Tag Archive | "Bristol Old Vic"

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Feature: Call for Action – IdeasTap Inspires

Posted on 05 March 2014 by Billy Barrett

“We’ve built a site that manages calls for action,” says Amanda White, Strategic Partnerships Director for IdeasTap. The charity maintains a database of more than 135,000 people seeking opportunities in the creative industries, growing at a rate of 200 members per day. It’s become an invaluable resource for organisations to tap into, simplifying and water-tightening application processes that would otherwise take far more time and people-power. Recently awarded a £250,000 Exceptional Award from Arts Council England, the charity is now in “really, really early days” of unveiling IdeasTap Inspires, a national training programme for young people. Is this its largest co-ordinated project yet? “Oh, we’re not fazed by numbers,” White insists. “A lot of what we do is big-number activities, like NYT auditions and 24 Hour Plays. But yes, it is.”

IdeasTap Inspires will engage around 5,000 people in free workshops, masterclasses, training events and online resources across several artistic disciplines. The partner organisations delivering these ‘spas’, White says, “are probably the organisations where you go, ‘oh my god, I’d love to work with them’,” including Complicite, the RSC and longtime IdeasTap collaborators Hightide. “We want to give young people a chance to have a money-can’t-buy experience,” says White. “Tell them what they can’t learn in college and help them build resilience, feel clearer and more confident about where they want to work.’

Partner organisations in the programme are as nationally scattered as Ideastap’s members; spas will also be running at the Royal Exchange Manchester, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Bristol Old Vic. Poppy Keeling, co-ordinator of Complicite’s Creative Learning Programme, was drawn to the collaboration for “a few reasons – the main one being that IdeasTap has such a huge membership and such fantastic nationwide reach that partnering with them means we can meet people with different backgrounds from across the country, people we might not otherwise get to work with.”

Spas will give applicants the opportunity to mirror companies’ practice. “What Complicite is looking for is people interested in making their own work,” White explains. “I’d say that’s very different from what the RSC is looking for, which is people that might be interesting for them to have in their shows.” Keeling elaborates: “The overall aim is to put together a dynamic young company including writer, director, designers and performers, who will work together with Complicite Associates to create a scratch show.”

The company “often gets to work with young performers, directors or designers,” Keeling says, “but we very rarely get the chance to work with them all together in a collaborative setting. This programme – which will see theatre-makers from across disciplines working together – feels really true to the spirit of Complicite’s work.” These spas, White explains, “go from a mass call-out, to a large number of people getting workshops, through to a much smaller group having a much deeper engagement, working with Complicite for two weeks. The RSC one will be a weekend at Stratford with a similar model.”

Meanwhile, Hightide is offering the opportunity for aspiring marketers and designers to “develop their craft and careers” at the company’s annual new writing festival in Halesworth in April. Artistic Director Steven Atkinson is putting together a team to produce Rising Tides, a series of climate change-themed plays debuting at the festival. “It’s an opportunity to have creative freedom,” says Atkinson. “They’re working as professionals but in a safe environment. New plays are always kind of risky because you don’t know if they’re going to be any good and can sometimes be difficult to produce, but in a well-established festival that has all of that mentoring and support around it, they’ll learn how to put a show on and have the opportunity to do it how they want to.”

Funding for the programme comes at a time when public finance is scarce and competition fierce. Education in this climate, White says delicately, can be “tricky. It’s often the area that you can raise money for out of everything in an arts organisation, however [departments] are always on the frontline, always under-served, I think.” I ask Keeling whether she feels under fire. “On the whole I think the education, outreach, access – whatever you choose to call it – sector is thriving.” In austerity, she suggests, “the arguments for community arts work, or arts education work, seem to speak louder to funders. This isn’t definitely something I think is a good thing – it comes with its own dangers and needs to be treated carefully – but it can be a bonus. Of course, as the field gets squeezed there are fewer opportunities for everything, so the pressure is definitely still there.” Under this pressure, Atkinson feels a heavy responsibility with Hightide, of “balancing artistic development with also actually putting shows on and making sure that you’re touring them and that audiences are seeing them.”

