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Paines Plough turns 40

In 2014, we’re 40 years old. Happy birthday to us. Life begins at 40, right?

Right. So we’re planning our biggest, boldest, most far-reaching programme of work ever, with more plays touring to more places than even we thought possible.

We’ll be announcing the whole shebang in January, with attendant trumpet fanfare. But in the meantime, there’s a little taster of what to expect below, and some words from illustrious PP alumni.

Where it began… In 1974, while they were all working at The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster, actor Chris Crooks asked playwright David Pownall to write a play for him. John Adams agreed to direct it.

Christened over pints of Paines bitter in The Plough pub Bolnhurst, Paines Plough was registered as company no. 1165130 on 1st April 1974.The company opened Pownall’s play – Crates On Barrels – at 6pm on Wednesday 11 September 1975 at the Lyceum Studio, Edinburgh.

128 productions, eight Artistic Directorships, 42 awards and 40 years later, Paines Plough is now the national theatre of new plays – still doing what it has always done, touring the best new plays to every corner of the UK.

“Back in 1982, after seven years on the road, we passed Paines Plough into other hands. Since then we have watched it grow, change and develop into its present strength and reputation.  We feel part of the present company, glad that our aims have lived so long, and especially glad the company is still a stage for new plays.”
John Adams and David Pownall, founders

Paines Plough old skool stylee

James and George:

“It is a true honour to lead Paines Plough in to its fifth decade of touring new plays.

“Talking to our illustrious alumni in the lead up to our 40th anniversary year, it has become clear that Paines Plough is less a company than a movement; generation after generation of the UK’s top directors and playwrights have assembled in our shabby Aldwych offices to conceive some of the most important modern plays before setting off to share them with audiences in every corner of the country.

“That’s exactly what we’ve done since we took over in 2010 – and we hope our 40th anniversary year programme will encapsulate all that is essential about Paines Plough’s contribution to British cultural life.”

With lots more to be announced, our 40th anniversary year will include new plays from playwrights spanning Olivier Award-winner Mike Bartlett and debutant Sam Burns, touring the length and breadth of the country.

The centrepiece of Programme 2014 will be the unveiling of Roundabout, our portable in-the-round auditorium.

Our portable pop-up Roundabout Auditorium

A prototype Roundabout was co-produced with Sheffield Theatres in 2011 and played at Shoreditch Town Hall in 2012. Armed with the experience of these two runs, and the generous support of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust, John Ellerman Foundation and Garfield Weston Foundation, the brand new pop-up theatre will form an integral part of future Paines Plough programmes.

“It’s hard to imagine that Paines Plough is 40 years old.  Its energy and verve remain so youthful, dynamic and daring.  Its work has become a crucial component of the new writing landscape in the UK and long may it thrive.”
Daniel Evans, Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres

We’ll be resident at the NT Shed for a series of PP Platforms at the start of the 40th anniversary year. Paines Plough alumni – writers, actors and directors – will share their memories and celebrate the crucial part the company has played in their careers to date.

“In 2005 Paines Plough made me their writer in residence and I can honestly say it was the single most important event in my career as a writer. Being a playwright moved from being a dream into being a reality as I got to spend time with people I’d only heard about, people whose books I read and plays I’d seen. I was given the chance to write what I wanted in a place that cared about writing.”
Dennis Kelly, playwright.

On 30 January, in conjunction with the Royal Exchange Manchester and ITC, Paines Plough will host a Small Scale Touring Symposium, inviting leading practitioners, journalists and companies across the UK to share in talks examining current and new aspects of touring theatre.

“For me personally it was a paradigm shift. To discover, encourage and direct the work of some extraordinary writers, to begin to understand audiences, to learn to be part of the landscape of Britain was a privilege and enormous fun. It opened the doors for all my ensuing adventures and for many others too and will always remain thrillingly alive and inspiring in my heart.”
Vicky Featherstone, Artistic Director Royal Court Theatre (Artistic Director of Paines Plough 1997 – 2004)

That’s all you’re getting for now, but stay tuned. Programme 2014 is going to be huuuge.

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.

PP wins at the Offies

Last Sunday, team PP were thrilled to accept two Offie Awards from

LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan, which we co-produced with Sheffield Theatres, won the Best New Play Award and our Artistic Directors James and George won Best Artistic Director(s). Our brilliant ROUNDABOUT cast were short-listed for Best Ensemble.

James and George said:

“We’re greatly honoured to receive this award. Our Programme 2012 saw 11 productions touring to 44 places nationwide. We produced the work of 33 playwrights and worked with 30 Actors and 45 creatives and stage managers. We want to thank each and every brilliant one of them along with our 22 co-producing partners and 32 host theatres. Most of all we want to thank the amazing Team PP whose immense skill and endless passion make it all happen.”

To find out more about OffWestEnd and the Offie Awards, visit

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.

“Keep Calm and Eat Cake”

Our super amazing volunteer Annabel talks about her time at PP HQ:

Well it’s been eight months since I started volunteering at Paines Plough and I can hardly believe how quickly the time has flown by.  I’ve loved every minute of it and couldn’t have been made to feel more welcome.

