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Glasgow here we come!

Ye'll take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland afore ye...

I’m bidding farewell to Paines Plough HQ on the Aldwych tonight, and will spend tomorrow packing frenziedly, because this weekend George and I are heading to Glasgow to start rehearsals for DIG by Katie Douglas, the first of our A Play, A Pie and A Pint season. James will be joining us in a week’s time when his rehearsals for YOU CANNOT GO FORWARD FROM WHERE YOU ARE RIGHT NOW by David Watson start, and then the week after that George will start all over again with Leo Butler’s ETERNAL SOURCE OF LIGHT – by which time audiences will be tucking into their pies and sipping their pints as they watch DIG at Òran Mór.

It’s a really exciting time – everything is coming together nicely and everyone’s waiting to see what happens in those rehearsal rooms. DIG is set to be a properly Scottish affair; Katie, the writer, is from Kilwinning, our company is made up of three brilliant Scots actors, and the play is set in Glasgow itself. Me and George will obviously have to try to make ourselves more Scottish in order to fit in – for me quite easy as I was born in Dundee, George’ll just have to drink loads of Irn Bru.

Keep checking the blog and Twitter (@painesplough) for updates on our progress, casting news and titbits from rehearsals. And if anyone has any suggestions for cultural activities, places to visit or indeed (especially) great pubs to frequent while we’re up in Glasgow, you know what to do.

Step Changing from NT to Play, Pie, Pint

please note: pint pictured is not actual size

As this is the end of my third week working with Paines Plough I thought it was about time I wrote a blog. I’m Rachel, and I’m here due to a frankly brilliant scheme called Step Change.

The idea behind the programme is to try and counteract the fact that the theatre industry can be haphazard in terms of spotting and nurturing people who have management and producing potential. My experience, working at the National Theatre as the Technical and Production Administrator, has been great in terms of teaching me about the theatrical process on a large scale; but when it comes to the next step in my career, I’m going to need specific experience that my role at the NT as a little cog in a big old machine doesn’t afford me.

Participants on Step Change get a week of masterclasses from industry experts and several follow-up sessions; a mentor to give advice/drink with/be talked down by (mine, Ros, is General Manager at the Old Vic); and a secondment of around 40 days in another organisation. And this is where my path meets Paines Plough’s.

Paines Plough had put together two secondment proposals, and when I first met with Tara and Claire I told them I was interested in working as Assistant Producer on what turned out to be the upcoming Roundabout project. I’m a Sheffield girl, and the concept – a portable theatre space, initially within the Crucible, a company in rep, three brand new plays – sounded very exciting whilst still allowing me to cling on to my comfort zone (read: opportunity to jump on the 82 to my Mum’s for a cuppa if it all got too much). I still think the Roundabout project is going to be brilliant and I’m really enjoying being in the office watching it all coming together.

But when Tara called and said they thought I’d be better served by being given even MORE responsibility, and would I be up for being the Trainee Producer on this year’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint, I was thrilled. Then terrified. Then thrilled again.

So I’m spending two days a week south of the river with the NT, and three on the north bank with Paines Plough, until mid-September when we hit Òran Mór in Glasgow with our three brilliant plays. We will then be touring to the Traverse in Edinburgh, the Royal Exchange in Manchester, and the Belgrade in Coventry. So far I have been meeting with the writers, putting together our teams (Stage Management, Lighting and Sound design), drafting ideas for marketing material and next week I’m travelling up to Edinburgh to continue casting one of the plays – at the National, there are whole departments to do each of those things.

I can see that our three plays are going to present me with completely different challenges, and I’m sure that that will mean a lot of thinking on my feet – particularly when I take the lead once we’re in Scotland. But that’s what I’m after – a buzz, a challenge and above all, the opportunity to get properly hands-on and help create some excellent theatre. I’ll keep you updated.

In the mean time, if you’d like to know more about Step Change, let me know by posting a comment here, or check out www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/stepchange.

Summer Signings

Casting begins today for three productions of ‘Programme 2011’. I am directing brand new plays by Katie Douglas and Leo Butler with fellow Artistic Director James taking the helm of David Watson’s new work. We have co-commisioned all three playwrights with Oran Mor in Glasgow, where the plays premiere this autumn.

