Checking out pretty girls in SOHO

Today I am looking for a 19 year old, pretty girl who trades on her sexuality while hiding a dark secret…

We are holding auditions for the Menagerie production of Jane Upton’s play Swimming and need an actor to play Lucy.

The show is heading to Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer, but first we need one more actor.

We already have Grace Watts

And Jack Bence

Casting is of course a tricky business so we work with a casting agent. This time we go with Irene East. She is straight out of central casting herself. She answers the phone like she still is in the 1950’s with a crisp clear pronunciation of her name and number. She is lovely and very organised.

Her strength is graduates. She goes to all the drama school graduation ceremonies and takes detailed notes on the potential of every student – of course what is great is that she has notes going back 30 years or more so she has some great comments about actors that have gone on to be superstars…

Actually she should write a blog!.. I wonder what she would say???

a young actress.. Ms Judy Dench appeared alongside a boy called Derek Jacobi – she was clear and crisp but oh dear he will never make it… ????

We are auditioning at our production partners SOHO theatre

We are seeing five girls for the part of Lucy. There is a need for the actor to have an attractive look as the character trades on this, but within the palette of the character there are layers to be to mined and the actor we are looking for must have the tools to mine!

My style in auditions is to be friendly but with an edge.

I like to have the casting agent and producer in the room with a chair set away from our desk. The first five minutes is chat …what are you up to what have you been doing?  etc.

Then I quiz the actor about The Play and  The Character… with …so what did you think of the play ?

Always.. its great or I loved it. BUT occasionally an actor will criticise a script which I think is risky but can have impact if the insights are thoughtful and considered. We are a new writing theatre company after all, so every script is a work in progress. Right down to the first performance and sometimes beyond we are editing and refining the script. The actors who inhabit the characters become strong advocates for their alter-egos and will often suggest cuts or rewrites on behalf of their characters. However it would be rare to have an actor offer re-writes in auditions.. not happened yet!

Having had the chat we now have fifteen to twenty minutes to work with the script. Sometimes I have the actor do some prepared work from their repertoire or from the play. In the UK  you will mostly work in audition from the script that you are looking to get cast .

In the States this is very different, certainly from my experience at Centre Stage in New York (Artistic Director 1995-97).

At an audition in The States you would expect actors to perform a couple of pre-prepared monologues which are in their locker. It is traditional to do this and I had a lot of upset actors when I was working in New York. My auditions are more chatty on work on script. Theirs – are more … let me show you my Hamlet…

A friend of mine the Director Karen Kohlhaas runs a very successful business teaching actors how to audition including which pieces to work on and how to get the most out of them. From what I understand she makes a good living teaching these workshops as well s directing

The danger in auditions is that the actor you choose does a good audition piece but then they never grow into the part. I think of it like someone having practiced for an interview – done their research and worked out all the stock answers (tell us about your weaknesses.. well I work too hard etc.”). But when they come to the actual  job lack the growth potential and flexibility.

So for me the selection of actor is based on:

Part gut feeling or instinct (this happens almost immediately the actor walks in the door). Do I like them do they have an edge /presence, inner confidence aura??

Part experience…what roles have they done before?

Part will I like this person or get on with them (not always so important I have worked with great actors I didn’t really like, but like anything in life it is nicer to work with nice people).

But mostly it is can they tune into the character and take direction?

So when I get them to read a scene it is always really important to get them to do it again with a new objective or approach. Even if they nail it first time. I want to see if they can retain the character but play with a new dynamic.

You have to give the right piece of direction of course. Clear, with an objective that alters from the previous reading. Being wooly in an audition is a crime for a director and may result in a poor choice of actor.

Also it is important that the actor is interested in you.

One of the actors in audition is doing four auditions today. She may well have a choice to make. It will be firstly the play, then the company, the money and conditions but the director plays a big part. Be unclear in audition and you mess up the chance of them wanting to work with you!

Indeed I have been in some auditions where I have felt like the auditionee – being quizzed by the actor… how much do you the director really know about this play…??

So we have five. Four are strong. One stands out.

What makes a good audition?… connection to the material and to the people in the room…

We wait to see if she will accept our offer to be in the play… did I gave her good direction and a strong desire to be in our production…we will see?

