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Roundabout Rehersal Room: An extensive range of dungarees

As we gear up for previews (TONIGHT, AH!) we thought we’d take a look back on our last day in the rehearsal room before our tech rehearsals.

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Thinking, planning, rehearsing (cred. Helen Murray)

It’s getting more populous in here as we get closer to putting the plays in the Roundabout itself. As well as having the writers working with us in the room, we’ve had movement workshops with Kate Sagovsky (I couldn’t resist joining in), Elspeth, our dialect coach, helping the actors with their Merthyr accent and also their Ron-Burgundy-from-Anchorman, and an extensive range of dungarees on offer from Kat, the costume designer. We’ve also been working with a film crew to create trailers for the three shows which I’m really excited about, so look out for those.

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Caitlin thinks about tech week… (cred. Helen Murray)

Dom, our Sound Designer, comes bearing gifts of a beautiful indie soundtrack for LOVE, LIES AND TAXIDERMY and high-octane sound effects for I GOT SUPERPOWERS FOR MY BIRTHDAY which range from gross to hilarious, some of which make the PP team in the office next door to the rehearsal room jump a bit (sorry guys). Prema, our Lighting Designer, gave me a sneak peak at the visual simulation of Roundabout that she’s been using to create the lighting design, because we are living in the future.

Basically, if you picture the Avengers assembling, walking in slow motion with big explosions in the background, that’s the creative team behind these shows right now. Boom.

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“So no one wants to be Hawk-Eye?” (cred. Helen Murray)

See you next time, when we’ll be in the Roundabout itself in Hackney!

Anna.

Roundabout Rehearsal Room: 3 actors, 55 characters

Hello! Welcome to the latest update from the Roundabout rehearsal room. The plays are up on their feet now and it’s all kicking off. The circular stage has been marked out in tape on the floor by Caitlin, our Stage Manager, with the yellow, blue and pink of the seats around the edges. The colour codes, arrows and crosses all help, because rehearsing three plays at once in the round can be figuratively and literally dizzying.

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Colourful rehearsals = black and white photos (cred. Helen Murray)

The circle comes to life as we explore the huge amount of possibilities for playing in it – it can feel like an intimate little stage or a huge space depending on the dynamics in the scene we’re doing. Altogether, we’ve counted 55 different characters across all the plays, and that makes for a lot of different accents and shapes. We aren’t using any set or props, which means all the focus is on the actors, and they’re conjuring everything from a bedroom to an entire Welsh town to a giant slug in our imaginations.

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Richard Corgan counts how many characters he’s playing… (cred. Helen Murray)

At the end of the week, we went to the beautiful space at Half Moon Theatre to show I GOT SUPERPOWERS FOR MY BIRTHDAY to a young audience. We got some lovely and useful feedback, including “when’s the sequel?” (top secret, sorry guys), and someone compared it to the amazing Avatar: The Last Airbender, which reminds me – I need to watch the last series.

This week’s top tip comes not from me but from one of the actors, and it’s about wearing loose clothing when playing mythical creatures.

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Director George reacts to Andy’s wardrobe malfunction (cred. Helen Murray)

See you next time!

Anna

Roundabout Rehearsal Room Blog: The beginning

Hi, I’m Anna! I’m the new Trainee Director at Paines Plough and I’ll be assistant directing the Roundabout plays this year – GROWTH, I GOT SUPERPOWERS FOR MY BIRTHDAY and LOVE, LIES AND TAXIDERMY. I’ve just moved to London to work at PPHQ and in between rehearsals you can find me skipping delightedly across Waterloo Bridge like I’m Andrea Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada and I’ve just arrived in New York.

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Rehearsal room walls (cred. Helen Murray)

Back to the rehearsal room – the first thing you would notice if you came in would be the walls. They started off blank and inviting, and quickly began to fill up. Detailed maps of Merthyr Tydfil, pictures of Captain Planet and The Incredibles, and medical information about orchidectomies cover every surface, along with timelines of each play. As the days go by, all the work we’re doing on the texts manifests itself on the walls, and it begins to look like the office of a particularly eclectic and obsessive private investigator *sips scotch*.

