Friday, 21 September 2012

A Little Princess Comes to London

The third and final part of The Drawing Room trilogy, A Little Princess, is coming to London for three performances only.

A Little Princess brings Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic novel to life. Join Sara Crewe as she is torn from her life in India in a journey from princess to pauper. Left without her father in a foreign land; comfort her, listen to her tales and relish in the magic and the tragic beauty of her story. A stunning adaptation of a well-loved novel.

Click here to read the reviews from Edinburgh.

Click here to view the trailer.

Click here to view the website..

Click here to book tickets.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Hunchback of Notre Dame - in Selby Abbey

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that tickets have gone on sale for Belt Up Theatre's Hunchback of Notre Dame in Selby Abbey in North Yorkshire.

Jethro Compton Ltd will produce the site-specific production of Victor Hugo’s classic novel Notre Dame de Paris in Selby Abbey in 2012 involving a professional team and a number of community performers (choir, bell ringers, organists) that will be supported by local businesses and enterprises.

Belt Up Theatre’s Hunchback of Notre Dame is a vivid recreation of Victor Hugo’s timeless tale of longing, passion and unrequited love. The production is inspired by a previous version performed by Belt Up Theatre, company in residence at York Theatre Royal, who have been hailed by York Press as 'the future of theatre’ and The Observer as ‘bright young things changing the face of British Theatre’.

The Arts Council England has awarded funding to the project, which will run for a week at the end of 2012. The company will run workshops for local schools and public workshops in the lead up to the performance. 

‘I’m absolutely delighted that we are able to go ahead with the production. We’ve been working with the Abbey, Creative Selby and Selby Chamber of Commerce for the best part of a year now and it’s just fantastic that all that hard work has paid off. The Abbey is such an incredible, historic landmark; we’re all thrilled that we’ll be able to make the show there.’ Jethro Compton – Producer and Writer.

The former show, titled as ‘Quasimodo’ has had critically acclaimed sell out runs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2010, The Lowry in Salford Quays earlier in 2011 and Southwark Playhouse, London in 2010.
‘a clever, claustrophobic, psychological horror’ **** Time Out London Critic’s Choice    
‘an intense adaptation of Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris’ **** The Scotsman
‘dark and compelling… fantastic’ **** Manchester Evening News

The cast includes Dominic Allen as Archdeacon Frollo, Serena Manteghi as La Esmeralda and Sam Donnelly as the hunchback, Quasimodo. The production will be directed by David Calvitto who directed Belt Up's Macbeth in the House of Detention earlier this year.

The production runs 13 - 17 November 2012.

For tickets and more information, visit

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Little Princess: the reviews so far

A Little Princess is our new show this year at the Edinburgh Fringe. Here are the reviews so far...

a triumph of literary subtlety and genius
‘Serena Manteghi's disarmingly stunning portrayal of Sara Crewe astounded from start to finish
‘Outstanding in every possible instance

‘There’s a specific and very warm kind of magic in Belt Up’s shows’

a beautifully told story… a truly enchanting hour’

‘Beautiful… this is storytelling at its best

‘Serena Manteghi is brilliantly charismatic and gorgeous

‘Manteghi is a true revelation’
There’s a noble beauty to Compton’s soaring script

‘Manteghi is charming from the outset’

‘Manteghi is excellent’

FEST ***
a sweet fable for the power of story-telling

the toast of the Fringe
‘Miss Minchin (a role tackled with aplomb and humour by a bearded Dominic West in a dress)
n.b. Dominic West was unable to perform the entire run due to prior Hollywood commitments. Dominic Allen has stepped in as Miss Minchin.

‘a celebration of the power of the imagination, of storytelling and of Burnett herself

‘I already want to see it again’

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Drawing Room: EdFringe2012

We are thrilled to announce our new space, The Drawing Room, which plays host to our Edinburgh Fringe Season this year.

The room within a room mixes ambitious design with Belt Up's unique style to create a custom-made environment perfectly suited to hold our three shows, The Boy James, Outland and the world premier of A Little Princess.

