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Paines Plough at 40 on BBC Radio 3

Rosyln Hill and Clare Corbett perform HAPPINESS by Nick Payne.

Rosyln Hill and Clare Corbett perform HAPPINESS by Nick Payne.

Tune in to BBC Radio 3 this Sunday 21 December at 10pm to hear the live recording of three brand new plays to celebrate our 40th Anniversary.

You’ll hear James & George introduce affairs as we premiere new short plays by three of our favourite writers – Katie Douglas, Robin French and Nick Payne.

The plays were recorded live in front of a studio audience and star a stellar cast including Susan Brown, Clare Corbett, Monty d’Inverno, Bryan Dick, Roslyn Hill and Karl Johnson.

BBC Radio 3 have created a microsite where you can see photos of the live recording and watch videos of interviews with James & George, Katie, Robin and Nick.

So this Sunday night at 10pm get yourself settled on the sofa with a bottle of port and a plate of mince pies and celebrate 40 years of Paines Plough with us.

(If by any chance you can’t tune in, you can always listen again on iPlayer…)

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.

Introducing the cast for BBC Radio 3 evening of new plays

As you might know, we’re rounding up celebrations of our 40th anniversary by hosting an evening of new plays with BBC Radio 3. The evening will feature short plays by three of the UK’s most exciting writers – all of whom are PP alumni:

– REUNION by Katie Douglas, directed by Sasha Yevtushenko.

– THE SILVER DRILLS by Robin French, directed by George Perrin.

– HAPPINESS by Nick Payne, directed by James Grieve.

It’s the first day of rehearsals at HQ today, and we’re delighted to be welcoming such a super talented cast…


The plays will be recorded in front of a live audience at the BBC this Friday 7 November then broadcast on 21 December 2014, at 10pm.

We hope you’ll be tuning in.

Open Auditions: Favourite Playwright Poll

Huge thanks to everyone who came to our Open Auditions last Wednesday. We had a brilliant day meeting you all. It never ceases to amaze us how much serious talent is out there and how exciting it is to meet other people as excited about new plays and playwrights as us.

First up, the results of our hotly contested Favourite Playwright Poll are in:

1              Jez Butterworth

2=           Simon Stephens, Mike Bartlett, Dennis Kelly

5=           Sarah Kane, Martin McDonagh

7=           Mark Ravenhill, Terry Johnson, James Graham, Philip Ridley, Nick                          Payne, Roy Willliams

As well as finding out who your favourite playwrights were, meeting 180 actors in one day means we got to hear extracts from so many extraordinary plays written in the last fifteen years so here’s the low down on what we saw:

THE WHISKY TASTER by James Graham; IN DOGGERLAND by Tom Morton-Smith; SONGS OF GRACE AND REDEMPTION by John Donnelly; THE PILLOWMAN by Martin McDonagh; PUSH UP by Roland Schimmelpfennig; IN BASILDON and THE KNOT OF THE HEART by David Eldridge; YELLOW MOON by David Greig; CONSTELLATIONS and ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG by Nick Payne; AFTER THE END by Dennis Kelly; LIAR by Gregory Burke; AMY’S VIEW by David Hare; THE MELANCHOLY PLAY by Sarah Ruhl; 4000 MILES by Amy Herzog; STEALING SWEETS AND PUNCHING PEOPLE by Phil Porter; THE RIVER and PARLOUR SONG by Jez Butterworth; CHRISTMAS IS MILES AWAY and HOW LOVE IS SPELT by Chloe Moss; DI AND VIV AND ROSE by Amelia Bullmore; REASONS TO BE PRETTY by Neil La Bute; 2ND MAY 1997 by Jack Thorne; STITCHING by Anthony Neilson; BANG BANG BANG by Stella Feehily; PORT, BLUEBIRD and MORNING by Simon Stephens; SHOOT 2 WIN by Tracey Daly, Jo Martin, and Josephine Melville; PRECIOUS LITTLE TALENT by Ella Hickson; THE WESTBRIDGE by Rachel Delahay; COLDER THAN HERE by Laura Wade; WILD WOOD by Matt Hartley; LUNGS by DUNCAN MACMILLAN; THE PEOPLE NEXT DOOR by Henry Adam; THE ACID TEST by Anya Reiss; CHICKEN SHOP by Anna Jordan; THE DICE HOUSE by Paul Lucas; MAD MARGARET’S REVENGE by Leslie Ross; THE MOTHERFUCKER WITH THE HAT by Stephen Adly Giurgis; FOREVER HOUSE by Glen Waldron; LITTLE LIGHT by Alice Birch; SEX WITH A STRANGER by Stefan Golaszewski; EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON, COCK and CONTRACTIONS by Mike Bartlett; JOSEPH K by Tom Basden; TENDER by Abi Morgan; UNAMED by Tom Collinson; THE VILLAGE BIKE and EIGENGRAU by Penelope Skinner; HENNA NIGHTS by Amy Rosenthal; MOGADISHU by Vivienne Franzman; I KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT EVE by Colette Kane; THE THINGS GOOD ME DO by Dan Muirden.

