What’s on the PP Stereo?

A nice little collection of our favourite tunes this week!

Enjoy!

‘You don’t know how much artists go through to make it look so easy. It’s all in the practice’ – Lauryn Hill

Taste Tuesday: Caribbean Brittle and Cheese Straws

So this week I made two different things that had absolutely no relation to each other and we all had to deal with it… it was a limited success. Oh and also there was A LOT of free-styling, so this all may be very vague, but it was fun … I think. Here goes:

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  1. Toast 300g of hazelnuts and 300g pumpkin seeds in the oven for about five minutes on a baking tray lined with grease proof paper.
  2. In a large pan on the lowest heat possible, heat 800g of caster sugar. This is going to take a LONG time, I’m talking 40 mins. DO NOT STIR. It’s quite magical, for the first 20 mins nothing will happen, and then you will start to see it caramelise and melt, looks a bit like lava. Move the caramel around in the pan by tipping it gently, making sure that no white sugar is left. Now, BE CAREFUL, the caramel is going to get very hot and very sticky and if you get any on you it will burn you so, word of warning and all that.
  3. Grate 1 tablespoon of cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of nutmeg into a bowl and add a large pinch of salt (maybe two large pinches).
  4. When the sugar is totally caramelised, take off the heat, and it’s all systems go! You’re gonna have to be quick but don’t panic. Add 80g of salted butter, your cinnamon and nutmeg, evenly to the caramel. Then as quick as you can add the toasted hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds. THEN STIR LIKE MAD. It will soon seize up but keep stirring until you feel your arms about to break.
  5. With the caramel still soft, pour/spread the mixture evenly into the grease proof paper lined baking tray.
  6. Leave to cool for an hour, and when it has set break the brittle into small and large chunks by smashing it with a rolling pin. HAVE FUN!

Cheese Straws (mmmmm the perfect taste combination)

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  1. Cover a wooden chopping board in flour.
  2. With the same rolling pin, roll and stretch out your puff pastry to A3 size (don’t break it).
  3. Sprinkle grated cheese and lots of black pepper on one half and fold the other half of the pastry over this half.
  4. Roll it out some more.
  5. Repeat sprinkling exercise and fold again.
  6. Cut pastry into finger size sticks.
  7. Bake in the oven for 10 mins, and leave to cool.

And there you have it – perfect party food!

Enjoy!

Hugo x

Programme 2016: Part 1

We’re striding into 2016 with an armful of fantastic new plays alongside some returning favourites touring to destinations from Margate to Melbourne.

There’s a whole lot still to come so keep your eyes peeled for future announcements, but right now we’re ready to unveil a globe-trotting, dancefloor filling, airwaves rocking start to Programme 2016…

EVERY BRILLIANT THING

A year ago our co-production with Pentabus Theatre Company, EVERY BRILLIANT THING was in snowy New York City in the middle of a 16 week run Off-Broadway at Barrow Street Theatre.

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In the ensuing 2015 Jonny Donahoe performed Duncan Macmillan’s extraordinary play 147 times in 63 venues from Machynlleth to Jersey Opera House to Drumnadrochit on the banks of Loch Ness.

2016’s adventures begin with a trip Down Under. We’re honoured to have been invited to the Perth International Festival where we kick off an international tour that takes in Melbourne, Wellington and South Carolina.

Click here for details of international dates so far in 2016.

And never fear compatriots, EVERY BRILLIANT THING will be back on home soil soon…

#EveryBrilliantThing


 

TEN WEEKS

Elinor Cook won the prestigious George Devine Award whilst on attachment to PP in 2013 and we’re hugely proud to present her new play in co-production with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama…

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TEN WEEKS
By Elinor Cook
Directed by Kate Wasserberg

First things first, I just want to say to all of you –
Well done.
You’ve shown a lot of courage walking in here tonight.
You have.
Don’t forget that.

Ten weeks, ten commandments, a ten million pound turnover.

It’s Week One of a dizzyingly popular crash course in Christianity. There’s pizza, live music, lively debate and – sometimes – there’s insurrection.

A new play about faith, community and capitalism.

22-25 March Richard Burton Theatre, RWCMD, Cardiff
30 March-1 April The Gate Theatre, London

#TenWeeks


 

WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK

Our UK Garage musical premiered at co-producer Latitude Festival and had them dancing in the aisles all night long. Now you can get your rave on, wherever you are…

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WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK
By Sabrina Mahfouz
Directed by Stef O’Driscoll

I want to be iconic. I want to be beautiful, reckless, feared, hated, ahead of the times. I want to be different, I want to be dangerous…

2001. Raves. Revision. Re-election.

Nadia is swept up in one hot summer’s night of love that promises endless possibilities. Drinking, dancing, hope, ambition, lust, greed… and decisions that will determine the rest of her life.

