Cutting Off Kate Bush - Hackney Down
Lucy Benson-Brown in Cutting Off Kate Bush

Fresh from a successful spell at the Edinburgh Fringe, Paines Plough’s Roundabout Auditorium is back on the move and heading for the East End. The portable 168-seat theatre will set up camp at Hackney Downs Studios, with a series of Brave New Work running each night from 22-27 September.

Met with resounding critical acclaim under the spotlight in Scotland, the material – penned by Duncan MacMillan, Alexandra Wood, Dennis Kelly and Lucy Benson-Brown – promises much. From Kate Bush to classroom trolls, audiences will be exposed to a “thought-provoking, funny and thrilling” bill of one-act, 50-60-minute productions, according to Louise Wellby, of the Hackney venue.

“When we heard about The Roundabout Auditorium – the UK’s first small-scale in-the-round touring amphitheatre – we knew it would be an excellent fit,” she says, explaining that the flat-pack pop-up is just right for the studios’ 400-square-foot industrial performance space. “The mission of our theatre is perfectly aligned with the mission of Paines Plough.”

Said mission is “to open up theatre to everyone”. Paines Plough, famously established in 1974 over a pint of Paines bitter in The Plough pub, believes that “everyone should have the chance to see the best new plays, no matter where they live”, and has taken an innovative approach to achieving its goal. The Hackney Studios gig is just one stop amidst substantial tour plans, with no village hall, community centre or warehouse off limits.

The design of the theatre itself will contribute to a novel taste of the stage. “The shape of the Roundabout creates an intimate experience – there is nowhere to hide,” says Wellby. “We are excited about bringing brave new writing to Hackney, altering and opening up the way people experience theatre – making it accessible.”

Every Brilliant Thing
by Duncan MacMillan

MacMillan’s six-year-old narrator is staring his mum’s dangerous depression in the face and wants to help cheer her up. The solution, he feels, is simple; he starts work on a list of all the brilliant things in the world that he can think of, hoping its contents might change her outlook. A pinch of audience participation helped this one-man comedy go down a storm with crowds and critics alike in Edinburgh.

Lungs
by Duncan MacMillan

A first baby is on the cards for one half of central-couple M and W, but the other half takes the suggestion like a punch in the face. Thirty-something, well-educated and busy making fruitless trips to Ikea, the pair confront the moral dilemma of having a family in a world of overpopulation, erratic weather and political unrest.

Our Teacher’s a Troll
by Dennis Kelly

With a Roald Dahl kind of no-holds-barred approach to the darker side of characterisation, Kelly has taken kindly to unsettling young audiences – in the best possible way, of course. Our Teacher’s a Troll is a three-person performance in which a set of scally-wag twins see their nervy headteacher replaced by a child-eating monster. As well as saving the school, the naughty pair must get peanut-buttered Brussels sprouts off the lunch menu.

The Initiative
by Alexandra Wood

When an East London taxi-driver, with a taste for the scenic route, hears that pirates from his Somali homeland have seized a British couple he takes it upon himself to negotiate a release. Flying against his wife’s fears, Dalmar embarks on a journey of self-discovery – unwittingly so, perhaps. Wood’s thoughtful script is packed with thrills and weighty ideas about the nature of identity and belonging.

Cutting Off Kate Bush
by Lucy Benson-Brown

Tracking the meltdown of a twenty-something Kate Bush fan-girl, Benson-Brown’s self-performed piece looks at family, loss and the backlog of an eclectic and eccentric pop star. Cathy’s mum is dead and things are falling apart around her; in keeping with modern trends, she turns to Youtube for a Bush-themed vent.

Brave New Work is at Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, E8 2BT from 22–27 September.

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