Out of the blue I received an amazing message from a friend, Jo, that I thought I’d pass on. It’s 6 months since the play was last performed in Liverpool. It received great support and some special reviews, including a ten out of ten from the Liverpool Echo. You do wonder though, among all the other shows, TV programmes, concerts, etc. that people experience, to what degree does your work stay with people. By this account we shouldn’t be too worried. A better endorsement than this would be hard to find:
My partner was chatting to a taxi driver on his way somewhere the other day. The cabbie asked him about his hobbies and if he goes to the theatre much. He said he doesn’t go much, but that he had been to see Waiting for Brando not long ago and enjoyed that.
The cabbie then said “OMG that Brando play was amazing. I went to see it 3 times!”
How lovely is that to know that random cabbies are telling strangers how great your play was. Thought you should know.
Thanks Jo. X
I want to send out a massive thank you to everyone who worked on and supported the spring Tour. Waiting for Brando was performed 11 times in 6 theatres to an audience of just under 1000 people. The tour was a success on many fronts, not least of all because of the audience response and the people we reached out to, but also because of lessons learnt in the process of developing the script, the physical production of the play in a range of venues, and the act of touring itself.
Particular thanks go to the cast and production crew who deserved every plaudit that comes their way – I couldn’t have worked with a better team.
We had an incredible run in Liverpool’s Unity Theatre. In 2012 we sold out three nights in their 100 seat capacity studio theatre. In 2013 we hired Unity Two, with a 150 seat capacity. We sold out two of the evening performances, had an audience of over 100 for the other three nights (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), and over 100 attending for the Saturday afternoon matinee. It was a huge risk to book the theatre for the week, but the risk was more than justified by the response. It was particularly encouraging to sell out the Friday and Saturday evening performances, which came about because of the praise the play was receiving through word of mouth from those who attended earlier performances (some of whom returned later in the week) and the highly positive reviews in the local media.
The plaudits the play received for its first performances in 2012, when it performed for 3 nights in Liverpool’s Unity Theatre, were surpassed during this production. In 2012 The Liverpool Echo gave the play a rating of 7.5 out of 10. This time it awarded the play 10 out of 10, with the reviewer commenting, ‘Two great new playwrights in our midst – with an acting company to match. It really doesn’t come any better, and their subsequent tour will only go to show that Liverpool still exports the very best in drama.’ (Liverpool Echo, 18th April 2013). This was matched by reviews from a range of media and also from audience members both within and outside of Liverpool.
The increased level of response was a clear vindication of our work in developing the script, the acting and the production. Recognising this, The Liverpool Echo commented upon the, ‘wonderfully observed script, backed by brilliant acting and sharp production values’. This was supported by the director of one of Liverpool’s major theatres, who said that while he was very impressed by the script and the acting, he was also impressed by the production values as he didn’t often see many smaller shows that paid such attention to the set, lighting and overall stage design. This recognises and vindicates the work of the whole team and shows the importance of developing all aspects of the production to meet the demands and expectations each new level brings.
A key aspect of this tour was to see how the play would be received by audiences outside of Liverpool. While I had every confidence that the play, although it has strong Liverpool based themes, would have a wider appeal, it was still difficult to predict the response until it had been performed. I needn’t have been concerned. The audience response at each production was as strong as it had been in Liverpool. On waking up on a Tuesday morning, after a long day for the production at The Harlequin Theatre in Redhill in Surrey, and after a long drive back, arriving home at 4am, I awoke to a superb response to the play by an audience member, Stacey, who went on the play’s face book page to write, ‘Excellent, powerful drama. Thank-you for the performance at Redhill, 29th April. Everything about the production is perfect and the small audience is only a sign of the times £ ! Keep touring and continue to be applauded.’ In response to my thanks for her comments she went on to say, ‘My husband was mesmerised by the play and really impressed – It’s great to see that effect on the person beside you…It’s good that you’re encouraged by the response from audiences outside Liverpool, but I’m surprised if you thought it might not be well received. Yes it has historical and social themes of that area, but it doesn’t seem a Liverpool-centric play. Universal themes are part of its quality.’ I couldn’t have asked for a better justification for touring the play than this.
A second aspect of the tour was to develop the production and see how it worked in different theatre settings, and also how the team worked in preparing and transporting the show throughout the tour. They key to a strong production is having a professional, cohesive team, and I was delighted with the level of professionalism and commitment demonstrated by all who took part. There was a real enthusiasm for the show, and while everyone received remuneration for their work, each member of the team was more than generous, contributing their time, skills and experience above and beyond the resources to hand.
Because of its themes and how they are developed within an entertaining piece of theatre, Waiting for Brando offers a real opportunity to engage with audiences who wouldn’t normally attend theatre. That this is the case is clear from the demographic who attended all the performances throughout the tour, but particularly in Liverpool at the performances at the Unity Theatre in the city centre and the Valley Community Theatre in Netherley.