Rhythmically underscored by a live mix of old school UK Garage, award-winning writer Sabrina Mahfouz explores the legacy of a cultural movement that defined the hopes of a generation.

2015. Re-wind.

Running Time: 60 minutes (no interval)
Age Guidance: 14+

“Fist-pumping euphoria… crackles with a rare and unexpected life.” The Stage
“Gorgeous genre-melding music and theatre.” Exeunt
“The same fizzing energy of the best club nights… marks Mahfouz out as a unique theatrical voice.” The Public Reviews

#WithALittleBitOfLuck


 

322 DAYS

Today Naked Angels released the first of our brand new podcast plays on Naked Radio. Have a listen to it here or download it on iTunes.

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322 DAYS
By Lucy Gillespie
Directed by Sean Linnen

Gemma and Weston are two young, beating hearts from different places and different worlds. Their relationship fragments over the internet as they try to stay connected in an over-connected world.

Navigating adolescence, they can neither embrace each other or the separate lives they lead and their virtual intimacy hinders them from fully connecting with the everyday world around them.

When a secret is uncovered and reveals a schism at the centre of their relationship, a deep emotional distance threatens to overwhelm their physical distance and put their future plans in jeopardy.

322 Days is a play about being together and being apart.

#322Days
www.painesplough.com

Recorded at the Lyric Hammersmith on Friday 4th December 2015, this play was made possible by the kind support of the Lyric Hammersmith.

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the next episode, BILAL’S BIRTHDAY, by The Big Room Fellow Nathan Bryon, next month.

What an exciting start to 2016 – and with even more to come! We can’t wait to get more shows on the road…

– Team PP x

 

Taste Tuesday: Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni & Biscotti

As Taste Tuesday Champion 2015 I had a far way to fall if I cocked this up so I decided to go with a surefire Italian classic to ensure I remain top dog. In fact I made two dishes – spinach and ricotta cannelloni and biscotti.

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Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

I made enough for about 9 people.

• 750g of spinach
• 1 pack of cannelloni
• 500g of ricotta cheese
• 2/3 packs of mozzarella
• 2 x 500g of passata
• 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
• Basil
• Spring onion
• Garlic
• 2 x vegetable stock cubes
• Sugar
• Parmesan – I used a veggie friendly one`

In a large pan wilt the spinach with some olive oil and salt. Once cooked, put into a sieve and leave to drain and cool.

In the same pan, fry the spring onion, garlic and some basil leaves over a low heat with some olive oil. Add all the passata and the chopped tomato and bring to the boil. Once boiling add the veg stock cubes and 2 table spoons of sugar (I know it sounds weird but it takes away the acidity of the tomatoes). Reduce till the sauce thickens.

Once the sauce is nearly done you can start on the cannelloni.

In a bowl shred the spinach with your hands or a knife, had the ricotta, salt, pepper and some Parmesan. Mix it all up and get ready to start filling!

I made a makeshift piping bag out of some baking paper. Was a bit of a struggle but I watched a few YouTube videos to help me.

Put a couple of spoonfuls of the tomato sauce into the bottom of the baking dish – I used a disposable one – then start filling the cannelloni and start laying them in the dish. I made two rows of 20.

Once all filled, use the rest of the tomato sauce and cover the cannelloni.

Layer the mozzarella over the top as best as possible and put in a preheated oven at 190 for 30 minutes. If it looks like it’s burning cover with foil.

I actually did all the prep on Sunday night and then cooked it ready to go to PPHQ on Monday morning.

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Biscotti

You bake this twice but it’s super easy! We don’t have measuring scales in our house so I had to use spoons. It works out around 25g to every tablespoon…apparently.

7 tbsp castor sugar
10 tbsp self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 medium eggs
White chocolate chips
Chopped hazlenuts

Milk chocolate for dipping the biscotti in.

Mix the eggs and sugar together in one bowl till light a fluffy.

Sift the flour, baking powder into a bowl and add white chocolate chips and nuts.

Fold in the flour mixture into the egg mixture to create a soft dough.

Roll out onto a floured surface to make what looks like a bit of a ciabatta and transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Cook for 30 minutes at 190

After 30 minutes take out and cut into 1 cm thick fingers. Turn them on their sides to so the cut side is facing upwards and reduce the temperature of the oven to 160 and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Once done, take out and leave to cool on a wire rack.

