Graeme Rose's Blog: Bells are ringing…


There were plenty of excuses NOT to come to see us in Engine Brake at Salisbury Playhouse last Saturday afternoon, (19th May.) The much-touted ‘Making of the Mayor’ parade was bringing the sun-drenched Wiltshire streets to life with its celebrations; whilst footie fans were busy clearing the mart-shelves of Carling in readiness for the Cup Final. Meanwhile, down the Thames Valley the fairytale nuptials of the sometime-reluctant Royal – Prince Hal – and his American-born actress bride Meghan Markle, were pulling at the Nation’s fickle heartstrings whilst earning a tidy bob or two for the UK tourism industry. Some of the coolest-staged, and genuinely heartfelt looking photos emerged from the House of Windsor that day.

Back in Brum with my mind bent on the Fred Jeffs Project, I finally find something that has been eluding me for months. The above picture.

It is 70 years old, and shows Fred Jeffs and Betty Marshall on their wedding day, 1948. The best man is my grandad, Doug Rose – Fred’s elder, half-brother – and a maid of honour whose name I have not yet found, perhaps Betty’s sister?.

Betty herself looks happy and radiant; my grandad looks joyful; Fred looks… frankly, a little stiff, uncomfortable.

Barely three years before the two brothers, Doug and Fred, were occupying dorm space in Stalag VII, where they were likely marched Eastwards from their respective POW Camps in Poland. My grandad, captured in Crete 1941, wound up in BAB21 (Auschwitz-Bleckammer). His younger brother Fred, captured at Dunkirk 1940 at the age of 21, ended up in Posen (Poznan) Stalag XXI-D. They return to Civvy-street with hopes of a return to ‘normality’ in a ‘land-fit-for-heroes’. They also, very likely, opt to keep schtumm about the horrors that they have witnessed in the theatre of war, in the POW Camps and on the west-bound Death Marches prior to liberation.




Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Catalogue d’Emoji

Should you be planning on drawing up a list called “The most playful, iconoclastic and talented artists currently working in Birmingham” we can help you out with a name… Michael Wolters.

“But surely” you protest “Dr. Wolters is Deputy Head of Composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservertoire and therefore, inevitably, a boring deadbeat”. “Wrong!” we cry “That shows how much you know about these things – nothing!”

We met Michael on a blind date. We were set up by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and it worked out, a few months later I See With My Eyes Closed was born. In 2012 we made sweet music together again (The Voyage, a 12 minute opera scored for many recorders of varying sizes and a double bass).

Since 2012 we’ve been stalking Michael. Annoyingly his collaboration with Alexandra Taylor, Ava’s Wedding was a very engaging, genuinely funny and way more clever than anything we managed with him. A couple of years ago we were thrown a bone and helped stage his hour long solo compositions Requiem: To Let. Last year we were there, watching from the back as he and Paul Norman staged a piece called Worries, which I had my concerns about.

Now he’s back with another Paul Norman collaboration; Catalogue d’Emojis. Emojis appear to be the motif de jour (crying with laughter face). I’ve just returned from two weeks of Emoji script work on Live From The National Theatre (shocked face, wink face, thumbs up, love heart eyes). It will be fun to see them deployed in a new context.

Hand on heart, I can’t promise you’ll love Catalogue d’Emojis but what can anyone ever say that about? It’s sure to be serious and teasing and thought provoking and immediate. It will be a one-off, a thing to say you’ve seen, a thing you’ll no doubt remember for years. I’m putting cold hard cash where my mouth is. I’m spending a tenner. I’m buying a ticket. Join me. Start composing that list: M…I…C…H…A…E…L…new word…W…O…L…T…E…R…S.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Inspired Illustration

Thursday evening started five weeks ago, maybe two months ago. Thursday evening started when I sent a speculative message to our friend/collaborator Mr. Courage. It started when I first thought that publishing all Stan’s Cafe’s old scripts would be a fun thing to do, but only if they appeared in a set of 22 very slim volumes.

“[Gareth] If you were teaching design at university would it be an interesting / useful / mutually beneficial / noteworthy undertaking for Stan’s Cafe to ‘commission’ you and your students to design the set”

On Thursday evening @ A E Harris over forty first year illustration students from Birmingham City University exhibited their response to our front cover design challenge. Each book in the series was allocated to two students who were furnished with scripts, essays and notes on influences from music, film, the visual arts, history and science. They had five weeks to explore, experiment and deliver a cover inspired the something in that content. The results were spectacular.

