Mark Beeson, Easdon Farmhouse in 2017
By Chris Chapman
Mark Beeson (1954 – 2022), MED Theatre’s Founder and Artistic Director,
“Wherever I go I feel your presence – in the wind that breathes over peat and heather, in the rivers that weave their spirit through the pools, in the tender rays of the level sunset…”
From MED Theatre’s ‘Daughters of Sunset’
A playwright and anthropologist who grew up on Dartmoor, Mark read classics at university before switching to human sciences and working as a primate ecologist. He conducted and published research into the history of Dartmoor and its mythology. As a writer, he read his long poem, The Blue Monkeys of Zomba, on BBC Radio 3, had four plays broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and had written a book on Dartmoor for the Countryside Commission. Through MED Theatre he created nearly fifty community plays, working extensively with teenagers and in primary schools as a workshop leader and director. Mark was the original founder of MED Theatre and was in the role of Artistic Director until the time of his death in February 2022.
Abby has worked for MED Theatre’s since October 2008, starting as Education Officer and then becoming part-time Education Manager in 2016. Having worked closely alongside Mark Beeson for nearly 14 years at the time of his death, she then stepped into his shoes at the helm of MED Theatre, as Mark had hoped she would someday. Abby gained a First Class honours degree in drama from Exeter University in 2003 and went on to study an MA in acting at East 15 drama school in London. Throughout her training Abby gained experience in stage combat techniques, physical theatre, music and dance. Following her MA she worked as an actress for three years in London and toured schools across the UK and Ireland as an education worker. Keen to work with a company that would reach out to local communities and young people, Abby returned to Devon, where she was delighted to join MED Theatre.
Gillian Webster has been involved with MED Theatre since 1987 on a freelance basis as a musician, composer, and creative music workshop leader. She joined MED Theatre’s staff base as Company Development Officer in September 2009, working 3 days a week. At the time of Mark Beeson’s death Gillian, alongside Abby, stepped up and has taken on greater responsibility for the organisational running of MED Theatre. Gillian studied physics with geophysics at Exeter University, completing research for a PhD in crystallography before changing direction to pursue a career in the arts and music, her original love. Her compositions have been used on a TV advertisement for Kent’s Cavern, for two computer games, to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day in Exeter and to celebrate a choir exchange between South Brent and Châteauneuf-du-Faou.
Helen joined MED Theatre in 2016, her interest in community theatre having grown from her time at university where she studied Drama and English Literature, including an in-depth exploration into global community theatre practice and the work of Augusto Boal. She has worked as a facilitator, director, writer and as front of house for The Barbican Theatre, The Theatre Royal Plymouth, Down Stage Write, INDRA and with many other Devon-based companies. Helen also worked in America for four consecutive summers as Theatre Director at a children’s Summer Camp. Helen has a passion for using theatre not only as an art form but also as a basis for improving self-confidence and the ability to achieve and gain more from life.
Fern joined the MED Theatre team in October 2021 having moved from rural Aberdeenshire in Scotland where she worked as a Drama Teacher for almost 10 years. Fern has an MA in English & Education from the University of Aberdeen and studied Drama at the University of Strathclyde. Fern has previously worked at Edinburgh’s Festival Fringe and with Aberdeen Performing Arts. She worked with the National Theatre of Scotland in a community project, ‘Granite’, exploring the history of Aberdeen. She loves encouraging young people to follow their passions and enjoys supporting them to build their confidence. If Fern isn’t walking or wild swimming with her collie on Dartmoor then she can be found in the veg patch or baking in the kitchen.
Suvi joined MED theatre in May 2016. Suvi is a graduate of the Central School of Speech and Drama at the University of London and has an MA in Theatre and Global Development from the University of Leeds. Suvi has worked as a community artist in Finland developing ways to incorporate arts into social security services and leading activities for their clientele. She has coordinated and led projects and theatre groups for young people and adults with varying needs and backgrounds and is thrilled to work for MED Theatre who share her passion for creating opportunities for communities to participate, develop and excel. Suvi has grown up in the countryside in Finland and feels very much at home in Dartmoor and Moretonhampstead.
Florrie joined MED Theatre in September 2019 as the Moor Voices Project Co-ordinator, having graduated from the University of Exeter in December 2018 with a BA in Drama and an MA in Theatre Practice. There she gained experience in devising and directing original work, ensemble and physical theatre. Alongside her job at MED Theatre Florrie continued to make her own work in the South-West and London and went on to study in Paris at the School of Jacques Lecoq.
Rose joined MED Theatre in November 2018 in the role of Funding and Sustainability Officer. She trained in Contemporary Storytelling and Performance at the Eden Project and went on to receive a first-class honors degree in Theatre and Performance from Plymouth Conservatoire.
This post was funded by a grant from Heritage Lottery Fund Resilient Heritage.
Sarah joined MED Theatre as temporary replacement for Helen Gilbert in October 2018. Sarah was excited to work with MED Theatre until Helen’s return to further her experience in facilitating community theatre and help promote artistic engagement within the community.
Having graduated from the University of Exeter in 2014 with a first class honours degree in Drama, Lucy spent the following year developing her theatre practice within communities across Devon, specialising in the development of young people. Lucy worked for MED Theatre from October 2016 to November 2017 and is working for Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Sarah joined MED Theatre in February 2013 in the new post of Artistic Assistant. She originally trained in Theatre Design at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (Cardiff), graduating in 2012 with a First Class BA(hons) degree. Sarah has worked as a designer, design assistant, puppet maker and prop maker for a number of theatre companies. Sarah founded and ran MED Theatre’s drama club for 5-7 year olds, ‘Rising Lights’.
After studying Politics at UCL, where she spent more time getting involved in theatre and outdoor education, Grace followed her feet to Spain where she set up a theatre company, Dusty Apple, and worked in Barcelona for two years. Returning to England she worked with the National Youth Theatre, the CYN in Bristol and in Devon on The Common Players production of Jerusalem. Her love for theatre and the outdoors has brought her to Devon where she was very excited to work for MED Theatre for a year, including being the lead creator of their Whitehorse Hill promenade play.
MED Theatre is governed by a board of directors, who are its trustees. Currently the board is as follows: Jess Wynn-Jones (Chair), Julia Oliver (Vice Chair), Olivia Young (Vice Chair), Mark Woolner (Treasurer), Fiona Avis, Rae Hoole, Allison Caverhill.