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From Travelling with Footsbarn to ‘Wandertheater’ with Ton und Kirschen

  • Geraldine Cousin


The first issue of NTQ in February 1985 included a feature on the Footsbarn Travelling Theatre Company which traced the development of the group from its formation in Cornwall in 1971, through its development of a distinctive narrative-based performance style – strong in physicality, visual imagery, and knockabout humour – to its status as an internationally acclaimed company, based now in France but touring extensively in Europe. Geraldine Cousin, the compiler of that feature, provided an update in NTQ33 (February 1993), which focused on Footsbarn's work since 1985, culminating in the ‘Mir Caravan’ project, in which eight theatre groups toured to the Soviet Union and through Eastern and Western Europe. In May 1992, two members of the group, David Johnston and Margarete Biereye, left to establish a new theatre company in Germany – the Wandertheater Ton und Kirschen, now well established, with actors drawn from Germany, France, England, Morocco, Spain, Colombia, Poland, and Australia. Though based in a small German village, Ton und Kirschen has built up its reputation in a number of European countries, and in 1998 was awarded the prize for Performing Arts from the Akademie der Künste, Berlin. Ton und Kirschen is funded partly by the Ministerium für Wissenschaft, and partly by the local district and the town of Potsdam, with a further portion of its income deriving from ticket sales and foreign tours. In December 1997 Margarete and David talked to Geraldine Cousin about their reasons for leaving Footsbarn, and their work with the new company. Geraldine Cousin is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of Warwick, and is author of Churchill the Playwright (Methuen), King John in the ‘Shakespeare in Performance’ series (Manchester University Press), and Women in Dramatic Place and Time (Routledge). She has recently completed a book for Harwood which documents productions by Sphinx Theatre, Scarlet Theatre, and Foursight Theatre.



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