Welcome to Stan's Cafe

Kinder Exeter

June 16th, 2021

The Commentators started playfully, as a joke. Our theatre company, Stan’s Cafe, were hosting a 24 Scalextric race for audiences to participate in and we thought it would be fun to webcast a commentary so people could follow the race at home. What followed surprised us; people loved the commentators. We thought people would find them irritating after a short while but instead they listened for hours. Such was the popularity of The Commentators that they started to get invitations to commentate on events even less sporting than slot car racing: a gallery opening, The World Gurning Championships, the foyer of a public library, a music festival, a city centre street through the night. The joke had turned back on us.

Now I don’t see The Commentators as so much of a joke and their participation in Kinder Exeter with its strap line ‘Compassion Through Play’ makes total sense to me. Of course the idea of The Commentators remains ridiculous and listeners still find their skewed observation of everyday life funny, but this playful idea has compassion at its heart.

Like many Stan’s Cafe productions The Commentators give detailed attention to people who are often ignored or who one’s gaze normally slides over. The Commentators invest time, attention and care in observing quotidian moments in everyday lives, indeed the ‘joke’ at the very heart of their endeavour is that they invest too much in what for the rest of the world is considered insignificant. Despite being neutral observers they care too much in what others value much less. They are inherently and unerringly credulous take the whole world exactly as they find it. On Saturday they will find a Kinder Exeter and share it with avid listeners around the world.

The Commentators will be streaming live from Kinder Exeter 10:00 – 16:00 on Saturday 19 June 2021. Listen online via the Kinder Exeter website.

So many artists in the world 2

May 19th, 2021

With The Royal Birmingham Conservertoire we advertised for a composer/PhD candidate and liked some of them. As a result today I was talking to a composer who asked what we’ve got coming up. I told him about the textile artist collaboration and that prompted him to send me a link to this video. This piece is rather restrained and formal. If you want something more mainstream you should check this out…

I fear I’m a bit late climbing aboard the Phil Minton train, but then there are so many artists in the world.

So many artists in the world

May 18th, 2021

We advertised for textile artists and liked them all – what skill and imagination there is in the world. Some we shortlisted, some we regretfully rejected and some we talked to about other things. In some of this other talking I mentioned a show we’d made on moving walkways and as a result I was sent a link to Krzysztof Wodiczko and his wonderful Vehicle 1. From there to this slightly odd short documentary which leaves his work more hinted at than explained – which is probably as it should be. There are so many artists in the world, we can’t possibly every know them all.

Life a Sport/Art

May 5th, 2021

Last year they missed the postponement message and turned up to commentate on an empty Moseley Private Park. This year The Commentators got the ‘It’s On!’ message and will be at the same venue on 3rd & 4th September to bring live commentary of the Moseley Folk and Arts Festival to people attending the Moseley Folk and Arts Festival, plus people around the world tuned into the live stream.

For those new to their peculiarities – The Commentators were once regulars on Match Of The Day. Now, as sheepskin has been replaced by goretex, so The Commentators have been replaced by less natural fibres. With no glamour sporting gigs coming in they have been forced to deploy thier niche skills on non-sporting gigs, such as Folk & Arts Festivals. Unfortunately they struggle to see life as anything other than sport, so they bring a peculiar perspective to a relaxing day in a field listening to great music.

There is a full essay setting out the origins and art behind The Commentators here:

http://www.stanscafe.co.uk/helpfulthings/essays-the-commentators.html

Wanted: Textile Artist

March 23rd, 2021
Photo credit: Graeme Braidwood

Opportunity for a Textile Artist: Upstream of Tomorrow
Stan’s Cafe theatre company is looking to collaborate with a Textile Artist on the research and development phase of a new theatre show, for indoors and outdoors performance.

Central to the performance will be fabric ribbon maps. The Textile Artist will work in dialogue with the show’s writing and directing team to develop design ideas for how geographic features and story elements are represented on each map, and will source the materials and make the completed fabric maps.


Please see the job pack for further information and how to apply.

Fee: £2,000

Deadline for applications: Monday 19 April at midday 

Stan’s Cafe’s objective to produce excellent work rests on working with company members who are representative of the full diversity of contemporary UK, and we are committed to equal opportunities for all staff and applicants.

Some of my best friends are Storytellers

March 19th, 2021
just another old geyser letting off steam

Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are storytellers, but there is nothing in the world (apart from quite a lot of things) that I hate more than a smug celebrity at an awards ceremony on stage telling the assembled masses how special they are because they are all ‘storytellers’.

Read the rest of this entry »

Haunted Joy Gaze

March 12th, 2021
Image credits: Ed Dimsdale

Haunted joy gaze
Vital banana grip
Warm death floating
Yellow sea day


I have just repaired a link to the micro-site that helps everyone write performance texts like our Bleak Heart Driver (which appears on Pieces For The Radio Vol.1). It is fun to use; you type in four three word phrases and the site performs a beautiful little dance converting these into 16 stanzas of automatic writing, little pills of nonesense, humour, poigniancy or enigmatic menace. Give it a go, or read on to see how Vital Banana Gaze works out…

Read the rest of this entry »

The People Show Book

February 19th, 2021


Mark Long’s book No One Knows But Everyone Remembers is fantastic. Written for the company’s 50th Anniversary (about 5 years ago) it manages to convey the company’s history, approach and philosophy through a hugely compelling and entertaining string of moments, anecdotes and stories.

Starting in the sixties, this book also works as a Time Capsule for London, an emerging alternative arts scene and British society in general. It also serves as an origin story for a whole strand of theatre that eschews narrative and playwrights – Stan’s Cafe included. Read the rest of this entry »

Our Community?

February 11th, 2021

It’s more complicated than just rejecting the premise of the question, but I do flinch whenever a form asks us how our art serves our community.

Such questions imply that art should have a simple utilitarian function and that artists should be in a position to know what utilitarian value our audiences receive from it. The challenge doesn’t stop there, after all, what is our community? Read the rest of this entry »

Innocence

January 22nd, 2021

When did you last see a film in which you genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen next nor at the end? When did you last see a film that resisted an obvious short-hand description ‘it’s this crossed with that’? When have you ever seen a film with no male characters or where the vast majority of the cast are under 12? Welcome to Innocence.

Hoovering up interesting items in a highbrow Edinburgh charity shop I pulled this DVD from the shelf. The Artificial Eye brand reliably promised something beyond the mainstream, something ‘art house’. The cover images are beautiful and arresting (you could say the same thing of any randomly selected frame from the film). The description, of a mysterious girls’ boarding school behind a high wall in a dense forest, was compelling. I bought it and unusually then watched it.

I loved it, I love it, I love it more the more I reflect on it and I can’t stop reflecting on it.

An Independent on Sunday critic devised this great short-hand “Buñuel meets Angela Carter meets Enid Blyton” – this is no help before you watch it but in retrospect is perfect!

Below is a link to a wonderful video essay that distills Innocence for you, but think carefully before watching it. I enjoyed knowing very little before starting; events and revelations unfold at a beautifully judged pace and as there is no real story this pacing feels especially important. I’m desperate to share more but I won’t, I’ll preserve your Innocence.


Stan's Cafe Theatre: Company No. 3095751 | VAT No. 670 5071 49 | Reg Office: c/o Laytons, 22 St John St, Manchester M3 4EB
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