Bristol Old Vic has announced the first three of five titles that will be streamed on YouTube as part of the Bristol Arts Channel, a lockdown lifeline for audiences missing the buzz and community of Bristol’s brilliant arts scene. They are: Handel’s Messiah, A Monster Calls and The Grinning Man.
The Bristol Arts Channel brings together venues and artists from across the city to create moments of online togetherness in May and June. Founding partners include Bristol Old Vic, Watershed, Colston Hall, St Pauls Carnival, Trinity, Spike Island, St George’s Bristol, MAYK, Arnolfini, Paraorchestra & Friends and Bristol Museums with support from Bristol & Bath Creative R&D and The Space.
The programme will include streamed performances, live and archived, interactive events, carnivalesque experiments, online galleries and mini-festivals, all curated by Bristol’s cultural organisations to give audiences the pleasure and thrill of going out from the comfort of their own home.
Curtain-raiser events include Colston Hall’s live-streamed music festival Bristol Takeover Online on Saturday 23 May and, currently available, Complicité’s ground-breaking show The Encounter.
Bristol Old Vic’s contribution forms part of the theatre’s wider At Home offering, launched in April and designed to maintain the theatre’s close connection to its audiences, artists and city.
Bristol Old Vic’s pilot season on the Bristol Arts Channel will include Messiah, A Monster Calls and The Grinning Man, with two more titles announced shortly. Each production will preview on Friday evenings at 7pm and will be available through Bristol Old Vic’s website free of charge for a week.
Performances will feature additional material in order to make the experience closer to ‘going out’ while actually being at home.
Tom Morris said:
“Watching theatre on your screen at home is not the same as experiencing a play in a beautiful auditorium with hundreds of others. That is why our ambition for this pilot season is not only to make some of Bristol’s most-loved plays accessible to a wider audience, but also to give people a little taste of the magic they may experience when they step into our theatre on King Street, from arriving at the bar to taking your seat as the lights go down. It’s that transformational feeling of surprise and delight that we want to share and celebrate.”
The streamed shows
On Friday 29 May 2020, Bristol Old Vic will present the cinema capture of its critically acclaimed 2017 production of Handel’s Messiah. The dramatised production was staged by Bristol Old Vic’s Tony Award-winning Artistic Director Tom Morris, with design by Anna Orton (King Lear, Extraordinary Wall of Silence). It features internationally renowned soloists Catherine Wyn Rogers and Julia Doyle, The Erebus Ensemble (Songs of Hope) and Europe’s most celebrated Baroque orchestra, The English Concert, under the revered baton of Conductor Harry Bicket. Jamie Beddard (The Elephant Man) performs the central non-speaking role of The Beloved.
On Friday 7 June 2020, Bristol Old Vic will co-present the Olivier Award-winning Old Vic production of A Monster Calls, created in association with Bristol Old Vic, Jonathan Church Productions and Global Creatures. Based on the bestselling novel by Patrick Ness and inspired by an original idea from Siobhan Dowd, the stage adaptation directed by Sally Cookson (Jane Eyre, Peter Pan) was captured featuring the original cast on camera at the Old Vic in August 2018. The play centres on thirteen-year-old Conor who is visited by a monster who has come to tell him tales from when it walked before, offering a dazzling insight into love, life and healing.
To finish off its first At Home season, on Friday 26 June 2020, Bristol Old Vic will stream the trailblazing musical from Artistic Director Tom Morris, The Grinning Man. Following a triumphant premiere as part of the Theatre’s 250th Anniversary Season, the show went on to play in London’s West End in 2017 where it garnered a cult-following across the globe.
Based on Victor Hugo’s The Man Who Laughs, the macabre musical tells the story of Grinpayne, a fairground act with a hideous smile, who is helped by an old man, a lone wolf and a blind girl as he journeys to share his terrible secret with the world. Brought to life by writer Carl Grose (Dead Dog in a Suitcase) and “powered by an outstanding score” (The Sunday Times) from Tim Phillips and Marc Teitler, the production features puppetry from Gyre & Gimble, the original puppeteers of War Horse. Bristol Old Vic hopes that this blackly comic conclusion to the season will prove that laughter really is the best medicine.
In the interim, ahead of the premiere of Messiah, Bristol Old Vic is broadcasting Complicité’s The Encounter, a solo performance by Simon McBurney which was last seen on the Bristol Old Vic stage in 2017. Inspired by National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre, who, in 1969, became lost in a remote part of the Brazilian rainforest, The Encounter incorporates ground-breaking binaural sound design to question our perceptions of time and our own consciousness. Audiences will be able to tune into the performance from Fri 15 May at 7pm from the Bristol Old Vic website.
The remaining two titles of Bristol Old Vic’s pilot season of streamed work will be announced on 29 May.