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Playing For Britain

In 2014 we celebrated our 40th birthday and to mark the occasion we released a book packed full of images, insights and interesting articles. Over the coming months we’ll be sharing some of our favourite features from the book and what better way to kick us off, than with Matt Trueman on the history of new writing in British theatre.

PP40 book v12 p10-118

New writing is at the heart of British theatre. Every so called theatrical revolution this country has seen has centred on new plays, from the Angry Young Men in the 1950’s to the In-Yer-Face generation of the 1990’s. Back in 2009. when theatre critics were last trumpeting a golden age, it was motored by dazzling and ambitious new plays, including Jez Butterworth’s JERUSALEM and Lucy Prebble’s ENRON. Even 2014, a sudden flutter of springtime excitement was down to British playwrights firing on all cylinders: Simon Stephens with BIRDLAND, Mike Bartlett with KING CHARLES III, James Graham with PRIVACY.

As an art form, theatre is uniquely placed. It’s a communal art that exists — can only exist- in a public space and it’s an ephemeral art that can only exist in the present moment. Bearing all that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that,more so than visual art or film, theatre should set out to address the world that we all share, the here and now.

The stage is where we see the state of the nation – increasingly, even, the state of the world – reflected and retracted. Sometimes that means that classic plays, most notably Shakespeare’s, are used very deliberately to rub up against the moment in which they are staged. Mostly, though, it means a healthy culture of new plays that do exactly that- and it’s this that we term new writing.

The theatre critic Aleks Sierz has defined new writing [or ‘new writing proper’ as he sometimes calls it] as a genre in its own right. To qualify as new writing, a play must somehow address the present moment – even if only obliquely, perhaps through metaphor or analogy. Not all new plays do that: think of THE HISTORY BOYS or ONE MAN, TWO GUV’NORS, for example. But a great many do and, even if there’s a circularity at play in Sierz’s conviction that we can understand the present through new writing that seeks to understand the present, there is some truth in it.

Britain is unique in the import it bestows upon its playwrights. Think about the sorts of plays you see reviewed in the front end of newspapers, the news sections: big name actors in big name classics, yes, where casting can be a news story in its own right. but also big new plays with something newsworthy to say. Britain’s playwrights are allowed to be public intellectuals and political commentators.

That doesn’t happen so much in America, for all the strength of its playwriting culture. Musicals make the news pages there, other big Broadway shows too, but rarely new plays and almost never present-tense political work. The same goes for European countries, where directors rule the roost, smashing classic lays into contemporary sensibilities and resonance, not playwrights. Britain still places the playwright centre stage. Directors talk about- quote unouote— serving the text, usually through fidelity to it.

What’s more, British theatres insistence on novelty, be that in new writing or new work, is only increasing. The figures bear that out. In the 1980’s and 1990’s new work made up between 15 and 20 per cent of British theatre programming. In the last decade, that figure had swelled to 42 per cent. Nor was that work confined to small studio theatres in the same way. The majority took place in 200-seat plus venues.

By 2003, new writing in Britain was achieving an average of 63.6% at box office – up from 62% per cent only five years earlier or 57% in 1997. In the late eighties, new plays regularly played to half empty theatre and the Royal Court was responsible for about 10% of new writing across the entire country.

Today, the picture is vastly different, almost unrecognisable. Britain has built an established nationwide network for new writing. There are theatres dedicated entirely to new writing all over the country — the Traverse in Edinburgh, Live Theatre in Newcastle— and many more that ensure that it remains central to programming. London’s new writing scene, from the Royal Court to the Bush to Theatre503 with many in between, is thriving. And even organisations like Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Company have got new writing policies with a view to developing new work.

All of which is an ideal context tor Paines Plough – the national theatre of new writing, remember — to do what it’s done best for 40 years: develop and stage the best new plays across the nation.

Reviews round-up: THE ANGRY BRIGADE


The Angry Brigade smashed into The Bush last week with fire in their bellies and anger in their minds. Here’s what the critics made of the revolution:

“Memorably adventurous…a timeless depiction of young people agitating against a world that appears to exclude them.”
★★★★ The Times (Paywall)

“Thrilling, exciting, unpredictable… James Graham marches triumphantly onwards.”
★★★★ Evening Standard

“An explosive account of ideological war.”
★★★★ The Guardian

“Throbs with exciting theatrical effects… fab soundtrack, vibrating projections and air of anarchy…  like a vinyl rock record, it has the power to blow your mind… a thrilling and highly enjoyable evening.”
★★★★ The Arts Desk

“Thrillingly topical… a marvellous play: as rich in ideas as a pudding in plums, compassionate and serious and dryly funny and fascinating… it’s brilliant.” ★★★★ Libby Purves / Theatre Cat

