The Power of Imagination – Summer/Autumn Season 2019 announced

12 Mar 2019

Artistic Director Tom Morris today announced the completion of the 2019 programme and reflected on the impact and legacy of Bristol Old Vic’s Year of Change in 2018. 

“As regional theatres all over the country are fighting with such imagination to combat declining subsidy and deep local authority cuts, it is more important than ever to examine what the role of a regional producing theatre might be.” said Morris. 

“We launched that enquiry in the face of local authority cuts in 2018, seeking to rediscover the civic function of theatre. From this, we’ve understood afresh the powerful synergy between world-class theatre (which commands national and international attention), the transformative impact of creative opportunity (delivered throughout Bristol by our Engagement programme) and the vital contribution to our own and other sectors provided by our talent pipeline, Bristol Ferment. 

The visible success of our programme, from Jane Eyre to Frederick Douglass: An Abolitionist Returns; from The Grinning Man to A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, from Touching the Void to The Princess & The Hustler, is the catalyst and the inspiration for everything we aim for and achieve across the city and the region.”   

These thoughts have led to a year celebrating the power of imagination. 

“The world around us feels just as wild and full of change as it did last year and the need for renewal is just as great,” added Bristol Old Vic Chair Dame Liz Forgan. “At the heart of this programme is our belief that creative opportunity is transformative for everyone we work with: our artists, our collaborators across the city, and above all the people from every part of Bristol for whom and with whom we create our work.”   

Creative Opportunity 

Imagination is a powerful part of theatre, but it is also a vital part of our engagement across the whole City and a key part of the “talent pipeline” feeding our own industry and others. 

The evidence is unequivocal that children who have the opportunity to create will gain confidence and social skills which improve every aspect of their lives, from academic attainment and employment, to mental health and relationships.   

At a time when arts budgets in schools are tumbling, and the Local Authority funding which has traditionally supported this area of work has been rinsed to nothing by austerity, we are battling to build new partnerships with local government, charities and individuals to ensure that this radical and high impact part of our programme continues to offer opportunities for everyone. Throughout 2019, Bristol Old Vic’s Engagement team are continuing their work in a host of ways.   

The mighty Bristol Old Vic Young Company reaches its 25th anniversary and will be celebrating with a free festival, Springboard, on 6 April. Not only will each of the 350 members of the Young Company (aged 5-25) be performing, but so will members of the newly formed Spark Theatre Makers (Bristol Old Vic’s disabled and learning disabled theatre company) as well as young people from the satellite Young Companies Bristol Old Vic operates in schools across the city, and our Adult Company, ensuring creative opportunities are open to all.   

On Monday 27 May, Bristol Old Vic is once again inviting Bristolian and West Country talent to share their creativity on the main stage in a showcase like no other. Open Stage 2019 is born out of the theatre’s 250th anniversary celebrations. Applications are open to anyone and previous years have seen over 300 people take to the stage– from choirs to circus performers, jazz musicians to spoken word artists, Bollywood dancers to mimes: the stage is yours!   

Ongoing partnerships also include a three-year collaboration with Cardboard Citizens and a well-established relationship with Bristol’s refugee charity Borderlands which help to welcome marginalised groups into the theatre, not only to attend performances, but to actively participate and create work of their own.   

Tom Morris also used the evening to highlight the ongoing partnership between Bristol Old Vic and Headlong, currently creative partners on Richard III. Bristol Old Vic’s Engagement team have joined forces with Headlong as part of Headlong Futures, embedding practitioners in specifically targeted communities and using theatre to ask questions about their home, their community, their futures.  

In 2017, Bristol Old Vic and Headlong Theatre collaborated on the theatre co-production Junkyard, using this as a starting point to begin a relationship with Lockleaze, an area of Bristol with historically low levels of cultural engagement. Working with teenagers from Lockleaze in regular sessions over an 18-month period, this has culminated in a piece of work based around the questions and contradictions that seem most potent to them. In Acts of Resistance, these young people will be presenting their work on the main stage for the first time (7-8 Apr).  

Talent pipeline

The national network of regional theatres has been a training ground for talent in commercial theatre, film and television throughout the last 50 years.
 
Much of the cultural investment in the UK’s subsidised theatre is returned ten-fold through the generations of artists who move from learning their craft in regional theatres to delivering commercial hits in theatre, television and film. From Daniel Day Lewis, Matthew Warchus and Phyllida Lloyd in Bristol, to Andy Serkis in Lancaster: from Bill Nighy in Liverpool to Lee Hall in Newcastle, and Maxine Peake and Marianne Elliott in Manchester.

New technologies are ever-hungrier for the storytelling “chops” which theatre artists famously develop as they cut their teeth in pipeline programmes across the country, many (including the Bristol Ferment) inspired by the pioneering Scratch Programme at BAC.
 
Ferment

Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment centres on artist development, for some of the best artists from Bristol and the South West. Twice a year, in January and July, Ferment Fortnight provides artists with a creative space to try out ideas, works-in-progress or scratch performances in front of audiences which explored what theatre can be. The Ferment programme also continues to develop work that finds a route into the Bristol Old Vic programme, with a particular presence in the autumn programme for the Weston Studio, to be announced later in the year.

For the third consecutive year, Ferment has once again partnered with The Leverhulme Trust to offer five exceptional local artists a year-long opportunity to explore their practice. Over the course of the year, the scholarships will provide these exciting artists with support from the Ferment team, encouraging them to think about their own creative and professional development alongside a £5000 bursary. They will also have the opportunity to explore how the support from Ferment can enable them to experiment and try out new ideas.
 
