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Go Bush – Reflections on LONDON

There’s an old Australian saying ‘to go bush’ which means to leave the city and all your cares behind.

What made me think of that wasn’t a trip to the outback but a train ride through the rolling landscape of Northern England. During the past few weeks Paines Plough have been travelling round the country with our newest show LONDON by Simon Stephens and although all the theatres we have visited have been city based, it has meant some wonderful journeys through the British countryside. And LONDON has got me thinking – the city is such a busy place that it can be difficult to pause and reflect or find the time to deal with your problems.

Don’t get me wrong here, I love living and working in the city – I grew up in the countryside but have always been more of a London-girl at heart. Everything you need is only a short walk from your house and you can go from the bustling Southbank, to Borough market, to a club on Bricklane in less than 40 minutes (allowing for no problems with TFL of course).  But as Alex (one of the characters in the play) remarks “the noise of the place and the dirt and the colour and the roar of it” can be so constant it’s stifling.

What I find fascinating about LONDON is that it is a play about London but not set there, indeed there is no specific location indicated by the script. Instead the play’s setting is within the stories and lives of its two characters. London isn’t the over-riding theme of the play, but rather a backdrop and stimulus to its narratives. And it is the people who live in a city that give it its character.

LONDON tells two different stories of city life – one of escape and the other return. A woman finds herself on a train to Heathrow in a desperate attempt to leave all her problems behind. Alex comes back to his home in London and is unable to find the peace and quiet to heal.  Sitting on the early morning train back from Glasgow one of the lines from the play popped into my head: “I can see the world with a clarity I’ve never even dreamed of before”.  It is very true that living in a city it can be hard to find the time to think. Maybe we all need to escape to the country every now and again, even if only for a few hours, to keep us sane.

LONDON isn’t actually coming to London but is touring to other major UK cities, and you can still catch it in Glasgow this week at the Tron Theatre and next week at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

And let us know what you love most about living in the city…


In praise of . . . Glasgow

‘There’s been a wee boo-boo’ . . .

. . . is the phrase that will be remembered from Paines Plough’s rehearsal period in Glasgow this summer gone. Not a reference to our production of Good with People, it is instead the reaction of a pensioner in the local press talking about the North Korean Olympic flag debacle.  But rather than being a cause for continued embarrassment, we think it encapsulates our opinion of the city perfectly.

Because there has been a wee boo-boo if anyone south of the border thinks that Edinburgh is the only Scottish city worth visiting. Glasgow is the veritable arts capital of the country. It has a proud past, striking architecture and is the jumping off point for some of the most breath-taking scenery that the United Kingdom has to offer.

We’re off to the The Tron Theatre next week with London (have you booked yet?), so it’s just the right time to update our Glasgow hit list.

Oran Mor

Paines Plough knows this part of town well. We have worked on numerous of the Play, Pie and a Pint productions at Oran Mor. It’s a lunchtime thing where the main course is a hearty portion of new writing, with a side order of pie and ale all at an extremely reasonable price. We think the clue is in the name. The setting is a gutted church, and the atmosphere inside is what brings us back each time. Safe to say it is less about worship and more about revelry as the additional comedy nights, live music and unbeatable whisky selection retain the parish’s congregation. Worth mentioning also is the surrounding West End area. Set in the backdrop of Kelvingrove Park, it is home to Glasgow University and some impressive Victorian architecture.

Citizens’ Theatre

We promise to stop talking about theatre in a second (sort of). The third venue in town that is always worth a visit is the Citizens’ Theatre. They’ve recently done a co-production with Mike Bartlett on his re-write of Medea and they also hosted us on the Love, Love, Love tour. Its trademark black and bright pink interiors are all part of the fun. National Theatre of Scotland often use the space for their productions and under Dominic Hill’s artistic direction, we are always looking forward to what they come up with next.

