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Broken Biscuits: #nowplaying Hull

With Plymouth still tapping its feet, we’re brushing off the sand and getting back on the road. This evening BROKEN BISCUITS lands in Kingston upon Hull at Hull Truck Theatre, ready to shred those skins.


The Housemartins

An unlikely collision of Marxist politics and Christianity, The Housemartins are an alternative backing track to the 80s. Originally buskers on the streets of Hull, their single ‘Happy Hour’ landed them at the top of the UKs music scene. Whilst members Paul Heaton and Dave Hemingway went on to form The Beautiful South, did you know that Fat Boy Slim and Beats International’s Norman Cook used to be their bass player?


The Beautiful South

Former members of the Housemartins, Paul and Dave formed The Beautiful South in 1988, joined by former roadies and guest vocalists Briana Corrigan and Jaqui Abbott. Their hilariously frank lyrics and soft melodies, mean there’s always one line of ‘Don’t Marry Her’ that always has to be yelled at the top of your lungs.


Fatboy Slim

After he moved to Hull to join The Housemartins, the group split in 1988 and Norman Cook created the musical sensation that is Fatboy Slim. Technically a DJ and not a band, we’re going to give this one to Norman because Christopher Walken moves are truly something else.


The Paddingtons

With a similar sound to bands like The Cribs, The Libertines and Alex Turner’s The Last Shadow Puppets, indie rock band The Paddingtons are one of the 00’s grungers out there. Messy hair, eye liner, ‘cool’ hats and tattered jeans… some of us have all been there.

DID YOU KNOW… back in 2012 Paines Plough presented Paul Heaton’s soul opera THE 8TH in a co-production with Manchester International Festival and on tour across the UK.


The 8th reaches 30,000

We’ve just got the latest Spotify figures for total listens-to-date of last year’s studio album release of Paul Heaton and Che Walker’s THE 8TH.

As of 11th April, 24,316 people from 17 different countries have streamed the album The Independent on Sunday described as “Leonard Bernstein meets Public Enemy”.

Most listens by far are in the UK where 16,857 of you have tuned in to Paul and Che’s tale of sin and redemption. 2,994 Swedish fans have streamed along with 1,494 Spaniards.

With the CD (remember those?) reaching 127 in the album charts and over 5,000 audience members experiencing the show live in London, Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham and Southwold, the total live and broadcast audience for the show has topped 30,000 making it one of our widest reaching productions of all time.

And it’s still available to stream, right now, for free. Click on this link to listen to THE 8TH today.

Muddied but unbowed: Latitude 2012

Our kitchens look like chinese laundries, our mud splattered wellies perch on plastic bags in hallways, our legs feel like lead, our heads like cotton wool. It can only mean one thing – we’ve been Latituded.

It’s our favourite weekend of the year bar none, and now the tents have been dismantled for another year, we’re back at PP HQ reflecting on another vintage festival.

Team PP assembled in Suffolk on Thursday. With THE 8TH in Birmingham the previous night, the creative team travelled rock ‘n’ roll style with the artists in Paul Heaton’s tour bus, while the office disgorged into trains and cars and buses, weighed down by rucksacks jammed with pillows and rum and crisps.

Having pitched PP Camp in our usual spot in a glade of the lovely Henham Park forest, it was straight to The Film & Music Arena for tech rehearsals for THE 8TH. It’s always an exciting few hours before the Arena opens to the public – stallholders prepping their wares, wafts of music from multiple soundchecks, anticipation in the air. THE 8TH’s band tuned up, Reg roared his opening lines into the mic, the singers stepped up to stretch their vocal chords, Tim waved his wand at the lighting rig, Bernd frantically searched for a drill.

Tech done, and the gates to the Arena about to be opened, we beat a retreat backstage and waited for showtime.

THE 8TH from backstage at The Film & Music Arena

For six consecutive years, Paines Plough has appeared in the Theatre Tent (in its various guises), so it was a new and exciting experience to be performing in the Film & Music Arena for the first time in 2012. Thursday night is a brilliant night for theatre, because none of the music stages are opened until Friday, so the Arts stages are all packed with eager punters seeking their first festival fix.

