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Super Sunday: Open Auditions

We’re gearing up for Super Sunday once again, with 190 actors coming along to our Open Auditions at The Actor’s Centre.

It’s one of our favourite ways to spend a day, meeting lots of great people and watching them perform extracts of contemporary plays.

Open Auditions are our way of broadening our horizons when it comes to casting, and getting to meet actors we might not otherwise get to know. So we split the PP team across three rooms and meet actors for a quick chat, and ask them to prepare a duologue from a play written in the last 15 years.

We’re not casting for anything specific, it’s just a chance for us to meet you, and for you to meet us. But we employ around 50 actors per year, so of course we’ve got an eye on the productions we have coming up in the next year, and hoping to meet people who might be the right fit for one of our shows.

Alongside Team PP, we invite other directors to join us, to maximise the opportunities actors have to meet people who can give them jobs. Joining us this Sunday are Charlotte Bennett (artistic director, Forward Theatre Project), Joe Murphy (artistic director of nabokov and associate director of Soho Theatre), Stef O’Driscoll (artistic director of Dirty Stop Out), Jack Lowe (artistic director of Curious Directive), freelance directors David Mercatali and Gemma Kerr, as well as freelance casting director Sophie Davies.

Team PP is represented in full by artistic directors James and George, producer Tara, administrator Hanna, general manager Claire, production assistant Sarah and our super volunteer Annabel.

We have a little chat, find out a bit about you and what plays and playwrights you like, see your duologue, and give you a chance to grill us about anything you like.

So what happens next? We keep everyone’s details on file and if we liked what you showed us we’ll be sure to keep you in mind for future castings. Lots of people we’ve met for the first time through Open Auditions have subsequently been invited in to meet for our productions. At the end of the day, we all head to the pub for a discussion centred around finding parts for people who really blew us away.

If you’re coming on Sunday, thank you, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Final Thoughts – Stephanie Königer

I remember clearly the day of my interview when Claire and Sean were sitting opposite me in the meeting room (which, since then, always gave me the feeling of serious events happening in there) – and the phone call with the acceptance a few hours later while I was attending rehearsals in the Jerwood Space. I can remember standing in the staircase looking over to the trains running between London Bridge and Waterloo and was excited and delighted by this offer and knew I had finally found my way.

At the end of March the twelve weeks ahead of me seemed endless but now the time is over and it went by so quickly. However during my time there I was able to achieve so much. Using my few days of holidays wisely I was able to run to Bristol for a Press Night, shot a short film at a beautiful Scottish beach near Edinburgh and jetted off to Munich for some German drama. All this time I was mainly occupied with leading the “literary department”, polishing my English on the phone while calling numerous writers regarding their unsolicited scripts, cultivating the office calendar with plenty of invitations to theatrical events, getting involved in financial management, announcing the full programme for 2012, writing an uncountable number of cards  for the opening of Love, Love, Love at the Royal Court, the welcoming of WASTED to the Roundhouse and the first public night of talented young creatives in SMITHEREENS at Rose Bruford College. And of course eating enough (to quote Sean) “cake/sweets/chocolate/doughnuts/cookies to sink a battleship“ – thankfully the four flights of stairs to the office kind of compensated for these sugary debaucheries. And of course I was as guilty as everyone else in supplying these sweet sins.

It has been an amazing time at Paines Plough during which I gained a lot of experience and insight into how a theatre company of this scale is run in this country, while meeting incredible, warm-hearted and driven people in a field where I am finding my occupation. Thank you very much to everyone.

And if I ever fancy a piece of cake I know where to go.

Weekly Shenanigans at PP Towers

The past few weeks have been an exciting time for Paines Plough and there has been plenty going on in the office as well…

We had a visit last Thursday from an old friend who turned up with a lovely present from Sugar Sin:

Sadly it has only lasted a few days with us – despite Stephanie’s attempts to hide it Tara still managed to keep finding it!

It did start a controversial debate in the office about favourite sweets though. Sean has a hankering for sherbet lemons, whilst Claire prefers Jazzies. White mice divided opinion but cola bottles were a universal success.

Another big development this week was the Feng Shui of the store cupboard.   The piles of scripts, files and office equipment had been threatening to engulf anyone who dared enter. Luckily the lovely Mainzelmännchen (Germanic house-elves) have come to our rescue and it is now looking spick and span:

And of course there has been the amazing sunny weather to enjoy, with creative chats in the park and ice cream in the office. We also discovered the new PropStore bar down on the South Bank next to the National, constructed out of various props and set from past shows. We’re just hoping the hot weather will continue so we can go have a drink there on Friday evenings.