We have developed an important partnership with North-West regional Unison. This is not just a sponsorship deal, but is a partnership designed to encourage their members to attend the show, with the expectation that offering them a positive cultural opportunity will encourage them to engage in theatre and the arts generally more often. Publicity for the play circulated widely among their members, with a special offer available for them, and Unison’s North West Regional Secretary, Kevan Nelson, and a number of other senior officers attended. I have met with them since and their response to the play is indicated by them already agreeing in principle to sponsor the next stage of its development.
Waiting for Brando is one of the most successful plays to have appeared at Liverpool’s Unity Theatre. Being awarded 10 out of 10 by The Liverpool Echo is almost without precedent. Its success is even more impressive given that it doesn’t have the backing of a long-standing production company. The performance and turnout at The Valley Community Theatre was also a huge success, in performance and production, but also in audience/community engagement. In the venues across the country we visited the response to the performances was as encouraging as it was in Liverpool. On all fronts – performance, production, gaining experience of touring and financial management of an increased budget, this was a hugely successful project, and one that provides both lessons and optimism for the future of the production.
Support from Arts Council England, Unison, our private sponsors, and the enormous amount of in-kind support given by friends, cast and crew has been invaluable in allowing us to achieve all of the above, and for that we are immensely grateful, and hope to continue working with all these supporters in the next stage of the play’s development.
Next up is The Port City Tour – we’ll keep you posted!
I awoke on Tuesday morning, still exhausted after a long drive back to Liverpool following the performance in Redhill, Surrey, my head finally hitting the pillow at 4.30am, to a fantastic post on our Facebook page from a woman called Stacey, who had been at the performance the evening before. It gave me an enormous lift, and confirmed what i had felt for some time, that the play would travel well outside of Liverpool. I could drone on for hours, but Stacey says it better than I ever could:
Excellent, powerful drama. Thank-you for the performance at Redhill, 29th April. Everything about the production is perfect and the small audience is only a sign of the times £ ! Keep touring and continue to be applauded.
It’s good that you’re encouraged by the response from audiences outside Liverpool, but I’m surprised if you thought it might not be well received.- Yes it has historical and social themes of that area, but it doesn’t seem a Liverpool-centric play. Universal themes are part of its quality. Also, (but trying to keep politics aside, for the moment ) it does provoke thoughts about the need for unions / recourse to protection and support in society…and it’s not all ‘fat cats’ in Surrey ! – Not the decisions of men like Vinnie and Eddie that are responsible for the state of the nation.
I wish you success, whatever the way forward turns out to be and hope that New York is favourable !
So we’re back at the Unity again, almost one year on from our debut in 2012. Everything’s the same and everything is different. So what’s the same? Well, the commitment and energy of our cast and crew for one. They are all named on other pages on this site so I won’t name them again here, but they all took to rehearsals like ducks to water, with Danny and Joe commenting that they were surprised at just how much of the script was still in their heads. In fact, after just a couple of days they were already ‘off script’. The short piece of the rehearsals I caught, and the final run-through last Friday, were amazingly powerful, and will have a profound effect upon our audiences. What’s different? The script. Never say never, as far as changes in a script are concerned. You go through a process of firstly thinking that what you have is the best it can ever be, and then, if you are honest, with yourself and with the script, you go through a process most often of letting go, or, to give it its real name, redrafting. And in that process you make some incredible discoveries about what is possible when you allow a script to breathe, and as a result, allow the actors more space to express themselves.
What’s the same: well, Unison are on board again. But we also have a new addition from the unions, and one we hope to build on, of Unite the Union supporting us too. Getting the unions to support us is not primarily about money. It’s about reaching audiences we want to engage with the play; working class audiences who wrestle daily with the contradictions the play throws up, because although set in the 1950′s, we regard this as a contemporary play, and one that has a lot to say with regard to today’s social, political and personal issues. Solidarity, the role and attitude of the left, to stay or go, fight or flight, to grasp opportunities and keep on moving, or settle down in suburban security; these are just a few of the questions we pose, and through union support and engaging with working class communities, we hope we can provoke debate and controversy, and at the same time provide our audiences with a strong, dramatic experience.
Following on from Union North West’s support, Unite, the Union, North West, have also stepped forward to sponsor the play. Unite’s North West regional secretary, Mick Whitley, said, ’It’s great to see a play, written by union members, make it to the stage and onto a national tour. It was hugely popular in 2012 when it first appeared and we want to give our members the opportunity to see a performance of the play everyone is talking about’.
By quoting the code BRANDOUNITE members of Unite can get a discount in ticket prices – £8/£6 instead of £10/£8. This code can be used in person, by telephone and online. Call 0844873 2888 or Click her to go to the box office now.