Trongate 103

This is somewhere we are yet to visit but which comes highly recommended. Billed as an arts resource space, it is home to trendy creative organisations and has a year round gallery space. The people in charge also programme talks and readings to bring together the creative folk of Glasgow and whilst PP are there, composer Nigel Clark will be hosting one of his regular gigs with actress Judith Williams.

Arisaig restaurant

Bringing food to share with another Paines Plough staff member is a bit of a double-edged sword. Sure, you’ll be greeted with smiles and warm wishes, but you’d be fooled to think that your colleague is demonstrating a particularly spirited reaction to your presence in the office. They’re really just wondering what’s in your Tesco bag and woe-betide if it’s not at least 60% glucose based. Although not sugar, Arisaig does venison sausages and some of the snappiest seafood going. If you’re in town to watch London, try this place in Merchant City for pre or post-show dining. Just don’t go with one of us lot – blink and you’ll only have those especially bloody chunk of haggis left on your plate.


Ok, so we’re sort of back to theatre with this one. But seeing as Sarah had reputedly never gone further north than the Watford Gap before starting at Paines Plough, we’ve already booked her into this Glasgow museum. It’s theatre because the centrepiece is a black box sound and light show. Over fifteen minutes the entire history of Glasgow is projected onto the floor from an impressive looking rig to educate those new to the city, or just unaware. It also shows how the Commonwealth Games in 2014 are going to look.

The Botanic Gardens

By night, the glass domes of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens look like giant glowing spinning tops – and if you were lucky enough to catch Three Sisters at the Young Vic you’ll know how mesmerising those can be. With walks next to the River Kelvin, the gardens are immaculate and provide a welcome break from the rumble of the city. Although not quite the Highlands, it’ll do for a few hours for script reading and switching the iphone onto flight mode.

The Tron

Last but not least is our home for the week, The Tron. It is home to the majority of Glasgow’s new writing and is one of the leading players is Scottish theatre. The week before we are there, friend of the family Blythe Duff will be giving another stalwart performance in Rona Munro’s thriller Iron, and just after us there is a Macbeth partly in Gaelic. Michael Boyd was at the helm once upon a time, and it is real pleasure to be playing the space on our London tour. We cannot wait.

Have we missed anything out? Let us know.

And have you booked your tickets yet? Do it here.

London UK Tour – Audience reviews

As LONDON comes to the end of its run at Live Theatre in Newcastle we have been inundated with feedback from audiences there about the show.

Here are just some of the lovely comments and thank you to everyone for their feedback:

“Gripping. Intense. Memorable. Good atmosphere in theatre. Will look to come to more plays.”

“Fantastic concept, very enjoyable and I don’t usually like monologues,”

“Beautifully acted and engrossing. Completely mesmerising, despite its minimalistic approach. The actor’s subtle approach to heartbreaking emotion heightened the tension. I especially loved the script.”

“Never have I felt so much empathy for two characters.”

“Intense, transfixing, fascinating – a real talking point and unique experience.”

“Refreshing, very different from anything I’ve seen before. Very moving. Excellent”

“Silence at the end spoke volumes. Utterly captivating, suprising and will have us talking for hours now.”

“Both parts of the performance were riveting and thought provoking; both excellently performed. First part gave insight into unravelling of a person’s mind due to an unfortunate incident and the repercussions. Second part: thought provoking, almost disturbing look at tragic incident and its divesting consequences.”

“An astonishing event. Superb writing, outstanding performances. Though-provoking, moving, entertaining, haunting.

“I was captivated. I am moved. Thank you”

If you’ve seen the show in Salisbury, Brighton or Newcastle let us know what you thought by commenting below or tweeting @painesplough #LondonPlay.

There are only a few days more to catch the show at the brilliant Live Theatre in Newcastle before it moves on Saturday, when it then goes to the Tron Theatre in Glasgow from Tue 13th – Sat 17th and finishing at the Royal Exchange in Manchester from Tue 20th – Sat 24th.

