Founding and Executive Director of Playbox Theatre, Mary trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.
Theatre credits include Oh What A Lovely War; Lysistrata; The White Devil; House of Bernarda Alba; Cinderella; Henry V; Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Film work includes Sir Gawain and The Green Knight.
Mary has also directed numerous productions for Playbox Theatre including The Boyfriend; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Pinocchio; The Grimm Trilogy; NEWS; Cinderella; Oddweek; The Red Shoes; Strikes; Kinderstransport; Yerma; The Little Mermaid; Cabaret; The Mysteries; The Houses of Bernarda Alba; The Taming of The Shrew; Sleeping Beauty; Playhouse Creatures; Wonderia; Pippi Longstocking; The Tempest; Macbeth; The Merchant of Venice; Laura Spinney Hills & The Turbo Donkey; Dave’s Amazing Trainers; The Princess & The Pea; Scarlet Pimpernel; How To Be A Superhero; Haito The Tree Wizard; The Little Match Girl; Bad Girls; Double Act; Beautiful Soup; Heckedy Peg; Blue Stockings; The Three Musketeers; Games & Thrones: Henry VI; Teeny Tiny & The Witch Woman; Rats Tales; Formula X; Grimm Tales and The Wizard of Oz.
Recently, Mary directed Much Ado About Nothing for Shakespeare Young Company, and Martyr by Marius Von Mayenberg.
Mary’s production of The Dancing Bear & The Hunter In The Stars opens Playbox’s Autumn 2021
Stewart Mcgill Consultant Director
Stewart studied at the Department of Theatre, Dartington College of Arts and University of Birmingham. Stewart has worked with many of the UK’s leading theatre companies.
In 1975 he was Arena Project Director for the RSC’s Centenary Elizabethan Fair in Stratford-upon-Avon, bringing jousting and other large-scale activities together on Avonside for a site specific event. He was one of the founding members of the National Theatre’s Young Theatre Challenge, seeing the work of young people the length and breadth of the UK for showcasing at the National Theatre.
Stewart has been a member of Arts Council Drama Advisory Panels, West Midlands Arts Advisory Panels, Attached Advisor to Warwick Arts Centre and Midlands Arts Centre, Board Member Mamaloucos Circus.
In 2002-2003 he was a member of the judging panel chaired by Sir Jeremy Isaacs for the selection of 2008 Capital of Culture.
He directs many Playbox Theatre productions and is Artistic Director of SYC. In 2016 he co-directed Games & Thrones: Henry VI and in 2017 he directed Lion Boy and Formula X. His 2018 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was seen both at The Dream Factory and Santa Monica Playhouse (of which he is Associate Director).
Stewart is currently rehearsing Hamlet.
Emily Quash Artistic Director
Emily has been a director of Playbox Theatre since 1999. Emily studied Theatre, Film and Television at Bristol University. During her time there, she headed up the hugely successful Playbox at the The Hippodrome and staged several productions across the city including The Treasure of Ogre Island and NEWS. In 2016 Emily became Artistic Director of Playbox Theatre.
Directing credits include O.U.T. Spells OUT; The Wolves of Willoughby Chase; The Story of The Jaguar & The Old, Old World; Monkey (UK and USA); The Snow Queen; James & The Giant Peach; The Wizard of Oz; His Dark Materials; Peter Pan; The Jungle Book; Dark River; The Mysteries (co-director); The Fallen (UK & USA); Lord of The Flies; Beauty & The Beast, Sir Gawain & The Green Knight, The Shadow Roads, Co-Director of Games & Thrones: Henry VI, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Story of The Jaguar & The Old, Old World, Stockholm and Life Raft, The Canterbury Tales, Gretel.
As an actress, Emily’s work includes Macbeth; A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Duchess of Malfi; Richard II; Henry V; Henry VI Parts 1 & 2; Twelfth Night; Playhouse Creatures and A Doll’s House (all for Generator Theatre), Oddweek; Dave’s Amazing Trainer’s; Laura Spinney Hills & The Turbo Donkey; How To Be A Superhero; Haito The Tree Wizard and The Little Match Girl (Jinks Theatre); Chomp & Play and Chalk Walls (Dead Protest). Emily also performaned opposite Sir Ben Kingsley in The Tarnished Phoenix, playing ‘Frieda Lawrence’ to Sir Ben’s ‘D.H. Lawrence’ at The Dream Factory in 2002.