Hopefully this girl in soho will be a good call…


June 18th: Short back and sides with that MBA?  

Back in the UK

Time for tasks uncompleted back at home.

Number one on list is Dexter the dog’s haircut… so off we go to Poochie Parlour! It is a cliché, but as soon as the dog gets near the vet the paws start dragging like a cartoon dog on ice… there is no way I am going in there…!!



The afternoon is spent working on the soundscape for our production of SWIMMING by Jane Upton. The play is off to the Edinburgh Fringe where it will run for almost a month (after previewing in London at Soho Theatre).

We are working with sound designer Krisztian Hofstadter

For this play we need a soundscape which evokes the sound of the sea but also includes some of the music the characters are interested in. We decide that the character of Jack will listen to UK Hip Hop GRIME. Being an old fart I put a search into Google mistakenly for GRIM Music… v. different results come up… from Bucks Fizz to Ozzy Osbourne!

I am actually not supposed to be directing Swimming, this is meant to be our co-producing partner at The Colchester Mercury but they have had to pull out so I am now taking over… Tony Casement (Associate Director at the Mercury) had directed the development version of the play at Hotbed 2013 and did a good job with strong visuals supporting aspects of the show around memory…I am taking this on now and my natural inclination is to start again totally fresh – wipe the slate clean. Hence my re-focus on sound rather than visuals:

Finished on sound for now so…back to the dog groomers and then off to teach on the MBA at Cambridge University Business school.

This day is starting to shape up like a day in the life of…when I was asked to write a typical day in my life for a Cambridge Newspaper… OK for all you guys from Novartis in Moscow this day was about you…

Not sure about the photo I look about 12!

OK Dexter collected and deposited home…tonight I am teaching MBA students at The Judge Business School. These are following the enterprise and entrepreneurship route. I am working with the head of Exec Education Peter Hiscox.

Peter is always the smartest dressed teacher at The Judge. We ‘fell out’ a few years back when I got ‘bumped’ at the last minute in a workshop for someone more important ( Mike Lynch ). This is the guy who sold Automony to Hewlett – Packard.. controversially!

I understand why Peter bumped me,  but our session- for Enterprise Ireland – suffered to the point that we failed to join the dots  which led to confusion and frustration and I was unusually pissed off. Peter to his credit came and apologised a few weeks later and we certainly made it up working together in Qatar where we were the joint trainers on a programme for Qatar Commercial Bank – a programme that I truly enjoyed. especially the accommodation..!

Every time I see Peter I feel bad about asking him to apologise for something which was essentially a decision he made for the participants of the programme not for me. Lesson for me was to be more adaptable…

MBA students. Straight away I tell them about my coffee break conversation three days previously with Vice President of a major American company (see blog 15th June). In the conversation the VP said that an MBA is not a guarantee of a job and certainly not a guarantee of fast tracking in the corporate world. In fact an MBA has the potential to do damage – giving over confidence to people and creating the “I know best scenario” . This is what Peter wants me to address tonight… communication confidence without communication arrogance…

I put five names on the flip- chart: Picasso, Shakespeare, Aristotle, Paul Bourne and Churchill. I notice I am the only one with the requirement of both first and second names..? I guess to be a great thinker you have got to have a good surname..?   I can’t think of any great thinkers who need both names to be identified?

OK got one –sort of!  Oscar Wilde. You don’t just say Wilde … may be it is the number of syllables?

So it will always be the philosophy of Paul Bourne…

So why those names…

Shakespeare on the choices and influence of time and experience in our ‘communication adaptability ’ from As you like it: All the world’s a stageand one man in his time plays many parts”

Churchill  on conscious learning  and engagement: “I love the idea of learning but hate being taught”

Picasso on creativity and play: “Every child is an artist. The problem is as we grow up we forget how to be an artist”

Aristotle on persuasion: to convince people you need two things Evidence and Artistic Persuasion.

And Bourne?: two philosophies (more than the others… lightweights!):

Get the best out of yourself to get the best out of others

 The way you act towards someone will influence the way they act towards you…

The session is challenging. I always feel a frisson with MBA students – they don’t want to play… maybe it is a time/money/value equation.. or maybe when I say that I am a theatre director they really ask the question… are we wasting our time?

