Category Archive: Jumpers For Goalposts

Programme 2014

spacer As we celebrate 40 years of Paines Plough, we’re proud to present our biggest, boldest and furthest-reaching programme of work to date. Programme 2014 sees 10 productions touring to 50 places around the UK, featuring the work of 100 playwrights.

Drum roll please… welcome to Programme 2014.

spacer HOPELESSLY DEVOTED by Kate Tempest
spacer Following the success of her smash-hit debut WASTED, we premiered Kate Tempest‘s exhilarating new play HOPELESSLY DEVOTED on tour across the Midlands last Autumn, in co-production with Birmingham Repertory TheatreThis Spring it’s back – on tour nationwide and in London.

You lift my soul up. I ripped our lives down.

Chess is in prison. Facing a lengthy sentence, her cell mate, Serena, becomes her soul mate. But when Serena is given parole, Chess faces total isolation.

Hope comes in the form of a music producer looking for a reason to love music again. She finds a powerful voice in Chess. But to harness her talent, Chess must first face her past.

Lyrical fireworks. Live music. A story of love and redemption.

“OUTSTANDING”                   ★★★★★ The Public Reviews


spacer BLISTER by Laura Lomas
spacer In co-production with Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Gate TheatreBLISTER is a tender, poignant new play by Laura Lomas.

If I could give you all the blood in my body…go back…make it undone…undo what happened, I would do.

An ordinary summer’s day.

Liam is about to make a decision he will spend a life time regretting.

One day. One mistake.

Seven lives sent spiralling.

From service stations to sea fronts, BLISTER examines one moment and its ripple effects through a galaxy of lives.


spacer Blister by Laura Lomas
spacer NOT THE WORST PLACE by Sam Burns
spacer A beautiful, touching debut play by Sam Burns – nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn prizeNOT THE WORST PLACE tackles our conflicting emotions about the place we call home. In co-production with Clwyd Theatre Cymru and Sherman Cymru.

I ain’t got a city named for me…The swans have though, haven’t they. They got a city named for them.

Seventeen-year-old Emma dreams of travelling adventures beyond her Swansea home. Rhys, her idle boyfriend, has other plans for them.

Camped out on Swansea seafront, they must confront the difficult question of what it takes to leave the place that shaped everything they are.

A story about what happens when life gets in the way of your dreams.


spacer Not the Worst Place by Sam Burns
spacer AN INTERVENTION by Mike Bartlett
spacer Paines Plough and Watford Palace Theatre present the world première of AN INTERVENTION – a new play by Mike Bartlett, Olivier award-winning author of LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

Two friends.

One of them went on the anti-war protest, shouted their lungs out, then got horrendously and staggeringly drunk.

The other stayed at home, watched TV for a bit, and thought about the future.

A touching, funny play about what happens when you hate your best friend.


spacer EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan
spacer Last summer saw us tour Duncan Macmillan‘s EVERY BRILLIANT THING to Ludlow Fringe Festival and Ledbury Poetry Festival. We’re delighted to be bringing the show back this year, in co-production with Pentabus Theatre.

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

So 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

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.

The performance of Every Brilliant Thing involves members of the audience, making each night unique.

Based on true and untrue stories.


spacer LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan
spacer Last year, our production of Duncan Macmillan’s critically acclaimed LUNGS was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and we’re thrilled to be including it as part of our Roundabout Season this year, in co-production with Sheffield Theatres.

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.

In a time of global anxiety, terrorism, erratic weather and political unrest, a young couple want a child but are running out of time. If they over think it, they’ll never do it. But if they rush, it could be a disaster.

They want to have a child for the right reasons. Except, what exactly are the right reasons? And what will be the first to destruct – the planet or the relationship?

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


spacer Lungs by Duncan MacMillan
spacer OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL by Dennis Kelly
spacer Dennis Kelly headlines our Roundabout Season this year with OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL, a hilarious play about mischief and mayhem, in co-production with Half Moon.

Once, there were two terrible twins called Holly and Sean, who gave their Head teacher a nervous breakdown.

