Stanniversary

06Dec16

stans-cafe-is-dead

Stan’s Cafe is 25 Years Old.

In the Autumn of 1991 James and I moved into the terraced house at 85 Ombersley Rd., Balsall Heath, Birmingham, and the Stan’s Cafe adventure began in earnest. By the end of November we had started rehearsals for the very first project, Perry Como’s Christmas Cracker, and the first performance took place at Emmbrook Secondary School, Wokingham, Berkshire, on the 9th December, if my memory serves me correct.

On Weds 30th November 2016, Stan’s Cafe hosted a party at mac Birmingham to mark and celebrate the event. Stan did what Stan does best, staging a big production number for 350 invited collaborators and friends. An archival exhibition curated by Ana Rutter; gallery installations – including a DIY It’s Your Film and mini versions of the Scalextric, Of All The People In All The World plus the dominoes from Finger, Trigger, Bullet, Gun; Food Stations, designed around specific show-themes by Denise Stanton, a cinema screening of the 4-hour Twilight of the Freaking Gods (Stan’s interpretation of Gotterdammerung), and performances of a new piece, Time Critical, in which Rochi and Craig splice the Stan’s Cafe timeline against a chronology of critical events whilst James monitors the Chess-Clock timing mechanism which will determine the climax of the show.

Following the ‘official’ speeches from James, Roisin and chair-of-the-board Rob Elkington, I invoked the spirit of iconoclast Stan himself and ‘cut’ the cake with a blunt cricket bat.

“Stan’s Cafe is dead! …… Long live Stan’s Cafe!”

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Performed outside St.Martin’s in the Bullring on the 14th May 2016, “The Hand That Feeds” was the premiere of a new piece of work by The New Optimists, and the latest in the Narrativium series. The project was the brainchild of New Optimists founder Kate Cooper (who is also the Chair of the Birmingham Food Council), and was written by composer Sara Colman / writer Mez Packer. It addresses an issue that has huge global implications but which is identified and policed all too scarcely. The recent so-called Horsemeat Scandal” helped bring the concept of Food Fraud to public attention, but this headline-grabbing story is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce, so to speak. It is very much hoped that more opportunities for performing the 40-minute song-cycle will be found in the future.

I had the pleasure of directing the piece, which features Anthony Miles and Sam ‘Frankie’ Fox on vocals, Al Gurr on keyboard and Xhosa Cole on a variety of wind instruments. The team were completed with the marvellous Castle Vale Community Choir, who filled in with a variety of cameos. The intrepid Charlotte Gregory, aside from producing the piece, donned her spangles for a featured role as backing singer.

Here is a trailer, edited from the day’s performances by Mat Beckett of River Rea  Films.


MY BIG FAT COWPAT WEDDING – Tour schedule, Autumn 2016 

28 Sept  7.30pm  Newhampton Arts Centre
Dunkley St  Wolverhampton WV1 4AN
Tickets 01902 572090  Book on line here

CHESHIRE, SHROPSHIRE & HEREFORDSHIRE 
29 Sept  7.30pm  The Barbour Institute 
Tattenhall  Cheshire  CH3 9PX
Tickets Linda 01829 771374 or Barbara 01829 771649
Book on line here  

30 Sept  7.30pm  Quatt Village Hall 
Quatt  Bridgnorth  Shropshire WV15 6QN
Tickets 01746 781759 or 781214

1 Oct  7.30pm  Meole Brace Peace Memorial Hall 
84 Upper Road  Meole Brace  Shrewsbury SY3 9JP
Tickets 01743 235384

2 Oct  7.30pm  Conquest Theatre
Tenbury Road  Bromyard  Herefordshire HR7 4LL
Tickets 01885 488575  www.conquest-theatre.co.uk

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BIRMINGHAM
5 Oct  7.30pm   Brasshouse Community Centre 
Brass House lane Smethwick B66 1BA
Tickets 0121 555 5672

YORKSHIRE
6 Oct  7.30pm  Weaverthorpe Village Hall
Weaverthorpe YO17 8HA
Tickets 01944 738037  Book on line here

