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Open Auditions: Stephens and Kelly are your faves

Huge thanks to everyone who came to our Open Auditions yesterday. We had a ball meeting you all. It never ceases to amaze us how much talent and passion there is out there. It was a really inspiring day.

To everyone who came along, please stay in touch. Keep us informed about your work and let us know whenever you’re in something we can come and see – we’ll do our best to make it along. And of course, if we liked what you did yesterday, we’ll keep you in mind for future castings.

We loved seeing extracts of plays ranging from those we know well to some we’d never heard of. One of the joys of Open Auditions days is being reminded of plays we’d not seen or read for years, or compiling reading lists of plays we’d not come across before. So we went scampering off to re-read Pyranees, and hit Amazon for a fix of Morris Panych.

The usual suspects were popular – David Greig, Mike Bartlett, Penelope Skinner, Moira Buffini, Simon Stephens, Mark Ravenhill, Nina Raine – and it was also great to hear some extracts we’d not seen before at Open Auditions from Anthony Weigh and Ella Hickson, amongst many others.

During the day we conducted a completely unscientific and completely subjective straw poll… “Who’s your favourite playwright”? It was hotly contested, partisan and impressively diverse.

But we can reveal… drum roll, speeches at the ready… that your joint favourite playwrights on total votes cast are… Simon Stephens and Dennis Kelly.

Closely on their coat tails were Caryl Churchill, Jez Butterworth, Mike Bartlett, sarah Kane, Philip Ridley, Abi Morgan, Laura Wade, David Eldridge, Moira Buffini, Lee Hall, Martin McDonagh, Alecky Blythe, Mark Ravenhill, David Greig and Lucy Prebble – all carding multiple votes.

And in the interests of sharing, all these great writers got a nod too: Dawn King, Tim Crouch, Anthony Minghella, Ché Walker, Joel Horwood, Alexi Kaye Campbell, Stephen Sondheim, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Nicola McCartney, Ella Hickson, Anya Reiss, Michael Wynne, Nick Payne, Joanna Murray-Smith, April De Angelis, Marina Carr, Duncan Macmillan, Luke Barnes, Jacob Richmond, Martin Lynch, Alice Birch, David Mamet, Shelagh Stephenson, Leo Butler, Peter Moffatt, Steve Thompson, Nick Dear, Robert Holman, Anthony Weigh, Bruce Norris, Steven Bloomer, Mikhail Bulgakov, Hayley Squires, Cat Jones and Neil LaBute.

EdFringe Roundup No. 1

Ah Edinburgh. How we love thee. Purveyor of a smorgasboard of artistic delicacies served up in hot little rooms populated by loads of lovely people we know, and new people to meet. Home to a unique and bafflingly changeable micro-climate. Posessor of a dizzying array of single malt whisky.

Team PP hit the Fringe last week with gusto, opening our show GOOD WITH PEOPLE at The Traverse – Assistant Director Mark has been blogging about rehearsals and his next blog will cover our tech, preview and opening – and pounding the cobbles in search of new plays.

Here’s a super quick round-up of the shows we’ve seen so far. We’ll blog more as we see more, with members of Team PP heading up to the ‘Burgh throughout the festival.

At The Traverse we caught nabokov and Soho Theatre’s BLINK by Phil Porter, The Lyric Hammersmith’s MORNING by Simon Stephens, Ontoroend Goed’s ALL THAT IS WRONG, Blindhorse’s ANGELS by Ronan O’Donnell and THEATRE UNCUT featuring plays by Kieran Hurley, Lena Kitsopoulou and Neil La Bute.

The Pleasance proved its usual treasure trove with Curious Directive’s AFTER THE RAINFALL (directed by our former trainee director Jack), Hightide’s BOTTLENECK by Luke Barnes, Joel Horwood’s I HEART PETERBOROUGH for Eastern Angles, Richard Marsh and Katie Bonna’s DIRTY GREAT LOVE STORY, Joe Bone in BANE, MAYDAY MAYDAY by Kneehigh’s Tristan Sturrock and PP alumni Kefi Chadwick and Leo Butler writing plays for PEEP in it’s own little peep show hut.

Over at The Space @ Surgeon’s Hall Reuben Johnson, who is on attachment with us and Channel Four, has two shows – THE PROPOSAL, which started life as a 10 minute response to LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, and his brand new play WRECKED.

We headed to Underbelly for Dirty Stop Out’s A GUIDE TO SECOND DATE SEX, Old Vic New Voices winner B*TCH BOXER and our friend John Osborne performing JOHN PEEL’S SHED.