The twins were extremely pleased with themselves. That is, until the new Head Teacher arrived. For you see, the new Head Teacher was – a Troll. That’s right.

And this Troll Head Teacher soon created all kinds of mad new rules for the pupils and teachers.

Can Holly and Sean save the day and stop the Troll from eating their class mates and teachers? Can naughtiness be restored to its rightful place? Will brussels sprouts and peanut butter be taken off the menu?

The only way to find out is to come along and be outrageously entertained by this colourfully comic adventure.


spacer Our Teacher's a Troll by Dennis Kelly
spacer THE ANGRY BRIGADE by James Graham
spacer In co-production with Drum Theatre Plymouth, we’re very excited to present THE ANGRY BRIGADE, a bold new play by James Graham, writer of sell-out smash hit THIS HOUSE.

…its government has declared a vicious class war.

A one-sided war…

We have started to fight back…

…with bombs.

Against a backdrop of Tory cuts, high unemployment and the deregulated economy of 1970s Britain, a young urban guerrilla group mobilises: The Angry Brigade.

Their targets: MPs. Embassies. Police. Pageant Queens.

A world of order is shattered by anarchy. The rules have changed. An uprising has begun. No one is exempt.

As a special police squad hunt the home-grown terrorists whose identities shocked the nation, James Graham’s heart-stopping thriller lures us into a frenzied world that looks much like our own.


spacer The Angry Brigade by James Graham
spacer COME TO WHERE I’M FROM by 100 playwrights
spacer COME TO WHERE I’M FROM is our writer-led theatrical tapestry of the UK.Since 2010, 100 playwrights from across the UK have returned to their home towns to write plays about the places that shaped them.

Our 5-year project to weave a theatrical tapestry of the UK culminates with a three day installation at London’s South Bank Centre and the launch of a smart phone app.

An interactive map of the UK allows listeners to hear tales of home from over 100 of the UK’s finest playwrights. A free-to-download smart phone app offers a playwright’s travel guide to Britain.


spacer Come to Where I'm From
spacer Programme 2014 began with Tom Wells‘ acclaimed football rom-com JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS at the Bush Theatre. In co-production wiith Watford Palace Theatre and Hull Truck Theatre, JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS toured nationwide in 2013.

I’m not asking you to win. I’m asking you to just: chuck your face at it, have a, have a fucking good go at it. And then we’ll. Yeah. We’ll see.

Luke wants Danny, but Danny’s got a secret. Joe wants to play second fiddle, but Geoff wants a headline gig. Viv just wants to beat the lesbians to the league title. Game on.

A hilarious and heart-warming story about football, friendship and finding your way from Tom Wells, winner of the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright 2012 for the smash hit comedy THE KITCHEN SINK (★★★★★ The Daily Telegraph).


All images by Phoebe Cheong



Review of the Year 2013

Our Programme 2013 saw us produce new work by 15 playwrights across 8 productions touring to 44 towns and cities nationwide.

We send love and thanks to all who came to see a PP show this year, and we hope you’ll join us in 2014 as we celebrate our 40th Anniversary with a stellar programme of new plays on tour.

Meantime, here’s a quick lowdown on the year that was…

WASTED by Kate Tempest
Back by popular demand, WASTED completed our inaugural CAMPUS tour of Student Unions before a second sold-out run at London’s Roundhouse, where we live streamed a performance for the first time.

“Ingenious…funny and true.”
★★★★ The Guardian

“A slender, wistful three-way play that’s as seductive as smoke.”
★★★★ Time Out

You still have one more day to catch the live stream if you missed it!

LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan
Our co-production with Sheffield Theatres of Duncan Macmillan’s award-winning, much-loved LUNGS was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

“The most beautiful… shattering play of the year.”
★★★★★ Sunday Express

GOOD WITH PEOPLE by David Harrower
First co-produced by Paines Plough and Òran Mór as part of A Play, A Pie and A Pint in 2010, GOOD WITH PEOPLE made it all the way to 59E59 Theatres in New York in 2013.

