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New York, New York

GOOD WITH PEOPLE closed in New York last week after a sell-out run as part of 59 East 59 Theaters’ annual Brits Off Broadway festival which brings together an eclectic mix of (mainly new) work and is one of the only platforms in the city for smaller-scale British productions (alongside the Public Theater’s Under The Radar festival and Carol Tambor’s annual Edinburgh to NYC transfer award).

GOOD WITH PEOPLE is the third show we have presented at Brits Off Broadway since the festival’s inception nearly ten years ago, following Gregory Burke’s THE STRAITS in 2004 and Dennis Kelly’s AFTER THE END in 2006.

Highlights of this year’s festival programme include Rob Drummond’s BULLET CATCH and BULL by PP Associate Playwright Mike Bartlett, which is directed by ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG director Clare Lizzimore and produced by our friends at Sheffield Theatres.

In fact, PP has its prints firmly smudged all over New York at the moment.

Ex-Associate Director John Tiffany has two shows running on Broadway, a one-man MACBETH starring Alan Cumming and the critically acclaimed ONCE, which is authored by one-time PP Associate Playwright Enda Walsh and will soon star our brilliant 2012 Research Intern Jo Christie (who James and George first worked with on the 2005 Old Vic New Voices 24 Hour Plays). Meanwhile Dennis Kelly’s version of Matilda has just opened to triumphant reviews.

Needless to say, it’s a fantastic city to present theatre in, and in which to spend a few days. So while most of team PP were opening JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS in Watford, it was left to Joint Artistic George along with creative team Ben Stones and Tim Deiling to forage the city on our behalf in search of the finest sights, theatre and burgers the Big Apple has to offer.

Their favourite show by far was Amy Herzog’s BELLEVILLE at New York Theatre Workshop. We first met Amy at the Orchard Project in Hunter, up-state New York. We were out there with Laurence Wilson and Joel Horwood, developing work. Amy was there working on several plays, including 4,000 Miles which – after a sell-out run on Broadway – has just opened in the UK at the Ustinov in Bath. Directed by Artistic Director designate of Northampton Royal and Derngate Theatres James Dacre, the British production transfers to West London’s Print Room next month. Without doubt Amy is a major new voice in American playwriting and, along with writers like Annie Baker and Katori Hall, now finally has a well-deserved UK premiere. Trust us when we say you don’t want to miss it.

Sadly we didn’t manage to see Annie’s play THE FLICK which, alongside BELLEVILLE, was the talk of the town.

Meanwhile, ‘Best Burger’ goes to (drumroll) the Burger Joint at Le Parker Meridian hotel. Thanks to Stacey Sampson (@OurStace) for the recommendation. It’s a low-fi, in-and-out little hideaway, nestled secretly (but for an illuminated neon picture of a burger) behind a plush red curtain in the marble opulence of the hotel foyer. Simple ingredients executed to perfection for a great price in an great atmosphere, served with plastic beakers of Sam Adams. Surely that’s what a New York burger is all about.

We also tried: the 5 Napkin burger thanks to Louise Miles-Crust (@loumilcru), whose twist on the classic cheese-burger was to include a smothering of aioli; the classic burger at PJ Clarkes, which was a pale version of what it once was; Corner Bistro’s cheese burger which hit the spot in a hurry; Shake Shack’s special which ran in a close second; and finally the burger at the Standard Hotel Bar and Grill, which designer Ben gave a big five stars to but which we ultimately marked down on price.

The Highline was the tourist attraction of choice amongst the team. A rail-road that has been converted in to a city park that runs about 20 blocks on the lower west side it offers an unparalleled perspective on the city and a great place to catch respite from the bustle four stories below.

And bar-of-the-week, for entertainment value alone, has to be Marie’s Crisis in the West Village, where the entire bar gather around a piano to sing show-tunes together late in to the night.

I want to wake up in a city,

That doesn’t sleep,

To find I’m king of the hill,

Head of the list,

Cream of the crop

At the top of the heap.

