Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Living Through a Disaster Movie - by Jethro Compton

It has been almost two months since Hurricane Irma surged out of the Atlantic on her path of devastation – headed towards the Caribbean and US mainland. As the early news reports came in Florida, we were into our first week of rehearsals in Saint Petersburg, far up on the west coast – safely on the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. I’d never encountered a hurricane before. Being from Cornwall, the range of weather I’d experienced was pretty limited. So to say I was unprepared for what was to come would be an understatement.

Over the years, Hollywood has made some great disaster movies, and some less great (though no less enjoyable) ones. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of these world changing Day After Tomorrow style events – the growing panic, the hysteria – but to find myself in the centre of one is a little different. And that’s just what it felt like – a disaster movie.

Most Floridians seemed unconcerned by the impending storm. Those Sunshine State born and raised poo-pooed the largest Atlantic hurricane recorded in over a decade as nothing more than a bit of weather. Most planned to stay at home and ride it out – and work carried on as normal. The only glimmer of the mounting fear could be seen in the supermarkets and gas stations. The gas was running out; lines of cars down the street looking for last minute fuel. The shelves that once held bottled water now held nothing more than well conditioned air. The dried food, depleting. The peanut butter, heaven forbid, extinct.

On the evening of Friday September 8th, there was an eerie calm about the streets of Saint Pete. For anyone of non-Floridian blood was already on the road – evacuating. We sat at the quiet beach, drinking frozen mangoritas (think margarita, but blended with a mountain of frozen mango – you’re welcome) and watched a perfect sunset. Irma was forecast to head up the east coast. We’d feel the effects, but we were a long way from the worst of it.

Sunset beach, before mangoritas
By the following morning, everything had changed. I woke for rehearsals with a stinking hangover (damn those mangoritas), and made my way through the condominium to the bathroom. Two of the cast had been moved into my condo as their own was in a flood zone. Yet, now, on this Saturday morning, I noticed one of the rooms had been vacated. All that was left was a note, “I’m getting out of here. You should too, if you know what’s good for you.” That’s not quite what it said, but I read between the lines. Then another bedroom door flew open and a panic-stricken actor burst out, luggage in hand. The forecast had changed. Irma was expected to make landfall just an hour south of Saint Pete and this actor wasn’t hanging around to see what the eye of a category five hurricane looks like. There was a temporary shelter being made in an old theatre in Gainesville. “Come with us. But we have to leave now.” I don’t remember why – perhaps the fear of being trapped on a gridlocked freeway as Irma arrived – but I didn’t leave. The actor did, and now I was alone in the condo.

Throughout the week, as the storm had grown, I’d heard reports that our own theatre was building a shelter in the scenery shop. That’s where I wanted to be (foolishly thinking I’d be close by to start rehearsals again as soon as the wind died down). I packed all the food I had in the kitchen that wouldn’t turn to rot with a few hours of Floridian heat. I didn’t have much. By the time I’d joined the hysteria, pretty much everything worthwhile was gone. But I did have a lot of cheese flavoured snacks – so I’m not complaining.

In the condo, the night before the storm

I was going to be joined by some others at the condo until the moment we had to move into the makeshift shelter (or the Bunker, as we named it). That night, in the wood framed condo, we drank Prairie Fires (shot of tequila, few drops of tabasco, topped off with lime – you’re welcome) and played board games, trying to ignore the danger that was coming.

Before the sun rose on the Sunday morning, we were in a small convoy, headed across the city to the Bunker. I had bid my farewells to the condo and selection of non-sentimental personal items – though I clutched my bottle of Cholula hot sauce (garlic and chilli variety) and was never going to let it go.

At the Bunker, a vast concrete warehouse, the roller door opened, we drove right inside and parked beneath a large steel cage. There made our new home from the theatre’s stock of old couches, mattresses and Lazy Boys. We made it as comfortable as we could. We drank beer. We played board games. And we rode out the storm.

It’s worth saying that this was no ordinary theatre workshop. We had two snorkelled trucks that could drive through feet of water; if the water was too deep, we had boats (two actual boats); we had a small armoury of bows, crossbows, and the occasional firearm (this is America after all). This wasn’t a theatre workshop – this was a Bunker prepped for the End of Days, for a nuclear holocaust, for the zombie apocalypse. Name a disaster movie, we were covered.

