Myrtle Theatre Company produces groundbreaking theatre influenced by diverse voices.

We create fresh, powerful work that surprises and inspires our audience.


Up Down Man
by Brendan Murray with music by Kieran Buckeridge

Myrtle Theatre Company in association with Salisbury Playhouse and Tobacco Factory Theatres

Artistic Director: Heather Williams

Director: Brendan Murray

Choreographer: Bryn Thomas

Designer: Katie Sykes                

Lighting Designer: Michael Straun

“This is who I am – my name is Matty Butler. I'm not a child, I'm twenty nine years old. I like foxes, badgers, dancing, eating dinner, going bowling, Eastenders, dancing and foxes. I'd like a friend. Maybe Angel from Buffy. And we'd go on holiday and live together and have dinner and go dancing. I'm not a child you see. I'm twenty nine years old. My name is Matty Butler. This is who I am. And I like foxes.”

The long awaited sequel to the internationally acclaimed Up Down Boy, once again starring the gifted and charismatic performer, Nathan Bessell as Matty Butler – Up Down Man asks the question that faces every parent of an adult with a learning disability….
What will happen when I'm not here?

With live music, original choreography and mum in the cupboard, Up Down Man is funny, provocative, moving and a show that could change the way you see the world.

“I don’t think when it leaves Salisbury, this is the last we shall hear of Up Down Man. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it found its way not just to The Shed but to the National Theatre itself, it really is that good”

“Bessell’s acting was great, heartfelt and funny and his dance, professional, polished and highly focused”

“I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house, and yet, everyone left the play smiling! This play is certainly a must see”
Salisbury Journal


Up Down Boy
by Sue Shields with music by John O'Hara

Directors: Heather Williams / Gareth Machin

Choreographer: Michelle Gaskell

Designer: Katie Sykes                

Lighting / Projection Designer: Michael Straun

Up Down Boy is a poignant, life-affirming comedy, inspired by the extraordinary life story of a young man with Down’s syndrome and his mother’s humorous and idiosyncratic perspective on bringing him up.

“The play brims with humour, charm and deep affection.”
Wiltshire Times

Originally performed at Bristol's Tobacco Factory Theatre, Up Down Boy was re-launched as a co-production with Salisbury Playhouse. To date its remarkable success has taken the production on three national tours and as far afield as New Zealand. In September 2013 it was performed at the National Theatre.

“It was an extraordinary privilege to welcome 'Up Down Boy' to the National Theatre. It was written, acted and directed with the kind of flair and integrity that you only find in the best theatre; and it brought an audience to the National that we’d like to see much more of.”
Sir Nicholas Hytner, National Theatre

The play is written by Sue Shields - the mother of a child with Down’s syndrome - with creative support from Catherine Johnson. In a unique twist, the central character – ‘Matty’ - is played by the writer’s own son, gifted actor Nathan Bessell. Artistic Director, Heather Williams plays the part of the mother.

This is a highly original production that portrays the ups and downs of family life in all its chaotic warmth and humour. As Matty stands at the crossroads of adult life, his quirky imagination is reflected through expressive choreography and cartoon-style animation. 

“A truly entertaining and uplifting story”
Bristol Evening Post


Hot Air
by Mike Akers with Heather Williams, music by Kieran Buckeridge

Director: Heather Williams

Choreographer: Michelle Gaskell

Designer: Chris Gylee

Hot Air is a touching, funny and beautiful piece of theatre with music. It celebrates the people of Bristol through the focus of one of the city’s most legendary industries: hot air ballooning.

The play captures a day in the life of the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, beginning with the peaceful early morning mass ascent and ending with the riotous "night glow". As the Fiesta’s iconic balloons pass noiselessly above the city landscape, the action of the play throws the joys and struggles of those left on the ground into sharp relief.

The play was premiered at Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol with a professional cast of nine actors.

“Myrtle Theatre Company don't deserve a mere review for this show for it warrants nothing less than a eulogy….The experience is rather like stepping inside a giant basket and finding it jam-packed with a plethora of treats to enjoy as you are transported on a lyrical voyage into the heavens and then discovering that when you thought you'd sampled all the goodies, there are hidden extras popping up like jack-in-the-boxes….Director, Heather Williams, really does deserve an award for this piece of theatre - how she ever managed to weave together such disparate strands to make this such a sleek "hamper of a show" is astounding.”