New York, New York.

[GOOD WITH PEOPLE featured as part of Brits Off Broadway with the kind and generous support of Creative Scotland and Made In Scotland.]

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?

PP’s top tips for Latitude

We’re incredibly fortunate to have been taking work to the Latitude Festival Theatre Arena since its inception in 2006, first with our previous company nabokov (who are also back again this year) and most recently with Paines Plough. After Laurence Wilson’s incendiary TINY VOLCANOES fired up the 2010 festival, we’re back again this year with the debut play by explosive performance poet Kate Tempest. WASTED closes the bill on the Friday and Sunday nights of the festival this weekend.

So in the hope that readers of this blog snapped up tickets in time, we thought we’d offer our very own guide to a great Latitude, from what we can jointly remember of the last five years attending this exceptional festival.

Take risks on the new

Latitude programmers Melvin Benn and Tania Harrison are bold in their programming and have been incredibly astute over the past few years in the way they’ve brought relatively unknown acts to the heart of the festival, only for them to go on and become major stars. This year’s music line-up for example, is perhaps one of the bravest yet. A close listen reveals some incredibly exciting new talent taking prominent spots on big stages. Last week we posted our own top 13 bands not to miss along with samples of their work. You can still listen to it here.

Buy a festival programme

At £10 they’re not cheap, but the official festival programmes are beautifully put together and about the size of a small bible, crammed full of information about all of the acts at the festival. Most importantly, there’s a pull-out timetable at the back. Most venues fill up pretty quickly, so if there’s someone or something you simply refuse to miss out on, then get there a few shows early to be sure of a good seat.

Keep hold of your cup

In a concerted effort to be environmentally friendly, the festival uses renewable plastic pint pots. You put an initial £2 deposit down on them which allows you to keep them at the end if you wish. Every five or so cups features a unique Latitude branding for the enthusiasts out there. Just be careful not to lose your cup – entrepreneurial young things can be spotted scouring the site late on Sunday night for discarded cups, only to make a pretty penny when they return them all.

Hit the poetry tent

Latitude has one of the best collections of performance poets of any live event in the UK, spitting lyrics non-stop, for four solid days. If the words ‘poetry’ and ‘performance’ in quick succession make you think of cravats, foppishness and whimsy then you ain’t seen nothing. With the big laughs of comedy, the lyrical dexterity of verse and the drama of theatre, this lot are like three art-forms in one. Don’t take our word for it – see Kate Tempest, Luke Wright, Joel Stickley, John Osborne or Brigitte Aphrodite live for yourself and we defy you not to become a convert.

Keep your ear to the ground for previously unannounced special appearances

Tania and Melvin have a canny knack of throwing in last minute and wholly exclusive special appearances and events. Our favourites of the past few years have been an alarm-call Sunday lunchtime solo acoustic performance by Thom Yorke and a midnight masked ball in the forest.

Have a playlist ready for your very own car-park disco

With the main festival site closing down around 1am, its certainly worth having a good sequence of tracks on your iPod and finding someone with a decent car stereo. Open the doors, plug, play and dance til the sun comes up over your Volvo.

If there’s anything crucial we’ve missed let us know below. Otherwise, see you tomorrow in a field in Suffolk.

15 days until Latitude

Latitude countdown

Latitude countdown

We’re excited to announce that our performance times for this year’s Latitude Festival are in. The proverbial curtain will rise on our production of Kate Tempest’s first ever play at 11.20pm on Friday 15th July and at 8.50pm on Sunday 17th July in the Theatre Arena.

We helped programme the theatre tent at the first ever Latitude, in our former roles as Artistic Directors of nabokov. Back then (2006), the theatre tent was a marquee with capacity for about 100 people, with a huge tent pole down stage centre.

The theatre programme and the arena itself have both come a huge distance since then, and there’s little doubt that Latitude is one of our favourite gigs of the year. Paines Plough has been every year since 2007, premiering work by Enda Walsh, Dennis Kelly, Robin French, Che Walker, Mark Ravenhill, Penelope Skinner, Adam Taylor, Lucina Cardy, Laura Lomas, Danielle Sibley, Tom Wells and Laurence Wilson along the way.

