Paper Creatures Theatre Company: Exploring simple, compelling and bold stories.

It seems fitting that I meet the founders of the new theatre company Paper Creatures at the National Theatre.

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Flood is the debut play by Paper Creatures | Paper Creatures
It’s only morning but the National Theatre is already buzzing with people, guided tours, tourists and people who are desperately trying to get tickets to Angels in America. We find a quiet and cool space on a warm, sunny day and start talking about Flood, the debut production by Paper Creatures.

The themes were important, we wanted to look at grief within the millennial generation, humour and heart.

Flood is a new comedy drama by playwright Tom Hartwell, about Adam who is “forced to confront his future when those closest to him return after the death of his Mum. Upon their arrival, repressed truths and unsettling secrets are revealed. Flood is a complex and humane portrayal of a group of friends struggling to define themselves beyond the confines of their small town.”

Starting rehearsal on 17 July, the two talk about the first read through of the script.

The first read through was really special. It was so relatble, he [Tom Hartwell] managed to take an ancient idea of a village flooding and put it in such a modern light of 20 year olds, dealing with home and identity.  We were fascinated with the idea, why is it that people want to leave their homes.

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Founders Jon and Nathan | Paper Creatures
Jon and Nathan met when they were both working in an all-male Shakespeare troupe and travelled around the UK and Europe doing open air Shakespeare. “We became quite close on tour, got chatting and when we finished the tour we wanted to do something different after spending five months doing Shakespeare. We thought why don’t we put on a play?”

After seeing a lot of theatre once returned from their tour, they noticed that millennials need a “realistic and honest voice for our generation, the millennial generation, we sometimes felt we were painted a bit one dimensional.”

Also passionate about new plays, they decided to set up a theatre company.

The name paper creatures came from the paper representing the script, where it starts, the blank piece of paper. And then the creatures being the characters that come from that. We are the creatures that make the story and the theatre is the place where we perform, it’s the place where we can tell those stories.

Wanting to create a voice for not only this generation, Jon and Nathan also hope that in the future people will look back on these plays that are new writing now, but could be a potential classic in the future.

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Poster for Flood|Paper Creatures
Talking about the importance of new writing, Paper Creatures explains why they’re happy to be part of London’s theatre community. “There is so much opportunity for fringe theatre, there are so many lovely pub theatres in London and around the UK. It’s thriving at the moment. It’s almost like a revolution, all these new playwrights emerging, coming out of every place you can imagine and then they get transferred to the West End.”

There is such a dynamic community of new writing on the fringe circuit in London that is dominated by the millennial generation in a very positive way and it’s so vibrant, so helpful and so supportive. It’s a really great community to be part of.

By setting up Paper Creatures, the actors want to create a “platform for young new writers, young creators from all different fields, lighting designers, sound designers, to come together and create stories which are simple, bold and compelling.”

Our long term goal is to create a really creative environment to tell these stories with our generation contributing to them, for our generation.

Flood runs as part of the Camden Fringe 2017 at the Tristan Bate Theatre from 31 July until 5 August. You can get tickets here.

@paper_creatures, @jon_tozzi, @NathanJCoenen

Millennials and the theatre: They’re getting the plot wrong

A lot of young people are not interested in going to the theatre for several reasons, but the benefits of regularly seeing a show outweigh their doubts

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From the Adelphi theatre in the West End to a fringe show in a 15 seat theatre in East London. The city offers endless amounts of theatrical productions. Revivals, musicals, straight plays and comedies, the choices are endless and cater to every taste. Whether you want a night of dramatic over the top colourful costumes and catchy songs, or a two-actor hour long play that will have you thinking about it for hours afterwards. The choices are as diverse as the audience, or is the audience not as varied as it could be?

According to Andrew Lloyd Webber, London is now behind Broadway with only three new musicals opening until May 2017, whereas New York has 14 new shows.  Instead of supporting new work and giving new writers opportunities to showcase their work, London produces a lot of revivals. But Lloyd Webber claims, it’s not because the West End is not giving enough chances to young writers and producers. He’s criticising the lack of education in the arts in British schools. If there’s no proficient arts education in schools, how are young people supposed to get interested in the arts, particularly the theatre?

