Category Archive: Every Brilliant Thing

A New Brilliant Thing: James Rowland



We’re excited to announce a new face of EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe. Actor and comedian James Rowland will play the part of the narrator for international dates in Australia and New Zealand in 2017 (and maybe a few dates closer to home too, stay tuned).The original brilliant thing Jonny Donahoe will continue in the role he has now performed a staggering 229 times in three different continents. Jonny will be taking the show to North America while James is the other side of the planet in the Antipodes.

So there will be two brilliant things. Brilliant!

We’ll announce full worldwide tour dates for EVERY BRILLIANT THING with our full Programme 2017 in the New Year, and my word have we got some treats in store for you.

But for now we can reveal James and EVERY BRILLIANT THING will appear at Adelaide Festival which was announced today.

If you follow us on Twitter @painesplough we’ll let slip some more international tour dates in the next few weeks.

We’re thrilled to welcome James to Team PP. His one man show in Edinburgh this year TEAM VIKING was our favouritest thing, and we’re honoured to be working with an actor of James’ calibre.


James has performed in Theatre, Radio and Television. Recently he has done lots of immersive theatre including The Crystal Maze, Heist and You Once Said Yes. He has also performed musical comedy under the stage name ‘James Rowland’ and is a member of the cabaret band The Idiot Circus. He performed his debut storytelling show Team Viking in London and Edinburgh and won The Origins Award (Vault Festival, 2016).


Bring Every Brilliant Thing to your town

PP2016 season shows v9 PRINT 343x3433

Jonny Donahoe in Every Brilliant Thing (cred. Thread Design)

Calling anyone who programmes a theatre space anywhere in the UK… how do you fancy having EVERY BRILLIANT THING come to visit?

After its third sell-out run at Edinburgh Festival Fringe our co-production with Pentabus Theatre CompanyEVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe, embarks on another national tour… and we’ve got space for one last tour date.

We’re looking for a cool place to pitch up on Sunday 11 September 2016. Would your venue like to host EVERY BRILLIANT THING that night?

If so please contact ASAP.

Full Roundabout EdFringe Programme

Roundabout audience Rich Lakos

This summer Roundabout returns to Summerhall for Edinburgh Festival Fringe August 5-28. Roundabout will host up to 10 shows a day for 24 days. 225 productions in total. That’s nearly 300 hours of top notch entertainment with 37,800 tickets available.

And that’s just the beginning. After Edinburgh, Roundabout tours the nation stopping off at Margate, Eccles, Kendal, Barnsley, Stoke-on-Trent, Lincoln and Luton.

We’re excited to announce our full Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme including three world premières. Joint Artistic Directors James and George told us what to expect:

“We’re thrilled this cracking programme of new plays from some of the most exciting writers around will tour across the UK this summer and autumn. Roundabout will bring a festival feel to every place it visits with a host of locally curated and created shows and events alongside our own work. An offbeat love story from Alan Harris and an unflinching, side-splitting comedy from Luke Norris, join Katie Douglas’ superhero quest for children in an eclectic, fun-filled collection of new plays in our portable, pop-up theatre. In Edinburgh we’re honoured to present a programme of outstanding visiting work ranging from Stacey Gregg’s Irish Times Award Winning new play SCORCH to the hit Off-Broadway song cycle GHOST QUARTET.”

Our three world premières are LOVE, LIES AND TAXIDERMY by Alan Harris, GROWTH by Luke Norris and I GOT SUPERPOWERS FOR MY BIRTHDAY by Katie Douglas.


Paines Plough, Sherman Cymru & Theatr Clywd present
Time 13:35 Dates Aug 5, 7, 10, 17, 24, 12, 14, 19, 21, 26, 28.

This is a boy meets girl story. Son of a Polish taxidermist meets daughter of a failing ice cream salesman. In Tesco. An offbeat love story about trying to fit in from acclaimed writer Alan Harris.

Tickets here.

LLT v9 990x990 2


Paines Plough present
GROWTH by Luke Norris
13:35 Dates Aug 6, 8, 11, 13, 15, 18, 20, 22, 25, 27.

Tobes is young, free and having a ball. Off. It’s seriously cramping his style so there are pants to be dropped and decisions to be made. A comedy about growing up and manning up from rising star Luke Norris.

Tickets here.

Growth v9 990x990 1


Paines Plough & Half Moon present
11:00 Dates Aug 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21.

Ethan, William and Fiona discover they have superpowers on their 13th birthday, just in time to save the world. Join our heroes on a magical quest for ages 7+ from acclaimed writer Katie Douglas.

