Category Archive: The Big Room

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…

EVERY BRILLIANT THING

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.

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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…

#EveryBrilliantThing


 

TEN WEEKS

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…

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TEN WEEKS
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

#TenWeeks


 

WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK

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…

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WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK
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

#WithALittleBitOfLuck


 

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.

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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.

#322Days
www.painesplough.com

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

 

Developing New Writing: The Producer’s Perspective

Trainee Producer, Rachel, joined the team in May and has been managing Nathan’s development with us since then. Here she give us an insight into how she put together the development workshop and what she learned from it.

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Producing toolkit: Notepad, iPad and, most importantly, a diary!

I remember sitting with my friend Nicola as she spoke about the play she was writing while we were at uni. She was struggling for a title that communicated the themes and also got across a sense of where the play was set, in the world of DJ-ing.

Nicola: It’s the word for the thing they do? When they put one song into another…?
Me: Mixing?’
Nicola: No… It’s like that, but… Not.
Me: (struggling) Uh…Fading…?
Nicola: Yes! Well… Kind of, I feel like there’s another word they use…

I’m wracking my brains, at this point trying to remember something, anything at all, from when I studied music at school – school now a distant, foggy memory.

Me: What about… cross fade?

The word hung in the air in front of us for a moment.

YES! WRITE IT DOWN!’

I almost fell out of my chair with relief and, with a laugh, that’s how the title of her first play, and subsequently her theatre company, came about. Over a cuppa, sharing ideas in the student union.

I didn’t realise it, but that’s producing.

Of course there’s a bit more to it – scheduling, budgets, casting, and loads more I’ve still to learn – but at its heart it’s listening to each other, sharing ideas and making it happen.

So when it came to putting together a development workshop for Nathan, that experience is what I drew on. I have worked with emerging writers and directors in Scotland (now that I look back on it, coffee shops seem to be a recurring motif…) and I’ve seen the excitement, the fear, and the nerves that come when people share their ideas with you, and experienced the wonderful madness that accompanies figuring out how to make those ideas become a reality.

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Once Nathan had chosen a date for his workshop, the next thing to find was a director. After a meeting with George and James, we approached Titas Halder to see if he’d be interested in being involved and after meeting with Nathan, he agreed to come on board. We drafted in Trainee Director Nadia as Titas’ assistant in the room and the next thing I knew, I had a creative team.

After this my foot really hit the gas as we went full speed into casting, looking for actors who’d be active and engage in the discussion in the room to help Nathan get to the core of what he wanted to write about. A list of names was drawn up and I spent my days trawling through Spotlight like a woman possessed, contacting agents, doing availability checks… I was sorting through CV’s, communicating back and forth with Titas, and making so many phone calls that I felt like an octopus. Offers were made and accepted, and after an energetic few days I was able to relax and confirm with Nathan, Titas and the rest of Team PP that our cast was finalised.

I arrived for the first day of workshopping to set up the room and print out the stimuli that Nathan had compiled for everyone. Our actors – Tanya Fear Tunji Lucas, Michael Hadley and Llewella Gideon– arrived and after some warm up exercises and a little bit of time to get to know each other, we got down to discussing the contents of Nathan’s dramaturgical pack. Soon the ideas covered the walls and surrounded us.

It was a fascinating, scary, intense, relevant and necessary discussion. It felt theatrical in itself as the various subject matters – ethnicity, identity, class, family, belonging – provoked strong emotions and feelings from everyone in the room.

Each new day brought with it more writing from Nathan, and it was fascinating to see how the conversation in the room filtered in to his writing, stretching and reshaping his ideas in to what would eventually land on my desk a week later – the first draft of his brand new play.

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Without realising it, I’ve found the work I’ve contributed towards having a decidely musical slant in both Crossfade and Mix Tape. The aim in putting together the development workshop was to help Nathan try out new ways of writing and telling stories. Inadvertently, it’s also helped me to start shaping my identity as a producer and how I want to work with other creatives in the future.

