Word Search #1: Who's Who at Bristol Old Vic?
Get to know some of our theatre’s most interesting historical characters…
- When Sarah Siddons played Hamlet on stage at the Theatre Royal Bristol (our old name) in 1781 she became the first influential actress to play the Danish prince. This willingness to take risks helped make her eighteenth-century England’s leading tragic actress. Sarah performed at the Theatre Royal Bristol between 1779 and 1782, sometimes playing up to 30 different roles in a single season. Upon leaving Bristol for London she quickly became the most famous actress in the capital. In 1783 she was even appointed to teach elocution to the King’s children.
- Sarah Macready was born in 1790. She spent the first part of her career in her future husband William Macready’s touring theatre company. In 1819 William took over the management of the Theatre Royal Bristol and Sarah quickly became the Theatre’s leading actress. In 1834, five years after William’s death, Sarah became the Theatre’s first female manager. During her time as manager the Theatre’s stage was graced by magicians, tightrope walkers, animals and acrobats. This made the Theatre hugely popular. Sarah died on the 8th March 1853 aged sixty-three. Legend has it that she still haunts the Theatre. Many people have sensed her ghostly presence, caught a whiff of her lavender perfume, heard her voice or even felt her breath on their face.
- James Chute took over the management of the Theatre Royal Bristol from his mother in law Sarah Macready in 1852. Under his management the Theatre became the finest training ground for actors in the country. In 1867 James opened the New Theatre Royal on Park Row in fashionable Clifton. His new Theatre was soon receiving the finest touring companies in Britain. The success of the new Theatre was bad news for the Theatre Royal Bristol. Declining audiences meant it only opened occasionally and began to fall into disrepair. In 1881 James’ sons sold the Theatre, ending 82 years of ownership by the Macready-Chute family.
- The Elephant of Siam performed here in 1830. He was so big that the Theatre’s manager Richard Brunton had to knock down the back wall of the theatre and extend the stage just to get him into the building. All for just one week of performances!
- The Llama: The Elephant of Siam isn’t the only animal to grace our stage. A man once performed in this theatre accompanied by a llama, 2 boa constrictors, a kangaroo, some lions, and even a baboon. We wonder where they slept…
- Signor Rossignol’s Nightingale. Signor Rossignol was a famed eighteenth-century bird imitator who performed at the Theatre Royal Bristol four times between 1778 and 1800. He is best remembered, however, for an unusual event that occurred offstage. Returning to Bristol from Bath on a fine May night, Rossignol stopped his coach and got out. He began his famed imitation of a nightingale, and was immediately answered by the real thing. Gradually more and more birds joined in, with Rossignol imitating their calls and encouraging them to come closer, while his fellow travellers sat breathless listening to this lovely night chorus.
- Carriage. Performers at the Theatre Royal Bristol frequently performed at the Theatre Royal Bath on alternate nights. Travelling between the two venues by coach was extremely dangerous due to the risk of being stopped by Highway men. In 1774 three highwaymen stopped a carriage near the Brislington Turnpike and robbed Mr Brunsdon, a comedian, of 31.1s. and 6d. and a silver watch. For safety, and to save money, performers often travelled together in special elongated carriages known as ‘Caterpillars’.
Now you’ve got to know some of our most interesting and influential characters, can you find them in this word search?
Word Search #2: Who Makes a Play?
When you read a book you imagine the world and characters in your head. Directors do the same thing when they first read a script, but it takes a team of people to make their ideas reality. Every play you watch is a mixture of ideas from a group of creators and makers who all worked together to create the finished piece.
Can you find some of them in this word search?
Word Search #3: What Kind of Play?
Over the course of two and a bit centuries, our theatre has delighted the people of Bristol and beyond with almost every kind of play imaginable. Our opening night on 30th May 1766, for example, began with an orchestra recital which led into a comedy The Conscious Lovers and then the farce The Citizen.
Hidden in this word search are just some of the types of play which have taken place on our stage, can you find them?