WHEN Salisbury Playhouse and the city’s arts centre put out a south west wide call for creative ideas to be part of this year’s Theatre Fest West, they had no idea what the level of response would be.

They were inundated with creative companies and performers who wanted to be part of a programme celebrating the most imaginative entertainment the region has to offer.

Theatre Fest West gives companies from Hampshire to Cornwall - and everywhere in between - the chance to bring their work to Salisbury Playhouse and Salisbury Arts Centre each April.

The festival is now in its third year and this time Trowbridge Arts will also host some of the shows.

With a free opening event and tickets starting at just £5, it is an affordable way to experience exciting and bold new productions made by local companies.

With dance, children’s shows, comedy, Shakespeare, film, music, workshops and new writing all on offer, the variety over the three weeks is huge.

One show is performed in a post van, another needs the audience to keep the lights on and there’s an award-winning musical version of Dr Who featuring Exterminators and Cyber-gents.

“The brilliant thing about this festival is that it brings together new names, old names, something risky, something well established, something that’s fun and new, something that’s wacky, and something that’s moving,” said Mark Powell from Salisbury Playhouse, who put the festival’s theatre programme together.

“The only thing they have in common is that they are set in, or the performers are from, the south west.

“There is always something worth taking a chance on at Salisbury Playhouse but Theatre Fest West takes that one stage further with wonderfully inventive shows that have got to be worth trying.”

One show being performed at the Arts Centre is so new it doesn’t even have a name yet.

It is by recent dance graduates Impermanence Dance Theatre, who give a unique performance every time they go on stage.

Bristol band Spiro will be bringing their fusion of folk, classical music and pop to the Arts Centre and there’s a fast-paced comedy Western and the rock n roll musical adventure Kid Carpet’s Blast Off highlighting the diversity of talent in the region.

“As someone who has been programming events for the last eight years I thought I knew most of the companies working in this area,”

said Salisbury Arts Centre director Gemma Okell.

“But this has brought new artists to our attention.

“There is a sense of excitement among those who made the final programme that they will get to perform for new audiences.”

Theatre Fest West is also an opportunity to see Salisbury talent with performances by The Stone Donkey Pilots at a special Altar Club and a Hijack Open Mic night for the city’s emerging performers.

Local comedian Joz Norris will be performing stand up at the Arts Centre and hosting Theatre Casino at the Playhouse, where the audience will be treated to a fast and furious evening of stories and speeches.

Norris’ brother Barney is a successful playwright and his critically acclaimed play Visitors will also be performed at the festival.

Workshops for local writers, the Magic Lantern gathering for budding filmmakers and the Regional Youth Theatre Festival all play an important part in Theatre Fest West too, as work goes through its developmental stages before reaching the theatre.

And there are two free events for families, The Story Exchange on the streets of Salisbury from 2.30pm on Monday, April 7 and Little Artist Big Painting by Commotion Dance at Salisbury Arts Centre on April 12 at 10.30am, 12.30pm and 2.30pm.

Little ones will be able to roll up their sleeves and join in after the show.