So what happens now? We keep a hold of all of your CVs and if we think there’s anything you might be suitable for we’ll invite you in to a casting for a particular PP Show. So watch this space.

Elinor Cook wins George Devine Award

Winner! Photo: David Ryle

Much whooping and cheering at PPHQ at the announcement that Elinor Cook is the winner of this year’s George Devine Award for most promising playwright.

Elinor is one of the five writers on attachment to PP and Channel 4 as part of The Big Room, and we think she’s great.

We’re not the only ones. Playwrights Lucy Caldwell, Laura Wade and Donald Howarth, and former Royal Court Literary Manager Graham Whybrow made up the judging panel who praised Elinor’s “distinctive subject, style and dialogue”, which is “vivid, precise, wry and sparely written”.

Elinor receives a cheque for £15,000 (ours is a pint of lager please Elinor), and joins a roll call of seriously starry past winners of one of the nation’s most prestigious prizes for new plays.

We’re rather proud (bashfully, you understand) to point out PP writers have a rather good track record. Last year’s winner was JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS writer Tom Wells. The 2011 award went to THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN‘s Penelope Skinner. Nick Payne, who wrote ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, was crowned in 2009. Tom, Penelope and Nick – like Elinor – are all past writers on attachment to PP and Channel 4. Our current Big Room Writer-In-Residence Alexandra Wood won in 2007, and past winners include PP alumni Che Walker, Gary Owen and Enda Walsh. What great taste the judges have.

Huge congrats Elinor, from all of us here. We’re made-up for you!

Open Auditions: Stephens and Kelly are your faves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roundabout Meet the Ushers: Jon

Following on from Friday’s blog we asked another of our amazing volunteer ushers to share their experiences of the Roundabout Season and give their personal recommendations of which shows to see in the final week …

Name: Jon Barton

How are you finding the Roundabout experience?

I’m having a really great time. I’m a writer myself so its a useful learning experience for me.

What’s your favourite part of the Roundabout Auditorium?

That it’s in the round. It completely changes the dynamic of the productions and really does justice to the writing. Also we don’t have enough in the round theatres in the UK and it’s a breath of fresh air.

Which plays have you seen so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to see all of them.

Which one would you recommend and why?

One Day When We Were Young is probably my favourite but they’re all unique in their own ways. Lungs is a really affective love story and The Sound of Heavy Rain is great fun.

Give us your 140 character review of the play…

Nick Payne has written a compelling love story that lends itself to the intimacy (and theatricality) of the Roundabout space. In a story that spans six decades we meet Leonard and Violet – wartime lovers looking to enjoy their last night together. Leaping forward to the sixties we see the extent of their estrangement, until events draw them together once more in 2002. Clare Lizzimore’s production excels in its execution, mining the writing for every bit of tenderness and inelegance. Exposing set and costume serve a timeless quality to the story and remind us of the advancing years. What stays with you is the quiet power of the triptych and its ability to quietly break your heart.

Roundabout Meet the Ushers: Ariane

Shoreditch Town Hall has been buzzing in the past 5 weeks with the Roundabout Season in town. And at the heart of the experience are our wonderful volunteer ushers, who have been giving up their time to help create a friendly front of house experience and pass on their passion for theatre and new writing.

So who better to tell us about the ROUNDABOUT experience and what they think of the  shows:

Name: Ariane Barnes

How are you finding the Roundabout experience?

The Roundabout Season has been very rewarding for me, I feel like I am doing something useful with my time on a Friday night and Its always a pleasure to see the other ushers and staff at Shoreditch, its a lovely team.

What’s your favorite part of the Roundabout Auditorium?

I’m very taken by the lighting set up, the guys let me have a go on the lighting board during the introductions evening and I felt like a little kid! When you add the structure of the actual stage ( being in quite a small round) and how intimately it involves audience members, it really does give it all a very unique ambience.

