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

Teechers Brochure Image 2 (Dec 12) 640

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’.


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


Guest Blog: How to get your dreams on the stage!

Blog by local author Barbara Hockley about dreams generally and her play The Dream Makers originally performed at The Conquest Theatre in Bromyard, April 2008.
Find out more at The Offbeat Theatre Blog.

My favourite dream - flying! So beautiful to recreate on stage

My favourite dream – flying! So beautiful to recreate on stage

My favourite dream – flying! So beautiful to recreate on stage

You know when you wake up and you’ve just had the most amazing dream. You’ll never forget it! Until, of course, a few minutes later when it’s completely slipped away and no matter how hard you try you can’t get it back. So you try to keep a dream diary, but half the time you don’t write your dream down (the pen doesn’t work/isn’t there at the right time and/or a cup of tea/coffee/more sleep beckons….) When you do write your dream down you’re really not sure where to go with it next? One of those generic online/in-book interpretations maybe? Then what? Analyse it, understand the message (there’s a message?), use it as material for your next piece of creative writing (ummm, maybe). Dreams are strange and slippery things, maybe we should wake up and bask in them before they leave us, just absorb some of the dreamy fabric of the night and not try to hold on too tightly. And maybe, whilst basking, you could use this strange dreamworld to inspire a stage production? I did, it was fantastic fun – let me share a bit of the journey.

The Dream Makers is a play for large cast (24+) of 9 – 14 year old and it contains wonderful opportunities to recreate dreams. You can read the whole thing at the bottom of the post (should you wish!). I put 5 dream sequences into the play – all very reasonable considering the play is set in a dream palace (a magical place where you go when you dream – bit like a theatre). The first dream was an ANXIETY DREAM – we’ve all been there! I don’t advise the standard ‘no door on the toilet’ sort of anxiety dream, or the ‘I’m on stage in a play and I can’t remember my lines’ dream (don’t tempt fate), but anything else goes. We had a wonderful soundtrack of pneumatic drills and other ghastly noises that get on your nerves, lots of umbrellas (and why not?), a seriously odd ballet, running and getting nowhere – it’s a great opportunity to create a sequence that makes no sense, has no plot and you don’t need to worry about motivation. Best to have lines (if there are any) on a soundtrack as well – sounds much weirder.

Then we moved onto the ROMANTIC DREAM. Never had one? Not sure I have either … But a damn good excuse for a quick tango! Some of the characters in the play are somewhat inept, so I seem to remember my romantic dreamer was slightly put out when the leading man tangoed with a mop instead (these things happen with inexperienced dream actors). She wasn’t happy. Moving on we next had a NIGHTMARE (more fun than you should ever have on stage). Not just a nightmare in fact – but a NIGHT TERROR masquerading as a dreamer to infiltrate the dream palace. My nightmare sequence involved all sort of ghouls, ghosts, creepy soundtrack and some chickens…. See page 31 to find out how the dream actors and crew (of course they exist) all escape the clutches of the Night Terror.

Into Act II of this wonderful adventure in dreamland we start off with the SWIMMING UNDERWATER AND FLYING DREAM – your chance to get really relaxed and stage something beautiful. A soundtrack of gorgeously relaxing sounds including whalesong made the sequence my favourite moment of all. Lucky dreamer. We finish our dreams with a truly HEROIC DREAM where the dreamer in my version) has to survive all sorts of ‘weather’ (cue large fan), climb mountains, struggle through storms etc .. to get to the top (of the mountain … it’s symbolic).

Personally, I LOVE dreams. I love the idea of a world beyond the waking world where all these crazy things take place. I love the idea of the dream palace (where, incidentally, if you know the way in you could get a job). If I can’t be there the next best place is to be on stage creating magical, dreamlike shows.

Jen’s Lens ~ Taking the Rat on the Road!

Playing with the parachute in Kingsland

Playing with the parachute in Kingsland

This week, I and a team of circus skills experts took out in to the depths of Herefordshire, bringing The Tapscrew circus from Philip Pullman’s ‘I Was A Rat!’ out to the sticks.

Under the leadership of Pink Elephants circus group, members of The Courtyard visited the parish halls of Kingsland (April 9) and Moccas (April 10) to spread the word about this story, and get lots of people in Herefordshire exploring and practising some circus tricks.