Tickets here.

Superpowers v9 990x990 4



Paines Plough and Pentabus present
EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe
15.35 Dates Aug 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28.

The worldwide smash hit is back. A play about depression and the lengths we go to for loved ones. ★★★★ “Heart-wrenching, hilarious… possibly one of the funniest plays you will ever see” (The Guardian). “Captivating” (New York Times).

Tickets here.

PP2016 season shows v9 PRINT 343x3433

10:00 & 22:30 Dates Aug 5-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-28.

A series of early morning and late night one-off shows and events. Coffee and croissants with readings, talks, workshops, debates, insights and special guests. Get your fix of fresh ideas, brave new work and rip-roaring performances. These will be announced on our Twitter @painesplough and tickets will be available via Summerhall.

Now fully announced, see the full programme here.

Earlier Later 310 cropped


Prime Cut productions presents
SCORCH by Stacey Gregg
18:05 Dates Aug 6-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-29.

A story of first love through the eyes of a gender-curious teen inspired by recent court cases, lost amidst the headlines. Winner of the prestigious Best New Play at the 2015 Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards. ★★★★ ‘High quality’ (The Irish Times).

Tickets here.



Walrus presents
12:10 Dates Aug 6-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-29.

Walrus’ award-winning sell out show returns to Edinburgh. The average person says 123,205,750 words in a lifetime. But what if there were a limit? Oliver and Bernadette are about to find out. A play about what we say and how we say it. ‘About as promising as debuts get’ (Time Out). ★★★★ ‘It’s bright, light and sharp – a rom-com with smarts’ (WhatsOnStage).

Tickets here.

Lemons Beth 1 (cred. Giulia Delprato)

Jonny & the Baptists
19.35 Dates Aug 6-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-29.

In 2009, David Cameron forgot how many houses he owned. Within five years, homelessness doubled. A riotous musical epic about inequality, friendship and betrayal. ★★★★ ‘Rallying… gigglesome wordplay’ (Guardian). ★★★★ ‘Wickedly amusing’ (Times).

Tickets here.

Jonny & the Baptists - Eat the Poor - PR image 1 (image by Anna Soderblom).jpg

Katie Bonna and Paul Jellis in association with SOHO Theatre present
16:40 Dates Aug 6-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-29.

Fringe First winner Katie Bonna (Dirty Great Love Story) confronts humanity’s obsession with lying. ‘Simultaneously restores your faith in human nature and the Fringe.’ ★★★★ (Telegraph). ‘Laughs are frequent, unsignalled… brilliant.’ ★★★★ (Times).

Tickets here.

ALL THE THINGS brochure image

Ghost Quartet presents
21:00 Dates Aug 6-8, 10-15, 17-22, 24-29.

Ghost Quartet is a haunted song cycle about love, death, and whisky. A raucous chamber musical from Dave Malloy, composer of the Broadway-bound Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.

Tickets here.

GhostQuartet3(Ryan Jensen)


Fly By Night Productions presents
14:00, 17:00 & 20:00 Dates Aug 16.

Des Clarke hosts the recording of an exciting new stand-up TV series featuring the comedy stars of today and tomorrow. Proceeds to the STV Children’s Appeal.

Tickets here.

Des Clarke

Programme 2016

Here we go… the grand unveiling of our Programme 2016 in all its glory. A host of new plays from red hot writers hitting the road to the four corners of our green and pleasant land.

PP2016 season shows v8 web generic banner

Here’s a snapshot:

ROUNDABOUT features a new rep of three brand new plays by Katie Douglas, Alan Harris and Luke Norris at Summerhall in Edinburgh and on tour to Kent, Cornwall, Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

The world premiere of BROKEN BISCUITS by Tom Wells opens with our co-producers Live Theatre in Newcastle prior to a UK Tour.

WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK by Sabrina Mahfouz tours to 29 venues nationwide.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING is back on home soil by popular demand following an international tour.

COME TO WHERE I’M FROM comes to London with a week of live events across the capital featuring 30 playwrights.

Elinor Cook’s TEN WEEKS opens in London tonight.

Our transatlantic collaboration with legendary New York company Naked Angels sees two new radio plays by Nathan Bryon and Lucy Gillespie released as free to listen downloads.

