The Unlimited Archives

The Story of Unlimited Theatre

In 1997, J Spooner set up a theatre company with five friends who all met at The Workshop Theatre at Leeds University. Since then and until 2023 Unlimited Theatre has produced and toured new work for live performance all over the world. And after 27 years of making shows and events that have delighted, confused, dismayed, exhilarated, inspired audiences across the world, the company has decided to call it a day.

This podcast is J’s attempt to honour and preserve the memory of Unlimited – “an aural herstory of the company – how we formed, what we did and how we did it – not everything of course because 27 years is a long time. This story is some of the memories of some of the people involved – the founders, the artists, the collaborators, the producers, the trustees.”

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Episode 1 “We’re Glad We Could Make It”

Hello. Welcome to the show. In this first episode, J reveals what’s next for the company (cash grants for artists!), answers questions you’ve sent in via the socials and performs a moving duet with their plastic and mini best friend.

TRANSCRIPT of Episode 1 “We’re Glad We Could Make It”

Episode 2 “It Was One O’ Them”

In this episode J is in conversation with co-founder Paul Warwick about… how Paul remembers the company starting, how he led the creative process for Unlimited’s earliest shows, why he left the company in 2001 and his advice for anyone setting up a company now.

TRANSCRIPT of Episode 2 “It Was One O- Them”

Useful/interesting links to things referenced in this episode:
• a 2009 blog post honouring Leeds Met Studio Theatre and the legend that is Annie Lloyd
• Script and video of The Noise

Episode 3 “Memories Or Feelings?”

J chats with co-founder Louisa Ashley who they worked particularly closely with for many years – not just making and performing shows but also as the main producers for the company and again when she left the company and became Chair of the Board of Trustees. J and Louisa chat about all that plus more including that time literally no-one noticed when J was run over and hospitalised by a car. Welcome to the show.

Useful/interesting links to things referenced in this episode:
• J’s 2019 interview with Louisa in The Space Shed at Latitude Festival
• Photo album of Unlimited’s 15th birthday party
• Photos, video and music from Ancient Futures

Transcript coming soon.

Episode 4 “Utter Joy & Brutal Hard Work”

J chats with co-founder (and wife) Liz Margree about her most vivid memories of her time with Unlimited, why she thinks the original founders were such a high performing team and her advice for anyone starting out and setting up their own company now. Welcome to the show.

Episode 5 – BONUS EPISODE – “Trodden”

Made in 2008 by founder Liz Margree, TRODDEN was Unlimited’s first walking play. Which means (as Liz wrote)…

I’m going to ask you to put on headphones, listen to me speaking-in-your-head and walk with me. Think radio play meets city-tourist-walk. With the walking being optional. If walking, you’ll need to open/download The Map and listen to the play while (if you’re in Leeds) doing the walk.

Trodden was made more than 15 years ago so some of the landmarks have changed and the route may well require a little renegotiating!

Episode 6 “A Series of Decisions (that felt like the right thing to do at the time)”

J sits down for a cup of tea with Unlimited co-founder and friend Chris Thorpe while trying to remember how they started out, why it’s so difficult to make new work collaboratively, how the first play Chris wrote for the company took them all across the world and what it means to have “a career” as a writer. Chris also shares (beautifully) why he wouldn’t change a single thing and offers his advice for anyone starting a company or setting out as a writer now. If you’ve listened to any of the other episodes you’ll (maybe) notice the music is different in this one and there’s a lot more underscore. Thanks to our sound designer Oliver Spooner who composed all that music and was inspired to include it for this episode because Chris is his one of his godparents and Oli loves him very much.Welcome to the show.

Episode 7 “It Was Very Nocturnal”

A very special episode of The Unlimited Archives mixed, edited and soundtracked by one of Unlimited’s longest serving collaborators David Edwards aka electronic music artist Minotaur Shock.

David composed music for many of Unlimited shows and projects since 2008 and when J asked him if we could release the music he’s made as a series of albums or EPs, David went back to all the original tracks and remastered them. And now we’re releasing them all into the world on 26th January 2024 – search it all up on whichever streaming platform you subscribe to on his profile ‘Minotaur Shock’ where we’ve released the soundtracks to ‘The Moon The Moon’ and ‘The Noise’ and on our profile ‘Unlimited Theatre’ where we’re releasing everything else including Afrikan Boy’s soundtrack to our 2023 show Ancient Futures.

This episode not only showcases David’s brilliant work with Unlimited over the last 15 years, but the conversation he has with J puts that music into fascinating context AND you get a real insight into how he, as someone who had never worked in theatre before, responded to some of our frankly very strange requests, and made it all.

David Edwards making up music for The Noise in rehearsals at Northern Stage Jan 2012

Clare writing for The Noise under a projected image of our iceberg. Northern Stage, January 2012