Ferment Fortnight Preview | #oneplaything

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 24 Jan. Here, Mufti Games Director Malcolm Hamilton discusses his upcoming performance #oneplaythingCatch it at the Loco Klub, Wed 31 Jan.


Malcolm Hamilton

Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m Malcolm, I’m a theatre maker who specialises in play. For the past few years I’ve been using known games-like hangman and rock paper scissors- to make shows or engage people in ideas. This last year I’ve been a Leverhulme Scholar with Ferment and I’ve been concentrating on play theories and thinking. I’ve been running play activities and been using play in other contexts, like heritage engagement and housing consultation.

What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
It’s a talk, and experiment and a play session. There will be some performance and we’ll play together. We’ll use play to explore a story and we’ll look at some problems our society has with play. I’ll invite you to think about your own play, and give you something to take away too. It’s about giving value and celebrating tiny, everyday moments.

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What inspired/influenced your piece?
Last year, I was invited to a meeting of playful people in Leeds. It was the first ‘on the road version’ of the Danish play festival ‘Counterplay’. As a result of some relatively light street interventions, some very big conversations happened. We all got very excited. It was the pinnacle of a year consciously exploring play and #oneplaything is a sharing of that year.

What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
I’ve just been supported by Ferment for a year so it’s had a massive impact on me. My confidence has built, I’ve been able to explore new things and experiment with space to think. I’ve built some really strong new relationships and been able to focus my work enabling me to move forwards in a stronger, more disciplined way. I’ve been hanging about Ferment since the beginning and it’s been a great way to try out ideas and see great work in the early stages. There are some shows seen that have gone absolutely nowhere. And they’ve really stuck with me. Because as you watch, a tiny bit of that show, form or idea will help that artist develop, and if they hadn’t had a chance to work that out, they might still have one leg stuck behind a wall scratching their head, rather than dancing on the clifftops. And the good thing about dancing of the cliff tops in this context, is that we all get the chance to dance too.

What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
A GOOD TIME


Ferment Fortnight takes place at Bristol Old Vic 24-25 Jan before moving across the city to Watershed and Loco Klu from 26 Jan-3 Feb.  For more info and to book tickets, click here.

The Cherry Orchard – Week 1

Rehearsals began last week for the first show in our ‘Year of Change’ season, The Cherry Orchard. Here, Assistant Director Evan Lordan gives us a first behind-the-scenes glimpse at how this vivid new production of Chekhov’s masterpiece is finding its feet.


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This week has been a massive journey; through the life of Anton Chekhov, through Russian History and through The Cherry Orchard. Day 1 and a room full of about 30 people – Bristol Old Vic and Royal Exchange Theatre staff, technicians, costumes makers, dressers, stage managers, producers, sound designers, lighting designers and the cast – meet for the first read through of the play in Paddington Arts, London. Everyone is lovely, but few people know each other and there is an excited, nervous energy in the room. I find it quite comforting to see others in the room seemingly as awkward as me! We take a break from the ‘getting-to-know-yous’ and get our first glimpse at the model box and how designer, Tom Piper, plans on transforming Bristol Old Vic’s auditorium. I don’t want to give too much away at this stage, but this is going to be a pretty unique and very special experience for the Bristol Old Vic faithful.

Then we get down to brass tacks, reading the script. On Day One we are not expecting too much, but despite that it is truly compelling to hear the characters of The Cherry Orchard coming to life.

Usually production meetings are not a source of great excitement, but here the most pressing point on the agenda was the need to find a magic specialist who could help us with some of the unique quandaries presented by this play. Not your usual day at the office!

Director, Michael Boyd, speaks with great passion about Chekhov. He is a true aficionado and an absolute fountain of knowledge with regard to the life and times of the man. It becomes apparent that as much as we will be reading The Cherry Orchard, we will be reading the author and his life as a way of interpreting the words on the page and what his intentions were, and what our intentions will become.

Michael studied in Russia, speaks Russian and has worked with Rory Mullarkey on this translation – because they both felt that while there have been worthy English ‘versions’, they wanted to create as true a translation of Chekhov’s words as possible. Rory has been working with us in the room all week and it has been incredibly interesting and useful to hear what choices had to be made in terms of finding the best words to give the actors in lieu of direct translatable words and meanings. Russians speak in a far more direct way than most of us in the UK and both Rory and Michael wanted to champion that blunt attitude, that unique way of speaking and the speech rhythms contained in the original Russian. The faint-of-heart need not worry however; this is still one of Chekhov’s most poetic, subtle and lyrical plays.

Most of the work this week has been going through the text with a fine-tooth comb, which this text absolutely deserves. It is so rich with meaning, beauty, ugliness and truth that after a week we have still not investigated all four acts, but not one minute of our time has been uninspiring or wasted.


