Category Archive: PP Alumni

One year on…

A year ago, Georgia Laws was an intern here at PPHQ. Now she’s assistant producer on an acclaimed new play. We asked her for an update…

It’s great to be back up on the PP blog one year on from my internship with Party Plough! What a year and what a lot I owe to the amazing little new writing company. I fully realise now what a brilliant, well-rounded introduction to the professional theatre world I was given at Paines Plough. My role as production assistant had a suitably broad title and thankfully I was able to assist with an edifying range of theatre processes and practices from drawing up contracts to organising press nights; experience which has proven invaluable now that I’m taking my first solo steps into the theatre world.

Georgia in her interning days at PPHQ

Georgia in her interning days at PPHQ

A month or so ago I went for coffee with the director of Lonesome Schoolboy Productions, Niall Phillips, as he was looking for someone to help him get his new show off the ground- a heartfelt piece of new writing by Steven Lally – a quick read of the script and I was hooked. It was the work I had done with Paines Plough, specifically on Kate Tempest’s WASTED, that had first attracted Niall to my CV and now I find myself in the exciting role of Assistant Producer for this beautiful and thought provoking play at The Drayton Arms. Lally’s play LETTERS FROM EVERYONE was up and running and on its way to perfect in no time whilst my past few weeks have been devoted to giving the play the reach it deserves without a team of new writing experts behind me!

LETTERS FROM EVERYONE’s first week has been a massive success with glowing reviews coming out every day as well as an OFFIE nomination for ‘Most Promising New Playwright’! I am so incredibly proud of the cast and crew who have all worked together to produce theatre that is minimal yet visceral, emotive and witty for a play that captures the everyday disaster and exhilaration in the banality of London life. The perceptive look at London offered in LETTERS FROM EVERYONE is not far from the picture of the city painted in Kate Tempest’s WASTED. The two writers have used very different tools to conceive a similar city. As is noted in A Younger Theatre’s review of LETTERS FROM EVERYONE, ‘the insights offered into these four very different people paint a picture of London as a whole: big, colourful, anonymous and brutal all at the same time.’

LETTERS FROM EVERYONE runs until the 20th December at The Drayton Arms theatre in South Kensington so plenty of time to catch this award nominated new play!



Paines Plough turns 40

In 2014, we’re 40 years old. Happy birthday to us. Life begins at 40, right?

Right. So we’re planning our biggest, boldest, most far-reaching programme of work ever, with more plays touring to more places than even we thought possible.

We’ll be announcing the whole shebang in January, with attendant trumpet fanfare. But in the meantime, there’s a little taster of what to expect below, and some words from illustrious PP alumni.

Where it began… In 1974, while they were all working at The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster, actor Chris Crooks asked playwright David Pownall to write a play for him. John Adams agreed to direct it.

Christened over pints of Paines bitter in The Plough pub Bolnhurst, Paines Plough was registered as company no. 1165130 on 1st April 1974.The company opened Pownall’s play – Crates On Barrels – at 6pm on Wednesday 11 September 1975 at the Lyceum Studio, Edinburgh.

128 productions, eight Artistic Directorships, 42 awards and 40 years later, Paines Plough is now the national theatre of new plays – still doing what it has always done, touring the best new plays to every corner of the UK.

“Back in 1982, after seven years on the road, we passed Paines Plough into other hands. Since then we have watched it grow, change and develop into its present strength and reputation.  We feel part of the present company, glad that our aims have lived so long, and especially glad the company is still a stage for new plays.”
John Adams and David Pownall, founders

Paines Plough old skool stylee

James and George:

“It is a true honour to lead Paines Plough in to its fifth decade of touring new plays.

“Talking to our illustrious alumni in the lead up to our 40th anniversary year, it has become clear that Paines Plough is less a company than a movement; generation after generation of the UK’s top directors and playwrights have assembled in our shabby Aldwych offices to conceive some of the most important modern plays before setting off to share them with audiences in every corner of the country.

“That’s exactly what we’ve done since we took over in 2010 – and we hope our 40th anniversary year programme will encapsulate all that is essential about Paines Plough’s contribution to British cultural life.”

With lots more to be announced, our 40th anniversary year will include new plays from playwrights spanning Olivier Award-winner Mike Bartlett and debutant Sam Burns, touring the length and breadth of the country.

The centrepiece of Programme 2014 will be the unveiling of Roundabout, our portable in-the-round auditorium.

Our portable pop-up Roundabout Auditorium

A prototype Roundabout was co-produced with Sheffield Theatres in 2011 and played at Shoreditch Town Hall in 2012. Armed with the experience of these two runs, and the generous support of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, John Ellerman Foundation and Garfield Weston Foundation, the brand new pop-up theatre will form an integral part of future Paines Plough programmes.

“It’s hard to imagine that Paines Plough is 40 years old.  Its energy and verve remain so youthful, dynamic and daring.  Its work has become a crucial component of the new writing landscape in the UK and long may it thrive.”
Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres

We’ll be resident at the NT Shed for a series of PP Platforms at the start of the 40th anniversary year. Paines Plough alumni – writers, actors and directors – will share their memories and celebrate the crucial part the company has played in their careers to date.

