What do you do all day? Artistic Director



Hello! Can you give us a brief overview of your career so far?
I did a bit of acting at school and university but only for fun, I never considered a career in theatre. I was going to be a journalist. In my 3rd Year, I set up nabokov with George and Ric Mountjoy to produce new plays that might persuade my friends that theatre didn’t have to be long, boring and irrelevant. Our first event was a series of short, angry political plays – we bribed people to come by staging them at midnight in a bar with a late license.

After Uni I pursued my journalistic career at various papers and then joined the nascent Justgiving.com as content editor and later marketing manager. We kept nabokov going in our spare time – staging ‘shorts’ nights at The Old Red Lion and taking shows to Edinburgh. Josie Rourke said to me, if you’re serious, you have to be a director full-time. I said sure, how am I supposed to pay my rent? And she made me her assistant, which was amazing – the first time anyone actually gave me a job in theatre. I spent a year as staff director to Howard Davies at The National and then joined Josie at The Bush as Associate Director in 2007.

How did you end up in your current role?
Paines Plough was a company George and I had always admired – we used to go and watch their shows when we were students – so when the job came up in 2009 we went for it. We had run nabokov for 10 years in the image of Paines Plough, and it felt like the right time for nabokov to be re-imagined by a new team and for us to move on to a new challenge. I guess the fact we ran a new writing touring company helped make the case for us at PP.

What are your main responsibilities within Team PP?
With George I have the privilege of developing relationships with the writers we want to work with and choose the plays we produce. We have overall responsibility for the health and growth of the company – from making sure the books balance to articulating the brand and managing our amazing team. We decide strategy, evolve touring models, write the business plan, raise money, work with artistic directors of our partner venues, report to ACE and our Board of Trustees and represent the company publicly. Because of my background in media and digital I take an active role in our marketing strategy. Oh yeah, and I direct plays.

What do you think are the essential skills needed to be a successful Artistic Director?
You have to be interested in both parts of the job. You spend half your time in a rehearsal room and half the time at your desk staring at spreadsheets. It’s vital you get creative fulfilment from both.

Real talk – what’s the least enjoyable part of your job?
Working on a shoestring. We would be so much more productive and creative if we weren’t spending half our time scrabbling down the back of the sofa for loose change. That said, on the flipside, it is hugely gratifying when an organisation like The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation or a company like UCG or individuals like Jon and NoraLee Sedmak see value in what we do and offer to invest in our work and our mission.

One piece of advice from you to someone who aspires to be an Artistic Director?
You can do anything. You just can’t do everything. Be singular in your vision and go for it with all you’ve got.

Paines Plough offer work placements in our Admin and Production offices throughout the year. If you’re interested, you can download more information here.

Taste Tuesday: Fruit Salad

This week it was our Admin Placement student Seb’s turn to tickle our taste buds, and he got us feeling fruity with a fantastic fruit salad which satisfied our love of sugar but made us feel less guilty than if we’d eaten a load of cakes and cookies… Top marks.


Fruit Salad

1x lemon
4x Apples
2x pears
3x Bananas
Mixed Fruit Juice

How to:

Carefully wash all your ingredients before squeezing all the juice from the lemon into a bowl. Next, chop the apples into little bite-sized chunks and add them to the lemon juice – then do the same with the pears, the melon and the bananas.

Remember to pour a little bit of the mixed fruit juice into the bowl in between every now and then. Slice each grape in half and throw them into the mix. Then a bit more juice to finish and your fruit salad is good to go!

You are most welcome to add or remove any kind of fruit to and from this recipe, use any kind of juice and maybe even consume this as a dessert with some clotted or ice-cream.

We’re off to… TheatreCraft


We’re really excited to be attending TheatreCraft tomorrow, where Rachel and Simone will be repping Team PP, along with Nadia and Seb.

TheatreCraft is an all day event for people who are interested in a career in the industry and want to find out a little bit more about what actually goes in to running a theatre company. From front of house to marketing and events, producing, stage management and more, there are loads of ways to get involved so come along and see what paths you can take. This year’s TheatreCraft ambassador is Tricycle Theatre’s Artistic Director, Indhu Rubasingham who joins a list of previous Ambassadors that includes Michael Grandage, Jamie Lloyd and former PP Artistic Director, Vicky Featherstone.

The event kicks off at 9am at the Royal Opera House and is split up into three sections – Workshops, Ask The Experts and the Marketplace. Our stall will be in the Marketplace where we’ll be all day – come and introduce yourself, we’d love to meet you!

You can still sign up to attend workshops and a few of the Ask The Expert slots still have availability. What are you waiting for? You can register on the TheatreCraft website here.

See you there!

Developing New Writing: The Producer’s Perspective

Trainee Producer, Rachel, joined the team in May and has been managing Nathan’s development with us since then. Here she give us an insight into how she put together the development workshop and what she learned from it.


