Go behind the scenes with Meghan and Harry5 Feb 2019
All photography by Jon Rowley.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited Bristol Old Vic on 1 Feb, 2019 to officially open the newly redeveloped front of house space and to share the historic moment with the next generation of theatre makers in a series of school workshops held throughout the building for children from across the city. The Royal Couple were able to sit in on a workshop with 15 Year 9 students from Ashton Park school, who were part of Bristol Old Vic’s Future Quest project, and 13 young people from Bristol Old Vic's 'Made in Bristol' training programme. The workshop used theatre as a tool to develop speaking and listening skills and to increase self-confidence and creativity.
They also explored one of the theatre’s new interactive exhibitions with the youngest cast members of the recent Bristol Old Vic Young Company production Hercules. “Noises Off” demonstrates 250-years of sound technology in the theatre, taking visitors from the present day back to Bristol Old Vic’s 18th-century sound equipment: the Thunder Run. Kouni Dillanove, aged 12, spoke to the couple and explained the interactive elements she was demonstrating; "They were really interested and wanted to know all about the music I make as well as how much I liked the exhibition."
They concluded their tour with a performance from the theatre’s Young Company cast of Hercules which was performed in the foyer, in front of the theatre’s newly revealed, ancient wall. Their Royal Highnesses unveiled a plaque commemorating the day, which was witnessed by guests from across the city, actors and children who have been involved with the theatre’s Year of Change and also current casts from Wise Children (currently performing in the theatre) and Princess & the Hustler who are rehearsing for their world premiere (beginning 9 Feb).
But star of the show was 3-year-old Ocean John, daughter of Executive Director Sally Cordwell, who shared her dreams of becoming a ballerina and had a special hello from the Royal Couple.
The Duke and Duchess then stayed in the Theatre’s Foyle Room event space for a private lunch before moving onto their next appointment in the city. Speaking at the plaque unveiling, Bristol Old Vic’s Artistic Director, Tom Morris said:
“We are thrilled to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to Bristol Old Vic today to officially open the new foyer and studio theatres. We asked our wonderful architects Howarth Tompkins to knock down the barriers which have kept this beautiful theatre hidden for 250 years and help us to share it with every community in this beautiful city and they have achieved this in spectacular fashion. This theatre’s aim is to be a place of welcome, entertainment and discovery for everyone from every part of Bristol and beyond. It is therefore particularly special to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Sussex to Bristol Old Vic as they are such great advocates for theatre; not only its ability to tell huge stories with unforgettable impact but as a means to transform lives and bring different communities together - something that encapsulates everything we have been working towards throughout the Year of Change with our partners across Bristol. We are delighted to be able to share a small part of this work with Their Royal Highnesses today.”
Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. Under Artistic Director Tom Morris and Chief Executive Emma Stenning, the historic playhouse aims to inspire audiences with its own original productions, both at home and on tour, whilst nurturing the next generation of artists, whether that be through their 350-strong Young Company, their many outreach and education projects or their trailblazing artist development programme, Bristol Ferment.
They use their funding to support experiment and innovation, to allow access to their programme for people who would not otherwise encounter it, or be able to afford it, and to keep their extraordinary heritage alive and animated.
On 24 Sep 2018, Bristol Old Vic completed its 2-year multi-million pound redevelopment project, which transformed its front of house space into a warm and welcoming public building for all of Bristol to enjoy, created a new studio theatre and opened up its unique theatrical heritage to the public for the first time.