Living Spit - from up-and-coming actors to North Somerset theatre pioneers
PUBLISHED: 16:00 04 April 2018
When a pair of 'fresh-faced' aspiring actors met at Bristol Old Vic more than 20 years ago, they couldn't have imagined they would go on to become one of North Somerset's most popular comedy acts.
But Howard Coggins and Stu Mcloughlin, better known as the two halves of Living Spit, have achieved exactly that, regularly selling out venues both in the district and across the country.
They have since written and performed 12 shows starting with The Six Wives Of Henry VIII.
Stu said: “We met at the Bristol Old Vic in 1997.
“Howard was a young fresh-faced actor, straight from drama school, and I was an impressionable youth with a passion for acting which hadn’t yet been realised.
“I had joined the Bristol Old Vic Youth Theatre and would occasionally spy Howard swanning around the building in his breaks from Up The Feeder, Down The Mouth.
“I then got to know him a little bit by doing various Bristol-based acting projects with him, and we forged a strong friendship when we appeared in a production of The Wizard Of Oz together in Cornwall as the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion respectively.
“We discovered we had a shared sense of humour and always talked about making a show together some day.
“Then I discovered, on a day trip to Hever Castle, that Howard bears a striking resemblance to Henry VIII and so the idea for our first show The Six Wives Of Henry VIII came out of that.”
This gave birth to the theatre company’s name, as Howard is the Living Spit of the former king of England.
Since then thousands of people have loved and laughed along with their self-produced shows which range from original stories to hilarious twists on classics such as Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol and Tortoise Vs Hare.
A historical theme also runs through many of Living Spit’s productions such as Adolf & Winston, and Elizabeth I – Virgin On The Ridiculous.
Not content with purely writing and performing, Living Spit teamed up with performing arts charity Theatre Orchard in 2015 to set up Theatre Shop in a disused retail unit in Clevedon’s Queens Square.
The venue is now in its third year and has gone from strength to strength with more than 2,000 people enjoying shows during its Christmas season.
Howard said: “I have known Fiona for years as I was on the original steering group for Theatre Orchard.
“We were going to put on a shop-based show so we wrote The Devil And The Shopkeeper about empty shops to try to encourage people back into the town centre.
“Then we said ‘hang on, we could turn this into a proper theatre’. Suddenly there is an Arts Council England application in and we put on a festival in summer 2015.
“I think there is a move towards (supporting) smaller venues.
“There are a lot of companies now touring the small venue circuit which has made it possible.
“I think Clevedon and Weston have also changed a lot in the past 10 years and are shaking off the somewhere to retire tag and turning into somewhere funky and vibrant in their own right.”
Stu added: “I think there is a bigger hunger for live theatre, generally, than there used to be.
“The beauty of things like Theatre Shop is we are in a position to bring this great work to people in Clevedon and they don’t have to go to Bristol to have a great night out.”
Living Spit will perform The Fabulous Bacon Boys at Theatre Shop at 2pm on May 1 and 2, and One Man & His Cow at 7.30pm on May 8 and 9.
Tickets, priced £11-12, are available to buy online.