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Forward Theatre: Genesis


Our brilliant Associate Company, Forward Theatre Project, are touring their new show GENESIS this autumn. Artistic Director, Charlotte Bennett, tells us what it’s all about…

In 2013, I met a brilliant, inspiring woman called Morag Siller.

Morag was an actress, had incurable breast cancer and was the patron of charity Prevent Breast Cancer. She told me about this small but radical organisation; the UK’s only charity to solely focus on breast cancer prevention, which had started with a vision of finding an alternative way to achieve a breast cancer free future – and I was blown away.

Morag wanted to create a play to raise awareness of prevention and asked if I would work with her. We wanted to look at how we could reach not only scientific minds but non-scientific ones by telling the human stories behind the science. And so myself and playwright Frazer Flintham, interviewed patients and scientists to create a new play: GENESIS, which tells a story about genetic testing for breast cancer.


As part of ‘tooling up’ we spent hours ensuring we understood the science and the terms (the sort of stuff that if you are a non-science bod make you want to bolt). We know how to tell human stories, but understanding the science was the real challenge. It was hard but GLORIOUS. And the support from the brilliant staff at Prevent Breast Cancer empowered us to make a play that is now as scientifically informed as it is theatrically crafted.

Morag passed away in April. She was a woman who campaigned right to the end of her life to bring the science of this charity into the fore of the conversation about a breast cancer free future. And she was also a brilliant actress who recognised the ability of theatre to have conversations with audiences about difficult things like genetic testing by using humour, drama and story. And so we make this one for her.

And now here we are, rehearsing this important piece of theatre in Manchester. We premiere at The Lowry, Salford. We then tour to Soho Theatre, London, then to Cumbria, Preston and Doncaster.


Booking details are here:

11th – 12th November The Lowry (8pm, 2.30pm and 8pm) Tickets £12 / £10 concessions

15th – 19th November Soho Theatre (7pm, Sat matinee 4pm) Tickets £16 / £14 concessions

22nd November Beggar’s Theatre Cumbria (7.30pm) Tickets £10 / £7 concessions

23rd November  Preston Continental  (8pm) Tickets £8 / £6 concessions

24th November Cast Doncaster (7.45pm) Tickets £10.50 / £9 concessions

GENESIS is supported by funding from Arts Council England, the Teale Charitable Trust, the Richard Carne Trust, Talbot Validus, the Granada Foundation, the Unity Theatre Trust, the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation, Morag Siller, other private donors, and our crowdfund backers.

Associate Companies update: a Soho takeover and funding success


It might be getting colder as we near the end of 2014 but things are really heating up in the world of our Associate Companies. So here’s the exclusive low-down on what’s been going on.

Theatre Uncut are currently flying high with their flagship production of five new plays which they commissioned for 2014: fascinating, interlinked short pieces that explore themes of knowledge, information, the news media, power and politics in the digital age by some incredibly exciting writers: Clara Brennan, Inua Ellams, Vivienne Franzmann, Anders Lustgarten and Hayley Squires. Even better, for the first time ever the flagship production will be touring the UK until 13th December: you can catch it at Soho Theatre this week (until Sun 30th Nov), or in Brighton, Bristol, Canterbury or Liverpool. To find out what the critics have been seeing check here.

The flagship plays are also available for anyone in the world to download, read and perform, rights-free, until 13th December. So far already this year the plays have been downloaded over 320 times in 25 countries. We’re proud to support a project that makes new writing available around the world on an unprecedented scale. You can access the plays by visiting Theatre Uncut’s website here.

Meanwhile nabokov have also pitched up at Soho, making it an “associate companies sandwich”  and have taken over the downstairs cabaret space with their rollicking, rocking mashup of theatre and live music, SYMPHONY. A co-production with Soho, the show comes straight off the back of a hugely successful Edinburgh run in August followed by a UK tour. Now it’s taking London audiences by storm if these audience reactions are anything to go by. With three new plays by Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells, interwoven with music from London Snorkelling Team’s Ed Gaughan, it’s definitely not to be missed – a good helping of festival vibes to warm up your winter! You’ve got until Sunday 30th to catch it so be quick!

Last but by no means least, we’re delighted to announce that Forward Theatre Project have just been awarded a grant of £30,000 from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, to support their core overheads and the salary of Artistic Director Charlotte Bennett over the next two years. This hugely exciting and thoroughly well deserved money will allow Forward Theatre Project  to continue to produce distinctive work, created through collaborations between members of the collective, with strong connections to regional locations.