On show were prints, A0 photocopies of designs and, most compelling of all, sketch books in which it was possible to trace thinking and inspiration, experiments and blind alleys. To see so much enthusiasm and time and effort and imagination and passion invested in reinterpreting our back-catalogue was very touching.

Some designs were very simple to link to shows: A portrait of Franz Ferdinand with an overlay of dominoe shards and blotch of blood. Paper airpalanes throwing fighter jet shadows on a children’s playground. A Who’s Who of rice grains dressed up for different jobs. A crown hovering above a crowd. A minuscule row of tulips set in a tiny bottle.

Some designs were more tangential – a rat in a blindfold (The Black Maze), JFK in the Oval Office flanked by the flower filled silhoettes of women (The Cleansing of Constance Brown), A series of cartoon ghosts each with a Z on their floating white sheets (Tuning Out With Radio Z)

Some required you to know a show quite well. A paranoid interior finds a hand descending on a cactus (Memoires of An Amnesiac), Satanic blood soaked stag antlers (Finger Trigger Bullet Gun). A text “We’re Spilling Blood” (Voodoo City)

Still others required deep investigation into the workbooks: a host of papier-mâché eyeballs (weirdly spot on for Simple Maths). a collage including a robin was hung for Twilightofthefreakingods where the workbook showed more apt images.

I loved it, we loved it, it was loved. When the books are published we will try to remount the exhibition and share it more widely, then you can love it too. TRUMP & BREXIT GAGS BANNED AT BIRMINGHAM COMEDY SHOW


A comedy group has banned references to Donald Trump and Brexit at their Glee Club show later this month.  The rule has been introduced to ensure there is a wide range of laughs available to all at their live comedy show.

The Box Of Frogs sketch group are based in Birmingham and have been performing improvised comedy for 9 years.  The group relies on audience suggestions to create scenes and songs on demand.  However, on 27 May they will be telling comedy-goers that the show is a Trump-and-Brexit-free-zone.  The night will be the first time local improvisers have put on a full length show at the region’s premier comedy venue.

Jon Trevor, leader of comedy group Box Of Frogs, said, “We want our show to be fun for everybody, and that isn’t possible if you spend half the time making jokes about people who think differently to you.  We should all be able to laugh together, not just by poking fun at others.  The show will focus on the comedy in everyday things and seeing the funny side of life.”

Having this rule also means the performers are guaranteed to perform new material at every show.  Eliminating comedy topics covered by many stand-ups means the improvisers are forced to find humour in unexpected places.

Adam Jaremko of the Glee Club said, “We aim to have something for everybody at The Glee Club, from household names to underground comedians.  We love putting on improv shows as it’s a chance to showcase a different type of humour and attract audiences that are sometimes put off by traditional stand-up.”

Improv comedy has been growing in popularity across the region in recent years.  2016 saw the first Birmingham Improv Festival, headlined by local star Josie Lawrence.  In 2017 there were 275 improv shows across the Midlands, up 57% on the previous year.  There are a dozen acts based in Birmingham but this is the first time one of them will run their own night at Birmingham’s premier comedy club.

Box Of Frogs are performing at The Glee Club on Sunday 27 May.  Tickets cost £7 and are available at REVIEW: THE IMPROLECTUALS


The Improlectuals are an improv supergroup who come together to create slick comedy sketches.  In this performance there was Richard Baldwin (Wow Impro), Robert Lane (Foghorn Unscripted), Matthew Dibbens (Coventry Impro) and Nathan Blyth (Birmingham Rep), each one bringing their different comedic strengths to play in this satisfying full length show.

The show is made up of a mix of quick-fire sketches, each one following a set comedy format.  “ABC conversation” had two characters starting each sentence with alternating letters of the alphabet, in this instance holidaymakers endangered by a volcano.  “Dolphin trainer” had a lone performer on stage using just audience boos and cheers to guide him into performing a secret task they had chosen in advance (the Macarena).  “Lines from a hat” involves the performers taking lines of dialogue written by the audience before the show and fitting them into a single coherent scene.  From the off it was clear to the audience that they were in safe hands, with confidence and energy on display from all performers.  This reflects the years of experience on stage and an understanding of what makes a good game work well.