“Harrower’s beautiful, deceptive wisp of a play…Duff and Scott-Ramsay are perfection.”
Ben Brantley, New York Times

On home soil, we took COME TO WHERE I’M FROM – our theatrical tapestry of the UK, woven by writers asking if home is really where the heart is – to Plymouth and Leeds this year.

Check out some insights from our playwrights here.

In partnership with Pentabus, we premiered Duncan MacMillan’s EVERY BRILLIANT THING at Ludlow Fringe Festival and Ledbury Poetry Festival last summer.

Here’s what audiences had to say:

“Altogether so human, so relatable…it uplifts and enlightens, exploring the joy and endless possibility of humanity.”

SEA WALL by Simon Stephens
Andrew Scott reprised his acclaimed performance for an exclusive seven nights only in Simon Stephens’ SEA WALL at The Shed at The National Theatre.

“One of the most devastating 30 minutes you are ever likely to experience in the theatre.”
Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

“As engaging and devastating a piece of theatre as you’re likely to find….”
★★★★★ Independent

Following the huge success of WASTED, we were reunited with performance poet Kate Tempest for HOPELESSLY DEVOTED, which opened with our co-producers at Birmingham Rep and toured the Midlands in September-October. HOPELESSLY DEVOTED will return for a Spring 2014 tour.

“The play sings and soars, a little shard of lyrical brilliance… startlingly beautiful.”
★★★★ The Times

“Outstanding… The writing is fantastic, with just the right balance of spoken word, song and dialogue.”
★★★★★ The Public Reviews

And some words from our Tweeters:

“Absolutely loved #HopelesslyDevoted. Now that’s the theatre that gets my blood pumping.”

And last but certainly not least, Tom Wells’ infectiously funny, critically acclaimed football rom-com JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS, which we co-produced with Watford Palace Theatre and Hull Truck.

“The perfect winter-warmer…blissfully funny…deeply affecting”
★★★★★ Daily Telegraph

“Wells has given us another winner…Unreservedly recommended.”
★★★★★ Independent

“A razor sharp, beautifully human script that brings to life characters that every one of us will know, but whom rarely get to claim their space within gay culture.”
★★★★★ Attitude Magazine

And on the Twittersphere:

“Jumpers for Goalposts. One of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen this year. Am totally speechless.”

Playing at The Bush Theatre until 4 January 2014. Book tickets here.

It’s been a wonderful year of theatre (and cake!) and there’s no denying we couldn’t have had as much without you (and cake!) coming along for the ride.

So – keep eating cake, and we wish you all a merry Christmas! Catch you next year?

Team PP x

Cupcake? :)

JFG Insights-2nd week at The Bush

We’ve settled right in here in W12.  Shepherds Bush has everything: cafés, caffs, restaurants, markets, gyms, convenience stores, and humming away behind it, glowing like a docked spacecraft, is the Westfield Shopping Centre.  It has its own gravity force and sucks us in after matinees, relieves us of fifteen quid for our ‘quick bite to eat’ and makes us buy clothes that we don’t need.  DAMN YOU, Westfield (and thank you for your nice Byron burgers and shakes).

Fortunately, the café/bar at the Bush is properly lovely.  There’s a reading room with a huge collection of plays on the old shelves (it used to be the local library), including the ones that have recently been playing.  You can sit there with your fat sausage roll and good coffee and relax.

It’s not been that relaxing, really; London isn’t set up for that, and it’s better to just drink plenty of coffee and hurl yourself into the maelstrom.  Have fun and sleep when you die (or, better, in January).  Margaret Thatcher only needed four hours sleep per night whilst she was PM; Andy Rush needs even less, and he’s not busy smashing the Unions.  Phil and I were knackered after a 2-show Saturday and an evening at Blacks and Madame Jojo’s (50s hits/Northern Soul), but Duracell Rush wasn’t done; no, he held an impromptu limbo competition in the middle of Soho afterwards.

Andy Rush doing what he does best!

The shows themselves come thick and fast.  Whilst we’re waiting to go on we can hear and feel the anticipation from the packed houses.  There are people we know at every performance – friends, family, loves, casting and industry folk – along with the dozens who have queued for tickets and put their hands in their pockets to come and see our play.  We look each other in the eye as we line up after Amy gives us the ‘Stand by’ call, backs are patted, hands are shaken, a quick hug, one more daub of mud and then we’re out there.  We want to give them all a ‘Press Night’.

