Bristol Old Vic launches full season of digital theatre for Spring 2021

Bristol Old Vic Spring 2021
A New Season of pulse-quickening theatre all available online.

Including The Meaning of ZongThe Picture of Dorian GrayLove Letters at HomeDesert Island Theatre with Toby Jones, the extension of our box-set season of Winter Favourites until April, and the launch of The Gathering, a monthly online variety show, live from the theatre and the homes of artists all over the world.

Things may be looking up. The weather is brightening, the vaccines are controlling the spread of the virus and our computers are buzzing with conversations testing the templates of a fairer post-pandemic Bristol.

But the pressures of continued lockdown are enormous on all of us.

So what use is a theatre in a pandemic? Maybe quite a lot of use.

It is more important now than ever that we find ways to share delight, exploration, reflection and a good night out, even when places where we usually do that are closed.

We are determined to continue to offer the city a place where our extraordinary artists and our extraordinary public can meet and collaborate through live performance.

So here’s a season for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home, but with the spirit of community which makes theatre such a powerful and social artform.

There are live events online, extended release of your favourite Bristol Old Vic shows, wild studio-style experiments, opportunities to play and create at home, and an online variety show which collects all of this in a single place, The Gathering. For the first of these monthly celebrations, on March 11th, I will be the only one in the theatre. By the time we get to the summer, hopefully you will be there too.

The spirit of theatre is uncrushable.

The spirit of our theatre is you.

Bristol Old Vic today announced an ambitious range of digital work running Feb-May to keep people entertained through the Spring and beyond, allowing stories to be shared and creativity to flourish in new ways once again. The Spring Season for 2021 includes:

  • Bristol Old Vic Favourites Box Set
    The hugely successful online subscription season of 5 favourite shows from the last decade, seen by 25,000 people so far, extends until the end of April with extra live events announced for those who want to delve a little deeper into how the shows were made.
  • Special Events
    A string of Special Events – theatrical shows in digital form. Including acting legend Toby Jones, the release of Bristol Old Vic’s original 2015 production of Pink Mist and Giles Terera’s The Meaning of Zong.
  • The Gathering
    A new monthly live, online Variety show. Part-cabaret, part-conversation, each gathering will have a different theme. The first event follows the theme of love and features a host of special guests including acting legends Siân Phillips and Michael Byrne, poet Malaika Kegode, and Broadway mind-magician Chris Cox.
  • Digital Studio
    A series of experimental digital hits. Sometimes live, sometimes pre-recorded, but always from the most cutting-edge artists from Bristol and across the UK.
  • Let’s…
    Free workshops for all ages and abilities, diving into theatre-making and performance in all its forms. A chance to try something new and light that spark of creativity in everyone.

Amanda Adams, Head of Communications said:
“It’s a big world out there, but our individual worlds can feel pretty small right now. What we’re noticing is that theatre helps to open that world up, celebrate the important things and cherish the moments of joy we find in connecting; that might be sitting down as a family on a Friday night to catch Swallows and Amazons (PJs and popcorn essential) or getting together with mates on a Sherlock in Homes Zoom party, or maybe just taking an hour out of the day to explore Five Beautiful Things from an inspirational artist and see what digital moments have inspired them. We’re hoping this next season of work, harnessing every digital option we could lay our hands on, will bring us all a little bit closer to each other, and also show us how far we’ve come.”

Full Season Details
Bristol Old Vic’s hugely successful On Demand season of past hit productions, has been watched by over 25,000 people to date and is to be extended until the end of April 2021. This selection of favourite shows was the first “box set” of past productions made available to purchase and includes Messiah, Swallows and Amazons, The Grinning Man, The Night That Autumn Turned to Winter and A Christmas Carol.

To celebrate this extension, a series of free, interactive live events will also take place through the Spring. Including The Music of Messiah Q&A with Messiah director Tom Morris and The Erubus Ensemble’s Founder and Director Tom Williams (26 February); live conversation about creating a musical with Swallows and Amazon’s writer Helen Edmondson and composer Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy) in March (live from Ireland, guitar in hand); in April, The Grinning Man event featuring puppetry designers Gyre & Gimble exploring both the show and the extraordinary range of fan art which it has inspired. All free to anyone who would like to discover how the productions were created.

Special Events for Spring include the 2020 lockdown one-night-only Desert Island Theatre with Toby Jones exploring the productions and theatres that have had an impact on his extraordinary career. Released 19-28 April to watch On Demand.