7 Oct  7.30pm  Skipton Town Hall
Skipton  North Yorkshire BD23 1FD
Tickets 01756 792809   Book on line here

8 Oct  7.30pm Hackforth Village Hall
Hackforth  North Yorkshire DL8 1PE
Tickets 01677 424436  Book on line here

9 Oct 7.30pm  Hutton Rudby Village Hall 
Hutton Rudby  North Yorkshire TS15 0EJ
Tickets 01642 701586   Book on line here

12 Oct  7.30pm  Pattingham Village Hall 
High St. Pattingham  Wolverhampton WV6 7BQ
Tickets  www.pattinghamvillagehall.org  07974 010724

MIDLANDS
13 Oct  7.30pm  University of Worcester
Henwick Grove  Henwick Grove Worcester WR2 6AJ
Tickets; Steve 01886 880125

14 Oct  7.30pm  Norwell Village Hall 
Carlton Lane Norwell  Nottinghamshire NG23 6LF
Tickets: Reserve at the local shop  
www.norwell-online.org.uk

15 Oct 7.30pm  Glebe Field Centre 
Glebe Field Close  Crich  Matlock  Derbyshire DE4 5EU
Tickets: 01773 853260 Book Tickets here  

16 Oct  3.30pm  Sturton le Steeple Village Hall
Brickings Way  Sturton Le Steeple  Nottinghamshire DN22 9HY
Tickets  http://www.sturtonward.org.uk

DORSET & DEVON

18 Oct  7.30pm Bourton Village Hall
Bourton Village Dorset SP8 5BJ
Tickets 07969 783801 Book Online here

19 Oct  7.30pm  Portesham Village Hall
Portesham Village Dorset  DT3 4NS
Tickets 01305 871925    Book Online here

20 Oct  7.30pm  Sixpenny Handley Village Hall
Sixpenny Handley Dorset  SP5 5NJ
Tickets 07751 525200   Book Online here

21 Oct  7.30pm  Yetminster Jubilee Hall
Yetminster Dorset DT9 6LQ
Tickets 01935 873719   Book Online here

22 Oct 8pm  Black Dog Village Hall
Black Dog Village Nr Crediton  Devon EX17 4QS
Tickets 01363 866434 or they can be bought from Kennerleigh Shop

23 Oct 8.00pm South Brent Village Hall
Station Approach  South Brent  Devon TQ10 9AQ 
Tickets from Artworks Station Road South Brent
01364 649424 or 01364 72617

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WALES
25 Oct 7.00pm  All Saints Church Hall
Rhys Street  Trealaw Tonypady CF40 2NW
Tickets  joyrosseris@aol.com

26 Oct 7.00pm  Rhossili Village Hall
Rhossili  Swansea SA3 1PL.
Tickets  www.rhossili.org.uk

27 Oct 7.30pm Catbrook Memorial Village Hall
Back Road  Catbrook  Monmouthshire NP16 6NA
Tickets from Andy Pullan on 01291 689474 or via andy_justine@btinternet.com
http://www.catbrook.org.uk
   

28 Oct  6.45pm  The India Centre
Sanquhar Street Splott Cardiff CF24 2AA
Advance Tickets via poosinghal@gmail.com   www.indiacentre.co.uk

29 Oct 7.30pm Neuadd Dyfi
Aberdovey Gwynedd  LL35 0NR
Book Online here

30 Oct 6.00pm Calolfan Clydau Centre
Llanfyrnach Pembrokeshire SA35 0BJ
Tickets 01239 798449  or 07771814401 
Book Online here

CUMBRIA, NORTHUMBERLAND & DURHAM
2 Nov 7.30pm Shap Memorial Hall 
Main Street Shap Penrith Cumbria CA10 3NL
Tickets 01931 716273  www.shapcumbria.co.uk

3 Nov  7.30pm Hamsterely Village Hall
Hamsterley Bishop Auckland Durham  DL13 3QF Tickets 01388 488323   www.teesdalehalls.co.uk

