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Goodbye from Natalie…

Last month we bid a fond farewell to our wonderful Administrator, Natalie, as she took up an incredible new role as General Manager of Coney. Sobs rang out all over the office this morning as her goodbye blog arrived in our inboxes. Here, in her own words, she has summed up her time with us. Sad as we are, we know it’s not really au revoir, just à bientôt…

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What an incredible two years it’s been. It’s hard to know where to begin and I won’t be able to cover everything that I’d like to. So, I’ll just share some of my fondest memories from my time at Paines Plough in the hope that it’ll highlight how much of an incredible company and inspiring team they are to work for and with.

My very first PP show was Duncan Macmillan’s EVERY BRILLIANT THING. I travelled with Alex Wood our playwright-in-residence at the time, where we found ourselves in the lovely little village of Ledbury at The Market Theatre. It was so close to where my mum lives (out in the regions) that my brother came along. I remember introducing him to both Alex and George and instantaneously thinking, “wow this is really cool, my family can see our work where they are and where I’m from, we travel to them”. Coming from an area with limited access to the arts and a low-income family, I immediately saw how important and impactful touring theatre and new writing was, and knew that I had made it into the right company.

I joined PP as the Admin and Finance Assistant in 2013 through Creative Access, a charity who provide year-long traineeships in the creative industries for people of BAME backgrounds. This marked the beginning of my career in the arts. Without this opportunity, I’d probably be in an industry that I’m not passionate about, struggling to find my way in. Paines Plough were the first theatre organisation to partner with Creative Access, actively addressing lack of diversity in the industry. Unafraid and open – two major qualities that extend way beyond their work.

Watching an intimate dress rehearsal of Andrew Scott in SEA WALL over the bridge in one of the rehearsal studios at The National was a truly unforgettable experience.

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I didn’t know what was happening to me when I watched for those 30 minutes, no more than a metre away from him, sucked into his performance and trying really hard to hold floods of tears back. This had never happened to me watching a play before.

Valuable lessons learned:
– I’ll never get left behind in a hotel in Hull after press night again.
– Even though you’ve planned for everyone to meet at the station in good time to catch your train, you’ll always need to run for it #touringPPstyle.
– Pork scratchings vary in taste and texture from region to region. Scottish pubs don’t stock them.
– How to change florescent strip lights and chargers.
– I still can’t do puns…
– Accents, canoeing, ‘being in the lift’ mimes, street dance, the odd prank call and cake really help when you all need a little group pick me up.

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COME TO WHERE I’M FROM at the Southbank Centre was a beautiful installation and interactive map designed by Amy Cook, where audiences and passersby could pop in and listen to plays by writers from all over the UK, for free.

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Invitation to interact with the space, watch some of the writers read their plays live and to hang out with a beer in an open space is my kind of art. This was a lovely weekend.

Touring from all corners of the UK from the Isle of Eigg to Ipswich, Liverpool to Lyme Regis and Newport to Nottingham involves a lot of trains…

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ROUNDABOUT is by far my favourite thing to have been involved in. From its launch in Edinburgh in 2014 to its current Autumn tour, THE HUMAN EAR to LUNGS, Visitor Services to the Street Team, and tea dances in Margate to TORYCORE, the breadth of what Roundabout can do and give is phenomenal.

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EVERY BRILLIANT THING in New York and my (and Francesca’s) first ever trip to the US! We had a whirlwind of five days in New York during the opening at Barrow Street Theatre last December.

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It was very surreal to think how it was only a year before that I was in Ledbury with an audience of 30 to then being Off-Broadway with an American audience of 250! And of course we visited the amazing sights, hung out with Jonny and ate a lot of meat…

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My Paines Plough round-up in numbers:

17 productions

3 Arts Council Annual Reports

1 Big fat 40th anniversary year

2 ROUNDABOUT seasons

2 Edinburghs

2 Latitude festivals

1 Bestival

1 European festival… Wiesbaden

10,220 miles commuted to and from PPHQ by bike

And a lot of miles travelled up and down the country.

And of course there are the people that make all this happen and I’m so privileged to have worked with such a driven and dedicated team. Under the Artistic Directorship of James and George, I’ve constantly been inspired and driven by their vision and resilience. Working with Hanna and Francesca has been like attending free producing workshops everyday, Aysha has shown me how brilliant being a General Manager is and I take from her into what I do now with Coney, Bhavini and Rachel are the two amazing trainees who like me joined PP though Creative Access; all together they are an incredibly strong, fearless and focused team. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with Claire, Tara, Bene, Bernd and Sean. Paines Plough attracts the most amazing people and I’m just happy to have been a part of the family. Thank you for having me.