Reg and the gang were on top form, bringing the curtain down on the tour with a rabble-rousing performance, roared on by a jammed to capacity tent head-bopping and yowling approval. “It’s my first rock ‘n’ roll tour,” grins Reg afterwards as celebratory beers are cracked. Huge thanks to everyone who came to see us, you were an incredible crowd.

No festival fun for the band and singers, they’re straight back on the tour bus and off into the night. Team PP heads to the theatre tent to cheer nabokov’s brilliant SYMPHONY before heading to the woods to dance idiotically to Dermot O’Leary‘s deliciously retro indie disco set.

With THE 8TH done and dusted, the whole weekend stretched out ahead of us, ripe for the revelling. Kate Tempest’s stunning BRAND NEW ANCIENTS has everyone on their feet for a raucous standing ovation in the theatre tent. There’s more theatrical delights from Tangled Feet and Rash Dash, a smorgasboard of poetics in the poetry tent and a great Latitude moment on the Lake Stage as the sun makes a hesitant appearance just as Clock Opera walk on stage for an imperious set. Our excitement at Bon Iver was a little pre-emptory. He wasn’t very good. We were sad.

The Latitude crowd packing out the tent for THE 8TH

Saturday offers up Luke Wright’s epic poem The Vile Ascent Of Lucien Gore And What The People Did in the outdoor theatre – one of our highlights from last year and the same again this. In the literary arena we heard PP alumni Abi Morgan in conversation with Edith Bowman, praising Kate Tempest‘s show as a reminder of how exciting live theatre can be. Also a great quote: “For a writer there’s nothing better than the moment you press send on the first draft.” Look Left Look Right bestowed not one but four new musicals to much hilarity, and Jimmy McGhie‘s wry observational anecdotes were much to our liking in the comedy arena, as was the wildly-inappropriate-and-all-the-funnier-for-it Lee Nelson. We couldn’t see Subtrkt because he’s a man of mystery, but he sounded great. Los Campesinos struck a blow for the liberation of fun by continuing their  set acoustically when someone officious pulled the plug on them, and Guy Garvey showed Bon Iver how it’s done with a barnstorming headline set. “So throw those curtains wide! One day like this a year’d see me right!” And so it would. Especially if it continued with arm-flailing dancing to Guilty Pleasures, a sensational DJ set from Shy FX and our legendary Car Park Disco until sunrise. Or in this instance until some jobsworth security guards shut us down. Boo. Hiss.

Bernd (in the hat) watching Reg from backstage

Sunday comes too soon at Latitude. It always does. But what’s this orange ball in the sky? Should we be worried? No, we should buy cider and sit on the grass and listen to Ben Howard. That’s what we should do. Matthew Bourne on the lake, Daughter in the woods, a sensory out-of-body experience in Curious Directive’s enchanting Olfactory…a bounty of epicurean delights. Alabama Shakes got us shaking, Buena Vista Social Club proved we can still be shaking when we’re 70, and Wild Beasts smashed it in the Word Arena. Off to the woods for a final jig to Norman Jay, then the traditional bop in the Performer’s Bar to bring down the curtain on another magical mystery tour through the enchanted fields and forests of Henham Park.

And so the sad trudge to the car on Monday morning, sleep deprived and malnourished, resplendent in damp clothes from the Mud by Jackson Pollock range and fearing the onset of trench foot. The A12 is at a standstill. It’s raining apologetically. There is glitter absolutely everywhere. Has anyone got any nurofen?

All hail Latitude. The greatest festival in the world. Thank you to all who sailed in her. We loved performing for you, we loved partying with you, we miss your glittered faces and ludicrous head gear. We are counting down the days uintil we commune with you again.

And meantime, you can reminisce with our Latitude Spotify Playlist or buy THE 8TH album, or leave a comment to tell us your Latitude tales.


It’s fast approaching our favourite weekend of the year.

PPHQ is in the grip of anticipatory and preparatory fervour ahead of our sixth consecutive Latitude Festival. And. We. Can’t. Wait. Yeeeaaaah!