JFG Bush Dressing Room

The standard we’ve set ourselves is high.  Of course we have – it’s a matter of professional and personal pride, but the closeness of the audience and the writing itself demands it.  This space keeps you honest and you get found out if your energy or concentration slips by a degree.  In two scenes I am sitting on the bench downstage left, only a couple of feet from the front row, close enough to nick their Werthers.  The other night I heard a guy whisper the end of one of Viv’s lines before she’d said it herself.  It seems people have come back to see us for a second or even a third time.

Audience at the Bush awaiting show-time

James came in last week to watch the show.  It was a decent enough performance but the running time was long – a sure sign that some moments are being indulged.  He gave us some important notes: keep listening to each other, stop ‘performing’ it, and tell the story for the first time, every time, with simplicity and clarity.  An audience can tell when you start to fall in love (a bit) with your lines and gradually you can hear less belly in the laughter and more shuffling in the quiet parts.

Weird things happen when you’ve been doing a show for a while.  Phil had a funny turn during one show (not just intentionally funny, which he always is) and scrambled a couple of his lines: ‘slim prickings’ were on offer in his library, and we had to smirk when he declared that, at Luke’s parents’ cookery weekend, ‘you tell posh people how to whisk.’  At the start of scene 4 Viv takes the team through the current league table and complex results permutations.  Last Wednesday, much to our surprise, she produced the ball pump (makeshift pointer) as usual but also a pair of granny glasses, which she conducted the scene in.  Some actors work from the inside – out, and some rely on props and costume to add depth to their character.  Well, it worked for Alec Guinness!  I’m considering where I might incorporate a stovepipe hat…

The inevitable xmas jumpers...

Oh yeah, Gary Lineker came to watch the other night.  The Gary Lineker who presents MOTD and SPOTY and does the crisps ads and has a celebritmodelactresstvpersonality wife and once babbed himself during a game?  No, not him.  It was the Gary Lineker who scored 48 goals for his country (England’s second top scorer), is still a hero in Barcelona, where he won domestic and European trophies and scored a hat-trick in an El Classico game (he also learned to speak Spanish fluently). The Gary Lineker who won the Golden Boot in the ’86 World Cup and nearly took us to the Final at Italia ’90.  The authentic football legend?  Him.

Gary Lineker with Barely Athletic

His theatrical connection goes back some way too.  A play was written in 1991 called ‘An Evening With Gary Lineker’ and was later adapted for telly, with the man himself making a cameo appearance.  He also guested as ‘God’ in Spamalot in the West End (albeit via video), and a few months ago, he shocked the stage world with a reply to a Simon Stephens tweet.  A theatre bromance has since blossomed between the two and Stephens and his wife accompanied the Linekers last Wednesday.  It was thrilling to have them in, and quite surreal.

But amongst all this – the rush, the gush, the three quid coffees, the booze, the talk, the photos, the celebrities, the hype, the noise, the buzz and the bollocks – we’re clear why we’re here: to tell the story of 3 gay lads, a bossy lesbian and a young widower who are fighting battles which most know nothing about.  Like everyone.


Critics are jumping for JUMPERS

We’re thrilled at the reception to Tom Wells’ JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS, currently running at The Bush Theatre until the 4 January 2014.

Alongside earning a place in The Daily Telegraph’s ‘Best Plays On Now‘, here’s a round-up of what else reviewers had to say:

“Wells has written a razor sharp, beautifully human script that brings to life characters that every one of us will know, but whom rarely get to claim their space within gay culture”
★★★★★ Attitude Magazine

“The perfect winter-warmer…blissfully funny…deeply affecting”
★★★★★ Daily Telegraph

“Wells has given us another winner…Unreservedly recommended.”
★★★★★ Independent

“You won’t know whether to laugh or cry (you’ll probably do both).”
★★★★★ Public Reviews

“Truly exceptional…sparkly with wit…What you witness is an honest portrait of two people finding their way into each other’s hearts… an utterly charming must see”
★★★★  What’

