Trestle Archive

In 1981… 

Trestle Theatre Company was founded by a group of students on leaving Middlesex University. The name ‘Trestle’ came from the trestle table; the founders of the Company dreamed of travelling around the country with a box of masks and trestle tables on which to perform. In the spirit of the Commedia dell’Arte players they hoped to be able to perform anywhere, from a town square to a village hall, a school to a theatre.

To support its education programme, Trestle developed a series of three mask sets with teaching notes to accompany them in 1994. From 1981 to 2002 the Company produced 33 shows and toured successfully to over 30 countries, mainly with full mask performances, which cross language barriers and entertain all ages.

In 2002…

Trestle moved into Trestle Arts Base and a new era for the Company began. Trestle Arts Base is a beautifully refurbished chapel which houses a theatre, rehearsal studio and meeting rooms, workshop and exhibition spaces and a thriving café. It is the home of all the Company’s operations, a performance research and development centre, a tour venue for a diverse range of professional performances and a hub of creative opportunities for local and regional communities.

For the next decade, at the behest of funders, masks were hardly used in touring productions    and the Company toured as Trestle Unmasked. The Company explored and made physical storytelling theatre with international collaborators and a style of physical theatre unique to Trestle was created. From 2012 Trestle no longer received regular Arts Council funding and was able to turn its focus once again to mask theatre, this time creating a new set of half masks, which unite the company’s skills in mask and vocal theatre


We offer an extensive participatory programme engaging people of all ages locally, nationally and internationally. All of these programmes use mask and physical theatre to develop the artistic skills of participants, whilst also bringing about positive educational, community and health related outcomes.

For more detailed information about any of our archive shows please contact and we will be happy to help.

Yarico - the Musical

17 February 2015 – 28 March 2015

Yarico, an Amerindian beauty, is a young woman with great dreams and a fierce, independent spirit… When Inkle, the third son of a British merchant is shipwrecked on her island, he faces certain death at the hands of the islanders. In a courageous act, Yarico intervenes and saves him from his fate, marking the beginning of an extraordinary love story, which ultimately takes them to the island of Barbados.

This powerful and epic new musical of forbidden love, betrayal and redemption is based on a true story that fired the world’s imagination and contributed to a social movement against the slave trade. A story of great historical significance that has languished in time, once revived will remind us of the value of freedom.

Directed by Trestle Artistic Director Emily Gray
Producers John & Jodie Kidd
Music James McConnel
Book & Lyrics Carl Miller
Lyrics Paul Leigh
General Managers Crow & Elk

Herts Hidden Heroines

Herts Hidden Heroines was a performance and workshop project that took place throughout 2016 funded by the Heritage Lottery Communities Fund.

We had the pleasure of discovering over 80 unsung heroines in Hertfordshire and were delighted that the project legacy will continue through the website, where we hope people will continue to add to the database of fabulous female role models.

The Deadlies

March to May 2014

The Deadlies was a performance and participation piece offering a new way of involving local people in professional performance; created in partnership with York Theatre Royal as part of On Our Turf

The Deadlies’ tells the story of Archie, a Yorkshire lad who has traded his home for a map that promises him adventures beyond the horizon. Having enjoyed his travels and encounters with extreme characters inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins, Archie wishes to return home; however, he has given his home away and needs the help of the inhabitants of Yorkshire to create a new sense of belonging.

The main outcomes of the project were to:

  • Encourage people to engage with the arts in unexpected ways through mask theatre; masks help to liberate the performer in everyone and allow people to be expressive and creative
  • Empower people to make new and different connections with each other in their local community and with others in the final performance
  • Give groups the interest and ability to use the half masks in the future

Performers/workshop facilitators: Audrie Woodhouse and John Cockerill
Director: Emily Gray
Dramaturg: Hannah Davies
Composer: Ben Glasstone

The Snow Queen

23 November 2011 – 8 January 2012
Revamp tour in 2013

Presented by Unicorn Theatre with Trestle Artistic Director, Emily Gray, working as Movement Consultant

Based on the story by Hans Christian Andersen, this telling was developed by Indian writer, Anupama Chandreshekar, supported by the British Council through Connections through Culture UK-India.