There is an orientation towards everything being totally logical and immediately applicable, that we must be able to deconstruct every moment with a model or evidence – sure  – I get this need, but we also need to explore the philosophies of our protagonists and experiment and have fun. To be fair this group is more open minded than most – maybe the beer and pizza that has just been delivered to our room helps?

We run some scenarios and end up with a playful dynamic around what I call ‘tactical authenticity’ where we change our performance style to suit a situation. Introducing our Archetype characters and using them as tools to convince or persuade our audience. We have fun role-playing me trying to convince my son Harvey to wear his bicycle helmet as he heads off to school.

They’re a clever bunch and come up with some great ideas including buying him an inflatable helmet only comes into play when needed?! They are certainly one step ahead – let’s see if we have made some impact on retaining the entrepreneurial thinking but opening up the positive communication dynamic …

Bugger. I got a Parking ticket – followed by a personal series of communication negatives…



Next day> Moscow: Anyone in from Ukraine tonight??

New hat on today…

Executive Coach… teaching Presentation Skills.. or… How to be EPIC!

Early start today despite late night with theatre crew …

Today I am training the Vice President of a large American Corporation. My client  heads up Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asian operations…seriously how did I ever get to do this.. very weird…?

This company is HUGE and the guy very senior.. so will be interesting.

I feel like a real commuter (one with a hang-over) battling my way through the crowds on the Metro and then into The Jungle of the business centre. Here David Attenborough would have his eyes popping at some of the creatures … especially the giraffes… wow!!!

I meet my HR contact … she looks bemused?

what…OK??!! I get it.. I have not shaved… oops… have they got the right guy ?


I meet my trainee – he says… “I chose you as my trainer because I really like your video and the way you look – see … look how casually you are dressed” ( I think he means I look like I sleep on the streets…).

The video

He tells me later (after we have finished) he has not been trained 1:1 for ten years and the training was really great and has changed his whole consciousness on presenting (performing..).

I am content with his assessment that I am ”different’.

Today’s topic is presentation skills … a five hour 1:1.

After introductions and sizing each other up he… pleasant, confident, Professional. Me… unshaven, direct, Professional !!??

Straight away he gives away what has been preying on his mind on the drive to work… there are clues … he wants the training to be interesting and challenging but not too arty-farty…– “I am not an actor, I don’t like doing theatrical things”

Which I mentally translate as..I.. “please don’t make me roll around on the floor pretending to be a Rottweiler…or make me be a tree swaying in the wind and please, please let me keep my clothes on…”

The start of the session is always intense so I jump straight in with practical work on Breathing…

Breath…Production…Resonance and Articulation…these are the four key areas of sound making with the voice. I ally this quickly to the fundamentals of Centering the Body and the three steps to speaking clearly:

1. Think

2. Breathe

3. Speak

We do get a bit physical but keep our dignity (and clothes on!) as he ends up running around the space declaring “To Be or Not To Be THAT is the question…” I push it to the max and we start to add in body language… things are shaping up well.

We then focus on Storytelling – we tell the Millionaire Story … (I will tell this story on the Blog another time, but it got the best laugh EVER  when I told it at the Hewlett Packard sales conference 2013 in Barcelona…)

We learn the story – he changes the location of the story from Nashville to Stuttgart (already not such a good story??) …he then repeats it until it becomes visually and emotionally stronger… we are starting to understand the power of performance.

Next are the characters he needs to understand how to play:

Joker, Trickster, Hero, King, Innocent and Mother…

For me these archetypes are really powerful for presenters. When you play these parts (selectively) your body language and tone alter…

I add an energy  scale 1 to 7.

1 being languid, 7 being explosive.

We then work on our story again and again with me in the audience shouting out do it as “Mother 5”  now ‘Hero 6”  ok let’s go “Joker 3”.

Great fun … and really effective.

I learnt the archetypes from Max-Stafford Clark – great director… who also looks clearly at Actioning or breaking text up into actions:

So… we now have some body control, vocal control, characters to play some actions and some energy levels so things are starting to gain focus…

Next a bit more Shakespeare (once more unto the breach…minus the horse…and the spittle..)

this frees the dynamics even more …

this is followed by a presentation on… presentation skills – bit of a cheat really but hey!

He does the presentation three times with three characters and each time he tells me what makes a good presentation.