The season runs from 2 - 27 August. Full details here.

Have a listen to the music composed for the show by the incredible Jonny Sims:

Friday, 27 July 2012

Learning a Thing or Two: by James Wilkes

It’s July 2012: the year of the Olympics, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the year the world comes to an end but most importantly of course it is Belt Up’s fifth Edinburgh Fringe. It only feels like yesterday that about fifty students from York University were deliriously trying to rehearse twenty five different productions for The Red Room. It feels like yesterday but it, like many things in the past, seems like a different age. Belt Up is a different company, we’re all different people but at the same time... the same.

I won’t be performing with Belt Up this summer; I haven’t been with Belt Up at the Fringe since 2010’s The House Above (feels like yesterday/a different age). It’s fascinating though to watch the company more objectively. Last year on a day off from York Theatre Royal’s ‘Peter Pan’ I snuck up to the Fringe and was able to watch Outland, simply as an audience member. I’d seen a stumble through during rehearsals but it felt rather nice to be able to come in relatively ignorant and just enjoy a Belt Up show as a Belt Up audience member. What struck me was how far we’ve come since our emerging days in 2008. The writing, acting, directing were all so much more sophisticated. In those many years we’ve been rattling around, we’ve actually learnt a thing or two.

I’ve now hidden away from the harsh realities of the real world and gone back to being a student – taking a sabbatical from Belt Up to train at LAMDA- so learning and developing is very much on my mind at the moment.  One thing that I’m truly starting to appreciate is how much I’ve learnt from writing, directing and acting with Belt Up.

As a company we developed greatly as individuals. We have learnt bucket loads from each other and our mentors but more often than not, our most important lessons have come from our interactions with the audience.

Lyn Gardner once described us as “learning on the job, 21stc equivalent of the rep system” and I think this is entirely accurate. Through doing so many shows we have been able to experiment directly with our audiences. Because they’re not hidden away in the shadows, our audience’s reactions aren’t hidden away – that means if you’re giving a bad performance, you’re very quickly aware of it; you can see every smile, laugh, tear, yawn or grimace. You can see at exactly which point a critic writes in their pad. You can see all too clearly when someone gets up and walks out (most of the time they have to say ‘excuse me’ to pass you). This open relationship has meant throughout our many shows and many runs we get instant feedback and that kind of experience is invaluable. Every single performance can teach us something new.

All artists are individuals and every member of Belt Up is an individual. We exist as a collective but we also have our own paths in which we’re growing and learning. One thing is for sure though; we are all indebted to what we learn through our work with Belt Up and the prospect of new lessons is what keeps Belt Up going. I for one can’t wait to see Belt Up’s work this Fringe and I can’t wait for the audiences too either. After all, over the next few years when 2012 feels just like yesterday/a different age, the audiences for The Boy James, Outland and A Little Princess at this Fringe may actually have taught us even more than we’d have imagined.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Directing a Belt Up Show - by Joe Hufton

We have been in rehearsals for over a week now for ‘A Little Princess’ and so far it’s all going well. We have played with dolls, debated lots and laughed ourselves silly (including one memorable conversation about the British Raj and claymation badgers).

As we head into the second week of rehearsals I thought I would share with you the five things I try to remember when directing a Belt Up show (in no particular order).

Belt Up is a creative collaboration
One of the most exciting things about working with Belt Up is the amount of ideas that fly around in rehearsal; everyone offers things and gets involved in the conversation. Belt Up actors have a huge amount of ingenuity and great creative instincts, and any director has to respect this. Directing Belt Up, more than many companies, is about leading a process rather than dictating ideas and there is a real sense that four heads are better than one.

You will only ever be able to rehearse 80% of the show
Belt Up shows cast the audience in a role and as such that role will never be filled in rehearsal. This means that Belt Up’s dress rehearsals happen at the same time as our opening nights when for the first time we get that final missing cast member. As such there are moments in rehearsal where we have to stop and go ‘and now you will do something with the audience that we can’t do until the first night'. It can be quite terrifying then watching on the first night: wondering if the bits you were unable to rehearse will ever come together quite as you imagined. 