After a freak snowstorm on the southern tip of India, Kumar disappears. Gowri, his best friend, discovers that he has been captured by the formidable Snow Queen, and embarks on a journey across the length and breadth of the continent to save him. From the burning heat of southern India, through lush backwaters, glitzy Bollywood and desolate bandit country, our brave heroine strives to bring the warmth of friendship to the icy north.

Trestle worked with the Snow Queen director Rosamunde Hutt, the British Council out in India and the show’s creative team to transform the show into a touring production and take it to south India in August 2013


The Man with the Luggage

21 September – 21 November 2011

Informed by contemporary stories of migration and repatriation, The Man with the Luggage explored our relationship with home, with nationality, and with authority. It delved into our dependence on travel and the multitude of obstacles that await us on our journeys through stations, through ports, and through life.

Trestle Unmasked used an agile mix of text, movement, music, and projection, to tell a dashing and deeply moving story where notions of time, space, and memories merged to create a dreamscape of great insight, passion, and humour. It illuminated the struggles that face many of today’s displaced people, and spoke to everyone who has ever been stranded in a foreign land.

Nicholas Tizzard – Damir
John Cockerill – Dragan (and as Cast)
Nicole Lewis – Ema (and as Cast)

Creative Team
Director: Oliver Jones
Writer: Lizzie Nunnery
Artistic Associate: Emily Gray
Designer: Anoushka Athique
Lighting Designer: Matt Haskins
Composer: Ben Glasstone

The Birthday of the Infanta

2 March – 7 May & 22 December 2011

A one-woman interpretation of Oscar Wilde’s bittersweet fairytale, re-imagined through physical storytelling theatre.

The Birthday of the Infanta is a short story by Oscar Wilde, which tells of the events arranged to entertain the princess, culminating in a performance an ugly boy, and the way in which their meeting affects both their lives forever.

Using Trestle’s unique style and drawing on the passion of flamenco, the performer took the audience on a compelling journey, through the constraints of social hierarchies to the price paid for love. In an age of supreme superficiality, Trestle Unmasked explored how we value inner generosity and beauty.

The Birthday of the Infanta united key members of the creative teams behind Trestle’s last four years of work exploring dynamic cultural influences and the extraordinary bond between performer and audience. In this vibrant production, Trestle collaborated with Ramón Baeza, director of Increpación Danza, choreographer on Trestle’s production of Lola: The life of Lola Montez, which toured through 2008-9.

In December 2011, the performer and director went over to Barcelona to create a new telling of the story with two dancers from Increpacion Danza. One played the Infanta and the other the boy and two performances took place. We are currently working on developing this new version to tour Spain.

Performer: Georgina Roberts

Creative team
Director: Emily Gray
Adapter / Dramaturg: Carl Miller
Choreographer: Ramón Baeza
Composer: Laurence Kaye
Designer: Jean Chan
Lighting Designer: Anna Watson
Assistant Director: Rose Adolph
Costume Maker: Francis Morris
Producer: Jo Salkilld
Associate Artist: Oliver Jones

Burn My Heart

21 September – 13 November 2010

Presented by Trestle in collaboration with Blindeye

Two boys’ lives are changed forever, as their friendship and loyalty are blown apart by fear and betrayal. Set during the Mau Mau uprising in 1950’s Kenya and the ensuing bloody State of Emergency, Burn my Heart examines themes of terror, division, and freedom.

Burn my Heart was based on the novel by award winning writer Beverley Naidoo and adapted by translator and playwright Rina Vergano. It used African and European music and movement styles through a powerful mix of text, compelling storytelling and physical theatre, to tell this fast-paced, devastating, and highly relevant story.