“In 2005 Paines Plough made me their writer in residence and I can honestly say it was the single most important event in my career as a writer. Being a playwright moved from being a dream into being a reality as I got to spend time with people I’d only heard about, people whose books I read and plays I’d seen. I was given the chance to write what I wanted in a place that cared about writing.”
Dennis Kelly, playwright.

On 30 January, in conjunction with the Royal Exchange Manchester and ITC, Paines Plough will host a Small Scale Touring Symposium, inviting leading practitioners, journalists and companies across the UK to share in talks examining current and new aspects of touring theatre.

“For me personally it was a paradigm shift. To discover, encourage and direct the work of some extraordinary writers, to begin to understand audiences, to learn to be part of the landscape of Britain was a privilege and enormous fun. It opened the doors for all my ensuing adventures and for many others too and will always remain thrillingly alive and inspiring in my heart.”
Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director Royal Court Theatre (Artistic Director of Paines Plough 1997 – 2004)

That’s all you’re getting for now, but stay tuned. Programme 2014 is going to be huuuge.

Abi Morgan wins an Emmy

PP alumnus Abi Morgan won an Emmy last night for ‘Best Writing in a Mini-Series or Movie’ for her brilliant two-series drama THE HOUR, which starred another PP-er, Ben Whishaw.

Abi wrote two plays for PP, both of which were directed by ex-PP Artistic Director Vicky Featherstone, who directs Abi’s new play – THE MISTRESS CONTRACT – at the Royal Court next year.

Huge congratulations to Abi.

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!

Maria’s farewell

I had the great opportunity of working at Paines Plough.

I’m currently studying a Master on Arts Administration and Cultural Policy in Goldsmiths, and as a part of it I had to do an internship in any arts organisation. I wanted to do it in theatre, and was looking for something in the field, when one of my teachers told me Paines Plough was searching for an intern. I immediately applied.

Before working there, I knew some basic things about the company: that it had an amazing history of good productions, that some of the greatest British playwrights (including the même Sarah Kane) had worked with them, and that they were very committed to touring and to new playwriting, things that I found very noble and appealing. But, I didn’t know I was going to meet such a good group of people. People that are not only colleagues, but also friends; people that try to do their best to create good productions, and that are always thinking on new ideas about how to make things better.

My work as an administrative assistant was mainly centred on doing research in different things that the company needed for the short and long term. PP is soon to be 40 years old, so my first job was to update the immense (and very rich) archive that has information about all the productions done so far. This was a very good insight to the company. Then I had to investigate about a broad number of things: venues and places where they could tour, different drama societies around the UK, environmental policies, fundraising, among others. This gave me a wide and updated vision on how the ‘theatre field’ is developing nowadays, and reinforced all my sherlockholmeans skills.  I also got the opportunity to participate on the company ‘day away’ meeting and the ‘creative chats’ (which were great! If The National Theatre wants to know what to do for the future, please call the team PP); help with some production needs; answer the phone (awfully executed); see some rehearsals; meet actors and great writers such as Kate Tempest and Tom Wells; and watch a lot of theatre.

Three months passed so fast!!…

As I said: I had the great opportunity of working at Paines Plough! Sean, Claire, Fran, Hanna, Tara, Tom, Mark, James and George I will really miss you! Thanks for everything and the best of luck with all the projects. Hope to see you soon to have some drinks and a nice piece of cake.

Un abrazo grande a todos!


Kate’s last words on her Internship…

Well, what can I say? My time at PP came to an end after the last auditionee had left the building on Sunday. The time has absolutely raced along at such a lightening speed I don’t even know if I’ve had enough time to take in all the things I’ve learnt in the last three months. But, holy moly, I’ve learnt a lot!

From the moment you walk into the PP office you will realise that this is not an example of a clichéd, dull, grey workplace. James, George, Tara, Claire, Hanna, Bernd and Sean are a group of extremely talented, helpful, and dedicated individuals who make going into work an absolute pleasure. Though a lot of the time I’ve had fun just hanging about in the office, the PP team work incredibly hard to ensure the high calibre of work, for which the company is known, is maintained.

I would urge anyone who has an interest in theatre, and in particular playwriting, to get involved somehow. Go see one of their many shows all across the country – I can guarantee if you live in Great Britain a PP show is never too far away. In a theatrical landscape stuffed to the brim with adaptations and revivals, the work of Paines Plough is vital in sustaining the great tradition of compelling and provocative playwriting in Britain and Ireland. Long may it continue.

So, all in all it’s been a blast. I will definitely miss the constant supply of sweet treats, as well as the unceasing, eternal question on the tip of everybody lips: What’s that? You want me to have some cake?

I think we all know the answer to that one.

Hope to see you soon Paines Plough, best of luck with Programme 2012, and thanks a million for having me!

