Monthly archives: August 2011

Our escapades at Edfringe

Edinburgh. With all too familiar cloud cover that will soon put paid to that sunshine!

We’re back at HQ exhausted but exhilarated after our week in Edinburgh. Fringe decompression starts here.

Huge thanks to everyone who came to our two days of Open Auditions – more than 200 of you. We loved meeting and talking to you all, and we were very excited by the breadth and depth of talent on display.

As always we saw some brilliant extracts of plays, with Scottish playwrights like David Greig, Rona Munro, Linda McLean and Douglas Maxwell amongst the most popular. Interestingly, over the two days, female playwrights were more performed than male playwrights for the first time in Open Auditions.

On the second day I conducted a straw poll amongst auditionees asking: “Who’s your favourite playwright?” The answers make for interesting reading. Namechecked were: Anthony Neilson, Bryony Lavery, April De Angelis, Lally Katz, Steve Thompson, David Greig, Lucy Prebble, Laura Wade, Martin Crimp, Linda McLean, Philip Ridley, Sarah Kane, Arthur Miller, John Godber, Douglas Maxwell, Rona Munro, Ella Hickson, Alan Aykbourn, Jez Butterworth, Che Walker, Simon Stephens, Mike Bartlett, Mark Ravenhill, Moira Buffini and, um, Franz Kafka, who we were hitherto unaware had actually written any plays.

We’re really grateful to our friends at C Venues for hosting Open Auditions.

We also greatly enjoyed meeting and chatting to everyone who came to our Fringe Central Q&A. We had several fascinating discussions about the Fringe itself and about touring, funding and new writing in general. We talked about our favourite phrase – “force it into existence” – and how we believe emerging artists should produce their own work rather than waiting for established theatres to do so. Easier said than done, but the Edinburgh Fringe is inspiration enough to give it a go. Tenacity and enterpreneurialism built the world’s greatest arts festival.

Of course we were also in town to glut ourselves on as much theatre as possible, and we managed to see more than 60 shows between us.

George and I went up for a few days at the start of the festival and saw:

DUCKS
MISSION DRIFT
YOUR LAST BREATH
TAKETH ME AWAY
YOUNG PRETENDER
TOUR GUIDE
WHEN WOMEN WEE
THE MONSTER IN THE HALL
THE GOLDEN DRAGON
THE FORUM
A SLOW AIR
WHISTLE
MAN OF VALOUR
WHAT REMAINS
THE WHEEL
FUTUREPROOF

Then in the past week between us we covered (amongst others):

ROSE
WRETCH
TRANSLUNAR PARADISE
OEDIPUS

DREAM PILL
MIDNIGHT YOUR TIME
TONIGHT SANDY GRIERSON WILL LECTURE, DANCE AND BOX
SHERICA
AUDIENCE
PHILLIPA AND WILL ARE NOW IN A RELATIONSHIP
MY FILTHY HUNT
I HOPE MY HEART GOES FIRST
FITZROVIA RADIO HOUR
IF THAT’S ALL THERE IS
2401 OBJECTS
3RD RING OUT
JOHN PEEL’S SHED
THE DARK PHILOSOPHERS
FEDERER VS MURRAY
TUESDAY AT TESCO’S
YOU ONCE SAID YES
GO TO YOUR GOD LIKE A SOLDIER
WHICH ONE’S FERGAL?
GUTTER JUNKY
THIRSTY
THE OH F**K MOMENT
SOLD
BODY OF WATER
THE TABLE
BELARUS FREE THEATRE: MINSK 2011
LAUNDRY BOY
MAD ABOUT THE BOY
THE SEXUAL AWAKENING OF PETE MAYO
BLOOD AND ROSES
BELT UP’S OUTLAND

ROADKILL

We also marvelled at Kate Tempest‘s extraordinary scratch for BAC. In just five hours, she wrote a 15 minute poem which she then performed in the incredible Anatomy Theatre at Summerhall accompanied by an ace violinist. To quote a tweet from someone straight afterwards: “everyone just sat with their mouths open”.

We bopped to Little Bulb’s GOOSE PARTY and laughed a lot at TOM DEACON and RUSSELL KANE and HOLLY WALSH and ISY SUTTIE and FRISKY AND MANNISH and were wowed by LUKE WRIGHT’S CYNICAL BALLADS and AISLE 16 and THE HORNE SECTION and SHLOMO.

We did a bit of dancing and drank some beers and met lots of interesting people and got a cumulative total of about 40 minutes sleep. It was marvellous.

