Monthly Archives: March 2011

Off Stage & On-line: Off Stage & On-line 2011-03-31 09:53:31

It’s been hard to make decisions about the future whilst we’ve been waiting to hear whether Arts Council England will include us in their portfolio of regularly funded clients. We know what a huge difference we make to an area that has very little theatre in it, and the Arts Council has talked about addressing ‘cold spots’. Whereas a taxpayer living in Warwickshire can get to the Coventry Belgrade, the Warwick Arts Centre or Stratford-upon-Avon within 45 minutes, the New Vic serves an area where the nearest theatres north, south, east and west are at least 40 miles away. The work we do to reduce criminal and anti-social behaviour and raise aspiration and achievement in an area with pockets of severe deprivation we know marks us out, so we had cause to be optimistic.

When the decision came through – an 8% cut (taking inflation into account much higher) – we breathed a sigh of relief. It’s to be expected that, in tough financial times, we take our share of the pain, but where we make savings may mean making some tough decisions. We’re already a very frugal organisation – we spend less on making shows than most other theatres of our scale (in the round, it’s remarkable how little one has to spend on scenery!); we re-use and recycle a great deal of material; our average wage is less than the average for Staffordshire, which is less than the average for the West Midlands, which is less than the average for the country as a whole. Anyway, it’s going to take a while to work things out.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: National Portfolio Client

The last few weeks have been so busy that the Arts Council’s D-day rather crept up on us. Now we know and our news is good. We have what looks like a decent increase in funding. In reality it’s stand still funding as our application was for our previous revenue funding figure plus an average of our addition Grants For The Arts Awards over the last few years. Obviously in these times to stand still is to move forward.

It’s been a sad day in other directions. Commiserations go to those who’ve lost out, particularly our friends Theatre Absolute, Third Angel, FourSight, Forkbeard Fantasy, Reckless Sleepers, Merlin Theatre and here I risk unwittingly insulting people by stopping the list of those we know who have been cut. I don’t know about them, we had no contingency plan – these companies have a year to work out what to do – I hope they can find a way through if they decide that’s what they wish to do.

Commiserations also for the mostly forgotten losers, those who threw their hats into the ring but didn’t have them picked up (is that the correct extension of that metaphor?). Some were quite speculative and others carried reasonable hopes of success but all required a considerable amount of work. Hopefully their time will come.

As for Stan’s Cafe… we’ll keep on pushing hard. With venues across the country receiving cuts things are going to remain tough even for those touring companies fortunate enough to be National Portfolio Clients.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: The Commentators TONIGHT.

Tune in to The Commentators between 18:00 tonight and 06:00 on Friday morning for live commentary on activities on Birmingham’s notorious/glorious Broad Street. This commentary has been commissioned by Fierce Festival and has been made technically possible by the good graces of Rhubarb Radio.

The Fierce Festival runs alongside Flatpack Festival until the end of the week there is plenty of great stuff to explore. On Friday night @ A E Harris plays host to Human Salvage and a project by EXYZT which involved a huge amount of furniture being built at our place.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Coincidence / Miracle

Do coincidences and miracles co-exist on a spectrum? If so where on the spectrum does this sit…

We’re struggling to find out what’s going on with Rhubarb Radio, our webstreaming isn’t working and we need it for tomorrow. A call goes out via social media for help. The excellent Chris Unitt calls up offering assistance. Whilst talking to Chris our bell goes, it’s the guy sent by Flatpack Festival to pick up Women & Theatre’s furniture for their festival hub. I wave him in and keep talking to Chris. The call ends I apologise for being rude “I’m trying to fix a problem”. He’s overheard me, obviously, “You were talking about servers and streaming, I work with Rhubarb Radio as a technician, what’s your problem?”!

Fifteen minutes later and our Instreamer box is reset for Rhubarb Radio’s new server and works perfectly. Thank you social media types. Thank you Laws of Chance / Lord of Chance – all is wonderful again.


Fierce Festival: Sound Collage in The Dirty End: A History of Sound Art, 5pm today


Composed and Arranged by J Milo Taylor. Mixed by Joel Cahen.

Duration: 85min

An engaging sound collage presenting an unique historical documentation of Sound Art from the early 20th century to present day. The composition weaves through different sound works throughout the century with narratives and ideas from some of the prominent artists in the field. It is an insightful retrospective into the craft of sound and its development as an artistic practice, from Edison’s first sound film in 1895 to today. Commissioned by Newtoy as part of the 2011 Wet Sounds tour..

The artists whose work and interviews are included are:
(in order of appearance in the composition)

