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Hello from our new Assistant Producer

Hello!

I’m Francesca, the new Assistant Producer at Paines Plough.  I’m only in my third week at PP but WHAT a three weeks it has been.  My feet feel like they quite literally haven’t touched the ground.

                                                                                                                                                                                                             Of course I’ve had some big shoes to fill, but fortunately for me since Hanna has moved up to the much revered role of Producer she’s right here when I need her and fortunately for Hanna that means I’m constantly plying her with a fresh supply of fruit and nuts from the top drawer under my desk. I’ve also been bribing the rest of the office with mango, food seems to go down well here…

Since starting it’s been somewhat of a juggling act – trying to soak up everything I need to know about PP’s brilliant Small Scale Touring programme, whilst also reading the ten plays we’re producing this year, whilst also casting Not The Worst Place by Sam Burns, whilst also introducing myself to the vast PP network, whilst also putting together the Hopelessly Devoted creative team, whilst also helping Launch our 40th year at the NT Shed, whilst also going up to Manchester for our Future of Small Scale Touring Symposium, whilst also writing this blog…you get the picture.

I’ve joined at a particularly busy time, but ultimately an exciting one. The last few weeks have been wonderfully inspiring and have only confirmed what I already knew, that PP is probably one of the most thrilling, passionate and driven companies to be part of right now, and I’m pretty darn lucky to be here with them.

On my final note, our post 40th year launch party took us to Fernandez and Wells for a one off wine and cheese reception – as a big fan of cheese this went down particularly well with me but since we probably won’t be back to F&W for a while feel free to send cheese packages to me at PP HQ  – juggling needs sustenance.

Can’t wait to get going

Chesca x

The future of small-scale touring

An Independent Touring Symposium
The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
30 January 2014, 11am-6pm

We’ve hooked up with our friends The Royal Exchange, Manchester, ITC and PANDA to announce a TED-style symposium on 30 January in Manchester to explore the future of small-scale touring.

Open to everyone across the UK working in small scale touring – from artists to producers, directors to venue managers – the day will provide a forum to discuss and debate the key challenges and share experiences in a practically applicable way.

Small-scale touring is full of challenges, not least in this time of threats to arts funding. We conducted a survey earlier this year that showed companies and venues were experiencing the same issues and facing the same obstacles to making touring work.

But the survey also showed people were undeterred; companies and theatres alike are working together to meet these challenges head on with inventive and strategic approaches.

So we thought we’d stage the inaugural Future Of Small-Scale Touring symposium to discuss how we shape the future together.

Based on advice from senior industry professionals, as well as the results of the survey, the day will be structured in three parts.

Each will be themed and feature a series of guest speakers who will each give a presentation on an area of small scale touring that they are evolving. After each session there will be a small break out opportunity for delegates to discuss the presentation, seek further information and present the chance to form partnerships and collaborations to tackle issues moving forward.

From the research, the areas which were highlighted for discussion are:

•    new touring models and approaches to tour booking

•    data and audiences

•    working in partnership

A full line up of speakers to include industry leaders, practitioners and journalists will be announced shortly.

Meantime, you can find out more and buy tickets here.

For updates, follow The Future Of Small Scale Touring on Twitter, or join the event page on Facebook.

Go Bush – Reflections on LONDON

There’s an old Australian saying ‘to go bush’ which means to leave the city and all your cares behind.

What made me think of that wasn’t a trip to the outback but a train ride through the rolling landscape of Northern England. During the past few weeks Paines Plough have been travelling round the country with our newest show LONDON by Simon Stephens and although all the theatres we have visited have been city based, it has meant some wonderful journeys through the British countryside. And LONDON has got me thinking – the city is such a busy place that it can be difficult to pause and reflect or find the time to deal with your problems.

Don’t get me wrong here, I love living and working in the city – I grew up in the countryside but have always been more of a London-girl at heart. Everything you need is only a short walk from your house and you can go from the bustling Southbank, to Borough market, to a club on Bricklane in less than 40 minutes (allowing for no problems with TFL of course).  But as Alex (one of the characters in the play) remarks “the noise of the place and the dirt and the colour and the roar of it” can be so constant it’s stifling.

What I find fascinating about LONDON is that it is a play about London but not set there, indeed there is no specific location indicated by the script. Instead the play’s setting is within the stories and lives of its two characters. London isn’t the over-riding theme of the play, but rather a backdrop and stimulus to its narratives. And it is the people who live in a city that give it its character.

