Towards the end of last week I saw a tweet from the Bristol Old Vic:“A reminder that you can register for our first social media call for Coasting on September 13th. Info here: http://bit.ly/pFut4E Please RT”
Intrigued I clicked on the link, and then got a little bit excited, the theatre was offering an opportunity to bloggers and tweeters to go along to a rehearsal, meet the cast, ask questions and take photos – and to share the information gathered via social networking. Before I really had chance to think about it, or talk myself out of it, I sent an email asking if I could register.
Then I got nervous……I’ve reviewed a few things…..I’ve met cast members, writers and directors after shows…..but I’ve never been to rehearsals, never taken part in question and answer sessions….by asking if I could register I was asking to be allowed to go way out of my comfort zone….but….I’m about to become a journalism student, and a little voice inside my head was telling me that this looked like a fantastic opportunity.
The next twenty-four hours were spent feeling nervous – nervous that they would say no, and just as nervous that they would say yes.
They said yes.
This afternoon I headed up to Bristol, arriving a couple of hours early, just in case……just in case of what I’m not sure, but I hate being late for anything.
I’d been told to make my way to Z Shed, an outpost of the Bristol Old Vic on the riverside, close to the ss Great Britain, which is where I spent my two spare hours. On arrival I met Matthew Austin, the theatre’s Press Officer, and soon discovered that although attending a social media call was something new for me it was also something new for the Old Vic, today being the first time they had held such an event.
Six or seven of us had answered the call and we were told to sit down in any of the sections of the stage marked by blobby lines, you’ll see what I mean from the photos at the end. The Producer and Director, Sharon Clark and Emily Watson-Howes, spoke to us for a few minutes, explaining a little about the production – it is clear that they are both very excited about it, and that excitement is very infectious. Coasting has been written by Natalie McGrath and developed through Bristol Ferment, an Old Vic programme that works with writers to develop exciting, new theatre. First performed as a rehearsed reading in January 2010 Coasting is the very first Ferment project that has progressed right through the programme from initial reading to full production.
Coasting is set in a seaside town in the 1980s, the cast consists of two teenage characters Pearl and Ocean, played by Nadia Giscir and Tom Wainwright, and Chief of Police Falcon, portrayed by Helena Lymbery.
This afternoon we were treated to a sneak preview, meeting the three characters as we watched the first two scenes of the show. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that it isn’t a traditional production with the actors on a stage and the audience sat neatly in an auditorium – we were invited to sit on the stage because that’s where the audience will be, most of them will sit on the floor, some on benches, a few in the gallery, the action will take place around them – action, light and sound indicating where they need to look next.
In the first scene we met Pearl and Ocean, two teenagers who speak to each other in a language of their own, an almost poetic mix of Polari; the British gay slang that was used in the 1960s; Hip Hop and 80s pop lyrics; you may not understand every word, but as you start to tune in it is surprisingly easy to follow. I spent my teenage years in a British seaside town, actually I’ve spent all my years in one, and I could definitely recognise these characters, seeing elements of people I knew at that time in each of them. The second scene introduces Falcon, woken abruptly from an alcohol induced sleep by a phone call informing her of a shocking discovery.
The two short scenes gave us an indication of how strong Natalie McGrath’s writing is and definitely left me, and I think everyone else there, wanting more. I can’t wait to see Coasting at the Old Vic – to see the audience’s reaction to the unusual seating arrangements; to find out more about the relationship between Pearl and Ocean; to learn why Falcon had drunk herself to sleep on her sofa.
When Sharon Clark introduced Coasting this afternoon she said that she wants “people to come out with their hearts slightly broken” – I’ve rarely been so excited about the prospect of a broken heart – I think Coasting is going to be a fabulous piece of theatre and I have a feeling that Bristol Old Vic audiences will be talking about it for a long time.
Coasting opens at the Bristol Old Vic Studio on Thursday 22 October and runs until 15 October.
I would like to thank the Bristol Old Vic for giving me the opportunity to attend today’s social media call and wish everyone involved a very successful production.