Tag Archives: alex shepley

Reviews : Broken & A Lot of it About


We’re well into our North West tour now, having visited Salford’s The Lowry and the Square Chapel, Halifax, moving onto Liverpool’s Lantern Theatre later this week. After a slightly scary start with one of the main actors, Brian Gorman, falling ill just before the shows opened at The Lowry, the tour has gone from strength to strength.


“Writer Ella Carmen Greenhill goes to a lot of trouble to build a credible background to the story of one damaged individual trying to heal another.” – David Cunningham, thepublicreviews

“Central to the play is Hannah Keeley’s commanding performance as May. Endearing and bouncy, her portrayal is at its strongest when the story delves into memories of her trauma and she threatens to drown within these dark memories. A scene between her and Greenwood on a waltzer is particularly effective.” – The Fiction Stroker

A Lot of it About

“With its quick and witty script, A lot of It About is a thoughtful piece of theatre. (4*)” – Joanna Ing, whatsonstage

“The humour that sometimes permeates plays dealing with homosexuality as a topic can feel very forced, but here it flows naturally. Director Alex Shepley juggles this humour and drama and coaxes strong performances to produce an affecting story that builds towards a conclusion that for once is laden with hope. Thoroughly recommended.”The Fiction Stroker

We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who’s come to see the shows so far, and a particular thank you to the reviewers for your feedback. If you haven’t seen BrokenA Lot of it About yet, you’ve still got time to catch us at the Lantern Theatre in Liverpool (10-11 May), Oldham Coliseum (14 May) and the Pavilion Arts Centre in Buxton (8 June).


 To see the tour dates and book tickets for Broken and A Lot of it About, visit our website.

A Lot of it About : Gorm-less


So, I’ve just got in from our final night at The Lowry and oh my goodness what a run it has been here.

For those who haven’t heard our Older Ben (Brian GORMan, hence the very clever title) was struck down with a particularly nasty case of sciatica earlier in the week, which mean twe had to recast THREE DAYS before we opened! Cue our knight in hot beverage-y armour Daniel Thackeray (or Dan Thacker-Lad as he has been affectionately christened).

Without a word of exaggeration here, Dan saved the show. After tears, tantrums and a hell of a lot of coffee and hours of chatting, Dan stepped up to the plate in a big way, and by big I mean humongous and by humongous I mean… Well… Bigger than that. The man learned his lines overnight, and learned his moves in a day, ran it all once (in all fairness it was the entire cast’s first run too) and went on the following night. It would be fair to say that we were flying by the seat of our pants; Pre-show nerves took on a whole new meaning, and after a less than perfect tech we were on.

You can imagine our shock when 4 and 5 star reviews started coming in. It would appear this production is one of those things that holds new twist and turns round every corner, and I’m not even talking about the plot. I can only hope we are as well received everywhere and pray that the Theatre Gods recognise our struggle and bless us with engaged audiences, seamless technical rehearsal and the good health of everyone involved.

It has been wonderful opening at The Lowry and I am proud to call this show ours now. It was looking dodgy this time last week, but it’s fair to say we’ve all pulled it off, director, producers, costume, crew, stage management and the wonderful staff at The Lowry alike.

Also, can I just say how flipping lovely it is to finally be a team all together with the Broken lot. Our show is dominated by the menfolk (sans Tracy and I), so it’s ace to have a few more females about the place.  The sad fact is, I still haven’t managed to see Broken as sitting in the dark for an hour before I go on wouldn’t help my nerves or my ever flaky vocal chords, so I just have to wait until we’re on first to see it. Really looking forward to it though, it sounds ace on the Show Relay.

So, it’s with a heavy heart we wave goodbye to Salford, and say hello to Halifax. I’ll miss warming up looking over the Quays, having lights all round my dressing room mirror and singing a Kyrie Eleison in a bathroom with a beautiful acoustic (It’s part of my warm up, daaaahling).

Till next time, folks.


To see the tour dates and book tickets for Broken and A Lot of it About, visit our website.

Introducing … Alex Shepley


Hello. Today, the writer (Ned Hopkins aka Raymond) came to visit for today’s rehearsal. I had hoped to get him there on a day when all the cast were available, however, due to the ongoing availability saga, (don’t ask) it just wasn’t meant to be.

Up until this point, we had been working on the assumptions that the actors and I had made in the rehearsal room. Obviously, with traditional texts from established playwrights, you never get the luxury of having the writer in the room (unless you are very lucky, or are some form of spirit medium).

Having Raymond in the room gave not only me, but also the cast, the chance to ask him those important questions which we were still debating. There are two ways of looking at this. The first can be a little bit negative. When the writer has given a definitive answer, there’s no room for play left. Obviously, how the actor responds to what has been said will be different, and there’s a level of flexibility there, but mainly, once it’s been answered, that’s it, done.

However, the way I choose to look at it is that any information a writer gives can only give much more of a foundation for a character. Raymond was so generous in his responses and he handled it perfectly. He debated and questioned and gave his own input, but made it clear it was up to the actors to bring it to life in their own way.

For me, as a director, it was liberating to have him there. Before today, I had been emailing Raymond with questions from the cast and myself each evening , so it was great to have that interaction and conversation face to face.

Also, it has to be said, that he is just the loveliest, most supportive man you could ever wish to meet. When he wished us all the best, he genuinely meant it and he is as emotionally invested in this piece as we are, despite him not being here every day.

It was a pleasure to have him up for the day, and I can’t wait for him to see what we have done at the dress rehearsal.




To see the tour dates and book tickets for Broken and A Lot of it About, visit our website.

