Saturday, 25 February 2012

Final Tour Blog

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
This blog will be posted when I'm back home, after we've tweeted and blogged about the main points of the last Q&A session. I'm currently on a train south. Most of the company is now back home and hopefully catching up on sleep after a hectic week.

Our launch show has certainly been ambitious. During it, we have:
  • covered 1,000 miles
  • played three theatres
  • worked with seven actors, four directors and staged the work of twelve writers (using three different languages)
  • hosted three debates about female playwriting
  • sparked a national debate about gender thanks to the Guardian's coverage, whilst also engaging with hundreds of people via twitter, facebook and this blog
Agent 160 Theatre Company is now up and running. We're going to take a couple of weeks to reflect and then start making plans for the future. Do keep checking back for updates - the tour is over, but we're still here and will be blogging and tweeting away. Also, keep looking at our website for information on upcoming work from us and our writers.

From me and from the company - a big thank you for reading our blogs so far and for all your support. 

#a160qa (Glasgow)

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes: 
We live tweeted our first two question and answer sessions - one was in Cardiff and one was in London. We'd intended to do the same in Glasgow, however the theatre space there is underground and so, try as we might, we couldn't get a signal. Instead we tweeted the key points last night, but I thought some of our regular blog readers might also appreciate a summary.

I chaired the panel. Appearing on it were:
  • Nicola McCartney - playwright, director and dramaturg who has recently founded the MA in playwriting at Edinburgh University
  • Linda McLean - playwright and chair of Playwrights' Studio Scotland
  • Muriel Romanes - artistic director of Stellar Quines
I started off by asking the panel if they thought the 17 per cent figure (2010 figures state that across the UK just 17 per cent of produced plays are written by women) was an accurate reflection of the situation in Scotland. They all agreed it was. The debate then moved onto why this was the case.

The main areas covered were:
  • Are women being produced less because they write in a different structure? Is there a female aesthetic which is viewed less favourably?  
  • There is a gap between commissions and productions - is this because fewer women are returning their commissions? And if it is, why is this happening?
  • How the current economic climate was making theatres more wary of giving new commissions.
  • Whether the gender of the director makes an impact.
Have a look at #a160qa on twitter for more specific points. The debate continued last night and do feel free to still make a contribution. 

Friday, 24 February 2012


Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
After a sell-out couple of nights at Theatre503, the company headed north to Scotland for the mini-tour's final leg - two nights at The Arches in Glasgow.

The theatre space inside The Arches, Glasgow

Some of the company stayed in Glasgow and some in Edinburgh. Our Scottish actors were happy to be home and our Scottish writers housed the English and Welsh actors, wowing them with hospitality and  amazing home-cooked food. As the pieces had already been twice staged before, our time at The Arches was mainly spent with the actors becoming familiar with the space. The 503 stage was much smaller and was carpeted during our run so it was quite cosy. The Arches' space was much deeper and even a little bleak. Some of the company preferred the 503 stage, some preferred the imaginative possibilities that a space like The Arches could offer. All of the company were grateful to our technical manager Dave Wylie for his magical ways with sound and light.

On a personal note, I was really happy to be bringing this work to Glasgow. I've had work staged before at Chapter and at Theatre503 and loved being back in both venues. However it's creatively exciting to be in a new space, with a completely new audience. It's challenging and risky and I really believe theatre should be about pushing boundaries - including personal ones. I spent two days with a real spring in my step and found the audience reaction on both nights to be really warm and generous.

After the second show, we hosted our final question and answer session. The space being underground meant live tweeting was impossible, but there's more on this discussion to follow.

The Debate - and #a160qa (London)

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes: 
I meant to write a blog about the London Q&A a couple of days ago, but the Glasgow shows took over. It was a truly brilliant session and has gone on to stimulate further debate thanks to twitter and a blog on the Guardian theatre site - click here to read. We live tweeted from the event so search for #a160qa to read the feed.

Theatre503 - the venue for our London shows and the Q&A

The panel was chaired by Guardian critic Lyn Gardner. I sat on it too and the other panelists were:

  • Lisa Cagnacci, director and writer
  • Flavia Fraser-Cannon, producer
  • Sam Hall, founder of the 17 per cent campaign
  • Amy Hodge, director
  • Sue Parrish, artistic director of Sphinx Theatre Company
We started by discussing whether things had improved - Sue Parrish recalled how she was once told that women couldn't write or make theatre because they were too busy being mothers; that women had achieved a lot but had to fight tooth and nail for it and that the fight needed to continue. How producers could help female writers was also discussed. Flavia said the staging of female work often countered preconceptions and Lisa Cagnacci said she believed women often had to fight against the idea of a female aesthetic - men may be freer to explore form. Sam Hall widened the debate - was it that perceptions of gender from a very early age was impacting on female writers in terms of confidence and ideas about their work? 

The discussion shifted onto what could be done to help improve the situation: Amy suggested strong networks needed to be created to help women support and encourage each other following on from initial development work. Over on twitter, the debate widened with tweets pointing out that older writers needed support too; a discussion over whether writers should change the gender of some characters; a debate over an anonymous submissions process and also whether the production gap was the same as the commission gap.

Do feel free to add your thoughts to the debate by tweeting @agent160theatre and using the #a160qa hashtag. The Scottish Q&A took place last night so there's another Q&A blog to follow!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Our First Review

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
Guardian theatre critic Lyn Gardner was at Theatre503 for the second night of our shows. Her review, in case you haven't seen it, is here. She also chaired a wonderful Q&A session at the end of the show that I vow to blog about soon! Just up to our eyes in tech runs and train tickets at the moment!

