Author Archives: Stan's Cafe Theatre Company

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Recruiting a Re-lighter for The Capital

We are recruiting a Re-lighter for the tour of our new show The Capital at the beginning of 2019.

To be available for 2 days between 23 -27 October 2018 in Birmingham to learn
the show’s requirements from the lighting designer at Birmingham REP.

The production will undertake a UK tour for 2 or 3 weeks during the period 28 January to 17 February 2019; exact tour dates to be confirmed.

Deadline for Submissions: 24 July 2018 by 5pm

Read more about the requirements and how to apply below:

What your main duties cover:

• Rigging, programming, focusing and operating lighting control equipment, stage electrics etc.
• Experience of programming the following lighting desks:
-ETC Element 40 sub 250ch Lighting Control Desk
-ETC ION with 40 Fader wing
-ETC Gio
• Participate in re-rigs, de-rigs and get-outs working closely with all other company members to ensure maximum efficiencies.
• Liaison with creative team and company members on the lighting requirements for The Capital.
• Maintenance of touring lighting equipment, where necessary.
• Liaison and collaboration with venue staff in relation to LX plans in advance and when on tour, where necessary.
• Promote a safe working environment and positive health and safety culture.
• The running and maintenance of performances ensuring continued adherence to the creators’ original design.

Deadline for Submissions: 24 July 2018 by 5pm
Please submit a CV to
Please also complete and submit our Equal Opportunities Monitoring form downloadable HERE.

Contact Information:

If you have any queries or require further information please contact Laura Killeen, Stan’s Cafe’s General Manager, on 0121 236 2273 or at

Production Synopsis:

The Capital will open in Birmingham in October 2018 before undertaking a UK tour in 2019.
Inspired by economic theories of inequality The Capital slides back and forth through the city, telling diverse stories of wealth and poverty and how these states are entwined with each other.
Staged on twin moving walkways, The Capital is a show without words and will use vivid visual storytelling to explore themes of financial inequality and strained human relationships.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: BE judged

REVOLT ATHENS by Elli Papakonstantinou/ ODC Ensemble from Elli Papakonstantinou/ODC on Vimeo.

BE Festival starts tomorrow (Tuesday), so that makes it a year since I was on the judging panel. I don’t really agree with art prizes (perhaps because I’ve never won one) so it was a bit hypocritical to agree to be a judge on an art prize panel, but I’m emotionally beholden to BE and find it difficult to refuse them anything.

In the end I had a great week. It was lovely to have an excuse to clear my diary see all the productions at BE – the first time I’ve done this. Being a judge meant complimentary food in the fabulous ‘on stage’ BE restaurant and the biggest treat was meeting the other judges and arguing and agreeing with them.
Naturally there were shows other judges loved for being profound, moving or clever that left me cold or disinterested. There was a show I loved but others felt lacking in some way and no argument I could make would persuade them otherwise. There was the show I expected to not like that I loved and acted as cheerleader for. There were shows we felt too slick, others too knowing.
Each day we met before the first performance to reflect on the previous day’s shows. A chance to tune into each others aesthetic, to gauge the field, to clarify our own thought by hearing the thoughts of others.

When it came to the final reckoning we cut the festival brochure up to get a picture of each show an pushed them around a table top in the sealed off dining area. Knowing the audience were voting for their own prize allowed us not to be swayed by cheering and whooping where we didn’t feel like cheering or whooping.
Multiple subsidiary prizes sponsored by venues across Europe but awarded by us, made haggling easier. “In or out?” was followed by “we have to lose some” resulted in “this or that?” became “so is it these?” and eventually “which matches which prize?” with the clock ticking down we came to “are we happy with this?” and I think we were.

You have your own aesthetic preferences and presumably you’ve been asked onto the panel because of those preferences but you are always award that the name BE Festival will be on the prize so your ultimately your choice must represent them and their values as well.

I think we did a good job and tomorrow at 7pm you can see the first prize winners ODC Ensemble from Greece performing the full (and updated) version of their winning show Revolt in Athens.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Of All The People In Salzburg

Of All The People In All The World - Salzburg

We have just returned from spending ten days at the Sommerszene2018 Festival in Salzburg where we performed Of All The People In All The World in the beautiful setting of the Kollegienkirche.

