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Our venerable Founder

The New Stuff Theatre Company was set up by Ian Harris mainly because he felt there was hardly any New Drama (apart from the well-funded RSC) happening in Stratford. Ian believes this situation must have Shakespeare turning in his grave, so he decided to do something about it.

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    Resting….

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Nothing to see here (at the moment). Why don’t you read my other blogs…?

    The Stratfordian.

    The Curmudgeon Times.

    ‘The King Factor’ by Ian Harris. Directed by Abi Deehan of the Bibs & Bobs Theatre Company

    Blimey it’s a bit dusty in here.The door’s hinges are squeaky and it smells a bit…but what do you expect when this theatre  website hasn’t had a hoover run round it for months…

    Anyway, just a fleeting visit to say thanks to Abi Deehan (directing) / Hannah Perrin of the Bibs and Bobs theatre Company for putting my play ‘The King Factor’ on, and all under their own steam and hard work. (Obviously these things work better when I keep my nose out).

    I’m not sure I’m going to be able to see what they’ve made of it because I’m a bit under the weather but whatever happens I have nothing but admiration and a great big barrel of thanks for their (and the cast’s) dedication.

    Break a leg and thanks very, very much. x

    If you’d like to go see ‘The King Factor’ it’s on at the Methodist Church (opp Holy Trinity) on the 30th Aug / 31st Aug / 1st Sept at 7.30 each of those evenings.

    Tickets are available here… www.ticketsource.co.uk/bits-and-bobs

    £10 / £8 concessions (under 16s / over 60s / students [with valid ID])

    Enjoy…and once again many thanks to the Bibs and Bobs Theatre Company.


    theatre. The King Factor

    The King Factor.

    The war is over and the defeated King is alone with his traitorous man-servant in a rapidly disintegrating palace. The king’s son is missing in action and the Queen has been jailed by the new and victorious government for ‘insurance’ purposes. All, including the king’s sanity, is apparently lost.
    The new government however, realises that a war won is not just the winning of battles and that to declare a true victory the hearts and minds of the populace must also be part of the victors spoils.
    Baffled by the population’s love of a royal family that in the victors eyes have done nothing to warrant it, the new government realise that to be able to move forward and gain the people’s confidence they need the King onside, so despatch a government representative (BETH) to the palace to persuade the King to play ball.
    With her methods devious and her reasoning ruthless BETH, even with the help of an internal spy, has her work cut out trying to reason with a bonkers monarch.

     

     

     

    Ain’t dead yet.

    Just in case there is anyone out there that follows New Stuff religiously (ha!), I need to apologise for the blatant lack of activity on the site which of course is down to me. I’m afraid last year was a bit of a family minefield for us and how I got ‘Complicated Creatures’ on I shall never know. As far as this year goes I am trying my damndest to get started with my play, ‘The King Factor’ but you think I can get the cast? Unfortunately, I’m finding it very difficult. There has never been (believe it or not) a lot of actors to choose from here in Stratford upon Avon and this year everyone seems more busy than usual doing the ever-present Shakespeare, although I guess the fact that I only can offer an equal share in profits has something to do with it? What I do know is that new writing presents a certain kind of risk that not too many are prepared to take, which I guess is understandable but hey, what is acting about if it’s not exploration and risk-taking?

    Anyway on a positive note New Stuff did win ‘Infringer of the Year’ (see below) and for that I’m eternally grateful to the Stratford Fringe website.

    So onwards and upwards.

    At the moment I’m looking for an actor to play an embittered manservant (50s/60s) in my play ‘The King Factor’. Also, if you’re an interested actor who might like to take part in any future New Stuff Productions please let me know. email… ianfharris@gmail.com / newstufftheatrecompany@mail.com

    Looking….

    As the new year rapidly approaches, it’s time for me to figure out what New Stuff Theatre should start 2018 with. The answer is I don’t know.

    However, it could be my play ‘The King Factor’, in which case I’m looking for an actor to play a 60 year old (ish) rebellious man-servant. Anyone? Email me on newstufftheatrecompany@mail.com if you’re interested.