Sleep Research Facility, Cathy Lane, John Cage, Charlie Fox, Ros Bandt, Janet Cardiff, Brandon La Belle, Thomas Edison, Marcel Duschamp, Hugo Ball, Leon Theramin, FW Marinetti, Walter Ruttmann, Kurt Schwitters, Harry Partch, Antonin Artaud, Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry, Iannis Xenakis, Louis and Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, Morton Feldman, George Brecht, Richard Maxfield, Dick Higgins, Group Ongaku, Brion Gysin, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Tod Dockstader, La Monte Young, Luc Ferrari, Alvin Lucier, Bruce Nauman, Bernard Parmegiani, Francoise Bayle, R Murray Schafer, Trevor Wishart, hildegard Westerkamp, Terry Fox, David Dunn, Nam June Paik, Max Neuhaus, Throbbing Gristle, Barry Truax, Limpe Fuchs, John Oswald, Bill Fontana, Warren Burt, David Cunningham, Laurie Anderson, Gregory Whitehead, Lee Renaldo, Gordon Monahan, Christian Marclay, William Burroughs, Paul DeMarinis, Denis Smalley, Dan Lander, Gilles Gobeil, Christof Migone, Negativland, Trimpin, Jonty Harrison, Kim Cascone, Jodi Rose, Francisco Lopez, Bernard Leitner, Peter Vogel, Steve Roden, Pamela Z, Terre Thaemlitz, Chris Watson, David Toop, Disinformation, Atau tanaka, Dan Lander, Philip Jeck, Carsten Nicolai, Justin Bennett, David Toop, Project Dark, Steve Vitiello, Maryanne Amacher, Christina Kubisch, John Bischoff, Andres Bosshard, Iris Garrelfs, Peter Cusack, Steve Barsotti, Andrea Polli, James Webb, Nic Collins, DJ Spooky, Rainer Linz, Salome Vogeline, David Lee Myers, David Chesworth and Sonia Leiber, Karlheinz Essl, Dallas Simpson, FM3, Matthew Mullane, Ultra-Red, Tony Herrington, Dan Senn, John Wynne and Susan Philipsz.


Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Blue Peter Advertising.


Tune in to BBC1 at 4.30 tomorrow Tuesday 22nd March to see Stan’s Cafe on Blue Peter. A film crew came to @ A E Harris on Thursday to make a piece about the census using Of All The People In All The World as its basis. We recruited a team of excellent Year 6 students from Chad Vale School to help us. The BBC feature will be on the BBC iPlayer for a week and Mr. Sansom’s will be on Chad Vale TV considerably longer.

It will be interesting to see how much publicity accrues to Stan’s Cafe from the feature. I offered a banner we use to promote the show as a potential backdrop to my interview show, this was politely batted away with a reference to the BBC’s guidelines on advertising – fair enough. The following night watching the latter stages of the BBC’s coverage of Red Nose day I went and made a cup of tea whilst there ran a vast advertisement for a brand of crisps – fair enough?

A member of the Stan’s Cafe team has explored the guidelines on Blue Peter badges and still holds out hope they will receive one in the post: “Blue Peter badges are only awarded to Children aged 6 – 15 or adults who have appeared on the programme”.

Off Stage & On-line: Off Stage & On-line 2011-03-20 16:49:36

Just announced for Christmas...a new adaptation of Alice in Wonderland

I enjoy writing adaptations, be they for BBC Radio Drama or for the theatre; and recently I’ve particularly welcomed the chance to adapt some monumental classics for family audiences. At Christmas tens of thousands of young people come to see plays at the New Vic, some of them coming to the theatre for the first time, and the scale of responsibility when confronted with the opportunity to make or break someone’s lifetime interest in theatre both thrills me and worries me.

Last year’s Peter Pan was more a case of editing and abridging Barrie’s original stage version, though I turned to his novel version for help with a few key scenes. The year before, adapting C S Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was a real joy: the compelling story was already so well told, so full of action and so moving, that once I’d found a holding form for the narrative I could simply rely on the story to take off.

But this year I’ve set myself the task of Alice in Wonderland, and it’s a different kettle of fish entirely.

For a start, there’s not much in the way of narrative arc. Alice meets someone, observes their curious behaviour, says something tart and moves on. Then she does the same again. Looking Glass has a little more structure afforded by the shape of the chess game, but even there plot – cause and effect – is thin on the ground.

So, although Lewis Carroll’s characters and situations are vivid enough to leap off his page and on to mine, one of the main things that makes an adaptation easier than writing an original play is missing, and that’s a strong route through the narrative. With an original play, you start your journey at A and might have no idea where B is, never mind C. Once you’ve worked it all through you might realise A wasn’t the right point to start at anyway, and you have to go back and remap the route. With an adaptation, you know you have to start at A because audiences know this story well and won’t stand for anything less; and you know you have to get to C via B. The route is there, and you just have to decide whether to travel it in a fast car or by train or in a wagon. The problem with Alice is that whilst A is most definitely a fall down a rabbit hole, B, C and D could be anywhere at all, and in any order, and are probably standing on their heads or mischievously peeping over my shoulder or having a lie down in someone else’s adaptation entirely.

So writing this adaptation is much more like writing an original play than I’m used to: indeed, to use a Carrollian turn of phrase, it’s more like unwriting – trying something out, getting a bit further into it, realising the idea wasn’t a good one at all and unravelling the whole thing to start again. It feels like hard work!

Women & Theatre: Highgate Community Comedy Evening, Wednesday 30th March

Comedy Evening Eflyer

Highgate Community Comedy Evening
Local people from Highgate performing their own stand-up comedy
Hosted by Mrs Barbara Nice, and featuring Jo Enright
Wednesday 30th March, 7.30pm
At Stanhope Hall Community Centre, Ketley Croft, Highgate, B12 0XG
Free curry and refreshments
Free, for Age 16+

Have a laugh at this great local night out! This special comedy evening features stand-up from a group of Highgate residents who have been taking part in a comedy course with Mrs Barbara Nice (of Coronation Street and Phoenix Nights fame.) Come and support them as they share their newfound skills alongside Barbara Nice and headlining act Jo Enright.

“I had cramp in my belly, was laughing so much.”
“Very funny. Can’t wait till there is another one. Thanks for a great evening and a great curry!”

This project has been funded through the Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust’s Mental Health Grants Programme 2009-10 and suported by the Digbeth Trust.