Next Best Thing Productions was established in 1994 in Norwich. It was the brainchild of Will Bird and Richard Jones, two graduates of the University of East Anglia, who had produced a number of plays for the University Drama Society and were keen to continue their work in the theatre. Thanks to the support of a talented team of actors and backstage crew the next year saw the company put on two epic modern-dress productions at the newly completed UEA Drama Studio: The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare and The Country Wife by William Wycherley. Elsewhere in the city we produced an intense and claustrophobic version of Ibsen's The Master Builder at the Norwich Arts Centre, and a riotous and satirical swipe at the tabloid press in a brave updating of Sheridan's The School for Scandal, which pulled in the crowds at the Norwich Theatre in the Parks Festival.
The company then dispersed to pursue other projects but reformed two years later with some new blood for the Summer 1997 production of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure. Again for the Theatre in the Parks Festival the company performed in a variety of historic settings for free.
A plan to take Congreve's "Love for Love" to the 1999 Edinburgh Fringe foundered, but the dream of performing classic plays with flair, wit and a dash of irreverence just wouldn't die. In 2004 Will Bird revived the company in Sheffield and thanks to the talents of some wonderful local actors and the generosity and technical know how-of a brilliant back-stage team Next Best Thing were able to bring a whole new cycle of unjustly neglected European comedies and epic drama to the stage.