LONDON tells two different stories of city life – one of escape and the other return. A woman finds herself on a train to Heathrow in a desperate attempt to leave all her problems behind. Alex comes back to his home in London and is unable to find the peace and quiet to heal.  Sitting on the early morning train back from Glasgow one of the lines from the play popped into my head: “I can see the world with a clarity I’ve never even dreamed of before”.  It is very true that living in a city it can be hard to find the time to think. Maybe we all need to escape to the country every now and again, even if only for a few hours, to keep us sane.

LONDON isn’t actually coming to London but is touring to other major UK cities, and you can still catch it in Glasgow this week at the Tron Theatre and next week at the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

And let us know what you love most about living in the city…

 

London UK Tour – Audience reviews

As LONDON comes to the end of its run at Live Theatre in Newcastle we have been inundated with feedback from audiences there about the show.

Here are just some of the lovely comments and thank you to everyone for their feedback:

“Gripping. Intense. Memorable. Good atmosphere in theatre. Will look to come to more plays.”

“Fantastic concept, very enjoyable and I don’t usually like monologues,”

“Beautifully acted and engrossing. Completely mesmerising, despite its minimalistic approach. The actor’s subtle approach to heartbreaking emotion heightened the tension. I especially loved the script.”

“Never have I felt so much empathy for two characters.”

“Intense, transfixing, fascinating – a real talking point and unique experience.”

“Refreshing, very different from anything I’ve seen before. Very moving. Excellent”

“Silence at the end spoke volumes. Utterly captivating, suprising and will have us talking for hours now.”

“Both parts of the performance were riveting and thought provoking; both excellently performed. First part gave insight into unravelling of a person’s mind due to an unfortunate incident and the repercussions. Second part: thought provoking, almost disturbing look at tragic incident and its divesting consequences.”

“An astonishing event. Superb writing, outstanding performances. Though-provoking, moving, entertaining, haunting.

“I was captivated. I am moved. Thank you”

If you’ve seen the show in Salisbury, Brighton or Newcastle let us know what you thought by commenting below or tweeting @painesplough #LondonPlay.

There are only a few days more to catch the show at the brilliant Live Theatre in Newcastle before it moves on Saturday, when it then goes to the Tron Theatre in Glasgow from Tue 13th – Sat 17th and finishing at the Royal Exchange in Manchester from Tue 20th – Sat 24th.

The 1st day of The 8th

Sunday Sabbath? Not in the world of rock ‘n roll. With just one day in London to wash clothes and fold away any newly-bought Tartan from Glasgow, Paines Plough were on the 8.10am to Manchester to kick off rehearsals for The 8th.

The two shows could not stand in starker contrast. Good with People takes place in a lochside, marine base town in Scotland. The 8th, in the religious underbelly of the Deep South. The former is punctuated by unspoken thoughts and underlying tension, the latter by spiralling guitar solos and the raspy orations of a Christian preacher.

Slightly croaky-throated ourselves, we made our way across the city to the King’s Arms, Salford. Setting up in the upstairs room of the pub were Christian on keys, Jonny Wright on bass, Jonny Lexus on guitar, Pete on drums and Jamie also on keys. Our actor Reg, the voice of the preacher, was sipping water, preparing to rehearse all the spoken narrative sections of a musical piece.

This is no small task given that he is expected to tell these stories himself, colouring the details and bringing to life the important events in the journey purely by the way he narrates the tale. Added to that is the general distraction of strings, synth, drums and keys; it takes a certain type of actor to hold his ground centre stage in such a piece.

And yet, the tempo with which these rehearsals have to move does not allow for too much deliberation. Although lodged somewhere in the memory of most people in the room as they performed last time as well, there are only four days to put together a show that has eight singers doing eight different numbers. They have to work in harmony with the narrative that interweaves all their ‘sins’ together, so that Ché Walker and Paul Heaton’s lyrics and story can be appreciated in their entirety.

Maybe the way the room was set out best describes how the rehearsal room worked on day one. Everyone in the room created a circle, with the centre of the room the place to send the sound. Eye contact was crucial not only for timing, but also for everyone to be able to speak on behalf of their instrument or specific skill. Discussions were more often than not communal, and given that there were so many disciplines and ideologies present, sometimes translation work needed to be done.

If the creative team gave a note, and it needed to become manifest musically, it was for the musicians to decide how that might be achieved. They would improvise or suggest to one another as those less musically inclined listened. Whilst this was done, Reg might get some notes on where to best place the beats in his interventions, or which details in the story to really paint for the audience, so that the story is clear. Then everyone would come back and rehearse the same section, putting all the elements together.

Sometimes the note would have transferred itself to the music first time, others not. The musicians might not agree with a certain piece of direction, then listen to the explanation and agree, or vice versa. This process of trial and error continued until all the narrative sections had successfully been underscored, and everyone in the circle was happy with the final outcome.