Director: Oliver Jones
Designer: Anoushka Athique
Lighting Designer: John Purkis

Mugo: Lydiah Gitachu
Kamau: Christian Dixon
Matthew: Lowri James
Mr Grayson: Sam Parks
Lance: Géhane Strelher 

Twelve Fifteen

A Trestle Community Company performance

2010 marked the St Albans celebration of the Magna Carta and the city’s role as one of the five designated Charter Towns.

To celebrate this event, Trestle Community Company presented a fascinating production based on themes from the Magna Carta. Through a mix of physical theatre, text and stunning ensemble movement, ideas of justice, politics, class and human rights where explored.

Written by acclaimed playwright Anna Reynolds, Twelve Fifteen was devised and performed by a large cast of all ages. This very funny and often moving, modern day epic guided the audience through a vibrant landscape of unruly teenagers, pompous dog-walkers, a heroic Police Community Support Officer and a Greek chorus of high-viz-jacketed townspeople. As the story reached its climax in court, the audience turned jury, and one girl’s future was changed forever.

Moon Fool – Ill Met by Moonlight

3 February – 17 April 2010
8 February – 17 March 2011

Moon Fool is an inventive re-imagining of Shakespeare’s well-loved play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In this engaging, funny and visually striking production, Titania, Oberon and Puck play out events from their past, hosting nightly revels in their attempt to woo audiences off the path and back into the woods. Combining original music and playful movement, Moon Fool is the fairies’ tale with an amplified twist.

Moon Fool is a new production produced by Trestle and created by emerging company Moon Fool.

Moon Fool is supported by South Hill Park, Bracknell.

Director & Dramaturg: Ian Morgan
Designer: Katherina Radeva
Lighting Designer: Paul Colley
Performers/Musicians/Devisers: Anna-Helena McLean, Christopher Sivertsen, Peter Swaffer-Reynolds
Associate Artist: Emily Gray

Spring 2011 saw Moon Fool enter into a period of revamping their critically acclaimed production Ill Met by Moonlight; an inventive re-imagining of Shakespeare’s well-loved play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This new production was created and produced by emerging company Moon Fool with support from Trestle Unmasked.

The Glass Mountain (Szklana Góra)

24 September – 14 November 2009

The Glass Mountain told the story of Olek, Polish baker by day, dreamer by night, who boards a bus for England and finds himself on a much bigger journey than he had bargained for.

This exciting international production weaved together the Polish fable of The Glass Mountain with contemporary stories of migration. Inspired by Eastern European traditions of singing stories and expressed through original music and physical performance, this is a hopeful and heartfelt tale about what it is to journey into the unknown.

Director: Emily Gray
Writer/Dramaturg: Anna Reynolds
Musical Director & Composer: Laurence Kaye
Vocal and Movement Associates: Anna-Helena McLean and Christopher Sivertsen
Designer: Katherina Radeva
Lighting Designer: Matt Haskins
Associate Director: Oliver Jones

Performer: Kate Lush
Performer: Jacek Wytrzymaly
Performer: Sean Garratt
Performer: Lenka Rozehnalova

Creative team
Director: Emily Gray  
Writer/Dramaturg: Anna Reynolds
Musical Director & Composer: Laurence (Loz) Kaye
Designer: Katherina Radeva
Voice & Movement Associate: Christopher Sivertsen
Voice & Movement Associate: Anna-Helena McLean
Associate Director: Oliver Jones
Lighting Designer: Matthew Haskins

The Glass Mountain was supported by The Courtyard, Hereford and the Polish Cultural Institute.

Lola: The life of Lola Montez

17 September 2008 – 1 April 2009 & August 2009

Lola: the life of Lola Montez told the true story of the infamous 19th century Spanish dancer who stormed her way through life on a tumultuous journey of seduction, sorrow and success. An actress and courtesan, a revolutionary and adventuress; she was a breaker of hearts and the toppler of a kingdom.

Lola: the life of Lola Montez was a collaboration with Barcelona based dance company Increpación Danza.

