Category Archive: International Adventures

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.

Santiago tour diary

The British Council invited our Artistic Director James to the EDEC conference in Santiago to met Chilean playwrights and see LUNGS make its Latin American debut. Here’s his tour diary.

Santiago from the top of San Cristobal.

Santiago from the top of San Cristobal

Monday 28 September
This morning I watched the sunrise on Orkney at the end of EVERY BRILLIANT THING’s Highlands and Islands tour. Tonight I’m at Heathrow heading for Santiago as a guest of The British Council at Encuentro de Dramaturgia Europea Contemporánea – a conference bringing together European and Chilean theatremakers to discuss contemporary European theatre and showcase plays from across Europe. I’ve never been to Latin America so this is exciting.

Tuesday 29 September
The approach to Santiago over the snow-peaked Andes is sensational. Chile’s capital lives in a big bowl of a valley stretching 50 miles across with mountains all around it. The blanket of smog makes it look like the crater of a volcano until the plane ducks underneath to reveal the sprawling city. My host Alex – the British Council’s international projects manager here in Chile – meets me at my hotel and whisks me straight to Santiago staple Emporio La Rosa, voted one of the top 10 ice cream parlours in the world for a quick introduction to Chilean theatre and a delicious introduction to Lúcuma ice cream.

The opening event of the conference sees critic Jürgen Berger give a talk on current trends in German theatre, which is translated into Spanish and then very kindly by Alex into English for my benefit. Everyone repairs to a beautiful roof garden for wine, canapés and speeches to officially open EDEC 15. Cameras flash as the culture minister turns up to make an address.

Ana López Montaner who is directing the reading of LUNGS on Saturday invites me to join her at The Clinic, a bar famous for political debates. Ana’s excellent English makes up for my shameful lack of Spanish and we set to discussing Duncan’s wonderful play.

This way for my workshop, apparently...

This way for my workshop, apparently…

Wednesday 30 September
I’m running workshops at the beautiful Universidad Católica – a huge old monastery with trees and fountains adorning courtyards and cloisters surrounded by lecture halls and art studios and rehearsal rooms. Playwright collective Interdram has invited playwrights from across Chile to attend the conference and meet delegates. It is fascinating to hear experiences from top to bottom of this huge and varied country (Chile is 2,672 miles long), and to discover the obstacles and anxieties writers face here are largely the same as at home. We focus on politics. What makes a play political? How do the personal and political coexist in great plays? It’s a fascinating discussion here where the scars of the Pinochet dictatorship are still so clearly seen. And it’s a tough workout for my heroic translator George who simultaneously translates the discussion as everyone contributes.

Thursday 1 October
Today my workshop focus is on LUNGS, or rather PULMONES as it is in its Spanish translation. The group has read the play and really love it. It’s exhilarating to be part of a passionate debate about a play in a different language and culture, sensing how well it translates and how relevant and poignant its themes are even on the other side of the world.

Ana invites me to see a production of Camus’ LOS JUSTOS. I don’t understand a word but I’m struck by the very European aesthetic – big, bold, physical, colourful and expressionistic storytelling. It’s staged at the home of Theatrocinema who I’m excited to meet. Their productions of THE MAN WHO FED BUTTERFLIES and HISTORIA DE AMORE have wowed the Edinburgh International Festival with ground-breaking fusions of film and live performance, so I’m thrilled to get a peek behind the scenes of their super cool converted cinema home.


Friday 2 October
This morning I’m accompanying Alex at a meeting of the Arts Council and artistic directors of regional theatres. Once again I’m struck by the similarities in the discussions here and at home – a desire to see more work tour, a frustration at city hotspots attracting money and talent at the expense of the rest of the country.

Then we meet a group of playwrights who had been part of the Royal Court’s workshop programme in 2012, culminating with their plays being staged as readings in London in 2013. The experience had been transformative for them and it was great to get their take on the state of Chilean theatre. The common theme is the lack of producers, or producing infrastructure, which means writers often have to produce their own work. In fact, they quite often produce, direct and perform in their own work, and tear the tickets at the door.

This evening I’m at GAM, a magnificent modernist arts centre – Santiago’s answer to the Barbican – to see a dance piece EMOVERE which sees performers hooked up to sensors which trigger music to match their physical movement.