There will never be enough time!
I always feel like we are running out of time. A lot of this has to do with the fact that once we reach the end of the rehearsal process we have to build a set! This may be time consuming and stressful, although a really crucial part of the process. It means we have a real connection with our immersive environment; however there is a point as a director where you have to let go of creative decisions and start climbing ladders, cutting material and arranging furniture for 3 days when all you want to do is fix those last little bits!

There will never be enough space!
I always underestimate how much room the audience take up. We rehearse a show and then realise we have lost 30% of our playing space due to the various legs, arms and that most hated of audience accessories, their bags. In 4 and half years of working for the company I never cease to be shocked at how much space you guys take up on the first night.

Remember to have fun
Our rehearsals are exciting and intense but above all fun. As soon as we lose that, I think we are doing something wrong. The company prides itself on the playful nature of our work and I think if we have fun, enjoy our rehearsals and the process of making the show, then hopefully a little of that might rub off on our audiences!

Belt Up Theatre's Edinburgh Fringe Season 2012 includes THE BOY JAMES, OUTLAND and the world premiere of A LITTLE PRINCESS. Full details here.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Edinburgh Fringe 2012

There has always been an embargo on announcing shows until the Fringe Programme had officially launched. That was removed this year. And now, the week after the official launch, it feels as if the cat has been out of the bag for ages. But nonetheless…

We are thrilled to announce our Edinburgh 2012 Fringe Season.

After two sell-out years in Edinburgh, two sell-out runs in London and a season at the Adelaide Fringe, ‘The Boy James’ returns. Inspired by the life and work of ‘Peter Pan’ author, J.M. Barrie, The Boy James tells a story of playful innocence and cruel experience. A dark but beautiful tale of one bright eyed boy’s startled awakening to the harsh realities of adulthood. Play with him, and take his hand as you lead him back to Neverland. Join in the games and forget the cruel world on the other side of the window. But as the tick tock of the clock continues, you too will have to face the inevitable voyage.

 After its award-winning and sell-out season at Edinburgh last year, and on the back of its critically acclaimed international debut at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, and a teaser in London, ‘Outland’ returns triumphantly. ‘Outland’ travels from a melancholy reality ‘through the looking glass’ into a topsy-turvy world, where the landscape and characters are always shifting. As you journey from stuffy Victorian drawing rooms to fairy palaces, you will also get a sense of the paradox that was the man himself, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known by the world as Lewis Carroll.
And alongside those two shows we have a brand new one as well – to complete the trilogy. Sitting perfectly alongside the imaginations of Lewis Carroll and J. M. Barrie comes the incredible world of Frances Hodgson Burnett  in this original adaptation of ‘A Little Princess’. Recommended by The Times and The Guardian; Join Sara Crewe as she is torn from her life in India in a journey from princess to pauper. Left without her father in a foreign land; comfort her, listen to her tales and relish in the magic and the tragic beauty of her story. A stunning adaptation of a well-loved novel. 

More info at

Friday, 1 June 2012

Outland in London

We're really delighted that Outland is going to be coming to London in July. To get us warmed up for the Fringe we're going to be doing two performances in a stunning venue in Mayfair. The University Women's Club Library is, for anyone who has seen 'The Boy James' or 'Outland', undoubtedly perfect for a Belt Up performance. The room is a glorious Victorian library fitted with leather armchairs, sofas, wood panelling, chandeliers and lots and lots of books. 

As there are only two performances we strongly recommend booking sooner rather than later - tickets are selling very quickly.

If you're a fan of Belt Up, of Lewis Carroll, or just fancy a summer evening enjoying the lounge, library and gardens where you can have dinner or drinks all evening, then please do come along.

We're asking that everyone come in either Black Tie (just formal will do - don't worry if you haven't got a tux), or to come dressed as a character from a Lewis Carroll story. Part of the fun of performing is getting to put on a ridiculous costume; we'd like to share that silliness with everyone else. 

We hope to see you there!