We're all currently in Glasgow for our final leg. To book tickets for the Arches, click here.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

#agent160qa (Wales)

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
As part of our tour, we decided to organise question and answer sessions after the second set of plays at each venue. We wanted to do this for a number of reasons: even though we decided not to be overtly political, there's no denying that our very existence is political. People would want to find out why we formed and maybe they'd want to explore that a bit. Also, we knew not everyone who would like to would be able to make it to the shows, but they still might want to ask questions. We wanted as many people as possible to feel involved and to live stream these debates on twitter (#agent160qa) seemed a good way to do this. In addition, we wanted to use these sessions to listen; to find out about thoughts and opinions in each of our three cities.

A different sort of Q&A: Abigail Graham, Jennifer Jackson and Vittoria Cafolla in rehearsal

Two of these sessions have already taken place. In Wales, I chaired the panel and its members were:
  • Branwen Davies, Agent 160 writer
  • Valmai Jones, writer, director and actress
  • Louise Stephens Alexander, Agent 160 dramaturg
  • Mared Swain, Agent 160 director and an associate director at Sherman Cymru
  • Roger Williams, playwright and Writers' Guild representative
The session in Wales was bilingual. What was really interesting was how it ended up moving away from gender and onto the ongoing problems experienced by playwrights such as how to sustain a career, as well as the differences in English language and Welsh language work, and also the reasons behind writing. At one point, a (brief!) heated debate broke out between Valmai Jones and Mared Swain as to the motivations behind writing a play. Valmai argued writers needed ongoing support and adequate pay to write properly. Mared argued that the reason for writing a play shouldn't be to pay the bills. Both arguments were disputed and agreed with over on twitter. 

Questions from the audience included whether the company felt the writers had been influenced by gender when writing their pieces; and we also got onto the issue of geography and how that determines audience reaction. Louise Stephens Alexander was curious as to how the Welsh audience had found the Scottish pieces and whether the comedy of some had been affected by accent or dialect. 

It was a really interesting session and if you were there, we hope you enjoyed it! 

London Rehearsal Photos

Here are some rehearsal photos taken in London by the wonderful Georgie M'Glug...

Matthew Bates and Jennifer Jackson rehearsing Morna Pearson's Skin; Or How To Disappear

Matthew Bates rehearsing Skin; Or How To Disappear

Jennifer Jackson rehearsing Sarah Grochala's Red Shoes

Matthew Bates

Jennifer Jackson and Matthew Bates rehearsing Vittoria Cafolla's The Last Word

Director Abigail Graham and Jennifer Jackson

The Tour

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
This blog comes to you courtesy of the East Coast Mainline's wifi service. We've played Chapter in Cardiff, Theatre503 in London and the company is currently on its way to The Arches in Glasgow. Agent 160 Presents Agent 160 is in full steam and gearing up for leg three of the tour.

Actor Matthew Bates and writer Vittoria Cafolla rehearsing The Last Word

We've all been blown away by the support we've received so far - in terms of people coming, tweets and facebook messages. The work of our seven actors has been truly astounding and they're a real joy to watch. Audiences are leaving the theatre during the interval and after the show singing their praises, as well as praising the writers and also the different directors. Several people I don't know have enthusiastically ambushed me in the bar after the show at each venue and after each night. I really can't put into words how proud I am of everyone.

The Q&As have also been a success. I'm going to do another blog post about that (possibly on this train journey if the signal stays strong). After the Welsh and English one, I'm really looking forward to the Scottish one. The questions have been thought-provoking and we're really chuffed that we've been able to bring people who couldn't make the shows into the Q&As too, thanks to our live twitter feed.

If you're in or near Glasgow, then do come along to the final two shows at The Arches. Booking details are here.  It'd be fantastic to see you. We're all really looking forward to arriving in Scotland and bringing our work to another audience.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Directors' Biogs

Here are the biographies of our directors: 

As Director: The Censor (JMK Award Runner Up, Young Vic, Workshop Performance), Blue Heaven – Three Short Plays by Tennessee Williams (Finborough); Jack’s Quest (Company of Angels Theatre Maker Award, The Junction, Cambridge, Pleasance, London), The Boy and The Dog Who Walked to the Moon (Pleasance, Edinburgh), Lucy’s Brief Guide on How to be Human (Old Vic 24 Hour Plays) The Crucible (Newcastle University Best Director Award, St. Luke’s, Newcastle).

As Associate Director: Death and The Maiden (Harold Pinter Theatre, West End).

As Assistant Director: Glass Menagerie (Young Vic), Ruined (Almeida), Separate Tables (Chichester Festival Theatre), Enron (Minerva Chichester and Royal Court), Wallenstein (Minerva Chichester)

As Director in Community and Education settings: The Ward Project (Young Vic at Maudsley Hospital), Remember How to Fly (Young Vic Special Schools Festival), Soft Scoop (Clean Break), The Bridge Project (Almeida).

Kate is artistic director of Nutshell & programme leader for drama & theatre arts at Queen Margaret University.

Premieres for Nutshell: Allotment by Jules Horne ( Fringe First Winner 2011, CSPA award winner 2011), The Devil on Wheels by Jules Horne, (Scotland tour commissioned by the Scottish Forestry Commission), Stars by Anja Hilling, Crestfall by Mark O’Rowe (UK premiere  - “ The production is a masterpiece” Scotsman *****), Meat by Sarah Colvin & Play O’ The Wather  by Eddie Stiven. Other work includes: Through the Night & In The Shade written & performed by David Leddy  at the Arches & Tron Theatres Glasgow and A Small Family Business at Pitlochry Festival Theatre.

