Documental Theatre – An Associate Company

Led by writer and recent Kevin Elyot Award-winner Lucy Bell, Devon-based Documental Theatre is the latest addition to the Associates Programme.

Lucy was part of the first graduating class of Producers on the Northcott Futures Programme. While on the programme, she wrote and produced the short film F*ck Tai Chi, a story of survival which responded to the millions of people over 70 who were cloistered in their homes during lockdown. The film was shown at the Northcott in October 2020 and warmly received (“So funny and a wee bit heart-breaking” – Chris White, Poet). Lucy is inspired by the stories of people in the South West: the isolation and challenges people deal with, and the way these themes are often overlooked in mainstream culture. Documental productions always start with frank and funny accounts from people who have lived the story.

Lucy Bell headshot 2021

For years, Devon has been quite a tough eco-system in which to create work. The problem with that is this: the issues and stories which affect people living regionally, particularly in the South West, don’t get a wider airing. South West communities can feel like they are not entitled to author or inform ground-breaking arts. I am so delighted to be supported by the Northcott because the talented team there are capable of making all sorts of ambitious goals come true. It genuinely feels like time to “level up” the theatre landscape.

Lucy Bell

Before being selected as an Associate, Lucy was successful in securing one of the Northcott’s The Time (for change) Is Now commissions, resulting in another short film: Grown Ups. Inspired by interviews undertaken by students from Dawlish College with retired adults, Grown Ups shares stories across generations, gathering reflections on life from people with a broad range of perspectives and experiences.

My parents are now in their eighties. I want to explore what that vantage point looks like. I want to know what feels important as you age, so that I can try to live meaningfully now.

Lucy Bell

In the wake of the pandemic and as we grapple with what a ‘new normal’ looks like, the film weaves together the stories of Lynda, who moved from Sierra Leone to England when she was 12 years old, and Bob who joined the Merchant Navy aged 15. They both face peril on the seas and come through one way and another, though not entirely unharmed.

Lucy Bell and Documental Theatre have had a busy year creating the PROPS series of radio dramas for the Audio Content Fund. The series dramatises the emotional labour of carers of all stripes and has just been nominated for an Offie (listen here). For the series, Lucy wrote MERMAN, a surreal and watery story about a submariner’s husband pining for his wife. All six plays were directed by award-winning director Sarah Meadows, kept on track by formidable local producer Naomi Turner, and sound designed by Wardrobe Theatre Associate Jack Drewry, with lush music from Ben Kwasi Burrell (Small Island at National Theatre).

PROPS logo

Documental were delighted when Audio Content Fund commissioned them a second time this summer to produce Would Like to Meet, a documentary series about the challenges of dating with a disability, authored by Ngozi Ugochukwu.

Now audiences are returning to theatres, Lucy says she is excited to get back to the collaborative process of developing a play script. Documental plans to take on an exciting team of associates in 2022 to support in the production of a new midscale show for Exeter Theatre. With so much source material to draw on – first-hand stories of caring, loving, overcoming – the show is sure to delight and resonate with a wide demographic in the South West. More on that to follow soon!


Viv Gordon

Richard Chappell