“James Grieve’s delicate direction, which milks every awkward moment with cringe worthy results, is complemented by a cast that balance emotive performances with physical comedy”
★★★★ Official London Theatre

“Consistently funny, tenderly observed and gently moving”
★★★★ Metro

“A delightfully awkward librarian played with great charm by Philip Duguid-McQuillan… More rueful notes are struck by Matt Sutton… an air of furtive daftness by the excellent Andy Rush…generous, warm-hearted…very funny.”
★★★★ Evening Standard 

“A heartwarming message, delivered with fine acting, tart humour and judicious northern understatement.”
★★★★ Time Out

“Wells is not afraid of appearing sentimental: he writes with a brave emotional honesty that proves very moving.”
★★★★ Financial Times

Get tickets here.


It’s been a pretty exciting week for us at PP HQ, with JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS jumping into its second week after opening at the Bush Theatre in London to some brilliant reviews. Followed by the announcement of three Offie nominations this week!

We’re thrilled to impart the nominations are as follows:

JAMES GRIEVE for Best Director

JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS for Best Ensemble Acting

JAMIE SAMUEL for Best Male Performance. 

Tom and James recently did an exclusive interview on JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS, offering a closer look into that ‘magic formula’ that theatre critics are quick to bring up. You can find their insights right here for your viewing pleasure:

We could not be more pleased at the reception to Tom Wells’ heartwarming play. Amongst other things, Twitter has been set ablaze with #Jump4Goal. Here’s a round-up of some of our favourite tweets:


Well worth racing back from Cardiff. I laughed & cried. & cried again!


Adored #Jumpers4goalposts @bushtheatre last night, funny, delicate, deeply moving. Brilliant work again from @painesplough – Go See!


I don’t often revisit plays but @painesplough ‘s Jumpers for Goalposts @bushtheatre thrilled like this again


Loved watching #Jump4Goal @bushtheatre. Fantastic work @painesplough – I laughed and cried. Everyone GO SEE!


Beautiful play, brilliantly acted, directed and staged. A must see.

Have you seen JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS? Tweet us your thoughts: @painesplough #Jump4Goal. Don’t miss out, book your tickets here. See you at the Bush!

JFG Insights – 1st week at the Bush

London -Week 1

At a quarter to eight a week on Wednesday morning a fortnight ago, two figures moved through the Westminster gloom and stepped into a cone of light on College Green – that small patch of grass across the road from the Houses of Parliament – where they do all the interviews with MPs.  One of the figures was the Rt. Hon Maria Miller MP, Minister for Culture, and the other was Phil Redmond CBE, the Liverpudlian who gave us Grange Hill and Brookside in the ‘80s.  Around them was a crescent of cameras, microphones and journalists who were there to hear one word: the name of a city.

200-odd miles and an eastern swerve through the rich industrial shadows of the North, a few dozen people had gathered in the foyer of Hull Truck theatre, where Jumpers For Goalposts had played its home fixture two months earlier.  I know many of the assembled and I know that most had not touched a drop or a crumb of the breakfast buffet that had been laid on for them.  There were poets, playwrights, councilors and campaigners, managers and musicians, and they were there to hear just one syllable: the name of their city.

Maria Miller said some stuff that nobody really took much notice of, and then, without pause or drama – and with only the growl of traffic on Victoria Street as a drum roll and the odd horn bib as fanfare – said, ‘the Capital of Culture 2017 will be Hull.’

And this is what happened in the foyer at Truck.

The screams, cheers and yeses in that clip are not triumphant roars of Yorkshire bigheads, but a flood of relief and joy that someone had at last recognized something valuable and fascinating in us, and had faith in our ability to display it to the nation and beyond with flair and imagination.

