Monthly archives:

Review of the Year 2013

Our Programme 2013 saw us produce new work by 15 playwrights across 8 productions touring to 44 towns and cities nationwide.

We send love and thanks to all who came to see a PP show this year, and we hope you’ll join us in 2014 as we celebrate our 40th Anniversary with a stellar programme of new plays on tour.

Meantime, here’s a quick lowdown on the year that was…

WASTED by Kate Tempest
Back by popular demand, WASTED completed our inaugural CAMPUS tour of Student Unions before a second sold-out run at London’s Roundhouse, where we live streamed a performance for the first time.

“Ingenious…funny and true.”
★★★★ The Guardian

“A slender, wistful three-way play that’s as seductive as smoke.”
★★★★ Time Out

You still have one more day to catch the live stream if you missed it!

LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan
Our co-production with Sheffield Theatres of Duncan Macmillan’s award-winning, much-loved LUNGS was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

“The most beautiful… shattering play of the year.”
★★★★★ Sunday Express

GOOD WITH PEOPLE by David Harrower
First co-produced by Paines Plough and Òran Mór as part of A Play, A Pie and A Pint in 2010, GOOD WITH PEOPLE made it all the way to 59E59 Theatres in New York in 2013.

“Harrower’s beautiful, deceptive wisp of a play…Duff and Scott-Ramsay are perfection.”
Ben Brantley, New York Times

On home soil, we took COME TO WHERE I’M FROM – our theatrical tapestry of the UK, woven by writers asking if home is really where the heart is – to Plymouth and Leeds this year.

Check out some insights from our playwrights here.

In partnership with Pentabus, we premiered Duncan MacMillan’s EVERY BRILLIANT THING at Ludlow Fringe Festival and Ledbury Poetry Festival last summer.

Here’s what audiences had to say:

“Altogether so human, so relatable…it uplifts and enlightens, exploring the joy and endless possibility of humanity.”

SEA WALL by Simon Stephens
Andrew Scott reprised his acclaimed performance for an exclusive seven nights only in Simon Stephens’ SEA WALL at The Shed at The National Theatre.

“One of the most devastating 30 minutes you are ever likely to experience in the theatre.”
Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

“As engaging and devastating a piece of theatre as you’re likely to find….”
★★★★★ Independent

Following the huge success of WASTED, we were reunited with performance poet Kate Tempest for HOPELESSLY DEVOTED, which opened with our co-producers at Birmingham Rep and toured the Midlands in September-October. HOPELESSLY DEVOTED will return for a Spring 2014 tour.

“The play sings and soars, a little shard of lyrical brilliance… startlingly beautiful.”
★★★★ The Times

“Outstanding… The writing is fantastic, with just the right balance of spoken word, song and dialogue.”
★★★★★ The Public Reviews

And some words from our Tweeters:

“Absolutely loved #HopelesslyDevoted. Now that’s the theatre that gets my blood pumping.”

And last but certainly not least, Tom Wells’ infectiously funny, critically acclaimed football rom-com JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS, which we co-produced with Watford Palace Theatre and Hull Truck.

“The perfect winter-warmer…blissfully funny…deeply affecting”
★★★★★ Daily Telegraph

“Wells has given us another winner…Unreservedly recommended.”
★★★★★ Independent

“A razor sharp, beautifully human script that brings to life characters that every one of us will know, but whom rarely get to claim their space within gay culture.”
★★★★★ Attitude Magazine

And on the Twittersphere:

“Jumpers for Goalposts. One of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen this year. Am totally speechless.”

Playing at The Bush Theatre until 4 January 2014. Book tickets here.

It’s been a wonderful year of theatre (and cake!) and there’s no denying we couldn’t have had as much without you (and cake!) coming along for the ride.

So – keep eating cake, and we wish you all a merry Christmas! Catch you next year?

Team PP x

Cupcake? :)


GOOD WITH PEOPLE is now up and running Off-Broadway and here is a gallery of production photos to prove it, taken by Carol Rosegg.

