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New York, New York

GOOD WITH PEOPLE closed in New York last week after a sell-out run as part of 59 East 59 Theaters’ annual Brits Off Broadway festival which brings together an eclectic mix of (mainly new) work and is one of the only platforms in the city for smaller-scale British productions (alongside the Public Theater’s Under The Radar festival and Carol Tambor’s annual Edinburgh to NYC transfer award).

GOOD WITH PEOPLE is the third show we have presented at Brits Off Broadway since the festival’s inception nearly ten years ago, following Gregory Burke’s THE STRAITS in 2004 and Dennis Kelly’s AFTER THE END in 2006.

Highlights of this year’s festival programme include Rob Drummond’s BULLET CATCH and BULL by PP Associate Playwright Mike Bartlett, which is directed by ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG director Clare Lizzimore and produced by our friends at Sheffield Theatres.

In fact, PP has its prints firmly smudged all over New York at the moment.

Ex-Associate Director John Tiffany has two shows running on Broadway, a one-man MACBETH starring Alan Cumming and the critically acclaimed ONCE, which is authored by one-time PP Associate Playwright Enda Walsh and will soon star our brilliant 2012 Research Intern Jo Christie (who James and George first worked with on the 2005 Old Vic New Voices 24 Hour Plays). Meanwhile Dennis Kelly’s version of Matilda has just opened to triumphant reviews.

Needless to say, it’s a fantastic city to present theatre in, and in which to spend a few days. So while most of team PP were opening JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS in Watford, it was left to Joint Artistic George along with creative team Ben Stones and Tim Deiling to forage the city on our behalf in search of the finest sights, theatre and burgers the Big Apple has to offer.

Their favourite show by far was Amy Herzog’s BELLEVILLE at New York Theatre Workshop. We first met Amy at the Orchard Project in Hunter, up-state New York. We were out there with Laurence Wilson and Joel Horwood, developing work. Amy was there working on several plays, including 4,000 Miles which – after a sell-out run on Broadway – has just opened in the UK at the Ustinov in Bath. Directed by Artistic Director designate of Northampton Royal and Derngate Theatres James Dacre, the British production transfers to West London’s Print Room next month. Without doubt Amy is a major new voice in American playwriting and, along with writers like Annie Baker and Katori Hall, now finally has a well-deserved UK premiere. Trust us when we say you don’t want to miss it.

Sadly we didn’t manage to see Annie’s play THE FLICK which, alongside BELLEVILLE, was the talk of the town.

Meanwhile, ‘Best Burger’ goes to (drumroll) the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian hotel. Thanks to Stacey Sampson (@OurStace) for the recommendation. It’s a low-fi, in-and-out little hideaway, nestled secretly (but for an illuminated neon picture of a burger) behind a plush red curtain in the marble opulence of the hotel foyer. Simple ingredients executed to perfection for a great price in an great atmosphere, served with plastic beakers of Sam Adams. Surely that’s what a New York burger is all about.

We also tried: the 5 Napkin burger thanks to Louise Miles-Crust (@loumilcru), whose twist on the classic cheese-burger was to include a smothering of aioli; the classic burger at PJ Clarkes, which was a pale version of what it once was; Corner Bistro’s cheese burger which hit the spot in a hurry; Shake Shack’s special which ran in a close second; and finally the burger at the Standard Hotel Bar and Grill, which designer Ben gave a big five stars to but which we ultimately marked down on price.

The Highline was the tourist attraction of choice amongst the team. A rail-road that has been converted in to a city park that runs about 20 blocks on the lower west side it offers an unparalleled perspective on the city and a great place to catch respite from the bustle four stories below.

And bar-of-the-week, for entertainment value alone, has to be Marie’s Crisis in the West Village, where the entire bar gather around a piano to sing show-tunes together late in to the night.

I want to wake up in a city,

That doesn’t sleep,

To find I’m king of the hill,

Head of the list,

Cream of the crop

At the top of the heap.

New York, New York.

[GOOD WITH PEOPLE featured as part of Brits Off Broadway with the kind and generous support of Creative Scotland and Made In Scotland.]

Roundabout Meet the Ushers: Jon

Following on from Friday’s blog we asked another of our amazing volunteer ushers to share their experiences of the Roundabout Season and give their personal recommendations of which shows to see in the final week …

Name: Jon Barton

How are you finding the Roundabout experience?

I’m having a really great time. I’m a writer myself so its a useful learning experience for me.

What’s your favourite part of the Roundabout Auditorium?

That it’s in the round. It completely changes the dynamic of the productions and really does justice to the writing. Also we don’t have enough in the round theatres in the UK and it’s a breath of fresh air.

Which plays have you seen so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to see all of them.

Which one would you recommend and why?