Each performer had several great moments in this show.  Richard’s wordplay was a joy throughout, most impressively during the unhappy bride song which rhymed “mental health” with “on the shelf” which fit the scene perfectly.  Robert kept the scenes coherent and grounded, explaining away apparent inconsistencies so that the comedy could grow organically from what had come before.  Matthew played with the fourth wall and was wonderfully honest on stage, admitting in one scene he was just copying everybody else and he didn’t have any other ideas.  And Nathan showed off a wide range of characters using great physicality and accents throughout.  Overall, a great blend of performers who worked together well to create a great night of comedy.

Graeme Rose's Blog: We Design, You Desire

ENGINE BRAKE opened last week at the New Diorama Studio in London NW1. The process of making has been hugely enjoyable one, with a bright and talented team of collaborators assembled by The Plasticene Men director Simon Day.

Show premieres are terrifying things at the best of times, but if you are devising new performance work, you can find yourself plagued with doubt. As a maker (or performer) you have to trust your instinct, but you are always looking for some fresh perspective and a reassurance that the ideas of the show find an effective conduit through the form that has evolved through rehearsals. The process of arriving at this is messy and non-linear. Show content is a sublimation of the universal and the personal – woven into a complex tapestry of threads in which coherent patterns can become lost. In this frenzied atmosphere critical feedback from audience and/or reviewers can expose personal insecurities and vulnerabilities in unhelpful or destructive ways. Recognising this, I have learned to take reviews, whether positive or negative, with a pinch of salt.

A well written analysis, however, is such a breath of fresh air – for audience and creatives alike. Rosemary Waugh writes eloquently and sensitively about the show, ENGINE BRAKE in this Review in Exeunt (14th May 2018). For me it is a reassuring confirmation that the complex ideas and conversations that informed the making process have percolated through into a poetic form that – even though the threads are ‘unhemmed’ – has a coherence to it.

Engine Brake 1 mattcawrey

We enter the second of four weeks’ touring, with the show moving to Salisbury Playhouse this week (17th – 19th May), then Plymouth Drum (28th May – 1st June) and finally Bristol Wardrobe Theatre (6th – 9th June).

photo by Matt Cawrey.

Simon writes about the development process of ENGINE BRAKE in this Blog post from The Plasticene Men.

Engine Brake press review: exeuntmagazine


Little Earthquake: We’re Itching To Talk About… Laura Ryder & Company

We’re Itching To Talk About… is a series of blog posts in which we feature some of the brilliant work our theatre-making friends are creating within the region and further afield.

Photograph by Luke Galloway.

Laura Ryder is a Derby-based theatre-maker who collaborates with other independent artists to make much of her work. She is mid-way through a regional tour of The Bee Project which will soon bee buzzing into Derby Theatre (8th June 2018) and the Belgrade in Coventry (14th – 16th June 2018).

We caught up with Laura to find out more about apiary, the environmental impact of touring theatre and what makes her so proud to be an Eastie theatre-maker.

You can follow Laura on Twitter here, and The Bee Project on Twitter here.

Phil: How would you describe your work for somebody experiencing it for the first time?

Laura: A mixture of storytelling and dance — I love finding ways to tell stories through movement and physical theatre. My work is messy and rough around the edges. I enjoy exploring different ways of telling stories, particularly about environmental issues, in ways that are entertaining and engaging with audiences. My current show, The Bee Project, has a real focus on care and what it means to look after each other and the planet.

Phil: Who else forms the Company in Laura Ryder and Company?

Laura: We’re a collective of artists based in the Midlands; we’ve been working together since 2016 and work through a collaborative rehearsal process. Myself and Freya Sharp perform in the work, Maria Terry is production designer, James Varney is dramaturg and Luke Galloway is sound designer. We devise the work together, with each of us taking lead on different ideas and looking at how we can integrate our various backgrounds of theatre making into the work.

Phil: Tell us about three pieces of theatre – or theatre makers – that have had the biggest impact on you, and tell us why they made such an impact.

Laura: I love Chris Thorpe’s work. I saw his show Confirmation at Edinburgh Fringe in 2014 and I couldn’t get over how it stuck with me. It made me reflect on my own opinions and politics, my own bias. It was a masterclass in making theatre which is challenging, funny and genuinely political. I recently did a workshop with him about making political theatre and I’m still processing all the thoughts bouncing round my head from that.

Key Change by Open Clasp was an astonishingly good show, it was devised with women in HMP Low Newton prison and toured male prisons. It felt like it gave a platform for voices which are often silenced, without ever feeling exploitative. The movement sections of the piece fed into it so beautifully, really lifting the stories. I think it was a perfect example of how art can be both brilliant and moving as well as useful and a tool for change.