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.

Auditions, Auditions, Auditions…

This week has been a busy one for Forward Theatre Project as we have been casting our latest play Scarberia by Evan Placey which is being performed between 24th May – 2nd June at York Theatre Royal as part of the TakeOver ’12 Festival. The play was commissioned by the TakeOver team who are a group of young people between 11-26 years old and has been created by working directly with young people in York and Scarborough England and North York and Scarborough Toronto. We also set up an international pen pal system between the 4 groups of young people – which is all done on email nowadays apparently (losing the fun factor of receiving a letter in the post I think –  but definitely more time effective!) We wanted to create a play which was about youth and which engaged with young people at every level. We didn’t want to guess at what young people want to see on stage about their generation but to actually get them to commission the idea they want to see and be involved in its creation to ensure we were creating an authentic voice on stage.

The play looks at the areas of Scarborough in the two different countries. Both wildly different in reputation, we were interested in creating a play which looked at how these two different places with the same name can be connected by one event… a killing. The play has been created by working with FTP’s collective approach to making theatre; the writer came with the beginnings of an idea and then with the director Gemma Kerr and the designer Lydia Denno, the team have worked together at every level to develop the play by working with young people to inform its development. They undertook an intensive 5 week research and development period which involved going across to Toronto to work in their Scarborough – an exciting step for FTP as we start to create work internationally and as we are live streaming the show to our group of Canadian young people as part of the run.

So we begin rehearsals in 2 weeks…actually a week and a half now…eek, where did time go?! So castings are fairly late in the day because of the way the piece has been created but we are really excited about finally bringing the full team together. We have been in the Paines Plough rehearsal room all this week seeing lots of brilliant Yorkshire and Canadian accents come in and out and have just set down to make final decisions. The play is a total cast of 3; two boys that play the English and Canadian roles and a Canadian girl who has gone missing. All the roles are 15 years old so it is a big ask to play both this age and with two very different accents. Luckily as I am from Yorkshire I can cover that side, and Evan is from Toronto so we also have a Canadian voice in the room – definitely useful tools! Auditions are always exciting as it is finding the final piece of the puzzle for your team and we are certainly excited about finding the pieces left for this production. And at being part of TakeOver- a brilliant initiative set up by York Theatre Royal in which every role at the theatre is taken over by artists under 26 years old who then are mentored by their equivalent staff member to programme and run a three week arts festival across the Mainhouse, Studio and other found performance spaces. This year the TakeOver team are hugely exciting to work with and have programmed some brilliant companies including Paines Plough of course for their production of Wasted as well as getting companies such as Frantic Assembly to offer workshops on their work. It is going to be a fun start to the summer, once it stops raining…

Charlotte Bennett
Artistic Director
Forward Theatre Project

Forward Theatre Project- Scratch My City

Here at Forward Theatre Project we are gearing up for our third scratch night, Scratch My City which is going to be at the Soho Theatre on Sunday 30th October. Our scratch nights started about a year ago now, a few months after we had been made anassociate company of Paines Plough. Paines Plough were a great support in helping us create a formula for our scratch nights – being a collective of 25 theatre directors,writers and designers, we were concerned with how the scratch nights could be used to help us build relationships within the collective, but also not always become a writer-led event. After a few trial and errors, and mentorship from George and James about how Scratch My City could develop, each time we are feeling happier about, finding the winning formula. One thing has remained constant with Scratch My City, and that is that it has always been a ‘venture into cross-region collaboration.’ One of FTP’s main aims is to create a community amongst peers and to build relationships between peers from all around the UK. With so many exciting emerging theatre companies working all around the country, we decided that Scratch My City would always involve a collaboration with another emerging theatre company who were based somewhere else in the UK.

 This time, we are really excited to be working with Left Luggage Theatre who are a designer-led company from Newcastle. Left Luggage have inspired us to do a designer-led scratch night for our next Scratch My City. After many a discussion with Left Luggage, FTP designers and FTP artists, we settled on exploring the idea of reversing the traditional theatre-making process. Typically, designers are given a play text to work on – in this text there will be certain things that the designer has to adhere to, for instance, if it is a play set in a cottage in Devon in the 1980s, this is already stipulated for them before they begin their design. So what we have decided to do is explore beginning the process with the design. Our design team are currently reading ‘Sorry Tales’ by Mick Jackson – a collection of macabre and idiosyncratic short stories that they are going to use to fuel a design concept or idea. These four design ideas are then being given to each of our four scratch groups (director-writer teams) who will then create a short piece of theatre which adheres to, inspires and uses one of these designs. The clearest example I can offer is one designer who gave the example of being interested in creating a visual time restriction on stage. He said he might give a group the design of several guillotines hanging in the space which all fall down at different times, and by the time the last one has fallen, the piece should be over. Eek…what are we letting ourselves in for?!