Good with People rehearsal diary – Day 8, 9, 10 and tech

As you might have read, the (theatre) Festival d’Avignon came to its conclusion this weekend gone. And what was on their menu looked pretty delicious. New writing from around the world, lit by southern French sunshine, with Brit Simon McBurney at the helm as artistic associate.

But rather than road trip down to the Med, in just under four days the creative team behind Good with People covered exactly the same distance travelling across England and Scotland, during its penultimate week of rehearsals.

Catching the East Coast train up to Edinburgh on Wednesday evening, the team spent the remainder of last week in accommodation over in Glasgow, whilst rehearsing in the capital. 750 miles and some early starts later, the week culminated in an early tech rehearsal all day Saturday at our home for the summer – Traverse 1.

Between Wednesday and Saturday a great deal of work took place. Starting with the initial tracings of blocking on the Wednesday, Blythe and Richard then had to incorporate the songs, sounds and set of Good with People into their performances. Scott, Ben, Oli and Berndt, our composer, designer, lighting designer and production manager respectively, also made themselves known during rehearsals, and incorporated their own expertise into the final piece.

When we got to Edinburgh, we also met up with Gemma and Sarah again, our beaming stage managers. Not to give the game away, but they both have a great deal of responsibility during the show, so it was great to start rehearsing in earnest with them both present.

Although numerous, layering all these different aspects of the production over the three days before the technical rehearsal was not something that could be timed to precision. The over-riding focus was on the running the piece on its feet. That way Good with People began to form a coherent whole. Playing scenes and sections in isolation flagged up technical requirements for those who needed them, and similarly helped us make the artistic decisions we had been discussing over the past few weeks.

Our technical rehearsal was scheduled for the Saturday a week before our first preview. Though unusual this was due to the demand on space at The Traverse during the fringe period. This meant that blocking choices and the illusions that we are creating on stage had to be accelerated. Although we have another shorter slot on the Friday before the previews, the majority of the work had to be done before then.

Which we managed. We hope. Kicking back in the bar on Saturday evening, the cast and crew looked forward to two days off before the final stretch of rehearsals. A lot had been achieved over four days and the break was well deserved by everyone.


The final week is now reserved for honing in on the details and teasing out the subtleties of the text, whilst running the entire piece several times over.

Only one week to do – we cannot wait.

Good with People rehearsal diary – Day 5

Final day in Glasgow before we break and regroup again mid-July. It was our opportunity to try and bring together all the work that had been done over the week. A conscious effort had been made to pry even further into David’s text than last time, to unravel it once again. So now was the time to make some decisions, and to let others make themselves, to be clarified in July.

The morning was spent playing with the roles that we had listed, in the last scenes of the play. We found that there were a lot of layers to such an activity. Striking a balance between imposing a role onto a scene, and reacting to that of another was not a simple business. Often the best results were unexpected, when two dynamics clashed and created something new.

The more factual, domestic aspects of the play had to be dealt with too. We revisited all the timelines that had been drawn up over the past four days and discussed the potentially humdrum, possibly revealing details of the play. Table work like this can sometimes feel a bit forensic when dealt with badly, but having a clear picture of the years, days and minutes preceding each scene gave a sense of clarity that all four of us appreciated.

We went to the extent of setting out the space with chairs and tables, to map the geography of the downstairs part of the hotel. An impromptu improvisation told us a lot about the confined atmosphere and how Evan and Helen move in it.

Finally, we had a run through of the play. Without any specific direction in mind both Richard and Blythe experimented with whatever aspects of the week that they saw fit at any one point. And though they both spoke about feeling overwhelmed by the number of choices they could make at certain moments, it made us realise that the decisions are endless when playing with such a rich, compact text. With time the decisions will become clear, and final choices made when we reconvene in July.

Homework set, Richard and Blythe agreed to meet before July to read together and continue the conversation. The English quota caught the delayed train back to London, with a day’s rest before The 8th rehearsals on the Sunday.

