The Grinning Man | 3 Minutes with Gloria Obianyo

With The Grinning Man previews imminent and tech rehearsals in full force, our walls have been vibrating non-stop with the dulcet tones of the company in practice. Here we caught up with rising star Gloria Obianyo to hear all about her experiences so far.

gloria-obianyoTell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I just finished my drama school training this summer at Rose Bruford and was able finish early to go into my first professional job which was Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre so I’m happily learning as I’m working. I grew up in London, still live there now, and I’m an avid watcher of all things cultural. Fun fact; I don’t like chocolate!

You’re playing Lady Trelaw. Without giving too much away, how would you say you fit into the world of The Grinning Man?
I look at Lady Trelaw as being Grinpayne’s moral anchor. There’s a moment in Act 2 where he’s about to make a choice you can’t come back from and it’s his mother who forces him to reconsider his choices.

In your acting career, you’ve become quite a feature of established musical theatre. What’s it been like tackling a role in a new musical production?
It’s been challenging. I’ve never really done a new piece before and so I’ve had to keep up with the new scripts and scores that come in and try to forget about the old ones because nobody wants to have multiple versions in their head. Talk about multiple universes. It’s also been amazing to see how much a story can develop over time and how we the cast have had just as much input in those changes.

What’s it like working with Tim and Marc and what’s the atmosphere been like in the rehearsal room?
They’re both very open to rearranging the music to match where someone’s voice sits best and I adore that because sometimes you’ll be singing in a part of your voice that isn’t the richest part and when Mark, Tim or Tom (Deering, our Musical Director) ask where you’re most comfortable you feel like it really is a collaboration. You’re working together to get the best out of the music.

Do you have a favourite song within the show?
I absolutely adore the song ‘Labyrinth’. The orchestration is fantastic and it really moves you when you listen to it. It also doesn’t hurt that Louis is such an accomplished singer and brings so much emotion to it when he sings. It’s brilliant.

The Grinning Man is the gripping musical conclusion to our 250th Anniversary Season 13 Oct-13 Nov. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

Theatres urge Government to honour commitment to refugee children

Yesterday theatre companies across the country urge Government to honour its commitment to refugee children with legal right to enter the UK.

21 theatre companies across the UK wrote to the immigration minister Robert Goodwill to urge the Government to honour its legal commitments under the Immigration Act 2016 yesterday. They particularly urge the minister to speed up the process by which those vulnerable young people currently living at the soon to be dismantled Calais refugee camp who are legally entitled to join their families in the UK can do so.

Though fully aware that a visit to the theatre will not be a priority for these vulnerable young people, the theatre companies are indicating their support for these children and the organisations attempting to protect them by offering the children and their families tickets to a show free of charge.

Those taking part are:  Battersea Arts Centre, Bush Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Chichester Festival Theatre, Colin Callender (Playground Entertainment), Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Lyric Hammersmith, The National Theatre, Nuffield Southampton, The Old Vic, Royal Court Theatre, Royal Exchange Manchester, Royal Opera House, Sadler’s Wells, Soho Theatre, Sonia Friedman Productions, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Unicorn Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Young Vic.

This is our joint statement:

We understand that there are currently 1022 unaccompanied young children living alone in the ‘Jungle’ refugee and migrant camp in Calais.[1] 

 Around half[2] of these children have the legal right to be reunited with their families in the UK under the terms of the Immigration Act 2016.

 As the authorities prepare for the camp’s demolition in the next three weeks, we urge the British Government to honour the legal commitment it has made to protect these children, to speed up the legal process in view of the impending eviction and to do everything it can to ensure the protection of all unaccompanied children living in Calais before the demolition begins. 

 We know that, on their hoped for arrival in the UK, a visit to the theatre will not be the most urgent of these children’s needs. Nonetheless we will all be delighted to welcome them and their families into our theatres across the country and to offer them seats to a show free of charge in the belief that this is one small expression of the desire of millions of UK citizens to do whatever they can to welcome these vulnerable young people in a generous and open-hearted way.”


