Bhangra comes to Bristol | RSVP Bhangra

20160529 - Bristol Old Vic 250th Birthday

Hi, I’m Kris Malarchist, player of fretted instruments with RSVP, the nation’s no.1 festival Bhangra band. I joined them in 2002, having met them at a festival where I was the resident DJ. I enjoyed their raucous, riotous performance, and was delighted to be invited to join them a couple of weeks later. I was initially asked to play guitar, but have since worked electric mandolin and my customised tenor guitar into the format.

Since then the band has taken over all our live, and become a sprawling chaotic hydra, with its heads popping up in all sorts of places, from education workshops to bizarre yet compelling Indo-Anglian fusion, as well as our normal band work. We’ve travelled Europe and the UK bringing the big Bhangra beat to places you wouldn’t normally expect, and in the process we’ve opened the door for lots of other Asian artists to follow, people who are legends to us, but unknown outside the circle of the aficionado.

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The band has its roots in the musical traditions of the Punjab, but inevitably these have become inextricably entwined with European influences, from Romani (with their shared Indian heritage) to English folk. Bhangra music is the celebratory music of Punjabi harvest festivals, and that’s very much a common cultural thread. Celebration is very much the watchword, and we’ll happily fit in wherever a party’s being held. We always teach some traditional dances as part of the show, and everyone always dances. Always!

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Our singer Dildar originally formed the band to play weddings, initially using backing tracks. When WOMAD offered him his third ever gig, these were swiftly upgraded to a live band, with the addition of other family members, some of whom had to learn their instruments from scratch! Since then we’ve played well over a thousand shows at festivals and venues large and small. We’ve played Glastonbury and WOMAD, the Isle of Wight Festival, countless folk festivals, and toured in Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Our global outlook means we’re always on the move, and always looking for something new to do.

The band were delighted to play for the Bristol Old Vic’s 250th birthday, and we are so looking forward to returning with our full live show. Bristol Old Vic is such a special venue, and we plan to give it our all!

RSVP Bhangra return to our stage Fri 22 Jul. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Photography by Jon Craig and Jack Offord.

Our new Backstage Bar

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Just under a fortnight ago we officially opened our Backstage Bar alongside previews of the Timothy West starring King Learand we’re ecstatic to share that it’s gone down quite the storm!

In the run up to our redevelopment works which commenced mid-June, our team of contractors were quietly working behind the scenes to craft the cracking bar space you see before you now.

Sitting at the heart of our Theatre, our Paintshop has been transformed to accommodate both you and the same excellent selection of beverages you’ve come to know and love from the best of the South West including our 250th Anniversary Ale ‘1766′ from Bath Ales.

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In our opening week, we were named ‘Bar of the Week‘ by Bristol 24/7 which particularly praised the “various elements which other bars would call design features but here are just part of the fabric of the high-ceilinged space which not so long ago was purely functional.” 

We’re pleased our redevelopment works provide a unique opportunity to share a true ‘backstage’ look at our Theatre – a sentiment shared by those of you who have already passed through our new Stage Door entrance.
Following our Backstage Bar’s grand opening on 18 June, the compliments have continued to flood in. Here are some of our top visitor comments so far:

“You have created a fabulous “Banksy” feeling to the temporary entrance/bar area, great music and feel to the space.”

“Loved the ‘temporary bar’. Will be sad when it goes in a couple of years!”

“Loving the alternative rustic look during restoration and helpful friendly staff as ever”

“I loved the new backstage bar area and look forward to spending more time there, and also seeing how the renovations adapt and develop over the next few months.”

Our exciting redevelopment will see our front of house spaces transformed into a beautiful combination of the historic and new – all ready for 2018. Until then, just kick back and relax with a drink or two on one of our backstage sofas and, as always, we hope you enjoy your show!

For more information and regular updates about our redevelopment works, visit our redevelopment page here.

King Lear Rehearsal Diary – Week 6

Written by Sarah Bradley

This past week was the last of rehearsals. In theatre the final week is usually called ‘Tech Week’ and is reserved for technical rehearsals. It is when the cast and crew are finally able to string the entire production together and practice it on the stage.

On Sunday morning the crew had an extremely early start to begin getting the theatre ready for the play. This is called the ‘get in’. They helped move the set into the theatre, painted the theatre’s floor and hung all the lights for the lighting design. This type of work usually takes a lot of time as there is so much too do.
Our set was particularly difficult to move into the theatre as it consists of one particularly large and heavy set piece. There was also a huge amount to be painted. The Scenic Artists spent a lot of time with the Set Designer trying to understand their artistic vision. When the set was fully constructed they were then able to paint the set to match the Designer’s vision.


On Tuesday the cast were allowed to join the crew on-stage and practice their scenes. Throughout this production a lot of our set is moved around by the ensemble. We used this time on Tuesday to practice moving all the set pieces, paying particular attention to safety. It took us the most part of the day to determine the best way to manipulate it but by the following morning we had learnt how to do so in style and were ready to get the show on its feet.