Which plays have you seen so far?

I’ve seen The Sound of Heavy Rain by Penny Skinner and ‘heard’ ( from a different position in the room as an usher) One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne.

Which one would you recommend and why?

I’d recommend The Sound of Heavy Rain

It’s an experience that melds the unique qualities you would find in a classic American cop caper à la ‘Dick Tracy’ and the gritty reality of modern day London and British actors.  It is presented in a unique and highly entertaining way in this auditorium.

Give us your 140 character review of the play…

Right from the start this play sets out to be very different from the normal theatrical experience. Penny Skinner’s writing and the unique ambience created in the intimate space of the roundabout auditorium, provide for this in droves.

Immersed in smoke and sultry music, the audience is instantly transported into the American film noire genre, and skillfully brought back to our gritty London streets by the charming style of delivery given to us by the cast.

All the actors here are to be highly commended for their ability to weave a very British undercurrent into a play written as an expression of both the American genre and the very real, very pressing issues in modern-day Britain.

Therein lies the genius of the writing. This play contains both an expression of what we as an audience die for; the beauty, the music, the intrigue but also a much needed, good hard slap in the face courtesy of the stinging realism in the second half, put to us in a searing duologue showcasing Kate O’Flynn’s emotive, straight-talking, desperation in the face of an emotionally serious situation.

Yes, there will be singing and dancing and a bloody good laugh or two! But ultimately there is a finely crafted message here… the audiences journey through fantasy towards reality is reflective of the characters needs to explore their own psyche’s. And in some cases have their whole ‘constructed world’ completely fall down around them like a house of cards… How long can people stay lost in a fantasy until reality comes calling?

Entertaining and thought provoking theatre.

View from the Stage: Frizzy Hair in the Rain

It was over a month ago now that the Roundabout Auditorium opened its doors at Shoreditch Town Hall. Since then thousands of people have sat on the colourful cushions and sampled some of the three new plays on offer.

At the heart of the Roundabout Season is the stunning acting ensemble of four – Maia Alexander, Alistair Cope, Kate O’Flynn & Andrew Sheridan – who between them perform all the roles in the three productions.  One of the questions they are most frequently asked is: What is it like playing such a range of roles?

Maia (Violet in One Day When We Were Young & Maggie in The Sound of Heavy Rain) tells us that it’s all about the hair…..

Hair today, gone tomorrowThe Sound of Heavy Rain

“When I think about the range of characters that I play in the Roundabout Season, from the seventeen year old to the seventy-nine year old, from the introverted to the glamorous, then the thing that really seems to set them immediately apart is hair. They all have it, of course, but in wildly different styles, some more natural than others, that distinguish not only personalities, but where and when they come from.

For instance, in the transition between Act One and Two of One Day When We Were Young by Nick Payne, when my character Violet is preparing to see Leonard again after a long war which has seen their once paired lives painfully diverge, a broken hair tie threatened to ruin everything. Why was my middle-aged beehive on the side of my head exactly, spilling youthful salon-fresh, perfectly curled locks out onto my jacket that looked exactly like the pre-war seventeen year old Violet? Because the hair tie was refusing to get with the times, that’s why. Stay in character, hair tie!

With Andrew Sheridan in Nick Payne’s “gripping love story” – The Guardian

In The Sound of Heavy Rain by Penelope Skinner, I play five different characters – which is partly achieved by a juggling act of an ever expanding number of wigs.   There is the curly wig which seemed determined to make me look like the lovechild of Brian May and Deidre Barlow, which the designer and costume department fought tirelessly to tame, hacking away at it to try and make it behave. The wig had ideas of its own, and the more it was chopped, the more fervently it asserted its wildness.   Ultimately, it was decided that the wig’s fame had gone to its head and it had begun to upstage the performers head that it was on – and so . . . it was cut from the show. Luckily, the aloof blonde waitress wig stepped in to fill the synthetic void – versatile and relaxed, the platinum bob will play any number of roles without complaint – at the last count, the blonde wig was being used for five different characters, although there is talk, even at this stage half way through the run, of a brunette appearing on the scene. Watch out you blondes.”

Production photos: ONE DAY

Maia Alexander and Andrew Sheridan in ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG

Check out the production photos from ONE  DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG by Nick Payne, currently playing in rep until 27 October as part of our Roundabout Season.

The photos were shot by the brilliant Elyse Marks, and you can see the whole set over on our Flickr stream.

You can buy tickets for the show here.