Monthly archives: September 2013
So it’s already the end of my fourth week at Paines Plough’s HQ as the new General Manager – how time flies in theatre company land.
The past four weeks have been jam packed with budgets, wages, IT conundrums, getting to know the superb Paines Plough team and their extended family, endless mint tea drinking and more importantly my first Paines Plough Press Night/initiation – watching the very wonderful Hopelessly Devoted at Birmingham Rep.
This may sound like a pitch for a sub-standard rom-com movie but after seeing Paines Plough’s production of Dennis Kelly’s AFTER THE END at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre in 2005 I was smitten with the company and have been a huge fan ever since, so this job is very much a dream come true.
I’m particularly excited to be starting this role as we go into Paines Plough’s 40th year which is looking to be a very special one indeed (Keep an eye on our blog for more news on this soon!) – to have the chance to work and learn from such a talented team and be a pivotal part of the pioneering work Paines Plough produce .
As I am not an award winning playwright let’s finish with a Tim Vine joke:
“I rang my mother the other day and told her I’d spent my life savings on purchasing a small theatre on the outskirts of London.”
“Are you having me on?!” she cried
“Well I can give you an audition, but I can’t promise anything” I replied.
Let the good theatre times roll…
Tom Wells’ JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS has been nominated in the Best New Play category by UK Theatre Awards
“We are thrilled that Tom’s beautiful, heart-warming comedy has been recognised by The Theatre Awards UK. Tom is one of the finest voices to emerge in recent years and JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS cements his reputation as writer of rare comic brio and real heart. We are so proud to have co-produced this important play with Watford Palace and Hull Truck, and to have toured it nationwide, to audiences who have instantly related to Tom’s team of lacklustre footballers and cheered them on in victory and defeat.”
The other nominees for Best New Play are:
- BULL by Mike Bartlett a Sheffield Theatres production
- JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS by Tom Wells a Paines Plough, Hull Truck and Watford Palace Theatre production
- SURPRISES by Alan Ayckbourn a Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough and Chichester Festival Theatre production
Further details about the TMA and the UK Theatre Awards can be found here.
Leeds was brilliant. The Courtyard Theatre is an intimate space and suits comedy, and this play in particular, perfectly. The audience is very close in there and we could be more natural with our delivery than we’d been before; it made the funny bits funnier, and enabled us to bring out more nuance and texture in the duologues. When the WYP was designed a quarter of a century ago, directors, actors and other people involved in making theatre were consulted in the process. They built a great theatre. We wish it was portable.
Offstage, food was a highlight. Phil took us to Akbars for a superb curry on Wednesday night. The naans were so big they could have doubled as duvets. Thursday was Meatageddon: between shows we went to Reds – a barbecue restaurant next to the Corn Exchange where they do USA-sized portions of your flesh of choice. Ribs were had; ribs the length of those old WHSmith pencil cases that you could fit your ruler in. Better still were the Root Beers and shakes that we washed it all down with (the latter were served in a milk bottles). My hair still smells of smoke. To the janitorial staff working at the Playhouse on the Friday: we apologize – and salute you!
This week is a week off for us before we head up to Newcastle. I’d rather have a week on, to be honest, as we’ve got a good momentum going, but it does give us chance to catch up with life, ‘admin’, and go and see friends’ shows which we might have missed otherwise. The JFG cast is heading to Birmingham to the press night of Hopelessly Devoted, and we’re very excited to see what Kate, James and the team have come up with at the Rep. I’ve got mates in Kes at Derby so I’ll be there on Tuesday. Andy is going back to his old college to give some workshops, and Viv is going to see Routes at the Royal Court. It’s good to see what else is going on because, as well as supporting friends, being provoked and entertained, it gets you back on the other side of the fourth wall for a night or two so you can remind yourself what works for an audience, and what doesn’t. I imagine that Phil and Jamie will continue to haunt the Tinder community.
