BSC Address

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I'm often asked how often Actor/Managers get to act, so I'm tempted to list the highlights from 17 years. These are also the shows where the acting companies where as wonderful off-stage as on-stage.

Lord Harpenden in WHILE THE SUN SHINES - the first BSC show, with a very special group of actors - Lucy Scott, Tom Hodgkins...

Mean Mr Bean in FANTASTIC MR FOX - our first Christmas show and the first indication that BSC had a chance to succeed

Gooper in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF - working with Marcus D'Amico and Barry Stanton was a dream come true - I watched their confrontation from the wings every night

Joel in BEAU JEST - sitting on stage with the company and waiting for the audience to stop laughing was something I'd never experienced before

Danforth in THE CRUCIBLE - the largest acting company I've worked with, with Carolyn Backhouse, Martin Turner...

Grandma in GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE - one of the most glorious roles ever created for an actor and still one of my favourites

Tom in THE GLASS MENAGERIE - the role in which my approach to acting changed

Hastings in SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER - I still remember this as one of the most enjoyable acting companies I've ever been in, on and off - Stephen Mangan, Sandra Reinton, Diana Coupland, Tim Speyer....and a gift of a part in Hastings

The BFG in THE BFG - an amazing company in a spell-binding show

Charlie Fox in SPEED-THE-PLOW - does drama get better? Especially when you're opposite Sophie Bold, one of the best actresses to play against

John in OLEANNA - another production with Sophie Bold, another amazing Mamet...

Dr Ratner in THE DICE HOUSE - one of the top highlights. A dream part with a dream team - fringe, festival, West End - Jim Low, Jeremy Crutchley, Lucy Scott...

Tom in COLLISION - a great play opposite probably the best actor I've worked with, Nathan Constance. You knew the second you walked on stage you were going to have to raise your game simply to keep up.

Dr Dee in HORRIBLE HISTORIES - wonderful part, tremendous show - and Alison Fitzjohn, Greg McHugh, Mark Prendergast, Rebecca Ramsden. Company meals were like comedy clubs...

Simon in THE RETURN - I only got on top of this part once we got to Malta, but it was another experience of working with a great: Alistair Scott-Young.

Dad in DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD - parachuted into this wonderful show and enjoyed every second of Dad

Hal in PROOF - with a great company and a great partner in Sally Oliver in the West End

And now Skellig in SKELLIG - a life-saving, life-changing role with an amazing company, courtesy of David Almond


Our musical director, Jak Poore, has come up with the perfect title for a Vincent Van Gogh movie


Sunday, November 22, 2009


A fabulous week in Guildford ended with another blazing performance on Saturday night - with a perfect audience who drank it up. This play is such an extraordinary story to perform.

I've rarely encountered a role like Skellig: it just keeps surprising you: on Thursday I finally worked out how to say the final line of Act 1, something which has elluded me all this time...

We have been blessed with the most wonderful cast who have kept it gloriously alive throughout the tour and we approach our London in excellent form. This week we are all staying together in a large house in Brecon - which seemed like it could have been one of those 'good ideas' back in rehearsals! - but which we're all thoroughly looking forward to. It promises to be a wonderful way to end our travels around Britain.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


The first two reviews for GEORGE are in - with 5 stars from the all important Birmingham Mail and a rave in The Stage. Top marks for a wonderful cast!

It was a big decision to commission a new adaptation for what has always been a very successful show - and so big congrats to David Wood for his superb new adaptation which is going so wonderfully well with audiences and critics alike.

Well done Phil Clark and the A Class Creative Team that put it all together. It looks like we're in for a fabulous run!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Couldn't resist trying the November sea here in Worthing. Thank goodness Charlotte (Mum) from SKELLIG was there to hold my hand!

And the good thing about swimming in an autumn sea, is that when you get out, the wind and rain don't bother you

Hoping I wake up tomorrow morning

A review and a half

Georgia Brown is 8 years old. Here is her review of SKELLIG. She is clearly a talent to look out for in her own right!

"Tuesday, 10th November was a very boring, dull day. School wasn’t brilliant, the sky was grey, even my appetite seemed to disappear as I watched the dreary rain pattering against the windows. All I was looking forward to was going to The Connaught Theatre to see Skellig in the evening. When I entered the theatre, not really knowing what to expect, the stage set was also dark and gloomy – like the inside of my Dad’s shed! There were no pretty lights or magical castles… but I sat back in my seat ready to enjoy it, even if the scenery didn’t help lift my current mood. Strangely, the noise of the waiting audience, made up mostly of young teens, was indescribably different and somehow told be Skellig was going to be good… very good.