The Cherry Orchard opens at Bristol Old Vic on 1 Mar and runs til 7 Apr. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Ferment Fortnight Preview | Kinkens

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 24 Jan. Here, Pip Hambly gives us an exclusive on her solo show KinkensCatch it at the Loco Klub, Thu 1 Feb. 


Pip Hambly.jpgTell us a bit about yourself…
My name’s Pip. I make theatre, and sometimes perform in other people’s. Most recently I played Robert in 1927’s revision of Golem, which was here at the Bristol Old Vic back in June and toured to some wondrous places. I did a science degree and then re-trained at the London International School of Performing Arts in Lecoq based physical theatre and devising, graduating in 2013. I’ve been making indie work since then, mostly in London where I’ve been for the past 10 years. I’m very fond of the mysterious, the ambiguous, the pithy and the intuitive.

What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
Kinkens is a solo show about unanswerable questions, alone-ness and being next to things we can’t control. The word is Old Scots for ‘evasive answers to the questions of overly curious children’. It began its journey on the Starting Blocks programme at the Camden People’s Theatre with a question about why humans might have developed the capacity to ask about the meaning of life – what purpose that could ever serve.

Something that is noticeably challenging to the way we like to talk about states of unrest in the mind of the west is this meeting of eastern philosophy with western ideas about ‘mental health’. The outspoken are calling this the age of anxiety, and describing loneliness as an epidemic. I wondered if anxiety could speak, what it would say (and how), and what if loneliness was not an epidemic in itself, but a symptom of something else – a phenomenon we haven’t yet found a name for, but that requires aloneness to manifest. Kinkens is about trying to open up to the experience of those moments in life that we have to do alone – illness, loss, change and transition – and questions if these processes could, unlike the implicit isolation of language like ‘epidemic’, actually bring us closer together as humans. The piece also explores broadcast, communication, and ways of listening – and a fairly geeky journey of discovery into the world of amateur radio…

It’s still a work in progress – but right now Kinkens is an experiment of physical theatre with a semi-recorded radio podcast about the brain, the mind and the meaning of life. It asks what it might be like to assimilate into reality those things in life we’d rather pretend don’t exist, and allow them to be what they are.

What inspired/influenced your piece?
The condensed list:

  • A piece of research that came out last year entitled #StatusOfMind, which looked at the impact of social media on anxiety and depressive states in young people.
  • Podcasting and video blogging.
  • An exiled Eritrean nun I met in Kenya called Sister Yodit, who said the meaning of life was singing. The issue of not being a very good singer.
  • A lecturer in nursing and professor of compassion, who said enquiry is about being uncomfortable.
  • The Kid Carpet lyrics ‘no one gives a shit if you’re not special’, which I used in a short story I wrote when I was 17 about Japanese Bottled Cats.
  • Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts.
  • Atul Gawunde’s Being Mortal.
  • Paul Thagard’s The Brain and The Meaning of Life.
  • Straw Dogs by John Gray.
  • Metal Dance by Oskar Schlemmer.
  • People who rig and build radio communication systems. Particularly ones in remote places or during disasters. Amateur radio enthusiasts.
  • Sekido, The Tao, Saki, Camus, Beckett, Ólafur Arnalds, Owiny Sigoma Band and Des’ree. And Celine Dion.

What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
I think it’s amazing that something like Ferment exists as a platform. Having just moved here I feel amazingly lucky to have my work programmed in the festival and to have the chance to meet and see the work of other makers in the city and the Southwest. It’s not so often you find venues with artist’s development programmes like Ferment at Bristol Old Vic, which nurture local makers and offer a supportive testing ground to try out new ideas, and I think it’s incredible and really important for the scene to flourish. I am very excited to be part of the fortnight.

What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
Intensely, whimsical existentialism.


Ferment Fortnight takes place at Bristol Old Vic 24-25 Jan before moving across the city to Watershed and Loco Klu from 26 Jan-3 Feb.  For more info and to book tickets, click here.

Ferment Fortnight Preview | TigerFace

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 24 Jan. Here, Justin Cliffe gives us a sneak peek at his production TigerFace. Catch it on our stage, Wed 24 Jan. 

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Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m a South Wales based Theatre Maker involved in the devising, writing and performance phases of theatre and live art; making work as an individual, a co-collaborator and as part of Tin Shed Theatre Co.

When creating stuff I tend to lean towards unhinged, unkempt acts of joy and revelry that explore the small pockets of madness in our reality. I often end up making work that is both autobiographical and fictional, or hypothetical and actual or important and pointless. I make live work because I like not knowing exactly what is about to happen, so there’s a lot of that energy too.

