Monthly archives: January 2012

SIXTY FIVE MILES – Rehearsal Week 3

Typically, we spend four weeks rehearsing a new play before we take the work from the rehearsal room in to the theatre to begin technical rehearsals. Party because of the Christmas break, and partly because we’re performing SIXTY FIVE MILES in repertory with Hull Truck Theatre’s production of ONCE UPON A TIME IN WIGAN, we have rehearsed Matt’s play for three weeks – albeit three incredibly focussed and productive weeks.

As previously reported on this blog, we spent week one of rehearsals discovering the world, themes time-period and backstory of the play and week two working out what actually happens over the course of the action of the play. Week three has been about practicing capturing all of this information in the performing of the play so that it’s all made clear and believable to the audience. This is no mean feat given how much detailed psychological and emotional information needs accurately communicating in order for the performance to form a believable whole, and for the full weight and significance of Matt’s beautiful play to properly land with an audience.

Thankfully, I’m blessed with five incredibly intuitive, insightful and unrelentingly hard-working actors who have made the process one of constant discovery and continual improvement. We were joined mid-way through the third week by Matt himself, who has provided a well-timed confidence-boost and invaluable outside eye. Also joining us at the end of last week were the brilliant creative team of Amy Cook (Designer), Tim Deiling (Lighting Designer) and Ed Lewis (Sound Designer/Composer), as well as CEO of Hull Truck Andrew Smaje and the Production Management team of Fran Maskell and our very own Bernd Fauler. With everyone assembled on Saturday afternoon, we ran our rehearsed versions of all 9 of the play’s scenes in the correct order for the first time.

After one more day in the rehearsal room yesterday, we moved in to the theatre this morning to begin technical rehearsals, whereby we practice our rehearsal-room work on stage, on the set, under lights and with sound. This piecing together of the various production elements will take us all of this week as we learn exactly how the production functions in front of an audience for the first time on Wednesday evening. There will be changes, mistakes, excitement and a whole lot of waiting around – but that’s tech week for you. All will be reported later this week once we’ve opened the show.

You can read more about the play in this interview with Matt.

You can listen to actor Ian Bleasedale talking about the production on BBC Radio Humberside here.

And here is a slightly inarticulate interview I did about the process of rehearsing two plays simultaneously.

Whilst we hope to have the chance to take the production on tour at a later date, SIXTY FIVE MILES is currently scheduled for a limited run in Hull only. You can book tickets here.

Roundabout play text competition

In last week’s newsletter we asked you to get in touch and tell us the name of the play written by Dennis Kelly, which Paines Plough co-produced with the Bush Theatre in 2005.

The answer was of course AFTER THE END.

Thanks to those of you who emailed and tweeted your answers.

And congratulations to the five lucky winners:

Peter Woo-Ming
Eleanor Smith
Simon MacDonald
Sarah Johnson
Peter Ranson

Copies of ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG by Nick Payne, LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan and THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN by Penelope Skinner will be making their way to you shortly.


A stitch in time saves nine

Half (3 people!) of the PP team are up in Hull as George is directing Hull Truck’s production of ONCE UPON A TIME IN WIGAN by Mick Martin, which opens tomorrow night.

The play forms part of the Hull Truck Ensemble for its 40th Anniversary, of which the other play is Matt Hartley’s SIXTY FIVE MILES that we are co-producing and that opens on 1 February.

But the biggest PP breaking news is that our production manager Bernd spent the night in A&E after cutting his finger with a jigsaw. Avoid looking below if you’re of a squeamish disposition!


Thankfully the good doctors of Hull Royal Infirmary bandaged him up and here he is looking much happier.


And we thought we’d already had our bad luck for the week, having suffered a break in to our offices on Tuesday. They say things come in three…


SIXTY FIVE MILES – Rehearsal Week Two

Last week saw half of team PP decamp to Hull to continue rehearsals for SIXTY FIVE MILES by Matt Hartley – the first production of our Programme 2012.

