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You are in: Cornwall > People > People Features > Profile on Emma Rice

Find out more about Emma Rice from Kneehigh

Profile on Emma Rice

From its early days of performing in schools and barns, to touring the world, Kneehigh is a major Cornish success story. BBC Cornwall catches up with its Artistic Director Emma Rice to learn more about the company. Hear our interview.

The Cornish theatre group Kneehigh was started in 1980 by Mike Shepherd.

The earliest productions were performed in village halls, marquees, cliff-tops, schools and quarries.

Since its formation in 1980 Kneehigh has gone on to achieve great success in the West End, and conquered America, but has always remained true to its Cornish roots.

The Bacchae Pic courtesy of Steve Tanner

Past production The Bacchae

The person behind the various productions over several years has been Artistic Director Emma Rice.

BBC Cornwall's Matt Shepherd spoke to Emma about her career so far, working for Kneehigh and how she comes up with the ideas for their unique performances...

"It's basically my choice which shows we do, and where we do them," explains Emma.

"You can't plan too far ahead. You have to wait for the right story to arrive, which is almost the most exciting part of the project."

Kneehigh has its trademarks that people in Cornwall and beyond have come to love. Sometimes the plays are nightmarish, they can be surrealist. Most of the productions have a mythical feel to them. All tip their hat lovingly to the company's Cornish roots.

"I'm a great believer that stories come to you. My job is to catch them when they arrive. Fate plays a hand too. Sometimes you wake up in night and remember a novel you read years ago, and then the time is right to do it," says Emma.

Once the idea comes about, there's plenty more to do, before the production can take to the stage.

Brief Encounter Pic courtesy of Steve Tanner

Brief Encounter is in the West End

"We have to programme the play, then we have to finance it, which is the dull bit," smiles Emma. "We're in a lucky position that we're core funded by the Arts Council. But that isn't enough certainly not for the scale of work we're producing, so we need to fundraise too."

"We often work with other companies like the RSC, we've also worked with the National. So it helps us to use partners like that."

Emma Rice's office may be based in Truro, but as Artistic Director she gets to travel all over the world.

"The last six months have been unbelievable," admits Emma.

"I have a show in the West End, our tour of Rapunzel went to New York. And Cymbeline has been to Brazil and Columbia. Theatre isn't science, so you have to keep topping it up, giving actors new ideas. So I am desperately getting on planes and trains to make sure that the plays are still alive and well."

Kneehigh has grown from the original barns in Gorran Haven near Mevagissey, to a worldwide name.

Tristan and Yseult - Pic courtesy of Steve Tanner

A shot from Tristan and Yseult

"There was one night when we had a show in Columbia, off Broadway in New York and in the West End. We made sure everyone had champagne that night."

"I feel very passionate about the fact that we're not based in London," smiles Emma. "There's something very right about travel, so that we take a bit of Cornwall with us."

Wherever Kneehigh goes they always ensure Cornwall is part of the production. As a result theatre goers worldwide are falling in love with the beauty of our local area.

"They fall in love with the Cornish tales. It's a truly magical place, we are in this extraordinary part of the planet," says Emma.

"This is the best place in the world."

Find out more about Emma and Kneehigh Theatre by clicking on the link below:

last updated: 30/05/2008 at 12:54
created: 28/05/2008

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