Friday, June 29, 2007



and in Switzerland everything is working like clockwork.

Charlotte can now predict almost exactly how things will go with a gig. If she’s had grief setting it up, we can expect grief when we arrive. She said all would be well in Fribourg and so it has proved.

Belluard Bollwerk International belongs to a category of small festivals we love. It is intimate and friendly, with a program full of intriguing shows. The festival team is tight-knit and their project seems valued by the town. For the artists, communal eating arrangements foster a sense of family and when one of the directors rocks up to solve your internet issues in a flash you know you’re onto a good thing.

Big festivals are exciting to be involved in but it takes a special director, like Kristy Edmunds in Melbourne, to translate that Small Festival feel to the large scale.

This is the last time Gion and Stéphane will direct this festival. They don’t know where they’re going because they haven’t looked beyond this ‘Edition’, but that kind of integrity alongside their sense of seriousness and fun should ensure they take a great vibe with them wherever they go. Good on them and their team.



Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Citadel of Hippies

On Monday I was in school and learnt that whilst Birmingham doesn’t feature in the Domesday Book Moseley does. When Phil the History Teacher embellished this fact with the detail that in those days the pronunciation was "Muesli" he appeared to be totally serious. It seems that part of the world was always bound to become a Citadel of Hippies.


Sunday, June 24, 2007


Added Weight

One of the great things about international touring is that you tend to be looked after. Often someone from the festival is charged explicitly with making sure you get around the strange city safely and on time, that you get tipped off as to where to eat, what to drink and who to see. Of All The People In All The World is even better because you get to work with local performers as part of the show, they provide an insider’s knowledge and translation services.

We have great memories of ‘helpers’ and collaborators good and bad over the years, but word comes from Amsterdam this week that the bar has been raised to a new level. Saskia had already proved herself up there with the best of them when her 72 year old mother turned up from The Hague to see the show carrying a beautiful set of old metric weights. She’d had the weights for 35 years since buying them in Valencia on her first family holiday, now she wanted to give them to the show. This was a beautiful and generous gesture which we accepted with humility.

As old metric weights are difficult to locate in the UK Saskia's mum managed to improve a show people already seem to like a lot, thank you to her.


Friday, June 22, 2007



The Cleansing Of Constance Brown is up and running in Cork, but not without stress. Ages ago the idea had been that, post Coventry and Vienna, with our own kit, familiar with the set and show, this would be the start of our slick get-ins.

We’re really like the Cork Midsummer Festival, so when the chance of brining the new show here came up we were keen to make it work, as a result I ended us saying yes to a venue that a more judicious soul would have declined.

Whether the room at University College Cork is too small is a matter of debate. Costumes hang from lighting stands, people are diving into cupboards to change, every conceivable crevice has been commandeered by someone to house a prop; Paul and Nina, newly conjoined twins, have been given a tec space so small their kit is stacked like an overstocked branch of Richer Sounds; we’ve built out beyond the proscenium on either side to create more backstage space and we’ve taken out the front row of seats to save people sitting on the stage; so yes, the room is too small for the show. And yet… the set fits in, twenty audience members fit in and the show looks and sounds great. So whilst we’d never want things to be this tight again, the show does fit the space.

On first arrival everyone was so shocked by the size of the space I had agreed we would perform in, no one paid much attention to the floor. We already knew it was one of those precious floors educational institutions occasionally put into Performing Arts spaces that are so precious you’re not really supposed to walk on them. Obviously tales of our massive wood and metal set and full-on physical performance thunder and lighting was making people twitchy, but we had taken measures against this. Such were the messages surrounding this floor’s current perfection and impending destruction that it was only when the wall sections started to go up that we noticed a twin pitch and yaw that would make the room a challenging putting surface. To walk from the fireplace to main door is a considerable uphill slog. Out came the spirit level and chocks, more chocks then we’d ever used before, all the chocks we had, Jake and Craig chocked as fast as Graeme could cut the wood. The resultant run of flooring looks like a pier stretching out over a sandy beach at low tide.

With these and other challenges overcome it was easy to forget that we also taught Andy’s role to Nick Tigg, who slotted in seamlessly and impressively. The first performance yesterday was serviceable and the second good. The team should be able to relax now and settle into a festival, which if last night’s opening bash is a good indicator, should be great fun.


Friday, June 15, 2007


Cruise Liner

The get in for Of All The People In All The World at the spectacular Muzikgebouw in Amsterdam was blessedly smooth. Our only problem was printer that died in transit, small-fry by recent standards. Over an evening meal on Saturday night Chris, Jack and Ali filled me in on their extraordinary tales of Rostock (an account of their brush with the G8 should appear on the website soon-ish).

