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Definitive Versions

Wednesday, February 19th, 2020

It’s ten years since we last performed Home Of The Wriggler. One of the original cast now lives in Los Angeles, another is acting for the RSC and another has just delivered her latest book to the publisher’s deadline. We have three new faces in the team, except Amy Ann Haigh stepped in for one of those three in the very last performances in Beijing and Hema Mangoo was part of the team that make our last show, The Capital. It’s only Carys Jones who is new new. Craig Stephens of course is our constant, the only person to perform in this show every time its ever been staged.

in 1999 we restaged Impact Theatre’s seminal show, The Carrier Frequency. The process took two weeks. In the first week everyone copied performances directly off a video recording we had of the original show. Then, in the second week, they tried to forget that video and those performers that came before and make the performances their own.

Our process here is a little different, partly because so much of the show springs form script not images. We did watch a recording of the original cast performing Home Of The Wriggler just to steal things we like on the understanding we could ignore things we didn’t like so much. I spent the first week reminding myself this cast isn’t doing it ‘wrongly’ they’re just doing it ‘differently’. Now, this week, I’ve forgotten the original team (no offence intended) this is now just the team.

It’s tricky taking a video as a definitive documentation of a show – as we found when bringing The Capital back to life after just a few months break. The performance you video is taken as definitive but it may be ‘a-typical’, it may contain mistakes or anomalies. In our case it is usually logistically much easier to shoot the dress rehearsal or at the first venue – but this is before the show has had a chance to mature.

The performance of Home Of The Wriggler we watched on video was eighty minutes long and today’s run was just seventy one minutes and it feels much better for being that much more pacy. I can’t wait to share this new interpretation of this popular old show with audiences both old and new.

Casting Call

Monday, 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.

Dear Departed

Friday, April 15th, 2011


On 5th April we decided the theme of last night’s Tuning Out With Radio Z would be Earth. On 6th April Walter Suett died. Walter was my mother-in-law’s partner and also a major source for Home of the Wriggler. His funeral was set for 14th April, so we had to become ingenious. Liam d’Authreau agreed to step in to do the video job I normally do. Peter Fletcher did the SMS-News Room translation from his house, whilst I listened on-line from my house doing The Producer role with Liam keeping me aware of what was going on ‘off mic’.

I’d stayed up late the previous night up writing Walter’s eulogy – which felt odd having already written about his life through the show. Listening to the show was quite intense, inevitably burial came into play and scenes flashed back from the graveyard just hours before. I thought an edited list of death notices may be useful for Craig & Bernadette on stage so it visited Birmingham Evening Mail’s website for source material and pretty much freaked out on discovering that Constance Brown had died.

The Cleansing of Constance Brown isn’t named after anyone, I made the name up, but because the title character is an ‘everywoman’ figure I feel that the show could easily be named after anyone and everyone who has ever been called Constance Brown. At the very least I feel an extra pang of empathy for anyone with that name.

In the words of Zog Rainbow (who appeared in that night’s performance) everything had started to get “really heavy”.

Beijing 4

Thursday, November 25th, 2010


Bernadette, Craig and I made our appointment at AM774, we were on air talking about the show, Stan’s Cafe and British Theatre for an hour, book-ended by Coldplay. It was good fun. I really hope they still had some listeners by the time we’d finished.

Fortunately we escaped without reprisals from the People’s Liberation Army who were in conspicuous attendance at various key points around the building standing on their small boxes. When outside they all appear to be wearing coats many sizes too large for them, but presumably as it gets colder they add more and more layers on underneath until, come late January, everything fits snugly.

From the radio station we walked to Tian’anmen Square where we were able to confirm conspiracy theorist claims that Birmingham’s Forward Statue was not burned down by ‘louts’ but nicked by the Chinese; though, given they seem to have two, maybe we nicked one of theirs originally and they were merely nicking it back to reunite the pair.

Finally, a highlight of the day, Bernadette’s skirt got eaten by a bike during rehearsals.

PS: The show was much better tonight – tomorrow I expect it to be top rankin’.

Beijing 3

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010


The team did well on a tough day which started with more plugging and tinkering with the machinery. The bikes are stiff and ergonomically quite tough, they are quiet, which is good, but can only viably run one light at a time. Similarly the local flywheel runs smoothly but generates little power. As a result various scenes had to be replotted for lighting.

As this work finished Charlie turned up to run through the surtitle translations. We did a run for him and discovered three small sections were missing. He was an impressive chap. He knew the meaning of ‘perv’ and ‘mummy’ (in the Egyptian sense), but had to be advised that ‘bits’ can be a colloquial for genitals, that ‘seminal vesical’ is a medical term and that ‘Villa forever’ refers to a football team (he was ‘sick as a parrot’ for not spotting this (Barclay Card)).

