​The Weston Studio – Bristol Old Vic’s new home of innovation, adventure and daring – announces its full programme for Spring 2019

25 Jan 2019

The Weston Studio theatre, newly formed from the oldest part of Bristol Old Vic’s building, first opened its doors in October 2018. It heralded the theatre’s re-energised commitment to inspiring visitors, Ferment-developed productions, work for and by young people and genre-busting collaborations. The 2019 Spring Programme is the first opportunity for The Weston Studio to flex its muscles and demonstrate the endless opportunities for theatre-makers, as it invites audiences to explore the limitless variety theatre can offer.

Bristol Old Vic’s Artistic Director Tom Morris said:

“Since 1766, this theatre has been about the future. At the heart of the refurbished theatre is The Weston Studio, an intimate, flexible space dedicated to exploring what the theatre of the future might be like. Its programme, which will be curated across the year in partnership with innovative theatre-makers and producers from across the region, is shaped to support a journey of discovery for the most inspiring artists and audiences we can find, and to ensure that both parts of this shared journey are open to everyone in the city, from every background, demographic and postcode.”

In order to achieve this, The Weston Studio is shaped around the following strands:

  • Bristol Ferment – Bristol Old Vic’s artist development programme, which works in collaboration with the region’s brightest theatre minds to present everything from early ideas and works-in-progress to finished shows. The work of the department is centred around regular curated production slots and the bi-annual Ferment Fortnight festivals of work-in-progress sharings – the first of which opens this week.
  • New Writing – producing startling new plays from local writers, beginning with the trailblazing Princess & The Hustler (9–23 Feb) and our New Plays In Rep, a three-week season of extraordinary plays that emerged through The Open Session – our yearly invitation to West Country writers, put together in collaboration with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
  • Those at the start of their creative career, spearheaded by our partnership with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, who this year will launch their own new MA Drama Writing course, led by Stephanie Dale, alongside David Edgar, whose celebrated adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby plays in Bristol for the first time this summer.
  • Bristol Old Vic Young Company – the award-winning youth theatre open to anyone aged 5-25, from every postcode in Bristol.
  • Ground-breaking Work for Young Audiences, to build the foundations of a creative journey for future artists and audiences alike.
  • Transformative work – including cross-artform work and work from under-represented communities, which can inspire our artists and audiences to new possibilities.

SPRING 2019 – The Weston Studio

Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment centres on artist development, creating a playful structure through which the best artists from Bristol and the South West can explore theatrical ideas in ongoing dialogue with audiences. Working with a huge variety of artists, the work inspires experimentation to make the theatre of tomorrow.

Ferment is curated by Ferment Producer Ben Atterbury:
“Ferment has been running at Bristol Old Vic for over 8 years. It is our link to the artistic community of Bristol and is a flexible artist development programme that invites artists from around the region to tell us what they need. Sometimes we help with space, sometimes we can offer performance opportunities or small commissions; sometimes it’s just a cup of tea and some advice, but we like to think of the Ferment offer as bespoke. As we bring Ferment Fortnight into its new home in The Weston Studio, we’re inviting artists of Bristol and the region to make this new space their own.”
Twice a year, Ferment Fortnight provides artists with a creative space to try out ideas, works-in-progress or scratch performances in front of audiences. The first Ferment Fortnight event of 2019 opens this week (22 Jan – 2 Feb) and contains extraordinary artists such as Amy Mason (with her latest new work Fur Baby), Gagglebabble (with the gig-theatre piece Jessie’s Tattoo Club), current Bristol City Poet Vanessa Kissuule and The Wardrobe Ensemble with their latest work, The Pelican Daughters. This is all alongside works-in-progress exploring what theatre can be; everything from conversations, music and live animation to audience participation, a performance-led, high-intensity interval training class or a Viking adventure for ages 9+.

Ferment will also be presenting two performances of Seamus Carey’s My Four Year Old Self, as part of its curated programme of shows this spring.

Bristol Old Vic’s new writing* initiatives are committed to celebrating the variety of voices and stories from across the region. A new writing highlight for 2019 is the world premiere of a new play from Bristol writer Chinonyerem Odimba in a co-production from Eclipse Theatre, Bristol Old Vic and Hull Truck. Princess & The Hustler (9–23 Feb) is about 10 year-old Princess, who dreams of becoming a beauty queen, but doesn’t see any of the beauty queens from the Weston-super-Mare pageant looking like her. The play is set against the backdrop of the 1963 Bristol Bus Boycott – one of the leading events in the UK Civil Rights movement – and follows the story of a black family living in Bristol. It is a celebration of what it means to be black and beautiful, of a key moment in Bristol’s history, and the consequences for a family caught in the middle of it all.