The lights dimmed and a faint rustle of sweet packets, the slurp of people finishing the last of their drinks and the occasional whisper eventually died down, and the ‘ugly’ scenery turned out to not be so ugly at all, but almost too creative for words. I noticed that as the cast cleverly blended themselves into the scenery, the play unfolded with twists and turns. As we followed the life of Michael (Dean Logan) and his epic adventure through love, magic, belief and hope, he and his family began the struggle to stay strong when Michael’s baby sister became seriously ill.

What I loved most about Skellig was that nobody really had ‘the’ main part. Everybody seemed to be actively involved throughout. I loved how the cast told the story like a choral speaking group – with voices coming from every corner of the stage, creating a creepy yet extremely realistic and clever way to bring the narrative to life. Not only did the ensemble use their voices to speak, but to make animal noises that sounded so real – at one point it was almost as if a live animal was on stage, yet invisible and hidden.. I know Ellen Calender, who played several roles, made the sound of a baby crying – It sounded so real, yet there was definitely no baby to be seen! What could have been a story of sadness and tragedy, turned out to be a story of strength and hope, and magic, but not just magical magic, the sort of magic that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and gives you the shivers because you know somewhere deep inside, that it could actually be real.

The actor who played the part of Skellig, (Neal Foster) had an amazing effect on the audience. His appearance was both shocking and terrifying, his loud voice boomed and made you jump, yet you felt sorry for the character, because it was so obvious that he had become vulnerable and was in deep pain because of his “Arthur… itis!”

It was a shame that when the ONLY smoke effect filled the stage and drifted into the audience, that it only took one person to cough, before the whole audience decided to join in with the choking and spluttering… Also mum was a bit disappointed that the Connaught Theatre have not yet WD40’d their seats so it only took one person to squeak their chair, and yes you’ve got it, the rest of the audience enthusiastically joined in! Luckily, this did not go on for too long and did not detract from the wonderfully spectacular performance that was evolving on the stage.

Skellig is a perfect way to introduce and encourage young people to read books. Seeing Skellig makes you want to buy the rest of David Almond’s books and get stuck in immediately. So, if you haven’t seen it… see it and if you have, see it again! Good luck to Skellig in the West End !!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Three shows on the road - three of the comments we received last week. Well done all!

With a highly talented cast and a production that packs so much information and energy into a delightful two hours, you can guarantee that you will leave the theatre in awe at what you have experienced.
Lee Astbury - The Public Reviews

We all loved the show - adults and children alike. It was probably the best show we have seen at Horsham.
Kerry Johnston - theatre patron

Entertaining, enthralling and thought-provoking. A superb production from the Birmingham Stage Company.
Halifax Courier

Monday, November 02, 2009

Sad news from the news

I heard today that Terry Grimley is leaving the Birmingham Post after many, many years as Arts Editor. This is a huge loss to the arts in the West Midlands. This once great newspaper, which had national status, is about to go weekly. There could hardly be a sadder tale told of how the mighty have fallen in Birmingham.

It's fair to say that without Terry Grimley - and Fred Norris at the Mail - the BSC could never have survived its formative years.

It's astonishing to think just what we were up against when we started. The Old Rep had been professionally dark for 20 years: we were not only unfunded but charged by the council to use the building, charged for our office in the theatre, charged for the lighting rig which was owned by the Guild. And then we had to fund the productions....! There were just two of us running the company - myself and the wonderful Karen Crouch, with a manual typewriter (and no computer for the first three years). Yet our first Christmas show brought 17,500 people to the theatre - and the first anniversay production of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF was hailed as the finest show Birmingham had seen for a decade. Who was responsible for making sure the people of Birmingham knew about the BSC and the revived Old Rep? Terry and Fred. Without their support (sometimes their criticism) and above all, their attention to what was going on in Station Street, I cannot imagine how we would have survived the first year.

I hope that Terry enjoys the next stage of his journalistic career. I hope Birmingham will still be able to take advantage of his boundless enthusiasm and priceless knowledge of the arts both locally, nationally and internationally.

And good luck to Diane Parkes, who must now single handedly carry the flag for the arts through the Birmingham Mail.

Things change, and often for the better, but this is a very sad day for Birmingham.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


The BSC is in that wonderful position again of having three excellent shows on the road.

David Wood's brand new adaptation of GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE opened this week in Horsham and went beautifully - a wonderful cast and crew doing a fabulous job - and the audiences loved it.

Big congrats to the HORRIBLE HISTORIES team for the Manchester Evening News Awards nomination for best family show. It's the second time HH has been nominated in Manchester - awards night is Dec 8th.

HH, SKELLIG and GEORGE - three shows to be proud of - and all directed and designed by that clever duo Phil Clark and Jackie Trousdale.