Meet the professional theatre team who lead and support the work and sessions

Core Team

Laura Barnes – Artistic Director and Producer

JERUSALEM2 087Laura recently worked for seven years as Education and Outreach Leader for the nationally acclaimed and government funded theatre company Sixth Sense Theatre for Young People. She has directed multiple productions and specialises in physical theatre, gritty drama and improvisation.She has also directed for the Radio One Big Weekend, the National and Local Government Arts Organisations Annual Conference, Ugly Sister Productions and the Edinburgh Fringe. She has ran various workshops in theatre (including running Swindon Youth Theatre for seven years at The Wyvern, for Salisbury Playhouse and The Egg in Bath) and regularly works collaboratively with playwrights, teachers and actors (including Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham and acclaimed playwrights including Brian Jordan, David Lane and Mike Akers) to deliver bespoke projects.

Laura is a qualified and experienced Secondary School Drama Teacher and currently works freelance delivering workshops and as a Director and Producer for companies based around the South West.

Laura also leads on Gatecrash Evolve


Anna Friend – Gatecrash Ignite Tutor/Artistic Director (Maternity cover from January 2017)


DSC_8982Anna recently directed Gatecrash Theatre’s HUGELY successful community performance project ‘Wroughton Passion Play’ with a cast of 100 people and perforomed to an audience of 1800 people. Anna has been working as a drama teacher and director for the past 10 years, after completing her PGCE at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Prior to teaching, Anna worked in the media and film industry, making music videos with a whole host of artists from the All Saints to Eric Clapton. Anna is Artistic Director of Quirky Bird Theatre and has recently won several awards for their performance of ‘Tusk, Tusk’ at the National One Act Play Festival. Beyond this Anna is also Resident Director at The Alma Tavern in Bristol. As a teacher she directed everything from Godber to Grease and all that lies between. As a director she has founded and run two previous Youth Theatre companies, including the recently founded Marlborough Young Actors, producing high quality performances with young people and most recently she has bought her experience to adult theatre, working with The Marlborough Players to produce Jim Cartwright’s ‘Two’.  She is also an examiner for Edexcel GCSE Drama. For more information on Anna Quirky Bird Theatre company click here

Anna leads our Gatecrash Ignite sessions


Natasha Garbutt – Gatecrash Youth Tutor, Adminstrator (Maternity Cover from January 2017) and Gatecrash Events Co-ordinator

13891866_10206365803775602_2357177109204808597_n-2Natasha has been involved with Gatecrash since its formation both logistically and creatively.  Natasha was Assistant Director on Gatecrash’s first two ‘Yearn and Learn’ performances ‘Jerusalem’ and ‘The Crucible’ and Assistant Produced ‘Wroughton Passion Play’. Natasha Directed Gatecrash Theatre’s first ‘Smash And Grab’ production ‘Breathing Corpses’ under the mentorship of Artistic Director Laura Barnes. Natasha is  heading up our latest venture Gatecrash Events. and is co-leading Gatecrash Youth aiming to use her experiences as a director to nurture those wanting to follow the same path. Prior to working with Gatecrash Natasha studied Drama at Bristol’s UWE where she was heavily involved with producing and directing and Assistant Directed several productions with Swindon Youth Theatre (now part of Prime Theatre). Natasha also works closely with Reach Inclusive Arts and Partner’s Theatre Company – an inclusive arts company in the town.


David Jell – Technical, Stage Management and Lighting Design

David has 17 years’ experience of working in technical theatre roles and has been working with Gatecrash Theatre since we formed.  David works in both main house and touring theatre; his current full time role is as Deputy Technical Manager for Swindon’s 
Wyvern Theatre and Swindon Arts Centre  as well as production manager for the annual Summer Youth Project at the Wyvern Theatre.  David has an interest in local amateur dramatics and community theatre and has spent the last 8 years working with a range of theatre companies around Swindon, starting with Sixth Sense Theatre Company (now Prime Theatre) on professional touring shows. For Gatecrash Theatre, David leads on technical aspects and provides lighting design for all our shows – particular highlights being stage managing and designing aspects of The Passion and Nativity at Wroughton.  He has also been working with Quirky Bird Theatre, providing technical support and lighting design to projects, including Polly Stenham’s Tusk Tusk and That Face and for the inaugural production of Schoolhouse Productions (Alma Tavern‘s new in-house production company) Two by Jim Cartwright.


