Sunday, September 27, 2009


Constance Brown In Montpellier: Get In

The Montpellier get-in is super-smooth. Fresh from Mainz people are in the groove, it’s not such a memory stretch. The theatre’s floor is level and true, no chocking required. The local tech team is top notch. We are flying.

This is the six door version sat on their stage with seats taken out of their rake so the audience sit on the risers there are nine rows so a minimum capacity of forty five, but with bleacher style seating who knows, it could go higher if the audience show.

There is a plan afoot to have a back stage audience here, as in Toronto, except there with a balcony it was discreet and somehow detached. Here they will be in the wings and up close. With luck all performers have remembered to pack their industrial underwear.


Thursday, September 24, 2009


Things to See and Do

Between two trips to Montpellier I’m trying to take in a few cultural events with mixed success

I think I’ll get to experience a cut down version of Friction Arts and Dreams of Tall Buildings’ collaboration Residuum in Birmingham’s Back to Backs on Hurst Street, but was too late to book in for the guided tour version. The installation is there for a little bit so should be worth checking out.

The plan is to scoot from this 20 meters up the road and check out the new program from Birmingham Royal Ballet. There’s a BRB – Stan collaboration in the offing (don’t’ get excited, it’s very low) so it will be good to get immersed in that world a bit more (plus I’m fired up following a recent encounter with the Royal Flemish Ballet).

The casualty of the cultural week will be my planned trip to see the new New Macho show at the Belgrade Studio space in Coventry on Friday (it’s also on this Saturday). I have been really looking forward to it but it just doesn’t work out in terms of domestic logistics. I urge all others to go and tell me how it is.



Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Travelling Home From The Domaine d'O

Yesterday marked the official start of our three-year relationship with Domaine d’O, a beautiful and intriguing venue in Montpellier. Set mostly within a formal walled garden the venue has a series of formal performance spaces inside and outside as well as untold potential for performances in less formal settings. For the opening we set up Of All The People All The World in the first floor gallery space of the Chateau d’O, where it runs for a fortnight. Next week this is joined by The Cleansing of Constance Brown, fresh from a great response and glowing reviews in Mainz, which will be squeezed, in its six-door version, onto the stage of Theatre d’O.

Then, in an extraordinary development, we are in their brochure for March with a question mark beside our name. We will be back, but with what no one yet knows. Throughout, the venue’s director, Christopher Crimes, has been determined upset convention. The launch of the reorganised venue and its first season was trailed merely by cryptic posters stating simply “La lune vous attend le 21 September au Domaine d’O” which I suspect means “the moon awaits you…”. The pre-season press-conference was held just an hour before gates opened to the public. Christopher didn’t give a big speech to the thousand people; he remained anonymous. Instead, instead with keys, pencils and brochures awaiting their annotations, the public were led in groups of ten, following various coloured lanterns, through the grounds and into ‘conversations’ with artists whose work would be seen later in the season.

Whilst 300 people visited Of All The People, Chris Dugrenier and I performed our Stan’s Cafe ‘conversations’ in a small dressing room behind the theatre. Chris acted as my interpreter as I introduced the company, it’s origins, history and philosophy. Unfortunately it turns out I’m an arrogant git and Chris exacts revenge via her unreliable translation, first of my words and then my thoughts. It felt like a neat little performance well received. It has however reminded me that I should avoid acting at pretty much all costs..

Finally, an observant reader may ask why this major arts event took place on a Monday evening. Well as previously noted Mr. Crimes is looking to break with convention and so, for the foreseeable future, and for reasons he has explained to me and mostly convinced me of, Domaine d’O will be following a lunar calendar.



Sunday, September 20, 2009


Weather Reports

It’s reassuring reading Billy’s show reports about how things are going in Mainz, it mostly sounds good, though there is a worrying sense of them also being weather reports. Whether it rains or not is a major consideration in the show and seemingly it has become as unpredictable as genuine rain in the UK.


Here in Montpellier it has been reliably sunny. Of All The People In All The World is taking shape at Domaine d’O. Everything is on course for tomorrow’s opening. Causing more anxiety is the small additional performance I am doing with Chris tomorrow.


About 1,000 people are expected for the launch of the venue’s new direction. They arrive knowing nothing about what is to happen and in the course of the evening get to have encounters with artists who will be appearing at the venue over the next three years we are on the agenda. The performance is conceptually very simple. I am doing and introduction to Stan’s Cafe, Chris is translating but the translation is unreliable.


My French is very poor and my ability to memories scripts appalling and in this performance I am required to speak French and stick to a script. Hopefully we find some time tomorrow afternoon to polish it up a bit.




Friday, September 18, 2009


Hubris Free Zone

A few weeks ago I appeared in the Birmingham Post’s Power 50 billed as “the 39th most influential person in the City” (or similar). Two days ago Friends of the Earth emailed to ask if, as the 39th most influential person in the City, I could set an example on 22nd September by cycling to work, I said I already did. Yesterday a schoolboy shouted “retard!” at me as I pedalled past. There’s no place for hubris in Birmingham.



