Team

The Core Team


Team-Photo-Tash

Natasha Holmes – Artistic Director

Natasha has always been a child at heart, but it took a lot of time studying & training as an adult to realise the special gifts that children have naturally – the art of making us smile, think differently and most importantly laugh.

Natasha studied English Literature & Language at King’s College London and trained at Ecole d’ Philippe Gaulier. She worked for 10 years as a performer & puppeteer in London working for many theatre companies & venues including; Theatre Rites, DNA, Little Angel Theatre, BAC and ACT based in Paris.

She co-founded Tell Tale Hearts in 1997 with Isabel Caballero and they toured internationally with the company, performing comic physical theatre shows for adults. In 2003 Natasha took over the role as sole artistic director of the company and changed the focus to an exclusively children’s theatre company, intent on raising the profile of theatre for early years. Since then the company has continued to develop participatory theatre experiences for young children; sometimes charting unknown seas, occasionally steering through choppy waters but always embarking on fantastical journeys and inviting the audience ‘on board’.

“To be able to ignite a child’s joy and imagination is a treasured experience, one I never take for granted and one that constantly inspires me to create more theatre. In a world where the arts agenda is often changing it is my role to ensure that the company never loses sight of who the work is for… the children.”


Ammie Flexen – Company Manager

Ammie joined Tell Tale Hearts as company manager in September 2013.

After over 20 years as a freelance community based artist and public art project manager, having children of her own led her into a research MA in Early Childhood Studies, exploring the developmental value of creativity for young children. Ammie now holds the fort at Tell Tale Hearts headquarters.

“I first saw Tell Tale Hearts perform ‘From Here to There’ at an early year’s conference and I was really moved to see a Theatre Company that truly understand children and how they play and explore the world. As a visual artist I love open-ended materials and the endless possibilities for imagination. Intelligent materials and free play are a signature of Tell Tale Hearts productions and I enjoy being part of a team that takes theatre for children to such a high level.”


Lars Jensen – Technical Manager

Lars has been on the Tell Tale Hearts board since its inception in 2008.

He has worked for over 20 years in the theatre industry most often in technical roles, such as production manager, touring electrician and lighting designer. His sector experience ranges from contemporary dance companies, over new-writing theatre to The West End and of course, touring children’s theatre.

“I have been involved with Tell Tale Hearts since its original launch as a children’s theatre co. in 2003. TTH puts audience participation, emotionally and literally, at the centre of its work. This is and has been a very important quality of the work to me. The opportunity to give children a safe, imaginative and rewarding experience is one I have always cherished and enjoy helping to deliver.”

The Board Of Directors


Erin Braithwaite – Education

Erin was a founding member of the board when it was formally constituted in 2008.

She currently works in education as an Associate Director of Performing Arts at Outwood Grange Academy Trust. This role involves quality management, curriculum development and leadership of arts faculties in 15 secondary schools within the region. Prior to her career in education, Erin worked in the Performing Arts Industry as an artist, director, facilitator and company manager. Her work at The Faceless Company as a company member developed her skills in fund-raising, financial management and project development.

“As a mum of 3 young children, I am passionate about arts experiences for young people and the role that the arts can play in brain development. I regularly attend theatre events with my children and can recognise the exceptional quality of the work that Tell Tale Hearts creates. The work is highly original and gives young audiences the opportunity to experience interactive and skillfully crafted theatre. I thoroughly enjoy supporting the company through my role as a board member.”


Matthew Gaunt – Finance

Matt first started working with Tell Tale Hearts through the Arts and Business programme in April 2006, before becoming a Board member in July 2008.

Matt is a qualified accountant working within the NHS in an organisation that provides healthcare for Lancashire residents. His main responsibilities are to ensure the organisation operates with sound financial governance and within its annual budget of £480million. Prior to the NHS, Matt worked in a variety of finance and logistics roles within Asda, Tesco and PepsiCo. Matt’s strengths are business strategy, business process re-engineering, financial planning and project management.

