Welcome to Stan's Cafe

Seize the moment!

January 13th, 2020

Sometimes opportunities crop up at the last minute and have to be grabbed. In the midst of the whirl of spinning cranes that is the white hot redevelopment area of Nine Elms, just up stream from Vauxhall Bridge, sits an enormous single story warehouse with beautiful polished concrete floor. After years of being used for film shoots and fashion shows, as a rehearsal space for opening ceremonies and a car park for NATO leader limousines this former Post Office delivery centre is due for demolition. But before it goes Wandsworth Council have leapt in. Prompted by his enterprising arts team, the council leader asked where the local community benefit was from these high roller events and in response the doors have been opened for a free public event.

The Mail Centre Takover promises to be a fantastically balanced event. One one side of the warehouse The Actual Reality Arcade is being installed by artist Matthew Harrison and his team. This takes old style arcade games, such as Tetris, Pacman and Space Invaders and re-imagines them as if in a School Summer Fayre – as gloriously analogue as can be. On the other side of the room we’re counting out 6.7 tons of rice to represent a vast array of human population statistics.

With 6.7 tons we have one grain of rice for everyone in the UK and USA combined. As this venue is in the shadow of the new US Embassy and 2020 sees the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing across the Atlantic, we thought US / UK would be a interesting theme to mix in with statistics representing life in Wandwsorth and London, current affairs and historical links. We have a team of six setting up the show and four will run the show from Wednesday 15 January – Sunday 26 January (but not on Monday 20 or Tuesday 21).

We are very much looking forward to seeing how audiences move between the two installations. It should be a great fortnight in a formerly inaccessible corner of the capital. It would be wonderful if you and your family and friends could join us.

Casting Call

November 25th, 2019

Our show Home Of The Wriggler is going out on tour again in February and we’re looking for two actors to join us for the revival. We made the show back in late 2005, inspired by the community around Birmingham’s Longbridge car factory. We were interested the many lives woven together by the factory, its history and community. We were also interested in the idea of a ‘post-oil’ world. These two concerns led to a show in which a cast of four act out and narrate an episode from a vast soap opera featuring dozens of characters in a mosaic of fragmentary scenes whilst powering the lights live on stage using stationary bikes and hand-cranks.

It was a demanding show to perform but the team enjoyed it. When Amanda wasn’t available for then UK tour Bharti took her place and when Heather couldn’t go with the show to Beijing we auditioned dozens of young women and found Amy, who has worked with us regularly ever since. Now we are auditioning again for two female actors one early 20s the other 40+. We are particularly interested in performers with South Asian heritage – due to characters reprented in the play. Further details, including dates and how to apply can be downloaded here.

There was an elegant symetry to the coincidence that the last performances of Home Of The Wriggler were in China where the MG Rover plant ended up. We’re destroying that symetry because now more old car factories are threatened with closure and ‘post-oil’ has become ‘zero-carbon’, it feels like Wriggler time again.

PS: Although cars badged MG are again being built in Longbridge thier ‘revival’ is of a different nature to ours. When MG Rover Group went into administration the MG brand identity was its major asset and this was sold to SAIC Motor (a Chinese state owned car manufacturer). MG is back at Longbridge but it is a different company. Home of the Wriggler is back and it’s still Stan’s Cafe.

Got to love Fierce!

October 17th, 2019

Fierce Festival 2005: The Great Swallow, Benjamin Verdonck from Fierce Festival TV on Vimeo.

Last night I was privileged to be part of In Many Hands a performance conceived by Kate McIntosh and mostly performed by its audience. The premise is fantastically simple – a group of people sit side by side at a long table and pass materials down a line to each other – the unfolding and execution of the idea is very elegant and the choice of materials assured. The minimalism of event allows us, even forces us to think about our relationship with objects, the materiality of materials, the distinction between sight and touch, nature and modern humanity.

Hold on, and extraordinary piece of international performance art, happening in Birmingham, could it be Fierce! time again?

It surely is.

Continue reading “Got to love Fierce!” »

New office and new Fierce Festival

October 9th, 2019

I know, that’s a cool urban view isn’t it. Well, it’s a view from our new office. Those with a good knowledge of Birmingham’s City Centre can probably get a fix on its location from Selfridges on the right, Carrs Lane Church to its left and Digbeth’s railway line to the left. To learn more about what’s going on read on… Continue reading “New office and new Fierce Festival” »

Mutually Exclusive Worlds?

September 22nd, 2019

On Friday I met with a PhD student from Japan who has been drawn to Britain to study the plays of Simon Stephens. Prior to arriving in this country her principle connection with British theatre had been through streamed performances such as NT Live but, eager to stretch her knowledge and experience theatre beyond the London stage, she has chosen to study in Birmingham and travel around the country. From these explorations she has developed an informal thesis which she wanted to test out on me. It seems to her that in Britain there is a theatre world in which playwrights write plays that are then staged under the direction of directors and that there is another world in which plays are devised altogether more collectively and that these worlds have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Continue reading “Mutually Exclusive Worlds?” »

The Commentators live from MoFo

August 31st, 2019

The Commentators on Mixlr

It’s that time of year again – the cricket season is nearly over, the football season is well underway, suitcases are being unpacked, school bags are being repacked, leaves are beginning to turn, the nights are drawing in, there’s a chill in the evening air and from all over the world musicians and artists gather in a park in the heart of Birmingham to perform at the Moseley Folk and Arts Festival. The festival know that not everyone can attend in person and so again this year have hired the services of The Commentators who will be broadcasting live on Saturday and Sunday to bring you all the sights, sounds and picnic smells from the heart of the festival site.