One Day When We Were Young is probably my favourite but they’re all unique in their own ways. Lungs is a really affective love story and The Sound of Heavy Rain is great fun.

Give us your 140 character review of the play…

Nick Payne has written a compelling love story that lends itself to the intimacy (and theatricality) of the Roundabout space. In a story that spans six decades we meet Leonard and Violet – wartime lovers looking to enjoy their last night together. Leaping forward to the sixties we see the extent of their estrangement, until events draw them together once more in 2002. Clare Lizzimore’s production excels in its execution, mining the writing for every bit of tenderness and inelegance. Exposing set and costume serve a timeless quality to the story and remind us of the advancing years. What stays with you is the quiet power of the triptych and its ability to quietly break your heart.

Roundabout review round-up

The Roundabout Season is well and truly up and running with LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan, ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG by Nick Payne and THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN by Penelope Skinner playing in Rep in our beautiful pop-up theatre at Shoreditch Town Hall until 27 October.

Last Tuesday the critics sharpened their pencils and encircled the stage for our press day, and here’s what they had to say:


The Roundabout Auditorium, designed by Lucy Osborne

“Revered touring company Paines Plough has steered clear of London for the past couple of years, but now it’s back… and what a return this is.”
★★★★ Time Out (Print edition only)

“That noble company Paines Plough, de facto national theatre of new writing… sharp and stylish… it works brilliantly.”
The Daily Telegraph

“It’s a terrific idea from increasingly ambitious new writing company Paines Plough… three of our most promising playwrights… a finely tuned ensemble of four actors.”
★★★★ Evening Standard

“Three short, sharp plays; four clever actors; and a travelling wooden theatre… a national tour should brighten many hundreds of lives, young and old.”

“An enticingly intimate space… four remarkable actors.”
The Guardian

“The only place to be yesterday… marks an exciting new development in the history of in-the-round theatres launched by Stephen Joseph in Stoke-on-Trent and then Scarborough 50 years ago.”
Michael Coveney

“Three new works by playwrights at the top of their game…an ingenious in-the-round plywood amphitheatre… make for a vivid and immediate theatre experience.”
★★★★ Exeunt Magazine

“Its enforced intimacy ensures a laser like focus from the rapt 138 strong audience… a superb performance space.”
The Stage

“Three plays, three ambitious but wildly different stories of fractured couples, one impressive auditorium.”
The Times (Paywall)


Maia Alexander and Andrew Sheridan in ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG by Nick Payne

“Payne hits his mark… Maia Alexander, making an exceedingly promising stage debut… Clare Lizzimore directs with style.”
★★★★ Evening Standard

“Payne writes with an acute authenticity and the performances of Maia Alexander and Andrew Sheridan are simultaneously violently alive and poignantly delicate… heartbreaking and laugh out loud funny moments.”
★★★★ Exeunt Magazine

“It’s surprising and acute… Maia Alexander and Andrew Sheridan – both excellent.”
The Times (Paywall)

“A poignancy nicely curbed by humour.”
★★★★ Sunday Times

“Payne’s writing remains sympathetic, humane and funny… a serious talent.”
★★★★ Time Out

“This deft and moving triptych is beautifully played.”


Kate O'Flynn and Alistair Cope in LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan

“Subtle, intelligent environment drama that quietly socks you in the guts.”
★★★★ Time Out

“There is greatness in here. Macmillan depicts betrayals big and small with a sometimes stunning, often uncomfortable grasp of the way we love now… Richard Wilson’s superb, propless production .”
The Times (Paywall)

“Go. Lungs is great. One of the best new plays I’ve seen in the last few years.”
Culture Wars

“Kate O’Flynn gives a virtuoso comic performance.”

“A startling pas de deux.”
★★★★ Sunday Times

“Macmillan’s exquisite and highly comic look at love with a debilitating social consciousness…the very funny Alistair Cope.”
British Theatre Guide

“Macmillan’s writing is undeniably on the money.”
★★★★ Exeunt Magazine

“Richard Wilson’s production matches the thrillingly fluid structure of the piece, and Macmillan’s script – all nervy half lines and brittle fragments – is astonishingly assured.”
The Guardian

“Duncan Macmillan soars giddily… Kate O’Flynn beautifully mixes killer comments, beaming smiles and shattering vulnerability.”
★★★★ Evening Standard


Kate O'Flynn and Andrew Sheridan in THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN

“Skinner delivers some killer one-liners… Andrew Sheridan gives an outstanding performance.”
★★★★ Exeunt Magazine

“James Grieve’s smoky production… something completely different: a Chandleresque mystery thriller.”