For the last six years, our initiative, The Open Session, has offered transformative opportunities for writers from the South West who submit their plays to an annual reading process at Bristol Old Vic. New Plays In Rep (28 Feb – 16 Mar), in collaboration with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, celebrates some of the most exciting writing to have been supported in this way, including the award-winning play Orca by Matt Grinter; the introduction of an exciting new voice (Isabella Culver's The Dissociation Of Shirley Mason), as well as workshop productions of a play performed in the dark (Invalid), a musical for all ages (Mr Maglump), an elegy for the planet (Kingdom or The Anthropocene), a vital contemporary voice (Wonder Boy), and collaboration on the latest play presented by ‘Missing Pieces’, showcasing Black British, African, and Caribbean writers.

*Bristol Old Vic's writer development activities are generously supported by the Ronald Duncan Literary Foundation.

Bristol Old Vic’s relationship with Bristol Old Vic Theatre School was renewed in 2012 in a richly productive partnership, which includes high impact co-productions such as King Lear (with Timothy West), the launch of the award-winning play Pink Mist, and The Peter O’Toole Prize (now in its 7th year) awarded annually to launch the careers of graduating students in professional shows at Bristol Old Vic. The latest collaboration presents the New Plays in Rep season. By harnessing the acting and technical skills of the Theatre School, this new partnership between Bristol Old Vic’s literary team and the school brings the skills of student actors to the fore, applying their talents to brand new plays in a spirit of experimentation for both makers and audiences alike.

Bristol Old Vic Young Company (open to 5–25 year olds from across the region) has already settled into its new Weston Studio home. The latest production, Hercules, was heralded as “pushing the boundaries of expectation”, setting a bold, adventurous agenda for the future.

Their ensemble style of theatre features large casts of young people of all ages and abilities; learning skills that can contribute to a future career in the performing arts or simply build confidence and self-esteem.

To celebrate Bristol Old Vic Young Company’s 25th anniversary year, a new free festival – Springboard – will take place, showcasing work from all 350 members of the Young Company and other creatives from across the city. In addition, there will be performances from Spark Theatre Makers, (our disabled and learning-disabled company making their debut performance), performances from Bristol Old Vic’s Adult Company, and Young Theatre Makers from Merchants Academy, Bristol Metropolitan Academy and Bradley Stoke Community School, all directed by Made in Bristol graduates.

In addition, the hugely successful Young Ferment will return in April 2019. A partnership with Ferment, it allows the Young Company’s emerging writers, composers, directors and devisers to try out their ideas with creative support from a professional team.
Opportunities for young people to participate also include the NT Connections Partner Theatre Festival in April 2019 when eight young companies from across the South West will perform six newly commissioned plays in Bristol Old Vic’s brand new Weston Studio.

Family work is often the first experience people have of theatre and The Weston’s informal atmosphere is a perfect introduction to theatre for young audiences. Over Easter, The Selfish Giant (Apr 8–10) tours to the Studio from Bristol theatre-makers Tessa Bide and Tomasin Cuthbert Menes and is based on Oscar Wilde’s much-loved tale. It sits alongside Bristol legend Kid Carpet’s Noisy Holiday (17–20 Apr).

And for the very, very young (and their sleep deprived carers), The Weston Studio presents daytime comedy club Aftermirth. Lovingly curated and compered by Angie Belcher, each gig will have three top circuit comedians presenting their usual (mature and sweary) club routines, the only difference is it’s during the day and babies are welcome. Monthly performances in March, May and June.
By hosting diverse work from companies across the UK, which challenges traditional ideas of what theatre should be, The Weston Studio aims to help open up the possibilities for something new to emerge.

New productions from cutting-edge theatre-makers across the UK will visit the Studio as part of sharing inspiring work. In March, The Jumper Factoryby Luke Barnes tours to The Weston Studio. Conceived by Young Vic, London & Justin Audibert, this powerful new piece was created in collaboration with inmates at HMP Wandsworth exploring life behind bars, it now tours the UK with a cast of young men aged 18–25 who have all been affected by the criminal justice system in some way. Directed by Josh Parr. Originally made by eight inmates exploring life behind bars, it now tours the UK with a cast of young men aged 18–25 who have all been affected by the criminal justice system in some way.

Also in March, The Weston welcomes China Plate Theatre’s The Shape of PainA Fringe First-winning show from writer Chris Thorpe and director Rachel Bagshaw, about how we talk about pain, exploring life in extremity and the joy that can be found there. The production will also be fully captioned, audio-described and wheelchair accessible. Also, My Four Year Old Self, by Seamus Carey (31 Mar) is inspired by a tape recording he discovered of his four-year-old self, featuring a full choir performing his childhood compositions. In May, Strictly Arts bring their award-winning show Freeman, which weaves together six true stories through physical theatre, spoken word, gospel and puppetry to look at the unspoken link between mental health and systemic racism.

Alongside this, the theatre’s emerging dance programme, curated by Impermanence Dance Company’s Josh Ben-Tovim, is helping to bring new performances to Bristol audiences. Through the spring we’ll be hosting monthly nights of dance, beginning on 25 Feb with Figs in Wigs from company Often Onstage.

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 | press@bristololdvic.org.uk