Services tailored to you...

Our Accountancy Specialisms

With over five decades’ experience serving a diverse range of clients in the South West, we possess an unbeatable depth of knowledge across a wide range of industry sectors.

Our specialist partners and teams can provide expert advice on everything from farming and agriculture, to military tax allowances. We’re here to help you make the most of your planning opportunities so that you can grow with confidence.

Cygnet Theatre

May 12th, 2023

Hidden behind the Waterfront in Exeter lies a hotbed of creative activity that has been responsible for the careers of many talented actors, actresses and directors over the past 40 years.

Founded in 1980, the highly regarded Cygnet Theatre was the brainchild of the late Monica Shallis who, alongside co-founder Mary Evans, saw the potential for a drama school in Exeter that would go on to shape the future of many of the country’s leading lights.

Trained as a composer, singer and actress, Monica settled in Exeter as Head of Music at St Thomas’ High School. She soon became involved with the Northcott Theatre and found herself training students in her own front room, preparing them for auditions in London.

Alive to the demand for such formal training, Monica, alongside Mary, established the Cygnet Company, housed in a building bought by Monica and subsequently willed to the charity in 2006.

Set up as an educational charity to train actors in a professional ensemble company, Monica named the Company Cygnet in the hope that the actors would become swans of the Avon, going on to become actors at the RSC and National Theatre.

In this she succeeded many times over, with students, including Penny McGhie of Harry Potter fame, going on to appear at both The National Theatre in London and on Broadway. Others have founded their own Theatre Companies, such as David Lockwood of the Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter. The Alumni makes for impressive reading, including Hollywood actors Andrew Howard and Louis Dempsey.

Today, the Company offers an intense three-year ensemble theatre training programme, which combines the best of Conservatoire with the practical experience of a working Theatre Ensemble.

Taking in four to six students each year, the company runs with a maximum of 16 actors across years 1, 2 and 3. Students are required to be 18 or over and self-funded before auditioning to join.

Those lucky enough to make the cut can look forward to lessons in everything from voice, movement, singing, dance, touring, stage management, TV and radio. They also participate in two to three productions, refining their skills in acting, lighting, prop management and more.

As Sir Ian McKellen commented: “The Cygnet’s method is eminently practical and reminded me of my own early, invaluable experience as an actor in regional repertory companies, tackling play after play through the year. Audiences taught me more than any academic class could.

“In future, when I am asked what an aspiring actor can do to advance their hopes for a career in live theatre, I shall recommend applying for a place at The Cygnet.”

Rosalind Williams, Principal of the Cygnet Theatre, explains: “In addition to assisting students with CVs, networking via the alumni, and more contemporary skills such as using social media, each leaver’s group gets a local and London showcase. We take a show to The Actors’ Centre in Covent Garden where they perform before an audience of professionals, including casting agents, casting directors, producers, directors and alumni.”

Over the years, the charity has had to diversify to remain viable. Today, it offers community acting courses on a Tuesday evening and a youth group physical course on a Monday night. Its weekend courses in directing have been particularly popular and its stage combat course – part of the full-time course – is now available to outside participants. Opening its training to the wider public has helped fund the charity’s work.

Assisting the charity over the years, has been Simpkins Edwards. “We get on so well,” says Rosalind Williams. “The team are friendly, supportive and explain tax in plain English. From the very start, Mary Jane Campbell has understood the theatre and offered sound business advice."

“She attends our trustee meetings and joins the theatre to talk over the accounts. We feel valued and well treated; and her team are there when we need them, which has been particularly helpful with the introduction of QuickBooks.”

Rosalind adds: “We take part in Simpkins Edwards’ annual charity fundraiser, the Really Big Quiz, which is great fun, and they always bring a healthy audience to see our productions. This year, we have put on an extra performance in February just for them, once everyone had completed the end of the tax year rush.”

Malcolm Mardon, who will be retiring as Theatre Manager and Assistant Administrator later this year, adds: “Mary Jane’s advice has been invaluable. With her help, we are safe in the knowledge that our accounts are complete, correct and filed in accordance with the Charity Commission’s legal regulations on accounting.” 01392 277189

Contact us