On arrival, children were sent to the “rat stations” where they were face painted, given noses and thought about the physicality of being a rat.  Once successfully whiskered and clawed, the rats then made their way over to the sensory box station, where they felt around in dark spaces if they dared, and smelt various containers to see if they could use their animal instincts and guess what the naughty Courtyard crew had put in them!  Once taking the plunge and putting their paws in slime was too much, the children congregated and learnt to embrace their inner circus performers with a range of activities.rat2

Starting the circus show was playing cat and rat using a parachute.  Cats would carefully tread their way around a waving parachute in a desperate attempt to locate a naughty, wriggling rat which was underneath.  The rats then learnt to juggle with scarves and the rags which they had gnawed from Bob and Joan’s house, watching them float in the air.  The morning session was full of top class balancing acts, who managed to walk our tightrope with peacock feathers balanced on parts of their body, they showed their pace and ability to wriggle as they ran as fast as they could through the rat run of hula hoops and even managed to cut up the cheese they stole from the market with a string – using a Diablo!  Every child worked hard at becoming the perfect rat through using these skills, (and it wasn’t just the little ones either?!)

the diablo - or a cheese and its string!

the diablo – or a cheese and its string!

Thanks to everyone who came along and participated in the activities.  Now you will all be able to go home and say, “today, I was a rat!”

Also, for those who didn’t make it to our workshops, we also have an exciting competition to take part in for ‘I Was A Rat!’

‘I Was A Rat!’

Writing Competitionrat1

 This May, a stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s classic children’s novel ‘I Was A Rat!’ will be performed at The Courtyard.  The story is about a young, scruffy boy who is dressed as a footman arrives at the house of Bob and Joan one night exclaiming “I Was A Rat!”  Bob and Joan are unsure of what to do with this boy, try taking him to City Hall, the Police Station, the doctor’s and to school to try and get him used to the human world and to also try and find his real parents.  But they can’t, because he is a rat that has been turned into a boy.

Bob and Joan name the boy Roger and try to help him, but Roger becomes confused by the human world and runs away, and is captured by a menacing circus ring leader who turns him into a freak show.  After escaping from the circus Roger is described to other humans as a monster who all want him to be gone forever.  But there is a Princess who is called Aurelia that wears glass slippers and remembers Roger from her old life (when she was an ordinary girl called Mary-Jane) and rescues him back into the arms of Bob and Joan.

Does this story sound familiar?  A mouse turned into a footman with a girl who is turned into a princess and wears glass slippers?

What we want you to do is write a story like Roger’s.  Think of all the main characters and their story, but also think about their friends, their enemies or their families and write a story about one of them.  For example, you could write a story about one of Sleeping Beauty’s fairy godmothers, or you can tell us about what the White Rabbit does when Alice is not in Wonderland.  The choice is up to you!  The competition is open for all school children from Year 3 to Year 11 in school and will be judged in two categories: Year 3 to 6 will be judged in the Primary category and Year 7 to 11 will be judged in the Secondary category.

Your story should be no longer than 2 sides of A4 double spaced, and we need to read it by Friday May 24th to be in with a chance of winning.  Please send your story to Jennifer Booton, Press and Marketing Officer to FREEPOST SWC5263, The Courtyard, Hereford, HR4 9ZZ.

The winning storyteller will win a signed book from Philip Pullman, a family ticket to ‘I Was A Rat!’ and will also have their story printed in Herefordshire Society magazine and in every programme for ‘I Was A Rat!’ during its run at The Courtyard.

It’s your chance to give the smaller characters a bigger story of their own!

 ‘I Was A Rat’ runs at The Courtyard from Thursday 30 May until Saturday 1 June, with performances at 7pm, and a matinee on the Saturday of 2pm.  To book tickets or for more information call the Box Office on 01432 340555 or visit http://www.courtyard.org.uk.

Great film deals, whatever you fancy…

We love film here at The Courtyard, swashbuckling blockbuster film and alternative, striking foreign film, and family fun too.

Oz The Great and Powerful

Oz The Great and Powerful

We’re bringing you some of the best deals this month so you can see the best of the pictures for a reasonable price, and be in with a chance of winning some pretty tasty prizes…

Just call the Box Office on 01432 340555 to claim any of these offers. We’ll ask you for your contact information and enter you into any competitions automatically.


2 for 1 on tickets this Easter to OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL and THE CROODS
You can’t say fairer than that.




Buy two tickets to QUARTET and then two tickets to A LATE QUARTET and we’ll enter you into a competition to win afternoon tea for two at the Castle House Hotel in Hereford. Treat yourself and a loved one to a 4* experience… plus enjoy two brilliant films celebrating the power of classical music and some exceptional acting talent.

Plus all A LATE QUARTET pre-bookers will be entered into a competition to win a collection of Beethoven String Quartet CDs!



