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The Scullions
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Bath Spa trio turn passion for Shakespeare into touring theatre company

Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

What do you do with a bit of spare time, a passion for acting and a love of The Bard? For MA Performing Shakespeare alumnus Nicky Cooper, the answer was to create theatre company, The Scullions.

Nicky, who graduated with a BA (Hons) in Drama and Film Studies before progressing on to his MA at Bath Spa University, started The Scullions with fellow Bath Spa graduates Tom Dello and Sam Robertson. The company, which focuses exclusively on Shakespeare, has gone on to produce several plays around the South West, including Hal and Falstaff, Henry V and Othello. Nicky also teamed up with BA Drama and Film Studies graduate Sam Rugman create a second company, The Scullions Neoterics, which focuses on modern theatre.

“It really isn’t an exaggeration to say I can’t imagine running a theatre company had it not been for my time at Bath Spa,” Nicky said. He credited specific elements of his MA course, such as voice training, stage combat and textual analysis, for giving him his initial focus, but “what most clearly applied to what I do as a director is the training I had in running workshops and my exposure to rehearsal exercises.”

The company is currently producing Antony and Cleopatra, and the team have already performed the play in Bath, Bristol and Swindon. In an exciting twist, they’ve updated it by bringing it into a modern 1920s American-inspired setting. Nicky explained that choosing which plays to do, and the eras to set them in, tend to influence one another. For Antony and Cleopatra, it was the vain and extravagant characters that inspired the idea of the Great Gatsby era.

“It’s very satisfying to build your own world around such a classic story,” said Nicky. “My favourite thing about Shakespeare is that whatever context you place it in, if you stay true to the characters, it will almost always fit like a dream.”

Nicky divides his time between a ‘day job’ and his work with The Scullions.

When the production process is in full swing, he can be found juggling tasks such as corresponding with multiple venues, hire companies and the press, sorting out marketing and social media coverage, and of course, several evenings of rehearsals.

All of this is a dream come true for Nicky. “Being an actor is something I’ve dreamt about since doing pantomimes in the village where I grew up,” he said. “Directing and producing theatre is a relatively new-found love that I discovered at uni, but as cheesy as it probably sounds, it’s the only career path that has ever felt right.”

Nicky says each production he’s put on since graduation has been a step up in scale and ambition - and he credits the supportive network of creatives and peers who inspire him for making the work such a joy.

For anyone else who may want to follow in his footsteps, Nicky’s advice is to simply  take that leap.“The best advice I can give is just do it,” Nicky said. “It might seem impossible or like you don’t have any idea where to start, but the truth is if you want to make theatre - just get some people together and go for it.”

Interested in studying MA Performing Shakespeare?

If you’re interested in the performance of Shakespeare and want to study original and contemporary professional practices, the MA Performing Shakespeare at Bath Spa University is for you. You’ll take part in actor training and research seminars, leading to presentations and performances using our indoor and outdoor theatres on campus and in Bath city centre. Visit the course page to find out more.


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