Producing toolkit: Notepad, iPad and, most importantly, a diary!

I remember sitting with my friend Nicola as she spoke about the play she was writing while we were at uni. She was struggling for a title that communicated the themes and also got across a sense of where the play was set, in the world of DJ-ing.

Nicola: It’s the word for the thing they do? When they put one song into another…?
Me: Mixing?’
Nicola: No… It’s like that, but… Not.
Me: (struggling) Uh…Fading…?
Nicola: Yes! Well… Kind of, I feel like there’s another word they use…

I’m wracking my brains, at this point trying to remember something, anything at all, from when I studied music at school – school now a distant, foggy memory.

Me: What about… cross fade?

The word hung in the air in front of us for a moment.


I almost fell out of my chair with relief and, with a laugh, that’s how the title of her first play, and subsequently her theatre company, came about. Over a cuppa, sharing ideas in the student union.

I didn’t realise it, but that’s producing.

Of course there’s a bit more to it – scheduling, budgets, casting, and loads more I’ve still to learn – but at its heart it’s listening to each other, sharing ideas and making it happen.

So when it came to putting together a development workshop for Nathan, that experience is what I drew on. I have worked with emerging writers and directors in Scotland (now that I look back on it, coffee shops seem to be a recurring motif…) and I’ve seen the excitement, the fear, and the nerves that come when people share their ideas with you, and experienced the wonderful madness that accompanies figuring out how to make those ideas become a reality.


Once Nathan had chosen a date for his workshop, the next thing to find was a director. After a meeting with George and James, we approached Titas Halder to see if he’d be interested in being involved and after meeting with Nathan, he agreed to come on board. We drafted in Trainee Director Nadia as Titas’ assistant in the room and the next thing I knew, I had a creative team.

After this my foot really hit the gas as we went full speed into casting, looking for actors who’d be active and engage in the discussion in the room to help Nathan get to the core of what he wanted to write about. A list of names was drawn up and I spent my days trawling through Spotlight like a woman possessed, contacting agents, doing availability checks… I was sorting through CV’s, communicating back and forth with Titas, and making so many phone calls that I felt like an octopus. Offers were made and accepted, and after an energetic few days I was able to relax and confirm with Nathan, Titas and the rest of Team PP that our cast was finalised.

I arrived for the first day of workshopping to set up the room and print out the stimuli that Nathan had compiled for everyone. Our actors – Tanya Fear Tunji Lucas, Michael Hadley and Llewella Gideon– arrived and after some warm up exercises and a little bit of time to get to know each other, we got down to discussing the contents of Nathan’s dramaturgical pack. Soon the ideas covered the walls and surrounded us.

It was a fascinating, scary, intense, relevant and necessary discussion. It felt theatrical in itself as the various subject matters – ethnicity, identity, class, family, belonging – provoked strong emotions and feelings from everyone in the room.

Each new day brought with it more writing from Nathan, and it was fascinating to see how the conversation in the room filtered in to his writing, stretching and reshaping his ideas in to what would eventually land on my desk a week later – the first draft of his brand new play.


Without realising it, I’ve found the work I’ve contributed towards having a decidely musical slant in both Crossfade and Mix Tape. The aim in putting together the development workshop was to help Nathan try out new ways of writing and telling stories. Inadvertently, it’s also helped me to start shaping my identity as a producer and how I want to work with other creatives in the future.

-Rachel x


Taste Tuesday: Arancini & Cannoli

Truman Capote once said, ‘Sicily is more beautiful than any woman’ and as much I’d love to say I rival Miranda Kerr in the hottie stakes, I fear Capote might be right. Not just because of its landscape, rich history, hardworking people but most importantly for it’s food. I’m so proud to be Sicilian, and this week I treated the PP gang to some staple Sicilian food.

If the devil were to come up from the fires of hell and give me 24 hours left to live until he dragged my soul deep down into the fiery furnace my last meal on earth would be Arancini.


Golden balls of gooey cheese and a delicious filling which to save Simone from being left out (she’s a veggie) I filled with mozzarella but most often I make them with a thick bolognaise sauce. Arancini have been around in Sicily since the 10th century and most famous in Agrigento (where one side of my family is from) Palermo, Messina and Catania. Staying in Palermo (where the other side of my family is from) I also made some Sicilian sweets called Cannoli.

Now here it gets a big tricky and vague. Nonna asked me to keep the recipe a secret. So I’m going to tease you and give you an idea of la ricetta di famiglia.


Pudding rice (can use Arborio rice, most commonly used but the secret is pudding rice)
Stock cube (veggie or chicken)
Parmesan cheese

Basically you want to make thick sticky rice so you can make little balls.
Wait for the rice to cool down.