At C nova we caught Chris Bush and Ian McClusky’s THE LOVES I HAVEN’T KNOWN, we were at Spotlites @ Merchant Hall for SUPERBARD directed by Ant Stones, and at Assembly Roxy for EVERYTHING ELSE HAPPENED.

And we’ve barely scratched the surface. There’s a whole heap more shows we’re desperate to see, and we want your top tips too. Let us know what we musn’t miss (new plays only please, that’s our schtick) by posting a comment or tweeting us @painesplough.

Now, we’ll have a dram of your finest single malt please barman.

You Cannot Go Forward From Where You Are Right Now impresses in Edinburgh

It’s been a busy week for A Play, A Pie and A Pint. On Monday we introduced Leo Butler’s JUICY FRUITS to the audience at Oran Mor in Glasgow, Tuesday saw YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW‘s first performance at the Traverse in Edinburgh, and on Wednesday, DIG rolled into the Manchester Royal Exchange.

Katie Douglas’s DIG goes from strength to strength, with each city it visits falling for it. It’s been particularly great today to see people tweeting comments to the Royal Exchange, saying how much they loved the show and encouraging others to go and experience the laughter and tears that the play provokes too. Brenda, Tommy and Dean will be at the Belgrade Theatre next week – Coventry, you’re in for a treat.

With the traffic so bad she was worried she wouldn't get to the Traverse in time to get her Scotch pie...

Meanwhile, YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW has also made rather a good impression on its Edinburgh audiences. Here’s what they’re saying:

‘a clever and imaginative piece of short theatre…well worth setting the satnav for the Traverse Theatre and catching it’ Edinburgh Spotlight

‘funny, intelligent and observant’ Edinburgh Guide

‘You might expect the writers of the successful A Play A Pie and A Pint lunchtime offerings to have rather modest ambitions… Not so David Watson…Watson’s handling of the fragmentary structure is sure and confident, and his writing is remarkably idiomatic.’ Edinburgh Reporter

We were also delighted to see another 2 minute youtube review, as blogger Eve Nicol filed her report on YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD. We can’t wait to see what she makes of JUICY FRUITS!

If you’ve seen one of the plays, we’d love to know what you thought. You can leave a comment here, tweet us @painesplough or drop us a line on our facebook page.

And if you haven’t seen any of them yet – what are you waiting for?!

Leo Butler’s brand new play

As we’ve previously revealed, we believe the playwright should be the lead creative artist in the process of making new plays.

So we commission slightly differently to other companies in that we commission playwrights not plays. We identify the writers we love the most, and we commit to putting their play on before they’ve written a word.

This is an extremely exciting and rewarding way of collaborating – always moving towards a concrete production with a date in the diary for the first day of rehearsals, previews and for press night.

But it also poses some challenges, not least because marketing schedules mean brochures with images and copy for plays often have to go to print before the play’s been written. And as we all know, plays develop and morph and sometimes completely transform draft by draft.

Which is what Leo Butler found when he was writing his play for our A Play, A Pie And A Pint season. Initially called ETERNAL SOURCE OF LIGHT, Leo found as he was writing the play that a new and very different play was emerging.

Here’s what Leo has to say about the change of direction and his thrilling new work:

“Working on a new play for Paines Plough has been a highlight of my career so far. For a leading new writing company to commit to producing a play that hasn’t been written yet, demonstrates a level of trust in the playwright that is practically unheard of elsewhere in this country.

There are, of course, challenges to this kind of collaboration, one of which is that the playwright’s first concept of the play develops through the writing process, and that initial idea turns into something very different by the end.  This happens to me always every time I sit down and write a new play, and it has been liberating to have the support of George Perrin and the Paines Plough company, who have encouraged my new discoveries and changes in direction along the way.

Most importantly, I am thrilled to we are offering Juicy Fruits to the A Play, A Pie & A Pint audiences, as it is one that I am particularly proud of.”

And so we’re excited to announce that the brilliant, darkly comic play that Leo has arrived at is actually called JUICY FRUITS and is a very different beast from the one Leo initially imagined. Here’s the lowdown:

JUICY FRUITS
by Leo Butler


Lorna and Nina haven’t seen each other since a drunken wedding reception six years ago.

Whilst Lorna’s been journeying through the urban jungle and reached destination housewife, Nina’s been running wild in the jungles of Borneo.

Reunited over lattes and pastries, their friendship is tested to the limit and the question is asked: does civil exist in civilisation?

JUICY FRUITS is in rehearsals now in Glasgow, directed by George, and starring Denise Hoey, Clare Waugh and Ben Winger. It opens at Òran Mór on Monday 17 October and will subsequently tour to Edinburgh, Manchester and Coventry.

You’re going to love it.

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.

