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Tea, Cake, Patrick Stewart and Angie

This is my fourth week here at 43 Aldwych, the most exciting of addresses. We’re a little door between the Aldwych Theatre where Marc Warren is currently treading the boards in Cool Hand Luke ( and soon to be the home of Vincent and Flavia off of Strictly Come Dancing) and The HUGE Waldorf Hotel. We may just have a little door, but up on the fourth floor there is a hive of activity. Paines Plough’s office is bright, and cheery; the kettle is boiled every fifteen minutes (tea drinkers extraordinaire), and there is always coffee in the pot. There is a constant buzz of writers working in the writers’ room, companies rehearsing in the PP rehearsal room, but between 10am and 6pm the Production Office is the place to be.

In this little room, with one big round window and five desks packed in tight, all of Paines Plough’s production work happens. There is always a flurry of typing, printing and phonecalls, bundles of laughter, copious amounts of tea, and if you catch us on a good day (or a bad day depending on how you look at it…) there is always plenty of cake. From oatcakes, to cupcakes, to 58p out of date, reduced chocolate indulgence cake, the production office is run off sugar. At the moment we put this down to the Winter months setting in, but I’m pretty sure, whatever the weather, if you ever need to sweet talk anything from the Production Office, cake is always welcome. As are those foam banana and shrimp sweets. They go down a treat too. Luckily for us, the office is on the top floor so there are plenty of stairs to clamber up, working off the high sugar intake…

Since I’ve started I’ve done all sorts of things from logging feedback we’ve received from audience members who have seen our Play, Pie, Pint or Roundabout shows, to booking travel and accommodation for the team all over the country, to working with Tara and the publishers- faber & faber on proofing the playtext for our last production of 2011- The Sound of Heavy Rain. However, it was in my first 48 hours at Paines Plough where I witnessed the real glitz and glamour of working in theatre.

On my first day, after work we went to see Headlong Theatre’s Decade at St. Katherine’s Docks; on arriving I met Mike Bartlett who co-wrote the script for Decade, and also wrote Love, Love, Love for PP and 13 which opened at the National last week, then Rupert Goold, who directed Decade, and also directed Enron by Lucy Prebble and Earthquakes in London also written by Mike Bartlett wandered over and then, if that wasn’t excitement enough, in comes Patrick Stewart- a pretty impressive trio to be spending Tuesday evening in the company of. But the highlight of all this glamour came the following day when in the London drizzle I made my way up to Holborn to a remarkable little place- LaundaVista. The tea towels from the office needed to be washed, so I wend my way to a backstreet laundry, ran by the delightful Angie and despite the language barrier (I think she’s Spanish) we try and have a broken conversation about all things life, love and laundry.

I’m learning so much working here at 43 Aldwych, but whatever I take from Paines Plough over the next few months, I know that I will be grateful for meeting Angie; for the advice on soap powder to fabric softener ratio, the bewilderment as to why she and her family keep their car keys in one of the washing machines, what the best way is to iron a suit jacket and her views on the pros and cons of the flu jab. Patrick Stewart was brilliant, but I think meeting Angie is something pretty special.

Do all roads lead to London?

The bright lights of London

We’ve had a bit of stick from Londoners in the last week for our perceived “anti-London” touring policy, so I wanted to set the record straight, and see what you all think.

When George and I took over Paines Plough just over a year ago we did so with an ambition to reaffirm the company’s historic commitment to touring far and wide. We both grew up outside London and our lack of access to theatre – and new plays particularly – is a big reason why we’re so passionate about getting our work out and about.

Our Programme 2010 saw us tour nine productions to 33 towns and cities across the country, including 14 places Paines Plough had never toured to before. It just so happened that London wasn’t one of those places, and since London doesn’t feature in our forthcoming Programme 2011 either, we’ve raised a few heckles.

In a blog review of LOVE, LOVE, LOVE last week it was reported that we “have a thing for not doing plays in London” which the blogger described as “snobby”.

This popped up on Facebook (though admittedly it might be tongue in cheek):

Donald Ideh
Is this not coming to London? A bit regionalist if you ask me!

And then a debate started on Twitter, an extract from which is below:

ayultp
Loved @painesplough Love, love, love but hate their anti-London touring policy

webcowgirl

I second this.