Kate has co-ordinated and directed on numerous script development, new writing and education projects for the Traverse, Edinburgh;  Citizens’ Theatre Glasgow and The Playwrights’ Studio Scotland. She is also on the judging panel for the Robert McLellan Award for plays in Scots.

Kate is currently developing the next part of the triliogy of plays she is making with Jules Horne which will premiere at  the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe at Assembly.

Catherine is a freelance theatre director from Cardiff. Between 2009 - 2011, she was a founding member and creative associate of National Theatre Wales, where she directed the 5th production in the company's inaugural year, The Beach. She also directed The Assembly, a participatory programme for artists and communities to debate and respond to local issues and ran the New Critics scheme to train arts journalists in Wales.  Recently, Catherine returned to National Theatre Wales as Community Promoter for the national tour of The Village Social where she also directed 16 community choruses. Catherine has directed new work for theatres and companies including Radio Wales, Unity Theatre Liverpool, Oldham Coliseum, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, Trafalgar Studios, Contact Manchester, People Show, Dende Collective, Theatre 503, The Finborough, Tara Arts, Haddo House Opera, Baron's Court Theatre and the Octagon Theatre Bolton, where she was also Resident Assistant Director. Catherine is currently a WalesLab supported artist. She trained on the MFA Theatre Directing at Birkbeck and has a degree in American Studies from Nottingham University. 

Mared Swain is currently Welsh language associate director at Sherman Cymru.

She is also co-producer of Cardiff-based new writing company Dirty Protest Theatre, and directs their regular shorts nights. She has also became a mother last summer and is very glad to be involved in this exciting project with Agent 160.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

More Press

Here's one of our directors - Catherine Paskell - talking to the Western Mail about Agent 160:

And our artistic director and dramaturg are in the Herald too! Click here to read.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
We've all been quite busy drumming up support for the shows over the past week. One of our directors, Catherine Paskell, talked about Agent 160 in the Western Mail and a few of us have been doing interviews with online and print media.

Here's a link to BitchBuzz magazine's article about Agent 160.

Casting News 3

And here are our Scottish actors:

Gowan Calder:

Gowan Calder is an actress and writer based in Scotland. Over the years she has performed in theatre, radio, film and TV. She has been a visiting lecturer in playwriting at Queen Margaret University and a writer-in-residence at HMP Glenochil. She has worked as an actor for the past two years with Ace Productions (Finland) and will be reprising her role as The Wife in Death of a Theatre Critic by Joachim Groth with them at The Pleasance, London, in May.  

Nicola Jo Cully:

Nicola Jo Cully trained at Queen Margaret University College.

Theatre includes: Too Many Penguins? (Frozen Charlotte Productions/Macrobert),  Allotment (Nutshell/Assembly), The Dark Things (Traverse), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Northampton Royal and Derngate/Assembly), Sunshine on Leith (Dundee Rep), The Wasp Factory (Cumbernauld Theatre/Tron), Translations (Arches Theatre Company), The Journey of Jeannie Deans (Rowantree), My Dark Sky (Reeling and Writhing), Sinbad (Team Entertainments/Eden Court), 3 For 2 (P and F Productions), Tenko! (Random Act), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh), Blude Red - The Musical (Cutting Edge).

Film and Television Includes: The Pursuit (Pursuit/ Nisha Parti Productions), Sweetheart (Digicult), Casualty (BBC), The Space Between (Lyre Productions), Tough (Napier Screen Academy/Blue Iris Films), Little Red Hoodie (Imagine Films), Nowhere, No One (Marquisde Ltd), Taggart - Law, Grass (SMG Productions), Retribution (Roaring Fire Films) Solid Air (Elemental Films), Witchcraze (Blast! Films Ltd), The Charm (Tim Fitzpatrick Productions).

Radio Includes: Desperate Measures, Striptease (BBC Radio 4), Secrets, Scottish Shorts - Matryoshka (BBC Radio Scotland).

Nicola can also be heard on the cast recording for Sunshine on Leith, the musical.

Casting News 2

And here are our actors rehearsing in Cardiff:

Remy Beasley:

Remy graduated from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2010. Credits include: Nabokov Fairytales (Nabokov), Gaslight (Theatre Clwyd), Love Steals Us From Loneliness (National Theatre Wales), It's About Time (Nabokov).
Credits whilst training: August;Osage County (RWMCD), Harvest (RWCMD), Spring Awakening (RWCMD), Realism (RWCMD).
Remy was also a member of National Youth Theatre Wales.

Hannah Daniel:

Theatre credits include: Road (Bloomsbury Theatre; dir Alice Butler), Scene Underground (Imperial War Museum; dir. Cathy Owen and Lucas Angelini), The Linzee Way (Hen and Chickens; dir. Lisa Palfrey). 
Television credits include BBC dramas Dad, Casualty, Belonging; S4C's Pen Talar and Gwaith Cartref.

Gruffudd Glyn:

Gruffudd trained at RADA.
Theatre Includes: American Trade, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Morte D'Arthur, The Grainstore, Julius Caesar, The Winter's Tale (all Royal Shakespeare Company); Romeo and Juliet (Theatre of Memory).

