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Touring Theatre

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

So we have two vans booked. We have borrowed an extra workshop space from our landlord and marked out the Jacksons Lane stage on its floor. We have rethought how our set is constructed so that actual human beings can build it without mechanical assistance. We have replaced a no longer available Stage Manager with an available Stage Manager. Elements of the soundtrack have been tweaked and we have hired some fancy baton lights that were used in the original performances but which it is unreasonable to expect venues to have in their stock. We have collated venue details, printed new fliers and posters. We have rewritten promotional text to bespoke lengths, updated program notes and conducted interviews on the radio. We have conversed with technical and marketing departments checking that the show will work on each stage and that people will turn up to see it. Accommodation has been booked and per diems withdrawn from the bank. We are nearly ready to take The Capital on tour – why are we bothering?

I love the principle of touring. You’ve made a show you are proud of and so you want to show it to as many people as possible, everyone should have a chance to see the show if they wish. I love how difficult it is, the amount of bloodyminded obstinacy it requires to fill a Luton Van full of set and a Transit Van full of props, drive them across the country and spend eight hours preparing in order to perform a ninety minute show before taking everything down again and packing it back into the vans. To me it is special that this is done just for the people who choose to be there that night and no one else, how can this act of commitment be denied and if the show is good, so much the better.

Touring theatre is how we find out what people in other places are thinking and doing. If theatre doesn’t tour then inspiration and influence don’t spread. I want people to be inspired and influenced by Stan’s Cafe whether it’s aesthetically, motivationally or simply fuelling up artists who cry ‘we can do better than that!’

Touring is also a means through which we learn about our shows. After four performances we know The Capital a little, but having gone away and come back and remembered and performed it again we will know more and each new performance and venue will bring new knowledge. Different audiences and different physical spaces will stretch the show in different ways. Repetition will give the actors more chances to explore how they perform and what is possible.

Taking theatre from place to place is to gather people round a shared experience that is made by all of us: the visiting company, the resident technicians and theatre staff plus that night’s audience. I love this gathering, if it’s huge then the moment feels celebratory and if it’s tiny then it feels impossibly intense.

Who knows what lies ahead in the next couple of weeks – the uncertainty is all part of it as well.

Eye of the beholder

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

We racked up two performances of The Capital yesterday and I had two contrasting conversations stood on the same spot as audiences lingered post-show.

After the matinee I was approached someone who quizzed me on the title. I explained that it is intended to refer both to a big city and Karl Marx’s famous book. To this he protested that the show did not take on capitalism, that it merely depicted scenes from city life and could equally have been describing a communist city in the 1980s. I wasn’t at my most resilient so didn’t put up much of a defence, rather than pointing out all the ways I thought he was wrong I muttering about how we’d have chosen different scenes of city life if the show hadn’t been concentrating on financial inequalities.


After the 7.45 performance I was approached by someone who explained to me that he was an “extreme left wing socialist” and that our show was brilliant and had “absolutely skewered capitalism”.

Truly beauty and searing critiques of capitalism are in the eye of the beholder.

(Photo Credit: Graeme Braidwood)

The Capital – Post Show Talk

Friday, October 12th, 2018

How do we best share this city?

Those of you who have been paying attention will know that we are premiering our new show The Capital at the end of this month. Staged on twin moving walkways, it is a fast paced journey through the big city, following the lives of 5 people from different backgrounds and how their differing circumstances affect their interactions with the city and with each other. The production was originally inspired by discussions about economic inequality with economists at the University of Warwick.

On Friday 26 October we are going to explore the themes of the production even further with a post-show talk : How do we best share this city? Experts from a range of fields will come together to discuss their views on this question, and how it relates to the city of Birmingham today.

We would love you to join us in this conversation, which is free along with the purchase of a ticket to see the evening’s performance of The Capital at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

You can book online: HERE, or by calling the ticket office on 0121 236 4455.

Our panellists are:

Professor Kiran Trehan

Kiran Trehan is Professor of Leadership and Enterprise Development, and Director of the Centre for Women’s Enterprise, Leadership, Economy & Diversity at Birmingham University. Kiran is a key contributor to debates on leadership, Enterprise development and diversity. Kiran has led a number of leadership, enterprise and business support initiatives and extensively published a number of journal articles, policy reports, books and book chapters in the field. Professor Trehan has also taken up national advisory roles that shape debates and policy in leadership Diversity.

Marc Reeves

Marc Reeves is West Midlands editor-in-chief for Reach plc, and editor of the Birmingham Mail and its website, BirminghamLive.In a 30-year career in regional media, he has held senior positions across the country, but in 2006 returned to his home town as editor of the Birmingham Post. Since then, he has led the company’s transformation into a digital-first business, and BirminghamLive, with 38 million monthly page views, is now one of the largest regional news sites in the UK. BirminghamLive was launched from the foundations of the Mail’s previous site, and its digital-only approach is built on a raft of innovations from podcasting to video journalism.The site has also continued the Mail’s campaigning heritage, with an appeal for the city’s foodbanks on target to collect 100 tonnes of food.