Glasgow here we come!

Ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland afore ye...

I’m bidding farewell to Paines Plough HQ on the Aldwych tonight, and will spend tomorrow packing frenziedly, because this weekend George and I are heading to Glasgow to start rehearsals for DIG by Katie Douglas, the first of our A Play, A Pie and A Pint season. James will be joining us in a week’s time when his rehearsals for YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW by David Watson start, and then the week after that George will start all over again with Leo Butler’s ETERNAL SOURCE OF LIGHT – by which time audiences will be tucking into their pies and sipping their pints as they watch DIG at Òran Mór.

It’s a really exciting time – everything is coming together nicely and everyone’s waiting to see what happens in those rehearsal rooms. DIG is set to be a properly Scottish affair; Katie, the writer, is from Kilwinning, our company is made up of three brilliant Scots actors, and the play is set in Glasgow itself. Me and George will obviously have to try to make ourselves more Scottish in order to fit in – for me quite easy as I was born in Dundee, George’ll just have to drink loads of Irn Bru.

Keep checking the blog and Twitter (@painesplough) for updates on our progress, casting news and titbits from rehearsals. And if anyone has any suggestions for cultural activities, places to visit or indeed (especially) great pubs to frequent while we’re up in Glasgow, you know what to do.

‘I really hope those are air bubbles’

Here's one of the photos we didn't use...don't ask.

The more eagle-eyed among you may have noticed that the A Play, A Pie and A Pint pages of the website have been spruced up today, with a lovely new photo each for DIG by Katie Douglas, YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW by David Watson and ETERNAL SOURCE OF LIGHT by Leo Butler.

One of the things I knew I’d be doing as part of my producing placement here at Paines Plough was working on the marketing material for A Play, A Pie and A Pint. What I didn’t think I’d be doing is asking a dear friend to wade in a stinky canal and let me photograph him doing it. Yet that is what I spent last Tuesday doing.

We needed to find a brilliant image to sum up the feel and tone of DIG to give prospective audiences an impression of what they might expect. George Perrin, who is directing the play, liked the idea of a man buried up to his waist, struggling to get out of a hole.

SO! We needed a hole, a man, a suit and a photographer. We soon decided that the hole could become a body of water (less digging involved – not one of my strong points). Yet even plopping someone in a pond and taking a picture is easier said than done, when you need permissions and licenses to take photographs in public or royal parks.

I will admit, there were times when I thought it was never going to happen. I kept saying to George ‘IF all this comes together’, and ‘IF it works out’ until he gave me a not-so-subtle kick up the bum by saying ‘Rachel, you do realise that’s what producing IS, don’t you?’. Dammit. He had me there.

So I hit the charity shop down my road and bought a shirt, jacket and tie. I called a photographer, the wonderful Graham Michael, who agreed to come and try and recreate the shot. I made my boyfriend put me on the insurance of his Fiesta so I could tear around London looking for water features. And last but not least, I called a childhood friend who just so happens to be a brilliant actor, the lovely Andrew Hawley.

I already knew Andrew was game for most things. And it was HIS idea to get in the canal that runs near his house. But when he stepped into that sludgy water and uttered the words ‘I really hope those are air bubbles and not eels running up my legs’, he secured his place as one of my favourite people ever.

Step Changing from NT to Play, Pie, Pint

please note: pint pictured is not actual size

As this is the end of my third week working with Paines Plough I thought it was about time I wrote a blog. I’m Rachel, and I’m here due to a frankly brilliant scheme called Step Change.

The idea behind the programme is to try and counteract the fact that the theatre industry can be haphazard in terms of spotting and nurturing people who have management and producing potential. My experience, working at the National Theatre as the Technical and Production Administrator, has been great in terms of teaching me about the theatrical process on a large scale; but when it comes to the next step in my career, I’m going to need specific experience that my role at the NT as a little cog in a big old machine doesn’t afford me.

Participants on Step Change get a week of masterclasses from industry experts and several follow-up sessions; a mentor to give advice/drink with/be talked down by (mine, Ros, is General Manager at the Old Vic); and a secondment of around 40 days in another organisation. And this is where my path meets Paines Plough’s.

Paines Plough had put together two secondment proposals, and when I first met with Tara and Claire I told them I was interested in working as Assistant Producer on what turned out to be the upcoming Roundabout project. I’m a Sheffield girl, and the concept – a portable theatre space, initially within the Crucible, a company in rep, three brand new plays – sounded very exciting whilst still allowing me to cling on to my comfort zone (read: opportunity to jump on the 82 to my Mum’s for a cuppa if it all got too much). I still think the Roundabout project is going to be brilliant and I’m really enjoying being in the office watching it all coming together.