“Knockout… hits the heart as much as it hits the head.”
★★★★ Londonist

“Exhilarating, politically engaging, funny and exciting.”
★★★★ The Upcoming

“Engaging, tender, witty and – on the eve of an election – troublingly freighted with contemporary resonance.”
The Daily Telegraph

“Exhilarating… James Graham’s riveting, downright raucous and politically fascinating work is bought to life in James Grieve’s fittingly anarchic production that boasts both addictive punk spirit and near flawless direction.”
Official London Theatre

“Heady, intoxicating and very, very angry.
The Huffington Post

“A complete theatrical experience… glorious.”
★★★★ Everything Theatre

“Funny, satirical and clever.”
A Younger Theatre

And someone was really, really angry…

“Anarchist dirge… boring… undigested radical dogma… flashes of hardcore porn… leaden… dull… incomprehensible… even an anarcho-syndicalist, crypto-Trotskyite paranoid conspiracy theorist from a Hackney squat might struggle to make sense of such shenanigans.”
The Daily Mail

We have never been more proud.

For more info and tickets head over this way.

The Angry Brigade Production Shots

With press night for James Graham’s THE ANGRY BRIGADE just around the corner team PP are ready to move west and take over the Bush Theatre. But before we head off, here’s a sneaky peek of some production shots from the show. Lucky you.





To view the full set head to our Flickr page. Photo credit Manuel Harlan.

THE ANGRY BRIGADE runs at the Bush Theatre until 30 June. You can snap up your tickets here.



Open Auditions at the Bush Theatre

Paines Plough Open Auditions
Tuesday 12th May 2015
Bush Theatre, 7 Uxbridge Road, London, W12 8LJ
10am – 6pm

We’re really excited to be holding our next round of open auditions at the Bush Theatre, London, where James Graham’s explosive new play THE ANGRY BRIGADE will be showing from 30 April – 13 June.

We are looking to meet actors previously unknown to Paines Plough and our next meeting will be held on Tuesday 12th of May. We will see 60 actors (30 pairs), and these slots will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

If you would like to be seen, please do the following:

– Find yourself a partner – we are auditioning people in pairs.
– Apply by sending ONE email with BOTH of your names to
– Please put OPEN AUDITIONS @ BUSH THEATRE in the Subject line.
– Do not send CVs, biogs or headshots as you can bring these with you on the day.
– If you are within the first 30 emails, we will email you back by Monday 27th April with an audition time.
– If you weren’t in the first 30 people to apply we will keep you on a waiting list and may offer you an audition if a slot becomes available.
– Once we have confirmed your time, please prepare a 3 minute piece of dialogue in your pair from a play written in the last 15 years.

Please note:

– If you have auditioned at our previous Open Auditions, we will not be able to see you this time round.
– We do not accept applications from agents. If you have an agent, you must still apply yourself using your own email address.
– Places are all allocated in advance. You will not be able to request a different time, and we will be unable to see people on a walk-up basis.
– We will retain a waiting list and will notify you if you are on this waiting list.
– If you are allotted a time but for any reason cannot make the appointment please let us know ASAP by emailing If you fail to turn up to your allotted slot without letting us know in advance, you will not be able to audition at future Paines Plough Open Auditions.
– We will not accept any emails sent to any email address other than
– Due to the large volume of people we are seeing, we will not be able to offer feedback.
– We are not casting for a particular show at the moment – we just want to meet some new actors so that we can have you in mind for future productions.

For more information, please download our FAQs.

Best wishes,

George, James and all at Paines Plough


Things are really heating up Dalston where THE ANGRY BRIGADE company are heading into their final week of rehearsals for James Graham’s explosive, heart-stopping play. Here are some shots of them right in the thick of it.





For the full set of photos visit our flickr page.

THE ANGRY BRIGADE opens at The Bush Theatre April 30 and runs until June 13. Grab your tickets here.

Photo credit: Helen Murray



ANGRY BRIGADE transfers to The Bush


We’re very excited to announce that James Graham’s explosive hit THE ANGRY BRIGADE will transfer to The Bush for a six-week run in Spring 2015.

Our co-production with The Theatre Royal Plymouth opened in Plymouth in September before touring to Oxford Playhouse, Warwick Arts Centre and Watford Palace Theatre. It will preview at The Bush from 30 April 2015 with press night on 5 May. It runs until 13 June.

“Its government has declared a vicious class war.
A one-sided war…
We have started to fight back…
…with bombs.”

Against a backdrop of Tory cuts, high unemployment and the deregulated economy of 1970s Britain, a young urban guerrilla group mobilises: The Angry Brigade.

Their targets: MPs. Embassies. Police. Pageant Queens.