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For now its goodbye from me as I retire to the red cupboard with my digestive biscuit tin, muji pens and a new picture to hang on the wall…

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Natalie x

The One Time That Jonny…

Last January, the playwright Duncan MacMillan asked if I’d work with him for a few days on a little project, “making something funny about depression.” Two years later, we’re still doing it, now in New York for a four-month run in Greenwich Village.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING  is about a boy who creates a list of everything he can think of that’s special about the world, as a present for his depressed mother. During the show, I get the audience to read out entries from the list, for example, “Sunlight,” “Wearing a cape,” “Peeling off a sheet of wallpaper in one intact piece.” It’s essentially a one-man show, although I get audience members to play my dad and other characters as it progresses.

This is my first time performing in New York, and I arrived as nervous and excited as I did on the first day of high school. I’ve promised to keep a diary while here, as chances like this don’t often come around twice. And while the show has me meeting many downtown theatregoers, I wasn’t quite prepared for the famous faces.

Nov. 29 America is the land of exceptional service, where you can get anything, at any time, served with a smile. Except airport immigration, of course. But George Perrin, the director, and I are adept at dealing with the two-and-a-half-hour queue; we are, after all, British. Long queues and people barking orders just feel like normal service in Britain. For a brief second, I genuinely think they’ll turn us away when we show our passports and visas, but we’re in. It’s really happening.

Nov. 30 I wake up in the hotel where I’ll be staying until an apartment is ready. The room has two king-size beds and a bathtub large enough for two people to lie comfortably side by side. What kind of a relationship would you have to be in to require separate beds but still want to bathe together? Is this a New York thing? I include a photo here. For a sense of scale, I have placed two pairs of mens size ten shoes at the end of the bath.

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Dec. 1 Before I arrived, my sister warned me, “I really don’t think Americans will find you funny.” We’re very close: The English just aren’t great at paying a compliment. This comment is on my mind as we spend the first few hours of rehearsal trying to work out what Britishisms just won’t cut it with a New York audience. “Crumpet” is replaced by “waffle.” My dog in the British version was named Ronnie Barker; no one here will get that pun, so he is now Sherlock Bones.

Dec. 4 Open dress rehearsal. These are performances where friends of the theatre the show to give us a dry run before the previews. I invite everyone I know in New York. They’re both busy. Still, everyone laughs a lot, and there are even a few sniffs and wet eyes during the sad bits. People like Sherlock Bones.

I’ve been told New Yorkers will hate the interaction, but they seem keen to be involved. The show is a bit rough-and-ready tonight, but they give us a standing ovation at the end. I’m reminded of the famous Hollywood actor I saw starring in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in Edinburgh. During the curtain call, he would open his arms and literally gesture everyone upward until they stood. Incredibly blatant, of course, but you’ve got to admire someone who always gets what they want.

Dec. 7 Jackie Hoffman! The Jackie Hoffman — the comic and actress, improv star and a real hero of mine — played my teacher in the show tonight. More accurately, she stole the show with her dry wit and timing. Afterward, I got my photo taken with her, which means whatever happens now, I’m happy with this trip.

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Tonight was also a party for Paines Plough. The team from London flew in, and after a ridiculous number of photos and speeches we all went to a little French bar and drank until very late. American cocktails seem to be pure alcohol, and everyone keeps buying me drinks. To slow down the inebriation, I order a gin and tonic. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the barman pouring a highball glass full of gin, then garnishing it with a shot of tonic. Tomorrow will be horrible.

Dec. 14 After six shows open to critics, it’s opening night. Lots of notable names have been invited. I ended up with John Patrick Shanley, the playwright, as my dad and Gugu Mbatha-Raw (from the movie “Belle”) as my partner. Everyone afterward thinks I was trying to be “starry” by picking them out of the audience to participate, but at the time I hadn’t realized who either of them were. I can be a bit of an idiot like that.

I’m eating a mini-burrito at the party when someone taps me on the shoulder and tells me the reviews are out. They are brilliant. My friends back home are going to hate us. Later on the phone, my sister tells she was upset that one of them called me a “spunky, balding fellow” and another referred to me as “pudgy,” but I’m delighted. I am pudgy, balding and spunky. Why try to hide it?

Dec. 19 I’m shooting an excerpt from the show for The New York Times’s “In Performance” series. In the green room, a beautiful blond lady who looks strikingly like Courtney Love walks in. “Hello, I’m Courtney,” she says to me. How hard it must be, I think, to be a performer who looks so much like Courtney Love and has the same first name. We chat about what we’re working on, and she leaves.

My press guy, Michael, walks in. “Did you see Courtney Love?” he asks me. It’s only then that I realize the reason she looked so much like Courtney Love and talked so much like Courtney Love was because she actually was Courtney Love.

The reviews have been out a week, I’m settled in New York, but thankfully I’m still as much of an idiot as ever before.

This blog is taken from an article written by Jonny for the New York Times: That’s Sherlock Bones to You, Mate

Check out Jonny’s website to read more blogs.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING runs at Barrow Street Theatre until March 29. Tickets are available here.