Around 7,000 people saw the show during our time there, people from all over the world. Below are some observations on some members of the audience, collected over one hour on the final afternoon (16th June 2018) …

People looking down at piles of rice and people looking up at Baroque domes.
A boy with a pirate T-shirt and a girl with a top that says Love.
A couple with rucksacks, a guitar and a neatly rolled tent.
A woman with a crutch, a couple holding hands.
Three women with heart shaped biscuit necklaces with the initial S and F spelled out in icing.
A pregnant woman with her hand on her back.
A man with shoes but no socks.

Green plimsolls, white plimsolls, blue plimsolls. Green suede shoes, brown leather shoes, trainers with stripes and trainers with ticks. Sandals, sandals, sandals, walking shoes, espadrilles, high heels, sandals and socks, painted toe nails.

A tour guide describes in German.
A man drips ice cream.
A woman coughs, a man sneezes, a family laughs.
Two girls giggle on a bench.
A man takes his girlfriends’s hand.

Arms folded,hands tucked into trouser waistband, hands behind backs, a hand on a chin, hands in pockets, hands pointing.

A woman puts coins into the box on the votive stand and lights a candle.
A man dips his hand into holy water, crosses himself and backs out of the church.
A mother strokes the head of her baby held in a sling.
A woman kneels and says a prayer.
A baby cries in a pushchair.

Several pink shirts, a jumper draped over shoulders,stripy shirts and spotty shirts, a traditional Austrian dress, denim shorts, lederhosen, jeans with rips in the knees.

A girl runs around dodging piles of rice.
A father lifts up his daughter with one arm.
A man pushes his wife in a wheelchair.
A woman nods in agreement to her friend.
A father strokes his daughter’s arm.

Straw hats, baseball caps, bicycle helmets, dreadlocks, green hair, pink hair, no hair. Two full beards, close cropped stubble, a beard on a chin, a moustache that twirls at the ends.

A woman walks tentatively with two alpine walking sticks.
A girl takes a rest in her little sister’s pushchair.
People write messages on their mobile phones.
A man in a red checked shirt has a heated debate with a man in a linen jacket.
People take photographs of rice and architecture and each other.

A red leather handbag, shopping bags from expensive looking shops, cakes in a clear plastic bag, a pretzel in a paper bag. Sunglasses worn on the face, on the tops of heads, on a chain around the neck, clipped onto shirts by one of the arms.

People from Austria, Italy, the USA, India, France, Scotland, England, Brazil, Japan…

People who look like people you know.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Why Buy Now?

Tickets are on sale for our new show The Capital that opens in October and although I love the purity of turning up on the night of the performance handing over folding money in exchange for a ticket and walking into the show, here I expound five brief arguments as to why this is a terrible idea.

Book now because in doing so you separate the pain of payment from the joy of consumption leaving you psychologically free to enjoy the show even more.
Book now because you will enjoy four months looking forward to seeing the show rather than four months of thinking ‘I really must get round to booking for the new Stan’s Cafe show’.

Book now because it means you will see the show. If you don’t book now your diary will fill up with other things that you will enjoy less but which can’t be moved or cancelled. Stake your claim on your own time for something that you love doing and which happens very rarely the performance of a new Stan’s Cafe show.
Book now because the show’s going to be tremendous, very popular and if it sold out you’d kick yourself for not having booked in earlier – you’ve know about if for four months after all!

Finally a reason that will be recognised by anyone who has ever put on any kind of event… Book now because good early sales generate a positive feeling around the show and positive feelings around a show create a better show.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: We Can Remember It For You Wholesale

Spoiler Alert – this review of Friction Art’s Everything Must Go describes what happens in the event. I recommend you go to the event THEN return to this review and see if you agree with it.

Sunday is the last performance. Tickets are just £10 for adults and lots of people are eligible for concessions at £5.


Birmingham Wholesale Market occupies a huge site, 28 acres of prime real estate a mere apple’s throw from New Street Station. It seemed inevitable that redevelopment and the commercial imperative would catch up with the vast 1970s concrete warehouses and that time has finally arrived; the traders have moved out, the bulldozers are on the horizon and squeezed in between, to conduct the last rites, are Friction Arts with their performance event Everything Must Go.

Friction Arts are stalwarts of the Birmingham performance scene, burrowing their way into their local community to make true socially engaged art with an international perspective. Wholesale Market is right on their doorstep and they have long been building relationships there both with the weekday traders and the denizens of the site’s huge Sunday morning Car Boot Sale. Tonight’s requiem carried evidence of the investment made in these relationships and was charged with the company’s emotional engagement with the site and those who have animated it through almost 900 years of history.

