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GROWTH: What’s it been like in rehearsals?

With one final performance of  GROWTH at The Gate to go we caught up with Jonny and Ellie from the cast to hear what it’s been like rehearsing Luke Norris’ brilliant new play.

Growth Cast edit

“Rehearsals for Growth have been a treat. A good balanced mix of competitive, nail biting 6 Square, complete with a friendly leader board and blood, sweat and tears rehearsing, it’s all been a joy. Sean lays out such a relaxed and comfortable environment to work in that the platform for taking risks and experimenting with the text and character has been such an easy process. Every single cast member is amazing to work with. Nina Shenkman, a bundle of joy, high spirits and sheer oddness. Mel Stevens, energy packed, idea driven and an exciting actress to watch. Oliver Morgan-Thomas, genuinely one the nicest guys I know and I honestly think this is one of his best performances. Sam Ward, whose laugh makes anyone laugh based on its volume and sheer brilliance is warm and keen both as two fabulous characters. Ellie Heydon brings so much to rehearsals its infectious and gives such a beautiful performance. Above all, 6 Square will forever been a game I always come second in. Frustrating I know but Hey you win some you lose some.” Jonny


“The biggest challenge with a play like Growth that is so topically essential is finding a way to express the subject matter sensitively, accurately, and most important in a way that is going to reach out to our audience. It seems bizarre to me that in our 21st century world discussing genital health is still seen as some sort of taboo. So here we are giving it a voice on stage, through the wonderful words of Luke Norris.

For most of us here at RWCMD this is the first time we’ve worked with new writing so to have the writer in the room, still making changes as the words come out our mouths, is electric. There is something so exciting about the collaborative journey and to have Luke in the room gives such an integral perspective.

Our rehearsals began with a week around the table uniting the play, fuelled by a never ending pile of oranges provided by Sean. Here we worked out the changes in gear throughout the scenes in order to help us navigate our way through with clarity and focus in week 2. And so when we jumped up on our feet we were already able to feel the peaks and troughs of the journey of the scene, with nudges in the right(er) direction by Sean.

With the play on its feet and the foundations in place we’ve just been hunting for detail the last few weeks. Every single run seems to reveal something new and I find myself cracking up at moments I hadn’t noticed before, and still giggling at lines I know like the back of my hand. Most of us are playing two characters throughout the play so watching the shift between each scene has also been super cool.

But now the hardest part of rehearsal: keeping on top of the 6-square leader board. We bookend every day squatting over metre squares defending them from the dreaded ball. The tournament has become pretty intense in the last few days. Not sure everyone is going to survive but if that helps cut out the competition you’ve got to make sacrifices sometimes. No clear indication of champion yet but watch this space…” Ellie

6 square leader board


Introducing the cast of Growth

This week we’re super excited to be kicking off rehearsals for GROWTH by Luke Norris at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, directed by our very own Associate Director Sean Linnen.

GROWTH will run at The Richard Burton Theatre 31 March – 3 April and at The Gate Theatre 7, 9, 10 April.

Aaaaaaand introducing our lovely cast:

Ellie Heydon (Alys and Melanie)


Theatre includes: LONGING (Richard Burton Theatre Company), A CUCKOO IN THE NEST (Richard Burton Theatre Company), STRANGE ORCHESTRA (Richard Burton Theatre Company), THE WINTER’S TALE (Richard Burton Theatre Company), THE CHILDRENS HOUR (Richard Burton Theatre Company), DYSPHORIA (LAMDA), WHEN THE RAIN STOPS FALLING (Hurtwood Acting Company). Rehearsed Readings include: KING LEAR (RWCMD), CYMBELINE (LAMDA), THE THREE SISTERS (LAMDA). Site Specific includes: QUIXOTE (Elan Frantoio).

Jonny Holden (Tobes)


Theatre includes: DOGVILLE (Richard Burton Theatre Company), MAGIC TOYSHOP (Theatre Yolo) MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (RWCMD), THE WINTER’S TALE (Richard Burton Theatre Company), SPRING AWAKENING (John Donnelly), THE CHOSEN ROOM (NYMT). Radio includes: UNDER MILK WOOD (Richard Burton Theatre Company). Rehearsed Readings include: THE SEAGUL (Richard Burton Theatre Company).

Oliver Morgan-Thomas (Beau and John)


Theatre includes: THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN (Richard Burton Theatre Company), UNITY 1918 (Richard Burton Theatre Company), STRANGE ORCHESTRA (Richard Burton Theatre Company),A CUCKOO IN THE NEST (Richard Burton Theatre Company), MERCY FUR (Theatre lolo/ Company of Sirens), PATAGONIA THE JOURNEY /Y DEATH (National Youth Theatre of Wales). Short film credits include: THE ORISON WELLS COMPLEX (BBC Wales It’s My Shout Productions), BUDDHA BOY (BBC Wales It’s My Shout Productions). Radio credits include: UNDER MILKWOOD (Richard Burton Theatre Company). Rehearsed Readings include: KING LEAR (Rwcmd), VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE (rwcmd). Site Specific includes: PASSION IN PORT TALBOT (National Theatre Wales/ Wildworks).

Nina Shenkman (Beth and Frances)


Theatre includes: MERCHANT OF VENICE (RWCMD), THE BIG NIL (Another Story Theatre), CONTRACTIONS (Parapet Theatre), FADE (DugOut Theatre), COVER (DugOut Theatre), FESTEN (Leeds University Theatre Group), OTHELLO (DugOut Theatre), THE SEAGULL (Igrat Theatre Laboratories).

