One the UK’s most influential independent theatres is to lose both of its artistic directors just as the 10th annual programme of new plays on tour is launched. George Perrin and James Grieve have announced that they will leave the London-based company to take on new projects this summer, having presented 45 world premieres between them at Paines Plough since 2010. A hunt for their replacement begins by the board this month (February).
The now influential theatre company was formed in 1974 over a pint of Paines Bitter in the Plough pub. It went on to produce more than 150 new productions by iconic playwrights like Stephen Jeffreys, Abi Morgan, Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Dennis Kelly, Mike Bartlett, Kate Tempest, Vinay Patel, Tom Wells and Zia Ahmed.
George Perrin and James Grieve said: “We are honoured to have been the custodians of this essential organisation and are proud to now pass it on to a new generation of artists and producers. It’s been a joy to travel the country and traverse the globe bringing the best new British plays to the doorsteps of our audiences. We’ll leave as we arrived: die-hard fans of the best new writing touring company in the world.”
The pair were also behind a playwright development initiative called Big Room Playwright Fellowship, “awarded annually to a writer of exceptional promise at the very start of their career”.
Embracing new audiences and voices has been at the heart of the company’s work, with Perrin and Grieve developing small-scale touring initiatives to take theatre into hard to reach communities, especially via their use of pop-up space ‘Roundabout’, launched in 2014. In the past three years alone, Roundabout has presented 30 shows and performed 200 dates in four continents, playing in venues as diverse as halls in the Orkney Islands, to Off-Broadway venues, music festivals and at student unions.
Kim Grant, chair of the Paines Plough board of trustees, added: “George and James have led Paines Plough through nine years of outstanding achievement, unrelenting progress and unforgettable theatre experiences for audiences across the UK. Throughout their stewardship the company has remained true to its roots as the leading national touring theatre company for new plays and with Roundabout now firmly established as a unique and sophisticated flexible pop-up theatre space, they leave us and their successors a wonderful legacy.”
It’s latest production is rising star Sam Steiner’s You Stupid Darkness, described as ‘a struggle for optimism and community amid the chaos of a collapsing world’, premieres at Theatre Royal Plymouth on 7 February and runs until 23 February.