A HANDFUL OF MUSTARD SEED – REHEARSED READING AT THE PARK THEATRE

We had a rehearsed reading of Michael’s play ‘A handful of Mustard Seed’ this Friday last; 13th September 2019. It was organised by Katherine Kotz at the prestigious Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, London. It was a huge success, attended by the public and many industry people and Michael would of loved it!

We had an incredibly talented cast; Sophie Thompson as Shelley, Debbie Chazen as Linda, Toby Murray as Toby and Mark Fleischmann as Ben.

Here are some photos of the performance:

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Sophie Thompson as Shelley
Debbie Chazen as Linda
Debbie opposite Sophie
Toby Murray as Toby
Mark Fleischmann as Ben
Sophie and Mark surrounded by an audience!
The curtain call!

It was directed and produced by Katherine Kotz with co-directing duties performed by Sam Phillips

Directed and produced by Katherine Kotz
Co-directed by Sam Phillips

Here are some tweets from the day:

Floored today by the late #MichaelRoss A HANDFUL OF MUSTARD SEEDS at @ParkTheatre – roared with laughter and wept by the end. Great cast one and all, lead by a brilliant Sophie Thompson, directed by @katherinekotz & @samphillips1984. Hope this funny, moving play gets a real run.

Really enjoyed it, Katherine, beautifully acted and directed and great writing. Incredible how much you all managed to find in Michael’s text in such a short rehearsal time. I’m sure he would have been very proud of you all.

@ParkTheatre please keep doing rehearsed readings.

Full house, brilliant celebration of Michael’s work @ParkTheatre Congrats to @katherinekotz  @samphillips1984 & Michael’s lovely family for putting this on. The cast brought every word to life. 

And lastly some candid backstage photos:

A huge thanks for Jez and Rachel at the Park Theatre for hosting it and for Nick Quinn at The Agency for publicising it!

Photos by Dean Shaw and Tom Ross

Michael has a play on at the Brighton Fringe.

Work Makes You Free By Michael Ross. 6-10th May at Rialto Theatre as part of Brighton Fringe 2019.

Adam is absolutely loving being Employment Minister, singer-songwriter Kirsty cries in the shower every morning before heading off to work at the Job Centre, struggling actress Willow must toil unpaid in a pound shop or lose her benefits, and banker Jane is disgusted by the sight of closed curtains as she leaves for Canary Wharf every morning.

Michael Ross’s biting and very funny satire delivers a piece very much for our times, reflecting on the dignity – and many indignities – of labour. It explores how some people are defined by their job, whilst for others it’s the main obstacle to becoming who they truly are. It is a funny, smart and ingenious examination of what work means in Twenty-First Century Britain.

“A current, relevant commentary on the aspects of life we see every day – it touches the full spectrum of working life in the modern age.” **** (LondonTheatre1)

***** (Remote Goat)
***** (Fringe Guru)

https://www.brightonfringe.org/whats-on/work-makes-you-free-by-michael-ross-135501/

Michael Ross Obituary

The playwright Michael Ross, whose latest work, The Shy Manifesto, recently finished a five-week UK tour, has died of cancer, aged 40.

A graduate of the Royal Court’s Young Writers Programme, Ross tackled contemporary issues such as social media, housing, homelessness and corporate greed. His play, Happy to Help, an acerbic comedy set in a supermarket, was produced at London’s Park Theatre in 2014, having been previously short-listed for the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize. It was later published by Methuen Plays.

He also wrote They Won’t Kill You (2006), A Handful of Mustard Seed (2010), Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (2012), Saving Souls in Soho (2013), The Utility People (2013), Work Makes You Free (2014), Damn Your Eyes (2015) and, most recently, The Good Landlord, about London’s housing crisis, which played at Vault Festival in February. A review of The Good Landlord on the theatreweekly.com website described it as “a fantastically funny and energetic performance”.

It was while The Shy Manifesto and The Good Landlord were both in rehearsal that Ross succumbed to the cancer that had only been diagnosed in December. Anthony Hollis, co-producer of The Shy Manifesto, spoke of the “shock and sadness” of the whole company. “Although Michael didn’t get to see the production, we managed to get an audio recording to him in the hospice, and he saw the published text of the play before he died,” said Hollis.

The Shy Manifesto, which opened at the Newcastle Live Theatre on January 30, was thought to be Ross’ most autobiographical play to date, about a teenage boy, Callum, who is not ashamed to be shy in a world full of narcissism and bluster. Even as an adult, Ross was quiet and unassuming.