Casting News

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:

Before the shows, we can bring you a bit of casting news. Here are our actors rehearsing in London:

Matthew Bates:

Matthew trained at Drama Studio London. His theatre credits include Tales of The Country (Pentabus); Neville’s Island ( English Theatre Frankfurt); The Representative (Finborough); A Tail of Two Dogs  (Out of Order at the Dylan Thomas Centre) Tom’s Midnight Garden (No1 Tour); The Master Builder (Albery); The Lion in Winter (Perth Rep); Romeo & Juliet (King’s Head); and Nightbus (Birmingham Rep).  He was a member of the BBC World Service Radio Rep and has provided voices for numerous computer games. He has worked on TV shows such as Silent Witness, Eastenders, Crimewatch Solved, Panorama and Quayside. His film credits include Bridget Jones’s Diary and V for Vendetta.
Last year he appeared in Eye Captain, a finalist in the Sitcom Mission sponsored by Hat Trick, and most recently he played Nobel Prize winner Max Perutz in a staged reading of a new play Gleaming Worlds at the RADA Studio.

Jennifer Jackson: 

Training: East 15 Acting School 
Theatre includes: U/s on Death and the Maiden (The Harold Pinter Theatre), Flathampton (The Royal and Derngate), Fixer (FanSHEN Theatre/OvalHouse Theatre), The Globe Sonnet Walks (Shakespeare’s Globe), Remote Control (Tangled Feet/ National Theatre Studio), Amphibians (Offstage Theatre/NTS/The Bridewell Theatre), Blowing (FanSHEN Theatre/Company of Angels), Moshing Lying Down (FanSHEN Theatre/Arcola/Shunt and Tour), The Government Inspector (The Northcott Theatre).

Film includes: Open (Short), Moving On (Short), Digital Memory (Short).

Radio includes: Angel Story, Dennis Dies in the Jungle, and Vital Statistics.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Redressing the Balance

Producer Dan Baker has writtten a piece about Agent 160 for Arts Professional, regarding the need to address the gender inequalities which still seem to exist within theatre.  You can read the piece here.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Writing in English and Welsh

Playwright Marged Parry writes: 
As the launch night for Agent 160 presents draws closer, I find myself becoming nervous and excited. .. which I believe is only natural. But then another more curious emotion creeps in… guilt. Don’t worry, I haven’t written about a specific person or ousted anyone’s secrets in my piece. My guilt is a linguistic one. Should I have written in Welsh? I don’t know. I have two languages at my disposal. I shouldn’t feel bad about using either. Perhaps it’s because English doesn’t need a leg up or need to be “represented”… do I feel that Welsh does? No, I don’t think so. The language is thriving… so this guilt about writing in Welsh shouldn’t really exist… maybe it’ll subside. Or maybe I’ll just get over it.

Marged Parry

When I sit down with a blank page in front me of me, I don’t decided there and then whether I’m going to write in Welsh just as I don’t decide whether I’m going to write a romance or a sci-fi. It all starts with an idea written hurriedly in my iphone (yes, I said it, my iphone, I’m one of those!). Depending on where I am, my mind set and my mood when I had the idea, the note will have been written in either English or Welsh. I find it can be rather dangerous to give the choosing of the language too much thought… when I have thought “I should write a play in Welsh” and tried to do it, I’ve got stuck in a political cobweb and failed miserably. If I stumble upon a Welsh idea, then that’s ok. However, having looked at the work I’ve produced in either language, there’s definitely a pattern.

If I’m writing about my family or my past, my childhood etc, I tend to write in Welsh. I prefer my Welsh poems. My English ones always sound like I’m trying to be Dylan Thomas but come out as an existential Barney the dinosaur. I can be a bit more philosophical in a Welsh poem and I think I’m stricter with myself when it comes to following a poem’s rules. I don’t write strict meter poetry but I place parameters on myself with syllable numbers, rhyming scheme etc . I like the uniformity of it but I’m not as strict with myself in English which means that my poems become a bit of an uncontrollable mish-mash. But I’m the one who chooses to do this so go figure. Perhaps the Welsh language makes me more structured.

If I’m writing about a larger idea, or the wider world outside of myself and Wales, I do tend to choose English as a language. I like the vastness of the English language. It’s the language of the globe, of commerce, of popular culture and is pretty much an amalgamation of all the languages in the world in some shape or form.

For my piece for Agent 160, I have actually written a piece that’s based in Wales but written in English. Let’s see how it goes.

I have questioned myself in the past - when I write in English, am I vainly hoping for more readers / audience members? I don’t think so because realistically, one probably has more of a chance of getting seen / read when writing in Welsh in Wales.

As a first language Welsh speaker who was bought up in Cardiff, I consider myself equally proficient in both languages and also feel an ownership over both. I live my life in both languages split pretty much 50/50. I speak Welsh with my family and at work because I work on a Welsh programme, I speak Welsh with my work friends and I also have friends outside of work who speak Welsh. My boyfriend and I speak English at home and I speak English with many of my friends and my boyfriend’s family. I enjoy my life in both these languages and take pride in the fact that I live in a multilingual country.

When people ask me about the “importance” of the Welsh language and how I feel about the use of public money being spent on translation in the public sector instead of hospitals and schools etc, it reminds me of the argument that people sometimes put forward when complaining about the arts receiving any kind of public funding. However, arts and culture (which includes language) are part of being human. They’re certainly part of my soul and when people ask me why I think the language is worth maintaining, the only answer I have is… because I like speaking it, writing it and I enjoy living in the world it provides me. I don’t think anyone can argue with that, can they?