Spas are intended to provide young people with more than just a one-off experience. “I hope they’ll come out with a better sense of how to pursue their chosen path, and with new skills,” Keeling says. Or “they could give people a quicker idea that actually this isn’t for them,” considers White. “Like, if you go into a workshop and you’re asked to make a noise like an animal and crouch on all fours, and you think Christ almighty, I didn’t like that.” They’re also an opportunity to build lasting relationships with companies and practitioners. “I hope we’ll put together a company that makes a show so good we just have to tour it,” says Keeling. “But that’s up to the participants, I guess!”

More information about the Ideas Tap Inspires programme can be found on Ideas Tap’s website

Billy Barrett

Billy Barrett

Billy currently studies English and Theatre at Warwick University. Between reviewing and reading for his course, Billy writes, directs and acts in theatre. He tries to see everything in London, Warwick and beyond!

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Review: Jane Eyre, Bristol Old Vic

Posted on 21 February 2014 by Eleanor Turney

Jane Eyre company, by Simon Annand

Putting a four-and-a-half-hour, two-part adaptation of Jane Eyre on the main stage at Bristol Old Vic is a brave thing to do. Seeing both of them in one day is a bit of a slog (although not compulsory!), but overall well worth the investment. Director Sally Cookson was adamant that although previous adaptations of the book have truncated it, she wanted to stage the whole thing.

It’s a good production, and extremely well-acted, but I do question whether it justifies its length. Cookson states that she felt that Jane’s early life is as important as what happens to her later in life, but I’m not sure that I agree. I also remain unconvinced that it’s as modern a story as Cookson claims. Jane has some lines that strike a chord, and the struggle of women to throw off the shackles of patriarchal oppression is always a winner. Ultimately, though, the subordination of the women, to men and to God, cannot be escaped, simply because the book is so rooted in its place and time.

For the same reason, it felt as though the Gothic elements of the book could have been played up more – there’s a couple of good thunder storms, but the traumatic red room (not in a Fifty Shades of Grey way) and the creepy Thornfield Hall, complete with mad woman in the attic, are not especially scary. Some of the modern touches are nice, though (I’m pretty sure Rochester doesn’t say “fuck” quite so many times when he falls off his horse in the book…) but it remains, for me, an old-fashioned story, for all of Jane’s fiery temper and yearning to be free of a life built around sewing and cooking.

All that said, though, it’s a show I’m glad to have seen. It’s great to see Bristol Old Vic supporting, nurturing and presenting new work of this scope. Cookson and her cast have created an energetic and vivid production. Madeleine Worrall’s Jane is onstage for the full show, and is impressively tender and strong. Life throws a lot at her (it’s very grim up North), and she’s still standing at the end. Also impressive is Felix Hayes as Rochester, all gruff and bearded, gradually realising his own love for Jane. Melanie Marshall, as Bertha, is superb. Her singing voice is simply stunning, and the acoustics at the Old Vic could have been designed for a voice like hers.

There’s an awful lot of ladder-climbing, thanks to Michael Vale’s multi-level set, and an awful lot of walking-with-purpose. Both of these things get distracting after a while, although they are effective at making Thornfield Hall feel huge and at making the stage feel busy. The pared-back staging has some lovely moments, but over the course of the show it begins to feel like we’ve seen some of these devices before. Benji Bowers’s music really elevates the piece – there are moments that drag which are lifted by the score. It complements the action beautifully, is used to great effect to build atmosphere, and is pretty much pitch-perfect.

The first half of part one is rather one-note; it’s just one damn thing after another. Jane’s transformation from tormented schoolgirl to self-possessed governess consequently feels rather rushed, especially as the first half as a whole is terribly drawn-out. The pace picks up in the second half, and the love that blossoms between Jane and Rochester is well done. The first half of part two is similarly pacy and entertaining, and then it flags again in the second half. Frustratingly, it feels like a brilliant show struggling under the weight of extraneous narrative. There’s some fat to be trimmed here, but all in all it’s an enjoyable and extremely well-acted show.