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Hilarious moments with Remy Beasley (cred. Helen Murray)

Incidentally, investigating is exactly what we’re doing at the table in rehearsals (stunning segue Anna) – lots of going through the plays, hearing them out loud, playing and finding information about the characters and stories. Beautiful and hilarious moments emerge, and already I’ve learned a lot about the initial rehearsal process for new writing, about day-to-day life at PPHQ, and NEVER to Google ‘hybrid taxidermy’ (I’m serious, don’t do it guys).

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Anna accidentally googles ‘hybrid taxidermy’ (cred. Helen Murray)

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back soon with more rehearsal updates,

Anna

Roundabout Rehearsals are go

It’s that time of year again. We’re back in the rehearsal room and buzzing with excitement for another Roundabout season.

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Plays.

If you’re late to the party and haven’t heard about our three new plays you can read about all them here: LOVE, LIES AND TAXIDERMY, GROWTH and I GOT SUPERPOWERS FOR MY BIRTHDAY.

On Monday last week we welcomed our rep of three brilliant actors to PPHQ: Remy Beasley, Richard Corgan and Andy Rush. We’ll be interviewing all the team as rehearsals go on so watch this space!

After introductions it was time to crack on with a first day staple: read throughs but not without a delay… we tucked in to a few treats from our new Company Stage Manager Caitlin. We like Caitlin.

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Treats.

After emerging from a cloud of puff pastry and cinnamon we got down to business and read GROWTH by Luke Norris. Andy plays Tobes throughout while Remy and Richard play a whole host of characters from Tobes’ boss to Tobes’ doctor and everyone in between.

After a quick water break we fell head first into a world of goblins and gargoyles but thankfully we had three teenage superheroes on hand to help us out. Ethan, William and Fiona discover their superpowers just in time to save the world in Katie DouglasI GOT SUPERPOWERS FOR MY BIRTHDAY. Saving the world is hungry work though so we stopped for some lunch.

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Actors.

Post-lunch we ventured into The Valleys for Alan Harris‘ LOVE, LIES AND TAXIDERMY. We zoom from location to location, Tesco to Biotech Medical Research Unit, Castle Hotel to Gurnos, ice cream van to the Conservative Club.

That concludes our first day of Roundabout rehearsals. What are you most looking forward to? What part of the process do you want to hear more about? Let us know and you never know, we might be able to provide some extra insight!

#RoundaboutPP

Taste Tuesday: George’s Blueberry Breakfast Bars

Courtesy of Joint Artistic Director George (and his mini sous chef!), this week’s Taste Tuesday were some totally delicious, brain-boosting blueberry breakfast bars to kick off the day. Here’s the lowdown on how to make your own…

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INGREDIENTS

  • 4 tbsp coconut oil (or butter)
  • 3 tbsp honey / date syrup / maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp nut butter
  • 200g / 2.5 cups rolled oats
  • 150g / 1 cup blueberries

METHOD/

First you should preheat your oven to 170c / 340f. While this is heating up, line a baking dish with grease proof paper and then you can start to prep your mixture.

The next step is to melt the coconut oil, honey and nut butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Once melted and combined, stir in the oats and continue to mix until they have all been coated, then fold in the blueberries.

Once everything has combined, transfer the mixture into the baking dish and with the back of a spoon press down and into the sides. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the sides are just beginning to brown.

Allow the dish to cool before lifting the grease proof paper with the oat mixture onto a cooling rack. Leave to fully cool in the fridge or at room temperature before attempting  to cut the mixture into bars – this mixture made about 16.

And you’re done!

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Enjoy!

– George x

 

The Earth You’re Changing

In January 2014 we hosted a panel discussion at the National Theatre with four of our alumni: actors HARRIET WALTER and FIONA VICTORY, playwright STEPHEN JEFFREYS and director JOHN TIFFANY. Here’s what they had to say about their time at PPHQ…

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HARRIET WALTER AND FIONA VICTORY – 1970’s.

FV: David Pownall and John Adams and the actor Chris Crooks were out of work and miserable and they were drinking beer at the Paines pub in Bedfordshire. As David Pownall tells it, he said, “Oh stop moaning. I’ll write you a play. You will act in it, you will direct it, and we’ll go to the Edinburgh Festival.” And they did. It was a play called Crates on Barrels and it was about a Greek philosopher —

HW: Socrates.

FV: Yes, Socrates — and it was very good.

