Welcome to Stan's Cafe

BYPY – live coverage of prestige award!

May 16th, 2019

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Overlooked for Champions League semis, the Championship Playoffs and the early season cricket, The Commentators have instead scooped a similarly prestitious gig, bringing you exclusive radio commenatry, live from tonight’s Birmingham Young Professional of the Year awards ceremony. They will open up with scenes from the ‘red carpet’ at 6pm and bring you all the action right through to (and including) the announcment of this year’s winner of this coverted award at half past ten. Click on the link above to receive your exclusive radio commentary direct to your device.

It’s Your Film – the reboot

March 26th, 2019

Back in 1998 Stan’s Cafe was in big trouble. We’d made a show, Simple Maths, so wondrously minimal that the unobservant believed it was a drama in which nothing happens. The fall out of this was that plans for our next show, A Translation Of Shadows, had to be put back sixteen years and we had no money. The only theatre work on our horizon was a £400 commission from The Bond, an artist run gallery in Birmingham, to make a one-off performance for their regular Friday night performance art slot. Continue reading “It’s Your Film – the reboot” »

Touring Theatre

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 Accommodation has been booked and per diems withdrawn from the bank.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.

Almost Secret Art

December 17th, 2018

Last Wednesday Laura, Roisin and I jumped on a train from Jewellery Quarter station and took the 14 minute ride to Acocks Green where we found our way to the mostly hidden Archbishop Ilsley Catholic School where Craig had come to the conclusion of a modest new edition of the Echo Eternal series commemorating the Holocaust in schools across Birmingham this year. Back in the spring he worked with students from Jewellery Quarter Academy creating Zigi Doesn’t Hate (see video above), inspired by the testimony of Zigi Shipper. On this occasion it was Hedi Frankl who provided the inspiration. Continue reading “Almost Secret Art” »

TEDx Bonn talks are on-line

November 30th, 2018

A few weeks ago I took a train to Bonn at the invitation of Save The World to give a TEDx talk and now here it is in its ghostly on-line form. Mostly it’s about Of All The People In All The World. The best bit about my trip was meeting the other speakers and then hearing their talks.

Alanus Von Radecki kicks off his talk with a brilliant example of how cars have shaped the shape of cities, then weaves this with an explanation of why us all just buying electric cars is not enough to ‘save the world’ before giving examples of what a truly smart eco-city could be like. Tec and the city

Sander Chan from GDI sows hope where there could easily be despair explaining how even if national promises are broken smaller units of action can add up to big change. Spoiler alert: within this talk he gives away how Finding Nemo ends. How climate actions can realize a climate safe and fair future for all.

Connie Runner continues the theme of espousing activism by relating a series of politically provocative pranks designed to provoke change.
The power of naievetie to overcome fear

Elma Dervic introduces to her grandfather and how she has come to help him care for his bees through her tech skills, then she contests firm distinctions between ‘city’ and ‘nature’
The bee and me

It’s all good stuff.

The Nutcracker live from 19:00GMT

November 29th, 2018

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Tonight from 19:00GMT The Commentators bring you LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE coverage of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker, just click on the player above.

Craig and James will be positioned in the Royal Box to cover every twist and turn of events as they unfold. Pre-show build up will start from 19:00 prior to curtain up at 19:30. The team hope to be joined at half-time by David Bintley Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet for opinion and analysis – unless he is throwing tea cups and giving this team the hair-dryer treatment in the changing room.

This is a live only event, there will be no opportunity to ‘listen again’, so please tell all your friends and join us here at 19:00 for Ballet on the Radio.

Ballet on the Radio.

November 26th, 2018

It’s taken a few years to finally sort out but at last we are proud to announce that this Thursday, 29th November from 19:00GMT The Commentators will be bringing you live and exclusive radio commentary of Birmingham Royal Ballet’s performance of The Nutcracker. Coverage will be streamed life from this website and there will be no ‘listen again’ facility so make sure are near a computer/smart phone on Thursday to hear Ballet on the Radio.

We approached BRB director David Bintley with our proposal a number of years ago. There had been some schepticism about my chances of persuading the esteemed choreographer to let our washed up sports radio commentators loose on one of his cherished company’s productions, but as soon as I saw an Aston Villa mug on his desk I knew it would be a breeze and so it proved, no persuasion was necessary. David immediately understood the idea and seemed delighted by it, we agreed it had to happen.

The Nutcracker has been chosen as, being one of the world’s most famous ballets a proportion of the audience will be able to picture it in their minds-eye and compare that image with The Commentator’s description of it. Being such a canonical work The Nutcracker is a robust enough cultural object to survive further processing, even if this an audio only version.

Back in June we had a test commentary during a piano rehearsal of Romeo and Juliette. We set up in the Hippodrome’s Royal Box, using some perspex sound baffles to keep us from distracting audience members seated nearby. The Royal Box has an ante-room which, conveniently, is kitted out with a Ethernet socket. Streaming our commentary out over the internet wasn’t a problem, no one could hear us in the auditorium a few admin details had to be sorted out and we’re ready to go on Thursday. This is David Bintley’s last season at BRB so Thursday will probably be a one-off, we hope you can tune in.

Mr. Custard Factory

November 12th, 2018


THIS GREAT VIDEO IS RELATED TO THIS POST BUT ONLY IF YOU READ RIGHT TO THE END.

Back at the beginning of time, when Graeme and I were deciding where Stan’s Cafe should be based, we were shown around a big, empty old space in the Digbeth area of Birmingham by a young architect called Glynn Howells. This space was to become The Custard Factory, a building in which a community of artists and creative industry professionals would come together in a symbiotic way to support, cross-pollinate and cross-subsidise each other for the benefit of one and all. Continue reading “Mr. Custard Factory” »

Congratulations Stan and Michelle

November 6th, 2018

Today we were delighted to read in The River Reporter, Narrowsburg, NY that over in Honesdale, Stan and Michelle Rembish are celebrating the third anniversary of their cafe.

The research we’ve done suggests we would be regulars in Stan’s Cafe if we lived nearby as it looks like our kind of place. Further research tells us that Stan and Michelle were able to launch their business in part thanks to a $2,000 raffle win. We wish them well and hope their luck holds.

Eye of the beholder

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.

Later.

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)


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