The story of Tristan & Yseult, like many Cornish legends from hundreds of years ago, was spread far and wide as Cornwall was once the centre of shipping routes all over the globe. The story has been edited, re-told, changed and adapted to suit its audience, but its roots are in Cornish soil.
As for the story, so for the story-tellers. From our beginnings in Cornwall nearly thirty-five years ago telling stories on the cliff tops and harbour-sides of our home county, we have spread our wings and travelled far and wide, making new friends, delighting new audiences, and finding new stories to take home.
Theatre in the UK is some of the best in the world. For such a small country we continue to produce an extraordinary amount of high quality, ground breaking work. Both artistically and financially, it’s an export of enormous value, strengthening the reputation of the UK as a cultural capital of the world, and bringing visitors and revenue from all corners of the globe.
We pride ourselves on being ‘cultural ambassadors’ for Cornwall and the UK, which was recognised when we won the award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Tourism’ at the Cornwall Tourism awards in 2012. Speaking at the ceremony, Simon Tregonning of Visit Cornwall and Cornwall’s LEP said "Wherever [Kneehigh] go they demonstrate imagination, innovation and artistry, drawing inspiration from Cornwall’s culture, people, landscape and history but making it relevant to the here and now – and in turn enthuse their audiences to come and discover Cornwall for themselves."
Over the past 10 years we have explored and developed international touring and have visited places as diverse as New Zealand, America, Australia, and South America. In the last year alone we have played for 34 weeks in international venues.
Some of these venues have been particularly exciting. It’s been brilliant to be part of the opening season at a brand new theatre in LA, the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts. Built on the site of the old post office, it’s the first performing arts center to be built in Beverly Hills, and will be a home for artists from around the world and audiences of every age. Also in California, Berkeley Rep has become a home from home, as we recently visited with the third production in as many years. The theatre is a national leader in innovative theatre and in many ways, Berekely feels a lot like Cornwall, with beautiful landscapes and welcoming people.
It’s also been really exciting to return to the Guthrie in Minneapolis, where Tristan & Yseult is currently playing. The theatre’s two founders were disenfranchised with the commercial nature of theatre on Broadway, and wanted to create a centre for innovation, and artist cultivation. The Guthrie continues to be a living organization which reflects the culture and human spirit of its audiences today.
Back in the UK, we have a history of creating strong relationships with venues, often culminating in co-productions, for example with Battersea Arts Centre and West Yorkshire Playhouse, or with Liverpool Everyman, with who we are coproducing our new show, Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs).
Internationally, we have been doing the same. We have established strong relationships with a number of venues in America including St Ann’s Warehouse in NYC, as well as Berkeley Rep and The Guthrie. We are deepening our relationship with Berkeley Rep in particular by exploring a co-producing relationship for a new project with Michael Morpurgo, for which further details will be announced soon..!
As well as strengthening relationships with venues we've been to before, we're discovering new places too. In a week we travel to Washington Shakespeare and Chicago Shakespeare, and in 2015 we are exploring further afield.
But despite creating successful and meaningful relationships with venues and audiences internationally, coming home is always a joy and a necessity. We return to recharge and regroup, and tell tales of our adventures overseas. We bed down at the barns and explore new projects and new stories. We can’t wait to be back in Cornwall to rehearse our new show in April after six months away, and we can’t wait to share it with our Cornish friends at the Asylum in September. Like the men and women who spread the story of Tristan & Yseult throughout the trade routes of the world, we will always return to our native soil.