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What do you do all day? General Manager

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Name: AYSHA POWELL
Job Title: GENERAL MANAGER

Hello! Can you give us a brief overview of your career so far?

Hello! I have been a very lucky lady and have worked in some incredible places across London and the UK for most of my career – I had a wonderful university placement with Northern Broadsides, worked at the Brisbane Arts Festival and took a show to Edinburgh in my teens. I have dipped my toe in casting at Soho Theatre with the wonderful Nadine, spent three inspiring years at the Lyric Hammersmith (a place I still embarrassingly class as my second home – most of them don’t know who I am now) moving from Admin Assistant to Finance Manager, and a while at Curtis Brown delving into the big bad agency world and now I’m here.

How did you end up in your current role?

I have been a Paines Plough fan ever since I saw Dennis Kelly’s AFTER THE END at the Leicester Haymarket back in 2005 when I was a theatre obsessed teenager – so when the role of General Manager at my favourite theatre company came up naturally I jumped at the chance (after some confidence boosting from a very treasured past colleague) – there is something quite wonderful about being a super fan of the company you work for, it also comes in quite handy most of the time.

A huge part of where I am now is also about me making the most of work placements, keeping in touch with people I have met in the industry along the way and CRUCIALLY working hard. It does pay off.

What are your main responsibilities within Team PP?

Generally managing most things – this includes staff – their welfare and their to-do lists, the offices, the finances, the contracts, and the fundraising amongst lots of other things.

I often say to people its ‘the unglamorous but essential’ side of theatre e.g paying the creative people who make the theatre.

What do you think are the essential skills needed to be a successful General Manger?

My top five:
– Organisation
– Patience
– Passion for the work
– An eye for numbers
– A ‘YES’ attitude

Real talk – what’s the least enjoyable part of your job?

Panic hoovering the floor before a Board meeting after a pastry based Taste Tuesday!

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

There are so many – I am very grateful to be surrounded by many talented people and friends in this industry and here are a few things some of them have said to me that have stuck:
‘Being nice to people will get you far’ and ‘Do something that scares you everyday’

So press send on that email NOW!

And one piece of advice from you to someone who aspires to be a General Manager?

Where are you?! I want to meet you!

Paines Plough offer work placements in our Admin and Production offices throughout the year. If you’re interested, you can download more information here.

Name a seat in the Roundabout

Just a few more days to go until we open the doors to Roundabout. Are we excited much? Yes, it’s fair to say we are.

Roundabout is our beautiful new portable in-the-round theatre: a completely self-contained auditorium that flat packs into a single lorry and can pop up anywhere from theatres to school halls, sports centres to warehouses.

It opens for the first time, in partnership with Northern Stage, at Summerhall on Saturday 2 August. Throughout the Edinburgh Festival Fringe four Paines Plough productions will play in rep, and we welcome a host of exciting work from visiting companies including The Lyric Hammersmith and Royal Exchange Manchester.

We’ve created Roundabout because we’re passionate about new plays and we want as many people as possible to be able to see them. In the coming years, Roundabout will travel the length and breadth of the UK bringing the nation’s best playwrights and a thrilling theatrical experience right to people’s doorsteps.

We need all the help we can get to make that dream a reality, and that’s where you come in.

You can help keep Roundabout on the road by naming a seat in the auditorium. Simply make a donation on our Justgiving page, and we’ll be in touch to ask you what name you want on your very own seat. Our designers will then create a bespoke, lasting thank you for your support, which will travel around the country on your seat in the Roundabout.

By naming a seat you will join our growing band of friends and supporters helping us raise funds to support our work. In this tough funding climate, your support is more valuable than ever. We can only do what we do because of you.

So take a look at our Justgiving page and get your name on a seat in the most dynamic new theatre in the country:

https://www.justgiving.com/roundaboutauditorium/

Thank you so much for supporting Paines Plough.

What we’re seeing at the theatre

We haven’t done one of these in while, so between everyone at PP we’ve made another list of what we’ve all been seeing in the past few weeks. With winter fast approaching, darker days and colder nights, what better place to spend your time than in the theatre.