It is a complete experiment for us, but we are excited to see what may come out of it and we have a great line up of artists involved including directors Ellen McDougall, Jacqui Honess-Martin and Derek Bond, writers Ben Ellis, Alison Carr, Frazer Flintham and Gabriel Bisset-Smith and of course our wonderful Left Luggage Design team Verity Quinn, Anna Harding and Alison Garner.
One of the things we aim for in our scratch nights is high-quality production values. So all performances are off-book and as rehearsed as possible before the big day. This means the classic scenario of all groups trying to scramble around for rehesarsal space, casting through our casting director Fran Bradley and pulling everything together. It is at times like these that we are reminded of how valuable Paines Plough is as a support to the company. Not only because of the guidance and support they offer in terms of creatively developing the project but also practical support. Access to a central London rehearsal space with a toilet and a kettle is a god-send! As SMC is currently unfunded, being able to offer casts a nice and accessible space to rehearse is so much better than dragging them all the way to your living room in Balham!

Without Paines Plough’s generous support I think the scratch nights would not attract the same high quality artists or productions. The associate company status has also proved of great personal benefit to me over the past few months too. Sometimes I can tell myself that sitting at my laptop on my bed is working and productive, but some times (and this might not be helped by the fact that my bedroom is literally a bed-in-aroom) it just isn’t. Being able to bring my laptop and work at a desk space in an office environment has literally saved my work soul and means I am so much more productive. Also, excitingly, we have just been given our first grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to produce a project at York Theatre Royal next year (woop woop!) So over the next 6 months the whole company will be leaning on Paines Plough for more support as we prepare for this launching and running.

So, back to Scratch My City – we are getting ready to launch this Thursday night with all the teams coming together with their design packs and pairings and getting ready for a ‘on your marks, get set, go!’ scenario. It will be something new. It will be untested. Untried. A bit of an adventure. I cannot wait.

See you there, Soho Theatre cabaret space Sunday 30th October 7.45pm,

Artistic Director

Forward Theatre Project

We ♥ Actors

Lots of lovely actors gathering at Open Auditions

We had another brilliant day of Open Auditions at The Actors Centre in London yesterday, meeting 180 actors for the first time.

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. Joining us yesterday were Charlotte Bennett and Fran Bradley from our Associate Company Forward Theatre Project, director Titas Halder, and freelance casting director Sophie Davies.

It’s a great way to spend a Sunday. Aside from the wealth of talent on show, we met some fascinating people from all walks of life, with amazing stories to tell…

We also get to spend the day listening to extracts from brilliant plays by writers we love. The most popular choices of the day were COCK by Mike Bartlett and EIGENGRAU by Penelope Skinner. Both of which we thoroughly approve of! We also heard extracts from plays by Jez Butterworth, debbie tucker green, Jack Thorne, David Greig, Dennis Kelly, Laura Wade, Tom Basden, Martin McDonagh, Fiona Evans, Moira Buffini, DC Moore, Simon Stephens, Anya Reiss, Anthony Neilson, Nick Payne, Chloe Moss and lots more. A few people even wrote their own duologues, which were great to hear.

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 yesterday, as always after Open Auditions, the pub discussion centred around finding parts for people who really blew us away.

We’re so grateful to everyone who took the time to come and meet us. It was a real pleasure, and we hope you’ll all stay in touch.

Next stop Edinburgh, where we’re meeting 192 actors over two days when we’re taking up residence with our friends at C Venues. If you’re coming along, check out our Top Tips here.

And if you’ve got any feedback for us, or ideas how we can improve the Open Auditions experience, please let us know by posting a comment.

WASTED at Latitude 2011

Latitude Loves Theatre

Latitude Loves Theatre

Damp and debilitated, bruised but buzzing, we returned to PP HQ on Tuesday this week after another epic and brilliant Latitude Festival. No amount of rain and mud could dampen our spirits as we premièred Kate Tempest’s WASTED on Friday and Sunday night.

