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Girls Are Great

Who would have thought being born into the world with the ‘wrong’ genitals for the job would be such a ball ache? [lol] Ok maybe ‘wrong’ is a bit of a stretch, but certainly something to think about.

Female directors in the arts – wow, you girls rock my world and Paines Plough’s very own Stef O’Driscoll has just been announced as the nabokov Artistic Director with Liz Counsell of Roundhouse glory as Producer. A powerhouse of talent, drive, determination and all round, top girls.

Back in 2014, Lyn Gardener wrote an article entitled, ‘Theatre’s leading female figures gather to shine a spotlight on gender gap’, and in it she stated that ‘of the artistic directors working across the 179 theatre organisations in Arts Council England’s national portfolio, 63% are male and 37% are female’. This information was compiled by Tonic and provides some interesting reading. Two years on, Emma Rice is AD at Shakespeare’s Globe, Anna Jordan’s Yen and Katerine Soper’s Wish List wins Bruntwood, and Nadia Amico finally realises being a woman from a working-class background doesn’t mean you’re destined to spend your days never quite achieving greatness.

I’ve had the privilege to assist Stef a fair few times now, and the first time I met her, she ran into the green room at PPHQ hollering through the halls how she was so happy there was coffee in the coffee pot. Over time I’ve grown to see how she works and I’m so incredibly honoured to have her as a mentor. She’s going to cringe massively at this, but she’s kind of a hero of mine. She wears mad clothes, she has no airs and graces, there’s no bulls***, she loves drum and bass music and she’s an incredible director and teacher. Not only does she give me hope that women in theatre can achieve so much at such a young age – she’s like 28 – but also that you can be yourself.

The worst thing in achieving your dream is losing yourself in the process. I spent a long time worried I’d have to tone down the swearing, stop expressing myself so sensitively, speak with a clipped accent and avoid telling people I was born in “Norf Landon’, that I was beginning to think maybe I should just jack it all in. And although PP’s Aysha does ask if my story is NSFW now, PP have certainly allowed me to be myself, and become a better version of myself.

I’ve spent many a coffee fuelled evening crying to Stef about how unfair things are, how I’ve got no money to move out, how I don’t feel respected enough because I’m too young and mainly how I feel like I’m in the wrong business sometimes. She always finds a way of predicting the future; being able to navigate the tides of change in the arts, keep spirits up. That’s the kind of AD we need, the kind of mentor we need, and the inspiration I need to keep smashing through that glass ceiling. And ultimately, if you’re ever in doubt, just remember…the best way to predict the future is to create it.

– Nadia

What do you do all day? Artistic Director

EBT flickr photo 1


Hello! Did you always want to be an Artistic Director?

Not consciously – I only discovered directing when I got to Sheffield University and spent most of the time I was supposed to be doing my English Literature degree trying to figure out how to direct plays. So when James and I set up nabokov after we’d both graduated we became Artistic Directors by necessity. I think I only knew the job of Artistic Director as I now understand it even existed when I moved to London and was fortunate enough to spend some time watching David Lan run the Young Vic, Brigid Larmour run Watford Palace Theatre and Roxana Silbert run Paines Plough. Now that I’m lucky enough to be doing the job, I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What role does the Artistic Director play in the development of new work?

I imagine that must depend on the organisation and the Artistic Director themselves. At PP, James and I take it in turns directing most of the plays here and we tend to have been in conversation with the writers whose plays we’re directing for a while before we commission them. So in our case, we have quite a close and supportive role in helping the writers we commission write the best version of the play they want to write, from the earliest moment of conception through to opening night. Sometimes that means hours spent discussing ideas in the pub, brokering meetings with more experienced playwrights for advice, getting actors in for the writer to hear drafts read aloud, workshops, script notes, rewrites and draft after draft through rehearsals and previews. And sometimes it means nothing more than saying ‘keep going’.

What things do you consider when programming work and commissioning new plays?