– Nadia x

What’s on the PP stereo

First PP stereo of the year and we have a great little playlist for you featuring the hotly anticipated The Last Shadow Puppets new record and a whole lotta Bowie loving!

Have a cracking weekend guys and remember…

‘I’m an instant star. Just add water and stir’ – David Bowie

xxx

 

Two new homes for our Prototype

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Remember way back in September when we announced our Roundabout Prototype was looking for a good home? Well, after sifting through lots of brilliant applications and innovative ideas for using the prototype we’d like to have given it to everyone, but two applications particularly stood out. We’re delighted to announce that ownership of the Prototype will shared between: RIFT based in Tottenham, and THE FLANAGAN COLLECTIVE based in North Yorkshire.

Both applications were brimming with brilliance, and we think that sharing the Prototype in this way allows it to retain some the Roundabout DNA as it travels up and down the country every year.

THE FLANAGAN COLLECTIVE

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Since 2011, THE FLANAGAN COLLECTIVE, have been making and creating work in North Yorkshire.

They have popped up in country pubs, barns, back gardens and front rooms and have now set up base in an 18th Century converted Watermill. Their previous output includes Beulah, BABYLON and Fable (which you can catch at the VAULT Festival!). Plus they produce events like The Little Festival Of Everything, programming folks like RashDash, Third Angel, Chris Thorpe, Chris Stokes, Holy Moly & The Crackers, Hannah Nicklin, Little Mighty and Hunting Bears.

From May – September, the Prototype will set up shop with them. Their aim is to turn it in to a meeting place – a place for artists to come and stay and play and create, and a place for the local community to come and make, input and be a part of a growing rural arts ecology.

They’ll be announcing some details of a first season very soon. So keep an eye on their website, twitter and Facebook.

RIFT

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RIFT are Felix Mortimer and Joshua Nawras. RIFT’s mission is to tell stories without boundaries.

After spending the summer in Yorkshire, the Prototype will make the move to STYX in Tottenham Hale, North London where Felix and Josh have worked for five years.  Since establishing STYX in June they have already staged performances and worked with the Royal Court, Young Vic, Belarus Free Theatre and LIFT and hosted 12 international companies who have been in residence in their current space. They have opened a pop up pizza parlour, bespoke architectural pavilion and Library (home to local playwright in residence Annie Jenkins). RIFT’s vision for the Prototype is that it will enliven their area with stories, open up dialogues between communities and showcase the voices of Tottenham and beyond.

To find out more, you can watch this film about RIFT made early last year.

 

Team PP are thrilled that the Prototype will now allow THE FLANAGAN COLLECTIVE and RIFT to curate their own programmes of local and international artists for their communities to engage with and enjoy.

We’re delighted that the Prototype has found two such exciting new homes to invite artists and audiences to. We can’t wait to see what happens next…

The Earth You’re Changing

In January 2014 we hosted a panel discussion at the National Theatre with four of our alumni: actors HARRIET WALTER and FIONA VICTORY, playwright STEPHEN JEFFREYS and director JOHN TIFFANY. Here’s what they had to say about their time at PPHQ…

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HARRIET WALTER AND FIONA VICTORY – 1970’s.

FV: David Pownall and John Adams and the actor Chris Crooks were out of work and miserable and they were drinking beer at the Paines pub in Bedfordshire. As David Pownall tells it, he said, “Oh stop moaning. I’ll write you a play. You will act in it, you will direct it, and we’ll go to the Edinburgh Festival.” And they did. It was a play called Crates on Barrels and it was about a Greek philosopher —

HW: Socrates.

FV: Yes, Socrates — and it was very good.

HW: Richard III Part Two was my first with Paines Plough, it was quite a large piece involving lots of music, two or three different time zones and George Orwell- pretty ‘Powellian’. David’s imagination was immense. Steven Boxer had had a musical training and a teaching training, and he wrote wonderful music. I was listening to it recently. He was only 23 and he was writing these wonderful complex tunes and –

FV: – and teaching everybody else! People who couldn’t sing, had never sung, couldn’t read music, couldn’t play anything, he somehow managed to give everyone their line and teach them how to do it calmly.

HW: At the time it was very unusual to get a young bunch of actors together at the early stage of a play and evolve it with them with everyone doing the music, and the costumes, and the props, and everything ourselves, then tour it all over the country

FV:— in a small van!