-Rachel x

 

Developing New Writing: The Writer’s Perspective

Earlier this year, Nathan Bryon was selected to be our Big Room Fellowship playwright, and as part of the programme we are helping him to develop his playwriting skills. At the end of October we organised a development workshop with director Titas Halder, ably assisted by our Director Placement, Nadia, and four actors, to thrash out some ideas. Here’s a little insight from Nathan in to what happened…

Last week, was intense. Super, super, super, super intense… We had 3 days of rehearsal and development of my new play, and I had no idea what is or was going to be about. Then I set myself the mad challenge of writing a draft of my new play in 5 days… This is the blog that tells you how it went – it involved lots and lots and lots of COFFEE and expensive Eat sandwiches.

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(L-R: Nadia, Tanya, Nathan & Tunji)

I wrote a short play called ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST about the police brutality in America. I wrote it whilst in Spain watching the Walter Scott police shooting because I had major, major rage and the play was an immediate response to that. I knew for my new full-length play that I didn’t want it to be an extension to ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST because I felt, whilst it was short, the play was complete.

I met Rachel, the producer, a few days before the workshop like “Shit, I haven’t actually written anything proper to rehearse with the actors!”, just because I didn’t know exactly what I even wanted the story to be about. Rachel explained that it’s not about going into the rehearsal with a full piece, it’s about going in with provocations and bits of script to play with to inspire myself. This conversation was a massive relief so I went away and made like a 40 page pack for the day which the poor director, Titas, had to go through, hahaha. I had decided I wanted to discuss the black experience, black rage, police brutality, identity and a billion other things. It was full of short scenes, my wants for the pieces, the themes I wanted to explore, and a whole lot more.

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The Wall on Day 1

I had an amazing room of actors – Tunji Lucas, Llewella Gideon, Tanya Fear and Michael Hadley – who all came in on their weekends which I know is a long ting, hahah. They were so generous with their stories and thoughts, and I don’t think at any time I was not scribbling something down in my notebook. We would write things on a piece of paper – thoughts we had, sentences that we liked  – and stick them on them wall so we were literally surrounded by it all day.

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Titas in directing mode while Simone and Bhavini from Team PP watch on.

One of my favorite parts of the three days was us all watching Kendrick Lemar’s music video for ‘Alright‘, and just being mesmerised by how amazing it was. Nadia, the assistant director, printed me out a pack of research about Kendrick who is my favorite rapper right now, which I am slowly getting through.

We could have locked ourselves in that room for another 5 days, but thank god we didn’t because at the end of every day we all felt drained, mentally and physically.

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Tanya and Michael

Writing-wise, I sat down with Titas before we began the workshop and he really liked some of the poetry led pieces I had written in ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST. I have a poetry background as that was what I did before writing plays. He gave me debbi tucker green’s BORN BAD and RANDOM. I knew of debbi tucker green and loved her work but I had never read BORN BAD which blew my head off, just the anger in that play. I loved the non-naturalistic writing style which was something I had been learning loads about from my time in Barcelona.

The first day of the rehearsal I came in with some abstract scripts with no character names, scene headings, or locations and Titas directed the actors to perform this… For me it was a spark of magic – that night when the actors left, I stayed in the room for another 3 hours and just wrote, wrote, wrote. I came up with 4 more abstract scenes, so excited at the thought of hearing them read out loud in this new style the next day. I always used to think abstract theatre like that was totally wanky and would think ‘What’s wrong with being naturalistic?’. The answer is ‘nothing’, but I am so glad I now know I can try to do both.

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Covering the room over Days 2&3

The discussions got more intense as the workshop progressed and  after we shared some of the work with the Paines Plough team, the actors left on Monday. I was left in the room now covered in pieces of paper and I had to make sense of all the things we discussed figure out, with this new writing style, how on earth I was going to make a play this way which at first was very, very, very scary.

When I write, I try my best to make some element of the story relate to my life so that I can make it honest. I wanted to base this play around my family and my mixed raced background, which I hope I did hahaha.