Wet your hands between each moulding. In a bowl crack 2 eggs and whisk and in another bowl put breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Make a little ball in your hand and then make a small hole to put the filling in. I used a few cubes of mozzarella but if you’re going to make bolognaise you can use that too. Or be creative use spinach and ricotta, prosciutto, sundried tomato, mushroom, ham etc. Then basically pack the filling into the centre by putting more rice on top. Roll in a ball like a snowball. Roll in the egg, roll in the breadcrumbs and leave to one side as you make the rest.

Whilst you’ve been doing this you want to put like 1lt of veg oil into a massive pan ready for frying. Once you’ve made all the arancini you can start frying. Fry for about 2/3 minutes, keep an eye on them so they are golden brown.

Leave to dry on a piece of kitchen roll and nom!



Making cannoli shells is long so I’m going to tell you a secret – just go to an Italian shop and get them already made…so much easier!

If you do want to have a go, here is a version of what I did. I just didn’t use white wine or cinnamon or coffee and didn’t worry about the lard being from a pig. I also made my own version of the filling.

For the filling drain ricotta cheese through a sieve to remove all the moisture. I used icing sugar so it wasn’t so grainy but Nonna Amico said you can just use caster sugar. Mix to a thick consistency so it basically holds on a spoon. I added flour if it felt a bit runny. Nonna likes ‘hundreds and thousands’ which she can’t actually say (she calls them ‘tricolour bits’) so puts them in too. Once it’s thick and creamy and sugary you can start assembling. This can take a while so put some Dean Martin on and get working filling the cannoli. Then on each end put some glace cherries for some decoration and mangia!

– Nadia x

Open Auditions: Inside The Actors Centre

Team PP had a grand old time last week at our Open Auditions at The Actors Centre in London, seeing a stonking 180 actors across the day! A huge thank you to everyone who made their way there to meet us – it’s always fantastic to see new faces.


One of our favourite things to do is a poll to find out who is the most popular contemporary playwright amongst our auditionees. This time round Simon Stephens was our winner by a whisker, followed by Laura Wade.

Rounding out the Top 5 (which is actually a Top 7 as some writers tied!) were Philip Ridley, Nick Payne, Jez Butterworth, Duncan Macmillan and Martin McDonagh.

There were nods to American playwrights Tony Kushner and Tarrell Alvin McCraney, and also Paines Plough alumni Dennis Kelly (AFTER THE END, OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL), Abi Morgan (SPLENDOUR), Sarah Kane (CRAVE) and the more recent Sabrina Mahfouz (WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK).

Have a browse through our Storify for more playwright picks and actors’ thoughts on the Open Audition format. We’re always blown away by the number of submissions we receive and recently changed the selection process to make it as fair as we can. If you weren’t successful this time, please keep trying!

What’s on the PP stereo

Yes, ok, it’s not exactly been cutting edge listening this week. But sometimes we like a bit of Busted. Not naming any names. And sometimes we want to relive Latitude and have a little office rave to WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK. So there.

Have great weekends all.

Our Teacher’s a Troll: Reviews and Responses.

OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL, our fabulous show for children, is weaving it’s way across the country until 15th November. It’s left theatres full of giggling, excitable children (and adults!) in it’s wake – here’s a round-up of our favourite responses so far…


Tarvin Community Centre to host Our Teacher’s a Troll (Chester Chronicle)

Family show in Ellesmere Port by writer of West End hit  Matilda (Chester Chronicle)


You can catch the show at the the egg, Bath from today and tomorrow, and our final date is Sunday 15th November at The North Wall, Oxford.


See you there! – Team PP x

Developing New Writing: The Assistant Director’s Perspective

The second in our newest series of blogs on creating new work comes from our Nadia Amico, our Trainee Director from Birkbeck’s MFA in Directing. She’s previously assisted our Associate Director, Stef, on WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LUCK and most recently has written and performed at Stratford East at the Empower House event.

It’s not very often you get asked by a director to do some research into Kendrick Lamar, and I knew at that moment that this was the kind of rehearsal room I was meant to be in.


2 weeks out of a 3 day workshop and not only am I still reeling from some of the conversations but I certainly feel heavier with the knowledge and experience of being in a room with director Titus Halder and writer Nathan Bryon.

The topic was simple, yet incredibly raw, as George Perrin later reminded me, and raw it was – what it means to be black and, in a way, what it means to be white.

We spent a large amount of time being expertly navigated through a workshop by Titus, which ultimately encouraged us share an incredible amount of political, social and cultural material, breaking down personal barriers and crossing over racial thresholds. As the assistant director, a lot of what you’re told about the job involves listening and adhering to the room, but it was hard – not just coz I could talk the back legs off a donkey – but because I was frustrated and upset. How is it 2015 and the colour of someone’s skin, or the sexual orientation of a person is still being questioned, challenged and to some degree, oppressed?


