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Broken Biscuits: Reviews Round-up


After playing for three weeks at co-producers Live Theatre in Newcastle, Tom WellsBROKEN BISCUITS hits the road. We thought we’d do a quick round up of all the brilliant feedback our young rockers have received so far.

“A sweet meditation on the fierce, fragile alliances formed on the cusp of adulthood… incredibly endearing.” ★★★★ The Guardian

“Wonderful, funny and original ★★★★ The i Newspaper

“Funny, confessional and well-crafted… Matthew Robins’ music and Wells’ lyrics feel like Victoria Wood for a new generation.” The Stage

“Quirky, warm and hugely entertaining.” ★★★★ The Chronicle

“It’s funny. It’s engaging, even heart-warming.” British Theatre Guide

“Great atmosphere.” ★★★★ The Reviews Hub

“A funny script and rocking soundtrack… filled with warmth.” Narc Magazine

“A brilliant script… may well be the most uplifting thing you’ll see all year.” ★★★★★ Once Upon a Tyne

“Charming and recognisable… provided laughs along the way in its feel good message about growing up.” North East Theatre Guide

“A new play by Tom Wells is always a welcome event.” The Northern Echo

We’re touring until December visiting all of the following places. Are we coming to you?

25-29 October
The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth
01752 267222

01-05 November
Hull Truck Theatre
01482 323638

08-12 November
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
01723 370541

15-19 November
Crucible Studio, Sheffield Theatres
0114 249 6000

25-26 November
Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol
0117 902 0344

29 November – 03 December
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
0121 236 4455


Broken Biscuits: Previews


Broken Biscuits (cred. Richard Kenworthy)

As a creative team, we spend countless hours in the lead up to a show attempting to create and hone an audience’s experience of the play. We coordinate and plan how all aspects of the production will come together. Rehearsals are held in preparation for an audience but without them present we can never have a full understanding of the production’s workings.

If you think of it as preparing for a dinner party: you can plan meticulously what you will cook; what you will wear; what music you will play, but the evening is an unknowable thing until your guests have arrived.


Broken Biscuits (cred. Richard Kenworthy)

This is where previews play a part.

Previews allow the team to see the production with all elements in place, the final element being, you, an audience. While the changes between first preview and opening may be barely perceptible to a first time viewer, there are also occasions where much bigger changes are made in this period. It is in these intial runs that the final pieces click into place.


Broken Biscuits (cred. Richard Kenworthy)

Every audience brings something slightly different to the show. They’ll discover a moment of absolute belly laughter at a point the previous night’s audience gave out a small titter. Every audience will relate to the play slightly differently and previews help actors to become acclimatised to this changing reception.


Broken Biscuits (cred. Richard Kenworthy)

We were incredibly happy in the Broken Biscuits previews to play to some really varying audiences. The actors got the chance in previews to feel how an audience response to the play can vary. The creative team had chance to tweak and perfect the lighting and sound. Previews are a perfect reminder to us all of how important an audience is in shaping a production. Now they are finished, the show is up and running and we can’t wait for you to see it!


Broken Biscuits (cred. Richard Kenworthy)

Anna Ryder, Assistant Director.

Broken Biscuits Tech Week


Broken Biscuits at Live Theatre Newcastle (cred. Richard Kenworthy)

Hello! Team Biscuits here, all the way from sunny Newcastle (you may think I jest, but the sun has done nothing but beam up here).

For weeks now an eavesdropper of rehearsals would have become familiar with patient phrases such as:

‘In this bit of the show there will be an effect where…’

‘This is when, during the show, you’ll hear…’

‘Once we have the lights…’

No more!


Broken Biscuits at Live Theatre Newcastle (cred. Richard Kenworthy)

Tech week is here and the imaginings of the creative team are leaping into reality. It truly is glorious.

For all very practical and sensible reasons, rehearsal rooms never begin with all the elements in place. We have to wait for the wonders of tech week before we can stop talking in possibilities and start working with all the practical components of the show. Lights, sound, props, this is your time.


