Stan's Cafe: One looks, marvels and understands

BE Ready

April 16th, 2014

Today BE Festival launched it’s 2014 programme in a small event at The REP which even my ineptitude failed to totally wreck. The big news is that the festival which was born @ A E Harris has moved to The REP and a clever twist they are solving the riddle of being at The REP and retaining the factory feel by eschewing the venue’s plush foyer, bar and restaurant and reversing the venue. Audiences will enter through the back door. They will socialize in the venue’s workshop, eat on the main stage, visit an exhibition in the paint shop and see shows in The DOOR and The STUDIO, but here they will still enter from back stage. Continue reading “BE Ready” »


April 11th, 2014


On Wednesday we just missed out on breaking a world record with Washwood Heath Academy. We were attempting to topple 19,240 dominos. The current world record stands at approximately 4.5 million, so our world record would have survived briefly in 1976, but still it was an ambition and 19,240 is the number of soldiers believed to have been killed in the first day of fighting on the Somme. Continue reading “Dominos” »

MRes Directing

April 8th, 2014

In the coming academic year Stan’s Cafe is going to be contributing to the University of Birmingham’s new MRes Directing course by hosting a student on placement. To lure them in, or warn them off, the University shot this video (it’s very rare that the frozen frame at the start of a youtube clip is flattering – this is not one of those rare occasions).

Glimmer #2

April 5th, 2014

On Thursday George and Keith from Reel Access showed us their first cut of Twilightofthefreakingods: The Film. They had to transport their desktop computer to my house for the screening once they discovered it was going to take them 48 hours to burn the DVD. It’s very early days in the editing process but they have done a remarkable job, wrangling 24 hours of raw footage and coming up with a four hour long edit that is admittedly too long in parts but for great stretches looks utterly amazing and is totally hypnotic – something I’m only allowing myself to say because it is their work not ours.

Before I saw the edit I used to really like this trailer, now it looks a bit tame compared to film.

Script Delivered

April 4th, 2014


Nenad Prokic has delivered his script for Finger Trigger Bullet Gun. I was very excited to receive it and it doesn’t disappoint. 25 pages of full-on text from the man who physically forced us to adapt The Anatomy of Melancholy. It’s going to be a real challenge to deal with – but that’s nothing new.

I had a fantastic evening. Reading the script traveling to Wolverhampton on the train. Finishing it off over a delicious IPA in The Posada on Lichfield Street. Then talking about possible collaborations with the University of Wolverhampton over a fantastic sophisticate curry at The Bilash. Then probably the best performance of The Anatomy of Melancholy I’ve seen so far from our team entrenched in The Arena – they have really hit their stride and look really confident and in control of their material. The trip was topped off with some art talk on the way home with Rob, Chair of our board.

And I have the cheek to call this work – outrageous. Luckiest man alive.

Scores and Scores

April 2nd, 2014


I have had an interest in scores since 1997 when we made Simple Maths and found that a show that is all moves and no words is very difficult to notate into a conventionally written script. My solution was a spread sheet with numbered moves on the Y-axis and performers on the X-axis, the cell contains information as to what they are doing a column to the right was used for further notes. It turns out spread sheets are useful, variants have been used for District 12, The Cleansing of Constance Brown and The Cardinals. My memory is that the score for Make Like You Believe was more like a map.

The master spreadsheet for Twilightofthefreakingods, 258 rows marked of in minutes, columns A-P for players, instructions in each cell and colour coding red, blue and green could easily sneak into the exhibition that currently occupies the entrance gallery in the Library of Birmingham.

Score: Trace that Sound brings together an extraordinary collection of musical scores many of which resemble works of visual art more than musical notation. Those by Cornelius Cardew are pretty much the most conventional there (scroll down). The exhibition finishes on 5th April but the Frontiers Festival continues.

Third Edition

April 1st, 2014


Three weeks ago the team were performing The Anatomy of Melancholy in Cambridge. The gig went well with lots of knowing nods and similes and laughter at the latin before it was translated. Then after the show, in the bar, a gentleman approached the cast saying “I thought you may be interested in this” and, from a plastic supermarket bag he drew, “Burton’s Melancholy” A THIRD EDITION! It was published in 1628 whilst the author was still alive. Apparently the owner found it in a second hand book shop. He took it to the counter and proffered six pounds, the shopkeeper said “actually that’s a 9 not a 6 but I’ll let you have it for 6″. We’re selling our script edition for £6!

I’m so mad I wasn’t at this gig to get my mitts on the thing. Apparently they riffled through it and found lots of fragments of the show. ANYWAY, the whole point is they are in Wolverhampton tomorrow and Thursday so please come or send friends. If you’re consider bringing along any old editions of the book please only come on Thursday – because that’s when I’ll be there.

Cannon Hill Collective

March 28th, 2014


For a while now, and particularly this week, we – mostly Craig – have been lending some assistance to a group of young artists the Cannon Hill Collective at mac birmingham. They have been working on a mini festival. This weekend is the weekend when they do their thing. So we encourage everyone to drop in and see what they are up to. Their stimulus has been ‘art for social change’ so expect plenty of provocation and food for thought and maybe even ACTION.

Vegetable Professionals

March 24th, 2014

Eight years ago we spent a fun week with Forestdale Primary school with some sharp knives and a pile of fruit and veg. The result were some excellent diorama cityscapes which the children exhibited at the Birmingham Open Markets.

Now, our Agent in Switzerland has dug out an example of what happens if you set a full-on photographic studio the same challenge. The results are pretty spectacular, but the only thing I am jealous of is that they had the idea of powering the lights in their model using lemons and we settled for sunlight. Next time we’ll crank it right up.

Adrian Howells

March 22nd, 2014

Shock and sadness hit the Stan’s Cafe office earlier this week as Craig’s Twitter antenna picked up the shocking news of Adrian Howell’s death.

I’m not going to gush here because I only met Adrian a few times and so barely knew him. I respected what I knew of his work but never experienced it. With the limited capacity of those pieces I had access to there was always a queue and I always felt others would get more from it than me. But he was always very friendly and great company. Reading the heartfelt tributes from so many people is moving, not least because it is a stark reminder of how difficult it can be for some to truly access the love that surrounds them.

I am grateful to Robert Pacitti for digging out this excellent obituary in The Scotsman. It filled in lots of gaps I knew nothing of. I am also grateful to Andy Field for writing this lovely piece in The Guardian.

It is good to see Adrian publicly acknowledged as he is privately appreciated. I will miss him in my own small way but my heart goes out to all those who are grieving. In a grim irony with Adrian gone they need someone to embrace them.

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