Theo Ancient, a close friend of Ross who played Callum in this solo show and appeared in Ross’ play The Utility People, in 2013, said the rehearsal period for The Shy Manifesto had been “emotionally tough”, knowing Ross was unlikely to live to see his play performed. “It gave the director Cat Robey and me a real determination to keep going because it was the best way to honour his memory,” he said.

In an appreciation of the playwright in the Guardian, critic Miriam Gillinson described him as “a witty dramatist with a particular interest in the alienating impact of technology”. His work, she wrote, was “a gift to actors: light and energetic, lacking in pretension and full of compassion”.

Tracy Sinclair’s review of The Shy Manifesto for The Stage spoke of a “compact and often very funny show… a bittersweet examination of growing up in the social media age”.

Ross grew up in Surbiton, Surrey, and studied scriptwriting at Bournemouth University before returning to live and work in London. While honing his craft as a playwright, he worked at the National Theatre bookshop for more than 10 years, where he was responsible for providing monologue suggestions to young actors.

NT bookshop manager Christopher Roberts said: “Michael made an incomparable contribution to the National Theatre with his encyclopaedic knowledge of plays and playwriting.”

His agent, Nick Quinn, described Ross as “an exceptional talent, with a darkly funny tow to his writing. It is a great cruelty that he was taken so young. His work has touched and delighted audiences for more than a decade.”

Michael Ross was born on January 3, 1979, and died on January 23, 2019. He is survived by his mother, brother and sister.

The Shy Manifesto toured in 2019


My new play The Shy Manifesto is to tour in early 2019, taking in 27 dates at 20 venues across the country.

It’s a bittersweet coming-of-age comedy drama for one actor about a teenage boy who is proud to be shy and thinks you should be too, because what this crazy world needs right now is a bit more self restraint. Callum is to address an audience of radical shy comrades and incite the meek to finally rise up and inherit the earth, but memories of the previous night’s drunken escapades at end-of-term party keep intruding and threaten to upend the fragile identity he has created for himself.

Performed by Theo Ancient and directed by Cat Robey, it’s produced by Joe C Brown and Anthony Hollis and opens at Live Theatre, Newcastle on the 29th of January before travelling to Greenwich Theatre, Theatr Clwyd, The Met Manchester, The Marlowe Canterbury, Portsmouth Guildhall and Harrogate Theatre, amongst many others.

Tickets and further details available from The Shy Manifesto website: www.theshymanifesto.com

Edit: The Shy Manifesto did go on tour in 2019 and was a big hit and it was a shame Michael was not able to see it. Here are photographs from the run:

The Shy Manifesto gang posing fora photo for Michael in the hospice.
Theo on stage!
Examples of the incredible lighting!

Samuel French Off Off Broadway Festival in New York

I am incredibly excited to be heading to the US in August to see my work performed on a New York stage for the very first time. My play ‘Eyes Full of Pornography’ has been selected from over 1,000 entries as one of the 30 finalists at the Samuel French Off Off Broadway (OOB) Festival at the East 13th Street Theater, where it will be performed on Tuesday August the 8th at 6.30pm.

Organised by the venerable play publishers Samuel French, the OOB Festival is now in its 42nd year. 30 plays are performed over one week, with a panel of theatre professionals then whittling the plays down to a final few which are then performed again on Saturday, the last day of the festival, with six of the best plays being published in an anthology. The festival has showcased the early work of many successful playwrights over the course of it’s long history, including Theresa Rebeck (author of Broadway hit Seminar) amongst many others.

I’m also thrilled to be meeting one of my playwright heroes, Will Eno, who will be guest of honour at an event to open the festival on the 7th of August.

My play tells the story of two men, Dan and Matthew, who recount how they first met many years ago in a gay bar in Greenwich Village when Dan leant over and whispered in Matthew’s ear the chilling words which would change his life forever. The director is Rachel Dart and the cast are Colin Waitt and Alexander Haynes.

Rachel Dart (Director): recent credits include Project Y’s Women in Theatre Festival, EST/Sloan First Light, and NYU’s Steinhardt School and the upcoming The Trojan Women at The New Collectives. Website.

Colin Waitt (Dan): previous credits include The Checker Game (SF OOB 2015), The Mysteries (The Flea), Kapow-i GoGo (The PIT), Versailles (This Is Not a Theater Company).  He also produces Puffs, currently playing at New World Stages.