What we’ve seen:

The Events at the Young Vic, The Same Deep Water As Me at the Donmar Warehouse, Chimerica at the Harold Pinter Theatre, Show 2 at Lyric Hammersmith, Grounded at Traverse Theatre, Fleabag at Soho Theatre, Once at Phoenix Theatre, The Ritual Slaughter of Gorge Mastromas at the Royal Court, Edward II at the National Theatre, Virgin at Watford Palace Theatre, The Empty Quarter at Hampstead, As You Like It at The RSC, People at Birmingham Rep, Bryony Kimmings: Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model at Soho Theatre, Twelfth Night at Park Theatre, Perfect Match at Watford Palace Theatre, The Pride at Trafalgar Studios, The Legend Of Mike Smith by Soweto Kinch at Birmingham Rep, But I don’t like Girls at The Poor School, Othello at the National Theatre, The Herd at The Bush, Beats at Soho Theatre, Titus Andronicus at Arcola Theatre, Too Mortal by Shobana Jeyasingh at St. Pancras Church (Dance Umbrella), The World of Extreme Happiness at The ShedA Real Man’s Guide to Sainthood at Camden People’s Theatre, The Fu Manchu Complex at Oval House.

What will you be seeing in the coming weeks? Send us your suggestions by leaving a comment or tweeting us @painesplough.

Edinburgh here we come!

Despite what you might think from the weather we are into August, which means one thing…Edinburgh Fringe is upon us again! And we for one can’t wait.

Paines Plough are at the Traverse Theatre this year presenting Good With People by David Harrower as part of a double bill of Scottish new writing with David Greig’s The Letter of Last Resort. It opens this Sunday and if you’re interested in seeing it you can book through the website here.

But as well as opening the show, we have also been very busy putting together our lists of all the new plays we want to see. As usual there are far too many shows we want to see and too little time! Some clever diary scheduling is needed to fit everything in.

So here is a quick list of just some of the shows we will be trying to catch…

And so much more… we’ll report back on stuff we’ve seen, and please let us know your tips for stuff we shouldn’t miss by leaving a comment or tweeting us @painesplough.

Edinburgh here we come!

Half-time – England vs. Germany

And time flies and flies and flies and my half-time at Paines Plough is already over. The last weeks have been so busy that I hardly had time to digest them followed by a massive attack of exhaustion which I had to nurture with a lot of sleep over the weekends when I am not going back to my second job at the market, distributing German delicatessen on Saturdays.

Paines Plough opened recently two shows in London, Love, Love, Love at the Royal Court Theatre and WASTED at the Roundhouse in Camden before its tour continues and finally ends at the TakeOver Festival in York next Saturday. Furthermore we organised a fundraiser night at the Royal Court, as well as opened the full season for 2012 and tickets for the Roundabout run in London at Shoreditch Town Hall have gone on sale. What looks like cakewalk was a lot of hard work for everyone behind the curtain – but the show must go on.

The new bedside reading...

By the way it was literally a cakewalk: I cannot remember one day in the recent weeks when we had no cake, cookies or other treats. The warning of the last intern and the Paines Plough members from my very first day came to its proof. So I am still cycling regardless the weather conditions reckless in London’s traffic and still avoid the rackety lift but climbing all four floors by feet.

Apart from being at theatre for work, which also includes enjoying the shows most of the time, I follow a pilgrimage to London’s theatres seeing as much as I can – which does not help getting enough sleep. I enjoy especially new writing but also saw my first West End production.

A massive hit I was curious to attend was seeing Simon Steven’s Three Kingdoms at the Lyric Hammersmith again. I can remember my last days in Munich being a regular at the Kammerspiele and attending the press night there in autumn. I had a huge discussion with the writer, actors and the director’s assistant about the differences of German/Continental and British theatre and the directors different relationship to writing. I could not only see following twitter how many people loved Sebastian Nübling’s show but to my surprise reading a lot of dismissive critics. I would have guessed, after the show has been an incredible success in Germany (and is now about to tour in a very small scale), both positions, audience and press, would either love or hate it. But the opinions differed immensely. James and George were lucky enough to attend a workshop with Sebastian Nübling about German directing last week and I was happy and still am engaging myself in discussions about theories and theatre practicalities I have learned during my studies which suddenly come to life and being passed on.

My interest in theatre, although it is a tough industry, is exhaustless and I started to read a theoretical book about aesthetics and performance which was living in my bookshelf in Munich covered in dust for years and survived a move across Europe over 1.ooo kilometers – and now I read it with pleasure.

Stephanie Königer

 

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?

