One–off socially distanced performance of Romantics Anonymous launches Bristol Old Vic’s autumn season of live performance

11 Sep 2020

Following a successful trial period of pilot performance in the newly launched Courtyard and outdoor Garden Stage, Bristol Old Vic will present a rolling schedule of performances to socially distanced audiences throughout the autumn.   

Live performances in the Courtyard and Theatre spaces will open with a discussion about the future of theatre in Bristol featuring a panel of Tom Morris, Chinonyerem Odimba and Mike Tweddle (Thu 17 Sep), a poetry cabaret night by Edson Burton (Fri 18 Sep) and an acoustic concert by the celebrated Zu Zu Men (Sat 19 Sep.)   

On Sun 27 Sep, Wise Children, Bristol Old Vic and Plush Theatricals will present a one-off performance of Romantics Anonymous for a live, socially distanced audience at Bristol Old Vic, following the company’s ‘digital tour’ of live-streamed performances across the UK and internationally from 22 – 26 Sep. This marks Bristol Old Vic’s first event with a live audience in its 254-year-old theatre since it was forced to close on 17 Mar.   

Audience capacity will be limited in line with all current guidelines and extra measures will be put in place to keep audience and performers safe. Demand is likely to be high, with tickets going on sale at 2pm on Mon 14 Sep. All proceeds will go to the Wise Children/Bristol Old Vic Collaboration Fund to commission and invest in future collaborations between the two companies.   

Reprising their roles, the full cast for Romantics Anonymous is Marc Antolin (Jean-René), Carly Bawden (Angélique), Me’sha Bryan (Suzanne/Mimi), Harry Hepple (Ludo/Remi), Laura Jane Matthewson (Young Woman), Sandra Marvin (Magda/Brigitte/Dr Maxim), Philip Cox (Father/Pierre/Receptionist), Gareth Snook (Mercier/Mumbler/Marini) and Omari Douglas (Salesman/Fred), who joins the cast.    

Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic Tom Morris said today, “Tickets for the streamed performances of Romantics Anonymous are flying out the door. Wise Children have shown once again that they are the company to lead where the boldest theatre experimenters, artists and audiences alike, are sure to follow. This single “same room” performance is a gift from the company to their loyal and passionate audiences in Bristol and a wonderful opportunity for us at the theatre to begin a journey of welcome to you, the lifeblood of the theatre, which will roll out across the autumn.”   

Artistic Director of Wise Children Emma Rice today said, “I cannot believe that, in less than a week Wise Children will be in a rehearsal room again and in less than 2, we will be performing our beloved Romantics Anonymous to an audience – live! The last weeks have been filled with scrupulous planning and careful preparations to ensure the safety of the cast and crew, but when we get onto that stage everything will change. Under the lights, for a few short hours, we will forget our fears and remember other essentials in life; imagination, celebration, story, community and song. Hand in virtual hand with our audience we will feel the joy and exhilaration of a collective experience; that sweet, delicious, much missed treat! And to think that we will have an actual Bristol audience watching in the flesh on our final night is almost too much excitement for a woman to bear. Joy upon joy, thrill upon thrill! Let the show go on!”   

Alongside this pioneering event, Bristol Old Vic are now working on a full autumn programme including a series of live-streamed hybrid events which will ensure that it can welcome audiences in the theatre and live at home to enjoy extraordinary performances by brilliant artists from Bristol and beyond.   

Announcements are expected shortly of projects involving KneehighStephanie Cole, Tom Marshman, Impermanence Dance Company, the Boogaloo String Band, Milk Poetry PresentsBristol Old Vic Theatre SchoolTheatre Ad Infinitum and a host of other delights.  

Thu 17 Sep
Theatre in Bristol after the pandemic
Theatre in Bristol after the pandemic is a conversation event open for audiences and theatre lovers in Bristol in which Tom Morris will explain how Bristol Old Vic is seeking to rebuild its programme after the pandemic.   

Tom will be accompanied by Chinonyerem Odimba, playwright, Chair of Theatre Bristol and Bristol Old Vic Board member, who will be chairing Bristol Old Vic’s working group for Representation and Welcome in the Context of Black Lives Matter, and Mike Tweddle, Artistic Director of Tobacco Factory Theatres.  

 There will be an opportunity for audience members to ask questions and share the future they would like to see in the city’s theatrical life.   

Fri 18 Sep 
Edson Burton: Pandemic Poetry 
When the theatres closed, Shakespeare wrote sonnets. He's not claiming to be Shakespeare, but like the Bard, Bristol writer Edson Burton turned to his first love poetry as a way to document his journey through this pandemic. From disappointment, to dread, the passion of Black Lives Matter, to the uneasy 'easying'.   

Edson is joined by musicians and friends for a night of poetry, storytelling and music as he shares some moments of connection and looks to our past, our present and our future.   

Sat 19 Sep
The Zu Zu Men: Acoustic Special
Bristol band The Zu Zu Men first emerged from the dust at the start of the Year of Our Lord 2012. Their specialities include reinterpreting pop/rock favourites and taking audience requests, often miraculously learning them on the spot. This has helped grow their repertoire to near gargantuan proportions and their seats are jam-packed with songs from the 50s to the present.   

They have played all over Bristol and recently enjoyed a musical residency at the Royal Naval Volunteer. Their performance style, normally a propane-driven feast of fun, has mellowed for this very special socially distanced acoustic show, with guitars, bass, drums and ukulele providing toe-tapping tunes and folky fingerstyle fun until the wee hours.

Bristol Old Vic is the longest continuously running theatre in the UK, and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. 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.

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