As an original, 1986, member of Playbox Theatre, Emily strives to bring to all members the same happiness, challenge and sense of power and adventure that she experienced when growing up with the company. Her own children have now embarked upon their own Playbox journeys, which is something that fills Emily with pride. Her aim is to enable every child to know that they have a unique opportunity to affect change, and this motivates her every day.
Development & Agency Director and Director of Musical Theatre
Juliet Vankay Development & Agency Director and Director of Musical Theatre
Juliet trained at Playbox Theatre, and has since worked as a performer in numerous Theatre, Film and Television productions.
Juliet’s Theatre credits include Bill Shakespeare’s Italian Job – Edinburgh Festival/Germany directed by Malachi Bogdanov, title role in Sleeping Beauty at Greenwich Theatre directed by Phil Wilmott, The Beggars Opera – RSC directed by John Caird, Ismene in The Thebans RSC directed by Adrian Noble. Numerous productions for Generator and Jinks Theatre Company.
Film and Television credits include, Sweeney Todd directed by Tim Burton, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Foyle’s War, IT Crowd, BRUM, The Edge of Love, St Trinian’s and Jack the Giant Killer directed by Bryan Singer.
Juliet was the Hermione Granger performance double on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2 directed by David Yates for Warner Brothers.
Juliet has also worked as a Set PA on Harry Potter 6, The Prince of Persia and The Alleyman. She also has worked as the 1st Assistant Director on numerous shoots for Dusthouse.
Juliet’s recent directing for Playbox Theatre includes Disney’s Little Mermaid Jnr; Disney’s Beauty & The Beast Jnr; The Secret Garden. She heads up Playbox Theatre’s enormously successful Musical Theatre department as well as running the Playbox Theatre Agency.
Associate Director & Literary Associate
Toby Quash Associate Director & Literary Associate
With over two decades as an Associate Director and as Literature Associate for Playbox Theatre Company, heading up many of the company’s most established Training and Performance centres – as well as Founding and Artistic Director of the ground-breaking Blank-Shift Creative Writers’ Workshop based at The Dream Factory – Toby is one of the region’s leading theatre practitioners.
Toby graduated with Honours from Bristol University’s Drama; Theatre, Film and Television course in 1999, and with Distinction from the University of Oxford in 2013. He is a highly experienced writer, actor and director whose work has taken him across the world, and his dynamic and cross-disciplinary approach to training has led many towards similarly successful and rewarding careers in the performing and creative arts.
Acting for the stage includes the title roles in Macbeth and Henry V; Puck, Malvolio, Warwick, Claudius and Bolingbroke — all for Generator Theatre. For Dead Protest – Estragon in Waiting for Godot and Lussurioso in The Revenger’s Tragedy.
As a director, Toby’s recent stagings include Playbox Theatre’s productions of Beowulf, Framed, Treasure Island, and Skellig. For the Playbox run Ustinov Theatre School (UK), he also created and directed Paradise Kill, Gutterhead and Catching Flies.
Writing for the stage, his work numbers more than forty adaptations and new commissions. Among them – The Shadow Roads, The Fallen (Edinburgh Fringe and Santa Monica Playhouse), Chalk Walls (RSC Summerhouse), Gravediggers (Warwick Arts Centre/Battersea Arts Centre), West Country Gangster, (Regional Tour), Oddweek, Dave’s Amazing Trainers, How to be a Superhero! (The Prince of Wales Trust), Delicious Oeshee! (Tokyo Tour 2006), Alice in Wonderland, Hedbull, The Snow Queen, Monkey (USA Tour 2008/2016/2018), The Story of the Jaguar and the Old, Old World, Blank-Shift’s Gretel and the stage treatments of S.F. Said’s Varjak Paw and Kate Brown’s Spider Moon. His latest works for Blank-Shift with Playbox Theatre, (Midnight in Raisin Town and Mariner) will premiere in the coming season.
