Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Hard News in these Hard Times

We at The Zoo are saddened to hear of the proposed 100% cut to arts funding in Newcastle. If ever there was a city that has proven the value of culture and the arts as a way of regenerating and re-inventing itself, then it is Newcastle.

Some of the best, most innovative, and most influential companies and venues are based in the North East. Without Northern Stage and writer Alan Lyddiard, we would not have been able to produce our version of 1984; it was Alan's script that we used. Live Theatre hosted the world premiere of Lee Hall's 'The Pitmen Painters' which went on to be presented in the West End and on Broadway. It is due to tour again in 2013 and we'll be there to see it when it arrives at The Alhambra in Bradford.

But it isn't just theatres and venues that will go. There are ten libraries under direct threat of closure. To curtail access to books and learning in this way is an insidious act of cultural hooliganism and social engineering. Limiting learning only to those who can afford to access it is this Government's clear policy. Lee Hall, the writer mentioned above, has written a heartfelt and impassioned letter to the leader of Newcastle City Council urging him to resist taking this catastrophic action. The letter articulates things much better than I could so please check out for the chance to read it.

So to all our fellow creative people in Newcastle and the North East; we send you our support and best wishes. Stay strong and keep on keeping on!


Thursday, 1 November 2012

The Hard (Times) Work Begins

Thanks to everybody who came along to the audition workshop recently; your time and interest in the project was much appreciated. Details of the cast for Hard Times will be posted shortly on here and at the Paper Zoo website.

So, now the hard work begins. Stuart Davies, who will be directing the project, has been busy adapting the novel into a workable script. A recent read-through of the draft version gave us a good idea of how it will work, with plenty of suggestions for the overall design of the production being discussed, as well as more ideas about the characters themselves.

As we found with Charles Dickens' work when we performed 'A Christmas Carol' previously, the atmosphere and the dialogue is all there for you. The characters are so well-drawn, so vividly brought to life, that the problem is which ones to leave out! We think that we've just about got it right for now but, as always, things could change during the rehearsal period.

We have two dates booked already for our Spring and Summer tour: we will be at The Square Chapel in Halifax on the 23rd of May 2013, and at Otley Courthouse on the 5th of July. We hope to have publicity material ready fairly soon so keep an eye out for posters and fliers in the New Year.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Actors Required for Hard Times

We are pleased to announce that our next production will be an original adaptation of Charles Dickens' great novel 'HARD TIMES'. More details about the production will be given over the next few weeks but it is hoped that the play will open in late March/early April 2013 and tour to a number of local venues throughout the Spring and Summer.

The adaptation and direction for the production is being undertaken by Stuart Davies who directed our well-received productions of George Orwell's 'Animal Farm' and '1984'.

We are looking for two male actors with a playing range of 20+ to be part of the cast. There is a large number of characters to portray in the piece and so we are seeking character actors who can multi-role, are comfortable with movement and physical approaches to acting, are armed with a sense of humour, and who will commit to the production process.

Unfortunately, as we are entirely self-funded, we cannot pay but we will cover reasonable travel expenses during the production's performance phase. We can offer a friendly and collaborative experience where ideas are welcomed, and your time is valued. We also have a really good laugh!

The audition will take place from 6.30 pm on Thursday 18th of October 2012, in The Old Building of Bradford College, Carlton Street (off Great Horton Road), Bradford. BD7 1 AY. Please come to the reception area where we will meet you. There is no need to prepare an audition piece.

If you would like to attend the audition, please email
Alternatively tweet us on @PaperZooTheatre

Thank you.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Decisions, decisions...

We may have been quiet here at the Zoo blog over the last few months but don't go thinking that we have been hibernating.

Dave has been gallivanting around the stately homes of England in a very well-received open air production of Black Beauty.

Associate artist Emily Thornton has moved down to London to take up her place at the Italia Conti Theatre School whilst founder member, Ben, has returned for his second year at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

The rest of us have been busy working on ideas for future shows. We have read a number of stories and scripts, as well as workshopping some original ideas. There are several favourites on the table at the moment, but we should be able to announce our next production soon.

Thanks for your patience whilst we have been away.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Seven Go Mad in The Lakes

Well, we had a great time at In The Pines; two days of fun, frolics and fabulous music courtesy of the lovely guys from The Doghouse ,the Halifax-based music promoters of the event.

The weather stayed well-behaved on the whole (apart from the rain getting in to a couple of the tents) and the scenery was stunning. The Saturday saw us getting settled in and enjoying the relaxed and friendly vibe. As the sun dipped behind the mountains, and the lights twinkled along the shore of Lake Windermere, the company gathered fire wood and had a collective meal around the campfire. Not only the kids got high on toasted marshmallows and woodsmoke. 

Despite a rainy night (and soggy sleeping bags for some of us) the Sunday brightened up and at 2.30pm the 'children of the Forest of Dean' began to emerge from the trees and make their way down to the stage.

Some of the audience had not expected to see live theatre at a music festival, and were perhaps a little bemused by seven grown adults playing cowboys and indians. But soon they were engrossed in Dennis Potter's tale of children coming to terms with war.