Alexander Haynes (Mathew): previous credits include Campfire at Lincoln Center, and Public Enemy at The Pearl Theatre Company. He is the voice of Talonflame on Cartoon Network’s Pokemon. Website.

Tickets for the OOB Festival can be purchased here.

More info on my play (and a short Q and A) here.

 

Blood Wedding at Mumford Theatre, Cambridge

 

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I have written a new version of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding for Anglia Ruskin University, which will be performed by the University’s 2nd year Drama students at the Mumford Theatre, Cambridge, in January 2017. (cast pictured below)

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This is my first adaptation of another playwright’s work, and it’s been a daunting challenge, as Lorca was such a great writer with a distinctive style so very different to mine. My version still takes place in Spain, but is set a few years later, in the 1940s, with General Franco very much in charge of a country haunted by the dead of the Civil War.

Blood Wedding is directed by Andrew Pritchard (who directed my play Protect and Survive at VAULT Festival 2016) and is being performed as a double bill with another play, Upwardly Down. Performances are at 7.30pm on Friday the 20th and Saturday the 21st of January 2017. Tickets are available to book online here.

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Happy To Help at Park Theatre

Landscape for Web

My new play Happy To Help runs from the 14th June to the 9th July 2016 at Park Theatre, London. .

A destitute farmer sells his land to the supermarket chain that drove him out of business. Fifteen years later and a bustling supermarket stands on the same spot. UK managing director Tony is coming to work undercover at the store for a week. Branch manager Vicky is determined to give him a more grimly authentic experience than he’d ever dared wish for. Shelf-stacker Josh dreams of escape and rock stardom. Union organiser Elliot dreams of Josh. By Friday, nothing will ever be the same for them again.

Directed by Roxy Cook. The cast are Charles Armstrong, David Bauckham, Katherine Kotz, Ben Mann, Rachel Marwood and Jonny Weldon.

Producer: Celia Dugua, Associate Producer: Claire Evans, Casting Director: Gabriella Shimeld-Fenn, Designer: Emma Tompkins, Sound Designer: Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, Lighting Designer: Sherry Coenen.

Developed with Park’s Script Accelerator Programme and shortlisted for the 2015 Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize. This show is supported by the Royal Victoria Hall Foundation.

Tickets available here. Tickets £18 (£16.50 concessions) Previews (14/15 June) £14.50. Tues-Sat 7.45pm. Thurs & Sat Matinees 3.15pm.

The playtext is being published by Methuen Drama to coincide with the run and is available here.

Photograph by Crusoe Weston.

Protect and Survive at VAULT Festival 2016

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Protect and Survive from Michael Ross on Vimeo.

Tickets are now on sale for my new play from the VAULT Festival website here. Tickets are £8 and performances are at 6.15pm from Wednesday the 2nd of March until Sunday the 6th of March with a matinee on Saturday the 5th at 3.15pm.

Protect and Survive VAULT image

Above: Karl Mercer as Jack and Carla Rose as Kirsty. Photo: Andrew Pritchard

Protect and Survive is a tense drama set in rural England, 1984, against the backdrop of the Cold War. Kirsty has recently moved to the village with her brother Charlie and their widowed father. Out walking one day, she meets local boy Jack who tells her about a government nuclear bunker hidden beneath his family’s farm. At first she doesn’t believe him, but Jack promises to take her, and her brother Charlie, down into the bunker. As dark secrets and repressed desires come to the surface, not everyone will emerge alive.

Below: Josh Husselbee as Charlie. Photo by Patricia Oliveira.

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Above: Carla Rose as Kirsty and Karl Mercer as Jack. Photo by Patricia Oliveira.

A Shout In The Dark Production, directed by Andrew Pritchard with Carla Rose as Kirsty, Karl Mercer as Jack and Josh Husselbee as Charlie.

Protect and Survive flyer

Happy To Help Kickstarter successfully funded!

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Look how delighted Katherine Kotz is! All must have chips and Smash!

The Kickstarter for my play Happy To Help reached its goal of £5,000 (actually exceeding it by 70 pounds) just minutes before the 5pm deadline on Friday the 31st of July. To have raised over £5,000 in just 2 weeks is an incredible achievement, but it’s all down to you kind and lovely backers (all 139 of you!) who came forward and pledged.

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed- your generosity and support is astounding and hugely appreciated. We now have enough for our Park Theatre deposit, plus a successful crowd-funding campaign behind us which should put us in good standing going forwards as we seek further funding and investment.

