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Paines Plough Interview

Posted on 24 May 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Roxana Silbert, new-ish artistic director of Paines Plough, one of the UK's leading theatre companies for new writing

Tell us all about Paines Plough

Paines Plough was set up in 1974 and has always produced new work. I took over the company as Artistic Director about a year ago when we were in full swing with a season of four new plays by David Greig, Douglas Maxwell, Philip Ridley and Enda Walsh. Then last summer we produced AFTER THE END by Dennis Kelly with the Bush Theatre which premiered at the Traverse during the Edinburgh Festival and which is currently on a national and international tour, wrapping up with a three week run in New York in June. We are also touring internationally with PRODUCT written and performed by Mark Ravenhill. Because we don’t have a venue we are drawn to co-producing with those who have. We have a national remit and want to produce plays by playwrights from all over the country in venues all over the country. We work both with emerging and experienced playwrights and our policy is to challenge the way we view the world around us with the writer's voice and talent as central to that philosophy.

What’s your personal artistic policy?

I believe new plays are the life force of theatre. However new plays have to be great theatre. You can’t just produce a new play for the sake of it. It needs to be a brilliant play as well as a new play. We’re blessed in not having a building because it allows us to place plays in the homes that are most appropriate for them, and because we’re small we can respond to projects fast. I love being approached with a mad idea and trying to make it happen.

What does PP do for writers?

We read all the unsolicited scripts we receive. We commission playwrights. We support playwrights through the writing of their plays in whatever way suits them. We produce new plays. We run a year long attachment programme for six emerging playwrights, we run the Rod Hall Award which gives an emerging playwright a commission and representation as its award. We run masterclasses, we produce LATER – a late night event at Trafalgar Studios curated by playwrights for playwrights. We promote British playwrights nationally and internationally, we produce an annual Wild Lunch – new plays at lunchtime, and we target areas where there are not many opportunities for budding playwrights and set up activities to kick start a theatre writing culture.

How do you find writers?

Reading unsolicited scripts, going to play readings and fringe productions, talking to other literary managers and people who work with young people, running taster workshops and masterclasses, Future Perfect – our young writers’ programme.

What excites you about a piece of writing- what keeps you interested?

The first things I look for are characters and dialogue. You can’t teach someone to write dialogue – they either have it or they don’t. I need characters that you want to spend an evening with. Even if they’re really mean, they need to be entertaining. I like plays that are ambitious – even if the writer doesn’t quite have the technique to pull it off.

-and what makes your heart sink?

Poetic quotes on the front page – how is the audience supposed to read them? Endless detailed stage directions telling the actors on what line to put their cup of tea down and then pick it up again. Characters with no names usually signals characters with no character.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Zigeroon at 08:44 on 26 May 2006  Report this post
Wonderful energy flowing through this to new playwrights. I was fascinated by the concept of a virtual theatre company producing work in different locations; never boring!


TimB at 21:03 on 02 June 2006  Report this post
This is very encouraging for unproduced playwrights. I agree with Roxanna that expectations with a first play can be high. It is possible to write many unproduced scripts before anything is accepted for production by a theatre company. But the practice of playwriting, regardless of whether the plays that are written are produced are not, is invaluable to the playwright.

It's a shame there are not more theatre companies like Paines Plough around. These theatre companies are crucial in identifying new playwriting talent in Britain.

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