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On the coast of Cornwall—far from the ears and eyes of London’s West End—the Kneehigh theater company channels anarchy inside a group of barns, where actors, dancers, singers, acrobats, puppeteers, designers, and carpenters eat, sleep, play, and learn. For Kneehigh, the creation of magic is a collective enterprise.

“Think deeply and profoundly [about your source material], and then forget about it. Let the work subsume you, and let the ideas pop up.” — actor-director-teacher Mike Shepherd, founder and artistic director of Kneehigh

Kneehigh’s newest work, 946: THE AMAZING STORY OF ADOLPHUS TIPS, has landed at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Anyone who saw their détournement of Noël Coward and David Lean’s Brief Encounter (at The Wallis in 2014) is familiar with Kneehigh’s brand of joyful irreverence, emotional engagement, and vivid stagecraft. In 946—the story of a Devon village in the 1940s that became a wartime home for refugees and the Allied forces who requisitioned it for training exercises—the upstage swing band and downstage dancing are loose and easy, and the comedy is ribald. Rather than a series of star turns, their music-hall style gives dramatic shape to a community in action.  (And this action is reflected in Kneehigh Rambles, an outreach project serving refugee, immigrant, and homeless communities, most recently in Calais and Bogotá.)

What’s next on the boards? In autumn 2017, Kneehigh’s Shepherd will direct a production based on Günter Grass’ The Tin Drum, replacing the novel’s twentieth-century fascism with, in Shepherd’s words, our current “right-wing tsunami.”

946, directed by Emma Rice, will be at THE WALLIS, in Beverly Hills, through March 5.

Nightly, except Mondays, plus matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. (No performances on Sunday, February 26.)



For more information on theatrical initiatives in refugee communities, see:


Katy Owen as Lily in 946. Photograph by Steve Tanner

Katy Owen as Lily in 946. Photograph by Steve Tanner


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