4 Nov  7.30pm Crook St Cuthbert’s Centre
Church Hill  Crook  County Durham DL15 9DN
Tickets 01388 765002www.ourladyandstcuthbertscrook.org.uk

5 Nov 7.30pm Hepscott Parish Hall
Hepscott  Morpeth  Northumberland NE61 6LN
Tickets 01670 514031 

6 Nov 7.30pm Howick Village Hall
Howick Alnwick Northumberland NE66 3LE
Tickets 01665 577384

SUSSEX
8 Nov  8.00pm  Graffham Empire Hall
Graffham Petworth West Sussex GU28 0QB
Tickets 01798 867026  Book online here

CORNWALL
10 Nov  7.30pm Falmouth The Poly
The Poly, Church Street, Falmouth, TR11 3EG
Tickets 01326 319461 Book online here

11 Nov  8.00pm  Gwinear 71 Churchtown 
Churchtown Gwinear near Hayle TR27 5JL
Tickets  Neil Harvey; anh27@hotmail.co.uk

12 Nov  8.00pm The Stithians Centre 
Church Road Stithians TR3 7DH
Tickets 01209 860258
From Sept via The Seven Stars 01209 860003  
Book online here

13 Nov  7.30pm Perranporth Memorial Hall 
Wheal Leisure  Perranporth TR6 0EY
Tickets Barbara; btremewan@aol.com

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MY BIG FAT COWPAT WEDDING  by  Sayan Kent

Cast Sukhraj Dhillon, Genevieve Helson, Shri Patel and Graeme Rose
Directed by Janet Steel and Steve Johnstone
Design by Abigail King, Music by Sayan Kent

Kali Theatre, in collaboration with Black Country Touring and Arts Alive

 

 


My Big Fat Cowpat Wedding, written by Sayan Kent, directed by Janet Steel / Steve Johnstone and produced by Kali Theatre in collaboration with Black Country Touring and Arts Alive, was first created in the Autumn of 2014. With support from the Rural Touring Network, the show toured to Village Halls across England and Wales and was a great success. So popular, infant, that two years later a retour is currently underway.

Here is some information about the show on the Kali Theatre website ….LINK

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The cast at Weston House Farm, Chirbury, Salop. with our farmer and inspiration John, who introduced us to the farm and his 220-strong dairy herd. L-R; Shri Patel, Genevieve Helson, Janet Steel, Sukhraj Dhillon, me (feeling quite at home), John Brook and Steve Johnstone.

The new production premiered at Newhampton Arts Centre last week before hitting the country lanes of Shropshire, Cheshire and Worcestershire in its first touring week.

Below is a trailer for the show, edited together from extracts of a performance at The RFH, South Bank Centre, May 2015, and featuring the original cast of Aimee Berwick, Sheena Patel and Aaron Virdee;


for Marion McRae Thorpe

7th May 1944 – 5th September 2016

marion-mcrae-thorpe

(read at Eckington Church, Worcs. friday 23rd September 2016)

I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to talk about a period in Marion’s life which was significant, not just for her , and Mike, but for so many friends – some of whom are with us today.

For a brief but magical 3 or 4 years in the early 1980’s a flower came into bloom.

Weoley Hill Scouts and Guides was already a busy, thriving community in SW Birmingham, but when Marion, and Mike volunteered to set up and run the first Venture Scout Unit – Pisces – with male and female ventures, one can only imagine what they thought they were taking on; especially given their busy working lives in their respective teaching institutions, not to mention their own family commitments. Nor could the family have foreseen, and I include Cathy and David here, that their ‘family’ would grow overnight.

What Marion and Mike did between them was to bring together disparate groups of young people – helping us to recognise, harness and focus all that raging teen spirit; all that potential and energy in the most positive, creative and fruitful ways.

Marion was always so brilliant at sussing people out. So sensible to every individual’s needs, interests, issues. So warm and so open to possibility; fascinated with wanting everyone to reach their potential. So patient and generous; forever with that winning smile, with a brow that said: Come on then, what have you got? Encouraging us to think, discuss, to question and embrace the fulness of life by doing it. Getting out there and actually doing it.