Writing, art and language are how I express myself, be that in English or in Welsh and I think this is true of many people, especially women. I work in a creative industry and women populate a huge part of it. The statistic of doom that we keep going back to which is that only 17% of staged work in the theatre is written by women does sadden me. Women have a voice and it’s not about bra burning or scaring men, it’s just that we like writing and I thank Agent 160 for providing us with a stage… 3 stages actually. :o) 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

On Dramaturgy

Agent 160 dramaturg Louise Stephens Alexander writes:

I wrote a flowery, florid and heartfelt post last week about dramaturgy. It was full of passion. It was full of metaphor. In it, the dramaturg was the test driver of the road the playwright builds through a territory of words, uncharted and unknown. There were woods. There were bends. There were possibly hobbits.

Louise Stephens Alexander

“It’s a bit… European,” Lisa said diplomatically. “But will Joe Bloggs reading the blog come away with any idea of what a dramaturg is?”

No. But then, the only thing I know for certain is, that question is asked as many times as the word "dramaturg" is used. What is one of them? What does it do? Why would you want one?


Here’s a secret: nobody actually knows. But then that’s true of all theatrical professions. Never trust anyone who loudly and authoritatively tells you exactly how it all works. 

I can tell you what I do when I’m working. I read plays, mainly. I don’t read as many as I once did, but I read up to about ten plays a month, probably averaging about seventy a year at present (as I’m not full-time). I love reading and I love reading plays. 

Why do people send me these plays? Essentially I’m being asked envisage how they will work on the stage.  How do I "know" if they will work on the stage? I see lots of plays in production, and I’ve been in a lot of rehearsal rooms with some excellent theatre artists, and over the years I’ve garnered some sort of sense of how things work or don’t in space, and perhaps why (though whether or not you agree that those sort of things can be "known" or "learnt" is up to you). 

I look at what the play is trying to achieve and I write a report – or meet the writer or meet someone from a theatre – and I tell them whether, in my opinion, the play does what it seems to want to achieve, and whether or not it makes sense in the miniature space I’ve got plotted out in my mind. I suggest what the writer might do to strengthen aspects of the play to make it the most sincere and true version of what they seem to be trying to achieve. 

Sometimes I get to go and be in a rehearsal room, and then I get really excited because you get to discuss the play, and hear it, and feel it, and speak to the writer in depth about what it is they’re trying to do and how.  You get to try things out with the writer, to see if one way or another feels more fitting.  And hopefully that also means you’ll get to see the play alive soon, on a stage.  Ooh, la la. That is, after all, what you dream of as you read every word of a script.

Yes, you’re quite right. It’s not just dramaturgs that do this sort of work. Directors and producers and actors and stage managers and office staff and students and a whole host of other people do this stuff too. But sometimes it’s quite useful to have someone who’s just trying to do that one thing, and who maybe only does that one thing, in the room. 

You have to be a bit fearless. What’s at stake is an entire world, even if it is made up of words in brand new strings and people who never actually breathed. You have to be prepared for people not to like what you might tell them. You have to put aside your own tastes, to a degree. No matter what, you have to come out of the cave with your sword in the air ready to protect the writer, and the play, with all the might you can muster, but you have to balance this with a willingness to listen to other people and to work collaboratively.  And most of all, you have to be prepared for many people, day after day, telling you they don’t believe in dramaturgs. This is really difficult because every time someone says that, a dramaturg dies. 

Anyway. That’s not all a dramaturg does. It’s not even all I do. But hopefully, Joe Bloggs, it’s given you one side of the hexadecagon. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Biogs - Second Night

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:

Following on from our earlier post, here are the biogs of our second night writers, whose work you can see at Chapter on February 18, Theatre503 on February 20 and at The Arches on February 23.

Ioanna Anderson was born in Edinburgh and, after escaping to Dublin for quite a long time, now lives there again. She co-founded (with Audrey Devereux and Pam McQueen) Greenlight Productions, which produced her first play Describe Joe (Dublin Fringe Festival, 2000). Describe Joe won the O.Z. Whitehead Award. Why I Hate The Circus was produced by Greenlight, in association with the Civic Theatre Tallaght in 2001. Words of Advice for Young People was developed by Rough Magic Theatre Company as part of their SEEDS programme for emerging artists, and produced by them in 2004 at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin. In 2005, Ioanna received an Arts Council bursary to develop Six Acts of Love, produced by The Tron Theatre in 2008. Also in 2008, the site-specific show You Are Here (co-produced by Bedrock/Living Space Theatre companies) for the Dublin Theatre Festival. Ioanna has recently received a bursary from Creative Scotland to work on a novel.

Ioanna Anderson

Branwen trained as an actress at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and started writing her own performances and plays there. She received a bursary and was mentored by Sgript Cymru for her Welsh language play Dyma Deulu Dedwydd that went on to win the Anglesey Eisteddfod Playwriting Award in 2007 and was produced by Theatr Fach Llangefni. Branwen writes in Welsh and English. Professional stage work includes co-writing Dominos for Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru, Exquisite Corpse for True Fiction Theatre Company, The Beginning of the So Called End for Dirty Protest and Cardiff Swan Song for Undeb Theatre. Two of her Welsh language plays - Drama Sa'n Dde De? and O Na Byddai'n Haf o Hyd - have been produced by Llandegfan Drama Society. TV credits include episodes of Caerdydd for Fiction Factory. Online work includes co-creating and writing the online drama Break Free - a Cyfle and Glass Shot productions collaboration. She is co-creator of the Welsh language theatre company Torri Gair whose first production was Yr Argae, a Welsh translation of Connor McPherson's The Weir in 2008. Branwen worked as the literary assistant at Sherman Cymru for three years and was responsible for producing the new writing initiative Script Slam. She is also a script writing tutor having tutored at The University of Wales Trinity Saint David, on Sherman Cymru's New Arrival project working with asylum seekers and refugees in Cardiff and Sherman Cymru's Spread the Word project at Aberystwyth. 
Branwen has just returned from a gap year in Japan and is currently doing a PhD in new writing at Aberystwyth University and writing a trilogy of plays as part of her research. 

