Our Story (1999-Present)
Make Space launches
We announce Make Space, a new project inviting theatre makers to spend time researching ideas for what children’s theatre could look like in ‘the new normal’.
We begin planning our celebrations of 21 years of Catherine Wheels, and 10 years of White, but all plans abruptly stop because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We take a pause, and over the Easter weekend, stream White Online to over 6,000 viewers via YouTube.
Emma Jones joins
Emma Jones joins the Catherine Wheels team as our Production Manager. Emma brings a wealth of experience working with Scottish theatre companies – most recently as Head of Production at Scottish Dance Theatre.
Tony Reekie joins
Tony Reekie joins Catherine Wheels as our Executive Director, having previously been the CEO of Imaginate Children’s Festival and an internationally respected consultant within the family theatre sector. Tony is, however, already very familiar with us and our work, as he is also married to Gill Robertson.
Shona Reppe’s Atlantis Banal
We support Shona Reppe on her latest production, Atlantis Banal: Beneath the Surface. The show tours across Scotland, inviting audience members into the immersive and surreally intriguing Pop-Up Art Gallery.
Emma and Gill
Catherine Wheels collaborate with Lung Ha Theatre Company to produce Emma and Gill. A touching and humorous show which questions what is ‘normal’ and why being different should be celebrated.
Gill Robertson directs the “madcap musical adventure” WhirlyGig by Daniel Padden and co-produced with Red Bridge Arts.
We lose our Creative Scotland funding but after launching a campaign with the help of our sector and supporters around the world, we get it back.
1500th White performance
White performs its 1500th performance in Japan, as part of the Ricca Ricca Festa. We celebrated with our colleagues with a traditional Scottish ceilidh of course!
Eddie and the Slumber Sisters
We collaborate with National Theatre of Scotland once again to produce Eddie and the Slumber Sisters – a heart-warming fable which blends music, magic and imagination. The show performs at Imaginate Festival in May.
How to Fix a Broken Wing
We premiere our latest show for schools, How to Fix a Broken Wing at a school in Glasgow, created by Pete Collins with playwright Lewis Hetherington.
Green Wheels established
We establish Green Wheels – our company-wide initiative to be more environmentally friendly on our tours. We introduce a Green Touring plan, providing company members with options of kit which would reduce their environmental impact while out on tour, and encouraging a ‘refuse what you don’t need’ starting point. Read more about Green Wheels here.
Gill visits Japan
Gill Robertson travels with writer Robert Alan Evans to Japan to deliver a series workshops with artists in Okinawa, supported by the Ricca Ricca Festival.
White is on the road again
This time performing to children and their families across Europe, and then embarking on its first tour to China.
Martha visits China
Catherine Wheels works with artists in Shanghai to create a Chinese version of our award-winning show, Martha. The show is performed at the A.S.K. in July.
Lifeboat in Leeds
Fifteen years after its premiere, Lifeboat performs at West Yorkshire Playhouse, as well as touring to smaller community venues around Leeds.
The Little Gentleman goes rural
The Story of The Little Gentleman tours to Scottish rural venues, and is nominated for a CATS award.
Martha goes back to school
Martha tours to 30 primary schools across Scotland, as the inaugural production of Theatre in Schools Scotland (TISS), an initiative with Catherine Wheels, Imaginate and National Theatre of Scotland, with the aim that “Every child in Scotland will have the opportunity to experience at least one piece of performing arts per year as part of their core education”.
The Little Gentleman goes to school
We revise The Story of The Little Gentleman for a tour of Scottish Schools. We perform the show to a mammoth 11,000 school children in 78 schools, finishing the tour at the Imaginate Children’s Festival in May.
Lost at Sea – a Science Festival commission
We are commissioned by Edinburgh International Science Festival to produce Lost at Sea. The show is inspired by the book Moby Duck by Donovan Holn and follows the trail of a container of bath toys that ends up washed overboard, and looks at the impact of plastic in our oceans. The show goes on to tour to schools across Scotland and is nominated for a CATS award.
Suzie Normand joins
Suzie Normand formally joins Catherine Wheels as our Company Stage Manager. We started working with Suzie in 1999, on our very first production, Martha. As well as the millions of things off-stage her job entails, she also makes an onstage appearance as the Dance Captain in The Voice Thief.