Here’s what James & George have to say about it all:

“We’re raring to hit the road to the four corners of the UK with this cracking programme of new plays from some of the most exciting writers around. Roundabout will pop-up across the country with comedies from Luke Norris and Alan Harris, a superhero tale for children from Katie Douglas and a host of events from international visiting companies and local community groups, bringing a festival feel to every place it visits. We’re honoured to be working with talents as innovative as Sabrina Mahfouz – whose UK Garage musical is theatre you can rave to – and Tom Wells whose heart-warming new play will delight fans of his previous Paines Plough hit Jumpers For Goalposts. With Every Brilliant Thing returning to the UK after an international tour, London stories in Come To Where I’m From and new plays from Elinor Cook, Nathan Bryon, Lucy Gillespie, there’s a play for everyone, everywhere in Programme 2016.”

Paines Plough presents
2016 sees the return of Roundabout, our award-winning pop-up theatre. The all new Roundabout programme will preview from 19 – 24 July at Hackney Showroom in London before taking up residency once again at Summerhall during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and then touring nationwide.

Roundabout will tour nationwide in partnership with The Lowry, Hall For Cornwall, Margate Theatre Royal, Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, Brewery Arts Centre, Barnsley Civic, Appetite Stoke-on-Trent and Revoluton, Marsh Farm Estate in Luton.

In rep will be three World Premieres…

A Paines Plough, Sherman Cymru and Theatr Clwyd production
By Alan Harris

A deliciously quirky comedy from Alan Harris about two teenagers in Merthyr Tydfil who fall in love in Tesco but face a fight to save their parents from self-destruction.

LLT 466

A Paines Plough production
By Luke Norris

A very funny new play from Luke Norris about a 20-something who tries to ignore a lump until it’s almost too late.

GROW 466

A Paines Plough and Half Moon production
By Katie Douglas

An epic superhero quest for ages 7 to 11-year-olds from Katie Douglas.


PLUS… Roundabout will again host a programme of visiting companies at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe and on tour, and see the return of EARLIER / LATER, Paines Plough’s early morning and late night series of one-off shows, events, workshops and more.

A Paines Plough and Live Theatre production
By Tom Wells

The brand new play from JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS writer Tom Wells. A hilarious and heart-warming tale of three teenagers dreaming of rock ‘n’ roll stardom.

BB 466

A Paines Plough and Latitude Festival production
by Sabrina Mahfouz

Our hit UK Garage musical is back in our rehearsal room and getting set to hit the road to 29 venues nationwide. This is theatre you can rave to.


A Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre Company production
By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe

Our worldwide hit show is back on home soil in Edinburgh and on a UK tour this Autumn.

EBT 466

A Paines Plough and Tamasha production

Since 2010 more than 100 playwrights have written plays about the place they call home as part of our nationwide project, but never in London… until now…


A Paines Plough and Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama production
by Elinor Cook

Elinor Cook’s electrifying new play about the Alpha course transfers to The Gate in Notting Hill following its Cardiff premiere.

TW 466

Paines Plough and Naked Angels present
BILAL’S BIRTHDAY by Nathan Bryon
322 DAYS by Lucy Gillespie

Our transatlantic partnership with New York legends Naked Angels has resulted in these two cracking radio plays from rising US star Lucy Gillespie and our very own Playwright Fellow Nathan Bryon.

NA 466

Woop. And there’s lots more to come including a mega programme of visiting companies, one-off shows, events, workshops and fun stuff in Roundabout, the return of EARLIER/LATER, festival appearances, more tour dates, and probably other stuff we think up as we go along too.

But for now, welcome to Programme 2016. We hope you like it.


Meantime on the other side of the world


EVERY BRILLIANT THING makes its debut in New Zealand tonight* as Jonny takes to the stage in Wellington for the first of a week of shows as part of the New Zealand Festival.

Jonny and stage manager Char are 11,683 miles from PPHQ getting set for our opener at The Hannah Playhouse, which may or may not have been named in homage to our Senior Producer Hanna who is accompanying them on the road Down Under.

Our intrepid touring party began their antipodean adventure at Perth International Arts Festival before touring to Albany Entertainment Centre and Geelong Performing Arts Centre. After this week’s Wellington shows they head back to Oz for a stint at The Malthouse in Melbourne.

Jonny has had to improvise a bit and adapt the show for a different culture. With temperatures soaring there have been precious few coats to transform into Ronnie Barker / Sherlock Bones, and Mrs Patterson has sometimes become Mr Patterson in order to ensure a sock for the sock dog. Who knew making dogs out of clothes would prove so troubling in hot countries?

Other than that it’s been going great and Jonny has loved performing for lovely, welcoming crowds. If you want to read some reviews there is a good one in The Western Australian and another really nice one in Limelight Magazine.

You can read an interview with Jonny on ABC News and the New Zealand Festival website had a chat to Duncan about writing the play.