More info at

Monday, 23 April 2012

Review of Macbeth from One Stop Arts

Macbeth is a hauntingly exciting production by the well-established ensemble.  

The House of Detention in Clerkenwell lends itself perfectly to the promenade performance, providing haunting brick cells and low lit playing spaces. 

The stand-out performance for me was the young actress Serena Manteghi.   Her versatility was very evident in her transformation from a weird sister to Lady Macbeth, then further on to Lady Macduff. Every word she said was enthralling and each moment she was on stage I couldn’t take my eyes off her. In some cases she outshone Macbeth in their scenes together. A bright future awaits this talented actress. 

An absolutely brilliant show and a triumph for Belt Up.


Royal Portraits: the first photos of MACBETH in the House of Detention

Dominic Allen as Macbeth. Serena Manteghi, Joe Hufton and Sam Donnelly as the Witches.

Photographs by Jethro Compton.

Macbeth runs in the House of Detention until 18th May 2012. More information at 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

'Return of the King' by Dominic Allen

They say it's cursed. Maybe. It is certainly not without trepidation that one takes up the mantle, for the second time, of playing theScottishKingwhoshouldnotbementionedfromShakespeare'sScottishplayofthesamename.

Now, I'm not a superstitious person; I don't mind black cats, spilt salt, broken mirrors and the only reason I don't like people putting their shoes on the table is that it's unhygienic. Generally, I don't even mind 'The Scottish Play' being called by its proper name. Or, at least, I didn't – but we'll come back to that. That said, there is something altogether sinister about that play. There's something in it – some twisted bit of Shakespeare's genius – that gets inside you and makes you go a little bit... oogie.

As if the play itself wasn't cursed enough, I'm sure many of the more superstitious actors in this world would think again when we consider the venue. It's not a bad venue once you get past the cold, the damp, the ingrained sense of a history of cruelty in its very fabric, the dark, the smell, the strange feeling of being watched, the what-was-that and the What-did-you-say I-didn't-say-anything – I mean, if anything it's perfect for the play – but it hardly does much to put a superstitious man at ease. Not that I'm a superstitious man, you understand... but even without the shifting shadows and tricks of the light, it's still a funny old place. It's bigger than you'd think and it's... twisty. You'd be surprised how easy it is to sneak up on people in there. And there's something to be said, I think, about its design. It's not designed to make you feel comfortable or at ease with your surroundings. It's designed to make 18th Century soon-to-be-Australian convicts feel like... well, convicts. And it works.

Finally, we come to the dates of the performances. Surely, there couldn't be anything untoward or darkly sinister about those? You would think not but, alas, here we have it. A preview performance date. Yes, it's a Friday. I wonder if you can guess the actual date? Well, it's the second Friday in April. And the first Friday is the sixth... so six plus seven is...

Ah! So maybe the schedule could be better, given that were I superstitious – which I'm not – I'd not only have to contend with a long tradition of the play being cursed and long established ghosts in an allegedly haunted prison but also the most quintessentially unlucky date in the history of the entire world! Lucky for me I have absolutely no reason to be worried about that – it's all total nonsense, hokum, gibberish... oh, except for last time we did it (the same play in the same venue on the same date) and something utterly terrible happened. But apart from that, there's no reason to be worried at all. I mean, lightning doesn't strike twice. Does it?

Nevertheless, I'm looking forward to it. And why? Because it's so much fun. I get to go round killing people, scaring people, I get to shout, scream, giggle, cry, grow a bigger beard, get covered in blood and perfect an evil laugh. So why don't you come down one night and join in? I mean... what's the worst that can happen?

Dominic is appearing in 'Macbeth' at the House of Detention, Clerkenwell, London from 17th April - 18th May 2012. More info at

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Serena's Big Ozzie Thank You

It's raining. That is the reason Jethro has managed to get me sat down, in side and writing this blog. So far the weather in Adelaide has been somewhere in the region of paradisal; the sort of weather that fools a Londoner into believing that you can't possibly be allowed to stay here for more than a brief daydream, into believing that the residents of Adelaide must be victim to some horrid forfeit that befalls them in repentance for living in this balmy Elysium. Our host, the irrepressibly enchanting Joanne Hartstone, assures me that no such forfeit exists to her knowledge. I see. She must not be allowed to tell.