Kate :)

PP Alumni- curious directive

Next week sees the opening of curious directive’s hit Edinburgh show YOUR LAST BREATH at the Pleasance in London. This makes everyone at Paines Plough feel quite warm and fuzzy inside because the curious directive team is headed by two PP alumni- Jack Lowe and Sophie Larsmon. Jack and Sophie met whilst studying at Birkbeck and then both gained placements to work here at 43 Aldwych as Trainee Director and Trainee Producer respectively and thus their collaboration on YOUR LAST BREATH was born.

curious directive's YOUR LAST BREATH at Pleasance, Islington

1876 – Christopher leaves his young family behind to work in Norway. He will map the uncharted mountains for the very first time.

1999 – Anna’s body freezes after an extreme-skiing accident and her heart stops. But doctors gradually warm her until it miraculously starts beating again.

2011 – Freija, a successful business woman, has just lost her father. She travels to scatter his ashes in Norway.

2034 – Nicholas explains a medical breakthrough which saved his life as a baby, whereby the human body can be ‘suspended in animation.’

Spanning 150 years, curious directive fuse movement, live piano score and video to unravel the landscapes of the heart and our own personal geographies.

Have a gander at the YOUR LAST BREATH trailer here

And here’s the latest video blog from the curious directive team on tour.

After winning the SCOTSMAN 2011 FRINGE FIRST at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer the show was re-mounted for a 23 date UK tour and is now arriving at the Pleasance, Islington next week.

The whole PP gang will be heading that way next week to catch up on the fruits of Jack and Sophie’s post PP collaboration so see you there!

Where are they now?

A blog by Jack Lowe and Sophie Larsmon, former Trainee Director and Trainee Producer at Paines Plough:

Jack: We know each other so well, we finish each other’s…


(joke courtesy of the Pyjama men)

Jack and Sophie in the theatre tent at Latitude Festival

Sophie: So George has asked us to write a blog.

Jack: About?

Sophie: You

Jack: oh…

Sophie: and me…

Jack: Nice one.


Sophie: Thoughts?


Sophie: Jack?

Jack: I’m thinking…

Sophie: Ok


Jack: About how we met on the Birkbeck course?

Sophie: Good.

Jack: How you were doing the Producing course and I was doing the Directing course?

Sophie: And then we both were taken on as trainees at Paines Plough?

Jack: Great.

Sophie: Right.


Jack: Haha – I remember meeting/you

Sophie: I remember thinking you/

Jack: all and thinking how terrifying all the producers were.

Sophie: Were all GREAT. Shit I wanna be on that course!/ I even remember the room we were in.

Jack: I remember the room we were in.

Jack & Sophie: LOL!


Jack: I think Rob Swain talked about wanting us to meet and work with the ‘other’/course.

Sophie: But Andrew McKinnon said they didn’t want to ‘force’ a relationship – they wanted it to ‘blossom.’

Jack: Blossom?

Sophie: Blossom.


Jack: When did you arrive at Paines Plough?

Sophie: Before you.

Jack: and you were there for 6 months?

Sophie: Pretty much yeah.

Jack: We went out on tour with a PP show – Tiny Volcanoes?

Sophie: Yep. Croatia?

Jack: Ahhh Croatia…

Sophie: And then India? ‘Come To Where I’m From Mumbai?’

Jack: Ahhh India…and that was it?

Sophie: Not for long!

Jack: True.


Sophie: George said we should say something about what we’re doing now.

Jack: Working together with curious directive?

Sophie: Yep – thought we could say something about the Your Last Breath tour?

Jack: The Your Last Breath Tour you say? On the road February-April? Touring to 12 venues? Last week at Bath and Jersey Arts Centre? Rest of the tour includes Norwich Playhouse, Colchester Arts Centre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, SPRINT @CPT and the Pleasance, London? Wow what a good idea to spread the word…

Sophie: Not forgetting Chipping Norton, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Stephen Joseph Theatre, The Lowry Salford Quays and the Auden, Holt? And how we’re publishing video diaries along the way which can be found on twitter @c_directive ?

Jack: Nice. And how training at Paines Plough has helped us to clearly think about investing in touring the UK to meet audiences and hear what they have to say about the work?

Sophie: Exactly.

Jack: Sounds good – shall we write something up and ping it backwards and forwards?

Sophie: I’ve had the dictaphone on…

Jack: Oooh Verbatim. Naughty.

Penelope Skinner scoops Standard Award

Penelope Skinner. Photo: The Evening Standard

Much cheering at PP HQ at the news that Penelope Skinner scooped the prestigious Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright at yesterday’s awards.

Penelope’s play THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN is currently playing as part of our Roundabout Season in Sheffield, and she was formerly part of our Future Perfect playwright’s group.

We loved her play THE VILLAGE BIKE at The Royal Court earlier this year, for which she was honoured.

Huge congratulations to Penelope. We’re dead proud.

You can read more about the awards here.

There’s a feature about Penny and similarly brilliant fellow nominees EV Crowe and Vivienne Franzman here.