“Beneath its teasing surface, it focuses on the illusions of love and intimacy…like all Skinner’s work, it has a sharp comic edge.”
The Guardian

“James Grieve’s production makes strategic use of smoke, lights and Miles Davis to transform modern London into a noir playground.”
The Times (Paywall)

“Great fun… a hoot.”
★★★★ Time Out (Print edition only)

“Intelligent fun.”
The Daily Telegraph

You can buy tickets for all three Roundabout Season plays here.

Round about the Roundabout

At the midpoint of our rehearsals for the Roundabout season, it would seem that everything is coming in twos.

Two weeks of rehearsals have already gone by, for both our plays One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne and Lungs by Duncan Macmillan. We are rehearsing in two different rehearsal spaces – Paines Plough HQ and the Jerwood Space – with two directors – Clare Lizzimore and Richard Wilson. Both plays are two handers, in the capable hands of two ladies and two gents, Maia Alexander, Kate O’Flynn, Andrew Sheridan and Alistair Cope. And finally, both stories take place in the twowentieth century.

Nearing the midpoint of a four week rehearsal period, we are coming to a close on rehearsals for the above. Approaches to the text taken in both rooms were brilliantly varied; Clare meticulous with beats and transitive verbs throughout One Day . . , Richard pinpointing moments and working them over and over, tackling Lungs’ overlapping, relentless dialogue with aplomb.

And perhaps the most crucial ‘two’ to consider is the second life both plays have been given. Rather than a lacklustre reblock, both directors have excavated their texts once again. Spurred on by the reworkings given to them by both Nick and Duncan, both casts have found new areas for play as well as re-examining previously accepted truths.

Final runs are taking place over the next couple of days, some with a selected audience, to gauge reactions and up the ante. Choreography and decisions are being consolidated during these final few hours, before the next production begins.

Which is The Sound of Heavy Rain. All three writers have reworked their scripts since their first outings in Sheffield last year, but Penelope Skinner’s in particular has undergone an exciting transformation. With another two week block set aside to play with it, the creatives have their work cut out for them.

So two weeks down and two more to go. Here’s to the next two . . .

One day gears up…

Rehearsals are well underway for ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. We’re settled here, enjoying Sheffield and the unseasonable warmth. (who says it’s grim up?)

We’ve worked through the play a few times, layering up detail and making small changes to the script. It’s a great help to have Nick Payne with us to tailor the play to the demands of the Roundabout. Where the script asks for a window, our challenge in the round is either to plonk a window in the set (undesirable) suggest the window somehow (possible) or find another way of staging the moment (playful). The writer can help supply the director with a great solution – collaboration in the room is crucial.

Paines Plough's rehearsal room... *cough* honest...

We’re gearing up to leave our rehearsal room and get into the theatre for our tech week. Not only are we nearing the point at which theatre lights and full sound boosts the production but the Roundabout itself is being built. We can’t wait to have a play in the space…

1-A slots into 2-D? ... What do you mean THERE AREN'T ENOUGH SCREWS?

And until we start running technical rehearsals in the space, we keep on practising…

The best way to get to Carnegie Hall? (answers on a postcard)

PS – Zooby’s is the current favourite for coffee. More suggestions please…

PP Around the UK in 81 days

As we are in rehearsals for 4 plays, with two set to tech and open next week, plus a 5th play to start rehearsals and a 6th to join in four weeks time – it can be difficult to keep track of who is where!

Enter the joy that is the EXCEL spreadsheet.  This paired with our brilliant intern, Amy, results in the glorious schedule below.

Take a peak to see who is rehearsing what, where and when…

Colour coded and everything!

Of course there is also Claire, Hanna and Amy who are our rocks at number 43 Aldwych during these busy periods.

Butler and Lizzimore join Programme 2011

We’re thrilled to announce that the tenth and final playwright to feature as part of our programme 2011 is the superb Leo Butler. Leo wrote an exquisite short play as part of our 2010 project COME TO WHERE I’M FROM which you can listen to here.

Leo is joining Katie Douglas and David Watson to write a brand new play as part of our season of co-productions with Oran Mor in Glasgow.

Leo’s other plays include REDUNDANT, I’LL BE THE DEVIL and the searingly brutal FACES IN THE CROWD which tore apart the Royal Court Upstairs in 2008, in a scorching production by Clare Lizzimore. Clare is an extraordinary director, and we’re very excited to announce that she is also joining the Paines Plough fold this year, to helm Nick Payne’s play One Day When We Were Young.

As well as having directed new plays for the Royal Court Theatre, Clean Break, Theatre 503 and Hampstead Theatre (where she is an Associate Director), Clare is the Artistic Director of one of Paines Plough’s Associate Companies, Pieces Productions, for whom she directed David Watson’s devastating play PIECES OF VINCENT at the Arcola Theatre last year.

If you want to find out when and where you can see Leo and Clare’s work with us this year have a look at our programme brochure here, keep checking this blog or follow us on twitter.