Lola: Georgina Roberts
Eliza: Fiona Putnam
Musical Director, Composer and Musician: Ricardo Garcia
Lolita: Frederic Gómez

Director: Emily Gray
Dramaturg: Esther Richardson
Choreographers: Montese Sánchez & Ramón Baeza, Increpación Danza
Designer: Chloe Lamford
Lighting Designer: Katharine Williams
Associate Designer: Claire Sutherland
Associate Lighting Designer: Phil Hamilton

Little India

27 September – 10 November 2007

Two people meet and quickly fall in love, but one leaves and forgets, while the other is left holding their child. Passionate battles follow in this heart-stopping story of a broken family searching to reconcile their different worlds.

Influenced by South Indian traditions of Kalaripayattu (martial art), Konokol (rhythmic patterns) and mudras (hand gestures), Trestle re-imagined the classical story of Shakuntala for a contemporary time; combining ancient arts with modern words, and inspirational music from India.

Bharata: Ashwin Bolar
Dushyanta: Sartaj Garewal
Shakuntala: Audrie Woodhouse

Creative team
Director: Emily Gray
Kalari Instructor: Anmol Mothi
Dramaturg: Carl Miller
Writers: Nina Patel and Anna Reynolds
Designer: Sophia Lovell Smith
Design Associate: Deepan C Sivaraman
Original Music: Konarak Reddy
Sound Design: Jules Millard
Lighting Design: Phil Hamilton
Production Manager: Anna Cole
Company Stage Manager: Anna Kerr
Assistant Stage Manager: Annette Waldie

Beyond Midnight

3 August – 25 November 2005

Written by the award-winning Diane Samuels (Kindertransport), Beyond Midnight told a familiar story in unfamiliar ways.

Cinderella is dead and the glass slipper is back. Welcome to a world beyond Happily Ever After! This dark, witty and fantastical production was the first Trestle production commissioned and directed by the Company’s new Artistic Director, Emily Gray.

The Smallest Person

4 August – 4 December 2004

In The Smallest Person the true story of 19½ inch tall Caroline Crachami and her short lived celebrity in Georgian England was told alongside that of a contemporary family seeking a cure for their seriously ill son. Medical ethics and moral dilemmas brought the two stories together with rationality and sentiment doing battle in the name of medical science.

Supported by the Wellcome Trust, this was the first Trestle production directed by the Company’s new Artistic Director, Emily Gray.

Tonight we fly: The story of Marc Chagall

14 August 2003 – 18 April 2004

Tonight We Fly presented Marc Chagall in all his colourful glory. Centred around Chagall himself the production uses an exciting mix of masks, puppets and live Klezmer music to, quite literally, bring the man and his pictures to life.

From his turbulent beginnings in a burning town to becoming one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century, Tonight We Fly explored Chagall, his family and his work.

Tonight We Fly was a co-production between Trestle and the Watford Palace Theatre.

Directed: Toby Wilsher
Written: Darren Tunstall
Musical Director: David Leahy (2003)/David Lasserson (2004)
Dramaturg: Lawrence Till
Designed by: Toby Wilsher
Costume Designed by: Sophia Lovell Smith


22 June – 28 August 2000 /2002 /2003

Island recreated the final expansive moments of Mildred Thomas; an imaginary life that was full of perverse fate, missed opportunity and abandonment.

Wild fantasy and grim reality merged in this humorous and moving story about chance, life choices and the isolation prevalent in people’s lives at the start of the 21st century.  Island toured three times over a three-year period throughout the UK and Holland.

The Adventures of the Stoneheads

28 June 2002 – 1 March 2003

The Adventures of the Stoneheads told the story of an eccentric and colourful family and their quest to survive when they are washed up on an unfamiliar shore.

Reminiscent of the films of Jeunet (Delicatessen, Amélie) and the paintings of Andrejz Umiastowski, The Adventures of the Stoneheads created a poetic, humorous and sometimes bleak vision both of Britain and the experiences of people seeking a safe haven. The show was first performed as part of the Royal National Theatre’s Transformation season in July 2002.

