Monthly Archives: September 2016

Women and Theatre: Meet our ‘Starting Out’ cast

Meet our lovely cast members for our new production Starting Out which opens at The REP on Wednesday 12 October.  From left to right – Jalleh Alizadeh, Luanda Holness, Phoebe Brown, Katerina Demetraki and our new W&T Artistic Intern Rosalyn Norford.  A series of monologues written by five of the UK’s most exciting playwrights, Starting Out portrays the experiences of young women entering the world of work in 2016.  Performances at The REP from 12-15 October and then at Hackney Showoom 19-22 October.


Graeme Rose's Blog: a Tribute for Marion

for Marion McRae Thorpe

7th May 1944 – 5th September 2016


(read at Eckington Church, Worcs. friday 23rd September 2016)

I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to talk about a period in Marion’s life which was significant, not just for her , and Mike, but for so many friends – some of whom are with us today.

For a brief but magical 3 or 4 years in the early 1980’s a flower came into bloom.

Weoley Hill Scouts and Guides was already a busy, thriving community in SW Birmingham, but when Marion, and Mike volunteered to set up and run the first Venture Scout Unit – Pisces – with male and female ventures, one can only imagine what they thought they were taking on; especially given their busy working lives in their respective teaching institutions, not to mention their own family commitments. Nor could the family have foreseen, and I include Cathy and David here, that their ‘family’ would grow overnight.

What Marion and Mike did between them was to bring together disparate groups of young people – helping us to recognise, harness and focus all that raging teen spirit; all that potential and energy in the most positive, creative and fruitful ways.

Marion was always so brilliant at sussing people out. So sensible to every individual’s needs, interests, issues. So warm and so open to possibility; fascinated with wanting everyone to reach their potential. So patient and generous; forever with that winning smile, with a brow that said: Come on then, what have you got? Encouraging us to think, discuss, to question and embrace the fulness of life by doing it. Getting out there and actually doing it.

Pisces had bags of personality, and the environment that she created with Mike heaped opportunities upon those of us who were hungry for it.

She encouraged self-motivation; she trusted us and expected us to take responsibility, to organize, to stretch ourselves, raise the game; showing us horizons that most of us didn’t know were there.

Weekends of adventure – spent camping, climbing, canal-clearing, hosteling, raft-racing on the Severn, doing sports competitions; overseeing the publishing of a Group magazine: Evenings of enlightenment; with talks by visiting specialists, cookery evenings, film and band nights, car mechanics, parachuting, abseiling…

But impressive though that all was, it was not just the activities – for what are they without the friendship, laughter and above all conversation;

…because you could talk to Marion about anything. Real, honest and open conversations that covered all manner of subjects – philosophical, political, personal. Conversations over skittles or darts in the pub; conversations in deep snow on the top of a mountain or in a garden around a campfire. These were the conversations that you wished you might be able to have with your own parents, but were somehow unable to.

Marion, and Mike, seemed to me to be model humans, genuine, beautiful, inspirational people with qualities that you would ever want to aspire to.

A conversations in the back of a yellow minibus somewhere on the A5, which I remember, in which we asked Marion to tell us all about Love. We, eager sponges –  as her captive audience, whilst Mike took his turn to drive with a contented grin on his face, as she recounted their meeting, their time in Cambridge, their romance, and their enduring partnership.

I can’t apologise for including mentioning Mike so much, because to talk of Marion is to implicitly include Mike, and vice versa. They were inseparable to us.

If we were walking with Mike, then Marion was walking with us too.

The door was always open, they shared their house, their meals, home-brew; opening their hearts and their lives with us. I know I am not alone in saying I learned so much during that time. It really was the time of our lives.

Even though it was a relatively brief period, that friendship, and the impact of that magical time, over 30 years ago, has never and will never disappear. Forever after, Marion was there for us, unconditionally encouraging us through the joyful events, and supporting through the difficult / fractured times that life sometimes throws at us.