For 5 days I wrote non-stop in that room, drinking copious amount of coffee playing Kendrick Lemar pacing around, eating expensive PRET sandwiches, sticking things up on the wall… it was fucking amazing. It was one of those moments were I felt like a proper, proper writer with writer problems, hahah. Everyday I would come home and just be a bit distant because my mind couldn’t switch off and I was just thinking about what I was going to write the next day.

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Sorting through and organising my favourite thoughts from the 3 days.

Everyday I would print off my progress (don’t worry it was recycled, I’m not about that wasteful life) and read it all out loud. The play was really taking shape and by Friday I had finished… god knows if it is total shit, I really hope not as I am definitely attached… To top it off, Hanna the producer brought me in a BOOM bowl of Mac and Cheese on the Friday which I was so happs about, as there are only so many sandwiches you can eat.

On the Friday at 5:30 I had finished the whole thing and I ran to the pub with the Paines Plough crew dem haha and had lots of pints which was wonderful. I felt like that week I had achieved something boom!

On the Saturday morning I woke up totally knackered, but also still feeling really affected by the subject matter, and on the Saturday evening I got rage that this white dude called his dog Django after the slave from the movie in a pub… After vexing and ranting for hours on twitter (tweets now deleted) I took a breath and
stepped away and watched RuPauls Drag Race. I think the subject matter really swallowed me up at one point which was fucking intense, but super interesting.

But yeah long story short, I finished the first draft, the play is called MIXED BRAIN: THE MIXTAPE and it is all abstract and that, I am super excited at the prospect of developing it. It’s a story about me and my brother and our different upbringings, what it means to be mixed raced, and an incident that split my family.

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Draft 1…

Now I need to get back to re-drafting something else as I said I would have it done tomorrow… I hope I didn’t just lie to the producer… first let me make another tea!

– Nathan

Programme 2015: 11 plays in 74 places

Here we go… we’re excited to announce our Programme 2015 in full. Eleven top class productions touring to 74 places from Cornwall to the Orkney Islands.

Here’s a snapshot:

•    This summer’s unmissable pop-up experience: ROUNDABOUT follows its run at The Brighton Festival with a two month residency at The Southbank Centre, a return to the Edinburgh Festival and a national tour.
•    THE HUMAN EAR, a brand new play from Alexandra Wood receives its world premiere in Roundabout in Edinburgh.
•    WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK by award-winning writer Sabrina Mahfouz premieres at the Latitude Festival.
•    EVERY BRILLIANT THING returns to the UK following its acclaimed Off-Broadway run in New York and tours nationwide in addition to performances in Roundabout.
•    OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL continues to thrill young audiences in Roundabout and in theatres on an extensive national tour.
•    LUNGS and THE INITIATE continue in the Roundabout rep.
•    DANIEL KITSON is amongst a thrilling programme of visitors performing in Roundabout.
•    NATHAN BRYON receives the inaugural Paines Plough Playwright Fellowship.

Welcome to Programme 2015.

TAB

Continuing at The Bush Theatre until 13 June…
THE ANGRY BRIGADE by James Graham
A pyrotechnic thriller from the writer of sell-out smash hits THIS HOUSE and PRIVACY.
“Memorably adventurous…a timeless depiction of young people agitating against a world that appears to exclude them.”
★★★★ The Times

The Bush // 30 April – 13 June

WALBOL

A Paines Plough world premiere at The Latitude Festival…
WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK by Sabrina Mahfouz
“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…”
London, 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.
London, 2015. Re-wind.

Latitude Festival // 16-17 July

Round

This summer’s unmissable pop-up theatre experience…
ROUNDABOUT
The Stage Awards ‘Theatre Building of the Year’ pops-up in Brighton, London, Edinburgh and on tour with a repertory of outstanding new plays.

