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Goodbye from Natalie…

Last month we bid a fond farewell to our wonderful Administrator, Natalie, as she took up an incredible new role as General Manager of Coney. Sobs rang out all over the office this morning as her goodbye blog arrived in our inboxes. Here, in her own words, she has summed up her time with us. Sad as we are, we know it’s not really au revoir, just à bientôt…

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What an incredible two years it’s been. It’s hard to know where to begin and I won’t be able to cover everything that I’d like to. So, I’ll just share some of my fondest memories from my time at Paines Plough in the hope that it’ll highlight how much of an incredible company and inspiring team they are to work for and with.

My very first PP show was Duncan Macmillan’s EVERY BRILLIANT THING. I travelled with Alex Wood our playwright-in-residence at the time, where we found ourselves in the lovely little village of Ledbury at The Market Theatre. It was so close to where my mum lives (out in the regions) that my brother came along. I remember introducing him to both Alex and George and instantaneously thinking, “wow this is really cool, my family can see our work where they are and where I’m from, we travel to them”. Coming from an area with limited access to the arts and a low-income family, I immediately saw how important and impactful touring theatre and new writing was, and knew that I had made it into the right company.

I joined PP as the Admin and Finance Assistant in 2013 through Creative Access, a charity who provide year-long traineeships in the creative industries for people of BAME backgrounds. This marked the beginning of my career in the arts. Without this opportunity, I’d probably be in an industry that I’m not passionate about, struggling to find my way in. Paines Plough were the first theatre organisation to partner with Creative Access, actively addressing lack of diversity in the industry. Unafraid and open – two major qualities that extend way beyond their work.

Watching an intimate dress rehearsal of Andrew Scott in SEA WALL over the bridge in one of the rehearsal studios at The National was a truly unforgettable experience.

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I didn’t know what was happening to me when I watched for those 30 minutes, no more than a metre away from him, sucked into his performance and trying really hard to hold floods of tears back. This had never happened to me watching a play before.

Valuable lessons learned:
– I’ll never get left behind in a hotel in Hull after press night again.
– Even though you’ve planned for everyone to meet at the station in good time to catch your train, you’ll always need to run for it #touringPPstyle.
– Pork scratchings vary in taste and texture from region to region. Scottish pubs don’t stock them.
– How to change florescent strip lights and chargers.
– I still can’t do puns…
– Accents, canoeing, ‘being in the lift’ mimes, street dance, the odd prank call and cake really help when you all need a little group pick me up.

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COME TO WHERE I’M FROM at the Southbank Centre was a beautiful installation and interactive map designed by Amy Cook, where audiences and passersby could pop in and listen to plays by writers from all over the UK, for free.

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Invitation to interact with the space, watch some of the writers read their plays live and to hang out with a beer in an open space is my kind of art. This was a lovely weekend.

Touring from all corners of the UK from the Isle of Eigg to Ipswich, Liverpool to Lyme Regis and Newport to Nottingham involves a lot of trains…

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ROUNDABOUT is by far my favourite thing to have been involved in. From its launch in Edinburgh in 2014 to its current Autumn tour, THE HUMAN EAR to LUNGS, Visitor Services to the Street Team, and tea dances in Margate to TORYCORE, the breadth of what Roundabout can do and give is phenomenal.

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EVERY BRILLIANT THING in New York and my (and Francesca’s) first ever trip to the US! We had a whirlwind of five days in New York during the opening at Barrow Street Theatre last December.

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It was very surreal to think how it was only a year before that I was in Ledbury with an audience of 30 to then being Off-Broadway with an American audience of 250! And of course we visited the amazing sights, hung out with Jonny and ate a lot of meat…

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My Paines Plough round-up in numbers:

17 productions

3 Arts Council Annual Reports

1 Big fat 40th anniversary year

2 ROUNDABOUT seasons

2 Edinburghs

2 Latitude festivals

1 Bestival

1 European festival… Wiesbaden

10,220 miles commuted to and from PPHQ by bike

And a lot of miles travelled up and down the country.