The photos and scratchy reels of Hull in the first half of the last century show vaguely familiar places as the settings for unimaginable bustle and activity.  Noise and masts and smoke.  Tidy chaos.  I grew up in a landscape of still and empty docks, or ones filled in with the mossy rubble of the warehouses which used to surround them, and railway sidings that have been slowly embroidered with weeds; a city skyline that has actually thinned and shrunk and – ducking the wide skies above.  The Hull of my childhood was a poor old man of a town; unkempt, whiskered, hair sprouting from the ears, going on about his youthful glories.  The people are modest and straightforward, not timid, but wary of attention in case it was more bad press about us being Britain’s worst ‘this’ or the UK’s crappest ‘that’.  Being UK City of Culture will hopefully bring positive change to Hull, and its renaissance is actually well underway.  But a generation spent in the shadows, on the edge of things, has also given us an un-self-conscious honesty and deadpan humour that Tom Wells has personified in the characters of Beardy, Joe, Viv, Danny and Luke.

We’ve had a wonderful opening week at the Bush.  The reviews are glowing and generous and they, along with the enthusiasm on social media, have made us feel really proud.

We arrived in the Capital knowing that we had a good show.  I think we were all a bit wary of what London audiences – spoiled with cutting edge, quality drama and harder to impress – might make of a relatively gentle, joyful but un-sensational story of a bunch of losers from a place on the edge (never mind the middle) of nowhere.  Tom had a big hit at the Bush a couple of years ago with The Kitchen Sink so there was a lot of anticipation for what he had come up with next.  Maybe some people are coming to see what this Hull thing is all about following the 2017 announcement.

Leaving nothing to chance, I blessed the stage before the Tuesday preview with some holy Chip Spice, which I had brought down from home.  It didn’t bring us any immediate luck when disaster struck during the tech.  We were all thinking we could smell something funny, and Charlie Balfour suddenly noticed that his lights had started to melt the plastic roof on Lucy Osborne’s changing room set.  Shit.  We had to forego the dress rehearsal while a cooler form of illumination was sourced and rigged (huge thanks to the cavalry at the NT lighting dept.).  Jamie said he thought the burning smell was weed (you need to find yourself a new dealer, mate).  So our first performance was before an actual, live sold-out audience.  It didn’t matter – in fact, we enjoyed the edginess and heightened feel that it gave the performance (sorry, I inadvertently made that sound like a cheap condom advert), and by now, the play is in our bones.

I was nervous on press night the following evening, though.  It has to go well on press night, and my mind was going a bit pinball.  We’d done all our usual warm-ups and prep and had just had the 5 minute call, so I decided to go back to the dressing room and watch the Hull 2017 bid film on my laptop.  It’s stirring and moving, and undoubtedly contributed to us being awarded the City of Culture.  It sorted me out anyway.  I went out there with a headful of home and we all told our stories simply and honestly and had fun.  Viv’s right: all you can do is chuck your face at it and do your best.


Tom Wells interviewed in The Independent

We are very thrilled to have Tom Wells’ heartwarming, heart-stealing football rom-com, JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS, opening at the Bush Theatre today, Nov 26 at 7.30pm. After much critical acclaim and a successful regional tour, JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS will now have an extended London run, playing throughout the Christmas season until Jan 4, 2014.

And on that note, we’re equally excited about this lovely candid Independent article with Tom Wells, covering all the bases on the man behind the play! “…beneath its gently endearing exterior beats a stealthily subversive heart – which expresses its radical intentions by presenting gay lives as nothing other than varied, mainstream, and totally normal”, writes the Independent. For the full article, click here.

Tom Wells above - Source: The Independent

We can’t wait to bring JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS to audiences in London, and with tickets selling out fast, we wouldn’t want you to miss out. For further information on production dates and how to get tickets, please click here.

Get involved with all things JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS – tweet us @painesplough with #Jump4Goal, or visit us on Facebook and get involved with our Facebook event.

See you at the Bush!

