Yesterday I popped into the rehearsals of Bristol Old Vic’s production Coasting for a behind the scenes sneak peek at this brand new play.
Written by Natalie McGrath, a south west based writer, Coasting has been in development at Bristol Old Vic for over a year, since it first previewed with a rehearsed reading during the Ferment Festival in January 2010.
Apparently the atmosphere in the room was electric.
Since then, Sharon Clark (Literary Producer at Bristol Old Vic) has worked very closely with Natalie to refine the script; including a move from the original eight characters to the three I was introduced to yesterday- Ocean, Pearl and Falcon, and it is Natalie’s incredible voice as a writer which has led to this being the first fully mounted Bristol Old Vic production of a script which started it’s journey as a part of Ferment.
On entering the rehearsals, I was asked to sit on the floor in one of the marked out areas which snake their way across the performance space. These are apparently the best seats in the house (for those less able to spend 45 minutes sitting on the floor, there are the seated options of old seaside benches and the studio balcony). Emily Watson-Howes, the director, briefly introduced us to the world we had entered. She felt very clearly that the audience needed to be a part of the action, rather than spectating from afar.
And it works, it really works.
(Thanks to @mostin for this photo)
Pearl (Nadia Giscir) and Ocean (Tom Wainwright) burst onto the seafront with the most extraordinarily poetic, beautiful, language I have heard since learning to appreciate Shakespeare. A mix of Polari (a gay slang used in the 50’s), hiphop and 80’s pop lyrics, it took a moment for my ear to tune into it but I was carried along with the pulsing, beating rhythm from the outset. As they weaved their way through the audience seated on the floor, I felt as though I was spying on their lives. I was a part of what they were seeing and feeling, despite their language being something that they only share with one another. I found Pearl, Ocean, and their, on first sight, complex relationship utterly mesmorising.
The second scene started from behind where I was sitting. A Police Officer, Falcon (Helena Lymbery), is awoken from where she has been sleeping by a phone call. Something has happened on the seafront. The scene ends there.
Without wanting to ruin any of the story line, it is very clear that this is a play with a big story to tell. The first two scenes certainly whetted my appetite for more and I can’t wait to see the whole show in a couple of weeks time (it opens on 22 September at the Bristol Old Vic studio).
Sharon Clark said that Coasting has the potential to break the hearts of the people who come to see it. If yesterday’s snippet was anything to go by, I’d advise bubble wrapping those hearts.