What we’ve been seeing at the theatre

Thanks to our jam-packed festival season, we’ve been able to expand our theatrical horizons somewhat this summer. Between us, team PP have been soaking up shows at the Manchester International Festival, Galway Arts Festival, Latitude Festival and the Avignon Festival, as well as staying up to date with the best work on the UK’s theatrical calendar. We’ve got a fantastic line-up of shows to see before the end of the month, when we head up to Edinburgh to tackle that behemoth of theatrical beasts – the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Before we headed off on our various festival adventures, we were thrilled to catch THE ACID TEST by Anya Reiss at the Royal Court, REALISM by Anthony Neilson at Soho, RICHARD III at the Old Vic, DR FAUSTUS at The Globe, LUISE MILLER at the Donmar, ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, WHERE’S MY SEAT by Deirdre Kinahan, Jack Thorne and Tom Wells at The Bush,  FIXER by Lydia Adetunji & LITTLE BABY JESUS by Arinze Kene both at Oval House Theatre, MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING at the Wyndhams, BELONGINGS by Morgan Lloyd Malcom at Hampstead Downstairs, BUNNY by Jack Thorne at the Royal Exchange, THE PRIDE by Alexi Kaye Campbell at the Crucible Studio and Spymonkey’s LOVE IN at the Udderbelly.

Whilst in New York James and George managed to catch BOOK OF MORMON and 4,000 MILES by Amy Herzog.

At the Manchester International Festival, during a rather hectic week (of which there is more here), George managed to see Victoria Wood’s THAT DAY WE SANG as well as Bjork’s BIOPHILIA.

Dashing straight to Avignon from Manchester, George was fortunate enough to see what he has since described as one of the best piece of theatre he’s ever seen – a version of HAMLET, entitled AU MOINS J’AURAI LAISSE UN BEAU CADAVRE (AT LEAST I WILL HAVE LEFT A BEAUTIFUL CORPSE) as well as one of the strangest, LA PARANOIA. More on that to follow later this week.

In Galway James and Tara caught Enda Walsh’s astonishing MISTERMAN before dashing off to Latitude to meet up with the rest of the team to open Kate Tempest’s WASTED. Whist at Latitude we saw and loved Joel Horwood’s JEKYLL AND HYDE, the National Theatre of Scotland’s CRUNCH, Fuel’s ELECTRIC HOTEL, nabokov’s FAIRY TALES by Jack Thorne and Arthur Darvill, Whippet Productions‘ THE SPIES IN ROOM 502 by Jonathan Britten, Theatre Uncut’s short plays about the recent government cuts, and The Bush’s production of FLOODED GRAVE by Anthony Weigh, amongst many more. There’s loads about our weekend at Latitude here.

Back in London we’ve been to see THE CHERRY ORCHARD, LONDON ROAD, EMPEROR AND GALILEAN, DOUBLE FEATURE and ONE MAN TWO GUVNORS, all at the National, THE VILLAGE BIKE by Penelope Skinner at the Royal Court, FOR ONCE by Tim Price at Hampstead Downstairs, MIRROR TEETH by Nick Gill at The Finborough and Curious Directive’s YOUR LAST BREATH at The Pleasance.

We’re off to Edinburgh next month so please let us know of your recommendations by posting below or tweeting us @painesplough and we’ll try and add them to our schedule. Once we’re up there we’ll return the favour.

WASTED at Latitude 2011

Latitude Loves Theatre

Latitude Loves Theatre

Damp and debilitated, bruised but buzzing, we returned to PP HQ on Tuesday this week after another epic and brilliant Latitude Festival. No amount of rain and mud could dampen our spirits as we premièred Kate Tempest’s WASTED on Friday and Sunday night.

A WASTED production meeting gets under way in the performer's bar

A WASTED production meeting gets under way in the performer's bar

Our first performance of the show at 11:20pm on Friday was packed to the rafters with many having queued for more than half an hour to get into the tent. There was a real party atmosphere pre-show with an estimated 700-odd punters crammed in to the first ever performance of Kate’s first ever play.

With a smaller but more concentrated line-up in this year’s theatre arena, we were treated to some top notch work. The Lyric Hammersmith teamed up with Peepolykus and Spymonkey to commission Joel Horwood (the writer behind nabokov’s smash musical IT’S ABOUT TIME at last year’s festival) to give us an uproariously and irreverently hilarious take on JEKYLL AND HYDE. nabokov were back with a contemporary twist on CINDERELLA by Jack Thorne and Arthur Darvill that had the capacity crowd up on their feet from the off. We also saw and loved work by Theatre 503, Fuel, Clean Break, the National Theatre of Scotland and Eyebrow Productions, amongst others. And that was just in the theatre tent.

