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Meet The Writer – Tony Hobbs

Hobbs in holiday mode

Hobbs in holiday mode

A retired public relations manager, Tony Hobbs, who lives in Dilwyn, is one of the original members of the Writing for the Stage Group at the Courtyard Theatre and over the years has been reasonably successful in getting his plays performed. Among short plays he has had showcased are Edric the Wild, Wilfred and the Wood, and the Godmother. Other longer productions include King Offa, performed by the Courtyard Youth Theatre, and Jolly Holidays, a joint effort with the cast from the Courtyard Community Company. He has also had two plays performed at the Crown, his local pub, – Save our Pub and The Invaders and The Royal Visit at the Village Hall. At last year’s Write on Festival his play Pull the Other One was performed, which later went on tour to Ledbury, Dilwyn and Abergavenny. He has also written Elgar and the Lunatic Society which is being produced at the Coach House Theatre, Malvern on 16th, 17th and 18th May, 2013.

His other writing includes nine non-fiction books, mainly about walking and pubs, with the latest being The Pubs of Malvern.  He is currently working on a History of Dilwyn. Four years ago he gained a BA Hons degree in creative writing after studying with the Open College of the Arts.

For this year’s Festival Tony has had two plays, Einstein and the Horse Girls and Clausewitz and the Talk, accepted as a double bill on the evening of Wednesday, 3rd July. The first play is based on a true episode in Einstein’s life. On his way to America in 1933, he stayed for a short while in a remote corner of England guarded by armed horse girls protecting him against Nazi agents. His liking for young women and his dislike for America finds him having an ill-fated affair with one of the girls. Clausewitz and the Talk: When Arthur loses his wife he goes to stay with his daughter who, fed up with his fits of depression, persuades him to join the British Legion to meet other war veterans. But when he is asked to give a talk about his own war experiences, Arthur starts thinking of the bigger picture and the teachings of military philosopher Clausewitz, which gets him into deep trouble.

When asked why he enjoys writing for theatre, he answers “Good question! I suppose it’s something to do with the fact that I find writing dialogue easier than writing narrative. Once I’ve got the seed of an idea in my head, very often inspiration comes to me on the computer as I bash away. Characters certainly take shape and develop, often in contrary ways. It is satisfying when the script is finished, but even more so when it is accepted for performance and a director and actors begins working on it. Finally, that magical moment arrives when the play is actually staged and you think to yourself, ‘wow, did I actually create that?’”

As well as entertaining the masses with his Write On Festival double bill, he is also hoping that audience members take some important messages home with them.  “In Einstein and the Horse Girls I put forward the fact that geniuses are still very much human beings often with strong emotions,” he says, “a person may be able to come with up mathematical equations very few other people can understand, but they are often devoid of common sense and can act in an immodest way.  In Clausewitz the main message is that war is wrong and every effort should be made to seek out ways of resolving the problem diplomatically. Also, the question is asked why servicemen are regarded as heroes particularly when they are killed. Why not the other way round – honour them for surviving?”

Tony recognises that Herefordshire has always enjoyed an abundance of culture and the Courtyard Theatre is very much the hub for this activity, but has seen that only within recent years that new writers for the stage have been encouraged. With the introduction of the Write On Festival two years ago this is beginning to change and the opportunities for new writers is growing, and “should also be nurtured” says Tony.  “And with all the local actors, directors and stage specialists available it makes sense to combine these different factions and come up with something challenging,” he adds.

“I usually write on the computer,” he says “but I also use pen and paper as well. I usually jot things down in a pocket notebook which I always carry with me and try and capture interesting conversations and sudden thoughts and ideas. Quite often some flash of inspiration will occur to me when I’m out walking, trying to get to sleep, or at the computer. I try to be my own man, writing the way I want to (usually the only way) and not be influenced by any other playwrights.”

Upon quizzing of his favourite playwright, Tony comes up with a large list of influential names in the theatre biz. “Of course Pinter has to be up there together with Samuel Beckett, but I’m also impressed by Mamet, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Brian Friell, Chekhov, and Ibsen to name just a few” he lists.  “One of my favourite all-time plays is Waiting for Godot.”

Does Tony suffer from writer’s block?  Well, the result is mixed.  “I have sat down at the computer and knocked out a play in five days. This doesn’t happen very often. At the moment I’m really stuck on a play I really want to write because it’s personal. I’ve got lots of research material such as letters and diaries but these seem to get in the way. And I am having a problem in even starting with different options open to me and how to keep the number of characters down. So you could say that at the moment I am suffering from writer’s block. Sometimes a visit to the pub helps, but in this case all I am doing is consuming a lot of beer!”