What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
I’m presenting a piece of work called TigerFace, which is really the name of the central character, but it’s also an idea, but is also really just me. Part kids TV show, part quarter-life-crisis-screaming-at-your-own-reflection-upon-waking-up-dripping-with-milk-in-the-middle-of-your-kitchen-naked-wondering-what-just-happened-in-the-fleeting-moment-between-being-9-and-30, I want to explore expectation vs reality, adulthood vs childhood, because when I grew up I didn’t think I’d be a man dressed up as a tiger dancing on a stage.

What inspired/influenced your piece?
An actual job I did where I had to dress up as a tiger and have my photograph taken with children. The photographer caught a picture of me on my break and it’s both hilarious and heart breaking, it captures this gut-wrenching gulf between happy tiger and miserable adult. The show is about that moment.

Now I’ve taken the idea into performance, it’s become more clown like in a way. Snatching inspiration from many places; from Andy Kaufman, to the kids TV I grew up on. It’s been a bit like putting vaudeville in a blender with Get Your Own Back.

What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
I’ve been an artist and worked under the umbrella of Ferment three times now on various projects, but this is the first time I’m developing solo work. For me it is the opportunity to flex a more fully formed idea. TigerFace has existed almost exclusively in backroom bars, as part of cabaret, or scratch nights. Ferment offers me this amazing opportunity to develop something chunkier and more meaningful, with the support of the Bristol Old Vic and the team behind Ferment.

I’m lucky enough to be receiving a sort term residency from The Riverfront in Newport too, and matching opportunities like this with the performance platform of Ferment is an amazing opportunity for an artist like me.

What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
Optimistic joyful nihilism. Or Haha. Umm. Oh…


Ferment Fortnight takes place at Bristol Old Vic 24-25 Jan before moving across the city to Watershed and Loco Klu from 26 Jan-3 Feb.  For more info and to book tickets, click here.

Ferment Fortnight Preview | Reclaimed

Ferment Fortnight kicks off its biannual explosion of work-in-progress and scratch performances from 24 Jan. Here, Wassial Theatre Company member Nick White gives us an inside look at their production Reclaimed. Catch it at Loco Klub on Thu 1 Feb. 


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Tell us a bit about yourself…
Wassail Theatre Company unites communities through stories that inspire them by giving people unexpected, surprising and positive experiences of theatre.  Wassail is a charity based in Somerset and exists through a network of associate artists from across the UK interested in bringing new audiences and new ideas together.

Wassail’s Artistic Producer is Nick White who Bristol audiences will remember from four glorious years at Travelling Light!  The show we’re presenting in Ferment has been by directed by Wassail’s Artistic Associate Jesse Briton (Bear Trap, Jones Collective, egg Incubator scholar).

What are you presenting at Ferment Fortnight?
We are presenting our new show (our fifth production so far) ‘Reclaimed’.  This is our first fully devised piece and it’s also the first time we’ve made something inspired by true events.

Reclaimed was originally conceived as a show for touring into village halls but we’re excited to bring it to the Loco Klub, following the enthusiastic advice of Emma Bettridge, enabling us to test it in a non-rural, non-village hall environment.

Reclaimed is an immersive piece, placing the audience in the wellies of the people most impacted by the events.

What inspired/influenced your piece?
In December 2013 it started to rain – the most rain England had seen for over 230 years.  By early January the Somerset Levels were underwater, to an extent that no-one living in the area had ever experienced.   The floods stayed until late February. Several communities had to be evacuated from their villages.  Businesses were ruined.  People feared for their lives.  Some didn’t get back into their houses for 50 weeks.  For many, the lasting effects are still being felt today.

Our Associate Producer Emma Vickery (Motherlode Productions) was personally impacted by the events and she wanted to tell the story of what happened to a wide audience.

We were inspired by the experiences, stories and challenges faced by village residents, Environment Agency staff, the Emergency Services and the incredible actions of a group of volunteers from Khalsa Aid.  We hope to have explored how communities are strengthened or fractured by the unexpected, and what it means to be British in times of crisis.

What does the work that Ferment do mean to you?
Ferment brings the best of the south west together, offering a platform that is a genuine springboard for future development.   Being invited to take part in the Ferment Fortnight is as much of an honour as being asked to engage in any co-production – possibly even more so because you know the conversations that will happen in the bar afterwards will push you on to the next level.

What would you say the audience can expect in three words?
Dredging, Boxing, Samosas


Ferment Fortnight takes place at Bristol Old Vic 24-25 Jan before moving across the city to Watershed and Loco Klu from 26 Jan-3 Feb.  For more info and to book tickets, click here.