White’s 100th performance!
Another bumper year for White; the show travels to Australia, New Zealand and Mexico, as well as a 6th tour in Europe. We celebrate the 1000th show at the New Victory Theatre on Broadway, New York. Where better to celebrate a milestone of this magnitude than in the Big Apple?
Magic Sho premieres
We produce Shona Reppe’s latest captivating production, Magic Sho, which premieres in September at Carnegie Hall in Fife.
Gill travels to India
Gill travels to India with choreographer Michael Sherin to deliver Artists Lab, in partnership with Ruchirad Das from Think Arts. The month-long project guides and supports Indian artists to develop work for children and young people.
The Voice Thief wins a CATS
The Voice Thief wins a Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland (CATS) for Best Production for Children and Young People, before a run at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The show becomes one of the hits of the Festival, and is nominated for a Total Theatre Award and wins a Primary Times’ Children’s Choice Award.
A double bill in New York
We head to New York where Andy Manley surprises unsuspecting pupils in their classrooms across the city to perform Kappa – as well as taking over the New Victory Pondlife to sell-out audiences.
White in tinseltown
White enjoys a taste of tinsel town and performs at the new Wallis theatre in Beverley Hills, LA.
The Voice Thief premieres
We create a new promenade show; The Voice Thief – inviting audiences into the sinister MacKenzie Institute for the Encouragement of Vocal Harmony, in the Summerhall basement.
White: The app
Building on the success of White, we collaborate with app developers Hippotrix, to create White The App, the world’s first theatre-inspired digital toy for young children. Try it for yourself here.
HUFF at the Traverse Theatre
Shona Reppe’s theatre installation HUFF is performed at the Traverse Theatre at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as part of the Made in Scotland showcase.
300 performances of Lifeboat
Lifeboat celebrates its 300th performance.
White / Hvit
The White team heads to Norway to direct Hvit (or White) in Norwegian.
Stuck tours to schools
Stuck, a story of two siblings dealing with life inside a small boat, tours to primary schools across Scotland. Michael Sherin and Catherine Wheels’ Artistic Director Gill Robertson play the quarrelling siblings, directed by Sheila Macdougall and Karen Tennent.
HUFF at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
We support Shona Reppe and Andy Manley to produce their show HUFF at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. The show is a unique, and slightly scary, immersive experience based on the story of the three little pigs.
The Ugly Duckling
Rounding off the year, we co-produce The Ugly Duckling with The Arches Glasgow. The production, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tale is a disco-fuelled, glitter-filled production for families at Christmas.
A double bill at the Festivals
At the Edinburgh Festival we perform Pondlife McGurk, and produce Shona Reppe’s The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean, in a double bill for the Traverse Theatre @ The Scottish Book Trust. Both shows are part of the 2012 Made in Scotland showcase. Andy Manley wins a Herald Archangel, recognising his ‘sustained contribution to Edinburgh Festivals’
Kes nominated for CATS
Back in Scotland, Kes is nominated for a CATS Award, up against Shona Reppe’s The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean.
White tours the world
White continues to tour and delight audiences around the world, touring across Asia, Australasia and Europe, and is nominated for a Helpmann Award while in Australia.
Josephine Bean premieres
Shona Reppe’s The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean premieres in October.
SJP sees White!
Sarah Jessica Parker attends White with her family at the New Victory Theatre in New York and leaves us a note to say it was “one of the great experiences of a lifetime. Thank you for great memories”
White has a bumper year
White has a bumper year of touring – performing to audiences in Scotland at the Imaginate Children’s Festival, New York and at the ASSITEJ World Congress in Copenhagen and Malmo. Our first White Christmas is at London’s Southbank Centre. We also win three CATS awards (Best Show for Children and Young People, Best Design, Best Technical Production) and one TMA award for Best Show for Children and Young People.
Kes premieres at Dundee Rep
Kes by Rob Evans premieres at the Dundee Rep Theatre, before embarking on a Scottish tour.
One Thousand Paper Cranes
We produce Lu Kemp’s One Thousand Paper Cranes at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which wins the Scottish Arts Club inaugural award for Outstanding Scottish Contribution to Theatre on the Fringe.