    ‘The King Factor’ will be a shared profit production and will take place at our Space at The Swan Hotel, Kineton.

    Hang on in there…

    News of up and coming productions from the mighty pen of Ian Harris (*cough) coming soon. Stay tuned.

    👿

    Oh Yes Indeed.

    The 2nd Best Bed Theatre Company (with the New stuff theatre Company) PRESENT…

    Our second Shakespeare variety show with a twist! Scenes, sonnets, songs and silliness…come and join us for some Shakesbeer and wine! Tickets available and the chance to buy meal deal tickets! Food and Theatre anyone? yes please! We have joined up with New Stuff Theatre Company in a brand new theatre space and are looking forward to performing our show case production in October!

    17th – 19th October @ 19.30
    Saturday 21st October @ 13.30 and 19.30
    The Swan Hotel, Kineton, Warwick, CV35 0JS
    Doors Open half an hour before the show starts

    Tickets:
    £10 (£8 concession) on the Door
    £8 pre-paid tickets
    £21 Meal Deal (Tickets inc two courses and a drink)

    email: secondbestbedtheatrecompany@gmail.com
    Online: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/carambatheatreco

    In partnership with ‘The New Stuff Theatre Company’

    Breaking News….

    Just to remind everyone that The New Stuff Theatre Company has teamed up with The Second Best Bed Theatre Company whose latest production (details to follow) will be taking place at The Swan Hotel in Kineton in October (watch this space).

    Complicated Creatures – Done & Dusted.

    Wow…that was an experience. I just want to say thank you to actors and audience who made my play ‘Complicated Creatures’ a success.

    In many ways it was an experiment. I wanted to see if it was feasible to present theatre outside of Stratford. Not that it was a planned experiment of course, what with losing our (The New Stuff Theatre Company)  residence at The View in Stratford and then the opportunity (Thanks to Carl Harrison) to take root at The Swan Hotel in Kineton, it was very much ‘forced’ on us, but hey what a great position to be ‘forced ‘ into.

    In truth, part of my quest was to see if people from Stratford upon Avon would be willing to make a trip of ten miles to Kineton to see small, studio-type theatre…and the answer? I don’t know….and you know what,  it doesn’t matter. We got an audience and in the end that’s all that counts isn’t it?

    Once more, thank you to all my actors, Abi Deehan, Orion Johnson, Hannah Perrin, Chris Callaghan and Nathan Brown. For the impeccable sound and his advice on production values, I’d like to thank my great friend, Wayne Lavery.

    That’s it. Keep your eyes open for our new partners in theatre, The Second Best Bed Theatre Company and what could possibly be The New Stuff Theatre Company’s next production, ‘The Big Pink One’s’.

     

     

    An article. Written for ‘Stratford Fringe’ website.

    Two things you should know.

    First of all, I was going to start this article off by saying I didn’t really know what the definition of ‘Fringe’ was/is.

    Secondly. I am writing this in the middle of trying to get my play ‘Complicated Creatures’ on. I am knackered, frustrated and fed up. We go up on the 16th of August (at the Swan Hotel, Kineton) and a couple of days ago I lost an ‘actor’ who obviously didn’t know what the word ‘Commitment’ meant. However, thanks to him, my definition of that hateful word, ‘Fringe’ has now formed clearly in this aching head and, like a dog turd on an otherwise litter free pavement, I have decided, it has to be avoided at all costs. So, just like the curse of ‘The Scottish Play’ the word ‘Fringe’ (after this article) will never pass these lips again as it only brings with its usage and definition, pain and agony.

    Fringe means having no money to put your work on. Fringe means relying on the generosity of others, be they actors or venue providers to provide (thank you my friend Carl Harrison of the Swan Hotel, Kineton). Fringe is the embarrassment of having to ask up and coming or established artists to give me their skills for nothing. Fringe means being prepared to be looked down on and forgotten, usually as soon as the curtain falls on the final show.  Fringe means using real world personal household  items, like hats, coats, tables, chairs etc as costumes and props (the shame, the shame). And last but not least…  

    Fringe means (for me) being in a state of permanent anger watching as ‘the big boys’ like the Royal Shakespeare Theatre hoover up a large proportion of the grants available by the crafty and increasing use of ‘buzz words’ like ‘Education’, ‘diverse target audience’ , whilst at the same time justifying their greed by pretending to care about and ‘work with’ the local theatrical community.

