Category Archive: Roundabout
On Sunday 24th March BBC Radio 3 broadcast our Sheffield Theatres co-production of LUNGS.
We’re awaiting estimated listening figures which we’ll be sure to let you know about in due course, but in the meantime here’s what twitter had to say about the studio-recorded stage transfer:
Ahead of Sunday night’s BBC Radio 3 broadcast of LUNGS, Duncan Macmillan offers an insight in to the process of adapting the play from stage to radio:
In George Orwell’s ‘1984’, Winston Smith is tortured in Room 101, a place that contains everyone’s worst nightmare. Some people believe it was based on the Committee Room at BBC Broadcasting House where Orwell had worked during the Second World War. I’m currently adapting 1984 for Headlong, and was in the middle of the Room 101 scene when I was invited to come in for a meeting at Broadcasting House.
Unlike Winston, I wasn’t tortured with rats. But I was asked to cut down the swearing in my play ‘Lungs’ which the BBC were about to record for radio broadcast.
“In terms of language, s****, p***, c*** and w***** don’t ring too many alarms. I’m more concerned about words like f***, m*********** and c***.”
I’ve not heard as much swearing in my life as during this meeting about swearing. It was revealed that the f-bomb appears in my play seventy-eight times. I knew this already, oddly, as the play had been reviewed by a theatre-blogging Reverend in Winnipeg who had counted them.
I’d been through this before with the first production in Washington DC where, during rehearsal, I’d managed to cut thirty-two f***s. It’s a generalisation but Americans tend to use the word for emphasis whereas Brits use it for punctuation. There’s no word quite like ‘f***’, no word that has the same function. The characters in Lungs are stressed, they’re thinking out loud, they’re scared and angry and excited. To me, every f*** was justified.
But words have a different power on the radio. When you haven’t got the actor’s body language or facial gestures to help contextualise them, swear words can feel much more abrasive and unnecessary, particularly at the start of a play when the listener hasn’t had a chance to get to know the characters. To my surprise, not only were they not about to strap rats to my face, it became clear that there was no pressure from the BBC to cut the swearing at all. Yes, certain things in language and content require various processes but their priority was always to preserve the integrity of the script and if all the language and content is justifiable, then there’s no problem. The quality of attention from the audience is different on radio than in the theatre. It’s in people’s homes, in their kitchens, living rooms, cars and earphones.
In this new context I found that much of the swearing could be extracted. It took a lot of work but I managed to more than half the f*** count and there aren’t any in the first twenty minutes or so. I sent the revised script to Toby Swift, our producer. He thanked me, then asked if I’d mind restoring some of the eliminated f***s.
On stage Lungs is performed without sets, props, costume changes, lighting changes or sound effects, just two actors. On radio, the listener is already making the sort of imaginative leaps the play asks of the audience in a theatre. So we decided to include a lot of sound in the radio production that wasn’t in the stage version. I broke the script down into fifty-eight scenes and we recorded them separately, with a different acoustic and background sound for each one. We reunited Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn from Paines Plough/Sheffield Theatres’ production, Richard Wilson redirected them and Toby did a fantastic job with the production. It was great to get the team back together again, Alistair now a father and Kate taking a few days off from her astonishing performance in Port at the National. They managed to recreate what they did on stage but also bring something brand new to it.
Listening to it in the edit, after all the work cutting the swear words and debating the right form, I think it sounds great. Thank f*** for that.
This Sunday we open our next production of Programme 2013 and it is visiting every living room, bedroom, train, pavement, hotel, gym, laptop, iPad, wireless and car in the UK.
In fact, anyone anywhere in the world with an internet connection (2.4 billion people, or 34.3% of the global population, at the last count) can experience the show.
And it’s on for one night only.
Thanks to BBC Radio 3, our co-production with Sheffield Theatres of Duncan Macmillan’s LUNGS will be broadcast at 20:30 GMT on Sunday 24th March on 90 – 93 FM, online via the BBC Radio 3 website, on the iPlayer Radio App and on DAB digital radio.
As part of their growing collection of stage transfers, BBC Radio 3 recorded Richard Wilson’s production of the play with the original cast Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn only a few weeks ago. Thanks to some nifty editing by Richard and Producer Toby Swift, the production is now ready for airing and joins an illustrious canon of stage plays given radio airplay.