“I have had a strong interest in performing arts as a theatre-goer, but have never been involved in theatre production. When I was approached to work with Tell Tale Hearts and provide some business support I was delighted, particularly as I had two young children at the time. Both of my daughters have experienced the excellent theatre that Natasha and her teams have produced and enjoyed and been inspired by it.”


Jon Price – Cultural Policy & Arts Management

Jon joined the Tell Tale Hearts board in March 2012, bringing a range of experience in arts management, cultural policy and creative programmes for children and young people.

He worked for many years as a cultural development manager for the city of Leeds, running arts services, fundraising, promoting community participation and supporting creative organisations. Currently researching a PhD in cultural leadership at the Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen), Jon is also a regular expert evaluator for the European Commission’s cultural programmes.

“From my work in Leeds I was aware that Tell Tale Hearts were unique regionally in developing original theatre exclusively for younger children. When I finally saw them perform, I was impressed with how the active experience of each child was placed at the heart of the creative process. This is an approach to artistic quality that makes real sense to me and a philosophy I want to help shape and support.”


Team-Photo-Tash5

Natasha Holmes – Artistic Director

Natasha has always been a child at heart, but it took a lot of time studying & training as an adult to realise the special gifts that children have naturally – the art of making us smile, think differently and most importantly laugh.

Natasha studied English Literature & Language at King’s College London and trained at Ecole d’ Philippe Gaulier. She worked for 10 years as a performer & puppeteer in London working for many theatre companies & venues including; Theatre Rites, DNA, Little Angel Theatre, BAC and ACT based in Paris.

She co-founded Tell Tale Hearts in 1997 with Isabel Caballero and they toured internationally with the company, performing comic physical theatre shows for adults. In 2003 Natasha took over the role as sole artistic director of the company and changed the focus to an exclusively children’s theatre company, intent on raising the profile of theatre for early years. Since then the company has continued to develop participatory theatre experiences for young children; sometimes charting unknown seas, occasionally steering through choppy waters but always embarking on fantastical journeys and inviting the audience ‘on board’.

“To be able to ignite a child’s joy and imagination is a treasured experience, one I never take for granted and one that constantly inspires me to create more theatre. In a world where the arts agenda is often changing it is my role to ensure that the company never loses sight of who the work is for… the children.”


Lars Jensen – Technical Manager

Lars has been on the Tell Tale Hearts board since its inception in 2008.

He has worked for over 20 years in the theatre industry most often in technical roles, such as production manager, touring electrician and lighting designer. His sector experience ranges from contemporary dance companies, over new-writing theatre to The West End and of course, touring children’s theatre.

“I have been involved with Tell Tale Hearts since its original launch as a children’s theatre co. in 2003. TTH puts audience participation, emotionally and literally, at the centre of its work. This is and has been a very important quality of the work to me. The opportunity to give children a safe, imaginative and rewarding experience is one I have always cherished and enjoy helping to deliver.”

Sophia Lovell Smith - Theatre Designer

Sophia Lovell Smith – Theatre Designer

“Creating work for and with young audiences is richly rewarding, ever changing and dissolving, ‘such stuff as dreams are made on’.”

Sophia has been part of five Tell Tale Hearts productions and she continues to relish the mix of imagination, risk and creation. Designing for Sophia is a fascination with making new environments and being part of a collaborative team such as TTH.

Sophia’s theatre designs include, Catch a Sea Star (Spitalfields Music), Wave (Nottingham Playhouse), The Snow Queen (Unicorn/Trestle production, touring India and the UK), Flathampton (Royal & Derngate Theatres, Northampton), this production won the 2013 Brighton Festival Children’s Award. Shooting the Moon (Strangeface Company); Duck! (Z-Arts); The Tales of Molly Moonshine (Theatre Centre); Handa’s Surprise (Little Angel Theatre); Seven shows for Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, including The Caretaker. Futebol, (We light up the House), Graeae Theatre’s The Flower Girls (Hampstead Theatre); Little India (Trestle Theatre); Tonight We Fly (Arts Theatre & tour), Jemima Puddle Duck & Her Friends (Unicorn Theatre), Hot Mikado (Chelsea Theatre); Marat/Sade (Pleasance Theatre), Blackberry Trout Face (20 Stories High), Common Heaven (Theatre Centre) and Through the Wardrobe (Royal & Derngate Theatres).