    Less is More.

    Those who know me will have realised by now that I’m quite fond of telling folks  that I spent some years at The Royal Shakespeare as a stage –hand. Now, as boring as I’ve become on this subject  I have to say that, the experience of watching the likes of Anthony Sher, Mark Rylance, Brian Cox, Patricia Routledge, the Cusack women, to name but a few  gave me, I believe, some insight into what makes good acting and therefore good actors.  And it’s simple.

    In my view… It’s the ability to resist putting on a show. It’s the ability to hold back, to cut back on the ‘acting’. In simple terms, the best in the business know that less is more. 

    This week, for some unknown reason  I’ve found myself watching quite a few ‘show reels’ (actors, sometimes straight from college, sometimes not, selling their wares) and to put it bluntly, I’ve been disappointed and more than a little surprised.

     In my opinion most of what I’ve watched has quite simply been over-acted.  Some of the stuff is so drama-school I’m surprised that they didn’t break into song and a tap dance. Worse than that, most everything/everyone was so, unoriginal. One actor blended into another. Hands waved about all over the place, faces gurned and voices rose and fell in ridiculous proportions in disastrous efforts to express emotion.

     Now, I don’t know if there’s some set pattern/performance that the tutors of the actors instruct them to stick to on the basis that those on the look-out for talent don’t want to be challenged too much, but hey, I wouldn’t be surprised. What other excuse could there be for lack of originality? Where’s the bravery, the courage to take a piece somewhere where it has never been? More importantly, rookie actor, where’s the ‘thing’, the ‘ingredient X’ that makes your show reel, your performance, different than anybody else?

    In short, and I guess what I’m trying to say here is…surely acting is one of the only professions where sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb is an advantage, and one of the only professions where to do that you actually reign yourself in?

    From ‘The Stage’.

    Actors including Imelda Staunton, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi and Steven Berkoff claim the demise of rep means young actors miss vital training.

    Arguing that young actors want to “get on to the TV”, Berkoff said: “I have felt a loss. Where are the Albert Finneys, the O’Tooles, where are the Laurence Oliviers, the Paul Scofields? They ain’t there, mate. These actors do not exist today.”

    The comments were made in The Actor’s Apprenticeship, a documentary by actor Luke Dale that looks at the demise of rep and its impact on the acting industry.

    Berkoff’s remarks were backed up by other performers, who warned that the lack of a repertory system, where actors learned and performed multiple plays at any one time throughout a season, meant that there was no training ground for graduate actors to hone their technique.

    Television gives young actors too much exposure too early in their careers, Dench said. “I think with television and shows like Britain’s Got Talent, young actors want to make some kind of instant impression, to be instantly recognised. What worries me about that is what happens after that? What happens to them with no kind of training or no kind of discipline behind them?”

    “It’s all very well being at drama school and giving your end-of-term shows, but you have to then learn to make mistakes, you have to then learn what it is to play to different sizes of theatre, you have to somehow sharpen up your act,” she added.

    Her comments were supported by Jacobi and Staunton. Jacobi said: “We were allowed to fail, to make mistakes because, in a sense, there weren’t a great many people watching [in repertory theatre].”

    Staunton explained: “None of us set out to be bad in repertory theatre but you weren’t exposed to the extent that some young actors are now.”

    The demise of rep has made it more difficult for actors, Jacobi argued in the documentary. “I don’t know how a young actor today with ambitions for stage, I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know what journey you have to make,” he said.

    However, Staunton argued that things are “a lot better” for young actors today: “Someone leaving drama school now can go to rep – not many – they can go to television, they can go to radio, they can go to film. There are many options.”

    Last year, Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre announced it would revive its repertory company for the first time in 25 years. Northern Rep revealed plans to bring rep back to Manchester earlier this year, with Chester’s Storyhouse following suit.