OughtToBeClowns
A rather narrow view! I think it’s good that @painesplough are reminding London-folk there’s a whole country out there.

clouddancefest
Sometimes it’s just about making sure Other People get to see good arts nearby!

OughtToBeClowns

Am totally with you there. And lets face it, travelling to Watford is no real hardship ;-)

webcowgirl
Well given the clusters of poor in London it guarantees our own poor theater lovers are excluded.

OughtToBeClowns

Oh come on, are you seriously suggesting Londoners have no other options to see shows?!

Glenpearce1

as a non londoner I can confirm there is life outside of the M25!

webcowgirl
@painesplough is deliberately ignoring the UK’s biggest population center.Bad for plays

clouddancefest
So by that logic, all touring to rural places should be scrapped?!

TootingGareth
I’m with the OK to avoid London camp. Their raison d’être is to tour

webcowgirl
I think touring is fine but xing out London poor. Blog post anyone?

So I wanted to clear a few things up. Firstly, we’re absolutely not anti-London and we don’t have an anti-London touring policy. We will produce work in London in the future and we very much look forward to doing so.

But it is true to say that, particularly in our first year as Artistic Directors, our efforts have been focussed outside the capital.

We’re conscious that huge swathes of the country are underserved by new plays, and Paines Plough is perfectly placed to take work to those places. Our ambition is to bring the best new plays to everyone everywhere, and so we feel the same compulsion to produce in Lyme Regis and Kendal and Aberdour as we do in London. Over time, we’ll produce work in all of those places in pursuit of our ambition to be the national theatre of new plays, it just so happens that we’re visiting Lyme Regis now and London later.

Londoners can always travel to other places to see our shows, as people from all over the UK regularly travel to London to access the plays they want to see.

Last week LOVE, LOVE, LOVE was just 16 minutes from Euston at Watford Palace Theatre. In June it will be at Oxford Playhouse – 40 minutes from Central London on the Oxford tube. It often takes me longer than that to get to accross town to a London theatre. TINY VOLCANOES also plays Watford Palace in April, as well as Folkestone which is 45 minutes from St Pancras by train.

I understand that travel can be cost prohibitive for some people, but it has been ever thus for people outside London, and if Londoners can’t afford to travel to see our shows they at least have the opportunity to see one of the 50 or so plays on every night in their home city.

London audiences have been treated to five Mike Bartlett plays – MY CHILD, CONTRACTIONS and COCK at The Royal Court, ARTEFACTS at The Bush and EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON at the National Theatre. Only one of those plays toured (Artefacts), so most people around the UK have never had a chance to see the work of one of our nation’s leading playwrights. We’re hugely proud that our tour of LOVE, LOVE, LOVE has 28,000 available seats from Glasgow to Scarborough to Southampton, giving audiences in those places their first chance to see Mike’s work.

This coming year will see us produce and tour work in somewhere between 40 and 50 towns and cities across the UK. There is one notable absentee – London. But we think that’s ok.

What do you think? Are we right to focus our efforts out of town, or should we head for the bright lights of the city. Leave a comment and join the debate.

Travelling back in time…

So having been a hive of activity for the past 3 and a half days, the rehearsal room at PP HQ now lies empty as James and his cast have headed off on a research trip…

Through a link with Assistant Director Jack Lowe, the company have taken the afternoon off rehearsals to meet with Mike Liddel-Taylor down on King’s Road. The amazing Mike has had an equally amazing career including writing, model managing, working as a publicist, AND hanging out with The Beatles down on King’s Road in the swinging sixties. All this makes him the perfect person to inform the cast of what it was like to live during the psychedelic summers of love…

But whilst the cats are away, the mice can play and the cast-trip gives us in the office a chance to sneak into the rehearsal room to have a look at what they’ve been up to. We’ve been checking out the research up on the walls and photos of the model box (designed by Lucy Osborne) which has given us a flavour of what’s to come. Keep an eye on the blog for photos…

And we’re not the only ones getting excited about the show. Check out this piece in The Telegraph and this piece on Whatsonstage.com giving more details about the show and the cast!