I love Chris Thorpe’s work. Confirmation was a masterclass in making theatre which is challenging, funny and genuinely political.

I recently saw Gecko’s The Wedding at Derby Theatre which just blew me away. The end of the show had this incredible energy that I think you can only achieve in live theatre. You could feel the audience wanting to join in by the end, the whole auditorium was just alive. I’ve seen a few of Gecko’s shows and it always astounds me how they explore these huge ideas through movement and images.

Phil: Tell us a bit about your current show The Bee Project. What inspired you to make it and what can audiences expect?

Laura: The Bee Project is a piece about friendship and care as much as it is an environmental piece about bees. I’d been interested in bees for a while, I love how honey bees dance to communicate and as a dancer I thought it was brilliant. I started researching more about their environmental importance and their decline and all of a sudden the show seemed quite political and urgent. I had a really interesting meeting with a beekeeper, and the way they described their hive made it sound like an excellent party. A hive is dark and sticky, full of noise and dancing, it really sparked our imaginations. We wanted to make a piece which looked at how we can help make a difference to our environment: as a collective, we want to leave the audience with a sense of hope. Audiences can expect a story about two friends, one which looks at the importance of caring for each other as well as the planet. Oh, and also plenty of energy and glitter!

I had a really interesting meeting with a beekeeper, and the way they described their hive made it sound like an excellent party. A hive is dark and sticky, full of noise and dancing, it really sparked our imaginations.

Phil: Would you ever consider getting some bees yourself and looking after a few hives? (You could end up with some theatre honey to sell on tour!)

Laura: I would love some bees! I worked on a farm in Italy where they kept bees and it was so exciting to learn about how a hive works and how to look after bees. I helped plant a wildflower meadow when I was there to help feed the bees.

Theatre honey sounds great! One of my favourite bee facts is that they keep bees on the rooftop of Paris Opera House, I’ve always loved the idea of the bees listening to opera!

Also not all bees live in hives, you can support wild bees by planting flowers in your garden, it’s like an invite for wild bees to come and visit. I would definitely like to keep bees in the future!

Phil: What’s unique or special for you about how theatre can get people thinking and talking about environmental issues?

Laura: Theatre is an amazing place to share stories that can make us question how we live our lives, you’re with an audience sharing a space and a conversation. It’s one of the only artforms where the artists and the audience are in the same room, you have an actual real interaction with the people who are experiencing your art. I find messages stick with me way more when they’re shared in an entertaining and fun way. I think theatre invites empathy and conversation which are two things needed when looking at how we can deal with environmental issues. We try and run Q&As after our shows so we can engage in further conversations about how we can look after the planet.

Phil: Making and touring theatre often consumes quite a lot of materials and resources – there’s often a big carbon footprint in terms of travel, or mountains of posters and flyers, for example. Where have you managed to reduce The Bee Project’s environmental impact?

Laura: Our show uses A LOT of golden glitter, it’s a really beautiful element to our design, signifying a party and representing pollen. We knew from day one that using plastic glitter would be terrible for the environment and looked to find alternatives. We use biodegradable glitter made from eucalyptus in the show so that we aren’t contributing to the microplastics harming our oceans. The show’s design can fit in a suitcase so we can always use public transport when touring. We’ve created e-flyers to share so that we can cut back on paper flyers.

We use biodegradable glitter made from eucalyptus in the show so that we aren’t contributing to the microplastics harming our oceans.

Phil: Why is being based in the East Midlands and working so much in the Midlands important to you?

Laura: I think the Midlands arts scene is thriving, every networking event/festival I go to I meet artists whose work inspires me and makes me want to grow my own artistic practice. Derby Theatre’s In Good Company artists’ network have supported us so much as a company, I don’t think I know of many other schemes like it. Events such as your amazing East Meets West Symposium showed me just how generous and exciting the Midlands theatre scene is.

Phil: You’ll soon be taking part in DART, Live & Local’s development scheme to introduce artists to the wonderful world of rural touring. What’s got you interested in connecting with rural audiences?