Millennials attitudes towards theatre

There’s a community of young theatre lovers in London that can’t imagine anything better than sitting inside an old building and watching people perform. Unfortunately, even more people of the younger generation have no interest in this art form or have the wrong idea about it. The most common thoughts about the performing arts are that it’s unaffordable, not knowing what to expect and thinking it’s too old fashioned.

It’s clear that something needs to change. The theatre has been around for so long, because it has evolved and changed throughout hundreds of years. From the Shakespeare Globe, with bad lighting to contemporary theatre and special effects. The theatre has to change with the times.

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The Harold Pinter Theatre | Sarah Louhichi
However, there’s something about the theatre that is captivating and magical. A good play can make you feel like the last two hours flew by in five minutes.

Culture is an important part of human development. Art has always been used as a way of trying to make sense of the world. Whether it’s through a painting, a sculpture or other artistic creations. Most plays and even musicals are written to highlight problems around the world, in our daily lives, and the way we live and how we might influence the future. Shows usually bring attention to things that should concern all of us.  A lot of plays will have you thinking about its content hours after you’ve left the theatre, because you’ll be drawing connections to contemporary life.

It’s going to make you feel emotions that compare to nothing else. Having something happen right in front of you, is unlike any other medium or type of entertainment. Every performance is different, not considering the big hick ups that might happen. Each show the actors might use a different tempo in a monologue or use different facial expressions. Sometimes the energy in the theatre is so intense that you can’t help but feel excited. Being part of a show is always something unique, you’ll never know how other performances went and how other audience members have experienced it. Unless, you see a show several times, but that’s a whole new topic.

There’s a community of theatre lovers that can’t wait to share their favourite hobby with others. Whether they’re theatre blogger, frequent visitors or actively performing. Thanks to social media you can not only connect with the actors and production team of each show, you can also be part of a huge community that is happy to arrange theatre trips and share their thoughts and feelings about issues in the industry.

It’s understandable that a visit to the theatre seems a bit daunting. Not knowing what to expect, how to behave and what you’re going to experience can be scary for anyone who has no knowledge of anything theatre related. However, once you’ve given it a try and see a production that’ll take your breath away, the benefits of regularly attending shows and letting culture into your life, will be clear.

An American and The Cursed Child

London has millions of visitors every year, a fair amount of them see at least one West End show. Here’s what an American Harry Potter fan thought of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

By Lori Gilchrist

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Lori Gilchrist just before she stepped into the Palace Theatre | Sarah Louhichi

To be fair, I’ve read the Harry Potter books twice, seen every film multiple times, own the DVD’s and have joined Pottermore – All hail Ravenclaw and Thunderbird. That being said I was angry when Albus was put into Slytherin House in the book version of the play. So I’ve got some bias, I’ll admit that. But I was excited to see the play, though not sure if I’d really like it. It had a lot to live up to especially after paying premium prices at the theatre for premium seats (row D, seat 9). With this play, the theatre doesn’t allow scalpers (‘second-hand ticket broker’) tickets and if you’re lucky enough to find tickets from ATG or Nimax last minute, you take what you can get, pray for the Friday 40 or go home empty handed. £250 is a lot of money for one play. But was it worth it?

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Lori Gilchrist before the Part 1 | Sarah Louhichi

In a word the play is “Awesome” and definitely worth the money. Being close to the stage I was able to see facial expressions and even Harry’s scar. The staging was inventive and surprising. Today a lot of plays and musicals use a single set and the viewer is expected to use their imagination. Not here, the staging reflected the flavour of the Potterverse. Without giving anything away, there’s definitely magic and love in this production.

I’m not familiar with English stage actors, but had seen Alex Price in Father Brown previously. For Americans, sometimes we have problems with West End productions due to unfamiliarity with the different accents and dialects and therefore lose some of the meaning of the play. I had no issues here; it’s very understandable. And for those lacking in Potter knowledge, the story isn’t hard to follow.

