At Cartridges Law we are proud to sponsor local theatre company, Quirk Theatre. The Exeter based group talked to us about what they do, their upcoming Christmas show, and how they’re changing the way they work in response to the climate crisis.

Book your tickets to see Quirk Theatre’s brand new adaptation of Five Children & IT at the Plough Arts Centre or at Exeter Phoenix.

Quirk Theatre poster for Five Children and IT

Hi Quirk, who are you and what do you do in a nutshell?

We are Quirk Theatre, an Exeter based theatre company with a big heart and even bigger ambitions! We have been making heartwarming and hilarious shows for primary aged children and their families for over 20 years, performing at Exeter Phoenix each Christmas. We pride ourselves on offering a meaningful alternative to pantomime during the festive season, telling socially conscious stories with some serious silliness.

Can you tell us more about Theatre Green Book?

Theatre Green Book is a developing initiative that responds to the climate crisis and is a free resource for everyone in the UK theatre sector. Developed  in collaboration with theatre companies, venues and freelance artists, The Green Book sets out a standard for theatre artists who want to work more sustainably. We’ve only just started on our Green Book journey and so we are aiming for the Baseline standard. To achieve this, we’ve had to have sustainability on the table from the very beginning of our project. Because the baseline standard has really clear criteria (for example requiring that 50% of all materials i.e. set/props/costume, come from a reused/recycled source and that 65% of materials used have future lives) we have something really clear and ambitious to aim for. 

Have you always been a climate conscious theatre group?

When we started looking at Green Book, we realised that we had kind of naturally been working in this way anyway. As a group of freelancers, there is a lot of collective care about this issue, and as individuals we have all been working to make more conscious choices. We also already do lots of second hand sourcing and borrowing of set, props and costume, and we reuse as much of our sets as we can year to year. So that’s a great start! But The Green Book allows us to really officialise this work, and prompts us to take it more seriously. Whenever we are sourcing something that we need for the show we are pre-programmed to ask questions like “do we really need it?”, “can we afford it?” and “is it safe?”. Green Book prompts you to ensure that you’re adding one more question- “is it sustainable?”. So the hope is that this will become so ingrained into our practice that it becomes second nature.

How does a Sustainability Producer work?

Great question! And the answer is…. watch this space! We created the role to help support us through this period of change, to challenge us and to ask the tough questions. Sustainability is all too often something that is tagged on at the end of meetings, or a job that everyone has to try and cram in alongside their other daily tasks. Giving this issue a role within the company means that this can be someone’s main focus, and helps hold us accountable in all our decision making, with somebody tracking our progress in a specific, measurable way. But because the role is so brand new, and not something we’ve had on the team before, we will be developing what the job role means, and how it works, alongside our Sustainability Producer!

Tell us a little more about this year’s show

It’s a brand new adaptation of Five Children & It by E. Nesbit – a fresh, modern take on an absolute classic. It’s going to be a heartwarming and hilarious festive adventure all about wishes. Wishes that are granted by an anarchic fairy-monster-thing with eyes on stalks. Wishes that last for only one day and disappear at sunset. The lucky children who find the Psammead can wish for anything! But as the old saying goes, they might need to be careful what they wish for. 

Quirk Theatre poster for Five Children and IT

What will be the main changes to the way in which you create the show this year?

We’ve kept the Theatre Green Book in our minds from the very start – all staff members had Theatre Green Book training which was adapted specifically for smaller companies, and the set was designed specifically with materials we either already had or were easy to source second-hand. We’ve been building new relationships with organisations in and around Exeter, big and small, which have allowed us to second hand source this year, but which will support us into the future as well. Design has been really key, and our Designer, Fi Russell, has been taking great care to make sure the stage design is exciting and impactful, whilst also treading lightly from a climate point of view. 

What are your main values as a theatre company?

Quirk believe that every child deserves to experience the magic of theatre of Christmas time. A Quirk show can often be a child’s first experience of live theatre, sparking a love of the arts that can last a lifetime. This is why we keep our prices as low as we can year to year – in fact we are the most affordable, full production Christmas show in Exeter – and why we support so many local schools to bring their pupils to visit their local art centre.  And we are thrilled to have our Pay It Forward Scheme too, where we have partnered with Exeter Foodbank and Refugee Support Devon to fully fund family tickets to see the show. We are proud to offer a socially conscious, homegrown, top quality alternative to pantomime, exploring stories and issues that reflect the world we live in and which have the power to affect real change. 

What can people expect from this year’s show?

Big heart, big feelings, big wishes, big imagination and really big laughs! We wanted this year to feel like a massive celebration of children’s imagination and irrepressible hope, and to give everybody a proper, hilarious, heartwarming Christmas treat.

When will the show be?

It’s playing at Plough Arts Centre in Torrington for a run of schools shows from Wednesday 29th November before our first public performance on Saturday 2nd December. Then we will be back to wow the home crowds at Exeter Phoenix in, well, Exeter (!) with schools shows running from 7th December and then our public shows Sunday 17th December to Thursday 28th December.