Yes Australia is the place where this Londoner has to keep reminding herself why she has subjected herself to living in The Big Smoke. Why is that again? Okay I'm going to stop shitting on London because its wonderful, of course, but it really is spectacular here. There is green and warmth and wildlife and there is A LOT to be said for Australian hospitality. I think that's what I would like to make the subject of this blog; the astounding and unflinching kindness of everyone at the Central for International Theatre.

C.I.T, as they are generally referred to, are our hosts at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Their Artisitc Director, Guy Masterson saw The Boy James in Edniburgh, 2011 and purely on his belief in the wonderful performances of that production (thank you Jethro Compton, Lucy Farrett and Dan Wood) Belt Up arrived in Adelaide, Australia last Monday. Our first day here we were met at the airport by the aforementioned Joanne Hartstone, producer of C.I.T and all-round Wonderwoman. Joanne and her father Jonathan, Front of House Manager for C.I.T, then got us all settled in what will be our homes for the next month; Jethro and I are very happily ensconced at Joanne's and Dom at her brother Micheal's. In case you haven't already figured, this company is very much a family affair and in all the best possible ways. You see, for those of the company who are not directly related to Joanne, us for example, we are still all treated as part of the family. And what a wonderful family it is.

C.I.T is hosting eleven shows at The Adelaide Fringe Festival and on our first evening we all congregated at Joanne's house for introductions. It reminded me of my grandparents' Christmas parties where the extended family all pile in on Boxing Day and reacquaint themselves with one other. Despite being the newbies (or nubiles as one David Calvitto like to call us) we settled in almost instantly thanks to everyone being just so nice. I must also mention the very warm welcome extended to us by the C.I.T team who look after us and tend to all our precious artists' worries; to the lovely Chelsea, the remarkable Amy and her multi-talents, to the one-man-delight that is Glen, the very special ball of sunshine that is Annie and to the effervescent angel, Brodie. Also to Penny, Sammy and everyone at Higher Ground. And to A.C. Arts, especially our secret tech angel, Warren. There is also another very special group of people at C.I.T; the hosts. These are the very kind people who put a roof over all us visiting artistes heads and offer huge support to all the shows. Thank you to Thirza and Piers for my vegetarian sushi.

And thank you to Guy. As well as having enough faith in the company to fly us thousands of miles, he is an absolute gem. An old-school gent with a big heart. My apologies for being a horrid soppy git but I secretly want him to be my mentor, to teach me the tricks and to heed warnings of the trade. To wear hats and drinks cocktails at Sardi's. I realise its not that secret if you put it on the internet but I trust you all to help me play it cool.

Last but in no way least, please raise your glasses to Miss Joanne Hartstone. How she manages to be a first class producer alongside being a first class actress is both highly impressive and slightly baffling. She is a force to be reckoned with. Note, she is also a strong mentor contender.

Anyway, thats enough for now. I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone here. It helps in this job if you can surround yourself with professionals of such a calibre as these fine ladies and gents at C.I.T. I makes you feel counted, it makes it all worth it. So cheers.


Serena is performing as The Girl in The Boy James and as Muriel/Sylvie in Outland which are both running at the Adelaide Fringe Festival until 18th March 2012. More details at

Australia: the reviews so far


'This piece is a great example of how theatre should be; interesting, informative, entertaining but, most of all, captivating and totally absorbing.'

GLAM ADELAIDE Full review here

'Allen plays the Lewis/professor character with a physical vitality and staccato rhythm that never loses focus.' ****1/2


'Certainly a must-see Fringe show for its delicate complexity, or if nothing else, its affability.'

AUSTRALIAN STAGE Full review here

'It was beautifully, joyfully, lovingly done.'