Branwen Davies

Sarah studied on the MPhil in Playwriting Studies at Birmingham University and has been recognised as one of the course’s most distinguished graduates. Before turning to writing she worked as an actress for many years, playing roles in the West End and in television drama. Her play S-27 won the 2007 Protect the Human Playwriting Competition and was also shortlisted for The King’s Cross Award. S-27 premiered at the Finborough Theatre in June 2009 and was revived at the Griffin Theatre in Sydney in March 2010. Both productions were selected as Time Out Critics’ Choices. Other plays include: Waiting For Romeo (Pleasance Islington 2009; Edinburgh Festival 2006) and Open Ground (Theatro Technis 2005). Sarah has written short plays for The Miniaturists and for Theatre 503, where she currently works as a senior reader. She has taught playwriting and other aspects of theatre making to students at Central School of Speech and Drama, Queen Mary University of London and Kingston University. She occasionally writes about theatre for the Guardian’s theatre blog. Sarah is currently Off West’s adopted playwright and is working with them on a play about nationalism in Eastern Europe. Other current projects include a commission for the RSC.

Lisa Parry

Lisa is currently developing her piece 2023, supported by Arts Council England. She was recently named as a finalist in the Internationalists’ playwriting competition, the inaugural Ronald Duncan award and the King’s Cross New Writing Award.
Play credits include: Dark Frequencies (TACT Studio, Broadway, NYC), Butterfly Fugue (Sherman Cymru as part of Egin: Springboard), Not A Death Knock (Dirty Protest), Fairy Steps (Bootleg), March SW3 (Arcola, as part of Miniaturists 23), Waterbaby (Martin E. Segal, NYC), Inside A Grave (Bridewell), Second Life (Tara), Happy Birthday Luke (Tara), Carpet and Floorboards (Tara), The Giving of Flowers (Theatre 503, later at Sherman Cymru as part of ScriptSlam), From Brum to Manhattan (Theatre 503).

Morna Pearson is from Elgin and currently lives in Edinburgh. Her first full professional production was Distracted at the Traverse Theatre in 2006. Distracted won the Meyer-Whitworth Award, nominated for a CATS Award, and was shortlisted for the Wolff-Whiting Award. Morna was awarded the inaugural Rod Hall Memorial Award in 2006. Her other plays include; Elf Analysis (Òran Mór, Glasgow), McBeth's McPets (BBC Radio Scotland), Side Effects (BBC Radio 3/Bona Broadcasting), The Company Will Overlook a Moment of Madness [adaptation](National Theatre of Scotland/Oran Mor).

Lindsay Rodden

Lindsay Rodden is a writer and dramaturg.  Recent writing work has included Letters (The Miniaturists / Cornerstone Festival), The Almond Tree (State of Wonder / Everyword), and Endz (a verbatim play created with dramaturg Suzanne Bell for Liverpool Everyman Theatre which toured Liverpool in 2011).  Recent dramaturgy includes My Life in Dresses (Project Arts Centre, Dublin / national tour), and Why Do All Catherines Call Themselves Kate? (One Small Step / Edinburgh Fringe). 
She founded Almanac in 2009 with playwright / songwriter Lizzie Nunnery, producing, directing and writing adventurous collaborations with writers, musicians and other artists and theatre makers.  Their most recent shows include bringing together over thirty artists to make Radical City: A Happening on Hope Street (Everyman, April 2011); and Stories in the Walls, a site-specific commission for Un-convention Tyneside in the thirteenth century Morden Tower, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (June 2011). 
Lindsay is from Buncrana, Co. Donegal, and currently lives in Liverpool.

We're On Another Blog!

Lisa Parry has done a guest blog for the 17 per cent campaign. To have a read, click here.

Our Trailer

Here's the trailer for our launch show. We hope you like it! 


Biogs - First Night

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:

If you're coming to the show at Chapter on February 17, Theatre503 on February 19 or The Arches on February 22, here are the biogs of the writers whose work you'll see. I've interspersed them with photos from the #a160feb hashtag on twitter - each writer is holding up a word she feels best describes her play.


Sam Burns participated in Paines Plough's Come to Where I'm From in 2010 and Sixty-Six Books at the Bush Theatre in 2011. She has recently completed the advanced writers’ programme at Sherman Cymru. Her play Not the Worst Place was shortlisted for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 2011. She is currently working on a commission for the Bush Theatre.

Marged Parry

Vittoria is based in Belfast and has most recently worked with the highly respected Kabosh Theatre Company on Raiders of the Lost Story Arc, a play based on the transcripts of Spielberg and Lucas’ story conference Raiders Of the Lost Ark. It premiered at the Belfast Film Festival in April 2011.  In January 2011, she had a short radio piece produced by BBC NI  and directed by Eoin O Callaghan (producer of the award-winning 5 Minutes to Heaven) as part of the BBC's 360 Scriptwriting Festival.
She has collaborated with the Belfast-based Skewiff Theatre Company on a number of pieces: The Waiting Room, which was produced during The Belfast Fringe Festival in 2010, and at present on an interactive theatre piece based on the Guardian's The Ex Files Column.