Our commissioning policy means that we are often committing to producing commissions long before they even have titles, let alone scenes. We find it the most thrilling way to work with writers. James talks about the resulting ‘New Plays with No Names’ here.

With Katie’s play first up in the season, we’re beginning to meet actors this week in London and next week in Edinburgh. With Open Auditions in both cities this week and next, we’re incredibly excited about the prospect of meeting many actors new to the company, who we hope to be able to consider for the three plays we’re currently casting.

Personally, I think casting is one of the best parts of the directing job. Having been brought up immersed in Sunday league football, Match of the Day and Championship Manager, there’s something in the casting process that reminds me of picking a dream team of players – the more individually skilled, well suited to their role and equipped they are to team play, the stronger the team itself becomes.

Here at Paines Plough we’re fortunate enough to have worked with some incredible actors over the years. Thanks to our new Open Audition initiative, the number of actors whose work we have seen is rocketing up each year, which only makes it easier for us to find the right actor for each part and to give each play we produce the production it deserves.

A Play, A Pie and A Pint – On Tour

A Play, A Pie and A Pint

A Play, A Pie and A Pint

Later this year we’re presenting three World Première productions with our good friends at Oran Mor in Glasgow. Brand new work by Katie Douglas, David Watson and Leo Butler will open in Glasgow as part of the lunchtime series A Play, A Pie and A Pint, before heading out on tour. Oran Mor is in the heart of Glasgow’s West End – a vibrant and eclectic corner of this gorgeous city, home to students, families and some of our favorite cinemas, delis and bars in the UK.

Oran Mor

Oran Mor

First stop after Glasgow will be Edinburgh’s new writing power-house, The Traverse. A Scottish home to much of Paines Plough’s work of the past few years (including 2010’s PPP series as well as Orphans, After The End, Long Time Dead and The Straits), the Traverse is also one of the top venues for the Festival Fringe each summer.

Traverse Theatre

Traverse Theatre

From Edinburgh we head south to Manchester for our fourth visit in twelve months to this beacon of the north. After a fling with the Manchester International Festival this July we’ll be back at our home from home in M2, the formidable Royal Exchange Theatre, in October.

Royal Exchange Theatre

Royal Exchange Theatre

Last stop on this tour is Coventry, where 79% of our audience for last year’s PPP series were first time visitors to the theatre. We were in Coventry for Come To Where I’m From in July last year where our four writers painted a vivid picture of a fascinating city. You can still listen to the writers reading the plays themselves here.

Belgrade Theatre

Belgrade Theatre

We’ll be posting updates on Katie, David and Leo’s plays on this blog as well as on our website over the coming months. In the meantime, let us know if you’ll be coming to share a pie and a pint with us in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester or Coventry this autumn.

And, if you’re already a regular at Oran Mor’s PPP, vote them pub of the year by following the instructions below. We’re sure they’ll reward you royally.

To vote Oran Mor the Sunday Mail pub of the year:

Call 0901 229 2817 and enter the code 10. Calls cost 26p plus network extras. Calls from mobiles may be significantly higher.

Or text SMVOTE01 followed by a space and the code 10 to 84080.Texts cost 25p plus your standard rate.

Lines will close at noon on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

Blythe Duff shortlisted for CATS award

Blythe Duff as Jackie Reid in Taggart (photo: Edinburgh Evening News)

On Wednesday night we opened LOVE, LOVE, LOVE at The Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, and we were delighted to welcome as our guest Blythe Duff, who played Helen in last year’s GOOD WITH PEOPLE by David Harrower, and is best known for playing Jackie Reid in Taggart.

On Thursday morning, as we were thrilled to learn Blythe has been shortlisted in the Best Female Performance category of the Critics Awards For Theatre In Scotland (CATS) for Good With People.

The awards are Scotland’s most prestigious for theatre, and Blythe in shortlisted alongside Kate Dickie, Gemma McElhinney, Mercy Ojelade in her category. The winners will be announced at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, on Sunday 12 June.

Blythe and Andrew Scott-Ramsey toured Good With People to Edinburgh, Coventry, Dublin and Newcastle after the production’s premiere as part of our A Play, A Pie And A Pint season with Oran Mor in Glasgow last Autumn. Our AD George directed.