Laura: My grandparents live in a tiny village in Yorkshire, I mean so tiny they don’t have a local shop. There isn’t a theatre near them or art galleries or anything like that but they love art. I’d go to their house and they would play the piano, sing songs and my cousins would put on little comedy sketches. I think their community would love to have more access to theatre. Rural touring means we can reach audiences who might not be able to get to the theatre and have the privilege of sharing work with those communities. We’ve only ever shown The Bee Project in cities and I’m really interested to see the reaction from rural audiences, they may have totally different responses to city audiences!

Rural touring means we can reach audiences who might not be able to get to the theatre and have the privilege of sharing work with those communities.

Phil: Beyond The Bee Project, what are you planning or working on for the rest of 2018 and beyond?

Laura: The Bee Project was our first show as a collective of artists and we’ve all found that we’ve loved working with each other. There’s a really great dynamic in the rehearsal space, so we’re looking at continuing to make work as a company. We’re looking at different ways we can possibly reach new audiences. We’ve ran workshops alongside the show and are keen to keep running learning programmes alongside any work that we make.

Looking forward, I think our process will be about continuing to see where we can take The Bee Project, and how we can make it as accessible as possible to new audiences. This may include reaching rural communities, Edinburgh Fringe and even looking at more school and student engagement.

Phil: As a theatre-maker myself, I’m always fascinated to learn about other people’s creative processes. What main ideas characterise the way you go about creating your work?

Laura: One of the main things I think I’ve learnt through this rehearsal process is how important it is to find the joy in your work. We started The Bee Project by having two weeks of play, we explored how we could move like bees, what stories might come from creating work about the environment and really let ourselves find the passion in our work. I think that has really carried the show in its various stages of development. It’s meant that however the show has developed it has maintained its original soul as well as our excitement and intentions of what we wanted the piece to be about. I think it’s important for creative processes to ensure there is space to play, fail and learn. Having space to make mistakes has been crucial for the artistic development of this show, it’s where some of the most interesting ideas have come from.

I think it’s important for creative processes to ensure there is space to play, fail and learn.

Phil: Many of our blog subscribers are theatre students who plan to go on and make their own work professionally. If you had to give one piece of advice to them, what would it be?

Laura: Find something you’re really passionate about and want to make theatre about. That way even when you come up against barriers or have setbacks, you will still know why you are making that work and who you’re making it for. Everyone has setbacks: first time round we didn’t get funding for The Bee Project. The day we found this out, we made some of our favourite choreography in the show, we knew we were making something we were passionate about and didn’t let the setback stop our creativity. We’ve since gone on to receive funding and it’s been brilliant to see the piece grow. Also, go see as much work as you can, get involved in your local regional theatre and let them support you.

The post We’re Itching To Talk About… Laura Ryder & Company appeared first on Little Earthquake.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: No longer live from the national theatre

Photo by Mark Barnett

On Friday I suffered a mild, but nevertheless unexpected attack of ‘post-show blues’. The affliction is widely acknowledged; after a period working intensely with a group of people on show the euphoria of the last night’s performance is often followed by aching induced by the show’s sudden absence and a sense of bereavement brought on by no longer being part of that closely bonded team.

I thought I had developed a cast-iron immunity as the stress of overlapping projects inoculates against the absence and full time colleagues and a loving family mask bereavement. However, travelling back from Leicester following the third and final performance of Live From The National Theatre I couldn’t quash a sense of the blues mixed with a certain melancholic satisfaction of a challenging mission accomplished.

The devising process had been quite stressful as right up until the last minute it was unclear whether the cast were going to gain enough focus and confidence to pull their show together. It was very touching to see how nervous many of the cast grew as the performances loomed. It was equally touching them to greet friends and family before and after the performances but what set this show apart from previous student shows we have worked on was that it came right at the end of their final year. For some students this was their last day and the show their last act at university*. In this context it was little wonder that emotions were running high.

As the cast called for a whole group photograph it was satisfying to recognise that we weren’t part of the group but had facilitated the group developing this euphoric sense of conclusion to their studies.

Graduating confronts most newly birthed ex-students with an intimidating and bewildering series of questions and options as to what happens next in their lives. Keenly empathising with this agoraphobia added to my sense of compassionate affection for the team. Watching east midlands dissolve into west though the train window I fell to speculating what would become of these engaging young people. I wish them well.

* This statement perturbed lecturers who have vivas booked with the students next week! BIRMINGHAM COMEDIANS IN GLEE CLUB FIRST


For the first time in its 24 year history, The Glee Club is dedicating a full night to improvised comedy from a Birmingham-based group.  The venue is aiming to showcase a different brand of comedy while simultaneously supporting local talent.

