Stan's Cafe: One looks, marvels and understands

Archive for the ‘Previews’ Category

Mystery and Morality

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016


Last year we toured one of our most popular shows The Cardinals to North America. As the show hit Toronto I was bowled over by a talk given by Dr. Matt Sergi. Matt is an expert in Mediaeval English Drama and he was talking about our show in the context of the religious mystery plays staged on the streets of York about five hundred years ago. So illuminating was the talk that we asked him to convert the talk into an essay, which he did.

When we got onto the usual awkward issue of payment and it descended into a familiar row, us trying to force money onto him and him refusing to take it. Once we’d patched things up it transpired that Matt’s theatre company PLS was planning to bring two of its shows to the UK, so we’ve invited them to come and perform @ A E Harris as our guests and we’re delighted that they’ve accepted.

So, we are proud to announce a mini-season of performances no less:

Mystery and Morality.

Stan’s Cafe, Birmingham, UK
The Cardinals c2011 7pm, 8th July. Admission £5 on the door (cash only) or tickets online via our shop.
Three Cardinals perform the history of the world, without words in their miniature puppet theatre mostly aided by their young female mulim stage manager.

PLS, Toronto, Canada
PLS specialise in giving audiences uproarious glimpse into the dynamic, scatological, often very funny world of English theatre as it was more than six hundred years ago. They translate original scripts into contemporary English and combine these with real medieval music, costume design and performance practices to show us hints of a culture that was, in some ways more liberated than our current one.

In a subversion of the original show’s anti-feminist themes both shows are performed by six non-male actors.

Both shows are family friendly, free of charge, relaxed performance.

Mankind c1464
Performed in the Courtyard @ A E Harris, 7:30pm 16th July
Mankind is very distractable and so Mercy and Mischief are striving for his attention, while a cheerful demon who creates human error is never far from the action. After this performance there will be a modest party to welcome PLS to Birmingham – everyone is welcome.

The Pride of Life c1300s
Performed in the Theatre @ A E Harris 7:30pm 17th July
The bombastic King Life believes he will live for ever despite the Queen’s urgent warnings that a rival King Death has recently landed in their realm.
Since only the first half of the original manuscript has been found the play’s inevitable mortal conclusion will be improvised each evening drawing on audience input.

Thanks to the generous support of Connaught Fund’s New Researcher Award and in line with Mediaeval practice no charge will be made for admission to either performance, but donations will be accepted.

Click here for directions to @ A E Harris 110, Northwood St. B3 1SZ

Please help us promote Mystery and Morality to others either by pointing them to this post or by printing off this A4 flier/poster and sticking it up somewhere.

Coming Up

Monday, June 6th, 2016

furious folly

Hold onto your hats everyone, there’s so much to see and do.

The Lunar Festival has come and gone darn it. Craig says it was great, so let’s not miss out on any of the other good stuff.

Alexander Zeldin, ‘new’ Associate Director at The REP has a devised show Beyond Caring opening in the venue’s Paint Shop opening on Wednesday, it arrives with great notices from elsewhere.

On Sunday BCMG’s Remembering The Future is the de facto farewell concert for Stephen and Jackie Newbould, it features four new works and has been in my diary for a good while now.

The weekend after Warwick Arts Centre host Doing Nothing Is Not An Option, a climate change and the arts conference which features presentations, discussions (and probably arguments) alongside three provocative shows.

This year’s BE Festival is nearly upon us (21 – 24 June).

LIFT is already upon London.

Mark Anderson, one of our all time favourite collaborators, is around the country with his spectacular show Furious Folly, which we are desperate to see. The brilliant news is that the show is coming to Sutton Park, it’s free but you have to book, so please do book, but only book on 9 not 8 July as on 8 July we have a one-off performance of The Cardinals @ A E Harris as they limber up to go to Basel in September (this may seem a little premature but a section of the show is being presented as part of On The Edge festival of children’s theatre that runs 2 – 9 July in Birmingham.

The Following weekend we have special guests @ A E Harris. PLS are with us all the way from Toronto, with two medieval morality plays. Mankind will be performed in our courtyard on 16 and The Pride of Life in our theatre space on 17. We will have a party after one of these performances but we’re not telling you which, so you’d better commit to coming to both (there is no charge, just donations). More on this later.