Here’s what the critics had to say:

“In George Perrin’s razor-sharp production, Blythe Duff is brilliantly deadpan as a Helensburgh hotel landlady, hilariously hidebound by petty regulations.”
★★★★ The Guardian

“Terrific short dialogue – performed with electrifying power by Blythe Duff and Andrew Scott-Ramsay.”
★★★★ The Scotsman

So congratulations Blythe! We’ll be rooting for you on 12 June.

James & George unveil Programme 2011

11 PRODUCTIONS IN 33 PLACES (and counting…)

We’re thrilled to announce our Programme 2011 which sees 11 productions touring to 33 towns and cities across the UK and counting… with more tour dates soon to be announced.

Building on our inaugural year as Joint Artistic Directors – which saw us produce 9 productions in 33 places – our Programme 2011 sees even more shows touring to even more places as we aim to be a truly national theatre of new plays. Our 11 productions this year can be seen everywhere from Liverpool to Lyme Regis, Scarborough to Southampton, Bath to Berwick-Upon-Tweed.

These are tough times for theatre economically, but flourishing times for theatre artistically. Our programme celebrates the very best of British playwrighting in exceptional productions that traverse scales from 700 seat proscenium arch playhouses to arts centres, pubs, and outdoor festivals. The creation of our own portable in-the-round ROUNDABOUT auditorium offers us even greater scope to tour in the future as we strive to ensure everyone, everywhere has access to the very best new plays from the pens of our nation’s world class playwrights.

Programme 2011 kicks off with extended tours for two of last year’s productions. Mike Bartlett’s acclaimed LOVE, LOVE, LOVE visits 13 theatres between now and June on the biggest tour in Paines Plough’s history with 28,000 available seats from Glasgow to Ipswich to Salisbury. TINY VOLCANOES by Laurence Wilson is back on the road in April and May, touring to 15 different theatres nationwide from Folkestone in Kent to Kendal in the Lake District.

We’re very excited about our unique collaboration with Sheffield Theatres in the Autumn – The ROUNDABOUT SEASON. We’re building a portable 150-seat in-the-round auditorium which will host the world premières of three plays – by Nick Payne, Duncan Macmillan and Penelope Skinner – performed by an ensemble of four actors. All three plays will open at the Crucible Studio, Sheffield, before touring nationwide within the Roundabout auditorium, in rep, in Spring 2012.

Nick Payne’s beautiful portrait of a love that spans a century, ONE DAY WHEN WE WERE YOUNG, opens the season, followed by Duncan Macmillan’s extraordinary LUNGS, in which love and morality do ferocious battle. Penelope Skinner will write a new play specifically for the acting ensemble, which promises lashings of her incisive wit and theatrical ingenuity.

The ROUNDABOUT auditorium will enable us to tour new plays to any size space. The auditorium can sit in flexible studio spaces or arts centres, or on the stages of mid to large scale theatres behind the iron, so watch out for us on the road to all sorts of places next year.

In the summer we’ve got two very special productions for you. At the Latitude Festival we’re presenting the debut play from the extraordinary performance poet and rapper Kate Tempest, prior to a national tour of theatres and student unions in 2012 in collaboration with The Birmingham Repertory Theatre and NSDF. At the Manchester International Festival, we’re teaming up with former Housemartins and Beautiful South frontman Paul Heaton and playwright Ché Walker to present a unique live show featuring a star cast of musicians – THE 8TH.

Following last year’s amazing tour, we’re thrilled to be producing three more world premieres under the A PLAY, A PIE AND A PINT banner this Autumn. All three will premiere at Òran Mór in Glasgow before touring nationwide, with shows playing lunchtimes and early evenings.

Katie Douglas and David Watson – two of the most distinctive voices in British theatre – will be joined by a third very special playwright soon to be announced. And of course every audience member gets a free pie and pint with every show.

We’ll be announcing new dates for COME TO WHERE I’M FROM throughout 2011, and don’t forget you can still listen to free podcasts of last year’s COME TO WHERE TO WHERE I’M FROM plays via our website.