Poppy Corbett is a writer, director and producer living in London.
She has studied at Royal Holloway, the Central School of Speech and Drama and at the Moscow Art Theatre School.
Writing credits include OMG! (Millfield Arts Centre); Your Nation Loves You (Old Vic Tunnels); Dave Gammon and the Christmas Service Station (Theatre 503, PLAYlist); Queen Victoria (The Rag Factory); Spiders (Soho Theatre Studio); The Glasshouse (CSSD); England: 2009 (CSSD).
She is an Associate of :DELIRIUM:.

Vittoria Cafolla

Clare is a playwright, director, dramaturg and in the final year of her doctoral research as practice in playwriting at Glasgow University. She co-founded Unlimited Theatre in 1997 and continues to write and create new work as a core artist of Unlimited Theatre, working nationally and internationally across different media.
Clare won the Platform 18 Arches New Directors Award in 2011, which is also supported by the Traverse Theatre and the National Theatre of Scotland. This enabled her to write and direct Money...The Game Show for The Arches and Traverse in March 2011. Clare is now working with Unlimited to hopefully tour Money in 2012. Her new play ANA opened in Montreal at Espace Go in November 2011 and will tour Scotland in 2012. Clare is also currently commissioned by Magnetic North (Edinburgh) to write Some Other Stars about a man with locked-in syndrome. Clare’s first full-length play, Crossings, was produced and published in 2005 by Sgript Cymru. It won a Pearson Award and a year residency at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. She has also written drama for BBC Radio Four.

Samantha Ellis

Samantha Ellis’ plays include Cling To Me Like Ivy (Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Lowry Theatre, Theatre Royal Plymouth, North Wall), The Thousand and Second Night (LAMDA), A Sudden Visitation of Calamith (Menagerie Theatre), Startle Response (Young Vic Theatre workshop production), Sugar and Snow (Hampstead Theatre/BBC Radio Four), Martin's Wedding (Blind Summit Theatre/BAC), Patching Havoc (Theatre 503) and, for The Miniaturists, the short plays Postfeminism and Scattering (Arcola), Unfinished (Liverpool Everyman Theatre), and Cat in a Sieve (Southwark Playhouse).
She has also written short plays for Pursued by a Bear and Floodtide Theatre. She was a MacDowell Colony Fellow and has been in residence at Metal and on attachment at the Soho Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Hampstead Theatre. As a journalist she worked for publications including the Guardian, Evening Standard, Observer, Jewish Quarterly and Prospect.
She is writing a children’s play called Operation Magic Carpet for the Unicorn Theatre and Birmingham Repertory Theatre, and a book called How to be a Heroine for Chatto & Windus. Her play The Last Wolf in Scotland will be produced at the Edinburgh fringe in 2012. She blogs at

Marged Parry studied Welsh literature and English at Cardiff University before embarking on a career in both television and theatre.
Her theatre credits include Yr Ystafell Gyfweld (Sherman Cymru, Sgript Slam, 2011) and The Demise of Photocopy Boy (Dirty Protest, Dirty Protest's Christmas Party, 2011). Her poems have been read on Radio Cymru and her work published in the Welsh literary magazine Tu Chwith.
Marged recently completed Sherman Cymru's advanced writers' programme and was assistant director on the Sherman's new writing project, Cityscape in 2010.
She worked as an assistant producer on Mosgito - a Welsh language magazine programme for teenagers before moving on to work as a marketing and communications officer for BBC Cymru Wales' flagship soap opera, Pobol y Cwm. She now works on Pobol y Cwm as an assistant script editor.  

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Blurbs, Pictures, Performances

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:

The running order has been decided! Our dramaturg Louise Stephens Alexander has juggled actors, rehearsal locations and themes to fix our schedule.

So if you're at Chapter on February 17, Theatre503 on February 19 or The Arches on February 22, you'll see work by the following writers: Sam Burns, Vittoria Cafolla, Poppy Corbett, Clare Duffy, Samantha Ellis, Marged Parry.

And if you're at Chapter on February 18, Theatre503 on February 20 or The Arches on February 23, you'll see work by these writers: Ioanna Anderson, Branwen Davies, Sarah Grochala, Lisa Parry, Morna Pearson, Lindsay Rodden.

Obviously, we hope you come to both!

We've been running a campaign on twitter using the #a160feb hashtag where the writers have been revealing a word they think encapsulates their play. We also asked the writers to give us a sneak-peek into their plays. Below is what they came up with.

And don't forget to book! All booking links are on our website:

Poppy Corbett

Ioanna Anderson – How To Be A Pantomine Horse
In an air accident, the normal rules of human behaviour are suspended; people behave in unexpected and sometimes unpredictable ways. In this darkly funny, surreal and moving two-hander, an air crash throws two women into an impromptu but vital partnership.

Sam Burns - Amnesty
‘You cross with me?’ she says. ‘Sort of’, I says. ‘Cause I done a good deed with my knife.’ Grace, 16, hoarder of Lego, knows she has to surrender her number one favourite possession in the whole entire world, but fate’s not making it easy. And Grace can’t give anything away.

Sarah Grochala

Vittoria Cafolla – The Last Word
Paedar and Phoebe are in Pompeii, but are the city's ruins the only ones they're exploring? And just how important is it to have the final say in an argument? All is not as it seems when both compete to have the last word.

Poppy Corbett - Branded
Meet Kaitlin, the Store Image Director. She strictly enforces the brand of the store, but is there more to being a woman than a brand? Branded explores power games in the work place and in the world.