We look at a video of him he has shot to disseminate to staff. We re-do the video – it is now so much better…

He ‘owns the phrases’ he allows the characters mother (warm), King (serious and confident) Hero (dynamic) to emerge in the personation.

Phrases are clear and confident but he remains friendly but focused.

and the EPIC :





We then do the presentation he is working on – he will do it for 2000 people in 2 days!

Controversially (so he thinks…) I ask him to change the start. Not hello my name is.. but using an audience interactive routine.. .

do we have anyone in from Kazakhstan tonight… ?

come on you belarusians give us a wave …!

lets hear it for the  ukrainians!!!

Will he do it?? I think he will ..and it will change the entire speech.. for the better..!

We look at slides…mostly charts – he agrees he will take out 30% of each slide… cut figures down, remove titles…

He has 65 slides – lets make it 40…

And the ending of the speech…not thank you


Come on you Ukrainians give us a cheer!!!!


Moscow 16th June: Coffee with that Tea (chai)?

This morning I start with a cup of tea – stirred with a spoon that had stirred coffee yesterday… I can taste the two not quite mixing.

It is a disturbing off-kilter start to the day.

My friend and colleague Tanya Harrison (Titch) Production Manager at the National Theatre in London could always tell when a spoon or cup had not been 100% washed after being used for coffee. She liked her tea pure! “ I can taste the bloody coffee!”

She worked with me on our national tour of Egusi Soup

She came on as an Assistant Stage Manager, but ended up being defacto Production Manager. The Production Manager we had employed was a nice guy but had some disorganised thinking and one thing you cannot be is disorganised in production management – time is money and disorganised is a waste of both. Tanya is in her mid –twenties but looks about 15 (!) she is tiny ,.. in fact she is known by everyone as Titch.

To say she was a powerhouse would be an understatement.. never judge a book by its cover etc.. Tanya was a master carpenter, strategic thinker, list-a-holic who after ten minutes would have any hardened crew of techies running around doing anything for her. She was without doubt the best Production Stage Manager I have ever met. Reason… she was talented – really good with tools, worked to plans, worked to timetables and lists and never let them get out of hand and most importantly she was a plain talking people-person who saw solutions not problems…and infected this feeling in everyone. If you worked with Tanya you had a job to do and you better do it and do it well or else … no tea for you!

Today I was supposed to be going to see a dance rehearsal for one of the choreographers on the Meyerhold course but it has been cancelled so I have a chance to plan and plot other projects…

I am seriously interested in us bringing our play bloominauschwitz to Moscow. Bloom is a new play by Richard Fredman which we developed for Hotbed last year and are working on again in advance of touring next year. It is a one man show featuring my colleague Patrick Morris. It tells the story of Leopold Bloom

Ripped from the pages of Joyce’s Ulysses to project forward in history. It is a brilliant play and performance, which we are hoping to tour nationally and internationally…

Performances on 12th July 2014 in Cambridge

here’s a snapshot video of the production as a work in progress:

So I explore some possibilities. For Moscow for 2015 production of bloom.

I have to make it happen. It is important that I use my new contacts and networks to get our work seen here. I think between The Meyerhold and Moscow Arts Theatre School we can get this done. However the space I would love to get the show is the brilliant Gogol Centre –

This a really inspiring space that broke the old Reparatory Theatre model to produce work that is fresh and dynamic.

The Gogol Center hosts four resident companies — Serebrennikov’s Seventh Studio, the Dialogue Dance Company, originally from Kostroma; Vladimir Pankov’s SounDrama ensemble; and the so-called Gogol Maly, or Little, Drama Theater, comprising actors from the old Gogol Theatre troupe.


The theatre scene in Russia is changing and this type of space is doing great things. However there are also some disturbing developments with new rules coming into place which are essentially censorship including banning certain words, sex acts etc. More on this when I have more information.

The Theatre leaders at Meyerhold were telling me how challenging this was going to be and how depressing…

Back in the USSR..?

Chai anyone?

Photo on 6-15-14 at 8

Moscow June 15th: Pleased to meet you don’t you know my name?

Moscow June 15th Pleased to meet you, who are you… will you come and see my play?

Today back at Meyerhold Theatre school with the Russian Theatre Leaders. Today we do work on audience segmentation and how to market to attract different types of people.