All You Need Is Love…

And there was a lot of love in the Paines Plough offices today as we hosted the first day of rehearsals of our co-production with Drum Theatre Plymouth, Mike Bartlett’s LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

It was a real Monday morning treat to hear five talented actors read this firecracker of a script together for the first time.  It is also really joyous to have all the creative and technical teams plus staff members from both companies in the room together which will probably be the first and last time until we tech in 4 weeks time at Drum Theatre Plymouth.  With this in mind every minute is essential and straight after the reading the actors were measured by Lorna Price, Deputy Head of Wardrobe at Plymouth.

Post a revitalising lunch the actors returned to start their around-the-table-work with James Grieve, who directs his second Mike Bartlett play after ARTEFACTS rehearsed in the very same room 2 years ago.

Raring to go...

Elsewhere in the busy hive of Paines Plough activity around the UK – Gary Owen’s IN THE PIPELINE received its first performance at Oran Mor. Click on the link for video footage.

Tomorrow we welcome the writer of CALAIS, April De Angelis, as well as Tamara Harvey (director) and a wonderful cast: Joanna Bacon, Louise Ford and James French to the A PLAY, A PIE AND A PINT family at number 5 Sanda Street. I’m looking forward to my 5am train up there for second meet and greet of this week!

The fine actresses Abigail McGibbon and Katie Tumelty and superb stage manager, Kara Jackson, have a well deserved week off before going to Live Theatre Newcastle next week.

That’s it for now, I’m off for my sister’s birthday dinner…

Our week in theatres

It’s been a week of theatregoing this week and we’ve seen some treats.

On Monday, Tara and I were at The Arcola to see our friend Polly Findlay’s beautiful production of LIGHT SHINING IN BUCKINGHAMSHIRE.

Then on Tuesday the PP office decamped en masse to the Cottesloe to be blown away by Mike Bartlett‘s sensational EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON. Just go and see it, it’s unforgettable.

And on Wednesday we were Young Vic bound to enjoy Martin McDonagh’s sabre sharp BEAUTY QUEEN OF LEENANE in a fine new production by Joe Hill Gibbons.

And it’s lots more theatre for me this weekend as I’m off to join George in Edinburgh and see how many plays it’s possible to cram into three days whilst still leaving time for a pint or two in the Pleasance Courtyard. Let me know your top Edinburgh tips by posting a comment.

First Time Blogger

We’ve just had a very productive marketing meeting in the PP office (minus George whilst he’s up in Edinburgh), so I thought I’d give this blogging malarkey a go…

Today we met with Simon Stokes, Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Plymouth, Bob Holmes, Production Manager, and Lucy Osborne, Designer, to have a peak at the model box set for Mike Bartlett’s LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. Tres exciting! Especially after seeing Mike’s new play EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON at the National Theatre on Tuesday. Very intriguing to see how Lucy is covering 1967 to the present day with one set and the challenge of touring.

This afternoon, while Tara and James continue with castings for LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, and Sophie is busy working on our TINY VOLCANOES Autumn tour, Jo and I are busy with all things finance. Kept going by the fact that there are pastries in the office and I have my eye on the last pain au chocolat. Oh yes, and it is Prosecco Thursday on the Paines Plough roof to toast Mike Bartlett as our new Associate Playwright, and to congratulate him on a fantastic press night last night. Pictures to follow…

Mike Bartlett talks Love, Love, Love

Mike Bartlett. Photo (c) Daily Telegraph

Our Associate Playwright Mike Bartlett is interviewed by Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph today, as he prepares to open EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON at The National Theatre.

Mike was on stage in Oxford last Saturday night performing as part of COME TO WHERE I’M FROM, and we’re thrilled to be producing his sensational new play LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with Plymouth Theatre Royal in the Autumn. Mike gives The Telegraph an insight into what you can expect from the play:

Bartlett’s next play, due to be toured by Paines Plough in the autumn, is called Love, Love, Love, drawing its title from the hippy-era-defining Beatles classic All You Need is Love. It will, he reveals, address “even more explicitly the idea of the baby-boomer generation versus our generation. I suppose you find a question in one play and try to answer it in another. It will make accusations against the older crowd but,” he cautions, “the baby-boomers will answer back because, you see, I think they’ve got a case to make against us.”

You can read the full interview here.