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New York reviews round-up

EVERY BRILLIANT THING opened Off-Broadway at Barrow Street Theatre in New York on Sunday, and we’re thrilled with the response. The critics have fallen head-over-heels for our co-pro with Pentabus, written by Duncan Macmillan with star Jonny Donahoe, and directed by our very own Joint AD George.

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Here’s a round-up of the reviews so far:

“Captivating…guaranteed to keep your eyes brimming… often very funny… takes the chill off the depths of a light-starved winter.”
New York Times

“A life-affirming gem… as profound a work as you are ever likely to experience on a New York stage.”
NY1

“Duncan Macmillan’s affecting, memorable new play…heartbreaking…ultimately life-affirming…Every Brilliant Thing sparkles.”
AP

“Every Brilliant Thing may be the funniest show about depression you’ve ever seen… about finding reasons to live rather than reasons to die. And those reasons can be as minute as wearing a cape and as big as falling in love.”
NY Post

“Works a gentle magic, thanks to Donahoe’s skill as a host… even the audience gets a little chance to shine.”
Time Out New York

“Funny and observant little heart-tugger… another “Brilliant Thing” to add to the list.”
NY Daily News

“[A] heart-tugging tale… Donahoe is a warm and personable performer… shrewdly staged in the round by helmer George Perrin.”
Variety

“George Perrin’s seamless direction and Donahoe’s impeccably natural delivery… MacMillan has discovered joy to be just as contagious as despair.”
Theatre Mania

“Beautiful… a specific and deep response to the work of staying alive.”
Vulture

“Bewitching…about as brilliant as theatre can get.”
TalkinBroadway.com

“Heartbreaking and joyous…there’s probably no better way to beat the holiday blues than seeing Every Brilliant Thing.”
Holywood Reporter

“Guaranteed to melt all but the hardest hearts… If I see a performance piece any time soon that gives me as much pleasure and raises my spirits as high as Jonny Donahoe’s has, I’ll be grateful. And if I ever start my own list, he’ll be on it prominently.”
Huffington Post

“This sweetly sentimental, wise, and often very funny one-hour piece… humorous and moving…many may consider it yet another of life’s many brilliant things.”
Theatre’s Leiter Side

“Surprisingly rich… ingenious work by playwright Duncan Macmillan… by the end of the sixty minute production we’ve all become a chorus of celebration.”
TDF Stages

“A funny, fun and moving show.”
New York Theater

“A funny and touching work that may not change your life but will certainly remind you to appreciate a bit more the pleasures, great or small, that go with living it.”
New Jersey Newsroom

“It’s not quite magic, but it’s something close to it, one of those incredible, transformative phenomena of collective imagination.”
Slant Magazine

“Wonderful, touching…hilarious. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind experience, one that will make you laugh and maybe bring you to tears, Every Brilliant Thing is an absolute must see.”
Edge

“Every Brilliant Thing is a theater lover’s perfect stocking stuffer.”
NBC

“One of the most humane and touching theatrical experiences of 2014.”
British Theatre Guide

“Every Brilliant thing is evidence, which we may need, that life matters, and that theatre matters.”
Fuse

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Every Brilliant Thing transfers to New York

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1. Ice cream

2. Water fights

3. New York City

4. National Tour

The latest addition to our list of brilliant things is the news that EVERY BRILLIANT THING is off to the Big Apple.

Our co-production with Pentabus of Duncan Macmillan’s hilarious, heart-warming story will open at Barrow Street Theatre in New York on 5 December. It runs until 29 March 2015.

Then from May 2015, EVERY BRILLIANT THING will embark on an extensive UK tour. We’ll announce full details in the New Year, but you can be sure we’ll be touring to a theatre near you.

For now, we’re getting excited about working with the incredible US producing team of Barrow Street Theatre and Jean Doumanian Productions to present the US Premiere of EBT in one of the city’s coolest Off-Broadway theatres.

The show is directed by our very own Joint Artistic Director George Perrin. Jonny Donahoe stars again as our hero who starts a list of everything that’s brilliant in the world, before the list takes on a life of its own, in a show described by The Guardian as “possibly one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see. Full stop.

PP returns to New York following our acclaimed run of David Harrower’s GOOD WITH PEOPLE in 2013, and previous transfers of Gregory Burke’s THE STRAITS in 2004 and Dennis Kelly’s AFTER THE END in 2006.

Fair to say we can’t wait. Here’s the deets:

Every Brilliant Thing
The Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow Street at 7th Avenue South, Greenwich Village.
Previews from 6 December. Opening 14 December to 29 March 2015.
Tuesday-Friday 7:30PM
Saturday-Sunday 2:30PM & 7:30PM
Tickets $20 – $55
www.smarttix.com / +1 212-868-4444