The Obelisk Arena at the Latitude Festival

The Obelisk Arena at the Latitude Festival

All spring we’ve had a Latitude music sampler on loop in the office, courtesy of Spotify, and have put together our own top thirteen Latitude tracks:

1. Bloodbuzz Ohio by The National

2. Desire Lines by Deerhunter

3. Beautiful Ones by Suede

4. I Really Need Love by The Bees

5. Big Wave by Jenny and Johnny

6. First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes

7. 40 Day Dream by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros

8. You by Gold Panda

9. One Big Holiday by My Morning Jacket

10. Tenderoni by Kele

11. Punching in a Dream by The Naked and Famous

12. New York by Poloma Faith

13. Slow by Rumer

You can listen to it here and tell us what you think below.

Also, let us know what we can’t afford to miss on the music, theatre, poetry, comedy, cabaret and literature bills.

Next week we’ll post a blog on our top tips for a top festival experience at what truly is much more than just a music festival.

Developing work in the mountains

We’re chuffed to bits that we’re been invited back to the Orchard Project this month.

Undoubtedly one of the best artistic residencies on the planet, The Orchard Project takes place each year in upstate New York, hosted by Ari Edelson and Dean Strober of The Exchange.

For four weeks each June, Ari and Dean bring together a collection of creative artists from across the world in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, to develop work. On hand are a permanent company of young actors, airy rehearsal rooms, inspiring writing spaces, technical equipment, wholesome food, bottomless coffee, the mountains, the creek and an open-door policy that allows you to watch others in rehearsal. It would sound like a jolly, if it wasn’t hand-on-heart one of the most creatively stimulating weeks of our year.

In June last year we made our first visit to this extraordinary retreat with playwrights Joel Horwood and Laurence Wilson. Amongst the other artists we shared our time with were brilliant young New York playwright Amy Herzog and the quite remarkable Free Theatre of Belarus.

This year we’ve taken three of our commissioned playwrights, all of whose plays we are producing this year: Katie Douglas, Kate Tempest and Che Walker. It’s a chance for the writers to hone their plays with directors, George and James. The opportunity to prepare for a project in such creatively nourishing conditions is a very rare luxury. We are only able to take advantage of this opportunity thanks to the kind invitation of Ari, Dean and their team and the generosity and passion of Jon and NoraLee Sedmak, who are supporting Paines Plough through our playwright development service, The Big Room.

We’ll let you know how we get on and you can judge the results for yourself when the plays open later this year, all as part of Paines Plough’s Programme 2011.

Last chance to see 5-star Tiny Volcanoes

Nick Clegg makes a cameo in Tiny Volcanoes

After two years and three tours visiting nearly 30 different towns and cities across the UK, there are just two more outings for Laurence Wilson’s hilarious Tiny Volcanoes.

Tonight the show is at Dartington Arts, near Totnes, and tomorrow it takes its final bow at The Arc Theatre, Trowbridge.

There have been more great reviews for Tiny Volcanoes this week:

“Great writing, great acting…a very funny play”
★★★★★  Devon Life

“Very slick and accomplished…a relentless stream of sketches, songs, jokes and soliloquies, painting a vivid picture of our troubled land. Documentary theatre at its best.”
★★★★ Watford Observer

If you’re anywhere near either Trowbridge or Totnes, hot-foot it along, and jump aboard a theatrical rollercoaster ride through Broken Britain.

An Interview with Laurence Wilson

Laurence Wilson’s TINY VOLCANOES opened to tremendous applause last night at the Liverpool Everyman in preparation for its nationwide tour. We caught up with playwright Laurence Wilson this week to hear all about his wildly provocative new play.

Laurence Wilson

Tell me a bit about Tiny Volcanoes?