I think I tend to go on instinct in the first instance. I used to spend a long time making notes on writers, plays, productions – I think I had to make up for my lack of experience, understanding and (frankly) skill with hard and volumous work. But as I’ve seen, read and directed more, I have found that if I engage the critical part of my brain too early, I revert to being the English Literature student and I cease to sense how an audience might encounter the work. So now I try and keep myself in the audience’s shoes for as long as possible and save all the analysis until I’m ready to prepare for rehearsals.

In terms of what that instinct is looking for, it’s what I imagine everyone is looking for in a brilliant play: a good story; characters I can empathise with but that are nevertheless as complicated and contradictory as real people; dramatically active, credible dialogue; a clear sense of world or genre; an inherently theatrical form that somehow helps express the meaning of the play; a writer with something to say or a question to ask about the contemporary world; surprise; laughter; tears… I think perhaps more than anything I want to be moved. If that happens I stop seeing all the individual elements that as a director I’ve tried to teach myself to understand I’ve just talked about and I experience the play instinctively, as an audience hopefully will. When that happens you know you’re reading or watching something good.

Beyond that instinctive response, I’m then thinking about whether PP is the right home for a play, who the audience might be and whether we can reach them, if we have the resource to produce the play in the way it demands, what kind of space it might want to play in. If we’re commissioning the writer, those are some of the things we might ask them to think about when they’re conceiving the play for us.

Can you tell us a little bit about your ambitions for the future of PP?

James and I have been incredibly lucky to run PP for the past six years now and we only just now feel like we’re beginning to achieve some of the ambitions we had when we took over. The company is now entering its 42nd year so it’s something of a national theatrical treasure, certainly in our eyes at least. We’re the eight Artistic Directorship in that time and the regeneration the company has experienced each time a new team has taken over has been key to the company remaining so energetic, important and relevant to writers and audiences. I suppose our main ambition is for it to retain those qualities in the future.

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

I’ve learned a lot from some brilliant people over the past fifteen or so years – Lisa Maguire, David Lan, Roxana Silbert, Brigid Larmour, Caro Newling, Sebastian Warrack to name a few. But I think the most useful piece of advice that I’ve had – and certainly something I most frequently pass on when asked – came from the Russian theatre director Lev Dodin, who I had the fortune to meet on a trip the Young Vic arranged for a group of (then) young directors. I think one of us might have said something to him about sometimes wondering whether it was worth sticking at it and he told us that if you can live with no theatre in your life, you’re better off without it. That’s kept me going more than once.

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

Associate Companies update: a Soho takeover and funding success


It might be getting colder as we near the end of 2014 but things are really heating up in the world of our Associate Companies. So here’s the exclusive low-down on what’s been going on.

Theatre Uncut are currently flying high with their flagship production of five new plays which they commissioned for 2014: fascinating, interlinked short pieces that explore themes of knowledge, information, the news media, power and politics in the digital age by some incredibly exciting writers: Clara Brennan, Inua Ellams, Vivienne Franzmann, Anders Lustgarten and Hayley Squires. Even better, for the first time ever the flagship production will be touring the UK until 13th December: you can catch it at Soho Theatre this week (until Sun 30th Nov), or in Brighton, Bristol, Canterbury or Liverpool. To find out what the critics have been seeing check here.

The flagship plays are also available for anyone in the world to download, read and perform, rights-free, until 13th December. So far already this year the plays have been downloaded over 320 times in 25 countries. We’re proud to support a project that makes new writing available around the world on an unprecedented scale. You can access the plays by visiting Theatre Uncut’s website here.

Meanwhile nabokov have also pitched up at Soho, making it an “associate companies sandwich”  and have taken over the downstairs cabaret space with their rollicking, rocking mashup of theatre and live music, SYMPHONY. A co-production with Soho, the show comes straight off the back of a hugely successful Edinburgh run in August followed by a UK tour. Now it’s taking London audiences by storm if these audience reactions are anything to go by. With three new plays by Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Tom Wells, interwoven with music from London Snorkelling Team’s Ed Gaughan, it’s definitely not to be missed – a good helping of festival vibes to warm up your winter! You’ve got until Sunday 30th to catch it so be quick!