But when Tara called and said they thought I’d be better served by being given even MORE responsibility, and would I be up for being the Trainee Producer on this year’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint, I was thrilled. Then terrified. Then thrilled again.

So I’m spending two days a week south of the river with the NT, and three on the north bank with Paines Plough, until mid-September when we hit Òran Mór in Glasgow with our three brilliant plays. We will then be touring to the Traverse in Edinburgh, the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and the Belgrade in Coventry. So far I have been meeting with the writers, putting together our teams (Stage Management, Lighting and Sound design), drafting ideas for marketing material and next week I’m travelling up to Edinburgh to continue casting one of the plays – at the National, there are whole departments to do each of those things.

I can see that our three plays are going to present me with completely different challenges, and I’m sure that that will mean a lot of thinking on my feet – particularly when I take the lead once we’re in Scotland. But that’s what I’m after – a buzz, a challenge and above all, the opportunity to get properly hands-on and help create some excellent theatre. I’ll keep you updated.

In the mean time, if you’d like to know more about Step Change, let me know by posting a comment here, or check out www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/stepchange.

Summer Signings

Casting begins today for three productions of ‘Programme 2011’. I am directing brand new plays by Katie Douglas and Leo Butler with fellow Artistic Director James taking the helm of David Watson’s new work. We have co-commisioned all three playwrights with Oran Mor in Glasgow, where the plays premiere this autumn.

Our commissioning policy means that we are often committing to producing commissions long before they even have titles, let alone scenes. We find it the most thrilling way to work with writers. James talks about the resulting ‘New Plays with No Names’ here.

With Katie’s play first up in the season, we’re beginning to meet actors this week in London and next week in Edinburgh. With Open Auditions in both cities this week and next, we’re incredibly excited about the prospect of meeting many actors new to the company, who we hope to be able to consider for the three plays we’re currently casting.

Personally, I think casting is one of the best parts of the directing job. Having been brought up immersed in Sunday league football, Match of the Day and Championship Manager, there’s something in the casting process that reminds me of picking a dream team of players – the more individually skilled, well suited to their role and equipped they are to team play, the stronger the team itself becomes.

Here at Paines Plough we’re fortunate enough to have worked with some incredible actors over the years. Thanks to our new Open Audition initiative, the number of actors whose work we have seen is rocketing up each year, which only makes it easier for us to find the right actor for each part and to give each play we produce the production it deserves.

A Play, A Pie and A Pint – On Tour

A Play, A Pie and A Pint

A Play, A Pie and A Pint

Later this year we’re presenting three World Première productions with our good friends at Oran Mor in Glasgow. Brand new work by Katie Douglas, David Watson and Leo Butler will open in Glasgow as part of the lunchtime series A Play, A Pie and A Pint, before heading out on tour. Oran Mor is in the heart of Glasgow’s West End – a vibrant and eclectic corner of this gorgeous city, home to students, families and some of our favorite cinemas, delis and bars in the UK.

Oran Mor

Oran Mor

First stop after Glasgow will be Edinburgh’s new writing power-house, The Traverse. A Scottish home to much of Paines Plough’s work of the past few years (including 2010’s PPP series as well as Orphans, After The End, Long Time Dead and The Straits), the Traverse is also one of the top venues for the Festival Fringe each summer.

Traverse Theatre

Traverse Theatre

From Edinburgh we head south to Manchester for our fourth visit in twelve months to this beacon of the north. After a fling with the Manchester International Festival this July we’ll be back at our home from home in M2, the formidable Royal Exchange Theatre, in October.

Royal Exchange Theatre

Royal Exchange Theatre

Last stop on this tour is Coventry, where 79% of our audience for last year’s PPP series were first time visitors to the theatre. We were in Coventry for Come To Where I’m From in July last year where our four writers painted a vivid picture of a fascinating city. You can still listen to the writers reading the plays themselves here.

Belgrade Theatre

Belgrade Theatre

We’ll be posting updates on Katie, David and Leo’s plays on this blog as well as on our website over the coming months. In the meantime, let us know if you’ll be coming to share a pie and a pint with us in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester or Coventry this autumn.

And, if you’re already a regular at Oran Mor’s PPP, vote them pub of the year by following the instructions below. We’re sure they’ll reward you royally.

To vote Oran Mor the Sunday Mail pub of the year:

Call 0901 229 2817 and enter the code 10. Calls cost 26p plus network extras. Calls from mobiles may be significantly higher.

Or text SMVOTE01 followed by a space and the code 10 to 84080.Texts cost 25p plus your standard rate.

Lines will close at noon on Thursday, June 2, 2011.