Professor Kathyrn Moore

Kathryn Moore, Immediate Past President of the International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA) and Professor of Landscape Architecture at Birmingham City University, Kathryn has taken a lead role in redefining the relationship between landscape, culture and governance, finance, health and community engagement within the context of a radical proposal for a West Midlands National Park, launched in a major conference held in BCU in June 2018. She is a member of the Independent National Design Review Panel for HS2 as well as the recently formed Enfield Borough Council Place and Design Quality Panel.

Tru Powell

Truchio aka Tru was born in Birmingham and grew up in a single parent household with his six siblings.He learnt at a very early age he had a passion for enterprise, the arts and events, something that would later in life give him a career. Tru is the Founder & Managing Director for The Alternative Events & Wedding Company, a company that specialises in coordinating high quality corporate, youth events and weddings. In addition, Tru is the Creative & Events Director for Aston Performing Arts Academy, a community interest organisation that exists to empower young people through performing and creative arts and a visiting lecturer for University College Birmingham. Tru is also a Trustee for Creative Academies, and a NED for TAG Network and more recently has assumed a Non Executive Director post for the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) as the Marketing and Events Champion. Over the years Tru has been awarded with numerous accolades for enterprise and his contribution to the arts. In 2014 he was recognised as one of Birmingham’s most inspirational young leaders and in 2018 was crowned Birmingham’s Young Professional of the Year – Marketing and Communications. In addition Tru is a finalist in the both the Phoenix and Natwest Entrepreneur Awards as ‘Entrepreneur of the Year 2018′.

How to watch theatre.

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

The Capital – Trailer from Stans Cafe on Vimeo.

Watching theatre is no great challenge, the seats are helpfully bolted to the floor facing the correct direction so why do I occasionally feel compelled to write a program note giving tips on ‘How to watch theatre’?

There is a famous psychology experiment in which subjects are asked to watch two teams throwing two basket balls between them, they are challenged to count the number of passes made between the teammates in white t-shirts and those in black. So intent are the subjects on this counting that they fail to spot someone dressed as a gorilla walking into frame, waving at the camera and walking out of frame.

Experience from the early days of Stan’s Cafe taught me that if someone comes to one of our shows looking too hard for a story with a beginning, middle and end, or a single simple ‘message’, they tend to miss the show waving at them from centre stage.

The Capital is designed to be easy to watch and impossible to exhaust. It should teach its audience how to watch as it unfolds. It should feel like gliding through the city looking from the window of a bus but also traveling through houses and flats and colleges and shops and nightclubs.

As we slide through life we witness fleeting episodes from thousands of stories, which swirl around us every day. Each day we play endless roles: I’m father, husband, brother, friend, boss, colleague, customer, student, neighbour, jogger, cyclist, pedestrian.

Capital built this city. The Capital is built by us. The city never stops. We slip through time even as we stand still. This is The Capital and its seats aren’t bolted down.

To discover what’s written in the programme notes come to The REP 24 – 27 October (the tickets cost but the programme is free).

Tickets can be bought here from The REP or there is a RIDICULOUSLY GOOD OFFER if you’d like to be part of Culture Feast. Culture Fest is a kind of tasting menu for contemporary art in Birmingham, for just £20 you can see the Friday performance of The Capital, a dance piece at DanceXchange, a concert by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and Javaad Alipoor’s The Believers Are But Brothers at The Hippodrome/Patrick Centre. Do the maths, that’s £5 per show. It’s like being back in the early ’90s!

Why Buy Now?

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Tickets are on sale for our new show The Capital that opens in October and although I love the purity of turning up on the night of the performance handing over folding money in exchange for a ticket and walking into the show, here I expound five brief arguments as to why this is a terrible idea. Continue reading “Why Buy Now?” »

A Capital Image

Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

As much as we’d love to think of our shows exclusively as works of art they are also inescapably products. These products need to be sold, to sell them they must be described and describing them can be difficult, especially when the shows have yet to be made.

We recently faced this challenge describing our new show THE CAPITAL. Tickets have just gone on sale for premiere performances at The REP in October so back in March and early April we were focused on describing the show for prospective audiences using just 150 words and an image.

With an unmade show this process of description becomes a part of its making. Our responses to different drafts of text and image teach us what we do and don’t want this embryonic show to become.

In the first of a three part series about ‘marketing as making’ Simon Ford gives us a generous insight into the steps and missteps, cul-de-sacs and leaps of inspiration that took him from Graeme Braidwood’s photo of Amy to an image that we are happy describes an aspect of THE CAPITAL as we wish it to be. To read his ‘entertaining and informative essay’, follow this link.

You can see what The REP made of our text and image by following this link to their website.

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