Blood and Roses

7 March – 27 October 2001

As a boy, Lambert Simnel was taught to forget that he was ever anything other than a prince, yet he would spend the rest of his life trying to forget that he was ever anything other than an ordinary man.

Set in 1507 in the heart of the royal kitchens, Blood and Roses recounted the life story of this pretender to the throne of Henry VII. This was the first Trestle production using half-masks, giving masked characters a voice.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street

17 September – 3 November 2000

In the hands of Trestle, The Barretts of Wimpole Street became an offbeat and haunting production about an insular family slowly falling apart.

This was the first time that Trestle had worked with an existing script, The Barretts of Wimpole Street by Rudolf Besier and integrated masked and unmasked characters. The production won the Stage Award for Acting Excellence (Best Ensemble) at the 2000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Bitter Fruit

29 May – 1 December 2000

A play-within-a-play, Bitter Fruit had at its heart the retelling of the myth of Hyphaestus, god of fire and forge.

The offstage antics of actor-manager Piota and his cast of actors and musicians formed the principle drama of the show, as lust and jealousy threatened to tear the company apart, spilling onstage in a shocking finale that blurred real life with fantasy. The tour included a performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

Beggars Belief

22 May – 5 December 1998

Beggars Belief took its starting point from the paintings of Peter Breugel and wove them into a story about the nature of power, love and the struggle for independence.

Created in collaboration with the Kherson Theatre of the Ukraine the show featured masks, puppets and live music and toured both the UK and the Ukraine.

Beyond the Blue Horizon

16 October – 26 November 1997

Beyond the Blue Horizon was a surreal and poetic music theatre piece, with a commissioned score from composer David Horne. Inspired by both an extract from the book Imperium by Polish travel writer and journalist Kapuscinski and by issues concerning care of the environment.

The hero turns his back on urban life in search of the answer. He finds it in the desert where a stranger teaches him the way to survive in the heat of the day and the cold of the night. He learns that he is part of the landscape, but never master of it. He learns that he is dispensable.

Director: Toby Wilsher
Composer: David Horne
Set Design: Mark Wilsher
Lighting Design: Tim Boyd
Choreography: Rosie Lehan

Fool House

July 24 1997-January 10 1998

Having toured most of its productions to Holland over the years, Trestle ran a residency in Amsterdam, on October 1995, for professional performers. This was the first stage of a Dutch collaboration which culminated in the creation of Fool House (Trestle Goes Dutch).

Having joined forces with Dutch performers, Trestle created a ‘farce of international proportions’. Running a total of 1 hour 40 in full mask and with an original soundtrack, a piece was created that told a story in many languages, a story about different people living under the same roof.

Written and Directed: Joff Chafer and Toby Wilsher
Devised by: Cast and directors
Original Music by: Toby Wilsher
Set Design: Mark Wilsher
Lighting Design: Phil Webb

State of Bewilderment

Touring – 10 September 1992 – 24 April 1993
Sydney residency – 7 November – 21 December 1996

Filled with humour, irony and absurdities, State of Bewilderment followed a man’s journey to find what is missing from his life. The show toured numerous times throughout the UK and across Europe, as well as to Australia including performances at the Perth Festival in 1993 and a seven week sell-out run in 1996 at the Sydney Opera House; a co-production with the Sydney Theatre Company.

Based on the work of the celebrated Australian cartoonist, Michael Leunig, State of Bewilderment was one of Trestle’s most ambitious productions to date.

Directed by: Joff Chafer, Toby Wilsher, Sally Cook (1992-3), John Wright(1992-3)
Devised: In rehearsal with the cast
Music composed by: Toby Wilsher
Set Creation by: Mark Wilsher
Lighting Design: Tim Boyd

Top Storey

30 July 1987 – 8 August 1990
8 August – 21 December 1996

Top Storey is one of Trestle’s most successful full-mask shows; An Old man’s peaceful retirement is shattered by the return of his brother to the family home after 40 years, sparking off boyhood memories and the buried emotions of a tragic secret they once shared.