A WASTED production meeting gets under way in the performer's bar

A WASTED production meeting gets under way in the performer's bar

Our first performance of the show at 11:20pm on Friday was packed to the rafters with many having queued for more than half an hour to get into the tent. There was a real party atmosphere pre-show with an estimated 700-odd punters crammed in to the first ever performance of Kate’s first ever play.

With a smaller but more concentrated line-up in this year’s theatre arena, we were treated to some top notch work. The Lyric Hammersmith teamed up with Peepolykus and Spymonkey to commission Joel Horwood (the writer behind nabokov’s smash musical IT’S ABOUT TIME at last year’s festival) to give us an uproariously and irreverently hilarious take on JEKYLL AND HYDE. nabokov were back with a contemporary twist on CINDERELLA by Jack Thorne and Arthur Darvill that had the capacity crowd up on their feet from the off. We also saw and loved work by Theatre 503, Fuel, Clean Break, the National Theatre of Scotland and Eyebrow Productions, amongst others. And that was just in the theatre tent.

Here’s our team’s top picks of the weekend:

Claire (General Manager):

“This was not only my first Latitude, but my first festival so I was fairly unsure about what to expect from the weekend.  I loved the whole experience, from the diverse and exciting line up, to the soggy camping.  A couple of my favourite performances were INTENSIT I & SOLDIER A in the Poetry Arena and THE NAKED AND FAMOUS in the Word Arena.  I’ll definitely be going back to Latitude again.”

Gathering rain clouds weren't enough to keep us away from the Obelisk Arena

Gathering rain clouds weren't enough to keep us away from the Obelisk Arena

Hanna (Administrator):

“So with torrential rain washing me err ‘clean’ as I ate soggy chips and drank rain-diluted beer, anything under cover in the Theatre Arena (FORWARD THEATRE PROJECT, 1927), the Word Arena (FOALS, JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW, EVERYTHING EVERYTHING), Comedy Arena (DOC BROWN), Cabaret Arena (BOURGEOIS AND MAURICE) and the Poetry Arena (SOLDIER-A AND INTENSI-T, and the amazing KATE TEMPEST) were the highlights of my festival experience. Although I did brave the rain for SEASICK STEVE and Fuel’s ELECTRIC HOTEL, both of which were rather epic. Oh… and I LOVED the impromptu SOUND OF RUM gig beside a random tree on the Saturday night, followed by a dance at the embarrassingly spectacular GUILTY PLEASURES! …and let’s not forget all those infamous car park discos DJ’ed by our very own AD James Grieve until the sun had well and truly risen. Too many highlights to choose… can we do it all again please?!”

Guilty Pleasures rocking out the Comedy Arena after hours

Guilty Pleasures rocking out the Comedy Arena after hours

George (Joint Artistic Director):

“With James assuming directing responsibilities this festival, I had the chance to get around quite a few of the music stages. I really spent a huge amount of time at the Sunrise Arena, enjoying sets by AARON WRIGHT (one of the collaborators on The 8th), FOSTER THE PEOPLE and TROPHY WIFE. JAMES BLAKE’s late night set on the Sunday was astounding”

Natasha (Production Assistant):

“Through the haze of my memory, I remember sheltering from the rain and discovering folk singer JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW; loving DOC BROWN rapping about Britain’s Olympic Dressage hopes in the Comedy tent; gazing at KATE TEMPEST turn the air electric at a midnight poetry reading; melting at David Bradley’s brilliant performance as both brow-beaten husband and shrewish Widow in ON THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF TOBACCO/CAN CAUSE DEATH; and salivating at The Trailer Beach BBQ, where I had the Best. Hotdog. Ever.”

James (Joint Artistic Director):

“I’m biased, but KATE TEMPEST’s headline gig in the poetry tent on Saturday night was mind-blowingly good. The impromptu SOUND OF RUM set afterwards was a stroke of genius.”

James Blake playing live

James Blake playing live

Tara (Producer):

“I attended latitude for the fifth year in a row, and as always the people, programme and party did not disappoint.  Thursday night kicked off with a blast with nabokov’s reimagining of CINDERELLA; fantastic performances, energising music and witty lyrics plus with bonus of two circus performances representing the realistic meeting of Cinderella and Prince Charming.  Friday afternoon was a real highlight with the sun shining and listening to DEERHUNTER and CARIBOU (Word Arena) and SCHLOMO in the Theatre Tent.”