ADELAIDE ART BEAT Full review here

'This is an absolutely magical experience that is equal parts funny, thrilling and touching – and a must-see for fans of clever, imaginative theatre.' ****1/2


Number 9 on FRINGE REVIEW'S TOP 30


'disarming, charming and well performed' ****


'This beautiful, but sometimes brutal play, with its amazingly informed and powerful performances from these three magical actors, has the ability, even if only briefly, to awaken your inner child and give you back your childhood.'

GLAM ADELAIDE Full review here

'This production is highly recommended – an intriguing Fringe experience that you are unlikely to find anywhere else – but it will leave you wondering long after you have left the theatre.'

THE BAREFOOT REVIEW Full review here

'An unsettling, thought-provoking and imaginative work from a theatre company to keep an eye on; here’s hoping they’ll make the Adelaide Fringe a regular destination.' ****


'Jethro Compton is mesmerising in an emotional and compelling performance in which there are no holds barred as he shows you his despair and loss. This is a powerful and affecting show, the themes and feeling of which draw you in and pierce your core.' ****1/2

KRYSTOFF Full review here

Number 3 on FRINGE REVIEW'S TOP 30

Relocation Down Under

For the last few years we've been using the same materials and furniture to create our unique set and aesthetic. We sourced most of this in 2010 and have become very familiar with all of it (too familiar...).

When we started making plans for Australia, we realised that transporting the entire set across would take too long; from the end of the Boy James in London we'd have needed a month to get it shipped. So the wonderful people at the Centre for International Theatre (C.I.T.) sourced it all for us. And they have done an amazing job. Everything we had in the UK is no replicated as if in some alternate reality here in OZ.

And he's your first glance of what we've created.

and after:
The Boy James and Outland run at the Adelaide Fringe Festival with The Centre for International Theatre (C.I.T.) until 18th March 2012. Tickets and more details at

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Belt Up Theatre Down Under: Our first images

Serena wandering by the river next to the house we're staying in.

The three of us out for an afternoon stroll.

Our first sighting of a koala bear in the wild

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Macbeth returns to the House of Detention, London






One of the greatest stories ever told and a terrifying new vision...A haunting experience from the inimitable Belt Up Theatre, whose work has taken the UK by storm and has been hailed as a company ‘changing the future of British theatre’ (The Observer) and as ‘Fringe Royalty’ (Time Out London).

Allow the strangers your hand and follow as they lead you far below the streets of London into the tunnels, vaults and cells of Middlesex Prison. There begin your passage; a nightmarish journey into the mind of one of literature’s greatest serial killers.

Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy is mounted by a cast of four that breathe life into the Scottish King and the three weird sisters who guide him on his path to self-destruction.

Locked away from daylight within a reputedly haunted labyrinth you will join Macbeth as he struggles through delusions and paranoia in this relic of Victorian punishment, bricks built one upon the other with a single purpose, preventing the demons inside from being unleashed.

A prison, a workhouse, a system of cells; this is the House of Detention, Clerkenwell.

‘Brilliant’ Stephen Fry

‘Arresting’ The Observer

‘Inspired’ The Guardian

For full details visit

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Final Images from 'The Boy James' in London

'The Boy James' has closed in London. It will next be playing at the Adelaide Fringe in Australia from 25th Feb - 18th March. Full details here.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Whatsonstage: Five Reasons To See ... Belt Up's The Boy James

Following outings at the Edinburgh Fringe and Southwark Playhouse in January 2011, Belt Up Theatre's The Boy James returns to London running at The Goldsmith on Southwark Bridge Road from 26 January to 11 February 2012.

An original story inspired by Peter Pan and the life of JM Barrie, The Boy James is a dark, beautiful tale of one boy’s awakening to the harsh realities of adulthood. Play with him, and take his hand as you lead him back to Neverland.

Jethro Compton returns to the role of The Boy, alongside Serena Manteghi as The Girl and Dominic Allen as James. Staged as part of Southwark Playhouse's 'Out and About' programme, the show makes a new home above a bar and restaurant originally built as part of the London Brigade Fire Station. In typical Belt Up style the space is transforming into a fully formed immersive environment.