The show is directed by our Joint-AD George and stars Blythe Duff and Andrew Scott-Ramsay in roles they originally performed back in 2010 at Oran Mor, with whom we initially co-commissioned and co-produced the play.

Last summer we revived the production with the Traverse Theatre and Datum Point, with whom we’re now presenting in New York.

You can see a fuller set of photos on Flickr, here, along with shots of all our past work.

At a Lonely Hotel, Two Lives That Overlapped


At a Lonely Hotel, Two Lives That Overlapped
‘Good With People’ at 59E59 Theaters

Published: April 3, 2013

Be warned in advance that there’s no inoculation against the viral effects of “Good With People,” David Harrower’s beautiful, deceptive wisp of a play at 59E59 Theaters. Though this two-character Scottish drama, which opened on Wednesday night as part of the Brits Off Broadway series, is less than an hour long, it is likely to have an enduring and varied afterlife in the shadows of your mind.

If that makes “Good With People” sound like a ghost story, it is in a sense, though it contains no elements of the classically supernatural. It is instead a story of how people haunt their own lives, failing to be entirely present, no matter where they are. Or with whom. Mr. Harrower’s title is a dark joke of the cosmic variety, since being good with people is, by his severe but forgiving standards, an unobtainable virtue.

It feels appropriate that the only people we meet in this play, directed with light and icy fingers by George Perrin, work in what are considered people-oriented professions. Helen (Blythe Duff) runs the desk at a Scottish hotel, inaccurately named the Seaview. Evan (Andrew Scott-Ramsay) is a nurse.

He is also the only guest in the town’s only hotel when he shows up one morning, though it is high season. Helen recognizes Evan’s name, and the two come into focus for each other as hazy, vaguely hurtful figures from a mutual chapter in their pasts. Helen reminds Evan that he once knew her son, Jack Hughes. Evan mishears her, or pretends to. “J’accuse?” he answers.

Sara Krulwich/NY Times

An empty hotel by the water (a loch); a man and a woman with a shared history and some unfinished business: this is the stuff of many a familiar fictional idyll, romantic or spooky or suspenseful. Holding true to that form, the plot will lead into a cross-fire of recriminations amid a slow, steady buildup of sexual tension. But you don’t expect what happens to happen — that is, if it really does happen, which is debatable.

Seducing an audience by the slow, blurred divulgence of information is a specialty of Mr. Harrower. This was evident in his best-known work, the brilliant “Blackbird,” staged at the Manhattan Theater Club in 2007 and one of the most powerful dramas of this century. That play too was essentially a protracted dialogue between a man and a woman, who in that case turned out to have had a sexual relationship when the woman was still a girl.

The bonds that connect Helen and Evan in “Good With People” aren’t anywhere near as strong or as visceral. This allows Mr. Harrower greater latitude in considering how we connect, or fail to, with others. His canvas is surprisingly wide here, touching on bullying (both by schoolchildren and, wait for it, members of the Taliban), small-town class hierarchies, military life, the divisive existence of a nuclear base, foreign wars, one-night stands and a local wedding.

These disparate subjects come up without strain in Helen and Evan’s conversation. They all relate quite specifically to two lives that have only on occasion overlapped. But the talk subtly nudges you into thinking about the failure of most social structures and the poignant hopes for comfort and security that we pour into them.

If the dialogue is mostly naturalistic, the staging is not. Beneath the words Helen and Evan exchange, a whole other relationship is taking place.

It is given life in an extraordinary series of tableaus that find the characters suddenly illuminated, crouched fetally or reaching out or dancing together clumsily in a state of mutual surprise. These movements are both precise and hauntingly elliptical, reminiscent of the subliminal choreography of Steven Hoggett on “Black Watch“ and “Once.”

Ms. Duff and Mr. Scott-Ramsay are perfection. They expertly embody characters who are confined and isolated by class, age and gender. At the same time they seem to belong to a world of shadows, a Jungian realm conjured by the masterly lighting of Tim Deiling, the soundscape of Scott Twynholm and the set and costume design of Ben Stones, which only seem simple.