Kendrick’s album To Pimp A Butterfly crystalizes, in potentially the most eloquent and fundamental way, the issues facing black people in America today. You only have to mention Treyvon Martin and blurry images, recorded on handheld phones, shaking from left to right, distorting the forms of black boys and bullet holes, white cops and Taser guns, contradict the ironic point Lamar is trying to make – “we gon be alright”.

What really stood out for me was how inspired Nathan was by Titus’ handling of the workshop – Titus pushed Nathan to explore a more abstract way of writing. Letting his pen flow across the page rather then worry too much about characters and narration. “What really matters, man” I’m pretty sure is something I heard from most people throughout the workshop. After day one in fact, Nathan stayed behind, his brain close to exploding, and wrote something in response to the conversations and opinions formed in the room that day.

I was keen to come back into the room on Sunday to see what had changed or formed more vehemently in his mind. I wasn’t disappointed, as what Nathan at written encouraged further debates and conversation pertaining to everything we already had discussed and more. Class issues became a prominent talking point – and again, being a working class director, it was hard to not put my two cents in.

Within the first 20 minutes of the workshop, tears were shed and a comforting arm uniting a working class black woman and a middle class white man stretched out saying ‘it’s ok’. I was overwhelmed, happy, sad, excited and finally grateful. I got to witness something really special. Titus took me for a drink later and I said ‘all I want to do is extract the juice from everything’. I had said it in a jokey kind of way, but the workshop had left both a sweet and sour taste in my mouth. And I think that’s what theatre is all about. The good with the bad, the happy with the sad, but eventually really real situations and really real people.

– Nadia x

Taste Tuesday: Mars Bar and Malteaser Fudge & Irn Bru Tablet

Ask and you shall receive! When Rachel’s turn to do Taste Tuesday came around, the office requested that she make ‘something Scottish’ and she duly obliged.

Scotland is renowned (or infamous…?) for deep-fried Mars Bars (although I’ve seen them on sale in Camden – get involved!). I didn’t trust myself not to burn my flat down, so instead I decided to whip up some Mars Bar and Malteaser Fudge – it’s really easy:

Mars Bar and Malteaser Fudge


Not actually sponsored by Tesco – we promise!

• 155g of Malteasers
• 4 x Mars Bars
• 220g of milk chocolate
• 397g tin of condensed milk

• Line a 20cm square cake tin with baking paper – make sure you leave plenty of paper hanging over the sides to help you remove the fudge once it has set.
• Roughly chop the Mars Bars into pieces and set aside until needed.
• Pour the condensed milk into a medium saucepan over low heat and add the milk chocolate – which has been broken into squares.
• Cook the condensed milk and chocolate mixture and stir regularly until the chocolate has melted and the ingredients have combined.
• Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the chopped up Mars Bars and Malteasers before quickly stirring through.
• Pour the fudge into the prepared tin and taunt your flatmates by placing it in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours to set before they get to try some.
• Remove the set fudge from the fridge and cut into squares.


No Scottish-themed feast would truly be complete without our national drink, Irn Bru, so I also made some Irn Bru flavoured tablet. No-one in my flat or in the office knows what tablet is and it BAFFLES ME, so my Taste Tuesday has also inadvertently taken on an educational element. Not to be confused with fudge which is a little softer and chewier, tablet is a melt in the mouth, toffee flavoured staple of sweetie bowls in every Scottish granny’s house from Jura to Jedburgh.

Irn Bru Tablet

500g granulated sugar
190mls condensed milk
1 cup of milk
50g/2ozs butter
330ml of Barr’s Irn Bru (optional)


Irn Bru: May have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children…

• Put all but the condensed milk in a heavy bottomed pan, and melt really slowly until there are absolutely no grains of sugar left. Avoid stirring it vigorously, as you will have gritty tablet.
• Once it’s all melted, add the condensed milk and take to a rolling boil.
• It varies as to how long it takes but the sugar will caramelise at the bottom of the pan – stirring will then change the mixture to a slightly to a toffee colour.
• Now add the Irn Bru slowly and stir in to the mixture.
• Test a drop of the mixture in a glass of cold water it should form a ball when rubbed between your fingers. If you have a sugar thermometer approx 240.F/12o.C .
• Take it off the heat and beat it really well with a wooden spoon, you will feel it thicken as you beat, then pour into 8×10 inch greased baking tray and leave to set in the fridge. Mark it before it is totally cold.


– Rachel x

Let us know if you have a go at making your own fudge or tablet– we’d love to see the photos! Tweet us @painesplough or post them over on our Facebook page.

Next week, we’re being treating to ‘something Sicilian’ from Nadia – we CAN’T WAIT.