    Hordern Ciani theatre company will bring a repertory company to Swanage over the summer, while Keswick’s Theatre by the Lake has an annual repertory company for its summer season.

    The Actor’s Apprenticeship will be released online later this year.

    So…’Complicated Creatures’?

    ‘Many things are both wonderful and terrible,

    but none more so than humans’  Sophocles

    ‘Complicated Creatures’   my latest play is (I think) about the way we live and the things we do to each other.  It’s about the confusion in our lives and our desperate efforts to dodge ‘the shrapnel’ that ensues. Consequences.

    I had it in my head that I  wanted to write something that took a few scenes from various imagined lives, that hopefully the audience would  connect with and say, ‘I understand that’ because ‘I recognise it’. Perhaps I wish for too much. 

    Anyway, what I’ve done is ‘raid’ a few of my own short stories and plays to present my own view of certain aspects of life and the ‘cost of choice’, of going one way and not the other. Love, despair, directions right or wrong.

    Of course there’s always the risk that I might have vanished up my own exhaust pipe but hey that’s the risk you take when think you live with the arrogant (?) thought that you might have something important to say. All I can hope for is that I’ve touched on something that people will recognise as being part of their own lives and a play some of which, the audience might take home with them.

    Your Help Required Please.

    So here we all are with not long to go to the play and still one cast member short. Admittedly a late edition on my part but one I think necessary. You’d have thought that amongst the budding thespians in and around Stratford upon Avon I would have been able to find a mature male actor to play a drunken Irish Priest wouldn’t you but…nothing so far? It’s not a huge part and if you fancy it email me on newstufftheatrecompany@mail.com …and I will get back to you as quick as a rat up a drainpipe.

    I have to admit I don’t like this producing bit even though it is my own work/play. Too many stresses and strains which, for an old fart like me is not good thing (aaagh…pills…left hand pocket). However I have to say to all who are sticking by me…I love you and hope that we will get an audience for ‘Complicated Creatures’ that is big enough to at least buy you at the very least, a drink.

    Mum x

    This my Mum. This picture is of her at school in the 1920’s (you can tell her white mother had no idea how to handle black hair can’t you?).

    When she was a teenager and her brother and sister were enlisted fighting for King and Country she was under a table with her dad (apparently he wouldn’t always go down a shelter) somewhere in Westminster hiding from Hitler’s bombs. 

    Don’t let anyone tell you black people weren’t involved.

    One day I will write a play about her. 

    Love you mum. Miss you x

    Art as in all aspects of art. Particularly like number 10.

    Just a quick one…(ooer missus)

    Due to an unfortunate mix up we have lost an actor from our play ‘Complicated Creatures’. We are looking for a male/female actor of more or less any age to learn a monologue. If you’re interested please  email me newstufftheatrecompany@mail.com or leave a comment on this website for further details.

    Update: PROBLEM SOLVED. (Thank you Clare Challoner x)    PROBLEM has returned. Aaagh!  

    Sorted.

    Here’s the poster for the play below…

     

    Come and see The New Stuff Theatre Company’s New Play.

    Even more on acting. Part III.

    More on acting. Part II.

    Acting. A Force for Good. Part I.

    One of my favourite shows in terms of fantastic acting is without doubt, HBO’S, The Sopranos. Sure, like a lot of others,  I love a good old gangster, mafioso type drama with its regular blood-letting and constant thread of ‘who’s gonna be whacked/clipped next’ that runs through every episode. But The Sopranos is/was (finished now) more than that. To cut a long story short, it’s as it should be, it’s  the acting. Every member of the casts ability to bring the believable mundane into the mostly excruciating violent  life of the gangster is a joy to watch.

    Family (in more ways than one) life is paramount. It’s not just the constant conveyor belt of gruesome murders, it’s Tony Soprano’s guilt at the way his life, home and at ‘work’ were led by his chosen profession.  The effects on his family. The effects on him.  The way the unspoken (most times anyway) ‘Code of Honour ‘ leads everyone in Tony’s gang  to believe that deep down inside they were decent people doing the right thing and not the murdering scum that they actually were is a joy to watch. (And as for the fact that most of the goombahs have faith in God!)