Belt Up Theatre give us their five reasons to see the show.

1. It made Stephen Fry cry

In 2011 the world’s favourite polymath, egged on by some Belt Up fans, came to see The Boy James at Southwark Playhouse. As with many audience members, the show struck a chord and led Fry to tweet, "Just been knocked out by The Boy James, Belt Up's interactive show about JM Barrie… Still drying my eyes."

2. An original story inspired by Peter Pan and the life of JM Barrie

There is something about the work of JM Barrie and the story of Peter Pan that manages to reach the inner child of every audience member; the idea of not-wanting to grow up is universal. The Boy James is a dark, beautiful tale of one boy’s awakening to the harsh realities of adulthood.

3. It was created by the award-winning Belt Up Theatre

Belt Up has been working across the UK over the last three years. Their unique style of performance has created a great following and a number of shows including The Tartuffe, The Trial, Lorca is Dead and Macbeth which was staged in the House of Detention in Clerkenwell and will be returning later this year.

Belt Up has been hailed as a company "changing the future of British theatre" by the Observer and as Edinburgh "Fringe Royalty" by Time Out.

4. It has some amazing reviews

The show has been running now, on and off, for a year and a half. Over that time it has received some incredible write-ups including three four-star reviews from Whatsonstage describing it as "a magical experience" and "flawless". It has also been called "moving and beautifully played" by writer Neil Gaiman, and called everything from "riveting," "wonderful" and "superbly realised" to "Belt Up’s finest performance" by reviewers from The Stage, The Scotsman, Fest Mag and Edinburgh Evening News.

5. It’s your last chance to see it before the show flies off to Australia

After the enormous success of the show in the UK, the company is heading off to Australia for a month-long run at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. Unless you fancy a trip to South Australia, be sure to book your tickets for the London run whilst they’re still available.

The Boy James opened at The Goldsmith on Southwark Bridge Road on 26 January where it continues until 11 February 2012. Tickets are available from the Southwark Playhouse box office.


This has been taken from

Exeunt Magazine interviews Jethro Compton on Belt Up, 'The Boy James' and growing up

I don’t think any of us anticipated this reaction when we first put it on,” admits Belt Up Theatre’s co-founder Jethro Compton. “I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that makes people cry.” But they do cry. Inspired by the work and life of Peter Pan’s creator J.M. Barrie, The Boy James is the company’s longest running and most successful production to date, and has been making audiences weep since it debuted at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe as part of their ambitious House Above project in which they took over and transformed part of C Venues.

It has proved a curiously divisive production, one with a tendency to trigger extreme reactions in its audience. Certainly not every response has been as enthusiastic as Stephen Fry’s (his tweet, “still drying my eyes”, helped cement the show’s reputation), but Compton believes this is to be expected as it’s “not a narrative driven show. It’s more of an emotional journey.” Some people are less comfortable with that than others, he concedes, unable to resist a dig about critics “hiding behind their notebooks,” but for those who do connect with the production it often proves to be an incredibly powerful experience. In Edinburgh “people would come back a few days later to tell us they couldn’t get it out of their heads. We’ve been doing the show for so long now and are still getting similar reactions.”

When The Boy James was first performed it was somewhat buried amidst a number of other shows which the company were presenting under the banner of The House Above, so it was only seen by around 300 people initially. Yet of all Belt Up’s work it’s this piece which has gone on to have the longest life. The production transferred to Southwark Playhouse in London in January 2011 and the venue is again hosting the show, though this time off-site at The Goldsmith, a nearby pub which the company are transforming into a by now familiar Belt Up space. Belt Up, for many of their productions, favours non-traditional seating, sofas and floor cushions, a soft-edged and atmospheric performance space. Or rather a space within a space. “It’s not site specific,” Compton says firmly. “We’re making our own site. There’s no point us putting it on in a theatre and then spending time and money making it not look like a theatre, we may as well put it on somewhere else.”