A world of order shattered by anarchy; the rules have changed. An uprising has begun. No one is exempt.

A bold new play by James Graham, writer of sell-out smash hits THIS HOUSE and PRIVACY.

“A world with chilling similarities to our own.”
★★★★ The Guardian

“Enthrals… Graham’s witty play deserves a London run.”
★★★★ The Times

20th September 2014. Paines Plough and Theatre Royal Plymouth present The Angry Brigade by James Graham.

We’re thrilled to be returning to The Bush, the scene of last year’s sell-out hit JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS. It’s one of our favourite places to present work, and we go back a long way – PP first presented work at The Bush in the 1970s. The artistic director back then was Simon Stokes, who is now AD of our co-producers on THE ANGRY BRIGADE, Theatre Royal Plymouth. So, y’know, it just feels right.

Our AD James first worked with James Graham on The Bush Theatre hit THE WHISKY TASTER back in 2010, designed by Lucy Osborne. So the team is excited to be reunited for a Bush return.

Snap your tickets up right here, right now.

The Stage: An Interview with Harry Melling

As THE ANGRY BRIGADE fires into Watford Palace Theatre this week for the last leg of the tour, The Stage caught up with actor Harry Melling.

Read on for the article below.

Harry Melling - Headshot

Harry Melling shot to fame playing Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter film franchise. However, he has since carved out an impressive stage career, which includes taking his self-penned one-man show, Peddling, from HighTide Festival to New York. He is currently appearing in the touring production of James Graham’s The Angry Brigade

Tell me about your role  in The Angry Brigade.

I play lots of different  people, which is something I’ve never done before. It’s something that terrified me because I liked the idea of hanging on to one person and making sure that story is charted throughout. If you’re playing lots of different people, you’re juggling a lot of different balls. Sometimes, I feel that when you watch that style of acting, you see the skill of the actor as opposed to  the character, so in that respect it’s a very interesting challenge to try to make each character as defined as the others.

You’ve also written your own one-man show. Is writing something you’ve always wanted to do?

I just knew that I had to write this story. It wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to be a writer, but I knew I had to try to tell the story of this kid I met when I was very young. But from that experience I’ve got another idea that I want to do, so it’s just a question of finding the time. It’s something that a lot of my actor friends are doing, and it’s a welcome change of pace. Having that power is the crucial thing. It’s completely yours, and you can make the choices you want because you’re the person at the helm. It’s a very different responsibility to acting, which I like.

Coming from an acting family, did it feel inevitable you would do this?

I grew up watching theatre – that was the thing I loved and I knew I wanted to do it. I got into it very young, and because I’d been introduced to it at such an early age, I kind of latched on to it. I’ve been very lucky really in having access to it so young. I’d like to think that had I not been within the same family that I’d still find it, but who knows?

Has doing film work as  a child actor influenced the way you work now?

It influenced me in terms of watching older people be on set. It confirmed it was something I wanted to do, but it must have influenced me in other ways I can’t tell you how or why. But I always felt very comfortable on stage, and when I was at drama school there was a heavy emphasis on stagecraft, which has been really useful for me.

What made you undertake formal training?

I really wanted to bridge that gap between being a child actor and an actor. I’m not saying drama school is always the way to do that, but it made sense for me. I always wanted to be as good as I could be, and I think drama school teaches you how to fall on your arse, which is exactly what I needed.

You can read the full interview on The Stage site here.

If you haven’t had a chance to catch James Graham’s blazing new play, THE ANGRY BRIGADE kicks off at Watford Palace Theatre from tomorrow, Tuesday 21 October until Saturday 25 October 2014.

(£5 tickets for under 25s available here).


Join in the conversation online:

#TheAngryBrigade @painesplough @TRPlymouth 

THE ANGRY BRIGADE production shots

Now that THE ANGRY BRIGADE by James Graham has officially kicked off at Theatre Royal Plymouth, here’s a little sneak peek of what’s in store with some production snaps from last week.

All images by Richard Davenport

View the full set of photos on our Flickr page.

THE ANGRY BRIGADE currently plays at Theatre Royal Plymouth until 4 October 2014, then heads out on tour to:

Oxford Playhouse: 8 – 11 October

Warwick Arts Centre: 14 – 17 October

Watford Palace Theatre: 21 – 25 October


★★★★ The Guardian – “James Graham has a gimlet eye for newsworthy subjects… what emerges is a world with chilling similarities to our own.”

★★★★ The Times – “Enthrals… Graham’s witty play deserves a London run.”


Join the conversation online: #TheAngryBrigade @painesplough @TRPlymouth

THE ANGRY BRIGADE rehearsal shots

Things are heating up in Plymouth as we dive into the final week of rehearsals for James Graham’s turbo-charged new thriller, THE ANGRY BRIGADE, our latest co-production with our old pals at Theatre Royal Plymouth. Check out some snaps from rehearsals below.