By morning the news came that the theatre had been devastated. The roof had been ripped off. The entire space was flooded and unusable. But, somehow, the show would go ahead. In that moment, the resilient, defiant nature of the theatre and theatre people began to take hold. The artistic director climbed onto the back of a pickup truck, grabbed a loudspeaker and told us, “We can’t be consumed by our petty differences any more. We will be united in our common interests. And this day will be known as the day the world declared in one voice, “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight. We’re going to live on. We’re going to survive. Today, we celebrate our Independence Day””– wait, sorry. I got carried away. That’s from a different disaster movie. But that was the gist of the feeling we all had.

And as the debris was cleared from the streets, and people filled back across the county line to their homes, fearing for the worst, hoping for the best – the disaster movie was gone. This was a new movie – a movie about determination, about strength, about unity. This was a movie about a community who came together, donated their time, their money, and their spare rooms, to build a new theatre, to rebuild the old one, and to declare, “We will not vanish without a fight.”

Somehow, after all the destruction, the fear, the panic, the disaster movie was over, and we were part of a feel-good film even Richard Curtis would be proud of.

WHITE FANG previews 7th & 8th December at Connaught Theatre, Worthing, and opens in London at Park Theatre December 13th. More info:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

WHITE FANG - UK Production: Casting Opportunities

Deadline for applications is Close of Business Monday 28 August.
We are currently casting for the UK production of our new show, WHITE FANG. The production is running for five weeks over the Winter / Christmas period of 2017. 

Lyzbet Scott
Rescued by a huntsman after the massacre of her tribe, Lyzbet is a strong, fearsome and feisty young woman. Although fiercely loyal to her adopted father throughout the play she becomes more and more independent, learning to hunt, exploring the forest and learning the culture and ways of her ancestors with her wolf, White Fang, by her side. ​
Additional Requirements: Ability to sing essential.
Gender: Female.
Playing Age: 15 - 25
Height: Any
Appearance: Aboriginal Canadian / First Nations
Accent: American (standard)
Pay category: Non-equity

Tom Vincent / Violinist / Puppeteer
Tom is a simple, kind, and earthy man. He tends to the sled dogs, and helps Lyzbet and her grandfather, Weedon, look after the business and house. He considers himself a hunter and a man of the wild – but he has a lot to learn. He Also doubles as secondary puppeteer for White Fang puppet.
Additional Requirements: Must be able to play the violin. Puppetry experience useful. Ability to sing essential.
Gender: Male
Playing age: 20 - 35
Height: Any
Appearance: Any
Accent: Any.
Pay category: Non-equity

Henry Griffiths / Puppeteer
Henry is a rough, unpleasant man, an associate of fur-trader and businessman Beauty Smith who proves to be the villain despite his gentlemanly appearance. Violent and unsavoury, Henry carries out Beauty's dirty work. Also doubles as primary puppeteer for White Fang puppet.
Additional Requirements: Strong puppetry skills vital. Ability to sing essential.
Gender: Male
Playing age: 20 - 35
Height: Any
Appearance: Any
Accent: Any.
Pay category: Non-equity

Production details

Production dates:
13 November – 4 December: Rehearsals in London (Elephant and Castle)
5 - 6 December: Rehearsals at Connaught Theatre, Worthing
7 - 8 December: Previews at Connaught Theatre, Worthing
11 – 12 December: Rehearsals at Park Theatre, London
13 December - 13 January: Run at Park Theatre (P90), London

Production location:
Park Theatre (with previews at Connaught Theatre, Worthing)
Closing date: 13 January 2018

Director: Jethro Compton

Production Company: White Wolf Theatre, freeFall Theatre, and Jethro Compton Productions

Pay category: Non-equity

Casting Details

Casting Director: Becky Paris
Casting Location: London, UK

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Knowing Your Insignificance...

The following is a blog from Jamie Wilkes, author of Morgana and Agamemnon, two parts of The Bunker Trilogy.