Another thing we’ll be doing this week is booking accommodation for the rest of the tour. Actors and crew usually have to find their own places to stay when working in the UK. Unless you are a big star, even budget hotel prices will be beyond the reach of your modest subsistence allowance, so most theatres have a ‘digs list’ available to visiting theatre companies: a directory of local people with spare rooms or cupboards who ‘take in theatricals’. Deciphering the digs list is an art, and identifying the choicest places to stay is something that every actor needs to master. Features like: ‘5 min walk from theatre’, ‘Wifi’, ‘En suite power shower’, and ‘40” lcd tv with PS3’ will push a place right up your shortlist. ‘May on occasion be required to assist the owner with toilet’, should ring alarm bells, and so will enigmatic descriptions like: ‘Very relaxed household.’
Even once you’ve chosen what you think will be the most salubrious lodgings, you still have little idea what the place, and your landlord/lady, will actually be like until you roll up with your suitcase on the Sunday and ring the bell. Digs stories have always been a popular green room topic; Harold Pinter’s experiences of the lodgings he took whilst he was a touring actor in the early ‘50s provided the inspiration for one of his earliest plays: The Birthday Party. He once wrote this in a letter to a friend:
‘’I have filthy, insane digs, a great bulging scrap of a woman with breasts rolling at her belly, an obscene household, cats, dogs, filth, tea-mess, oh bullocks, talk, chat rubbish shit scratch dung poison, infantility, deficient order in the upper fretwork, fucking roll on.”
I have never stayed anywhere quite like that, but your heart does sink somewhat when you arrive at a place, are led into the kitchen, and notice that the only fruit in the house is the snout of a lemon lying next to an open bottle of Gordon’s on the chopping board. And it’s not yet 2 o’clock. And there is a hand in your pocket…and it’s not yours.
Right. I’m done. Pub?
Huge congratulations to Abi.
To give you a sneak peek, here are some rehearsal shots featuring our incredible cast: Gbemisola Ikumelo, Martina Laird and Amanda Wilkin.
Check out the full set on our Flickr page, and stay tuned for full production shots coming soon.
HOPELESSLY DEVOTED runs at The Birmingham Rep until 5th October before heading on tour. Buy tickets here.
For full tour dates, click here.
We bade a fond, beery and dancy farewell to Hull Truck on Saturday night. It’s been an unforgettable two-and-a-bit weeks and we’ll take the spirit of the city around with us and summon it up every time we step into the changing room. We were part of the terrific Freedom Festival last weekend, and had the privilege of playing to audiences who were warm and generous with their praise. We’ll particularly cherish the comments of top Hull drag Queen, Denise Van Outofit, but will not be reproducing them here for reasons of taste and decency. You can probably find them via Andy Rush’s twitter though. Fanks, ‘Ull. Ta-ra for now.
And so we move on to the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. I think Hullensians have sometimes felt overshadowed by our big brother down the M62. The city’s football and rugby league teams have had more days in the sun than ours, their cultural life has more of a throb, but worst of all, they can lay claim to one of rock’s greatest live albums, when it should have been ours. The Who – Live at Leeds was recorded at the university on February 14th, 1970, the night before a gig in Hull. The band thought the latter was a better performance and wanted to release it, but couldn’t because the bass guitar hadn’t recorded properly. Typical. Bloody Leeds.
The place has always been good to me, though. Some of my favourite memories were made here; my dad took me to watch England play test matches at Headingley when I was young, and a few years ago I appeared in one of the last things that Alan Plater wrote: a piece for Radio 3 which was recorded in front of a live audience in the Courtyard Theatre, where we’ll be playing this week. Leeds holds a lot of significance for Tom Wells, too: he started his journey as a playwright here, when he took part in the So You Want To Be A Writer? workshops that Mark Catley runs at WYP. Out of that course came Tom’s first play Me, As A Penguin.