Owen Young Workshop Director
Owen trained at Playbox Theatre and Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts graduating in 2007 where he received 1st class honours in BA Performance – Acting, as well as distinctions in stage combat and performance.
Owen joined Playbox Theatre at the age of 10 and, during his time with the company he appeared in many productions including playing title roles in Hamlet, Oedipus Rex and Don Quixote. Other Playbox productions included Romeo and Juliet (Mercutio), The Boyfriend, Cabaret, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Clockwork Orange, Believers, Peter Pan (JM Barrie), Treasure Island, Beyond Beauty, Antigone, Henry IV parts 1 & 2, The Railway Children, and Winnie The Pooh (Eeyore). He was also involved in several USA tours to Santa Monica Playhouse.
Recent acting credits include: The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe (Birmingham Rep and West Yorkshire Playhouse); The Inn at Lydda (Shakespeare’s GLOBE); The Duchess Of Malfi (Southwark Playhouse); As You Like it; A Midsummer Nights Dream, An Enemy Of The People and 6 Characters In Search Of An Author (Aquila Theatre Company – OFF BROADWAY – New York); Chalk Walls (Dead Protest Theatre Company directed by Toby Quash @ RSC Summerhouse); Title role in Edward II (Eyestring’s Theatre Company); A Dolls House, The Duchess Of Malfi, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, and Richard II (Generator Theatre Company); Blood Wedding (Directed by Phil Wilmott), Picasso (starring Antonio Banderas).
Owen currently acts and narrates for the Birmingham Royal Ballet in their First Steps programme, performing with a 60 piece orchestra and a full company of dancers in front of huge audiences, introducing ballet to a younger audience between the ages of 3-7 yrs. Birmingham Royal Ballet productions include Swan Lake, The Dream, Cinderella, Coppelia, Sleeping Beauty and Aladdin.
He is currently in rehearsal for Peter and the Wolf with Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Radio and Voice over work includes The Nativity (BBC World Service) and narrating original children’s stories entitled Sir John The (Mostly) Brave and Cap’n John The (Slightly) Fierce for Oakhill Publishing LTD.
Owen directs many workshops for Playbox including heading up several of our Warwick centres, and numerous education workshops exploring stage combat, Shakespeare and contemporary works.
Stage Combat & Screen Acting Director
Liam Bessell Stage Combat & Screen Acting Director
Liam joined Playbox Theatre at the age of eight and during his time with the company he appeared in many productions, taking lead roles in: Skellig, The Jungle Book, James and the Giant Peach, Puss in Boots, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and the US tour of Monkey to Santa Monica Playhouse. He then went on to train at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) graduating in 2014 with first class honours.
Liam has worked for the company for many years in different capacities and now heads up two new exciting training programmes, ‘Acting For Screen’ and ‘Fight Lab.’ Liam received his theatrical fight qualifications at Distinction level whilst at LAMDA from the BADC (British Academy of Dramatic Combat). He has choreographed fight sequences for stage and screen, his work as Fight Director for Playbox Theatre includes Peter Pan and The Three Musketeers. Liam was Fight Director for Playbox Theatre’s 2021 production of Hamlet.
Richard Norris Musical Director
Richard studied music at Goldsmiths College before moving onto a Ph.D at Royal Holloway. He works as an MD, composer and teacher throughout the UK. Recent work has included a UK tour with the Modulus String Quartet exploring caves and interesting concert locations over the country, and composition projects for Channel 4, Southbank Centre, Tate Modern and the Ambassador Theatre Group. Richard is interested in creating events in which live music works alongside visuals and is currently working with musicians and video artists towards a new project later this year. Richard loves working with musical theatre groups and has worked at Playbox Theatre on and off for over ten years.
Isabella James Workshop Director
Isabella James (Izzie) was a member of Stratford Playbox Theatre from 2005 – 2012. During her time at Playbox, Izzie was lucky enough to be involved in many productions, including six Christmas shows and a trip to The Edinburgh Fringe with Toby Quash’s ‘The Fallen,’
After her time as a Playbox member, Izzie completed the internship as part of her gap year, then becoming a full time staff member until 2016.
Izzie has a degree in Arts Management from Birkbeck University. During her time as a student, Izzie developed her creative practice and ran workshops for a wide range of theatre companies – often returning back to Playbox for special projects.