We’ll keep you posted as the tour progresses.

* Wellington is 13 hours in the future so they have actually already done tonight’s show already even though it’s only morning. Amazing, huh.

Programme 2016: Part 1

We’re striding into 2016 with an armful of fantastic new plays alongside some returning favourites touring to destinations from Margate to Melbourne.

There’s a whole lot still to come so keep your eyes peeled for future announcements, but right now we’re ready to unveil a globe-trotting, dancefloor filling, airwaves rocking start to Programme 2016…


A year ago our co-production with Pentabus Theatre Company, EVERY BRILLIANT THING was in snowy New York City in the middle of a 16 week run Off-Broadway at Barrow Street Theatre.

In the ensuing 2015 Jonny Donahoe performed Duncan Macmillan’s extraordinary play 147 times in 63 venues from Machynlleth to Jersey Opera House to Drumnadrochit on the banks of Loch Ness.

2016’s adventures begin with a trip Down Under. We’re honoured to have been invited to the Perth International Festival where we kick off an international tour that takes in Melbourne, Wellington and South Carolina.

Click here for details of international dates so far in 2016.

And never fear compatriots, EVERY BRILLIANT THING will be back on home soil soon…




Elinor Cook won the prestigious George Devine Award whilst on attachment to PP in 2013 and we’re hugely proud to present her new play in co-production with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama…


By Elinor Cook
Directed by Kate Wasserberg

First things first, I just want to say to all of you –
Well done.
You’ve shown a lot of courage walking in here tonight.
You have.
Don’t forget that.

Ten weeks, ten commandments, a ten million pound turnover.

It’s Week One of a dizzyingly popular crash course in Christianity. There’s pizza, live music, lively debate and – sometimes – there’s insurrection.

A new play about faith, community and capitalism.

22-25 March Richard Burton Theatre, RWCMD, Cardiff
30 March-1 April The Gate Theatre, London




Our UK Garage musical premiered at co-producer Latitude Festival and had them dancing in the aisles all night long. Now you can get your rave on, wherever you are…


By Sabrina Mahfouz
Directed by Stef O’Driscoll

I want to be iconic. I want to be beautiful, reckless, feared, hated, ahead of the times. I want to be different, I want to be dangerous…

2001. Raves. Revision. Re-election.

Nadia is swept up in one hot summer’s night of love that promises endless possibilities. Drinking, dancing, hope, ambition, lust, greed… and decisions that will determine the rest of her life.

Rhythmically underscored by a live mix of old school UK Garage, award-winning writer Sabrina Mahfouz explores the legacy of a cultural movement that defined the hopes of a generation.

2015. Re-wind.

Running Time: 60 minutes (no interval)
Age Guidance: 14+

“Fist-pumping euphoria… crackles with a rare and unexpected life.” The Stage
“Gorgeous genre-melding music and theatre.” Exeunt
“The same fizzing energy of the best club nights… marks Mahfouz out as a unique theatrical voice.” The Public Reviews



322 DAYS

Today Naked Angels released the first of our brand new podcast plays on Naked Radio. Have a listen to it here or download it on iTunes.


322 DAYS
By Lucy Gillespie
Directed by Sean Linnen

Gemma and Weston are two young, beating hearts from different places and different worlds. Their relationship fragments over the internet as they try to stay connected in an over-connected world.

Navigating adolescence, they can neither embrace each other or the separate lives they lead and their virtual intimacy hinders them from fully connecting with the everyday world around them.

When a secret is uncovered and reveals a schism at the centre of their relationship, a deep emotional distance threatens to overwhelm their physical distance and put their future plans in jeopardy.

322 Days is a play about being together and being apart.


Recorded at the Lyric Hammersmith on Friday 4th December 2015, this play was made possible by the kind support of the Lyric Hammersmith.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the next episode, BILAL’S BIRTHDAY, by The Big Room Fellow Nathan Bryon, next month.

What an exciting start to 2016 – and with even more to come! We can’t wait to get more shows on the road…

– Team PP x


We’re off to… Bromsgrove

All aboard the EVERY BRILLIANT THING bandwagon as we bound into Bromsgrove. We’re still on a high from last night’s lovely show in Farnham and can’t wait to see what is in store for us tonight.

The lovely team at the Artrix have given us the inside scoop on the best of Bromsgrove and we’re excited to get exploring.

Where to stay


Both the Premier Inn Central and the Holiday Inn, Bromsgrove are ideal destinations and within easy travelling distance to the venue.