“The Myrtle Theatre Company’s Hot Air is a triumph. Director Heather Williams’ creation celebrates a proud tradition of the people of Bristol in its dramatisation of the annual Balloon Fiesta – an insight into the world of hot air ballooning. Myrtle Theatre’s inclusive stance is not only socially admirable but is emanated through every aspect of the production. People from many different walks of life are represented in the play and hence the piece can speak to an audience of almost any demographic. The piece shows that the winds of change are inescapable, regardless of class, profession or background. The piece is funny and visually stimulating as it explores the events of a highly emotional, possibly even life-changing, day at the Balloon Fiesta.”
The Public Reviews

“Myrtle Theatre are a clever bunch. By developing a community based piece of Verbatim Theatre, they have chosen something quintessentially Bristolian, that spans the entire community and brings together people that may not normally have reason to interact. Using transcribed sections of interviews carried out by Director and Dramaturg Heather Williams, we are taken through the Bristol Balloon Fiesta weekend. From the rude awakening at 4am through to the Nightglows, the trials, tribulations, highs and lows of the ‘Balloonatics' and punters are charted with immense skill, sensitivity and with a true sense of respect.”
What's On Stage

  myrtle theatre company hot air

myrtle theatre company hot air

myrtle theatre company hot air


A Letter to That’s Life
by Catherine Johnson

Director: Heather Williams

Choreographer: Michelle Gaskell

Designer: Katie Sykes

Kara is 19. She is writing a letter to THAT’S LIFE magazine – telling her story. The play, using a blend of narration, enacted scenes, dance and projected images, charts her relationship with Reece which started when she was 15. As her story unfolds we see Reece using controlling behaviour which undermines Kara’s confidence and degenerates into partnership violence towards her. Eventually Kara becomes pregnant and it is her fear for her baby that finally gives her the strength to break free.

This play was originally developed through a Myrtle Theatre Company project with professional actors and young parents attending a pupil referral unit with support from Arts Council England. Originally performed at Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol it subsequently toured to schools in the Bristol area. Most recently it was recommisioned by the National Theatre under their Connections programme with the new title A Letter to Lacey

“The play was outstanding, meticulously acted. The play articulated the current issues that many young people experience – there was a real buzz around school as students left.”
Head of year, Bristol school



Life Cycle of Ivy
by Jimmy Whiteaker, with music by Stuart McLoughlin

Director: Heather Williams

Designer: Tomasin Cuthbert

Cheryl is 17 and alone in her bedroom. Throughout the play she talks to the audience. We witness her low self-esteem her struggle to be perfect, her obsession with body image, her unhealthy desire to control her weight through extreme diet and exercise, and her denial that anything is wrong. As the play unfolds her anorexia develops represented through movement by the silent but invasive Hedera Helix (ivy).

Life Cycle of Ivy was first toured to a number of schools in South Gloucestershire giving the opportunity for female students to learn about anorexia and attitudes towards eating disorders.

“Myrtle Theatre Company’s work is always of the highest quality and the success of their work is characterised by the investment they make in
collaboration with all those involved in any new project, and their commitment to ensuring the participation and inclusion for young people involved.” 
Julie Coulthard, PSHE Adviser, Bristol




Jollity Farm
by Rob Benson & Heather Williams, with music by Benji Bower

Director: Heather Williams

Choreographer: Michelle Gaskell

Designer: Tomasin Cuthbert

Jollity Farm explores young male identity in the early 21st century and the impact on emotional and mental health and well-being through music, dance and original pieces of text.
Premiered at Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol before touring to venues in the south west.

“Myrtle redefines the word inclusive.  My favourite Myrtle show so far is Jollity Farm, a vivid and impactful show about male identity, performed by a terrific cast of professionals and those new to the stage, a dazzling amalgam of images, movement and words.” 
Anthony Banks Associate Director (Learning), National Theatre


House of Letitia Smith
by Lucy Catherine, with music by John O’Hara

Director: David Straun

Designer: Katie Sykes

This play gives a chilling insight into self-harm. Using stark realism, anarchic comedy and story telling that is moving and challenging in equal measures, the play charts the journey for 15 year old Letitia Smith as she begins to use self-harm as a coping mechanism, and her first steps on the road to recovery.