If you love having access to the best critical insight into current and upcoming film, then you need to be reading the BFI’s magazine Sight & Sound. Delivering sterling reviews and features every month, a year’s subscription could be yours when you enter our competition by purchasing a ticket for you and friend to both LORE and IN THE HOUSE

In The House

In The House

If you reckon your writing skills deserve a good read, then you can also book one of our half-price reviewer tickets to the first screenings of these films, but we need to see your review in our inbox at competitions@courtyard.org.uk within 18 hours of the screening… If it’s a good read, we’ll post it online and get The Courtyard audience reading your opinion. Please note if you participate in both foreign film competitions your friend is not eligible for a reviewer half-price ticket.


Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

Review CLOUD ATLAS on the first screening, submit it to us before the second screening (deadline 7 April), and be in with a chance of winning the original book, Cloud Atlas, and writer David Mitchell’s previous two novels, Ghostwritten and Number9dream. Send your review to competitions@courtyard.org.uk with the subject ‘Cloud Atlas review’.

Plus bring a friend along and you’ll get ‘buy 1 get 1 free’ on a drink from the Café Bar. [applicable on house wine, draught beers and ciders and soft drinks]


And Courtyard Card holders can review selected screenings and get in free, plus enter a competition to win another seminal film criticism title, Little White Lies.


The House

The House

If you book tickets for you and a friend to see both Czech Film Tour specials, ALOIS NEBEL and THE HOUSE at The Courtyard this March, then we’ll enter you into a prize draw to win Peter Hames’ book, Czech and Slovak Cinema: Theme and Tradition, five-star rated by Sight & Sound’s reviewer Michael Brooke.

Don’t forget we’re also offering both films for only £8 a person, so if you bring a friend on the same deal you get double the chance of winning the competition! Make sure you book the tickets in your name.

Designing the Jungle: Carl Davies talks us through his costume concepts

I caught up with Carl Davies, Jungle Book costume designer, to find out what he has in store for our upcoming Courtyard production…

Carl Davies with one of his favourite costumes for Jungle Book, Chil the Kite.

Carl Davies with one of his favourite costumes for Jungle Book, Chil the Kite.

“It’s quite fun to do the Jungle Book because you can do anything with it…. you don’t necessarily just dress them up as an animal, they’ve got their own individual characters which is quite nice…. for instance, Baloo the Bear is going to be a geography teacher in tweed.

“Most challenging costume is probably Mowgli. Mowgli, you’d almost imagine a loin cloth and nothing else but because it’s for the stage you have to… we’ve made it quite ‘patchworky’ and given him a top.

“I think my style is very layered…. especially with the Jungle Book, there’s a lot of fur, a lot of leather, a lot of layers, but it works because everything has to move in the right way.

“The main characters will stand out, they’ve each got their individual colours…. Chil the Kite is going to be an air hostess!”

Written by: Toki Allison, Deputy Marketing Manager

Jen’s Lens ~ Through the keyhole and into the archives…

It has been a while since I last posted, and that is purely because I have been far too busy digging through old sets, props and costumes at The Courtyard’s archive store.

My reason for attending the building unit of productions past was also to have a nose at how the set is shaping up for our current show, The Jungle Book.

Firstly though, back to the old.  Whilst our amazing set builder Carl Davies and Jules ploughed on with designing pollen stems and village huts, and Les and Jenks of technical fame got to grips with some tropical leaves, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and see some of the old fantastic costumes and set that have been saved from their last appearance on stage.

Walking in to the archive store I was met with lots of old set, including part of the ship from our most recent pantomime, Dick Whittington.  I also saw Aladdin’s treasure chest buried among many tiger suits, and trucks and wheels and houses and wings a plenty.

The next room I uncovered was the room of all things hats and wigs and faces.  Many model heads sat with tiara’s placed amongst a head of princess hair.  Stetsons were sandwiched between sequinned turbans and Caribbean hats made purely of fruit.  It really was fantastic to see.  I even managed to swipe a rat’s tail, worn by none other than the 2012 panto baddy, King Rat for our circus workshops over Easter.

The many hats of The Courtyard

The many hats of The Courtyard

Once I was done trying on top hats and cane’s I decided to make my way upstairs and well, I HIT THE MOTHERLOAD.  Yes I did.  Because my friends, I found all the old costumes from pantos been and gone, as well as old costume bits and bobs recovered from The Courtyard’s community producing days.  The rail that first caught my attention was the rail of old Dame’s outfits, because it is fair to say that these are really the most outrageous costumes ever worn on stage.  I mean, it is perfectly normal to wear a dragon on your shoulder, and to also go on stage resembling a giant Battenburg when you are a Dame.  And I have a photo to prove it!