With almost 3 years of an undisturbed national and international tour between 1987 and 1990, and a sell-out return tour 6 years later, Top Storey is one of Trestle’s most memorable and most loved shows.

Directed by: John Wright and Sally Cook (original tour)/Toby Wilsher (1996 revival)
Devised by: Toby Wilsher, Joff Chafer, Thomasina Carlyle, John Wright, Sally Cook
Masks made by: Toby Wilsher, Joff Chafer, Thomasina Carlyle, John Wright, Sally Cook (original tour)/Rebecca Jezzard (1996 revival)
Set Design: Mark Wilsher


18 April – 15 September 1996

Combining masks, text and choreography with music from Bach to Bacharach, Passionfish explored the choices and uncertainties faced by many in the late 20th century.

This was a darkly comic and passionate play that explored themes of time, being adrift and rites of passage.  The tour included the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Purcell Room, London.

House of Straw

16 February – 31 March 1995

When Jim and Diane move in, they realise they are not the only occupants of the House of Straw.

Wherever they turn there are ghosts of the past.  The house has a story to tell, but do they want to hear it? A ghost story with a difference, House of Straw was presented in collaboration with Millstream Theatre Company.

Window Dressing

21 July – 9 December 1994

A woman arrives in town: A new town, a new life, but a chance encounter leads to revelations of herself and her family’s past that were best left forgotten.

All this time she thought she was alone, but not any longer. Window Dressing turned the spotlight on media exploitation and a family’s search for the truth.  Using a strong, challenging style of visual mask theatre, it told the story with the humour and dramatic panache Trestle had become renowned for.

The Soldier’s Tale and Goblin Market

12 – 22 January 1994

Performed as a double bill, The Soldier’s Tale and Goblin Market were a collaboration with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the 1994 London International Mime Festival.

In The Soldier’s Tale, based on Stravinsky’s modern-day parable of greed, a bankrupt family thought things couldn’t possibly get worse until the bailiff sprouted horns, and eyed up more than just their chattels.

In Goblin Market, based on the passionate and evocative poem by Christina Rossetti, men became beasts and nothing was as it seemed. Featuring an onstage 13-piece orchestra, live narration and eye-catching staging, the two shows came together in a musical and visual feast.

The Edge

3 September 1991 – 3 April 1992

A sleepy seaside town plays host to three men, strangers in a strange town… or are they? One of them, a frustrated writer, finds the fresh air particularly stimulating as he attempts to produce an unnatural fruit, a truth stranger than fiction.

Featuring Trestle’s trademark mask work and an original soundtrack, the show explored creative frustration, work obsession and a writer’s quest for a good story. The Edge was awarded Time Out’s Best Set Design in 1991


14 November 1989 – 7 September 1990

L’Amfiparnaso is a light-hearted, little known 15th century opera by Orazio Vecchi, about the everyday happenings at an Italian restaurant.

Featuring a cast of 12 performers and operatic singers, Trestle’s version was a vibrant contemporary spectacle, combining the rich, heart-tugging sounds of 16th century madrigals with modern mask theatre. L’Amfiparnaso was presented in association with the South Bank Centre, London.

Creche /School Rules / Hanging Around

8 – 22 October 1983

Trestle’s early works were comic sketches based on a simple situation and performed in full, helmet, cartoon style masks.

Creche was based on the activities of children in a playgroup. School Rules portrayed the tyranny of the classroom. Hanging Around observed unemployed youths passing time in a town centre and featured Morris the Mohican, which later became Trestle’s company logo. Put together, these three short pieces created an amusing trilogy on the trials and tribulations of growing up. Hanging Around, as the trilogy became collectively known, was a huge hit for Trestle, touring to over 10 countries over the span of a decade, including Brazil, Egypt, Japan and the Czech Republic.