Saturday 3 October
I have some spare time today so I climb San Cristobal hill which looms over central Santiago and offers panoramic views of the city from the huge white statue of the Virgin Mary at its peak. I push through the crowds and marvel at the colours and aromas in the city’s two vast markets La Vega and Mercado Central before tucking into delicious ceviche and chowder.

Then it’s back to GAM for the reading of PULMONES which Ana has staged beautifully with the two actors reading the play from iPads and each scene assuming different relationships with two chairs on an otherwise empty stage. There are around 100 people listening and they love it. I know the play so well that I can follow it even though I don’t understand word-by-word and it is thrilling to hear big laughs come at exactly the points I hoped and a silence descend on the room as the play bewitches its audience just as it does back home. Proof that great art is truly universal.

We repair to an incredible wine bar called Bocanariz that serves tasting glasses from its vast menu and toast Ana’s production and Duncan’s wonderful play.


PULMONES on stage in Chile

Sunday 4 October
I spend my last morning in Santiago at the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, a museum dedicated to remembering the victims of the Pinochet regime. It’s a stark, powerful evocation of Chile’s dark recent history and a deeply moving memorial to the many who lost their lives.

It’s been an honour visiting this wonderful country and meeting so many talented, passionate playwrights. Muchos gracias particularly to Alex and Ana for being such generous hosts. Our hope is that this trip is just the beginning of an ongoing relationship between Paines Plough and theatremakers in Chile that will foster the exchange of ideas and see plays like LUNGS/PULMONES cross continents.

Now, I’ve got 48 hours to get to Bristol to see another Duncan Macmillan play. Here goes.

Jonny on Broadway.TV

Here’s Jonny being interviewed by Broadway.TV after Opening Night of EVERY BRILLIANT THING at Barrow Street Theatre in NYC…


New York, New York

GOOD WITH PEOPLE closed in New York last week after a sell-out run as part of 59 East 59 Theaters’ annual Brits Off Broadway festival which brings together an eclectic mix of (mainly new) work and is one of the only platforms in the city for smaller-scale British productions (alongside the Public Theater’s Under The Radar festival and Carol Tambor’s annual Edinburgh to NYC transfer award).

GOOD WITH PEOPLE is the third show we have presented at Brits Off Broadway since the festival’s inception nearly ten years ago, following Gregory Burke’s THE STRAITS in 2004 and Dennis Kelly’s AFTER THE END in 2006.

Highlights of this year’s festival programme include Rob Drummond’s BULLET CATCH and BULL by PP Associate Playwright Mike Bartlett, which is directed by ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG director Clare Lizzimore and produced by our friends at Sheffield Theatres.

In fact, PP has its prints firmly smudged all over New York at the moment.

Ex-Associate Director John Tiffany has two shows running on Broadway, a one-man MACBETH starring Alan Cumming and the critically acclaimed ONCE, which is authored by one-time PP Associate Playwright Enda Walsh and will soon star our brilliant 2012 Research Intern Jo Christie (who James and George first worked with on the 2005 Old Vic New Voices 24 Hour Plays). Meanwhile Dennis Kelly’s version of Matilda has just opened to triumphant reviews.

Needless to say, it’s a fantastic city to present theatre in, and in which to spend a few days. So while most of team PP were opening JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS in Watford, it was left to Joint Artistic George along with creative team Ben Stones and Tim Deiling to forage the city on our behalf in search of the finest sights, theatre and burgers the Big Apple has to offer.

Their favourite show by far was Amy Herzog’s BELLEVILLE at New York Theatre Workshop. We first met Amy at the Orchard Project in Hunter, up-state New York. We were out there with Laurence Wilson and Joel Horwood, developing work. Amy was there working on several plays, including 4,000 Miles which – after a sell-out run on Broadway – has just opened in the UK at the Ustinov in Bath. Directed by Artistic Director designate of Northampton Royal and Derngate Theatres James Dacre, the British production transfers to West London’s Print Room next month. Without doubt Amy is a major new voice in American playwriting and, along with writers like Annie Baker and Katori Hall, now finally has a well-deserved UK premiere. Trust us when we say you don’t want to miss it.

Sadly we didn’t manage to see Annie’s play THE FLICK which, alongside BELLEVILLE, was the talk of the town.