Where to eat


If Spanish cuisine is your style try Casa Med for delicious tapas, or you can get a taste of the orient from Maekong Thai which does lovely Thai dishes. Get some spice from Zingas, our top-notch, local Indian and there’s also Prezzo which is ideal for a special pre-theatre dinner.

Where to drink


There’s a wide selection with the Little Ale House to sample the local ales and The Red Lion for a friendly atmosphere. If you’re after something a little more spirited, you can head in to the Slug and Lettuce for cocktails.

Where to get coffee


We have delicious coffee at the Artrix and if you’re out and about in town you can pop in to Plaza Coffee where you’ll find friendly staff and yummy food too!

Hang out at


Enjoy a crisp autumn walk in Sanders Park and go for a stroll by the pond. There’s also the Avoncroft Museum where you can find out about the history of local ancient buildings. If sports are more your thing, check out the local David Lloyd gym where you can play tennis and go for a swim, or pamper yourself and have your hair done at Saks.

Must see


We highly recommend taking a visit to the statue of the poet Housman in the town centre – he’s Bromsgrove’s Bard. There’s also the Farmer’s Market for a wide array of fresh local produce – the next one will be on 31st October.


EVERY BRILLIANT THING is at the Artrix, Bromsgrove tonight and you can get tickets here. Be fast though – there were only 12 left when we last checked!

Every Brilliant Thing: Review Round Up

EVERY BRILLIANT THING has been zig-zagging its way across the country this Autumn from the Highlands of Scotland to the coast of Brighton. The tour is coming to an end and once again we’ve been bowled over by the overwhelming response to the show.


Here’s a round-up of some of our favourite tweets and reviews so far…

“crisp and dynamic… never will two performances be the same” ★★★★★ Fix Magazine

“…builds a wonderful feeling of inclusivity… with its ordinary, everyday drops of happiness” ★★★★ Broadsheet Boutique  

“Uplifting, honest, and surprising. Not to be missed.” ★★★★ Intermission Bristol

“as far as evenings go, this is a practically perfect piece of theatre.” Bristol 24/7

“moving, funny, sad and highly enjoyable; the actor was energetic, enthusiastic and full of emotional understanding” Spalding Today

“beautifully written” Guide2Bristol

“guaranteed to make you laugh out loud and keep your eyes brimming…” Bristol Post

“Jonny Donahoe is ebullience incarnate.” StageTalk Magazine

“told with such tenderness and humanness that it makes you very, very pleased to be alive.” Weston SuperMum

“a show that covers aging, music, depression, love and much more”  Theatre Bristol Writers

#EveryBrilliantThing was just a bit gorgeous tonight. Loved it A photo posted by holly (@hollsenberg) on

“A lovely warm glow of a work.” The Reviews Hub

One of the best things about touring is seeing the response to shows that we bring to audiences – we love nothing more than sitting in the office and reading through reviews and hearing what people thought!

Find out where the show will be arriving in the final few weeks and grab your tickets here.

And don’t forget to let us know what you think using the hashtag #EveryBrilliantThing or sending us a tweet – we’re @painesplough.

We’re off to… Stoke

Roundabout arrives at Appetite in Stoke-on-Trent today on the final stop of the year (sob!). Tonight’s performance of EVERY BRILLIANT THING is sold out, but fear not as we have a plethora of plays and specially programmed one-off events that you can still grab tickets for.


For those of you coming to join us, our friends at Appetite have compiled a compendium of what to see, do, eat, and drink while you’re in town.

Must see

Stoke-on-Trent (otherwise called The Potteries) is having something of a ceramics renaissance at the mo, so whilst you’re here check out the British Ceramics Biennial, in full swing over in the grand surroundings of the former Spode Factory. A 5 minute walk from the train station, you’ll find the latest in cutting edge ceramic art.

In the City Centre, check out Entrepreneurs, an artist led shop with a public exhibition space upstairs. And just down from Roundabout (opposite the beautiful Bethesda Chapel) you’ll also stumble upon a fauno-tastic new mural (below) by graffiti artist Faunographic, commissioned by Entrepreneurs for Appetite’s Big Feast.


Also in Piccadilly there’s contemporary art gallery Airspace currently featuring the exhibition ‘Icon’.

If you have time why not stroll along the canal to Burslem and have cup a tea in the recently renovated Middleport Pottery, the home of the world-famous Burleigh, soon to be seen on BBC’s The Great British Pottery Thrown Down, or take a factory tour at The Emma Bridgewater Factory.


If you’re feeling historical why not pop your head into the famous Staffordshire Hoard exhibition at The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery. If you’re with kids or fancy a splash around, on Festival Park just outside the City Centre, you’ll also find the epic Waterworld.