(A little excitable, as you can see)

Okay, deep breath, we need to reserve some energy for our legendary late night car-park discos.

But yup, we’re off to the beautiful Henham Park tomorrow to once again partake in the multifarious delights of the nation’s greatest arts festival.

Following our previous festival hits MURDER AT GOBBLERS’ WOOD (07), CRAZYLOVE/SHOOT GET TREASURE REPEAT (08), TRACES (09), TINY VOLCANOES (10) and WASTED (11), we’re making a departure from the theatre tent to headline the Film and Music Arena with THE 8TH.

Paul Heaton and Ché Walker’s sensational soul opera closes its sell-out national tour with an all-guns-blazing festival finale at 9:30pm on Thursday night.

THE 8TH features an all-star ensemble cast including Simon Aldred (Cherry Ghost), Gareth David (Los Campesinos!), Jacqui Abbott (Beautiful South) and Reg E Cathey (Norman Wilson in HBO’s The Wire) and in true last-night-of-the-tour style they’re all bang up for a stellar finale.

So get there early and get down the front. Then wave your hands in the air.

Reg E Cathey in THE 8TH. Thursday, 9:30PM, Film & Music Arena. Be there.

There’s a whole heap of stuff we’re excited about seeing at Latitude. Pretty much the whole lip-licking theatre line-up for starters, plus the largest collection of performance poets in Europe, dance on the lake, funny people telling jokes, all manner of weirdness, and of course some mighty fine musical maestros.

As an outlet for our excitement, we’ve put together our collective LATITUDE playlist. We’ve shared it on Spotify – our music channel of choice (they don’t sponsor us to say that, but if they’d like to they can contact us here)  – so that you too can share in our festival spirit.

Have a listen to our highlights and let us know what we’re missing by making your own recommendations by leaving a comment.

And if for whatever reason you’re not going to Latitude* you can recreate the experience by listening to THE 8TH at home**.  The studio album and exclusive DVD is now available to buy from HMV, Fopp, Amazon and and you can listen on Spotify.

* Firstly, take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. What could you possibly be doing this weekend that would mean you’d miss Latitude?

** To fully recreate the festival experience, stand in a puddle whilst listening.

London calling

This time last year I wrote a blog about our decision not to produce work in London for two years. It started an interesting debate in the comments section.

In 2010 and 2011, we toured to 69 places around the UK, but London wasn’t one of them. We wanted to reaffirm Paines Plough’s historic commitment to touring far and wide, in pursuit of being a truly national theatre of new plays.

But you’ll have noticed we’ve landed in the capital in a big way in 2012. Our London Season this year sees seven productions across town. In true Paines Plough style they’re well spread out so you can see our work in your local theatre whether you’re in Southfields, Shoreditch or Sloane Square.

Despite some claims to the contrary, we’ve never been anti-London. Everyone who works at PP lives in London, so it’s our home town and we love it. And it has always been our plan to produce work here. We just wanted to get out and about a bit first.

We’ve been overwhelmed by the demand for our work to be seen in London, and we’re very proud to be presenting a wide range of top class new plays across 2012 in a year that sees the world’s focus on our city.

Our London Season map - seven shows across the city

Our London Season started with LOVE, LOVE, LOVE at The Royal Court, which had previously toured to 18 different venues from Plymouth to Glasgow.

Kate Tempest’s WASTED spent two weeks at The Roundhouse and also popped up in Deptford, Earlsfield and Redbridge as part of a 26 venue nationwide tour.

This week we’ve got two new shows in town. SMITHEREENS by Sean Buckley is a co-production with Rose Bruford College, performed by the Third Year Acting students. It’s already been seen in Zone 5 in Sidcup, and it’s in Zone 1 at Soho Theatre all this week.

And we made our debut at The Barbican with Paul Heaton and Che Walker’s THE 8TH, a stunning soul opera we first made with Manchester International Festival last year and which goes out on tour to Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Birmingham before headlining The Film & Music Arena at Latitude next week.

Then in September the Roundabour Season lands at Shoreditch Town Hall. Three new plays by Duncan Macmillan, Nick Payne and Penelope Skinner performed by a single ensemble of actors in rep within our unique portable in-the-round auditorium. Co-produced with Sheffield Theatres, the Roundabout Season premiered in Sheffield last year.