Branwen Davies - Genki
A woman finds herself in limbo in no man's land surrounded by battered boxes and a suitcase full of photos, memories and stuff that no longer make sense. They don't belong here but where does she belong?

Clare Duffy – How Do You Sleep At Night?
For three years, Abi has been protesting outside the home of a retired chief executive of a zombie bank. But today, at 4am, the executive’s insomniac wife comes to make Abi an offer.

Morna Pearson

Samantha Ellis - Noura
Can ice cream be chewy? Can bellydancers turn into birds? Can you be homesick for a place you haven't been to? And if you can, what's the cure? A shapeshifting dancer meets a mixed-up Iraqi refugee in this play about who we are and who we want to be.

Sarah Grochala - Red Shoes
And it don’t matter that I ain’t had no tummy tuck caesarean, no postnatal Pilates. Cos I’m thinking it don’t matter what you got, you got it, when you got shoes like that.
Kaz has found the answer to all her problems, a pair of shoes, a pair of red Christian Louboutin shoes. If she has those shoes, she knows she can win her ex, Darren, back. All she needs now is the money to buy them or the guts to steal them.
One night in London when everything goes crazy, she finally gets her chance.

Lisa Parry - Nancy
Nancy lives in Sussex – the rural bit, not Brighton – and is in financial straits. But it’s not just the bank she needs to keep from her door; it’s the rabbits and moles too. But what has this to do with the audience? And why is she on the Agent 160 tour?

Clare Duffy

Marged Parry – The Sweet Shop Stand Off
Melisa's back in her home town and she's not who she used to be. She seeks to salvage a time capsule that she buried long ago with her childhood best friend Kevin. But why is Kevin so reluctant to dig up the past?

Morna Pearson – Skin; or How To Disappear
Robert hasn't left his house since Helen Daniels from Neighbours died. Having pulled out every hair on his body, he has started peeling off all of his skin. His day is interrupted by a visit from an incapacity benefit assessor. Somebody's life is about to change.

Lindsay Rodden – A Modest Proposal
Something is rotten in the world.  But the butchery is far beyond the border, and even if the cries and howls came over her own back fence, Mrs Paula O’Neill wouldn’t hear them. Hasn’t she trouble enough, with one runaway daughter, and a baby boy to grow up nice and fat? Eyes down, turn the radio up, and get that dinner on. And eat every pick on that plate. 

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snow, Sherman, Show

Artistic Director Lisa Parry writes:
Like most of the UK (with the exception of our writer in Shetland it would appear!) I woke up this morning to several inches of snow. It looked fantastic. I decided to be sensible, not run, stay in the warm and I switched on my mac to check the news/facebook/twitter etc.

Lisa Parry

Ah. Samantha Ellis, one of our writers, was travelling north, from London to Scotland, by train for rehearsals. I'd spent yesterday on the road, driving back from Wales and had forgotten. Via twitter, I discovered she had chocolate for the journey - always a wise measure, with or without snow. I glanced outside the window again, checked the East Coast website and saw all services were running. For blog readers outside of the UK, this is rare: trains are regularly cancelled over here for the wrong type of snow or leaves on the line. We'd had a lucky escape.

I'm hoping our good luck continues this week, because this is the week when everything goes up a notch. You may have noticed an escalation of activity already on our twitter feed and facebook updates. Rehearsals have started in Scotland and are soon to start in London and Wales. Casting is almost complete and the directors and our techie are discussing the look of the show. Our producer is bogged down in spreadsheets, trying to make figures add up and devising codes and formulas, and our dramaturg is not only talking to the writers about last minute nips and tucks, she's also editing videos, posting photos on twitter (follow the #agent160feb hashtag if you don't already) and baking at unsocial hours for relaxation. One day she sent me an email at 4am and I replied at 6am. Agent 160 was down for approximately two hours.

Things are, without a doubt, crazy at the moment, but something happened this week which, combined with pots of tea, some yoga and a real belief in what we're doing, is helping me at least get through.

On Friday night, I went along to Sherman Cymru in Cardiff. The building has finally reopened following a massive refit and the theatre's having a series of open nights for people its worked with, donors, curious Cardiffians etc. The rehearsal rooms are so potential-giving, it's incredible and the theatre seats are really comfortable, even for people with (I tested them out) bad backs. Anyway, over drinks in the foyer where I caught up with Mared Swain, one of our directors and Branwen Davies, one of our writers, I talked shop. Then I caught up with some other people, but throughout the evening several people approached me. And they all wanted to talk about the same thing - Agent 160.

I was told people are looking forward to the shows at Chapter, students on creative writing courses can't stop talking about it, everyone thought it was a great idea, people are excited about the writers... I was absolutely bowled over by the enthusiasm and encouragement being sent in my direction, often from people I'd only just met. When preparing for a show like this, particularly this one where a lot of the communication is being done online, it's easy to sometimes wonder if you're reaching anyone at all. Of course, twitter and facebook help in that people sometimes do engage with you, but it's not the same as face-to-face contact. But from what I saw in Cardiff, there's clearly a strong appetite for our work and an enthusiasm and belief in what we're trying to achieve. People out there think we can make a real difference.

So that's spurring me on this week. And one more thing is too. I've been emailing some of our actors to sort out where to send contracts etc, and one emailed me back saying how excited he was to be working on the show. He didn't say he was excited because of the company ethos; he didn't even mention it. He said he was excited because of the cracking scripts.

And that's what we're about: the scripts. Our ethos stands because we believe women can, and do, write cracking scripts which belong on stages throughout this country.

And so on with the admin, the emailing, the marketing - and hopefully people will come to our shows and see that's true.