Tiny Volcanoes is like nothing I’ve done before.  It’s a political satire sketch show performed by two fantastic actors. We’ve had a bit of trouble with them on the last tour, breaking out of character and bringing their own personal lives onto the stage, which is totally unprofessional but they were forced into the job by the new back to work scheme at the jobcentre. The director’s had a good long chat with them and they’ve promised not to do their dirty washing on stage anymore.

What inspired you to write the play?

The play came from the Nabokov Present:Tense event. Taking a piece of news about the BNP in our case and turning it into a piece of theatre in a short time. James who was artistic director of Nabakov and the director of the piece, became co-artistic director of Paines Plough and asked me to turn it into a full length play. We broadened it out into a full length production and made it about satire of Broken Britain. I really wanted to tackle the many issues Britain faces in these difficult times but do it with as much humour as possible.

What do you feel this production says about modern Britain?

We’re saying that modern Britain is a bit lost. Its identity is under attack or under suspicion, and the politicians haven’t got the answers. We have lost sight of so many important things in the glare of consumerism and the fear of depression. But underneath all that we are a vibrant, essential and bonkers people who need a bit of a kick up the backside.

Do you have any links to any of the venues and will you be visiting any to see the show?

I was born in Hemel Hempstead and moved away when I was two. It’s not too far away from the Watford Palace. The Liverpool Everyman is my spiritual home and has also been the home to several of my plays.

I’m coming to Watford, Liverpool, Harrogate and I’m not sure if I can do any others. We playwrights are ridiculously poor of pocket!

What’s next for you work wise?

My play for young people, Blackberry Trout Face, which won the Brian Way Award last year is touring in the Autumn, culminating in a week at The Unicorn. I’m working on a film script for it and a new play. I’m also about to go on a course hosted by Tutti Frutti to learn how to write a production for tiny people.

Watch our TINY VOLCANOES trailer here.

Read a review in the Liverpool Daily Post.

Click here for tour dates.

Tiny Volcanoes Trailer

We’ve had a brilliant week re-rehearsing TINY VOLCANOES in Liverpool with actors Kevin Harvey and Michael Ryan, and playwright Laurence Wilson who has been bringing the script bang up to date.

Here’s a trailer we filmed yesterday to whet your appetite for the show…

TINY VOLCANOES opens at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday before embarking on a nationwide tour.

Here’s Kevin being filmed for a scene in the show in which he plays Jeremy Vine presenting Panoramarama from the mean streets of Liverpool City Centre. Sound designer Xenia is on the left and that’s AV designer Tim with the camera.

Xenia, Kevin and Tim in Liverpool

Full details of the show and tour here.

TINY VOLCANOES : Day 1 of rehearsals

Welcome to Liverpool

While George, Tara and Jack make their way back from this year’s National Student Drama Festival in Scarborough (blog to follow), James and Hanna are up in Liverpool with the cast and crew of Laurence Wilson’s TINY VOLCANOES for the first day of rehearsals of our 2011 Spring tour.

After a meet and greet with the lovely people at the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse this morning, the brilliant cast, Kevin Harvey and Michael Ryan, who have re-joined the company after our 2010 Autumn tour, got straight back into the swing of things with a hilarious read through of the play.

Kevin Harvey, Michael Ryan and Laurence Wilson read through the script

Rehearsals are off to a cracking start and we can’t wait to see them back on stage.

Writer, Laurence Wilson, talks about the play in today’s Liverpool Echo.

The tour opens at Liverpool Everyman on Wednesday 20th. (Next week!) Get your tickets now.

20 – 21 April Liverpool Everyman
26 April Artrix, Bromsgrove
27 April Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
28 – 29 April Harrogate Theatre
30 April The Maltings Theatre, Berwick-upon-Tweed
2 May Quarterhouse, Folkestone
3 May Ustinov, Theatre Royal Bath
4 May Colchester Arts Centre
6 May Watford Palace Theatre
7 May Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis
9 May Key Theatre, Peterborough
10 – 11 May Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter
12 May Dartington Arts
13 May Arc Theatre, Wiltshire

James & George unveil Programme 2011

11 PRODUCTIONS IN 33 PLACES (and counting…)

We’re thrilled to announce our Programme 2011 which sees 11 productions touring to 33 towns and cities across the UK and counting… with more tour dates soon to be announced.

