New website launched!

Yesterday we launched a new website and brand. Head over to bristololdvic.org.uk to check it out!


Bristol Old Vic logo NEW 2018

There’s a brand new section there called Latest which will be home to our blog and latest news items. We’re sorry to leave, but we’ll soon be closing our WordPress blog here, so make sure to bookmark bristololdvic.org.uk/blog to keep abreast of all the exciting goings on at Bristol Old Vic in the future!

All the best,
Team Bristol Old Vic

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The Cherry Orchard – Week 3

With just under a month to go until The Cherry Orchard‘s debut, Assistant Director Evan Lordan took a quick five minutes out of the rehearsal room to fill us in on all the latest updates from Week 3. 


8. Jude Owusu, Kirsty Bushell, Simon Coateselliekurttz-CherryOrchardREH-031Director Michael Boyd and Writer/Translator Rory Mullarkey have both made reference to the fact that The Cherry Orchard is often read as a naturalistic play, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. They have both mentioned similarities between The Cherry Orchard and Samuel Beckett’s absurdist tragicomedy, Waiting for Godot, especially in the first two acts where nothing happens (twice!). Just like Beckett’s work, this play is rife with gallows humour; watching a run of Act 2 earlier this week put a great big smile across my face while simultaneously making my skin crawl. All the complicated, contradictory, lovable and laughable characters in the play seem to live in this uncomfortable state of inconsistency all the time.

Chekhov is often credited with the storytelling maxim “one must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep”. Well, Act 2 introduces two guns from the very beginning. Make of that what you will…

7. Togo Igawa, Michael Boyd elliekurttz-CherryOrchardREH055

Are you talking to me?” Michael Boyd has also spoken about the fact that the text suggests that at least one character is trying to make direct conversation with the audience. This is the first time that Michael has directed a Chekhov piece and he wants to stay true to the playwright’s intentions. But this is hardly turning the production into an immersive theatre event; this is an attempt to stay true to a 114-year-old text. What is beautiful is that it naturally still feels contemporary.

10. Jude Owusu, Kirsty Bushell elliekurttz-CherryOrchardREH-227

As Assistant Director, I am trying to make the most of working with such a talented bunch of individuals. I was a fan of The Cherry Orchard before I started on this project, but I am an even bigger fan now. So many of my preconceptions of this play have been utterly turned on their head due to everybody’s incredibly thoughtful and emotional insights into the script. Every decision made in this rehearsal room has had real purpose and every question we meet that hasn’t yet been answered galvanizes the group – more intriguing puzzles left by Chekhov for us to unravel together. It’s difficult to give any examples without creating spoilers and so, unfortunately, I will remain vague, but I will say that now that we’ve spent three weeks getting under the skin of this thing, the major decisions that are being made just feel right. It’s very hard for me to imagine another more compelling way of interpreting this show.

5. Kirsty Bushell elliekurttz-CherryOrchardREH-112

You can’t pigeonhole a single character; each of them as such a story to tell. One of my favourite things about Chekhov is how he uses characters to present different points of view surrounding the themes he chooses, and how they give texture to the complexity of any given subject. He sees things with complete objectivity and is able to simply present truth without making judgement. We, the audience are the ones who must decide what is right or wrong, good or bad. A situation is presented to you and you are asked to question for yourself, rather than being preached at or told what to think. That is not an easy thing for an artist to achieve, especially when you hold strong beliefs on the subject yourself. Life is never black and white; Chekhov knows this and we are a lucky audience to have him.


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.

The Cherry Orchard – Week 2

While The Cherry Orchard rehearsals continue to power ahead, Assistant Director Evan Lordan gives us an inside scoop at how the cast are preparing to take on Chekhovs final masterpiece in our ‘Year of Change’ season.


Week 2 - FlippedThe moment you think Chekhov is being judgemental, think again.”

Week 2’s rehearsal diary is scattered with insights, exclamations and questions that have come about in the rehearsal room as a result of delving into the text of The Cherry Orchard. I don’t attribute them to anyone in particular and they are intentionally left without any context, as it makes some of them seem incredibly profound, some very curious and others very silly…

There is a trap in thinking that if people are rude to your character, that that means you are low status – not so.”

The work never stops here on The Cherry Orchard! It is lunchtime on Friday afternoon and Movement Director Liz Ranken is working with Éva Magyar and Joseph Hardy on the choreography and music for Act 3; it is a lot of fun, has lots of energy and is, quite simply, spectacular.

He would watch people and has such a keen eye for human behaviour and psychology; be in the same room as Anton Chekhov at your peril!

This week has been the first time that the actors have been given a chance to stretch their legs, which is good because they have been champing at the bit for the chance to try these characters on for size. This play is an absolute beast and although we’ve had a chance to skip ahead and look at choreography in Act 3, we have only just started scratching the surface of Act 2 on Friday morning.

Always trust a sudden mood swing!”

I have been watching Director Michael Boyd like a hawk, trying to glean and steal as much theatrical know how as humanly possible. He wants every single moment of this production to hold water; why a character says what they say, how they say it, which entrance they come from and every single movement they make or don’t make. Nothing is left to chance and everything has purpose. The two most recurring phrases in the room are, “I don’t buy it” or “I buy that”.

Chekhov loves the exquisite anguish of unrequited love.”

Making up the arching four-act narrative is the detail in each character’s individual stories, such as filling an awkward silence by deciding to give to someone their telegrams and going to stand near a different character to give them support or for safety. This ‘story’ may take up only 5 or 10 seconds of stage time, but it has a beginning, middle and end. Those 10 seconds have purpose and drive and as a result we, the audience, can ‘buy it’ as truthful.

He is a genius about the hardship of money, the psychology of it… the humiliation it can cause, the desperation, how it can affect us spiritually.”

I think it’s worth mentioning that just because there is this constant search for each character to have truthful stories and motivations, it doesn’t mean that this show is singularly located in the realms of ‘Realism’ or ‘Naturalism’.

Can both of you do a one-handed cartwheel?”

This was Chekhov’s final play and he had started to experiment with different forms; Michael Boyd is looking to stay as loyal to Chekhov’s intentions as possible by embracing the different styles and genres that he was exploring at the time.

Chekhov is so cruel.”


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 | #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.


Model showing 15 Jan 2017 The Cherry Orchard_cropped_GS


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.