Meanwhile, ‘Best Burger’ goes to (drumroll) the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian hotel. Thanks to Stacey Sampson (@OurStace) for the recommendation. It’s a low-fi, in-and-out little hideaway, nestled secretly (but for an illuminated neon picture of a burger) behind a plush red curtain in the marble opulence of the hotel foyer. Simple ingredients executed to perfection for a great price in an great atmosphere, served with plastic beakers of Sam Adams. Surely that’s what a New York burger is all about.

We also tried: the 5 Napkin burger thanks to Louise Miles-Crust (@loumilcru), whose twist on the classic cheese-burger was to include a smothering of aioli; the classic burger at PJ Clarkes, which was a pale version of what it once was; Corner Bistro’s cheese burger which hit the spot in a hurry; Shake Shack’s special which ran in a close second; and finally the burger at the Standard Hotel Bar and Grill, which designer Ben gave a big five stars to but which we ultimately marked down on price.

The Highline was the tourist attraction of choice amongst the team. A rail-road that has been converted in to a city park that runs about 20 blocks on the lower west side it offers an unparalleled perspective on the city and a great place to catch respite from the bustle four stories below.

And bar-of-the-week, for entertainment value alone, has to be Marie’s Crisis in the West Village, where the entire bar gather around a piano to sing show-tunes together late in to the night.

I want to wake up in a city,

That doesn’t sleep,

To find I’m king of the hill,

Head of the list,

Cream of the crop

At the top of the heap.

New York, New York.

[GOOD WITH PEOPLE featured as part of Brits Off Broadway with the kind and generous support of Creative Scotland and Made In Scotland.]

Top tips for a week Off-Broadway

We’ve landed in the big apple to open our next production of Programme 2013 – David Harrower’s GOOD WITH PEOPLE.

The last time we had a show stateside was in summer 2006 when we transferred AFTER THE END by Dennis Kelly here to 59 East 59 Theaters.

We’ve been back a few times since then, mainly to visit the Orchard Project in upstate New York and to catch up on shows here in the city, but it’s never quite the same as having your own show Off-Broadway.

So for the rest of this week our AD George, Designer Ben Stones and Lighting Designer Tim Deiling will be squeezing the best out of the city around their tech week. Their interests include theatre, burgers and dive bars.

Top tips anyone?

Paines Plough por todo el mundo

Not content with reaching the four countries of the United Kingdom, Paines Plough and the playwrights it works with are on a mission to take over the world. One small or medium scale theatre venue at a time.

You might have read James’ blog last week about LOVE, LOVE, LOVE in Argentina. Below is a Buenos Aires news report on the production. It looks fantastic – we’re just sad it has not been translated as Amor, amor, amor.

Click here for Argentine TV coverage.

Another production which has been sucker-punching audiences across the pond is Duncan Macmillan’s LUNGS.

Since the premier back in 2011, it has now been seen by audiences in Washington D.C, the Barrington Stage, Rhode Island and even in Winnipeg over in Canada.

And if that were not enough, there are other productions set to open in Philadelphia, Amherst, Boston and Florida too.

We’d absolutely love love love to hear from any of you who have had the chance to catch either Duncan or Mike’s plays outside the UK.

Get in touch.

Dispatches from Jersey #1 – James Graham

Eulah House, Jersey - our home from home this week

Eulah House, Jersey - our home from home this week

In the departures lounge at Gatwick, we five writers (me, Matt, Sam, Robin, Stacey) and our directors (George and James) realised we actually knew very little about Jersey, and so we came up with a small list of ‘The Most Important Questions To Ask’ as soon as we arrived and found a proper real life Jersey … person. Jerseyite? Jerseyrian? Anyway (Jersey Boy?), so –

Number 1: has there ever been a fox on Jersey? (My mum the night before told me in all seriousness there’d never, ever been a fox on Jersey, which seemed just ridiculous so I made it my mission, in between writing plays and films, to find one and take a photo).

Number 2: what’s the deal with the cow in the house? (Matt had heard a story about a calf being raised in the attic of a house only for it to grow too big as a cow and they couldn’t get it back down the stairs so it got stuck there and is still there).

Number 3: does anyone pay any tax, honestly, and if not, what the hell’s going on with that?

When we arrived though, we soon forgot about our questions as we got picked up by Tom and our others hosts from the Jersey Arts Trust and taken to our lodgings for the week – the beautiful and huge Eulah House.