Broken Biscuits at Live Theatre Newcastle (cred.Richard Kenworthy)

Tech week is a hectic, fast paced and brilliant period in the world of a production. It’s the sort of week that if someone reminds you of a conversation that you had that very morning, your brain spends a good five minutes computing how it can possibly have taken place on the same day as now. You’ve been to the world of fairy-lights and back since then.


A world of fairy lights (cred. Richard Kenworthy)

It’s a week of high-speed naps, delirious green room conversation and a huge amount of hard work. It’s safe to say caffeine consumption is at an all time high, but the results are well worth it!

We are so excited to share Broken Biscuits with you all, in the immortal words of Megan ‘You will be wanting to spend the next two months in this shed, I promise.’

Anna Ryder, Assistant Director.

Broken Biscuits: The Trailer

It’s one week until BROKEN BISCUITS by Tom Wells opens with our co-producers Live Theatre in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and we’re very excited to give you a glimpse of Megan’s shed where our musical heroes are tuning up.

We hope to see you at one of our tour dates:

05-22 October
Live Theatre, Newcastle
0191 232 1232

25-29 October
The Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth
01752 267222

01-05 November
Hull Truck Theatre
01482 323638

08-12 November
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough
01723 370541

15-19 November
Crucible Studio, Sheffield Theatres
0114 249 6000

25-26 November
Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol
0117 902 0344

29 November – 03 December
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
0121 236 4455

The brilliant trailer was created by Rory Gibson. You can check out his work here.


Programme 2016

Here we go… the grand unveiling of our Programme 2016 in all its glory. A host of new plays from red hot writers hitting the road to the four corners of our green and pleasant land.

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Here’s a snapshot:

ROUNDABOUT features a new rep of three brand new plays by Katie Douglas, Alan Harris and Luke Norris at Summerhall in Edinburgh and on tour to Kent, Cornwall, Cumbria, Lincolnshire, Bedfordshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

The world premiere of BROKEN BISCUITS by Tom Wells opens with our co-producers Live Theatre in Newcastle prior to a UK Tour.

WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK by Sabrina Mahfouz tours to 29 venues nationwide.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING is back on home soil by popular demand following an international tour.

COME TO WHERE I’M FROM comes to London with a week of live events across the capital featuring 30 playwrights.

Elinor Cook’s TEN WEEKS opens in London tonight.

Our transatlantic collaboration with legendary New York company Naked Angels sees two new radio plays by Nathan Bryon and Lucy Gillespie released as free to listen downloads.

Here’s what James & George have to say about it all:

“We’re raring to hit the road to the four corners of the UK with this cracking programme of new plays from some of the most exciting writers around. Roundabout will pop-up across the country with comedies from Luke Norris and Alan Harris, a superhero tale for children from Katie Douglas and a host of events from international visiting companies and local community groups, bringing a festival feel to every place it visits. We’re honoured to be working with talents as innovative as Sabrina Mahfouz – whose UK Garage musical is theatre you can rave to – and Tom Wells whose heart-warming new play will delight fans of his previous Paines Plough hit Jumpers For Goalposts. With Every Brilliant Thing returning to the UK after an international tour, London stories in Come To Where I’m From and new plays from Elinor Cook, Nathan Bryon, Lucy Gillespie, there’s a play for everyone, everywhere in Programme 2016.”

Paines Plough presents
2016 sees the return of Roundabout, our award-winning pop-up theatre. The all new Roundabout programme will preview from 19 – 24 July at Hackney Showroom in London before taking up residency once again at Summerhall during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and then touring nationwide.

Roundabout will tour nationwide in partnership with The Lowry, Hall For Cornwall, Margate Theatre Royal, Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, Brewery Arts Centre, Barnsley Civic, Appetite Stoke-on-Trent and Revoluton, Marsh Farm Estate in Luton.