Although we had not had chance for a full run-through of the play in the space, and we had to think on our feet at times, the show worked really well in the rural woodland setting. The fab technical team managed to appropriate some lights and the smoke machine from the main event which made the barn fire at the end of the play especially effective.

We had lots of very positive comments about the show, and hope that we can do something similar again next year.

In a weekend of great music it is, perhaps, unfair to single out any one band, but everyone of the Zoo creatures agreed that the fantastic Hope and Social were the perfect way to end a wonderful weekend. Please check out the band's website here.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Back On The Island

After a break of some four weeks, we are back in the rehearsal room for The Tempest. The show went well at The Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds back in March, and we have been re-rehearsing Blue Remembered Hills for our outdoor performance in the Lakes in June. But now we are back on Prospero's Island and running through the scenes.

In a momentary lapse of concentration someone spoke their lines in the Forest of Dean accent we use for BRH and we all fell about laughing. So now we have decided to do the whole run-through in the style of adults playing children!

This may seem like a frivolous waste of rehearsal time but, actually, it can be very useful as a way of hearing the lines in a fresh way. Changing the rhythm of delivery allows an actor to find new things in their lines, the others in the scene can react differently, and everyone 'lives' the text anew.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

News Update 2

This weekend sees the presentation of four one-act plays by new writers at The Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds.

One of the plays, Motherly Love by Catherine Long, features our very own Julia O'Keeffe in the role of Elaine. Rehearsals have been going very well and the shows on Friday and Saturday evening (27th and 28th of April) are selling well.

Julia will post a blog about the play soon.

News Update 1

Our lovely associate artist, Emily Thornton, has recently been given a recall audition at RADA. Emily has written about her experiences as a drama school auditionee and if you scroll down a couple of entries, you should be able to read it!

We are all immensely proud of Emily and wish her the very best of luck!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Paper Zoo in The Pines

We are very pleased to announce that we shall be performing our successful production of Dennis Potter's BLUE REMEMBERED HILLS one more time!

Paper Zoo Theatre Company have been asked by local music promotion company, The Doghouse, to perform the show as part of their early summer festival IN THE PINES.

The Doghouse has built up a reputation for promoting a range of well known artists as well as supporting up-and-coming talent. Full details of the festival and the Doghouse monthly music gigs can be found on their website at

This promises to be a very special and intimate festival in a stunning location overlooking Lake Windermere. With only 200 tickets available for the event expectations of a sell-out are high. It is advisable to book early to avoid disappointment.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Confessions of a Drama School Auditionee

For this blog entry we have invited Emily Thornton, who has been an associate artist with the Company since 2008, to share some of her recent experiences of auditioning for drama school.

“My love of drama sprang from Drama lessons at school at 14 years old. I was desperately shy and it gave me confidence. I loved disappearing into a character, devising scenes with my classmates and just being silly. Soon after, I wanted to do more outside of school so I joined a local youth theatre group and began appearing in musical theatre productions.”
What did you gain from being part of the youth theatre?
“I think it is one of the best experiences a young person can have. It not only teaches team work and discipline but boosts self-confidence. Ever since then I have performed in amateur dramatics societies across West Yorkshire, playing a variety of roles in many different genres of performance including musicals, plays, short film and voice-over.”
So what was your next step?
 “I left secondary school during the first year of sixth form. I had given it every effort but it wasn’t for me. I wasn’t extremely academic and I felt the teachers had not helped me develop to my full potential. I was getting top marks for practical studies in Performing Arts but low marks for exams. I believe that academic study isn’t for everyone. This should be made much clearer when Year 11 students are making their decisions about Higher Education.”
After leaving school what did you do?
 “Children shouldn’t feel pressured to choose what other people think is right for them. I remember going to the Deputy Head’s office for him to sign a sheet so I could leave the school and he said, these words will never leave me, ‘We all have to make these mistakes, don’t we?’ And I thought, ‘No. This wasn’t a mistake because it taught me what I really want to do with my life’. With this in mind I decided to take a course in Performing Arts at Bradford College.”
It was there that we met.
 “The course suited me down to the ground as the majority of it was practical. It was the best and worst two years of my life as it changed me as a person. I wasn’t the same person that walked onto the course in 2006.”
The best and the worst two years, you say? Was it worth it?
 “I would recommend it to anyone! I even managed to come out with brilliant grades including my written work which had vastly improved.”
So, you gained your BTEC qualification. Which route did you take from there; university, drama school or employment?
“After leaving college, I felt drama school was the next move for me. I began applying and was rejected at every audition.”
How did that make you feel?
 “I didn’t let it get me down. I was 19 and knew that I was still young. Drama schools often look for prospective students with life experience that might be in their 20’s. So I continued to apply the following year. Still nothing!”
You must have been disappointed.
 “I was pretty fed up at that point. Although I knew I had to keep going so in the meantime I carried on with my part-time job and got involved with as much acting as possible. I auditioned for every amateur dramatics production going. But the problem with am dram is the politics. You have to be ‘a friend of a committee member’, or a ‘long-standing member’, or ‘the director’s girlfriend’ to get a part in a society you haven’t been involved in before. I kept plugging at it and started to get bigger parts. It’s all about perseverance.”
And what about your dream of going to drama school?
“During my third year of auditions, I was a lot more successful. I got two recalls at Italia Conti Theatre School and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. I was overwhelmed and knew my hard work was paying off. Unfortunately they ended with rejections but I was so proud of what I achieved.”
So, five years on from leaving the sixth-form at school, do you still have the passion and the drive?
“I am currently in my fourth year of auditions and I have a great feeling about it. I’m working full-time to support myself and pay for the audition fees and train fares. I have a recall to attend at Rose Bruford in Easter and I’m awaiting letters from other auditions.”
Keeping three sets of lines in your head at once can be a challenge!