So far the production has played in our Roundabout auditorium in both Sheffield and London where a combined total of 2,703 people have seen it. The stage production will soon embark on a national tour as part of our ongoing plans for Roundabout. But in the meantime the studio recording will be available to listen to – for free – on Sunday night and thereafter on iPlayer catch up.
Enjoy the show, planet earth.
On Sunday 24th March at 20:30 GMT our co-production with Sheffield Theatres of Duncan Macmillan’s LUNGS will transfer to BBC Radio 3.
The station will broadcast a studio recording of Richard Wilson’s production, starring original cast Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn, first seen at Sheffield Theatres in our Roundabout Auditorium in 2011.
Last autumn LUNGS played alongside ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG by Nick Payne and THE SOUND OF HEAVY RAIN by Penelope Skinner in the prototype Roundabout Auditorium which we popped up in Shoreditch Town Hall.
Critics raved and audiences swooned at Duncan’s heart-breaking story, Richard’s delicate production and Alistair and Kate’s virtuosic performances.
“Subtle, intelligent environment drama that quietly socks you in the guts.” ★★★★ Time Out
“The most beautiful, quietly shattering play of the year.” ★★★★★ The Sunday Express
Last Sunday, LUNGS won the Offie Award for Best New Play after being shortlisted in the same category at last year’s Theatre Awards UK.
Now, thanks to BBC Radio 3, we’re bringing this breath-taking play direct to your living room.
Make a date now for the broadcast or set a reminder to listen again on catch-up.
Listen live here.
The Foundation has donated £150,000 towards our dream theatre – a fully self-contained in-the-round auditorium that will flat pack into a lorry and pop up anywhere from theatres to school halls and sports centres, in every corner of the country.
In October 2011 we built a prototype of the auditorium which housed three new plays by three of UK’s hottest writers – Duncan Macmillan, Nick Payne and Penelope Skinner. The protoype and the plays had their first outing at Sheffield Theatres, with whom we co-produced the season.
We then brought the prototype and the season of plays to Shoreditch Town Hall in Autumn 2012.
Thanks to the generous support of The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, we can now build a permanent, portable Roundabout Auditorium, fulfilling our long-held ambition to tour the very best new plays to every corner of the UK, to both established theatre spaces, and non traditional theatre venues.
Designed by Lucy Osborne (with lighting by Emma Chapman), the 111 seat venue will be built using sustainable materials and will flat pack into a single lorry and can pop up in any space from existing theatres to village and school halls, community and sport centres, warehouses and even parks.
Madeleine Lloyd Webber, Foundation Trustee, said:
“The Foundation is very proud to be funding this completely innovative performing space for Paines Plough.
“Paines Plough brings excellent theatrical productions to regions across the UK and we hope the new space will help enhance the work they already do. Providing opportunities for everyone to have positive artistic experiences is a priority for the Foundation, so we encourage others to give to arts projects that make an impact on communities across the UK.”
Our ADs James and George said:
“We are hugely grateful to The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation for its game-changing support of The Roundabout Auditorium. We are thrilled the Foundation shares our passion for finding new ways to enable more people around the country to experience new plays. Its support will play a major role in making Roundabout possible, meaning our pop-up in-the-round touring amphitheatre will hit the road with a repertory of three outstanding new plays, offering audiences everywhere a unique theatrical experience.
“For years to come, the best new plays will turn up on people’s doorsteps in theatres, school halls, sports centres, warehouses and even parks. The ALW Foundation is supporting us to make this touring revolution possible, and we are galvanised as we seek to build a legacy of enjoyment of new plays in every corner of Britain. ”
The ROUNDABOUT AUDITORIUM has also been generously supported by:
18 anonymous donors
Alice Flynn & Family
Hilary Puxley & Michael Crane
Jon & NoraLee Sedmak
TRUSTS AND FOUNDATIONS
Without the generous support of Trusts and Foundations and individual donors, we simply couldn’t do what we do. We are truly grateful to all our supporters. If you would like to support us, we’d love to hear from you.
Read more about Roundabout on our blog.
Our fab four actors Maia Alexander, Alistair Cope, Kate O’Flynn and Andrew Sheridan make the Best Ensemble shortlist alongside the companies of the Faction season at New Diorama Theatre (featuring WASTED and LONDON star Cary Crankson) and Midsummer Night’s Dream at Lyric Hammersmith.