Site-specific events carry an frisson when the site is specifically somewhere you’re not normally able to access. This evening a ramshackle group of us gathered beyond the security barriers and the vacant guard’s hut on the great concrete deck of the Market’s plaza. A beautifully produced Audience Manual gives us a brief history of the site as the very origins of the settlement that is now the City of Birmingham and a guide as to the art we will encounter within.

We are admitted to an initial cavernous space designed as a drive-thru for articulated lorries but the entrance into the main trading hall is blocked by a very large screen carrying a video recording of a brightly lit wholesale market scene, passing vans, forklift trucks, piles of boxes of vegetables, traders and customers wandering around, a market day winding down. This scene spools on unblinkingly until eventually the image fades and the screen is slowly raised revealing the same scene here and now grey, hollow and apparently lifeless. Like many moments in the evening’s event it is a simple idea well realised and effective.

The trading hall is vast, grim and intimidating, truly spectacularly Soviet-ugly, I like it. We are given time to explore artworks commissioned by Friction commissioned documenting or responding to the site; these range from Dan Burwood’s large, sombre photographic portraits of workers, to a witty sculptural of fruit trays held in place by miniature figurines. Marcus Belben had pulled together a lot of local history and in a small back office – whose wall was lined with photographs of the site in action – half a dozen telephone receivers carried aural histories from workers on the site.

Not all the commissions were strong, some possibly weren’t shown to their best effect on site and there was always the lingering suspicion that you’d missed something out – which wasn’t necessarily such a bad thing.

When as an audience we started kicking our heels, collectively acknowledging that with the best will in the world we weren’t going to read all the historical documents or listen to all the testimonies or sit through all the film loops, the worker/performers started to rattle into action, calling and whistling, pushing carts and cages and pump trucks. Eventually they coalesced at the centre of the three pronged building, on a form of traffic island whose perimeter hosts a series of vast cylindrical concrete pillars keeping the roof up and whose centre is marked by a totemic square pillar wearing a vast circular concrete collar maybe 6m from its base.

The performers are in dirty work wear, boots and dark rubber gloves, they do jobs, they pile wooden pallets against the central pillar and hug the peripheral pillars. They embellish the pallets with more found objects, fake grass, golf clubs, some clothes on hangers, maybe a necklace and some half broken furniture. Everything is removed and then rebuilt, the hugging repeats.
It becomes clear we’re not being told a story, we are watching something happening. There is an invocation of the market in the week and on the Sundays. There is a homage to and struggle with the fabric of the space. Vegetables and fruit arrive and a chopped up, ripped up and peeled, the shavings and peelings fall and with the performers circling rings emerge of different coloured offerings – a rangoli, the waste.

This group performance section concludes neatly with a triangle of the performance space being enclosed by industrial cling film layered, higher and higher, partitioning the performers off from us and fading them away.

We have smelt decay in the air, we have seen age old grime and fetid water, discarded materials, the fruit and vegetables but as yet no flesh, this is to come. Lee Griffiths’ voice booms out through the space, we seek it out and find his thin naked carcass cling-film wrapped from neck to knees to an old hand cart, half stood, half reclined facing us. This startling image quotes an initiation rite for newbies working on the markets, yet here the voice isn’t new but ancient. Griffiths recites etymological roots of Birmingham’s name, he invokes the spirit of the city and its markets, he acknowledges the energetic cycle of destruction and rebuilding which helps define the city, he links us, the City’s residents with those who have gone before us.

As Griffiths is wheeled off, by a rather perfunctory stage manager, his place is taken and the mood leavened by a sprightly gentleman in a black yoked donkey jacket tap dancing to the evening’s first music – up until now a soundscape of found noises has echoed through the halls, but now there is music, as if the horns and reversing hazard sounds of all the trucks and fork-lifts have shifted pitches and come together to form a happy band.

The dancer leads us to the golden centre of a vast spiders web that fills one end of the building’s north limb, where the flowers were sold. Entering the centre of the web we follow a long twisting tunnel made of broken down fruit boxes, black plastic and yet more cling-film. We have our hands shaken “goodbye”, “goodbye” we get an item of fruit with a label and thought attached and that’s us and it finished, out into the (relatively) fresh evening air.