Insights with JFG cast – In Kendal/Scarborough

Last Thursday was National Stage Management Day.  Though this date hasn’t yet reached the levels of pervasiveness and commercialization as Mother’s Day, its subjects are similarly underappreciated and over-worked, and thoroughly deserve the recognition of the rest of the stage community.  Stage Managers are the Strong Nuclear Force that holds a production together: you don’t see them but everything would fall apart if they weren’t there (*end of under-researched physics metaphor*).  I’m not sure it is possible to write a job description for them, but ‘everything else’ would not be innacurate.  They note all the blocking in rehearsals, source obscure practice props, are the go-tos for all of the mundane, workaday stuff whilst on tour and are the link between performers, production company and the theatres.  They set the props and prepare the stage, wash the costumes, listen to actor whinges, book comps, call and run the show itself, do the show report, distribute rail tickets, listen to another actor whinge.  Et cetera.  Ad infinitum.  They are the first to arrive and the last to leave.  And they never get a curtain call.  So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the JFG Stage Management Team: Alicia White (CSM) and Amy Slater (ASM).  Take a bow, you two.

Another thing that SM’s have to do are the ‘calls’ – the times and places everyone has to be at.  On show days, actors have to arrive before ‘the half’ (actually 35 minutes before curtain up), although we usually arrive earlier than this for notes, warm-ups, important social debriefings and hangover solidarity.  Even then, we’re still not at work until well after High tea.  So, what do we do during the days, I hear you not cry?  In the Good Old Days of Rep, when theatres used to put on a play a week with French windows and shit sound effects, and performers’ faces were fearsomely caked in Leichner and Kryolan, the actor’s day was divided thus: getting rid of last night’s hangover; raking together enough change and finding a quiet phonebox to ring agent, family and mistress; meeting fellow cast members in The [insert monarch/animal]’s Head and embarking on tomorrow’s hangover; do the show; return to the pub.  This is a probably a gross caricature and a thespy cliché.  Probably.  I imagine that they got up, out and enjoyed what the various towns that they visited had to offer, as we have.  We had a cracking week last week; it was spilt between The Lakes and The Seaside.

On Tuesday my train overshot Oxenholme station and I ended up in Penrith…PENRITH!

I was very late.  The Brewery in Kendal was a new venue for all of us; it’s a thriving arts centre that serves up the best touring comedy and theatre to.  Plus, if you’re working there you can get 10p tea.  TEN PEE! – just like the Good Old Days of Rep.  We had one of our best performances there last Wednesday night; a loud and laughing audience lifting the play to its very best.  Production Manager Bernd and the crew burned the Kendal at both ends to get the set out, over to and into Scarborough ready for a show the following night.  No mean feat, that.  The Round at the Stephen Joseph Theatre is a legendary stage.  It is the playground of Sir Alan Ayckbourn, one of the most performed playwrights on the planet and a giant of modern theatre.  We didn’t play ‘in the round’ with audience on all sides (it’s a square, really), but plonked ourselves across the space and played to half of the capacity in a sort of thrust.  The audience was very quiet, which was a bit of a shock after the reactions we have had elsewhere, but the staff at SJT reassured us that this was usual and they were enjoying the show.  Afterwards, more people came over to us in the bar to say ‘well done’ than anywhere before, and on Saturday night, after another seemingly muted response, they gave us a standing ovation.  Strange, eh?  You have to be careful not to be thrown by an audience, boisterous or reserved.  It is a unique mix of people who have paid their money and they’ll enjoy it on their terms.

Scarbados, like any British seaside resort in the off-season, can seem pretty dull (following a vivid, startling Martin Parr summer).  It tried to be – raining throughout our stay – but we ballasted ourselves with Mother Hubbard’s fish and chips, filled our tanks at the Alma (SJT’s local) and went full steam ahead at Bacchus (the late bar named after the Roman god of fake Jäegermeister).

We finish the tour in Ipswich, at the New Wolsey.  Tonight, in fact (last night? Last week?  Anyway – Thursday 17th – sorry, I am very late with this blog).  They won the TMA Most Welcoming Theatre award in 2012. They deserved it; it’s a terrific venue with strong beating heart and loyal, laughy following.