It was in researching Arthurian legends that I stumbled on the key to getting my head around writing the Bunker plays. It was an invaluable learning curve that would again prove useful a year later when it came to sitting down in front of my laptop to create three new adaptations for 1930s Chicago.

There was a vague idea that one of The Bunker Trilogy should be taken from the King Arthur stories – Jethro was set on Macbeth as one of the three and we were leaning towards a Greek to round them off. Three plays, set in a first world war dugout for four actors. That was the criteria. I quite like criteria for writing, they can be nice boundaries that give you exciting challenges and points of inspiration. The Bunker gave us some lovely contradictions to try and work out - we had an epic setting to present on an intimate scale; we wanted timeless classics to be rooted in the first world war; we wanted to transport an audience to a different world but only let them see one room. Storytelling, luckily, is pretty adept at helping you do any of those things.

So there I was researching the countless different incarnations of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. It quickly became apparent that the really interesting character to throw into the mix would be Morgana. In a world populated exclusively by men, what happens when you introduce a witch? And how do you create a vividly realistic world and then change the rules and bring in a supernatural element? The other major problem was …which witch? In the countless incarnations of Arthurian legends there are many contradictory depictions of Morgana (or Morgen, Morgaine, Morgant, Morgne, Morge, Morgue of Morgan le Faye). But that was cool. Some said she was a Welsh Goddess, others that she was Arthur’s half sister, an apprentice of Merlin, a lover of Merlin, a lover of Lancelot. Many places in the world claim that she lived there – her birthplace could be anywhere over Europe including one legend that she emerged from a volcano.

So Morgana was this shapeshifting legend that seemed to mould to the storytellers needs. And this was perfect. It’s something we do all the time. We sculpt stories to what we want them to be and here we had a character who had evolved and been many things to many different people. And that was the doorway in. How might Morgana and the other characters of Arthurian lore evolve into this new WWI setting? There was suddenly a freedom in knowing I was just one of many people to shape these characters – it’s what keeps them alive. And so the chivalry of Arthurs knights became the honour of English boarding school boys. Their band of knights became one of the many pal’s battalions that joined the Great War to fight side by side. Merlin their old headmaster. The rest is as you see it in the Bunker trilogy.

The character of Morgana though has retained that shape shifting nature. As she is through literature, she is many different things to many different people. Each character has their own version of her and that is how she slides into the frontline dugout in the trenches. She haunts the knights.

Having unlocked this way of looking at these stories it became easier to mould our Greek tragedy to the Bunker setting. Agamemnon became the obvious choice with it being so entwined in war. It’s a war hero returning which fitted nicely with the other three slices of the trilogy. It offered a glimpse of the WWI story for those that returned. In this one though, Agamemnon’s royalty is gone, he and his wife are no king and queen – in fact they are never named in the play but their character arcs are still intact. It is still a tale of revenge with a twist of perspective. We leave the trench through Agamemnon’s delirious eyes – his guilt concocting a tale of bloody recompense. It is the same story but evolved several thousand years into the future.

Looking back on the trilogy three years later is interesting. As a writer I’ve evolved three years into the future – there would be things I’d change of course but you always have to let go otherwise you never stop redrafting and you can end up adapting adaptations and you lose sight of your original story. The story has to be at the very centre no matter what version you tell. What’s so wonderful about working with stories several centuries old is that they have survived for a reason. No matter what you do isn’t going to change them too much – you could never vandalise them beyond repair. They are robust and can take some heavy handed moulding. That gives you a lot of freedom as a writer – knowing your insignificance. It also means you can bring the stories to you, to whatever prism you want to look at them through, to borrow them from ancient Greece or medieval lore and place them down somewhere else. Treat them the right way and they are more than big and bold enough to feel right at home.


The Bunker Trilogy runs at the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2016, from 12 Feb - 16 March. More info at

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Bunker Returns

It is such a delight to announce our return to the Adelaide Fringe this summer (or winter if you're left behind in the United Kingdom). The Bunker Trilogy will be making its second journey to the South Australian festival - the largest in the southern hemisphere - after its success in 2014.