In 2020 she created her own company YoYoJoy, which delivers educational escape rooms in schools.
Minnie Crook Workshop Director
Minnie Crook is a performance artist, facilitator and director, working across both theatre and visual art disciplines. Graduating in 2020 with a First Class BA(Hons) from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Minnie has since undertaken multiple artist residencies and directing commissions nationally and internationally.
Having joined Playbox when she was 9 years old, Minnie attended weekly acting and musical theatre workshops, and appeared in many of the company’s productions including the biannual tours to America in 2010 and 2012.
Minnie is the current recipient of the Make It Happen Fund 2021, and has been awarded The Percival Steads Prize for Appreciation of the Spoken Word and The Mary Stuart Prize for Public Speaking. In previous years she has worked with the internationally acclaimed company 21 Common, artist residencies with Jupiter Artland and undertaken placements with the award winning artist Nic Green at the National Theatre of Scotland.
Some recent work has included writing, curating and performing, And When I Remember, at the Into the New Festival, Glasgow (March 2021), Directing a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at the Propel Festival, London (August 2020), and performing in Last Futures, a collaboration project between the BBC, Scottish Symphony Orchestra and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow (March 2018).
Richard Cooper Technical Director
Richard first came on board in 2016 as a freelance sound designer on Playbox’s Games and Thrones. Since then he has made himself indispensable as a source of all technical knowledge: lighting, sound, set design and so much more!
After an extensive career working on live music tours and large scale concerts, Rich is happy to be bringing his wealth of knowledge to Playbox. Richard is the Technical Manager at Playbox and runs the Technical Theatre course.
Front Of House Host
Charlotte Gough Front Of House Host
After ten years of working in Credit Control for a well known local heating manufacturer, I gave up work to raise my children. As my eldest grew, it became apparent she was born to perform! At age 4 she began her dance career, dragging us all along with her! But, despite being rather good at it, it became obvious that her passion was acting.
So in 2014, we enrolled at Playbox Theatre. She was cast that first year in their amazing show, Wonderia, which is when my involvement also began, as a parent helper back stage. This became the norm for any show she was in. And some she wasn’t! I eventually became a Warwickshire Chaperone and would Head back stage.
At this point I knew I needed to think about working again. With both girls now enrolled, and our whole family’s love of Playbox, what better place to find a job! So in March 2018 after helping move the membership database over to a new system, I applied for the membership role!
I can honestly say I have never worked for a more wonderful company. I hope to be here for a very long time!
Head of Business Affairs
David Maddock Head of Business Affairs
Dave Maddock has been Head of Business Affairs at Playbox since 2002 following early retirement from NatWest Bank as a Senior Business Manager.
Carol Marshall Distribution
Carol has worked for Playbox since April 2000, just a year after Playbox opened The Dream Factory. She started as an Information Officer and is now responsible for distributing Playbox Theatre’s literature to schools, shops, hotels, leisure centres and libraries throughout Warwickshire and the West Midlands. Carol loves working for Playbox and hopes to continue to do so for a few more years yet!
Front Of House Host & Head Of Children's Welfare
Stacey Newton Front Of House Host & Head Of Children's Welfare
I started my Playbox Theatre journey at age 9, attending sessions in Stratford-upon-Avon. Little did I know it was the beginning of decades of time within the Playbox Family.
After many years of attendance, I began assisting my director, Emily, probably becoming the longest running Senior Assistant, as I just had too much fun! I studied Early Years education alongside work at Playbox, and both were a great help to one another.
My many roles within the Playbox world began with working alongside directors during the preschool ‘Early Stagers’ programme. This then developed into my own role as an educational director, running sessions with several schools, as well as at The Dream Factory. I absolutely love bringing energy and magic to outside settings, giving them an insight into the wonderfully creative world of drama.
This then developed into working within The Dream Factory as an Information Officer and supporting the facilitation of Playbox Parties – this role was fantastic and gave me the opportunity to meet lots of new people.
I then took a break to continue my work in early years and education, and to have two wonderful children of my own. With my daughter, then aged 3, beginning her own Playbox Journey it was the perfect time to come back to The Dream Factory.