Before Christmas we spent about 10 days working through the text, gathered around the rehearsal room table at PPHQ, building a shared understanding of the world of the play (Greater Sheffield in 2005), the backstory of the characters (from 1940 until 2005) and agreeing what actually happens in the course of the action of the play. From there we were able to build a detailed time-line that recorded key moments in the lives of the characters (starting with when they were all born) as well as the events that take place over the course of the play itself, alongside important social, cultural and political events that help explain and contextualise the choices Matt has made in crafting the imagined previous lives of the characters in the play.

Alan Morrissey and Katie West in rehearsals for SIXTY FIVE MILES

One of the central themes of Matt’s play is family. Nearly all of the characters are related to each other by one form of familial bond or another. As such, they have vast numbers of shared memories and experiences from the lives they lived alongside each other, many years before the beginning of the play. These memories and experiences, like in life, have a huge impact on how they behave in the ‘here-and-now’ of the play – the choices they make, the feelings they have towards each other and what they say and do to each other. In order to accurately capture the characteristics of the characters, to truthfully portray their onstage relationships and to understand their behaviour, we went through a process of identifying these past lives, so artfully built in to the play by Matt when he wrote it. In other words, we aim to understand the action of the play by clearly and continuously uncovering and articulating everything that pre-dates it.

With the bulk of that work completed before Christmas, and digested over the festive season (along with lots of turkey, wine and chocolate), we reconvened on Wednesday last week to begin rehearsing the action of the play. Heavily informed by our research in to the world of the play and the characters’ backstory, we started to practice the words, actions, intentions and spaces of the play, all with the purpose of making Matt’s story clear, accurate and life-like. These have been the ‘first draft’ rehearsals of the scenes of the play, with the actors on their feet, acting out the scenes with each other for the first time. We will have three or four rehearsals of each scene before we start running the play in full.

As I wrote about in my last blog from the SIXTY FIVE MILES rehearsal room, this approach to rehearsing a play is rooted in a Stanislavskian approach to acting and is pretty much common practice in one form or another, as I understand it, throughout Western Theatre. I remember reading about it in An Actor Prepares and Building A Character when I was doing my Theatre Studies A Level. Then a few years ago I was offered an incredible opportunity by the Young Vic to better understand putting the ideas in to practice – David Lan arranged for eight directors to spend two weeks at the Maly Theatre in St.Petersburg, where we learned from the theatre’s Artistic Director Lev Dodin how they used the Stanislavky Method to rehearse their work (with the most striking revelation being that the company often rehearses productions for up to three years before opening them). Most recently I have found Katie Mitchell’s book The Director’s Craft to be the clearest and most practically applicable way of using the method within a British production model.

Whilst we hope to have the chance to take the production  on tour at a later date, SIXTY FIVE MILES is currently scheduled for a limited run in Hull only. You can book tickets here.

A rookie’s eye view..

Hello there! I’m Kate and this is the beginning of my first full week as Paines Plough’s new administrative intern. Luckily, the lovely previous intern Sean Linnen was here last week to ease me in and make sure I didn’t book 200 quid’s worth of train journeys on the wrong day or something. We had a nice send off for Sean who we know is going on to bigger and better things.

I’m (hopefully) starting to get to grips with how things work here. As you may or may not know, the office is stuffed to the gills with cake and other sugary edibles. Today it was doughnuts – it never ceases. There’s a white chocolate cake hidden in a drawer.

So far I’ve been answering a helluva lot of phone calls. I was very excited to see my biography go up on the website which made me feel proper welcome (as well as delighting the folks!) Everyone currently in the office: Claire, Tara, James and Bernd have so far been only lovely. I look forward to meeting Hanna and George in the near future.

Right, so, what’s on the horizon theatre-wise?

Well, I’m off to see Haunted Child by Joe Penhall at the Royal Court tonight along with some other members of the team. Looks suitably spooky.

Also, am rather delighted to be getting the opportunity to see Matt Hartley’s Sixty-Five Miles up in Hull when it opens on the 1st February. As an Irish lass only recently moved to London I am extremely glad to have the opportunity to sample some theatre outside of the capital.

Hope you all had a good new year and watch out for Programme 2012 coming soon.