Jane Eyre (Part One and Part Two) is at Bristol Old Vic until 29 March. For more information and tickets, visit Bristol Old Vic’s website.

Photo by Simon Annand.

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney

Eleanor Turney is the Managing Editor of A Younger Theatre, as well as a freelance journalist, writer and editor. She has written for The Guardian, The Stage, The FT and Ideas Tap, and worked for the Poetry Society and the British Council.

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Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Barbican Centre

Posted on 13 February 2014 by Daniel Harrison

A Midsummer Night's Dream Barbican Centre
Sometimes taking your seat as an audience member can be a bit of a turgid affair: the inevitable apologising as you crunch onto someone’s toe, or give your neighbour a sharp elbow to the ribs as you attempt to take some layers off. Not so at Tom Morris’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which sees the Barbican’s auditorium become a bustling hive of activity, as cast feed lines to the audience and exchange banter and quips. Even the poor usher forced to wave the laminated ‘No Photography’ sign is in on the action. This beginning should be read as a sign for things to come, of a performance throbbing with energy, wit and exuberance.

This is a Bristol Old Vic and Handspring Puppet Company production, and the puppetry is very much at the heart of the performance. It is a vital element of the show’s ecosystem. Old paraphernalia from a garden shed are thrust together in a flurry to create movement, life and narrative. Oberon and Titania dominate the space, formed by a giant head and hand, and a sort of peacock tail respectively. The puppetry succeeds in being both haunting and playful, and maintains the whimsy and mysticism of the piece that I believe Shakespeare intended. The puppetry is complemented delightfully with the multi-functional planks, which create a variety of sensations and sounds: raindrops, feelings of intimacy and separation, as well as a fun use of the Greek Chorus. Impressive also is how they are used to form a rising sun, thus signalling the end of this particular midsummer night.

Full credit to the creative team therefore? Well, almost. I couldn’t help feeling that this mesmerising aesthetic was undermined slightly by costume choices that made the cast resemble a cross between an episode of Balamory and the opening of the grouse shooting season. Twee and a little irritating if truth be told, but there to prop up the folksy, acoustic feel I guess.

The performances are also very strong. There is highly efficient work from the ensemble, and both pairs of loved-up couples are likeable and engaging. The night belongs to Miltos Yerolemou however. Yerolemou provides a unique representation of Bottom. His Greek heritage is milked for ultimate comic effect, and he deliberately performs the role to delicious levels of hamminess. In this production, Bottom more than lives up to his name, and an inspired transformation into an ass is as funny as it is unexpected – not easy to achieve, bearing in mind the play is so well-known.

At almost three hours, A Midsummer Night’s Dream does feel a little overdrawn for a modern audience, and risks becoming self-indulgent. A bit of ruthless cutting (including in the players’ scene at the end) would have homed in on the comedy and spectacle created – and almost sustained – throughout. Didn’t someone once say that brevity is the soul of wit? That said, a highly charged and remarkably fresh production. A treat.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing at the Barbican Centre until 15 February. For more information and tickets, see the Barbican Centre website.

Daniel Harrison

Daniel Harrison

A graduate of Theatre Studies, Daniel has worked in a number of different areas within theatre, most recently cutting his teeth with the Communications team at BAC. He is currently Project Assistant for the Young Vic's upcoming Schools Theatre Festival, and is a champion of the power of theatre as a force for good within society.

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A Younger Theatre’s Top Shows of 2013

Posted on 20 December 2013 by A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre’s Managing Editor and Artistic Director share our Top Shows of 2013. We’ve scratched our heads and pored over our diaries, and here are the AYT Top 20 shows of 2013. Do you agree?