Thursday, September 17, 2009


Arts and Business Shortlist

It has been such a pleasure dealing with the good people of A.E.Harris (Birmingham) Ltd as our landlords and partners in the great adventure that is @ A E Harris, our venue / rehearsal space experiment, that we decided they deserved a bit of acclaim. If more businesses were like them then so much more exciting stuff would be happening across the country. We thought if it got them lots of good publicity then many more companies would feel the incentive to follow their lead. As a result our partnership has been entered into the Jaguar Land Rover Awards for Arts & Business. The shortlists have just been announced and we are up for the Cultural Branding Award, so come 15ht October it will be time to dust off the smart clothes again.



Wednesday, September 16, 2009


All Steps Completed in Croydon

Although not officially open until Friday, Odyssey Steps was completed today at Croydon Clocktower thanks to the heroic efforts of Simon, Denise and Jack. This means that come Saturday we will have two editions of the Steps Series open simultaneously.

Promoting Giant Steps in Birmingham we are left with that familiar fear. Will your marketing effort cost more than the ticket sales you draw in? I recall writing a report once for a venue’s marketing department and floating the idea that rather than advertising the shows we should have just gone out and given the tickets away. Strategically done this would have saved us money and ensured full houses – the problem with this strategy is you end up never making any money on anything. Any which way we are as keen as ever that swarms of people get to see the latest Stan’s Cafe offerings so please do pass the word around. A sneak preview of what's on offer can be found on the Giant Steps page of this website

As one Stan team dusts itself down in Croydon another is gearing up in Mainz for the German Premiere of The Cleansing of Constance Brown. The floor plan suggests a full seven door version should be possible, but often this counts for nothing in the face of the building itself.

Back home I’m having a rather dull time rounding up and herding onto a DVD nine stop frame animation videos we made with pupils in a Leicester at the end of last term. It’s one of those jobs far better done in the heat of the moment rather than having it weighing on your conscience throughout the summer.



Sunday, September 13, 2009


Moseley Folk 2009

It was a pleasure to be back at the Moseley Folk Festival again last weekend. The experience wasn’t quite as euphoric as last year, for which weather and other external factors play a big part.

The stuff I saw/heard was a slightly random cross section. As I know next to nothing about Folk music I didn’t actually turn up especially to see anything so probably missed all the best stuff. Here goes, the best things:

Meeting up with folk and folk again.
My all to few visits to the Purity Brewery tent
Frida Hyvonen who was mesmerising, terrifying and hilarious – Kate Bush gone bad.
Circulus’ first number which was fantastic.
Seeland (I think this was them. We had to leave during as Eve was a one person four year old mosh pit waiting to stage dive.
Demon Barber Roadshow was obviously very good value and contained my favourite act of the whole festival – the Black Swan Rappers (the link’s OK but live it’s something else again, I loved it).

and the worst things:

The only thing fully worthy of mention is Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds. Their ‘folk’ versions of ‘punk’ classics felt like a waste of stage time (they got a great reception though).
Having to go home and not meeting more folk or folk.

Thanks to Gerv and his whole team for a festival with a great atmosphere. We hope for more of similar next year. The Moseley Folk festival is a great asset to the city.



Saturday, September 12, 2009


Giant takes his first Steps

Giant Steps opened today in a very low key way, as part of this year’s ArtsFest. It is open all this weekend and for the next three weekends (4th October = Last Chance To See).

I am particularly happy with this edition of the Steps Series. It is targeted at families with young children. Eve has given it a four year old’s endorsement and I’m hoping that there will be enough wit and puzzles solving to keep parents and older siblings amused too.

Simon has done a fantastic job on the design as usual so it looks beautiful. @ A E Harris we have lots of space and none of the clutter we had to deal with in previous venues, so it all feels roomy and clean – ironically, given how dirty the place is.

Nina has come up trumps, knocking out a lovely 25 minute soundtrack in next to no time.

Lots of thanks have to go to Denise, Aby, Jack, Billy, Hannah and Eve for their sticking efforts, it be came a bit of a scramble in the end.

After loading the Constance set for it’s journey to Mainz and onward to Montpellier Jake and Clive have permanently fixed an enormous Stan’s Cafe banner to the side of the our building which should be comfortably visible on Google Earth if they stray at all from the perpendicular.

This weekend Simon is hunkered down in the Leicestershire countryside with his hot new MAC, utilising it’s new improved processing speed to the full generating graphics for Odyssey Steps which will open at Croydon Clocktower on Friday next week.

I won’t be there, or in Mainz, where Fiona Putnam will be making her debut for The Cafe deputising for Bernadette in Constance Brown. It feels badly wrong not to be at either of these high pressure Stan occasions but Eve has her own high pressure situation brewing as Monday is her first day at school and ultimately first things have to be first and I need to be there for that.

At the risk of making this an overly sentimental Dad style entry I leave you with this…
Eve did love charging around Giant Steps but once she’d left she did ask “will the proper show start tomorrow?” – worried she had gone all ‘well-made-play’ on me I quizzed her: “Like the racing show” she explained. That she considers a 24 Hour Scalextric race with full webcast commentary to be a ‘real show’ I take as a matter of great parental pride.


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