Last but by no means least, we’re delighted to announce that Forward Theatre Project have just been awarded a grant of £30,000 from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, to support their core overheads and the salary of Artistic Director Charlotte Bennett over the next two years. This hugely exciting and thoroughly well deserved money will allow Forward Theatre Project  to continue to produce distinctive work, created through collaborations between members of the collective, with strong connections to regional locations.

The story behind EVERY BRILLIANT THING – Part 1

The way Duncan tells it, EVERY BRILLIANT THING began as a favour.

Rosie, an actress in his first play, came up to him on their final night. She was in two scenes but had no lines and was required to keep her back to the audience. After the performance, she took his face in her hands and said:

‘You owe me.’

A few months later he was invited to write a short play for The Miniaturists and it seemed like a good opportunity to repay the favour. He wrote her a monologue. Having been in a play where she said nothing, she was now able to stand on stage and talk constantly for fifteen minutes which, knowing Rosie, suited her much better.

The monologue he wrote, entitled SLEEVE NOTES, is a short story about a young girl who makes a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world as an attempt to combat her mother’s depression.

1.       Ice cream

2.       Rollercoasters

3.       Staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV

4.       People falling over

5.       Banana slides

6.       Water fights

As the girl grows up, so does the list. It takes on a life of its own, other people start adding to it, writing in the margins, making amendments, providing footnotes. The purpose of the list is forgotten and her mother’s depression doesn’t go away. Eventually, as a grown woman, she reaches her self-imposed target of one million entries.

She calls the list ‘Every Brilliant Thing’.

People who heard Rosie read the monologue enjoyed it greatly and so over the next few months, she was asked to perform it again and again at different theatres.

A little while after that, Duncan was invited by Paines Plough to perform something he’d written as part of LATER, which was a monthly event conceived by Mark Ravenhill, where playwrights would read or perform their own work. Duncan decided to read SLEEVE NOTES, and set about changing anything gender specific and making the list in the story feel a bit more macho.

3675. Shoes


3675. Marlon Brando

I heard Duncan perform SLEEVE NOTES and asked him to do it again at SHORTS – an event James and I used to run for nabokov at the Old Red Lion. I really liked how he performed it. It felt honest. Autobiographical maybe. Despite not particularly having enjoyed the experience of performing it the first time round, he reluctantly relented and agreed.

I noticed once more how the simplicity, warmth and hope of the story moved people.

A year or so later people still mentioned the story to me. How it had stayed with them. How it had gently changed the way they viewed things. Duncan and I met for coffee and between us we dreamt up the idea of actually making the list in the story. From scratch. Something that, like in the story, anyone could add to and share.

Unsure of exactly where to begin, we stared a Facebook group in the hope of reaching out to those who already knew the story to help us populate the real life list. Within hours contributions started flying in.

101. Massages

102. Late night text conversations

103. Inappropriate songs played at emotional moments

The group continued to grow and within a few months we had several hundred members and nearly a thousand entries.

We took SLEEVE NOTES to a festival in Brick Lane and to the Innocent Village Fete in Regents Park where it was read by Gugu Mbatha Raw while children hung their contributions on the branches of ‘The Tree of Every Brilliant Thing’.

2571. Hugs and laughing til your tummy hurts

2572. Seashells

We saved all the contributions in a huge card board box and added them to the Facebook Group. We loved the idea of the list existing physically as well as digitally – something you could look at, hold in your hands, walk around.