We'll be performing the entire run in an incredible venue just a stone's through from the city centre in Adelaide's stunning Botanic Gardens. We're the only theatre taking place in the building, but we've partnered with SA's own Blanco Food & Events who'll be running an outdoor bar/cafe throughout the festival.

The Adelaide Fringe Festival, and Adelaide itself, is fast becoming a home for the company as much as Edinburgh has been over the years. It's an experience that revolves entirely around the local community and depends on the support of this community who work tirelessly to make our time Down Under even remotely possible. This community has opened their hearts and doors to us over the last four years; sharing their tables with us, sharing their homes with us, sharing South Australia with us.

The excitement that grows as we prepare for The Bunker Trilogy in Adelaide is not that of adventure or new experiences, but that of returning to the city, to the community, and to the people who we are now honoured to call our friends and family.

Take a look at the website: for booking information and keep an eye out here and on Twitter for details, updates and behind-the-scenes info.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Brief Interview with BEBE SANDERS

Here's a brief interview with Bebe Sanders, who performed in The Bunker Trilogy throughout 2014 and is currently performing in The Fronter Trilogy. 

Jethro Compton's Frontier Trilogy

What was it that made you realise you wanted to be an actress?
I think I just always knew I wasn't interested in a normal job... I have always just wanted to have fun with my life. And I've always loved stories and dressing up... That's basically it!

What’s been the highlight or your career in theatre so far?
I played Billy Elliot's grandma in school and quite honestly that's the most fun I've ever had. But in my professional career... Taking a bow at the National Theatre has to be up there. And travelling the world with The Bunker Trilogy. Pure joy.

You joined the company in The Bunker Trilogy once the shows had already been performed, how different is it being in a brand new trilogy?
It's totally different! Joining The Bunker was great but there was a lot that had already been established so it was strange to feel like I was filling someone else's shoes. With the frontier you know that you are the first person to be that character and everyone is in the same boat which is lovely. I love teams.

Which character in The Frontier Trilogy most excites you?
I love them all but Miss Lilly from The Clock Strikes Noon is so different from anything I've done before. She excites me the most, because she's fabulous.

Which play in The Frontier Trilogy is your favourite?
I can't choose! They are all so fab in their own way. I actually can't choose.

What’s your best experience working with Jethro Compton Productions?
Making friends that will last a lifetime.  Every day at work is like going on a play date and having the best fun and getting overexcited and silly. And spending six weeks in Australia with The Bunker was life changing.

What’s the thing about Edinburgh you most look forward to?
This is only my second time going to the Fringe! But I think I am excited about returning to that atmosphere... And I just love that feeling of something new. I'm a bit weird in that I even love the set building, the being over tired, the getting coffees for everyone. I guess it's the team spirit. The feeling that we are all doing something special together.

For more information on The Frontier, visit 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Interview with our Stage Manager MAEVE BOLGER

Here's an interview with Maeve Bolger. Maeve is the stage manager for The Frontier Trilogy. This is the second show she's work on with the company, after 2014's Edinburgh and Seoul Performing Arts Festival run of The Bunker Trilogy.

Jethro Compton's Frontier Trilogy

1. On a project like The Frontier, what does a Stage Manager actually do?
Its a very varied job! I start out in the rehearsal room with the company and keep whats called the Book. This is a copy of the script in which everything is written from the movements the actors make to what props are needed and where they are kept. Its essentially a blueprint for the show. Once we get up to Edinburgh, I'll be helping with building/dressing the set and sourcing any last minute props. In technical rehearsals, I work with our lovely sound team, Ella and Dylan, to write down the sound cues in the Book. The same goes for the lighting cues decided upon by Jethro. This is also my opportunity to learn how to operate the shows. Once the shows are up and running, I'm in a little earlier to set the props and make sure that the cast are happy to begin.

2. How does it compare to managing a more traditional show?
The main difference is that I can't see what's happening! The nature of these shows is that the audience is totally immersed in the world of The Frontier Trilogy. The set is a room which we will build and decorate to make look like a church in the wild west. Having someone sat in a corner with modern technolgy operating the lights and sound would ever so slightly distract from this! So, I'm set up outside the room listening in for my cues whether they are on actors' lines or doors banging etc. Its very strange at first because I am devoid of one of my senses so I really need to depend on my hearing. It sounds crazy, but it works!