A Lot of it About : Chairs, Cues and Looming deadlines


Today, Alex started by sitting us all in a line of chairs at the back of the stage and trying to make it so we don’t ever have to leave the stage. This really works within the idea we have of making the “memory” sections of the play feel really stylised in comparison to the more realistic elements (the prologue and epilogue).

I’ve worked with Alex many times before, and foolishly, I had a moment of doubt that it wouldn’t work with costume placement and the faff of everybody moving round. However, after putting a rough shape on it, it’s starting to look like a play rather than a series of scenes one after the other. For the first time, I can see Alex’s vision really taking shape, and that is always one of the most exciting bits for me.

In addition, I’ve been doing a lot of work during rehearsals (when I haven’t been needed on stage) to get the plays mentioned on Twitter, radio, Facebook and every other media platform I can think of using the hashtag #OCNW. So far, due to emailing people and tweeting, I’ve managed to get us retweeted by the Buxton Fringe festival, mentioned on BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Manchester, Manchester Radio Online, by some London people- even my lecturer in Staffordshire has some interest in it. It’s kind of like a game I’m playing, with no winners or losers, and the aim is to get it mentioned as much as possible by as many people as I can. Admittedly, it’s not the greatest game in the world, but I figured if everyone approached marketing in the way I did, it would be a lot more fun.

On Tuesday, Alex made a statement. It went like this:

“Oh my God. The show is next week.”

Now, I am ashamed to admit that I laughed when she said this. Mocked her almost. However, I can now admit that I also hadn’t realised how close the show was. This realisation, whilst being absolutely terrifying on so many levels, has really given an edge to this week’s rehearsals. We’re having a very intensive week and so far, the rehearsals are the best they have been yet. I reached a level in a scene with Mike (Young Ben) yesterday that gave the scene an entire new feeling and that is exciting. It shows that even at this late stage in the game we’re still growing this show, and I think that will continue the way through our run.

And I hope we do carry on in this vein.  There’s a show in here somewhere, underneath the availability saga and half-a-building-site rehearsal rooms, and now, for the first time, it’s all very real.


To see the tour dates and book tickets for Broken and A Lot of it About, visit our website.

A Lot of it About : It’s Tracy Day!


We have been at this for a couple of days now and naturally, there’s a need and want to dig deeper into our characters, which is just ace. One of my favourite things in a rehearsal room are what I deem “The Big Questions”, i.e. the things that everyone wants to ask, but have been a bit too scared or nervous to fully explore yet.

Today’s rehearsal started off with a discussion surrounding the phrase “roll my own” and what that might mean within the context of what Ben and Ann are saying to each other. There was a moment when everyone attempted to be delicate, however, half way through Tracy (who joined us today for the first time in a rehearsal room due to the ongoing availability saga) confidently stated that it could be about “masturbation”. And that in essence is just one of the great things about this group of people. There’s no buffer zone or awkwardness surrounding these often quite difficult topics, instead it’s just said like it is and everyone accepts it.

It’s been a bit of a funny day really. A lot of waiting around for people to be ready, but no one’s at fault really. More of a problem with everyone being busy, but I feel this will be an on going problem. For now, while we’re waiting, it gives me some time to sit at a computer and type out my inner most ramblings.


To see the tour dates and book tickets for Broken and A Lot of it About, visit our website.

A Lot of it About : Crystal Balls


Not meaning this in a pretentious way, or anything, but today I wanted to write something in the moment directly from a rehearsal room. I know that rehearsal rooms are often regarded as “safe spaces” and that anything can be said without fear of it making it out of the room, however, having checked with everyone, I felt it was best to capture how the first day went.

This afternoon, as we’re working in chronological order, Alex has mainly been working on scenes involving the menfolk-Brian, Mike and John. It’s been interesting watching them all work together. The feeling in the room is quite odd, in that it veers wildly from being extremely serious to these moments of lightness in which all the tension is relieved, which usually takes the form of shouting “Lad!” or “Banter!” after something particularly euphemistic, or in some cases, explicitly obvious. John has this amazing habit of making extremely funny comments which he thinks no one has heard, but I often catch them when I’m eavesdropping in their character discussion.

First day of rehearsals can often be quite tentative and actors quite reticent as everyone finds their feet and figures each other out, however, in this process we have no choice but to get straight down and dirty (ooh matron) with it for a number of reasons.  One very practical reason being the time constraints we have, due to availability (a recurring theme I feel developing).

Another key part of this is the subject matter of the play. It’s so extreme at times that it means there can be no inhibitions in the room. From the get go, Mike and John were thrown in at the deep end starting with an awkward post coital scene (I hope that’s not giving too much away). Luckily, they know each other already, so there weren’t any personal inhibitions to get over, but I thought it may be awkward for them because of their friendship. However, everyone seems to be “giving” so much that this hasn’t even shown in the slightest. Watching how at ease they can be with such a sensitive issue makes me admire these guys even more. I’m not too sure that I would be as comfortable as that, so despite them being pretty much the same age as me, I’m learning from them, which is ace.

In addition we kind of have a bit of a competition going as to who can make the most profound statement of analysis. Earlier, Alex used the word “dichotomy” and we all thought that was the winner but then Brian came out with this piece of rehearsal room gold:

“He uses the crutch, but he doesn’t need the crutch. It’s a physical manifestation of his problems. He’s like a little bird, with a broken wing who’s too scared to fly… And that, is why he is an ornithologist”

As I said. Profound.

John is losing. As he likened Ben to John Watson from Stephen Moffat’s Sherlock, and also said the walking stick needed a crystal ball on it. He’s been told to buck his ideas up if he doesn’t want to go to the bottom of the class.



To see the tour dates and book tickets for Broken and A Lot of it About, visit our website.