Monthly archives: June 2014

Roundabout: Dispatches from the rehearsal room #1

So, if you haven’t already heard, PP HQ is upping sticks and moving north of the border for the whole of August this year as we launch our Roundabout auditorium at the Edinburgh Fringe in partnership with Northern Stage and Summerhall.

We’re producing four plays by three of the country’s hottest writers – LUNGS and EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan, OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL by Dennis Kelly and THE INITIATE by Alexandra Wood.

This week, we started an epic eight week rehearsal period at PP’s London home on Aldwych with our top flight company comprising of Andrew French, Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis. (Don’t panic, Jonny Donahoe will be reprising his role in the one man show Every Brilliant Thing).

After long discussions about how to plan our eight weeks rehearsing three plays we decided that we’d split the weeks across the three plays rather than rehearsing each individual show in two and a half week blocks. The benefit to this is that every time we come back to the play is that it will be fresh after a break and in the meantime, even though we haven’t been directly working on it, all the ideas and thoughts we’ve been forming has had some space to breathe which we decided could only be a good thing.

This week, following the obligatory meet and greet/read through, we’ve been taking it pretty leisurely- reading over all of the plays and breaking them down into sections. Sian has been an absolute hero – rehearsing with us in the morning and then hopping on a train and heading up to Leeds each day to perform in West Yorkshire Playhouse’s production of Alan Bennett’s ENJOY. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog for updates and insights into how we’ve been getting on.

– Sean.

#RoundaboutPP @painesplough

My time at PP HQ

After four months at HQ, our brilliant Admin Placement, Charlotte, rounds up her time with us…

A few weeks ago, I completed my work placement at Paines Plough.

I’ve spent the last few months getting to know PP inside out, working with the wonderful Natalie & Aysha in the Admin department. I came into this placement as a Theatre Production student at the University of West London with a Stage Management background, and very little knowledge of how a theatre company actually runs; and that’s really what I was hoping to learn from this experience.

In my short time at PP HQ, I’ve travelled to a range of places, each completely different to the other but just as brilliant.  From Bordon (to see HOPELESSLY DEVOTED), to Mold (for NOT THE WORST PLACE), and most recently to the tiny village of Whaddon to see EVERY BRILLIANT THING. I’d never heard of writers such as Kate Tempest or Duncan Macmillan before, so being able to see their shows move from rehearsal to being performed in front of a live audience was great.

I will be honest, at the beginning of my placement I did expect to just be photocopying, filing and shredding all day, and I wouldn’t particularly have minded. However, I ended up working on such a broad range of tasks across all departments – there would be way too much to list (photocopying and shredding included, of course). Everything from doing some serious number crunching to booking a multitude of travel for PP’s productions – which little did I know would be the most stressful task out of all of them!

Working with Paines Plough has been such a great opportunity as, I hate to admit it, even as a Theatre student I was seriously lacking in my knowledge of new plays. Throughout my time here I’ve seen 4 new plays and read at least 12 new plays and they definitely won’t be my last. Working at PP has really made me confident that this is the industry that I would like to work in, whether that’s as a Stage Manager or as part of an Admin team; it may well be a huge challenge, but it sure will be fun!

– Charlotte


Beyond Theatre: Alex Wood’s Top Faves

If you’re like us, then you must often get curious about what playwrights watch and read and listen to outside of the theatre bubble we live in.

So we recently grabbed the opportunity to guilt-trip blackmail politely ask our awesome former Playwright-in-Residence (and writer of upcoming thriller THE INITIATE) Alexandra Wood to share a few of her top faves with us.

And she was nice enough to comply:

Favourite books: Runaway by Alice Munro has stayed with me. She uses beautifully simple language to tell stories that take you by surprise, and lets you make connections between the stories, without it ever being heavy-handed or didactic. Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of the most honest books I’ve ever read – it asks bold questions, and allows space for doubt and interpretation. Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy is a puzzle of a book – things never seem quite right, which I love. It reminded me of Borges’ short stories, which I read when I want a touch of the enigmatic. I recently discovered John Steinbeck (I know, I’m late to the party!) but I’m loving what I’ve read of his so far.