John Lomas – Course Leader for Improvisation Training


c5acbc97-b3ea-46cf-b738-7eec3824a638John runs Gatecrash Theatre’s improvisation courses. John is an actor, improviser and writer from Bristol. He is a founder member and co-director of Closer Each Day, Bristol’s long-running improvised soap opera.  For the company he has also created the long-form formats The Life Of… (performed at Bristol Old Vic) and The Sitcom Trial. He is also a member of Impromptu Shakespeare and is developing a two-person storytelling show, The Great American Storybook. He has been teaching improv since 2011 and is a lead instructor with the Bristol Improv Theatre. He is currently teaching advanced classes at the Tobacco Factory and has instructed all over the South West – with students ranging from seasoned performers to corporate clients. In order to expand the opportunities for his students to perform, he recently founded The Unscripted Players (UP!) the UK’s first amateur theatre company dedicated to improvisation. He has trained with iO, Tara de Fransciso, Patti Stiles, Chris Harris, Hoopla and the Nursery. He has written for BBC radio (Mantelpiece Theatre, Newsjack) and most recently for Bath Theatre Royal’s Shakespeare project ‘They Name is Women’.


Associate Artists


Julia McShane

Julia McShane HeadshotJulia is Artistic Director for The Story Project (formally Ugly Sister Productions) a new writing company based in London. She has also directed at Old Vic New Voices 24 Hour Plays, Bristol Old Vic, Nuffield Theatre Southampton, The Wyvern Theatre Swindon (for Sixth Sense a Theatre for Young People), Assembly Rooms, The New End Hampstead, Southwark Playhouse and Theatre 503. Julia also works as a guest director and practitioner at Goldsmiths University and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. For more information on Julia and her company click here

Lee Lyford

Lee Lyford HeadshotLee has worked with Gatecrash running a character development workshop for members of Gatecrash Evolve. Lee is a Freelance Director and Associate Director at the Egg Theatre- Theatre Royal Bath.He has a background in dance and this often informs his work particularly the large scale pieces. Productions directed for Theatre Royal Bath include The Nutcracker (“Lee Lyford’s production fizzes so much with witty high spirits and theatrical tricks” The Guardian ****) and the epic production of Ben Hur (What’s on Stage *****), featuring a cast of 180 and the subject of a documentary for the BBC’s Imagine. Lee also directs The Egg Theatre’s Christmas productions which have included Around the World in 80 Days (“an amazing number of theatrical inventions…a lovely show, The Times ****) and The French Detective and the Blue Dog (“Terrific stuff” The Stage ****).  Away from Bath Lee has directed plays for Hull Truck, Bristol Old Vic and the Tobacco Factory. Other credits also include work for Southwark Playhouse and Sheffield Crucible. For more information on Lee click here 

Chris Garner

National Director and founder of Stroud Theatre Company. Chris has Directed for several companies and venues including Sixth Sense Theatre for Young People, The Old Rep, Birmingham, Crescent Theatre, Birmingham, Theatre West at the Alma, Bristol, Salisbury Playhouse and New Vic Theatre, Stoke. He also trained at Bristol Old Vic and regularly tutors aspiring actors.


Ruth Rogers

Ruth Rodgers HeadshotRuth is founder of Body Gossip  – A campaign that works through Arts and Education to empower every body to be the best version of themselves and rock their own brand of gorgeous. Ruth produces all of the Body Gossip theatre shows and short films, and is responsible for the day to day running of the campaign. She is also the Artistic Director of an arts venue in East London, The Canvas – a cafe and arts space that hosts workshops, live arts events and ongoing debate. The Canvas is our affiliated venue, and will be home to Body Gossip workshops and theatre events. Ruth is an actress and puppeteer whose most notable performances include operating Joey’s Head in ‘War Horse’ in the West End; operating a Beach Byrd in CBeebies’ ‘ZingZillas’ for the BBC; presenting CBeebies Radio also for the BBC. For more information on Ruth and her company click here

Esther Jane Shepperd

Esther trained and worked as an actress before setting up Ugly Sister Productions (Soon to be called The Story Project) with Artistic Director Julia McShane. Esther has produced at The Soho Theatre, The Arcola (Main stage and Studio 1), The New Diorama, Theatre 503 and Southwark Playhouse (Main Stage and the Vaults).


David Lane

David Lane HeadshotDavid is leading Gatecrash Theatre’s playwriting course. David Lane is an award-nominated playwright and dramaturg and has been making and developing new work in a wide variety of contexts since 2002, including long-term associations with Goldsmiths College and Exeter University and a specialism in working with young people. As a writer he has been commissioned twice by Half Moon Young People’s Theatre and Theatre Royal Plymouth, by the egg and Engage programmes at Theatre Royal Bath to create work for teenage audiences and community performers, and is currently under commission from Chichester Festival Theatre. Previous commissions also include work for Forest Forge, Salisbury Playhouse, Theatre West, Travelling Light, Immediate Theatre, Proteus Theatre, Blue Brook Productions and The British School of Beijing. He has delivered numerous workshops and writer development programmes for regional venues and was previously the Literary Assistant at Soho Theatre. He is Artistic Associate of Part Exchange Co’s interdisciplinary R&D project The Engine House in Bristol and has worked as dramaturg with award-winning devising companies including Fine Chisel, Dirty Market, multistory and with rural touring producer Beaford Arts. He is author of the book Contemporary British Drama and has written published articles exploring dramaturgy and new play development in the UK. For more information on David click here

Mike Akers

Mike Akers HeadshotMike has run an improvisation workshop for members of Gatecrash Evolve. Mike has written extensively for young audiences, including work for Forest Forge, Travelling Light and Sixth Sense & is a well-known name in programmes at Bristol Old Vic, (Treasure Island, Peter Pan, Jane Eyre), The Tobacco Factory & The Brewery (The Lost Present, Super Sam & Mega Max Save Christmas). An experienced teacher, Mike was also Education Director with Travelling Light, and taught ‘Writing for Performance’ at Bristol University.

