Monthly archives: August 2012

Round about the Roundabout

At the midpoint of our rehearsals for the Roundabout season, it would seem that everything is coming in twos.

Two weeks of rehearsals have already gone by, for both our plays One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne and Lungs by Duncan Macmillan. We are rehearsing in two different rehearsal spaces – Paines Plough HQ and the Jerwood Space – with two directors – Clare Lizzimore and Richard Wilson. Both plays are two handers, in the capable hands of two ladies and two gents, Maia Alexander, Kate O’Flynn, Andrew Sheridan and Alistair Cope. And finally, both stories take place in the twowentieth century.

Nearing the midpoint of a four week rehearsal period, we are coming to a close on rehearsals for the above. Approaches to the text taken in both rooms were brilliantly varied; Clare meticulous with beats and transitive verbs throughout One Day . . , Richard pinpointing moments and working them over and over, tackling Lungs’ overlapping, relentless dialogue with aplomb.

And perhaps the most crucial ‘two’ to consider is the second life both plays have been given. Rather than a lacklustre reblock, both directors have excavated their texts once again. Spurred on by the reworkings given to them by both Nick and Duncan, both casts have found new areas for play as well as re-examining previously accepted truths.

Final runs are taking place over the next couple of days, some with a selected audience, to gauge reactions and up the ante. Choreography and decisions are being consolidated during these final few hours, before the next production begins.

Which is The Sound of Heavy Rain. All three writers have reworked their scripts since their first outings in Sheffield last year, but Penelope Skinner’s in particular has undergone an exciting transformation. With another two week block set aside to play with it, the creatives have their work cut out for them.

So two weeks down and two more to go. Here’s to the next two . . .

What is a playwright’s greatest fear?

What is a playwright’s greatest fear?

Writer’s block, perhaps? Technical problems on press night? Nicholas De Jong coming out of retirement? Spiders?

No, apparently the thing that turns playwright’s knees to jelly and fills them with abject terror is stepping out on stage and performing.

We know this, because we’ve seen a lot of jelly-kneed playwrights in the past two years in towns and cities across the country as we’ve been touring the nation with COME TO WHERE I’M FROM. The premise is simple – we ask playwrights to write a short play about the place they call home…. then we make them perform it themselves.

The vast majority have loved the experience – after the event. But in the lead-up, for many, it’s the scariest thing they’ve ever had to do.

Fin Kennedy was one such trembling playwright prior to his performance at the Brighton edition of COME TO WHERE I’M FROM, and he’s written a brilliant blog about the experience, delving into the psyche that made him fear the stage. We urge you to read it, it’s a fascinating insight.

“I realise I’m making a ridiculous fuss. I realised that at the time. But for some reason I really am quite irrationally terrified of performing on stage. It’s odd, because I teach all the time, and standing in front of a class and speaking for three hours at a stretch is no problem. You could even call it a form of performance. But then, that’s about the specific task of analysing a text, or illustrating the three-act structure, or how to conduct a research interview. It’s safe. Writing about myself does not feel safe.”

Fin also writes brilliantly and honestly about the writer’s art of lying, or at least of bending the truth. One of the great thrills of COME TO WHERE I’M FROM is trying to work out what’s real and what’s not, when we’re being told the truth and when we’re being artfully manipulated.

You can listen to Fin’s extraordinary COME TO WHERE I’M FROM play as a podcast here, along with the other Brighton plays, and there are more than 60 COME TO WHERE I’M FROM play podcasts from around the UK also on our website.

Have a listen, and have a ponder. Is it autobiography? Is it artifice? Does it matter?

Photoblog: Ventnor Fringe Festival

Last weekend we set sail for the Isle Of Wight to present COME TO WHERE I’M FROM at the brilliant Ventnor Fringe Festival. A full report is on its way from Mark, but meantime, here’s a pictorial diary of our weekend.

Having set sail from Portsmouth Harbour…

…a rather quaint little train – which resembled an old school London tube carriage – picked us up from Ryde Pier Head…

…and we rocked up in Hollyw… um, Ventnor!

…where Ventnor Fringe is in full flow with a huge range of performances and events in various venues around the town…

…and the view of Ventnor Bay from the rooftop of our apartment is pretty stunning…

On Saturday we pitched up at The Courtyard in the centre of town to run some workshops and present COME TO WHERE I’M FROM…

Four Isle Of Wight playwrights – Hannah George, John Goodwin, Titas Halder and Kirsty Housley – performed their COME TO WHERE I’M FROM plays to a sun-drenched courtyard fulll of lovely people…

…who had no idea they were being photographed from a blimp in the sky…

Show and workshops done, it was back to our roof terrace to read some plays with a sea view…

…before lining the streets for Ventnor’s annual illuminated carnival…

…and then heading to the Festival’s awesome pop-up beach bar The Observatory…

…and finally returning to our roof terrace to marvel at Ventnor by night…

…until Sunday morning when it’s time to board the boat back to the mainland…

To Meat or not to Meet

“I could fly to New York and back every day for seven years and still not leave a carbon footprint as big as if I have a child. Ten thousand tonnes of CO2. That’s the weight of the Eiffel Tower. I’d be giving birth to the Eiffel Tower.”

– LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan

On a sunny morning last week we all sat down for a readthrough of Duncan Macmillan’s play LUNGS directed by Richard Wilson, which is being performed as part of the Roundabout Season London this autumn. And after re-engaging with this brilliant play there were plenty of discussions in the office about  global warming and overpopulation.

The overpopulation debate is very much in the headlines at the moment, as leading scientists have issued a warning this weekend that the world’s population may need to switch to a meat-free diet over the next 40 years to avoid massive food shortages. Fears of water shortages restricting food production combined with the estimated world population rise of 2 billion by 2050 mean that we all may need to consider becoming vegetarians!

And in response to this there’s an interesting article in The Guardian today with tips for meat-free eating.

So what are your thoughts on the overpopulation crisis and would you become a vegetarian to save the planet? Let us know your thoughts

If you want more information or to book for the Roundabout Season London click here.



Come To Where I’m From – Brighton podcasts

Back in June we spent a fantastic weekend in Brighton, culminating in COME TO WHERE I’M FROM at the Brighton Pavillion, featuring four local playwrights.

If you missed it, never fear. Mark’s blog will tell you all you need to know, and we now have all four plays live on our site as free-to-listen podcasts. So make yourself a cup of tea, sit back, and listen to tales from the seaside courtesy of Kefi Chadwick, Fin Kennedy, Sue McLaine and Judy Upton.

You can also take a whistlestop tour of the town thanks to our handy Playwright’s Guide To Brighton.

And don’t forget, there is a huge library of podcasts featuring COME TO WHERE I’M FROM plays by  playwrights from Jersey to Coventry to Newcastle, all free to listen at any time right here.

Next stops for COME TO WHERE I’M FROM are Cheltenham and Kendal later this year…


Variety is the Spice of Life

Variety is the spice of life

We’ve all heard that old saying but nevertheless we are rather keen on it here at Paines Plough.

For our Roundabout Season London this autumn we want to treat you to a mezze plate of new writing. We will be presenting three new plays from three of the UK’s hottest young writers at Shoreditch Town Hall from 19th September – 27th October: One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne, LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan and The Sound of Heavy Rain by Penelope Skinner.

So whatever your taste in theatre you can find it at the Roundabout – from young love sparked in the embers of WWII (Nick Payne), parenting debates in the queue at IKEA (Duncan Macmillan), to a mystery unfolding at a smokey cabaret bar in Soho (Penelope Skinner).

All three shows will be performed in the unique 360 degree setting of the Roundabout auditorium.

And to help you make your selection, you can choose your theatrical tapas of choice (liking these food puns?) from our spanking new schedule below:

And if you fancy a buffet then we you can catch all three shows in one day on Saturdays and Sundays for only £45 (this offer has limited availability so we recommend booking in advance via the National Theatre’s Box Office line 020 7452 3000).

If you want more information or to book for the Roundabout Season London click here.


Good with People rehearsal diary – the opening

The act of opening something is inherently dramatic. Thumbing the perforations of an unexpected parcel, considering an unfamiliar silhouette behind the front door, raising a palm in the middle of the road – all of these openings will lead to something new, to consequences unknown. We too had our own opening this month, that of Good with People, at the Traverse during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

But openings in the world of theatre are a-changing. Whereas we could once talk of things being ‘alright on the night’, it would be most probably followed up with ‘but, do you mean press, previews, industry or first night’? In the messy world of British theatre ‘openings’, instead of just tearing open the letter and being done with it, instead we’re asked whether we want to steam it first and use a palette knife afterwards, before fetching our bifocals for a considered read – after a cup of coffee, of course.

And there are certainly fewer fireworks and ageing celebrities involved than at other events opening round a similar time to us . . .

The Traverse made things slightly easier on this front, if we’re to look at it this way. One preview, one press night, one opening night. One, two, three. With very little time between each one we did not have the luxury of a week of previews, and had officially ‘opened’ the show by Monday 6th August.