Inspired and invigorated and absolutely knackered we’ve headed home. Thank you Edinburgh. We had a ball.

One last thing… we’re really sorry if you invited us to see your show and we didn’t make it. We would have loved to have seen twice as much, but the schedule was jam-packed. We hope you all had great festivals.

Bring on next year.

Trapped in the Closet

A disconcerting hush has descended on the Paines Plough offices this week, as most of the team have decamped to Edinburgh for some fringe action (festival not coiffure).  Amy, Bernd and I are running the show in London, and, whilst we were initially feeling a little sorry for ourselves for being stuck in boring old London, we soon found a task to occupy us. As Claire had pointed out before setting off for Auld Reekie, this brief quiet spell would offer the perfect opportunity to clear out THE CUPBOARD.

It’s worth mentioning that the PP offices are currently undergoing a bit of a makeover. There’s a fresh lick of paint on the walls, a whole new crop of framed show posters have gone up and there’s even some nice shelves for some of the awards Paines Plough have won over the years. However, the one room yet to be transformed is the store cupboard. In fact, we’ve mainly been deploying the well-known ‘gather all the mess in one small room, shut the door and forget about it’ technique. However, this practise ultimately results in the steady accumulation of mess and random items, along with a residual feeling of guilt.

After forcing the door open (there was a suitcase and a guitar blocking the way), Amy and I surveyed the chaos.  And so began the migration of the contents into the rehearsal room, in order to sort, chuck and re-home.  We sorted things into designated areas: ‘To Keep’, ‘To Throw’ & ‘Seriously, What Is This?’

There were times when we felt like giving up, especially at the point at which we’d taken everything out and had no idea where to put it. The cupboard shares much in common with Mary Poppins’ handbag;  one just can’t conceive of how that much stuff can come out of such a small space. But we conquered our tidying fatigue and pushed on. And eventually, after many sugar-filled breaks, we began to see the wood for the trees. And also the carpet.  We’re proud to say that the cupboard is now hovered, ordered and fit for purpose. How long it’ll stay tidy however, is another matter.

Some highlights from the clean out include: Day of the Dead figurines:

A creepy white shroud- complete with musty smell and staining:

A cool Christmas mug:

A (hopefully prop) syringe:

A small jar of buttons:

Footage from LOVE in Galway

Our Artistic Director James gave an interview to Galway Arts Festival TV when we were over in Ireland with LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. It includes some footage of the cast rehearsing in the Town Hall Theatre prior to our sold-out week long run.

We haven’t been able to embed the video, but you can watch it here.

Step Changing from NT to Play, Pie, Pint

please note: pint pictured is not actual size

As this is the end of my third week working with Paines Plough I thought it was about time I wrote a blog. I’m Rachel, and I’m here due to a frankly brilliant scheme called Step Change.

The idea behind the programme is to try and counteract the fact that the theatre industry can be haphazard in terms of spotting and nurturing people who have management and producing potential. My experience, working at the National Theatre as the Technical and Production Administrator, has been great in terms of teaching me about the theatrical process on a large scale; but when it comes to the next step in my career, I’m going to need specific experience that my role at the NT as a little cog in a big old machine doesn’t afford me.

Participants on Step Change get a week of masterclasses from industry experts and several follow-up sessions; a mentor to give advice/drink with/be talked down by (mine, Ros, is General Manager at the Old Vic); and a secondment of around 40 days in another organisation. And this is where my path meets Paines Plough’s.

Paines Plough had put together two secondment proposals, and when I first met with Tara and Claire I told them I was interested in working as Assistant Producer on what turned out to be the upcoming Roundabout project. I’m a Sheffield girl, and the concept – a portable theatre space, initially within the Crucible, a company in rep, three brand new plays – sounded very exciting whilst still allowing me to cling on to my comfort zone (read: opportunity to jump on the 82 to my Mum’s for a cuppa if it all got too much). I still think the Roundabout project is going to be brilliant and I’m really enjoying being in the office watching it all coming together.

But when Tara called and said they thought I’d be better served by being given even MORE responsibility, and would I be up for being the Trainee Producer on this year’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint, I was thrilled. Then terrified. Then thrilled again.

So I’m spending two days a week south of the river with the NT, and three on the north bank with Paines Plough, until mid-September when we hit Òran Mór in Glasgow with our three brilliant plays. We will then be touring to the Traverse in Edinburgh, the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and the Belgrade in Coventry. So far I have been meeting with the writers, putting together our teams (Stage Management, Lighting and Sound design), drafting ideas for marketing material and next week I’m travelling up to Edinburgh to continue casting one of the plays – at the National, there are whole departments to do each of those things.