So we enlisted designers Paul Burgess and Simon Daw and set up what Paul called a ‘voluntary sweatshop’. We began to transpose the digital entries from Facebook on to paper, using backs of envelopes, post-it notes, newspaper cuttings, receipts, cardboard, beer-mats, whatever we could get our hands on. We installed our list like an exhibition in one of the huge arches in Village Underground in Shoreditch for the nabokov Arts Club – thousands and thousands of entries;

3263. Telephones with a rotary dial rather than push buttons

3346. Getting a mix tape

3376. Columbo

nabokov’s Producer at the time Davina Shah had managed to source a load of old cassette Walkmans and we had recorded hundreds of people reading SLEEVE NOTES as well as a companion piece we commissioned Gary Owen to write called KILL JOY. Whereas SLEEVE NOTES was a child’s perspective on a parent struggling with depression, KILL JOY was  a story about a young child written through the eyes of a depressed parent. As you walked around the installation you would listen to one story on side A then turn the tape over and listen to the other on side B. At the end you could add your own entries to the list which began to grow out of the arch as the evening went on. At some point in the evening the music from the next arch got so loud that it drowned out the headphones. So I managed to persuade Duncan to get up on stage and perform SLEEVE NOTES one last time. 500 people stopped dancing, and almost as one, quietly sat down on the floor to listen.

Duncan reads SLEEVE NOTES at the nabokov Arts Club

The following year, Tania Harrison invited nabokov to take the exhibition to the Latitude Festival. This time we had our own tent in which we set up the installation. Our Stage Manager Kirsten Turner, along with some help from willing volunteers Hannah Scott and Camilla Kinchin, spent the weekend rallying people to come and perform SLEEVE NOTES inside the tent. We had set it up so that someone different would read the story every fifteen minutes or so, for four days straight. As well as actors Sian Clifford, Tom Cullen, Clare Dunne, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Ferdy Roberts and Craig Gazey amongst others, we also tempted comedians Ed Byrne and Frank Skinner to do a shift. But for a last minute intervention, we would have had Jarvis Cocker up there too.

This was where the life of the exhibition ended, though the Facebook group continued to grow.

3545. Untangling things

But still the project itself hung in the air. I went to stay with a GP friend in Wales who told me how it had changed her perspective and how much good she thought it could do for others. Another friend who at the time was a parliamentary consultant for the Royal College of Psychiatrists spoke passionately to me about how helpful it could be to run it at one of the party conferences to raise awareness for mental health charities. We were approached by the people who run World Mental Health day too. We never intended it to, but it had managed to speak quite eloquently but in a very gentle way about the connections between perception and mental well-being.

But more than any potential political impact was the feeling we had something positively contagious that more people should come in to contact with. The Facebook group continued apace, gathering followers and contributions from around the world.

So last year, during the London run of Duncan’s play LUNGS, we picked up the conversation once again. We wondered what the evolution of the project would be and how Paines Plough, as well as other companies, might facilitate the next step of the journey.

New shows: nabokov and Theatre Uncut

Ticket booking alert! Three new shows from two of our Associate Companies coming right up in Edinburgh and Watford.

Yes siree, you don’t want to miss these. Theatre Uncut heads back to Edinburgh with two of its past hits from playwright royalty and current Charlie & The Chocolate Factory adapter David Greig, alongside a return to The Traverse with a new set of plays for 2013 to follow last year’s Fringe First Award winning collection.

And once your liver has repaired after Edinburgh, head to Watford for nabokov‘s latest show from the dazzling pen of EV Crowe.

Theatre Uncut presents
Dalgety and Fragile by David Greig

Fringe First, Herald Angel and Spirit of the Fringe award winners Theatre Uncut present a double bill of David Greig plays written for the international Theatre Uncut action event. Two rural coppers are faced with the Naked Rambler in Dalgety; while Fragile looks at the effects of the cuts in mental health support.

Paterson’s Land
20-24 August, 3pm

Theatre Uncut at the Traverse: presenting the 2013 new short play season

Theatre Uncut presents new plays that aim to get people thinking, talking and taking action on what is going on in the world around us. Following the success at the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe (winning a Fringe First, Herald Angel and Spirit of the Fringe Award) Theatre Uncut returns to the Traverse with a brand new collection tackling the issues that are facing us all right now. This is rough, vital theatre that raises debate and calls for action.