    Anyway, I’m losing the thread here.

    What I really wanted to say is that I have spent the last half hour looking up the cast list of The Sopranos and was amazed to find that although a large number of the performers were late-comers to the profession of acting their late start in no way took away from their CV’S. They’d all done a bit of everything. Most of the great American playwrights, American screenwriters. Also, in terms of real life, one or two of them had, suffered their late start because, how can I put this, they’d  ‘been around a bit’. From armed robbery to jail time. Infact in one case acting had come to them, in of all places, prison. In short, I’m pleased to say that  there doesn’t appear to be a luvvie to be found anywhere amongst any of them.

    These were people who had lived real lives before turning to what is often seen as a poncy profession and somehow, miraculously, they found acting to be their saviour. People, who in turning to acting brought enough life-experience with them to get on with things . They’d forsaken the eye-rolling, the posing and all the other nonsense that I hate so much and recognised what the profession can truly be…a life affirming experience and a force for good.

    I may have gone a little over the top in this piece. I however, offer no apologies. Hic.

    Ian x

    From Theatre (Royal Shakespeare Theatre) to Screen.

    Interesting this, (at least for me). I worked on the stage production (backstage) of this at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Branagh has used most of the actors who appeared on stage in the film, including the ‘Blessed’. Plus: First time I’d ever seen ‘real rain’ on stage.

     

    Complicated Creatures.

    Had a brilliant first read through last night with most of the cast of my new piece  ‘*Complicated Creatures’. It went very well and made me feel so much better about my own writing as they brought it to life. 

    We’ve (The New Stuff Theatre Company) had to move the play to the third week in August but that’s no big deal and seems to fit into everyone’s schedule including Carl at The Swan Hotel Kineton where the performance will take place.

    * Oh the way we live.

    Still makes me laugh.

    All good at The Other Place Theatre.

    Went to the Royal Shakespeare’s Other Place theatre here in Stratford upon Avon last night to see ‘The Earthworks’  & ‘Myth’ and have to say I enjoyed both productions bigly. I’m still a little confused about some of what I consider over-blown publicity concerning The Other Place and its emphasis on ‘Mischief’ but hey, if they continue to produce work like this I’ll stop worrying about it.

    ‘The Earthworks’ was interesting. Although I felt the connection to CERN and the Large Hadron Collider was possibly a little bit too clever for its own good, it was still a good piece on (for me) connections and the fragility and loss in relationships.

    ‘Myth’ was absolutely fascinating  and did what I like most about good theatre, when it finishes you applaud the great performances and then you and the play leave together. In other words I’m still thinking about it and will let you know.. Funny and dark in equal measures. Puzzling, satisfying and bloody entertaining.

    Go see.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    I’m not doing this show (Complicated Creatures) until August and I’m already suffering the sleepless night syndrome. I’m running the damn thing through my head from start to finish, from the time I go to bed until I ‘wake up’. I imagine the theatre space will be consumed by fire and if by chance it survives this imaginary inferno, no-one will bother to turn up including the cast. If they do, I fully expect the scenery to collapse halfway through, crushing the drunken lead man who has forgotten everything including the need to wear clothes/costume. 

    As it is, I’ve had one drop out to due to work commitments (par for the course) and am having a small difficulty getting the survivors together for a read through and general get-together (again par for the course) so actually things are going as you might expect…so why do I put myself through this?

    Anthony Sher – Death of a Salesman

    …on the general election in Stratford upon Avon

    ‘And it is written that the many will stay with their bed and the few only will arise. Thus the true voice will be muffled by the ignorant and the truth by volume and it shall be called 11. The name of the beast being 11. Thus the gates will open and upon us will rush the hordes. And Lo they shall be called Zahawi and their tentacles shall spread throughout this land. The drink will be bitter and the air that we breathe smoke filled. Lights will blind the unseeing and false numbers align to promise untold riches. And so it will be at this time that the Prophet shall roll  twice (maybe) thrice in the dust of despair crying, ’The Philistines are upon us, the Philistines are upon us’. His voice will be unheeded and his head will bleed upon a wall of bricks.