You could tell that the cast was respectful and loved the characters they played. The acting was just right, though sometimes I felt Anthony Boyle (playing Scorpius) was a little over the top, but he won me over by Part II. The actors playing Ginny (Poppy Miller), Hermione (Noma Dumezweni), Harry (Jamie Parker) and Draco (Alex Price) reflected the adult characters perfectly, showing the imperfections of adulthood and the doubt of parenthood. Sam Clemmett (playing young Albus Potter) played the bratty little brother we sometimes wish we didn’t have. Real emotions, rationales and actions were exhibited here. If you took away the magical bits, the basic story would still work.

New York gets the play in 2018 but when it will come to Los Angeles, who knows? So if you’re coming to London and you love a good story, I strongly suggest you book tickets when you’re booking your airfare. I wasn’t disappointed. All Hail Cursed Child.

Dealing with post-show depression

Devastated fans explain what happened when their favourite show left the West End for good.

Sunny Afternoon closing night. Image by Harold Pinter Theatre
Sunny Afternoon closing night |Harold Pinter

“I’m missing a huge part of my life. I used to have somewhere to go to, knowing it would make me happy and feel good, I don’t anymore,” said Jessica Gray, 26.

Whether you’re a musical or play lover, London’s West End offers a wide range of shows: from the emotional Les Misèrables, to a juke box musical like Jersey Boys and Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, the longest running show in London, there’s something to satisfy everyone’s tastes.

Every show accumulates a fan base with the musical becoming part of their life, developing friendships with supporters as well as cast members, following the show to other events and creating social media fan accounts becomes a normality.  So, what happens when a show closes?

Sunny Afternoon has grazed the West End for the two rock ‘n’ roll filled years. Not only has it accumulated a huge fan base, it has also won four Olivier Awards and has been praised by many stars, Mark Hamill being one of them.

In August 2016, the hit show on the rise and stardom of iconic English band The Kinks embarked on their first UK Tour, with the West End cast doing their last performance on October 29th 2016.

Below, three very dedicated followers shared their experiences.

Deborah Gilpin

Deborah Gilpin on stage at her 50th show with part of the cast I Image by Deborah Gilpin
Deborah on stage at her 50th show with part of the cast |Deborah Gilpin

Deborah,28, undoubtedly set the record for seeing the most shows within the Sunny Afternoon fan base, hitting the mark at 279 times.

How involved were you with Sunny Afternoon?

Deborah Gilpin: I ended up seeing 279 shows, although I’d have liked to reach the 300 mark.

Throughout her visits, Debbie quickly became friends with other regular audience members, together they started a Twitter fan account. “We just wanted to bring people together initially, then this year we’ve tried our best to promote the second cast as they seemed to be getting less attention, which led to the Cast Member & Understudy of the Month awards,” said Debbie.

How are you coping with the show leaving the West End?

I had no idea how to cope with it at the beginning, my plan was to make the most of it being there, enjoying every minute of it and waiting to see how everything went afterwards. Luckily I have my theatre reviewing keeping me busy. I’m waiting for more of the actors (from both casts) to get new jobs or announce gigs, I’m going to follow them on their new projects. Plus I’m excited to see what the tour is like, I’m planning to see it once it reaches a venue closer to me.

Ksenia Nemchinova

Ksenia Nemchinova outside the Harold Pinter Theatre. Image by Ksenia Nemchinova
Ksenia Nemchinova outside the Harold Pinter Theatre | Ksenia Nemchinova

Ksenia,30,  travelled to London from Russia a lot, seeing the show 122 times: “Being a Kinks fan, I’d been following the development of the show since its first workshop in December 2012.

“I fell in love with Sunny Afternoon and there was no turning back. I’m also co-running the fan page with Debbie and Jess”.

How you’re feeling now and how you’re trying to cope with its ending, do you have a special plan for that?

Ksenia Nemchinova: I’ve never been this attached to a show before so it’s not easy to process and to cope. Sunny Afternoon may not be in London anymore, but I’ve seen the touring production several times and I have grown to love them dearly, so it’s definitely not the end for me, the tour will keep me going for another few months.