[1] Help Refugees/L’Auberge des Migrants Census Report, September 2016

[2] Ibid

The Grinning Man | 3 Minutes with Alice Barclay

Reuniting with our Grinning Man Director Tom Morris are the incredibly talented puppeteers of War Horse, Gyre & Gimble. As the cast continue in rehearsals we grabbed a few minutes with Alice Barclay, a member of the company manning their creations.

alice-barclayAs one of the puppeteers within the show (and without giving too much away) tell us a little about how you fit into the world of The Grinning Man?
The family that Grinpayne (The Grinning Man) has been brought up in includes a wolf called Mojo who accompanies them almost everywhere. The wolf, who’s an important part of the story for lots of reasons, is a puppet operated by two puppeteers and I’m one of them. Mojo has a journey through the play and connects with everyone else on the stage like any other character, whilst having the instincts and sensitivity of the animal that he is.

Tell us a little bit about Gyre and Gimble and what it’s been like working with their puppetry.
Toby and Finn, who set up and run Gyre & Gimble, are true explorers of the extent to which puppets can exist on stage. They are always interested in making puppets central to a story and doing things that haven’t been done before. They have a set of simple but very powerful puppetry principles that keep a puppet ‘alive’ and allow the audience’s imagination to be free to connect with it and see a puppet’s thoughts. As such our attention is very much on the breath of the puppet and what that can communicate, its eye line or focus, its weight and the economy of truthful movement. More than anything else they believe in believing and as a constant companion to any technique is the puppeteer’s absolute investment in the life of the puppet. They’re also brilliant fun to be around and we play a lot with brown paper!

As a local to Bristol, what do you think makes The Grinning Man so suited to our stage?
The play uses lots of different devices to tell its story and they’re all brilliantly suited to the beautiful theatre space here. The acoustic in the theatre is wonderful so the live music will exist very happily in there I think. There’s an intimacy about the space at the Bristol Old Vic that allows for storytelling that’s very small scale, as well as the possibility of using the huge extent of the stage for something more epic. We’re going to be playing with shifts of scale and different frames for the story to be told in. The audience in Bristol Old Vic feel very close to the action and in The Grinning Man they are very much part of it with characters directly talking to them and involving them in the story. And it’s all set in Bristol… it’s definitely a play made for this theatre!

What is your favourite aspect of this production?
I love the way the story hits you in the guts and connects with you on a very basic human level. It’s political and personal, it’s about laughter and pain, and it’s very very funny and extraordinarily moving. It’s about what theatre’s about and how important it is to everyone on the planet.  It’s a story that must be told… I can’t wait to share it with the audience.

You’ve worked with Tom Morris in the past on Swallows and Amazons and at our recent 250th Anniversary Gala. What excites you about working with him again on this show?
Tom’s incredible to work with for so many reasons and it’s very easy to trust him and feel safe in the rehearsal room. He believes in everything that’s important… telling stories, finding a sense of play to tell them and the immense power of the ensemble. We’re always telling the story together on stage and we’re always connected with each other, whatever we’re doing at any particular moment.

The Grinning Man is the gripping musical conclusion to our 250th Anniversary Season 13 Oct-13 Nov. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

The Grinning Man | 3 minutes with Ewan Black

With the cast hammering away in rehearsals, we had the chance to grab a few minutes with The Grinning Man‘s Ewan Black. Find out more about Black’s character and what the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School graduate is most looking forward to in this exclusive quick-fire interview.


You’re playing Lord Trelaw. Without giving too much away, how would you say you fit into the world of The Grinning Man?

Without giving to much away, I would say Trelaw is an important part in giving the Grinning Man the strength he needs to find his way and carry on fighting.

As a BOVTS graduate and winner of the Peter O’Toole prize, how does it feel to return to our stage for this show?

Its fantastic! I love this stage, this theatre and this city. I suppose I feel more confident as a professional actor but, as is life, I’m still learning more and more everyday, especially from this fantastic cast. Great to be back.