Two shows nominated for CATS
Caged – our adaptation of Beauty and the Beast premieres, and is nominated for a CATS award (but loses out to our own production White.)
Hannah and Hanna
Our third new production of the year, Hannah and Hanna, is a schools-only production about two young friends in Margate – both sixteen, but with very different experiences of immigration in the UK.
Martha and Pondlife at Imaginate
We perform not one but two productions at this year’s Imaginate Festival; Pondlife at Churchill Theatre, and Martha at Brunton and Traverse Theatre.
White premieres at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – and becomes an instant hit with audiences and critics. The production wins a Herald Angel, a Scotsman Fringe First, a TMA Theatre award a Total Theatre award and an Edinburgh Art Club award.
Since then, White has gone on to tour around the world and performed to over 100,000 audience members.
Pobby & Dingan
We produce Pobby & Dingan – a new show based on Ben Rice’s novella of the same name set in the Australian outback town of Lightning Ridge. The production is nominated for a CATS award for Best Show for Children and Young People, and wins a TMA Theatre Award in the same category.
Shona Reppe’s Potato Needs a Bath premieres in August at Carnegie Hall in Fife and tours across Scotland. The show goes on to tour across the globe, including Australia, Canada, UK, the Netherlands and Ireland.
Hansel and Gretel in NYC
Hansel and Gretel takes over the whole of the New Victory Theatre in New York, where it is nominated for two prestigious New York Drama Desk Awards, including Unique Theatrical Experience.
The Book of Beasts
We premiere The Book of Beasts, based on the short story by E Nesbit. Directed by Jo Timmins and stars Ian Cameron who works for the first time with the company and goes on to create the character Wrinkle in White.
Christmas at the Barbican
We round-off the year with a residency of Hansel and Gretel at the Barbican in London.
Martha wins over Chinese audiences
Martha tours to China and wins Best Production award at Shanghai International Children’s Festival.
A National Theatre Scotland co-production
We premiere Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury – a co-production with National Theatre Scotland – a deliciously scary adventure about friendship and innocence.
Lifeboat makes history at the Sydney Opera House
Lifeboat is invited to perform at the New Zealand International Festival and to Sydney, Australia, where it becomes the first Scottish children’s theatre production to appear at the Sydney Opera House.
Going Solo (again)
Our second production part of Going Solo project, The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk, tours to schools across Scotland.
Lifeboat docks in NYC
Lifeboat tours to the New Victory Theatre off Broadway, New York, and across the UK.
Hansel and Gretel at Imaginate
HOME: East Lothian – renamed Hansel and Gretel is performed at the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival and at Tramway, Glasgow.
Wij leren Nederlands
Gill and Andy learn Dutch to perform Martha in Noorderzon Performing Arts Festival in Groningen.
Following on from our 2005-6 Theatre in Schools project, we embark on Going Solo - a project funded by the National Lottery - to produce two solo performances for primary school children that will bring high quality, affordable theatre into classrooms. Our first show under the project is Kappa, created by Gill, Rob and Andy.
A Town Called Elsewhere
We commission and produce A Town Called Elsewhere a show for P1-P3 children, performed in school halls. The show tours across Scotland.
The Lion of Kabul premieres
A production inspired by a true story about a friendship that defies the odds, performed by Gill. The show takes place within a purpose-built tent, and tours to venues across Scotland.
Martha goes to school
We continue our ground-breaking Theatre in Schools project and tour Martha to over 80 schools across Scotland.
We celebrate the launch of NTS
Gill is one of ten directors invited by the National Theatre of Scotland to mark its launch by creating a site-specific piece in East Lothian on the theme of Home. HOME: East Lothian is a site-specific retelling of the fairytale Hansel and Gretel, at Prestongrange Mining Museum. The production goes on to win two CATS – Best Show for Children and Young People, and Best Design (for Karen Tennent).
A festive hat-trick
At Christmas, we have not one but three residencies – with Holly and Ivy at the Lyric, Hammersmith; Snow Baby at the Tron, Glasgow and Martha at Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham.
The Bermuda Triangle hits Martha
Martha tours to Bermuda, where we succumb to the mysteries of the Bermuda Triangle! Our set gets lost in transit, so the company have to build a brand new one from whatever they can find on the beach.