I refer to the MHN surveys in the UK which look at audience types and build marketing campaigns around groups likely (or indeed unlikely) to come to culture events.

The types are based on likely attendance at events based on beliefs and values as well as previous booking habits.

Done through surveys they are related to an Audience Atlas and if used correctly can really inform campaigns around who can be targeted in marketing terms. The types are difficult to translate and understand so being one step behind the theory and practice of using them I introduce the different types, talk briefly about how they might be used and move swiftly on to focus on using our intuition in marketing!

We look at my own  Hotbed Festival 2014…

This is our new writing theatre festival in July.

We analyse the possibility and probability of building audiences for each production and then see if we can work out how to get them to come to see the piece they are most likely to come to AND the piece they are least likely to come to.

It is fun and effective as we see the value in thinking about audience groupings and where we will find them and how much time and money we will or won’t spend on attracting them. We build on the promotion part of the business planning from day one and bring it full circle to their work in their own theatres.

The final exercise  today is to work in groups to spend a marketing budget on selling three different shows.

They each have three campaign approaches to build and present – one is a core approach, one is a risky or original approach and finally a totally crazy approach… they can spend the money given in any way they like but they must do all three campaigns… and  to add a twist, the campaigns are for segments of the audience that are classified as being be “unlikely” to  want to come to the productions.

The first is a 100,000 roubles marketing spend on an English Theatre Company (relatively unknown…!) bringing a new production to Moscow from a new writing festival… I wonder who that could be? The second group does the same production but with a million Roubles.

Some good ideas for me to steal if we ever get to do this… we will!

The other groups are working on a fictitious Musical based on Alice in Wonderland and the final group on Tolstoy’s’ short stories which are to be performed where they are set – you guessed it… in Crimea, Ukraine (Russia?)!!!

The Crazy Million Rouble campaign on the Tolstoy pieces includes reconstruction of the  invasion of Crimea on the beach with actors used to attract holiday makers to see the shows..!??!!

Lots of laughs and extreme marketing ideas – some of which are really pretty ingenious, including a campaign to get deaf people to come to the musical (although I wasn’t convinced by casting a deaf person in the show so his friends might come..???)…

All ends well… and then off to the theatre.

The marketing of the play I saw that night was obviously good as it was packed out at Taganka Theatre for the production of 1968.

Taganka is a very important theatre in Moscow It an art nouveau theatre building on Taganka square founded in 1964 by Turi Lybimov. Lybimov was a member of Mikhail Chekhov‘s Second Moscow Art Theatre from 1934 to 1936. During the 1930s, he also met our very own Vsevolod Meyerhold.

Lybimov is 96 and scheduled to direct again later this year!!

The play 1968 was interesting, hypnotic in places as they explored the year 1968 and the pressures from the West on Soviet society. Using poetry, song lyrics and verbatim text (or so I was told!) the actors wove a very interesting picture that clearly chimed with the audience:

The director Volkostrelov had been on Theatre Leaders course last year so was great to see his work. I am growing accustomed to seeing work in Russian and enjoy watching and absorbing more that just the meaning of the words. It forces you to focus on everything else so much more.

A good play well produced. and the audience? it was full (of course – this is Moscow!), who were they and why were they there though??!!

And the play even had the Rolling Stones’ music trying to crash its way into the action…

Pleased to meet you don’t you know my name… will you see my play??

one more day in Moscow to come and this was my reading to greet me for breakfast…!



Torvill and Dean finally expunged at Moscow Arts Theatre

Moscow Arts Theatre

It has taken over 30 years, but I can now finally disassociate Ravels’ Bolero with Torvill and Dean at the 1984 Winter Olympics…

remember this…???

I remember sitting with matchsticks in the eyes in the early hours… waiting for the scores for the gold… 6.0, 6.0, 6.0 etc… The one and only time i watched ice skating!

The new association for Bolero is  formed with a really great (stunning actually) performance from the graduating students of the Moscow Arts Theatre School.

These are acting students doing movement work developed with the choreographer Alla Sigalova:

She is at the forefront of the Russian movement  of teaching that essentially incorporates drama in dance –  taking non-dancers (actors) and getting them to tell stories through movement.