Have to swap with Lisa now.  Pub? #Jump4Goal

Insights with JFG cast – In Newcastle

We’re back.  New venue, new audiences, different sensibilities.  Geordies really know their onions; they’ve got a 24 carat theatre heritage and there’s a terrific scene up in Newcastle.  Northern Stage (where we were) and Live Theatre are bang on form at the moment: Lorne Campbell has inherited a very healthy organization from Erica Whyman, who moved to the RSC in January to become Deputy AD.  Her legacy is mighty; no wonder she was named 2012 TMA Theatre Manager of the Year.  For 40 years, Live Theatre has been the dramatic voice of working-class Newcastle.  Lee Hall had one of his greatest successes with them; in 2007 his play The Pitmen Painters opened at the tiny venue for a one month run.  And so began one of the great theatrical journeys: Nick Hytner took it to the National Theatre, and from there it went on to New York before returning for a West End stint and a national tour.  From Broad Chare to Broadway.  Crikey, talk about punching above your weight.

Newcastle and Hull have a famous dramatic link too: Alan Plater. The late, great writer was born just down river in Jarrow, and brought up in Hull.  He really loved both towns, wrote plays for both Hull Truck and Live, and played an important role in the establishment of both venues early on in the 1970s.

It’s a big old stage is Northern Stage (the widest outside London) and our set looked like a doll’s house on there.  However, it meant that we had loads of room behind for warm-ups and games of Foursquare.  We always do a warm-up, but it’s really important when you’re playing a big space like this.  There are the usual Yoko Ono-esque primal shrieks and wails that were drilled into us at drama school, and which may or may not be more effective than a cup of tea and a cig, and articulation exercises (tongue twisters) to help us chew our way through the text clearly (bits of Dr Seuss are particularly good).  We also have a couple of favourite games that help us get into ‘the zone’.  The first, ‘Foursquare’, is a bit like tennis without a net.  Or rackets.  And you play it with a football.  So I suppose it’s not very much like tennis, but it is pretty competitive; somebody mentioned that some theatre companies have because it caused rows.  Much as we enjoy it, we think it’s a poor basis for a decent row.  I think there are possibly underlying tensions and issues at play in those casts and Foursquare is merely a catalyst.  The other is ‘Big Booty’ and it is brilliant for generating the focus, alertness and fun that you need when performing comedy. Warm-ups can be collective and playful; it’s not all ‘me, me , meeeeeeeeeeeee’.

After the performance on Wednesday we had a ‘Post-show’.  If you’ve not been to one, it’s basically a chat and Q & A with the cast (and sometimes the director and the writer) in the auditorium after curtain down.  I really enjoy them, both as spectator or actor, because you can get/give a fascinating insight into how plays get made and played.  If you’re a creative or performer, you get the chance to gauge your audiences’ reaction to what you are doing.  It’s like the DVD extras of theatre.  A large contingent of Theatre Studies students stayed behind and opened up a good, frank discussion about the play and its issues, and we explained how the show developed from early drafts to press night and beyond.  It’s an excellent way to make theatre more accessible and inclusive for young and new audiences.  And the theatre buys you a drink.

Newcastle at night is not sedate, and we flung ourselves, livers first, into it again and burned through our touring allowances before the weekend.  Dabbawal (delicious Indian street food) was the food favorite, and the week culminated in a night at the discreetly named World Headquarters.  It was there that Philip bumped into the Manchester United and England striker, Danny Welbeck.  Somewhat star-struck and overwhelmed, he only managed to repeat the footballer’s name to him over and over again.  Apparently Alicia, Amy and Viv were less whelmed, and Andy and Jamie were ‘busy’.  I missed all this, unfortunately, as I’d ended up in Benwell with some Poles at a house party that got a bit weird.

In the break, we found out that JFG has been nominated for Best New Play in the UK Theatre Awards.  Congrats, Tom Wells – nothing less than you deserve.

Right, that’s it for me.  See how it goes next week. #jump4goal

Tom Wells’ JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS has been nominated in the Best New Play category by UK Theatre Awards

TMA have just announced the nominations for the 2013 UK Theatre Awards, and we are so thrilled  to announce JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS by Tom Wells has been nominated in the Best New Play category.

PP’s Joint Artistic Directors, James and George have said:

“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:

Further details about the TMA and the UK Theatre Awards can be found here.

If you haven’t seen JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS yet, you can catch it at the Bush Theatre in November following it’s autumn nationwide tour, get your tickets here.