Here’s our team’s top picks of the weekend:

Claire (General Manager):

“This was not only my first Latitude, but my first festival so I was fairly unsure about what to expect from the weekend.  I loved the whole experience, from the diverse and exciting line up, to the soggy camping.  A couple of my favourite performances were INTENSIT I & SOLDIER A in the Poetry Arena and THE NAKED AND FAMOUS in the Word Arena.  I’ll definitely be going back to Latitude again.”

Gathering rain clouds weren't enough to keep us away from the Obelisk Arena

Gathering rain clouds weren't enough to keep us away from the Obelisk Arena

Hanna (Administrator):

“So with torrential rain washing me err ‘clean’ as I ate soggy chips and drank rain-diluted beer, anything under cover in the Theatre Arena (FORWARD THEATRE PROJECT, 1927), the Word Arena (FOALS, JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW, EVERYTHING EVERYTHING), Comedy Arena (DOC BROWN), Cabaret Arena (BOURGEOIS AND MAURICE) and the Poetry Arena (SOLDIER-A AND INTENSI-T, and the amazing KATE TEMPEST) were the highlights of my festival experience. Although I did brave the rain for SEASICK STEVE and Fuel’s ELECTRIC HOTEL, both of which were rather epic. Oh… and I LOVED the impromptu SOUND OF RUM gig beside a random tree on the Saturday night, followed by a dance at the embarrassingly spectacular GUILTY PLEASURES! …and let’s not forget all those infamous car park discos DJ’ed by our very own AD James Grieve until the sun had well and truly risen. Too many highlights to choose… can we do it all again please?!”

Guilty Pleasures rocking out the Comedy Arena after hours

Guilty Pleasures rocking out the Comedy Arena after hours

George (Joint Artistic Director):

“With James assuming directing responsibilities this festival, I had the chance to get around quite a few of the music stages. I really spent a huge amount of time at the Sunrise Arena, enjoying sets by AARON WRIGHT (one of the collaborators on The 8th), FOSTER THE PEOPLE and TROPHY WIFE. JAMES BLAKE’s late night set on the Sunday was astounding”

Natasha (Production Assistant):

“Through the haze of my memory, I remember sheltering from the rain and discovering folk singer JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW; loving DOC BROWN rapping about Britain’s Olympic Dressage hopes in the Comedy tent; gazing at KATE TEMPEST turn the air electric at a midnight poetry reading; melting at David Bradley’s brilliant performance as both brow-beaten husband and shrewish Widow in ON THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF TOBACCO/CAN CAUSE DEATH; and salivating at The Trailer Beach BBQ, where I had the Best. Hotdog. Ever.”

James (Joint Artistic Director):

“I’m biased, but KATE TEMPEST’s headline gig in the poetry tent on Saturday night was mind-blowingly good. The impromptu SOUND OF RUM set afterwards was a stroke of genius.”

James Blake playing live

James Blake playing live

Tara (Producer):

“I attended latitude for the fifth year in a row, and as always the people, programme and party did not disappoint.  Thursday night kicked off with a blast with nabokov’s reimagining of CINDERELLA; fantastic performances, energising music and witty lyrics plus with bonus of two circus performances representing the realistic meeting of Cinderella and Prince Charming.  Friday afternoon was a real highlight with the sun shining and listening to DEERHUNTER and CARIBOU (Word Arena) and SCHLOMO in the Theatre Tent.”

Chrissy (Trainee Producer):

“What a weekend it was! Well, my first time taking a show to Latitude so how can the highlight be anything other than our own WASTED, the amazing cast and creative team really pulled together to make something magical. I did have some fun too… a few of my highlights were the Lake Stage, Latitude’s new band stage where the SEA OF BEES were a real standout. Dancing all night with the lovely Hanna Streeter to THE FOALS in the Word Arena, an afternoon with SEASICK STEVE at the Obelisk and my first KATE TEMPEST poetry gig. And of course lots of laughing and dancing in the rain and the rising sun.”

Lizzie Watts performing WASTED (not literally)

Lizzie Watts performing WASTED (not literally)

There’s loads more about the journey we took from page to stage with our Latitude production of WASTED here. You can still listen to our Latitude playlist sampler here, featuring many of our team’s recommended bands from the festival. Meanwhile you can read a blog about our love of Latitude on the Guardian website, here. Plus there are loads more photos of our festival weekend on our Flickr page, here. Finally, tell us about your Latitude by leaving us a comment below.

