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‘Scratch’ and works-in-progress
are a blight on theatre.

July 12th, 2017

In early May we spent a week working on a new show called The Capital which is planned to open in 2018. It has a big cast and ambitious set, so it’s going to be expensive. This means it seemed sensible to check the ideas are going to work.

We need some people to commission the show, so we wanted these ‘some people’ to see it in the hope they would be inspired to invest. So, at the end of the week, we performed some things to an invited audience. I think this may officially have been classified a ‘work in progress showing’ which unfortunately may make me a massive hypocrite. Why? because I have just written a whole essay explaining why such things are a blight on the world theatre.

You can read the full essay here, gather your thoughts and then tell me why I’m wrong (or not). I spent a bit of time on it so please do read it and decide which side of the fence you’re on.

Dream like

July 9th, 2017

Photo credit: Graeme Braidwood

The course of true love never did run smooth and neither did doing a Shakespeare play with 240 twelve and thirteen year olds, however last week was a lot less tempestuous than it could have been. Continue reading “Dream like” »

Stupid and disappointed

June 30th, 2017

First it is important you know that I was very tired. It was late at night and I’d just got back from a weekend trip to Germany with Of All The People In All The World when, scrolling though the BBC’s online Glastonbury coverage, an image of Nadia Rose intrigued us enough to eventually persuade our tablet to play her set. Continue reading “Stupid and disappointed” »

Shakespeare Recipe

June 28th, 2017

Here’s the recipe.

Take William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a filleting knife. Cut away any material that can be possibly regarded as fat, leaving a lean narrative, anything remotely repetitive should be cut out and thrown away, retain a hint of poetry for the purposes of flavour. Continue reading “Shakespeare Recipe” »

Beginnings and Endings

June 26th, 2017

At the beginning of the year a small group of Year 6 children from Billesley Primary School joined us at our base in AE Harris to begin work on an online choose your own adventure story. We used the journey from their school to the Jewellery Quarter as inspiration for possible starting points, settings and characters for their stories. As I walked with them I realised that this was their last year in primary school and that they were one of the first groups of children we had worked with in our now five year long partnership with Billesley Primary.

I first met them when they were in Year Two and aged 6. Together we made a comic book version of Treasure Island and looking back at the pictures from that project you can see their personalities shining through. The following year they worked with us on a Weather Project documenting the daily conditions, writing poetry and creating costumes for a meteorological themed performance in the school hall. In Year Four we explored Ancient China with them. Last summer when they were in Year 5 we made Superfast Shakespeare, a quick fire rendering of five Shakespeare Plays performed outdoors in their playground and on the terrace of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford.

Now they are in Year 6 and a group of ten of these now 11 year olds have just finished creating The Amazing Adventures Of You. They wrote stories and learnt coding to create a hypertext adventure in which you, the reader can choose which path you want to choose through the story.

We wish these children and the rest of Year 6 at Billesley the very best for their future adventures and thank them for their work with us over the years.

Please read and enjoy the amazing adventure they have created for you HERE


And now The Judge.

June 21st, 2017

Photo Credit: Alex Brenner

This year I have the honour of being one of the judges for BE Festival. Here are five reasons I’m a fan of the festival.

1: I love the ‘lucky dip’ nature of the shows you will see. Each evening four short shows are shared, a tasting menu of surprises; a full meal just of starters – which are always the most exciting element of a meal. If you don’t like the flavour of one piece it’s not long before the next one comes along and the chances are high that there will be something each evening that you will find inspiring.

2: I love the cosmopolitan nature of every evening, seeing what artists from other countries are thinking about and playing with. This is a rare privilege, not a lot of international work reaches us in Birmingham and it’s especially unusual to see more ‘grassroots’ work and not the more predictable ‘big names’.

3: I love the food but more importantly audiences and artists eating together at long tables halfway through each evening reminds me of happy moments touring to theatre festivals in continental Europe, where making art doesn’t feel like a job but feels like life.

4: I love the sense of community at the heart of BE Festival. It was started for the excitement of it all by a group of friends working hard and relying on huge amounts of goodwill. Artists come to share their work, they are hosted by local residents and fed by the festival, volunteers help out and with BE NEXT the next generation of young artists are gaining valuable experiences making theatre.

5: I take an avuncular pleasure in seeing the festival’s reputation grow, the number of submissions increase, the cultural connections multiply, its ambitions soar and outreach work spread. Attending year’s festival causes me to remember with pleasure the excitement and anxiety of first B.E. Festival @ A.E.Harris in 2010.

Returning as a judge this year means I’ll definitely be at every performance. If you see me around please come and say ‘hello’ I’d love to hear your opinions all the show’s you’ve seen.

Relationship Manager

June 19th, 2017

The taste of humble pie is becoming familiar. Now I admit my original scepticism was wrong, everyone should have a relationship manager.

The relationship manager ensures you no longer forget birthdays or anniversaries, they gauge the aptness of presents, nudge you to call neglected relatives, prompt you to throw parties, organise trips to the with friends cinema and host dinner at yours; they help smooth things over at work, they let you know when you’ve stepped out of line in the bar and they broker reconciliations after yet more misunderstandings. Now I don’t know how we ever managed without one. Continue reading “Relationship Manager” »

Doctor compose yourself

June 14th, 2017


When Birmingham Conservatoire approached us about hosting a PhD studentship we considered some obvious options, retrospective surveys, philosophical reflections, contextual and comparative studies but ultimately composers want to compose and we want to both avoid the obvious and collaborate on making exciting new art. So a new plan has been hatched.

We are collaborating with Birmingham City University offering a PhD studentship to spend an extended period of up to three years as Composer in Residence at Stan’s Cafe. The plan is for this artist to become part of the team exploring how they can ‘add value’ in unexpected new ways. This figure won’t replace our existing musical collaborators composing music for shows, but prompt new interventions in unexpected corners of the company, to work with us innovating and exploring. It’s open ended and we’re very exited about the possibilities, we hope some exciting and talented composers apply.

Here’s where the official details and application are.

New Door

June 13th, 2017


One of the great things about being a theatre occupying factory space is that you can save masses of money by leaving things pretty bleak and claiming this bleakness as ‘post-industrial chic’. As those of you who have visited us will know we’ve been enthusiastically living ‘post-industrial chic’ for years and this approach has suited us well, but recently a problem has emerged. Continue reading “New Door” »

The Camp – research

May 22nd, 2017


While noble volunteers were generously donating their labour scrubbing 4000 years of dirt from @AE Harris I was fulfilling the duty of anyone called James by driving a car full of American visitors around the English countryside. Fortunately our travels took us to Stonehenge and through Avebury which allowed my guilty conscience to excuse my absence from cleaning duties – suddenly I was on a research trip. Continue reading “The Camp – research” »

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