HW: Richard III Part Two was my first with Paines Plough, it was quite a large piece involving lots of music, two or three different time zones and George Orwell- pretty ‘Powellian’. David’s imagination was immense. Steven Boxer had had a musical training and a teaching training, and he wrote wonderful music. I was listening to it recently. He was only 23 and he was writing these wonderful complex tunes and –

FV: – and teaching everybody else! People who couldn’t sing, had never sung, couldn’t read music, couldn’t play anything, he somehow managed to give everyone their line and teach them how to do it calmly.

HW: At the time it was very unusual to get a young bunch of actors together at the early stage of a play and evolve it with them with everyone doing the music, and the costumes, and the props, and everything ourselves, then tour it all over the country

FV:— in a small van!

HW: We used to do the fit ups and strike the sets ourselves. A couple of people helped with the lighting, and we used to do the ironing

FV: – and sacking skips and making tea and whatever.

STEPHEN JEFFREYS – 1980’s

By the time I joined, David had stopped writing all the plays himself. It went from being a writer’s company with an apostrophe-s to a writers’ company with an s-apostrophe. There was a wave of new people, David Moat, Elizabeth and, the young Terry Johnson — a mere slip of a lad at the time- and we were all brought in. We were the first people were writing plays that weren’t by David Pownall, and that was rather difficult. You thought, ‘oh I’ve got to write a play that takes place in three different time zones with madrigals and people playing sackbutts and things: I started doing that and it was a complete disaster.

John Adams, the director, commissioned this play from me and it wasn’t going well. He said, “Well, you’ve got to finish it this weekend” and then, “What I’ll do is this: I’ll leave you in my flat, in Leamington Spa, and I’ll just clear off and you’ll finish it by the end of the weekend.” John’s mistake was that he had a priceless collection of malt whiskeys. He came back and found that I’d barely written a word. He said, “You’re trying to write the wrong kind of play. I want you to write your kind of play.” That’s what Paines Plough then did: it successfully mutated from a David P company to a company that could do any kind of new play at all. Somehow, Paines Plough’s always been very good at negotiating those awkward moments of handover.

I came back in the Pip Broughton era. She was — and still is- a wonderful director. Paines Plough had evolved into a matriarchy. We had offices by Warren Street tube station and Ian Rickson and I were the only men in the company. There was Pip and Sue Storr and Vicky Heywood. It was a very, very lively time, because there was a lot of exciting new writing around.

There were two phases under Pip. One consisted of a lot of very political plays about early Thatcherism, set in different parts of the country reflecting local conditions. Then, by around 1986 or so, she’d had enough of that and did another of those big, daring Paines Plough changes. We suddenly became a big company doing big plays. We did a version of GERMINAL. We did my play THE CLINK, another by Nigel Gearing called BERLIN DAYS HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS. Huge plays.

When Pip left Anna Furse took over. She came from a dance background and, for a while, it almost became a performance art company. So Paines Plough was in a constant state of mutation. That’s why it survived.

JOHN TIFFANY – 1990’s

Vicky [Featherstone] couldn’t really get arrested when Paines Plough gave her a job. She’d left the West Yorkshire Playhouse and moved to London, but couldn’t get herself taken seriously as a director of new writing. The Bush gave her a job for a little while — Literary Manager, I think— then she went into TV. She was doing really well, developed Touching Evil and Silent Witness, worked at the BBC and independents, then went for this job at Paines Plough — and the visionary board took a chance on her.

As Stephen says Paines Plough attracts writers. By the time I arrived in 2001, we were really developing a wonderful stable, people like Abi Morgan, Jack Thorne, Sarah [Kane] obviously, Mark Ravenhill was writing a lot for them at the time, Gregory Burke, David Greig, Enda Walsh, Philip Ridley.

We got the Peggy Ramsey award that year, which was —£50,000, wasn’t it? We decided we were just going to commission eight playwrights, and we bullied the Menier Chocolate Factory, which was still in its infancy, into taking all four plays. Philip Ridley wrote this amazing play called Mercury Fur, which was the first one I directed. Ben Whishaw was in it and — we didn’t quite realise at the time— but it was a bloodbath by the end. The Chocolate Factory didn’t have a shower, so some of our hard earned sponsorship money— I shouldn’t admit this — bought the Chocolate Factory its first ever shower. Actors ever since have got Paines Plough to thank…

In 2004, I was in Mexico directing a play over a summer and Vicky called me one morning and went, “Guess what, I’ve been given a new job running the National Theatre of Scotland.” To go from, you know a company like Paines Plough to running —to setting up — a national theatre was amazing. We always said— Neil Murray, who was the producer, he still is, David Greig who was the dramaturg at the time, me and Vicky we said, ‘Well, we’re going to run it like Paines Plough, but with £6 milllion.” Having done what we did at Paines Plough for £120,000 from the Arts Council, we knew what that money could buy. We were determined not to be frivolous or fritter it away.

