Monthly Archives: October 2016 REVIEW: BRUMPROV 2016 DAY 1


Four acts made up the first day of the Birmingham Improv Festival at the Blue Orange Theatre.  If you weren’t there, here’s what you missed.

The Inflatables

These five performers opened the festival with a show in the style of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, turning comedy sketches into games where simple rules had to be followed.  A  workplace away-day became a game when songs were added.  Two astronauts approaching Jupiter became a game when the performers were restricted to starting sentences with a given letter of the alphabet.  These added constraints meant there was a chance the acts would fail – the audience could see everybody involved thinking on their feet – and this increased the fun had by all.

The highlight for me was the interview with Lola-Rose Maxwell’s American beat poet, whose arrogance and general disdain for everyone else was a pleasure to watch.  That said, everyone on stage demonstrated a strong ability to make interesting characters and develop humorous scenes. The Inflatables are masters of performing improv games.  I’ve not seen anybody do this better.

Project 2

Katy Schutte and Chris Mead wear jumpsuits.  The Ghostbusters kind.  Fred Deakin makes the music.  He appears to use a control panel from the TARDIS for this.  Katy and Chris ask the audience to shout out their favourite science fiction things.  Based on this, they create a range of scenes.  Not the crazy anything-goes Barbarella kind.  The good kind.

In this show, we found out about the difficulties of coming out of stasis, dealing with atrophied muscles, loneliness, the need to repopulate the species and discovering you were indirectly responsible for the death of your loved ones.  We met an alien that desperately wanted to suck the insides out of all humans, and two watchmen looking out into the void waiting for an interplanetary enemy attack.  Most of the scenes were funny, some intentionally were not, and that mix made for a very satisfying show.  I’ve tried to see this show twice before but it was sold out both times.  It was worth the wait.

Ghost Couple

This show explores the history of a place, and we see some of the different people that have spent time there over the years.  The audience gets to suggest which place will be the focus of the show, and at the Birmingham Improv Festival the audience suggestion was Stonehenge.  Ruth Bratt and Dylan Emery showed us three couples at the site, all ghosts of times past.

  • Two druids constructing the stone circle, with the high priest relying on prayer to get the job done but the worker using intellect and suggesting that science may be the way forward in future.
  • A pair of friends, hippy teenagers in the swinging 60s, one about to leave to follow her dreams in San Francisco and the other left behind to her normal humdrum life.
  • An old married couple, both intellectuals studying the history of the place whose relationship was a constant battle of one-upmanship.

All of the characters were a delight.  It was clear that both actors were having great fun in the show and this was infectious, creating a great atmosphere and allowing both Dylan and Ruth to go bigger and bolder with their comic creations.  The beauty of this is that from now on, whenever I think of Stonehenge, I will always be reminded of the old married couple that I saw on stage at the Birmingham Improv Festival.

Peablossom Cabaret

How has your day been? Who is your best friend and why?  What is a secret about you that nobody knows?  Peablossom Caberet spend an hour getting to know the audience and turning their lives into wonderfully catchy and entertaining songs.

Mr Pea (Dylan Townley) and Miss Blossom (Sylvia Bishop) start their show by telling us two things.  They have no friends, so want to get to know us, and they have no songs, so they will have to make them up.  “Nobody knows how we do this, it’s genuinely astonishing.”  And astonishing it is, as these two talented artists mix up rhyme and rhythm in singing about everything they’ve been told.  The liar who didn’t admit to puncturing an air bed.  The worker annoyed at his passive aggressive workmates.  The driver who keeps on having accidents in her car named Dodgem.  Bad cups of tea, dirty cutlery drawers and meeting the love of your life are all sources of inspiration for this fantastic pair of improvisers.  A brilliant end to a brilliant evening.

Fierce Festival: Announcing the Fierce FWD 2016 artists

Image: Fierce FWD artist Louisa Robbin

Image: Fierce FWD 2016 artist Louisa Robbin

Fierce is delighted to announce the artists chosen for the 2016 round of Fierce FWD. Fierce FWD (previously Platinum) is a development programme for emerging Live Artists living or working in or originally from the West Midlands.

The Fierce FWD artists 2016 are Suriya Aisha, Sean Burns, Thomas Doherty, Vivian Chinasa Ezhuga, James Harris, Myah Jeffers, Malik Nashad Sharpe, Louisa Robbin, Benedict Stewardson, Emily Warner and Kaye Winwood & Olivia Winteringham. You can find out more about the artists and their Fierce FWD projects over on the Fierce FWD pages which will be updated as the projects progress.

We are also delighted to announce a new collaboration with Birmingham Repertory Theatre who we’ll be working with to deliver a programme of talks and workshops for the Fierce FWD artists and the participants of the Theatre Makers strand of their own Rep Foundry development programme.

Each of the FWD artists receive a £500 micro bursary to start to develop a new project. They might want to spend it on materials, studio time a research trip or something else entirely. Furthermore, over the course of the next six months the Fierce FWD artists will undertake a number of research trips to Live Art events around the UK including SPILL Festival of Performance, In Between Time: Bristol International Festival, Steakhouse Live and Arika.

Fierce FWD is generously supported by Arts Council England and Jerwood Charitable Foundation.



Women and Theatre: ‘Starting Out’ – London opening

Painfully naked honesty from a kickass female cast.  Thank you for telling our stories’

‘The writing resonated with the young people’s experiences and gave it an authenticity which is hard to deny.’