We’ll continue to host open auditons across the country; we’ll be taking up residence in theatres nationwide; we continue to run our Associate Company scheme and we’re officially launching our bespoke playwright development resource centre The Big Room, supported by Channel Four and The Fenton Arts Trust.

We hope you like the look of our Programme 2011 and will have a chance to experience some of our work this year. Wherever you are in the UK, Paines Plough is coming to a town near you soon.

Let us know what you think by posting a comment.

James & George

Where we are this week

Here’s a quick update on where our A PLAY, A PIE AND A PINT shows are this week:

FLY ME TO THE MOON by Marie Jones is at Bewley’s Cafe Theatre in Dublin. Click here for information and booking.

IN THE PIPELINE by Gary Owen is at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry. Click here for information and booking.

THE UNCERTAINTY FILES by Linda McLean is at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh. Click here for information and booking.

CALAIS by April De Angelis is at the Live Theatre in Newcastle. Click here for information and booking.

GOOD WITH PEOPLE by David Harrower is on a break before opening at Live Theatre in Newcastle next week. Click here to read the outstanding ****review in The Guardian.

We’ve been getting fantastic feedback from audiences all over the UK and Ireland for our A PLAY, A PIE AND A PINT plays. Here are a few comments for THE UNCERTAINTY FILES by Linda McLean at the Live Theatre in Newcastle:

“A really thought provoking and engaging piece. Actors really inhabited the myriad characters in such a short time – very telling business with minimal props. Liked the “interview” style and very natural responses highly enjoyable.”  Karen, Lanchester

“Really interesting production. Would like to see it again. Liked the non usual.” Hazel, Newcastle

“I always love coming to the Live & I’m pleased you have new work from Paines Plough coming in – good to see excellent new writing venues joining together – will be keeping an eye out for future work (as always)” Jenny, Newcastle

We’ve also been interviewing the writers of all of our PPP plays. Here are some answers from April De Angelis, writer of CALAIS:

Is 45 minutes and max 3 actors easier or harder than 2 acts and a cast of ten? 

A one act play is definitely less slog than a two acter!

Should every play come with a complimentary pie and pint?

If every play in the universe came with a pie and a pint we’d get bored of the novelty and fatter as a constituency.

What is more scary, contemplating a blank sheet of paper, contemplating a deadline or contemplating the audience at the first performance?

The audience at a first night is the scariest. You can always tear up your writing at the end of the day..

In three words how do you feel about about the critics?

Critiscism ain’t art.

Do you agree with Thomas Edison that “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration?”

Yes, mind you it’s an elusive 1%

More great reviews for our 2010 programme of work

We’re coming to the end of another exciting and very busy week at Paines Plough, and as we start to dig out our winter coats and cosy socks, must keep reminding ourselves that even though it’s getting chilly, the cold won’t slow us down! There’s loads going on right now, and we’ve also had some wonderful reviews for two of the productions in our 2010 programme, FLY ME TO THE MOON by Marie Jones and GOOD WITH PEOPLE by David Harrower.

Check out what The Stage said here about FLY ME TO THE MOON:

Oran Mor and Paines Plough asked Marie Jones, writer of FLY ME TO THE MOON some questions:

Is 45 minutes and max 3 actors easier or harder than 2 acts and a cast of ten?

45, 95, 125,……doesn’t matter how many minutes, none of its hard if you have a good story.

Should every play come with a complimentary pie and pint?

Not sure, I suppose it depends on the venue….I was in the Belfast Opera House last night and the majority of the women had vodka secreted in their handbags….there is a certain excitement in sneaking your drink into a place you’re not supposed to sneak drink into and not paying a fortune at the bar…although, can’t see anybody wanting to sneak a pie out of their handbag

What is more scary, contemplating a blank sheet of paper, contemplating a deadline or contemplating the audience at the first performance?

Blank Page is very scary…..my family know when i am about to write a new piece, the house is spotless and I   cook them really nice meals and take the dog walks…I know they know that  I am putting off the inevitable, but    they don’t want the pampering to stop, so they say nowt….As soon as I tackle the scary page, the house goes    to hell,  they eat whatever they find in the cupboard and the dog lies in a corner getting fat…I know my priorities.

In three words how do you feel about about the critics?

They’re human too.

Do you agree with Thomas Edison that “Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration?”