Traverse Theatre
10am on Monday 5 / Monday 12 / Monday 19 August

nabokov and Watford Palace Theatre present
Virgin by E.V. Crowe

Emily, a busy working mother and commuter, can’t wait for broadband to reach her remote country farmhouse. When ambitious young Sally arrives to work with her on the project, she’s invited to stay. But being connected means different things to these two generations of women, and Emily finds her ideas of friendship and privacy tested to the limit…
A witty, provocative, compelling new play from E. V. Crowe, directed by Joe Murphy.
Watford Palace Theatre
26 September – 19 October 2013

See y’all there!


We’re thrilled to announce that the sixth production of Programme 2013 is EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan.

You’re six years old. Mum’s in hospital. Dad says she’s ‘done something stupid’. She finds it hard to be happy. You start to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything that’s worth living for.

1. Ice cream
2. Kung Fu movies
3. Burning things
4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose
5. Construction cranes
6. Me

You leave it on her pillow. You know she’s read it because she’s corrected your spelling. Soon, the list will take on a life of its own.

Based on true and untrue stories.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING is the culmination of a project that Duncan began several years ago with Paines Plough Joint Artistic Director George. It has in various forms existed as a monologue, an exhibition and a FaceBook group and has evolved with the input of thousands of people at the nabokov Arts Club, Innocent Village Fete, Latitude Festival and online.

With our friends at Pentabus, Jersey Arts Trust and nabokov we’re bringing the full story behind Duncan’s incredible project to the stage with two exclusive preview performances this summer before a full national tour in 2014.

For more information about the show visit the production page on our website:


INSIGHTS: the playwright/director relationship

The first in our brand new blog series offering insights in to our working practice focuses on the relationship between the director and the playwright.

Using their experience collaborating on ARTEFACTS (2008) and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE (2010-12) as context, our Joint Artistic Director James Grieve (JG) and Associate Playwright Mike Bartlett (MB) offer their top tips to making this unique relationship as artistically fulfilling as possible – for both parties, the play and the production.

What follows are highlighted quotes from a’ Q and A’ workshop run by James and Mike at the Young Vic on Tuesday 22nd January 2013.


– For me the form and content arrive at the same time. [MB]

– One of the main qualities of a writer is to pick what to write about. [MB]


– One of the best ways to meet a writer or director is to find an opportunity to say to them ‘I really love what you do.’ [JG]

– As a writer, it’s not so much about your manner, social skills, or presentation – ultimately all you have to do is write something good. [MB]

– If a director doesn’t have a relationship with your work they’re just your friend. [MB]

– Invest in your peers as much as you invest in your heroes. Then you learn things together and from each other. [MB]


– The explosion of ‘shorts’ nights in 2005 was like a two year speed dating process. A chance to flirt before you commit. MB

– Short play nights are like a production process in miniature – a chance to experience redrafting, rehearsing, presenting etc. [MB]

– Quoting Duncan Macmillan on our short play night:

‘We didn’t invite industry.

They were not works in progress.

We were simply practicing.’ [MB]


– Collaboration is difficult. It Involves a set of skills no one teaches you. You need to have a chance to get it wrong.

You need to learn the answers to your questions by making mistakes:

‘How much do I speak in the room?

Do I talk to the actors?

When do I talk to the designer?’ [MB]

– Most directors have directed plays that they’re quite pleased no one ever saw before their ‘big break’. [JG]


– ARTEFACTS began with a little bit of money and a lot of faith. What matters at the beginning of the commissioning process is that you agree a shared understanding of what you both want from the process. Then you can start talking about the play itself. [JG]

– It was important for my commissioning director (i.e. James) to say “we are going to do this and it is going to be brilliant”. It’s not dissimilar to the way self-help books talk about visualization. A writer can feel the director’s desire to make it work. [MB]


– I want a director to read my first draft overnight. That’s the stuff that keeps you writing and excited. [MB]

– On one hand, you’ve entirely messed it up and you’ve ended your career or on the other, it’s the best play of the 21st century. When I hand my first draft in I literally have no idea where it stands between these two points . [MB]

– Harold Pinter called Peter Hall (then Artistic Director of the National Theatre) and said he’d written a new play.