The House of Letitia Smith was originally part of a pilot project developed in collaboration with psychiatrists from Bristol CAMHS and the Bristol PSHE Consultant, through the Images of Psychiatry campaign (Royal College of Psychiatrists).

Premiered at Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol before touring to venues in the south west.

“I have been meaning to email all week to say how brilliant I thought your play was that you presented at the conference last week. It was a very interesting concept and I felt dealt with the issue of self harm in a really fresh way. I was also impressed by the workshop – it was a brilliant way to engage with such a big group.”
Safer Custody Conference


City of One
by Mike Akers, with music by Benji Bower

Director: Heather Williams / David Straun

Choreographer: Michelle Gaskell

Designer: Katie Sykes

Liam is a teenager whose foster carer has been taken ill and is temporarily placed with new foster parents. We see the story of his placement, the history of the breakdown of his natural family and the crisis point as a planned meeting with his father fails to happen.  An ensemble provides a vision of Liam’s internal world, his “city of one”. The piece portrays a system struggling to cope with the size, stresses and traumas of the problems, but ultimately, through the commitment of individuals to do their best in difficult circumstances, delivers an irrepressible glimmer of optimism.

Specially commissioned by the company to coincide with the Government’s release of the White Paper, Care Matters: Time for Change. The play was performed by an adult professional cast and an inclusive company of thirty young people, many of whom had experience of the care system.

First performed at Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol the play subsequently toured to London (Westminster) and various venues regionally and nationally.

“Myrtle continues to raise the bar for work produced by young casts and cements its reputation for making ground-breaking theatre which moves and affects its audience.”
Venue, Bristol and Bath

“Tremendous artistic integrity, tremendous passion and incredibly moving.”
Sir Al Aynsley-Green, Children's Commissioner for England

“A key observation of the success connected to these initiatives was the personal commitment and vision of the two Directors of the Company, which cannot be over stated, in terms of time, patience, emotional energy and artistic input and talent.”
Dr Debra Salmon, Professor of Community Health, University of the West of England



Through The Wire
by Catherine Johnson, with music by John O’Hara

Director: Heather Williams

Choreographer: Michelle Gaskell

Designer: Katie Sykes

Through The Wire is set in a Young Offenders' Institute, where various levels of criminal and anti-social behaviour have seen the characters wind up there.  Their only contact with family and friends is the weekly visit, and the action of the play takes the audience through a visiting hour no one will forget. 

Originally commissioned by the National Theatre, Through The Wire was written by Catherine Johnson, who added characters and lengthened the play for Myrtle Theatre Company’s production.

This version of the play was premiered at Tobacco Factory Theatre, Bristol

“I am so proud to be Myrtle Theatre Company's patron - theatre should be for everyone, not just the privileged few and I totally support the work Myrtle Theatre Company does in taking theatre to the wider community.”
Catherine Johnson

  through the wire myrtle theatre

through the wire myrtle theatre company


by Lucy Catherine, with music by John O’Hara

Director: Sally Cookson / Heather Williams

Designer: Katie Sykes

Deasy and Adele are 15.  They think they are going out but they are not sure.  They meet on the roundabout at the local park after school.  It’s not been a good day. Adele is scared.  Rhona, a 17 year old from the estate, has wrongly accused Adele of writing slag on her front door.  Deasy has just been hit by his dad. They get drunk and have sex. It’s the first time for both of them. They jump on the roundabout one last time – they’re not kids anymore. 

Collaboratively developed with Bristol Teenage Pregnancy Partnership, this innovative project was aimed at the most vulnerable and hard to reach young people, giving them the opportunity to consider their sexual health and well-being. The project successfully toured to pupil referral units, youth projects, entry to employment groups, inclusion units, groups of looked after children, homeless young people, young offenders, as well as to mainstream schools.

In addition, Jump toured nationally to a number of conferences facilitating multi-agency partnership working with education, health and social care professionals.

"Myrtle Theatre were absolutely brilliant. It was such a breath of fresh air to have something different and so enjoyable."
Northern Regional Conference for Ofsted Inspectors


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