Marion, for showing us what it is to be a beautiful human.

for helping us to become the people we are

We love you and we cannot thank you enough.



mid * point: Domestica at The Rep

BE Festival award-winners Sleepwalk Collective bring a brand new show, Domestica, to Birmingham Repertory Theatre onMonday October 17th. Part narcoleptic beauty pageant, part psychosexual fever dream, Domestica asks us what we might cling to in these ever more uncertain times we are living in.

Tickets are on sale now at

Watch the teaser trailer:

mid * point: Building a Creative Nation: a Skills Academy (Midlands) Networking event

Building a Creative Nation: a Skills Academy (Midlands) Networking event 

Thursday 29th September 2pm – 5pm Library of Birmingham

A networking event, organised by Creative & Cultural Skills/National Skills Academy, bringing together a wide range of people working in the Midlands to discuss needs and development opportunities which can nurture talent and ensure excellence is thriving and celebrated in the arts, museums and libraries. 

The event will feature presentations from Creative & Cultural Skills/National Skills Academy and its four Midlands education partners: Birmingham Metropolitan, City of Wolverhampton, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Stoke-on-Trent and an opportunity to meet & discuss possible collaborations.

This is an opportunity to bring industry and education together to develop working relationships, create projects, partnerships and explore how to open up progression routes into the creative industries.

note: This event is open to all creative and cultural organisations, but only to education providers who are members of the National Skills Academy network.

Book your space via Eventbrite
or more information from

mid * point: Open Door

One week to go.

Whose Responsibility is your Mental Health?

We’re delighted to announce there will be a post-show discussion Whose Responsibility is your Mental Health?’ with Stephen Sanger, Operations Manager at Birmingham MIND after the reading of Disorder next Monday, 26th September at Open Door at the REP.


In 4 short plays, BOLDtext Playwrights Stephen Jackson, Vanessa Oakes, Julia Wright and Sayan Kent focus the dramatic microscope on mental health.

14 Across by Stephen Jackson   A hoarder’s house is stacked to the rafters – but what lies beneath it all? 

Mademoiselle F by Vanessa Oakes   Mademoiselle F can’t stop thinking about polar bears.  “sometimes to control my thoughts  i stand on one leg… i find holding onto a chair i can stand on one leg for hours… it is exhausting… “

Obligation by Julia Wright   Ellie reluctantly visits her dad in hospital. She’s not in a forgiving mood but decides to give it a go.

Reflection Perfection by Sayan Kent   So you fall in love, feels good. In the pool of love. Deeper and deeper until it drowns you.

‘DISORDER’ is directed by Ola Animashawun, Creative Director of Euphoric Ink and Associate Director Royal Court Theatre.

Our new writing nights are always popular so it’s best to reserve your ticket in advance. Tickets are FREE to book via or call the box office 0121 236 4455 and then PAY WHAT YOU CAN on the night.

And, remember, if you don’t have to rush off afterwards, stay and join in the debate with our short after-show discussion. GIG GUIDE: OCTOBER 2016





[LE1 5JN]

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


[B1 2HF]

The Noise Next Door:  Two nights of hilarity covering sketches and songs, part of a wider night of comedy in Birmingham city centre.


[B1 1BN]

Freewheelers:  Free comedy improv showcase where groups, pairs and solo performers try out new games and material in central Brum.


[B30 3DZ]

Board Game Smackdown:  Fresh from a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, comedians play some of the most hilarious and intriguing board games, party games and card games live on stage.


[NG1 6FG]

Gorilla Burger:  Regular Nottingham show where everyone is welcome to take part, simply by putting your name in a hat.


[CV1 1JD]

Wow impro:  Free comedy night from Coventry-based improv troupe.


[NG1 6DA]

Consenting Partners:  Prepare yourself for a series of short two-person improvised comedy pieces – hilarity, surprise and weirdness will fall from their theatrical performances.


[B1 1BN]

Foghorn Unscripted:  See the creation of a funny, absurd and in-no-way-accurate murder mystery from your suggestions.


[B1 1BN]

Board Game Smackdown:  Another chance to see comedians play some of the most hilarious and intriguing board games, party games and card games live on stage.


