The Great Ukrainian Bake Off

Pirog, pierogi, perogy, pirogi, pyrih… little did I know when I wrote the following stage direction for Aleks: He starts to unpack the pirogi onto the plate what I’d started.

First there was the lady at the Latvian Food Shop who told Mark Polish pirogi are dumplings with various fillings. Then Anastasia (a very helpful Russian student at Coventry University), told him how to pronounce it properly and that in Russia they are pies that can have either savoury or sweet fillings – a recipe is on the way. Then Nancy said that she had seen some in a shop near LAMDA that looked like small pasties…



You Tube has lots of helpful clips including this one featuring Torvill & Dean’s signature tune (Bolero) and a barking dog (I love dogs):

Then I found this:

Here are some popular proverbs and sayings with the Word pirog in Russian.

  • Пироги ешь — хозяйку тешь!
  • Не красна изба углами, а красна пирогами.
  • Без блина не Масленица, без пирога не именинник.
  • Вот такие пироги.

So, I used an online translation service:

  • Pies eat – the mistress of mascara!
  • The cottage is not red, but red with pies.
  • Without a pancake it’s not Shrovetide, without a pie it’s not a birthday boy.
  • These are the pies.

Which is all very well but I’m talking about Ukrainian pirogi…

So anyway, I’ve had an idea – how about we hold The Great Ukrainian Pirogi Bake Off?

Let me know if you’re interested.

PS I did record an audio file of Mark’s pronunciation but can’t upload it without paying for premium so you’ll have to use your imagination.








Everything but the boots

A big THANK YOU to Stella, Jack, Trace, Helen, Anastasia and Philippa who all responded to last week’s call-out for props. As you can see, we now have everything (including a Bosnian horse skull), but the boots (valenki size 5.5-6 with outdoor soles).

Mark (director) has informed me that he needs to pop in to the Latvian Food Shop at the weekend to source (and no doubt try) the various food items we also need for the show.

Which is now making me wonder why I didn’t include some Plymouth Gin and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne in the script – next time maybe…

80’s Soviet Russian ladies knickers (unused)

It all started with an email from Nancy ‘It appears there really is absolutely nothing you cannot buy on eBay!’.

russian knickers blog

I’ve already mentioned Nancy’s model making skills but should also just touch on her unswerving attention to detail. After a call-out on Facebook several very helpful friends offered up a variety of props for the show including some beautiful children’s’ books.

Russian book blog pic

Nancy loved the books but just needed to make sure they were published pre 1986… It turns out she has been in negotiation with a Ukrainian lady (eBay) who is helping her to source children’s science books from the early 80’s. Which is exactly why I love working with Nancy – it only makes it onto stage if it’s absolutely right. Thankfully this carrier bag has passed the ‘Nancy test’ (has to have been manufactured in the last few years).

carrier bag blog

We’re still looking for: wild animal bones (deer,boar, fox, wolf), a folding picnic table (to be carried with one hand), Russian cigarette packets, Russia (branded)  supermarket shopping bags, a traditional ladies  push-bike (with basket), and a pair of Russian felt valenki boots (size 5.5 – 6 with outdoor soles). Do let us know if you think that you can help!

Marketing madness

AIS Blog pic 2

12,000 flyers, 100 posters, button badges, listing sites, MailChimp campaigns, Facebook, Twitter etc  – the marketing madness goes on…

The first time I ever co-produced a show was back in 1988, A Thing In Your Lap co-written, directed, designed and produced by Thrity Vakil and myself. It was a black comedy about the decline of the NHS – perhaps we should revive it? With no marketing budget (or indeed strategy), and just a handful of handmade posters, we sold out fast.

Nearly thirty years on I’m producing my new play All Is Well. We have resources including an actual budget, a variety of online platforms and a detailed strategy but it seems so much harder to sell tickets. The world certainly feels busier/noisier and people’s attention spans have definitely shortened but I’ve also noticed that less people seem to have developed the theatre habit these days (including theatre students/practitioners). While I admit I do sometimes have to have a break from the theatre and head off to the cinema or an art gallery to get my regular fix of culture, I still manage to see between thirty and fifty shows a year.

So far this year I’ve seen Dick Whittington (Belgrade), Made In India (Belgrade), My Arm (WAC), Art (Old Vic), The Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat (Belgrade), Snow in Midsummer (RSC) and The Road To Huntsville (WAC), and have more tickets lined up on the mantle piece for the coming weeks/months. I would probably have seen one or two more shows but I had a short play at The REP (BOLDtext’s Insatiable) in January and a R&D sharing at the Shop Front Theatre (The Sleeping Place) in February. I’m not claiming to have a great experience at every show but when I do it always makes my day (sometimes year).

So, if you haven’t booked a ticket yet for All Is Well what are you waiting for? Going to the theatre is a very positive habit to adopt.

Shop Front Theatre TICKETS


The model box

The model box

Last night our wonderful designer Nancy Surman unveiled her design for the show (the photograph above shows the space at MAC). As Nancy unwrapped each toilet paper bundle (!) a variety of 1:25 scale beautifully made model chairs, props and even a bicycle were revealed. Nancy has always been good at model making – we trained together in the 1980’s  (Theatre Design at Trent Polytechnic) and she never failed to astonish with her precision making skills.

Nancy then went on to educate us all about the specific characteristics of 1980’s Russian furniture which led into a long and detailed discussion about the difference between Ukrainian and Russian children’s academic science books.

I think it is fair to say that Nancy (Designer), Mark (Director), Joff (Puppetry), Dave (Lighting/Sound) and myself all learnt a lot from each other last night. Including the little known fact that chrysotile asbestos fibres were used as snow in the 1939 film version of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and some other well known movies…

It’s one of the things that I love the most about writing a new play – I never know what I’m going to learn next.