Sophia’s educational projects include outdoor structures for primary schools, encouraging creative play and storytelling. She works with the educational departments of the National Theatre, English National Opera and the Southbank Centre designing summer shows and running design workshops. Sophia designs for Mountview Theatre School and Bennison Fabrics.

Visit Sophia’s website at www.sophialovellsmith.co.uk

Helen Thomas - Visual Artist

Helen Thomas – Visual Artist

“Once, when I was a child, there was a city street where the brightly coloured buildings were always changing. The city was built on empty land at the back of the sofa and demolished when the living room was cleared just after Christmas.
Observing, sharing and playing with children is an essential part of the wonderful collaborative, creative process of working and designing with Tell Tale Hearts. Creating spaces, places and things that can invite young children to share in the adventure and continue to play and make their own discoveries.”

Since studying fine art at Falmouth Helen’s creative work has taken her on many journeys, from her studio at the bottom of the garden, over the sea to the arctic circle and to schools and communities across England.

Helen draws and paints in response to her surroundings through residencies, projects, and studio based work. She has exhibited nationally and has work in many private collections.

Working with The Faceless Company Helen has engaged with thousands of people through arts workshops and community events.

In 2011 Helen was part of the creative team on Tell Tale Hearts production of The Snow Queen and delivered their community arts programme, working with pupils in Huddersfield and Barnsley schools. Helen was delighted to work with Tell Tale Hearts as designer on Yummm! in 2012. She has also contributed to Tell Tale Hearts Activity Packs for Space Hoppers, From Here to There, Yummm! and Inside Out!

Visit Helen’s website at www.toastedorange.co.uk

Michael Szpakowski - Artist / Composer

Michael Szpakowski – Artist / Composer

He has worked professionally in the arts since 1977. His music has been performed in Russia, the United States and all over the UK, at venues including the Purcell Room on London’s South Bank and Birmingham Symphony Hall, and has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and the World Service.

“For me the beating heart of theatre is still the simple fact of the human being on stage; the body, the voice, and the immediacy of the human presence. Without that, nothing. The rest of us are there to support, to focus, maybe even to gild a bit, that fundamental magic. I guess that’s where my specialism of music and sound comes in…
Added to which it’s a pleasure to work with a set of people who are so committed to quality work aimed at a young ( but very smart and discriminating) audience”

Matt Marks - Composer / Musical Director

Matt Marks – Composer / Musical Director

“When I’m working on theatre for children I just concentrate on finding the best expression for the story and characters, exactly as I would for any theatre, and I’m always surprised to see the sea of small faces at the opening performance. But it’s always such a joy to know that so often it’s their first experience of theatre of any kind and if there’s live music, to see their amazement that music doesn’t just come out of an ipod!”

Matt studied Creative Arts and Music Composition in Nottingham and Musical Theatre Writing in New York, where he was awarded the Frederic Loewe ASCAP award.

He has composed music for theatres including Nottingham Playhouse, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Polka Theatre, The Peacock Theatre and Sheffield Crucible as well as numerous theatre and dance companies internationally. Currently, Matt is co-writing 2 musicals, Giants in the Earth, with Nick Wood and The Bridge, with New York writer Liv Cummins.

Matt recently composed the score for When The Pictures Came, a 3-way collaboration between Terrapin Puppet Theatre from Australia, The Childrens’ Art Theatre of China and Lakeside, Nottingham Matt has also worked with the site-specific company Parrabbola, creating the music for a large-scale community productions of Pericles and The Winter’s Tale in Poland and Czech Republic.