And after that, who knows? The show may be back in London again, maybe if we all wish really hard…

Jessica Gray

Jessica Gray with part of the cast at the stage door. Image by Jessica Gray
Jessica Gray with part of the cast at the stage door | Jessica Gray

Jessica has been following the show since its very beginning: “I first saw Sunny Afternoon at the beginning of October 2014.

“I had been invited to review the show for my blog, and became a fan immediately.”

“I started a fan page first on Twitter and then on Facebook and eventually I made arrangements with the show’s marketing company for an official Sunny Afternoon Challenge Week to happen.”

“During it, we would attend every show over a week and blog about it daily, with a new challenge being assigned to us every day.”

What are your plans now?

Jessica Gray: I’m actually leaving London – not exactly because of the show closing, but I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t make my decision a lot easier. I’d like to see the tour again, however following it around the country isn’t an option for me. I’d mostly like to see what actors from the West End production do in the future in terms of new shows.

The world doesn’t end when a show ends. There are different ways to cope with it, whether that is concentrating on other shows, supporting the cast members in new projects or trying to stay away. Even when the show has ended, you’ll always have the memories. Not to forget the cast recording.

Moonchild Theatre Company: “The Planets have aligned for us”

A new theatre company has landed in London. The Moonchild Theatre Company is staging its first play Pluto at the Baron’s Court Theatre, starting 18 April.

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Charlotte Price (Charon/ Prof. Furtham) and Liam Joseph (Pluto)

The two co-founders Liam Joseph and Callum O’Brien met as Front of House staff at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Liam, whose background is theatre and acting and Callum who studied film, teamed up and not only co-found their theatre company but also created their first production. Callum wrote the script and is directing the play with Liam producing and starring in it. They both have a passion for space and astronomy and are interested in current affairs; socially and politically. Liam had already paid for the space at the Baron’s Court Theatre, so he asked Callum to write him a play.

“Pluto was an alignment of planets”, says Callum.

“When I was writing about space, at the same time I was reading an article on North Carolina passing a law in 2016 that makes you use the bathroom that you were born into. So, if you’re transgender that causes confusion. It was passed by a bunch of people who would never see the effect it would have on the community.”

He continues: “I was thinking about space and I was thinking about this story. People who have had their identity defined by people who do not know them and it’s quite similar to Pluto, who was a planet but is no longer a planet and it was defined for “him” based on people who have never been to the planet. I took these two stories and married them and we’ve created this unusual piece of work, but it works.”

“It could mean a lot of things to a lot of people, we deal with politics, we deal with friendship, depression and you could take it literally and it could be a story of planets.”

The two criticise the London theatre industry. “A lot of shows nowadays cater to a very specific or older audience.”

Callum adds: “I think new writing can cater more towards a millennial audience. A lot that Pluto deals with is frustration, your voice has been stolen from you, your agency has been deprived, you cannot speak out for what you want to and it reflects the way millennials are portrayed as; numb observers.”

As director, Callum wants to make Pluto and turn it into an iconic object that could be the “figurehead of the LGBT cause.” However, he is worried about trying to tackle too many issues in their production. “We run the risk of writing something that could be about everything and nothing.”

Unlike many other theatre companies, Moonchild Theatre Company caters to millennials; “I’d rather make theatre accessible, but a lot of shows follow the older generation, and the tickets are so expensive.”

“All great artistic movements cater to the young and it’s foolish to overlook them, they will inherit the world one day. What you teach them now, that’s what they’ll take with them later in life and if you can get them interested in theatre and art now, hopefully there will be a future for art, especially in a world with an administration that cut art funding and pride things like guns and war.”

Looking at the news and everything that’s been going on recently the play seems to “come at the right time. I think there’s something happening right now, something is going to happen soon, the young people are beginning to regroup and feel there is this slight injustice against something.”

The two recount how everything has happened at the same time and how the timing of meeting at the Harold Pinter couldn’t have been better. “It’s like a volcano, everything has come at once, LGBT communities, Trump and technology. It never would’ve happened hadn’t we worked in the theatre together. Liam and I wouldn’t have met. Charlotte Price, who is also in Pluto also works at the Harold Pinter as front of house, so does Aimee Leigh the production manager and Giuliana Davolio the set designer for Pluto.”

