WASSAIL Theatre is like the Barbarians Rugby Football Club.

The reason why these two are similar is this, both have no home, Wassail has no theatre and the Barbarians have no home ground, they both turn up at different venues and perform and both have a spiritual home, in the case of Wassail it is Somerset.

And this is where they want to grow, not just as an acting and producing theatre but increasing the number of people who come and watch their productions.

They have been winning their ‘artistic battle’ as in 2018 they went to every part of Somerset with their plays and even to counties further afield like Norfolk, Suffolk, Sussex, Warwickshire and Kent.

One of the people behind the growth is Nick White, Director of Wassail Theatre.

The Somerset based company has had a busy 2018, taking plays on the road, into village halls and pubs in a bid to spread the opportunity to give more people a chance to see plays without going to the theatre.

Explaining what has been achieved in 2018, Nick said: “There were two quotes from people in the audience.

“One woman who came to see Horses! Horses! said this was a typical Wassail show in as much she didn’t know what to expect in terms of venue, story, the way the story was told and she did not know what would happen right up until the end.

“An audience needs to trust where you are taking them. The other story associated with Horses! Horses! is we took it to the Anchor Inn in Axbridge which had a complete audience mix.

“There were people who went to the theatre a lot and there were people who were working class Somerset who never go to the theatre.

“There was a boyfriend and girlfriend and the boyfriend was being dragged to come and watch the play. He had even lied to his friends about what he was doing that evening rather than telling them he was going to watch a play.

“I wrote to the landlord thanking him for having us and he said he was glad we came.

“Talking about the people who had never been to the theatre before he said I think you have changed their minds.”

This changing of minds is what Wassail hope for when taking their plays to different locations like pubs. They have carefully chosen the pubs or village halls as they are part of the story and add to it but it also allows people to see a play without going to a theatre.

One of the main priorities for Wassail is to keep things fresh.

Nick said: “Everytime we do a new play we get a different team working together to keep things fresh.

“We want to keep it relevant, fresh and interesting as well as making it accessible and culturally relevant for the audience who are coming to watch it.”

And in 2018 the audiences have turned out in droves to come and watch.

This has been thanks to Reclaimed, a story about flooding in Somerset, Rex the King, all about the rise and fall of a darts champion from Somerset, Horses! Horses!, a tale of a stolen horse, wild west-country soul and the mess we make of relationships, all of which were seen by 3,500 people.

As well as this Wassail Theatre ran the youth theatre at the Brewhouse and in Yeovil.

Like many organisations in the arts, Wassail Theatre receives no money from the government.

It has to rely on winning awards or being given them by local councils.

They have and still do receive money from the Arts Council as well as South Somerset Council and other grants.

Nick knows this is not sustainable in the long run and is looking at changing the way Wassail is funded.

As a result there are changes on the horizon which as Nick explained: “We are looking at launching a crowd funding page and are looking to hold our first Summer party to which everyone in Somerset is invited.

“Bring a bottle and a fiver. It is a way of generating money. We are also looking at launching a Friends Scheme.

“We want to keep our funding so we can get new audiences around he county.”

2018 was a very busy year and while they will still be producing shows it will not be anywhere as near to the volume in 2019.

One idea which is taking shape is doing a new version of the Somerset Charabanc in collaboration with Somerset Wildlife Trust.

Nick said 2019 for Wassail will be one of catching their breath but still looking at ideas about Somerset which are relevant for and audience.

Wassail Theatre was formed in 2013 and started its productions in 2015.

It has come a long way in a short time and has a growing reputation for quality productions.