A Christmas Carol at Exeter Northcott Theatre

A Christmas Carol at Exeter Northcott Theatre

Images by Craig Fuller

An Interview with Nick Bunt 

Who doesn’t love the festive ghost story, A Christmas Carol?  Add the award-winning Le Navet Bete to the mix and we have a brilliant rendition of this great Christmas classic.  The production is filled with twists, turns and surprises and is highly recommended! We recently caught up with Nick Bunt, who plays the infamous character, Scrooge.    

Let’s start with a little background of the journey that you’ve been on to get to this point? 

We’ve been going as a theatre company for nearly 15 years and have been proudly based in Exeter since 2011. Meeting at the University of Plymouth, we formed the company after we graduated.  We wanted to create fast-paced, interactive, hilarious and entertaining theatre for all ages, and set about creating a 60-minute show for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2008. Thankfully, it went down a storm with 5-star reviews and sell-out shows and we thought ‘maybe this could work!’ Working our way through small-scale regional venues and rural touring we’ve progressed into the national midscale theatre circuit.  We’ve performed in some of the UK’s biggest and most loved theatres, producing over 15 shows to date. Being totally self-produced, as well as creating theatre shows, we branched out into outdoor street and festival work and educational workshops in schools, colleges and universities.  We’ve performed and taught right across the UK and internationally. We’ve developed the most fantastic and loyal audience following right across the UK but especially down here in the South-West. We owe a great deal to them and every new show that we produce is for the audience. They are the reason we do this job! 

What role/s do you play in the production? 

In A Christmas Carol, I’m taking on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge and it’s the only role in the whole show that I play. The other three performers in the company play a multitude of roles between, them switching between the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Belle, Fan, Jacob Marley and a myriad of various Victorian characters. I am the sort of lynchpin ‘straight man’ that the storytelling and chaos revolves around. This show is a particular favourite of ours, as we have really tried to keep the true spirit of Dickens’ tale of Christmas and redemption alive.  As always, we’ve included plenty of heart, joy and merriment alongside moments of real pathos all the while, of course, adding our own inimitable style to it with exploding Christmas puddings, flying sleighs, fog cannons and a finale quite like no other Christmas Carol you’ve ever seen…! 

How would a ‘typical day at the office’ look? 

This all depends on where we are and what we’re working on. If we’re on tour, we’ll arrive at the venue at 9am. Unload the van. Put the set up. Set out the props and costumes. Help with the focus of the lights. Sound check. Then do the show. If it’s a one-nighter, we’d get straight on taking the set down and loading it back into the van. Those are tiring days! Other days, we could be sat at a desk slaving over an Arts Council funding application for hours and hours, or out at our storage unit tidying up bits of set for another of our shows. But today, for instance, we’re in the rehearsal room at the Exeter Phoenix fine-tuning A Christmas Carol, running scenes and transitions with the director. Meanwhile, the team up at the Northcott are busy rigging lights and making the space ready for us to get in there tomorrow; ready for our tech week where the whole production really comes together before opening. I personally love this show. It has so many brilliant surprises and it’s shaping up to be a real festive cracker! 

Photograph by Craig Fuller

What have some of your most notable successes been to date? 

I think the way that we have progressed as a company and stayed true to ourselves has been our biggest success to date. From friends just out of uni with the idea of ‘let’s write a funny show and take it to Edinburgh’ to now. Selling out venues like the main house of the Theatre Royal Plymouth, the Exeter Northcott and the Bristol Old Vic is the stuff of dreams! I think performing internationally, in our early days, sometimes in extremely unconventional spaces (literally on a cliff on the Rock of Gibraltar, a ruined colonial church in Mexico City, a warehouse in Prague, an olive grove in the mountains of Aragon, Spain) really helped to shape our work and push our limits on what we could do as a company. We’ve worked tirelessly, over the past decade, to forge partnerships, get involved with an abundance of opportunities and learn from some brilliant mentors and colleagues. We perform as much as we possibly can, and we are incredibly proud of everything we’ve achieved over the years. 

What are some of the most difficult things that you’ve faced and how did you overcome them? 

Covid has, without a doubt, been the most difficult challenge that we’ve faced as a theatre company, as it’s been a huge challenge for virtually everyone in one way or another. In 2020, we had our biggest ever UK tour planned and, even though we got through a chunk of it at the beginning, the overwhelming majority was cancelled or postponed. Everything just gone in an instant. The constant ups and downs of will we / won’t we get back to it again was very stressful and virtually impossible to plan anything ahead. Thankfully, with persistence and help from the Arts Council and the government’s Cultural Relief Fund, we re-booked (sometimes 4 or 5 times), re-produced and re-rehearsed our work. We managed to fit in a co-production with Theatre Royal Plymouth this past Summer, a Christmas show at the Exeter Northcott in 2020 (for which we won Best Event at the Exeter Living Awards) and by the end of 2021, we’ll have performed over 100 shows throughout the UK this year. We love what we do and are determined to make things work and grow our company forwards from this point onwards! 

Do you have any funny anecdotes connected to your career? 

Too many to list here! From cartwheeling in a tiny venue and smashing the theatre lights in the middle of a show, having monkeys spring out from nowhere and clamber all over us in Gibraltar to nearly losing Matt mid-show in Morelia, Mexico.  He jumped onto the back of a moped with 2 guys on and they drove off! There’s always a lot of laughs off the stage as well as on! 

What do you hope the future holds for you? 

It seems like theatres and audiences are getting back to a sense of normality now, which is a huge relief for us. We have an epic 16 venue UK tour booked in for 2022 with lots of new places we’ve never been to before so we’re very excited about that. And we have plans for a brand-new show brewing on the horizon – no spoilers – but our brains are already cooking up lots of brilliant possibilities for this one. Stay tuned! 

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