HW: We used to do the fit ups and strike the sets ourselves. A couple of people helped with the lighting, and we used to do the ironing

FV: – and sacking skips and making tea and whatever.

STEPHEN JEFFREYS – 1980’s

By the time I joined, David had stopped writing all the plays himself. It went from being a writer’s company with an apostrophe-s to a writers’ company with an s-apostrophe. There was a wave of new people, David Moat, Elizabeth and, the young Terry Johnson — a mere slip of a lad at the time- and we were all brought in. We were the first people were writing plays that weren’t by David Pownall, and that was rather difficult. You thought, ‘oh I’ve got to write a play that takes place in three different time zones with madrigals and people playing sackbutts and things: I started doing that and it was a complete disaster.

John Adams, the director, commissioned this play from me and it wasn’t going well. He said, “Well, you’ve got to finish it this weekend” and then, “What I’ll do is this: I’ll leave you in my flat, in Leamington Spa, and I’ll just clear off and you’ll finish it by the end of the weekend.” John’s mistake was that he had a priceless collection of malt whiskeys. He came back and found that I’d barely written a word. He said, “You’re trying to write the wrong kind of play. I want you to write your kind of play.” That’s what Paines Plough then did: it successfully mutated from a David P company to a company that could do any kind of new play at all. Somehow, Paines Plough’s always been very good at negotiating those awkward moments of handover.

I came back in the Pip Broughton era. She was — and still is- a wonderful director. Paines Plough had evolved into a matriarchy. We had offices by Warren Street tube station and Ian Rickson and I were the only men in the company. There was Pip and Sue Storr and Vicky Heywood. It was a very, very lively time, because there was a lot of exciting new writing around.

There were two phases under Pip. One consisted of a lot of very political plays about early Thatcherism, set in different parts of the country reflecting local conditions. Then, by around 1986 or so, she’d had enough of that and did another of those big, daring Paines Plough changes. We suddenly became a big company doing big plays. We did a version of GERMINAL. We did my play THE CLINK, another by Nigel Gearing called BERLIN DAYS HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS. Huge plays.

When Pip left Anna Furse took over. She came from a dance background and, for a while, it almost became a performance art company. So Paines Plough was in a constant state of mutation. That’s why it survived.

JOHN TIFFANY – 1990’s

Vicky [Featherstone] couldn’t really get arrested when Paines Plough gave her a job. She’d left the West Yorkshire Playhouse and moved to London, but couldn’t get herself taken seriously as a director of new writing. The Bush gave her a job for a little while — Literary Manager, I think— then she went into TV. She was doing really well, developed Touching Evil and Silent Witness, worked at the BBC and independents, then went for this job at Paines Plough — and the visionary board took a chance on her.

As Stephen says Paines Plough attracts writers. By the time I arrived in 2001, we were really developing a wonderful stable, people like Abi Morgan, Jack Thorne, Sarah [Kane] obviously, Mark Ravenhill was writing a lot for them at the time, Gregory Burke, David Greig, Enda Walsh, Philip Ridley.

We got the Peggy Ramsey award that year, which was —£50,000, wasn’t it? We decided we were just going to commission eight playwrights, and we bullied the Menier Chocolate Factory, which was still in its infancy, into taking all four plays. Philip Ridley wrote this amazing play called Mercury Fur, which was the first one I directed. Ben Whishaw was in it and — we didn’t quite realise at the time— but it was a bloodbath by the end. The Chocolate Factory didn’t have a shower, so some of our hard earned sponsorship money— I shouldn’t admit this — bought the Chocolate Factory its first ever shower. Actors ever since have got Paines Plough to thank…

In 2004, I was in Mexico directing a play over a summer and Vicky called me one morning and went, “Guess what, I’ve been given a new job running the National Theatre of Scotland.” To go from, you know a company like Paines Plough to running —to setting up — a national theatre was amazing. We always said— Neil Murray, who was the producer, he still is, David Greig who was the dramaturg at the time, me and Vicky we said, ‘Well, we’re going to run it like Paines Plough, but with £6 milllion.” Having done what we did at Paines Plough for £120,000 from the Arts Council, we knew what that money could buy. We were determined not to be frivolous or fritter it away.

What James and George have done amazingly is to treat the whole country like it’s a venue, which is so inspiring. The output has doubled or tripled. Vicky and I followed the model of two shows a year and when you look at the volume of work that these two are managing, on not much more money, you look at the list now of things coming through in 2014, it’s incredible. It really is.