The entire piece she has created here is about Sex.

It is the music of  Bolero that  provides the backdrop and stimulus.

10 boys and 9 girls (survivors from around 60 students in year one – Darwinian teaching approach ) all in their early 20s,  dressed in black. An open stage with a dozen chairs, six tables and the most energy you have ever seen…


The music of Bolero is played through various filters over the 80-minute performance. Now a classical version – now Techno supported by flashing images on a screen. (I could have done without the educational sex film in the beginning…!!)

We see and absorb ‘relationships’ emerging, building and exploding; from love to rape. First from the boys’ perspective and now the girls (no boy on boy perspective interestingly.. too risky in Russia even for MAT?).

They have been working on this piece for a year and this was the last performance … so, very emotional . The time spent and detail attained truly separates out the students training under the Stanislavskian training system from others.

I have seen more and more Russian theatre and this survival of the fittest process creates some real depth and detail.

As an observer at the Encounter Festival in Brno , Czech Republic I saw some extraordinary performances – but the exceptional work created by the St Petersburg Theatre School – Aleksandr Ostrovsky’ s The Storm – was so committed that it becomes a journey that builds extraordinary magnified yet detailed experiences that are valued in every moment.

Back in Moscow and Bolero is still banging away… the sweat is literally pouring off the actors as they build up the sexual act through charades and scenarios and layers of movement. The performers are in total control and in great shape (there is one very large girl …but she is an athlete too), and as we see in this piece.. big girls definitely get laid!

The one Western equivalent to this movement system  I have worked with is the work of Anne Bogart on Viewpoints:

Time and Space are allied to shape and gesture then connected with duration and repetition to create layers of movement… building physical and emotional height and depth with each repeated movement and moment.

This is not dance but movement, storytelling – stories and experiences told though gesture.

Apparently in an exchange programme Harvard students do the same thing in a mini version where they have the choreographer work with them for a month and they are shocked but inspired by the intensity… this piece took a year to build and it shows…

Wild applause at the curtain … an audience member runs on stage and hands over two gifts – flowers for the boy in the centre and … chocolates… for the fat girl ??!!!! Bubble burst!

Now, you wouldn’t get Jane Torvill eating chocolates after their show would you…?

6.0, 6.0, 6.0


Flirting with danger…but planning for survival

Back on the Moscow Metro –

I always think you can tell everything you need to know about the people of any city when you are on the tube/subway/metro/underground…

It just has a smell, attitude and feel that says it all…

From Barcelona – -smiles and backpacks…”we’d all rather be at the beach “to Milan – aftershave and heels “..rather be in a bar”, to Hong Kong – pushing and shoving…” happy pushing and shoving”, to New York – swagger and attitude… “..rather be (in) at the movies” to London – eyes down “I just want to pay my mortgage”,  to Moscow – busy and tired rather be… don’t know… what would they rather be..?


Traveling on the Metro reminds me of a colleague of mine Caroline Rippin (actress):

Daring me to play the “Smiling Game” on the London Underground…where you smile at people going the opposite way on the escalator– she played with me in London and  got five ‘smile backs’ – I did Ok – got three (two guys and one girl.!?)

Tried it today on Moscow Metro got… none… totally blanked. Zero.

Got to be really careful about this game which could result in who knows what!

But it is a shame that we can’t smile at each other without being labelled a weirdo or thinking there is something darker going on:? OK I admit this is forced as “a game ” but the concept is still the same….but one thing I now know for sure  if you smile at someone on the Moscow Metro they blank you … at best!


Teaching today at Meyerhold Theatre School for Russian Theatre Leaders. These are the selected elite Future Theatre Leaders of Russia – mostly young, all studying on a course at The Meyerhold Theatre School

My workshop today is on business planning for artists and arts organisations. They are a really positive group of about 45 participants .

I think I did OK… most of them were off their phones/computers for most of the session which is the modern measure  of interest I think.

I played an opening game for 20 minutes: interactive handshakes ( I guess all handshakes are interactive ?). We played with different messages/tempos etc.. all designed to get people talking moving etc. etc

Then onto Business Planning in the Arts…My philosophy here is simple… you need to plan sure, but most importantly you need to reflect …on who you are and how you approach your work or your ‘business’.