Hall told Pinter to get in a cab.

They read the play aloud together over a bottle offer wine.

The next morning Hall told Pinter it was the best thing he’d written and that he was going to put it on (at the National).

The trust and Immediacy at the heart of that story is what writers want. [MB]

– As a director I feel a huge amount of pressure to respond in 24 hours to a writer. But given how long the writer will have spent with that work, in one read over 24 hours I can’t possibly have anything useful to offer them. So I say:

‘I’ve read your play.

I love it.

I couldn’t possibly say anything helpful after such a short period of time.

But let’s meet up on Friday by which time ill have read it another four times.’ [JG]

– I want to hear ‘You are a brilliant writer – that’s not in doubt. I love this idea. So irrespective, we’ll get to the place we want to be at.’ MB

– Don’t give notes unless you’ve been asked to by the writer, or you have made some kind of commitment to produce the play. [MB]


– ARTEFACTS  was rejected by every theatre in London. in my heart of hearts i knew it was a brilliant play but there was a thought at the back of my mind that this might not go on as there’s no where else to try. Then a change in Artistic Director changed everything. [JG]

– Is this a bad play or a great play that no one wants? It’s easier to keep faith in a play when two of you have faith in the play. Otherwise on your own you might give up. [MB]

– “It’s about tenacity.” Chris Thorpe. [MB]


– There’s no overall hierarchy between writers and directors. [MB]

– Ideally you use a bespoke process for each writer and for each writer’s play. [MB]


– Dramaturgy is a word to whose meaning nobody can exactly agree, but to me it’s giving notes. [JG]

– Your job as a director is to deliver the writer’s vision of the play. You will never spend as much time on this play in your head as the writer will. The leading expert on this play will always be the writer. [JG]

– A way in to a conversation with a writer about their play:

‘Why have you called the characters these names?’

Sometimes this doesn’t reveal anything but sometimes story emerges and then you’re in to a conversation. [JG]

– Advice for speaking to writers about their play: keep things open.

You say: “Why is this character so mean?”

The writer says: “It’s based on my mum.”

Where do you go from there? [JG]

– In dramaturging the play don’t solve the problem of the play. [MB]

– Dramaturgy can sometimes tend a play towards the average which might not be what you want to do. [MB]

– The hard bit isn’t finding the problems it’s finding the solutions. [MB]


– Directors want writers to care as much as the director does that they get the right design team who will build the right world for the play. [JG]

– So writers need to know designers they like and why. [MB]

– It’s important that writers feel that ‘Everything you see on stage I’ve signed off on’. If the design isn’t right that’s as much my responsibility as the director or designers. But that doesn’t come for free so you need to make sure you collaborate in those conversations. [MB]


– Casting conversations with the writer can be hugely revealing of the play for the director. [JG]

– As a writer, casting is secretly a chance to workshop the play. [MB]


– A questions to ask a writer before rehearsals:

‘What were you reading, listening to, watching, or visiting when you were writing this?’ [JG]

– Before rehearsals:

The writer and I read a page at a time and talk about every line, one at a time, exploring every stupid question the director (i.e. me) might have.

That way I’ve done everything I can to understand the play up until the beginning of rehearsals. [JG]

– Before rehearsals begin, agree with the writer what your strategy is when you go in to the room – what will you say when the actor asks ‘why does that character do that?’ JG]

– At a wedding the father of the bride said to the groom:

‘The greatest thing you can do for your children is love your wife.’

