Monthly Archives: October 2010

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Space Upgrades


With confirmation we have @ A E Harris for at least two more years and Birmingham Opera Company paying their rent in improvements rather than cash things have been moving on. Fire exit doors have been fitted over roller shutters in ‘Africa’ where the floor has been also been smoothed, there are now fabric rather than paper towels in the toilets. The suspicious but not dangerous broken panel in ‘Europe’ has been boxed in. Fire exit doors have been fitted outside the roller shutters onto Northwood Street, these, along with those in ‘Africa’ raise the venue’s capacity above 500.


There is a proper door with a proper lock for the production office, there are an additional two heaters and a flood in the kitchen. Which took much of Saturday morning for Eve and me to mop up and sort out.

A Festival of New Writing: Press Release

“Thought, not money, is the real business capital”

Capital is a brand new festival of new writing which aims to celebrate and promote the work currently being developed in Birmingham and beyond.

Held at The Old Joint Stock Theatre from 22-27 November 2010, the festival will include a series of rehearsed readings, a showcase of short plays and an opportunity for the public to contribute their reactions to Cameron’s vision of the “Big Society”.

Using the backdrop of the current political and economic climate, the festival will provide an informal platform for writers to explore their ideas, test out new work and engage new audiences.

Highlights of the Festival include works-in-progress from Deborah McAndrew (David Copperfield, Octagon Theatre, Bolton), Helen Kelly (Big Idea, BAC) and Ged McKenna (The Farmer’s Bride, Stephen Joseph Theatre). Capital has also asked five established writers to respond to Cameron’s call for “people power” in his vision of a utopian new way of thinking. The result, Small Plays about Big Society will be performed by the company on Friday 26th November.

Capital is also delighted to announce a special one-off performance of Vanessa Oakes’ sell-out show Kindness of Strangers. First commissioned by Warwick Words in 2009, this funny and touching show deals with the vulnerability of ageing and grief, and explores the distance between intimacy and friendship.

Catherine Edwards, Festival Curator, says “it’s very important, especially in these straitened times, for writers to be able to respond to the issues of the day, and to have an outlet for their work. I’m hoping that Capital will form the basis for an annual new writing festival which will showcase the talents of regional writers, actors and theatre-makers.”

There is also an opportunity for writers to submit their own responses to Cameron’s “Big Society” in the form of a short play. Visit the website: for further information.

Tickets are available to book by telephone: 0121 200 0946/ 0845 680 1926 or online Visit the Old Joint Stock ( or Capital Plays ( for details of the full programme.

Editorial note: Contact for further information

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Invisible City’s Award


Tonight we won an award, which is always pleasing. Invisible City’s which was run by Creative Republic was open to public nomination and public votes. The categories were fun: Things that made us proud, Things that made us smile Etc. we won Things that made us think which seems like a good category to win, even if people are only thinking “how the hell do they get away with it!” We are particularly proud as we neither nominated nor voted for ourselves.

Thanks to everyone involved (grabs engraved plate and brandishes it above head as he returns to his place in the audience).

Name checking a few people met: Nick Podnosh Booth, Alan Tindle Street Press Mahar, Iris Sculptor Birtz, Louise Common Purpose Teboul, Sandra Friction Arts Hall, Janice Barbara Nice / Women And Theatre / Renaissance Woman Connolly. Plus of course the very excellent Vikki Green.

Graeme Rose's Blog: Berk with Hair

Today sees the release of a movie with all the ingredients for greatness, with the cream of British film-acting talent pitched up alongside comedy gold-dust. Unfortunately, pre-release reviews of Burke & Hare have not been entirely complimentary, but how fine to see Serkis paired up with Pegg. And lest it be forgotten from whence they came, here are a couple of pics of them in days prior to A-list glory. In their earliest theatre assignments out of the Theatre Depts of Lancaster and Bristol Universities, Andy and Simon were directed by Simon Jones (still at Bristol and director of Bodies In Flight). Spot attendant berk with hair…

Class Enemy by Nigel Williams, Dukes Playhouse, Lancaster Literature Festival, May 1985. dir. Simon Jones.

Rough, devised by Bodies In Flight, Arnolfini, October 1992. dir. Simon Jones/Sara Giddens. photo: Ed Dimsdale

Teaching last week at Bristol, one student casually references Simon Pegg as the very reason he chose to come to the Dept. and it’s sobering to think that current 2nd years were born in the year that Simon was a 2nd year here.  He is but one of a glittering alumni, many of which have passed into today’s comedy mainstream. Student ambitions are understandably high… but in the meantime, er…let’s make some experimental theatre, shall we?

Pentabus Blog: a small PS

Just as a swift update on the WE ARE HERE situation. I popped up to the Post Office this morning for my penultimate collection (bound to be more by the end of the day) armed with my rucksack, ready to load up with submissions. I got there, handed my card over to the man and he looked at me, looked at my bag, and laughed a small laugh. I asked what he was laughing at and he shook his head and said ‘come and have a look at this’. So I went through to the back room (access all areas-I went where no normal member of the public was allowed) where all the PO Boxes were, and there ours was. Stuffed full of scripts. But, so were all the other PO Boxes. Stuffed full I mean. With our scripts. I must have looked so shocked, and saddened that my rucksack was no way going to cut it, that the man offered to help transport them all back to my house. He actually got quite excited about the volume of packages, and rushed away, returning with one of those red trolleys that postmen have these days. Oh yes. He let me use a trolley. So, we filled it up and I am now sitting in my room, surrounded by over 200 scripts. I am having building work done on my house at the moment, which means that there is no where for the scripts to go apart from my bedroom. My weekend will be spent opening, recording and sending emails out to all the amazing people who have taken the time and effort to send us their work. Then. Then. I actually have to start reading them all. Wish me luck……

Pentabus Blog: Onwards.