    And so it will come to pass that mighty wind shall blow across the land and the cries of the people shall be drowned in its howling ferment. The land will slip away and we shall be alone. The drawbridge shall be raised and the moat filled. The Labours of Man shall be for nothing and the great store houses of wheat and grain shall rot and waste.  Many will die for want of cure as the knowledgeable take their leave for brighter and more welcoming shores. The Health of the People will Fade and Grey will colour the land. We shall be engulfed by the Wailing and the Cries of the People.

    And The Prophet will cry out to the small peoples silent minds…’Winter is Coming. Winter is coming.’

    But it will be too late…all will be lost and Nadhim will beat his breast and reign freely’.

    Beginnings of Possible Poster for New Stuff Theatre August Production

    just saying…

    1.  Voltaire called Shakespeare’s works an “enormous dunghill.”
    2.  Tolstoy was equally unimpressed, calling Will’s writing “Crude, immoral, vulgar and senseless.
    3.  George Bernard Shaw really waxed poetic about how much he hated Shakespeare. “There is no eminent writer, not even Sir Walter Scott, whom I despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare,” he said. “It would be positively a relief to me to dig him up and throw stones at him.” But there was a writer he hated more – Homer.
    4. British poet Walter Savage Landor had no love lost for the prolific writer either, and apparently would have been a great fit at Saveur or Bon Appetit: “The sonnets are hot and pothery, there is much condensation, little delicacy, like raspberry jam without cream, without crust, without bread.”
    5. Charles Darwin may just have been too evolved for Shakespeare: “I have tried lately to read Shakespeare and found it so intolerably dull that is nauseated me.”
    6. English playwright Robert Greene dismissed Shakespeare as a mere amateur who has been romanticized over the years, calling him “An upstart now beautified with our feathers.”
    7. J.R.R. Tolkien, in speaking of his days at King Edward’s School, said that he “disliked cordially” the Shakespeare section of his English literature studies.
    8. Dr. Samuel Johnson, a well-known English writer and scholar in the 1700s, had his red pencil out while reading Bill.“Shakespeare never had six lines together without a fault,” he once said. “Perhaps you may find seven, but this does not refute my general assertion.”
    9. Samuel Pepys spent an evening watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream,then recorded in his diary that [he] “had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life.”
    10. King George III was maybe not so firm in his hatred, but more disapproving of the melancholy turn many of Shakespeare’s works took. “Is this not sad stuff, what what?”

     

    The New Stuff Theatre at the Swan Hotel Kineton

    While the New Stuff Theatre Company slowly but surely comes together the Swan Hotel Kineton prepares for its refurbishment. So, before the building work begins, visit Carl and the gang and discover the friendliest small Hotel and Pub in the world (10 miles out of Stratford upon Avon). 

    The new menu is complete the New staff (Old – all the staff followed Carl from The View) are in place, the choice of beers/drinks etc is magnificent and the food superb. Visit.

    Just a couple of photos of the coming together of our (The New Stuff Theatre Company) theatre space in the Events Room at

    The Swan Hotel Kineton

    The Bar at The New Stuff – oh yes.
    Building black flats for The New Stuff.

    Theatre In Life.

    I think it’s interesting how aspects of theatre have permeated their way into our everyday lives. The way we use for instance, costume (uniforms) to identify us. Whether it’s a nurse or a four star general, the colour and cut of the cloth tell us who and what they are and on another level can even fire our imaginations. Perhaps the finest example of ‘theatre-in-life’ exists within the Church.