I have now taken over the role as Head of Children’s Welfare and look forward to the exciting times ahead.
Front Of House Manager
Lisa Hobson Front Of House Manager
After graduating in Maths & English, Lisa embarked on a career in marketing, working mainly in agencies in the Cotswolds, Birmingham and London. After a brief spell in client-side marketing for a publisher, promoting everything from children’s books to medical manuals, she returned to a senior management role and agency life.
Working on brands such as Sky TV and being part of the team that launched The Disney Channel, meant working with clients, creatives and a team of experienced account managers. This lead to being part of an MBO, and the role of Client Services Director.
Following a short career break, Lisa continued as a freelance marketing consultant working in automotive, and with local consumer service businesses in Warwickshire.
Lisa has one son who is an active member of Playbox workshops and is represented by Playbox Agency. She herself has not set foot on stage since playing Peter Quince in the school production of A Midsummer Nights Dream in 1984… and does not intend to ever again! Her role is very firmly, front of house.
Heather Riley Wardrobe Mistress
Heather claims she doesn’t work at Playbox, she “just has fun” . Knitting, sewing, embroidering and the like since childhood, she can’t draw, can’t make a costume from the creative’s sketches. (give her a pre-printed pattern, pattern, she’ll have a go), but she enjoys turning directors’ ideas for masks into reality, running up toile skirts for flatware with not a lot of time to curtain up, turning chocolate gateaux into Christmas cakes, making the most outrageous wedding veils for evil step-mamas, sausages from old tights and shredded paper, attempting to keep the ‘Narnias’ (the name of our Wardrobe Department) tidy, the props in good nick and the costumes clean and repaired. In other words, she gets to let her slightly batty sense of artistic creative humour run riot AND she gets to clean and tidy ! What more could a girl want ??
She believes every cloud has a silver lining and rainbows of every variant are special, sometimes magical. She knows she’s the luckiest wardrobe mistress in the world. Here in The Dream Factory, during the urghs of lockdown, was born New Narnia, which Heather knows knocks the socks off any other theatre wardrobe space. Oh – and sometimes she bakes cakes.
Jess Chapple Administration Assistant
Jess is delighted to be joining the Playbox team! Having been a member for most of her life, she has attended many workshops including: acting, musical theatre, circus and Shakespeare Young Company as well as travelling to the Santa Monica Playhouse for Playbox’s 2018 USA Tour. Jess has also worked as part of the technical team on a few productions and is currently assisting Rich with our Technical Theatre workshops.
Jess is also spending her gap year working at a bakery and hopes to go travelling in 2022 before heading off to university to study medicine.
Eliza Smith Administration Assistant
Eliza became a member of the National Youth Theatre in 2017 where she decided she wanted to persue a career in acting. After her time at NYT, Eliza auditioned for drama schools in 2018 and went on to train at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School (BOVTS) for three years on the BA HONS professional acting course, graduating in 2021 with first class honours.
As part of the course at (BOVTS) students must complete multiple children’s theatre tours to schools across the West Country.
When graduating, Eliza won the Peter O’Toole award and was cast in her first professional engagement The Meaning of Zong, written by and starring Giles Terera.
Eliza has been trained in theatre and screen work and is currently an actor, whilst also working at Playbox prior to going on tour in 2022.
Most recently, Eliza has just completed filming with BBC.
Claire Moss Cafe Manager
Claire has been a member of our cafe team for nearly three years after being a Playbox Parent for many years before that. Whilst her children got more and more involved in Playbox life, Claire was inspired by her their creativity and so channelled hers into her baking and food creations. Having previously worked for her local school’s breakfast club, Claire has a love of musicals and performance, so finds working in a children’s theatre the perfect fit!
Hannah Jobbins Cafe Team
Hannah has been a member of our cafe team since the summer and has been helping Claire out with busy shifts and plenty of baking. Hannah and her husband Ian ran a restaurant in Spain for 8 years before settling back down in their hometown of Stratford. During lockdown, they set up their own catering company: Shakespeare Kitchen. This endeavour takes them into people’s homes to provide intimate fine dining experiences. Since then, Hannah and her husband have gone from catering for household bubbles to large-scale events – their Sunday lunch is especially recommended!