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Insights with JFG cast – In Newcastle

We’re back.  New venue, new audiences, different sensibilities.  Geordies really know their onions; they’ve got a 24 carat theatre heritage and there’s a terrific scene up in Newcastle.  Northern Stage (where we were) and Live Theatre are bang on form at the moment: Lorne Campbell has inherited a very healthy organization from Erica Whyman, who moved to the RSC in January to become Deputy AD.  Her legacy is mighty; no wonder she was named 2012 TMA Theatre Manager of the Year.  For 40 years, Live Theatre has been the dramatic voice of working-class Newcastle.  Lee Hall had one of his greatest successes with them; in 2007 his play The Pitmen Painters opened at the tiny venue for a one month run.  And so began one of the great theatrical journeys: Nick Hytner took it to the National Theatre, and from there it went on to New York before returning for a West End stint and a national tour.  From Broad Chare to Broadway.  Crikey, talk about punching above your weight.

Newcastle and Hull have a famous dramatic link too: Alan Plater. The late, great writer was born just down river in Jarrow, and brought up in Hull.  He really loved both towns, wrote plays for both Hull Truck and Live, and played an important role in the establishment of both venues early on in the 1970s.

It’s a big old stage is Northern Stage (the widest outside London) and our set looked like a doll’s house on there.  However, it meant that we had loads of room behind for warm-ups and games of Foursquare.  We always do a warm-up, but it’s really important when you’re playing a big space like this.  There are the usual Yoko Ono-esque primal shrieks and wails that were drilled into us at drama school, and which may or may not be more effective than a cup of tea and a cig, and articulation exercises (tongue twisters) to help us chew our way through the text clearly (bits of Dr Seuss are particularly good).  We also have a couple of favourite games that help us get into ‘the zone’.  The first, ‘Foursquare’, is a bit like tennis without a net.  Or rackets.  And you play it with a football.  So I suppose it’s not very much like tennis, but it is pretty competitive; somebody mentioned that some theatre companies have because it caused rows.  Much as we enjoy it, we think it’s a poor basis for a decent row.  I think there are possibly underlying tensions and issues at play in those casts and Foursquare is merely a catalyst.  The other is ‘Big Booty’ and it is brilliant for generating the focus, alertness and fun that you need when performing comedy. Warm-ups can be collective and playful; it’s not all ‘me, me , meeeeeeeeeeeee’.

After the performance on Wednesday we had a ‘Post-show’.  If you’ve not been to one, it’s basically a chat and Q & A with the cast (and sometimes the director and the writer) in the auditorium after curtain down.  I really enjoy them, both as spectator or actor, because you can get/give a fascinating insight into how plays get made and played.  If you’re a creative or performer, you get the chance to gauge your audiences’ reaction to what you are doing.  It’s like the DVD extras of theatre.  A large contingent of Theatre Studies students stayed behind and opened up a good, frank discussion about the play and its issues, and we explained how the show developed from early drafts to press night and beyond.  It’s an excellent way to make theatre more accessible and inclusive for young and new audiences.  And the theatre buys you a drink.

Newcastle at night is not sedate, and we flung ourselves, livers first, into it again and burned through our touring allowances before the weekend.  Dabbawal (delicious Indian street food) was the food favorite, and the week culminated in a night at the discreetly named World Headquarters.  It was there that Philip bumped into the Manchester United and England striker, Danny Welbeck.  Somewhat star-struck and overwhelmed, he only managed to repeat the footballer’s name to him over and over again.  Apparently Alicia, Amy and Viv were less whelmed, and Andy and Jamie were ‘busy’.  I missed all this, unfortunately, as I’d ended up in Benwell with some Poles at a house party that got a bit weird.

In the break, we found out that JFG has been nominated for Best New Play in the UK Theatre Awards.  Congrats, Tom Wells – nothing less than you deserve.

Right, that’s it for me.  See how it goes next week. #jump4goal

Tom Wells’ JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS has been nominated in the Best New Play category by UK Theatre Awards

TMA have just announced the nominations for the 2013 UK Theatre Awards, and we are so thrilled  to announce JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS by Tom Wells has been nominated in the Best New Play category.

PP’s Joint Artistic Directors, James and George have said:

“We are thrilled that Tom’s beautiful, heart-warming comedy has been recognised by The Theatre Awards UK. Tom is one of the finest voices to emerge in recent years and JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS cements his reputation as writer of rare comic brio and real heart. We are so proud to have co-produced this important play with Watford Palace and Hull Truck, and to have toured it nationwide, to audiences who have instantly related to Tom’s team of lacklustre footballers and cheered them on in victory and defeat.”

The other nominees for Best New Play are:

Further details about the TMA and the UK Theatre Awards can be found here.

If you haven’t seen JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS yet, you can catch it at the Bush Theatre in November following it’s autumn nationwide tour, get your tickets here.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE wins Best New Play

We were delighted to accept the Best New Play Award at last night’s re-branded TMA Theatre Awards on behalf of our Associate Playwright Mike Bartlett.

The newly-christened ‘Theatre Awards UK‘ honoured Mike’s play LOVE, LOVE, LOVE with the award following our 2010 co-production with the Drum Theatre Plymouth and 2011 National UK tour.

Other award-winners included our Roundabout co-producing partners Sheffield Theatres who scooped Best Supporting Performance and Best Design. There’s full coverage of the awards in Playbill, Variety, The Stage, Whatsonstage, Spoonfed and The Arts Desk.

Mike is out of the country at the moment so we can’t report how he feels about winning the award but we think he’ll be happy. We made sure his champagne didn’t go to waste.

So huge congratulations to Mike and thank you to everyone who came to see the show for your support.

We’ve been nominated!

We’re super excited to have been nominated for The Stage Award for Special Achievement in Regional Theatre as part of the TMA Awards, acknowledging our commitment to taking more plays to more places across the UK.

The panel said: “The company’s new artistic directors James Grieve and George Perrin launched their inaugural season of new work this year with an increased focus on touring the whole breadth of the UK. The current programme will reach 29 places across the British Isles including Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”

We feel really honoured to have received the nomination, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed… the winner will be announced in early November.

There’s an article about the announcement of the shortlist in The Stage here.