BSC Address

Friday, September 29, 2006

The Old Rep

Wow! I haven't performed on The Old Rep's stage for four years and I'd forgetten just how wonderful it was. Or perhaps four years in different theatres around the country has highlighted just what a beautiful theatre we have in Station Street. It just works!

PROOF is going astonishingly well. It's a real gem, one of those theatrical experiences you dream about. A great play, in a gorgeous theatre, on a superb set, beautifully lit and exquisitely directed.

Something special is happening in Station Street.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I'm very excited to be performing again at The Old Rep because it's a space that works. There's such a difference between performing somewhere that works and somewhere that doesn't. The new Birmingham Rep building seems to put a distance between the actor and the audience. In contrast, The Bristol Old Vic works beautifully and nearly all Frank Matcham's theatres are wonderful - we played a lot of them on the tour of HORRIBLE HISTORIES.

The Old Rep is another fantastic space. It has the two major qualities you need - its own energy and a focus. All great theatres manage to focus your attention exactly where you need it. The Pleasance in London is a prime example of a theatre which doesn't have any innate energy or focus. It makes everything on stage feel a spare. That's why I love playing the St James Cavalier Theatre in Malta - it's a new space in the round that works perfectly. Another new theatre that works very well is The Lowry - and that's one of the biggest theatres in the country, with a capacity of 1700.

I could go on and on - but you'll be pleased to discover I won't!

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Against expectation, DADDY COOL proved everyone wrong on Thursday and delivered a very enjoyable show. DADDY COOL? It's the new Boney M Musical and excepting the occasional sticky moment provided by the plot and dialogue, the numbers are good, the band is good, the singing is good and the whole show is a fun night! (More fun, I have to say, than VOYAGE ROUND MY FATHER which opened the same night!)

We start our tech for PROOF on Monday and I realised I haven't acted on The Old Rep's stage since 2002 in our production of ROMEO AND JULIET, in which a talented cast was let down by a maverick director I hired who didn't have a clue. Not a clue! The BSC hasn't done especially well with Shakespeare, which is all my fault as on both occasions I asked an American to direct it. First Richard Dreyfuss, who could have been wonderful but wasn't and John Sheehan, who couldn't have been wonderful under any circumstances. This sounds unfair but no-one involved with the show would disagree, except John. But the buck stops with me and I take full responsibility. Thank goodness I asked John Harrison to direct PROOF - who's turned in three hits for the company - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER, SPEED-THE-PLOW and OLEANNA. He's 82 and has infinite good taste. Let's hope the public agree!

Sunday, September 17, 2006


In the week KENSUKE'S KINGDOM begins the second part of its tour, the production has been nominated for a TMA Award for Best Play for Children and Young People.

And its Christmas run in London is heading for a sell-out.

Not a bad start to the autumn!

I planned to see a dress rehearsal of DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD yesterday but Birmingham kindly cancelled all its trains to Cardiff! "Is there any station running trains to Cardiff near me?" I enquired. "London" was the helpful reply. So I have missed the run.

On the plus side, it gave me an extra day of rest. Going to Cardiff last weekend meant the weekend was too busy to provide me with the rest I needed for rehearing PROOF and running the rest of the company. By Wednesday I was knackered, so I spent three hours gardening as a break! This weekend is giving me a chance to re-charge batteries for the final week of rehearsals for PROOF, which continues to be a joy.

We're doing four performances of PROOF at The New End Theatre in Hampstead if you fancy seeing this great play in the capital; the first time its been seen in London since it's six week run at The Donmar.

There's more to tell, but as it's still a sunny September Sunday outside, I'm going back out to catch more sun!

Sunday, September 10, 2006


I suppose companies often use blogs to promote themselves. But believe me, if I am disappointed with any of our work, this will be the place it will appear.

I saw a run of DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD on Saturday and it was great. I saw a run of KENSUKE'S KINGDOM on Friday and it was also fabulous. With a great first week of rehearsals for PROOF, I can't believe we have three shows opening within three weeks that are all looking so good. I'm sure it doesn't happen often. Three very different plays. Three very different worlds. All looking like they will have a great impact on the audiences to come.

