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Quirky, magical shows that continue a Cornish heritage

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 28, 2012

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It's often said that without experimental theatre company Footsbarn there would have been no Kneehigh, no Miracle, nor any of the other Cornish innovators who have followed on in quirky mode.

Although decamped to France for three decades, and more at home performing in their circus tent, these originators returned to the Westcountry stage in 2012. The production they brought to Hall for Cornwall and the Exeter Northcott was The Indian Tempest, an enchanting musical reinvention of Shakespeare's classic, developed in Kerala, using a multi-cultural ensemble, which served as a timely reminder that risk is necessary when forging fresh paths.

Kneehigh, meanwhile, were riding high on the national and international stages, seeming to edge ever closer to the mainstream. A Cornish reinvention of TV classic Steptoe and Son was their premiering production for the summer season in the Asylum – their own terrific tented auditorium pitched in fields near Perranporth. If it were any other company there would be no if or buts about the shows's excellence, and newcomers wouldn't have missed a thing. But budget constraints meant it was only a three-hander – albeit the very capable hands of founder Mike Shepherd and Dean Nolan (above) in the title roles as Albert and Harold and newcomer Kirsty Woodward in all the others. And their fabulous trademark live music was sadly missing, replaced by the occasional strains of an old-school record player punctuating proceedings.

Throwing caution dangerously to the wind was not entirely lost in the county's fringe theatre land. Enter director and actor Angelina Boscarelli (above, as Merlin) and producer, actor and designer Ollie Oakenshield, founders of Rogue Theatre, who sail by the seat of their pants to escape the box. Their site specific re-imagining of the legend of King Arthur, a tale with its roots deeply entrenched in Cornish soil, took theatre-goers into the heart of the landscape, staging performances in an invited woodland encampment at Tehidy, near Camborne. With a candlelit journey through the trees, original music and songs, tense drama, dance, acrobatics and soup served from a cauldron in the interval. Now that's magical.

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