Is there any advice that you would pass on to other people about to embark on their first round of auditions?
 "To anyone who wants to follow their dream and pursue a place at a drama school, here’s a few do’s and don’ts that I have learnt along the way...
DON’T give up hope. If the first audition didn’t end with a recall, it doesn’t matter. Life goes on and you’ll have more fire in your belly for next time. Use it to spur you on.
 DO take a gap year or two; if you’re 18, you’re probably too young. Unless you’ve had a really tough start in life, you don’t know enough about life to cover the broad range of emotions. You need to have lived a bit first. Get a job. Learn the values of money.
DON’T doubt yourself and be defeated before you go into the audition panel. It will show on your face.
DO be assertive and know EVERYTHING about your speeches because you don’t want to be caught out by a question and end up feeling stupid.
DON’T let other people’s comments make you lose faith in yourself. They might think you’re chasing a pipe dream but it’s your life!
DON’T worry, Judi Dench auditioned for drama schools four or five times before she eventually got in. Remember that!
DON’T go OTT! One thing I have learnt is the panel aren’t interested in big dramatic monologues where you’re dying of a terminal disease or sobbing your heart out. A truthful, genuine speech might not be earth shattering but its real and it can be more personal to you. If you understand the feelings that the character is going through then it will be delivered in down to earth way.  From what I’ve seen at auditions, those OTT people just end up going home before the afternoon recall.
DO wear dark colours. Patterns and bright colours are distracting. You might think it’s going to get you ‘noticed’ but it can distract from your speech. Keep it neutral.
DON’T worry if someone does the same speech as you, they will be doing it in a totally different way, which is THEIR way. Don’t try and adjust your speech. It will spoil your performance. Perform what you have rehearsed.
DO wear flat shoes, girls. I saw a girl wearing heels to a recent audition and she was asked to take them off during her speeches to make her more ‘grounded’.
DO take a deep breath before your speeches to the panel. I usually stand for about 5 seconds before I jump into a speech to calm my nerves and centre myself. I might feel like a long time but the panel will appreciate your performance much more. They need a moment to digest what you’re about to deliver and if you rush into it then they could miss the first part because you gabbled it."
Update: at time of posting, Emily has been offered a place at Italia Conti on their BA in Acting course, and has recall auditions at Rose Bruford and Birmingham School of Acting.
We wish her the very best of luck!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

It is written in the stars

This blog post is by Julia.

Have you been watching the skies lately? Stargazing? Wonders of the Universe?

Prospero certainly has. He hears the music of the spheres; he understands their movements and their majesty. He knows that he is part of them and they are part of him. He knows that this beautiful, complex, painful dance of life is all part of the cycle, the cycle of birth and death and rebirth.

"Our story is the story of the Universe. Every piece of everyone and everything you love, of everything you hate, of everything you hold precious, was assembled in the first few minutes of the life of the Universe, and was transformed in the hearts of stars or created in their fiery deaths. When you die those pieces will be returned to the Universe in the endless cycle of death and rebirth. What a wonderful thing to be a part of that universe - and what a story. What a majestic story!"  

(Professor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen - Wonders of the Universe. BBC Books 2011

The Tempest is a beautiful illumination for our times of what is at life's heart.

The quote above sums up the story of The Tempest. It makes it hugely relevant to the moment, not a piece of antiquity, but as fresh as a daisy; living breathing wisdom!

It is 'interesting' to note that recently one of the United States of America banned the use of The Tempest for teaching at College level on the somewhat tenuous pretext that the play was 'racist'. This is, at best, small-mindedness and ignorance, at worst a fascistic removal of texts that contain wisdom and insights that allow and encourage humans to think for themselves and be free. As Ariel sings to Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban at one point, "Thought is free!"

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Stephano, Trincula, and Caliban

We began the latest rehearsal, the first one back after the festive break, with a romp through the scenes featuring the light relief of the play - Stephano and Trincula. The former is usually imagined as a butler, and the latter as a kind of court jester. In our production, due to the necessity of doubling up, we have re-imagined Trincula as a sort of courtesan and Stephano as a drunken publican.

Kate and Stuart have been having great fun working on the banter, physical comedy and timing. Several kinds of chaos ensue once Dave is involved as Caliban. Playing most of the first scene where the two washed-up characters first meet Caliban on his knees, Dave resembles an anarchic ET. The scene was already funny to watch but by the end of the hour my ribs were hurting from laughing.