Women and Theatre: Interning with Women & Theatre

Upon arriving on the doorstep of a cottage-styled building in January, I wondered what sort of encounters I would have in this seemingly quaint office. I had never worked anywhere other than my hometown, Hong Kong, and was only armed with the knowledge of what was on Women & Theatre’s website. Little did I know that I landed a 10 day internship in a powerhouse of community theatre.

I found this internship through my school’s, the University of Birmingham, Careers’ Network. I applied because I wanted to learn about the inner workings of an arts company in this country, being a Drama and English student. My duties at Women & Theatre were mainly administrative and research focused. I was able to research areas of Birmingham that the company has yet to work in, as well as possible grants the company could apply to for funding.

The two most exciting duties I had were sitting in on Word Lounge meetings and researching the Women of Longbridge  project. Being a fly on the wall and understanding how the company dealt with the logistics of creating an acting scheme for young people was incredibly refreshing and informative. I was impressed at how well the team would solve problems and present their ideas to partner organisations. This was an aspect of the industry that I had never seen before. For WoL, I was able to travel to different areas in Birmingham with the team and meet people who worked, lived or regularly met in the area to collect stories for the final product. It was an exciting experience as I had never been to these places and we would never know what to expect. Fortunately, we had mostly pleasant surprises, such as a story about the Peaky Blinders and a tea dance gathering where many elderly couples gathered, sure to be full of tales about the area.

My time at Women & Theatre was extremely valuable as a newcomer to the arts industry. It not only fulfilled my goals of understanding the nuts and bolts of a theatre company but taught me the values required to run one — an immense amount of resilience, genuine passion for projects and an open mind to work with a colourful variety of people.


Rachel Yu

April 2018

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Book Royalties

The publishers Bloomsbury have a series of tabs at the top of their website to steer visitors towards the category of book they are searching for: Fiction, Non-fiction, Academic, Children’s and Harry Potter. What an unbelievable cash cow that young wizard must be for everyone involved!

We’ve just received the first royalty cheque from our very own cash gerbil Devising Theatre With Stan’s Cafe. It may not have been a big cheque, but it was a good feeling to know the book is out there being bought and (hopefully) read.

Given that we are currently being undercut by our own publishers and assuming that for such books sales tail off rather than snowball, we have perhaps had the best of things financially; nevertheless we will continue to reap practical benefits as those eager students who regularly email us asking ‘how do you get your ideas?’ or ‘how do you devise your shows?’ can now be pointed to the book rather than having to be written more bespoke answers and pointed towards our magical Harry Potter Helpful Things tab.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: This

This – a new performance from Tate n Lyle on Vimeo.

One privilege I have is that people often invite me to art stuff and occasionally I able to attend. Yesterday at DanceXchange a duo called Timber and Battery shared a work they have in progress called This. Avid followers of this blog will know that I have reservations about the ‘WiP’ concept but this was fun and very much resembled a finished performance.

This is currently a 30-40 minutes long structured improvisation in which two performers explore the fabric and function of two fold-away tables. A time-lapse video (posted above) gives you some sense of what happens but also completely misrepresents the piece.

As audience members we are free to explore, to watch from a distance or come close and inspect how the mass produced objects have gained individuality through use. The performers help us study each table’s detail, the rivets, the hinges, the caps, coated metal and polymer. We have demonstrated to us each table’s geometry, it balance points, movements, squeaks and judders. We watch with concern as the material limits of each table are tested in ways the designers and manufacturers can never have imagined them being tested.

This stripped-down, performance style with its limited vocabulary of isolated words “this”, “that”, “here” is direct and engaging, bringing to mind the playful work of one of my performance heroes Gary Stevens. With the occasional lull I enjoyed This very much.

Afterwards there was a bit of a chat with the artist for which four of us audience stayed to contribute our observations. If This comes near you I’d urge you to see it and tell me what you think.

Graeme Rose's Blog: Engine Brake

The trailer for Engine Brake, a new piece I’m devising along with co-performer Radhika Aggarwal and director Simon Day under the moniker of The Plasticene Men.

The show opens at the New Diorama Theatre, London, 8th – 12th May 2018.