    When I was a Priest (Church of England) everyday was a literal performance. Whether the wearing of various types and particular elements of costume, from the highly colourful to the ultimate ‘drab’, everything from the cassock to the stole, had meaning. For me whatever ‘mode’ I was in I was constantly reminded that this was ‘theatre ‘ at its best and as for the congregation (a captive audience if you will), theatre at its most meaningful. Even my ‘script’ whatever its source bible or book of prayer, worked. It was familiar to the congregation/audience and in almost all cases agreeable to them making the ‘show’ a ‘winner’. And of course it wasn’t just the costume that affected the congregation’s mood. There was the ‘scenery’. The church building. The interior and exterior of which enabled the all important acoustics which made audible delivery in both the spoken word and musical episodes, unique, emotional and to many, hauntingly meaningful . And of course we must not forget the extras. Those little things that go to make a performance different. The ‘special effects’,  a must in any show.

    In my case the Church I belonged to (St Peter’s Hillfields, Coventry) was designated ‘High’ which meant we turned the levels up to 11. We laid it on thick. We had the bells and the smells. In the nicest possible way all your senses were under ‘attack’. And to that end our service, our performance was always cloaked in an air of mystery. A mystery aided and abetted by a thin transparent layer of white smoke that along with the music was psychologically quite capable of taking the congregation (and the Priest) ‘to another level’, which is surely the much sought-after purpose of any play or theatrical production you would care to mention. A dream-like state that lasted until the very moment you left the theatre/church. The audience and performers as One until the curtain came down. The only difference  between church and theatre, (which for me has always been a bit of a shame), there was never any applause in church. 

    Claim to Fame.

    When my Grandfather and Merchant Seaman, (Jacob Keene-Known as Charles) jumped ship in the 1900’s on route from Antigua to (I presume) London docks he apparently spent some years in the big city as an actor. I know he worked on the first British theatre production of ‘Showboat’ starring of course my all round hero and ardent Communist, Paul Robeson. He also appeared in ‘Sanders of the River’ again with Robeson, where Granddad paddled a canoe up the river Thames which apparently was standing-in for Africa.  I have heard rumours through the family that he also appeared at Drury Lane Theatre in a number of productions but sadly I have no records of those shows.

    Once many, many years ago I met a gentleman called ‘Alex’  who drank regularly in the Dirty Duck in Stratford upon Avon, (there used to be a picture of him in the Actor’s bar-where’s that gone Sam?),  who in the 20’s was a clarinet/oboe payer in many of London’s  classical orchestras and dance bands of the time. I happened to be talking about my Grandfather when Alex’s eyes lit up and he said…’Charlie…how the hell is he?’ Small world.

    Why The New Stuff Theatre Company?

    I keep getting asked why bother with The New Stuff Theatre Company, especially after so many disappointments like unexpected loss of venue and cast sickness with no way of affording understudies,  so I’ve thrown this together to try and give some sort of insight to what is turning out to be a passion.

    It has to be said that I am not a great fan of Shakespeare. I’ll go to a play now and again and always come out thinking the same thing, which is, ‘Why all the fuss’? Of course the man wrote some fantastic bits and pieces that make you sit up and think ‘Wow’ but in my view, these bits and pieces are more often than not encased in about two hours of boredom (there I’ve gone and said it). But hey, that’s me (although  I have to admit when I worked backstage at the RSC counting the number of people asleep in the audience became quite a sport).

    Anyway, after arriving in Stratford at the beginning of the 70’s and eventually spending a few years working at Shakespeare’s Temple (RSC) I ended up confused as to why a town (Stratford upon Avon) with such a fantastic historical theatrical connection would choose to sit back on its laurels and not make more of  it. To put it crudely, why just Shakespeare? If anywhere had a major excuse to celebrate the wider theatre, then Stratford upon Avon did.

    [True story: Once, when I was young and stupid  and living in Stratford, some friends and me had an idea to put on a theatrical festival, you know the sort of thing, a celebration of all things theatre  under canvas and on the rec. That was until I received a phone call from a ‘citizen worthy’  (no name no pack drill) who told me in no uncertain terms that ‘they could not let such a proposal happen’. Make of that what you will].

    As the years have passed and I was privileged to witness and work on some of the new/modern productions at the old Other Place and got more into the different shows that the RSC main house and the Swan have bought in, (Pinter’s The Homecoming – Death of a Salesman etc) I have become more frustrated that new/modern drama is not more of Stratford’s makeup. (Granted, The Other Place has the Mischief seasons but it’s sporadic and not enough).