“We’re incredibly lucky to work in such a supportive venue”

Their manager Rachel is interested in what their doing, as well as ATG. “It makes it worth what we’re doing, to know that your manager is interested in what you’re doing outside of work, it’s really warming and quite rare, not many theatres have that kind of support. She’s been so nice, she’s let us put the flyers around the building and helps us put them in other theatres as well”, says producer Liam Joseph.

“It’s encouraging to know that someone in such a high position cares about new writing and helping her staff .”

The rehearsal for the play is going well according to Callum. Even though this is a stressful time, he finds it rewarding. “It’s the most interesting learning curve for me, knowing how to develop the script. All four of us have fine tuned it and arranged it and moulded this play to be something that we all want to be part of.”

In the future the team wants to create and produce theatre as well as film. “We also want to look at merchandising our company, because we feel like we’re very sell-able”, says Liam. “We’ve got a cool logo.”

“Creatively we would like to go off in every branch in media and art.”

After Pluto, the theatre company will potentially put up an exhibit of pictures from Pluto’s set and production in an art gallery in Camden. “That’s what interested us, because theatre is never looked at through still images, with the exhibition, you meet theatre and film in the middle.”

Help Moonchild Theatre Company stage their first production and donate to their IndieGOGO page.

IndieGOGO from Liam Joseph on Vimeo.

Pluto transfers to the Cockpit Theatre in August. It’s running at the Camden venue from 14 August until 17 August and is part of the Camden Fringe Festival.

#iheartPLUTO @MoonchildPluto

Theatre etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts

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You’re sitting in a red velvet seat in a beautiful old theatre, awaiting a wonderfully touching play and ready to be immersed into a different world. You’ve turned your phone off and have had a glance through the £4 programme. All you need now is for the show to start, and you can enjoy an unforgettable evening. Unfortunately, others around you have a different idea of a great evening. Talking, eating and rustling with plastic bags is part of their theatre routine. Most of the time “those” people are clueless as to why you’ve rolled your eyes at them for the third time. Just in case, here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to get you started.

Don’t talk throughout the show. Yes, this should be common sense. Yet, some people still don’t grasp the concept of theatre. So, let me quickly explain this to you. A play or musical is live, there are actual human beings on stage, pouring their soul into this performance. It doesn’t only disturb other theatre goers when you suddenly have to talk to your friend about that amazing thing you did last week, just because one scene in the show reminded you of that. It might also not be a great idea if you need to explain to them what is happening on stage or translating it into a different language. That’s what a post-show drink at the pub is for.

Don’t eat your way through a bag of M&M’s or any other bag of sweets for that matter. You’re not on your couch in sweats and watching a film on a Saturday evening. I never understood the need to eat during a two-hour show, especially if there’s an interval where you have 20 minutes to stuff your face. However, if you’re absolutely starving then check out TodayTix the theatre app. They have just launched Silent Snacks, these are currently only available at In the Heights and American Idiot for a short time only. This might be a great innovation for all the snackers in the theatre.

Do get up and dance if they tell you to. A lot of shows, well musicals, have a big finale at the end of their performances. Many times, the actors encourage you to get up and dance or even just clap along. It’s a fun way to end an evening full of energetic songs and head bopping hits. So don’t be shy, nobody cares what you look like when you rock along to Lola at the end of Sunny Afternoon. It just shows the cast that you actually had a great time and weren’t dragged to the show by someone who’s a theatre enthusiast.

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Do tweet after the show. Many plays and musicals, particularly the small productions would love and need your support. Become part of a greater discussion, rather than just telling your friends about your thoughts on the show. Feel free to tweet the show and tell them how much you loved it and why, or if you enjoyed a performance by a particular actor, tweet them. In most cases, they’re happy to hear your thoughts and sometimes even reply. This is a great way to connect with the actors without waiting at stage door, as well as help promoting a good production.

Going to the theatre isn’t rocket science. People should be able to figure out that using your phone throughout a performance is not only distracting to other audience members and the actors, but also incredibly rude. The same counts for making any unnecessary noise. You want to be captivated by the performance and emerged into the world that the show takes you, without getting disturbed every few minutes.