[B18 6AD]

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


[B1 1BN]

The Kneejerks:  Free improvised comedy and theatre from Birmingham’s newest group.


[B1 1LT]

Hilarity Ensues:  Monthly show in central Birmingham featuring stand up, sketch and improvised comedy.


[B18 6AD]

The Inflatables/Project2/Ghost Couple/Peablossom Cabaret:  Opening night of the first ever Birmingham Improv Festival.  Covers sketches, science fiction, drama and cabaret.


[B18 6AD]

Victoria Bang/Glenda J Collective/Showstopper!/Spontaneous Sherlock:  Second night of the first ever Birmingham Improv Festival.  Covers sketches, Josie Lawrence, songs and Holmesian fun.


[B18 6AD]

Noise Next Door/Glitch/Charity Showcase:  Final night of the first ever Birmingham Improv Festival.  Covers sketches, puppets & local talent raising funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.


[NN1 4AE]

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

Keep up to date with all improvised theatre & comedy shows in the Midlands                                    @MidlandsImprov

Little Earthquake: Gareth Has Been Working With… Stan’s Cafe

London, 1666. A fire breaks out in Thomas Farriner’s bake house in Pudding Lane. Four days later, the whole city has been consumed by flames.

To commemorate 350 years since the Great Fire of London, Artichoke curated a festival of arts and ideas that brought the Square Mile and beyond to life with a series of installations and performances. As part of this amazing programme, Birmingham’s very own Stan’s Cafe were invited to create a version of their performance exhibition Of All The People In All The World.

Often affectionately referred to as The Rice Show, Of All The People In All The World has been a striking calling card for Stan’s Cafe for the last thirteen years. Created in 2003 as an artistic way of revealing how vast the world is, the show has taken the company all over the planet, from Leeds to Los Angeles, Bucharest to Basel, and Melbourne to Montpellier. I was lucky enough to be invited to join the team for the recent Great Fire of London version. It’s been a few years since I last did the show (over in Australia and closer to home in Birmingham) and so it took a little while to remember all of the maths involved. With my equations crib sheet at the ready, it was time to start counting rice…

As the exhibition grows and becomes more intricately woven over time, the way you position the piles of rice on the floor can have a profound effect on the stories that are told.

Of All The People In All The World uses grains of rice to bring abstract statistics to startling and powerful life. Each grain of rice equals one person and you are invited to compare the one grain that is you to the millions that are not. Over a period of days a team of performers carefully weigh out quantities of rice to represent a host of human statistics:

– the populations of towns and cities
– the number of refugees in the world
– the number of doctors, the number of soldiers
– the number of people born each day, the number who die
– all the people who have walked on the Moon
– deaths in the Holocaust

The statistics are arranged in labelled piles creating an ever-changing landscape of rice. The statistics and their juxtapositions can be moving, shocking, celebratory, witty and thought-provoking.

It really is an extraordinary project to work on. Spending the days slowly and mindfully researching statistics and weighing rice becomes a unique and addictive form of meditation. When I first joined the team in 2013, Jack Trow (a rice-weighing connoisseur by that point) told me that he considered working with the rice as more of a writing gig than a performance gig, and I think he’s spot on. You’re constantly looking for intriguing, moving or amusing statistics to place side by side. You can return an hour later to a statistic you laid down and find that another member of the team has taken your idea and built it into a surprising narrative. As the exhibition grows and becomes more intricately woven over time, the way you position the piles of rice on the floor (often guided by instinct and occasionally by necessity to allow access to fire escapes) can have a profound effect on the stories that are told.

Returning to the show after three years, it was easy to forget the worst parts of the job: the backache caused by lugging 25kg bags of rice around the room, or reweighing rice after a statistic has been decimated by an excited child (or adult) running through it. But these are easily outweighed by the best part of the job: talking to members of the public who visit the show.

Most visitors ask one of two questions: Do you count each grain of rice? And what happens to all the rice at the end of the run? (It gets given to charity).