Two of the North-West’s major unions sponsoring the play and promoting it to their members is a recognition of the strength of its themes – brotherhood, betrayal and solidarity, and an understanding that the play deals with issues relevant to the lives of workers, and not just seamen, and the choices faced by working class people both in the 50′s and today. We’re delighted to have their support and look forward to seeing their members at the performances over the coming weeks.
Following on from their support for the debut of Waiting for Brando in 2012, Unison North West have confirmed their
commitment to the arts by supporting our production in 2013. It’s fitting that we have support from a union, as central to the concerns of the play are the themes of brotherhood, solidarity and betrayal. This plays out on a personal level for the characters, but is also designed to spark discussion among audiences about contemporary issues; in society, in the workplace, and in response to developments that affect our daily lives – taxes, the banks, employment legislation and the Bedroom Tax, to name but a few.
Unison North-West Regional Secretary Kevan Nelson says, ‘Unison are proud to sponsor Waiting for Brando. Our support for this unique play represents just one part of our work with other unions and the NorthWest TUC to build a renewed engagement with the arts.’
Now more than ever, support for the arts from unions, trusts and businesses is needed, particularly by small productions, trying to get their creative work to see the light of day. Unison North West is one of the more enlightened bodies that understands that Unions and arts-based organisations have an affinity and can work together to engage with and enrich the cultural experience of their members. We are enormously grateful for their support and excited to be working with them again.
Unsion members can now get a discount on their tickets at the box office by quoting or inputting the discount code: BRANDOUNISON. Click here to get your tickets now.
Interested in finding out more about unions? Click here to find out more about Unison: http://www.unisonnw.org/
We look forward to seeing you there.
Here we go again. This morning, at, let’s say 9am, the second phase of the Waiting for Brando campaign gets underway. Brando is back with a five night run at The Unity Theatre, Liverpool, followed by a short spring tour, taking in theatres from Cockermouth down to Berkshire. We are blessed to have the same cast and we’re assembling a really good production team (more ab out them later). It’s hard work this stuff, and my respect for anyone producing any sort of artistic work has gone through the roof. Energy, and good people around you – that’s the key. If you run out of energy, it’ll be the good people who’ll save you. We’re doing a bit of rewriting, and expanding the set, etc., but the core of the show that got such a good response last year, remains. Tonight I have packaged up the flyers for the theatres on the tour (see pics), written some copy for the website and twitter, etc., and set up everything – emails, press releases and more, to launch into the press, promo and marketing tomorrow. Knackered, with a capital K. And so to bed.
A fantastic show by Paul Gambaccini about the making of On The Waterfront. Delighted he mentioned Waiting for Brando on his Twitter account! Click here to listen to the show again. Incredible story behind OTWF, which has as much drama as the film itself: Miller and Brando working on a similar script, The Hook, before they fell out over Kazan testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee; Frank Sinatra lined up for the role before Sam Spiegel opted for Marlon Brando – Sinatra sues; Brando demands two things in exchange for doing the part – a flat up-front payment for appearing and he be allowed to leave the set every day at 4pm to visit his therapist. Brando’s brilliance is well know from the taxi ‘I coulda been someone’ scene, but an equally, yet more subtle scene, watch how he plays around with Eva Saint-Marie’s glove, when she drops it. Something similar happens with a coin on the counter of the diner in ‘The Wild Ones’ – you’ll find it here, about 1.38 in. Neither scene was scripted in that way – just Brando ‘playing around’. Tickets are now on sale for all the shows on the tour, and sales are already being reprted, so don;t delay as I’m predicting a sell-out again for all shows.
Make sure you catch this on Saturday 2nd Feb, 10.30am on Radio 4. In his series, The Academy Award goes to…’ Paul Gambaccini celebrates On The Waterfront’s 1954 domination of the Oscars. The Radio 4 site says: ‘ON THE WATERFRONT not only gives us the most famous scene ever to take place in the back of a taxi, (“I coulda been a contender!”), it also showcases the talents of director Elia Kazan, and an astonishingly strong support cast – Rod Steiger, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb and newcomer Eva Marie Saint- Method Acting at its height.’ All true, but will it tell you that behind the scenes there were suspicions that the play ‘borrowed heavil’ from an unpublished screenplay, ‘The Hook’, that OTWF director Elia Kazan was working on with Arthur Miller? Kazan thought the script was ‘half-assed’, but he was working to raise finance for it when they fell out over Kazan’s decision to name names when he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Kazan then teamed up with Bid Schulberg, who had also been living and breathing the waterside bars, and the rest is history. All this and more, including the first ever dramatisation of the little known ‘Connecticut Farmhouse’ scene, when Kazan told Miller he was going to testify, is explored in Waiting for Brando, which returns to the Unity stage after much accalim for its first run in 2012. It plays for five nights from 16-20 April, and then embarks on a short spring tour. Check out the website for ticket details. Tickets for the Unity can be found by clicking here.