Einstein and the Horse Girls and Clausewitz and the Talk  will be performed as a double bill in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre on Wednesday 3 July from 7.30pm.  To book tickets for this performance, or for more information, contact The Courtyard’s Box Office on 01432 340555.

What we’re looking forward to: Teechers

Presented by Blackeyed Theatre in association with South Hill Park

“there is only one fitting description of Teechers…winner” ~ Daily Telegraph

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Fast-moving, inventive and highly entertaining, Teechers is John Godber’s brilliant take on life at a modern comprehensive. Through their hilarious end-of-term play, three Year 11s exuberantly sketch the new drama teacher’s progress through two terms of recalcitrant classes, cynical colleagues and obstructive caretakers. Disillusioned, he departs for the safe waters of a private school, and leaves behind his students, whose youthful irreverence gives way to despair.

Brought to the stage by highly acclaimed Blackeyed Theatre with high energy, break-neck comedy and breathtaking ensemble performances, Teechers is a modern classic with something vital to say about education for the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

Reviews…

The Stage

“The effusive cast of three execute Adrian McDougall’s direction with timed precision and hilarious interpretation. Donna Preston’s facial variations are wonderfully expressive from her portrayal of head teacher Mrs Parry to the sniggering student Simon Patterson, while Nicole Black injects excellent physicality into each of her characters from PE teacher Miss Prime to school bully Oggy Moxon and deputy head Mr Basford. Jacob Addley is the lynchpin of the piece as new drama teacher Jeff Nixon and all three actors switch effortlessly into Scott Jenkins’ brilliantly choreographed interludes.”

The Good Review  ★★★★

“All three actors project the kind of presence that says they’re completely comfortable on stage, with bags of energy, ingenuity and impressive physicality. Entertaining song-and-dance set pieces punctuate the evening, including a memorable Gangnam style routine and a hilarious take on Glee’s Don’t Stop Believing.Teechers Press photo 4 640

On the night I attended, most of the audience seemed to be school pupils of around the same age as those depicted on stage. From what I saw, they absolutely loved it, particularly the bit just after the interval when they, and some of their teachers, were urged by the cast to get up and dance. Amidst all the fun, and frenetic energy, this play carries serious messages about education and art, and how they can give hope and direction to otherwise listless lives.”

Bracknell Times

“A mass of energy is needed to keep this fast-paced show going and the three stars did not fail to disappoint, with stellar and flawless performances from Jacob Addley, Nicole Black and Donna Preston… I wouldn’t want to see another production because I doubt any three actors could match the performance of Addley, Black and Preston.”

Tempted? Tickets can be purchased online here or via the Box Office on 01432 340555

Film reviewers: Half-price tickets

Always have a startlingly passionate opinion on film? Could you give Mark Kermode a run for his money?

We’re enthusiastic about audience feedback, your opinions on film – what you love and what gets you riled! So send us your film reviews, short or long and we’ll get them posted up here on our blog.

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Getting your review to us and your half-price ticket couldn’t be easier. Wherever you see this logo we’re looking for your thoughts.

1. Call up Box Office on 01432 340555 and let them know you’re booking a reviewer’s half-price ticket for one of the films below.

2. Come along and enjoy your film – the first screening of the selected film is the only applicable one for this offer.

3. Write your quick-fire review and email it to us within 18 hours of the film to competitions@courtyard.org.uk subject titled with the name of the film.

Films in the offer this season:

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Robot and Frank |  Sat 4 May 6pm

Compliance | Sat 18 May 5.30pm

Caesar Must Die | Tue 21 May 6pm

Jack The Giant Slayer | Tue 28 May 2.30pm

Much Ado About Nothing | Mon 24 June 6pm

The Reluctant Fundamentalist | Sat 29 June 2.30pm

The Courtyard reserves the write to publish or not publish reviews. Any questions send us an email or tweet us @CourtyardArts

Jen’s Lens – Roll out the Barrels and get #Courtlaughing!

On Saturday May 11, the Courtyard are putting on a very special treat for you.   To get you in the mood for good beer, great laughs and a lively atmosphere a free promo event will be held at The Barrels Pub in St Owen’s Street.

From 8pm, up-and-coming, local and downright hilarious comedienne Vikki Stone will be taking to the stage with her keyboard to deliver some absolutely incredible songs.  Emerging on to the comedy scene after declaring her love for Philip Schofield on Youtube, this witty, amazing talent is not to be missed!  Here she is below doing a one woman les Miserables!