We worked steadily through Sunday and Monday in time for a low-key opening on Monday evening. It was a wrench leaving the show, the setting and local performers are great. The team should have great fun there and get a good version going. One highlight of my time there was a liner cruising past the window and turning round.

Tuesday was spent catching up with Charlotte and jobs in the office, she seemed very pleased to be back. Wednesday was spent meeting loads of people in St.Peter’s School in Stoke, Thursday was similarly spent in Allaynes School in Stone. We are collaborating with both schools on Year 10 science projects next year.

Today, Craig’s advice worked out and I got a Constance Brown DVD in the post for Nick Tigg to get him in the mood. Before this came a meeting at Birmingham Library plotting a possible photographic collaboration. Then I stuffed up a presentation trying win us a Creative City Award, ironically all this international work meant I was under-prepared to explain why we should win the international award. I wish I could have another go at it.



Friday, June 08, 2007


A Sad Reunion

You’d have thought, working for Stan’s Cafe, I’d have become inured to bathos, but the jolt from the valedictory post show discussion in Vienna on Saturday to the dirty manual labour of Monday was a bit much.

CFNX wanted to take back possession of our rehearsal space ASAP so with half the company in Vienna, most of the rest in Rostock and Ana in Frankley preparing a carnival it was my job to convert 27 Lower Trinity Street from a crucible of theatrical alchemy back into a post-industrial hovel. The greater part of this operation was done by hiring a tall ladder and pulling some sheets of pond-liner off the sky-lights. I hired a skip for everything that was of no use and a van for everything that was of some use. I went at it like a demon and managed to get the whole job done in six hours.

Tuesday was half van choreography, half being Charlotte’s proxy in the office; trawling through answer-phone messages, sorting the post into a small pile of interesting looking envelopes (which I opened) and a large pile of uninteresting ones (that I placed on Charlotte’s desk awaiting her return).

Wednesday was more of the same and a meeting about a bit of work with Learning Disabled Adults that could come off after September if we want it to.

Thursday was spent in Foxford School applying my brain to various creative projects different teachers are in different stages of planning or executing, which we or others could assist with.

Today I started work making a DVD of Constance Brown to send to Nick Tigg who is lined up to be the new Andy, replacing Gareth who will become the old Andy, but not the old old Andy, who is, of course Andy and who is convalescing in Leeds.

This afternoon there was a small gathering “Celebrating the life of Marie Zimmerman”, hosted by David Lan at The Young Vic. David Tushingham, who had worked with Marie for ten years gave a generous, touching and well judged speech, in which, amongst other things, he said how much she liked London and valued the generation of British Theatre makers whose representatives were gathered in the room.

These were sad circumstances in which to be reunited with Sue and her colleagues from Theatre Rites who we’d met at Marie’s festival in Stuttgart and Mark von Henning, who we first met at Marie’s festival in Hanover back in 2000. Amongst others there were: Tim from Forced Entertainment, Judith from Arts Admin, Michael Morris from various enterprises and the Improbable trio of Phelim, Julian and Lee, who, improbably, despite sharing a producer, I’d never met before.

It was great to meet Lorna, David’s wife, but the highlight for me was, late in the function, having a chance to embrace Friedrich Schirmen, Marie’s husband and Intendant of the Schauspielhaus in Hamburg. He is a kind, quiet and thoughtful man. Here, after my cowardly opening gambit, he started talking openly and movingly about Marie, their journey together and his mourning.

On a small table stood a small photograph of Marie, flanked by two modest vases of flowers whose reds and oranges match her dress as it glows in a Southern German Sun. She is looking up at the camera, smiling a familiar smile: the Marie I choose to remember.

It feels OK to come home now.


Saturday, June 02, 2007


A Maxi Review

A sub-editor once headlined a review of Voodoo City by Terry Grimley in the Birmingham Post "Voodoo Casts Its Spell Of Boredom" now we're "Out-Stan-Ding". How times have changed.



A Mini Review

I'm not sure of the ethics or the etiquette. Can you get away with editing "By the time this reaches Edinburgh it should be unmissable" down to "unmissable" The Guardian?



Friday, June 01, 2007


Unfinished Business

After applause had died down at the end of Complicite’s show, Disappearing Number, last night, the director, Simon McBurney, made a short speech explaining that the show had been booked into the festival despite his advice that it wouldn’t be ready. Indeed it wasn’t ready: beautiful plants in a jungle of ideas in need of a machete. Internal Festival gossip about Complicite’s continuing rehearsal process has put our anxiety about not being totally slick on Tuesday into some kind of perspective.



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