It has played to five people in the back of a van, and to audiences 100ft underground.

Kindle Theatre admits it is somewhat misnamed, as theatres are often the last places to find it.

The company is not based in a building and likes to perform in unusual spaces, whether it’s a former glassworks, a Gothic church or vaults under a railway station.

So now is a good time to change its name – to Kiln.

Dropping the letters D and E marks its development and new approach. And stops it being confused with an e-reader.

Founder Olivia Winteringham explains: “Our name still has the theme of fire, but Kindle was appropriate for when we began, nine years ago, because it was about igniting something.

“Then a few years later, Amazon released their Kindle e-reader which is now ubiquitous. The name is associated more with that than a theatre company.

“Kiln still means firing something and marks the next phase in our development. Our profile is increasing and we are starting to get interest from beyond the UK.

“Someone joked that it will be the end of us if we change our name to Ash!”

A renaming ceremony has been held at AE Harris in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

Olivia founded Kindle with three fellow drama graduates from University of Birmingham – Samantha Fox, Emily Ayres and Jess Mackinnon.

The first three are still artistic directors. Jess has left to train as a psychologist but is still on the board of the company, a registered charity.

Olivia, 30, says: “At university we worked with director Carran Waterfield, from Triangle Theatre based in Coventry.

“We had made a piece called Beastly Beauties in our third year, which eight of us took to the Edinburgh Festival and got some lovely reviews.

“Four of us then decided to establish a performance company in Birmingham. We didn’t deliberately set out to be an all-women company – we say we’re made by women but not for women, we don’t want to exclude men.

“Having said that, our first work, The Furies, was about female archetypes and rage.”

Kindle began with just a £5,000 grant from the Arts Council but its latest grant from the funding body was £95,000.

“We were not working in theatres, we were using venues like old factories.

“We first set up in the old Chance Brothers glassworks in Smethwick, a place with real history. They glazed Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and provided the glass on the clock face of Big Ben.

“The factory closed in the 1980s and we made an installation there. It was hard, not having the support of a theatre – we had to do all our own marketing, we had no front of house staff and so on.

“When we first saw the vast space, filled with computer equipment, it was very daunting. It took us two weeks to empty it, but then we had a blank canvas to do what we liked and make up our own stories, which was exhilarating.”

The work of Kiln, Hotel du Vin, an intimate meal in the back of a van accompanied by a harp.
The work of Kiln, Hotel du Vin, an intimate meal in the back of a van accompanied by a harp.
 

Kindle’s work includes Eat Your Heart Out, in which the audience sits down for a post-apocalyptic banquet.

It was an “edible performance” that took place in AE Harris and as a touring banquet for 130 diners, which took place at the BE Festival and in The Vaults under London’s Waterloo.

Other unusual locations include 100ft underground in an ancient iron ore mine.

Then there was Hotel du Van, an intimate meal in the back of a van accompanied by a harp and performed in Edinburgh in 2010 outside Hotel du Vin.

“We want audiences to experience something theatrical that’s different. We don’t do scripted plays,” says Olivia.

“When we first left university, Carran mentored us through the process of setting up a company. We won a £5,000 grant from the Arts Council and £1,000 from the Sir Barry Jackson Trust to take Beastly Beauties on a small regional tour.

“Last year the Arts Council gave us £95,000 and we are supported by the Wellcome Trust to the tune of £30,000.

“The Furies, which turned a Greek myth into a glam rock gig, has been one of our most acclaimed productions, particularly abroad.

“We’ve taken it to festivals in Bilbao and Tarragona in Spain and Rome.

“It would be amazing to perform it in an amphitheatre in Greece.

“We had an extraordinary reaction to it in Bilbao. Audiences in Britain have been quite static, but in Spain they went berserk, chanting ‘We will have revenge’ which is a refrain at the end.”

More recently, Kiln has become an associate company of Birmingham Rep, and has tried out its new work Come Heavy Sleep in the Rep Studio. It is a musical loosely based on Othello.

“We are beginning to work more closely with theatres, although we are still not building-based. We work remotely on laptops and from each other’s houses around Birmingham.”

Current productions include a double bill, staged in theatres, of Lady Gogo Goch and A Journey Round My Skull.

Lady Gogo Goch (the title is taken from the end of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a village in Anglesey with the longest place name in Britain) has Sam Fox musing on her Welsh cultural identity.

She includes parodies of national stereotypes, appearing in a shawl and clog-dancing, then transforming into Shirley Bassey.

Olivia says: “It’s musical theatre, with no coherent narrative. More a series of songs in Welsh. You don’t need to speak Welsh to enjoy it, because of the lyricism of the language.

“I play a neurosurgeon in A Journey Round My Skull, which was put together with the help of three doctors and scientists.

“It charts the journey of an operation to remove a brain tumour and is also a love story. It’s not all sad, it’s darkly funny too.

“One of the three acts is a simulation of an awake craniotomy, which the audience experiences on wireless headphones. We drilled into pig skulls to replicate the right sound.”

This summer will be the company’s most ambitious Edinburgh Festival yet, as it is taking up three productions – The Furies, Lady Gogo Goch and A Journey Round My Skull.

“It’s not really about the size of the venues,” says Olivia.

“We’ve played intimate spaces – very intimate in the case of five people round a table in the back of a van – but we’d love to perform somewhere like Sydney Opera House. Why not?”