Regency Square, Brighton Festival // 2-24 May
Southbank Centre, London // 7 June – 18 July
Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe // 6-30 August
Newbury Corn Exchange // 9–13 September
The Lowry, Salford // 16–20 September
Lincoln Performing Arts Centre // 23–27 September
Brewary Arts Centre, Kendal // 30 September – 4 October
Theatre Royal Margate // 7–11 October
New Vic, Stoke // 14–18 October

Human Ear RND 2015 image final

A Paines Plough world premiere…
THE HUMAN EAR by Alexandra Wood
A man turns up at Lucy’s door claiming to be the brother she hasn’t seen in 10 years. But why has he come? Is it really him? And what happens when there’s another knock at the door?  Forced to confront the messy inner workings of sibling love with its petty resentments, casual cruelty, profound betrayals and implicit understanding, can the bond between brother and sister be rebuilt?
An intriguing tale of loss, renewal and knowing who to trust from Fringe First Award winner Alexandra Wood.

Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe // 6-30 August
Roundabout @ Newbury Corn Exchange // 9–13 September
Roundabout @ The Lowry, Salford // 16–20 September
Roundabout @ Lincoln Performing Arts Centre // 23–27 September
Roundabout @ Brewary Arts Centre, Kendal // 30 September – 4 October
Roundabout @ Theatre Royal Margate // 7–11 October
Roundabout @ New Vic, Stoke // 14–18 October

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The highly acclaimed and multi-award winning…
LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan
“The most beautiful, quietly shattering play of the year.”
★★★★★ Sunday Express

Roundabout @ Regency Square, Brighton Festival // 2-24 May
Repeated on BBC Radio 3 // 24 May
Roundabout @ Southbank Centre, London // 7 June – 18 July
Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe // 6-30 August
Roundabout @ Newbury Corn Exchange // 9–13 September
Roundabout @ The Lowry, Salford // 16–20 September
Roundabout @ Lincoln Performing Arts Centre // 23–27 September
Roundabout @ Brewary Arts Centre, Kendal // 30 September – 4 October
Roundabout @ Theatre Royal Margate // 7–11 October
Roundabout @ New Vic, Stoke // 14–18 October

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The Scotsman Fringe First Award winner…
THE INITIATE by Alexandra Wood
“An intense, original and memorable play for today, with outstanding performances.”
★★★★ The Scotsman

Roundabout @ Regency Square, Brighton Festival // 2-24 May
Roundabout @ Southbank Centre, London // 7 June – 18 July

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Back in the UK following its four month run Off-Broadway…
EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe
Our co-production with Pentabus Theatre Company hits the road for an epic UK tour.
“Heart-wrenching, hilarious… one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see, full stop.”
★★★★ The Guardian

Barrow Street Theatre, New York // 6 December 2014 – 29 March 2015
Machynlleth Comedy Festival // 2-3 May
Unity Theatre, Liverpool // 9 May
The Drum, Plymouth // 12-16 May
The North Wall, Oxford // 18 May
Roundabout @ Brighton Festival // 19, 20, 23, 24 May
Quarterhouse, Folkestone // 21 May
The Spring, Havant // 22 May
The Dukes, Lancaster // 26 May
Trestle Arts Base, St Albans // 28 May
Leintwardine Village Hall // 30 May
Pulse Festival, Ipswich // 2 June
Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal // 3 June
Harlow Playhouse // 4 June
The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury // 5-6 June
Square Chapel, Halifax // 7 June
Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis // 10 June
The Muni, Colne // 11 June
The Lowry, Salford // 12-13 June
South Hill Park, Bracknell // 15 June
The Castle, Wellingborough // 17 June
The Garage, Norwich // 18 June
Key Theatre, Peterborough // 19 June
The Tolmen Centre, Constantine // 21 June
Salisbury Arts Centre, Salisbury // 23 June
The Phoenix, Bordon // 25 June
Derby Theatre, Derby // 26-27 June
Roundabout @ Southbank Centre // 7-11 July
Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 6-30 August
The Civic, Stourport // 9 September
Roundabout @ Corn Exchange, Newbury // 10 September
Bridport Arts Centre // 11 September
Mill Arts Centre, Banbury // 16 September
Roundabout @ The Lowry, Salford // 17 September
Isle of Eigg // 21 September
Sunart Centre ,Arainn Shuainert, Strontian // 23 September
Plockton Village Hall, Plockton // 24 September
Craigmonie Centre, Drumnadrochit // 25 September
Lyth Arts Centre, Wick // 26 September
Pier Arts Centre, Orkney // 27 September
Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds // 29 September
Roundabout @ Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal  // 30 September
South Holland Centre  // 1 October
Pegasus Theatre, Oxford // 2-3 October
The Theatre, Chipping Norton // 4 October
Tobacco Factory, Bristol // 6-10 October
Stahl Theatre at Oundle School, Peterborough // 14 October
The Old Market, Brighton // 18-20 October
Shop Front Theatre, Coventry // 21 October
Span Arts, Pembrokeshire // 22 October
Riverfront Theatre, Newport // 23 October
Pontardawe Arts Centre, Pontardawe // 24 October
Lakeside Theatre, Colchester // 29 October
The Civic, Barnsley // 31 October