And it’s goodbye from me…

So, James has just walked into the office and said ‘I have never known an office go through as much cake as this one’. Very true facts. It’s been a very short three months since I arrived at 43 Aldwych but one thing I have certainly realised as mentioned in my very first blog is that to keep the production office going, it has to be regularly fed with cake. So much so, Hanna, our Administrator, sent us these beauties before Christmas (she is off loving life in New Zealand until next week) in order to keep us perky during the wind down to the festive season.

This week our cakes of choice have been pannetone, one of those caterpillar birthday cakes, a chocolate indulgence cake, and a white chocolate and raspberry victoria sponge. And yes…we have only been in four days this week…and yes, the new year no carbs detox regime WILL start next week…possibly…

So aside from the sugary snacks, what else will I miss about working at the national theatre of new plays?

I’ll miss the warmth of the whole team who work here- James, George, Claire, Tara, Hanna and Bernd- their enthusiasm and drive to meet and nurture not only new writers but also as many emerging actors, directors, designers, and producers as they can and their unfailing commitment to tour as far and wide in the UK so that everyone has the chance to see some top quality new writing no matter where they live.

I’ve had an absolutely brilliant three months here, learnt lots, ate too much cake, read plenty of new plays and booked so much train travel that during November I felt like I spent more time speaking to the people in the trainline call centre then Hanna, Claire and Tara in the office…

Finally, I’ll leave you with a question posed to me in my first week at PP HQ which has kept me thinking for all this time and I still don’t think I’ve found a perfect answer yet…

Who gets the parts that Kate Winslet turns down? See… it’s a toughie!

See you soon Paines Plough!


Stage 100 features James & George

We were very proud to see our ADs James & George featured in yesterday’s The Stage 100 list.

The Stage 100 is the annual guide to the 100 most influential people working in the UK theatre industry, and Paines Plough featured in the Regional section for the second year running.

Here’s what The Stage had to say:

Winner of The Stage’s TMA Award in 2010, Paines Plough has continued to impress in 2011. Mike Bartlett’s LOVE, LOVE, LOVE was one of the new writing highlights of the year and deservedly picked up The Theatre Award UK for Best New Play. Meanwhile, the company’s decision to build a 150-seat in-the-round theatre to tour the country is hugely exciting. One of the busiest (and highest quality) producers of touring work around.

Lots of our friends and colleagues were featured too, including LOVE, LOVE, LOVE playwright Mike Bartlett, Chair of our Board Caro Newling, and former Paines Plough Artistic and Associate Directors Vicky Featherstone and John Tiffany.

Thanks to The Stage for including us!

Hello 2012

Well we hope you had a suitably slumberous and gluttonous Christmas, and that you partied like it was 1999 all over again as Big Ben tolled in 2012. Wishing you all a very Happy New Year. It’s going to be a cracker.

We’re back at our desks at PP HQ working off our expanded waistlines by putting the finishing touches to a bumper programme for 2012. All will be revealed soon, so keep ‘em peeled on our website and follow us on Twitter to get the news first. Needless to say, wherever you are in the UK, a Paines Plough show will becoming to a town near you soon.

Of course we’ve already announced a couple of 2012 highlights. George is currently holed up in a rehearsal room in Hull working with a superb cast on Matt Hartley’s brilliant new play 65 MILES. Our co-production with Hull Truck opens on 1 February.

And tickets are selling fast for Mike Bartlett’s award-winning LOVE, LOVE, LOVE which opens in a new co-production with The Royal Court in The Jerwood Theatre Downstairs on 27 April. Don’t miss out, book now.

We’ll also be announcing new dates around the UK for COME TO WHERE I’M FROM, but meantime you can listen to free podcasts of plays from the last two years here.

The critics have been making their predictions for highlights in the coming year, and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE has been picked by Michael Coveney in, Mark Shenton in The Stage, and features in Time Out’s theatre we’re most looking forward to in 2012.

You can vote for LOVE, LOVE, LOVE in the Best Regional Production category in the Awards.

Lyn Gardner picks 65 MILES in her 2012 preview in The Guardian, and fellow Guardian writer Maxie Szalwinska says she’s “licking my lips” at the prospect of catching Duncan Macmillan’s LUNGS, so let’s hope that’s part of our Programme 2012…

Post a comment and let us know what you’re looking forward to seeing in 2012. We hope to see you at one of our shows. We’ll reveal all very soon.