Favourite films: Anything by Michael Haneke is invariably brilliant. His first film, The Seventh Continent, is devastating in its understated portrayal of the disintegration of a family.  While researching my adaptation of ‘Wild Swans’, I watched some great Chinese films: Blind Shaft (directed by Li Yang) and Still Life (directed by Jia Zhangke) – I loved the imagery in these films of the vast, broken landscapes.  I’m a fan of documentaries, too: Searching for Sugar Man is amazing, I just loved the humility of a Rodriguez, who was such a huge star in South Africa without even knowing it. And Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, where we watch a man slowly coming to feel remorse for the horrific killings he participated in forty years ago, is an astonishing, completely unique and important film.

Keep a look out on our blog for more ‘Top Faves’ from our writing, directing and acting alumni.

PP Blast from the Past

This month’s Blast from the Past feature sees us revisit Philip Ridley’s boundary-pushing MERCURY FUR, directed by John Tiffany.

Causing an uproar and igniting controversy when it first premiered at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2005 (with publishers initially refusing to publish the script), Ridley’s tale of a lawless London;  a London decimated by rioting, looting and violence, seems to ring truer many years on.

“[T]he shocking accuracies of what he envisaged back in 2005… The writing that we are dealing with feels like a response to now: a grim parable of disillusioned, disenchanted youth and yet a play so overwhelmingly concerned with love that it feels like you are being embraced with every word…

A play, written in 2005…that feels like it actually makes a point about our world that is worth hearing: no matter how horrific humanity can be (pretty bloody horrific) there will always be something, somewhere to redeem us.”            – Joel Samuels.

With Ben Whishaw and Rob Boutler originating the roles in 2005, further productions of Mercury Fur in recent years have gone on to attest Ridley’s exceptional, almost premonitory, writing talent. One we’re proud to have as part of our PP history.


#PP40 #PPblastfromthepast

Introducing…our Trainee Artistic Director

We’re thrilled to welcome Sean Linnen back into the PP fold this week, as our Trainee Artistic Director.

In December last year, Sean received funding from Arts Council England to pilot a new way of training directors. In partnership with Sheffield Theatres and Paines Plough, Sean is spending a year across both organisations shadowing and participating in the work and demands of being an artistic director.

At the moment, there’s no formal way of training artistic directors for theatres and theatre companies. Many are handed the keys on the first day and run with it, despite the skillset of an Artistic Director being very different from a director of plays in a rehearsal room.

The idea is that after spending a year in two organisations of different sizes and different remits, working on everything from business plans and budgets to marketing campaigns and fundraising strategies, a director might be better equipped to go on to run a company of their own or indeed an already existing theatre organisation.

In a time where public funding is becoming more and more scarce, the role of an artistic director is changing; they’re needed to be increasingly involved in every aspect of running theatre organisations, not just the artistic side.

It’s really exciting for us to be working with the Arts Council, Sheffield Theatres and Sean on the pilot in the hope that a template of training like this might become more commonplace across the industry. He’ll be writing regular blogs so you can keep up with the pilot and everything he’s up to here.


Following last week’s announcement of our Roundabout launch at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe followed closely by an Autumn tour, here’s a little more on the stellar cast of our Roundabout Season.

Andrew French

His recent theatre credits include: The Flesh Is Mine (Border Crossings), The Jungle Book, Refugee Boy (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Julius Caesar (RSC), Six Characters In Search Of An Author, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Aquila Theatre USA), Measure For Measure (Almeida Theatre), Our Friends In The North (Northern Stage), Monster (Royal Exchange Manchester), I Like Mine With A Kiss (Bush Theatre), and As You Like It (Wyndham’s Theatre London).

For television, his work includes: Perfect Parents, Primeval, Trust, In Deep and Tough Love; and for film, Artificial Horizon, Breaking The Bank, Song for Marion, Exorcist: The Beginning, Exorcist: Dominion and The Tailor of Panama.


Sian Reese-Williams

Her theatre credits include: Enjoy (West Yorkshire Playhouse), Children Of Fate (Bussey Building), Be My Baby (New Vic Theatre), As You Like It (Derby Playhouse), The Future Perfect Season (Paines Plough/Rose Bruford), Coltan (Paines Plough), and Sixty Five Miles (Paines Plough/Hull Truck). 

For television, her work includes Emmerdale (series regular), and Cowbois Ac Injians.


Abdul Salis

For television, his work includes: Hacks, Strike Back, Outnumbered, Victoria Wood Christmas Special, M.I. High, Doctor Who, Gifted, Roger Roger, and The Hidden City; and for film, Fly Boys, Animal, Welcome Home, and Love, Actually.