Further dates; Salisbury Playhouse ( 17th-19th May), Plymouth Fringe Festival, Theatre Royal tbc. (28th May – 1st June) and The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol (6th – 9th June).

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: A Capital Image

As much as we’d love to think of our shows exclusively as works of art they are also inescapably products. These products need to be sold, to sell them they must be described and describing them can be difficult, especially when the shows have yet to be made.

We recently faced this challenge describing our new show THE CAPITAL. Tickets have just gone on sale for premiere performances at The REP in October so back in March and early April we were focused on describing the show for prospective audiences using just 150 words and an image.

With an unmade show this process of description becomes a part of its making. Our responses to different drafts of text and image teach us what we want do and don’t want this embryonic show to become.

In the first of a three part series about ‘marketing as making’ Simon Ford gives us a generous insight into the steps and missteps, cul-de-sacs and leaps of inspiration that took him from Graeme Braidwood’s photo of Amy to an image that we are happy describes an aspect of THE CAPITAL as we wish it to be. To read his ‘entertaining and informative essay’, follow this link.

You can see what The REP made of our text and image by following this link to their website.

Graeme Rose's Blog: Listen …. Again!

After an early morning interview with presenter Alex Lester on the WM Breakfast Show, I appeared on Caroline Martin’s lunchtime show (BBC Radio WM, 3/4/2018) talking to her about the mysterious unsolved murder of Fred Jeffs and my community project with the Birmingham Rep Furnace programme.

The broadcast is available for ‘Listen Again’ until 29th April 2018. (Restrictions apply for International listeners)


MidlandsImprov.com: GIG GUIDE: APRIL 2018

21 shows this month across the Midlands, covering  BirminghamCoventry

NottinghamLeicester & Northampton.





The Documentary:  Showcase from the latest graduates of the Fat Penguin improv course.  A chance to see Birmingham’s newest comedy performers for the first time.



Box Of Frogs: High energy comedy sketches from Birmingham’s premier improv troupe.  Part of “Rough Works” night.



LoveHard:  “Tales from the Elsewhere” provides a mix of scripted and improvised humour from this comedy double act.  



Fat Penguin Improv:  The house team Bunkum Factory will amuse and delight along with stand up comedian Karl Adams.  



The Noise Next Door:  Ten time sell-out veterans of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, a showcase of lightning-quick wit and totally original comedic talents. 



What The Dickens:  The World of Charles Dickens has never been more interactive and inviting than in this fast-moving, comedy romp.  



Box Of Frogs: Monthly show in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter with all your favourite improv games.  Absolutely free – ‘laugh, or your money back!’



Freewheelers:  Come and enjoy another packed show of experimental improv form the Midlands and beyond.



The Kneejerks: A night of comedy and theatre, featuring sketches and scenes and all completely free.  



Fat Penguin Improv:  The house team Bunkum Factory will amuse and delight along with stand up comedian Liam Jeavons.  



Box Of Frogs: One off show in Erdington featuring all of your favourite improv games.  Part of the “Cafe Arts” event.



Fat Penguin Improv:  The house team Bunkum Factory will amuse and delight along with guest performer Av Singh.  





Coventry Improv:  A free family friendly evening of improvised sketches and games.





Gorilla Burger:  Theatre karaoke where you can be the star.  Or you can just sit back and enjoy an evening of unplanned, uncensored improv comedy.



NICE JAM:  The Nottingham Improv Comedy Experience host a night of fun and games, including a chance for audience members to perform.



Smash Night: Multiple acts spontaneously turn suggestions into scenes and stories bound to be breath-taking and bloody hilarious.





The Same Faces: Brilliant comedy sketches live on stage, in the style of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”.  Special party to celebrate the group’s 5th birthday.



The Same Faces: “Uncle Armando” show where the group perform scenes inspired by comedian Troy Hawke.





The Same Faces:  Monthly Northampton show, taking ideas from you to make brilliant comedy sketches live on stage.