I enjoy touring. You meet a lot of people and visit all corners of the land, but what I really like is how it helps to refresh the production when you move to a new venue. The text stays the same, and our set won’t have to adapt much as we move from place to place, but there are a few subtle variables that keep us on our toes. Each audience is unique, but you find that each place has a slightly different response to the play. Some lines and references will get big laughs in Hull, and barely a grin somewhere else, but people in Kendal or Ipswich will surprise you with what tickles them. The spaces themselves, and their individual acoustics, affect the playing too; in a big house like Northern Stage you have to chuck the gags up to the back like grenades of funny, but in an intimate space like the Bush your touch can be lighter and the slightest inflection or look will land. It’s a bit like sailing: the boat’s the same but the water and weather are always changing, so you have to sense the differences and adapt.
The trailer for JFG was released last Thursday. It’s beautiful; Mathy and Fran have captured the essence of the play without either giving too much away–or merely cobbling bits of scenes together. We shot it on Hackney Marshes during the re-rehearsal week and it wasn’t apparent when we were charging around in the East End drizzle how they would weave it all together. We’d seen their other Paines Plough films and knew that it would be quirky (good quirky, not wanky quirky) and unique, but we were pretty blown away by how eloquently and economically it conveys the feel of the show. Hopefully it’ll entice more people to come and see us, along with the ‘properly snazzy’ new poster. And by the way, my ball miskick was intentional, but the slip onto arse/head which followed it was not. It’s pure ‘Joe’, though, so let’s just call it Involuntary Method Acting. I gave myself minor whiplash when I hit the deck, but I hope it gives you a chuckle. No, really. Go on, you enjoy yourselves!
See you next week, then. #Jump4Goal
Well, this is even harder than I thought…my official ‘farewell Paines Plough’ blog.
Summing up how brilliant and varied my time here has been, in just a few words is hard to do. After first hearing about Paines Plough at University I’ve always wanted to work for the company and fulfilling this ambition has been far more enjoyable and educational than I could have hoped. Since arriving bright eyed and bushy tailed in November 2010 I’ve had the pleasure to do all of this and much more:
1 mega Arts Council NPO application
11 sets of management accounts
3 Christmas parties
1 Latitude Festival
countless miles on trains all over the UK
2 Roundabout seasons
…and eaten 5 times my body weight in cake (sometimes those 4 flights of stairs are a blessing!)
I’ve been genuinely privileged to have worked with a host of wonderfully talented and brilliant people from the Board to designers, actors and stage managers to producers and administrators. At the helm of all this brilliance are the two most passionate, inspiring and visionary people that I have had the pleasure of working with: James Grieve and George Perrin. You can’t help but want to do your absolute best and work as hard as possible when you’re playing a part in bringing to life the innovative work that they strive to produce.
Of course I’ve also been lucky enough to spend my working days with other such awesome people as Tara, Hanna, Natalie and Sean. It’s a total cliché but also very true that it’s like a family; and that’s why it’s so much harder to leave. There have been lots of tears in the last couple of weeks!
Now it’s time for new pastures though and I’m very excited to be working with the Community and Education Company at the Belgrade Theatre, continuing to create exciting and relevant new work with and for the communities of Coventry. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on what Paines Plough gets up to next, from up in the Midlands.
Thank you to everyone who has made my time with Paines Plough so memorable and enjoyable. It’s a small world and I hope to see or work with you again very soon.
We had such an incredible time at Bestival this year. Despite the constant change in weather throughout the weekend we made the most out of our wellies, sunglasses and everything Bestival had to offer!
Here’s a quick round-up of what we got up to:
Fat Boy Slim
Lost & Found
WASTED by Kate Tempest (Ampitheatre)
If you saw WASTED at Bestival tell us what you thought #KateTempestWasted
Check out the film trailer for JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS by Tom Wells, created by the super talented Mathy & Fran.
Tell us what you think by leaving a comment or tweeting us @painesplough with the hashtag #jump4goal.
For further information, tour dates and tickets for JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS click here.
Watch more PP trailers and video clips on our YouTube Channel.