New Open Air Theatre in Valley of Rocks


We’re delighted to host this article by self-confessed Exmoorphile Helena Payne on Midsummer’s Day about the new Pleasure Dome Theatre at the Valley of Rocks. Launching this summer with Macbeth (2nd – 20th August), Helena gives us an insight into her childhood dream to bring open-air theatre to Exmoor.

Helena PayneI have always been inspired by Exmoor. For my school art projects I would regularly return to dramatic scenes of the coast and solitary trees set against windswept landscapes; at once brutal and beautiful. I am a self-confessed Exmoorphile. I go to other counties and as much as can appreciate their chocolate-box charm, for me, nowhere takes my breath away like Exmoor. My artistic sensibilities are bound up with the land and, like my family before me, I feel pulled back to this part of the world.

I am a very visual person, so the first thing I needed to do was to create a miniature model of the Valley of Rocks! So after taking photos and videos, I followed the teachings of Art Attack! to make myself a model to play with.  Now I had my own version of the site, I could see how I would make my dreams a reality.


I was thrilled when Lynton Council accepted my proposal – they have been a pillar of support throughout the whole process. Even though I am the Creative Director of this project “no man is an island”, so I invited on board a brilliant director in the form of Scott LeCrass and signed Oliver Bush as Lighting Designer, who was as keen and imaginative about the project as we were.

And as tricksy as the internet can sometimes be, I knew that if Pleasure Dome Theatre was to have any legitimacy, it had to be visible online. After registering with Companies House, I bought a domain name, built a website, created Twitter and Facebook accounts. Next I had to decide on how to fund the project. I chose Crowdfunder, one of the most well established platforms and since it’s launch (click here to pledge), I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of people, pledging their support by buying tickets.

ValleyIt is still early days but it is amazing how by social media works. At first it feels like you’re just shouting into a vacuum and surely no one cares. Then ripple by ripple, little voices come back and say, “I think that’s a good idea!” “I’d like to be involved,” “I support you!” It is immensely gratifying and, in a career that can be quite solitary, it makes you feel very appreciated.

We’ve also had our first auditions. For a project of this nature it is imperative that we have a cast who will be able to deal with the extraordinary surroundings. Technically this means having powerful projection and really muscular articulation; psychologically it means being able to deal with the isolation of the wilderness of Exmoor. I am thrilled to say we have cast individuals who excel in both of these fields.

We are now in our last few weeks of crowdfunding so I look forward to updating you as things develop!

You can help Pleasure Dome Theatre with their CrowdFunder pledge here. See their latest news either via their Facebook page or Twitter (@PleasureDomeTC).

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