What James and George have done amazingly is to treat the whole country like it’s a venue, which is so inspiring. The output has doubled or tripled. Vicky and I followed the model of two shows a year and when you look at the volume of work that these two are managing, on not much more money, you look at the list now of things coming through in 2014, it’s incredible. It really is.

One more thing: I’ve been under a delusion for many, many years. I thought Paines Plough meant the plough of Tom Paine, the radical thinker, the surface of the earth you’re changing. Only now do I find out it was thought up in a boozer!

What do you do all day? Artistic Director

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Name: GEORGE PERRIN
Job Title: ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Hello! Did you always want to be an Artistic Director?

Not consciously – I only discovered directing when I got to Sheffield University and spent most of the time I was supposed to be doing my English Literature degree trying to figure out how to direct plays. So when James and I set up nabokov after we’d both graduated we became Artistic Directors by necessity. I think I only knew the job of Artistic Director as I now understand it even existed when I moved to London and was fortunate enough to spend some time watching David Lan run the Young Vic, Brigid Larmour run Watford Palace Theatre and Roxana Silbert run Paines Plough. Now that I’m lucky enough to be doing the job, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What role does the Artistic Director play in the development of new work?

I imagine that must depend on the organisation and the Artistic Director themselves. At PP, James and I take it in turns directing most of the plays here and we tend to have been in conversation with the writers whose plays we’re directing for a while before we commission them. So in our case, we have quite a close and supportive role in helping the writers we commission write the best version of the play they want to write, from the earliest moment of conception through to opening night. Sometimes that means hours spent discussing ideas in the pub, brokering meetings with more experienced playwrights for advice, getting actors in for the writer to hear drafts read aloud, workshops, script notes, rewrites and draft after draft through rehearsals and previews. And sometimes it means nothing more than saying ‘keep going’.

What things do you consider when programming work and commissioning new plays?

I think I tend to go on instinct in the first instance. I used to spend a long time making notes on writers, plays, productions – I think I had to make up for my lack of experience, understanding and (frankly) skill with hard and volumous work. But as I’ve seen, read and directed more, I have found that if I engage the critical part of my brain too early, I revert to being the English Literature student and I cease to sense how an audience might encounter the work. So now I try and keep myself in the audience’s shoes for as long as possible and save all the analysis until I’m ready to prepare for rehearsals.

In terms of what that instinct is looking for, it’s what I imagine everyone is looking for in a brilliant play: a good story; characters I can empathise with but that are nevertheless as complicated and contradictory as real people; dramatically active, credible dialogue; a clear sense of world or genre; an inherently theatrical form that somehow helps express the meaning of the play; a writer with something to say or a question to ask about the contemporary world; surprise; laughter; tears… I think perhaps more than anything I want to be moved. If that happens I stop seeing all the individual elements that as a director I’ve tried to teach myself to understand I’ve just talked about and I experience the play instinctively, as an audience hopefully will. When that happens you know you’re reading or watching something good.

Beyond that instinctive response, I’m then thinking about whether PP is the right home for a play, who the audience might be and whether we can reach them, if we have the resource to produce the play in the way it demands, what kind of space it might want to play in. If we’re commissioning the writer, those are some of the things we might ask them to think about when they’re conceiving the play for us.

Can you tell us a little bit about your ambitions for the future of PP?

James and I have been incredibly lucky to run PP for the past six years now and we only just now feel like we’re beginning to achieve some of the ambitions we had when we took over. The company is now entering its 42nd year so it’s something of a national theatrical treasure, certainly in our eyes at least. We’re the eight Artistic Directorship in that time and the regeneration the company has experienced each time a new team has taken over has been key to the company remaining so energetic, important and relevant to writers and audiences. I suppose our main ambition is for it to retain those qualities in the future.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

I’ve learned a lot from some brilliant people over the past fifteen or so years – Lisa Maguire, David Lan, Roxana Silbert, Brigid Larmour, Caro Newling, Sebastian Warrack to name a few. But I think the most useful piece of advice that I’ve had – and certainly something I most frequently pass on when asked – came from the Russian theatre director Lev Dodin, who I had the fortune to meet on a trip the Young Vic arranged for a group of (then) young directors. I think one of us might have said something to him about sometimes wondering whether it was worth sticking at it and he told us that if you can live with no theatre in your life, you’re better off without it. That’s kept me going more than once.