Metamorphosis at the Lyric

Eleanor Turney, Managing Editor:
Do you agree? Tweet @EleanorTurney

This year, I have seen 122 shows, mainly in Bath, Bristol, Edinburgh and London. Since I saw my last show of the year last night, I thought I’d do a small round-up of my favourites – do add comments with what I’ve missed! I’ve limited myself to 10 shows, but these are ones that have really stayed with me. In roughly chronological order:

Metamorphosis at the Lyric, Hammersmith. Profoundly disturbing and melancholy.

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, Jackson’s Lane. Darkly hilarious, this adaptation of Tom Baker’s novel still makes me giggle/cringe thinking about it.

Proof, Menier Chocolate Factory. Further proof that Mariah Gale is a stunning actress.

Kate Tempest Brand New Ancients

Kate Tempest Brand New Ancients

Brand New Ancients, Bristol Old Vic and the  Traverse. Yes, I saw this twice. Yes, it was worth it.  Yes, Kate Tempest is amazing.

 Trash Cuisine, Tobacco Factory Theatre. Visceral  and upsetting and clever, Belarus Free Theatre’s  show was the highlight of Mayfest, for me.

 Chimerica, Almeida. Well-written, well-acted, well-  directed and well-designed. A triumph.

Fleabag, Underbelly. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s solo, self-penned show marked her out as one to watch.


David Tennant as Richard II

David Tennant as Richard II

, Underbelly. My only 5-star show of the Fringe. I bloody loved it.

Antarctica, Bristol Old Vic. Hands-down winner of “most adorable show”. Just magical.

Richard II, Barbican. My favourite Shakespeare  play performed by one of my favourite actors. Happy sigh.


Fraulein Julie, Katie Mitchell

Katie Mitchell’s Fraulein Julie

Jake Orr, Artistic Director:
Do you agree? Tweet @Jakeyoh

Who knew that creating a list of 10 shows of the year could be so difficult? Thank heavens for my diary. Drawing up this list I was slightly surprised by the lack of fringe theatre that made me jiggle with excitement. Those smaller power-houses just weren’t making shows that stuck for me this year.

Fräulein Julie, Barbican. Directed by Katie Mitchell, this take on Strindberg’s Miss Julie used multiple cameras to create a live film crossed the possibilities of theatre and film. Mesmerising.

Brand New Ancients, Battersea Arts Centre. Kate Tempest. There really are no words to describe the elation you feel about her poetry and performance in Brand New Ancients.

Mission Drift

The TEAM’s Mission Drift

Mission Drift, National Theatre. I didn’t think a play with songs could give me such a thrill, oh how I was wrong. Every month I whip out The TEAM’s soundtrack and dance. So, so good.

The Drowned Man, Punchdrunk. It’s not the immersive experience or the story that gets me excited about Punchdrunk’s newest piece, it’s the imagination and set designers. Like going down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.

Where The White Stops, Underbelly / New Diorama. Antler Theatre showed me the potential of emerging work. I’ve seen this piece three times and everytime I find something new to enjoy. Fun, powerful and energised.

Solfatara, Summerhall. The Spanish theatre company Atresbandes knew what it was doing in subverting surtitles, creating a hilarious comedy at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Jo Bannon Exposure

Jo Bannon’s Exposure

Exposure, The Drill Hall / Forest Fringe. Jo Bannon’s Exposure lasts 10 minutes, but it is the most perfect 10 minutes in near-darkness you’ll experience in theatre.

Chimerica, Harold Pinter Theatre. Brilliant, brilliant play. Playwriting is a craft, and it was shown with such beauty in Chimerica.

Secret Theatre, Lyric Theatre. It’s not perfect, but Sean Holme’s radicalisation of what theatre can be through his Secret Theatre has to be in my Top 10.

American Psycho, Almeida Theatre. Right at the last minute, Headlong Theatre and Almeida Theatre give us this sexy, seductive and slick production. I practically orgasmed whilst watching it.

Do you agree with Eleanor and Jake’s Top 20 Shows of 2013? Leave us a comment below.

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre

A Younger Theatre (AYT) is a platform for young people to express their views on theatre and performance. The site is maintained, edited and published by under 26 year olds who all have a passion for theatre.

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