The press turned up to take photographs and I did a TV interview. Then it was the show. There was a big audience sitting on three sides but the performers took this in their stride. The show is demanding to perform and with jet-lag, fatigue, new bikes, new auditorium and new audience there were inevitably some small glitches but they did remarkably well and were very well received. We conduced a quick Q&A session after the show before shooting off to get some food.

They eat early in Beijing but we got our foot in the door of a restaurant just before it closed and stayed for a long long time.

Beijing 2

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010


Various degrees of sleep were achieved from “A Lot, good thank you.” to “None, well half an hour tops”.

We spent our first full day here:
1: Tramping to, from and around The Forbidden City. It is evocative, otherworldly and utterly vast. One of the most amazing places I have been fortunate enough to visit.
2: Gathering items of our new set together in the theatre. Danny here has done an amazing job. The bikes feel like they will take some getting used to.
3: Sitting in a car going to and from the theatre. Bikes are certainly the answer if you are brave enough (no helmets, no lights, no great clarity on road traffic regulations).
4: Walking through the bright lights of Wangfujing Dajie.
5: Eating another massive, delicious and very cheap meal.

Returning to the hotel I spotted a small shop selling old school Wrigleys Chewing Gum. The packets with strips in them are getting increasingly difficult to find at home and we use one packet per performance in Constance Brown so I stepped in and cleaned them out of Doublemint and Spearmint. I left the Juicy Fruit as on both flavour and aesthetic terms I don’t hold with it.


Beijing 1

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

beijing bikes

Finally after months of anticipation we are about to land in Beijing for what may amount to the final performances of Home of the Wriggler. We have had to do a bit of recasting as both Amanda and Heather are unavailable. Bharti, who previously deputised for Bernadette now plays alongside her in Amanda’s role and following auditions Amy steps in for Heather who for some time had a glorious history of stepping in for other people.

Spread amongst our personal luggage are costumes and various items of props and lighting. Tomorrow we get introduced to the machinery which as been built to replicate or original machinery, photographs show they look eerily familiar, hopefully they will function as well. On Wednesday we do our get in, the first show and conduct a post show discussion. Months ago we sent a script over to be turned into surtitles. Those who are familiar with the show’s fulsome, rapid and colloquial text will share our intrigue as to how this will work and our current joke that the acting could easily finish 15 minutes before the surtitles. We shall see.

Audition Call

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

wriggler blog

For the first time in a long time we are putting out an Audition Call. We are looking to recast a role in Home of the Wriggler due to unavailability. The hunt is on for a female performer with a playing age between 18 and 30. Those familiar with the show know it’s text based and full of fast inter-cut dialogue, so we need someone who is quick and bright.

The job is from 15th – 30th November 2010. Why are we recruiting now? Because the performances are to be in Beijing and we need to get visas sorted out soon.

Applicants should send CVs and photos with a letter of interest to admin@stanscafe.co.uk with ‘Audition’ in the subject line. We need these by 18th June and auditions will be held on 22nd June in Birmingham.

Heavy Metal and Classical

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010


There was a disaster in the final Home of the Wriggler gig in Plymouth, the hand-wheel broke 20 minutes in and couldn’t be repaired, as a result all the subtle lighting in the show was knocked out. Somehow they muddled through using the lights run off the two bikes but it was a bad business.

Fortunately Mark had prepared us for this eventuality by packing us off with a spare motor and today Craig was able to perform the transplant and revive the hand-wheel. At the same time his on-going efforts to mitigate the attritional effects of touring and keep the racing bike operational had hit a major problem. An indentation needed to be drilled in a tough bit of metal and our cordless drill was making little impact. After a period of frustration boarding on despair it occurred to me that our landlords are metal fabricators. A quick chat with the boss and a visit to one of the workshops and our recess was precision drilled and the bike was back together more robust than it has been for months and ready for a tour of duty in Dartington tomorrow and Frome on Thursday.

From bike repair we zoomed directly over to the CBSO Centre to interview players from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group for our forthcoming collaboration I See WIth My Eyes Closed. We are gathering thoughts about what it is to be a professional musician and these interviews were set up to help us. It was a fascinating afternoon. The players were all very generous with their time and open in their approach to our questions, I would happily have stayed on all afternoon pumping them for information and stories. We learned a tremendous amount, not least that we are going to have to rethink how we approach Section 3 of our piece. Damn. Two steps forwards and one back.

Home Of The Wriggler Tonight!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

There’s a chance to catch Home Of The Wriggler tonight @AE Harris our performance space in Birmingham, before the show goes out on tour over the next few weeks. The show starts tonight at 7.30pm – for booking details visit the Diary page. Hope to see you there.


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