Have I missed a show?  Get in touch and let me know.

facebook.com/midlandsimprov/                                    @MidlandsImprov

Graeme Rose's Blog: Maundy Thursday

What is it about an unsolved crime that holds its grip on us? Perhaps it’s a need to complete the story?  Wherever I have been in the last month – whether talking to local history societies, visiting retirement homes or holding sessions in the libraries of Bleakhouse, Thimblemill or Quinborne, I am meeting people who find themselves entranced by the story of Fred Jeffs and the Sweetshop murder. Connections to the story itself are never far away… I have met and interviewed people who visited the shop, remember the CID house-to-house investigations or who remember the rumours that persisted in the wake of the murder. There are varying opinions as to where he was killed, what happened to Fred’s devoted poodle ‘Perro’, and who committed the attack, murder and disposal of the body.

Yesterday was Maundy Thursday, and it was on Maundy Thursday 1957 that Frederick Walter Jeffs met his fateful end. A team from BBC Midlands Today visited key locations and featured the project.

Click to view slideshow.

Here BBCmtd reporter Sarah Bishop (née Falkland) interviews Elizabeth Rose (Fred’s niece and my aunt) outside No.12 Stanley Road. Liz shared her memories of visiting the sweetshop as a young girl.

Current shop owner Andrew Bowen then talked about taking on the shop and discovering the dark history of the building.

Then the cameras relocated to the spinney off Park Lane, Handsworth – described by the press at the time as “a lovers’ Lane”. It was in this location that the grim discovery of Fred’s half-buried body was made on the afternoon of Good Friday.

Click to view slideshow.

Back at Smethwick Library, archivist Ian Gray helped uncover some local press coverage from the time. In the Oldbury ‘Weekly News’, the Jeffs investigation is competing for space with pictures of that week’s visit of the Queen to Warley / Smethwick. Meanwhile, in the wonderfully titled ‘Smethwick Telephone’, the local reporter gains a real scoop by interviewing the boy who discovered the body while ‘birds-nesting’ with his pals. The ‘Telephone’ names him as 15-year old Cyril Blakemore, of King St., Smethwick, sets up a photo of him pointing at the shallow grave, and then tells us that Cyril spent the evening at a local cinema. “I wasn’t in the least bit upset” he tells the reporter.


Feature starts at 22:50 mins

Fierce Festival: The Fiercest Time Ever

Since January I’ve been interning at Fierce as an assistant producer, but now my here comes to an end. *pause for sounds of sorrow* Looking back at my time here; I’ve found that my experience has been eye-opening to the background life of running a festival. Even though I was taught so much at university about the business side of being an artist; it’s not until you’re actually doing it all the time that you realise how much work goes into it.
When I joined Fierce they were just coming back from not only Christmas but the 2017 festival at the end of the year. The festival had been a lot of work but the performance wasn’t over – it was time to work on the aftermath of the festival. SOCIAL NETWORKING! Even though the festival was over; there was still a need to hype up the festival as much as possible. This included all things social media. I was left in control of advertising on all social platforms about everything Fierce and anything related. It wasn’t until I took on this task that I understood how essential social media was in a career such as this.
This was just the icing on the cake though.
A lot of my time at Fierce has been spent gathering, organising and presenting all things documentation. I’ve had to collate all images and videos of artist’s performances at the festival together before arranging for them to be presented in some fashion. This task included getting permission from all artists for their documents to be used.
Over the following weeks, I was tasked with various research tasks for numerous funding opportunities; collating information together for already accepted applications and analysing audience information of the previous festival. All of this allowed me to fully appreciate the effort and commitment that each and every person put into the festival to make it such a success.
Part of my job was to create an upcoming page for the website from scratch. This took a lot of investigating into how to edit the website and scouring our archive for all of the appropriate information that was needed. Having created a website previously I went into this task with confidence; as even though Fierce used a different system to what I had previously used, the two were very similar. It didn’t take me long to understand the system and a page was created that gelled with the rest of the website ready to be published. Every task I have had as an assistant producer at Fierce has taught me something new about the way this role works – for which I am grateful. I have enjoyed every task and meeting I have been to in a variety of ways. It has allowed me to further develop and hone skills that I already had; whilst learning, even more, to take on into the future. Thanks to everyone in the team – stay FIERCE!