The Offies were launched in 2010 to recognise and celebrate the excellence, innovation and ingenuity of independent theatres across London. The winners will be announced on Sunday 24th February at The Off West End Theatre Awards Ceremony hosted by Simon Callow.
Congrats to Duncan, Maia, Alistair, Kate and Andy on their well deserved nominations, and to all the other nominees.
With our Roundabout Season at Shoreditch Town Hall coming to a close last weekend, and our prototype auditorium taking its bow, we’re getting super excited about the future as we move to the next phase of fundraising and planning in pursuit of creating our dream theatre – a fully self-contained portable, demountable Roundabout Auditorium.
We’ll write a blog about our plans for Roundabout Phase 3 soon. But first, the past.
Over the last few weeks we’ve often been asked what inspired us to build The Roundabout Auditorium, and what it is about theatre-in-the-round that excites us.
We ran some workshops we ran for The Actor’s Guild, and we were energised by the enthusiasm the space engendered in the actors. Some common themes emerged, so we wanted to write about the reasons why we think the round is the most exciting theatrical configuration of all.
And we wanted to write about the history of in-the-round and touring auditoria. Sitting in a circle to listen is ingrained in us. From cavemen sitting around campfires telling stories, to forming story circles in Primary School. It’s part of who we are. A cornerstone of our human society.
Storytelling was developed into theatre by a guy called Thespis, who has lent his name to thespians ever since. He toured around in a cart from which he performed monologues in open spaces where audiences would gather to watch. So touring existed long before building based theatre. The first theatre structure built in Athens employed temporary wooden seating surrounding a stage in a market square. Sounds familiar!
The first documented indoor theatre is The Odeon Of Pericles, which dates from 440BC. It was a square, but with seating on all four walls and a performance area in the centre. In 300BC The Theatre Of Dionysus was built from stone cut into a hillside with seating in a horseshoe shape around the stage, and became the predominant model for theatre architecture for the ensuing 500 years across the Greco-Roman world.
Fast forward to the Middle Ages and across the English Channel to dear old Blighty where, in the Middle Ages, a penchant for morality plays started a trend for in-the-round auditoria in market squares, visited by touring players in pageant wagons.
Gradually, across the world, as technology advanced and sets became more ornate, theatre became more of a spectacle and less of a communal, social, experience. Along came the proscenium arch, and stage lighting to illuminate the players and keep the audience in the dark. Then came cinema, and television. For our culture and our entertainment, we all sat and faced the same way. We became end-on.
So in a digital age, sitting in a circle seems almost radical. No-one is told to sit still and face front. It’s a communal experience, a social experience, a democratic experience. Everyone is involved. Even if you turn the house lights out, you can still see the people opposite you.
Here at PP we’re attracted to plays that are innately theatrical, that embrace theatre as a unique art form. You can’t watch a film in the round, or TV. You can’t watch a stand-up gig in the round without the stand-up getting very dizzy. You can’t (generally) watch a gig in the round (unless you’re plaanning to see the new Keane tour). In-the-round is innately theatrical.
And it seems to us to be the most exhilarating way to make theatre. Stripped bare, exposed. There’s no fourth wall, the actors and the audience inhabit the same space. As the playwright Simon Stephens says, “There is no theatrical architecture that challenges or interrogates what it is to be a human being more than theatre in-the-round.” And that seems true of both the work on stage and the audience around it, because the audience are inescapably *in* the action, not just observing it.
We’ve always been attracted to working in-the-round. Our joint AD James, and Roundabout Auditorium designer Lucy Osborne, first worked together on ARTEFACTS by Mike Bartlett at the old Bush theatre in 2008. Faced with the famous old steep-banked L-shaped auditorium, they ripped out the seats and for the first time in its history, put The Bush in-the-round; then reconfigured theatres around the country and in New York when Artefacts went on tour. Our other joint AD George grew up in Manchester on a staple diet of in-the-round theatre at the 800-seat Royal Exchange, where no single seat is further than 10 metres from centre stage.