Where to stay

The Quality Hotel is in stumbling distance of the City Centre and there’s also the Great Western Moat House Hotel just a little further away.

Where to eat

In Hanley head to Cafe Zest, café by day and bistro by night or The Exchange, which does burgers and typical pub fare. There’s also Roberto’s for Italian, The Church Bar and Restaurant for upscale British food and Peter’s Tavern for authentic Czech food.A little outside the City Centre there’s also the fantastic Med Bar for authentic Italian.

While you’re here of course don’t miss the world famous Staffordshire oatcake! For the ultimate hot crispy oatcake head to the Oatie Mostons stand, 2 mins from Roundabout, and ask for a cheese and bacon. Warning: only get the large if you’re feeling ravenous!

Where to drink

Stoke’s home to some great pubs. Why not try The Holy Inadequate in Etruria or The Bulls Head in Burslem, the brewery tap of the local Titanic Brewery.

There’s also the reputedly haunted The Leopard in Burslem if you’re feeling spooky or the cosy surroundings of The Glebe in Stoke just 5 mins from the station.

In Hanley there’s the recently opened Bottle Craft which has a tasting room, The Exchange bar and the historic Coachmakers Arms. If you like your ale real, The Hop Inn in Newcastle is 2015 winner of Potteries CAMRA pub of the year.

Where to get coffee

Try tsp. for great coffee, cupcakes and nice surroundings down in Piccadilly in Hanley, also featuring murals by local artist Eight.bit. There’s also the Spitfire Café at the Mitchell Arts Centre a little further down the road and Blondies Twisted Tea Room, in the centre of Hanley. Hang out at The Bread in Common café at the British Ceramics Biennial, run by community arts company B-Arts, it’s a great place to chill and munch on some fantastic bread made in their unique bread oven.

James’ Highlands & Islands Tour Diary

Last week EVERY BRILLIANT THING embarked on a tour of the Highlands & Islands of Scotland. Our Joint-AD James joined Jonny and Stage Manager Hamish for a spectacular road trip. Here’s his tour diary.

Sunday 20 September
Last night Jonny was on stage at Forest Arts Centre in New Milton, Hampshire. If you stand on tiptoes you can just about see the Isle Of Wight from there. Today he begins a journey to the very opposite end of the United Kingdom as EVERY BRILLIANT THING embarks on a week-long tour of the Scottish Highlands & Islands.

I’m going along for the ride, and I can’t wait. We try to make sure someone from Team PP travels to every different tour venue to support the company on the road, to see the venue first hand, meet and get to know venue staff and most importantly meet local people who are our audience. It made sense for it to be one person for this northerly week and I pulled ranks selflessly offered to be that person.

Jonny and I are in the grip of tour anticipation in a surprisingly nice Wetherspoons in the arrivals hall at Glasgow Airport awaiting our Stage Manager Hamish who is driving North with the list, Jonny’s costume and various tour collateral. We’re excited to be taking the show back to its village hall roots – it was conceived with Pentabus Theatre Company for a rural tour circuit and began life in Ludlow before its unexpected journey to New York via Edinburgh and more than 50 UK tour dates so far. We’re excited because neither of us has ever been North of Glasgow before. We’re excited because we both quite like whisky and there may the chance to sample a drop or two. It’s going to be an adventure.

All aboard the tour bus we soon get a first glimpse of the breathtaking scenery we’ll be treated to in the coming days as we drive around Loch Lomond, through the Trossachs National Park and up and over mountains to Fort William. Our pit stop for the night is the Croit Anna which looks incongruously like a U.S. roadside motel teleported to the banks of Loch Eil. We dump our bags, hit town and ensconce ourselves in The Grog and Gruel with pints of local ale, a plate of scallops and plans aplenty.

Monday 21 September
It’s an hour’s drive to Mallaig under blackened skies that unveil a vivid rainbow as we hit the coast and drive onto the car ferry. As we approach The Isle Of Eigg, the sky unfurls another rainbow over its craggy hills and white beaches. Nature is putting on quite a show. The wonderful Maggie meets us off the ferry and whisks us to the island’s one coffee shop, restaurant and bar – Galmisdale Bay – where we’re treated to homemade courgette and rosemary soup and sandwiches while Maggie gives us the Island lowdown. Eigg has been owned by its 98 residents since a pioneering community buy-out of the former Laird in 1997 and it has the world’s first completely wind, water and sun-powered electricity grid which was switched on in 2008 to give islanders 24 hour electricity for the first time. Its beautiful scenery is towered over by “an Sgurr”, the largest pitchstone ridge in Europe.