I can see that our three plays are going to present me with completely different challenges, and I’m sure that that will mean a lot of thinking on my feet – particularly when I take the lead once we’re in Scotland. But that’s what I’m after – a buzz, a challenge and above all, the opportunity to get properly hands-on and help create some excellent theatre. I’ll keep you updated.

In the mean time, if you’d like to know more about Step Change, let me know by posting a comment here, or check out www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/stepchange.

How to make a PP Edinburgh Schedule

Edinburgh Schedule

First you will need a reliable electronic calendar (check.)

Second of all you will need access to the very user friendly Edinburgh Fringe website (check).

And lastly a constant supply of sweets/biscuits/chocolate to stop your brain from exploding. (Double check).

Next week the team will be heading up to the Edinburgh Festival for a week of what can only be described as hardcore theatre-going.  Little did I realise what would be in store for me when casually asked would I mind putting a schedule together for the week in Edinburgh.

With approximately 65 show invites (and counting), 2 days of open auditions along with some casting and workshop sessions, this proved to be no easy task.

For any of you who may think your kind invitations go unnoticed – think again creative people – we really do try to see all the brilliant work writers, actors and designers are doing, along with continuing to support those that Paines Plough have collaborated with both past, present and in the future.

There will still be a few of us holding the forte here at our London office but I cannot deny I am a little bit jealous (ok insanely jealous) of the creative treats in store for the Edinburgh contingent.  One thing’s for certain I will for once be getting more sleep than everyone else.

Summer Signings

Casting begins today for three productions of ‘Programme 2011’. I am directing brand new plays by Katie Douglas and Leo Butler with fellow Artistic Director James taking the helm of David Watson’s new work. We have co-commisioned all three playwrights with Oran Mor in Glasgow, where the plays premiere this autumn.

Our commissioning policy means that we are often committing to producing commissions long before they even have titles, let alone scenes. We find it the most thrilling way to work with writers. James talks about the resulting ‘New Plays with No Names’ here.

With Katie’s play first up in the season, we’re beginning to meet actors this week in London and next week in Edinburgh. With Open Auditions in both cities this week and next, we’re incredibly excited about the prospect of meeting many actors new to the company, who we hope to be able to consider for the three plays we’re currently casting.

Personally, I think casting is one of the best parts of the directing job. Having been brought up immersed in Sunday league football, Match of the Day and Championship Manager, there’s something in the casting process that reminds me of picking a dream team of players – the more individually skilled, well suited to their role and equipped they are to team play, the stronger the team itself becomes.

Here at Paines Plough we’re fortunate enough to have worked with some incredible actors over the years. Thanks to our new Open Audition initiative, the number of actors whose work we have seen is rocketing up each year, which only makes it easier for us to find the right actor for each part and to give each play we produce the production it deserves.

We ♥ Actors

Lots of lovely actors gathering at Open Auditions

We had another brilliant day of Open Auditions at The Actors Centre in London yesterday, meeting 180 actors for the first time.

Open Auditions are our way of broadening our horizons when it comes to casting, and getting to meet actors we might not otherwise get to know. So we split the PP team across three rooms and meet actors for a quick chat, and ask them to prepare a duologue from a play written in the last 15 years. Joining us yesterday were Charlotte Bennett and Fran Bradley from our Associate Company Forward Theatre Project, director Titas Halder, and freelance casting director Sophie Davies.

It’s a great way to spend a Sunday. Aside from the wealth of talent on show, we met some fascinating people from all walks of life, with amazing stories to tell…

We also get to spend the day listening to extracts from brilliant plays by writers we love. The most popular choices of the day were COCK by Mike Bartlett and EIGENGRAU by Penelope Skinner. Both of which we thoroughly approve of! We also heard extracts from plays by Jez Butterworth, debbie tucker green, Jack Thorne, David Greig, Dennis Kelly, Laura Wade, Tom Basden, Martin McDonagh, Fiona Evans, Moira Buffini, DC Moore, Simon Stephens, Anya Reiss, Anthony Neilson, Nick Payne, Chloe Moss and lots more. A few people even wrote their own duologues, which were great to hear.

So what happens next? We keep everyone’s details on file and if we liked what you showed us we’ll be sure to keep you in mind for future castings. Lots of people we’ve met for the first time through Open Auditions have subsequently been invited in to meet for our productions. At the end of the day yesterday, as always after Open Auditions, the pub discussion centred around finding parts for people who really blew us away.