Join us at The Barrels on Saturday 11 May from 8pm and prepare to be #Courtlaughing!

Whilst at The Barrels, be sure to indulge in Wye Valley Brewery’s latest tasty keg of special #Courtlaughing brew, Dorothy Goodbody’s Barrel of Laughs.

Look on the beer’s pump clips to discover how you could have our crowds laughing out loud.  Think you’re a budding comedian?  Then get a pint pulled and make sure you join in this summer’s festivities.

vikki poster copy

Curious about contemporary? A season of dance to suit all appetites…

Contemporary dance is always one of those tricky things… it seems to some like an impenetrable art form, devised by dancers for dancers, but even not being a dance fanatic myself, some of my best memories of going to the theatre in my youth are around some of the incredible motion I saw on stage from dance companies that seemed to do the impossible with just the same legs and arms that you and I have. It’s the awe and splendour of seeing those incredible physical shapes and the power of great choreography that give those youngsters, much like I was, such an impression.

All this and a bit of a break from dance performances myself, have led me to get quite excited about our upcoming season of dance here at The Courtyard. We’ve a pretty mixed programme and there should be something for everyone – those seeking superior symbolism, those who want to get to grips with the community experience of sharing dance and those with a bit of curiosity who just fancy trying it out. Well, if you’re one of the latter, this season is the time to break out of whatever shackles are holding you back – there’s going to be something that takes your fancy.

Rosie Kay Dance Company

Rosie Kay Dance Company

If you like your contemporary dance uncompromising and brutally symbolic, then make your way to see ‘There Is Hope’ by the Rosie Kay Dance Company (Fri 3 May). Visceral and demanding, it’s contemporary dance at it’s most confrontational and experimental and brings a world of darkness and retribution to the stage. Powerfully choreographed, it’s the sort of show that will knock you sideways and entice you to ask some of the big questions, about life and death and survival.

Following this hell-for-leather introduction to The Courtyard dance season, we’ll be striding on with a physically-charged series of episodes from the Verve 13 (Tue 14 May). James Wilton, Sadler’s Wells Global Dance Contest winner, combines movement from modern contemporary with martial arts and capoeira; Ben Wright warms the heart with music and comedy; with further choreographers creating a fresh mix of interesting technical pieces and dynamic passion.

Verve Dance Company

Verve Dance Company

Nestled into the summer calendar, Courtyard residents 2Faced Dance Company bring forth their Youth Summer Platforms in the form of Fresh 2013 (20 + 21 June), a fabulous collaboration that creates opportunities for primary, secondary and FE college students to share their dance skills with the community. Showcasing break, street, contemporary and fusion performances, this is the perfect warm-up to 2Faced’s evening Youth Dance Company urban and contemporary performance, ‘The Calling’.

With an explosion of dance, music, live vocals, percussion and powerful, folkloric contemporary movement, Jugni will come storming in like a whirlwind of rhythm, motion and rhyme (4 July). Bring on this revolutionary, new take on Kathak dance choreographed and musically realised by Sonia and Sarvar Sabri. Striking and colourful with enchanting vocals, this promises to be a show the like of which you’ve never seen before.

Sonia Sabri Company

Sonia Sabri Company

And the icing on this dance-laden cake, comes in the form of ‘Express Yourself’ brought to us by the Hereford Academy of Dance (20 July); a fabulous showcase of passionate dance brought to you by local students and raising money for the Little Princess Trust, great dance with a feel-good factor.

So whether your interest is passing or fervently passionate, try out a dance show or two at The Courtyard. We’re even offering a ‘Buy One Get One Free’ offer on ‘There is Hope’, ‘Verve 13’ and ‘Jugni’ so it’s never been easier and cheaper to get your dose of contemporary dance and be awed by some fabulous skills.

For more information and to book tickets call the Box Office on 01432 340555.

Written by Toki Allison

Dave’s Fave: The power of storytelling with In The House

Film programmer, David Gillam, talks us through his enjoyment of Kristen Scott Thomas’ latest, In The House, where a student’s captivating stories invade a couple’s life together…

Join us here at The Courtyard from this Friday, 26 April, to catch In The House on the big screen.
And if you’re a true foreign film fan, why not take up our offer of half-price tickets for reviewers? Just submit your review on Saturday, 27, and we will post the best right here on our blog!

Call the Box Office to book tickets and find out more: 01432 340555.

Kristen Scott Thomas and Fabrice Luchini, In The House

Kristen Scott Thomas and Fabrice Luchini, In The House