It’s the perfect way to say goodbye to the summer…listen on the player above or click on the link to visit The Commentators mixlr page.

Heavy Activist Rice

August 18th, 2019

When staging Of All The People In All The World on foreign shores we always have at least a ton of rice on our rider. It’s not very rock-and-roll but when you’re building an installation that converts human population statistics into grains of rice it is necessary.

In truth we are starting to sound ever more like theatre’s answer to Celine Dion as we get ever more particular about the exact kind of rice we require. We use a grains-per-gram equation to help us ‘count’ large numbers and so, a few years ago, had to throw an hysterical strop when a venue supplied us with broken rice. Rice with a high proportion of broken grains is significantly cheaper than standard rice but we rely on a high proportion of whole grains to be confident in our counting strategy. Continue reading “Heavy Activist Rice” »

Recruiting a General Manager !

August 6th, 2019

We’re recruiting!

We’re looking for a General Manager to join our team at Stan’s Cafe. The General Manager is at the heart of the company, leading on finances and operations and managing projects on the ground. We’re looking for someone friendly, resourceful and keen to get stuck in.

You may not currently work in the theatre sector but will be passionate about supporting artists to create new work, and in developing and maintaining the business and organisational structures in order for that to happen.

Salary band: £28,000 – £32,000 per year.

Download the job description here, to find out more.
Applications close at midday on Tuesday 3 September.
First round interviews will be held on Monday 9 September.

To apply, please submit a CV, a cover letter (no longer than 2 sides) explaining why you are suitable for the role and the downloadable equal opportunities and data protection forms to admin@stanscafe.co.uk

If you would like to have an informal, confidential chat about the role please contact Roisin Caffrey, Executive Producer: roisin@stanscafe.co.uk

Thank You Alan James

July 16th, 2019

Last Friday we held our annual Summer Party in the courtyard of our HQ here in Birmingham. It was a pleasent, low key evening and later a mellow night, but my heart really wasn’t in it.

It’s now a little over three months since our friend Alan James died and two months since his funeral. The funeral was a terribly sad but wonderful occassion. A humanist celebrant offered consolation, Spiro and 9bach – the two bands Alan managed – both performed, the room was full of Alan’s friends, four people spoke and at the centre of things lay Alan in a wicker coffin topped with his hat.

Afterwards we gathered at The Swan, Stourport-on-Severn; different threads of Alan’s life meeting, sharing stories and food and music. It felt apt that even in his absence Alan was introducing people to each other, we had a lovely time.

Travelling home a reflected on how Stan’s Cafe could say our own proper thank you so someone who had given so much time and attention to the company. Our Summer Party seemed an apt occasion and as Alan had introduced us to so much great music over the years we could easily playlist the whole event with ‘his’ music. So we did and it was a great soundtrack but somehow still not enough. I’d thought that maybe, if the moment and audience were right, I’d share with the party the tribute to Alan I’d read at the funeral, but the moment wasn’t right until 1am in a corner with just two people listening. So I’m going to share this with you now.

Alan had an obituary in The Guardian and an article in Froots magazine both of which cover his amazing journey through the world of music. Part of my job was to add a Birmingham and Theatre dimension to the picture, so this is an attempt to say thank you on behalf of another whole great gang of us. It is also piece of writing I crafted for and about a dear friend as a means of saying thank you for everything. Please read it.

Othello 110 – 30

June 30th, 2019

We’re all familiar with unfamiliar Performer : Audience ratios now, but next week’s 110 : 30 must still raise eyebrows; an oligarch booking the Kirov Ballet for a modest birthday bash? No, half of Year 8 at Saltley Academy performing Othello to a class from Year 7.

You may recognise Saltley from its recent appearance on The Great British School Swap, this is the fourth edition of our insanely optimistic Shakespeare collaboration with Saltley Academy in which ever member Year 8 has to perform both at school and in Stratford-upon-Avon. In 2016 Lucy Nicholls made version of The Tempest which neatly put narrators on microphones mixing genuine Shakespeare with modern language whilst visual storytelling took place on the stage. The following year we were challenged to up the Shakespeare quotient, so A Midsummer Night’s Dream contained a tiny fraction of Shakespeare’s words but what words there were were all his. We added eyes to household objects to make a puppet show to avoid students having to act as if they were in love. Last year we were challenged to do it all without puppets, so we took on The Merchant of Venice with costumes instead of puppets and with contracted scripts all perfect bound to avoid the confetti, ticker-tape phenomena of previous years. Continue reading “Othello 110 – 30” »

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