Matthew Bulgo

Matthew Bulgo headshot

Matthew trained at LAMDA and works as an actor, playwright and director. Playwriting credits include: Last Christmas (Dirty Protest/Theatr Clwyd – transfer to Soho Theatre); The Knowledge (Dirty Protest/Royal Court, ‘Surprise Theatre’ Season); My Father’s Hands (Paines Plough, Come To Where I’m From); Lacuna (Three Streets Productions, New Wimbledon Studio). He has also written short plays for Sherman Cymru, Velvet Ensemble, Ugly Sisters and Look You Made. Matthew’s short play, On Hold, was recently published in literary magazine, Bare Fiction. He is a graduate of Sherman Cymru’s Advanced Writers Group and is currently developing a number of full-length plays.


Neil Madden

Neil Madden HeadshotNeil trained as an actor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff as has enjoyed many years performing on stage, TV and Film. Credits include The Many Lives of Albert Walker (2002), Tomoko (2015) and Silent Witness (1996). Neil trained and performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has worked as an acting coach in London.  Neil is a fully qualified teacher and balances his acting alongside his educational career choices.

Frank Wurzinger

Frank has run a clowning workshop for members of Gatecrash Evolve. Frank is an actor, deviser and workshop leader with a particular interest in visual, physical theatre, clown and comedy.
He teaches at drama schools (Drama Studio London, East 15) and the Actor’s Centre London. He has faciltated a number a workshops for the Royal and Derngate where he is an associate artist. Frank is particularly interested in how to use clown and playfulness to create funny, moving and sometimes tragic theatre. Together with John Wright he has created two solo clown shows ‘The Confetti Maker’and ‘Goodbye Gunther’ a comedy about death.
He trained in mime and physical theatre, Clown, Fool and Improvisation and studied Performance at the Central School for Speech of Drama.
He has worked with companies including Sixth Sense (Bob Man on the Moon), Travelling Light (Cloudland), Red Herring, (Paschale Straighton), The Troubadours (Franki Anderson), Theatre Rites (Hospital works, Lighten Up), Dende Collective (Piranha Lounge, Kwaidan, C-attack), Gonzo Moose (I am a Viking), Royal and Derngate (Knitwits, Minibreak, Flathampton) Adrenalin Dance, Theatre Alibi (Lost and found), Birdnest (Blown Away) and Oily Cart.

Theatre Designers

Laura McEwen

Laura McEwen HeadshotLaura has a first class degree in theatre design from Nottingham Trent University. Since graduating she has designed for multiple companies and venues including The Egg, Polka, Sixth Sense, Nottingham Playhouse and the Unicorn. In 2005 she won the Best design Award from the Manchester Evening News for her design of ‘Beautiful Thing’. Her work has also been exhibited in the Victoria and Albert museum. She is associate director of Red Earth Theatre Company, and has a particular interest in new and devised work. For more information on Laura click here

Sue Condie

Sue has mentored on Gatecrash Theatre’s ‘Smash and Grab’ project. Sue designs sets and costumes for theatre productions across the country. She trained at Middlesex Poly (Foundation Art and Design) and The Nottingham Trent University in Theatre Design (BA Hons). In 2000 Sue set up Stroud Theatre Company with director/actor Chris Garner promoting innovative new writing with a visual twist. Sue is a visiting lecturer at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Central St. Martins and Staffordshire University. She also works regularly as an artist in schools particularly with young people and special education needs creating installations and large textile banners for site specific projects and performances.


Kerry Boorman

Keryy Boorman HeadshotKerry Boorman has an MA in Contemporary Theatre Practice and a First Class BA in Theatre Studies. She runs her own theatre school called red banana drama. Children aged between 5 and 18 attend weekly after school workshops to develop stage and screen techniques. Each year they write and perform their own piece of theatre or film. Kerry works as an associate with a number of well-known theatres including the Birmingham Rep, The Wolverhampton Grand and the Cheltenham Everyman as well as various theatre companies such as Sixth Sense and Freshwater. She is currently the Artistic Director of Reach Inclusive Arts Partners Theatre Company and works to create school based theatre tours for the Arts Council. Almost all of Kerry’s work is devised with a group and then scripted and directed by her. Kerry works with a wide variety of backgrounds, from whole school productions and youth theatre performances to working within re integration units, SEN groups and young offenders. Writing and directing for such a diverse mix has meant that Kerry’s experience and professional development is constantly expanding.  For more information on Kerry click here