I have just got back to London after a packed and fruitful few days at Pentabus HQ. We had our AGM and then a big catch up meeting with the company and a lot of ground was covered. My head is still fit to burst with all that is going on over the coming months. Despite the obvious recent arts funding news hanging over us, we did a pretty good job of fighting the dark clouds away. Far from ignoring the cold hard facts, we had many a frank and honest discussion about what the future could hold, but the overriding attitude from everyone is one of positivity, and while no one can afford to be complacent at this time, what we can do is still strive to be excellent, ambitious, challenging and surprising in the work that we do. I came away feeling really proud and lucky to be part of such a robust and resilient company, who have been making work against the odds for over 35 years. To be part of that history, and to be part of its continuing journey is pretty brilliant.

So. What’s new with us? Well, firstly, our board meeting and AGM saw us all together in Pentabus’s sunny main rehearsal space, eating copious amounts of sandwiches and muffins and drinking coffee to see us through the afternoon.

An extra special occasion (surely an excuse for another muffin) because we officially welcomed Kate Organ as our new chair of the board. Kate has been a considerable force in the industry for many years, with an impressive CV and a genuine interest and excitement in what we are about. It was thrilling to hear her speak about her connection with the company-her knowledge of Pentabus goes back virtually to the founding of the company and she has followed our work closely through the years. She spoke with conviction and commitment about the continuing importance of the work that Pentabus does and it feels like such a privilege to have someone like Kate joining our already strong and dynamic board at a time where many of us are feeling uncertain about the future of the arts.

In other news, our script call out to playwrights to send us their plays (WE ARE HERE) is nearing its deadline. Tomorrow in fact. When we launched the project, we had literally no idea what we would receive. We had a PO Box created for this purpose, and it could have all been a bit embarrassing, me turning up to collect the scripts armed with wheelbarrow, only to return with nothing but some junk mail about a new pizza delivery company that had been put there by mistake. In reality however, things have been a bit different, surprising, and quite extraordinary. During my last trip to the PO Box, I was greeted with a ‘thank god you are here where have you been’ from a slightly harassed looking postal worker as I handed over my card. I looked a bit puzzled, perhaps he had mistaken me for someone else? Then he returned. With not ten. Not twenty. But close to 70 scripts. Apparently the PO Box was totally over flowing and they were anxious in case no one came to collect them! So I understood his relief upon seeing that I had not left the country/got bored of making collections.

So, after two trips (bearing in mind scripts are pretty heavy and in reality I did not have a wheelbarrow. Kinda wish I had.) and a lot of envelope opening, we now have over 130 scripts. AND there is still a day to go before the deadline. who knows what tomorrow’s trip will bring! I can’t tell you how exciting this is-on first glimpse there is a vast array of submissions-from very first plays from very first time writers, to more established and well known names. I love that they are all in the mix and all have thought that they might have a play for Pentabus. The task of reading them will begin shortly, its pretty excellent to think there could be a writer, or a play, or a number of plays, that grab our attention.

We are also gearing up for our retour of ‘Tales of the Country’, which was so well received the first time round, we have decided to do it again and it seems booking for the tour is going very well. Full details of where we are going will be on the website soon, but I know we are hoping to visit Cumbria, Somerset, Cheshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire, to name but a few places in the UK! We will be casting for this in a few weeks, but we are thrilled that two members of the original cast will be re joining us.

So, lots to do, loads to read, lots to see and lots to look forward to.

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Off Stage & On-line: Off Stage & On-line 2010-10-28 13:10:34

The Darling children learn to fly for the New Vic's production of Peter Pan.

Our first session with our aerial choreographer, Vicki Amedume.

She starts work on the Flight to Never Land, which we’ve envisaged in an unusual way. I have memories of last year’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; having decided to do all the journeys through the wardrobe not with a big wooden structure but with a choreographed sequence that allowed the audience to go through the fur coats with Lucy, I spent many months anxious that our young audience would hold us hostage until they got their money back. "It’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe", I imagined them complaining. "If there’s no wardrobe, does that mean there’s no lion and no witch?"

This year, my anxiety is focused on our Flight to Never Land, which replaces harnesses and wires with bedsheets rising up to the theatre’s roof and the Darling children learning to fly in a most unusual way.

The actors have been in training for almost four weeks, building their fitness and stamina and learning some aerial techniques at our ‘boot camp’, developing muscles in unusual places – they readily and proudly display their aerialists’ thumbs.

Vicki has choreographed a sequence that’s spectacular and utterly thrilling, but the most curious thing is how very moving it is. Several people popping in to see it are leaving the room in tears. Which is surprising. And...good...? I think...