Until next time, Latitude. You’ve left us exhausted, exhilarated, and begging for more.

Collaboration – a blog for The Guardian

Here’s a blog we wrote for The Guardian about collaboration. The full text is below or you can read it over on The Guardian website.

Please let us know what you think by posting a comment.

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There’s a theme emerging from the many passionate calls to arms in the aftermath of last week’s cuts: the need for collaboration. Of course, the arts are already an innately collaborative industry, which is a big reason why we are the second most profitable UK industry behind finance, and a damn sight more responsible. We have to work together to make a little go a long way.

But with the treasury resolutely blinkered by a grim reaper mask, the pooling of resources and ideas becomes an even greater imperative. As Lyn Gardner said on this blog the other week: “Every bit of theatre is now reliant on collaboration.” We can collaborate more, and we should. Not only to make public subsidy stretch further, but because partnerships are so creatively rewarding.

There are lots of success stories to draw upon. At the Drum theatre, the work Simon Stokes and David Prescott create with other buildings such as the Royal Court and Lyric Hammersmith, and companies such as Frantic Assembly and Told By An Idiot, make Plymouth a creative hub that resonates far beyond Devon. The Young Vic’s hotly anticipated I Am the Wind is multiply co-commissioned by a pan-European conglomerate. Warwick Arts Centre widely co-produces with UK and international partners and an innovative hook-up with Druid has seen a fruitful cultural exchange between Galway and the Oxford Playhouse. The National theatre’s relationship with Travelex is a beacon for corporate partnerships – and the National, along with the RSC, has embodied the spirit of post-cuts collaboration by offering to share their resources with smaller companies.

We at touring company Paines Plough never work alone. We were fortunate enough to receive a small uplift last week and we intend to make the extra money go as far as possible by working with ever-more partners. This year we are co-producing with eight other theatres and counting, enabling us to tour 11 productions to more than 40 towns and cities across the UK. Economically, the benefits of co-production are obvious. The more co-producers, the cheaper the pre-production costs to each partner. But the mutual benefits of collaboration run deeper than the bottom line of the budget. By combining two or more bodies of staff, we access a greater wealth of ideas, experience and energy.

At the inception of a project our core staff of five is bolstered by our partners’ expertise, infrastructure, systems and facilities. In exchange, we can offer a long life on the road for productions that might otherwise have a limited run in one location, meaning more taxpayers in more places have access to ACE-subsidised work. With Sheffield Theatres, for example, we’ve conceived a 150-seat portable in-the-round auditorium within which we’ll premiere three new plays in Sheffield in the autumn. The auditorium and three plays will then tour nationwide in the spring in collaboration with multiple theatres. It’s costing no more than it would to produce the three plays normally, but thousands more people across the country will get to see the work. The long-term plan is to offer the auditorium to other companies to maximise its usage.

We sometimes hear arguments against collaborating, but in our experience the old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth doesn’t hold. If collaboration is rooted in shared taste and clearly articulated objectives, then the more people at the table the better. Collaborating means constructive arguments as well as agreements. Brand dilution is a concern, but we know from our audiences they don’t care about billing as long as the work is good, and we’re learning from the commercial sector here and in the US to focus more on partners and less on credits.

We’ve also heard the argument that co-producing reduces jobs for actors. In fact, the opposite is true: it makes more productions possible. Last year, we employed 61 actors in nine productions; on our own, we could have managed two. Co-commissioning might reduce the number of commissions handed out to playwrights, but it improves the conversion rate from commission to productions. We’ve co-commissioned six playwrights so far this calendar year, and committed to producing all six plays, extending the ethos of collaboration to playwrights. Handing out 20 commissions and hoping a couple of them make the stage is selective, not collaborative, and is exactly the sort of opulence that will see our funds slashed further. Now is the time to invest strategically, and deeply, in the top talent in this country.

Over the next few years, we envisage the nature of partnerships changing. There will be more co-producers per show, longer runs to help reduce costs, wider-ranging partners from corporates to education establishments to local communities. Partnerships will be forged at the inception of projects with multiple co-commissioners firmly committed, not taking a punt. Traditional models of budgeting will adapt and change, as ever more inventive collaborations are imagined. Nick Hytner, the National theatre’s artistic director, says the best work comes when artists are “exhilarated by a new creative ideology”. Post-cuts, that new creative ideology is collaboration, collaboration, collaboration.