Good with People rehearsal diary – Day 2

We jinxed it. Although day two of rehearsals for Good with People looked to be as much of a scorcher as day one was, by lunch time it was another story. The rain poured down on Glasgow.

It’s just as well, then, that we had enough timelines, pictures, print-outs and articles in the rehearsal room to distract us. Today was about knowing exactly what had happened when in the story, as well as scrutinising every reference made in the script.

Discussions about why the characters speak about these things moved us onto another reading of each scene. This time, we focused on what was a statement and what was a question, to begin placing where Evan and Helen’s minds are at any one point.

In a play with such strong contradictions, it was really useful to begin looking at the moments that are open for interpretation. And there are lots of them! We realised that the number of ‘facts’ in Good with People are very few, and that often we cannot even take what a character says at their word.

And in a script full of ellipsis and overlapping thoughts, it was also really helpful to consider when Helen is being interrupted by Evan, or vice verse, or when a character lets a thought, well, just, drift  . . .

More musings from Trades House of Glasgow tomorrow.

Good with People rehearsal diary – Day 1

We’re not quite sure what’s going on, but something looking a lot like summer came out to greet the Paines Plough team this morning, as we made our way to Scotland’s culture capital for the first day of Good with People rehearsals.  Whether we’re actually being teased and are due a healthy lashing of Scottish rain tomorrow we’ll soon find out, but it provided a happy welcome to our current residence at The Trades House of Glasgow.

If you, like us, aren’t sure what a Trade House is, think along the lines of the guilds that used to run cities in times gone by. Tailors, blacksmiths, skinners, haberdashers – to name but a few – would gather in wood panelled halls to decide who took home what and who did business with whom. And they didn’t do this in any old room – the four of us gawped upwards at the size of the main meeting place and its crest laden walls.

Enough about the setting though – as theatre people, we know that the characters that fill it are what counts. Today we had our two actors Blythe Duff and Richard Rankin in the room together for the first time. Blythe played Helen in the first production that Paines Plough did with Oran Mór, and Richard is our new Evan.

We spent the day reading through the script as it is, then pulling it apart page by page to try and form a timeline for both characters. David Harrower’s lean, exact word choice is meant to titillate and it has already become obvious that our version of events will develop as we investigate each scene over the coming weeks.

Tomorrow we’re meeting with David himself and as well as asking him some of the questions that came up today, we’ll be looking at the place of the piece and how that changes what we do on stage.

Until then!

What we’re seeing at the theatre…

It’s been a busy Autumn for Paines Plough, with shows on in Sheffield, Glasgow, Manchester and Coventry simultaneously but despite our team being split all over the country we’ve still managed to catch plenty of theatre all over the shop and the festive period is looking pretty good for our culture calendar too…

James and I caught Tom Wells’ brilliant new play The Kitchen Sink at the Bush on press night.  It’s selling out but the run has been extended til 23rd Dec, so there’s still chance to catch this extraordinary new play.

Claire and Hanna loved April de AngelisJUMPY at the Royal Court, Tara caught Polar Bear’s OLD ME at the Roundhouse and we all went on a PP office social to see OFFICE PARTY at the Pleasance which was an absolute hoot!

We were big fans of Michael Sheen’s HAMLET at the Young Vic, Jez Butterworth’s JERUSALEM (it just gets better…) at the Apollo, BLACKBERRY TROUT FACE by the superb Laurence Wilson (who wrote TINY VOLCANOES which we toured earlier this year), and ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS by Richard Bean at the Adelphi.