And of course there are the people that make all this happen and I’m so privileged to have worked with such a driven and dedicated team. Under the Artistic Directorship of James and George, I’ve constantly been inspired and driven by their vision and resilience. Working with Hanna and Francesca has been like attending free producing workshops everyday, Aysha has shown me how brilliant being a General Manager is and I take from her into what I do now with Coney, Bhavini and Rachel are the two amazing trainees who like me joined PP though Creative Access; all together they are an incredibly strong, fearless and focused team. I’ve also been lucky enough to work with Claire, Tara, Bene, Bernd and Sean. Paines Plough attracts the most amazing people and I’m just happy to have been a part of the family. Thank you for having me.

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For now its goodbye from me as I retire to the red cupboard with my digestive biscuit tin, muji pens and a new picture to hang on the wall…

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Natalie x

SEA WALL reviews round-up Dublin

We had an absolute ball in Dublin for Andrew Scott’s homecoming as SEA WALL played a very special week of shows at Project Arts Centre as a guest of Dublin Theatre Festival.

Thanks so much to our generous hosts, and to all of you who came to see the show.

Here’s what the critics had to say:

“Rare magic… a very special theatre moment”
RTE Radio 1

“It will seduce and destroy you… Stephens’ play is really about absence, about nothingness, about unfathomable depths. It’s a subject that long occupied Shakespeare and Beckett, and this extraordinary performance may be worthy of them.”
★★★★★ Irish Times

“Leaves us well and truly devastated. A tears-rolling-down-cheeks, heavy-breathing, can’t-pull-ourselves-together kinda mess… exquisite… mesmerising… extraordinarily touching… a masterclass in writing and presentation.”
★★★★★ The Herald

“A heart-wrenching, breathtaking half hour of theatre… a masterpiece.”
Irish Independent

Sea Wall credit Kevin Cummins 680 x 395

 

Review of the Year 2013

Our Programme 2013 saw us produce new work by 15 playwrights across 8 productions touring to 44 towns and cities nationwide.

We send love and thanks to all who came to see a PP show this year, and we hope you’ll join us in 2014 as we celebrate our 40th Anniversary with a stellar programme of new plays on tour.

Meantime, here’s a quick lowdown on the year that was…

WASTED by Kate Tempest
Back by popular demand, WASTED completed our inaugural CAMPUS tour of Student Unions before a second sold-out run at London’s Roundhouse, where we live streamed a performance for the first time.

“Ingenious…funny and true.”
★★★★ The Guardian

“A slender, wistful three-way play that’s as seductive as smoke.”
★★★★ Time Out

You still have one more day to catch the live stream if you missed it!

LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan
Our co-production with Sheffield Theatres of Duncan Macmillan’s award-winning, much-loved LUNGS was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

“The most beautiful… shattering play of the year.”
★★★★★ Sunday Express

GOOD WITH PEOPLE by David Harrower
First co-produced by Paines Plough and Òran Mór as part of A Play, A Pie and A Pint in 2010, GOOD WITH PEOPLE made it all the way to 59E59 Theatres in New York in 2013.

“Harrower’s beautiful, deceptive wisp of a play…Duff and Scott-Ramsay are perfection.”
Ben Brantley, New York Times

COME TO WHERE I’M FROM
On home soil, we took COME TO WHERE I’M FROM – our theatrical tapestry of the UK, woven by writers asking if home is really where the heart is – to Plymouth and Leeds this year.

Check out some insights from our playwrights here.

EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan
In partnership with Pentabus, we premiered Duncan MacMillan’s EVERY BRILLIANT THING at Ludlow Fringe Festival and Ledbury Poetry Festival last summer.

Here’s what audiences had to say:

“Altogether so human, so relatable…it uplifts and enlightens, exploring the joy and endless possibility of humanity.”

SEA WALL by Simon Stephens
Andrew Scott reprised his acclaimed performance for an exclusive seven nights only in Simon Stephens’ SEA WALL at The Shed at The National Theatre.

“One of the most devastating 30 minutes you are ever likely to experience in the theatre.”
Lyn Gardner, The Guardian

“As engaging and devastating a piece of theatre as you’re likely to find….”
★★★★★ Independent

HOPELESSLY DEVOTED by Kate Tempest
Following the huge success of WASTED, we were reunited with performance poet Kate Tempest for HOPELESSLY DEVOTED, which opened with our co-producers at Birmingham Rep and toured the Midlands in September-October. HOPELESSLY DEVOTED will return for a Spring 2014 tour.