If you could be any other character, who would you choose to be and why?

I would like to be Reamus, I think he’s a very misunderstood character that actually has a lot to give to the world. He’s generous, willing and brave, has an alluring sense of style and monumental poker skills.

Do you have a favourite song within the show?

My favourite within the show is probably the whole of the end scene. I love the build through it and the music is beautiful.

What are you looking forward to most when the show debuts?

I’m looking forward to running the show and getting used to our characters and the show itself. I also play The Organ Grinder/Osric who pops up now and again. It will be fun to find new things with him I’m sure.

The Grinning Man is the gripping musical conclusion to our 250th Anniversary Season 13 Oct-13 Nov. For more info and to book tickets, click here.

Invisible Ink talk ‘The Terrible Things I’ve Done’


Tell us a little bit about Invisible Ink and how The Terrible Things I’ve Done came to be.
We’re a company made up of Sita Calvert-Ennals (director), Nia Skyrme (producer) and Alan Harris (writer). Alan and Sita have been working together for about the past four years on various projects (Nia joined recently), and our first production was an adaptation of Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop – a sell-out success at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, supported by the Arts Council of Wales, co-produced with Theatr Iolo.

Clarity of storytelling is at the heart of our collaborations and the audience experience is integral in the development of any Invisible Ink production; we are as happy making work for a village hall as a main house auditorium.

It’s important for us, as a company, to collaborate from the outset – trying things out in the rehearsal room to develop the storytelling/narrative and creative choices right from the beginning. We will always strive to tell that story in the most effective, engaging way and we will never be afraid of exploring a variety of art forms/genres in the pursuit of clear storytelling.

The starting point for The Terrible Things I’ve Done was an initial brainstorming meeting by Alan and Sita at a residency hosted by Bristol Old Vic Ferment.

During January 2015 we set up a “confession” booth at Ferment and invited the public to share their terrible things with us – the results were remarkable in both range of stories and the theatrical experience of confession.

And, following on from that, we applied for a successful Arts Council Wales R&D grant and split that research into two sections; another week of story gathering at various locations throughout South Wales and a week of seeing how these stories could be turned into a show, working with three actors. The show was taking shape…

What made you want to create a story about people’s guilty secrets? What makes you fascinated by this?
At that initial meeting, and added to since, we wanted to answer certain questions and areas of interest regarding “terrible things”:

– Exploring the dignified humility of admitting that you did something wrong.
– How you befriend your inner wrong. As hard as it is to admit you’ve done wrong, it can be liberating. Confession is good for the soul, isn’t it?
– Can we really forgive people/ourselves?
– What is a terrible thing?
–  What are the positive outcomes of our terrible actions?

What’s fascinating for us is how terrible things are buried away, sometimes never to emerge and the effect that has on people and society. Also how do you show this breadth of emotion and confusion in a theatrical way? We love a challenge.

What would you say the audience can expect when the show debuts?
Because of the nature of the variety of stories it is a show of variety – it has to be. Audiences can expect three actors who convey the truth of these stories (and even though this is not a verbatim show, these are stories that are being related back to the audience).

What’s the most scandalous thing you’ve uncovered in your two years of collecting these stories?
That inaction can be as terrible as action. We’ve had some amazing, terrible stories (from druggings to infidelity to the injuring of pensioners to the regrets about death and internet porn). But, we’ve found, a lot of the time the most touching, scandalous, affecting stories are those in which someone regrets not doing something. We’re, of course, not going to give away any specific secrets in this blog…

It’s an exciting time for us as we start work on redeveloping our Studio. How does it feel to be a part of our very first Studio Walkabout season?
There’s something special about being part of Bristol Old Vic that’s being shared with the rest of the city. The Wardrobe Theatre is a wonderful space and if we had to go “walkabout” from the Studio, we couldn’t have wished for a better home. Exciting stuff.

The Terrible Things I’ve Done continues our Studio Walkabout Season at The Wardrobe Theatre 29 Sep-1 Oct. For more information and to book tickets, click here.