3 Nov 2023

On Mon 30 Oct, Bristol Old Vic welcomed back the Genesis Foundation for another thought-provoking conversation. The topic for this Genesis Conversation was ‘What Next for New Writing?’.  

Joining Bristol Old Vic’s Artistic Director, Nancy Medina for the panel discussion were three more leading figures from the theatre sector: 

  • Miriam Battye, Playwright (Scenes with Girls, Strategic Love Play and Succession) 
  • Juliet Gilkes Romero, Playwright (The Whip, Upper Cut) 
  • George Turvey, Artistic Director, Papatango. 

A full recording of the event will be made available soon. Until then, here’s Nancy’s thoughts on the value of new work she shared with the room on the day: 

“The first play I saw that truly made me fall in love with theatre was Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon, I may have been 12 or 13.  

That day, I felt what I continue to feel to this day when I go to the theatre: the warm sense of comfort, of tucking into my seat as the houselights go down around me, and the excitement of possibility as the lights go up on the stage... A stage that would unveil a story that completely enveloped me, made me care about the characters, their situation, their personalities, their wants, needs and desires – how they relate to each other and how it relates to me.  What I have come to describe in my own work, the search to understand the complexities of the human condition. 

In our current climate, the theatre industry is rife with financial worries that cover many complicated variables around cost of living, recovery from pandemic, political unrest and disquiet nationally and locally. I and the team here at Bristol Old Vic find ourselves often in a position of having to justify why the arts matter; why the investigation and exploration of human beings matters, our joy, our sadness, our resilience and our potential to affect change. 

How do we continue to imagine a better world and support the artists best placed to break open nuance, challenge our thinking, invigorate our imagination and have us reflect and act on the state of being human? 

Writing matters. Journalism, novels, poetry, film and TV, and of course theatre. It’s writing that creates a vehicle where we can communicate thoughts and ideas and a framework to imagine how society works or how we wish it to work.  

Playwriting is distinct because its function is to transcend the written form to live performance. As an audience, the connection we all feel, gathering together as a community for an afternoon or an evening, for me personally is, unmatched to any other experience except maybe watching Erykah Badu in concert! 

This conversation is taking place here in Bristol, what we can call a relatively safe haven within these walls. I would be remiss not to acknowledge the hurt, pain and confusion felt in current global conflicts. The situation in Gaza and Israel is complex and heartbreaking. I hope we can find resolutions swiftly and a way forward to healing.   

As the character of David says in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play Choir Boy; ‘people have been dehumanizing each other for centuries, it’s what they chose to do, still choosing to do’.  

Well, my journey here to this room with all of you today, through my career as a director, a teacher and now an artistic director, has been to honor the voices and thoughts of those that nurtured me, help us understand our past to create a better future and ultimately to quote Prince ‘to get through this thing called life’. 

I hope we all have the generosity of mind, spirit and heart to continue valuing the arts for all that it fulfils in impacting our world.” 

Nancy Medina - Artistic Director, Bristol Old Vic.