For a full list of dates and further information on our Roundabout season, click here.

ROUNDABOUT launches this summer

We’re beside ourselves with excitement as we gear up to launch Roundabout this summer at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

After three years of designing and prototyping and problem-solving, we are ready to unveil our beautiful travelling theatre with a repertory of new plays from the nation’s hottest playwrights.

Roundabout means we can tour outstanding new plays further and wider than ever before. Our state-of-the-art pop-up amphitheatre seats 168 people completely in the round. It flat packs into a single lorry and can pop up anywhere from the stage of a proscenium arch playhouse to a school hall, sports centre or warehouse.With a bear pit atmosphere, Roundabout is the most dynamic, most innovative, most essential new theatre in the country.

Designed by Lucy Osborne and Emma Chapman, the Roundabout Auditorium was piloted in 2011 in partnership with Sheffield Theatres and showcased at Shoreditch Town Hall in 2012. It has since been developed with Charcoalblue, Howard Eaton and Factory Settings and made possible by the generous support of principal funder The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, along with The J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, The John Ellerman Foundation, The Garfield Weston Foundation and a host of you lovely people who have made invaluable donations through our Justgiving page… thank you all.

The Roundabout auditorium will be presented at Summerhall in collaboration with Northern Stage and will play host to our 2014 Roundabout Season, made possible with the support of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation: THE INITIATE by Alexandra Wood, OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL by Dennis Kelly and LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan.

Also playing in the auditorium this summer will be Duncan Macmillan’s EVERY BRILLIANT THING as well as a host of guest productions including productions from Northern Stage.

Follow the links to see the full list of cast and creatives, check out dates or buy tickets.



spacer First up in our Roundabout Season 2014 is the world premiere of THE INITIATE, a thrilling new play by our former Playwright-in-Residence and George Devine Award winner Alexandra Wood.

A British couple are seized by Somali pirates. In East London, a taxi-driver decides to rescue them. Meeting disbelief with determination, he dismisses his wife’s fears and flies out to negotiate their release.

Speeding from the banks of the Thames to the now unfamiliar world of his homeland, he confronts the family he left behind and the bravado of the men he once called brothers.

A thrilling tale of altruism, greed, and the search for how to belong.

Cast: Andrew French, Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis.


spacer Dennis Kelly, the multi award winning writer of MATILDA THE MUSICAL, returns to Paines Plough with a deliciously funny play for young people, which we are co-producing with Half Moon.

Two terrible twins with a talent for turmoil rule their school with terror and tyranny. That is, until the arrival of a new head teacher with green scaly skin, sharp gnarly fangs, and a long spiky tail…

Can the twins save the school from the child-eating Troll? Can they get Brussels sprouts in peanut butter taken off the lunch menu? And most importantly, can naughtiness prevail?

OUR TEACHER’S A TROLLis a hilarious play about mischief and mayhem for ages 7+ and their accompanying trolls (or parents).

Cast: Andrew French, Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis.

#OurTeachersATroll #OTAT

spacer LUNGS
spacer Duncan Macmillan’s award-winning, internationally acclaimed LUNGS is back by popular demand.

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.

A couple are deciding their future. Thirty-something, educated and thoughtful, they want to have a child for the right reasons. But in a time of overpopulation, erratic weather and political unrest, what exactly are the right reasons?

A play about the different types of love we feel in a lifetime.

‘The most beautiful, shattering play of the year.’ ★★★★★ Sunday Express

Cast: Sian Reese-Williams and Abdul Salis.


spacer Following its successful rural tour with co-producers Pentabus Theatre Company, Duncan Macmillan’s EVERY BRILLIANT THING will also play at the Edinburgh Festival as part of our Roundabout Season.

You’re six years old. Mum’s in hospital. Dad says she’s ‘done something stupid’. She finds it hard to be happy.

You start to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything that’s worth living for.

1. Ice Cream
2. Kung Fu Movies
3. Burning Things
4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose
5. Construction cranes
6. Me

You leave it on her pillow. You know she’s read it because she’s corrected your spelling.

Soon, the list will take on a life of its own.

A new play about depression and the lengths we will go to for those we love.

Each performance of Every Brilliant Thing involves members of the audience, making every night unique.

Cast: Jonny Donahoe.