Nestled in the heart of Exeter, just above its beautiful quayside, Cygnet Theatre has been training actors and entertaining audiences since 1980. Originally founded by Monica Shallis and Mary Evans, our ethos has always been to train actors by throwing them into the footlights and performing to the public from day one. Our patron is the renowned theatre and film director Peter Brook.


Our beloved patron

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the loss of our patron, Peter Brook.

Peter was a colleague and good friend of Mary Evans, co-founder of Cygnet Theatre. His loss will be mourned but his work will not be forgotten. At the beginning of our Dream Festival in celebration of our 40th anniversary, Peter kindly sent us a supportive message, and the most important instruction, to simply “keep going”. That is just what we intend to do.

Thank you, Peter for your years of support. Thank you for the ethos which grounds us.

Brook’s first production was Marlowe’s Dr Faustus in 1943 at the Torch Theatre in London,
followed by a revival of Cocteau’s The Infernal Machine at the Chanticleer Theatre in 1945.
His fascination with Shakespeare was apparent as a child, and he directed King John at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in 1945.
At the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, he directed Measure for Measure in 1950 and The Winter’s Tale in 1952, both with John Gielgud. This was followed by Hamlet in 1955, with Paul Scofield, which toured to Europe, including Moscow. Titus Andronicus, with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, was played in Stratford the same year, and also toured in Europe in 1957.
Major work includes US (the Vietnam play) for the RSC at the Aldwych in 1966; Oedipus
(Seneca/Ted Hughes) at the National Theatre with John Gielgud and Irene Worth in 1968, & A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the RSC Stratford in 1970, followed by a World Tour.
In 1970 with Micheline Rozan, Brook founded the International Centre for Theatre Research, a multinational company of actors, dancers, musicians and others, who were based in Paris and travelled widely including the Africa Journey in the early 1970s.
Productions include 1971 Orghast in Iran for Shiraz Festival. Work emerging from his research included THE CONFERENCE OF THE BIRDS in 1979 & Mahabharata 1987 - Paris, Glasgow (Cygnet company made the journey in a minibus) and World Tour.
Later work includes Anthony and Cleopatra with Alan Howard and Glenda Jackson and The Man Who with Yoshi Oida & Bruce Myers. This Century, the Young Vic has been Brook’s London venue, including Hamlet with Adrian Lester in 2001, The Suit in 2012, and The Valley
of Astonishment with Kathryn Hunter in 2014. The Magic Flute played at the Barbican in 2011 and The Prisoner in 2018 at The National Theatre.