By Rosemary, Jun 13 2018 09:59AM

Well, it’s been a while! We’ve been on holiday to the Lofoten Islands and engaging in other great interests – travel and photography.

Then a week later I went to the Buckingham Palace Garden Party. I was nominated and invited as a “thank you” for our contribution to the arts in Milton Keynes. I wouldn’t say I was a great monarchist, but I was very chuffed to be invited. It’s wonderful to be recognised and appreciated.

It was a great day - the tea was lovely, there were bands playing and the gardens were open and they are beautiful. The sun also shone. We also bumped into another great supporter of the arts in MK – Chris Bridgman and his wife Sarah. Chris has been very supportive of our theatre work both financially and in many other ways. He’s always been a wonderful advocate. It was great to see him there. He really deserves a big thank you also.

Shoulder To Shoulder – One Hundred Years of Women’s Suffrage

This is really getting going now! We had our first workshop with the wonderful Paper Birds Theatre Company this week.

Led by Kylie Perry we had a really fun day and there was a great turn out. Kylie shared the Paper Birds way of devising and we were all buzzing by the end ready to go off and do lots of research. We also had member of the Fawcett Society there who will be helping with research, but they also threw themselves into the devising process so will be performing also!

Named after Millicent Fawcett (a statue has just been erected on her honour in London), a keen suffragist who used peaceful means to try and gain the vote, the society is now the country’s leading charity in the continued campaign for gender equality and women’s rights.

As we progress we’ll keep you updated on the project which is also running in Oxfordshire and Northampton. We’ll have more information on these in the weeks to come.

By Rosemary, May 14 2018 09:00AM

Shoulder To Shoulder

celebrating one hundred years of women’s suffrage

Well, it’s been glorious hasn’t it? Sun at last and we are able to sit in the garden. It’s wonderful to see the plants blossoming. Lots blossoming and growing culturally too. The weekend started with going to see Frozen by Bryony Lavery at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in London. Lavery is one of our favourite playwrights and it is good to see her receive the recognition she deserves. Frozen is not an easy play to watch as it concerns the subject of a horrendous murder. It tells the story of the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl, Rhona. The play follows Rhona's mother and killer over the years that follow. They are linked by a doctor who is studying what causes men to commit such crimes. The themes of the play include emotional paralysis and forgiveness. I’ve directed it myself and it certainly had a profound effect on the cast and production team. It does what all great plays do it makes one think and it is very challenging. I want that though. I may sometimes go to the theatre to be entertained on a light note, but mostly I want to be churned up. I want to confront difficult issues. Lavery’s play is riveting and as relevant as ever. This review gives a good idea of the effect of the play.

Shoulder To Shoulder” – celebrating one hundred years of women’s suffrage

We are so lucky to have been awarded funding from the Arts Council, Awards For All, and the

MK Community Foundation. Groups have started working with the wonderful professional companies.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be charting progress of each group and writing about it.

Pepper’s Ghost, our sister inclusive company, will be working with the wonderful Paper Birds.

This is what they say about how they work

“The Paper Birds are an award-winning devising theatre company with a political agenda. We are artists and educators. We pride ourselves on taking socio-political subjects and making them accessible.

We are story collectors. We spend time in communities, listening to personal experiences. The words of the people we meet form the backbone of our shows, giving voice to the voiceless, painting powerful and very human alternative social commentaries. Our desire to listen, to understand and then ‘give voice’ means not only making space for the under-represented and the misunderstood, but also that our shows explore voices from all walks of life. We aim to do this in breathtaking theatrical fashion”.

We can’t think of a better company to work with on such a project.

Workshops with Paper Birds are due to start on

10th June 12pm – 4pm at the Scout Hut, Furze Way, Wolverton, MK12 5AQ

Subsequent workshops on 17th June, 15th July and 22nd July.

Rosemary Hill will then rehearse on Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoons (our well established pattern). The work will lead to a local performance in September and then a finale performance in October. More details will follow. Many people have expressed interest, but you can still get involved with this amazing project. Email Rosemary.

Entertaining Mr Sloane by Joe Orton

“Mr Sloane .........You should wear more clothes. Mr Sloane, I believe you are as naked as me”.

A landlady and her brother entice a psychopathic young man into sexual liaisons. Witty, sharp, alarming and hilarious, “Entertaining Mr Sloane” is a subversive black comedy of unscrupulous sexual manipulation.

Joe Orton tells the provocative story of Mr Sloane, a sly and handsome young man who works his way into the household of Kath, her brother Ed, and their father. Kath wants something between a lover and a substitute baby, while Ed wants someone to drive his car dressed in a tight t-shirt and a leather cap. The charismatic Mr Sloane thinks that he can play a good game with both brother and sister vying for his attention, but he quickly finds he is drawn into a shameless and unnerving tangle of sex, blackmail, bribery and violence. Not that he minds of course!

Entertaining Mr Sloane was Orton’s first full-length play. It was first staged in 1964.

We are in the process of casting and we can assure you there will be a fabulous cast and team!

Performances will be at Stantonbury Theatre on 1st, 2nd and 3rd November 7.30pm

By Rosemary, Apr 15 2018 10:58PM

Well, we are well into the tour of “Funny Faces” two plays by Steve Dimmer - “Simply Joan” and “Wot Sid Did” working with Next Page Productions. The first outing was the Sid play for Oldham Sit Com Festival which went brilliantly! Then the whole programme i.e. both plays were launched at The Place Theatre in Bedford. A packed house and very appreciative audience. What more could we ask. What a lovely venue The Place is too. Helpful and friendly staff. Intimate and versatile venue. It was just right. Now it’s out to other venues. Of course, the thing about touring is everything has to be kept very simple and we did just that. The set and props fit into the back of a car, not even a van and everything is easily assembled. The lighting design is simple yet effective, so a three hour Get In is perfectly feasible. The Get Out can happen quickly too.