So planning is important in regards of  articulating your goals (without knowing your goals you can’t achieve them…) and understanding  the future resources required  to achieve them.

I included Prayers as one of the main Ps in  my Planning matrix. (…the others being Product, People, Pennies and Promotion).

Including Prayers means that we have to be careful we don’t rely on hope (praying) as a business planning tool !… but you never know it might help as a last resort … and at least when you pray you have to articulate your hopes and desires!

I did however talk about LUCK as a driver or rather …SERENDIPITY… being in the right place at the right time to be lucky,…and how you can plot and plan but sometimes SHIT HAPPENS!

I first thought about Serenpidity in business when I was working with Cambridge Academic Mark de Rond in Qatar in 2012 when he spoke about being ‘lucky in business’. He has done a host of interesting work on the power of teams including research from a time he lived as part of the Cambridge Boat Race Crew and another when he went into the field with British Army surgeons…

I developed and talked about being lucky and serendipity last year when I presented at REFORUM – a conference on how to be happy at work in Russia (REALLY!!!!)…my workshop task – make 900 Russians happy in 45 minutes!!!

When the American phrase “shit happens” came up … I told the students how much a hated that phrase but that it did remind me of a more powerful phrase I heard at a conference of American Educators USASBE in Nashville 2010…where one of the speakers used the phrase SHIFT HAPPENS when talking about change … like it!

So my Theatre Leaders workshop…I got a good response with the quote from Winston Churchill, who when asked why he didn’t cut Arts funding in favour of The War effort..  replied – well, what else are we fighting for?

We talked about the fact that working in The Arts can sometimes be like doing a hobby – most of us are paid badly, work very long hours and make most of it up as we going along – what other businesses do this??.. few…so professionalising our work is important and Planning is a key part of this process.

Essentially business plans are self-reflections and calling cards.  Attempts to understand our hopes and opportunities going forward. We need them as sign-posts or maps to help us resource and build for an effective artistic future. ITC

At the end of the day you need to ask three simple questions:

  • Who are we?
  • What do we want?
  • How are we going to get it?

Then once you have discussed, debated and filtered these questions with colleagues, write the answers down, compare it to the 5 Ps and share the results with partners and potential supporters.

This is essentially telling your story– simple, clear with a passion and statement of intent and some facts… all in all it gives some sense of the future and whether you will survive or maybe even thrive…

Reminds me, I must stop praying and write a business plan…


Train to Kubinka or “Sumasshedshiy den”

So in Moscow to teach at Theatre Leaders School at Meyerhold Theatre

I have three days teaching and am about to start preparation.. however a phone call changes plans and I find myself at 8.30 pm on a suburban train to Kubinka…

A friend of mine who I was hoping to see sometime over the weekend has called and begged me to go to her dacha (country house) for a party!

I guess you can’t say no…

So off to the main Belorusskaya Station to catch the train – fortunately I have been there 30 minutes earlier so radar and memorisation of the hieroglyphics of Cyrillic lettering on subway signs  is still burning strong enough for me to get to the right stop to buy a ticket … (showing phone with Kulblina in Russian to ticket desk)… find a platform and still have time to have a Carry-On moment with two Russian guards who laugh at me asking for platform SIX… platform SEX???? Platform SEX .. (x10) to each other (highlight of the day?).

Note to self – learn how to say Russian numbers … I have ten Russian words now, but one is “cat” (koshka) so not really cracking it..

Train is great… very evocative… seats are rock hard; wooden painted red … and all the men are staring out of window or drinking beer. All the women laughing (young) looking serious (old) and 50% on phones… (not so evocative…)

In carriage I had to do the embarrassing… “does any body speak English ???…”  to make sure on right train… Shame on me…

It reminds me of my ‘old’ university friend Debbie Read (Arts Consultant) telling about the time she brought an entire train station to a standstill in a remote part of China when she could not get anyone to help her  in English so she stood a bench in the station and shouted at the top of her voice “does anybody speak English?” –.

Entire station like a flash mob came to a halt. Looked at her .. four beats … all frozen.. silence… then off again (I can imagine the discussions at dinner that won’t believe what happened today.. a crazy English woman starting screaming… just imagine a guy screaming in Canotnese at  Kings Cross Station..)