Photo credit: Richard Lakos

For the full set, visit our Flickr page.

The play premieres at Theatre Royal Plymouth, playing from 18 September – 4 October 2014, before making its way to Oxford Playhouse from 8 – 11 OctoberWarwick Arts Centre from 14 – 17 October and Watford Palace Theatre from 21 – 25 October.

#TheAngryBrigade @painesplough @TRPlymouth

Introducing the cast of…THE ANGRY BRIGADE

The air at HQ is crackling with excitement this week as we officially begin rehearsals for THE ANGRY BRIGADE, an electrifying new play by James Graham and our much-anticipated co-production with our old pals at Theatre Royal Plymouth. Luckily, we’ve rounded up an equally excellent cast, and here they are:

Patsy Ferran

Patsy trained at RADA.  Her theatre credits include:  Blithe Spirit (Gielgud Theatre), Poetic Bodies (RADA), The Convent of Pleasure (RADA), Twelfth Night (RADA), The Cherry Orchard (RADA), The Eumenides (RADA), Three Sisters (RADA), Stop the Clocks (Tin Box Theatre Company), The Kidnapper’s Guide (Article 19), Last Easter (Article 19).  Film includes:  Tulip Fever (Ruby Films), The National Phobia Association’s Day Out (Northern Bear Films).

Scarlett Alice Johnson

Her theatre credits include: The Saints (Nuffield Theatre), Slaves (Theatre503), Epic (Theatre503/Latitude), Aunt Dan and Lemon (Royal Court Theatre), Romeo and Juliet (Stafford Gatehouse Theatre), Daisy Miller (National Tour), Under Milk Wood (Royal National Theatre), Yehundi Menhuin’s 80th Birthday Concert (Royal Albert Hall/BBC2 Live), La Boheme – Centenary Performance(Royal Albert Hall).  For television:  Pramface Series 1-3 (BBCthree) Big Bad World (Objective/Comedy Central), Babylon Series 1(Nightjack Ltd/Channel 4), Playhouse Presents Nightshift (World Productions/Sky Arts), Midsomer Murders (Bentley Productions/ITV), Beaver Falls Series 2 (Company Pictures/E4), The Damn Thorpes (Warner Bros),  Pete Versus Life (Objective Productions/Channel 4, Eastenders (BBC), Freaks (Zeppotron/Endemol). For Film: Adulthood (Pathe), Panic Button, The Reeds.

Harry Melling

His theatre credits include: peddling (Hightide/New York), King Lear (Chichester/New York), The Hot House (Trafalgar Studios), Smack Family Robinson (Rose Kingston), I Am a Camera (Southwark Playhouse), When Did You Last See My Mother? (Trafalgar Studios); School For Scandal (Barbican), Women Beware Women (National Theatre); Mother Courage and Her Children (National Theatre). For television: Joe Mistry (Hartswood Films), Garrow’s Law II (BBC), Merlin (BBC), Just William (BBC), Friends and Crocodiles (BBC). For film: Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films (Warner Brothers).

Felix Scott

His theatre credits include: Gruesome Playground Injuries (Gate Theatre), The Country Wife (Royal Exchange), The Under Room (Lyric Hammersmith), The Maddening Rain (Old Red Lion/59E59 Theatre), Women Power & Politics (Tricycle), (Bush Theatre), The Man Who Had all the Luck (Donmar Warehouse), In the Heart of America (John Gielgud Theatre), Sentenced (Union Theatre), 16 Minutes (Nabakov), Breaktime (Pleasance Theatre), Lost Yet Found (Hampstead Theatre). For television: Walter (ITV), Wolf Hall (Company Pictures), The Interceptor (BBC), Sirens (Daybreak Pictures), Doc Martin (Buffalo Pictures), Missing (Leopard Drama), Holby City (BBC), The Bill (Talkback), Plus One (Kudos Limited), Lewis II (ITV), Wire in the Blood (Coastal Productions), Victoria cross Heroes (Empire Media Productions), Synchronicity (Shine Limited), Family Affairs, The Bill (Thames Television), Bombshell (Shed Productions), Watch Over Me (BBC). For Film: Blitz (Lionsgate), Inception (Warner Bros), Artifacts (Title Films), Till Something Better Comes Along (Independent Films).

Image designed by Nick Scott

THE ANGRY BRIGADE premieres at Theatre Royal Plymouth on 18 September 2014, before touring to Oxford Playhouse, Warwick Arts Centre and Watford Palace Theatre. For more information, please visit our website or join the conversation online with #TheAngryBrigade @painesplough @TRPlymouth.