Most visitors ask one of two questions: Do you count each grain of rice? (We do for any statistic below around 200 people; otherwise, we calculate the piles by weight); and what happens to all the rice at the end of the run? (It gets given to charity).

Those questions out of the way, members of the public are always keen to engage us in conversations provoked by the piles of rice at their feet. Sometimes they need to share how guilty or shocked a statistic makes them feel, or how moved they are. Sometimes they want to point out their favourite statistic in the room, or declare that they have found the hidden pile of Secret FBI Agents. Occasionally they have their own suggestions that inspire the team into creating a new run of statistics. Most often they just want to tell you how wonderful the whole thing is. Perhaps this is what makes the show such a joy to work on.

If you’d like to know more about Of All The People In All The World, Stan’s Cafe has a wealth of resources available on its website. Some great articles include:

The post Gareth Has Been Working With… Stan’s Cafe appeared first on Little Earthquake.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Glorious City Adventure


What a glorious day yesterday was for A City Adventure.

Twenty eager students from Central England Teacher Training took to the streets of Birmingham to explore and undertake creative challenges. We’ve been running these days in Birmingham for fourteen years now and it feels as if they are the same as they ever were but of course this isn’t true.

When we started a tiny ‘spy camera’ was included in each pack, participants loved this, they’d never seen anything like it, now almost everyone has a camera phone that takes better photos but is more difficult to extract the photographs from.
Then the adventures were focused around our native territory in Digbeth and the ‘treasure’ awaiting you if you opened the fifteenth envelope was sealed in a plastic bag and fished out of the canal, or waiting for you on the roof of our rehearsal space on New Canal Street looking out over South Birmingham; now it is hidden amongst the graves of St. Paul’s Square as the focus has shifted to our new home ground in the Jewellery Quarter.

Yesterday Johnny was embedded in a cafe in Grand Central, a space that in 2002 was science fiction. The first task regularly involves phone boxes, now one of these has been converted into a coffee shop. The Central Library has gone and the Library of Birmingham doesn’t open early enough for us to use. The blindfold bridge walk was originated on a bridge that was demolished roughly the time Mailbox opened so that’s had to move. The Pen Museum is still around but The Coffin Works has opened as has the Wonderful World of Planes and Trains.

But there are still buskers and people in uniform and flowers and canals and good graffiti and bad graffiti and clothes shops to play around in. It’s still a fun day. Teachers still say it’s some of the best training they’ve had and when the weather is like yesterday it is glorious to be out and about in this city.

Little Earthquake: Gareth & Philip Have Been Working With… Terrapin Puppet Theatre

Back in July, we spent nine glorious days working with Terrapin Puppet Theatre, who were all the way over from Tasmania to be part of the On The Edge Festival. The World Festival of Theatre for Young Audiences was taking place in Birmingham, and Terrapin was flying the flag for Australia with I Think I Can — in which audience members played their part in populating an action-packed, pocket-sized community.

After answering a series of stimulating personality questions, and after being matched up with a resident or visitor from among around 160 possible candidates, each audience member got to stage a little intervention in the fictional location of Birmingtown, here lovingly brought to life in the form of a magnificent miniature village supplied by Warley Model Railway Club.

As puppeteers talked them through turbulent recent events, each visitor made their own little contribution to the unfolding story, limited by nothing more than their imagination and the edge of the table where the town came to an end. Gareth was tasked with guiding people through the quiz questions and casting participants as model citizens before sending them over to Passport Control — and once they’d placed their character and watched events being beamed to giant TV screens, Phil was on hand as the Editor-in-Chief of the Birmingtown Herald, poised to turn their adventures into hot news features for the online newspaper.

The Herald may have closed its Birmingtown office, but its online archive of 377 stunning stories — all contributed by visitors, from parties of local schoolchildren to festival delegates from across the globe — can still be found online here, along with a huge back catalogue of newspapers from all of the other places Terrapin have visited with this magnificent project.

The post Gareth & Philip Have Been Working With… Terrapin Puppet Theatre appeared first on Little Earthquake.