Call for proposals (and Andy’s expert directing tips!)

Since we are now looking for proposals for Network’s spring show in April 2016 (deadline for initial proposals 31st October), we got in touch with the self-proclaimed Wicked Uncle of Network, Andy Kerr, for some insider tips on direction. Useful if you’ve never directed before or even if you have but want to learn from the best!

“We are a creative community and new ideas are encouraged. Discussing new plays and ideas is vital for our future. We have become a really big group and, with so many potential actors and crew, not everything has to be a full-scale, huge production. If you have a great idea for a one-act play with a cast of 3, that we can put on for £50, then tell us about it!

 My advice to any budding directors is to get involved with the production side of a show instead of purely acting. You need to keep your eye on all the balls. For many of our members, their route into the group is the workshops, but although they are wonderful fun and a great way to get involved, directors also need knowledge of how to deal with a production as a whole. Many people have fabulous artistic ideas about a play but no knowledge of the people they need around them or the range of skills required.

 You should perhaps start with a small cast and a show that is easy to produce. Larger casts can be harder to bond together and you can spend your whole time organising who needs to come to rehearsals and when.

Above all, you want your first experience to be positive! The first play I did was Büchner’s Woyzeck, a play the author left unfinished at his death. Although it turned out well in the end, I quickly realised I had overstretched myself and spent a lot of the rehearsal process extremely stressed. Remember that our reason for doing any of this is a love of theatre; you need to enjoy the experience!”

If you do have an idea, then please submit your proposal to, including a few sentences about why you think this play would be a good choice and some initial ideas on staging. Both a director and production manager should be included on the proposal. Please also bear in mind that the chosen show will be performed at the Lantern Theatre – backstage space is at a premium here, so maybe your half-scale version of Titanic, The Musical, might be better suited to another venue. All proposals received will be reviewed at the committee’s next meeting in early November.

If you need any advice or have any questions, please feel free to get in touch before you submit. If you have any ideas for a smaller show outside of the April window, as suggested by Andy, we will be happy to hear from you. Send us an email and we can discuss your plans. Lastly, for those who cannot do April, the following production will be in July and submissions should be made before the end of the year. More details soon.

The Pals are coming!


With less than two weeks to go until Network’s latest production, The Accrington Pals, Network’s dedicated Comms team, Will and Sandra, managed to catch up with busy director Andy Kerr, who was only too happy to whet our appetites for what seems sure to be another fantastic show.

So, Andy, what made you choose the play?

AK: To be honest, the play chose us. It seemed the perfect reflection of the values of the group and the social content is more relevant than ever. The characters are warm and strong and I feel everyone can relate to them. As soon as I read the synopsis, I felt it was something we simply had to do. And I also felt that we, as a company, were capable of doing it justice.

What has been the most rewarding aspect for you?

AK: The most rewarding aspect for any director is seeing the individual cast members become a genuine company. It happened so quickly with this cast. They are such talented and generous actors. There is no competition for attention (well, almost none – they are actors after all) and the atmosphere has been friendly and fun throughout. Yet at the same time, there has been no sign of false modesty. These are talented actors, who enjoy showing what they can do. It is always a magic moment when you first see the glimpse of what they are capable of. You may then lose sight of it for a rehearsal or two, but gradually it all comes together until you can spend half an hour just watching them with no need to direct anything. In fact, the only problem working with such talented, hard-working, beautiful people is that it will be my fault if it’s crap!

Have there been any particular challenges to overcome?

AK: Probably the short time scale. This isn’t so much a challenge for the actors, as I know they will all put the time in, but more of a headache when it comes to props and costumes and the general logistics of the show. Of course, I am feeling the pressure, but I can count on the support of an excellent team. If there is one thing that does keep me awake at night, though, it would be the time factor.

What can your audience expect and what will they take away from the play?

