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Archive for the ‘The Black Maze’ Category


Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The privilege of being in a van on a long drive with your mates is one of the fantastic fringe benefits of being in a touring theatre company. I love the conversation, the music playing, the sense of adventure, the tense map reading and the landscape scrolling by. Continue reading “Vans” »

Maze Skipped

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

So, in a clear out of our storage facility, we have finally disposed for the last remains of The Black Maze. Continue reading “Maze Skipped” »

Death of a Maze

Thursday, November 11th, 2010


After nearly 11 Years loyal service we are about to say ‘farewell’ to The Black Maze. Originally commissioned by Birmingham City Council for its Revolution festival on 2nd & 3rd January, 2000, the piece proved popular in gallery settings.

In 2002 with some money from Arts Council England’s Touring Department we rebuilt the beast in the back of an old Post Office lorry and touring became easy. Though never cracking the Rural Touring scene as we had imagined, the lorry has visited numerous schools and toured extensively including long haul trips to Thessaloniki, Budapest and Montpelier.

Now, unfortunately the tail lift has blown up. Repairs are estimated at over £800, with road tax, MOT, servicing and insurance, overheads are starting to look intimidating. Profit margins from gigs are slim and there are now few gigs to be found. The era of subsidising this piece with profits from others is over. Unless we get a substantial offer very soon it looks it’s all over for this stalwart.

Steely Eyed Driver

Thursday, September 30th, 2010


The Black Maze completes an epic journey and is delivered safely to the Domaine d’O, Montpellier, ready for next week’s punters. Avast ye, all doubters who thought the old dog had had its day!

With the cobwebs blown out of the cylinders, the trusty Iveco purred along motorway and autoroute. Day One saw us cross the Thames and later that night La Manche. Slipping into the town of Calais under cover of dark we were followed and accosted by two carloads of drunken women at the lights, climbing out of their cars to get a closer look; gesticulating suggestively.

Day 2 is the sombre north – Picardy, The Somme and Ile de France. Attempts to avoid Paris are hopeless – The Maze and me end up sightseeing by default; we revisit Cergy-Pontoise (scene of former Stan glories), we get to know Versailles, then wind up within view of the Eiffel Tower before heading out of the Seine Valley in 2nd / 3rd gear toward the wide open flatlands that lead us to Orleans.

On Day 3 I leave the Maze parked up because we’re in ‘no-commercial-driving-on-a-Sunday’ France. I wander the quiet streets once trod by Joan of Arc’s horse. I’m kind-of missing The Maze but I know a day apart is good for us. We’re strong enough to cope.


By Day 4 we’re bracing ourselves for the big one; further south through the rain past Bourges, the volcanoes of Clermont-Ferrand, and over the Central Massif. The Maze is working hard. The landscape is spectacular and I’m reunited with memories of visiting those fabulous places – Le Puy, Severac, Conques with their chateaux and their monasteries. Up high the clouds disperse and as if by magic, we’re in the South of France. Unmistakable. Stunning viaducts and bridges offer gob-smacking views of the Romanesque villages. The colour of the rock changes from white to red (the Roussillon) to golden. I’ve started the day’s drive wearing four layers and now I’m trying to shed them. A winding precipice route takes us forever downwards and finally we’re on the route into Montpellier. The sun is shining and everyone looks gorgeous…until I catch a glimpse of myself in the rear-view and realize that 4 days in the saddle requires a scrub up.

This morning, I emptied out all the kit for It’s Your Film, Apollo Steps and The Maze. Little did I know my cargo, which was tightly packed throughout all of the labyrinthine corridors of the truck like some crazy puzzle. I flew back to Gatwick this afternoon and am almost home now, but looking forward to returning to France next week when the goodly folks of Montpellier will be presented with a Stan triple-bill.

Graeme Rose (for more detail and photos visit Greame’s blog)

2 shows in 1 = 3 shows

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Years of packing vans for touring became mere training for yesterday’s great challenge, packing Apollo Steps (the vinyl cutter etc) and It’s Your Film INSIDE The Black Maze. Highly developed spatial reasoning and a modicum of brute strength did the trick in the end, so that lot is ready for Graeme to drive down to Montpellier once he gets back from Tokyo.


Meanwhile Jon, in his ever evolving quest to perfect sound arrangements for Of All The People In All The World, has delivered a beautiful box of tricks and chips too complicated to explain, which, in one bespoke silver unit delivers atmospherics, music, real-time time chimes and a ‘tannoy’. I’m taking it to Tokyo in my hand luggage and will post a photograph of its exterior in situ.

Jon was up to see The Modified Toy Orchestra. Last night’s gig was fantastic, beautifully structured, performed and played. It looked great, the sound was good – if a little genteel volume-wise and the music stunning. I’m never sure what the driving ambition of the MTO is, but if it is popular global acclaim then surely they have the package here to deliver that for them. I saw lots of familiar faces in the crowd, what did you think?

More Space

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010


Unbelievably some people have been suggesting they’d like to do their thing @ A E Harris if only there were more space! Well, always keen to oblige, we’ve had a word with our friendly landlords and come up with… MORE SPACE. Today we got stuck into clearing it out ready for the forklift to go to work.

Eve accompanied me up to Willenhall in The Black Maze. Taking photographs on the way. It’s having it’s last tweak before Graeme drives it down to Montpellier.

Maze Mugshots

Saturday, July 24th, 2010


Things are rarely simple in our world. The Black Maze is going to spend four days parked up outside The National Theatre. It should be easy except: the batteries had died, so we had to replace them. It’s had to go to be checked out for mechanical safety and for the erratic tail-lift to be looked into. Some how we’ve got to get it back for the excellent Graham Calvert to give it a once over with his PAT test machine. We have to get the congestion charge paid and to avoid having to pay £200 per day Smokey Old Lorry Tax we’ve got to detonate some ‘Fairground Vehicle’ waiver, which involves taking photographs from all for sides, scanning the log book and sending it all to The Big Smoke.

All this at time when we’re asking if the old beast is a luxury we can really afford. I hope at least Judy Dench has a nose around inside to make it all worthwhile.

Mixed Day

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Today encapsulated the joys and frustration of this job.

The Black Maze is due it’s M.O.T., so I had great fun driving it up though the Black Country to Greenhaus, our local DAF servicing team. Then a grabbed cup of tea in the very fine Netchells Cafe waiting for a cab to take me to Bilston Metro and back in time to support another production meeting for the British Dance Edition which will be using @ A E Harris as a subsidiary venue.

Having cleared a cluster of emails the was a brief chance to write some text for the new show which is looming and to be announced officially very soon.


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