We’re very excited about seeing COMEDY OF ERRORS with Lenny Henry and directed by Dominic Cooke at the National, I’m off to see Michael Grandage’s last show at the helm of the Donmar- RICHARD II with Eddie Redmayne at the weekend and James saw Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin’s hit adaptation of MATILDA at the Cambridge Theatre and can still be found humming the songs around the office…

Last week Claire and Tara headed up to Sheffield (quickly becoming our second home) to see the Crucible’s revival of Sondheim’s COMPANY with Daniel Evans and Samantha Spiro which was brilliantly entertaining! And speaking of Sheffield we had a great time there two weeks ago when the whole team got together to see our ROUNDABOUT season; Nick Payne’s ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, Duncan Macmillan’s LUNGS and THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN by Penelope Skinner.

So what are we seeing over Christmas? Our panto withdrawal from last year will be soothed by trips to ALADDIN at the Lyric Hammersmith and SLEEPING BEAUTY at Sheffield’s Lyceum. We’ll be at the National next week for Daniel Kitson’s IT’S ALWAYS RIGHT NOW, UNTIL IT’S LATER which I’ve been dying to see since it debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe back in 2010. Claire’s off to see Matthew Bourne’s NUTCRACKER at Sadler’s Wells on Tuesday and Tara will be going to Kurt Weill’s MAGICAL NIGHT at the Royal Opera House later this week. Other treats in store are Reuben Johnson’s THE PROPOSAL produced by exciting young company Fiddy West Productions at Theatre 503, Joe Penhall’s HAUNTED CHILD at the Royal Court and Dawn King’s FOXFINDER at The Finborough.

Wowzer, there’s a whole lot of theatre for you.

What have you been seeing? Any top tips for theatre trips over Christmas?

Sound and Vision

You join us, dear blog-reader, at a very interesting and exciting moment here at A Play, A Pie and A Pint HQ in Glasgow. We’ve just watched the first run of DIG, which takes to the Òran Mór stage on Monday. Our second play, YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW, is nearing the end of its first week of rehearsals which has been a brilliant period of exploring and playing with the text. And we’re just putting the finishing touches to preparations for ETERNAL SOURCE OF LIGHT, which starts the whole process again, going into rehearsals on Monday. Having taken you through the sounds we heard coming out of the DIG rehearsal room last week, this week we have a whole different kind of sound to deal with.

David Watson’s YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW is a fantastically original and poetic play in which sound is completely essential to the telling of the story. In it, snippets of conversations you might hear variously on talk radio shows, a police radio, across the pub and on your SatNav weave in and out of each other. So who better to talk us through the show than our Sound Designer and Composer, Scott Twynholm:

Scott, can you tell us about YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW from your perspective? I’m excited about being involved as the play is so sound dependant: I get the chance to cut up sound, record actors, re-create everyday sounds in the rehearsal room, we might even get round the piano to write the odd radio jingle.

What particular challenges are there when you’re putting together a show like this? The main challenge will be deciding what will be pre-recorded and what will be performed live. For this play we’re going for the Foley film studio approach of creating as much as possible live. These sounds will be performed by the cast so it’s important they are simple, effective and compliment the dialogue rather than distract. Of course there is the visual aspect which is naturally more theatrical than sound playback.

You’ve worked with us at Paines Plough for two years on Play, Pie and Pint: is this the sound-iest show you’ve had to work on with us? Yes and no. I would say the sound is written into this play to compliment the narrative. It can be just as challenging to compose the music to underscore the drama of a play. Last year I enjoyed writing the music for IN THE PIPELINE, which didn’t have an obvious sound element.

What do you enjoy about designing sound for the theatre? Composing for the theatre gives me great joy in that it differs from writing for film and commercial recordings. There is more variety and human interaction. There is a certain excitement about the live performance. And I enjoy the collaborative process – I enjoy getting out of the studio, working with actors and the creative team to put together a show.

And finally: What’s your favourite play, pie and pint? I don’t really have a favourite anything but I’ve enjoyed these over the past year or so: Medea/Steak/Heineken.

Sounds good to us.

Some of the items currently in the rehearsal room being used for Foley sound effects. Either that or they were having a tense round of Kim's Game.

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.