One more thing: I’ve been under a delusion for many, many years. I thought Paines Plough meant the plough of Tom Paine, the radical thinker, the surface of the earth you’re changing. Only now do I find out it was thought up in a boozer!

Taste Tuesday: Surprise Cheese and Garlic Stuffed Mushrooms

Responsibility for the first Taste Tuesday of 2016 fell to our Administrator, Simone, and she didn’t disappoint with a delicious, cheesy, garlic-y, veggie friendly dish that’s super easy to whip up. Here’s the recipe if that sounds like your kinda thing:

I thought I’d do my bit for Team PP and ensure that PPHQ spends the rest of 2016 smelling of yummy blue cheese and garlic. You’re welcome.

No, but, here follows a quick, optionally healthy, hopefully yummy starter for the cheese-lover in your life.

INGREDIENTS
Portobello mushrooms, loads of mini ones for finger food/one large mushroom per person for a starter
Some* fresh garlic, half crushed, half chopped
Half a white onion, finely chopped
Pinch of rosemary
Pinch of red chilli flakes
Handful of breadcrumbs, chunky lemon and black pepper ones work quite well in this
Very dry white wine
Some butter
All of the cheeses

Time: Takes about 15-30m depending on your chopping and faffing time.
Dietary info: For a Paleo/Dukan/generally healthier version (yes, it’s that time of year again), simply replace the butter with a splash of oil and dispense with the cheese and wine. You can also add chopped (and slightly drained) plum tomatoes to fill the larger mushrooms up a bit.
This is veg-friendly depending on your choice of cheese.

PREPPING YOUR PORTOBELLOS
1. Use kitchen towel to clean the mushrooms, patting off any excess moisture.
2. Cut out their stalks to leave more room for cheesy/garlicky goodness. If you’ve got the normal sized ones, you can also cut little grooves in the main body of the mushroom to stuff the garlic slices into later.
3. Brush the cap of the mushroom with oil and place under the grill for a couple of minutes. While they’re cooking…

GLAZE
1. Heat up some butter in the frying pan and add the onion.
2. When it starts to brown slightly, add in your garlic, and pinches of chilli flakes and rosemary.
3. Sauté until the garlic and onion are browned then add a smidge of white wine and reduce by half.

PUTTING IT TOGETHER
1. This can get a bit messy… Stuff the chopped garlic into the mushrooms if you cut grooves earlier, and brush/pour/spoon** the rest of the glaze into the bells of the mushrooms.
2. Add breadcrumbs, go wild with the cheese (I tend to go with one blue, one white per mushroom, then one surprise one with all of the cheese), then sprinkle a few more breadcrumbs on top.
3. Brush any remaining glaze over the top and place under the grill on a high heat until the cheese has melted and browned, and the mushrooms are hot through.
4. Serve with rocket, plum tomatoes, balsamic and salt/pepper to taste.
5. Probably have a breath mint…

Enjoy!

-Simone x

*Some = a helluva lot of. I think I used seven cloves for ten people and the office smelled all day but no regrets.

**/eventually give up and use your fingers

Come and join our team

We’re looking for two more brilliant people to join PP’s administration and production teams.

In partnership with Create Jobs, we’re recruiting a FINANCE AND ADMIN ASSISTANT and a PRODUCTION ASSISTANT to take on year-long posts at PPHQ.

Applicants must be 18-24, registered as unemployed, and based in East London – for more information on the eligibility criteria, visit Create Jobs’ website. Please note Paines Plough will not accept any CVs or covering letters for these roles and all applications must be submitted through Create Jobs.

So, who are we looking for?
For each role we’d love to meet someone who’s enthusiastic about theatre, particularly new writing and touring, and friendly and welcoming, as there’s always someone coming through the door at PPHQ. Good oral and written communication skills are key, as well as a good working knowledge of IT packages. If you are also a fan of cake, that will help.

These roles are an opportunity to develop a wide knowledge of theatre, new writing and touring in a fast-paced environment.

Here’s a bit about what you can expect from each position:

FINANCE AND ADMIN ASSISTANT
You’ll be an enthusiastic member of our dedicated team working across all company activities, providing vital support to ensure the effective and efficient running of Paines Plough. You’ll work closely with our Administrator Simone, supporting her in the day to day financial administration of the company and will also have the opportunity to take responsibility for the co-ordination of specific Paines Plough projects and events.