After months and months of anticipating this event the Friction team ultimately had to pull it together in double quick time and the did a remarkably good job in trying circumstances. Having once been called Funding Pending the company made excellent use of Heritage Lottery and Arts Council money to make a strong, slick and thoughtful piece that was big and bold enough to escape that fate of much site-specific work and not get overwhelmed by the site. I knew when to make some noise and spectacle and when to let the venue do its own thing.

The event didn’t capture or remind us of the vibrancy, life and colour of the market, there weren’t the jokes, or the teasing, banter, robustness or camaraderie that one imagines filling the air in these dynamic work places; but tonight didn’t feel as if it was aiming to be a recreation or re-enactment of anything, ultimately if felt as if we were witnessing and part of a ritual, a ritual conducted with the fragmented remnants of something, a ritual conducted by artists to say goodbye and thank you to the Wholesale Market on behalf of a city.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Kenesh Dramaturge

Last Thursday I was holed up in the Stan’s Cafe kitchen with Keisha Grant, Artistic Director of Keneish Dance, looking at a video documenting an early draft of their new show Hi I’m…. For this piece Keisha is interested in including some narrative elements and thought it may be helpful to talk about this with someone who devises theatre shows.

Officially my role would probably be described as Dramaturge; it’s a provocateur / outside eye / collaborator position which I quite enjoy but rarely do. My ambition is to help make the piece as good as it possibly be whilst regularly checking that my definition of ‘good’ matches up with Keisha’s vision for the piece.

It was enjoyable few hours. We watched the dance through comparing what I read from it with what Keisha’s intentions were in choreographing it. We examined her worries, frustrations and aspirations for the piece and discussed how these can be addressed when she starts rehearsals again.

Satisfyingly (for me at least) I came up with one rather bold idea which I believe would unlock exciting potential for the piece to carry its narrative burden lightly and leave Keisha lots of freedom to exercise her choreographic skills. If it were my piece I’d drive this idea through remorselessly, but of course it’s Keisha’s piece so I typed up notes from our conversation and sent them over to her to do with them as she wishes. I will attend a couple of rehearsals and see if I can be of any help there and promise not to get grumpy if she’s binned all my suggestions.

Prominent in my mind is the explanation of the Dramaturge – Director relationship as originally explained to me by a German theatre producer. “James” he said “the Dramaturge may say to the Director ‘this section isn’t working, you need to make it half as long’ to which the Director is likely to reply ‘you are right, that section isn’t working, but that is because it needs to be TWICE as long’ and this is okay.”

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Casting

You’ve heard it here before any other source, we’ve just opened casting for our brand new studio theatre show THE CAPITAL. As usual we are devising the show between us all, so we’re looking for actors who have good experience of working in this way, if you need a script shoved in your hand on Day 1 then forget it, in fact doubly forget it because there aren’t going to be words at all. No words means we’re after actors who are skilled at visual story telling. This doesn’t mean years of mime training, but it does mean knowing how audiences read images and how as an actor you make images. The show is about life in a modern diverse city, so we are encouraging applicants from all sectors of society. All the details are in a PDF document here.

Please spread the word.

NB: loyal fans of familiar Stan’s Cafe actors needn’t panic you’ll see a number of them on stage too!

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Catalogue d’Emoji

Should you be planning on drawing up a list called “The most playful, iconoclastic and talented artists currently working in Birmingham” we can help you out with a name… Michael Wolters.

“But surely” you protest “Dr. Wolters is Deputy Head of Composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservertoire and therefore, inevitably, a boring deadbeat”. “Wrong!” we cry “That shows how much you know about these things – nothing!”

We met Michael on a blind date. We were set up by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and it worked out, a few months later I See With My Eyes Closed was born. In 2012 we made sweet music together again (The Voyage, a 12 minute opera scored for many recorders of varying sizes and a double bass).

Since 2012 we’ve been stalking Michael. Annoyingly his collaboration with Alexandra Taylor, Ava’s Wedding was a very engaging, genuinely funny and way more clever than anything we managed with him. A couple of years ago we were thrown a bone and helped stage his hour long solo compositions Requiem: To Let. Last year we were there, watching from the back as he and Paul Norman staged a piece called Worries, which I had my concerns about.

Now he’s back with another Paul Norman collaboration; Catalogue d’Emojis. Emojis appear to be the motif de jour (crying with laughter face). I’ve just returned from two weeks of Emoji script work on Live From The National Theatre (shocked face, wink face, thumbs up, love heart eyes). It will be fun to see them deployed in a new context.