But George is amongst the lucky ones. Despite theatre in-the-round having undergone a renaissance since Stephen Joseph founded the temporary space the Vic in Stoke and built the UK’s first permanent in-the-round space in 1955 in Scarborough, there are only six purpose-built in-the-round theatres in the country today. So very few people have had the opportunity to experience theatre in this exciting way. Alongside Manchester and The Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough there’s The Octagon in Bolton, The New Vic in Stoke, The Orange Tree in Richmond and The Cockpit in Marylebone.
One of the most exciting aspects of creating Roundabout was the prospect of giving people the chance to see theatre in-the-round for the first time, even though the configuration is as old as theatre itself. Forget the IMAX. Theatre in-the-round is the original and best 3D experience, no silly glasses required.
Alongside the ancient traditions of touring in-the-round, there have also been more contemporary stimuli. Founding Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Michael Elliot, when explaining the rationale behind the construction of the in-the-round theatre within a much larger hall, spoke of a belief that theatre buildings should have obsolescence built in to them. So after the Arndale bombing left The Royal Exchange homeless in 1996, they built a replica of their theatre and toured it. The RSC did the same with a portable structure that popped up around the UK. Later The RSC built the RoundYard in The Roundhouse, and last year a replica of their Stratford home in Manhattan. For the past seven years, Paines Plough has been producing work at the Latitude Festival in pop-up structures, one year in-the-round. The pop-up seems to have its own energy, its own excitement. And we’re not the only ones who think so. Check out Kneehigh’s wonderful nomadic pop-up tent The Asylum, modern in its conception but rooted in the idea of circus, troubadour and folk traditions. Or Chichester Festival Theatre’s Theatre-On-The-Fly. We can’t wait for The National Theatre’s new pop-up The Shed, opening in Spring 2013.
We were inspired by productions too. For The Royal Court’s 2009 production of COCK by Mike Bartlett, director James MacDonald and designer Miriam Beuther created a cock-fighting arena in The Jerwood Theatre Upstairs. With the play stipulating no set and no props be used in the production, the energy created in the miniature round was thrilling. This was theatre as sport.
And as inveterate sports fans, we’ve been inspired by all manner of sporting arena, from the Colosseum in Rome with its steeped banks and vomitories housing lions, to the Nou Camp in Barcelona. Our most dramatic sports are all performed in the round. The best stadia are designed like cauldrons, with all the heat on the field of play. The pitch at the Nou Camp is below ground level, so the stadium looks modest from the outside, but when the crowd enters from street level to find themselves on the rim of a gigantic bowl, the affect is breathtaking (which is why you enter the Roundabout from the top, and look down on the stage).
Theatre in-the-round demands combatative playing, attack, sport. We reckon these are really positive dramatic qualities. Actors often talk about what a character is “doing” to another in any given moment. The technique of actioning attributes physically active verbs to each line of a text – to slap, to punch, to jab. Like boxing. Theresa Heskins, expert Artistic Director of Stoke’s New Vic says “keep things moving; the round loves action, words are action and the pause is the enemy.” Dennis Kelly talks of lines as weapons.
We love the round, and the kind of work the round demands. That and our desire to find new ways to tour work to as many places around the UK as possible all combined to form the idea for The Roundabout Auditorium. The auditorium will pop-up across the country anywhere from existing theatres to school halls and village halls, community and sports centres, warehouses and even parks. In it we’ll present work especially created for the round, to give people everywhere the chance to experience – in many cases for the first time – this most ancient and thrilling of theatrical configurations.
Much of the most interesting theatre criticism, and the most informative for us, is found away from the mainstream press on the burgeoning theatre blogs.
Out there on the interweb, numerous passionate punters chart their extensive theatregoing with wide-ranging reviews of their whole experience – from the lighting desing to the loos – generally in much more detail than the critics can squeeze into their word counts.
And having opened our own theatre for The Roundabout Season, it was amongst the blogs that we learnt the most about audience experience. We can get so close to our own work, and in this case to our auditorium, that it proves invaluable to read other people’s first impressions.
“The ‘flat-pack’ auditorium is erected in the middle of the hauntingly preserved assembly hall, and the combination of carousel-esque wallpaper and design, exposed bulbs and the imposing lighting rig gives the distinct impression of entering a circus,” writes Rebecca Hazel Roughan in The Oxford Student Online. “The actors serve as clowns, lions and ringmasters and have the ability to heal and break our hearts in a moment.”