Eigg is tiny, and there are hardly any roads. It is impossible to get lost. You’d think. But we somehow conspire to embed the car in a field before considering we might have gone wrong somewhere, and Hamish suffers the ignominy of a three point turn under the disdainful gaze of a border collie, a duck and some chickens who know us a mile off for contemptible Southerners.

Isle of Eigg8

We set up the show in the beautiful Isle Of Eigg Community Hall, tuck into delicious homemade lamb curry and sag aloo delivered to us by local caterer Sarah, and set to a highly competitive pre-show warm-up on the ping pong table out back. Showtime is billed as 8pm but Maggie explains “island time” and sure enough our lovely audience of 24 gather for 8:30pm to be part of a very special, intimate Island show. Maggie says the audience would have been bigger but for it being someone’s birthday… we think 25% of the entire population is pretty good going.

We’re staying in the grand former Laird’s house, now converted into Earth Connections Eco Lodge by Bob and Norah who are passionate environmentalists and wonderfully warm and hospitable hosts. We see out the day with Highland ales by a wood burner in their beautiful library.

Tuesday 22 September
Fortified by Norah’s delectable breakfast (the homemade honey had Jonny in raptures), we drive to the other end of the island and hike across fields to the cliff face above the beautiful Singing Sands and spectacular views of the Hebrides. From the ferry we watch as the Islanders stand en masse to wave an emotional goodbye to Spaniard Paloma who has done the summer season on Eigg and become part of the family. From Mallaig we drive a windy coast road south and then inland through dramatic mountains to the tip of Loch Sunart’s wizened finger and Strontian. We’re warmly welcomed to the Ben View Hotel by Graham who we quickly establish is the world’s most genial and hospitable hotelier, his kindness extending to picking us up from the pub at the end of the night after a couple of warming drams from a well stocked top shelf.

Wednesday 23 September
Graham’s breakfast will take some beating. A Scottish cheeseboard and chorizo to start, obvs, fresh fruit and yoghurts, and then the “full heart attack” – top notch bacon, sausage, black pudding and everything else. No need for lunch, it’s fair to say. We shelter from a dreich Scottish morning and tackle some admin before Hamish heads to The Sunart Centre to set up tonight’s show. With the sun making a tentative appearance we head out for some fresh afternoon air and in Jonny’s case a paddle in the crystal clear loch. After a pre-show bite at the riverside Kilcamb Lodge, we head to Ardnamurchan High School which houses the Arts Centre and tonight’s gig. There’s a foosball table in the foyer on which we discover Jonny is a professional standard table football player. He beats Hamish 10-0 and me 10-1.

Before and After!

Strontian: Before and After!

We’d put 40 chairs out tonight but to our delight we’re soon helping our host Eoghan unstack more from the store cupboard as the audience continues to grow. We end up three rows deep and Jonny steps on stage in a warm and responsive atmosphere to tell the story of the list once more.

In an act of unbelievable generosity, Graham welcomes us back to the hotel with a late night feast he’s prepared – lentil soup, garlic bread, Cajun chicken, whisky infused Scottish cheddar. We’ve each put on a stone in 24 hours. Graham joins us to watch the football highlights we discover he does have a foible amidst the amazingness – he’s a Liverpool supporter. We express sympathy and hit the sack.

Thursday 24 September
After another “full heart attack” we’re on the road again and heading North. We think the Sat Nav has had a meltdown before spotting the Corran – Inchree ferry offering us passage across Loch Linnhe. Is this the shortest car ferry route in the world? It takes about 3 minutes. We stop off in Fort William for coffee before joining the A87 for miles of dramatic natural splendour as vicious rain hammers the mountain sides and forms frothing torrents cascading to the lochs below.

Dornie Hall2

Dornie Hall has a strong claim to the most picturesque location of any theatre we’ve ever toured to. Perched on a little peninsular where three great lochs meet, it is surrounded by lobster pots, framed by towering mountains and backdropped by the beautiful and iconic Eilean Donan Castle. It’s breathtaking. We set up the show and head off to take a look at the castle up close, before finding tonight’s now traditional sporting pre-show warm-up in the form of a pool table in The Dornie Hotel. I won. Just saying.

The show is a cracker. Our wonderful hosts Lochan Arts have gone all out to bring in a crowd and make the hall really homely with a little bar and free crisps for all. Jonny really enjoys himself and we’re thrilled to meet audience members afterwards from miles around and even two who are visiting from Montana. It’s a short drive over the bridge to the Isle Of Skye and our hotel for the night.