Birmingham Fest kicks off on 15 July and @ A E Harris we are pleased to be hosting Gus Watcham (19 July), Lucky Dog who are returning to the venue on 24 July after last year’s triumph; Reactor Factory on 29 July and Blancmontage are in on 31 July.

Devoted & Disgruntled 11

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

D&D image

Are you Devoted to making and watching theatre type activities but often a bit Disgruntled that things could work better in this field? Well, if so then the ideal place for you to be between 9th and 11th January next year is The REP in Birmingham where the 11th Edition of the Devoted and Disgruntled Open Space event takes place.
Continue reading “Devoted & Disgruntled 11” »

So much to see (and hear)

Friday, September 25th, 2015

Now the autumn rush is upon us, suddenly there is much potentially exiting stuff to see (and hear) in and around Birmingham. Birmingham Weekender is this weekend. The Stan’s Cafe contribution is a subtle input into one of the most subtle events in festival. Michael Wolters has written a Requiem to be performed in a disused retail unit and we have been called in to consider the presentation of this piece. Continue reading “So much to see (and hear)” »

BCMG Family Concert

Monday, March 2nd, 2015


Over the last two evenings we have been in the amazing deco setting of the Barber Institute Concert Hall listening to the amazing players of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group work through early rehearsals for the pieces that they will be playing as part of their family concert on Sunday. It’s been a treat, like private concerts with the added bonus of the conductor Christopher Austin tweak their performance to the shape he wishes. It’s soothing listening to the music and soothing to have a rehearsal going on that you have no responsibility for.

Our job, as ever, is to add a bit of theatrical flare to the concert proceedings without distracting too much from the music. We have a few ideas up our sleeves including the idea of teaming up with Paul Gaffney, a fantastic photographer whose specialism is sets of photographs taken on extended walks. He has produced a great set of new images especially for this concert and is also kindly allowing us to use his acclaimed series We Make The Path By Walking and another as yet unreleased series shot by moonlight. Next Monday, after two schools concerts, Paul will be giving a talk about his work at Library of Birmingham (18:00 -19:30) who, along with GRAIN have co-commissioned this new set of images.

We have a break tomorrow, then on Wednesday we focus in on our plans quite intently. Thursday is set aside for a bit of technical prep and work from us. On Friday it’s music and theatre. Saturday evening is a dress rehearsal and Sunday we fix everything that will be wrong with the dress rehearsal and perform at 11:30 and 14:00 before having a little lie down.

Hello to Farewell

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

I excited to see Imitating the Dog coming to The REP this week with their new show A Farewell to Arms. The company specialize in bringing video projection together with live action in a beautiful and slick way. This facility combined with Hemingway’s plot should be a great combination. Continue reading “Hello to Farewell” »

Furious Folly

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014


There has been a lot of art sloshing around the centenary of the start of WW1, including our own collaboration with Nenad Prokic, Finger Trigger Bullet Gun, but there is nothing that I have wanted to see more urgently than Mark Anderson’s Furious Folly.

Mark is a brilliant artist and spot on person. He is bright and imaginative enough to draw inspiration from the Dadaist response to World War 1. He has the pyrotechnic skills to make you feel you are stood in the middle of World War 1 but the sensitivity and artistic craft to resist doling out shell shock to his audience.

In Northcroft Park, Newbury he is curating a team of artists to make something that is bound to be extraordinary. The real blow is that it is the same weekend (last weekend in August) that we’re engaged with The Commentators at Moseley Folk Festival. Which could become the dictionary definition of The Sublime and The Ridiculous.

Cultural Exchange #2

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014


One of the alluring elements of the BE Festival is the links that it brokers between the visiting artists and their host city. The festival introduces seventy young theatre makers to Birmingham and it introduces a local audience to theatre from eleven countries across Europe. The audience and artists supper together, but perhaps the most powerful engagement comes through the hosting of artists by local volunteers.

BE is able to operate on a shoestring by making it easy for people to give each other gifts. The artists are not paid and have to finance their own travel but get free food and board, volunteers host the artists and in exchange meet fascinating new people and receive tickets to see all the shows on the day their guests perform. It is a positive change and your chance to help make a great thing happen. If you are interested in hosting an artist or two email Helena Scott-Hardy at

BE Ready

Wednesday, 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” »

Scores and Scores

Wednesday, 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.

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