Our experience of touring theatre so far

19th May 2023

We have recently embarked on our first UK theatre tour, which takes us to ten different theatres, including local venues in Milton Keynes and Bedford and further afield in Norfolk, Southampton and London. We are also performing at our first Fringe Festival in Brighton.

We are very excited to share our two brand-new plays, Now You See Me’ and ‘Darlint Peidi, with new audiences. The two playwrights, Rosemary Hill and Carly Halse, have worked incredibly hard on the research, the writing and more to bring them to stage.

There has been a lot in the theatre press recently about how touring theatre companies haven’t had a great deal of support from their hosting venue or their whole experience has been quite negative. So, as we come to the halfway point of our tour, we thought we’d tell you how touring has been for us.

It has been a mixed bag of experiences from the start. From even the planning and booking stages, we found some venues to be very helpful and forthcoming with information. Others took some time to get back to our enquiry, and some haven’t even bothered to respond!

One venue was so disorganised that we were still waiting for tickets to go on sale less than one week before their festival opened. Sadly, we had to pull out. Had we continued, we couldn’t guarantee we’d have an audience and that would be a huge detriment on our already tight budget.

In the lead up to the productions we have found some theatre teams have really got behind our plays and been very proactive in helping with our promotion, sending newsletters to their customers, putting us in touch with local reviewers, sharing our social posts etc. A couple of venues haven’t been so proactive.

We’ve spent money on printed advertising materials for use at venues, tour programmes, marketing and social media. The team is working incredibly hard to get our production information out to audiences in a variety of ways. We have everything that a venue would need to help us promote a show, but it does seem to fall a little flat with some, which is a great shame for both us and the venue itself.

Lynn Gardner wrote in The Stage recently: “But if there is one thing worse than failing to get any touring dates for your show, it is getting the dates but then failing to get an audience for your work.” She says that some touring artists have found their posters and flyers still boxed up or even in the recycling bin. You can read her full article here.

We haven’t experienced anything quite so bad as this thankfully. Promotion is so important for the smaller, local venues. If they aren’t helping to promote regular performances and touring theatre companies, they won’t bring in audiences and they just won’t survive. That’s not just promotion of the performances using our material, that’s using local and industry media and social media too.

Publicity so far on our tour areas has been good. We have had stories picked up online and by local papers, plus Rosemary and Carly have been on the radio a few times with the BBC. We keep pushing to build relationships with local media to hopefully work with them again when we next tour!

We’ve welcomed on average 50 audience members at each performance. They have all been incredibly engaged and interested in the plays and have asked some great questions in the Q&A session that follows the performance, so we know we our publicity is reaching the right people.

Our team has worked tirelessly for the past few months to plan and organise dates, book venues, hold auditions and rehearsals, create the set and costume designs, arrange lighting and sound, design graphics, carry out marketing etc. There’s a lot of people involved in making a tour happen. When things don’t go to plan, or performances are cancelled, there’s a lot of us who are affected. 

It’s been said for the last few years that it is not a good time for touring. But when will it be? If we don’t keep pushing to get new work out there and be seen by larger audiences, then both smaller venues and theatre companies won’t be around much longer. We need to make it happen. We need to build good relationships with theatres, arts venues and the media, so we can support each other in producing and promoting great theatre for their local communities.

We knew touring would be a challenge, particularly in the current climate; but we are enjoying every moment of sharing our powerful stories on stage. We discovered new venues we hadn’t worked with before – the wonderful Guildhall in Thetford, Westacre Arts Centre near King’s Lynn and last Friday Hanger Farm Arts Centre near Southampton. The latter is a beautiful, converted barn. All wonderful and versatile arts centres. We’ve worked at The Place in Bedford before and it’s always great to be there. It’s a space which really knows how to programme and market its shows. We really do need a space like these in Milton Keynes. We have barns, land and unused spaces here in MK. Surely, we can make this happen?

Click to find out more about our tour and to book tickets