PRODUCTION ASSISTANT
You’ll be an enthusiastic member of our dedicated team working across all company activities, providing vital support to ensure the effective and efficient running of Paines Plough. You’ll work closely with the Production team – that’s our Senior Producer Hanna, Producer Francesca, and brand new Assistant Producer – supporting them in the delivery of Paines Plough’s full programme of work on the small- and mid-scales, internationally, and in ACE Strategic Touring Funded projected Roundabout.

Sound good?
Great news! We can’t wait to hear from you. Visit Create Jobs for more information on each individual role and details of how to apply. Applications close at 12pm on 28 January.

Create Jobs provides new routes into the arts and creative industries for young people living in Barking & Dagenham, Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

Their aim is to bring more 16-24 year-olds from these boroughs into the arts and creative sector, diversifying the workforce and providing beneficial experiences for both employers and job-seekers.

Playing For Britain

In 2014 we celebrated our 40th birthday and to mark the occasion we released a book packed full of images, insights and interesting articles. Over the coming months we’ll be sharing some of our favourite features from the book and what better way to kick us off, than with Matt Trueman on the history of new writing in British theatre.

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New writing is at the heart of British theatre. Every so called theatrical revolution this country has seen has centred on new plays, from the Angry Young Men in the 1950’s to the In-Yer-Face generation of the 1990’s. Back in 2009. when theatre critics were last trumpeting a golden age, it was motored by dazzling and ambitious new plays, including Jez Butterworth’s JERUSALEM and Lucy Prebble’s ENRON. Even 2014, a sudden flutter of springtime excitement was down to British playwrights firing on all cylinders: Simon Stephens with BIRDLAND, Mike Bartlett with KING CHARLES III, James Graham with PRIVACY.

As an art form, theatre is uniquely placed. It’s a communal art that exists — can only exist- in a public space and it’s an ephemeral art that can only exist in the present moment. Bearing all that in mind, it’s hardly surprising that,more so than visual art or film, theatre should set out to address the world that we all share, the here and now.

The stage is where we see the state of the nation – increasingly, even, the state of the world – reflected and retracted. Sometimes that means that classic plays, most notably Shakespeare’s, are used very deliberately to rub up against the moment in which they are staged. Mostly, though, it means a healthy culture of new plays that do exactly that- and it’s this that we term new writing.

The theatre critic Aleks Sierz has defined new writing [or ‘new writing proper’ as he sometimes calls it] as a genre in its own right. To qualify as new writing, a play must somehow address the present moment – even if only obliquely, perhaps through metaphor or analogy. Not all new plays do that: think of THE HISTORY BOYS or ONE MAN, TWO GUV’NORS, for example. But a great many do and, even if there’s a circularity at play in Sierz’s conviction that we can understand the present through new writing that seeks to understand the present, there is some truth in it.

Britain is unique in the import it bestows upon its playwrights. Think about the sorts of plays you see reviewed in the front end of newspapers, the news sections: big name actors in big name classics, yes, where casting can be a news story in its own right. but also big new plays with something newsworthy to say. Britain’s playwrights are allowed to be public intellectuals and political commentators.

That doesn’t happen so much in America, for all the strength of its playwriting culture. Musicals make the news pages there, other big Broadway shows too, but rarely new plays and almost never present-tense political work. The same goes for European countries, where directors rule the roost, smashing classic lays into contemporary sensibilities and resonance, not playwrights. Britain still places the playwright centre stage. Directors talk about- quote unouote— serving the text, usually through fidelity to it.

What’s more, British theatres insistence on novelty, be that in new writing or new work, is only increasing. The figures bear that out. In the 1980’s and 1990’s new work made up between 15 and 20 per cent of British theatre programming. In the last decade, that figure had swelled to 42 per cent. Nor was that work confined to small studio theatres in the same way. The majority took place in 200-seat plus venues.

By 2003, new writing in Britain was achieving an average of 63.6% at box office – up from 62% per cent only five years earlier or 57% in 1997. In the late eighties, new plays regularly played to half empty theatre and the Royal Court was responsible for about 10% of new writing across the entire country.

Today, the picture is vastly different, almost unrecognisable. Britain has built an established nationwide network for new writing. There are theatres dedicated entirely to new writing all over the country — the Traverse in Edinburgh, Live Theatre in Newcastle— and many more that ensure that it remains central to programming. London’s new writing scene, from the Royal Court to the Bush to Theatre503 with many in between, is thriving. And even organisations like Shakespeare’s Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Company have got new writing policies with a view to developing new work.

All of which is an ideal context tor Paines Plough – the national theatre of new writing, remember — to do what it’s done best for 40 years: develop and stage the best new plays across the nation.