Anyway Debbie got help … me too … “da da”

Now,  I am unsure that I have the right ticket and everyone who comes into the carriage looks like central casting Ticket Inspector. Indeed  central casting has done well with those around me you really couldn’t confuse anyone on this train for anything but Russian – they all get cast as Russians – apart from the guy reflected in the window.. in a tweed jacket tapping away on an apple mac…

Great ! now my friend Anna has called on the phone to make sure I am OK and  I am the freak show that is loud person speaking in a foreign language on the train…

Still hopefully everyone is distracted by very loud Russian rap music.. which has started to play from my neighbours’ phone

OK so this is fun –

Another Inspector? …NO! – they all have Man-Bags – it is confusing me!!!

Ok must do prep for session tomorrow on business planning for Arts Organisations– Power Point slide one..

I will start with the immortal line I heard at the from the wrap-up to Kosice Place Conference 2013…(Creative City Conference  2013 where i was showing Businesses how to use the Arts in Training : when at the final feedback session, a Slovak delegate thought that it was a shame the conference was all given in English as some struggled with the second language, but mostly it was a shame  because it made all the English delegates and speakers sound more intelligent,…(Beat) which we all know is not true…”

Indeed it was true and  a good opening line for me when in front of mixed audience.

Slide two… show a picture of Cambridge.. and  now I am perceived as intelligent by default!

So train journey 90 minutes – fun and I manage to get off at the right stop am met at station and head to the country house..

Evening at Dacha was great – watching football talking about politics – Ukraine – sensitive . I feel a little uneasy as knowledge of this area is shaky to say the least so I mostly nod. It is clear that folks here are happy enough to criticise Putin but feel that the part of Ukraine they’re battling over is truly Russian. I stick to vodka and nodding.

Talking about Moscow as a world city looking towards Europe – traffic Jams – they are horrendous in Moscow (the joke is told…some drivers put their home address on official documents  as “a traffic jam in Moscow”).

Also watch the world cup – Spain getting trounced by Holland.

A good sleep – house is HUGE and lovely – actually it is two houses; one for the family and one for the grandparents(3) who live together… with a strange English guy in the roof room tonight. The family is well -off – as Anna described … they were equally poor in Soviet times but now the family has been very successful in gas and dairy businesses and is an established and wealthy unit. The dacha operates as a great bolt-hole from Moscow and each weekend, most of the family and extended friends end up there. Really nice – holds everyone together – Anna describes her father as a Hero for building the house – for a moment i pause and i wonder if my kids will ever call me a Hero..?

Breakfast with grandparents is amazing… small pancakes with cottage cheese and wild strawberries (collected by house keeper that morning – of course!) and conversation about their lives. One couple were both Geologists and worked in the 50s -70s around the world on behalf of the Ministry for Natural Sciences (sic) and worked a lot in the Middle East – Anna’s father was born in Afghanistan – it ends with me being given some rock that can only be found in Russia. It is taken from a display cabinet, so I feel very guilty, but can’t refuse.

The other grandparent was a fighter pilot, then a civil pilot and then… Yeltsin and Gorbachev’s personal pilot! He is highly decorated and has flown them around the world …

We stop to look at a mini statue of Lenin in the garden in the rain…  this is crazy???

Back to Moscow, onto the subway and ready for a day of teaching…

sumasshedshiy den!



Day One Blog: Moscow

This is the start of my new blog.

I have called it ‘on tour’ because that’s what i do a lot: tour with my ideas and interests in theatre and creativity…

I define myself as a theatre Director and i have directed at least two productions a year for my whole working life – often many more. This year I have already directed Egusi Soup by Janice Okoh on a successful national tour


and am about to direct Jane Upton’s new play Swimming


BUT also..i support the theatre work by training in the corporate and education worlds. These worlds collide and cajole each other

today’s first post is a great example I am in Moscow to do workshops for the Meyerhold Theatre for three days. Then on Tuesday I work with a senior executive from a large Russian company on his ‘performance skills’ in presentations.

my travels have taken me to many interesting and challenging places and i have had some stories that i want to share; so i will reflect back on the journey so far and add in the new experiences from Theatre to Training and  everything in between

Here’s me training:

and here’s theatre:

OK Moscow experiences to follow…

Please share thoughts as we go…