A Chat with Graduate Companies

A conversation with Scratchworks Theatre, Worklight Theatre and In Bed with My Brother.

We’re extremely proud that our Exeter University Graduate companies, who we’ve supported since their earliest days, are now winning awards and presenting work across the country. We asked them to discuss their experience of the arts industry since graduating:


 

Scratchworks Theatre

The first thing we wanted to talk about were the factors that contributed to us starting up a company. All of us have had that moment when you recognise that there’s no one right way of starting a career in the professional arts industry. For us it appears to have been a combination of hard work, saying yes to every opportunity, taking risks, making mistakes, accepting that we’re always a little sleep-deprived and not being afraid to ask for help – this last one is really the key. People are sometimes reluctant to ask for advice for fear of not being established enough to do so. Don’t know about you guys, but we were constantly surprised by the number of ‘yes’ replies we got from the most unlikely places.

I would also tell my graduating self the same thing I would tell any graduating company, don’t over think things. Just do it.


 

Worklight Theatre

We totally agree. One thing that is really helpful to remember is that venues, programmers and the industry in general all want to put on good work and get it seen by as many people as possible, so when you go and ask for advice they’re more than happy to help.

Even since leaving we have a really strong bond with Exeter and The Bike Shed specifically, is a home-from-home. One thing we’ve really found more and more is that people take notice when you talk about the South West as being where we formed. There’s definitely a growing acknowledgement that there’s some fantastic work being made which is getting recognised on a national and international level, which is fantastic.


 

In Bed with My Brother

Our approach over the last two years has been to apply for absolutely everything. However big or small – we applied for Charlie Hartill six minutes before the deadline and definitely did not think we’d get it. The opportunity to go to the Edinburgh Fringe and likewise have a base for rehearsal and showcasing in London is overwhelming for us as such a small and new company.

I’d agree that, through various London trips as a Company – Camden People’s Theatre, Pleasance and the New Diorama – there definitely is an interest in the work being made in Exeter. And that’s because there is some great work being made here – ultimately this is down to the support and time given to Exeter based artists. We haven’t yet had to apply for 14-hour day jobs to fund our lifestyle, unlike many of our peers in London (touch wood). And for a young company it’s important for us to be able to create, tour and develop. Moving back from Bristol to Exeter, and being The Bike Shed’s Graduate Company has given us somewhere we can develop as a theatre company. Meaning now we can go to ‘this place or that place’, with more of an idea of who we are and where we fit in.