Formed in 2009, The Gramophones are an all female theatre company based right here in Nottingham. Artistic Director Hannah Stone lets Impact in on their clowning around and invites us into the world of the theatre business…

1. How were The Gramophones formed?

I moved to Nottingham after chasing acting work for quite a few years and went on a clown course where I met Kirsty. We loved the clowning and decided to get together but felt we needed a few more people, so we wrote a little note saying “looking for quirky female performers for theatre project”, which we put all round Nottingham. We had several replies including Kath and Ria. Hatch Nottingham asked us to make a piece for an event and we performed for the -first time in a restaurant, anxious as to whether people would find our show funny or interesting. When it seemed to go down well we decided we would form a company, The Gramophones.

2. Have you always devised work?

Yes, we have. Our newest piece, End to End is a show based on a journey we made where we spent three weeks travelling across the country on as many forms of transport as possible, having hilarious experiences and collecting people’s stories along the way. We came into the rehearsal room with tons of material but no idea what story we wanted to tell. Working with Tilly Branson as a director, who hadn’t come on the journey, really helped us to see things objectively. We actually decided to have a moment in the show with all the names of people we’d met on the trip written onto a blackboard and asked the audience to choose who they wanted to hear about. This seemed to fit really nicely with our chance encounters on the journey itself.

3. Run us through a day in the life of The Gramophones…

That’s a tricky one because every single day is different, which is one of the things we love about our work. At the moment we are in rehearsals for our show Anything to Declare? We get into our rehearsal space early to have a quick cuppa, normally begin with a warm-up, stretching and playing silly games that get us in the mood for improvising and devising. Then we’ll have a look at where we are at so far with the show. There may be various deliveries of unusual props such as sun umbrellas or table legs. At the end of the day we try to do a stagger run of everything we’ve got and see how it fits together. Then probably ask our designer to order more unusual props for the next day!

4. How do you juggle being both artistic director and a performer?

It can be hard. The roles are quite different but knowing the shows so well and being such an integral part of them helps to write about them and sell them to people. It’s great having such a close knit company where we are such close friends. Being on tour is the hardest because you’re very much emerged in performing but you’ve also got to remember to manage the company.

5. What’s the best thing about your job?

I love the feeling of coming up with an idea or a concept which will make someone laugh or be a great story or make someone think. Also getting to meet people and making connections. We always place the audience at the centre, trying to make them feel part of it. End to End for example, we ask the audience to tell us about their journeys. I really enjoy hearing other peoples’ stories and sharing our own.

6. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to set up their own theatre company?

Be prepared to learn to not just be a performer and willing to take on lots of different roles. You have to be passionate, willing to work really hard and be really organised. Always ask for help; there have been so many times with The Gramophones that I haven’t understood something within the industry, like writing a press release or what lighting would be good to use. But over all: go for it! Nottingham needs more companies, more emerging work and more platforms for talent.

The Gramophones are bringing End to End to The Nottingham Playhouse in April

Kiran Benawra

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