RUNS and STORMS – Love, Love, Love’s last week at the Southbank

A very excited “over and out” from us at London Bridge as we complete our final day between these lovely, draughty Chocolate Factory walls and head to the Royal Court to begin our tech. Next week we will, no doubt, remember fondly its pockets of heat, its scattered red pillars and the Donner und Blitz that framed each afternoon session, as if on cue. I have seen more storms in London during this past week than I have in my whole time living in England. We seem to attract them. Pathetic fallacy? Very possibly.

We discovered that the place is also, possibly, haunted. A ghost passed through our rehearsal room during Act Two on Friday. It rattled the huge stable doors at one end almost off its hinges and then made a sneaky escape through the main door out into the stairway with a move and a shake. It certainly caused a collective shiver. Come to think of it, the front door has been acting quite ghostly during this whole process. Unable to fully close (due to the fact that it self-locks), the door dithers and creaks every 15 minutes causing all three of us behind the desk to turn expectantly towards it, convinced someone is surreptitiously trying to enter. We do this every 15 minutes, without fail. We never learn. I tell you, it’s comedy gold: we’re like three synchronised meerkats.

The goblet saga continues.. the chalice has somehow made its way onstage and thus has become a minor character in the final act (complete with those dastardly wasabi peas). Watch out for it.

“Cheese Thursday” was the major event this week – a regular Royal Court tradition I hadn’t experienced before. And I really do mean ‘experienced’. We were informed by Stage Management and we got excited. It was discussed days in advance. I stressed the need to delegate (the horror of everyone turning up armed only with chutney, loomed in my mind). When the grand day finally arrived, our party of eleven was dismally diminished to only three hard-core cheesists. Their loss of course. Borough Market offered and we gladly accepted and a fantastical feast followed. Apples, grapes, chutney, spek, smelly brie, smoked cheddar, gorgeous stilton, oat cakes and french loaf. Olives were a slight deviation but welcomed by all involved. Needless to say, I went on quite a cheese roller-coaster that afternoon: a glorious cheese high was followed by a cheese low(er) which finally settled into a cheese lull for the rest of the day.

And finally, the Guardian crossword has taken the company by storm. Small victories and huge frustrations are played out over tea breaks. Mr Miles continuously spoils the fun by knowing every answer so we are forced to ban him from taking part and only defer to his vast intellect in emergencies.

We finished the week with two full runs of the play for small audiences of production team members. To see it all together like that for the first time was astounding. If one can watch it in a rehearsal room, with all the sounds of London Bridge zooming through the windows at high speed, and still feel that it is delightful, devastating, captivating and breath-catching, then we’re in for something pretty special indeed.

And to end, an attempt at a (somewhat) cryptic crossword clue:

“Seen three times in red: what a sight for old Peter Jones” (4)

Stephanie about her first month with PP

It seems like you are closing your eyes.
Just for a moment.
Or two.
And time flies by.

This is already my fourth week as the not-so-new-anymore intern at Paines Plough. This is nearly a month and also almost a third of my time with this incredible company which makes me sad already knowing there are just two more left. It felt like I was going through someone else’s things in the first week, trying to find a rhythm and a natural order in the second week, by the third week I found myself very settled in a routine and now in the fourth week I cannot imagine having not been with the Paines Plough family before.

Given the fact that being German I am used to an utterly different theatre system, every day at work has something new for me to discover and learn.

Touring theatre does not exist in Germany to this extent as I suppose this habit got lost in two wars. The fact is that companies toured Shakespeare’s plays to the continent already when the writer himself was still alive. Touring theatre was known at this time but theatre developed differently on the continent than on the island: today it is hardly alive in German speaking countries anymore. But here in the UK touring companies are an institutionalized part of the theatre landscape and I find myself only beginning to understand how the system here works. I have been given a great opportunity.

When I was at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer (I feel like a philistine to admit that it was my first one. Ever.) and later in London, where I have lived now for six months I always stumbled over Paines Plough’s name and their work. I feel very privileged and honoured being in this lucky position and find myself challenged, part of the team and finally working in the British Theatre industry.

Also I not only enjoy climbing up the four floors to the office everyday but also crossing Waterloo Bridge by bike and its incredible view to London’s skyline and landmarks realising every day what a sparkling city I live in now and what a promising future I have working with Paines Plough.