Interspersed with this process were numerous fag breaks, pint refills and points of information from tour management about the schedule for the next week. The general feel of the room was extremely relaxed, but there was also a desire to finish what needed to be done. Which, by the end of the day, it was.

Day two is to be spent repeating what was produced on day one. Then the singers are to join, whilst the lyrics are refined with Che in the room.

THE 8TH tour announced

We’re very excited to announce today that we’re taking our 2011 co-production with Manchester International Festival THE 8TH by Paul Heaton and book by Ché Walker back on the road again later this year presented by SJM Concerts.

Reg E Cathey in THE 8TH at The Manchester International Festival 2011

“Victim of an overdose or recipient of bullet
Just the harvest of the finger or the wrist
It’s the needle or the trigger, the 8th could push or pull it
As long as folk believe that he exists”
One of Manchester’s greatest songwriters Paul Heaton (The Beautiful South, The Housemartins), premieres an epic new pop song, THE 8TH, in a thrilling live show.
Joined onstage by his band and a host of special guests, Heaton transports you to a destitute neighbourhood where the seven deadly sins unfurl. From the seven an eighth is born – a new and thoroughly modern sin that imprisons all who cross its path.
THE 8TH’s book is written by Ché Walker who previously worked with us here at PP on Crazy Love back in 2007 and is directed by our very own Joint Artistic Director George Perrin.
So here’s where it’s heading:
Thursday 5th July @ Barbican Centre, London
Tuesday 10th July @ Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
Wednesday 11th July @ St. Paul’s Church, Birmingham
Thursday 12th July@ Latitude Festival
With a cast including US hit TV show The Wire‘s Reg E Cathey it’s sure to be a hot ticket this Summer. So for more details on the show and how to book tickets check out THE 8TH page on our website

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?

A Play, a Cake and a Pint?

Cake is becoming a bit of a theme around here – as he told us yesterday, Sean is adjusting well to life as the PP intern by embracing the abundance of cakes in the office. And two of this year’s three Play, Pie and Pint shows feature cake in a crucial role. Woe betide any diabetics who come to work for Paines Plough.

It seems like only yesterday I saw the first run through of DIG and started to get a sense of what a beautiful and affecting play it was going to be. In fact, it was just over four weeks ago. And one month, 4 cities, and 24 cakes later, it has drawn to a close.

L-R: Stewart Porter, Louise Ludgate and Simon Macallum - the brilliant cast of DIG.

Here’s what the critics from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Coventry had to say…

‘This tightly written play is gripping, funny and extremely moving… A thoroughly affecting piece of theatre.’ Edinburgh Guide ★★★★

‘Tight and emotionally-chargedAs it builds to its powerful conclusion, Dig deftly uncovers the emotions which lie hidden beneath the surface of our everyday lives; and the hope which can often be found growing there.’ Edinburgh Spotlight ★★★★

‘It’s a simple idea, but over the resulting 45 minutes a surprisingly large emotional terrain is covered by George Perrin’s production…Douglas’ dialogue is sharply written and well observed…Louise Ludgate’s climatic monologue, a desperate plea to save her marriage, is impossibly affecting’ Exeunt Magazine ★★★★

‘Incredibly gripping…intelligent, compelling and humorous…The script builds to a tender and emotional conclusion, portrayed brilliantly by a talented trio of actors. Overall, Dig was a fantastic experience and it would have been excellent even if I hadn’t had a hot pie and a glass of red wine to keep me company.’ The Student ★★★★

‘Dig is the sort of brash, confident and hard-hitting piece of theatre which makes you sit up. A perfectly crafted short.’ Annals of Edinburgh Stage ★★★★

‘Very moving, very incisive…For a 45 minute long play “Dig” packs a lot of punch.’ Lothian Life ★★★★

‘A small masterpiece…this rich and shattering slice of lunchtime drama’  The Scotsman ★★★★

‘From hilarity to chilling suspense, Katie Douglas’s script controls the atmosphere in the room precisely…This exploration of the emotional effects of an economic climate where job security is a fantasy asks tough questions, and asks them very well.’ Edinburgh Evening News ★★★★

‘The play, the pie and the pint are all thoroughly enjoyable, but best by far is the play – wonderful, deep and satisfying.’ Warwick Courier

If you caught DIG, we’d love to know what you thought of it.

And if you didn’t – there’s still time to grab your pie and pint and settle down in front of either YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW, at the Belgrade Theatre until Friday, or JUICY FRUITS – playing at the Manchester Royal Exchange this week and heading to Coventry next week.

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.