troll

A colourfully comic show for children 7+ and their accompanying trolls / parents…
OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL by Dennis Kelly
“Fun, funny…comic perfection.”
★★★★ The Times
Our co-production with Half Moon Young People’s Theatre continues in Roundabout before embarking on its own national tour.

Roundabout @ Regency Square, Brighton Festival // 2-24 May
Roundabout @ Southbank Centre, London // 7 June – 18 July
Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh Festival Fringe // 6-30 August
Roundabout @ Newbury Corn Exchange // 9–13 September
Roundabout @ The Lowry, Salford // 16–20 September
Roundabout @ Lincoln Performing Arts Centre // 23–27 September
Roundabout @ Brewary Arts Centre, Kendal // 30 September – 4 October
Roundabout @ Theatre Royal Margate // 7–11 October
Roundabout @ New Vic, Stoke // 14–18 October
TakeOff International Children’s Theatre Festival, County Durham // 21-23 October
Arts Centre Washington // 24 October
Old Fire Station, Carlisle // 25 October
Brewhouse, Burton // 27 October
Derby Theatre // 28 October
Lakeside Arts, Nottingham // 29 October
Royal & Derngate, Northampton // 30 October
The Castle, Wellingborough // 31 October
Half Moon Young People’s Theatre, London // 2–5 November
Tarvin Community Centre, Chester // 6 November
Whitby Hall at Trinity Ellesmere Port // 7 November
Z-arts, Manchester // 8 November
South Holland Centre, Spalding // 10 November
The egg, Bath Theatre Royal // 12–14 November
The North Wall, Oxford // 15 November

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Paines Plough and friends present…
EARLIER/LATER
A series of early morning and late night one-off shows: theatre, poetry, comedy, music, rumbles, shenanigans and much more in Roundabout throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Get your fix of fresh new work, exhilarating debates and rip-roaring performances. Kick start your morning and round-up your evening in Roundabout – “the loveliest venue at the fringe” The List, 2014.

We’re excited to announce a storming line-up of VISITING COMPANIES in Roundabout @ Summerhall throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe…

Eastern Angles in association with Unity Theatre present
CHICKEN by Molly Davies

Supporting Wall presents
JONNY & THE BAPTISTS: THE END IS NIGH

Papermash Theatre and Tricycle Theatre present
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WITHOUT YOU by Sonia Jalaly

THEATRE UNCUT
Clara Brennan, Vivienne Franzmann, Kieran Hurley, Dennis Kelly, Neil LaBute, Stef Smith

Dancing Brick and Soho Theatre present
I’M NOT HERE RIGHT NOW by Thomas Eccleshare

Daniel Kitson presents
POLYPHONY by Daniel Kitson

Plus…
The inaugural Paines Plough Playwright Fellowship is awarded to Nathan Bryon. Nathan is 23-years-old and from Shepherd’s Bush. He is one of the most exciting and original new playwriting voices we have come across and we are delighted he will join Paines Plough on attachment until the end of 2015. The Playwright Fellowship is supported by Jon and NoraLee Sedmak and an anonymous playwright. It aims to assist a playwright of exceptional promise at the start of their career by supporting them in the development of their craft. The Fellowship comprises an attachment to Paines Plough, a bursary of £6,000 and a place at the prestigious l’Obrador d’estiu playwriting conference in Barcelona.