(c) Stephanie Königer


Treats, alternative rock and props – Rehearsal Week 3 of Love, Love, Love

The end of our second week at the Chocolate Factory and the phenomenon of ‘nibbles’ has taken over the rehearsal room. Mr Miles is initially to blame for filling a small prop glass goblet full of wasabi peas and placing them centre-stage (on our desk). For those of you who haven’t tried them yet, stay away, wasabi peas are addictive. But perhaps not as addictive as the salted edamame beans which followed the next day. And when they are so well presented, who can resist? After that, it became quite a tradition of attempting and failing (“right, this really, really is my last one”, “will someone please take these away?!”) to stop compulsively munching. A lovely present from Claire, the General Manager at Paines Plough, had a detrimental effect when the goblet became a cornucopia of Haribo. A very hyper rehearsal session followed. Mr Miles finally ended the craze by sobering us up with dried fruit and nuts instead of crunchy/salty/sugary treats. Remarkably fewer visits to our desk today.

My musical knowledge has expanded considerably since working on Mr Bartlett‘s play. Having missed out in my teens, I am now having my “Stone Roses moment” and enjoying it considerably.

Rehearsals are in a great place. We are already running full Acts and solid shapes are beginning to form. Each time a scene is run it brings with it new improvisations, details and startling moments. It has become increasingly clear that this is the type of exciting realism that director Mike Alfreds champions as truly live theatre; theatre which is “creative, spontaneous, curious, enterprising [and] responsive to others”. It is a delight to watch.

The production side of things is ticking along at a great pace with new pieces of furniture being lugged up the steep Factory steps each day. Intelligent (and unintelligible) technical talk of plug sockets, gutted televisions and tiles make me glad I am only a director and doubly grateful that we have such professionals working to make this show happen.

(Caitlin McLeod, Assistant Director)

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 :)

Picture us WASTED

So it’s week one of the WASTED tour. And what an amazing tour it has been so far. On Tuesday 28th, we took the tour bus up to Birmingham: laughter, digital pool and a brief dip into To The Actor before arriving at the unmistakable Travelodge. It was a great opportunity to meet up with Kate and James, to share in the delights of the city that, the next day, would see the landing of WASTED .

Up bright and early on Weds, we ventured into town to find the rehearsal space and student union for Birmingham City. With James safely at the helm, we got lost quite a few times but the collective array of WASTED posters, some rather intelligently graffitied, assured us we were heading in the right direction. The buzz about the show was massive, and as soon as we had mic-checked, we were asked if we could do an interview with Kate and ourselves with a bit from the play for the local radio station, Scratch. Course we would! That night and the following night at the Matthew Boulton Campus, we showed WASTED for the first time to two amazing audiences. Standing ovations, whoops and cheers of excitement and agreement… We were so excited and thrilled to see that our hard work and the play that we all have so much belief in was being met with such an unprecedented kind of response. As one audience member said, “This is what theatre should always be like!” Afterwards. it was really special to meet up with more of the Paines Plough crew for celebrations…and back to the unmistakeable Travelodge!

Opening night at the MAC couldn’t have gone better. During the day, while the PP crew worked tirelessly as ever, to set the space up, Lizzy, Cary and I chilled out in the sun, ran our lines, sorted out some last minute accommodation! and made sure we were all set for the tour ahead. The show went up without a hitch and once again, we were honoured to receive another standing ovation! We were being spoilt now!

You can’t spend every night in the Travelodge, or at least all night, so in some of our down time, we headed on over to Wagamama. It’s amazing to see great minds working together so keenly, as you can witness here. Some might scoff, but the Wagamama puzzle place mats are darn tricky. But with James and the team on it, we cracked it. The next day.

With Birmingham firmly under our belts, exceptionally early on the Saturday morning, we jumped in the tour bus and headed to the Sherman theatre in Cardiff. The show was an interesting one, our first one without the full team, but again, the audience was brilliant and it seems the words of Kate Tempest strike chords with people from any town or city. We came off, tired but massively inspired. The next day, George was in town directing for the Royal Welsh so we had a beautiful day in Bute Park, overlooking the castle, and a sumptuous Sunday lunch.

That evening, we were straight back on the road again,from Cardiff to head to Frome in Somerset, to spit some lyrics to a different town, a different country even. Exhausted from a fully loaded week but hyped and energised by the awesome audiences we were meeting, we snuggled into the back of the tour bus. The next week will bring three more cities, and we can only hope that this tour, and all its moments, will keep on going from strength to strength. Whatever happens, we are sure we won’t allow a moment to be WASTED.

Next Thursday, check out what will have happened in Frome, Exeter, and Bristol.

A week in the life of a…

Well here I am in the Paines Plough office on a work placement opportunity and what a great place it is to be at this time! It’s Friday and the week has gone so quickly.  One quick look at the recent productions shows how prolific the company has been this year, and even though it’s the end of the year there is no break in the pace as I found out on my first day.