We’re so grateful to everyone who took the time to come and meet us. It was a real pleasure, and we hope you’ll all stay in touch.

Next stop Edinburgh, where we’re meeting 192 actors over two days when we’re taking up residence with our friends at C Venues. If you’re coming along, check out our Top Tips here.

And if you’ve got any feedback for us, or ideas how we can improve the Open Auditions experience, please let us know by posting a comment.

Constructing the Roundabout

This, apparently, is OSB. You learn something new every day.

Producing embraces the balance of the creative with the practical.

I have had the pleasure of being in auditions for the ROUNDABOUT season, watching a wealth of talented actors and engaging with the three directors’ various creative processes.

On the more practical end of the spectrum, with four weeks to go to rehearsals of the first play, Nick Payne’s ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, it was time to source the builders for our 150-seater pop-up portable auditorium.

We went to see Andy at Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre workshop, and listening to him and Lucy Osborne talk through her sketches and CAD drawings was a small challenge to keep up with. They dashed through materials – OSB, mdf, hardboard – discussing different attributes and finishes (it is also part of the brief for the auditorium to be built from sustainable materials). They also chatted through measurements – radius of stage and structure itself – but they have the added perameters of adhering to regulations for width of entry and exits and the incline on treads (staircases) whilst maintaining 150 seats. There were times when it felt like solving an algebra problem!

Andy showed me around the workshop, the smell of sown wood is inviting and drives home the physical labour and skill that builds the creative realisation of the three plays in ROUNDABOUT season.

The Belgrade currently has jobs from the National and are already building their panto – it was interesting to see the theatre landscape from a different perspective and begin to understand the scope of work and range of organisations these skilled carpenters and painters deliver for.

It is a world I hope to learn more about and spend time getting to know – and it certainly makes one want to improve on your basic DIY skills!

Hello! Let the show begin – I’m ready!

Having worked on a freelance basis over the past 8 years, I was more than excited when I walked into my new full-time position as Production Manager for Paines Plough. Overlooking the BT tower from my desk, it has been a real jump into the cold water – or to be more truthful, a jump into a busy and exciting period here at PP. Preparations for the ROUNDABOUT season are in full swing and the annual A PLAY, A PIE AND A PINT season (touring to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Coventry) is just around the corner.

All in all, six new productions in a wide range of spaces and settings need looking after, planning, finalising and delivering before the year comes to an end. So it is no wonder that I am still introducing myself to directors, stage managers, venue contacts and many more creatively involved people. All of whom are passionate about making each performance something special.

In my short time here, I have already had the chance to travel to Coventry, Holloway, Walthamstow and Sheffield. The highlight here is undoubtedly  a rather rushed but successful visit to Primark in a cold and rainy Sheffield. Thanks Tara! And, there is much more to come.

Over the coming weeks I shall be using our national rail network on a regular basis, visiting workshops and venues across the country; meeting all the more folks who help us make our work a success.

Bernd

Confessions of a Trainee Producer

Chrissy Jay
Photograph: Elyse Marks

Joining Paines Plough in the last week of June, I was nervous to say the least. Almost 9 months of study at Birkbeck on the MA Creative Producing had given me the tools to do the job of Trainee Producer, but I knew putting them into practice would be the time to see how much I had really learned.

Just over two months later, with two productions under our belt, I am finally feeling like a Producer. There have been so many highlights, the day that Tara handed WASTED to me and said to ‘run with it’ perhaps being the highest of all (and the most terrifying). The chance to work with a stellar cast, creative team and the inimitable Kate Tempest has been beyond all my hopes for this secondment. Their energy, enthusiasm and passion for the play saw us all through a very muddy Latitude and ensured we came out smiling. It is only the beginning of the story for WASTED, which will tour from February 2012, I am so proud to have been a part of the team that got it off the ground.

On to other highlights; seeing THE 8TH on stage, in all its glory at Manchester International Festival, after a fraught opening night; the pleasure of supporting playwrights in workshopping their plays through The Big Room and the chance to hear James & George talk with such passion about theatre, new writing and their hopes for the future of Paines Plough has left me inspired and raring to go.

Well, there are still three weeks left here and plenty to be getting on with. This weekend I am very much looking forward to the Open Auditions, before heading off for a few days of theatre saturation in Edinburgh at the end of the month (any recommendations let me know!) and continuing work on WASTED, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and the ROUNDABOUT SEASON.