‘I haven’t seen a piece of theatre so magnificent, electrifying and current as this in a long time.  ‘

With fantastic reviews from the Birmingham performances of Starting Out, we’re really looking forward to opening in London this week.  Performances run from Wednesday 19 – Saturday 22 October at Hackney Showroom, with tickets available here or via the Box Office on 020 3095 9747.

Black Country Touring: Bringing dance back to the Black Country…

Black Country Touring are working with the NRTF Rural Dance Initiative to bring a couple of exciting new dance pieces to the region,  Spiltmilk Says Dance by Spiltmilk Dance and  Paradise Lost by Lost Dog. Both shows are being performed at Thimblemill Library in … Continued

Graeme Rose's Blog: The Hand That Feeds – a musical about food crime

Performed outside St.Martin’s in the Bullring on the 14th May 2016, “The Hand That Feeds” was the premiere of a new piece of work by The New Optimists, and the latest in the Narrativium series. The project was the brainchild of New Optimists founder Kate Cooper (who is also the Chair of the Birmingham Food Council), and was written by composer Sara Colman / writer Mez Packer. It addresses an issue that has huge global implications but which is identified and policed all too scarcely. The recent so-called Horsemeat Scandal” helped bring the concept of Food Fraud to public attention, but this headline-grabbing story is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce, so to speak. It is very much hoped that more opportunities for performing the 40-minute song-cycle will be found in the future.

I had the pleasure of directing the piece, which features Anthony Miles and Sam ‘Frankie’ Fox on vocals, Al Gurr on keyboard and Xhosa Cole on a variety of wind instruments. The team were completed with the marvellous Castle Vale Community Choir, who filled in with a variety of cameos. The intrepid Charlotte Gregory, aside from producing the piece, donned her spangles for a featured role as backing singer.

Here is a trailer, edited from the day’s performances by Mat Beckett of River Rea  Films.

The Other Way Works: Performances of A Moment of Madness at Watermans Digital Weekender 2016

We’ll be performing our prototype version of A Moment of Madness at Watermans Arts Centre’s Digital Weekender over the weekend of 12-13th November 2016.

All the information, including booking can be found on Watermans’ website.

This game is played in pairs so tickets are sold as pairs. Four players play at one time, so two pairs together. Sessions last 1 hour. The experience includes some strong language and is only suitable for adults 18+. A pair of tickets costs £10.

Performance times are:
Saturday 12th Nov 2016: 2pm, 3:30pm, 5pm, 7pm
Sunday 13th Nov 2016: 2pm, 3:30pm, 5pm

The Other Way Works: Funding awarded for A Moment of Madness prototype development

We’re really pleased to announce that Arts Council England have awarded us a grant to support the development of a prototype of our new project: A Moment of Madness (previously being developed under the name ‘Agent in a Box‘).

Currently at concept stage, A Moment of Madness will be a new kind of spy-themed narrative game. Players provide live support as an agent in the field on a stake-out mission. The paper fragments enclosed in the packages together with a cheap mobile phone that accesses an automated interactive sms, voice call and message system deliver the hour-and-a-half-long narrative experience.

Artistic Director Katie Day will be collaborating with John Sear, an experienced game designer and software developer to create this new kind of narrative game.

We’re excited to be developing the project at BOM Lab, as an R&D Residency there over the summer.

The Other Way Works: The Other Way Works is recruiting new Trustees to join our Board

The Other Way Works is currently recruiting Trustees to join its Board of Directors. This is a great opportunity for your skills and experience to make a real difference to the development of an energetic and distinctive charitable arts organisation. We’re looking for people with a passion for theatre, the arts, and innovation, who will help steer, support and advocate for the company.

Click here to download a PDF with all the info

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Par ikvienu cilvēku visā pasaulē


Every five years or so I like to put up a post about translation, that time has come around again and this is the post.

This week a festival in Latvia asked us…

“Dear Roisin, we have to translate the title of the work into Latvian and I wanted to ask you to explain in what way you use “of all the people…” to have exact translation”

What a beautiful question. I love all this stuff about the use of words. So if you don’t want to know the ‘official answer’ then stop reading right now.

Principally “of” in this context means “about” so it is a show “About all the people in all the world” as in “the story of all the people in all the world”

The superfluous second “all” in the title is intended to evoke that famous line in the film Casablanca:
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world she walks into mine” (about 1:35 in) which hopefully implies “of all the people in all the world it had to be you”.

The show is about EVERYONE and ONE PERSON at the same time, in my mind at least the slight ambiguity of the title allows both readings to coexist. Of course it may not work in Latvian. I’m not even sure it works in English!

Roisin came up with a simpler, more elegant formulation:
“Of all the people in all the world, these… were born today.”
“Of all the people in all the world, these… are firefighters in Riga.”
Which should probably become the new ‘official answer’.

mid * point: Stan’s Cafe’s The Gift Sessions: free workshops for fellow theatre makers

This is Stan’s Cafe’s 25th Anniversary year and as part of their celebrations they are reviving The Gift Sessions. Last seen in 1997, these free workshops are open to fellow theatre makers in the locality.

Session #1 has already happened, but you can register for any of the next three workshops via Eventbrite – see below for links:

Session #2 October 17 –
Session #3 November 21 –
Session #4 December 19 –