Film and television credits include The Morris Jelly House of Fashion, Insight in Mind and Hotel for Channel Four.

Matt is a member of The Institute for Crazy Dancing in Leeds and is Associate Practitioner for RSC Education. He continues to perform with the improvising quartet Kiplefti and the central European-inspired The Balkan Express as well as arranging and performing music ranging from East European Klezmer to Tango to South African Township Jive and Balinese Monkey Chant.

Visit Matt’s website at www.mattmarks.com

Pauline Mayers - Choreographer

Pauline Mayers – Choreographer

“This is a story of a little girl called Pauline who was born and raised in London. Pauline had dreams of being a dancer at the tender age of eight, after seeing Gene Kelly in the film Singing in the Rain one rainy Saturday afternoon. Watching Michael Jackson dance in his many music videos convinced Pauline that dancing was something she absolutely had to do.”

After years of dancing as a hobby, which gave her the opportunity to do film and television work, she decided that the best way to be a dancer was to train to be one. Pauline started her training at Lewisham College in South London, but she wanted to train even harder. After seeing the Rambert Dance Company at the Sadlers’ Wells Theatre in London, Pauline decided she would audition for the Rambert School. To her delight, she was successful. And, thus, started her career in dance!

Three years later, Pauline was dancing for companies like Janet Smith and Dancers, and Diversions Dance. One day Pauline watched Phoenix Dance Company. After moving to Leeds where the company is based, Pauline auditioned for them and once more to her delight got her wish. After several years dancing, not just with Phoenix, but also with many other dance and opera companies based in the North, Pauline wished to start collaborating with theatre artists. Again, with enthusiasm she set about making her wish come true. Pauline played the lead role of Desdemona in Patrice Naimbana’s Gospel of Othello in 2008. After performing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse Transform season in 2011 as both dancer and actress, Pauline became a regular collaborator with Chris Goode and Company and to top it all off, is also a movement director working with Red Ladder on their production of Promised Land in the summer of 2012! And just when she thought she couldn’t be happier, Pauline became the choreographer for the wonderful show, Yummm! with Tell Tale Hearts.

Jo McFarlane - Designer

Jo McFarlane – Designer

Jo McFarlane studied Theatre Design at Bretton Hall, University of Leeds. Since then she has worked for many companies including Lawrence Batley Theatre, Full Body and the Voice, Figment Theatre and Impact. She also enjoys working on community projects and most recently was involved in the Huddersfield Carnival.

Jo has been working with Tell Tale Hearts for several years now as part of the design team on Beneath The Waves, as designer for Rumpelstiltskin, Suitcase Stories and in 2008 she created the stunning set, puppets and costume for the innovative Black Light Theatre project Arctic Antics.

“I have loved working on several Tell Tale Hearts projects over the past years. I especially love the strong sense of collaboration amongst all members of the team and the opportunity to turn everyday objects into the building blocks of inviting theatrical worlds for young children. I trongly believe in leaving time and space to allow children’s imaginations to blossom and for these young theatre goers to be allowed to fill in the gaps themselves.”

Emma Louise James - Costume Designer

Emma Louise James – Costume Designer

“My passion for performance began at the tender age of 2 when I began dance classes. As a little girl I was constantly ‘on the go’ dancing, singing, acting, drawing, swimming, playing hockey and of course bossing my two brothers about! Not much has changed to date.”

Her most recent work has seen her tackle a large scale production of Flash Dance at Wakefield Theatre Royal, where she was solely responsible for producing costumes for the 67 strong casts. Emma describes this project as thoroughly enjoyable, ’set in the 1980’s it was like taking a trip down memory lane; bad hair do’s, puff ball dresses (which she had several of), ripped denim and tight shinny lycra dance wear: What more could a girl ask for?’
In autumn 2012 Emma is working on productions for Leeds Grammar School, Wakefield Theatre Royal and Phoenix Dance Theatre.

Visit Emma’s website at www.seamlessdesigns.co.uk