In rep will be three World Premieres…

A Paines Plough, Sherman Cymru and Theatr Clwyd production
By Alan Harris

A deliciously quirky comedy from Alan Harris about two teenagers in Merthyr Tydfil who fall in love in Tesco but face a fight to save their parents from self-destruction.

LLT 466

A Paines Plough production
By Luke Norris

A very funny new play from Luke Norris about a 20-something who tries to ignore a lump until it’s almost too late.

GROW 466

A Paines Plough and Half Moon production
By Katie Douglas

An epic superhero quest for ages 7 to 11-year-olds from Katie Douglas.


PLUS… Roundabout will again host a programme of visiting companies at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe and on tour, and see the return of EARLIER / LATER, Paines Plough’s early morning and late night series of one-off shows, events, workshops and more.

A Paines Plough and Live Theatre production
By Tom Wells

The brand new play from JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS writer Tom Wells. A hilarious and heart-warming tale of three teenagers dreaming of rock ‘n’ roll stardom.

BB 466

A Paines Plough and Latitude Festival production
by Sabrina Mahfouz

Our hit UK Garage musical is back in our rehearsal room and getting set to hit the road to 29 venues nationwide. This is theatre you can rave to.


A Paines Plough and Pentabus Theatre Company production
By Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe

Our worldwide hit show is back on home soil in Edinburgh and on a UK tour this Autumn.

EBT 466

A Paines Plough and Tamasha production

Since 2010 more than 100 playwrights have written plays about the place they call home as part of our nationwide project, but never in London… until now…


A Paines Plough and Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama production
by Elinor Cook

Elinor Cook’s electrifying new play about the Alpha course transfers to The Gate in Notting Hill following its Cardiff premiere.

TW 466

Paines Plough and Naked Angels present
BILAL’S BIRTHDAY by Nathan Bryon
322 DAYS by Lucy Gillespie

Our transatlantic partnership with New York legends Naked Angels has resulted in these two cracking radio plays from rising US star Lucy Gillespie and our very own Playwright Fellow Nathan Bryon.

NA 466

Woop. And there’s lots more to come including a mega programme of visiting companies, one-off shows, events, workshops and fun stuff in Roundabout, the return of EARLIER/LATER, festival appearances, more tour dates, and probably other stuff we think up as we go along too.

But for now, welcome to Programme 2016. We hope you like it.


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.

Insights with JFG cast – In Newcastle

We’re back.  New venue, new audiences, different sensibilities.  Geordies really know their onions; they’ve got a 24 carat theatre heritage and there’s a terrific scene up in Newcastle.  Northern Stage (where we were) and Live Theatre are bang on form at the moment: Lorne Campbell has inherited a very healthy organization from Erica Whyman, who moved to the RSC in January to become Deputy AD.  Her legacy is mighty; no wonder she was named 2012 TMA Theatre Manager of the Year.  For 40 years, Live Theatre has been the dramatic voice of working-class Newcastle.  Lee Hall had one of his greatest successes with them; in 2007 his play The Pitmen Painters opened at the tiny venue for a one month run.  And so began one of the great theatrical journeys: Nick Hytner took it to the National Theatre, and from there it went on to New York before returning for a West End stint and a national tour.  From Broad Chare to Broadway.  Crikey, talk about punching above your weight.

Newcastle and Hull have a famous dramatic link too: Alan Plater. The late, great writer was born just down river in Jarrow, and brought up in Hull.  He really loved both towns, wrote plays for both Hull Truck and Live, and played an important role in the establishment of both venues early on in the 1970s.

