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.

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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’.

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

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

Meet the Writer: Anthony Jenkins

To celebrate the upcoming Write On Festival for new play writing in Herefordshire – we will be featuring each of the writers that are submitting pieces into this year’s festival. First to give us a snippet was Land of Mines director and writer, Anthony Jenkins.

ANTHONY JENKINS

Anthony Jenkins

Anthony Jenkins

Anthony Jenkins is not only a stage technician at The Courtyard, but is also a theatre graduate and enthusiast.  Having been affiliated with the organisation for 12 years and performing in past production titles such as ‘The Crucible’, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’, ‘Dracula’, ‘Fiddler On The Roof’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’, he has seen it all, from musical theatre to psychotic drama, from the lighting desk to the principal role.

After graduating from East 15 Acting School in 2008, Anthony eagerly came back to The Courtyard ready to perform, and took on the role as the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk and has been part of the crew ever since!  Hereford born and bred, Anthony recognises “the Courtyard is a small yet gargantuan step for young performers, who like me, wanted to pursue this amazing subject.”

“I joined the Youth theatre in 2000 and it was great meeting and performing with guys and girls who were on the same page as me, Anthony says.  Whilst being involved in Youth Theatre he claims his favourite performance as “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, without a doubt!  The cast, set, the music, everything was so breathtaking.  I was immensely proud to play ‘Chief’ and to be a part of that show.”

Anthony has not only been a performer in Youth Theatre drama’s and stage adaptations, but has also had his share of tongue-in-cheek Panto performances, including the aforementioned Jack and The Beanstalk, The Emperor of China in Aladdin 2010/11, The Beasts’ double in Beauty and the Beast 2009/10 and The Dragon in Sleeping Beauty 2011/12.  He has also worked first hand on many performances at The Courtyard as part of the stage crew.   His favourite piece to work on , he says, was “the Tommy Cooper tribute show with Clive Mantel as not only was it a brilliant piece, but working alongside such an actor inspired me to pursue my dreams within this field.  It was so good, I almost missed a few cues along the way as I was that enthralled!”

In 2011, Anthony set up his own theatre company called Exit Fool Productions, a move which allowed him to explore his love of theatre and his idolisation of playwrights such as Shakespeare, Waterhouse, Steinbeck and Miller.”  When asked to elaborate on why these playwrights really strike a note, Anthony says it is because “they can switch from comedy to tragedy in the turn of page.  My favourite plays are Jeffrey Barnard is Unwell by Keith Waterhouse and The Crucible by Arthur Miller.”

 On opening in 2011, Exit Fool’s debut production was a UK premiere of Angel: A Nightmare in 2 Acts in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre.  “I picked this play because it was a piece of writing that had never touched the English shore’s since it was written in 2004.  Even though the content was about the holocaust, which can be quite a heavy subject, I wanted to make the audience feel like they were part of the show by being the jury, and having the characters use direct address to make them feel like they were at the Belsen trials in 1945,” says Anthony.

Anthony is in fact one half of Exit Fool, the other co-founder being friend and schoolmate Pete Bird.  “Pete and I take it in turns to direct, and last year it was his turn for our 2012 production of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, where I played the lead role of Lennie.  We chose this piece because it is a classic title, and a character driven plot that we felt could reach audiences of all levels and theatre experience, such as schools.  In the end the piece even brought in theatregoers from London!”

Now  Anthony puts all of his experience and inspiration on to paper, as he debut’s his first written piece at The Courtyard’s new theatre writing festival, Write-On.   “For the past two years I’ve been the general technician for The Courtyard’s Write On Festival but this year I’ve decided to write and direct as part of the festival.  Land Of Mines is on the 5th July and is based on true events during the Bosnian War of 1992.”

The synopsis is as follows:  Set in Sarajevo 1992, four characters are trapped inside a derelict house awaiting rescue from NATO.  The U.N soldier is trying to uphold the peace agreement while the Serbian and Croatian refugees argue and taunt each other as shells constantly fall around them.  Among the refugees is severely wounded Muslim, whose secrets affect everyone around him.  Anthony says “the inspiration behind Land Of Mines came from an acting friend who lived through the war.  The idea of four characters trapped in a dilapidated house came from his personal experience.  The dialog and events that unfold is authentic as I enlisted a relative of mine who was in the British army and worked alongside the U.N at the time who has helped me develop the piece and keep the script as close to the real thing as possible.”

Land of Mines is on in The Courtyard’s Studio Theatre on Friday 5 July from 7.30pm.  It is the second part in a double bill.  To book tickets for this performance, or for more information, contact The Courtyard’s Box Office on 01432 340555.

Interview compiled by Jennifer Booton

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.

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