Our week leading up to the only Saturday preview was spent in Leith playing on the space itself. Housed in the spacious Traverse rehearsal rooms, no one who will refute that rehearsing on the set, rather than on a floor plan marked out with red LX tape, was vital for Good with People. Not only were the actors allowed to experiment, but stage management practiced the illusions to perfection, and all other creatives were allowed to consider their own decisions in context.

What is actually rehearsed during that final week has to be judged on the production itself. Again, it also depends on your ‘opening’. In the case of Good with People it was a process of open but informed collective decision making, remembering detail but pushing the piece into the realm of performance.  As well as re-engaging with the precise words on the page, we worked on the physical commitment demanded by our set, as well as honing in on the more abstract notions that had been present in the rehearsal room from day one, and making them performable.

David himself came back into the room, not having visited since the first week of rehearsals. We would be fibbing if we were to say that the presence and opinion of the writer did not put us on edge slightly. A leap in a very different direction had been made since the first production, and this would be the first time David had seen it made plastic.

Luckily, his approval gave the cast and creatives a sense of confidence going into the weekend of openings. By Thursday we had a good idea of the overall shape and feel of the piece, having revisited each scene in detail and running the entire thing every day at four o’clock. This left us one more day of rehearsal, another short tech rehearsal and a preview before the press arrived on the Sunday.

And arrive they did, in their hoards. After a strong preview performance, both Blythe and Richard were reminded of the comedy throughout, as well as having adapted to being lit and underscored in Traverse 1, our home for August. With a few notes on pace and practicalities, we were all ready for the Sunday scribblers. Their verdict can be read here.

So now onto the month long run. The best way for you to judge is to come and see the show before it finishes in the next couple of weeks. Book too, as it is selling well. Although at the time it was felt that a longer opening period would have been preferable, it is useful to remember that this is Edinburgh and that circumstances will always be far more manic than is desirable.

Turns out there is no one way to open a letter, then. It depends on personal preference and the tools and influence you have.

Same with theatre, come to think of it.

Volunteer Ushers needed for the Roundabout Season

This September, Paines Plough and Sheffield Theatres in association with Shoreditch Town Hall are bringing to London an exciting new theatre – The Roundabout Auditorium.

From 19 September – 27 October 2012, our purpose built in-the-round auditorium will sit in the Assembly Hall at Shoreditch Town Hall and house a season of three extraordinary new plays by Nick Payne - One Day When We Were Young – Duncan Macmillan – Lungsand Penelope Skinner – The Sound of Heavy Rain, performed in repertory by a single ensemble of four actors in a thrilling 360 degree setting.

We’re looking for dedicated volunteers to join our front of house team, and help us to deliver this extraordinary experience.  If you’re excited by The Roundabout Season and would like to help, we’d love to hear from you.

We’re holding a recruitment evening at Shoreditch Town Hall at 7.00pm on Wednesday 5th September. If you would like to come along and meet us, please download the job pack from our website, and email to reserve a place. Don’t forget to bring your diary as we’ll be asking for your availability.

For more information on The Roundabout Season and each of the plays please visit our website.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Drinking Paines in The Plough

As previously reported, Team PP decamped from PPHQ on Tuesday this week to The Plough at Bolnhurst where we were guests of the lovely Jayne and Stacey for our annual summer away day.

It was over a pint of Paines bitter in this very Plough Pub that – 38 years ago – John Adams and David Pownall founded our company. Fuelled by strong coffee, home-made cookies and cream teas, and spurred on by ghosts of Paines Plough past, we spent the day dreaming up the company’s future.

Stacey even managed to dig out some old show posters from their attic.

The food was sublime; the surroundings spectacular and the service exemplary. We’d strongly suggest a visit if you’re ever in the area.

Here’s a photo diary of our day:

Arriving at Bedford Station


The Plough at Bolnhurst


The Paines brick


Felt pens at the ready


A quick breath of breath of fresh air and blast of sunshine


The Plough in all its glory


PP's original logo from an early show poster


A well-deserved dinner break

It’ll be Isle Wight on the night

The famous Needles on The Isle Of Wight

Our AD James and Trainee Director Mark are off to the beautiful Isle Of Wight this weekend for The Ventnor Fringe Festival.

We’re presenting COME TO WHERE I’M FROM at 1:30pm on Saturday at The Courtyard, featuring the work of four ace Island playwrights: Hannah George, John Goodwin, Titas Halder and Kirsty Housley.

We’re also running two workshops on Saturday – one for playwrights at 3pm and one for anyone interested in producing or setting up a theatre company at 5pm.

And we’re looking forward to sampling lots of other Festival delights, and particularly hanging out in 1920s speakeasy The Blind Tiger Club.

Any tips you have for things to see or do on the Isle Of Wight (or any memories of childhood holidays there you want to share) hit us up with a comment.