A dragon shoulder pad for a Dame!

A dragon shoulder pad for a Dame!

I then found tonnes of mice outfits, mini matadors and lots of sparkly shiny princess dresses.  All of my childish inhibitions came out in a tour de force as I examined red velvet ballgowns and Jasmine’s sequinned midriff tops and baggy trousers and thought about

Costumes and sequins a plenty

Costumes and sequins a plenty

sneaking some in my handbag to take home for the odd occasion that after a bad day I may need to dress like Rapunzel and let my hair down.  But rest assured, I resisted.

In the other room I was dumbfounded by rails and rails of shoes.  Yes SHOES ladies, and not just ordinary shoes either.  Gold shoes, tap shoes. Sparkly sandals, ballet pumps.  It was pretty much a walk in wardrobe or every woman’s dreams, just with more jazz. The amount of stuff we have in the store is very astounding, and for myself, as Courtyard Youth Theatre alumni, it was great to feel nostalgic and encounter things that allowed me to hark back to the days where I trod the boards and see that while they are no longer on the stage, they are not forgotten.

But now I must return to the exciting world of what is to come, and that being…The Jungle Book!  Seeing the set was amazing, and I really started to feel the jungle vibes by looking at vibrant jungle flowers and the remains of old Indian temples with ornate patterns.  The lush greens stood out.  What fascinated me the most though, was how these crafted set designers could build an entire set from basic materials.  It is extremely authentic, down to the very last leaf, and I will be very excited to see this on the stage amongst the very talented casts of children this Easter.

The set mid creation

The set mid creation

Don’t forget, the Jungle Book runs from 10 – 13 April, with performance times of 2pm and 7pm.

Dashing through the Jungle: Diary of a (rogue) Director

Written by: Grant Brisland, Learning, Participation & Programming Manager

We’re coming very close to the production weeks now where the young people will start their intensive rehearsals, the set will be built and the final alterations to the costumes are done. The process in all takes about a year, once we have been able to agree a title, and the time has flown by. This is my third year in the producing seat for our Junior Youth Theatre production and the process is different every time. This year is particularly special and there haven’t been too many bumpy rides so far (famous last words?!).

Jungle Book rehearsals

Jungle Book rehearsals

I don’t often attend many rehearsals – I tend to dip in and out and mainly ensure that everyone is happy with how things are going. However, this year, whilst David was celebrating a good friend’s marriage, I was not only in the producing seat but the directing one too. For a director to hand over the reign, even for a day, is a difficult one. This is ultimately David’s (metaphorical) baby (his actual one is due during the run!) and it is my responsibility to ensure that this rehearsal is as productive as the previous weeks. After all, the young people only have 48 hours in the rehearsal room before we start the production week and there is a lot to learn in a very short space of time.

So, at 7am on Saturday 23 March when my alarm went off I jumped out of bed and eagerly awaited what the day had in store. Now, for anyone who knows me will know that this level of excitement and anticipation is not my regular response to having to get up early (yes, getting up at 7am is early!). However, I knew that I was going to enjoy getting to know our Youth Theatre members better as well as seeing their talents on display. At the end of an exhausting day with a wine in hand and some time for reflection it was clear that we have another great production on our hands. The commitment, passion, enthusiasm and drive shown to me from the young people throughout the whole day was extraordinary. This has only been mirrored by David and the rest of the production and creative team who are working tirelessly to ensure that The Jungle Book is a huge success.

Jungle Attack

Jungle Attack

The production and design team have been in situ (in a freezing cold warehouse at Rotherwas) for just over a week and the early results are very exciting. Working with Carl Davies, a friendship I forged on another Courtyard Youth Theatre production for Alice in Wonderland in 2005, has been a real pleasure. Originally from Herefordshire but now living in Sheffield, Carl is creating what looks to be our most colourful set to date and although this isn’t a blog entry to thank people I should also credit Richard, Adam, Jules and Les for their assistance in the first week too. Indeed, I even got my own hands dirty on Friday!

I also owe a huge thank you to our Assistant Director, Jack Spreckley, for his help throughout the rehearsal day on Saturday. Having come up through our Youth Theatre and taken on main roles in previous productions, it was great to see him in action with the young people. He has been a great asset to David throughout the whole production and I was very grateful for his support on the day. We’ll miss him later in the year when he goes to Camp America but know that we have trained him in good stead to carry The Courtyard flag on US grounds.

I just hope David likes the alterations I have made to his direction… Mwhahahahahaaaaa