It has been a busy time for the amazing PP team, yes I am biased, but bear with me on this as I can back it up with some pretty impressive statistics.  In the past eight months there has been Wasted, Love, Love, Love, The 8th, Smithereens, Good With People, the Roundabout Auditorium at Shoreditch Town Hall (with One Day When We Were Young, Lungs and The Sound of Heavy Rain) and London.  Can you understand my awe with the sheer enthusiasm and energy here at 43 Aldwych?

I was recently asked by a friend how Paines Plough manage to be so prolific.  My rather flippant answer was ‘cake’.  Possibly inspired by the poster on the wall in the production office that says “Keep Calm and Eat Cake” but actually in a way my answer was very appropriate.  PP is a team that supports each other, care passionately about the work they are creating, work incredibly hard and are always happy to eat cake.

Thank you team PP for a life changing experience.

Theatre Awards UK: Theatre 1 Football 0

All the winners at The Theatre Awards UK 2012

We were thrilled to attend The Theatre Awards UK last Sunday, hosted by The TMA and The Stage at the magnificent Guildhall in the heart of the City of London.

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.

LONDON plays London (nearly)

What have the Brighton Dome being putting in the fish-batter mix every time we visit? Whatever it is, Orla Flanagan and her team keep us coming back for more. In May it was WASTED, June was Open Auditions with COME TO WHERE I’M FROM straight afterwards, and this weekend Paines Plough will pay a final 2012 visit with Simon StephensLONDON.

LONDON’s first home, Salisbury Playhouse, has been a welcoming one. For the past three weeks, Gareth Machin and his team have helped us make a show with headphones and printed audience instructions ready for its UK tour.

Next on the agenda, this weekend in fact, LONDON will head towards its spiritual home – London. Well, sort of.

So it means those of you who cannot, or will not, venture too far from the Big Smoke for your theatre fix have to act fast. On Friday and Saturday only at 8pm, we’ll be less than an hour from most of your abodes.

So come join us.

Getting there is easy. Southern Railway will take you from St Pancras, Blackfriars, Victoria, City Thameslink or London Bridge to the centre of Brighton for as little as £10 for a return ticket. Trains leave every few minutes and you can be there and back after work it’s that near. We’ve even heard that there are special four for the price of three deals going, so get some mates together and head to the coast!

Tickets are still available, but not for long. Click here for the Brighton Dome direct.

We’re going en masse this Friday and would love to know what you think. If you see us in the bar afterwards, come over and chat.

And if that’s not enough, let’s not forget that this weekend is also the last time you can catch the Roundabout at Shoreditch Town Hall.

That’s a lot of Paines Plough this weekend.


What we’re seeing at the theatre

Another week, another brilliant creative chat at PPHQ.

Every Friday we try our best to meet and talk about some provocation or other. It might be the hot topic doing the rounds in the office that week, or it might be something much more peculiar.

We’ve been, let’s say, just a little bit busy with London and Roundabout over the past few weeks – so the hiatus provided us with plenty of material to thrash out. After dissecting our own productions for a time, we then moved onto what we’ve seen and what we plan to see over the coming weeks.

What we’ve seen recently:

Twelfth Night at The Globe,   Damned by Despair at The National, Monkey Bars at The Unicorn, War Horse at New London Theatre, This House at The National, I Heart Peterborough at Soho, Magic Flute at ENO, Last of the Haussmans at The National, Three Sisters at The Young Vic, Desire Under the Elms at the Lyric Hammersmith, Crypted/Excess at The Arcola, Love and Information at The Royal Court.

What we’re going to see in the next couple of weeks:

Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night at The National, Medea at Watford Palace, Lyrikal Fearta at Sadler’s Wells,  Fireface at The Young Vic, Mudlarks at The Bush, Tanika’s Journey at Southwark Playhouse, Joe/Boy at The Last Refuge, The Hotel Plays at Grange Hotel in Holborn, Jumpy at The Duke of York’s Theatre, Bunnies at The New Diorama Theatre, 55 Days at Hampstead, The Seagull at Southwark Playhouse, Hedda Gabler at The Old Vic.

What have we missed? Let us know what you’re seeing, what you’ve liked, and what else should be on our to-see list.

LUNGS nominated for Theatre Awards UK

Kate O'Flynn and Alistair Cope in LUNGS

We’re delighted to announce that LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan has been nominated for Best New Play in the Theatre Awards UK (formerly TMA Awards).

Our co-production with Sheffield Theatres, directed by Richard Wilson, is currently playing until 27 October as part of our Roundabout Season at Shoreditch Town Hall, starring Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn.

LUNGS joins South Downs by David Hare and In The Next Room by Sarah Ruhl on the shortlist for Best New Play, which last year was won by Mike Bartlett’s LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed for a PP double!

Congratulations to Duncan, and all the nominees. The winners will be announced in a ceremony on 28 October 2012.

Richard Wilson on BBC London News

Here’s LUNGS director Richard Wilson talking to BBC London News about The Roundabout Season. Filmed in the Roundabout Auditorium at Shoreditch Town Hall, the film also features extracts of LUNGS by Duncan Macmillan, starring Alistair Cope and Kate O’Flynn.