From Wednesday onward we worked meticulously to piece all the elements of the show together. We worked chronologically, scene by scene, putting the acting, lighting and sound together on stage.  This process is called ‘teching the show’ and is very time consuming. It usually takes a few days to go through an entire play in a big production. After we had completed ‘teching’, it was time for the dress rehearsal.
As the show’s roles have been double cast, we required two dress rehearsals to give each team their chance to perform and get accustomed to their roles on-stage. For us Directors, it was also our first opportunity to witness the play in its entirety before the paying public.


Throughout previews we have the chance to make slight adjustments to the show, potentially reworking staging or technical elements which require tightening. In Theatre, this procedure typically continues until ‘lock down’ – the last day anything in a show can be altered. This date is usually selected in advance of Press Night – the evening when the media is invited to come and review a show and when the production team celebrate their official opening night. With previews now under way, we look forward to celebrating our official opening on Tuesday 28th June. We hope you can join us during the run!


Sarah is one of the Assistant Directors of King Lear from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, working alongside Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris.

King Lear continues our 250th Anniversary Season in our Theatre 18 Jun-10 Jul. To find out more about the show and to book your tickets, click here.

Production photography by Simon Annand


King Lear Cast Bio | Brad

With previews for King Lear well under way, we interview the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School actors cast to play alongside theatre professionals, Timothy West, Stephanie Cole and David Hargreaves.

Here we get to know Brad, one of the Theatre School’s talented rising stars.


Brad Morrison
Partyman / Albany / Understudy Gloucester

BOVTS: Sebastian in The Tempest (Redgrave Theatre); The Sergeant in The Madame Macadam Travelling Theatre (Bristol Old Vic Studio); Orlando in As You Like It, Horner in The Country Wife, John Malcolm in Separate Tables, Arkasha in Ladybird, Sideway in Our Country’s Good. Pre BOVTS: Jesus Christ in The Passion (AECC); Katurian in The Pillowman (Aberdeen Performing Arts); Merlock in Jack and The Magic Beans (Scottish Youth Theatre); Macbeth in Macbeth (Centre Stage Theatre Company); Boxer in Animal Farm (Acorn Youth Theatre); Ensemble in S’WARM (National Youth Theatre).

Where are you from and how did you get into acting?
I’m from a town called Peterhead about 40 miles north of Aberdeen. In my final year of school I started really enjoying acting and taking it a bit more seriously. My future wife was in that class as well which I think may have also been part of the attraction! I then went and studied acting at college for a year and for the first time saw it as a potential career option.

Who are you playing in King Lear and what challenges have you faced in that role?
I’m playing Albany. The challenge lies in the fact that he is absent for most of the play and undergoes this radical change from passive and naive at the start to determined and strong at the end. So figuring out what kind of man he is and what he’s been doing offstage has proved interesting! He’s not the coward he’s sometimes assumed to be, he just gets stuck in the duty of the old world that is crumbling before his eyes and realises too late what is happening.

What’s your favourite thing about training at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School?
The first year of training is incredible and really sets you up with a technique and toolbox to help you as an actor. The staff are fantastic and you get the opportunity to really find out what interests you as an actor and discover your range and capabilities.

How does it feel to be taking the Bristol Old Vic stage in your graduating show?
Bristol Old Vic’s Theatre stage is stunning and so many iconic performances have happened here. Getting that opportunity to tell a story like King Lear on such a great stage is a welcome climax to a fantastic experience at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

King Lear continues our 250th Anniversary Season in our Theatre 18 Jun-10 Jul. To find out more about the show and to book your tickets, click here.

King Lear Rehearsal Diary – Week 5

Written by Chloe Masterton

And so we reached the final week in the rehearsal room for King Lear.  With a good grip of Part Two and having uncovered all the stories we needed to tell, we returned to the beginning of the play to discover how we could trace the roots of these stories back to their seeds in Part One.

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In previous weeks we had begun to develop a very clear role for our chorus of young people. Primarily they act as witnesses to the action, focusing the story being told but they also provide a soundtrack and a movement language that facilitates a more expressive mode of storytelling.  Now it was time to identify what the rules of this chorus were.  For example: how do we introduce them to the audience for the first time?  By which device do chorus members leave to become principle characters? What is the journey of the chorus throughout the play?  We began to find the answers to these questions with the help of our movement director Jane Gibson and our composer Dave Price and we started to develop a rather complex chorus plot that has a physical and musical score all of its own.

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As we moved away from rehearsing scenes in isolation and began to stitch the action together, the chorus became even more vital.  In Shakespeare’s Globe there wouldn’t have been any grand pieces of set to be moved and there would have been little to signify a change in the time of day or location other than the words that were spoken.  This means that the action of the play rattles along at a speed that doesn’t allow for great long scene changes even with the minimalist set that we have.  Cue the chorus. They act as stage managers in moving and manipulating the scenery, as sound designers in creating the sound effects for the storm, and as a choir to aid with smooth transitions from one scene to the next.  As we move forward this week into the technical rehearsals, we will see how easy it is to apply what we have rehearsed to the reality of the stage of the Bristol Old Vic and to the set and costume design of Anna Orton and Aldo Vaquez Yela.

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Chloe Masterton is one of the Assistant Directors of King Lear from Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, working alongside Bristol Old Vic’s Tom Morris.



King Lear continues our 250th Anniversary Season in our Theatre 18 Jun-10 Jul. To find out more about the show and to book your tickets, click here.

Rehearsal photography by Simon Annand & Getty