It all then got a bit controversial – wrongly, in my view – when we decided to pick rooms at random and I got the Honeymoon Suite; the largest best room in the house. Some insinuated it would be wasted on me. I’m not even sure I know what that means but I don’t like the implication. Anyway, everyone has a gorgeous room, even if they don’t have my four-poster bath (the first four-poster bath any of us had ever seen.)

We met and had dinner that night with our Jersey counterparts – writers Ben, Colin, Martha, Leon and Hannah, who are joining us in the house this week to write and stuff.

So yesterday (Tuesday) was our first full day of doing the thing we’ve been brought here to do, and that’s write. I’ve always been obsessed by how and where and when other writers write. Here’s my observations of today: Robin worked in the big living room with the Christmas tree, which sort of set a precedent and a lot of us writers migrated there throughout the day. Except Sam, who stayed in her room (not as big as mine), and likewise Stacey (likewise, tiny). George faced the view of the sea, I faced away. Martha and Ben took up positions on the sofa. Leon at the table. James has been attacking his inbox today; Matt opted to work for some of the day in the pool house where his room is (not as big as mine).

A handful of us opted for a bracing early morning walk along the promenade, which we may well repeat today. Someone else amongst us, enlisted to do tomorrow’s blog post, will no doubt let you know …

(p.s. the answer to our questions. 1/ no, apparently not, hence all the red squirrels, 2/ this is perhaps a myth 3/ no. No one does. And they’re fine with that).

Guinness anyone?

Dublin's fair city

As recently reported, team PP spent some time up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, where we were lucky enough to see an abundance of brilliant work. You can imagine my delight therefore when last week our joint AD James extended to me an invitation to the ABSOLUT Fringe Festival in Dublin, courtesy of the very lovely people at the Irish Theatre Institute. One week later,  I’m taking two days off from booking our spring tour of Kate Tempest’s WASTED, and boarding an Aer Lingus flight from London Gatwick, to see what Irish theatre has in store. Very excited indeed.

As Ireland’s largest multi-disciplinary arts festival, over 16 days the ABSOLUT Fringe Festival stages up to 525 events in over 40 venues, and is a platform for the best new, emerging Irish arts companies and a showcase for the best contemporary theatre. While I’m there, I’ll have the pleasure of attending the ITI’s Information Toolbox and Show in a Bag initiative, a platform for new small-scale artist led shows which promise to be daring and invigorating.

Historically, PP has enjoyed a great relationship with the Irish, and we’re always on the lookout for new writers to work with, and venues to tour to. You may remember our A Play, A Pie and A Pint season last year toured all five plays to Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, one of the venues at this year’s ABSOLUT Fringe. Artistic Director of Bewley’s, David Horan, directed IN THE PIPELINE by Gary Owen, and Belfast born Marie Jones wrote FLY ME TO THE MOON. We were also thrilled to take Mike Bartlett’s LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to this year’s Galway Arts Festival, and delving into our archive, you’ll see that we have recently produced plays by ace Irish playwrights Enda Walsh, Sebastian Barry and Hilary Fannin.

With a jam-packed schedule of new writing, Information Toolbox and Show in a Bag, I’ll report back fully next week on my Dublin adventure… if I ever make it out of the Guinness Factory, where I have been instructed by James to find time to have a pint. Yes boss!

Footage from LOVE in Galway

Our Artistic Director James gave an interview to Galway Arts Festival TV when we were over in Ireland with LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. It includes some footage of the cast rehearsing in the Town Hall Theatre prior to our sold-out week long run.

We haven’t been able to embed the video, but you can watch it here.

Love from Galway

The stunning Galway Bay

So here we are in beautiful Galway on the West Coast of Ireland for The Galway Arts Festival.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE opens tonight at The Town Hall Theatre, a lovely two-tiered 393 seat proscenium arch theatre in Galway City. The show runs until Saturday and virtually every ticket has been sold, so we’re looking forward to a great week.

The get-in underway at Galway's Town Hall Theatre

Although there’s not much time to see the city or the rest of the festival with a get-in and rehearsals underway, we were fortunate enough to catch the opening performance of MISTERMAN by Paines Plough alumni Enda Walsh last night, with Cillian Murphy in world-class form on stage. And then we managed a couple of pints of Guinness in the festival club. Just to acclimatise, you understand.

Ben Addis next to a poster of... Ben Addis

Now we’re off to the theatre for tech / dress and then curtain up tonight at 8pm. Wish us luck.