Monday morning, 10am and the 4th floor offices are swarming with people already – fortunately for me as the ‘newbie’ it’s the first day of rehearsals for Matt Hartley’s new play, 65 Miles so introductions are needed all around the table in the rehearsal room. Barely had I chosen a choccie biccie and lifted my first cup of tea to my mouth then we were off with the first read through. The beginning of a new production is always an exciting time as the cast read through the script together for the first time and it’s an excellent way for me to come back to working in theatre. I can’t wait to find out about how it develops throughout rehearsals and to staging.

Back in the production office I am working with Claire on preparations for the year ahead and assisting with tour booking, finance administration and fundraising.  Thank goodness the team is very welcoming and open to my many questions!  Going through the less well known territories of fundraising and budget setting with Claire I’m staggering by the amount of research and time needed to make any fundraising application. Some of these tasks were new to me but all will prove very helpful in my next role I’m sure

I suddenly hear Sean talking about blogging and tweeting and he kindly agrees to bring me up to speed with the new techno-socio era. It’s not so difficult and I can certainly see how useful it can be, so soon I’ll be tweeting for England…well perhaps just for the next company I work for!

Besides the friendly atmosphere and busy pace, one of the best things about being in the Paines Plough production office for the week is that my sugar intake has increased (as has my concentration, strangely!). Between choccie biccies and mini chocs there is much talk of Christmas gifts, particularly those of the sweet variety. I don’t want to give the game away, but as a word of caution for anyone visiting the offices, don’t bring any Skittles with you!

Thank you everyone for being so welcoming and supportive, I wish I could stay here longer. Have a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for another successful year.

What we’re seeing at the theatre…

It’s been a busy Autumn for Paines Plough, with shows on in Sheffield, Glasgow, Manchester and Coventry simultaneously but despite our team being split all over the country we’ve still managed to catch plenty of theatre all over the shop and the festive period is looking pretty good for our culture calendar too…

James and I caught Tom Wells’ brilliant new play The Kitchen Sink at the Bush on press night.  It’s selling out but the run has been extended til 23rd Dec, so there’s still chance to catch this extraordinary new play.

Claire and Hanna loved April de AngelisJUMPY at the Royal Court, Tara caught Polar Bear’s OLD ME at the Roundhouse and we all went on a PP office social to see OFFICE PARTY at the Pleasance which was an absolute hoot!

We were big fans of Michael Sheen’s HAMLET at the Young Vic, Jez Butterworth’s JERUSALEM (it just gets better…) at the Apollo, BLACKBERRY TROUT FACE by the superb Laurence Wilson (who wrote TINY VOLCANOES which we toured earlier this year), and ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS by Richard Bean at the Adelphi.

We’re very excited about seeing COMEDY OF ERRORS with Lenny Henry and directed by Dominic Cooke at the National, I’m off to see Michael Grandage’s last show at the helm of the Donmar- RICHARD II with Eddie Redmayne at the weekend and James saw Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s hit adaptation of MATILDA at the Cambridge Theatre and can still be found humming the songs around the office…

Last week Claire and Tara headed up to Sheffield (quickly becoming our second home) to see the Crucible’s revival of Sondheim’s COMPANY with Daniel Evans and Samantha Spiro which was brilliantly entertaining! And speaking of Sheffield we had a great time there two weeks ago when the whole team got together to see our ROUNDABOUT season; Nick Payne’s ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, Duncan Macmillan’s LUNGS and THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN by Penelope Skinner.

So what are we seeing over Christmas? Our panto withdrawal from last year will be soothed by trips to ALADDIN at the Lyric Hammersmith and SLEEPING BEAUTY at Sheffield’s Lyceum. We’ll be at the National next week for Daniel Kitson’s IT’S ALWAYS RIGHT NOW, UNTIL IT’S LATER which I’ve been dying to see since it debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe back in 2010. Claire’s off to see Matthew Bourne’s NUTCRACKER at Sadler’s Wells on Tuesday and Tara will be going to Kurt Weill’s MAGICAL NIGHT at the Royal Opera House later this week. Other treats in store are Reuben Johnson’s THE PROPOSAL produced by exciting young company Fiddy West Productions at Theatre 503, Joe Penhall’s HAUNTED CHILD at the Royal Court and Dawn King’s FOXFINDER at The Finborough.

Wowzer, there’s a whole lot of theatre for you.

What have you been seeing? Any top tips for theatre trips over Christmas?