Into The West
Eastern Angles is a regional touring theatre company based in the East of England. It was set up by current Artistic Director, Ivan Cutting, in 1982 to stage plays and other performances with a local angle. Thirty years later, the Ipswich-based company is still bringing the performing arts to a weird and wonderful array of venues across the region and beyond, and many of its plays are set in Peterborough. Stuart Barker caught up with EA founder Ivan Cutting just before the curtains opened on his latest production.
It’s not possible to travel much further East in Britain than Ipswich. So there’s a certain irony in the fact that the regional theatre company which is based there has to travel into the West to bring its message of ‘challenging entertainment’ to a wider audience.
But although Eastern Angles is a regional company, it’s one with a national reputation, having attracted rave reviews in the national press for shows staged as far afield as London and Edinburgh.
Based in the Sir John Mills Theatre in Ipswich, the company was founded by its current Artistic Director, Ivan Cutting, back in 1982 when Britain was in the grip of another recession. But rather than suffering, theatre and art seems to thrive under such conditions according to Cutting. ‘The Independent Theatre Council – which is the sort of management company for small scale theatres – says that recessions are actually good for creating companies’ he explains. ‘They’ll tell you that most of the companies in existence now were created during a recession. We were founded in 1982, and a lot of other companies were founded around the same period. It’s a case of just getting on your bike and finding work. If the work is drying up then you create it yourself. You band together and say “Right, let’s put on a play and take it round some village halls.” I think we had a good idea in coming up with Eastern Angles, and a good plan, but we had a bit of luck as well.’
Cutting studied drama at Bristol University before taking on various acting jobs, first in Sheringham, and later in Ipswich, which is where he struck upon the idea of creating a regional theatre company similar to those he had seen in other parts of the country. ‘I was working as a Theatre and Education actor and musician in Ipswich and it was during that time I discussed the idea of creating a local theatre company in East Anglia with some friends. I had noticed that other rural areas like Northumberland, Oxfordshire, and Hampshire all had these kind of companies that were creating work – and often it was with plays that were based on the regions where they were located. We felt there was a gap in the market in East Anglia for a similar company so that’s what we set out to do with Eastern Angles.’