News: Paines Plough launches new digital projects connecting playwrights and audiences across the world

Paines Plough, one of the most celebrated new writing theatre companies in the UK who put the playwright at the centre of their work, is launching a series of new digital projects to connect national and international playwrights and audiences in response to the current global crisis. With freedom of travel currently restricted, the organisation which is known for touring the whole nation, and building local ties wherever it goes, will explore how we can continue to experience the different places people call home, across counties and countries in isolation.

The company will use their wide-ranging and expansive app-based audio play library, COME TO WHERE I’M FROM, as a launching point for the new projects. Set up 11 years ago COME TO WHERE I’M FROM has seen over 160 playwrights from across the country write about the places they call home. Each play is performed by the writer for one-night only and then becomes part of the free app creating a vivid patchwork quilt of accents, experiences and impressions of the UK. Some of the nation’s most celebrated playwrights can be found on there, performing their own plays about the places that have shaped them. Recent additions include Alice Birch, Mike Bartlett, James Graham, Roy Williams, Vinay Patel, Lizzie Nunnery and Simon Stephens.

In response to a rapidly changing world, where all touring and live performance is currently on hiatus, Paines Plough will now launch COME TO WHERE I AM. In partnership with theatres across the UK they will co-commission 30 new short plays from writers about the places they call home and their relationship to home at this time. In a reversal of previous plays these will be recorded first and released as visual-audio pieces and then performed in partnering theatres when they reopen. Partner theatres include Derby Theatre, Eastern Angles, Open Clasp Theatre Company Newcastle, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Reading Rep Theatre, Sheffield Theatres and Theatre by the Lake Keswick.

All of these new plays will be made available online and, for certain groups who may find it more difficult or even impossible to access digital content, Paines Plough will create a unique live readings of the plays over the phone, allowing isolated audience groups to access on-demand culture. Paines Plough are working in collaboration with celebrated actors to provide this caller service including David Bradley, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Lisa Hammond and Sally Dynevor – with more still to be announced. To deliver the service Paines Plough will work with the partner theatres to identify potential user groups within their communities.

In a further extension of the original idea and in association with European project ‘Play On’ funded by Creative Europe, the company’s second digital initiative to be launched today is THE PLACE I CALL HOME, a brand-new programme connecting international writers to create new work together, in isolation, across borders. Presented in collaboration with theatres across Europe, two writers will be paired up to co-author a new bilingual play about home that will be realised with digital artist collaborators and shared across digital platforms. The plays will be performed by British and international actors including working in collaboration with British Drama school students who have had projects postponed to provide alternative performance opportunities through these digital productions. Partnerships include Theatre Dortmund, with writers Calle Fuhr (INTO THE STARS) from Germany and UK playwright Dipo Baruwa-Etti (AN UNFINISHED MAN), Theatr Ludowy in Krakow with Polish writer Magda Węgrzyn (THE LAST 300 METRES) and UK writer Travis Alabanza (BURGERZ), Elsinor Theatre Milan, with writers Giuditta Mingucci (I WISH) from Italy and UK playwright Rosie MacPherson (WHERE WE BEGAN), working in partnership with Yorkshire-based company Stand and Be Counted (the UK’s first Theatre Company of Sanctuary).

Paines Plough have also announced the appointment of their 2020/2021 Trainee Director, their Big Room Fellowship Playwright and a new emerging playwright’s bursary.

Kaleya Baxe will be the 2020/1 Trainee Director for Paines Plough. Her directorial debut PATRICIA GETS READY (FOR A DATE WITH THE MAN THAT USED TO HIT HER) had a sold out run at The White Bear and won the VAULT Festival Show of the Week Award. As well as working on outreach projects with the Young Vic, Kiln and Arcola Theatre, she has directed short pieces at leading fringe venues. Her most recent project was WRITTEN by Alex Cooke, a new play that toured to schools, pupil referral units and other youth settings.

The Big Room Playwright Fellow this year will be Vickie Donoghue whose debut play MUDLARKS garnered critical acclaim in 2012. She has since collaborated with Theatre Royal Portsmouth, the Mercury Theatre and the Royal Court. The Big Room Playwright Fellowship is awarded annually to a writer of exceptional promise and invites the writer to spend nine months on attachment to Paines Plough. Playwrights are provided with a bespoke programme tailored to their specific needs, ambitions and circumstances. Previous fellows have included: Frankie Meredith, Charley Miles, Nathan Bryon and Sam Steiner.

For 2020 Paines Plough are also introducing the Playwright Bursary, which will be given for the first time this year to Ric Renton. Most recently Ric finished his debut play NOTHING IN A BUTTERFLY, which had been planned to premiere this summer. He will use the bursary to write a play about his time inside prisons in the North-East and an intimate friendship he struck up with a prison guard over two years, through his cell door. The bursary will allow for paid time to work with the Paines Plough team to develop the project and provide a budget for Ric to further his own writing.

Artistic Directors of Paines Plough Charlotte Bennett and Katie Posner said: ‘We are delighted to share our new digital plans which expand on our existing app and project COME TO WHERE I’M FROM and see a brand new International project – THE PLACE I CALL HOME. We recognise that these are challenging times and we hope that this new programme which celebrates homes and places will enable audiences to be momentarily transported somewhere else – whether that be spending ten minutes in Derby or half an hour in Milan. Collaborating with our excellent national and international partners we are pleased to be providing employment for artists to still create thrilling new theatre for audiences.

We are also excited to announce our ongoing commitment to developing extraordinary artists through the appointment of our playwright fellow and trainee director and to also introduce our new playwrighting bursary. These three artists are incredibly gifted and we look forward to supporting them over the next year to develop and thrive.’

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