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fEAST Theatre: Ten Years On

Ten years ago, when Mandy McKenna and Rob John first discussed the idea of creating a professional theatre company based in rural Norfolk, the idea seemed far-fetched. The two former Paston College drama tutors wanted to start a company committed to presenting new plays performed by professional actors from our region, telling stories from and about Norfolk. But would they be able to find that new writing? Were there actors out there who could give their characters authentic Norfolk voices? And, most importantly, even if they could make this new ‘theatre from the East’ would anyone want to come and see it? In 2010 they decided to find out. Mandy and Rob formed fEAST Theatre and took their first show out on the road.

In the past decade the company has staged seven new plays and undertaken eight regional tours. fEAST has travelled thousands of miles and has performed in theatres, schools, dozens of village halls and once in a world famous mustard factory. And yes those audiences did come. The company has slowly won a loyal and enthusiastic following and many of their recent shows have been sell-outs. In addition to touring and performing fEAST is proud of the work they have done in helping writers new develop new work, in mentoring young actors at the start of their careers and in running educational workshops with students in schools and colleges across the region. The company has recently completed its first residency,  a Christmas show which ran for 18 performances at the newly refurbished Maltings theatre at Wells. In 2019 the company were nominated for the Norfolk Arts Award for theatre.

In 2018 Mandy and Rob stepped down as co-directors of the company and handed over the reins to Artistic Director Dawn Finnerty and Associate Director Robin McLoughlin. Plans were developed for an ambitious programme of productions in 2020 to mark fEAST’s first ten years.

In March and April Rob John’s much loved play The Canada Boys returns with its original cast – including Nimmo Twins star Owen Evans- for a sixteen show tour of the region. This ‘sad comedy’, set in Norwich in 1912, resonates with Norfolk voices and locations and is based on a true story of a group of workers at Colman’s mustard factory at Carrow. The Canada Boys opens on March the 19th at the Garage theatre in Norwich.

fEAST’s anniversary season continues in the summer with a tour featuring a double bill of two shorter plays commissioned by the company. Catherine Herman, London-based actor and writer was born in Norfolk and grew up on a farm near Great Yarmouth. She has made use of childhood memories in writing Dulcie and Walter ; a poignant but hilarious study of an aging couple in rural Norfolk in the 1970’s. Artistic Director Dawn Finnerty says ‘Catherine’s script perfectly captures that distinctive dour Norfolk wit which we know local audiences will recognise and enjoy.’

On the same bill will be Henhouse by Holt writer James McDermott. James is a rapidly emerging young talent whose work has already been nominated for several major awards. Henhouse is a comedy set at the time of mad cow disease, the Spice Girls, and New Labour. fEAST Associate Director Robin McLoughlin says ‘It’s exciting to expand fEAST’s roster of collaborators and James is a young writer with a great future ahead of him.’

The 2020 season finishes with Rob John’s new play Rosa Mendoza . Set in a Cromer guest house this story of an explosive triangular relationship  begins in Spring 2016 and will carry the action forward right up to the moment the show opens at Wells Maltings on October 16th. Dawn Finnerty says ‘This is a brilliantly  dark comedy for our times and like the fast-moving events of the past three years we have no idea how things will turn out.’

‘It’s an exciting time for fEAST Theatre,’ says Dawn. ‘Rehearsals are already under way and if you live in Norfolk or Suffolk we’ll be performing at some point at a venue near you. Please come and see us!’

The Canada Boys opens on 19th March at The Garage, Norwich and tours until 18th April.

The double bill  Dulcie and Walter and Henhouse opens on 18th June at Wells Maltings and tours until 11th July.

Rosa Mendoza opens on 15th October and tours until 7th November.

See www.feasttheatre.com for further information about the company and full details of all three tours