3. How does this affect your role?
I depend on the actors a lot more than I might on any other show. If anything goes wrong in the room like and actor injury or an audience member becoming ill, I need them to be able to let me know. In any other situation, I would be able to see what's going on first hand and make a judgement call on what needs to be done. Fortunately, the group I'm working with are more than able to deal with the worst should it happen – fingers crossed it doesn't!

4. What's the hardest part of the job?
In general with stage management the worst thing is the odd hours I work. My partner and a  group of close friends work outside of the industry in "normal" jobs. It makes finding time to spend with them difficult. Its important that I can find people I enjoy spending time with to work with. I can definitely say its true with these guys! One thing that leads from this is that making plans can be a nightmare! As I work freelance, I mostly never know what I'll be doing from one job to the next. But that's equally as exciting as it is daunting!

5. What's been your favourite experience as an SM?
I have been really fortunate to travel with my job and work in some beautiful places like Pieve in Italy and Paris. But my favourite has to have been when I went to Seoul in South Korea with The Bunker Trilogy last year. Having never been to Asia before, it was such a treat to be able to go there to work on one of my favourite shows. The people, the food – not the spicy food! - and the city were simply amazing and I'd go back in a heartbeat!

6. What advice do you wish you'd been given when starting out as an SM?
The most improtant piece of advice I've ever been given about work was this nugget of knowledge from Mammy Bolger - Don't expect people to coming knocking on your door to offer you work. No one knows how great you are unless you tell them so don't be afraid to.

The Frontier Trilogy opens in Edinburgh at the Fringe this summer. For tickets and more info, click here. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Branding a Show: Making a Poster

Designing the artwork for a show can be an incredibly time consuming process, but it's something I love doing. Whilst most companies outsource their graphic design, and leave it until quite a long way into the process, it's actually one of the first things I do when starting a new project. When I'm coming up with an idea for a show, I'll often find myself sat into the late hours of the night messing around with ideas for how the artwork might look. I often feel embarrassed talking about a concept for a show, or an idea for a play; it's a mixture of worrying if the idea is any good combined with the fear that, even if the idea is great, I might never actually be able to deliver it. For some reason, once I've made a draft poster I feel that I can talk more openly about my idea. As if the (normally dreadful) draft artwork somehow makes the project more real than it was when it existed only as an idea.

I sometimes provide graphic design for other companies, but it's not my favourite pastime. Creating the artwork for a show is, for me, no different to writing it, producing it, or directing it. It's a significant part of the creative process that fills me with confidence.

Sometimes people can worry too much about a poster. The best poster in the world can't save your show if the show is no good. But a terrible poster probably could harm a decent show. I always set out to create something that I want to represent the company, the show and the brand. Something that would make me get up and go to the theatre. 

The following is a mood board of posters that I loved and felt would be a good starting point when I came to creating the artwork for The Frontier Trilogy. There's something similar in all of them, as I suppose there is in all Western posters. I enjoyed the washed-out, gritty texture of DJANGO, the sense of mystery and danger in LONGMIRE, the wanted poster paper effect in 3:10 TO YUMA, and the impression of distance and scale in HELL ON WHEELS

The final artwork for The Frontier Trilogy. Whilst clearly influenced by the examples above, I hope it achieves its own style and impression. 

Jethro Compton's Frontier Trilogy

A challenge I have always faced designing the brand for a trilogy, is that each show has its own voice, and yet the artwork must cater for all three voices in one image. Had I been making a poster for only one of these plays I imagine it would have looked very different. 

Beyond creating the image for the three shows, there is also the brand of the company to take into consideration. Our previous shows (and their posters) have been seen in Edinburgh for some years, and it's important to me that an audience can recognise our artwork in the overcrowded streets and bars across the city. But it's also vital that the image moves forward, changing and improving each year (as hopefully the shows do). Despite the similarity in branding, The Frontier Trilogy is as different from The Bunker Trilogy as The Capone Trilogy was. I trust in our audience and followers that they'll know the shows by the brand, and know that we'll deliver something even bigger and better than than we've done before.