The Roundabout Auditorium pitches up in Shoreditch this Autumn

So seven shows across London in 2012 for you to enjoy. We’re thrilled to be camped in the city, but we’re also proud that all the work we’re presenting in London has been seen outside the capital first, by people from Cambridge to Cardiff to Canterbury. More people saw LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and WASTED outside London than saw the shows in town, and that’s an important barometer for us. So moving forward we’ll keep popping up in the city, but our focus will remain on the whole country.

Let us know what you think by posting a comment.

PS – We’re also producing a show this year called LONDON, that’s not playing in London. Call us obtuse, but we kind of like that.

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 opens and hits the charts

As regular readers of this blog will know, we don’t like an easy life here at PPHQ.

Earlier in the year, joint-AD James rehearsed Mike Bartlett’s LOVE, LOVE, LOVE and Kate Tempest’s WASTED back-to-back. This summer it’s George‘s turn.

So whilst he and Trainee Director Mark Maughan began rehearsing David Harrower’s GOOD WITH PEOPLE last week in Glasgow – leaving Tara, Claire, Hanna and the rest of team PP overseeing SMITHEREENS‘ transfer to London’s Soho Theatre – he has pretty much simultaneously started rehearsals of Paul Heaton and Che Walker’s THE 8TH.

We premiered the show last year with the Manchester International Festival. Thanks to some fantastic audience feedback, SJM Concerts are remounting the show on a much bigger scale this summer. We’re transferring from a 350-seat tent outside Manchester Town Hall to the 1160-capacity Barbican, as well as touring to Manchester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield and Southwold.

If you missed the show last time you can get the gist of it from The 8th Blog, here.

And you can find out how to book tickets, here.

The show features a five-piece band, a string quartet, 8 singers, 1 actor and tackles a mysterious eighth deadly sin. It’s part staged concert, part soul opera, part gig, part one-man-show.

The brainchild of former Housemartins and Beautiful South lead-man Paul Heaton, it’s brought to vibrant life by an A-list, heavyweight crew of artists. ‘The Wire’ Seasons 4 & 5 star Reg E Cathy is a tour-de-force as the ‘underground railroad reverend’ of celebrated, Award-Winning British playwright Che Walker’s redemptive sermon. The soaring soul of Wayne Giddens, Yvonne Shelton and Steve Menzies pitch up against the song-bird beauty of Jacqui Abbott and the gravel-studded depth of Mike Greaves and Simon Aldred (Cherry Ghost), whilst exciting new-comer Aaron Wright features alongside crowd favourite Gareth David (Los Campesinos) – all singing songs dedicated to each deadly sin. And it’s pulled together by Paul himself as he finally takes to the stage to unmask the eight, and deadliest, sin.

We’ve thrown together a spotify playlist of work by some of the singers that feature in THE 8TH which you should be able to listen to here.

If you type ‘The 8th Paul Heaton’ in to YouTube you can watch some terrible quality pirate recordings of last year’s show.

But to be honest, if you want to get a true flavour of the piece, you’d be best off clicking here and buying the album from amazon, which – along with the single ‘Lust’ – will be hitting the charts later this month.

But don’t just take our word for it. Describing the piece as “Leonard Bernstein meets Public Enemy”, the Independent on Sunday picked THE 8TH as their CD of the week last Sunday.

Announcing Programme 2012

We’re super excited to announce our full Programme 2012 today.

We’re presenting 11 productions in 44 places across the country from Edinburgh to The Isle of Wight.

Some stuff you already know about, like Matt Hartley‘s SIXTY FIVE MILES which we co-produced earlier in the year with our friends at Hull Truck, and the two shows we have currently running in London – Mike Bartlett‘s LOVE, LOVE, LOVE at The Royal Court and Kate Tempest’s WASTED at The Roundhouse.