Improv comedy has been growing in popularity across the region in recent years.  2016 saw the first Birmingham Improv Festival, headlined by local star Josie Lawrence.  In 2017 there were 275 improv shows across the Midlands, up 57% on the previous year.  There are a dozen acts based in Birmingham but this is the first time one of them will run their own night at Birmingham’s premier comedy club.

Jon Trevor, leader of comedy group Box Of Frogs, said, “Improvised comedy is a different beast from stand-up.  You have a whole team of people on stage, so it’s more like being with your friends at a party.  At a great show the audience and performers get in sync and everybody laughs together.  Another difference is the humour in improv comes from relationships and everyday things, not from news stories or picking on people in the front row.”

Adam Jaremko of the Glee Club said, “Audiences always enjoy improv shows that come here on tour.  There’s something electric about songs, sketches and scenes which are created on the spot – a real “one night only” feeling.  It’s great to find a local act who can do this and generate big laughs about things like the number 50 bus or Dudley zoo.”

Box Of Frogs are performing at The Glee Club on Sunday 27 May.  Tickets cost £7 and are available at

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: De Montfort University Show

Trailer made by final year students at De Montfort University.

We are down to the knuckle chewing last few days before Live From The National Theatre opens. This is our collaboration with final year students at De Montfort University in Leicester. There was a phase when we regularly made shows with university students but this is my first effort for a decade and with Craig, Lucy and Amy off to Dartington to help students at Plymouth University make their own shows it feels an apt moment to talk about making shows with students.

Whilst a student I saw Steve Shill’s stunning collaboration with DMU – Ode to St. Cecilia and shortly after that Forced Entertainment’s DMU collaboration – whose precise title eludes me but was something, something in the Koda Coloured Cities I think. These shows were an intriguing glimpse into what artists I admired chose to do with bigger casts than they could normally muster. It’s only when making these shows yourself that you grasp the full complexities of the challenge for everyone involved.

Making shows as part of a university course are a special sub-category of devising practice. Where normally the show is the be all and end all, here this drive is tempered by the educational setting. We are booked in order that students should learn from our aesthetic and working practices but at the same time we must give the students the best possible chance to contribute and present themselves well for their assessments.

We work with big companies – in this case 19 – which is fun, but they have not explicitly chosen to work with us and we have not auditioned them, so we have to especially generous towards each other. Different students have different interests and competencies; where possible we seek to accommodate these whilst giving everyone an equal chance to shine, which sounds like bland education speak but is actually an exciting artistic challenge.

Our basic solution tends to be coming up with a concept and creating a structure for these shows are robust enough to carry content created by a wide range of students. We mix ensemble sections that take advantage of our big numbers with solo or small group slots that allow freedom for students to generate and polish more of their own material.

Inevitably some students thrive in the ensemble environment but need to be supported to make more of their individual slots, others seem happy with their own aesthetic and struggle to relinquish this in committing to the common cause.

Some groups are very cohesive whilst others a riven with old grudges, rivalries or resentments; in all groups some students have the show as their primary life-focus for the duration of the process while others are ambivalent at best or are juggling pressing demands from other quarters of their lives. It doesn’t do to be too highly strung as a director in these circumstances.

It is easy to empathize with the excitement, frustrations and fears these students are going through. It was the feeling of collective work in a common cause making Figures Walking Into The Sea with my fellow second year students directed by Pete Brooks at Lancaster University back in the late 1980 that cemented my love of ensemble devising.

I always want these shows to be wildly ambitious, even if this means we bump up against the boundaries of what is possible in the time available, or the skills or experience or budget at our disposal. If we’re not ambitious we’re not giving students a true Stan’s Cafe experience and if we’re not ambitious then we’re not learning ourselves and this becomes just a job of work for us and if we wanted a job of work we’d get proper jobs.

On this occasion we have nothing to do with the assessment of students, perhaps now that the university / student relationship has become so much more contractual having us visitor types chip in our thoughts is ruled out, everything is very codified and spelt out. This is a relief as marking is never fun – though usually less impossible than it first appears to be.

What I miss about marking is the sense of closure it brings and the chance to reward those whose contribution has helped the show along and whose commitment to the ensemble has been invaluable. As it is the only thing we can offer those who excel is the faint possibility that at some time we will be able to offer them something that doesn’t really resemble a proper job – but who wants a proper job.