The Meaning of Zong postponed until April 2022

26 Jul 2021

Bristol Old Vic today announced the postponement of The Meaning of Zong, Giles Terera’s debut play which was due to premiere at Bristol Old Vic from 11 Sep – 2 Oct.

It will now take place from 2 April – 7 May at the theatre and include a live-broadcast as part of Bristol Old Vic’s ongoing digital theatre offer.

 “We will continue to work on our production of Giles’ brilliant and prophetic play, but the combination of the Government’s failure to manage levels of COVID infection levels, their adherence to the rules of isolation until 16 August and the failure to release the prepared insurance scheme for theatres has made it impossible for us to create the show within its announced dates this September,” said Artistic Director Tom Morris.

“It’s hard to be critical of a government which has been clear about the value of our national creativity and the businesses it sustains, and incisive in the investment of the Cultural Recovery Fund to protect it.  But the management of the opening-up of the economy has been farcical.

The removal of restrictions (which has facilitated a massive summer surge in infections), suggests that the risk from rising COVID numbers is low.  Strict adherence to isolation rules on top of this (ham-stringing businesses across the economy) suggests the risk from rising COVID is high. Government doesn’t appear know its own mind.  The failure to reconcile these contradictions is causing widespread disruption across the economy (not just in theatre), crashing our faith in the Test and Trace system, and causing a frightening rise in infection rates.”

Theatres all over Britain, with the support of the Performance Research Programme, have shown that it is possible to safely entertain the public in UK theatres, and Bristol Old Vic will continue to do just that.  But when it comes to the creative process, however, the combined demands of keeping artists safe, delivering work of the highest quality and controlling costs create a wholly different challenge.

Bristol Old Vic’s Executive Director Charlotte Geeves explained:
“The impact of the “pingdemic” on rehearsal rooms across the country is seismic. At any point, half the company might be instructed to isolate for 10 days, interrupting rehearsals, delaying the show’s completion and increasing costs beyond recovery. With infection rates in Bristol approaching 1 in 100 across the population, the risk of harm to our artists and interruption to our business is very high.

The rest of Bristol Old Vic’s programme for Autumn/Winter remains on sale. The theatre’s promise to keep our audiences safe remains strong with the additional offer of two guaranteed socially distanced performances until Christmas remaining in place.  And our commitment to deliver a stunning production of Giles’ play to live audiences in Bristol and all over the world is stronger than ever.”

Celebrating the power of individual action to drive huge societal change, The Meaning of Zongtells the true story of Olaudah Equiano as he joins forces with anti-slavery campaigner Granville Sharp to publicly condemn the massacre aboard the slave ship Zong, setting in motion events which would go on to galvanise the abolition movement in the UK.

The play was already in development at Bristol Old Vic when the pandemic hit, and the social upheaval of BLM movement, George Floyd’s murder and the toppling of the Colston Statue heightened the play’s urgency - leading to the stage production’s transformation into an audio play for BBC Radio3 in March 2021.

Writer, director and lead actor of The Meaning of Zong Giles Terera said:
'History tells us that when Olaudah Equiano first tried to tell this story in Britain two hundred years ago he was met with massive resistance, because the establishment knew the power that stories have to encourage people and bring about change in society. But thankfully history also shows us that stories endure while governments do not.  I'm excited to continue building the production and looking forward to sharing it with audiences in the Spring." 

The Meaning of Zong now runs from 2 April – 7 May 2022
Press Night: Thu 7 Apr at 7pm

Tickets will be on sale from 10am Tue 27 Jul.
From £8

For those who have booked for the Sep 2021 run: The Box Office team will be reissuing e-tickets for the spring performances before the end of the week (31 Jul). If there are any problems with the suggested alternative dates, exchanges can be made by contacting: / 0117 987 7877

For further information, or to request interviews, please contact Amanda Adams / 07957 438212

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.

Press Office: 0117 949 4901 |