Melanie Stevens (Ellen and Ruthie)


Theatre includes: STRANGE ORCHESTRA (Richard Burton Theatre Company), THE MIRACLE (Richard Burton Theatre Company), THE WINTERS TALE (Richard Burton Theatre Company), COMETS (Undeb Theatre Company). Rehearsed Readings include: BLOOD (Bare Fiction), MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (RWCMD), A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE (RWCMD). Film includes: A DANCE WITH DEATH (441 Films), NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD: RESURRECTION (North Bank Entertainment).

Sam Ward (Moff and Stuart)


Theatre includes: THE CRIPPLE OF INNISHMAAN (Richard Burton Theatre Company), UNITY 1918 (Richard Burton Theatre Company), DOGVILLE (Richard Burton Theatre Company), MERCURY FUR (Company of Sirens), CUCKOO IN THE NEST (Richard Burton Theatre Company), MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (RWCMD). Short Films include: CATAWAMPUS (DotMOV), FUNDAY (Keri Collins), EDNA’S BENCH (BBC Cymru, It’s My Shout Productions).

Catching up with the cast of BLISTER

The talented cast of BLISTER – the electrifying new play Laura Lomas – have been hard at work these past few weeks at RWCMD, with the brilliant Stef O’Driscoll.

As we open the show in Cardiff tomorrow, Tuesday 1 April, we caught up with the cast for a round-up of all things BLISTER. Here’s what they had to share:

Mark Newsome:

I have really enjoyed working on this show – working with new writing has been fantastic and you really have the freedom to do what you want to do. Creating a character that’s never been portrayed before is a great opportunity for an actor and you don’t feel pressure to do something that’s ‘right’.

However it also comes with it’s challenges! We had a re-write quite soon before going into tech, but that’s also quite exciting. You don’t have time to panic, you just have to do it and for me that’s quite exhilarating.

Working with Stef has been fantastic. Because she’s so cool and down to earth, you get along with her very easily and that makes rehearsals much more fun – and you need that as some scenes are quite heavy. She’s really helped me go deep and find detail in everything I do. She’s brilliant. We love her.

Hope you enjoy the show!

Here are some rehearsal snaps from the last few weeks:


#BlisterPlay @painesplough

Introducing the cast of BLISTER by Laura Lomas

We’re delighted that BLISTER,  the gripping new play by Laura Lomas, begins rehearsals today at The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Introducing the talented cast:

Mari Izzard, Robin Willingham, Mark  Newsome, Rebecca Durbin, Tessie Orange-Turner, Jay Worley and Danny Mellor.


Some exciting times ahead. Great to get the ball rolling on this co-production with RWCMD and the Gate Theatre. For full production details, click here.

Join us online: @painesplough #BlisterPlay

What we’ve been seeing at the theatre

We’ve had a brilliant few months at the theatre this spring. Fighting the urge to end every working day with wine in the sun on our office roof, we’ve been royally rewarded.

Having devoured the lion’s share of Hampstead’s World Premieres season – including Rona Munro’s LITTLE EAGLES, Filter and the RSC’s SILENCE, David Eldridge’s THE STOCK DA’WA and BELONGINGS by Morgan Lloyd Malcom – we’re booking up for AMERICAN TRADE by Tarell Alvin McCraney and eagerly awaiting the next season of downstairs plays.

Brilliant, but been and gone, were BOY ON A SWING by Joe Harbot at the Arcola, WASTWATER by Simon Stephens at the Royal Court Theatre, SUNDAY MORNING AT THE CENTRE OF THE WORLD by Louis de Bernières at Southwark Playhouse, PRECIOUS LITTLE TALENT by Ella Hickson at Trafalgar 2, CHEKHOV IN HELL by Dan Rebellato in a Plymouth Drum production at Soho Theatre, ELEKTRA in a new version by Nick Payne at The Gate and SOLD by Suzie Miller at Theatre 503.

If you’re quick you can still catch MANY MOONS by Alice Birch at Theatre 503, I AM THE WIND by Jon Fosse (in a translation by Simon Stephens) at the Young Vic, IN A FOREST DARK AND DEEP by Neil LaBute at the Vaudeville and DO WE LOOK LIKE REFUGEES? By Alecky Blythe at Riverside Studios – all of which we saw and enjoyed.

This month we’ve booked for Anya Reiss’ THE ACID TEST and Penelope Skinner’s THE VILLAGE BIKE at the Royal Court, The Bush’s WHERE’S MY SEAT? by Deirdre Kinahan, Jack Thorne and Tom Wells, Anthony Neilson’s REALISM at Soho Theatre, Arinze Kene’s LITTLE BABY JESUS at Oval House and LONDON ROAD by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork at the NT.

Also worth catching are the NT’s THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Mike Leigh’s ECSTASY at the Duchess, Little Bulb’s OPERATION GREENFIELD at Soho, Molly Naylor’s WHENEVER I GET BLOWN UP I THINK OF YOU at BAC, the RSC’s KING LEAR and FLARE PATH at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

We’ve even managed to sneak out of the office to see the graduating acting showcases of RADA, East 15 and Central as well as having the great pleasure of listening to Paule Constable giving the annual Edward Gordon Craig Lecture.

That said, there’s loads we’ve missed that we would have loved to see. There’s only five of us here at PP which means there’s only so much we can get to. But if there’s anything coming up that you think we’d be mad to miss, let us know by posting a comment below and we’ll get booking.