    So…to cut a long story short and for me to stop rambling, if you crave New Drama like I do, there’s only one thing to do especially round these parts, put it on yourself. And don’t rely on those with the dosh for help. The fact of the matter is The Royal Shakespeare is just that…The Royal Shakespeare.

    So that’s why the New Stuff Theatre Company. That’s why we’re putting our (very little) money where our mouth is. We’re having a go. That’s why we’re fighting through the barriers that lack of money throw up. That’s why we grit our teeth when we witness the extravagant and sometimes arrogant behaviour of the organisations that appear to get all the bread. Just do it. Find those of a like mind and work hard and together and just do it.

    Two of our finest…

    Arts on the NHS.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…there is a good case (I think) for the Arts (especially theatre) to become available on the National Health. Of course that’s never going to happen because at the moment Health itself looks like, (especially under this government) it might become unavailable but I’m sure you know what I mean.

     Stories in whatever form they come, dance, drama, painting etc do various things. They can offer us a reflection on our own lives, they can show us a close-up of the artist’s/performers life which can in turn help us to realise that we are not alone in our suffering. And of course they, the picture, the dance, the film, the play can make us feel good, albeit for a fleeting moment, offering a light in the darkness.

    It’s a funny old thing the arts. If all the above is true which I obviously believe it is, why have the Arts been corralled and cornered. Why is it that so many people have never been to a play or been able to appreciate a painting believing like so many do, that, ‘it isn’t for them’. What bastard told them this? If it ain’t for them, who the hell is it for?

    The truth is I’m afraid that the Arts have been hi-jacked by those with time and money on their hands.  The Arts have been hi-jacked and as usually happens with any sort of Cure for Quite a lot of ills, is rationed out so as to not appear too greedy. Seats in the Theatre for those that can afford it. TV for the masses (that should keep them happy and off the streets).

    Now, let me say that TV, especially from America, is in my view hitting new heights, the recent writing is superb but…TV is but one experience. There are many ways to experience the buzz, whether wondering if Phil Mitchell will make it through his latest injury to watching one of my plays with a hard seat cutting into your bum. All I’m saying here is perhaps it’s time for a brave someone to hitch up a horse and cart, raise a cast and travel from village to village (well done The Festival Players – but it is Shakespeare).

    Build some more theatres that’s what I say. Bring back rep and spread some of the major theatres grants around so more people (and actors are people – aren’t they?) can benefit.

    Best way to sell tickets?

    Over the years I have tried various ways of selling theatre tickets for my shows, from selling through the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, a ticket agency and/or asking people to email me to reserve seats which they will pay for when they arrive for the show.

    I’d be interested to hear other people’s experiences and what method they preferred.

    Please leave a comment. 

    Normal service will be resumed etc, etc…

    Before our previous theatre venue was so cruelly taken from us ( & Carl) the plan was to put on my play ‘The Big Pink Ones’ , a play about mental health. Rehearsals were well underway (before disaster struck) under the watchful and talented eye of director Ursula Russell, with Orion Johnson as Pauline and Stratford’s best actor *Mark Spriggs playing (as only he can) numerous parts. Unfortunately, because of the disruption to diaries that particular piece of work has had to be delayed until the planets re-align and all involved can get back together. The good news is that it looks like September. Fingers crossed.

    In the meantime, my play ‘Oh…the way we live’ (working title) is first on the agenda. More news to follow.

    *Spriggsy is touring with The Festival Players in ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’. Watch out for their performance in Stratford (see below).

    Sun 20th August 7pm Stratford upon Avon

    Hall’s Croft, Old Town, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 6BG

    box office: 01726 879500 or online here

    tickets £15, £11 students 18 & under

    Call: 01789 201829 or email: Hospitality@shakespeare.org.uk to book your pre-theatre hamper or supper deal. Open-air performance. Please bring a picnic and own seating.
    Garden opens one hour before performance

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