adrenaline big whoopdie-do” I would actually argue that we, actors, are addicted to stress. Now obviously there will be some disagreement to this but this is my argument for this hypothesis.

We, as actors, actively explore other people’s imaginations or even people’s lives. We try as much as humanly possible to make it seem as though we are someone else. We pick up these people’s habits, slang, accents, nationality, beliefs, good natures (or indeed bad natures), addictions etc etc. We physically take on their styles, their bodies, their physical abnormalities (Richard III), their approach to others and situations. We take on their relationships, are they married? Are they happily married? Do they still have parents? Do they like their parents and so on and so forth. Yet whilst doing all this, we must also remember. Where do I go on this line? How much time do we have left before this venue closes? Are we on time, ahead of time or behind? Who am I speaking to? Who says my next cue line? What’s my next line? What’s my next character? Where’s my next costume change? How fast is this costume change? Do I have enough time to get changed? (and, on this occasion) What play are we on?

All of this we must do (or try to) the entire time we occupy the space. We go through hours and hours of rehearsal time, to try and answer most of these questions so that we are ready for the stage. We do repeated run through after run through. So that we can get used to where we are going and at what time we make those moves; but to successfully have a good run through… you have to know your lines. But to know your lines, you should have a good idea about the person your playing, but to do that you have to know what character your playing and what they do in the play, but to do that you have to….

See where I’m going with this? Exactly! you don’t! That’s my point. You have to take a run and dive right into the deep end.

Talking personally now, I always find it difficult to understand which comes first. Lines or character. Does knowing the character help you learn your lines, or does learning your lines help you learn the character? This is where my answer of we’re addicted to stress comes in. I actively go into a project like this knowing almost nothing about who I’m playing, what my characters do or indeed what my characters say. We all do. Actors walk into a project effectively blind. They may have some ideas of what goes on but nothing solid. Diving in at the deep end.

I can already hear people saying “But what if they have already done that play before”. Well unless they have the same director and cast again the outcome and process will be completely different. Each person adds something new to the project so no two productions will ever be exactly the same. Then, even if you have learned all your lines, you’ve done tones of character work and you’ve got a great show on… there is still that amazing void of first performance.

You can try and try to replicate what the performance will be like but it will never be equal to what it feels like to be in front of the audience. If a line goes wrong you have to pick it up. If someone has miscalculated how long it would take them to get their costume on and they have not appeared on stage when they should have, you have to cover for it. If a move in the fight choreography goes wrong and you look a little stupid you still have to carry on. It’s funny, even now, when describing these accidents that can happen, I am experiencing the “butterflies in the stomach” feeling.

Ok so let’s draw a comparison.

A business man with a proposal goes through months of stress gathering statistics, projections over the next year, economic statistics, budget requirements, partnership deals and requirements, future plans and what makes them stand out, but once this is done. Its over. The actual presentation is the easy bit. This is not the same for actors. We’re like Olympic Athletes (Oh god he brought up the Olympics) we go through months or years of training for this one moment. Now this triple somersault corkscrew or scene 3 you may have done 16 dozen times but one could argue that they don’t matter now. All that matters is this next moment, because the audience wasn’t there for all the times you sat in your room learning your lines, they didn’t see all the great times this scene was played out, all they are going to see or judge is this next moment. Now normal people (yea that’s what I wrote normal people) would be perhaps a little off put by this. But me? Or the Elysium Theatre Company? Or any of my actor friends? We love it.

So when you come and see us on Saturday and Sunday. Remember:

We’ve done what the RSC did in 3 years, with a larger budget than us, a larger cast and set than us. So although we’ve all been hugely stressed for the past 6 months, it’s all been for this. This one weekend. So when you see us up there, remember no matter how bloody the scene is, or how dark and evil that character is, remember there is a student behind all that thinking “How freaking awesome is this?”


Kyle Pryke is a drama student at The University of Exeter and plays King Henry IV, Richard Earl of Warwick, and a Murderer!


“shall we stab him as he sleeps?”

Kyle in Richard III at the Piazza, July 2012

(Photography by Melissa Barrett)

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