In addition we’ve lined up some real treats for you, wherever you live. WASTED continues its tour to festivals in Brighton and York. There’s a national tour of our Manchester International Festival smash hit soul opera THE 8TH by Paul Heaton & Che Walker culminating with a very special performance at The Latitude Festival. Simon Stephens’ LONDON opens its tour at Salisbury Playhouse in a co-production with both Salisbury and Live Theatre, Newcastle.

For the first time in three years, we’re presenting a season of work across London, all of which has premiered outside the capital. Love, Love, Love is currently running at the Royal Court. Wasted visits the Roundhouse. The 8th opens its tour at The Barbican. And we’re thrilled to be bringing our Roundabout Season to to town in the Autumn. Three new plays by Duncan Macmillan, Nick Payne and Penelope Skinner will be presented in our own purpose built portable in-the-round Roundabout auditorium at Shoreditch Town Hall.

Also we’re bringing back our 2009 hit GOOD WITH PEOPLE by David Harrower for The Edinburgh Festival. A new series of Come to Where I’m From will include playwrights from Brighton, Cheltenham, Chipping Norton and the Isle Of Wight; and we’re delighted to again be working with the students at Rose Bruford College on Sean Buckley’s SMITHEREENS.

Here’s a note from James & George:

“We’re hugely proud to announce our third annual programme of work as Paines Plough’s Artistic Directors.

“Our passion for new plays continues to grow thanks to the extraordinary playwrights that lie at the heart of our company. This year we’re presenting work by a huge range of writers, from Olivier Award winners to the stars of the future.writers who between them have won 2 Oliviers, 3 George Devine Awards, 2 Bruntwood Awards and a host of other accolades, whilst continuing to identify and support the stars of the future.

“We believe everyone should have the chance to see outstanding new plays, no matter where they live, so our commitment to national touring deepens this year with visits to over 40 different UK villages, towns and cities. We’re piloting new touring circuits The Local, Neighbourhood and Campus to make sure our unique brand of new plays reach every corner of the UK.

“After two years working outside the capital, we’ve been overwhelmed by the demand for our work to be seen in London. In response we’ve put together a London Season of productions, all of which have already been seen on tour. In typical Paines Plough style they’re spread right across the city so audiences can experience the work in their local theatre – whether that’s Shoreditch Town Hall, the Barbican, the Royal Court, the Roundhouse or the Albany, amongst others.

“As ever, we’re working in partnership across the programme, and are delighted to be working with old friends as well as new – including the National Theatre, Manchester International Festival, the Roundhouse, Birmingham Rep, Sheffield Theatres, Latitude Festival, National Student Drama Festival, Salisbury Playhouse and Live Theatre Newcastle.

“With these partners, we’re presenting astounding new plays by world class playwrights in places nationwide for people everywhere. We’re priveleged and excited to do so, and look forward to welcoming people to a Paines Plough show in their local theatre.”

So there you have it: Programme 2012. We hope you’re as excited by it as we are.

Pre-order THE 8TH Studio Album now

We recently announced that our smash hit co-production with Manchester International Festival of Paul Heaton and Che Walker‘s THE 8TH is hitting the road this summer. Presented by SJM Concerts, the tour opens at the massive Barbican Centre before rocking up to Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and Southwold.

In advance of the tour, Proper Records are releasing a studio recording of the show. It’s Paines Plough’s first ever album release so we’re pretty excited.

Before it hits the charts, we wanted to give a heads-up that you can now pre-order the album from and Amazon by clicking on the logos below:

You can read all about THE 8TH on this blog.

THE 8TH – In Theatres, Summer 2012

Last week we announced that 2011’s co-production with the Manchester International Festival of Paul Heaton and Che Walker‘s THE 8TH is embarking on a national tour this summer.

Thanks to SJM, THE 8TH can be seen in London, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and Southwold.

In the advert above – which appeared in The Sunday Times last week – the show is described as a ‘Soul Opera’ which we reckon is a PP first.

In case you missed what the show was all about last time around, here are some links to get you up to speed:

The album of THE 8TH is being released on 2nd July by Proper Records which we think is PP’s first ever record release. Watch this blog for updates.

You can follow links to buy ticket for the show, which are selling fast, here:

You can also catch the show at the Latitude Festival where we’re headlining the Music and Film Arena on the Thursday night.