Building on our inaugural year as Joint Artistic Directors – which saw us produce 9 productions in 33 places – our Programme 2011 sees even more shows touring to even more places as we aim to be a truly national theatre of new plays. Our 11 productions this year can be seen everywhere from Liverpool to Lyme Regis, Scarborough to Southampton, Bath to Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

These are tough times for theatre economically, but flourishing times for theatre artistically. Our programme celebrates the very best of British playwrighting in exceptional productions that traverse scales from 700 seat proscenium arch playhouses to arts centres, pubs, and outdoor festivals. The creation of our own portable in-the-round ROUNDABOUT auditorium offers us even greater scope to tour in the future as we strive to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to the very best new plays from the pens of our nation’s world class playwrights.

Programme 2011 kicks off with extended tours for two of last year’s productions. Mike Bartlett’s acclaimed LOVE, LOVE, LOVE visits 13 theatres between now and June on the biggest tour in Paines Plough’s history with 28,000 available seats from Glasgow to Ipswich to Salisbury. TINY VOLCANOES by Laurence Wilson is back on the road in April and May, touring to 15 different theatres nationwide from Folkestone in Kent to Kendal in the Lake District.

We’re very excited about our unique collaboration with Sheffield Theatres in the Autumn – The ROUNDABOUT SEASON. We’re building a portable 150-seat in-the-round auditorium which will host the world premières of three plays – by Nick Payne, Duncan Macmillan and Penelope Skinner – performed by an ensemble of four actors. All three plays will open at the Crucible Studio, Sheffield, before touring nationwide within the Roundabout auditorium, in rep, in Spring 2012.

Nick Payne’s beautiful portrait of a love that spans a century, ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, opens the season, followed by Duncan Macmillan’s extraordinary LUNGS, in which love and morality do ferocious battle. Penelope Skinner will write a new play specifically for the acting ensemble, which promises lashings of her incisive wit and theatrical ingenuity.

The ROUNDABOUT auditorium will enable us to tour new plays to any size space. The auditorium can sit in flexible studio spaces or arts centres, or on the stages of mid to large scale theatres behind the iron, so watch out for us on the road to all sorts of places next year.

In the summer we’ve got two very special productions for you. At the Latitude Festival we’re presenting the debut play from the extraordinary performance poet and rapper Kate Tempest, prior to a national tour of theatres and student unions in 2012 in collaboration with The Birmingham Repertory Theatre and NSDF. At the Manchester International Festival, we’re teaming up with former Housemartins and Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton and playwright Ché Walker to present a unique live show featuring a star cast of musicians – THE 8TH.

Following last year’s amazing tour, we’re thrilled to be producing three more world premieres under the A PLAY, A PIE AND A PINT banner this Autumn. All three will premiere at Òran Mór in Glasgow before touring nationwide, with shows playing lunchtimes and early evenings.

Katie Douglas and David Watson – two of the most distinctive voices in British theatre – will be joined by a third very special playwright soon to be announced. And of course every audience member gets a free pie and pint with every show.

We’ll be announcing new dates for COME TO WHERE I’M FROM throughout 2011, and don’t forget you can still listen to free podcasts of last year’s COME TO WHERE TO WHERE I’M FROM plays via our website.

We’ll continue to host open auditons across the country; we’ll be taking up residence in theatres nationwide; we continue to run our Associate Company scheme and we’re officially launching our bespoke playwright development resource centre The Big Room, supported by Channel Four and The Fenton Arts Trust.

We hope you like the look of our Programme 2011 and will have a chance to experience some of our work this year. Wherever you are in the UK, Paines Plough is coming to a town near you soon.

Let us know what you think by posting a comment.

James & George