Pentabus Rural Theatre Company

Pentabus Rural Theatre Company

At a glance


  • Arts

Other details

Geographical remit: 
National - Britain


Pentabus Rural Theatre Company have a wonderful certainty about who they are and who they serve. They make work which reaches imaginatively and effectively into communities who would otherwise have very little access to great storytelling. They are ambitious, principled, thoughtful and exceedingly hard-working. This is the frontline of theatre-making and touring, which actively changes the quality of people’s lives.' – Erica Whyman, Deputy Artistic Director, Royal Shakespeare Company

Our mission:

- To address the imbalance in quality arts provision - providing high quality theatre to rural areas in an urban dominated world where rural voices and stories tend to be drowned out.

- To identify areas of the countryside suffering from inadequate access to lives arts and taking our work to the areas with most need. - To seek out and develop new plays about the contemporary rural world, producing them to the highest professional standards.

- To tour the country telling stories with local impact and national resonance, attracting and engaging those who would otherwise shy away from the arts.

- To give rural communities the chance to discuss topical issues that affect them directly; achieving greater social cohesion, fostering community spirit and broadening experience and understanding.

The need for our work:

- Rural areas are home to around 18% of the UK's population (nearly 10 million people).

- Poverty and deprivation very much exist in these areas. Critical economic, geographic, demographic factors –isolation, population sparsity, fuel poverty, unemployment, lack of transport, lack of opportunity and reduced curriculums in schools – can all significantly impact people’s daily lives.

- Many rural communities face challenges the media doesn’t portray: 18% live below the poverty line, the average wage is £4,000 less than in urban areas.

- Live arts are difficult to access in these areas. The cost and effort of accessing high quality live theatre (often a 40 mile round trip or more) can be prohibitive and off-putting.

- We address the need and hunger for challenging, contemporary and inspirational theatre.

About us:

- Pentabus is a registered charity, a national touring theatre company based in the West Midlands.

- The company was founded in 1974 as a deliberate intervention in response to a lack of quality arts provision across the 5 counties of the West Midlands.

- Since the arrival of Artistic Director, Elizabeth Freestone, our vision has been increasingly national.

- We are the only theatre company in the UK whose artistic vision is singularly rural.

- We take calculated risks by programming daring new plays, interrogating the 21st century reality of living in the countryside.

- We put relevant, engaging, and issue-based work on the road by the best writers around. This isn’t classical repertoire or populist adaptation; we’re reflecting real lives back to the communities to which we tour.

Our key strengths:

- A 40 year track record of outstanding artistic vision and exemplary project delivery.

- The production of 150 new plays, reaching 500,000 people to date.

- The delivery of at least one rural village hall tour every year for the last 4 decades.

- Pioneers of the first ever live-stream of a production filmed in a village hall and broadcast globally over the internet in collaboration with The Royal Court (2014).

- Consistently positive audience and partner feedback (90% 4- 5 * ratings).

- We have a growing reputation as a rural figurehead, frequently invited to comment on rural policy issues.


We aim to mount 3 tours a year. This always includes a village hall tour in addition to one, but ideally two, other tours – either studio based or site specific as outlined below:

  • Our village hall tour: aimed at largely intergenerational audiences, particularly older and more home bound people and those with limited means who are not culturally engaged.  Target reach: 2100 (70 people a night across 30 dates).
  • Our studio theatre tour: designed to inform market town and small urban audiences about rural issues, targeting a younger and slightly more actively engaged group. Target reach: 2000 (100 people per night across 20 dates).
  • Our site specific tour: targeting those who tend to be more family/community focussed and outdoors oriented but would not usually engage with the arts. Target reach: 3750 (150 people per show across 25 shows).

We are also in the second year of our Young Writers programme. We find that many young people in our immediate area are unable to progress their talent and take the next step into the professional world. In an effort to address this issue – a complex problem of geography, opportunity and confidence – we set up a Young Writers Group. Eight to ten 16-25 year olds spend a year with us, meeting regularly and working with professional actors, writers and directors. Their time with us then culminates in the professional production of their work which has, so far, toured to the Ludlow Fringe Festival, Shropshire and Latitude Festival, Suffolk. 

No current opportunities

Search for volunteer opportunities with other organisations.