Lifeboat performs to a special audience
We perform Lifeboat to some of the remaining survivors from the sinking of the City of Benares. Presented at the Unicorn Theatre in London this show is a highlight for everyone involved in making the show.
Cyrano nominated for CATS
Cyrano is invited to perform at the North American Showcase (now IPAY), and is nominated for a CATS Award for Best Show for Children and Young People.
Shona Reppe’s Ugly Duckling
Catherine Wheels produces Shona Reppe’s Ugly Duckling – the first show of many of Shona’s that we produce.
We premiere Cinderella’s Sisters, written by Mike Kenny, at the Brunton Theatre before embarking on a UK tour.
We begin schools-only touring
Catherine Wheels is awarded funding from Creative Scotland to produce a schools-only tour of two shows. This is the first time such a project has been undertaken, and it starts with touring Lifeboat in Autumn 2005.
Holly and Ivy for Christmas
Holly and Ivy is our Christmas show for MacRobert Arts Centre in Stirling.
Martha at the Fringe
We perform Martha at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the first time, at the Gateway Theatre on Leith Walk. The late, great, Pauline Knowles plays Martha.
Two shows nominated for CATS
Snow Baby and The Story of The Little Gentleman are up against each other at the CATS Awards – both nominated for Best Show for Children and Young People (unfortunately, neither win).
We premiere Cyrano, a swashbuckling comedy about tragedy, love, loss, and a massive nose, at the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival.
We welcome two Imaginate placements – Adele Sacks and Heather Fulton who work with us for nine months, to provide them managerial and artistic experience in the theatre for young people sector. They support our productions of Holly and Ivy and Cyrano. Heather now runs her own theatre company Frozen Charlotte, Adele lives in Canada and still visits us occasionally!
Louise Gilmour-Wills joins
Louise Gilmour-Wills joins Catherine Wheels – and she has been a huge part of the team ever since!
Craig Fleming joins
Craig Fleming (who becomes our production manager) joins Catherine Wheels as Stage Manager. Craig stays with the company, working on all our productions until 2019, when he joins Barrowland Ballet.
We produce Snow Baby performed by Gill and directed by Andy Manley, based on a short story by Monty Python creator Terry Jones.
A VIP audience member
We are thrilled when Bess Cummings comes to see Lifeboat at the Brewery Arts Centre, and meets the cast and crew afterwards. Lifeboat wins a TMA award for Best Show for Children and Young People.
Catherine Wheels’ first visit to London!
Catherine Wheels perform for the first time at Polka Children’s Theatre in London, with The Story of The Little Gentleman.
Paul Fitzpatrick joins
Paul Fitzpatrick joins Catherine Wheels as Producer and stays with the company until 2015 when he leaves to become Chief Executive of Imaginate.
The Little Gent
The Story of the Little Gentleman, performed by Andy Manley and Maria Oller and directed by Gill Robertson also premieres.
Lifeboat, written by Nicola McCartney, is produced by Catherine Wheels – the show tells the the extraordinary true story of two evacuees in 1940.
We get an office!
Also in 2001 Catherine Wheels move into our office at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh - a place we still call home.
Catherine Wheels works with esteemed Scottish Playwright Tom McGrath on Frankenstein, a new adaptation of the classic tale by Mary Shelley. The show tours across Scotland.
Martha tours stateside
Martha continues to tour across North America and enjoys a run at the New Victory Theatre in New York. At the North American Showcase of Children’s Theatre the show wins the Victor Award for Best Production.
Our second show is Red, about the bickering Snicket Twins astronauts, performed and directed by Gill Robertson. This is the first time we work with Shona Reppe who puppeteers the wonderful Red puppet dog!
Our first international tour
Martha is presented at the Milk Festival Canada; our very first international tour!
Catherine Wheels is born
Catherine Wheels Theatre Company is established by Gill Robertson. The company name is inspired by the Catherine Wheel firework, a song by Crowded House and Gill’s mum Catherine. Our mission then, and now, is to “produce fresh, relevant and dynamic theatre for children, young people and their family and friends.” Our first production is Martha created by Gill Robertson, Annie Wood and Andy Manley which tours to Scottish schools and theatre venues and goes on to be one of our most loved productions.