Gareth James on Gareth’s Culture and Travel blog writes: “It’s a bigger version of the Royal Court’s set for Cock, like somewhere you’d have held a cock-fight. It reminds me of Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre – like a spaceship has landed inside an old building.”
There was a lot of chat about buttons…
“It’s unallocated seating,” explains Rev Stan, “But you choose a coloured button before you go in and are directed to a portion of the auditorium that matches your colour. (Tip: Choose yellow if you want to be closest to the exit/loos). A nifty way of getting the audience to spread out but as no one was collecting buttons I’m wondering how long it will be before they run out.”
Don’t worry Rev, we had loads.
“Not content with merely allocating seats, your button is the key to your position – it’s all very alternative. This is Shoreditch after all,” notes Oxford Student Rebecca, dispatched from the dreaming spires to EC1.
“Judging by the spread of audience members, given that choice of colours, most people will go for blue, and pink is very unpopular,” observes Nick on Partially Obstructed View, before revealing we’d scared his friend: “Vanessa, it turns out, is afraid of buttons (‘What the hell is that?’ she thundered at the three bowls of different-coloured buttons on the box office desk.)”
And if it wasn’t the buttons causing consternation, it was the sex:
“Positively the most sexual scene I’ve ever seen on a theater,” writes Webcowgirl on Life In The Cheap Seats of the virginal fumble in ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG. “I’m sure the actors both had their underpants on but it was rather a LOT like watching a live sex show and if you were planning on taking a member of the family I would NOT advise it.”
So don’t bring your Granny, is the tip, though she does go on to say: “Otherwise: actually really hot,” so perhaps liberal minded family members might get a kick out of it.
There were thousands of words written about the plays. Insightful, interesting and unashamedly subjective descriptions of people’s responses to the plays, which is exactly what we want to hear.
“My favourite piece of the day, especially the second act,” writes ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG fan Poly Gianniba on The Other Bridge Project. “Payne’s writing probes difficult places of loneliness and heartbreak, and the actors, especially Andrew Sheridan (who has the rare ability of drawing you in so effectively and with so little fanfare that takes you by surprise) make the play justice.”
Thanks so much to everyone who came, and saw, and blogged. We’ve loved reading your reviews, and we’ve learnt from hearing about your experiences.
We’ll leave the last word to Webcowgirl, writing about LUNGS:
“And at the end, it seemed, the world blew out of the auditorium, the light from the stage expanding out the cupola above me, all of the little sadnesses and disappointments that make up our tiny lives becoming universal, utterly transcending the theater in which we sat on a rainy Sunday night in October in a run down corner of an often unfriendly town. And I walked out into the night and thought about my own sadnesses, and fiddled with my little yellow button. And it was good.”
We were proudly supporting Duncan Macmillan whose play LUNGS – part of our Roundabout Season – was nominated in The Best New Play category.
The TMA does a fantastic job of celebrating the truly national reach of British Theatre. Nominees in its annual awards ranged from The Lyric Belfast to The Theatre Chipping Norton, via touring companies like Graeae and ETT, and celebrating the invaluable contribution of backstage, box office, marketing and management staff who make our theatres tick, as well as the writers, actors, directors and creatives whose work we see on stage.
As TMA president Rachel Tackley rightly said: “Regional theatre is going from strength to strength, and we should recognise and celebrate that success.”
Rachel also offered a suprising statistic: “With 30 million theatre attendances a year in Britain, theatre-going easily outstrips football attendances.”
So much for theatre being a minority sport.
We loved hearing Sam West speak so passionately about his parents Timothy West and Prunella Scales who were honoured with The Stage Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre for their lifetime devotion to touring far and wide. And we loved celebrating the extraordinary energy and innovation of a nationwide industry bloodied but unbowed by funding cuts.
We also loved the salmon mousse, rack of lamb and chocolate soufle. Obvs.
The Best New Play award was won by Sarah Ruhl for her play IN THE NEXT ROOM, produced at The Ustinov Studio, Theatre Royal Bath. So congratulations to her, and congratulations to all the winners and nominees (but especially Duncan, we’re unashamedly biased…)
And congratulations to British Theatre collectively, in all its diversity and variety and brilliance. You beat football.