“The play sings and soars, a little shard of lyrical brilliance… startlingly beautiful.”
★★★★ The Times

“Outstanding… The writing is fantastic, with just the right balance of spoken word, song and dialogue.”
★★★★★ The Public Reviews

And some words from our Tweeters:

“Absolutely loved #HopelesslyDevoted. Now that’s the theatre that gets my blood pumping.”
@Charlielangdall

JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS by Tom Wells
And last but certainly not least, Tom Wells’ infectiously funny, critically acclaimed football rom-com JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS, which we co-produced with Watford Palace Theatre and Hull Truck.

“The perfect winter-warmer…blissfully funny…deeply affecting”
★★★★★ Daily Telegraph

“Wells has given us another winner…Unreservedly recommended.”
★★★★★ Independent

“A razor sharp, beautifully human script that brings to life characters that every one of us will know, but whom rarely get to claim their space within gay culture.”
★★★★★ Attitude Magazine

And on the Twittersphere:

“Jumpers for Goalposts. One of the best pieces of theatre I’ve seen this year. Am totally speechless.”
@daisydorismay

Playing at The Bush Theatre until 4 January 2014. Book tickets here.

It’s been a wonderful year of theatre (and cake!) and there’s no denying we couldn’t have had as much without you (and cake!) coming along for the ride.

So – keep eating cake, and we wish you all a merry Christmas! Catch you next year?

Team PP x

Cupcake? :)

Critics and Twitics on SEA WALL

At the end of July our seventh production of Programme 2013 found a home at the The Shed at The National Theatre.

Sea Wall by Simon Stephens starring Andrew Scott and directed by our very own Joint Artistic Director George Perrin played for just seven performances on the opposite side of the river to our Aldwych home.

The critics and twitics were in a plenty so here’s a wee round up of what they had to say:

An absorbing, profoundly human and disproportionately powerful miniature, pungent with pure joy and the salty tang of despair.’ ★★★★ The Times (paywall)

Andrew Scott plays Sea Wall like jazz. Takes a fine-tuned text and blitzes it up until you can’t see what it’s doing, you can only keep up.@matttrueman

The moments of brutality come through clearly, but its the moments of collective laughter which come before which give Sea Wall its shattering humanity.’ ★★★★★ Exeunt

I’m gonna hold on to this one for a while. Andrew Scott is simply brilliant. #SeaWallPlay @ntShed@emylie

‘Director George Perrin, of Paines Plough, leaves Scott’s extraordinary performance unadorned – with bare stage and house lights up. The clarity of Stephens’ vision and Scott’s understanding of the text means even when Alex cannot bring himself to say things, silence and gestures fill in the gaps. Remarkable.’ ★★★★ Metro

‘Sometimes, just once in a while, you see something that you know you’ll never forget: Andrew Scott, Seawall @painesplough @NationalTheatre’ – @gregorynash_bc

Andrew Scott in SEA WALL at NT Shed

Eeeek. This is proper exciting…

Olivier and BAFTA Award winner Andrew Scott will reprise his acclaimed performance in SEA WALL by Simon Stephens for seven performances only at The Shed at The National Theatre.

Yes. That’s right. Book now.

Have you booked? Good. Because this is one you do not want to miss.

“One of the most devastating 30 minutes you are ever likely to experience in the theatre,” reckons Guardian critic Lyn Gardner. “As engaging and devastating a piece of theatre as you’re likely to find,” reckons The Independent’s Alice Jones.

SEA WALL is a story about family, fear and the things that can’t be undone.

Things for Alex are good. He loves his wife, his daughter, his city, his job. But sometimes the force of life can crash against you. Sometimes everything you thought you could always depend on can be taken away.

We are super proud to present the show alongside our friends at The National Theatre and to give you another chance to see this gem of a play. SEA WALL plays for just seven performances in the NT’s awesome temporary venue The Shed, from 25 July to 2 August 2013. Did we mention you should book?

Andrew first performed Simon’s unforgettable story as part of The Broken Space Season at The Bush, for which the play was commissioned. The show was the hit of The Edinbugh Festival in 2009 before a further run at The Bush. Last year, SEA WALL made up one half of our touring production LONDON.

And now, it’s back…

(You have booked, right?)

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…