The Team

Charlie Barnes - Creative Director

Charlie trained at Bretton Hall, gaining a First Class degree in Acting, and has since worked as a theatre maker, performer, writer and director with a wide and varied client group.


Charlie's first job with Dead Earnest was performing in 'Kaddish' at the Edinburgh Festival. She then went on to work with Point Blank Theatre company, and freelanced with a number of organisations including Proper Job.

Back in 2001, Charlie returned to Dead Earnest as a drama project worker and hasn't looked back; running and managing projects in Education, Community, and Health settings.


Charlie stepped up to the role of Creative Director for Dead Earnest in 2012, where she leads on the creative vision and general running of the company. Charlie writes bespoke scripts for clients,  directs, project manages and occasionally performs. She is also an associate lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University on the Performance for Stage and Screen degree.

Blue Merrick, Project Manager & associate artist

Blue has worked many times with Dead Earnest over the last fifteen years;  performing in and facilitating Forum Theatre shows for organisations including the General Medical Council, The Open University, NAVCA, Sheffield Theatres and Irwin Mitchell Solicitors. Her skills and versatility as an actor mean that she never fails to captivate the audience whether she be in a straight or comic role. She is also an experienced workshop facilitator and has worked on extended drama projects with a variety of community groups.

Outside of Dead Earnest, Blue works as an actor in TV and theatre and can be regularly seen on Coronation Street and Emmerdale. Her talents within the theatre are far reaching, as she is also an experienced Stage manager, and Sound technician.

Gareth Bennet-Ryan, associate artist

Gareth began working with Dead Earnest in 2015, performing in their University Residential Mentoring show 'Home Sweet Home'. He has also co-devised and performed alongside Kitty in 'The Magical Toy makers' commissioned by CBeebies in December 2016. Gareth is currently playing the part of Joe, in a forum theatre one man show exploring homophobic bullying within a University setting, which is now touring across the UK.

Elsewhere,  Gareth has performed in a variety of classical works at Shakespeare's Globe, The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival, The Rose Bankside and The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, where he was also one of Alan Bennett's History Boys. He has toured nationally a number of times - most recently in Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party. Gareth can also be seen in panto, and is a regular at  Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and Grimsby Auditorium - which is, incidentally, where he grew up!


Gareth is a regular audiobook narrator and voice over artist, most notably narrating A Kestral for a Knave by Barry Hines, perhaps better known as the film Kes, directed by Ken Loach.

Penny Capper, associate artist


Penny first performed with Dead Earnest in 1996 in Bremen Coffee, and since then has worked extensively for the company as a performer and facilitator.


Her acting credentials include roles in national theatre tours, TV, Radio and commercials. Alongside her work as an actress and voice over artist, she teaches performing arts to children and young people, writes scripts and performs stand up comedy. Penny can also be spotted as her alter-ego 'Jenny Vegas' in her touring one woman show.


Liam Gerrard, associate artist

Liam is a Sheffield based actor, who trained at Mountview Academy after studying at Lancaster University.

Over the years, Liam has worked with Dead Earnest in a number of Forum theatre shows and in 2014, played the role of George Hukin in ‘Sweet Comradeship’. Liam has also worked as a workshop facilitator with the company; utilising his experience of working with vulnerable and marginalised adults.

Liam’s acting work encompasses a wide body of material – from Shakespeare to new writing and with an impressive range of companies, including The Royal Exchange, Edinburgh Lyceum, Soho theatre, Sheffield Theatres, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Northern Broadsides, New Vic, Stephen Joseph theatre, Oldham Coliseum, Theatre by the Lake, Nottingham Playhouse, Nabokov, Third Angel and Traverse. He has appeared in feature films, shorts, television as well as various commercials. He is also a prolific voice over artist, having narrated over 30 bestselling audio books and numerous radio plays and was a 2016 BAFTA nominee for his animation work.


Liam also works as an associate lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, teaching the Broadcast Voice and Voiceover Acting courses. To top it all off Liam a magician and an illusion consultant where his works can be seen in theatre venues across the UK and abroad.


Rachel Newman, associate artist

Rachel has a wealth of experience as a highly skilled drama practitioner. She has worked with Dead Earnest as an associate artist for 15 years working on innovative educational programmes, and also as a facilitator of Forum theatre shows.


She has also worked as a youth theatre leader for Sheffield Theatres, and as a practitioner in museums, schools and the charitable sector.

As well as working for Dead Earnest, Rachel co-runs her own 'Grow Theatre' is an associate artist with Third Angel and an associate lecturer for Sheffield Hallam University.

Nick Nuttgens, associate artist

Nick is a freelance actor, director, choreographer and facilitator. Originally trained at Guildford School of Acting, he co-wrote Dead Earnest’s play ‘Sweet Comradeship’ with Charlie in 2013 and played the role of Jonathan Taylor. He has also performed in a number of DE Forum pieces. He has worked as movement director for theatre companies such as Pop Up, Red Ladder, Major Road, Spare Tyre and Sheffield Theatres TIE and has taught at Rose Bruford College, the Laban Centre, East 15 and ARTTS International. For 7 years he was the Director of the Crucible Youth Theatre at Sheffield Theatres. Nick is currently writing a PhD on applied theatre and the environment.

Kitty Randle, associate artist

Kitty is an experienced and talented theatre practitioner, performer and choreographer. She trained at Bretton Hall college and since graduating has worked extensively across the UK. With Dead Earnest, Kitty has run a number of Education programmes as well as performing in a variety of Forum Theatre pieces and plays. She has also utilised her skills as a professional dancer and choreographer in her projects with the company.

As an actress, Kitty has performed nationally and internationally in theatre, TV and Film.

Kitty also teaches in further and higher educations, having worked as an associate lecturer for Bath Spa University, Chester University and Central School of Speech and Drama.

Fiona Paul, associate artist

Fiona originally trained as a dancer and then continued her acting training at LAMDA. Fiona is based in Buxton, and has worked as a performer with Dead Earnest  since 1999, performing in a variety of Forum theatre shows, and commissioned plays.


Fiona is a talented actor, devisor, musician and choreographer and has performed in National theatre tours, television productions and films. She has also recorded a variety of audio books.

Fiona also teaches Drama for secondary school students, and in an associate performer with The Babbling Vagabonds. Fiona has also produced and performed her award winning one woman show across the country.


Sarah Sayeed, associate artist

Sarah is an accomplished actress and musician and has a wealth of experience in theatre performance across the UK. She first performed with Dead Earnest theatre in 'Space for sharing' in 2015, and continues as a regular cast member. Sarah is a successful musician, specialising in South Asian traditional music. She is currently working on a production with the Royal Shakespeare Company.


Stacey Sampson, associate artist

Stacey is a professional actress and has worked in theatre and television for the past 15 years. Her first job with Dead Earnest was back in 2001, when she performed in a forum theatre piece. Since then she has worked extensively for the company in many capacities; from leading creative workshops in schools and communities to writing and performing in bespoke plays for Dead Earnest’s diverse client base. She also managed the highly successful Creative Sparks programme, reaching over 2000 children and families across the city’s public spaces and parks.


Outside of Dead Earnest, Stacey is a highly successful actress and can often be seen on TV and at the theatre up and down the country. She is also an award winning author, with her first novel about to be published. Stacey has also been a fellow of on the BBC Talent programme.



Board of Directors:

Nicola Massen (chair)

Ashley Barnes

Victoria Roberts

Zoe Walton