Though its length is about 55 minutes, “Good With People” leaves you feeling far from empty. For all the phantasmal effects of its staging, it is a dense work, and you may find yourself sorting through lines and images later in a way you seldom do after a more conventional full-length play.

There’s been talk of a return of interest in the short story. And I don’t think it’s just because of our much lamented shrinking attention spans. A first-class short story — especially from a master like Alice Munro or William Trevor — forces us to focus and savor in ways novels usually do not.

Surely there’s room on the stage these days for the dramatic equivalent of great short stories, for plays that make concentrated use of theatrical methods to distill ineffable thoughts and feelings. “Good With People” is short, but it’s anything but small.

Good With People

By David Harrower; directed by George Perrin; designed by Ben Stones; sound by Scott Twynholm; lighting by Tim Deiling; stage manager, Raynelle Wright; production manager, Kevin McCallum. A Traverse Theater Company and Datum Point, in association with Paines Plough, production, presented by 59E59 Theaters, Elysabeth Kleinhans, artistic director; Peter Tear, executive producer, as part of the 2013 Brits Off Broadway festival and Scotland Week. At the 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, Manhattan; (212) 279-4200; Through April 21. Running time: 55 minutes.

WITH: Blythe Duff (Helen) and Andrew Scott-Ramsay (Evan).

Link to the review on the NY Times website.

Meet the cast of GOOD WITH PEOPLE

Top tips for a week Off-Broadway

We’ve landed in the big apple to open our next production of Programme 2013 – David Harrower’s GOOD WITH PEOPLE.

The last time we had a show stateside was in summer 2006 when we transferred AFTER THE END by Dennis Kelly here to 59 East 59 Theaters.

We’ve been back a few times since then, mainly to visit the Orchard Project in upstate New York and to catch up on shows here in the city, but it’s never quite the same as having your own show Off-Broadway.

So for the rest of this week our AD George, Designer Ben Stones and Lighting Designer Tim Deiling will be squeezing the best out of the city around their tech week. Their interests include theatre, burgers and dive bars.

Top tips anyone?


We’re thrilled to announce that the fourth production of Programme 2013 is David Harrower’s GOOD WITH PEOPLE which opens on Wednesday 27th March at 59 East 59 Theatrers, New York.

We co-commissioned the play with Oran Mor in 2010 as part of A Play, A Pie and A Pint and toured it from Glasgow to Edinburgh, Coventry, Newcastle and Dublin.

There was such demand amongst Scottish audiences that the production was then revived in partnership with Datum Point and the Traverse, alongside THE LETTER OF LAST RESORT by David Greig, as the centre-piece of the latter’s 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Programme. A sold out run saw the critics lavish praise on both the play and our AD George’s production.

Now New York audiences will have a chance to see the show as it plays 3 1/2 weeks as part of both Brits Off Broadway and Tartan Week.

You can read all about the life of the production so far here.

To book tickets, click here.

“Keep Calm and Eat Cake”

Our super amazing volunteer Annabel talks about her time at PP HQ:

Well it’s been eight months since I started volunteering at Paines Plough and I can hardly believe how quickly the time has flown by.  I’ve loved every minute of it and couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome.

It has been a busy time for the amazing PP team, yes I am biased, but bear with me on this as I can back it up with some pretty impressive statistics.  In the past eight months there has been Wasted, Love, Love, Love, The 8th, Smithereens, Good With People, the Roundabout Auditorium at Shoreditch Town Hall (with One Day When We Were Young, Lungs and The Sound of Heavy Rain) and London.  Can you understand my awe with the sheer enthusiasm and energy here at 43 Aldwych?

I was recently asked by a friend how Paines Plough manage to be so prolific.  My rather flippant answer was ‘cake’.  Possibly inspired by the poster on the wall in the production office that says “Keep Calm and Eat Cake” but actually in a way my answer was very appropriate.  PP is a team that supports each other, care passionately about the work they are creating, work incredibly hard and are always happy to eat cake.

