Julian Maynard Smith (son of the evolutionary geneticist John Maynard Smith) and Miranda Payne founded the company in 1980, and Maynard Smith remains its artistic director. The company has worked with artists and others from many different fields. The work varies enormously in scale, appearance and location and uses spectacle to explore the intimate relationship between people and the environment they inhabit. Described as "Brilliant...one of Britain's most inventive experimental theatre companies and "unlike anything you've ever seen before, the company have created spectacular projects in a variety of locations all over the world, from New York's Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage to Dresden's historic Frauenkirche and Salisbury Cathedral. More recently the work has been uniquely created for more intimate spaces in Europe, Asia and South America. Based in London, it is managed by Artsadmin.
The company has created over thirty productions. While some are stand-alone pieces, others form groups that explore general themes using a particular material or methodology. Natural Disasters, Drunken Madness, Scenes From A New Jericho and Cuckoo destabilised the mundane physical world of the performers by taking the action precariously to the air. A Split Second of Paradise, Piranesi in New York, The Bastille Dances, Dedesenn nn rrrrrr and The Salisbury Proverbs used loose breeze blocks with which performers built, demolished and rebuilt structures of an architectural scale. Snakes and Ladders, Roadmetal, Sweetbread and Mare's Nest used video projection to generate doubled versions of the action on stage that posed questions of perception and interpretation. Recent work such as Live from Paradise, Play on Earth, and The Other Is You has concentrated on video streaming over the internet to bring performances in different parts of the world together in the creation of a single event that is both physical and virtual.