The anniversary of 9/11 reminded me of what we were doing five years ago. On September 11th we had a production meeting for JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH. The city of New York, where the peach lands, had been created by our designer Jackie using three separate pieces of set to create the Manhatten skyline. We decided we only wanted to use two pieces. So at 8.30am New York time, we cut the Twin Towers from the set. At 8.46am the first plane hit.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


PROOF is going to be good! It's a remarkably well cast show that feels right throughout. Dad feels like Dad, sisters feel like sisters, lovers feel comfortable - it has tremendous potential. And what a wonderful play! It purrs off the page...I've not done anything that reads so well for some time. It's so clever, so funny, so intriguing. A joy to unfold, piece by piece.

Talking of Theatre letter to The Stage was printed today about our friend Jonathan Ogden. A man who likes to ignore facts! Well, one could say we've sorted that out!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Theatre crimes

In my view, boring an audience should be a criminal offence.

My White Paper would set out the following:

It should be mandatory for all theatres to provide evaluation sheets in their foyers. Should more than 70% of the audience that night say the show was BORING, the show would be forced to close at the end of the week. (Equity would have a Boredom Fund to pay actors two weeks notice should the show be closed due to audience boredom).

There would be a right of appeal and the theatre would have the chance to make the show more enjoyable. A committee of regular theatre-goers would then judge if the show should be allowed back on stage for a final reprieve. But if more than 90% of the audience said it was boring, there would be no appeal.

The directors and producers would then be prosecuted and banned from presenting theatre for two to five years, depending on the severity of the boredom.

The percentages would be open to debate. Perhaps a show should close if 50% of the audience are bored? Perhaps there should be levels of boredom:

Anyone walking out would count as BORED.

Any suicides amongst members of the audience during a performance would count as VERY BORED.

Should my White Paper be introduced as law, I just have a feeling that more theatres around the country would start staging a surprising number of interesting, entertaining and challenging shows!

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Stage

There are a couple of articles in The Stage this week about the BSC. One is an article about the BSC and its productions. The other concerns Jonathan Ogden, a promoter who booked THE JUNGLE BOOK to appear at the Bournemouth Pavilion and then decided he wouldn't pay us what he had agreed. A second payment of about £14,000!

Many people get into trouble in the theatre world at one time or another - the question is how do you deal with it? Most people would apologise and try to arrange a series of smaller payments until the debt was cleared. Mr Ogden's way of dealing with it was to avoid all our calls and emails and to disappear with the money he owed us and everyone else associated with the show - money he had taken at the box office but was refusing to hand over!

Meanwhile Equity were having the same problems in getting money which he owed to a stage manager for another production.

We heard nothing from him until we instructed our lawyers to see if they could do any better. Suddenly he has surfaced! Not to say he would pay us and not to apologise - but to propose an idea that he cuts us into the profits of a show he had to abort this year (with considerable debts) but plans to re-stage next year! Amazing! Needless to say, his offer hasn't proved overly tempting.

If he still refuses to pay up, we have instructed our lawyers to close down his company. At least he won't be able to do the same thing again to someone else. Not until he sets up another company under another name I suppose!

Why do people behave so badly? The profession is hard enough without people in it like Jonathan Ogden. At the very least, remember his name!

Kensuke's Kingdom

When a show has been as successful as KENSUKE'S KINGDOM, it's always terrifying to see the first run of the new cast. I was almost shaking as I walked towards the rehearsal room this afternoon to see how rehearsals were progressing. But from the first few moments my nerves abated as the new cast confidently brought the story to life all over again, bringing with them a gentle difference and feel to the play which communicates extremely well. It's great! And with DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD beautifully underway in a rehearsal room in Cardiff, these two tours look set to create magic.

Once you've chosen your director, it all comes down to casting. And what two great casts we have got with these two shows. Extremely exciting, knowing what effect they are going to have on the forthcoming audiences.

Now PROOF awaits us. The read through is on Monday!