From 22 March, for a limited four-week release, the original 2015 Bristol Old Vic production of Pink Mist will be available on demand. A watershed production for the theatre and its role within its community, it was co-directed by George Mann and John Retallack who created a “fluid, dream-like production” (The Telegraphin a production hailed as “heart-rending” (The Guardian). With a cast including Erin Doherty (The Crown) in her first professional production, it brought Owen Sheers’ visceral poem about the impact of war on servicemen and their families searingly to life on stage.

On 21 March, Olivier Award-winner Giles Terera stars in his own debut play The Meaning of Zong about the notorious massacre aboard the slave ship Zong in 1781, and how uncovering its story galvanised the growing Abolition movement in the UK. Originally developed by Bristol Old Vic and the National Theatre, it was presented as a rehearsed reading by Bristol Old Vic in 2018. This new broadcast by BBC Radio3 also features Samuel West and Akiya Henry and is a collaboration between Bristol Old Vic and Jonx Productions. The Meaning of Zong will form part of BBC Lights Up – ‘lighting up’ stages and studios across the UK by supporting hard-hit organisations and artists, and ensuring audiences at home continue to have the opportunity to enjoy theatre across BBC platforms.

Bristol Dance Company Impermanence are putting together two programmes of dance for April and May. The first is a collection of works made for film from some of the most exciting artists working in dance, from the UK and overseas. The second will be a documentary following the research and creation of a new film from Impermanence, to be filmed at Bristol Old Vic this Spring before joining the digital stage. More details to follow in the coming weeks.

Alongside these productions, something genuinely live sits at its heart. The Gathering is a monthly event, holding an online space for some of Bristol and the UKs best loved artists to perform and talk a little to the audiences who are at the heart of everything we do. Part-cabaret, part-conversation, The Gathering will cover a range of art forms, from established legends in their fields to new fresh talent, and everything in between. Beginning on 11 March with theatre royalty Siân Phillips and Michael Byrne, Bristol artist Travis Alabanza, co-stars of The Grinning ManLouis Maskell and Audrey Brisson, and Broadway and West End sensation, mind-reader Chris Cox.

These Special Events join the previously announced digital production The Picture of Dorian Gray (16-31 Mar). Produced by the Laurence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield and the Barn Theatre in Cirencester. On sale now.

Within the Digital Studio programme announced today are collaborations with some of Bristol Old Vic’s partners across the city and beyond.  From 4-6 March, Bristol audiences can enjoy Fuel’s antidote to isolation, Love Letters at Homecreated by Uninvited Guests. Different each night, song dedications and stories are gathered from the audience and presented together as an intimate, joyful and collective declaration of love.

Bristol Old Vic also hosts Swimming Home by Silvia Mercuriali (16-20 March). This new kind of performance brings a fully immersive theatre experience into people’s homes, transforming their bathroom into a filmic water-world. While Diverse City present a short film from the team behind the Offie-nominated play Mid Life, performed at Bristol Old Vic’s Weston Studio in 2019. Mid Life: The Skin We’re In (8-15 March) is a poetic look at how to celebrate, survive and thrive in your own skin.

Alongside these new announcements, Bristol company Sharp Teeth continue to drive audiences into their trailblazing Zoom world of mystery with their latest case, Sherlock in Homes: Murder on Ice. Their first mystery has already reached over 4,000 people over lockdown and will continue to run alongside the new episode. Now on sale.

Throughout the Spring, a new project called Five Beautiful Things will shine a light on the inspirational digital content that is free to access from artists working across the UK and beyond – collected each month by a different Associate Artist of Bristol Old Vic. Beginning on 15 March with a series of “beautiful things” curated by Olivier Award-winning Hamilton star and playwright Giles Terera.

Throughout the last 11 months of lockdown and isolation, Bristol Old Vic’s mighty Engagement team have been creating a host of resources for schools and home-learning as well as providing inspiration and creative opportunities for anyone wanting to keep their own creative spark aglow. This Spring, the Engagement team are launching a series of free workshops under the banner Let’s… for anyone curious about entering the world of theatre-making, whatever your age or experience.

The first six workshops include three taster sessions for anyone interested in joining a Young Company group (suitable for young people aged 5-14), followed by workshops for anyone curious or at the early stages of a career in theatre-making with: An Introduction to Drag and Cabaret Performance, How to Build a Design-led Rehearsal Process and a final two-part workshop Empowering Black Female-identifying Voices to Claim Theatre Spaces. Additional workshops will be available throughout the Spring with more being announced next month.

About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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