AK: It’s a topical play, as next year marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Somme. The play still feels very current even though the action takes place a century ago. I think everyone will feel the tragedy of the whole generation of lost youth. What makes Pals unique, however, is the focus on a northern mill town and the lives of the women left behind. Of course, we see the male characters at the front as soldiers, but they are no more important than the women, which is refreshing and powerful.

Audiences will shed some tears as they get to know and love the characters and experience their personal tragedies, but in the end not all the women have a grim fate. They are able to work, make decisions and genuinely change society, which had been impossible before. Throw in some Coronation Street-style, northern cobbles humour and you have a genuinely enjoyable and moving piece, which does not seek to be overly worthy. The play is very much a product of when it was written, the early 80s, when the first Thatcher government had just been elected. In the play, the character of Tom symbolises a communitarianism, in contrast to May and her Thatcherist individualism. Tom’s wartime experiences reinforce his belief in the group as an entity and the contribution we can all make to it, where May believes in making your own luck and looking after number one. It is the genius of the writer that ensures that both characters are likeable.

A word on the set and costumes?

AK: The set is fairly minimal and audiences will need to use their imagination. This was a deliberate directorial choice; minimal set means fast scene changes and a rapid pace can be maintained throughout the piece, in keeping with the extremely natural dialogue. There will of course be enough period references for authenticity. So I would describe our production as stylised staging but naturalistic presentation of the subject matter.

You have been a Networker for a long time now, Andy. Could you share some of your highlights?

AK: My Uncle Vanya was boss! Why? Because I did it! Sonia Chapman and I are the unstoppable duo, like the Catholic monarchs of Spain. As for Network today, I am delighted that the workshops have really taken off again. I think a major plus is our incredibly broad age range. Too many amateur theatre groups are either youth clubs or full of older people. We have a mix of generations, at the risk of sounding like an old fart! This bodes well for the future of the company.

I have so many great memories. I remember the Assistant Stage Manager for Uncle Vanya a few years ago saying: “none of them is bad. Usually at least one cast member is, but not one of yours!” He was amazed, but that just sums us up for me.

And of course, we have our annual summer tour of the parks, with a Shakespeare play or a show like this year’s Easy Virtue. I remember when our summer tour first started many years ago. It was a Midsummer Night’s Dream. And of course, I was Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night at Sudley – they had to change all the references from thin to fat! Lastly, I’ll never forget an Ideal Husband in Reynold’s Park in a storm. Robbie O’Neill, who is now a professional actor in London, was in the middle of a speech. We had wrapped the chaise longue in cellophane, to keep it dry. Suddenly, it came loose and he had to deliver his lines accompanied by a 20-foot sale wafting in his face!

Thanks, Andy, and good luck with the show! We can’t wait to see it.

Meet the new Network Committee

Hello Everyone!

Following our AGM on 22nd September, the roles of the “new” Network committee have officially been cast! Our line-up now presents itself as follows:

Continuing their previous roles are:

  • Frank Kennedy – Chair
  • Angela Millett – Secretary
  • Sonia Chapman – Treasurer

New to the committee are:

  • Mark Cooper & Julie Hills – Membership Officers
  • William O’Neill & Sandra Tschackert – Communications Officers
  • Martin Dimitrov – Workshop Liaison
  • Mark Freeman – General Committee Member

A very special thank you goes out to former committee members James Gray, Elaine Stewart, Faye Christiansen and Mike Leane for all their hard work in the past year.

The new committee successfully held its first meeting in early October. We are highly motivated and full of ideas for the new Network year and are happy to be approached with any questions or suggestions you may have.

We are also working on bringing the website up to speed, so stay tuned for more news in the next few days!

All the best,

Sandra on behalf of the LNTG Committee

The Accrington Pals in rehearsal

Performance dates for Network’s current production are approaching fast – with only two weeks to go, rehearsals for The Accrington Pals are at full speed. Below are some impressions from a lively rehearsal yesterday evening!

The Accrington Pals will be performed on 22nd, 23rd and 24th October at the Lantern Theatre in Liverpool.

Tickets are available now from or call 0151 703 0000.

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AP poster