THERE are two distinct definitions of Darwinism.

The first is a pure definition of the beliefs of Charles Darwin (1809–1882), the English naturalist.

This is the theory of the evolution of species by natural selection.

The second is for economic Darwinism which states: “a theory that inherent dynamic forces allow only the fittest persons or organisations to prosper in a competitive environment or situation economic.”

There is a third and, for the purpose of this article, it can be called Theatre Darwinism, which would look at change as a challenge of creating a community place which is more than bricks and mortar.

The person who would espouse to this third theory is Vanessa Lefrancois, chief executive of the Brewhouse theatre in Taunton.

“When I first started here I saw it as a real opportunity,” she says. “I am a bit of an agent for change and I believe in evolution.

“When I started it really was a blank canvass in terms of what had been booked.

“I think it is easier to work with a blank canvass rather than have come into a fully booked programme. It is good to instigate change.

“We try different things here at the Brewhouse to get a well balanced programme. When people pick up a programme, I would hope everyone should be able to look at it and see one show they want to come and watch.

“I feel we are not just a venue but an organisation and a community space which people can come along to.

“We want them to enjoy coming here and think beyond it being a building of just bricks and mortar.”

Vanessa has been in the ‘theatre hot seat’ since July 1, 2015. She was appointed one year after The Brewhouse re-opened after closure in 2013.

In October 2013, Taunton Deane Borough Council agreed to purchase the 61-year lease of the theatre building after reaching agreement with administrators BDO, who were appointed to deal with the theatre’s debts.

The theatre was taken over by the not-for-profit organisation, Taunton Theatre Association (TTA), which still runs it today.

The next big change on the horizon for The Brewhouse is 2021, when the theatre will have to be closed for 18 months while the new Brewhouse rises.

The TTA says work on revamping the Brewhouse could cost in the region of £20 million.

Vanessa said they were working with the architects (tenders have been submitted) to study the plans of what the new Brewhouse will look like.

She said: “The new building will give us a greater degree of flexibility. There will be a bigger main theatre with up to 650 seats, which means we can have acts here for five nights rather than one.

“There will be a better studio facility which could be used for classes, comedy or rehearsals. We can open up this space or make it smaller. This new building will be looking ahead for the next 20, 30 and 40 years.”

During the building work, Vanessa said there were plans to go out into the community and working with artistic companies to do work in marquees and other spaces.

This re-birth, or renaissance, will change the dynamic of what The Brewhouse can provide as it will be aiming to attract big shows and bigger stars.

“The TTA has a really strong vision and we want to exceed people’s expectations and make people proud to be from Taunton,” Vanessa adds.

Many people always remember their visit time in a theatre.

Vanessa has two special moments, the first was when she appeared in a play. Her mother was active in community theatre and she was playing the Queens of Hearts. Vanessa had to go on and give her some tarts.

The other was when she was eight years old and went to see La Fille mal gardée at the Royal Opera House.

She says: “I was just a little girl and loved ballet.

“This is a ballet for young people, with fantastic music and an easy to follow story.

“And I got to wear my best dress.”

Now, Vanessa is aiming to give other theatre goers the same thriller of being enchanted, entertained and engrossed by the shows at The Brewhouse.