We welcome two new members of our team thanks to our partnership with Creative Access. Joining Paines Plough are Trainee Administrator Bhavini Goyate and Trainee Producer Rachel D’Arcy. Former Creative Access intern Natalie Adams is now full-time Administrator.

Joining the Paines Plough Board of Trustees are Andrea Stark, CEO of High House Production Park, Matthew Littleford, Editorial Director for Digital, BBC Worldwide, Anne McMeehan Roberts, Founder Director of Cauldron Consulting and playwright Dennis Kelly.

And we’ll be hosting more Open Auditions, releasing two new Apps, launching a transatlantic radio project, offering lots of exciting opportunities for playwrights through The Big Room, programming one-off events in Roundabout and eating lots of cake in the office.

So there you have it… Programme 2015. We hope to see you there.

A farewell from The Big Room Playwright-in-residence

In one way, the past seven months at PP have been no different to any other seven months. I’ve been writing, essentially.

But in other ways they’ve been very different. When anyone’s asked me what I’m up to, instead of having to come up with some evasive blurb about the play I’m writing, or some upbeat pep about how there’s a potential thing happening here or there, I’ve been able to reply, succinctly, “I’m at Paines Plough”. In one fell swoop I’ve avoided talking about what I’m working on, which I really don’t like doing, whilst still suggesting that I am engaged in some kind of activity. I’m ‘at’ somewhere. It sounds simple, and it probably is.

I could, of course, mention how lovely the whole PP team have been (they have been), how wonderful it’s been to have a quiet office to work in (it has been), and to get to know more about the work they’re producing (which I have), but mostly it’s been really great to have been ‘at’ somewhere. I’ve loved that.

Alexandra Wood

Interview with PP Playwright-in-Residence Alexandra Wood

Last week, West Camel from Culture Compass popped in to PP HQ to interview our Playwright-in-Residence Alexandra Wood about her latest play THE EMPTY QUARTER, which closed at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs on Saturday.

Here’s what Alex had to say…

It seems you have a great deal of knowledge about the expat community in Dubai, but  you’ve never been there. How did you manage that authenticity?
When you’re writing plays you’re creating worlds. And that’s what Dubai seems to be – an act of Sheikh Mohammad’s imagination, which became real. I found that fascinating. I did lots of research. There’s copious publicity – the way they sell the lifestyle is fascinating. Online forums were interesting – expats giving each other advice. And then there was stuff about the other side of Dubai. Particularly important in terms of the development of the play was an article in The Independent by Johann Hari called The Dark Side of Dubai. He set up the various types of people there – the expat, the Emiratis, the Pakistani workers, the slave-labourers, gay Dubai, Philippinos working in fast-food joints. I was particularly attracted to one story about an expat caught out by the situation who found herself living in her car. That was the seed of Holly’s story in The Empty Quarter.

Gemma, the older, seasoned ex-pat in The Empty Quarter, seems to ‘stand up’ during the play.
In earlier drafts it had been Holly’s story, which is still what the play is at the beginning. But then a surprising shift occurs. It took me by surprise during the rewriting process – I found myself becoming more interested in Gemma’s story. It was when Hampstead said they were going to put The Empty Quarter on that her character became more integral. I think something in your head shifts when a theatre says ‘we’re going to produce this’. It’s all hypothetical up until then. When you know a real actor is going to play the part, you feel you need to make it as rich and complex as possible. I think that spurred me on to pursue Gemma’s journey a bit more. But I also think I had a sense that parts for women around 50 aren’t that many and if you’re going to write one you have a responsibility to give that actor a meaty role.