It’s a big old stage is Northern Stage (the widest outside London) and our set looked like a doll’s house on there.  However, it meant that we had loads of room behind for warm-ups and games of Foursquare.  We always do a warm-up, but it’s really important when you’re playing a big space like this.  There are the usual Yoko Ono-esque primal shrieks and wails that were drilled into us at drama school, and which may or may not be more effective than a cup of tea and a cig, and articulation exercises (tongue twisters) to help us chew our way through the text clearly (bits of Dr Seuss are particularly good).  We also have a couple of favourite games that help us get into ‘the zone’.  The first, ‘Foursquare’, is a bit like tennis without a net.  Or rackets.  And you play it with a football.  So I suppose it’s not very much like tennis, but it is pretty competitive; somebody mentioned that some theatre companies have because it caused rows.  Much as we enjoy it, we think it’s a poor basis for a decent row.  I think there are possibly underlying tensions and issues at play in those casts and Foursquare is merely a catalyst.  The other is ‘Big Booty’ and it is brilliant for generating the focus, alertness and fun that you need when performing comedy. Warm-ups can be collective and playful; it’s not all ‘me, me , meeeeeeeeeeeee’.

After the performance on Wednesday we had a ‘Post-show’.  If you’ve not been to one, it’s basically a chat and Q & A with the cast (and sometimes the director and the writer) in the auditorium after curtain down.  I really enjoy them, both as spectator or actor, because you can get/give a fascinating insight into how plays get made and played.  If you’re a creative or performer, you get the chance to gauge your audiences’ reaction to what you are doing.  It’s like the DVD extras of theatre.  A large contingent of Theatre Studies students stayed behind and opened up a good, frank discussion about the play and its issues, and we explained how the show developed from early drafts to press night and beyond.  It’s an excellent way to make theatre more accessible and inclusive for young and new audiences.  And the theatre buys you a drink.

Newcastle at night is not sedate, and we flung ourselves, livers first, into it again and burned through our touring allowances before the weekend.  Dabbawal (delicious Indian street food) was the food favorite, and the week culminated in a night at the discreetly named World Headquarters.  It was there that Philip bumped into the Manchester United and England striker, Danny Welbeck.  Somewhat star-struck and overwhelmed, he only managed to repeat the footballer’s name to him over and over again.  Apparently Alicia, Amy and Viv were less whelmed, and Andy and Jamie were ‘busy’.  I missed all this, unfortunately, as I’d ended up in Benwell with some Poles at a house party that got a bit weird.

In the break, we found out that JFG has been nominated for Best New Play in the UK Theatre Awards.  Congrats, Tom Wells – nothing less than you deserve.

Right, that’s it for me.  See how it goes next week. #jump4goal

Production photos: LONDON

Photos from our production of LONDON by Simon Stephens are now up on our Flickr Stream. Check ‘em.

And check the show, running until 30 October at Salisbury Playhouse before travelling to Brighton, Newcastle, Glasgow and Manchester. All the details are here.

Abby Ford in LONDON. Photo by Elyse Marks.

Cary Crankson in LONDON. Photo by Elyse Marks.

LONDON Opening

Last week, our AD George was tweeting clues to the slightly radical production approach to Simon Stephens’ LONDON that he and the creative team have taken.

Here is a blog with the first three clues he tweeted.

Below are clues four, five and six.

LONDON is on tour until the end of November. Full dates and booking details here.

Rehearsals begin for LONDON by Simon Stephens

With ROUNDABOUT up, running and open for business at Shoreditch Town Hall, rehearsals began in earnest at PPHQ yesterday for the eleventh production of Programme 2012 – Olivier Award-Winning Simon StephensLONDON.

The project incorporates Simon’s play SEA WALL – which was originally commissioned and produced by The Bush Theatre in a production directed by our Joint Artistic Director George – and its companion piece, T5, which was recently published alongside WASTWATER.

We are co-producing LONDON with our friends at Salisbury Playhouse and Live Theatre Newcastle, before touring to Brighton Dome, Manchester Royal Exchange Studio and The Tron Theatre Glasgow.

LONDON is directed by George and designed by Hannah Clark, with lighting from Malcolm Rippeth and Sound by Tom Gibbons.

The production stars Cary Crankson and Abby Ford (below).

As usual, you’ll be able to follow the rehearsals, opening and tour right here on the PP blog.

In the meantime you can get daily updates from @painesplough or by searching twitter for #LondonPlay and you can find links to book tickets here.