Category Archive: Roundabout

Programme 2014

spacer As we celebrate 40 years of Paines Plough, we’re proud to present our biggest, boldest and furthest-reaching programme of work to date. Programme 2014 sees 10 productions touring to 50 places around the UK, featuring the work of 100 playwrights.

Drum roll please… welcome to Programme 2014.

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spacer HOPELESSLY DEVOTED by Kate Tempest
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spacer Following the success of her smash-hit debut WASTED, we premiered Kate Tempest‘s exhilarating new play HOPELESSLY DEVOTED on tour across the Midlands last Autumn, in co-production with Birmingham Repertory TheatreThis Spring it’s back – on tour nationwide and in London.

You lift my soul up. I ripped our lives down.

Chess is in prison. Facing a lengthy sentence, her cell mate, Serena, becomes her soul mate. But when Serena is given parole, Chess faces total isolation.

Hope comes in the form of a music producer looking for a reason to love music again. She finds a powerful voice in Chess. But to harness her talent, Chess must first face her past.

Lyrical fireworks. Live music. A story of love and redemption.

“STARTLINGLY BEAUTIFUL” ★★★★ The Times
“OUTSTANDING”                   ★★★★★ The Public Reviews

@painesplough
#KTHopelesslyDevoted

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spacer BLISTER by Laura Lomas
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spacer In co-production with Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Gate TheatreBLISTER is a tender, poignant new play by Laura Lomas.

If I could give you all the blood in my body…go back…make it undone…undo what happened, I would do.

An ordinary summer’s day.

Liam is about to make a decision he will spend a life time regretting.

One day. One mistake.

Seven lives sent spiralling.

From service stations to sea fronts, BLISTER examines one moment and its ripple effects through a galaxy of lives.

@painesplough
#BlisterPlay

spacer Blister by Laura Lomas
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spacer NOT THE WORST PLACE by Sam Burns
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spacer A beautiful, touching debut play by Sam Burns – nominated for the Susan Smith Blackburn prizeNOT THE WORST PLACE tackles our conflicting emotions about the place we call home. In co-production with Clwyd Theatre Cymru and Sherman Cymru.

I ain’t got a city named for me…The swans have though, haven’t they. They got a city named for them.

Seventeen-year-old Emma dreams of travelling adventures beyond her Swansea home. Rhys, her idle boyfriend, has other plans for them.

Camped out on Swansea seafront, they must confront the difficult question of what it takes to leave the place that shaped everything they are.

A story about what happens when life gets in the way of your dreams.

@painesplough
#NTWP

spacer Not the Worst Place by Sam Burns
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spacer AN INTERVENTION by Mike Bartlett
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spacer Paines Plough and Watford Palace Theatre present the world première of AN INTERVENTION – a new play by Mike Bartlett, Olivier award-winning author of LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

Two friends.

One of them went on the anti-war protest, shouted their lungs out, then got horrendously and staggeringly drunk.

The other stayed at home, watched TV for a bit, and thought about the future.

A touching, funny play about what happens when you hate your best friend.

@painesplough
#AnInterventionPlay

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spacer EVERY BRILLIANT THING by Duncan Macmillan
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spacer Last summer saw us tour Duncan Macmillan‘s EVERY BRILLIANT THING to Ludlow Fringe Festival and Ledbury Poetry Festival. We’re delighted to be bringing the show back this year, in co-production with Pentabus Theatre.

You’re six years old. Mum’s in hospital. Dad says she’s ‘done something stupid’. She finds it hard to be happy.

So you start to make a list of everything that’s brilliant about the world. Everything that’s worth living for.

1. Ice Cream
2. Kung Fu Movies
3. Burning Things
4. Laughing so hard you shoot milk out your nose
5. Construction cranes
6. Me

Soon, the list will take on a life of its own.

A new play about depression and the lengths we will go to for those we love.

The performance of Every Brilliant Thing involves members of the audience, making each night unique.

Based on true and untrue stories.

@painesplough
#EveryBrilliantThing

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spacer LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan
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spacer Last year, our production of Duncan Macmillan’s critically acclaimed LUNGS was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and we’re thrilled to be including it as part of our Roundabout Season this year, in co-production with Sheffield Theatres.

could fly to New York and back every day for seven years and still not leave a carbon footprint as big as if I have a child. Ten thousand tonnes of CO2. That’s the weight of the Eiffel Tower. I’d be giving birth to the Eiffel Tower.

In a time of global anxiety, terrorism, erratic weather and political unrest, a young couple want a child but are running out of time. If they over think it, they’ll never do it. But if they rush, it could be a disaster.

They want to have a child for the right reasons. Except, what exactly are the right reasons? And what will be the first to destruct – the planet or the relationship?

A play about the different types of love we feel in a lifetime.

@painesplough
#LungsPlay

spacer Lungs by Duncan MacMillan
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spacer OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL by Dennis Kelly
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spacer Dennis Kelly headlines our Roundabout Season this year with OUR TEACHER’S A TROLL, a hilarious play about mischief and mayhem, in co-production with Half Moon.

Once, there were two terrible twins called Holly and Sean, who gave their Head teacher a nervous breakdown.