Pisces had bags of personality, and the environment that she created with Mike heaped opportunities upon those of us who were hungry for it.

She encouraged self-motivation; she trusted us and expected us to take responsibility, to organize, to stretch ourselves, raise the game; showing us horizons that most of us didn’t know were there.

Weekends of adventure – spent camping, climbing, canal-clearing, hosteling, raft-racing on the Severn, doing sports competitions; overseeing the publishing of a Group magazine: Evenings of enlightenment; with talks by visiting specialists, cookery evenings, film and band nights, car mechanics, parachuting, abseiling…

But impressive though that all was, it was not just the activities – for what are they without the friendship, laughter and above all conversation;

…because you could talk to Marion about anything. Real, honest and open conversations that covered all manner of subjects – philosophical, political, personal. Conversations over skittles or darts in the pub; conversations in deep snow on the top of a mountain or in a garden around a campfire. These were the conversations that you wished you might be able to have with your own parents, but were somehow unable to.

Marion, and Mike, seemed to me to be model humans, genuine, beautiful, inspirational people with qualities that you would ever want to aspire to.

A conversations in the back of a yellow minibus somewhere on the A5, which I remember, in which we asked Marion to tell us all about Love. We, eager sponges –  as her captive audience, whilst Mike took his turn to drive with a contented grin on his face, as she recounted their meeting, their time in Cambridge, their romance, and their enduring partnership.

I can’t apologise for including mentioning Mike so much, because to talk of Marion is to implicitly include Mike, and vice versa. They were inseparable to us.

If we were walking with Mike, then Marion was walking with us too.

The door was always open, they shared their house, their meals, home-brew; opening their hearts and their lives with us. I know I am not alone in saying I learned so much during that time. It really was the time of our lives.

Even though it was a relatively brief period, that friendship, and the impact of that magical time, over 30 years ago, has never and will never disappear. Forever after, Marion was there for us, unconditionally encouraging us through the joyful events, and supporting through the difficult / fractured times that life sometimes throws at us.

 

Marion, for showing us what it is to be a beautiful human.

for helping us to become the people we are

We love you and we cannot thank you enough.

 

GR



A Leap in Time

29Feb16

imageWearing the same T-shirt, but having shed several skins. ‘ Nipper’from Class Enemy, performed at the Dukes Theatre, Lancaster, May 1985, gets a makeover.



Vampomimic

08Dec15

Production shots taken by Nicola Young of Vampomime!, which opens this week at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry. Written and directed by Nick Walker, with Jack Trow, Miriam Grace Edwards, Katy Stephens and the voice/vapes of Connor Nolan. Vampomime! Runs through until 2nd January ’16.


I confess I find van-loads and get-ins energising; even exciting. Whilst it is arguably the hardest, most arduous part of gigging and something oft to be dreaded, Stan’s Cafe prides itself on an history of everyone mucking in. There are plenty of jobbing actors who might balk at the idea of emptying a truck or shifting set, but if you’ve made your own work with co-operative principles then you know that the energy of a team comes from shared responsibilities. “All things commensurate with small-scale touring” was the phrase I remember from Red Shift contracts.

The sight of a loaded Paul Matthews artic leaving A.E.Harris last month made me immensely proud of the company’s achievements, because getting this show up and running at all, let alone abroad, is a huge undertaking.

Three days later Robbie (the driver – fresh from travelling with DV8 and a recent tour of Italy with our friends at Imitating The Dog) arrived in the Car Park behind Klub Stodola, Warsaw. Assisted by a shaven-headed Polish crew looking like paramilitaries, we unloaded the trailer and brought “The Cleansing Of Constance Brown” to audiences for the first time since Tanztage Potsdam, back in May 2011.

I’d been wanting to record a timelapse of the get-in since we started the project back in 2007. Thanks to the power of iPad, the task was made simple. Above is a rough, low res documentation of the get-in / bump-in / fit-up followed by a dress run of the show, prior to it opening as part of the XXII Crossroads Festival of Live Arts.