Open Sessions 

Bristol Old Vic’s Writers Department introduced its new writing initiative The Open Session in 2014, inviting West Country writers to submit drafts of their projects with the aim of being supported further. Since then, the department has received over 600 scripts, of which 28 were picked up for further development. This year, Bristol Old Vic’s Writers Department has partnered with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School to present 5 plays and a musical born from The Open Session. New Plays in Rep, currently running in The Weston Studio, provides a high-profile platform for some of the South West’s newest voices.
 
Welcome and Entertainment

A new July and August entertainment bonanza for the whole family, opening up a programme of feel-good-fun with an imaginative heart.
 
A CHRISTMAS CAROL smashed all box office records, so we’ve reconfigured the seating to make more seats available, re-convened the creative team to fine tune the show, and are already selling tickets like Dickensian hot-cakes for Christmas 2019.  
 
But to complement this, we’re also introducing a feast of top quality summer entertainment for adventurous children and those still young at heart:
 

  • Ten years after its first UK tour, the smash-hit production of We're Going on a Bear Hunt is back in Bristol Old Vic (26-28 Jul) brought vividly and noisily to the stage by director Sally Cookson (for the youngest children).
  • The mighty Kneehigh return with their hit production Dead Dog in a Suitcase from 6-13 Jul (mostly for grown-up children).
  • Amelie The Musical starring Bristol Old Vic favourite Audrey Brisson (The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk; The Grinning Man; La Strada) tours to the theatre as an enchanting summer treat from 16-20 July (for incurable romantics).
  • Le Navet Bete make their Bristol Old Vic debut with their madcap comedy adventure (for all the family), The Three Musketeers (22-24 Aug). 
  • Following the sell-out success of their debut production earlier this year, Bristol Old Vic are also delighted to partner once again with our Associates, Bristol’s newest company, Wise Children, on their second production- Malory Towers. Full of music, adventure and all the excitement of a midnight feast, this will be a summer spectacle for the whole family. Directed and adapted by Emma Rice from Enid Blyton’s collection of stories.  (Venue and dates to be announced by Wise Children later this spring).
  • And joining the returning A Christmas Carol (28 Nov – 12 Jan) in the theatre after a record-breaking run last year, Bristol Old Vic  today announced The Weston Studio’s Christmas offering will be the homecoming of Boing! (29 Nov – 5 Jan) The dynamic production from Bristol Old Vic and Travelling Light returns to Bristol for the first time since its premiere 9 years ago.  Currently touring the UK, this production will take up residence in The Weston Studio over the Christmas period, entertaining our youngest audiences once again with their high-energy bedtime bouncing! (On general sale from Easter 2019).

 
Imagination and Civic Change

This year, we are continuing to talk and listen to the Bristol communities, to keep pushing for the meaningful change the City Conversations began and imagine a better city for us all.
 
In January 2019, we held the fourth City Conversation, presenting a series of four pledges created by the communities who participated in the Conversations at venue across the city. City Conversations is now connecting these pledges with actions to address Bristol’s reputation as the most segregated city in the UK, bringing together people with a shared commitment to lasting change and has the support of Mayor Marvin Rees.

Already there have been positive commitments across industry and business to address representation at all levels, commitment to creating a Youth City Conversion, and a pilot curriculum for Bristol is being created to address the currently lack of meaningful BAME narratives across all subjects.
 
In addition, Bristol Old Vic will be following last year’s public art event, Frederick Douglass: An Abolitionist Returns to Bristol, with another project looking at how art can address social inequality.
 
Autumn programme 2019 announced

Love and Imagination for Autumn 2019

The start of 2019 has already seen productions celebrating imagination. Chino Odimba’s Princess & The Hustler shed revolutionary light on the civil rights movement of 1960s Bristol through the imagination of a child, while Richard III reimagines Shakespeare’s greatest villain.
 
This Autumn, love pushes us beyond the limits of our imagination as two productions celebrate the joy and despair of love in all its forms. Tom Morris (Touching the Void, War Horse) directs Bristol’s most-loved actor Tristan Sturrock (Juliet and Her Romeo, Peter Pan, Tristan & Yseult) in Cyrano, a dazzling new verse adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac by Peter Oswald. This ultimate story of unrequited love will throw the dream of pure romantic love into the wild make-believe of theatre: a pure imaginative journey for actors and audience alike, asking the question: What is love, if not a poet’s fantasy?  (12 Oct – 9 Nov). Tickets on sale 14 Mar.

Alongside this, and continuing our partnership with the Edinburgh Lyceum (Touching the Void, Twelfth Night) we are thrilled to be working with the breath-takingly talented Blood of the Young to create a new, scaled up production of  Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) which caused a sensation last year at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow. This unique and colourful take on Jane Austen’s definitive rom-com is an irreverent all-female adaptation which keeps Austen’s original close to its heart. A hit production from summer 2018, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) promises a gloriously subversive love letter to the 19th century original and a killer karaoke soundtrack – just as Austen intended! It begins at Bristol Old Vic from 7-29 Sep, prior to a UK tour and goes on sale to the general public on 14 Mar.
 
The autumn will also see Bristol Old Vic working with Associate company Ad Infinitum to present Extraordinary Wall of Silence (working title), celebrating Deaf culture in all its beauty.  A collaboration with and for D/deaf artists and audiences, it will take audiences into the Deaf World through physical storytelling & Deaf Theatre's visual vernacular style, drawing on real life Deaf accounts that tell the untold story of Deaf oppression, incorporating BSL, captioning and English. Directed by George Mann, Extraordinary Wall of Silence will premiere at Bristol Old Vic in autumn 2019 before embarking on a UK tour throughout 2019 and 2020.

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.

Press Office: 0117 949 4901 | press@bristololdvic.org.uk