As a young woman, you’re obviously not familiar with being middle-aged – which is similar to writing about Dubai when you’ve not been there. And you’ve also written about China. What attracts you to writing about ‘the other’?
I’ve always been attracted to stories set elsewhere. There’s a sort of freedom in it. But I am interested in what’s going on here. I understand that I’m British. I’m a product of Britain, the characters I’m writing are affected by Britishness. And the plays are for a British audience. But I think it’s useful to have that bit of distance. I’m trying to explore what makes us tick through this ‘other’ prism.

What are the particular challenges of writing about ‘the other’ in theatre – bringing Dubai or China to the stage?
I’d initially conceived The Empty Quarter as a film. I wanted to write about Dubai because it’s such an amazing place visually and I thought it would be amazing to have panoramic shots of all those skyscrapers and cranes. Setting a tiny human story against that backdrop could be really striking. But when I reconceived it as a stage play I turned that on its head, and set it in three apartments that all look exactly same. I reduced it to this tiny place that could be anywhere. But the outside then comes in through the way the environment affects how the characters act. Dubai is represented by the characters’ behaviour.

How did you manage this with Wild Swans? – It’s such broad sweep of a novel.
That was a very collaborative production. The sense of scale was achieved through the design. So at the start you’ve got an old Chinese market; and by the end you’ve got modern China – lots of video design, everyone’s image of contemporary Beijing. All in the space of an hour and a half. But again you’re seeing China through behaviour. In Maoist China, especially, the way people behaved – the paranoia, the intrigue and the betrayal – was a result of Mao’s policies.

If you were to give someone the Wild Swans book and ask ‘is this is a three-to four hour epic by Steven Spielberg, or a small play at the Young Vic?’ They’d say the Spielberg, wouldn’t they?
I think you can do both. But the way you tell the story would be different. The Spielberg could chart history from Imperial China to the present day. Whereas in the play we focus on the parents’ relationship, which for us was the heart of it – the difficulties and conflicts of having loyalty to a party and a leader and loyalty to your wife and your family. It felt very human.

Is it this human aspect that makes you write for theatre rather than other media?
What theatre does brilliantly is the human. Because ultimately you’ve got human beings sitting in front of or around another human being, so you can’t help but think about you relationship with other people. You don’t have that so much in a film. There’s something finished and safe about cinema – nothing’s going to go wrong. Whereas in theatre there’s danger and that element of possibility. As an audience you can directly affect what’s happening on stage. The way you laugh, the way you respond, is going to affect those actors.
What theatre’s also great for is creating that space around what’s said and what’s done. It allows ambiguity and provides room for interpretation. As an audience I love having to work hard to understand what’s going on, and knowing I might have a different interpretation to someone else. And in my writing I love that flexibility – throwing up questions and not necessarily answering them all. Theatre gives me the space to play with certainty.

What do you think about the growth in immersive theatre, such as You Me Bum Bum Train and Punchdrunk?
Punchdrunk’s Faust production in Wapping was one of the most exhilarating theatre experiences of my life. I was overawed by the scale of the project and felt true emotions. I felt actual fear on one of the levels. I was completely alone in a massive warehouse. I didn’t know what could happen to me. That was thrilling, but I wouldn’t want it as my only theatre experience. I think more traditional plays when you have people sitting looking one way at some actors performing, will continue. I think there’s room for everything.
Ultimately they both respond to the basic thing that theatre can offer – human interaction. Whether you’re in an audience of 50 or of one, you’re still having that connection with a performer, which can challenge you and provoke you and engage you. That’s what theatre is about.

Read the full interview on culturecompass.co.uk.

Photo: Robert Day/Hampstead Theatre

Dennis Kelly wins a 2013 Tony Award

PP alumnus Dennis Kelly won the Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical at last night’s 2013 Awards for MATHILDA.

Watch Dennis’ brilliant acceptance speech here.

We worked with Dennis on AFTER THE END and ORPHANS, both of which were directed by ex-PP Artistic Director Roxana Silbert.

Huge congratulations to Dennis from everyone at PP.

Bring us back some Hershey’s Peanut Butter Cups please.