The twins were extremely pleased with themselves. That is, until the new Head Teacher arrived. For you see, the new Head Teacher was – a Troll. That’s right.

And this Troll Head Teacher soon created all kinds of mad new rules for the pupils and teachers.

Can Holly and Sean save the day and stop the Troll from eating their class mates and teachers? Can naughtiness be restored to its rightful place? Will brussels sprouts and peanut butter be taken off the menu?

The only way to find out is to come along and be outrageously entertained by this colourfully comic adventure.

@painesplough
#TeachersATroll

spacer Our Teacher's a Troll by Dennis Kelly
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spacer THE ANGRY BRIGADE by James Graham
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spacer In co-production with Drum Theatre Plymouth, we’re very excited to present THE ANGRY BRIGADE, a bold new play by James Graham, writer of sell-out smash hit THIS HOUSE.

…its government has declared a vicious class war.

A one-sided war…

We have started to fight back…

…with bombs.

Against a backdrop of Tory cuts, high unemployment and the deregulated economy of 1970s Britain, a young urban guerrilla group mobilises: The Angry Brigade.

Their targets: MPs. Embassies. Police. Pageant Queens.

A world of order is shattered by anarchy. The rules have changed. An uprising has begun. No one is exempt.

As a special police squad hunt the home-grown terrorists whose identities shocked the nation, James Graham’s heart-stopping thriller lures us into a frenzied world that looks much like our own.

@painesplough
#AngryBrigadePlay

spacer The Angry Brigade by James Graham
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spacer COME TO WHERE I’M FROM by 100 playwrights
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spacer COME TO WHERE I’M FROM is our writer-led theatrical tapestry of the UK.Since 2010, 100 playwrights from across the UK have returned to their home towns to write plays about the places that shaped them.

Our 5-year project to weave a theatrical tapestry of the UK culminates with a three day installation at London’s South Bank Centre and the launch of a smart phone app.

An interactive map of the UK allows listeners to hear tales of home from over 100 of the UK’s finest playwrights. A free-to-download smart phone app offers a playwright’s travel guide to Britain.

@painesplough
#CTWIF

spacer Come to Where I'm From
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spacer JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS by Tom Wells
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spacer Programme 2014 began with Tom Wells‘ acclaimed football rom-com JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS at the Bush Theatre. In co-production wiith Watford Palace Theatre and Hull Truck Theatre, JUMPERS FOR GOALPOSTS toured nationwide in 2013.

I’m not asking you to win. I’m asking you to just: chuck your face at it, have a, have a fucking good go at it. And then we’ll. Yeah. We’ll see.

Luke wants Danny, but Danny’s got a secret. Joe wants to play second fiddle, but Geoff wants a headline gig. Viv just wants to beat the lesbians to the league title. Game on.

A hilarious and heart-warming story about football, friendship and finding your way from Tom Wells, winner of the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright 2012 for the smash hit comedy THE KITCHEN SINK (★★★★★ The Daily Telegraph).

@painesplough
#Jump4Goal

All images by Phoebe Cheong

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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? :)

Behind the scenes: LUNGS on Radio 3

Kate O'Flynn and Alistair Cope

Richard Wilson

Kate O'Flynn and Alistair Cope

Duncan Macmillan

Twitter response to BBC Radio 3 broadcast of LUNGS

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:

INSIGHTS: Adapting LUNGS for radio

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.

Duncan Macmillan

LUNGS plays the planet

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.

LUNGS to broadcast on BBC Radio 3

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.

Andrew Lloyd Webber backs Roundabout

We are delighted to be the recipients of generous donation from The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation to support the build of the permanent, touring ROUNDABOUT AUDITORIUM.

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.

Round and Round we go.... Design Lucy Osborne

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:

INDIVIDUALS

18 anonymous donors
Alice Flynn & Family
Angela Cory
Caroline Mathison
Caroline Newling
David Lan
Deborah Joseph
Emma Keele
Emma Perrin
George Perrin
Gillian Kirk
Glen Pearce
Hannah Rodger
Hilary Puxley & Michael Crane
James Atkinson
Jemma Gardner
Jon & NoraLee Sedmak
Maggie Cronin
Micha Colombo
Rachael Hilton
Richard Wilson
Sandra Wilkinson
Zarine Kharas
Zoe Crick

TRUSTS AND FOUNDATIONS

Garfield Weston Foundation
John Ellerman Found
ation

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.

Roundabout on the Offies shortlist

We’re delighted to say our Roundabout London season, co-produced with Sheffield Theatres at Shoreditch Town Hall, is up for two Offie Awards.

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.

Maia Alexander and Andrew Sheridan in ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG

LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan makes the Best New Play shortlist alongside Howard Barker’s LOT AND HIS GOD, and PP alumnus Philip Ridley’s SHIVERED.

Alistair Cope and Kate O'Flynn in Best New Play nominated LUNGS

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.

Roundabout throughout history

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!

An artist's impression of The Odeon Of Pericles - the first indoor in-the-round theatre.

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.

The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester

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.

Kneehigh's awesome The Asylum

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).

The Colosseum - both theatre and sporting arena.

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.

Lucy Osborne's design for The Roundabout Auditorium