This use of space is integral to the kind of theatre Belt Up want to make. “We’re not a devising company. We have a script [in this case by Alexander Wright] and a director with a vision. The audience is part of the story; [in The Boy James] the audience are his imaginary play-friends. If a character looks at an audience member, we want it to be OK for them to look back; if a character asks an audience member a question, we want them to feel like they can answer. We want them to feel like they can interact with us and, with a long running show, those are the moments that make it special and keep it alive.”

The company, though still comparatively new, have already established a particular aesthetic, a recognisable style, one that ‘places its audience at the centre of the production’. They’re currently working on a revised version of their production of Macbeth to be staged in the vaults of a former prison beneath the streets of Clerkenwell, a haunting space they filled with melancholic wailing and the unsettling scrape of blade on stone. “We can do a show like The Boy James and a show like Macbeth and they are completely different, the space is different, the audience is different, and yet there is something inherently Belt Up about them both.” Though some of their stylistic devices can seem a little too pat at times, they pursue them with commitment and consistency. One of the reasons Compton believes that audiences feel so strongly about The Boy James is the way the piece denies its audience closure. “As with all our work there’s no defined end point. The play comes to an end but the story continues. The characters remain in the space.” Compton, who works predominantly as a producer as well as playing the title role, is a fluent and passionate speaker, and you can sense within him the clear-eyed drive that has helped the company establish itself so quickly. The company was formed in 2008 by Compton, Dominic J Allen, James Wilkes and Alexander Wright, when they were still studying at the University of York. That same year they made their Edinburgh debut, winning the Edinburgh International Festival Award for their immersive Red Room project. By the time they graduated in 2009, they had already made a name for themselves as a company. “With a mixture of stupidity and ambition we’ve thrown ourselves into things,” says Compton with a laugh. The Red Room, described by The Stage as a ‘boudoir theatre’ in which they presented five full productions daily, “could have gone horribly wrong” but it didn’t and instead it provided a springboard for future projects. Soon afterwards they became company in residence at York Theatre Royal which “gave us a home, gave us a purpose, and gave us a support network.” Compton attributes their success to a mixture of luck and hard work and the fact that “by the time we graduated we already had a reputation and work lined up. We’d started building those relationships while we were still at university.” He also acknowledges that they’d set up hurdles for themselves by the very nature of the work they do. They had to be as prolific as they were, to do so much in so short a space of time, because of need as much as want. “Because of the nature of the work we do we can only have audiences of a certain size, so that was a challenge.”

Their plans for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe are somewhat scaled down – at least by Belt Up standards, which means only one or two new shows instead of the nine productions they juggled as part of the House Above (where Compton was averaging about three hours sleep a night) but they are, he says, planning to go big once again for Edinburgh 2013.

Compton’s energies in the main are now focussed on producing instead of acting, but he’s reluctant to relinquish the Boy just yet. “If it was another show I’d get another actor in, but because it’s The Boy James, because it’s that part, I haven’t.” He enjoys the challenges inherent in the role, the scope for interaction and unpredictability. “You experiment and you learn from mistakes. As an actor, it lifts you up and revitalises you.”

In the spring the company will be taking The Boy James and another show, Outland, to Adelaide and there’s every sign the show will continue beyond this, a state of affairs Compton seems happy with. “We went through a period where we created a lot of work very quickly whereas now we’re enjoying touring one show that grows and improves over time.” The Belt Up boys are, it seems, growing up. “We used to go wild because we had the energy to do that, but now we’re concerned with becoming stable, with becoming a company that doesn’t burn out.”

The Boy James will be presented by Southwark Playhouse, offsite at The Goldsmith, from 25th January to 11th February. For tickets and further information visit the Southwark Playhouse website.

Belt Up’s Macbeth will run from 17th April to 18th May at the House of Detention in Clerkenwell with previews starting 12th April. For further details visit the production website.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

First Image from the new set - The Boy James

This is the first image of our new performance space for 'The Boy James' at The Goldsmith in Southwark.

And below is a photo of the space before we arrived.

'The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012 and at the Adeliade Fringe Festival from 24th February - 18th March 2012. Full details at

Tickets for the London run can be booked here.