But we couldn’t have done with you, so hearty thanks from myself and Katherine Kotz go out to (in chronological order of pledges placed); Sally Bunker, James Greveson Hickie, Saskia Lortz, Toby Strutt, Rachel Salisbury, Barbara Cala-Lesina, Amy Draper, Magda Koc, Laura Wyatt, Adrian Weston, Olivier Tunmero, Duncan Lloyd, Izzy Smith, John Rodgers, Dorota Kotz, Harry Mackrill, Stephanie, Jay Hannaford, Marysia Koc, Douglas Walker, Jane Collingwood, Pete, Carl Harrison, Jackie Ramsay, Nick Diakanastasis, Lou Stephens, Adwoa Alexsis Mintah, Liis Mikk, Martin Prendergast, Helen Bauer, Cassie-Jo Sims, Will Columbine, Miran Hadzic, Arthur McBain, Sofie Mason, Michas Kotz, Zofia Williams, Hannah Wilde, Tom Ross-Steen, Andrew Walters, Victoria Carlin, Daniel Turner, Emer Duffy, Angela Clarke, Liz McCarthy, Charly Fraser Annand, Tommy Doyle, Saul Reid, Rob Fahy, Emily Horn, Morag Small, Marek Bublik, Hamble Wallace, Nick Payne, Kate Johnson, Ash Parker, Crisp Wotsit-Pringle, Kate Darach, Paul Murphy, Helen Franklin, Ashley Young, Tom Spencer, Bruce Ross, Carol Ross, Crusoe Weston, The Underground Clown Club (Andrew Skipper & Katie Overstall), Lucinda Westcar, Colette Flanagan, Ceri Williams, Daniel Strutt, Matt West, Carrie Hill, Alex Middleton, Thomas Dykes, Stef Ross-Steen, Christopher Roberts, Sarah Giles, Bryony Mills, Edward Yelland, Liliana Colombo, Mr Davy Tyler, Rachel Clarke, Ruth Naylor, Kitty Craske, Ben Ellis, Becca Melhuish, Marilii Saar, David Gray, Jake Strutt, Maria LoCastro, Rachel Tookey, John & Sonia Foster, Ellie Marshall, Daisy Watford, Ella Wiggans, Ricci, Jess, Cicely Taylor, Abbie Lucas, Hal Thompson, Ty Paul Read, Elke Wiebalck, Lucy Hagan-Walker, Pippa Mawbey, Hannah Hooper, Luca Ponzetta, Susan Allen, Adam Howe, Dominique Trotter, Mike Francis, Stacey Williams, Kit Greveson, Karl Mercer, Dean Jones, Lydia Koshiw, Angus Kemp, Laurie Harrington, Steph Lodge, Gabriella Shimeld-Fenn, Eleanor Crosswell, Alex Reynolds, John Handscombe, Blaine Tookey, Elliot Richards, Sarah Pitard, Andrew Pritchard, Jo Royce, Holly Welham, Janis Handscombe, Patricia Oliveira, Victoria Murray, Emma Digby, Robyn Holmes, Tricia Kelly, Cameron McLeod, Joe Dennis, Sophie Quin.

Happy To Help on Kickstarter

Above: short video filmed by our producer Hannah Tookey, featuring Katherine-Ellen Kotz, myself, and Stephen Mangan being a very good sport.

My play Happy To Help has been offered a slot at the Park Theatre next year following a successful showcase performance as part of their Script Accelerator Programme last Summer, but we need  your support to help us get there in 2016.

Happy To Help is set in a supermarket and it explores the absurd and far-reaching powers of these multinational corporations, but its not just about that; it’s also a play about having to do that job you hate instead of pursuing that thing you love, about joining a union, about unrequited love in the workplace, and about the tragic burden of keeping secrets. It’s a funny play, but also a bit sad and a bit scary.

Putting on a professional theatre production in London is very expensive and we want to put on the best production we can and pay everyone a decent wage. This £5,000 Kickstarter goal is just one part of the total final budget we will need, but we hope to get the rest through arts funding, foundations, private investors and other sources, but the reality is that no funding body will give us everything we need- they will expect us to have other sources of funding. But we hope that with a successful Kickstarter behind us we will stand a better chance of securing further funding. Our Kickstarter finishes on Friday the 31st of July at 5pm and if we don’t reach our goal then we don’t get anything.

If you decide to pledge, we have a range of rewards on offer. We want to involve you as part of our team, with regular updates as the production progresses and (depending on what you choose to pledge) invitations to attend dress rehearsals, tickets to performances and even supermarket props named in your honour. Full details here.