We are really enjoying working with Next Page. Great actors and team. We took some photos at Bedford as we were lucky enough to have a run through before the performance. (Last one is in the dressing room!

FANTASTIC NEWS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We also have two more pieces of exciting news.

Firstly, we have been awarded Arts Council Funding and Awards For All for a new project “Shoulder To Shoulder” which will be a celebration of one hundred years of women’s suffrage. We shall we working with The Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton and Cornerstone Arts, Oxfordshire. Other partners and supporters are- The Fawcett Society, The Living Archive, Stantonbury Theatre, MK Library, MK Council, MK Gallery, South Oxfordshire Council, Oxfordshire Museum Service, University of Oxford, University of Northampton. We shall also be working with exciting theatre companies – Townsend, Paper Birds, Vamos, Zoo Co and Haste. We are so very excited!!!! More news will follow very shortly..

Our second piece of fantastic news is that we have been granted the rights to stage “Entertaining Mr Sloane” by Joe Orton by the Orton estate. It’s a play we have been wanting to do for some time. It will be in November of this year at Stantonbury Theatre. More news to follow on this too.

By Rosemary, Apr 5 2018 04:27PM

Well, working for Next Page Productions has been a huge delight. Great fun. We have worked very hard whilst laughing along the way. One more week of rehearsals with this great cast and team and we have our first night in Oldham on April 6th. Then it’s onto Bedford, Bedworth, Leicester, Bromsgrove, St Albans, Northampton and Henley-On-Thames. More bookings are coming in for July too. Caroline Nash who runs Next Page Productions has done a wonderful job as producer as well as playing Joan in “ Simply Joan”. Steve Dimmer has worked hard on the scripts, honing them in rehearsals as we have worked through them. He is playing Sid. Both are amazing and I’ve loved working with them. It’s been a glorious process. Alongside the actors there’s been a wonderful Stage Manager too - Tabitha Sylvester-Kilroy who has Just graduated from The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire with a BA (1st class) in Stage Management. Wow!

Touring a show to different venues with their different shaped stages and technical resources requires keeping things simple. The company will often only have a couple of hours to “get in” with any set and furniture and then there’s the lighting rig. It’s full on and then it’s performance time. Often it’s only for one night so straight away the show has to be de-rigged and packed away ready to move to the next venue. Hard work by anyone’s standards. Then there’s the marketing and trying to sell tickets in places we don’t know so well. More hard work which is getting even harder it seems. It’s all worth it when we see a packed audience though. Nothing quite like that excitement of entertaining a keen audience and hearing them laugh and also pulling at their heart strings. You’ll get both in this show. The plays are enormously funny and poignant. You will laugh uproariously and you may well shed a tear, but that’s what the best theatre does. It tugs at our emotions.

So don’t miss these two fabulous plays under the banner of Funny Faces – “Simply Joan” and “Wot Sid Did”.

You can book tickets here

By Rosemary, Mar 26 2018 04:00AM

We read and see a lot about hopefuls who may have some skill in performing being on the many talents shows on TV. If they win they are discovered and launched into a performance career. Of course there have been many success stories, but does all this make up for some real training? Why do people choose to invest time and money into years of training if just anybody can do it? It’s the same with acting. And now we have the whole social media situation where anyone who has a large following on Instagram and Twitter can call themselves an actor and be cast in a lead role, like Tanya Burr. Here’s an interesting article.

So what does training give an actor/performer? Is it really you have the gift or you don’t and no amount of training can give you that raw talent? Well my view is that yes there are people who are naturally gifted, but as with anything training and practising can help the person develop that talent. Also the person may not be good at everything. They may move well or have a good voice or both, but some voice projection lessons may well improve and preserve the voice. As an actor does it hurt to learn to speak verse well or to learn about stage fight so that you can do it safely as well as convincingly? My view is that with hard work and dedication most people can turn in a competent performance, but the really talented do have a natural instinct for characterisation and convincing dialogue. What I can’t believe in is that people can just do it without any hard work. It does demand turning up to rehearsal ready to work and then going away and researching and doing the home work. I know of people who like Tanya are cast purely because they are successful elsewhere and some make it, but they are usually very surprised at just how hard it is. People like Dame Judi Dench ( I was watching a programme about her last night) make it look easy and effortless and therein lies their incredible skill. Let’s please let’s go easy on the stunt casting and appreciate those who have invested in their training. It doesn’t have to be three years at a drama school. We know not everybody can afford that, but invest in some training. There are many evening, weekend and short courses. I know when I cast actors that those who have spent some time training have a more varied tool box at their disposal and they can make more choices. They learn quickly and generally are much more amenable to direction. They are also keen on working as a team and offering up suggestions simply because they have a greater understanding of what I am looking and asking for.

Rosemary Hill

Artistic Director

Janine Haynes,

Blogger for Pepper's Ghost


Passionate about theatre in the community. She is a professional actress having graduated from the Academy of Live & Recorded Arts and also holds a BA Hons Degree in Performance Writing from Dartington College of Arts.


"I aim to provide an insight into all the mechanics of Pepper's Ghost and to provide useful information about the context of our current shows as well as useful tips for the aspiring actor."

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