Paines Plough offer work placements in our Admin and Production offices throughout the year. If you’re interested, you can download more information here.

George talks Roundabout

Here’s our AD George talking to Whatsonstage.com about Roundabout, currently popped-up at The Southbank Centre until 18 July.

New York reviews round-up

EVERY BRILLIANT THING opened Off-Broadway at Barrow Street Theatre in New York on Sunday, and we’re thrilled with the response. The critics have fallen head-over-heels for our co-pro with Pentabus, written by Duncan Macmillan with star Jonny Donahoe, and directed by our very own Joint AD George.

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Here’s a round-up of the reviews so far:

“Captivating…guaranteed to keep your eyes brimming… often very funny… takes the chill off the depths of a light-starved winter.”
New York Times

“A life-affirming gem… as profound a work as you are ever likely to experience on a New York stage.”
NY1

“Duncan Macmillan’s affecting, memorable new play…heartbreaking…ultimately life-affirming…Every Brilliant Thing sparkles.”
AP

“Every Brilliant Thing may be the funniest show about depression you’ve ever seen… about finding reasons to live rather than reasons to die. And those reasons can be as minute as wearing a cape and as big as falling in love.”
NY Post

“Works a gentle magic, thanks to Donahoe’s skill as a host… even the audience gets a little chance to shine.”
Time Out New York

“Funny and observant little heart-tugger… another “Brilliant Thing” to add to the list.”
NY Daily News

“[A] heart-tugging tale… Donahoe is a warm and personable performer… shrewdly staged in the round by helmer George Perrin.”
Variety

“George Perrin’s seamless direction and Donahoe’s impeccably natural delivery… MacMillan has discovered joy to be just as contagious as despair.”
Theatre Mania

“Beautiful… a specific and deep response to the work of staying alive.”
Vulture

“Bewitching…about as brilliant as theatre can get.”
TalkinBroadway.com

“Heartbreaking and joyous…there’s probably no better way to beat the holiday blues than seeing Every Brilliant Thing.”
Holywood Reporter

“Guaranteed to melt all but the hardest hearts… If I see a performance piece any time soon that gives me as much pleasure and raises my spirits as high as Jonny Donahoe’s has, I’ll be grateful. And if I ever start my own list, he’ll be on it prominently.”
Huffington Post

“This sweetly sentimental, wise, and often very funny one-hour piece… humorous and moving…many may consider it yet another of life’s many brilliant things.”
Theatre’s Leiter Side

“Surprisingly rich… ingenious work by playwright Duncan Macmillan… by the end of the sixty minute production we’ve all become a chorus of celebration.”
TDF Stages

“A funny, fun and moving show.”
New York Theater

“A funny and touching work that may not change your life but will certainly remind you to appreciate a bit more the pleasures, great or small, that go with living it.”
New Jersey Newsroom

“It’s not quite magic, but it’s something close to it, one of those incredible, transformative phenomena of collective imagination.”
Slant Magazine

“Wonderful, touching…hilarious. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind experience, one that will make you laugh and maybe bring you to tears, Every Brilliant Thing is an absolute must see.”
Edge

“Every Brilliant Thing is a theater lover’s perfect stocking stuffer.”
NBC

“One of the most humane and touching theatrical experiences of 2014.”
British Theatre Guide

“Every Brilliant thing is evidence, which we may need, that life matters, and that theatre matters.”
Fuse

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ROUNDABOUT Rehearsal Photos

With half our team already in Scotland’s capital, building and tech-ing and line-learning and generally perfecting Roundabout Season 2014 to an inch of its life in the lead-up to next Sunday’s launch, here are a few snaps of our talented team hard at work.

 

All images by Richard Davenport

For the full set, visit our Flickr page.

Catch Paines Plough’s Roundabout @ Summerhall, Edinburgh, from 2 – 23 August 2014. 

Join the online conversation with: #RoundaboutPP @painesplough

www.painesplough.com