Friday 25 September 

It has come to our attention that the Talisker Distillery is on the Isle Of Skye, and so are we. It would be rude not to. So we wind our way through jaw-dropping scenery to the other side of the Island to join the fascinating distillery tour and partake in just a tiny little tasting. We were tipped off that last night’s Vet owns a café that serves the best coffee on Skye, so we stop off on the way back. The coffee is excellent, but the Vet is nowhere to be seen. Maybe he has followed a veterinary calling?

Such is the unending spectacle we are treated to through the windscreen, we’re starting to get blasé, but it’s no hardship to retrace our route along the A87 to see again its majestic sidings. We’re soon on the banks of Loch Ness, unable to stop our necks from craning and our eyes from scanning the water for any sign of mysterious dark shapes beneath the surface as we roll into Drumnadrochit.

Tonight’s show is at The Craigmonie Centre at Glen Urquhart High School, which slightly surreally is an exact replica of the school in Strontian. So we know our way around. There is a dart board in the actual room we’re performing in, which solves tonight’s sporting pre-show warm-up. Hamish is a bit of a wiz with the arrows, it turns out. A properly lovely audience assembles and Jonny gives a virtuoso performance in a small but perfectly formed circle.

We’re alerted to the fact that tonight is the last night of the Loch Ness Beer Festival, which is remarkably fortuitous. We need no further bidding.

Saturday 26 September 

Dornie Hall

Allow me to sing for a moment the praises of the largely unsung heroes of touring – stage managers. In our case, he’s called Hamish, and he’s an absolute marvel. Hamish has many skills – amongst them playing darts and Tetris packing a car with a PA, speakers, speaker stands and myriad other things. His workload on tour is frankly Sisyphean: driving for hours, unpacking the car, setting up the show, operating the show, doing the get-out, re-packing the car, organising hotels, corralling sometimes tardy actors and Artistic Directors to stick to carefully conceived schedules – all with great grace and good humour and an air of indefatigable enthusiasm. Truly the lynchpin of the tour.

And thank goodness for Hamish this morning as he uncomplainingly drives our fuzzy heads four hours north from Drumnadrochit to Lyth. We keep going just a little bit further for a quick and unashamedly touristic stop at John O’Groats before traversing the now flattened plains to Lyth Arts Centre. What a welcome awaits us from our tremendous host Bing – coffee and homemade melt-in-the-mouth scones and pancakes, and our lodgings in cosy rooms opposite the theatre with views that stretch for miles of uninterrupted fields stretching to the sea. This beautiful place is a labour of love, conceived by artistic director William in 1970 when he sold his London flat and bought a former school building which he has personally, painstakingly renovated and transformed into a theatre, art gallery, rehearsal space and artists’ residence.

William personally greets the audience as they arrive from miles around and charges their glasses. The show is beautiful – quiet, concentrated, emotional. Then the whole audience joins William for sit-down dinner in the gallery before returning to the auditorium for part two – a concert by Jazz Extempore, five musicians from England, Scotland, Brazil and Croatia who met each other at William’s invitation on Monday and have spent the week living together here, sharing the music of their own cultures and composing new songs to play for us tonight. They are astounding. William says his goodbyes to the audience and joins us and the band for drams late into the night. Lyth Arts Centre – a heart-warming, welcoming, vital place serving its local community and artists worldwide, run with love and integrity. We are honoured to have visited.

Sunday 27 September 
Another bright and breezy start and on to the car ferry from the deliciously named Scrabster to Stromness on Orkney, which looks idyllically lovely in gentle Autumnal sunshine. We arrive at St Magnus Centre in Kirkwall and walk purposefully into the venue, only to beat a hasty and loudly apologetic retreat as we gatecrash a room of lady choristers mid-change into their robes. We take the opportunity for a mosey around the town and harbour.

It’s a cracker of a show to finish our Highlands and Islands adventure. Orkney has the best readers – loud and clear as bells to a man and woman. Our host Ian joins us for some post-show grub at the lovely seafront restaurant Helgi’s before we retire to our digs tired and happy.

Monday 28 September 
The most astounding sunrise paints the sky vermillion as our early morning taxi drives Jonny and I to the mini Kirkwall airport, and heroic Hamish points the car back towards the ferry and south towards our next show tomorrow night in Leeds. It’s been an honour and a privilege to visit such beautiful places, meet such lovely people and perform for such generous, warm-hearted audiences. Thank you to all who welcomed us. The Highlands & Islands – a brilliant thing.