Some say that Brighton might as well be added onto the TFL travel maps. Here at Paines Plough, we are inclined to disagree. Famed as a place of calm outside of neurotic London, last week the team spent two happy days auditioning, work-shopping, rehearsing and performing somewhere proudly different to the capital.
It can be easy to pigeon-hole Brighton, though. And as became very clear over the two days we spent there, the city has a life far beyond Mr Whippy, chubby thighs and fluorescent lights. Although all the creative types we met raved about working on the south coast, the determination to put Brighton back on the map as a theatre town is what we will take away from our short stay.
Almost every actor we auditioned was part of a company, or better yet, ran one. They had produced and performed plays on balconies, in converted double-deckers, even in the ancient cells of the town hall: the entrepreneurial ethos was palpable. There were also plans afoot for café-theatres, Edinburgh Fringe transfers and a complete overhaul of how the Brighton Dome is run. The energy of everyone we met was rather inspiring.
One of the people behind the revamp is Orla Flanagan. Her dedication to both the theatre and the community that fills it is second to none. She spoke to us avidly about plans to rebrand the three spaces under the guise of one venue. Her hope is that the ornate, marble interior becomes home to a year-round programme. Our invitation, we hope, is already in the post.
This hunger to create made for animated workshops. Points of discussion began with the practical – such as fundraising, or where the best writing spots in the city are – and moved onto the logistics of progressing your own work. And even though the focus was on this forward motion, what we kept on coming back to was the simple fact that making the best art possible is the key to success, no matter how bullish you may be.
Which was evident in the Come to Where I’m From part of the schedule too. This time round the four pieces were shared by Fin Kennedy, Kefi Chadwick, Sue MacLaine and Judy Upton. So very different to the tone of last week’s visit to Chipping Norton, this leg of the tour reflected the true nature of how a Brightonian thinks, feels and then speaks.
No one can pretend that two days is enough to fully ‘get’ a city, but we’d challenge anyone to listen to the podcasts and not appreciate the spirit that emerges from the writers’ words. Yes, Brighton is a party town, but on its own terms and when it chooses to be so. There are pulsating hearts joyous to be there that give the city its unique beat, but which when knocked too hard skip like any other. The city is happy to house those who want to be there, no matter the length of their stay. And yet, it takes time for a place to become your own. It’s just like our writers told us – no amount of sun-drenched fun can guarantee a picture perfect home.
We thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and hope everyone involved did too. Let us know your thoughts here, on facebook, on twitter, or next time we see you.
The podcasts should be available next week, just keep checking the blog. Our next Come to Where I’m From will be on the Isle of Wight, on the 18th August. Hope to see you on the ferry over!