Chrissy (Trainee Producer):

“What a weekend it was! Well, my first time taking a show to Latitude so how can the highlight be anything other than our own WASTED, the amazing cast and creative team really pulled together to make something magical. I did have some fun too… a few of my highlights were the Lake Stage, Latitude’s new band stage where the SEA OF BEES were a real standout. Dancing all night with the lovely Hanna Streeter to THE FOALS in the Word Arena, an afternoon with SEASICK STEVE at the Obelisk and my first KATE TEMPEST poetry gig. And of course lots of laughing and dancing in the rain and the rising sun.”

Lizzie Watts performing WASTED (not literally)

Lizzie Watts performing WASTED (not literally)

There’s loads more about the journey we took from page to stage with our Latitude production of WASTED here. You can still listen to our Latitude playlist sampler here, featuring many of our team’s recommended bands from the festival. Meanwhile you can read a blog about our love of Latitude on the Guardian website, here. Plus there are loads more photos of our festival weekend on our Flickr page, here. Finally, tell us about your Latitude by leaving us a comment below.

Until next time, Latitude. You’ve left us exhausted, exhilarated, and begging for more.

Kate Tempest writes for Latitude

Kate Tempest

We’re super excited to announce our return to the mighty Latitude Festival this summer with the debut play by performance poetry sensation Kate Tempest.

Kate is currently taking the UK hip-hop scene by storm with her band Sound Of Rum, who released their debut single Slow Slow last week, and is amongst the headliners on the Latitude Poetry stage as one of the UK’s leading performance poets.

We’re leaping around the mosh pit with excitement at having enticed Kate to write her first stage play, which promises her trademark lyrical ferocity in a dynamic theatrical staging. We’re premiering the show at Latitude prior to an extensive UK tour.

As always, the Latitude line-up is absolutely mouth-watering. We’re sharing the theatre tent with The Bush Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, BAC, Northern Stage, Fuel, Bristol Old Vic, nabokov, our Associate Company Forward Theatre Project and our Producer Tara’s company Whippet Productions among many others. The brilliant Luke Wright joins Kate in the poetry tent, and we’re a little bit excited about Suede, The National and I Am Kloot.

We literally can’t wait.

The mouthwatering Latitude line-up

An inspirational day auditioning

We had a brilliant day yesterday at The Actor’s Centre meeting 180 actors through our fourth open auditions.

We were split across three rooms with each room seeing 30 duologues during the day. Joining the Paines Plough contingent on the panels were Charlotte Bennett and Steph O’Driscoll, artistic directors of our associate companies Forward Theatre Project and Inner City Theatre, Joe Murphy, artistic director of nabokov and Titas Halder, resident assistant director at The Donmar Warehouse.

It was such a thrill to meet so many new people and witness the depth of talent out there, and above all the strength of passion for theatre. Even in these tough economic climes, and within the confines of a highly competitive and sometimes cut-throat industry, yesterday proved to us that brilliance and tenacity run deep in British theatre.

It was particularly inspiring to hear how many actors are involved in setting up and running their own companies, forcing work into existence rather than waiting for the phone to ring and expanding the infrastructure of the industry through entrepreneurialism. We’re thinking about how we can best continue to support emerging companies in the future.

We saw extracts from a huge range of plays with Mike Bartlett’s COCK, Penny Skinner’s EIGENGRAU, Laura Wade’s COLDER THAN HERE and SUCKER PUNCH by Roy Williams the most popular. Other playwrights represented read like a roll-call of contemporary new writing – Philip Ridley, Denis Kelly, Simon Stephens, Moira Buffini, Nina Raine, Marina Carr, Alexi Kaye-Campbell, Joe Penhall, Martin Crimp, Abi Morgan, Rona Munro, Patrick Marber…

Seeing the work of these outstanding playwrights evidenced how – even in three minute extracts – their plays have the ability to astound, move, and provoke.

So what happens next?

We run open auditions because we want to broaden our horizons when it comes to casting by meeting actors we might not otherwise get to know.

We’ve already invited a number of actors we met for the first time at open auditions to castings for specific shows, and we’ll continue to do so. We’ll also try to follow the careers of the people we meet and see them in shows.

In 2010, we employed 61 actors and with our Programme 2011 shaping up to be even bigger we very much hope we’ll have the chance to work with some of the people we met yesterday and at previous open auditions.

Meantime, huge thanks to everyone who came along and gave us such a fascinating, enlivening and inspiring day.

If you auditioned, please do leave a comment and let us know how it was for you.

We’ll be announcing more open auditions soon, in London and all around the country.