Elinor Cook wins George Devine Award

Winner! Photo: David Ryle

Much whooping and cheering at PPHQ at the announcement that Elinor Cook is the winner of this year’s George Devine Award for most promising playwright.

Elinor is one of the five writers on attachment to PP and Channel 4 as part of The Big Room, and we think she’s great.

We’re not the only ones. Playwrights Lucy Caldwell, Laura Wade and Donald Howarth, and former Royal Court Literary Manager Graham Whybrow made up the judging panel who praised Elinor’s “distinctive subject, style and dialogue”, which is “vivid, precise, wry and sparely written”.

Elinor receives a cheque for £15,000 (ours is a pint of lager please Elinor), and joins a roll call of seriously starry past winners of one of the nation’s most prestigious prizes for new plays.

We’re rather proud (bashfully, you understand) to point out PP writers have a rather good track record. Last year’s winner was JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS writer Tom Wells. The 2011 award went to THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN‘s Penelope Skinner. Nick Payne, who wrote ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, was crowned in 2009. Tom, Penelope and Nick – like Elinor – are all past writers on attachment to PP and Channel 4. Our current Big Room Writer-In-Residence Alexandra Wood won in 2007, and past winners include PP alumni Che Walker, Gary Owen and Enda Walsh. What great taste the judges have.

Huge congrats Elinor, from all of us here. We’re made-up for you!

THE BIG ROOM Playwright-in-residence

We’d like introduce our newest member of the PP team – THE BIG ROOM Playwright-in-residence Alexandra Wood.

Alexandra’s play THE ELEVENTH CAPITAL was produced by the Royal Court as part of their Young Writers’ Festival 2007. On the strength of this she won the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright.

Alexandra adapted Jung Chang’s bestseller WILD SWANS (Young Vic/American Repertory Theatre) and was one of the writers to contribute to DECADE, Headlong Theatre’s piece exploring the legacy of 9/11.

Other plays include: THE CENTRE (Islington Community Theatre); THE ANDES (finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award); UNBROKEN (Gate); THE LION’S MOUTH, (Rough Cuts at Royal Court) and the radio play TWELVE YEARS (BBC Radio 4). She has written short plays for Rose Bruford College, nabokov, DryWrite and curious directive.

She is currently working on PIIGS, a collaboration with a Spanish writer to explore the effects of austerity in Spain, part of the ‘Open Court’ season at the Royal Court and is looking forward to writing a new play during her residency at PP.

THE BIG ROOM offer’s bespoke developmental opportunities to professional playwrights of exceptional talent across the UK.

Named after PP’s rehearsal room space in our long-standing Aldwych offices, it is a resource that will invest deeply in a small number of writers each year, with the ultimate aim of supporting the best playwrights in the development of their art, on their terms.

Read more about the work of THE BIG ROOM here.

THE BIG ROOM Playwright-in-residence is made possible by a donation from an anonymous playwright.

In Battalions … still on the attack

You might remember a blog we did on the challenge that playwright Fin Kennedy was set by Ed Vaizey – to prove that cuts made to Arts Council England are having a dramatic impact on the culture of new writing within the UK.

The final report, which has been endorsed by signatories far and wide, came to the damning conclusion that reductions to the arts budget are having financial and cultural implications that are more deep-felt than initially expected. As well as this, a press release was produced to summarise the key findings again with the backing of several leading figures.

Venues that champion and commission new writers provide the lifeblood of most of the writing that takes place within the UK. Behind every writer that lands a three month run at the National, or who can churn off series after award-winning series for channel four, or who is discovering their voice on the Fringe, is a support network that has been built over years in cities across the country.

Sadly, it would seem that Vaizey is taking a vow of silence on the matter. Equipped with the report, there is still no answer from the Minister. Subsequently, an open letter has been sent to remind him of the matter, to no avail.

The missive from Fin is to make this silence public until it is broken. Arts organisations and individuals are encouraged to read and disseminate the above information. Only then can a conversation be struck up, which will then lead to greater understanding for both sides.