Hand on heart, I can’t promise you’ll love Catalogue d’Emojis but what can anyone ever say that about? It’s sure to be serious and teasing and thought provoking and immediate. It will be a one-off, a thing to say you’ve seen, a thing you’ll no doubt remember for years. I’m putting cold hard cash where my mouth is. I’m spending a tenner. I’m buying a ticket. Join me. Start composing that list: M…I…C…H…A…E…L…new word…W…O…L…T…E…R…S.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: Inspired Illustration

Thursday evening started five weeks ago, maybe two months ago. Thursday evening started when I sent a speculative message to our friend/collaborator Mr. Courage. It started when I first thought that publishing all Stan’s Cafe’s old scripts would be a fun thing to do, but only if they appeared in a set of 22 very slim volumes.

“[Gareth] If you were teaching design at university would it be an interesting / useful / mutually beneficial / noteworthy undertaking for Stan’s Cafe to ‘commission’ you and your students to design the set”

On Thursday evening @ A E Harris over forty first year illustration students from Birmingham City University exhibited their response to our front cover design challenge. Each book in the series was allocated to two students who were furnished with scripts, essays and notes on influences from music, film, the visual arts, history and science. They had five weeks to explore, experiment and deliver a cover inspired the something in that content. The results were spectacular.

On show were prints, A0 photocopies of designs and, most compelling of all, sketch books in which it was possible to trace thinking and inspiration, experiments and blind alleys. To see so much enthusiasm and time and effort and imagination and passion invested in reinterpreting our back-catalogue was very touching.

Some designs were very simple to link to shows: A portrait of Franz Ferdinand with an overlay of dominoe shards and blotch of blood. Paper airpalanes throwing fighter jet shadows on a children’s playground. A Who’s Who of rice grains dressed up for different jobs. A crown hovering above a crowd. A minuscule row of tulips set in a tiny bottle.

Some designs were more tangential – a rat in a blindfold (The Black Maze), JFK in the Oval Office flanked by the flower filled silhoettes of women (The Cleansing of Constance Brown), A series of cartoon ghosts each with a Z on their floating white sheets (Tuning Out With Radio Z)

Some required you to know a show quite well. A paranoid interior finds a hand descending on a cactus (Memoires of An Amnesiac), Satanic blood soaked stag antlers (Finger Trigger Bullet Gun). A text “We’re Spilling Blood” (Voodoo City)

Still others required deep investigation into the workbooks: a host of papier-mâché eyeballs (weirdly spot on for Simple Maths). a collage including a robin was hung for Twilightofthefreakingods where the workbook showed more apt images.

I loved it, we loved it, it was loved. When the books are published we will try to remount the exhibition and share it more widely, then you can love it too.

Stan's Cafe Theatre Company: No longer live from the national theatre

Photo by Mark Barnett

On Friday I suffered a mild, but nevertheless unexpected attack of ‘post-show blues’. The affliction is widely acknowledged; after a period working intensely with a group of people on show the euphoria of the last night’s performance is often followed by aching induced by the show’s sudden absence and a sense of bereavement brought on by no longer being part of that closely bonded team.

I thought I had developed a cast-iron immunity as the stress of overlapping projects inoculates against the absence and full time colleagues and a loving family mask bereavement. However, travelling back from Leicester following the third and final performance of Live From The National Theatre I couldn’t quash a sense of the blues mixed with a certain melancholic satisfaction of a challenging mission accomplished.

The devising process had been quite stressful as right up until the last minute it was unclear whether the cast were going to gain enough focus and confidence to pull their show together. It was very touching to see how nervous many of the cast grew as the performances loomed. It was equally touching them to greet friends and family before and after the performances but what set this show apart from previous student shows we have worked on was that it came right at the end of their final year. For some students this was their last day and the show their last act at university*. In this context it was little wonder that emotions were running high.

As the cast called for a whole group photograph it was satisfying to recognise that we weren’t part of the group but had facilitated the group developing this euphoric sense of conclusion to their studies.

Graduating confronts most newly birthed ex-students with an intimidating and bewildering series of questions and options as to what happens next in their lives. Keenly empathising with this agoraphobia added to my sense of compassionate affection for the team. Watching east midlands dissolve into west though the train window I fell to speculating what would become of these engaging young people. I wish them well.

* This statement perturbed lecturers who have vivas booked with the students next week!