 He only said that when he was inventing the light bulb…That’s pretty hot work…I’d be sweating too.

Take a look at Joyce Macmillan’s review about David Harrower’s GOOD WITH PEOPLE:

“For a truly elegant, powerful and purposeful drama about the impact of violence on everyday life, there’s only one place to be this week; and that’s at the lunchtime Play, Pie, Pint show at Oran Mor, which this week premieres a brilliant new 50-minute play by David Harrower…In this terrific short duologue – performed with electrifying power by Blythe Duff and Andrew Scott-Ramsey – Harrower first acknowledges the connection between violence and sex, making the air between the two characters crackle with more erotic tension than I’ve seen on a Scottish stage in years…In this last of five autumn co-productions between A Play, A Pie and A Pint and Paines Plough, George Perrin directs with impressive grace and flair…And the whole experience comes as a sharp reminder of how, in the years since Scottish devolution, playwrights based in Scotland have tended to leave the specifics of Scottish life to the politicians, and to paint on a wider canvas; and of what rich dividends it can pay, when they focus once again on the pain, the potential, and the deep, deep resonances of the society on their doorstep.” ****Joyce Macmillan, The Scotsman

“Harrower’s dialogue is crisp, economic, and loaded with meaning…Duff and Scott-Ramsay both turn in riveting performances brimming with sexual chemistry and charged danger.”  **** The Herald

A new time of day

Once again I set off early to Oran Mor to see the fourth of the five plays in the A PLAY, A PIE AND A PINT season, April De Angelis’ CALAIS.

I got on the familiar 0539 train from Euston to ensure I was around for the tech.  I think it is the calmest tech I have ever sat in and they even had time for a dress rehearsal before doors open at 1230.

I was able to sit in on a stagger through of the fifth and final play on the season, David Harrower’s GOOD WITH PEOPLE, which is being directed by our very own George Perrin and performed by Blythe Duff and Andrew Scott-Ramsay.  It is a fascinating piece, where nothing is, as it seems paired up with electric acting.

Meanwhile the three plays that have already opened at Oran Mor are in various places in the UK:   Marie Jones’ FLY ME TO THE MOON opens in Edinburgh tomorrow (in fact Katie Tumelty and Abi McGibbon returned to Glasgow to watch CALAIS so we enjoyed our pies together!)   IN THE PIPELINE opens today at Live Theatre Newcastle and THE UNCERTAINTY FILES company take a well deserved week off, and all three of the actors remaining at home in Glasgow.

Linda McLean’s THE UNCERTAINTY FILES opened to rave reviews this week at Oran Mor.

‎****The Scotsman for Linda McLean’s THE UNCERTAINTY FILES:

Charlotte Gwinner’s production has a severe and brilliant quiet choreography, controlled down to the minutest gesture; and the performances are riveting, mature, eloquent, beautiful, and not only real, but true.

Whilst the company of Marie Jones’ FLY ME TO THE MOON pioneered the first leg of the tour at Live Theatre Newcastle. I went up there to see the first show and brought back a little souvenir for everyone in the office:

We're loving Newcastle Live A PLAY, A PIE AND A PINT Beer Mat

Judging from the show report received today from Stage Manager, Kara Jackson, the Newcastle audience are enjoying it so much that the running time has increased by two minutes due to laughter.

Back at PP HQ LOVE, LOVE, LOVE culminates its second week of rehearsals.  They have it up on its feet after the detailed table work last week and rehearsal props are flying into the room.  The character of Sandra seems to enjoy quite a few cigarettes!

We also had all three of the Creative Team in today to watch rehearsals.  Hartley  (Lighting Designer), recovered from Edinburgh where he runs C venues, and Lucy Osborne (Designer), currently opening THE ALIENS at the Bush Theatre, have a good catch up on the sofa that is on for rehearsal furniture.

Lucy Osborne and Hartkey T A Kemp deep in thought - or are they on facebook?

We, in the office, are very much looking forward to catching a run through next week and we’ll be able to show you some photos soon as Graham Michael is coming in on Friday to take some rehearsal shots.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend – we’re off to see Bryony Lavery’s BEAUTIFUL BURNOUT on Sunday at the Barbican.