Over the last two years Swindon’s Quirky Bird Theatre has spread its wings creating a new platform for young people to gain paid, touring experience as professional actors.

Anna Friend, from Purton, is the founder and artistic director of the company that she set up in 2015. She rebranded her original small youth company into Quirky Bird Juniors, Young Actors, Quirky Bird Advanced Acting programme, and the main production company.

Now she is launching a professional touring company that presents plays that are compatible with school curriculums.

The productions will employ young actors to give them a chance to build up their professional experience.

Anna said: “It is exciting and I believe unique for us to provide paid touring experience for actors from the age of 11 upwards.

“It is aimed at young people going forwards into the industry and we give them a professional outlook, we prepare them for work or drama school, both of which are really demanding and need stamina.’’

The touring company is currently performing two A-level text plays, That Face by Polly Stenham and Palace Of DNA by Dennis Kelly.

They are taking the dramas around various schools to help pupils get to grips with the text.

“We have had a phenomenal response from schools as far away as Manchester, Lancashire and Somerset,” said Anna.

“The teachers love it and the actors get to work at the pace of a professional director.

“Many drama companies offer training but then the actors get to 18 and unless they get into drama school they are cut off.

“We offer internships and are currently in talks both with an acting agency in Bristol and with Spotlight to get the young actors’ professional credits recognised.’’

Anna is well known in the theatre world and is currently artistic director and regular workshop leader for Gatecrash Theatre as well as offering one-to-one tuition for LAMDA examinations and drama school audition preparation.

She is also the resident director at the Alma Tavern, in Bristol, so she is aware of many casting opportunities and naturally offers them to her own actors first.

Quirky Bird’s main company is about to cast its new production, The Spur Of The Moment by Anya Reiss, with a cast of seven, five of which are young people.

“We will be touring it over the year to Bristol, Bath, Salisbury and of course Swindon,’’ said Anna. “It is exciting watching my students come through, to grow and develop. Yasmin Priestner-Burton who was nine when she performed in Tusk Tusk, is now in DNA and she has been tackling the role of Alice in That Face.’’

Quirky Bird ventured north of the border to perform at The Fringe for the first time this year, and was a huge success. The next performance of That Face, is on September 28 from 8pm, at The Rondo Theatre, in Bath. Tickets are £12 from 01225 448844.

Schools wishing to host the theatre or young actors wanting to join Quirky Bird should visit www.quirkybirdtheatre.com.