So –  the greatest thing you can do as a writer, for your play, is to publicly empower your director. [MB]

– In the room the writer is looking for things that aren’t working. I use a red/yellow card system to avoid making rash and incorrect decisions. A yellow card means I’ll look at it again in a few weeks time before deciding to give it a red card and cut or change it. [MB]

– In the rehearsal room I’m watching and I’m broadcasting what the play is:

‘This is what it is,’

‘This is why I wrote it.’ [MB]

– Depending on their availability you want the writer to be in rehearsals as often as possible. You don’t want to take a wrong turn. [JG]

– And the writer wants to be proportionately careful as to how they give the director notes after a three/five day absence. [MB]

-The first run through in the rehearsal room is the director’s first draft. It’s exposing to have the writer there when you’re thinking ‘wow that’s shit and we’ve only got 8 days til we open’. [JG]

– After the first rehearsal room run the best thing the writer can do is beam at the actors and tell them how wonderful it is. [JG]


– As a writer you learn a lot from being in tech. [MB]


– A playwrights’ job once in to production is to broadcast ‘this is the play’, ‘this isn’t the play’ on decisions. [MB]

– A confident production with a few wrong turns is infinitely better than a stilted, restricted and under confident show. [MB]

– As a writer, giving notes on the production apply the same rules as the director giving notes on the drafts of the play. [MB]


– Previews is when you need to support each other. There are going to be good ones and bad ones.

Enter it as a team and come out of it as a team. [JG]

– Have a clear system to giving notes during previews. [JG]

– Get tech notes in early – ring them in your notebook so you can give them straight away. [MB]

– The actors go through something extraordinary – A study showed an actors heart rate when they go on for first preview is the same as someone post car crash. [JG]

-I only go in to the actors’ dressing room after the first preview. Otherwise I think it’s their world, their character. They need to know I’m not going to be coming back there giving them notes. [MB]


– At the end of press night all you need to be able to do is look each other in the eye and say we have done everything we can to make this the piece of work that we wanted to. [JG]

– You remind yourself:

This is not a democracy.

This is not a popularity contest. [MB]

– The only time I struggle with press night is when there is a technical problem as then you’re not showing the critics what you’ve practiced. [MB]


– Make sure the writers have as much access to tickets and cheap ticket deals as actors do, as often they don’t. [MB]

– Keep your faith in the production – even if there are bits you’re not sure about, an audience might be enjoying it. I hate it when bands say their own second album is terrible, when actually I really liked it. [MB]

Super Sunday: Open Auditions

We’re gearing up for Super Sunday once again, with 190 actors coming along to our Open Auditions at The Actor’s Centre.

It’s one of our favourite ways to spend a day, meeting lots of great people and watching them perform extracts of contemporary plays.

Open Auditions are our way of broadening our horizons when it comes to casting, and getting to meet actors we might not otherwise get to know. So we split the PP team across three rooms and meet actors for a quick chat, and ask them to prepare a duologue from a play written in the last 15 years.

We’re not casting for anything specific, it’s just a chance for us to meet you, and for you to meet us. But we employ around 50 actors per year, so of course we’ve got an eye on the productions we have coming up in the next year, and hoping to meet people who might be the right fit for one of our shows.

Alongside Team PP, we invite other directors to join us, to maximise the opportunities actors have to meet people who can give them jobs. Joining us this Sunday are Charlotte Bennett (artistic director, Forward Theatre Project), Joe Murphy (artistic director of nabokov and associate director of Soho Theatre), Stef O’Driscoll (artistic director of Dirty Stop Out), Jack Lowe (artistic director of Curious Directive), freelance directors David Mercatali and Gemma Kerr, as well as freelance casting director Sophie Davies.

Team PP is represented in full by artistic directors James and George, producer Tara, administrator Hanna, general manager Claire, production assistant Sarah and our super volunteer Annabel.

We have a little chat, find out a bit about you and what plays and playwrights you like, see your duologue, and give you a chance to grill us about anything you like.

So what happens next? We keep everyone’s details on file and if we liked what you showed us we’ll be sure to keep you in mind for future castings. Lots of people we’ve met for the first time through Open Auditions have subsequently been invited in to meet for our productions. At the end of the day, we all head to the pub for a discussion centred around finding parts for people who really blew us away.

If you’re coming on Sunday, thank you, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

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.

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!