Thank you team PP for a life changing experience.

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.

Calling playwrights: The Traverse 50

Here’s a great opportunity from our friends at The Traverse, with whom we recently co-produced David Harrower’s GOOD WITH PEOPLE as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

As part of The Trav’s 50th anniversary celebrations they are searching for the best voices from Scotland and beyond. They want to find 50 writers who embody the spirit of invention, adventure and risk taking that has come to define the Traverse over the last 50 years.

The Traverse Fifty is a year-long writer’s attachment to the Traverse, featuring   tailor-made events for the writers, including panel discussions, workshops and one-on-one dramaturgy with the artistic team. The programme will culminate in a New Writing Festival featuring the work of the Traverse Fifty. At the end of the process The Traverse will offer three seed commissions.

So The Traverse are looking for 50 brilliant writers of any age, from anywhere, who have had no more than two professional productions staged.

Sounds like a cracking gig to us. Fore more details visit Traverse Fifty.

Go, go, go!

Good with People rehearsal diary – the opening

The act of opening something is inherently dramatic. Thumbing the perforations of an unexpected parcel, considering an unfamiliar silhouette behind the front door, raising a palm in the middle of the road – all of these openings will lead to something new, to consequences unknown. We too had our own opening this month, that of Good with People, at the Traverse during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

But openings in the world of theatre are a-changing. Whereas we could once talk of things being ‘alright on the night’, it would be most probably followed up with ‘but, do you mean press, previews, industry or first night’? In the messy world of British theatre ‘openings’, instead of just tearing open the letter and being done with it, instead we’re asked whether we want to steam it first and use a palette knife afterwards, before fetching our bifocals for a considered read – after a cup of coffee, of course.

And there are certainly fewer fireworks and ageing celebrities involved than at other events opening round a similar time to us . . .

The Traverse made things slightly easier on this front, if we’re to look at it this way. One preview, one press night, one opening night. One, two, three. With very little time between each one we did not have the luxury of a week of previews, and had officially ‘opened’ the show by Monday 6th August.

Our week leading up to the only Saturday preview was spent in Leith playing on the space itself. Housed in the spacious Traverse rehearsal rooms, no one who will refute that rehearsing on the set, rather than on a floor plan marked out with red LX tape, was vital for Good with People. Not only were the actors allowed to experiment, but stage management practiced the illusions to perfection, and all other creatives were allowed to consider their own decisions in context.

What is actually rehearsed during that final week has to be judged on the production itself. Again, it also depends on your ‘opening’. In the case of Good with People it was a process of open but informed collective decision making, remembering detail but pushing the piece into the realm of performance.  As well as re-engaging with the precise words on the page, we worked on the physical commitment demanded by our set, as well as honing in on the more abstract notions that had been present in the rehearsal room from day one, and making them performable.

David himself came back into the room, not having visited since the first week of rehearsals. We would be fibbing if we were to say that the presence and opinion of the writer did not put us on edge slightly. A leap in a very different direction had been made since the first production, and this would be the first time David had seen it made plastic.

Luckily, his approval gave the cast and creatives a sense of confidence going into the weekend of openings. By Thursday we had a good idea of the overall shape and feel of the piece, having revisited each scene in detail and running the entire thing every day at four o’clock. This left us one more day of rehearsal, another short tech rehearsal and a preview before the press arrived on the Sunday.

And arrive they did, in their hoards. After a strong preview performance, both Blythe and Richard were reminded of the comedy throughout, as well as having adapted to being lit and underscored in Traverse 1, our home for August. With a few notes on pace and practicalities, we were all ready for the Sunday scribblers. Their verdict can be read here.

So now onto the month long run. The best way for you to judge is to come and see the show before it finishes in the next couple of weeks. Book too, as it is selling well. Although at the time it was felt that a longer opening period would have been preferable, it is useful to remember that this is Edinburgh and that circumstances will always be far more manic than is desirable.

Turns out there is no one way to open a letter, then. It depends on personal preference and the tools and influence you have.

Same with theatre, come to think of it.